Author Archives: Zach Links

Marlins Interested In Andy Dirks, Will Venable

The Marlins are looking for a left-handed bat that can spell their outfielders and do some pinch hitting.  Their search, according to Joe Frisaro of, has now led to a couple of new names: Andy Dirks and Will Venable.

The Blue Jays non-tendered Dirks back in December instead of keeping him on board for a projected $1.6MM.  The left fielder, who didn’t make a major league plate appearance in 2014, slashed .276/.332/.413 between 2011-2013 for the Tigers.  He grades out as an excellent defender in left field, having compiled 16 Defensive Runs Saved and an UZR/150 mark of +5.1 in 1569 innings in left field.

Venable, 32, has come up quite a bit in trade rumors over the last month and change with the Orioles among the teams that have been linked to him.  Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune recently said that it seems more and more likely that the Padres will hang on to him, but one has to wonder if the Marlins’ interest could change things.  Venable is due to earn a reasonable $4.25MM in 2015.

The Marlins are also looking into Ichiro Suzuki and Nate Schierholtz as fourth outfielder options.  When word of that came out last week, our own Steve Adams speculated that Dirks and Venable could be considerations for Miami.

Cafardo On Hamels, Shields, Duquette, Maddon

It’s time to add Pete Rose’s name to Hall of Fame ballot, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.  Cafardo always agreed with the decision from commissioner Bart Giamatti to keep Rose out of baseball after he bet on games but after 25 years at the age of 73, he feels that the all-time great has paid for his crime.  He’s not sure whether he’d vote for Charlie Hustle, but he should at least have the opportunity to be elected.  More from today’s column..

  • Cafardo hears that there have been no talks this month between the Phillies and Red Sox regarding Cole Hamels.  Boston will not part with Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart but the Phillies want one of the two to make a deal.  West Coast teams, meanwhile, are in pursuit of the left-hander.
  • One National League GM speculated that James Shields hasn’t jumped on his rumored $110MM offer because he doesn’t want to play for that team.  Of course, at 33, teams are wary of giving a five-year deal.  “There isn’t a team who wouldn’t want Shields for three years. But five? That’s where it gets tough,” one GM said.
  • Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette is still in the running for the Blue Jays president’s job, according to a major league source that spoke with Cafardo.  In order that that to advance, of course, the two teams would have to agree on compensation, which is where deals such as this usually break down.
  • The tampering charge the Rays filed against the Cubs over manager Joe Maddon is still alive.  A major league source tells Cafardo that MLB investigators have been gathering information on the matter.
  • Alexi Ogando‘s shoulder medicals don’t look great, according to an American League executive.  Still, once his price lowers and he’s no longer holding out for a major league contract, teams will compete for his services.
  • Mark Mulder says he’s in the final stage of rehab for his Achilles’/ankle injury and will soon make a decision on whether to resume his pitching career.  “The ankle is great,” Mulder said.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Braves, Dodgers, Porcello

On this date in 2008, the Reds hired former Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty as a special adviser to top executive Bob Castellini.  Months later, Jocketty would take over as the GM in Cincinnati and he remains in that role today. Here’s this week’s look around the baseball blogosphere..

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Royals To Sign Ryan Madson

JAN. 5: Madson will earn $850K if he makes the big league club and has the opportunity to earn up to $150K via incentives, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

JAN. 4: The Royals and Ryan Madson have agreed to a minor league deal, a source tells Jerry Crasnick of  The pact includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Madson, 34, hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2011 because of elbow issues.  In that season, Madson established himself as one of the game’s most promising closers, pitching to a 2.37 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 48.8% ground ball rate in 60 2/3 innings for the Phillies.  When a reported four-year, $44MM deal fell through between the two sides, he joined up with the Reds on a much smaller contract, but he never made it to the mound.

Even with his injury woes, teams were still anxious to sign Madson, a reliever boasted a half-decade of strong late inning work.  The Halos gave Madson a deal worth $3.5MM in guaranteed money prior to the 2013 season, but he was only able to make one brief Advanced-A appearance all year long.  After that, the All Bases Covered client sat out 2014.

The right-hander pitched to a 2.89 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 329 2/3 innings from 2007-2011.  In parts of nine seasons with the Phillies from 2003-11, the veteran posted a 3.59 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 47.7% ground ball rate.

Checking In On Teams In Need Of Pitching

After looking at some of the least productive offenses in baseball from last season, we now turn our attention to the teams that allowed the most runs in 2014.

Last year, teams allowed an average of 659 runs scored on the year. Meanwhile, the bottom five clubs allowed at least 740 runs last season and they all had ERAs of 4.26 or higher. We’ll take a look at those bottom five teams and see what they’ve done to improve their pitching and defense so far this offseason. Team name links go to a summary of the moves on MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker and 2014 runs allowed totals are in parentheses.

  • Rockies (818 runs allowed, 4.84 team ERA) – The Rockies haven’t done a whole lot to improve their pitching situation so far this winter, though they’ve been connected to a handful of starters. Kyle Kendrick, 30, turned in a career-high 199 innings in 2014 and his career 46.1% groundball rate is of interest to Colorado. Kevin Correia is also on Colorado’s radar as a fifth starter and signing him likely wouldn’t break the bank. Aaron Harang has also been connected to the Rockies, but he doesn’t fit the bill as a ground ball pitcher. Brett Anderson, who had a 61% groundball rate, left them and joined the Dodgers in free agency. The Rockies have talked with the Mets about Dillon Gee, but we haven’t heard much on that front lately.
  • Twins (777 runs allowed, 4.57 team ERA) – The Twins, on the other hand, made a significant addition to their rotation last month when they signed Ervin Santana to a four-year, $55MM deal. Later on, Minnesota added reliever Tim Stauffer on a one-year, $2.2MM contract to help fortify the bridge to Glen Perkins, though he could also be called upon to make a spot start. Brayan Villarreal, who was signed to a split contract, and Rule 5 pick J.R. Graham could also be featured in the bullpen.
  • Rangers (773 runs allowed, 4.49 team ERA) – The Rangers have been modest in their moves to updgrade their pitching: re-signing Colby Lewis, acquiring left-hander Ross Detwiler in a trade with the Nationals, and signing free agent reliever Kyuji Fujikawa. Detwiler will be given an opportunity to make the rotation, but could wind up in the bullpen while Fujikawa has only thrown 25 innings over the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery. The Rangers have been linked to ex-Brave Brandon Beachy, who missed all of 2014 after undergoing his second TJ surgery and isn’t expected back on the mound until mid-season, at the earliest. The Rangers did meet with James Shields during the Winter Meetings and did make an offer to Justin Masterson before he signed with the Red Sox, but otherwise seem content to settle for minor league depth signings and waiver claims.
  • White Sox (758 runs allowed, 4.29 team ERA) – GM Rick Hahn has been extremely aggressive in rebuilding the White Sox’s staff adding Jeff Samardzija to the top of the rotation with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana and fixing the bullpen with the free agent signings of closer David Robertson and lefty Zach Duke. The White Sox also traded for left-hander reliever Dan Jennings. Speaking of lefties, Carlos Rodon, the third overall selection in last year’s amateur draft, is waiting in the wings and could make his MLB debut once the service time window passes on obtaining the extra year of team control.
  • Diamondbacks (742 runs allowed, 4.26 team ERA) – New GM Dave Stewart has chosen the trade route to bolster Arizona’s pitching acquiring Jeremy Hellickson from the Rays, Robbie Ray from the Tigers in the Didi Gregorius three-way trade, and right-handers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster from the Red Sox in the Wade Miley deal. Stewart acknowledged last month internal discussions were held regarding free agent top-of-the-rotation starters Max Scherzer and James Shields, but a decision has yet to be made whether to join the bidding as the Diamondbacks may wait until next offseason to flex their financial resources. Reinforcements could come mid-season with the return of Bronson Arroyo and Patrick Corbin, both of whom are recovering from Tommy John surgery. Top prospect Archie Bradley, who will likely start the season at Triple-A, could also be a factor in 2015.

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Quick Hits: Peters, Rasmus, Cherington, Padres

Former Orioles GM Hank Peters passed away this morning following complications from a recent stroke, as Mike Klingaman of The Baltimore Sun writes.  Peters, 90, was the architect of the Orioles’ 1983 championship team, the last time the O’s won the World Series. “Nobody in baseball taught me more than Hank did,” Ron Shapiro, longtime Baltimore sports agent told Klingaman. “Through negotiations, he taught me the value of listening and of keeping one’s perspective and balance in relationship with the other side…His soft-spokenness reflected his ego-free personality.”  MLBTR extends its condolences to Peters’ family and friends.  More from around baseball…

  • Orioles manager Buck Showalter met with free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus yesterday, but a deal isn’t imminent, according to Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun.  Rasmus has expressed interest in coming to Baltimore and a strong performance on one-year contract could allow him to cash in next winter, but it doesn’t sound like we should expect a deal to be struck in the coming days.  The O’s have discussed Andre Ethier with the Dodgers and they continue to monitor Nori Aoki, so Baltimore is considering other options.
  • The Red Sox have gone from worst-to-first-to-worst but GM Ben Cherington is working to build a team that will be in the mix every year.  “I think we’re getting closer to figuring out what that next core is, and with that, we’re closer to something that’s more lasting, more sustainable,” Cherington told Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. “You can’t plan on a World Series every year, but we ought to be planning on winning teams and teams that are playing meaningful games in September and getting into October more often than not.
  • While Padres GM A.J. Preller made waves with his offensive overhaul, he has also changed things up in the bullpen by acquiring Shawn Kelley and Brandon Maurer, as Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego writes.  The ‘pen was one the Padres’ bright spots in 2014 as their relievers turned in a 2.73 ERA, even after trading All-Star closer Huston Street in July.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Zobrist, Yankees, Bonifacio

On this date in 2008, Hideo Nomo signed a minor league deal with the Royals after a three year hiatus from major league baseball.  Nomo did some relief work for KC in April, but he couldn’t replicate his best work from years past.  Here’s this week’s look around the baseball blogosphere..

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Orioles Have Discussed Andre Ethier With Dodgers

The Orioles have had discussions about Andre Ethier with the Dodgers, according to Roch Kubatko of  Baltimore is in search of a left-handed hitting outfielder and the 32-year-old (33 in April) could be a fit.

While Ethier has been prominently mentioned in trade rumors throughout the winter, it would be somewhat surprising to see the Dodgers part with him after dealing Matt Kemp just weeks ago.   Ethier was relegated to the bench last season and while he took it in stride, he made it clear to Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times in early December that he wanted to start in 2015 – whether that was in Los Angeles or elsewhere.  The former two-time All-Star hit just .249/.322/.370 with four homers in 380 plate appearances last season.

As Kubatko notes, the Orioles checked on Kemp earlier this winter but decided against pursuing him due to his contract and health issues and the Dodgers’ insistence on getting Kevin Gausman or Dylan Bundy in return.  Ethier would not require that same kind of haul, though he also comes with a hefty contract.  He’s owed $53.5MM over the next three more years and has a $17.5MM vesting option for 2018 with a $2.5 million buyout, adding up to a full $56MM guarantee.

While there is some degree of interest in Ethier, Kubatko says that the Orioles apparently still rate Colby Rasmus as the most likely possibility of their left-handed hitting outfield targets.  The O’s also have interest in fellow free agent Nori Aoki.  Baltimore reportedly has interest in 41-year-old Ichiro Suzuki, but Kubatko hears he’d be a tough sell for some in the organization.

Checking In On Baseball’s Lowest Scoring Offenses

A high-octane offense doesn’t guarantee overall success, but it certainly helps.  In 2014, the Angels (98 wins, 773 runs), Tigers (90 wins, 757 runs), and A’s (88 wins, 729 runs) all reached the postseason thanks in part to their top five offenses.  The bottom five teams, meanwhile, all missed the playoffs.

Let’s take a look at those bottom five teams and see what they’ve done to improve their offensive production so far this offseason. Team name links go to a summary of the teams’ moves on MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker and 2014 run totals are in parentheses. For reference, the average MLB team scored 659 runs last year.

  • Padres (535) – Nobody has been more aggressive this offseason than the Padres, who finished dead last in runs scored in 2014.  The Padres have placed no better than 24th in runs scored since 2011 and you have to go back all the way to 2007 to find a season in which they didn’t place in the bottom third of the league.  That’s likely to change now, however, thanks to A.J. Preller’s complete overhaul of the outfield.  Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and Wil Myers all come to San Diego with a history of producing at the plate and they have every intention of beating the odds at the pitcher-friendly Petco Park.  And, despite his recent struggles, the Padres are hoping that they can get third baseman Will Middlebrooks to perform closer to his 2012 effort.
  • Braves (573) – The Braves surprised many when they shipped right fielder Jason Heyward to the Cardinals for right-hander Shelby Miller.  Then, the Braves replaced the defensive-minded Heyward with another defense-first outfielder in Nick Markakis.  In recent seasons, Markakis has profiled as a high-OBP, low-power bat and odds are that he probably won’t magically rediscover his pop from years ago.  Soon after, the Justin Upton trade took away a bat that produced a .270/.342/.491 slash line with 29 homers in 2014.  Atlanta made it clear this offseason that they’ll bank on improvement from within to fix their offensive woes, though it remains to be seen if that will be a sound strategy.  A 180° from B.J. Upton would certainly help the cause, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that he’ll be on a short leash.  Atlanta, he says, will consider moving to a platoon of Zoilo Almonte and Todd Cunningham if Upton continues to flounder.
  • Reds (595) – The Reds didn’t do much to bolster their offense until a New Year’s Eve deal with the Phillies brought in Marlon Byrd.  The 37-year-old has refused to let Father Time slow him down.  After surprising everyone in 2013 with a 291/.336/.511 slash line between the Mets and Pirates in 2013, Byrd turned in a solid .264/.312/.445 with 25 homers for Philadelphia in 2014.  Byrd satisfied their need for an outfielder to go alongside Jay Bruce and Billy Hamilton and he won’t break the bank thanks to the $4MM that the Phillies sent over in the deal.
  • Rays (612) – Parting with a young, power-hitting right fielder (Myers) may seem an odd way to bolster a lineup, but Tampa is obviously high on the player it acquired to replace him. It remains to be seen whether Steven Souza can translate his tools to the MLB game, but his eye-opening .350/.432/.590 output at Triple-A last year provides evidence in the affirmative. The club also added a bat-first middle infielder in Asdrubal Cabrera, although it remains to be seen whether his signing constitutes a prelude to a trade involving the even more productive Ben Zobrist.
  • Cubs (614) – Chicago’s big signing, Jon Lester, was designed to keep opposition runs off the board. The same could be said, to an extent, about the team’s addition of backstops Miguel Montero and David Ross. But each member of that new catching pairing has put up big offensive numbers in the not-so-distant past. Beyond that, the organization will hope for continued progress from its young, high-upside core of position players while excitement builds over the expected mid-season deployment of power-hitting third base prospect Kris Bryant, who will finish his seasoning at Triple-A to start the year.

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Quick Hits: Braves, Orioles, Royals’s Jerry Crasnick kicked off the new year by running down MLB’s 15 most interesting people for ’15.  Among names like incoming commissioner Rob Manfred and Cubs skipper Joe Maddon, Padres GM A.J. Preller is highlighted as one of baseball’s names to watch.  The GM has overhauled the entire team, prompting new acquisition Matt Kemp to term him a front office “rock star,” a designation that is hard to argue with.  Here’s more from around baseball…

  • Yesterday, Mark Bowman of raised the possibility that the Braves could pull Luis Avalan out of trade discussions after moving fellow southpaw Chasen Shreve.  However, he also notes that James Russell could take over as the top lefty out of Atlanta’s ‘pen if he can show that his struggles against left-handed batters are a thing of the past.   Avalan is under control through 2018, making him appealing to other clubs but also an asset that Atlanta might like to keep.
  • With eleven pending free agents, the Orioles will be facing some major questions soon, Steve Melewski of writes.  The O’s have five position players, four relievers, and two starting pitchers that can hit the open market after the 2015 season.  Some are calling for them to start making moves now as a preemptive strike, but that would likely hamstring them for 2015.  The O’s could instead wait and see how the first half of the season goes, then start making trades at the deadline if they’re not looking the part of the contender.  Alternatively, Baltimore could let those players go and spend the money elsewhere.  Those eleven players will earn $56.6MM in 2014, meaning that they could do a lot with that money in the offseason.
  • The Royals love their hard throwers at the back end of their bullpen and they acquired another one in right-hander Jandel Gustave.  Alan Eskew of Baseball America looks at what Kansas City can expect out of the 22-year-old.  The Red Sox selected Gustave sixth overall in the Rule 5 Draft from the Astros, then sent him to KC for cash.