Author Archives: Mark Polishuk

Orioles, Nelson Cruz Mutually Interested In Extension

3:03pm: Cruz himself now tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli, that the Orioles and Katz have had some extension talks since the All-Star break, but the talks have not been serious in nature. The slugger adds that after his difficult experience last offseason, he would like to get an extension worked out before season’s end, although he knows that scenario may not be realistic, given the casual nature of talks to this point. He also repeated that he would like to remain an Oriole beyond the 2014 season (Twitter links).

11:37am: The Orioles and Nelson Cruz share an interest in keeping the slugger in Baltimore past the 2014 season, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  Both Dan Duquette and Adam Katz (Cruz’s agent) declined on comment on whether any extension talks have already taken place or will take place, though both parties have felt Cruz has been a good fit in Baltimore this year.

It’s no secret it’s been a very positive experience for Nelson and the Orioles — though I don’t want to speak for them,” Katz said. “He’s enjoyed every minute of it.”

Cruz is set to hit free agency this winter and his big 2014 numbers will put him in line for a solid multiyear deal.  (MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked Cruz as the sixth-best player on the market in his most recent 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings.)  Cruz’s league-leading 34 homers and .256/.324/.510 slash line have gone a long way in answering the doubts that plagued his stint as a free agent last winter.  With a qualifying offer draft pick attached to him and a 50-game PED suspension clouding his reputation, Cruz was forced to settle for a one-year, $8MM deal from the O’s.

This tough experience last offseason might be a reason why Cruz is considering an extension, as Heyman notes it would be rather unusual for a player in Cruz’s situation (signing a one-year pillow contract type of deal and then delivering big) to not test the open market.  The O’s will certainly offer Cruz a one-year qualifying offer if an extension can’t be worked out, and rather than face such uncertainty again, it could be that Cruz simply prefers to stay in a familiar situation.


Quick Hits: Montero, Astros, Pierzynski

Jesus Montero was at the center of a bizarre situation on Thursday night, as MILB.com’s Tyler Maun reports.  While on a rehab assignment at Seattle’s short-season class A affiliate, Montero reportedly had to be restrained from going after a Mariners crosschecker with a bat after the scout reportedly sent an ice cream sandwich to the dugout.  Butch Baccala, the crosschecker in question, tells Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times that the incident is “not what is being portrayed,” though he didn’t want to comment further until speaking with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.

  • There is discord between Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports, and things may have gotten bad enough that “it’s difficult to imagine the Astros starting the 2015 season with the same management team.”  Porter feels he doesn’t have enough input in the team’s plans and Luhnow too often second-guesses his in-game decisions, plus there were some hard feelings over Mark Appel‘s bullpen session at Minute Maid Park last month.
  • Yadier Molina‘s return shouldn’t end A.J. Pierzynski‘s stint with the Cardinals, FOX Sports Midwest’s Stan McNeal writes.  Molina will need to be eased into his usual workload behind the plate, and with rosters expanding, the Cards will have room for three catchers (Tony Cruz being the third).  Pierzynski has also been a fit in the Cardinals’ clubhouse following the drama that marked his exit from Boston.
  • The Braves were the other finalist for right-hander Brandon Poulson, Baseball America’s Bob Padecky reports.  Poulson ended up signing a $250K bonus with the Twins, capping off a fairly incredible route to pro baseball for the 6’7″ fireballer.
  • Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred figures to differ from Bud Selig in several areas, and ESPN’s Jayson Stark outlines some of the areas that Manfred will focus on when he officially takes over the job.

AL East Links: Jeter, Beckham, Orioles

Derek Jeter has been worth only 0.1 fWAR in his final season, and the Yankees‘ insistence on keeping him as the regular shortstop and in the No. 2 spot in the batting order is hurting the team, CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa writes.  Jeter is too proud and/or competitive to ask to be dropped in the lineup or take anything less than an everyday role, and the Yankees seem fine with the status quo given Jeter’s stature, Axisa opines.  The problem is that Jeter’s lack of production in a key lineup spot might cost the Yankees a playoff spot.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • The Orioles have talked to multiple clubs about trading for an infielder, and they checked in on Gordon Beckham at some point before the White Sox dealt him to the Angels, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports.  Since the Angels (who own the best record in baseball) claimed Beckham on waivers, that would mean the O’s had an initial chance to claim the second baseman themselves but chose to pass.
  • Also from Kubatko’s piece, he notes that the Orioles had a potential trade fall through once word got out about Manny Machado‘s season-ending knee surgery.  Presumably, the Machado news meant that the other team raised its asking price.  As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported earlier this week, O’s officials were upset that Machado’s injury status became public, as it lowered their leverage in trade talks.
  • Allen Craig‘s career is profiled by WEEI.com’s Nick Canelas, detailing the Red Sox first baseman’s early days to how the Cardinals scouted and drafted him to his current status in Boston.
  • The Red Sox have a lot of decisions to make about their 2015 bullpen, and assistant GM Mike Hazen tells Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com that the team would be open to “spend more money on the back-end guy” if necessary.  Such a move could be needed if Koji Uehara isn’t re-signed.
  • The development of young pitchers like Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Drew Hutchison is a big reason why Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos will likely keep his job despite the Jays’ fade from contention, Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair writes.  Anthopoulos is also helped by the fact that modern organizations generally give their general managers at least enough time on the job to see what their drafting and player development plans can produce.


Jorge De La Rosa Claimed, Blocked On Waivers

Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa was claimed off waivers by an unknown team who made the move in order to block the southpaw from being dealt elsewhere, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  The claim was made long enough ago that Colorado has since pulled De La Rosa back from revocable trade waivers and he’ll finish the rest of the 2014 season in the purple pinstripes.

De La Rosa has a 4.19 ERA, 2.11 K/BB rate and 6.6 K/9 over 154 2/3 innings with the Rockies this season, and combined with his strong 2013 campaign, the 33-year-old looks to score a healthy contract as a free agent this winter.  The Rockies, of course, hope that they can keep him from reaching the open market.  They are known to be eager to retain one of the few pitchers who has had success at Coors Field (De La Rosa has a 3.19 ERA in 13 home starts) so even if the southpaw had been claimed by a team looking to make a trade, Colorado would’ve asked for a lot to move him.  The Royals and Orioles were linked to De La Rosa before the July 31 trade deadline, and the Rockies asked Baltimore for no less than their top pitching prospect (Kevin Gausman) in return.

It’s no surprise that De La Rosa failed to clear waivers, given that he’s only owed a little under $2MM for the remainder of the season and could’ve been helped a number of contending rotations.  The lefty would’ve had to go unclaimed past every NL team and then every AL team in order to clear the August trade waivers.


Mets Notes: Wheeler, d’Arnaud, Alderson

Happy birthday to Noah Syndergaard, who turns 22 years old today.  Syndergaard likely won’t be celebrating with a Major League debut, however, as the right-hander is already close to his innings limit for the year.  Here’s the latest from the Mets…

  • Zack Wheeler doesn’t want to be traded, telling Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that “I was part of the rebuilding process and I want to see it through.’’  While the Mets would undoubtedly need a huge return to trade the 24-year-old righty, it has been speculated that the Mets could deal from their pitching depth to acquire a top-tier shortstop or outfielder in the offseason.
  • Travis d’Arnaud‘s concussion history has Mets upper management at least exploring a shift from catcher to left field, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes.  Terry Collins said the issue had been discussed, though not at length or in any serious depth, so if a position switch did happen, it wouldn’t be anytime soon.
  • A d’Arnaud position switch is also discussed by Metsblog.com’s Matthew Cerrone. Beyond just d’Arnaud’s health, a move from behind the plate could be inevitable since the Mets are “in LOVE” (capitalization added by Cerrone) with catching prospect Kevin Plawecki.  Cerrone isn’t sure if d’Arnaud’s bat would play quite as well in left as it does at catcher, so he suggests that d’Arnaud could also possibly become a trade candidate this winter.
  • That said, Newsday’s Marc Carig (via Twitter) hears from a team source that the Mets “have little to no interest in trading d’Arnaud.”
  • While many of the Mets’ younger players have performed quite well this season, the team has underachieved due to David Wright‘s off-year and GM Sandy Alderson’s misses in the free agent hitters’ market, John Harper of the New York Daily News opines.  Curtis Granderson has only a .688 OPS and is still owed $47MM from 2015-17, while Chris Young has already been released.

Rangers Notes: Lewis, Bridwell, Rosales

It’s definitely not the race the Rangers hoped to be leading in late August, but Texas is currently in position to land the first overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft.  As you can follow on MLBTR’s Reverse Standings, the Rangers currently have the game’s worst record at 52-81, narrowly putting them “ahead” of the Rockies (53-80), Diamondbacks (55-78) and Astros (57-78).  Houston, of course, is in line for two top-five draft choices since the team is already guaranteed the #2 pick in 2015 as compensation for failing to sign first overall selection Brady Aiken this past summer.

Here’s the latest from Arlington…

  • Colby Lewis wants to return next season and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News figures the team wouldn’t hesitate to re-sign him aside from the troubling issue of Lewis’ struggles at Globe Life Park.  Lewis has a 7.17 ERA in 13 home starts this season, as opposed to a 3.69 ERA in 11 road starts.  Overall in 2014, Lewis has a 5.44 ERA in 137 1/3 innings, though ERA predictors such as FIP (4.35), xFIP (4.30) and SIERA (4.15) indicate that he has been unlucky this year, possibly due to a .365 BABIP.  The veteran right-hander returned to action this season after being sidelined since July 2012 due to injuries, and his minor league deal with Texas is up after the season.
  • The Rangers have long been interested in Orioles right-handed pitching prospect Parker Bridwell and have attempted to acquire him several times over the last three years, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports.  Bridwell, 23, was a ninth-round draft pick in 2010 and currently has a 4.51 ERA, 2.03 K/BB rate and 136 strikeouts over 135 1/3 IP at the high-A ball level this season.  Though Bridwell’s career numbers are nothing to write home about, Kubatko thinks the O’s should put him on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft since “he’s also got some of the best stuff in the organization.”
  • Also from Evan Grant, manager Ron Washington says that Adam Rosales is performing well enough to be considered for a utility role in 2015.  Rosales has started at all four infield spots for Texas this season and is enjoying by far his best season with the bat, posting a .907 OPS in 80 plate appearances.  Rosales is eligible for arbitration for the third and final time this offseason.

Latest On Astros And Brady Aiken, Jacob Nix

AUG. 27, 4:51pm: The Astros are highly unlikely to be afforded any chance to sign Aiken, a source tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The source also expressed the belief that Selig must have been referring to Nix.

Given the present state of confusion, it should be noted that Aiken could at least theoretically be seeking to receive some accommodation from the league that would not be directly tied to Houston’s own rights, obligations, and interests moving forward. That hypothetical possibility would potentially square reports that the club is not talking with the first overall choice with Selig’s comment that a “solution” of some kind is being pursued.

4:03pm: There are no current discussions between the Astros and Aiken, according to a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. On the other hand, Houston is working to reach agreement on some sort of deal with Nix before his grievance hearing, Heyman says.

Heyman suggests that Selig may have misunderstood the question he was asked — which referred specifically to Aiken — when he said that some “solution” to the Aiken situation was in the works. On the other hand, it is worth noting that Selig said no grievance action had been filed, which is (so far as has been reported) true with respect to Aiken but not Nix.

2:35pm: Commissioner Bud Selig was in San Diego yesterday for the opening of the Padres’ Hall of Fame plaza — named Selig Plaza — and was asked by Jennifer Jensen of 10 News whether or not Aiken had been granted an extension on his signing window:

“We’re working on that right now. There are a lot of things in movement there so it would be inappropriate for me to comment, but I would say we are working towards a hopeful solution.”

Asked a second time, Selig again refused to confirm or deny that an extension had been granted, but he repeated that they are “working toward a solution.” Selig did reveal that no grievance has been filed yet by Aiken’s camp. While his comments are somewhat vague, the commissioner did not shoot down the possibility that Aiken could still reach a deal with the Astros. As Jim Callis of Baseball America points out (on Twitter), it seems fair to assume that the other 29 teams in the league would be none too pleased to see Aiken strike a deal with Houston well beyond the signing deadline.

AUG. 21, 11:46am: “There’s nothing to report, nothing going on there,” Astros owner Jim Crane tells Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston (Twitter link) in regards to a possible Aiken deal.

11:25am: The Astros could still end up signing first overall draft pick Brady Aiken, and “the expectation from those close to the negotiation” is that the two sides will reach an agreement around the time of Jacob Nix‘s grievance hearing, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel reports (Twitter links).  The MLBPA filed the grievance on Nix’s behalf last month, and the hearing will reportedly be held during the offseason.

As McDaniel puts it, the possibility of Aiken inking a deal beyond the July 18th deadline for signing draft picks is an “MLB’s discretion situation.”  It had been presumed that Houston had forfeited their right to sign Aiken (plus Nix and 21st-rounder Mac Marshall) when they couldn’t reach agreements with any of the players by July 18th.  In failing to sign Aiken, the Astros received the second overall pick in the 2015 draft as compensation.

Aiken had a verbal agreement in place with the Astros just a few days after he was selected as the #1 pick in the 2014 draft, but no official deal was finalized due to the team’s concerns over Aiken’s unusually small UCL, a detail discovered during a post-draft physical.  This led Houston to drop their offer from the agreed-upon $6.5MM bonus (which was already over $1.4MM below the assigned slot price of the first overall pick) to $5MM.  This set off a chain reaction that caused the Astros to pull their $1.5MM agreement with Nix off the table, as signing Nix at that price would’ve put the Astros over their draft pool limit and put them in danger of facing penalties such as the loss of two future first-round picks.

Needless to say, it would be surprising to see Aiken wind up wearing Astros orange given the harsh words that Casey Close (the agent for both Aiken and Nix) had for the organization and GM Jeff Luhnow in the wake of the controversy.  As it stands, Aiken would have to either attend a junior college and re-enter the draft next year or commit to a college and not be able to turn pro for three more years.  It’s possible the high schooler is simply eager to begin his professional career and/or wants some financial security now, given that anything could happen to lower his stock over the next 1-3 years.

For the Astros, signing Aiken would help the team save face after it was widely criticized for its handling of the situation.  Aiken has until September 1 to file a grievance himself, though that deadline could be extended.


Red Sox, Tigers Are Front-Runners For Castillo

There’s still a lot of uncertainty about where Cuban outfielder/second baseman Rusney Castillo will sign, even amongst Major League teams.  An executive who has been scouting Castillo for the last month tells Peter Gammons (Twitter link) that “no one knows who’s getting him or which teams will jump in unexpectedly.”  Following yesterday’s updates, here’s the latest on the Castillo sweepstakes…

Earlier Updates

  • Castillo privately worked out for the Reds and Mariners within the past week, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports.  The late date of these workouts was due to scheduling, Rosenthal notes, and shouldn’t be thought of as a hint that Castillo is favoring either of these two clubs.  Six other teams (the Cubs, Giants, Phillies, Red Sox, Tigers and Yankees) have now had Castillo in for a private workout, Rosenthal lists.
  • The Red Sox are one of the three teams “most actively involved” for Castillo’s services, Rosenthal reports.  Presumably the other two teams are the Tigers and Giants, as Rosenthal cited two days ago.
  • “There’s definitely a growing sense” the Cubs will be outbid for Castillo’s services, a source tells CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney.  Another source predicts Castillo will receive a contract “much closer” to $68MM (what Jose Abreu received from the White Sox) than $42MM (what Yasiel Puig received from the Dodgers).
  • MLive.com’s Chris Iott warns that a number of hurdles will have to be jumped for Castillo to be able to contribute to a team in September.  Fans also might want to temper their expectations for Castillo, as while he is expected to be ready for the majors immediately, Iott notes that it would be hard for a contender like the Tigers to just hand Castillo a starting job down the stretch in a pennant race.

Marcell Ozuna Joins Boras Corporation

Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna is now being represented by the Boras Corporation, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports.  According to MLBTR’s Agency Database, Ozuna had previously been represented by the Kinzer Management Group.

As Ozuna isn’t eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season, it’s probably no surprise that Frisaro reports that Miami hasn’t discussed a contract extension with the 23-year-old outfielder.  The cost-conscious Marlins may not want to make a notable financial commitment to Ozuna unless they can get some kind of a bargain over his arb years, and Scott Boras’ track record would seem to make such a team-friendly deal unlikely.

Ozuna’s first full season in the majors has been a successful one, as the 23-year-old has posted a .261/.316/.440 slash line, a 110 wRC+, 18 homers and 56 runs scored in 448 PA.  He’s also been solid in center field, exhibiting a strong throwing arm and saving eight runs according to the Defensive Runs Saved metric.

MLBTR’s Agency Database contains agent information for more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players. If you see any errors or omissions, please let us know via email: mlbtrdatabase@gmail.com.


Neal Cotts Staying With Rangers

Rangers left-hander Neal Cotts will not be traded, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  Cotts was recently claimed by an unknown club, giving the Rangers and this mystery team a 48.5-hour window to work out a trade.  Since no deal was worked out and Texas isn’t letting the claiming team take Cotts for nothing, it would appear that the veteran reliever will spend the rest of the season in Arlington.

Cotts, 34, has a 3.48 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 2.90 K/BB rate over 54 1/3 IP out of the Rangers’ bullpen this season.  It marks his second straight quality season with Texas (he had a 1.11 ERA over 57 IP in 2013), and Cotts’ performance is all the more impressive considering that he didn’t pitch at all in the majors from 2010-12 due to injury.  The southpaw will be a free agent this winter.

The Nationals were rumored to have interest in Cotts after the July 31st trade deadline had passed, though there’s no indication they were the team who claimed him.  It’s pretty unlikely that Cotts even reached the Nats given that every other team in baseball would’ve had to pass on the lefty before NL-leading Washington could’ve claimed him.