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Author Archives: Steve Adams
The Orioles‘ reported asking price of right-hander Jeff Hoffman (and others) from the Blue Jays in exchange for executive vice president/GM Dan Duquette seemingly ended those negotiations, but Jeff Blair of Sportsnet reports that the Orioles weren’t the only club to try to acquire Hoffman from Toronto this winter. According to Blair, the Braves also asked the Blue Jays for Hoffman when the two sides discussed a trade involving Justin Upton. Toronto’s answer, Blair says, was an emphatic “no.” Coincidentally, the Braves wound up acquiring another high-upside, former first-round pitcher that’s recovering from Tommy John — Max Fried — as the centerpiece in their trade of Upton to San Diego. Meanwhile, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Blair that Hoffman, who was selected ninth overall in 2014 despite his surgery, is expected to get stretched back out in April, with an eye on activating him with a minor league club in May.
A few more notes pertaining to the game’s Eastern divisions before the northeast portion of the country is buried in snow…
- The Phillies never presented the Brewers with a firm financial offer in their trade talks regarding Jonathan Papelbon, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Those talks appear to be largely dead at this point, and the Phillies may end up hanging on to Papelbon to begin the season, based on Rosenthal’s writings. He adds that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. isn’t under pressure from ownership to move Papelbon and will only trade him if the move is to the team’s benefit.
- The acquisition of Alejandro De Aza last summer could end up being a key factor in the Orioles‘ 2015 season, as the former White Sox outfielder now looks to be a big piece of the roster, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. With Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis gone and no external replacements brought in, De Aza figures to be the team’s primary left fielder and leadoff hitter. Though that may seem an underwhelming option to some, Kubatko points out that De Aza’s career OBP mark (.330) would be a nice boost over last season’s team OBP of .311.
- Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel takes a look at the Yankees‘ new glut of international prospects in his ranking of the team’s minor leaguers, with colleague Dave Cameron noting in an introduction that the team’s philosophical shift could pay off in spades a few years down the line. While the Yankees have always been known for spending significantly on free agency, they instead opted to go on a spending spree and blow past their allotted international bonus pool this year while exercising what some consider to be surprising restraint in terms of big league free agents.
Last week, Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera had a showcase at the Giants’ facility in the Dominican Republic that reportedly had over 200 scouts in attendance. Ben Badler of Baseball America has some takeaways from that showcase in latest piece; some highlights from Badler’s post and a bit more news on the international front…
- Olivera was clocked at 6.7 to 6.8 seconds in his 60-yard dash and looked to be a steady defender when fielding grounders at second base. He also took grounders at third, but didn’t show off as much arm strength as he had in previous years. Olivera collected three hits in “seven or eight at-bats” against live pitching. While the overall report has a positive undertone, Badler does note that there is still some uncertainty among scouts due to the fact that Olivera missed all of the 2012-13 season with a blood disorder and then spent most of his time at DH upon returning in the 2013-14 season.
- Four teams — the Padres, Giants, A’s and Braves — had the largest contingents at Olivera’s showcase, and all are expected to be in the mix to sign the 29-year-old. Padres GM A.J. Preller was on hand, in fact, and his team has been the most aggressive on Olivera, Badler writes, adding that San Diego may ultimately be his most likely landing place. It’s not known at this time when Olivera will be cleared by Major League Baseball and the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, but Badler speculates that Olivera will be able to sign prior to Opening Day based on the fact that he left Cuba all the way back in September.
- Kiley McDaniel joined Carson Cistulli on the Fangraphs’ podcast over the weekend, and the two spent the early portion of the episode discussing Cuban players. The biggest takeaway from the discussion was an update on highly touted Cuban second baseman Jose Fernandez, whom McDaniel hears is now being heavily guarded by police in Cuba. Fernandez was thought to have left the island late in 2014 but was apparently detained in his attempt to do so.
The Brewers are currently talking with right-hander Francisco Rodriguez about a reunion, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (on Twitter). Last week, the Brewers were said to be exploring pitching upgrades via free agency and trade, and over the weekend, owner Mark Attanasio told fans that he’d be surprised if the team didn’t make at least one more free agent signing this offseason.
That signing could very well be K-Rod, who over parts of the past four seasons has pitched to a 3.11 ERA with 9.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and 57 saves in 193 2/3 innings for the Brewers. The market for K-Rod hasn’t exactly been robust this offseason, although he has been connected to multiple clubs over the past month. Those teams include the Blue Jays and Rockies, and there was a bit of speculation regarding the Nationals following the trade of Tyler Clippard and signing of Max Scherzer. It’s arguable that he’s the best closing option left on the market; other free agent pitchers with 20 or more saves in 2014 include Rafael Soriano and Casey Janssen, while former closers such as John Axford and Brian Wilson have yet to sign this offseason as well.
The Brewers have also been linked to Soriano recently, and of course last week the team was said to be in serious trade discussions regarding Jonathan Papelbon. However, complications regarding the financial compensation required to due to Papelbon’s $13MM vesting option appear to have slowed, if not entirely halted those talks.
Multiple reports have indicated that there’s “zero” chance the Marlins will sign James Shields, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that there are some within the front office that are trying to sell owner Jeffrey Loria on making the financial investment necessary to add Shields to the rotation (the linked piece is an updated version of Rosenthal’s column from last night). As Rosenthal points out, GM D an Jennings drafted Shields when he worked for the Rays in 2000, and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez worked with Shields as a minor leaguer in the Rays system, so he does have fans in the organization. Rosenthal adds that the departure of Mat Latos next season should seemingly increase Shields’ appeal to Miami, and I’d add that parting with their top MLB-ready pitching prospect, Andrew Heaney, could factor into that thinking as well. Then again, next offseason’s crop of free agent starters features many enticing options — most of whom will be younger than Shields is now — and MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets that a Shields signing remains a longshot.
Here’s more on the Marlins…
- In a lengthy but well-crafted and insightful piece, Grantland’s Jonah Keri examines the Marlins’ origins and the distrust among fans that has spawned from a number of fire sales. Keri spoke to team president David Samson, who noted that the initial fire sale following the team’s World Series win in 1997 was a catalyst for many of the team’s struggles in subsequent years. “That led to a lot of hurt, frustrated fans,” Samson said. “So [the team] never got that bounce, that sustained success that should come with winning a World Series.” As Keri notes, however, then-owner Wayne Huizenga had stated after spending exorbitantly the previous offseason that he would blow the team up regardless of success if local government didn’t approve a new stadium. That proved to be exactly the case, and Huizenga stayed true to his word. Keri examines the subsequent sell-offs from the Marlins and how each has contributed, in a way, to positioning the club for sustained success now.
- Samson also expressed some frustration to Keri regarding the fact that teams like the Athletics are lauded in the media for selling high on players and re-tooling their roster, while the perception surrounding the Marlins’ most recent retooling was largely negative. Samson and Loria hope that the results of the last sell-off can help convince fans that sometimes such tactics are a necessary evil in an effort to build sustained success. “We want to make them recognize that it’s not doom and gloom,” Samson explained to Keri. “We want to make people understand that we’re a normal team. We’ll have good years and bad years, but in the end, they’re just years. We’ll break your heart sometimes, but also make you jump for joy other times. That’s what being a sports fan is.”
- The Marlins added Ichiro Suzuki earlier today on a one-year, $2MM contract to serve as their fourth outfielder, and Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that Jennings has been pursuing Ichiro for about a month. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets that while the deal is just a one-year pact without an option, the team wants to keep the door open for Ichiro to return in 2016 as he chases his 3,000th hit.
Though Johan Santana‘s comeback attempt briefly stalled when he experienced some shoulder discomfort, it appears he’s back on course, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the former Cy Young winner will throw a bullpen session today and is tentatively scheduled to pitch Game 5 of the Venezuelan Winter League finals next week. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports (via Twitter) that the Twins will be scouting each of those showings, though his sense is that a return to his former stomping grounds isn’t in the cards for Santana.
More on the Twins and their division…
- Right-hander Phil Hughes told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger that he was excited to sign a long-term extension with the Twins in December due to the high level of comfort that he felt in his first year with the club. Hughes implied that he entered the offseason hoping to work out a longer deal and was clearly able to do that, signing for an additional three years and $42MM on Dec. 22. However, Hughes noted that he wouldn’t have signed if he didn’t think the team was close to contending in the near future. Minnesota’s enviable farm system and their willingness to spend on veterans, demonstrated by signing Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana this winter, were both factors in Hughes’ decision as well.
- The Indians are showing a great deal of interest in Nolan Reimold, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (on Twitter). Cleveland is trying to sign the former Oriole to a minor league deal, Kubtako notes, though he adds that the Orioles remain in the mix as well. Reimold, 31, has battled significant injuries over the past few seasons but does own a solid .251/.324/.439 batting line in 1134 big league plate appearances.
- Nick Swisher struggled through the worst season of his career last year with the Indians, though many of his struggles were likely attributable to knee problems that plagued him all season. Swisher, who underwent surgery on both knees in August, explained to MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince that his knees were so bad that he literally could not walk to the bathroom at night (Twitter links). He admitted to Castrovince that he wished he’d had the operations sooner, but wanted to play through the pain due to the investment that the Indians made in him. Cleveland inked the Ohio native to a four-year, $56MM pact two offseasons ago.
- At their annual Sox Fest event earlier today, White Sox GM Rick Hahn told reporters, including MLB.com’s Scott Merkin, that bullpen depth and another utility infielder to use versus left-handed pitching were the two primary items remaining on his offseason wishlist (Twitter link). Hahn also said that minor league signee Geovany Soto has a good chance to make the team out of Spring Training, so long as he can show that he is healthy (via CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes).
Earlier today, the Twins avoided arbitration with Jordan Schafer by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.55MM. We’ll keep track of the remainder of today’s smaller moves to avoid arb here in this post (with all projections courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)…
- First baseman Mitch Moreland has reached agreement on a one-year deal to avoid arbitration with the Rangers, the club announced in a press release. Moreland will earn $2.95MM with the chance at $25K in bonuses, Jeff Wilson of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram reports on Twitter. Moreland filed at $3.35MM and the team countered at $2.75MM, with the 29-year-old landing just below the midpoint but just above his $2.8MM projection. After struggling to a .246/.297/.347 slash in just 184 plate appearances and missing significant time to ankle surgery, Moreland and his employer will hope for better things in 2015.
- The Astros and shortstop Marwin Gonzalez have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal that will pay the Octagon client a salary of $1.0625MM, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Gonzalez, who filed for $1.4MM and received a $900K counter-offer from the team, settled for somewhat less than the $1.15MM midpoint between the figures, though he did still top his $1MM projection by about $60K. The former Rule 5 pick enjoyed his best season as a big leaguer in 2014, batting .277/.327/.400 with six homers, although defensive metrics were split on his work at short. Ultimate Zone Rating pegged him at four runs below average, while Defensive Runs Saved thought he was four runs above average. With Gonzalez’s case settled, the Astros are done with their arbitration class this offseason.
- The A’s have avoided arbitration with infielder Eric Sogard by agreeing to a one-year, $1.075MM contract, tweets Heyman. Sogard filed at $1.425MM, while the A’s countered at $900K, as can be seen Sogard, 28, batted .223/.298/.268 with a homer and 11 steals in 329 plate appearances last season. Known more for his glove than his bat, Sogard played his usual brand of excellent second base defense for 721 innings, and he also filled in at shortstop a bit, chipping in 108 innings there. The Octagon client will receive $75K more than his $1MM projected salary. Oakland still has some work to do in arbitration, as the team has yet to reach an agreement with right-handers Tyler Clippard and Jarrod Parker as well as lefty Fernando Abad.
Note that you can monitor the arb situations of each team/player using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker.
JAN. 23: Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel reports (via Twitter) that catcher Lorenzo Quintana defected from Cuba alongside Heredia. Quintana did not appear on any of Badler’s rankings of the top players remaining in Cuba, though McDaniel notes in a second tweet that the 25-year-old is also exempt from international spending limitations.
JAN. 21: Center fielder Guillermo Heredia has defected from Cuba in order to pursue a contract with a Major League club, reports Baseball America’s Ben Badler. The 23-year-old Heredia is old enough and has enough professional experience in Cuba’s Serie Nacional to be exempt from international spending limitations.
Badler ranked Heredia, who will 24 at the end of the month, as the 11th-best player in Cuba back in August, and while Badler notes that he’d drop Heredia on a newer list, that’s due more to the emergence of young players than anything Heredia has done to drop his stock.
Heredia runs well and is a plus defender in center field with good range and reads as well as a strong throwing arm, Badler writes. While he hit .343/.449/.527 in 443 plate appearances in the 2011-12 season, his offense has slipped since that time, with his slugging percentage checking in below .400 and an on-base percentage of roughly .380. Heredia had just one plate appearance this season — singling in his club’s first game — before he left the team and was subsequently suspended.
Previous reports have speculated that his absence and suspension were due to an attempt at defecting, and that is now indeed the case, although Heredia has a long ways to go until he can sign with a club. He’ll first need to establish residency in another country and be cleared by both Major League Baseball and the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control before signing with a club. As such, it seems unlikely that he’d be eligible to sign prior to Opening Day.
In a lengthier scouting report (subscription required and highly recommended), Badler provides more detail, ultimately likening Heredia to a right-handed-hitting version of Jackie Bradley due to his penchant for highlight-reel catches and elite glove but questionable offensive profile. In Badler’s estimation, it’s possible for Heredia to begin his career at the Major League level, or at the very least, in Triple-A.
While it looked for awhile that he’d be pitching elsewhere, right-hander Ryan Vogelsong will officially be returning to San Francisco in 2015. The Giants announced on Friday that they have re-signed Vogelsong to a one-year deal, which reportedly guarantees him $4MM and provides him the opportunity to earn more via performance bonuses.
The 37-year-old Vogelsong, a client of agent Dave Meier, was originally drafted by the Giants in the fifth round of the 1998 draft and ultimately traded to the Pirates in the 2001 Jason Schmidt trade. Vogelsong struggled through parts of five seasons with Pittsburgh before eventually landing in Japan for three seasons. He came back to the States in 2010 but failed to latch on with either the Phillies or Angels on a pair of minor league deals. San Francisco brought him back that offseason, and Vogelsong’s emergence and All-Star nod in 2011 was one of the better stories of that season.
Including his 2011 breakout, Vogelsong has tallied 657 2/3 innings of 3.74 ERA ball with 7.0 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 over the past four seasons. He missed much of the 2013 campaign after being hit by a pitch on the hand and fracturing his finger, which required surgery. Vogelsong struggled to a 5.73 ERA that season but has otherwise been a reliable source of innings for manager Bruce Bochy’s rotation since establishing himself in 2011.
Where he fits onto the 2015 roster is a bit more complicated, however. The Giants expect Madison Bumgarner, Tim Hudson, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy and Tim Lincecum to comprise their rotation, and though Hudson and Cain are both recovering from surgery, the team has said that each is expected to be ready come Opening Day. Vogelsong could theoretically fill a swingman role, but Yusmeiro Petit excelled in that role in 2014, even setting a Major League record for most consecutive batters retired (46). It’s possible that one of the Giants’ mending starters may not be ready for Opening Day, but Vogelsong doesn’t appear to have a long-term rotation spot in place, barring an injury to a current starter or a shift of the struggling Lincecum to the bullpen.
Vogelsong looked at one point to be heading to the Astros, with reports even placing him in Houston earlier this week, but that deal did not come to fruition. He also drew interest from the Phillies and Rockies before returning to a more familiar setting.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported (on Twitter) that an agreement had been reached. Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, who originally reported that a reunion between the two sides was likely, reported the $4MM guarantee (on Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Braves announced that they have claimed outfielder Eury Perez off waivers from the Yankees. The speedy Perez was designated for assignment by the Yankees in order to clear a spot on the roster for Stephen Drew.
The Yankees claimed Perez off waivers from the Nationals in late September, and the 24-year-old went 2-for-10 with a pair of singles in a brief cameo with the Bombers late in the season. Perez has just 23 big league plate appearances and a .174/.174/.174 batting line to show for it, but he possesses a well-regarded glove and blistering speed in center field. In 844 PAs at the Triple-A level, he’s a career .310/.354/.411 hitter with eight homers and 63 steals (in 79 attempts). Perez will provide the Braves with some outfield depth and a center field alternative should B.J. Upton‘s prolonged struggles continue in 2015.
The Twins announced that they have avoided arbitration with outfielder Jordan Schafer by agreeing to a one-year, $1.55MM contract. A look at MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker shows that Schafer and his representatives at Relativity Baseball had filed at $1.7MM, while the team countered with a $1.4MM offer. His $1.55MM settlement is the exact midpoint of those two figures and just $50K north of the $1.5MM projection of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
The 28-year-old Schafer impressed the Twins following an August waiver claim and earned himself a spot on the 2015 roster. In 147 plate appearances with Minnesota, the former top prospect batted .285/.345/.362 with 15 stolen bases in 20 tries. Overall, Schafer batted .238/.310/.305 with 30 steals in in 240 PAs between the Twins and Braves.
Though he’s never drawn particularly strong defensive marks for his work in center field, Schafer has been average or slightly better in the outfield corners and can handle center field if needed (he has a lifetime UZR/150 of -5.4 in center).
Schafer’s most likely role in 2015 appears to be that of a fourth outfielder, but he will compete for a starting job with another former top prospect that has struggled to establish himself in the Majors: Aaron Hicks. MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger wrote two weeks ago that the center field job in Minneapolis will be “up for grabs” in Spring Training, as Danny Santana, who filled in at the position in a strong rookie season, will return to his natural position of shortstop in 2015.