Author Archives: Mark Polishuk

Reactions To & Fallout From The Braves’ GM Change

The Braves’ offseason has already begun with the firing of general manager Frank Wren earlier today.  Here’s some more about the Braves’ decision and what’s next for the team…

  • Interim GM John Hart, team president John Schuerholz and long-time former manager Bobby Cox met with the media to discuss the move.  Schuerholz said he became concerned about the team’s dysfunction during the summer and felt a change was necessary before the end of the season (tweets from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale).
  • Hart is happy in his interim GM role and he’ll stay as an organizational advisor after a new general manager is hired, though Schuerholz left open the possibility that Hart could still be the Braves’ full-time GM (tweet from David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
  • Any decisions on Fredi Gonzalez and the Braves’ coaching staff will wait until after the new GM is hired.  Cox praised Gonzalez’s work and feels he should stay on as the team’s manager (tweets from Nightengale).
  • Bruce Manno, the Braves’ assistant GM and director of player development, was also fired, Schuerholz announced.
  • Jeff Wren, Frank’s brother and a Braves scout and special assistant, has been fired, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter link).
  • In a full column, Crasnick writes that the strained relationship between Cox and Wren has been evident since Cox omitted Wren from a list of people he wished to thank at his Hall of Fame induction speech. Cox will likely have a bigger role and voice going forward, Crasnick continues. He also notes that even if Gonzalez survives as the manager, there will assuredly be changes to the coaching staff.
  • Assistant GM John Coppolella seems to be a top contender or even the early favorite to be Atlanta’s next general manager, as cited by Nightengale, Yahoo’s Jeff PassanESPN.com’s Keith Law, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post (all Twitter links).
  • Wren “excelled at the mid-level and low-level decisions but failed at the big ones,” Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.  While Wren did a lot of good in his time with the club, he could only make so many expensive mistakes given the Braves’ mid-market payroll, and Wren threw away a lot of money on B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla, Kenshin Kawakami and Derek Lowe.
  • Some in the Braves organization questioned the lack of veteran leadership on the current roster, David O’Brien writes in a summary of Wren’s tenure.  Wren also made some questionable coaching hires and allowed some key members of the Braves’ baseball operations staff to leave for other jobs.  Highly-regarded pitching coach Roger McDowell was prepared to leave for Philadelphia last winter before Schuerholz convinced him to stay.
  • Even before the team’s 4-14 record in September, a high-ranking Braves source told Bob Nightengale that Wren and maybe Gonzalez would be fired if Atlanta missed the postseason.
  • There’s already been speculation regarding Royals GM Dayton Moore returning to Atlanta, and Royals owner David Glass tells MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel that he wouldn’t stand in Moore’s way if he wished to leave. However, Glass also says he “can’t imagine” Moore wanting to leave, adding that the organization is committed to Moore, and he feels that commitment is mutual. As Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star points out (on Twitter), Moore has spent eight years with the Royals building toward what could be the team’s first postseason appearance in nearly 30 years, and it’d be a shock for him to leave that behind. He is under contract through 2016.

Trade Candidate(s): The Reds’ Starting Pitchers

The Reds’ hopes of challenging in the NL Central were dimmed by several major injuries this year, and this visit from the injury bug was particularly damaging to a team who already faced some big decisions in the offseason.  With just over $71MM committed to 10 players on the 2015 payroll, the mid-market Reds may be forced to save some money by moving a starting pitcher.  Though Cincinnati’s durable and deep rotation has been a big part of the club’s success in recent years, pitching seems like a natural area for payroll reduction simply due to the fact that three starters will enter their third year of arbitration eligibility.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Baltimore OriolesTwo pitchers who won’t be dealt are Homer Bailey and Tony Cingrani.  The Reds have already committed to Bailey in the form of a six-year, $105MM extension, and wouldn’t have been likely to move him even if Bailey hadn’t recently undergone forearm surgery.  Cingrani has also had injury problems, spending most of 2014 on the DL with shoulder problems.  Had Cingrani been able to build off of his impressive 2013 rookie season, the Reds would’ve felt at least a bit better about trading one of their more established starters (Bronson Arroyo wasn’t re-signed last winter in part because the Reds were comfortable with Cingrani).

It’s possible Cincinnati could trade multiple starters, though I’d suspect that the team wouldn’t want to lose too much pitching depth until they know Bailey and Cingrani are fully healthy.  The Reds would probably rather not have David Holmberg or Dylan Axelrod as full-time rotation members next year, top prospect Robert Stephenson still needs some seasoning (a 4.74 ERA in 136 2/3 IP at Double-A in 2014) and the newly-signed Raisel Iglesias could still wind up in the bullpen.

The Reds’ other four pitchers are all controlled only through 2015, so the team likely wouldn’t score a truly huge return in a trade but all carry value even as one-year pitchers.  The candidates…

Johnny Cueto: The Reds have a $10MM option on Cueto for 2015 that is sure to be exercised given how well Cueto has pitched.  After an injury-shorted 2013, Cueto bounced back in a major way by posting a 2.15 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 3.73 K/BB rate over a league-leading 222 innings.

Cueto’s next contract will be in the nine-figure range, and it’s unclear if the Reds would be willing ink another major extension given how much money has been tied up in recent deals with Bailey, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips.  Cueto would net the biggest return in a trade, though moving their ace would seem to hint that the Reds are punting on 2015, which I doubt they’re prepared to do.  On the other hand, the Reds could trade Cueto for Major League parts (such what the Rays and Red Sox received for David Price, John Lackey and Jon Lester before last July’s trade deadline) and use a Cueto deal to reload rather than rebuild.

Keeping Cueto would give the Reds stability at the top of their rotation, and they could still explore dealing Cueto at next year’s trade deadline if they fall out of the race.  If they’re contending and wanted to keep Cueto, Cincinnati could then get a compensatory draft pick via the qualifying offer if he leaves in free agency after the 2015 season.

In a recent Insider-only piece, ESPN’s Buster Olney recently explored Cueto’s trade market and raised the possibility that the Reds could clear some payroll space by attaching Phillips, for example, to Cueto in a trade package.  With several notable starters available as free agents this winter, Olney believes some teams might prefer trading for a year of Cueto rather than making an expensive multiyear commitment for an ace on the open market.  Also, a contending team that potentially loses their ace in free agency (such as if Max Scherzer leaves the Tigers or James Shields leaves the Royals) could look to Cueto as a short-term replacement to keep their rotation strong for another run in 2015.

Mat Latos: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently cited Latos as perhaps the likeliest of the Reds’ starters to be dealt, as both Latos and Cueto can make a case for commanding an extension larger than Bailey’s deal.  While Cueto is two years older than Latos, presumably the Reds would be more inclined to extend their homegrown product than they would Latos, who missed part of 2014 with an elbow injury.  Latos has a 3.25 ERA in 102 1/3 IP this year, though ERA indicators show that he hasn’t pitched quite that well (3.64 FIP, 4.00 xFIP, 4.08 SIERA) and both his ground ball and strikeout rates dropped significantly below his career averages.  The right-hander’s average fastball velocity also dropped to 90.7 mph, down from 92.5 mph in 2013.

The Reds already tested the market for Latos at the trade deadline, so I tend to agree with Rosenthal that if a Cincy starter is moved, it’ll probably be Latos.  His declined numbers could be explained by his elbow issues, and if fully healthy, Latos could be a standout front-of-the-rotation starter for several teams.  He earned $7.25MM in 2014 in the last year of a two-year extension, and he’ll be eligible for arbitration for a third and final time this winter.

Mike Leake: Another pitcher with a third arb year remaining, Leake will get a raise from his $5.925MM salary in 2014.  The right-hander has been a reliable rotation piece over his five Major League seasons, not missing many bats (career 6.1 K/9) but inducing a lot of grounders (49.8% ground ball rate) and eating a lot of innings, averaging 191 IP over the last three years.

Leake comes with the fewest question marks of any Cincinnati starter, lacking the injury histories of Cueto and Latos but also never pitching nearly as well as those two have at their peaks.  While Leake’s ceiling in the bigs may never surpass the “solid” level (he has an even 100 ERA+ over his career), this also means that the Reds could extend him at a much lower price than Cueto or Latos.  A Leake extension could look something like the five-year, $65MM deal the White Sox gave John Danks a few years ago, as Leake and Danks are decent comparables in terms of age and career numbers to that point in their careers, plus both had one arb year left before free agency.

The Reds put Leake and Latos on revocable waivers in August, possibly in a move to gauge trade interest for the upcoming offseason.  I’d guess there’s a better chance Leake stays in Cincinnati than goes, though the Reds will certainly get interest in the durable 26-year-old.

Alfredo Simon: The big surprise of the group, the 33-year-old Simon moved from the bullpen to the rotation as an injury fill-in and wound up making his first All-Star team.  Though his performance has very much come back to earth in the second half, Simon still has a 3.48 ERA through 178 1/3 innings on the season despite a middling 5.9 K/9.

Simon is arb-eligible for the third time this winter and he’ll earn a healthy raise over his $1.5MM salary, though the raise will hardly break the bank.  Simon’s age and career track record give him a very modest amount of trade value, so it’s likely he stays with the Reds and competes for the fifth starter’s job (or returns to the pen) if and when a rotation spot opens up via trade.

With this variety of available starters and a wide variance in asking prices for each of the four pitchers, many teams could fit as potential trade partners for the Reds under the “you can never have too much pitching” argument.  If the Reds look to deal a starter and fill an everyday lineup hole at the same time, they’ll likely target a left fielder or a shortstop as upgrades on Ryan Ludwick and Zack Cozart, respectively.  Ludwick has a $9MM mutual option for 2015 but after two negative fWAR seasons, the Reds might instead buy him out (for a deferred $4.5MM) and look for other options.

Using these needs to speculate about trade partners, the Cubs, Diamondbacks and possibly the Indians stand out as teams with a shortstop surplus.  The Red Sox have a glut of outfielders and are known to be looking for starting pitching.  The Dodgers could finally solve their long-standing logjam in the outfield and, if it meant getting back Cueto or Latos, would be willing to eat a lot of salary on one of their high-priced outfield bats.

As Ken Rosenthal noted (video link), the Reds could employ some gamesmanship with their starters and perhaps leverage them against each other in figuring out which (if any) pitchers they want to sign over the long term.  Between these negotiations and waiting for the free agent pitching market to play out, Cincinnati might wait until January or even February to move a starter.  At this point, the only thing that seems certain about the Reds’ 2015 rotation is that at least one of Cueto, Latos, Leake or Simon won’t be on the roster come Opening Day.

Photo courtesy of Joy R. Absalon/USA Today Sports Images


Braves Fire Frank Wren

The Braves have fired general manager Frank Wren, the team announced.  John Hart, a senior advisor with the club, will become the interim GM and will also be part of a three-man team (along with team president John Schuerholz and former manager Bobby Cox) in charge of finding a permanent general manager.

It was reported earlier today by David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a front office move was on the verge of happening, and Wren’s firing comes just a day after the Braves were officially eliminated from postseason contention.  The team is in the midst of a dreadful 4-14 stretch and the slump brought with it several rumors that Wren was on the hot seat.  The Braves will also make changes to their international scouting and player development departments, Peter Gammons reports, though manager Fredi Gonzalez’s job appears to be safe according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman (Twitter link).

MLB: Spring Training-Atlanta Braves at New York YankeesWren had been a member of the Braves front office since 2000, first serving as Schuerholz’s assistant GM and then taking over the general manager’s job following the 2007 season.  While Wren obviously had a tough act to follow given Atlanta’s string of consecutive playoff appearances under Schuerholz, the Braves “only” reached the postseason three times during his seven seasons as general manager and never advanced further than the NLDS.  The Braves were in playoff contention for much of this season before their September collapse sunk their chances and left the team in danger of only its third sub-.500 record in the last 24 years.

It was just this past winter that Wren received a contract extension and wide praise around the baseball world for locking up several of the Braves’ young stars (Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Julio Teheran, Craig Kimbrel and Jason Heyward) and then acting fast to sign Ervin Santana in Spring Training when Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen both went down to Tommy John surgeries.

What ultimately doomed the 2014 Braves, however, was a lack of hitting, which underlined Wren’s two biggest mistakes — signing B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75.25MM free agent deal and signing Dan Uggla to a five-year, $62MM extension after acquiring the second baseman in a trade from the Marlins.  As ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick put it, these two moves alone probably cost Wren his job, since Uggla was released earlier this year and Upton has been a bust since coming to Atlanta.

Photo courtesy of Kim Klement/USA Today Sports Images



NL East Notes: LaRoche, Papelbon, Tomas

If you had to ask me now, I would assume that I would have to move on, unfortunately,” Adam LaRoche told CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman about his future with the Nationals.  Though LaRoche is having a strong season and is well-respected within the Nats’ clubhouse, the team may need to create a spot at first base for Ryan Zimmerman next season since Zimmerman is no longer able to play third.  If the Nationals do decline their side of LaRoche’s $15MM mutual option for 2015, expect the veteran to draw interest from several teams on the free agent market.  LaRoche will turn 35 in November but he’s still playing well enough to help any team in need of left-handed pop.

Here’s some more from around the NL East…

  • The Phillies haven’t had much success in trying to trade Jonathan Papelbon over the last year and releasing him would be a waste of an asset, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury writes in an analysis of the team’s options with the controversial closer.  Papelbon’s no-trade clause and 2016 vesting option make it complicated to either deal him or demote him from the closer’s job, so Salisbury notes that the team could just bring him back next season and hope to swing a trade next summer.
  • Also from Salisbury’s piece, he notes that the Phillies were willing to eat $13MM (of half) of Papelbon’s remaining salary in negotiations last offseason.  The Phillies shopped Papelbon to the Tigers but Detroit wasn’t interested due to concerns that Papelbon wouldn’t be a fit in the team’s clubhouse.
  • The Phillies will conduct a private workout with Yasmany Tomas today in the Dominican Republic, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports, and GM Ruben Amaro will be in attendance.  The Cuban outfielder’s open showcase on the weekend attracted scouts from several teams, and Tomas is expected to have private sessions with multiple teams in the near future.
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had had his leadership questioned by some members of the organization during the team’s September collapse, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports.  Along those same lines, Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC subscription required) thinks the Braves’ woeful performance over the last week has the appearance of a team that has quit on its manager.  The Braves seem on the verge of making a GM change, and while Gonzalez’s job may not be in as much jeopardy, obviously he’d be on the hot seat unless the club improves in 2015.
  • David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution believes (Twitter link) that the contract extensions signed by Gonzalez and GM Frank Wren last February ran through the end of the 2016 season.  Gonzalez and Wren’s previous contracts were both set to expire at the end of the current season.

Braves Front Office Move Coming “Very Soon,” Frank Wren Likely Out As GM

The Braves’ rumored front office changes could quickly become a reality, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link) reports that a “move is going to happen very soon.”  This move will likely be the removal of Frank Wren from the general manager’s job — O’Brien would be surprised if the move is anything besides Wren’s firing and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (Twitter links) that Wren is gone “barring a last-minute reversal” from upper management.  Wren could be fired as early as today, Rosenthal reports.

A 4-14 record in September both ended the Braves’ postseason hopes and generated speculation about Wren’s job security.  The most heavily-rumored scenario would see team president John Schuerholz or senior advisor John Hart take a larger role in the team’s baseball operations department, with assistant GM John Coppolella promoted to the general manager’s job on at least an interim basis.  (If Wren is indeed ousted today or before the season ends, Coppolella seems like the obvious candidate to be in the interim GM anyway.)


Quick Hits: Stewart, Hill, Braves, Rangers

MLBTR has been keeping track of all the rumors and candidates tied to the Diamondbacks‘ GM search, and it appears as if Dave Stewart is now “the favorite” to be the team’s next general manager, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.  Stewart will formally interview for the job this week.  Here’s some more news from around baseball…

  • Aaron Hill tells FOX Sports’ Jack Magruder that he wants to remain with the Diamondbacks next season.  Hill has lost September playing time to some of the D’Backs’ young infielders and was shopped before the July trade deadline.  It’s no surprise that Arizona might be looking to the future given that Hill has struggled this season, he’ll be 33 next Opening Day and the second baseman is still owed $24MM through the 2016 season.
  • While the Braves are still on the fringes of the NL wild card race, it looks like this could be a lost season for Atlanta.  MLB.com’s Mark Bowman looks at how the team was hurt by some front office and player (namely, Tim Hudson) losses and Bowman wonders if the Braves could shake up the coaching staff or even consider replacing GM Frank Wren.
  • The Rangers have used 27 different position players this season, and MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan looks at how each of them could fit into the 2015 team as Texas looks to rebound from this injury-riddled campaign.  Sullivan’s comments include his opinion that the Rangers will pick up Alex Rios‘ contract option for 2015 and that the catching situation “may be the most intriguing decision” of the offseason as the team will have to decide if Robinson Chirinos will be the regular catcher.

D’Backs Select Bobby Wilson’s Contract

Here are today’s minor transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Diamondbacks selected the contract of catcher Bobby Wilson, according to a team press release.  The veteran backstop signed a minor league deal with Arizona last November and he will look to appear in his first Major League game since 2012.  Wilson hit .208/.272/.321 in 447 career PA, all with the Angels from 2008-12, and he spent 2013 playing for the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate.  In a corresponding move to open a 40-man roster spot for Wilson, the D’Backs transferred Bronson Arroyo on the 60-day DL.

AL East Links: Cruz, Young, Greene, Pedroia

In his latest Insider-only piece for ESPN, Buster Olney expressed doubt that the Orioles would re-sign Nelson Cruz this winter.  The O’s are more likely to let Cruz go and pick up an extra draft pick (via the qualifying offer) since Cruz’s big season may have made him too expensive for Baltimore.  If the team looks for a right-handed bat to replace Cruz, Olney opines that the Braves’ Evan Gattis, rumored to be a trade candidate, would be a perfect fit as the Orioles’ new designated hitter.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Also from Olney, Yankees GM Brian Cashman originally passed on the idea of signing Chris Young when the team’s statistical analysts recommended that the Yankees pick up the recently-released Met.  Cashman’s change of heart paid off, as Young has a whopping 1.266 OPS in his short stint (29 PA) as a Yankee and three homers, including a walkoff to beat the Rays last Thursday.
  • Rookie right-hander Shane Greene‘s emergence has been a boon for the Yankees‘ injury-riddled rotation, and Kevin Kernan of the New York Post details the unlikely story of how Greene originally caught the eyes of team scouts.  Greene, a 15th-round draft pick in 2009, has a 3.56 ERA, 9.2 K/9 and 2.92 K/BB rate over 68 1/3 IP this season.
  • Dustin Pedroia‘s contract extension was considered to be very team-friendly when it was signed last year, but ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes wonders if the Red Sox were too quick to extend Pedroia given how recurring injuries caused his performance to drop off in 2014.  The Sox already had Pedroia locked up through 2014 (with a team option for 2015) on a prior contract before tearing that deal up for his new extension that runs through the 2021 season.
  • The Rays‘ planned payroll cut might not be all that drastic, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes, as the team still plans to contend next season.  Any payroll saved “will be the product of trades and tough choices.”  For instance, Topkin thinks Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Joyce could be trade candidates, as both players will get raises in arbitration this winter.
  • Earlier today, MLBTR’s Steve Adams compiled more news from around the AL East.

Mets “Almost Certain” To Retain Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins For 2015

The Mets are expected to bring back both general manager Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins for the 2015 season, sources tell Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.  Contract details haven’t been finalized with either man, though since Collins is already signed through 2015, Alderson’s status is the only one that needs to be immediately addressed.  The GM’s previous deal will expire at the end of the season, and though the Mets hold a team option on his services for 2015, Martino reports that it’s more likely the Mets will work out an extension with Alderson rather than just exercise the one-year option.

Alderson and Collins both joined the team prior to the 2011 season, and the rebuilding Mets have a 297-339 record under both men.  It had been assumed that Alderson would return in 2015, and though Collins’ status was perhaps in question earlier in the season, recent signs pointed towards his return as well.  The skipper signed a two-year extension with the Mets last September that covers him through 2015, plus a team option for 2016.

While wins and losses haven’t been a major concern for the Mets in recent years, this could be a different story in 2015 when Matt Harvey is back from Tommy John surgery and joins the several other promising young players on New York’s roster.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the Mets only announce that Collins is returning and don’t work out any further extension; the team will want to see if Collins is the right man to manage a contender before making a longer-term commitment.  At most, the Mets could exercise Collins’ 2016 option so he could avoid lame-duck status next year.

The Mets will make an official announcement on Alderson and Collins at the end of the season, and sources tell Martino that the club could confirm both are staying during a single press conference, though nothing has yet been decided.


Minor Moves: Michael Kohn, Jairo Diaz, Mike Zagurski

Here are the latest minor transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • Now-former Angels righty Michael Kohn has elected free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Kohn was designated for assignment earlier this month in spite of his 3.04 earned run average, having struggled to stay in the zone all year.
  • The Angels have purchased the contract of right-hander Jairo Diaz, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports.  The Halos will need to make another move to create a spot for Diaz on their 40-man roster (Twitter links).  Diaz, 23, has a 3.48 ERA, 11.8 K/9 and 4.25 K/BB rate over a combined 64 2/3 relief innings at the high-A ball and Double-A levels in 2014.
  • The Blue Jays granted left-hander Mike Zagurski his release earlier this week, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently reported on Twitter. Zagurski signed a minor league deal with Toronto in May and he has a combined 2.08 ERA, 12.3 K/9 and 2.86 K/BB rate over 60 2/3 relief innings with the Jays’ and Indians’ Triple-A affiliates this season.  The southpaw has been largely dominant in the minors over his career but his control issues have caused problems at the Major League level, as Zagurski has a 7.05 ERA, 5.5 BB/9 and 75 strikeouts over 75 1/3 career innings in the Show.