Author Archives: Zach Links

NL East Notes: Soriano, Utley, Kendrick, Eveland

Today is the bicentennial of The Star-Spangled BannerMLB.com’s Doug Miller chronicles the link between our country’s national anthem and its national pastime from the first time it was sung before a baseball game (May 15, 1862) to the great and not-so-great renditions. From the national anthem to the National League East, here are today’s notes from the division:

  • Rafael Soriano is making progress after working on his mechanics, but there is no timetable to reinstall him as the Nationals‘ closer, according to James Wagner of the Washington PostMLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted recently Soriano’s $14MM club option for 2015 will not vest and the Nationals are all but certain to decline the option making him an interesting free agent to watch.
  • Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg won’t speak ill of Ryan Howard or suggest a trade would make sense, but he admits a move to first base could be beneficial for Chase Utley, writes the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb. “I think playing first base would eliminate a little wear and tear at that position,” Sandberg said. “Whether that’s a consideration or not has yet to be seen.” Gelb suggests a plan for 2015 where Utley is slated to play about 130 games with 100 of them at first base.
  • Kyle Kendrick isn’t sure if he made his final home start in a Phillies‘ uniform last night, but it sounds like he’d like to stay put in Philadelphia, if possible. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s out of my control. But if I’m somewhere else, I’ll miss it,” Kendrick told reporters, including Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com.
  • The Mets have shut down left-hander Dana Eveland for the remainder of the season because of elbow inflammation, reports MLB.com’s Tim Healey. The 30-year-old, who will become a free agent at the end of the season, has had a career year with the Mets posting a 2.63 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9 in 30 relief outings (27 1/3 innings).

AL Notes: Indians, Astros, Kipnis, Aiken

Some might argue that Mike Trout has taken his focus away from speed and put more into being a middle-of-the-order hitter, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia says that’s not really the case, writes Pedro Moura of the Orange Country Register.  “If your point is, has he lost speed, the answer is no,” Scioscia said. “Is his game shifting more toward the middle-of-the-order hitter where he won’t run again? No. There’s been no strategic change in how we view his assets or how he should play the game, philosophically, this year.”  Here’s more out of the AL..

  • In theory, the Indians could move Jason Kipnis to the outfield in 2015 with the emergence of Jose Ramirez at shortstop and Francisco Lindor breaking in at Triple-A, but now is not the time, argues Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer.  It’s not clear where Kipnis would fit considering Michael Brantley‘s season in left field and the less-than-stellar trade values of Michael Bourn and David Murphy.  Nick Swisher could also be slotted in the outfield next year.
  • The Indians will certainly look out-of-house for offseason improvements, but there’s a lot to like about what they have for 2015, writes Hoynes. The Indians have a number of young pitchers emerging at the same time and and bullpen has been sharp all year.  Even though the bats haven’t been there this year, Hoynes says 2015 is looking like one of the best situations the Tribe has been in in a while.
  • A reader asked Jim Callis of MLB.com (on Twitter) if Brady Aiken will have to disclose his medicals to all interested clubs next year and Callis responded in the affirmative.  Aiken’s name came up in the news again when commissioner Bud Selig inadvertently implied that the Astros could still sign him.  It seems rather unlikely that Houston would be allowed to do that.

Cafardo On Hamels, Cruz, Hardy, Tomas

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at Jake Peavy‘s effect on the Giants this season. “He brings a lot of intensity, he brings a lot of energy, he brings a lot of veteran leadership, he brings a lot of guts,” Hunter Pence said last week. “He’s been a big charge to this run we’ve made. That energy is exciting to be around. It’s a different dugout when he’s in it.”  More from today’s column..

  • John Boggs, the agent for Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, told Cafardo he will sit down with his client and put together a new 20-team no-trade list by November 1.  Boggs says the Red Sox were on Hamels’s 2014 no-trade list and the Phillies would have to have asked permission to deal him to Boston. “It doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have accepted it,” Boggs said. “We are still deliberating on what teams will be on that list for 2015.”
  • After a one-year pillow offer, Nelson Cruz appears to have riches awaiting for him this winter.  The Orioles will make him the $15MM+ qualifying offer, but he’ll be in demand as one of the few right-handed power hitters out there.  The Yankees can be expected to have interest and the Rangers could look to bring him back.
  • Manager Buck Showalter has talked with J.J. Hardy about how much the Orioles want him to re-sign, but they may not offer the most money. Showalter said the team would make him a fair offer, but he tried to appeal to how much Hardy has enjoyed playing in Baltimore.
  • Showalter is a realist when it comes to the Orioles‘ financial limitations, but he feels he can still come up with good players going the minor league free agent route. The Orioles did it with journeyman first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce, who has had an excellent season.  Showalter feels that he can do it again with 28-32 year old hitters that are just starting to figure it out.
  • One team’s international scout tells Cafardo that Yasmani Tomas could command as much as $100MM.  The scout said Tomas has gotten himself in shape and if he performs well at his showcase later in the month, the money will get “really high.”
  • One American League evaluator thinks it’s possible for the Phillies to move Ryan Howard to the American League, where he could be a full-time DH. “He’s not a lost cause,” said the evaluator. “He’s knocked in 92 runs for a bad team, so there’s obviously something still there. He could help an American League team as a DH.” However, that would require the Phillies to eat a good portion of the $60MM left on his contract.


Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Blue Jays, Tomas, Davis

On this date in 2005 Braves center fielder Andruw Jones hit his 50th home run in the eighth inning of a 12-4 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.  The Curacao native became the first major leaguer to reach the plateau since Alex Rodriguez hit 57 homers playing shortstop for the Rangers in 2002.  Here’s this week’s look around the baseball blogosphere..

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


Minor Moves: Chris Dwyer, Blake Wood, Chris Dickerson

We’ll keep track of today’s outright assignments here..

  • The Royals have placed both Chris Dwyer and Blake Wood on outright waivers, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Both hurlers were designated recently to clear space for September call-ups. Once a top prospect, Dwyer has struggled to a 5.59 ERA working mostly in relief at Triple-A this year, while Wood has yet to re-establish himself since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012.
  • The Indians announced that they have outrighted outfielder Chris Dickerson to Triple-A Columbus.  Cleveland acquired Dickerson from the Pirates in exchange for a player to be named later back in July.  GM Chris Antonetti traded for Dickerson because he valued his ability to play all three outfield positions and ability to hit against right-handed pitching.

West Notes: A’s, Samardzija, Astros, Diamondbacks

The Athletics made several errors in their approach to mid-season roster reconstruction, opines SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee, but trading away Yoenis Cespedes was not one of them. Overvaluing Jeff Samardzija, failing to improve at second, and giving up Addison Russell were all front office mistakes, says Brisbee, though much of the team’s recent poor play can be chalked up to some combination of bad luck and injury.

  • Samardzija said he expects to reach free agency in November of 2015, according to Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM (on Twitter).  Though Oakland obviously attributed significant value to controlling him next year at a below-market salary, giving up Russell to do so, it is hardly surprising to hear that an extension is not in the works. Samardzija went on to say that he is open to both the Cubs and White Sox as a free agent and indicated that the city of Chicago is still a priority for him (link).
  • The Astros‘ coaching staff is in limbo thanks to their managerial opening, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.  Houston likes its current coaching staff and when figuring out who their next skipper will be, they’ll have to also decide how much they value the staff and whether it’s worth getting rid of coaches they like to accommodate a new manager.
  • Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa has several avenues to pursue in his GM search, writes Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic.  Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque and agent Dave Stewart have been heavily tied to the job and both have a history with La Russa.  Meanwhile, if La Russa truly wants to “beef up” his analytics department, Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler should garner strong consideration.

Quick Hits: Dunn, White Sox, Kemp

Back in Chicago just days after being traded to the A’s, Adam Dunn said that he understood the boos from White Sox fans, writes Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune.  “I get it. I had a fantasy team not do very well this week, and I wasn’t happy with those guys either,” Dunn said. “Obviously it makes it harder, but it comes with the territory. Hopefully we can make them boo again tonight.”  Here’s more from around baseball..

  • The White Sox have just $46MM in commitments to the 2015 payroll before arbitration and General Manager Rick Hahn isn’t exactly sure how he’ll allocate that money just yet, writes Scott Merkin of MLB.com.  “We’ll have to decide based on the options available to us whether it makes sense to invest heavily in one or two targets or try to spread it around between a half dozen or so,” Hahn said. “I don’t think anything is going to be precluded from us in terms of opportunities. It’s going to be a matter of allocating the resources most effectively when the time comes.
  • Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp has a pretty mediocre WAR and not much in the way of trade value, but Mike Petriello of Fangraphs has reasons to be optimistic about what Kemp can do.  Down the line, however, he probably fits best on an American League team that can let him DH.
  • In the wake of the Ray Rice situation, Major League Baseball and the MLBPA should amend the policy on domestic abuse in the CBA, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.  

AL East Notes: Miller, Robertson, Pearce

Michael Jordan’s presence at Derek Jeter‘s home celebration made the day extra special for the Yankees legend, writes Marty Noble of MLB.com.  Derek Jeter Day would have been an extraordinary event without MJ, of course, but No. 23′s appearance served as the most powerful exclamation point available.  Here’s today’s look at the AL East..

  • Even though the Red Sox traded him away, Andrew Miller would be open to a Boston return, writes Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal.  “I certainly have relationships with a lot of people here,” he said. “I loved my time here. There’s no secret to that. My wife and I loved it here. It’s a great place to play, the way you get treated by the organization. It’s a great place to live. It’s a hard situation to leave. “If I could script it, I’d say, certainly, I’d love to be back.”  In 65 games between the Red Sox and Orioles this season, Miller has pitched to a 2.09 ERA with 14.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9.
  • The Yankees have a decision to make with closer David Robertson with his one-year, $5.215MM deal expiring at season’s end, writes Brendan Kuty of the Star-Ledger.  The most likely scenario, he says, would be for the Yanks to extend him a one-year, ~$15MM qualifying offer.   While that’s a lot of money to give to a reliever, it would buy the Yankees time before making a long-term commitment.  Kuty sees an extension as less likely and says there’s no chance of the Bombers letting him walk for nothing.
  • Steve Pearce, who has bounced around baseball quite a bit, may have finally found a home with the Orioles, writes Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com.  Pearce has had his ups and downs in 2014, but he now finds himself as a regular at first base for a first-place team.

Rosenthal On Braves, Martin, McEwing, Smyly

After Braves CEO Terry McGuirk told Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “everyone is accountable” in Atlanta, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wonders if General Manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez could be in trouble.  Gonzalez oversees an offense that often looks lost and is next-to-last in the National League in runs per game.  Wren, meanwhile, gave contracts to second baseman Dan Uggla (who has since been released) and center fielder B.J. Upton that didn’t pan out.

While anything is possible given their recent struggles, people in the industry would be surprised if the Braves made major changes, unless tension is building underneath the surface that people aren’t aware of.  Wren is close with McGuirk, major league sources say, and Gonzalez was Wren’s hand-picked choice to replace Bobby Cox.  Here’s more from today’s column..

  • The Pirates want to keep Russell Martin, but the veteran’s price in free agency could be too rich for their blood.  The 31-year-old will be the best and youngest catcher on the market by far and even though catchers historically don’t cash in in free agency, he won’t be had for another two-year, $17MM bargain.  He won’t garner something like Miguel Montero‘s five-year, $60MM extension but he should at least beat the three-year, $26MM free-agent deal that the Carlos Ruiz signed last winter entering his age 35 season. Pittsburgh could try to keep Martin with a one-year, ~$15MM qualifying offer, but as Rosenthal notes, they didn’t do that with A.J. Burnett last winter.  Martin ranked ninth in Tim Dierkes’ most recent Free Agent Power Rankings for MLBTR.  Dierkes suggested Martin could receive a four-year deal north of $50MM.
  • Rosenthal wouldn’t be surprised if Joe McEwing winds up as the next manager of the Diamondbacks.  Even if he doesn’t land with Arizona, White Sox officials say McEwing’s intelligence and energy will make him a strong candidate for other jobs.
  • Drew Smyly is benefiting from the Rays‘ focus on analytics. Upon joining the team, the Rays gave the 25-year-old some keen instruction and asked him elevate his fastball more.  Those tips have led to some great work by Smyly in Tampa Bay and Rosenthal wonders why the Tigers didn’t pick up on some of the same things.
  • The Orioles lost catcher Matt Wieters, but the makeshift combination of rookie Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley, acquired from the Padres in May, has proven quite adequate.  The two have combined for an OPS right around the American League average at catcher.
  • While the Mets like second baseman Dilson Herrera, Rosenthal says that doesn’t mean they should trade Daniel Murphy.  No team will give the Mets comparable offensive talent for Murphy and the smart move would be to instead sign him to an extension.

When Agents Get Played

Baseball players jumping from one agency to another is nothing new.  In fact, it seems there are some who will change affiliations more frequently than they change their underwear.  When agents and baseball executives talk about an instance of that happening, they often use a phrase that conjures up images of evildoers chasing ivory-rich elephants in sub-Saharan Africa: “player poaching.”  That terminology focuses on the unscrupulous agents who make it common practice to steal players out from under their colleagues and while that certainly takes place, not every case is exactly alike and things are never that cut and dry in the agency world.  Sometimes, it’s the players who are acting unscrupulously.  In the case of some minor leaguers, they’re employing two, three, or four agents at once in an effort to rack up as many gifts and favors as possible.

Plenty of stories have been written about individual cases of players being lured from one agency to another, but there hasn’t been much discussion about players employing several agencies simultaneously.  There’s no way to quantify how many minor leaguers are engaging in this practice, but upwards of a dozen agents speaking on the condition of anonymity acknowledged that it’s quite commonplace.

A few years ago, one agent called a club to discuss the terms of his minor league client’s release.  The exec, in turn, informed the agent that he had already spoken to the player’s representative just hours ago.  The agent was shocked, but not surprised.  His client had been stringing him along while actually working with a different agent.

You see this a lot with guys from the Dominican Republic and in the Latin markets,” the agent said, echoing a sentiment shared by many in the field.  “They don’t understand that there are rules and limits as to what an agent can give you.  So they’ll employ two or three agents and they all have regular contact with the player.  You have one giving them money, one giving them equipment…I’ve seen cases of guys having three or four agents at one time.  There’s really no one policing it.”

Lower-caliber minor leaguers can juggle multiple agents without oversight because they do not have to fill out an agent designation form with the MLBPA until they reach the 40-man roster.  Nearly every agent that spoke with MLBTR had a story of a player using multiple agents, whether it happened to them, a partner within their agency, or someone else in the field.  As one might imagine, the victimized agents tend to find out about these things in strange ways.

One agent visited his client’s minor league clubhouse only to find a Foot Locker stock room’s worth of free shoes crammed into the player’s tiny locker.  The abundance of free swag was the baseball equivalent of a woman finding a lipstick stain in an unfamiliar shade of red on her husband’s collar.  That agent’s suspicions were confirmed soon after – his client had been taking advantage of multiple player reps.

Another veteran agent told MLBTR’s Steve Adams that he saw a little-known Single-A player who already had representation sign on with another agency because he was given an endorsement deal from Easton.  When his original agent asked the player what had happened, the player replied that there was nothing in writing or even a check, just a $10K cash payment.  Major equipment companies typically don’t dole out lucrative deals to unheralded minor leaguers and they certainly don’t do it with a burlap sack of money.  It’s more than likely that the player’s allegiance was simply paid for by the rival agent.

Nearly every agent that spoke with MLBTR made two generalizations on the topic at hand.  First, the players doing this, more often than not, are international prospects.  Secondly, even though plenty of savvy veterans have been fooled, the greener agents are more susceptible to getting played.

I don’t want to say that it’s a B.S. excuse for agents, but I feel that anytime a guy is working you for equipment and other crap, that should send up a red flag for you,” said one experienced agent.

Even though the MLBPA doesn’t oversee the non 40-man players, there are multiple ways that agents can protect themselves.  Five veteran agents told MLBTR that they require all of their clients to fill out agent designation forms, regardless of their status.  Agents can still submit these forms to the union and if a player is registered with more than one representative, all parties involved are notified.  From that point, the union will step in and mediate.  Of course, at that point, an agent might not even bother putting up a a fight.

I believe it takes a certain kind of makeup to succeed.  I don’t care how good you are, it just doesn’t matter.  I’ve seen all kinds of ridiculous talent in this game but if they’ve got a ten cent head, it’s probably not going to work out,” one agent said.  “That doesn’t mean they have to be smart, but with certain kind of guy you can tell he ain’t gonna make it if he’s playing these games and worrying about [gifts].

Agents say they’ll only engage in business with players that are of high character.  The aforementioned player who asks for a pair of spikes and $200 before forming a partnership?  He’s probably not a guy you want to be involved with.  It could also be a bad sign when you’re talking with handlers rather than the player himself.

The further you get away from dealing directly with a player by dealing with a chain of people around him, the more likely there is to be abuse,” longtime agent Barry Meister said.  “When you’re recruiting a young player, and talking to his family, you have to be sure the person you’re speaking with is the person who is making the decision. I suspect that you’ll have far more luck going directly to the player than talking to a handler or someone in the entourage or the guy’s brother.”

The end game of staffing multiple agents is almost always to rack up as much money and as many gifts as possible.  Agents who want to avoid being turned into a walking Amazon wishlist can protect themselves by complying with MLBPA regulations.  The union stipulates that an agent cannot spend more than $2K on any single player within a year, a mechanism designed to help cut back on player poaching.  Staying inside of that dollar figure also leaves agents less susceptible to getting worked over or, at the very least, lessens some of the sting if their minor leaguer does get into bed with other agents.

Newer player reps would be wise to take that advice because the consensus amongst agents is that the union won’t be cracking down on guys simultaneously rostering multiple agents.  While agents appreciate their voices being heard on matters with the MLBPA – something widely attributed to the late Michael Weiner –  the union, they say, has bigger fish to fry and probably doesn’t have the resources to police every instance of a minor leaguer acting unethically.  Also, in many cases, the players are staffing multiple agents in part because they’re new to playing the game at a professional level and don’t really have a grasp on how a player-agent partnership works.  At the end of the day, the importance of pre-screening goes both ways for players and agents who are looking for a productive and honest business relationship.