Author Archives: Jeff Todd

East Notes: Papelbon, Warren, Victorino

Here’s the latest from the game’s eastern divisions to wrap up the day’s news:

  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos was notably on hand to watch Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon work early in his outing today against the Yankees, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. While Salisbury notes that it is impossible to know the reason for the visit, Toronto obviously has some questions at the back of its pen and has been mentioned as a plausible suitor for the veteran righty. Papelbon has looked strong this spring, as the report further notes, though his contract (and, in particular, its vesting clause for next year) remains the largest factor in his trade value.
  • Though the Yankees have yet to say so officially, Adam Warren appears ticketed for the team’s fifth starter role, as Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. If he does indeed take that slot, the out-of-options Esmil Rogers will either need to lock up a pen slot or, perhaps, find another team.
  • Shane Victorino‘s recent comments about the possibility of the Red Sox dealing for Cole Hamels led to a bit of a dust-up in Boston, due in part to a seemingly strained interpretation suggesting that Victorino was advocating for the departure of phenom Mookie Betts. As Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports, Victorino vehemently denies that reading of his words. Regardless, of course, as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal explains, Boston’s front office understandably has little interest in shipping away its most prized young talent for expensive veterans.

West Notes: DeShields, Aiken, Lopez

Here are some notes out of the game’s western divisions:

  • Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields Jr. appears to have a place on the Rangers roster, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Taken from the Astros this winter, DeShields could be a force on the basepaths and would otherwise represent a backup center field and second base option.
  • The Astros-Brady Aiken fallout remains too clouded in uncertainty for final judgment, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. While Aiken’s Tommy John procedure has led some to claim that Houston was justified in seeking to drop the price tag on the first overall pick last year, Drellich explains that it is more complicated than just looking at that result. There’s a lot of ground covered in the article, and it is worth a full read for those interested in understanding this complicated situation.
  • New Diamondbacks righty Yoan Lopez has shown steady improvement in spite of an unsightly ERA in his first professional action, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Rival scouts have raised some questions about his upside, but D’backs pitching coach Mike Harkey says that he fully expects the 22-year-old to become “a really good pitcher.” Lopez has not brought quite the level of velocity that led the team to sign him, but manager Chip Hale explains that velo isn’t everything: “I think the fastball hasn’t been quite the velocity that we thought, but 92 is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you can make it move and control it, spot it,” said Hale. “The electricity has been in the breaking ball, especially, and the change-up. But I think we do expect a little tick up in the velocity eventually.”

AL Central Notes: Graham, Pelfrey, Salazar, Finnegan

Word in the scouting community is that the Twins made a great Rule 5 pick-up in righty J.R. Graham, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com tweets. Graham was once a top-100 prospect with the Braves, who would receive him if he cannot stick with Minnesota or another club for the duration of the year. He scuffled in his second attempt at Double-A last year, throwing 71 innings (including 19 starts) of 5.58 ERA ball, striking out 6.3 and walking 3.3 batters per nine.

Here’s more from Minnesota and the rest of the AL Central:

  • The Twins might benefit from shipping Mike Pelfrey to a team that needs starting depth in exchange for a lefty pen piece, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Pelfrey is, however, owed $5.5MM this year, which as Berardino notes would stand to complicate any trade efforts. The 31-year-old righty recently spoke with MLBTR’s Zach Links about his situation, saying that he feels good and is preparing to embrace whatever role he is given.
  • The Indians optioned righty Danny Salazar to Triple-A today, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. The 25-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance — in thirty career big league starts, he has struck out more than ten and walked less than three per nine — but has yet to put it all together and struggled badly this spring. With 162 days of service to his name, Salazar will pick up a year of service so long as he spends any real amount of time in the bigs, though a prolonged stint in the minors could jeopardize his ability to qualify as a Super Two down the line. Zach McAllister, T.J. House, and Josh Tomlin are now the three arms in the mix for the club’s final two rotation spots.
  • Also headed back to the minors is Royals lefty Brandon Finnegan, as Barry Bloom of MLB.com reports. A draft pick turned late-season star in 2014, Finnegan had a rough go in his first big league camp and will also benefit from the chance to develop as a starter. “We just thought it was better for him to go down,” said manager Ned Yost. “He had a huge workload last year. He hasn’t been real sharp in Spring Training. Just get him back down, get him going again. And have him ready for whenever we need him.” Of course, the club intends to be careful with limiting Finnegan’s workload, so it remains to be seen how much impact he can have at the major league level. Then again, the loss of Tim Collins leaves the club relying on Franklin Morales and Brian Flynn as pen lefties, so it is not hard to imagine a need arising. Finnegan has 28 days of service thus far, so a few months in the minors would likely keep him shy of a full year of credit.


Padres Fielding Trade Inquiries On Relievers

The Padres are among the teams around the league who are receiving trade interest in their relief pitching, MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports on Twitter. As Brock notes, that is not necessarily surprising given San Diego’s pen depth.

Joaquin Benoit is cemented at the back of the pen, with righties Kevin Quackenbush, Dale Thayer, and Nick Vincent also looking like solid bets to maintain their roles. Offseason acquisitions Shawn Kelley and Brandon Maurer are also options from the right side, along with several minor league free agent signees, such as Jose Valverde, Marcos Mateo, and Jay Jackson.

Assuming he is not able to crack the rotation, Odrisamer Despaigne looks like a good bet to function as a long-man and spot starter. The club claimed the Rule 5 rights to Jandel Gustave recently, though he seems a long shot to break camp at this point.

The Pads have Alex Torres leading things among lefties, with Frank Garces and Chris Rearick also still in camp. Southpaw Scott Elbert has been sent to the minor league side for now but could factor into the equation down the line.

It remains to be seen whether San Diego will be motivated to pull the trigger on a deal, but it likely will not be forced into action. The team could roll with Benoit, Quackenbush, Thayer, Vincent, Kelley, and Despaigne, with Torres functioning as the lone lefty, while starting the remainder of those names mentioned in the minors. Of course, opt-outs or long-term strategic considerations could lead the team to part with one or more of its minor league free agents, but there appears to be a reasonable amount of flexibility. That depth also could allow the Friars to strike a deal to fill another need, of course.


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Aiken Situation Could Lead To Changes In Draft Medicals

The Brady Aiken saga culminated yesterday with the news that he had undergone Tommy John surgery. Now, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the league and players association are preparing to explore ways in which medical information procedures can be adjusted to foreclose such a scenario in the future.

Aiken, of course, was the first overall pick of the Astros. He reportedly had a deal in place until a physical revealed a thinner-than-normal ulnar collateral ligament, leading the team to reduce its offer. Aiken ultimately did not sign. He will be eligible for the coming year’s draft, but will enter it in the midst of a rehab protocol.

There is still plenty of uncertainty as to where things might be headed in terms of the draft. One possibility, per Passan, is that a panel of medical experts would certify some number of draft-eligible players as having clean bills of health. On the other end of the spectrum, a full-fledged combine could take place that, among other things, would result in much more significant medical information going to every team.

Even the less involved of those two poles of the range of possibilities would come with difficulties. Logistics such as draft timing (in relation to the NCAA season) must be addressed. Both sides will have plenty to work through, but it seems from the report as if there is at least broad agreement that some procedural improvements should be considered.


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Brandon League Likely Out Several Months

Dodgers righty Brandon League is expected to miss at least a couple of months with a right shoulder injury, manager Don Mattingly told reporters including MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick (via Twitter). An MRI revealed that there was sufficient injury to require League to be shut down, though it appears he will avoid surgery for the time being.

League, 32, figured to be a fairly important piece in the Dodgers pen. Though he is undoubtedly overpaid as he enters the final guaranteed year of his three-year, $22.5MM pact, League is nevertheless a plenty viable arm. Last year, he tossed 63 innings of 2.57 ERA ball, compiling a 3.40 FIP in spite of just 5.4 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 because he also managed to induce groundballs at a ridiculous 67.5% clip.

League’s deal includes a vesting option that will not almost certainly not vest. Of course, that was quite unlikely regardless since the clause was tied to games finished, requiring League to be the last Dodger to toe the rubber at least 55 times this year. Barring a run of unpredictable events, that was not going to happen anyway.

The news on League is perhaps most troubling for what it means for the Dodgers’ overall pitching depth. Already compensating for injuries to Kenley Jansen and starter Hyun-jin Ryu, the team is looking somewhat thin on established, healthy arms. Of course, with plenty of trade candidates amongst their positions players, the Dodgers could conceivably swing a deal or two to fill some innings.


Jordan Zimmermann Says Extension Unlikely

Nationals righty Jordan Zimmermann, one of the team’s proudest homegrown talents, indicated today that a new deal appears rather unlikely, as Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington reports. Zimmermann made clear again today that he will refuse to discuss a contract during the season, leaving scant time to revive momentum.

Zimmermann, a Relativity Baseball client, is set to become one of the most desirable free agents in next year’s class. “I’m just not going to talk during the season,” said Zimmermann. “If something gets done before then — which is probably pretty rare right now — then it gets done. But it’s not looking good.”

With Max Scherzer now under contract for the foreseeable future, the Nationals seemingly lost interest in trying to convince the 28-year-old Zimmermann to take a deal that was palatable to the club. The same, perhaps, is true of Doug Fister. It remains to be seen, of course, whether the team will ultimately make a run at inking Stephen Strasburg to a long-term deal, though he too may be too close to free agency for that to be a realistic possibility.

As for Zimmermann, even an average season by his standards should make him an easy $100MM+ free agent. If he can repeat or improve upon last year’s effort (2.66 ERA/2.68 FIP over 199 2/3 innings), then he’ll probably be looking to build on the Jon Lester deal.


Minor Moves: Harris, Lohman, Boggs

Here are the day’s minor transactions, updated as we go:

  • The Rays have released outfielder James Harris, MLBTR has learned. Harris was a supplemental first-round pick in the 2011 draft, taken 60th overall by Tampa and signed for a (then under-slot) bonus of $490K. Drafted as something of a toolsy project out of high school, Harris never got comfortable at the plate during his four pro seasons, hitting only .215/.291/.305 over 898 minor league plate appearances. The 21-year-old topped out at the A-ball level in the Rays’ system last year.
  • The Phillies announced that they have acquired minor league shortstop Devin Lohman from the Reds in exchange for future considerations. Lohman, 25, has spent the past two seasons with Cincinnati’s Double-A affiliate in Pensacola, where he’s batted a combined .240/.307/.339. A third-round pick by Cincinnati in 2010, Lohman’s bat has never come around as a pro, but he’s a well-regarded defender. Baseball America ranked him 25th among Reds farmhands two offseasons ago on the strength of his glove and ranked him as the best infield defender in the organization’s minor league system that winter as well.
  • The Red Sox have released right-handed reliever Mitchell Boggs, the team announced. Boggs, 31, was in camp on a minor league deal. He has not pitched in the big leagues since 2013, but had enjoyed six straight seasons of MLB pen work before that. Over 316 2/3 career frames, Boggs owns a 4.12 ERA with 6.6 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9. His best year to date was 2012, when he racked up 73 1/3 innings of 2.21 ERA pitching for the Cardinals.

MLB Trade Rumors Podcast: Dylan Hernandez

This week, Jeff talks Dodgers with Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, exploring the team’s changes under new front office leadership and attempting to sort out where the busy organization is headed. Jeff also checks in with MLBTR’s Zach Links about his spring training travels.

Click here to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and please leave a review! The podcast is also available via Stitcher at this link.

The MLB Trade Rumors Podcast runs weekly on Thursday afternoons.


Poll: Rating The Dodgers’ Offseason Moves

The Dodgers have had an incredibly busy offseason under new president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi. Indeed, as MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker shows, the new Los Angeles regime has racked up about thirty deals of some kind or another.

Many of those, of course, were not major moves. But the Dodgers have obviously not been shy about making significant transactions to add and remove veterans from their roster — a topic that I discussed at length with Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times for today’s MLBTR Podcast. (Keep an eye out for that to post later today.)

Sticking to the most impactful deals, I thought it would be interesting to get a sense of how the MLBTR readership views the work of the new LA leadership. (We’ll treat the interconnected Kendrick and Gordon deals as one for purposes of this poll.)

Sign infielder Hector Olivera for six years, $62.5MM

Olivera figures in the mix at second or third, but with so many other options there — and given the risk that he brings — was this a wise allocation of resources?

Sign starter Brett Anderson for one year, $10MM

Anderson has always been productive when healthy, but can he stay on the hill?

Sign starter Brandon McCarthy for four years, $48MM

Can McCarthy continue his success from late last year and avoid his own injury woes?

Acquire shortstop Jimmy Rollins from Phillies for minor league pitchers Zach Eflin and Tom Windle

Rollins is still a solid performer despite his age, but will he hit a wall at age 36?

Acquire second baseman Howie Kendrick from Angels for starter Andrew Heaney after acquiring Heaney, infielder/outfielder Enrique Hernandez, reliever Chris Hatcher, and catcher Austin Barnes from Marlins in exchange for middle infielder Dee Gordon, pitcher Dan Haren, infielder Miguel Rojas, and a player to be named 

Giving up Gordon while adding Kendrick upgraded the team in the near term but sacrificed control, and the team passed on a chance to plug a young arm into the back of a rotation that arguably lacks depth.

Acquire catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Wieland, and Eflin from Padres in exchange for outfielder Matt Kemp and $32MM

As Hernandez discusses on today’s podcast, this move has the biggest chance for blowback potential from the fan base; was it a shrewd business move or will the organization regret parting with a prominent star?

(Click here for results.)

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