Author Archives: Zach Links

East Notes: DeJesus, A-Rod, Flores

Mets majority owner Fred Wilpon is the new chairman of MLB’s finance committee, a move that was met with raised eyebrows given that he was a victim of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.  However, that’s not a concern to commissioner Rob Manfred, as Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes.  “I understand the whole Madoff thing,” Manfred said, “but before and since, Fred Wilpon was an extraordinarily successful businessman. The committee — the finance and compensation committee — really deals with two issues, principally: executive compensation, which he’s more than capable of dealing with, and a central office budget. Obviously, to be a successful businessman, you have to know how to budget.”  More from the AL and NL East..

  • The Rays are still likely to add a middle infielder and outfielder David DeJesus is still likely to be traded, but one or both pursuits could carry into spring training, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.  DeJesus is owed $5MM this year with a $1MM buyout on a 2016 option, which makes him a reasonably priced target but also does not leave him with a ton of trade value.
  • Alex Rodriguez offered to meet face-to-face with Yankees executives to apologize for his role in the Biogenesis scandal and clear the air before players report to Tampa next month, according to Teri Thompson, Bill Madden, and Michael O’Keeffe of the Daily News.  However, the Yanks declined the invitation, which seems to indicate that the team is not ready to forgive and forget.  Sources tell the Daily News trio that the next battle will be over the performance clauses in A-Rod’s deal which call for him to earn $6MM each time he ties a career home run milestone.  Rodriguez needs just six more to tie Willie Mays’ 660 homers and earn a $6MM bonus.
  • Some people have expressed concern about the Mets‘ shortstop position after the team was unable to find an upgrade this winter.  However, Wilmer Flores insists that he’s ready and capable of filling the role.  “I’m not going to say I don’t hear things,” Flores said, according to Marc Carig of Newsday. “But I try not to because I know what I can do, man. Honestly, I know what I can do.”

West Notes: Astros, Tulowitzki, Padres

News out of the AL and NL West..

  • The Astros have had an eventful offseason, but it sounds like most of the heavy lifting has been done already, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes.  “I don’t know if we’re going to sign anybody on a major league deal, but there’s possibilities we’d bring another pitcher on the NRI (non-roster invitee) basis,” General Manager Jeff Luhnow said.
  • Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki isn’t stressing out about the constant trade talk surrounding him, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes.  “In this game you never get relaxed,” Tulowitzki said. “Anything can happen. I’ve heard a few people say, ‘As soon as I thought that I was going to stay somewhere, that’s when I got traded.’ So I won’t go there. Whatever they do, they do. Whatever happens, happens.”  At this stage of the offseason, it seems unlikely that the shortstop will be moved, but he says that he’s prepared for any possibility.  Tulowitzki is currently rehabbing a surgically repaired left hip labrum.
  • The Padres pulled the trigger on the Matt Kemp blockbuster thanks in large part to Logan White and his knowledge of the player, as Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego writes.  “He had some good insight into Matt Kemp — the person, the makeup,” Padres VP of scouting operations Don Welke said of White. “One of the things he does that fits in with what A.J. [Preller] and I do is getting to know the person, background and family — going into all that. He’s very good at that.”  White, whose current priorities include filling out his pro scouting staff, likely will have a significant role in the Padres’ international efforts going forward.

Cafardo On Shields, Blue Jays, Price

The Blue Jays didn’t meet expectations in 2014, but that hasn’t discouraged Jose Bautista, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.

Just because we didn’t win doesn’t mean it didn’t work out,” insisted Bautista. “It helped build a core for our team. And the last two years we’ve added to that core. I think the players really appreciate the commitment that [General Manager] Alex [Anthopoulos] has made to building our team.”

Here’s more from today’s column..

  • One prominent baseball official feels that free agent pitcher James Shields has not been marketed properly by his camp.  Few doubt Shields’ talent, but some have the notion that he isn’t a strong postseason pitcher.  Meanwhile, a few executives suspect that the Blue Jays could become interested in his services if the club can convince Rogers Communications to shell out the money.  At present, however, Toronto only has the budget to allow for a bullpen upgrade or two.
  • Over the weekend, David Price reiterated that he would “absolutely” consider a long-term deal with the Tigers.  Entering his walk year, Price doesn’t want to eliminate a big-market team from contending for his services, Cafardo writes.  Still, it’s believed he’ll hit free agency and go elsewhere.
  • With the Astros losing out on Ryan Vogelsong, they might turn their sights to comparable free agents such as Chris Young, Kevin Correia, and Kyle Kendrick.
  • Recently, Cafardo asked Orioles manager Buck Showalter if he’d be interested in being a GM, which was a tough question for him to answer given that Dan Duquette is still with the O’s.  Still, Showalter is already involved in personnel decisions and if Duquette leaves, Cafardo writes that he’d be at the helm along with talent evaluator Brady Anderson and a new GM.  Recently it was reported that the O’s have a list of candidates for the job if it opens up and that includes names like Ned Colletti, Kevin Malone, Omar Minaya, and Kevin Towers.


Baseball Blogs Weigh In: D’Backs, Nelson, Navarro

On this date in 2012, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada announced his retirement at a New York press conference, as Leo Panetta of NationalPastime.com writes.  At the time, the 40-year old five-time All-Star catcher left Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as the only remaining players on the team from the group that led the Bombers to four World Series titles in five years.  Here’s this week’s look around the baseball blogosphere..

Please send submissions to Zach at ZachBBWI@gmail.com.


Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Pirates, Rosenbaum, Duquette

On this date in 2005, the Dodgers avoided arbitration with star closer Eric Gagne with a two-year, $19MM deal. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, elbow issues limited the righty to just 16 appearances over the life of that contract. Here’s this week’s look around the baseball blogosphere..

Please send submissions to Zach at ZachBBWI@gmail.com.


Pirates GM Neal Huntington On Signing Jung-ho Kang

Earlier today, the Pirates announced that they have officially signed Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang to a four-year deal.  The appeal to Kang is clear.  He slashed .356/.459/.739 for the Nexen Heroes of the (admittedly hitter-friendly) Korea Baseball Organization with 40 homers across 117 total games in 2014.  What wasn’t so clear about the signing is where Kang will fit in with the Pirates.  Earlier today, I asked General Manager Neal Huntington about how he anticipates that Kang will be used in Pittsburgh.

We like the player a lot but we also understand and respect that there’s going to be a significant transition period here, not just on the field, but off the field as well.  We want him to transition culturally as well as professionally and as he comes into camp he’ll very much complement our major league team,” Huntington said on the conference call.  “We’re looking forward to confirming our belief about his ability at shortstop, he has played some third, and we know he can play some second but right now he’ll come in as a complementary player as he adjusts to major league baseball and the United States in general.”

While there will be an adjustment period for Kang, the Pirates want the infielder to get acclimated to life in the majors right away.  That means that Huntington & Co. have no intention of sending Kang down to the minor leagues for seasoning.

Huntington says that Kang is on board with serving in a complementary role in 2015, despite recent comments that he made which suggested that he wanted to start immediately.  The Bucs GM chalked that up to something of a miscommunication: any major leaguer, he says, will assert that they are starting caliber if asked.  By the same token, Huntington says that Kang respects the hard work that Bucs teammates like Josh Harrison have put in to earn their leading roles.

The Pirates are excited about welcoming Kang into the fold but not everyone in the baseball world is a believer.  The KBO boasts notoriously boosted batting lines and many equate the league’s level of competition with Double-A baseball.  In Huntington’s mind, that’s not necessarily a fair comparison nor is it an accurate predictor of how well a Korean player can fare in the big leagues.  Japan’s NPB has a stronger level of competition but Huntington notes that many Japanese players haven’t been able to hack it in the States, and vice versa.

That skepticism over his level of competition led to a more tepid market than some anticipated at the outset of the offseason.  I asked Huntington if he had a sense of how many teams were ultimately in on the bidding process.

It’s a blind process and on one hand its a bit disconcerting to not know, but on the other hand we don’t really care.  We got the player wanted for what we feel is a fair dollar amount that works for him and for us,” Huntington said.

If things work out with Kang, it certainly seems possible that he could displace someone in Pittsburgh’s current infield.  Huntington isn’t thinking that far ahead, however.

This move was made to make us a better team. You can never have enough good players, You can never have enough quality major league players, especially ones that have versatility and can do it from the left side.  There’s no set script [that says] if he becomes a good player, we’re going to trade player X or player Y. If things go well, we’re going to have a very talented and deep position player group,” the GM explained.

In an interesting twist, Kang’s Nexen team will be training in Arizona this spring.  The Bucs will allow the infielder to work out with his former squad before flying across the country to meet them in Florida.


Reds, Mike Leake Avoid Arbitration

The Reds have avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Leake, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com.  The two sides agreed to a one-year, $9.775MM deal.

Leake, 27, was projected to earn $9.5MM by Matt Swartz’s model.  The new deal represents a healthy pay bump for the right-hander, who earned $5.9MM in 2014.

Leake pitched to a 3.70 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 33 starts last season, his third straight campaign with 30+ starts.  Advanced metrics such as xFIP (3.49) were kinder to him than ERA last season.  This was Leake’s final year of arbitration eligibility and he’ll be able to hit the open market next winter.


Evan Gattis On Joining The Astros

After months of rumblings, the Braves finally found a deal they liked for catcher/outfielder Evan Gattis.  The veteran is now the newest member of the Astros, who now appear determined to make an impact in 2015.

Gattis, a Dallas-area native, sheepishly admitted to reporters today that he grew up as a fan of the Rangers, and not his current ball club.   Interestingly, before Gattis was sent to Houston for a trio of prospects, he was picking up trade interest from other clubs, including the nearby Rangers.  I asked the 28-year-old if the Braves or his agent gave him a sense of how close he was to being traded to his favorite childhood team.

All I’ve heard along the way is about as much as you’ve heard… or, maybe less than you’ve heard,” Gattis said on today’s conference call.

Gattis was certainly aware of the trade rumors surrounding him, and inquiring family members amplified things by asking him about the Rangers on a constant basis.  Still, the veteran believed that he would still be in Atlanta come April.

I didn’t think I was going to get traded, believe it or not.  I think with four more years under club control, I think that was kind of big [for the Braves], so that kind of surprised me until I found out about the deal,” Gattis explained.  “Even though I heard all the rumors, I figured if something was going to happen, it would have gotten done a lot earlier.  That’s what I kind of chalked it up to, just being a lot of rumors.  It didn’t really sink in until it happened yesterday.”

Now, Gattis has gone from a clear rebuild in Atlanta to Houston, where the timeline to contend has been advanced considerably.  While heaping praise on the way the Braves organization treated him over the years, he spoke glowingly of what awaits him with the Astros.

We are on the rise. They’re trying to push this team and get guys in the direction of winning. We won 19 more games last year and more games than in however many years, so I think the potential is there. The difference is so small between a really good team and a .500 team over the course of 162 games, it’s small situations and little stuff. It’s all about how you can carry it out and put it together.

We have a bunch of young guys who are eager to compete and win jobs, I think it’s a good environment here in Houston.”


Minor Moves: Hoffman, Colvin, Valaika, Wilson

The latest notable minor league signings, courtesy of Baseball America’s Matt Eddy except where noted.

  • The Red Sox have signed lefty Matt Hoffman, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets. Hoffman, 26, pitched in the high minors in the Phillies and Twins organizations in 2014, posting a 3.75 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 48 innings of relief. He’d spent the previous six years in the Tigers organization, working his way up to Triple-A Toledo.
  • The Marlins signed 29-year-old outfielder Tyler Colvin.  In 2014, he posted a .223/.268/.381 slash line with two homers over 149 PA for the Giants.  Colvin elected free agency in October, allowing him to pursue opportunities elsewhere.  Over parts of six seasons at the big league level with the Cubs, Rockies, and Giants, Colvin has a career line of .239/.287/.446.
  • The Cubs re-signed second baseman Chris Valaika. The 29-year-old slashed .231/.282/.339 across 131 plate appearances for the Cubs last season, which is more or less consistent with his career .238/.282/.351 slash line over parts of four seasons. At Triple-A Iowa, Valaika hit .278/.344/.423 in 397 PAs.
  • The Tigers signed Josh Wilson to a minor league pact. The 33-year-old infielder hit .239/.271/.299 in 72 PAs for the Rangers in 2014, though he spent the bulk of the year in Triple-A Round Rock.
  • The Orioles signed left-hander Cesar Cabral. The 25-year-old pitched in four games for the Yankees last year allowing three runs, four hits, three hit batsmen, and a pair of walks in only one inning of work. Cabral spent the rest of the season splitting his time between Double-A and Triple-A posting a 6.28 ERA, 10.2 K/9, and 7.9 BB/9 in 32 relief appearances totalling 38 2/3 innings.

AL East Notes: Blue Jays, Axford, Zobrist

The Rays are big on promoting from within both on the field and off.  That’s why they were able to replace popular Triple-A pitching coach Neil Allen, now with the Twins, with another sharp mind in Kyle Snyder, writes Marc Topkin for Baseball America. “Kyle Snyder is an excellent pitching coach,” Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said. “He’s way ahead of the curve in development. He’s smart, has passion, can relate to all. I say all, because he’s been often injured as a professional. He’s been in the big leagues. He’s been rehabbed. He’s been bounced around.”  More out of the AL East..

  • The Blue Jays have been linked to free agent John Axford and there are several reasons why they would make sense for the closer, including proximity to his hometown, as Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star writes.  “Living and growing up not too far away from Toronto — Port Dover, Ont. — I lived just under two hours away,” Axford said of the proximity factor. “Growing up a Blue Jays fan, that would be a big deal for me, definitely. I still live close to Toronto, about 45 minutes away in the off-season, still close to home. So, yeah, it would definitely be big for me, but I’m not going to shut out any team.”
  • Before Ben Zobrist was shipped to the A’s, the Orioles discussed him with the Rays, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). The O’s really wanted the standout second baseman/outfielder, but the asking price was just too high for them.
  • David Laurila of FanGraphs (on Twitter) likes the Zobrist trade from the Rays‘ perspective. The A’s get the short-term win on the deal, but infield prospect David Robertson has a bright future and should excel for years after Zobrist is done playing.