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Author Archives: Jeff Todd
Several MLB clubs have dabbled with neurological training in a bid to improve their hitters’ pitch recognition, as Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal writes. The Red Sox, Cubs, and Rays have already initiated programs, but more could be on the way. As Boston GM Ben Cherington explains, the purpose of taking this approach is to help young batters develop a stronger mental connection between seeing a pitch and deciding whether or not to swing. Quick reactions — physical and mental — are all the more important given rising fastball velocities around the league. One mark of that: at least 52 minor league hurlers have been clocked at or above 100 mph this year, according to the count of Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper.
Here are a few notes of interest from around the league:
- Twins center fielder Jordan Schafer has had an up and down time since becoming a professional, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes. Most recently, he was claimed by Minnesota over the summer after he failed to live up to a solid 2013 campaign with the Braves. The speedy 28-year-old has put up excellent numbers in his new home: a .298/.365/.386 slash with 15 stolen bases over 131 plate appearances. He will be eligible for arbitration for the second time after the year.
- As the Giants welcome back Michael Morse from injury, other developments could limit his playing time over the last few weeks of the regular season and the playoffs to come, as Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com reports. With Brandon Belt returning to the fold and Gregor Blanco having performed well in Morse’s stead, a regular spot may no longer be available. Though Morse rebounded from a mid-year swoon with a strong August, his defensive shortcomings have become more of an issue, according to Baggarly. Morse remains a difficult player to peg as a pending free agent: the 32-year-old has a productive .280/.338/.477 line with 16 home runs over 480 plate appearances, but defensive metrics paint a rough image of his contribution in the field.
- The Reds are still contemplating whether Cuban free agent signee Raisel Iglesias will take the mound competitively over the winter in Puerto Rico, reports MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Iglesias, a 24-year-old righty, has been working on strength and conditioning since inking a seven-year, $27MM deal with Cincinnati, and only just began long-tossing. He is under reserve with the Santurce Cangrejeros, and would throw for that club if he does play winter ball.
Phil Hughes of the Twins has capped off one of the game’s best turnarounds by topping 200 innings on the year after today’s outing. As Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes on Twitter, Hughes picked up a $250K bonus after passing the 195 IP threshold. Needless to say, Minnesota is thrilled that it not only landed Hughes, who just turned 28, but that it did so on a three-year deal that promises him just $24MM in total. As Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register observes (Twitter link), Hughes has struck out 181 batters while issuing a mere 16 walks this year, meaning that he owns an absurd 11.3 K/BB ratio. That is a historically significant mark, and one that would surely have made the righty one of the offseason’s most interesting free agents had he elected to take a one-year pillow contract last year.
- You can count the Yankees among the teams taking a hard look at Yasmani Tomas, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. Of course, they will be far from the only team doing so. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez provides an interesting look at the much-hyped young slugger, who is preparing for an important showcase on Sunday. “It was really difficult to leave Cuba,” said Tomas (translation from Spanish via Sanchez). “It is for all of us who do it. But it’s difficult there with the way the security is and how they control the players. I made an important decision to fulfill my dream and see if I was at the level of major league players. Here I am, and now I go forward.”
- Rangers hurler Colby Lewis says that he was told “maybe” when he asked club GM Jon Daniels about the possibility of a return next year, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star -Telegram reports on Twitter. The 35-year-old righty has only a 5.12 ERA over 158 1/3 innings this year, but then again he had been out since July of 2012 with various injury issues. Lewis owns a 4.33 FIP and has notched 7.0 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 on the season, making him a potentially appealing option for teams looking for a solid innings-eater.
- Twins closer Glen Perkins will be shut down for the rest of the year but ultimately received good news on his left arm, GM Terry Ryan told reporters including Phil Miller of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). Perkins will use a strength and conditioning program to deal with a forearm strain and nerve irritation, and is expected to be at full strength for the spring.
- The Orioles are nearing finalization of a deal with Cuban hurler Lazaro Leyva, reports Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter). Leyva has reportedly agreed to terms on a $725K deal to join the Baltimore organization.
Here are the day’s minor moves …
- Phillies minor league righty Shane Watson has been suspended for 50 games for a non-PED drug policy violation, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports on Twitter. Watson was taken out of high school with Philadelphia’s first choice (40th overall) in the 2012 amateur draft. Now 21, Watson threw to a 4.75 ERA in 72 innings last year at the low-A level, striking out 6.6 and walking 3.5 batters per nine in his first year of full-season action. He entered the season rated 18th among Phillies prospects by Baseball America, but has battled with a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis and shoulder surgery that took him out for the season. As Gelb reported recently, the Phillies were still monitoring Watson’s progress but believed he would return to the hill from the shoulder issue.
Here’s the latest on the Diamondbacks’ search for a new GM following the recent removal of Kevin Towers from that role.
- The Diamondbacks completed the GM interview process today, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert tweets.
- Angels pro scouting director Hal Morris did not advance to the second round of interviews, reports Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times (on Twitter).
- Watson has made it through to the second round and is considered a finalist, Heyman reports. One or two other candidates are expected to join him for final consideration.
- Dave Stewart will have an interview for the job this week, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. Rosenthal had previously reported that Stewart might be a key candidate for the position, but that Stewart could not demonstrate overt interest in it unless he thought he could get it, since he might risk losing his clients as a player agent.
- Tony La Russa is nearing a decision on the finalists to replace Towers with the first round of talks possibly ending by the middle of this week, baseball sources tell MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. Discussions have involved ten candidates, who Gilbert lists as: Allard Baird, Larry Beinfest, Billy Eppler, Gary LaRocque, Thad Levine, Ray Montgomery, Hal Morris, Tim Purpura, Dave Stewart and De Jon Watson.
- The Diamondbacks requested and received permission from the Yankees to speak with Eppler, but Gilbert reports Eppler declined the opportunity for a formal interview because of his commitment to the Yankees telling La Russa he only interviewed for the Padres’ opening because he is a native of the San Diego area.
As Baseball America’s Josh Leventhal writes, yesterday marked a two-week period where Major League clubs are free to negotiate with available minor league organizations. Major League clubs sign player development contracts with minor league organizations much like players will sign contracts with teams. As such, Leventhal notes that the “affiliation shuffle” is akin to free agency for minor league teams. Leventhal’s article provides more insight behind many of the moves and offers quite a bit of detail for those who are curious to read more about this process.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll see multiple teams sign deals with new affiliates, and MLBTR will keep track of them here for those that are interested …
- The Giants announced that they have reached a two-year PDC with Triple-A Sacramento (formerly occupied by the Athletics).
- The Brewers announced that they have reached a two-year PDC with Triple-A Colorado Spring (formerly occupied by the Rockies)
- Fresno (formerly the Giants’ affiliate) has announced that it has reached a PDC with the Astros.
- The Athletics have announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Sacramento to Nashville (previously occupied by the Brewers).
- The Dodgers have announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City (previously occupied by the Astros).
- The Rockies announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Colorado Springs to Albuquerque (previously occupied by the Dodgers).
- The Brewers have announced that their Triple-A affiliation with Nashville has been terminated by the Sounds.
- The Twins announced that they will be moving their Double-A affiliate from New Britain to Chattanooga (previously occupied by the Dodgers) after agreeing to a four-year term.
- The Dodgers announced that they will be moving their Double-A affiliate from Chattanooga to Tulsa (previously occupied by the Rockies).
- New Britain (formerly the Twins’ affiliate) has announced that that it has reached a PDC with the Rockies.
- Daytona (formerly the Cubs’ affiliate) has announced that it has reached a PDC with the Reds.
- The Cubs announced that they will be moving their High-A affiliate from Daytona to Myrtle Beach (previously occupied by the Rangers).
- The Indians announced that they will be moving their High-A affiliate from Carolina to Lynchburg (previously occupied by the Braves).
Former Rangers manager Ron Washington stated in a live press conference that he had an extra-marital relationship, which was the basis for his decision to leave his post. He also said that he intends to return to the game at some point in the future, though no specific timeline was given.
Here’s more on the Rangers…
- As Texas looks for its new skipper, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that there’s some mutual interest between the team and former cornerstone Michael Young. Sources tell Rosenthal that any past issues between Young and general manager Jon Daniels have been settled. Young, of course, had a tumultuous end to his time with the Rangers and at one point requested a trade, going on the record stating that he had “been misled and manipulated” and was “sick of it.”
- Daniels told reporters, including Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, that he expects the managerial search to pick up steam the week after the regular season’s conclusion. The Texas GM said that he is considering a wide variety of candidates, including one “just off the field” candidate, which could of course be Young. However, Grant notes that Young may not be ready to jump back into the game. Young turned down multiple offers that would’ve paid him more than $4MM to play in 2014 to be close to his family, Grant writes. Grant also speculates that 39-year-old Gabe Kapler could surface as a candidate, though Kapler declined to comment when reached by Grant last week.
- The Rangers will have scouts on hand to watch Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas‘ showcase this Sunday in the Dominican Republic, reports Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com. As he notes, the Rangers could be in need of a replacement for Alex Rios if his $13MM club option is not exercised. The Rangers do appear set with their other two outfield spots, however, with Leonys Martin under team control through 2018 and Shin-Soo Choo under contract through the 2020 season.
The Nationals have claimed infielder Pedro Florimon off waivers from the Twins, the club announced. This is the move that necessitated the designation of Eury Perez for assignment, which the team also announced.
Florimon, a switch-hitter, slashed .221/.281/.330 over 446 plate appearances in full season action last year for Minnesota. He swiped 15 bases (caught six times) and hit nine home runs. He was worse at the plate in minimal action this year, though did manage a .257/.328/.389 slash in 314 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. Florimon’s calling card, of course, is not his bat but his glove. Depending on one’s preferred defensive metric, Florimon has been anywhere from above average (career 3.8 UZR/150) to outstanding (21 defensive runs saved) in the field.
It is not immediately clear why Washington made a claim on Florimon. He will not, of course, be eligible for the postseason, and the club already has the pennant in hand. On the other hand, the 27-year-old shortstop could conceivably be a utility infield option for the team next year, as he can be controlled for the league minimum. The team has been said in the past to be looking for alternative options at short in the event that an extension cannot be reached with Ian Desmond, but it would seem a stretch to believe that Florimon would figure in those plans.
If Danny Espinosa is traded or non-tendered, a bench spot could conceivably go to a player such as Florimon (who, it is worth noting, has a much better track record hitting against righties). It appears that Florimon also comes with an option remaining, as he was added to the 40-man before the 2012 season but did not spend any time in the minors last year.
The Nationals have designated outfielder Eury Perez for assignment, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). The speedy 24-year-old missed significant time this year with a fractured toe, but was activated off of the 60-day DL and optioned to Triple-A in July. Perez was designated to make room for shortstop Pedro Florimon, who was claimed off waivers.
Perez entered the season rated 20th among Nationals prospects, according to Baseball America, after posting a .300/.336/.422 season with 23 stolen bases in his first full year at Triple-A in 2013. That line represented a step up in his slash and a step back in his baserunning output from years prior. In 273 plate appearances this year, Perez swiped 26 bags (against just four unsuccessful attempts) while slashing .310/.371/.409.
Though he remains a reasonably interesting player, Perez seems largely without a place in D.C. and has burned his last option this year. With Denard Span having an excellent season at the major league level and higher-upside prospects like Michael Taylor and Brian Goodwin filtering up, Perez is not a long-term piece for the Nats. On the other hand, it would be somewhat disappointing to lose him without achieving any return.
Three clubs in the league’s western division may have the greatest trade deadline regrets, in the opinion of MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince (writing for Sports On Earth). The Athletics have seen their fortunes fade since dealing away Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester, though of course Lester has been outstanding. The Mariners‘ three key additions — Austin Jackson, Kendrys Morales, and Chris Denorfia — have generally failed to hit. And the Dodgers passed on a chance to add an impact starter.
- Of course, it is eminently arguable that the Athletics‘ underperformance since the deadline is really not a reflection on Cespedes-Lester swap at all, as Tony Blengino of Fangraphs explains. The team has failed to score runs, to be sure, but that is due in large part to the production fall-offs from key first-half contributors like Brandon Moss, Derek Norris, and John Jaso (the latter, in large part, due to injury).
- The one-year extensions signed before the season by Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson and then-GM Kevin Towers contain rollover clauses that provide for automatic re-extensions if they are not dismissed by a certain date, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. (Such an anti-lame duck provision is also a feature of the Blue Jays’ contract with manager John Gibbons.) Player support for Gibson is “all but gone,” sources tell Rosenthal, but he could still be retained by chief baseball officer Tony La Russa.
- Meanwhile, Rosenthal joins others in reporting that Dave Stewart is the leading candidate to take over as GM. Stewart says he is “very interested” in the position, and his hiring would make it likely that Towers stays on in a senior scouting role, according to Rosenthal.
- Of course, the status of Stewart’s agency business (Sports Management Partners) would be up in the air if he takes the job. Rosenthal reports that some key clients such as Matt Kemp of the Dodgers have said they would stay on with SMP if the agency continues without Stewart.
- The Angels‘ run to the AL West crown represents a remarkable turnaround for GM Jerry Dipoto, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes. One year after most of his moves backfired, Dipoto has pulled off a series of largely successful trades and signings that helped fuel the team’s success. Most remarkably, perhaps, the team has received solid production from a variety of arms that have generally outperformed expectations.
- Another remarkable turnaround in Halos land is the working relationship between Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia, as Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register writes. Last August, it was even reported that things had deteriorated to the point that one or the other would have to go, though Scioscia shot down the suggestion at the time. Now, Dipoto credits Scioscia with doing an “unbelievable job” at making adjustments and acting on new information — as reflected in the team’s lineup construction and use of defensive shifts.
Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus discussed his disappointing season and pending free agency in a lengthy and excellent interview with Scott Macarthur of TSN.ca. Rasmus’s comments are too lengthy and complicated to encapsulate fully and fairly here, but are well worth a read (or a listen) to anyone interested in understanding one of the more interesting free agent situations in the game. Ultimately, Rasmus comes across as an extremely thoughtful player who, perhaps, needs the right environment to thrive. Though he did not say outright that he does not view that place as Toronto, Rasmus did say that his time with the Cardinals was at times “so unenjoyable that I had trouble wanting to come to the yard everyday and enjoy it,” and noted that he has “kind of run into some of that” this season as well. Said Rasmus: “This year has been a tough year and I’m just going to go home, enjoy it, go back to the drawing board and try to work my tail off this offseason to get in good shape and hopefully find a place to where I fit in well and I can help my team win.” It will be fascinating to see how his free agency turns out; though he has had good years and bad, Rasmus just turned 28, offers rare power for a center fielder, and has put up two approximately four-win seasons.
- Mets starter Dillon Gee is under team control for next year, but as Newsday’s Marc Carig writes, he could find himself squeezed out of the rotation after a tough second half. “I’ll have a spot somewhere,” said Gee. “It might not be here but it will be somewhere.”
- The Mets could be more and more inclined to hold off on adding a shortstop given the recent play of Wilmer Flores, as Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. “We’re getting a lot more comfortable,” said GM Sandy Alderson. “One of the reasons for giving [Flores] as much playing time as we have is to build up his number of plate appearances to get him more comfortable to try to establish sort of a baseline.” Alderson said that Flores has done a solid job defensively at short, noting that Ruben Tejada and Matt Reynolds also remain internal options to take the position next year.
- While Yasmani Tomas makes a good deal of sense for the Phillies, that does not mean that they are favorites to sign him, writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. Other clubs in better position to contend will likely place an increased value on adding a bat like Tomas given their spot on the win curve, Murphy suggests.