Author Archives: Mark Polishuk

Quick Hits: Forbes, Yankees, Alvarez, Kluber

“Overall, baseball has never been as big or as profitable” as it is now, Forbes’ Mike Ozanian writes in the magazine’s annual valuation of MLB franchises.  The average value of a Major League team is $1.2 billion, a massive increase from Forbes’ last calculation (of $811MM) just a year ago.  Fifteen teams were valued at least a billion dollars, with the Yankees leading the way at $3.2 billion.  Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • Despite the Yankees‘ incredible value, Hal Steinbrenner said the team is not for sale in an ESPN radio interview with Michael Kay and Don LaGreca (hat tip to Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News).  Selling the club is “not enticing in any way shape or form,” Steinbrenner said.  “It’s a family business. Many of us are involved from the family and we know this is what our dad would want, to carry on the tradition.”
  • Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez is drawing “serious interest” from the Nationals, The Washington Post’s James Wagner writes.  “The Nationals like Alvarez’s frame and stuff,” Wagner notes about the 18-year-old Alvarez, who is listed at 6’3″ and 175 pounds.  The Nats and Diamondbacks were cited as the top contenders for Alvarez by MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez last month, and if Alvarez will indeed be ineligible to sign until July 2, that will eliminate the D’Backs from contention due to penalties for going over slot in this signing period to land Yoan Lopez.  Even if Arizona is out of the running, however, the Nats will still have to bid against several other interested teams for Alvarez’s services.
  • The MLBPA has been encouraging players to look for other means of achieving guaranteed financial security rather than accept below-market extensions, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports.  One of those means is taking out a “loss-of-value” insurance policy to protect against injury (Max Scherzer took out such a policy last season) and Rosenthal suggests that Corey Kluber could explore doing the same this year to gain some leverage in contract talks with the Indians.  Kluber could cash in by signing an extension now, but waiting even one season to get into his arbitration-eligible years would greatly increase the value of a multi-year deal, Rosenthal argues.  With the loss-of-value policy backing him up, Kluber would have fewer worries about getting hurt this season and missing out on a chance at a big contract.
  • Brady Aiken‘s Tommy John surgery will lower his draft stock and potentially make him a risk for teams picking near the top of the first round, though Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal thinks the Red Sox could take a chance on Aiken with the seventh overall pick.  The addition of a first-round caliber talent in Yoan Moncada and an overall deep minor league system gives Boston the luxury to take a risk on Aiken and hopes that, if he recovers, they’ll have fallen into a future ace.
  • Jake Fox is trying to land a regular minor league job with the Blue Jays, and the veteran talks to Sportsnet.com’s Arden Zwelling about some of the ups and downs of being a baseball journeyman.

AL Notes: Price, Ludwick, Lindstrom, Blue Jays

Academy Award-winning actor, Michigan native and huge Tigers fan J.K. Simmons will throw out the first pitch at the Tigers’ opener on April 6.  Simmons won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar last month for his role in Whiplash, and if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll agree that the Tigers should probably hold off on having Simmons give a pep talk to the rookies before the game.  Here’s the latest from around the American League…

  • The Tigers‘ chances of extending David Price aren’t good, Mlive.com’s Chris Iott opines, as there are simply too many reasons for Price to test the free agent market this winter.  Price could potentially find a $200MM+ contract next offseason, so it’s possible Detroit would have to top that level now in order to retain him.
  • The Rangers told outfielder Ryan Ludwick that he wouldn’t make the team, GM Jon Daniels told reporters (including MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan).  Daniels described Ludwick as an “all-world guy” who he believes could help another team’s roster, though in the Rangers’ case, “as we look at it today, we thought other options in camp fit the roster better.”  Ludwick signed a minor league contract with Texas in February and, as an Article XX(B) free agent, would’ve been obligated to receive a $100K bonus if the Rangers wanted to keep him in the organization but not on the 25-man roster.
  • Matt Lindstrom is also an Article XX(B) free agent, and the Angels right-hander’s status could hurt his chances of making the roster since the Halos like to be flexible in sending relievers back and forth to the minors, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes.
  • Right-hander Steve Delabar told reporters (including Sportsnet’s Mike Wilner) that “it’s a shock to me” that he won’t be making the Blue Jays‘ Opening Day roster.  Delabar pitched well this spring but apparently lost his spot due to the emergence of Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna, both of whom seem very likely to make the team.  Delabar was clearly upset by the demotion, and when asked if he would accept a change of scenery to a new team, he said “it could be considered, but I’m not saying that that’s what I’m asking for or anything like that. But if that was to happen… I feel like I’m a major-league player and I can help a bullpen.”
  • Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders won’t be ready for Opening Day, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes, though the reason isn’t due to a setback in his rehab from knee surgery.  The team and Saunders both want to make sure the outfielder is 100 percent when he takes the field, which could be as soon as Toronto’s home opener on April 13.  Saunders had surgery to remove 60 percent of his left meniscus after tearing the cartilage earlier this spring — a decision that accelerated his timeline to take the field from midseason to early April.  Manager John Gibbons has referred to the radically altered timeline as “kind of a miracle,” and Saunders has already been DHing in Minor League games, per Chisholm. However, he’s yet to play outfield defense or run the bases; he’s returned to the dugout rather than running after each at-bat in those games, as the focus is currently just on getting his timing down in a game setting.

NL West Notes: Tulowitzki, Maxwell, Padres

Here’s the latest from around the NL West…

  • While Carlos Gonzalez specifically stated that he wanted to stay with the Rockies, Troy Tulowitzki somewhat tellingly only said “I want to win here” when asked by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale if he wanted to stay with the club.  The Rockies discussed Tulowitzki with a few teams this winter (including the Mets), a process that GM Jeff Bridich said the star shortstop was kept fully informed about, even though there wasn’t much to discuss. “We had conversations this winter, and Tulo has an understanding what we’re thinking….We talked to teams, but there really is nothing that came close to being done,” Bridich said.
  • Justin Maxwell can opt out of his minor league deal with the Giants if he isn’t on the club’s Major League roster by Tuesday, March 31, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.  The 31-year-old Maxwell is battling for a reserve outfield job and said he hasn’t decided what his next step will be if he’s told he isn’t making the roster.
  • While the Padres have come up short in high-profile pursuits of Yasmany Tomas, Hector Olivera and Yoan Moncada, that doesn’t mean the club hasn’t been busy on the international signing front.  In a profile of Padres international scouting director Chris Kemp, MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports that the team has signed 12 international players between the ages of 16-19 are close to deals with several others.  Of particular note is right-hander Starlin Cordero, who is already throwing at 94 mph at age 16 and only two months after being converted to pitching from the outfield.
  • Diamondbacks catching prospect Peter O’Brien has played back-to-back games in the outfield, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports.  O’Brien was having problems throwing the ball back to the mound in games earlier this month and he since hasn’t been back behind the plate.  Dubbed as the D’Backs’ catcher of the future by GM Dave Stewart and others within the organization, many scouts have questions about O’Brien’s long-term future behind the plate (even aside from his throwing issue).
  • In NL West news from earlier today, Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times discussed the Dodgers with Jeff Todd on the MLBTR Podcast…Jeff also asked MLBTR’s readers to rank the Dodgers‘ many notable offseason moves…I profiled Juan Uribe as a possible trade candidate…the Padres claimed righty Jandel Gustave off waivers from the Royals…the Mets are checking in on both the Rockies and Dodgers as part of their search for relief pitching help.


Twins Looking For Relief Pitching

The Twins are looking to add bullpen help, two sources tell La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  The club is looking to add at least one and possibly two hurlers to their relief corps, possibly through trades or via waiver wire pickups as teams make roster cuts at the end of Spring Training.

“This bullpen has been a topic of conversation at headquarters,” Neal writes, and it “isn’t surprising” that Minnesota is looking for reinforcements given that their pen has an overall lack of experience and pitchers who can miss bats.  Getting another left-hander could be a specific need, Neal notes.  Besides closer Glen Perkins, the Twins have Brian Duensing and Caleb Thielbar as their primary lefty bullpen arms.  Southpaw Aaron Thompson has had a good Spring Training and may have gotten himself in the mix, though the 28-year-old has only 15 career Major League innings to his name.

Trevor May, Tommy Milone and Mike Pelfrey are battling for the fifth starter’s job and Twins GM Terry Ryan recently told MLB.com’s Andrew Simon that any of the trio could also see bullpen duty.

Twins relievers ranked 21st in the league in ERA (3.73), 24th in fWAR (0.9), 29th in xFIP (4.18) and dead last in strikeouts per nine innings (6.66 K/9).  Perhaps the biggest issue facing Minnesota’s bullpen is Perkins’ health, as the star closer has missed most of Spring Training with an oblique injury, though he is back pitching now and is expected to be ready for Opening Day.


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Trade Candidate: Juan Uribe

Much is still unknown about how (or if) the pending addition of Hector Olivera will impact the 2015 Dodgers.  The Cuban infielder could struggle in his first taste of American pro ball and require more time in the minors than expected, or Olivera’s slightly-torn UCL in his right elbow could become a major issue and put him on the disabled list.  As the Dodgers already have Juan Uribe and Howie Kendrick manning third and second base, they don’t even have any immediate need for Olivera’s services, and could be planning to only give Olivera significant playing time in 2016.

On the other hand, what if Olivera demolishes Triple-A pitching and forces the Dodgers’ hand for a promotion?  While Olivera is a versatile player, it’s hard to believe he’d see much time at first base given Adrian Gonzalez‘s presence or in left field given how the Dodgers already have an outfielder surplus.  Kendrick over four years younger than Uribe and has a longer track record of consistency and durability, so it would be a big surprise to see Kendrick lose his starting job for any reason other than an injury.MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers-Workout

If the Dodgers decide to find a place for Olivera, therefore, it will likely be at the hot corner.  Uribe is a free agent after the season, and many have speculated that with Olivera on board, the Dodgers are already planning for a future without the 14-year veteran.  As Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins are also both pending free agents, it’s possible the 2016 Dodgers infield could consist of Olivera, Corey Seager and Alex Guerrero, with Enrique Hernandez and Justin Turner in super-sub roles.

With all this in mind, could L.A. consider cutting ties with Uribe early and start shopping the 36-year-old on the trade market this summer?  If Uribe starts until Olivera is called up, then Uribe’s first month or two of the season could essentially be an audition for other teams.  Turner and Hernandez could become the top fill-in third base options if Olivera were to struggle; both men hit well in 2014, especially Turner and his .897 OPS over 322 plate appearances.  (Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron recently opined that the Dodgers didn’t need Olivera since they already had a cheaper comparable in Turner.)

Hamstring injuries limited Uribe to 103 games last season, though he still hit .311/.337/.440 with nine homers in 404 plate appearances.  While that slash line was undoubtedly aided by a .368 BABIP, it was Uribe’s second consecutive solid year at the plate (a .769 OPS and 116 OPS+ in 2013), continuing an unlikely career turn-around after his production fell off the table in 2011-12.  While his hitting has yo-yoed over the last four years, however, his defense has been uniformly tremendous.  Since the start of the 2010 season, Uribe’s 41 Defensive Runs Saved are the fifth-most of any third baseman in baseball and he has the best UZR/150 (25.4) of any player who has played at least 2500 innings at third.  Between that stellar glove and his improved bat, Uribe’s 8.6 fWAR over the last two seasons has been topped by only 28 players.

With all this in mind, you could argue that the Dodgers would need to see significant evidence from Olivera before they considered giving up on Uribe.  Even keeping Uribe in a bench role would be a fit for L.A. since they certainly have the payroll capacity to afford a $6.5MM backup, and he plays an “integral” leadership role in the clubhouse.

Still, as we’ve already seen from the Andrew Friedman/Farhan Zaidi regime, no move can be ruled out for the Dodgers’ roster.  If the team’s starting pitching depth becomes tested (i.e. Brandon McCarthy or Brett Anderson‘s significant injury histories, or Hyun-Jin Ryu’s bad shoulder), Uribe could be an intriguing trade chip for a starter.  Or, as the Dodgers are having trouble finding takers for Andre Ethier, they could sweeten the pot by adding Uribe to the mix, though contract size could still be an issue.

Looking at contenders with a possible hole at third base, the Indians, Tigers, Royals and White Sox are all going with young players who have yet to prove themselves as surefire contributors.  For these four teams, acquiring Uribe for a pennant race wouldn’t spell the end of, for example, Nick Castellanos or Mike Moustakas as a “third baseman of the future” since Uribe could leave in free agency next winter anyway.  Beyond the AL Central, the Giants are relying on Casey McGehee to repeat his solid 2014 season, though it’s near-impossible to see the Dodgers swing a trade with their arch-rivals.

For the moment, Uribe is staying put in Los Angeles.  If Olivera (or even Turner) starts swinging a hot bat, however, don’t be surprised if the Dodgers start exploring deals.  The Dodgers’ overflow of talent in both the infield and outfield gives them a number of options if they need to patch holes in their rotation or bullpen, and Uribe might be the most realistic trade chip of the bunch.

Photo courtesy of Rick Scuteri/USA Today Sports Images


Brady Aiken Undergoes Tommy John Surgery

In a self-penned piece for The Players’ Tribune, left-hander Brady Aiken revealed that he underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday.  While pitching at IMG Academy last week, Aiken said that “something felt a little wrong” and examination revealed that he had a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

The Astros took Aiken with the first overall pick of the 2014 draft but failed to reach an agreement with the then-17-year-old.  Negotiations fell through due to Houston’s concerns over Aiken’s unusually small UCL, and the club wanted to reduce Aiken’s proposed bonus from $6.5MM to $5MM.  The Astros’ failure to sign Aiken caused a chain reaction that led to fifth-rounder Jacob Nix also going unsigned, which led to an MLBPA grievance since Nix had made a verbal agreement with the team.

Aiken was projected to be one of the top picks in the 2015 draft, and despite his surgery, it’s still possible (if even probable) that he could receive a high selection if his recovery proceeds as planned.  As Aiken noted himself, two pitchers — Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde — who underwent Tommy John surgery last year were taken ninth and 18th overall, respectively.  Aiken’s case could differ, however, due to his small UCL; one of the questions the Astros had about his health was that recovery from possible TJ surgery could be more difficult given his ligament’s size.

If all goes well for Aiken, undergoing the surgery now would mean he would be back throwing in 12-14 months and able to start his minor league career early in the 2016 season.


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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.

Dodgers To Sign Hector Olivera

The Dodgers have reportedly landed yet another high-profile Cuban talent by agreeing to a six-year, $62.5MM contract with infielder Hector Olivera.  The deal contains a $28MM signing bonus and is pending a physical.  Olivera is represented by Greg Genske of the Legacy Agency.

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Olivera reportedly has a slight UCL tear in his right elbow, and the deal provides protection for the team in the event that it proves problematic. Los Angeles would pick up an option for a seventh season at the price of just $1MM in the event that Olivera needs Tommy John surgery at some point during the six guaranteed seasons. That type of clause is, of course, most associated with pitcher John Lackey, whose free agent deal with the Red Sox included a similar provision that ultimately gave the team a valuable additional season of control.

Olivera’s signing process was a long and often controversial one, including an agent change, contested reports of a damaged UCL (which now seem to have had validity) and a wide spectrum of possible contracts ranging from four to six years in length and between $30MM to over $70MM in value. In the end, Olivera and Legacy have to be pleased to have landed an agreement near the highest end of those projected deals.  The Dodgers outbid several teams for Olivera’s services, as the Padres, Marlins, Braves, Giants, Mariners, Yankees, Twins and A’s were said to have varying degrees of interest.

The signing represents the Dodgers’ most expensive dip yet into the Cuban market.  The club has also added Yasiel Puig ($42MM), Alex Guerrero ($28MM), Erisbel Arruebarrena ($25MM) and Pablo Fernandez ($8MM) within the last three years, yet they’ve managed to add this significant international talent without going over their international bonus pool limit.  While clubs like the Red Sox or Diamondbacks are prevented from signing international players for more than $300K until July 2017 for exceeding their pools, the Dodgers have largely targeted players who aren’t pool-eligible, like the 29-year-old Olivera.

Beyond the UCL rumors, some scouts were also concerned that Olivera missed over a season in Cuba recovering from a blood clot in his arm, and he played mostly DH after returning to action in 2013.  Still, MLB scouts were very impressed with Olivera’s right-handed hitting approach, his ability to play at either second or third base, and his potential to contribute right away, as Baseball America’s Ben Badler notes.  In a more detailed scouting report available to BA subscribers, and Badler writes that Olivera “compares favorably to the two top recent Cuban signings who received major league contracts, Yasmany Tomas and Rusney Castillo.”

Olivera still needs to obtain a visa, and as Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan notes, he’ll likely need about a month in the minor leagues, so May is probably the earliest we’d see Olivera in a Dodgers uniform.  L.A. has no need to rush Olivera as they already have Juan Uribe at third and Howie Kendrick at second; ironically, of all Olivera’s suitors, the Dodgers were perhaps the team least in need of immediate infield help.  With Uribe and Kendrick both free agents after the season, however, it seems that Olivera will replace one (probably Uribe, as most feel Olivera is best suited to third) as the Dodgers’ long-term solution.

MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez first reported the signing, while Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted financial details. Robert Murray (via Twitter), Sanchez (via Twitter), and J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group (also on Twitter) reported details of the injury clause.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Minor Moves: Aaron Cunningham, Donnie Joseph

Here are today’s minor league transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post….

  • The Diamondbacks released outfielder Aaron Cunningham, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets.  Cunningham hit .255/.342/.346 over 281 plate appearances for Triple-A Reno last season.  The 28-year-old outfielder last appeared in the majors in 2012 and received 501 PA with the Indians, Padres and A’s from 2008-12.
  • The Marlins have released left-handed reliever Donnie Joseph from their Triple-A affiliate, according to the Pacific Coast League’s transactions page.  Originally a Reds prospect, Joseph was dealt to the Royals as part of the Jonathan Broxton trade in July 2012 and then dealt to Miami last June.  The southpaw has posted a 3.84 ERA, 11.9 K/9 and 2.44 K/BB rate over 316 career innings in the minors, plus Joseph has 6 1/3 Major League innings to his name from a couple of brief stints with the Royals in 2013-14.

Quick Hits: Zimmer, Boras, Draft, Dozier

The Rays will honor the late Don Zimmer by announcing that his #66 jersey will be retired in a ceremony on Opening Day.  Zimmer only wore #66 for one season during his 11 years as a senior advisor for the Rays, as he increased his uniform number by one every season to reflect how many years he had spent in baseball.  The beloved long-time coach, manager and player passed away last June.

  • Using Max Scherzer‘s signing with the Nationals as an example, Scott Boras discusses how he markets (though the agent dislikes that term) and presents his major free agent clients in an interview with Bloomberg’s Joshua Green.  Boras and his staff identify which teams are ideal fits for his clients and then specifically tailors each pitch to relate to each team owner during negotiations.  With Scherzer, Boras had four lengthy meetings with Nats owner Ted Lerner highlighting how Scherzer would create more value to the franchise both baseball-wise and from a business perspective.
  • MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo debate which club has had the best farm system of the last five years.  Callis chose the Nationals since they’ve found more superstar talent, while Mayo picked the Cardinals due to their system’s overall depth.
  • The possibility of an international draft has been a topic of discussion throughout baseball lately, with proponents like commissioner Rob Manfred advocating a “single modality of entry” to allow consistency in the way MLB teams sign amateurs from various parts of the world.  Flipping the idea around, however, Rob Neyer of FOX Sports suggests that MLB could instead ensure consistency by abolishing the amateur draft.  Instead of a draft, MLB could allow teams to spend a predetermined amount on amateur players (be they domestic or international) each year. Neyer favors doing so in such a way that would stop baseball from penalizing winning by having the top teams take lower draft picks.  The idea could also be easily modified so that teams with the worst records would be able to spend more money.  In either case, Neyer believes his system would encourage all teams to hunt for talent both at home and abroad.
  • It’s becoming rare to see pre-arbitration players sign extensions that don’t cover at least one free agent year, yet Brian Dozier‘s new contract with the Twins is such a deal, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards writes in his analysis of the extension.  Edwards thinks more players could possibly pursue “a safe deal” like Dozier’s if they “place an emphasis on getting to free agency.”
  • Orlando Hudson is in the Diamondbacks‘ camp to work with the infield, though he plans to be back on a diamond in more than an instructor role, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports (via Twitter).  Hudson hopes to play winter ball and attempt a Major League comeback for the 2016 season.  The 37-year-old former Gold Glove second baseman last played in the bigs in 2012 and had seemingly hung up his spikes following brief stints in the Mexican and Dominican winter leagues in 2013.