Author Archives: Jeff Todd

Yankees, A-Rod Settle Home Run Milestone Dispute

The Yankees have reached agreement with Alex Rodriguez on a settlement regarding the payment of a home run milestone bonus clause in his contract, as the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). New York will pay out $3.5MM to charitable organizations under the settlement.

Rodriguez and the MLBPA had reportedly planned to contest the team’s refusal to pay a $6MM bonus for his 660th home run, the first of several that trigger such bonuses under his deal. The club cited the fact that the bonus was termed a discretionary marketing opportunity under the contract in asserting that it was not obligated to make payment. (Click here for the contract’s details.)

The settlement avoids a potentially ugly grievance proceeding, which all involved were surely motivated not to undertake. It is unclear whether the parties have reached any agreement or understanding regarding future milestones. The next one up is Babe Ruth’s 714 mark, though that seems a long shot for this season with Rodriguez sitting at 669 long balls. Of course, his contract does promise him another $40MM after this season, covering the 2016 and 2017 campaigns.

Notably, the deal means that the Yankees will avoid paying any luxury tax on the $6MM bonus, which would have cost the club $3MM. That adds to the savings achieved on the actual payout.


Rangers Designate Neftali Feliz, Activate Matt Harrison

The Rangers have designated righty Neftali Feliz for assignment, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest reports on Twitter. His roster spot will go to starter Matt Harrison, who will return to the big leagues after a long layoff for serious back surgery.

May 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Neftali Feliz (30) throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Royals won 7-6 in 10 innings. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Feliz, 27, was once an ace reliever for Texas and owns a 2.71 career ERA over 259 1/3 big league innings. He has struck out 8.4 and walked 3.5 batters per nine over that span, with a 35.4% groundball rate.

Those career marks include a particularly rough start to the current season. Feliz has allowed 5.09 earned runs per regulation game, with 7.6 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9. He still works in the 93 to 94 mph range with his fastball, down a few ticks from his early season peak but still in line with recent campaigns.

Truth be told, the results have not been supported by ERA estimators in recent seasons. Feliz has not posted a sub-4.00 SIERA since way back in 2011, and has not dipped below the 3.00 mark by that measure since his first two seasons. Much the same holds when one looks at his FIP and xFIP numbers.

Things seemingly took a turn for the worse when the team attempted to utilize him as a starter in 2012. Feliz had a rocky go of it, throwing 42 2/3 innings of 3.16 ERA ball while benefiting greatly from a high strand rate and miniscule .213 BABIP. ERA estimators all had him pegged as a replacement level rotation piece. Feliz ultimately succumbed to Tommy John surgery in May of 2012, and has never quite recovered his arm speed.

While all the signs were there, it nevertheless remains stunning to see the move. Feliz was one of the game’s more promising arms in his heyday. He is owed $4.13MM this year, and comes with one more season of arbitration eligibility. Given his salary and recent performance, it would not be surprising to see him pass through waivers, but with over five years of service (he entered the season with 4.151 on his tab), he’d be eligible to elect free agency and keep the money.

The other major news here, of course, is the return of Harrison. It once seemed unclear whether he’d ever throw again, yet alone return to the majors. The 29-year-old was a steady contributor over 2011-12, racing up 399 frames with a 3.34 ERA and leading the team to lock him up to a five-year, $55MM pact. He is still under control through 2018, with the last year coming through a $13.25MM club option ($2MM buyout), and at this point Texas will be glad to receive any contribution from the southpaw.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Draft Signings: Thomas Eshelman, Bryan Hudson

Let’s catch up on some recent draft signings, with slot values via Baseball America:

  • The Astros have locked up second-rounder Thomas Eshelman for a $1.1MM bonus that falls shy of the $1,325,700 slot value, Jim Callis of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Callis calls the righty the “best strike-thrower in NCAA history” — he averaged an unthinkable 0.42 BB/9 over this entire college career, per Baseball America — and indeed much of his value lies in his impeccable control. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs had the highest grade on Eshelman, raning him 54th among draft-eligible players. Other evaluators placed him at or just out of the top 100. MLB.com explained that Eshelman’s fastball hovers in the 90 to 91 mph range, while his offspeed pitches are nothing particularly special.
  • Cubs third-rounder Bryan Hudson receives a well-over-slot $1.1MM bonus, per Callis (via Twitter). The slot value at 82nd overall was just $731K. He’s a tall, projectable righty who rated as high as 71st coming into the draft, with MLB.com giving that grade. Baseball America put him in the 101st slot, noting that Hudson features a good curve and has smooth mechanics for a hurler of his size.


Trade Market Notes: Zobrist, Hamels, Tulo, Orioles

We’ve already heard that the Mets and Athletics have had discussions regarding the former’s interest in utility man par excellence Ben Zobrist. And New York GM Sandy Alderson has said that he is “prepared to overpay” for the right piece to boost the club’s sagging offense. In a post today, Joel Sherman of the New York Post connected those two stories, reporting that the Mets are specifically willing to offer a premium return for Zobrist. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained in the above-linked piece regarding the Mets’ interest, it’s easy to see why that would be the case: he potentially offers a solution at second, third, and/or the corner outfield, all while delivering the type of on-base threat that Alderson prizes. As Sherman goes on to explain, however, in spite of New York’s apparent willingness to go past what it deems fair value for the veteran, Oakland has not made him available. With the team surging in the AL West, A’s GM Billy Beane “has tempered sell-off talks, at least for now,” per the report.

Here are some more recent trade deadline notes:

  • Despite recent public comments indicating that he’d consider a trade to any club, Cole Hamels of the Phillies has privately indicated to the team that he is not interested in going to the Blue Jays, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Hamels also appears unlikely to waive his no-trade clause for a move to the Astros, Heyman notes. But he would be amenable to being sent to the Red Sox “and possibly a few others,” per the report.
  • Even if the Rockies are otherwise willing to move franchise star Troy Tulowitzki, writes Heyman, his value is down so far that a rival GM says he’s not sure another team would take on the rest of his contract — even before considering giving up pieces in return. And a source tells Heyman that owner Dick Monfort is exceedingly unlikely to keep a significant piece of that deal in order to get more value from Tulo. Yet another general manager said that Tulowitzki has not exhibited the same “lower half explosiveness” that he did before undergoing hip surgery last year.
  • Heyman has items from much of the rest of the league, with a particular focus on possible sellers, in the column. It’s well worth a full read.
  • After entering the year with eleven free agents-to-be on the roster, the Orioles have pared that down to eight after designating Delmon Young, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com observes. The team still has little interest in moving any of those players in order to get some value back before they hit the market: as Kubatko puts it, “the Orioles are going for it again.” That makes deals involving lefty Wei-Yin Chen, slugger Chris Davis, or catcher Matt Wieters are highly unlikely, despite the fact that all are set to hit the open market. “[Chen] can help us win a championship and he’ll be here,” said manager Buck Showalter of his team’s best starter this season. “There aren’t many left-handed starters who are in the top 10 in ERA floating around and we couldn’t trade him for someone better.”

Jocketty: Reds “Prepared To Go Either Way” At Deadline

Reds GM Walt Jocketty indicated that his team could either sell off pieces or continue trying to contend at this year’s trade deadline, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. Cincinnati entered action today sitting five games under .500 and 14.5 games back of the division-leading Cardinals.

“I think we’ll see how it plays out. We’re prepared to go either way,” said Jocketty. “We’re certainly not throwing in the towel. If people are interested in our guys, we’ll certainly listen and see if there’s something that makes sense to make us better in the long run.”

Jocketty said that he’s received contact from teams interested in the club’s veterans, but indicated that he has not been targeted for chats in an overly aggressive manner. He explained: “I’ve had some calls for a while. Nothing out of the order.”

The Cincinnati GM also made clear that he had no interest in dealing away All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier. He made clear that recent speculation about interest from the Mets was without basis. “He’s too valuable to our club,” Jocketty said. “I think all that came from when we were in New York. It made sense. The Mets need a third baseman. He’s from that area.”

While a move involving the controllable Frazier always seemed unlikely, the Reds obviously possess a series of highly desirable, relatively short-term commodities. Leading the way is top starter Johnny Cueto, who could be dealt along with rotation mate Mike Leake before they reach free agency after the season. Likewise, closer Aroldis Chapman is only under contract through 2016, and would be likely to return quite a haul if dealt. Other players who could theoretically be shipped out include outfielders Jay Bruce and Marlon Byrd as well as reliever Manny Parra.

Whatever course the team takes, Jocketty left the impression that he does not intend to full gut the roster. “Even if we do make some deals, or if we don’t, we will try to keep this club as competitive as possible for the remainder of the year,” he said.

 


Federal Charges Recommended For Astros Computer Breach

Investigators working on the investigation into the unlawful access of the Astros’ computer systems have recommended charges against at least one Cardinals employee, CNN’s Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz report. The identity of that employee is not yet known.

To date, only one St. Louis staffer has been implicated directly: scouting director Chris Correa, who was fired yesterday. Reporting on Correa’s termination indicates that he was not responsible for disseminating any of the information that was ultimately leaked.

Correa’s attorney has argued that Correa did nothing illegal and sought only to assess whether Astros GM Jeff Luhnow had taken proprietary information from the Cardinals when he departed for Houston. (Luhnow has already flatly denied that line of thinking. And, of course, it’s far from clear how that suspicion would warrant a self-appointed effort to access the other club’s databases.)

The investigation is now complete, per CNN. It is not clear what the inquiry has revealed regarding other members of the St. Louis organization. Officials looking into the computer breach “have also focused on whether senior officials at the Cardinals were aware of the spying,” the report adds. Club chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. and GM John Mozeliak have both stringently denied any knowledge or involvement while condemning any improper actions by those under their charge.

It has previously been reported that investigators were taking a close look at a Jupiter, Florida house utilized by Cardinals employees during Spring Training. The report notes that Correa was one of the employees who resided there, seemingly tying his involvement to that point in time.

But it remains unclear whether other employees, or Correa himself, may have been responsible for the other breaches that have reportedly occurred. The Jupiter-based intrusion into the Astros’ system is said to have occurred in the spring of 2014. As David Barron and Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle note in their latest piece on the subject, computer breaches occurred as early as 2012. The Astros trade discussion notes that were ultimately leaked publicly last summer were dated between June of 2013 and March of 2014, and seemingly represented two separate time periods.


Cubs Acquire Clayton Richard From Pirates

The Cubs have acquired lefty Clayton Richard from the Pirates in exchange for cash considerations, Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald reports on Twitter. Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes on Twitter that Richard appeared to be headed to a big league roster after clearing his locker out at Triple-A Indianapolis.

The impetus for the move was an “upward mobility” clause in Richard’s contract, which created a three-day period within which the Pirates had to offer him to other clubs willing to put him on a big league roster or instead add him to their own roster. Had no team been so willing, then Richard would have remained in Triple-A.

Chicago, obviously, was prepared to give Richard an active roster spot while Pittsburgh was not. Miles adds that Richard will make a start this Saturday for the Cubs.

Richard, 31, was a productive starter for the Padres before shoulder issues derailed his career. In both 2010 and 2012, he put up 200+ innings with a sub-4.00 ERA. He last appeared in the big leagues in 2013, struggling badly before ultimately going under the knife.

Richard appeared briefly in Triple-A last year for the Diamondbacks, but has returned to form at Indianapolis this season. In ten total minor league starts, he’s racked up 62 innings of 1.89 ERA pitching, striking out 4.4 and walking 2.0 batters per nine innings.


Red Sox Designate Zeke Spruill

The Red Sox have designated righty Zeke Spruill for assignment, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports on Twitter. His 40-man spot was needed for the promotion of Noe Ramirez.

The 25-year-old has worked exclusively at Triple-A this year for Boston, which acquired him from the Diamondbacks on the same day the Wade Miley deal went down. He owns a 5.40 ERA with 3.9 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9 over 53 1/3 innings for Pawtucket.

Spruill had spent time with the D’Backs in each of the last two seasons. In total, he’s thrown 34 big league frames, posting a 4.24 ERA and striking out 23 batters while issuing nine walks.


Giants Designate Brett Bochy

The Giants have designated righty Brett Bochy for assignment, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports on Twitter. Bochy, the son of manager Bruce Bochy, lost his 40-man spot as part of a series of transactions.

Bochy saw his first big league action last year, throwing 3 1/3 innings and allowing two earned runs to go with three strikeouts and two walks. He’s back in Triple-A this year for his third run at the level, working to a 4.30 ERA over 29 1/3 innings. Bochy’s strikeout numbers continue to fall, as he’s retired just 5.5 per nine by way of strikeout while issuing 3.7 BB/9.


Cuban Outfielder Guillermo Heredia Declared Free Agent

MLB has declared Cuban outfielder Guillermo Heredia a free agent, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports on Twitter. The 24-year-old is eligible to sign now, but will not be subject to international spending restrictions given his age and Serie Nacional experience.

Heredia is expected to put on a showcase in the United States in the near future, per the report. He had previously established residency in Mexico.

When Heredia left Cuba back in January, Ben Badler of Baseball America had him ranked 11th among Cuban prospects on his most recent list, though he noted that others had probably overtaken him. The 24-year-old has shown some pop at times and has posted good on-base numbers in Cuba, but the power has been inconsistent and there are questions about his bat. Formerly a switch-hitter, Heredia has more recently hit only from the right side. Badler says he looks to be a plus defender in center, though, with good speed and instincts along with a strong arm.