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There’s been quite a bit written about the Red Sox‘ lack of an ace, but as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe notes, acquiring an ace-caliber pitcher is harder now than ever before. Speier looks back at the top 20 pitchers in terms of WAR from the 2004 season and notes that not only did pitchers remain elite later in their careers, but they were also more readily available in both free agency and trades. The average age of the top 20 pitchers in WAR has dropped from 29.5 to just under 28 in the year 2014, and none of the top 17 were signed as free agents. One talent evaluator noted to Speier that teams simply aren’t trading established aces anymore. The evaluator continued, “Very few come from free-agent signings given that, traditionally, their age was such that when they signed, they’re aces in age but not in [future] performance.”
Here’s more from the East:
- The Red Sox have continued to field a lineup that stresses “grinding” at-bats, but at present have yet to deliver much power, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. That continues something of a trend from last year, says MacPherson, who notes that unearned runs have propped up the team’s run scoring totals.
- Complaints about the Blue Jays‘ Rogers Centre turf have been hard to ignore, with Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reporting on Twitter that the Orioles actually considered forfeiting a recent game rather than taking the field. Baltimore has contacted the league, per Encina, though Jeff Blair of Sportsnet.ca tweets that the commissioner’s office has not received any formal complaint.
- Top Phillies prospect Maikel Franco has been on a tear at Triple-A, but the team still does not have immediate plans for a call-up, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Service time remains a factor despite the fact that he saw action at the MLB level last year; as Zolecki explains, by waiting until approximately mid-May, Philadelphia can earn itself an extra year of control. With the big league club seemingly going nowhere and fellow youngster Cody Asche playing well at third, there is little reason for the team to move quickly on Franco.
- There have been some limited bright spots for the Phillies, of course, and veteran righty Aaron Harang may be chief among them. The 36-year-old righty has tossed 26 1/3 innings of 1.37 ERA baseball, allowing a meager .800 WHIP and striking out 21 batters. Despite an excellent 2014, Harang signed a one-year deal for just $5MM (which he discussed recently with MLBTR’s Zach Links). He is starting to look like a rather appealing summer trade candidate for clubs that need to fill in at the back of their rotation.
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is said to be “ready to reach out to [Kris] Bryant soon to determine his mindset” on whether or not a grievance should be filed against the Cubs for holding him in Triple-A to start the season, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in his latest Inside Baseball column. Heyman notes that the union could file a grievance on Bryant’s behalf even without his consent, though that’s unlikely. The issue at hand, of course, would be whether or not Bryant was clearly one of Chicago’s 25 best players and the demotion was made purely for service time implications. (Chicago bought an extra year of control over Bryant by stashing him in the Minors for all of eight games/11 days). Heyman points out that it would be difficult to an arbitrator to rule in Bryant’s favor, as there’s no precedent for this type of grievance. Players in similar situations have historically been hesitant to file a grievance, he adds, because it would be a contentious way to begin a relationship with a team to which a player will be tied for the next six-plus years. A “Cubs connected person” called the notion of a grievance “laughable” when asked by Heyman. However, the points that Bryant was recalled on the first day the team could add him while still delaying free agency and slotted directly into the cleanup spot could make a case that the club had an understanding of his value, Heyman writes. From the union’s perspective, it’s understandable that they’d have interest in preventing this type of situation in the future, even if it’s a long shot.
More highlights from a lengthy Heyman column…
- The Padres don’t yet view Melvin Upton Jr. as a throwaway piece and will use him as an occasional outfielder and pinch-runner, Heyman writes. He also looks back on Upton’s original five-year, $75.2MM pact and notes that it’s one of the worst contracts in recent history, particularly given the fact that the next-highest offer was believed to come from the Phillies at somewhere in the $40MMs.
- The league’s investigation into the Rays‘ allegations of the Cubs‘ tampering in the Joe Maddon saga could come to a close as soon as next week, per Heyman. MLB was still interviewing people as recently as last week, but to this point there “is believed to have been no smoking guns found.”
- The Reds never approached right-hander Mike Leake about a contract extension this offseason, and the free-agent-to-be is said to be a bit hurt not to have been contacted. Leake’s not a front-line starter, but he’ll hit the open market heading into his age-28 season and currently sports a 3.56 ERA in 427 1/3 innings dating back to Opening Day 2013. A third straight season of 190+ innings and an ERA in the mid-3.00s should position him for a nice contract, especially considering the fact that half of his starts have come in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
- Multiple teams have worked out Rafael Soriano, and while he’s on the Tigers‘ radar, there’s also been some contact with the Mariners. Heyman adds the Pirates, Indians and Dodgers as “logical suitors,” though I’d imagine the Pirates and Indians in particular would have some payroll constraints, depending on the asking price of agent Scott Boras.
- Heyman echoes ESPN’s Buster Olney in speculating that the Dodgers could make a run at extending Howie Kendrick, noting that the Dodgers love Kendrick both on the field and in the clubhouse. He also notes that the Dodgers are impressed with Alex Guerrero‘s bat and may coming around on him as a passable option at third base or in left field, though the team is already well-stocked at each position.
- The Pirates and Gregory Polanco may have come as close as about $1MM on agreeing to a seven-year contract, Heyman hears. The biggest holdup was over the three club options on the deal, which ranged from $11-13MM, and when the team would have been required to exercise them.
- Though recent reports have indicated that John Lackey hopes the Cardinals will approach him about an extension, Heyman writes that it’s not a likely scenario. St. Louis likes its pitching depth and the young starters in line beyond those in the 2015 rotation.
- The Orioles asked the Blue Jays for both of the team’s first round picks from the 2014 draft — right-hander Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost — in exchange for the ability to hire EVP/general manager Dan Duquette as their new president, according to Heyman.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: B.J. Upton | Baltimore Orioles | Chicago Cubs | Cincinnati Reds | Dan Duquette | Detroit Tigers | Gregory Polanco | Howie Kendrick | Jeff Hoffman | Joe Maddon | John Lackey | Kris Bryant | Los Angeles Dodgers | Max Pentecost | Mike Leake | Philadelphia Phillies | Pittsburgh Pirates | Rafael Soriano | San Diego Padres | Seattle Mariners | St. Louis Cardinals | Tampa Bay Rays | Toronto Blue Jays
It would be foolhardy for the Marlins to fire manager Mike Redmond this early in the season, opines FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal in his latest notes column. Redmond is well-respected among the industry, Rosenthal notes, and he cannot be blamed for the fact that Henderson Alvarez is injured and Mat Latos has struggled so greatly. (Latos’ diminished velocity is likely a significant culprit in that regard.) Rosenthal writes that owner Jeffrey Loria needs to realize that the unstable culture he creates by cycling through managers so willingly is part of the problem in Miami.
A few more notes from Rosenthal’s latest column…
- In the video atop his column, Rosenthal notes that Cubs top prospect Addison Russell has begun playing some second base and may eventually get a look there in the Majors. However, because he is their best defensive shortstop, Russell may eventually push Starlin Castro to third base and Kris Bryant to the outfield, or his arrival may lead to a trade of Castro.
- Rosenthal writes about former Mets GM Omar Minaya’s decision to draft Matt Harvey with the seventh pick in the 2010 draft. The team had been deciding between Harvey and Chris Sale, but the Mets, like many other clubs, had some reservations about whether or not Sale would last as a starter. Minaya became convinced of Harvey after watching him in an April start at the University of Miami, though as Rosenthal notes, others in the front office/scouting department, including Marlin McPhail, Rudy Terrasas and Bryan Lambe all played large roles as well. Interestingly, Rosenthal adds that the White Sox were thrilled to get Chris Sale at No. 13, as they feared the Royals would select him fifth overall. Kansas City instead selected Cal State Fulelrton infielder Christian Colon.
- Delmon Young told the Orioles that he wanted to regain some of his lost athleticism, and so the team had him work extensively with outfielder-turned-executive Brady Anderson in Spring Training. Young was the first to the clubhouse every day during Spring Training and is now has the fastest 10-yard dash time on the Orioles, per manager Buck Showalter. Rosenthal also notes that Everth Cabrera told the O’s that he knew advanced metrics pegged him as a below-average defender, and he expressed an interest in improving in that area. Baltimore is working with Cabrera to correct a tendency to retreat with his hands and “baby” the ball, as Rosenthal put it.
- The White Sox weren’t as successful in upgrading their catching position as they’d have liked, but for the time being, they’re content with Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto. Rosenthal notes that while Welington Castillo is widely believed to be available, the Sox and Cubs rarely make trades.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Addison Russell | Baltimore Orioles | Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Chris Sale | Christian Colon | Delmon Young | Everth Cabrera | Geovany Soto | Kansas City Royals | Lance Lynn | Matt Harvey | Miami Marlins | Mike Redmond | New York Mets | Starlin Castro | Tyler Flowers | Welington Castillo
The Blue Jays announced today that they’ve selected the contract of veteran left-hander Jeff Francis and optioned fellow lefty Colt Hynes to Triple-A Buffalo. The 34-year-old Francis, a native of Vancouver, will add another Canadian player to Toronto’s roster, joining Russell Martin, Michael Saunders and Dalton Pompey. Francis will hope for better results than he’s seen over the past three seasons, during which he’s posted a combined 5.84 ERA in 203 1/3 innings with the Rockies, Reds, A’s and Yankees. Toronto already had an open 40-man roster spot after designating Todd Redmond for assignment last week.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- Recently designated right-hander Grant Balfour spoke with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times about how he wished his second run with the Rays had yielded better results. Balfour admitted to shying away from his fastball after the realization that the pitch lacked its typical life. The Australian righty wouldn’t state for certain whether or not he’d pursue another opportunity immediately: “Maybe a little bit of rest will be good for me. … I’m not thinking too far ahead. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
- After speaking to multiple scouts about the futures of Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes that Betts has leap-frogged Bogaerts in the eyes of the baseball industry. “I don’t think you could find anyone in baseball who would pick Bogaerts over Betts right now,” one scout told Silverman. Another said Betts “clearly” has the better bat of the two, while a third scout said that in 20 years, Betts “makes quicker adjustments to his game than anybody I’ve seen.” All of the scouts to whom Silverman spoke are quick to clarify that Bogaerts still has star potential, but the glowing reviews add to the meteoric rise of Betts over the past 12 months.
- Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop is likely to miss longer than the minimum amount of time on the 15-day disabled list, writes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. The 23-year-old Schoop suffered a Grade 1 partial PCL tear and an MCL sprain, and while surgery is unlikely, an exact timetable is unknown. Encina looks at Anthony Rendon as a possible comparable, noting that Rendon has just resumed baseball activities six weeks after spraining his left MCL.
Here’s the latest from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, via a video on FOX Sports:
- When the Orioles discussed an extension with Chris Tillman this spring, Tillman favored a contract similar to Lance Lynn‘s three-year, $22MM deal with the Cardinals. That contract did not buy out any of Lynn’s free-agent years. The Orioles were interested in a longer deal for Tillman that would have delayed his free agency eligibility.
- The Brewers‘ poor start suggests that they could be sellers at the trade deadline, and Rosenthal notes that they could deal Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Gerardo Parra or even Aramis Ramirez (despite Ramirez’s plans to retire at the end of the season). A player who could bring a much greater return, though, is Carlos Gomez, who is signed to a bargain contract the next two years.
- The Rangers could trade anyone if they fall out of contention, but it might be somewhat tricky for them to deal Adrian Beltre, who has limited no-trade protection and who has about $34MM left on his contract. Beltre also recently turned 36 and is off to a slow .149/.167/.298 start offensively. One might think that would only impede a trade if it were to continue deep into the summer, however — Beltre has a long history of providing excellent value both offensively and defensively.
The Padres declined to part with top outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe in their deal for closer Craig Kimbrel, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. At the same time, the Braves weren’t sold on top catching prospect Austin Hedges and feared that his hitting might not develop enough. Ultimately, that left pitcher Matt Wisler as the key prospect in the deal. Here’s more from Heyman’s column..
- Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle is considering retirement following the 2015 season, Heyman reports. While he notes that April retirement ruminations often prove to be inaccurate, there seems to be a strong possibility that the 36-year-old Buehrle will call it quits.
- Tigers executives were shocked that they were able to pry right-hander Shane Greene away from the Yankees this winter, Heyman writes. The Yankees considered trading Greene “painful,” but the team was desperate for a shortstop, and New York scouting guru Gene Michael was a strong supporter of Gregorius.
- Trading Ryan Howard seems less and less likely for the Phillies each coming day, Heyman writes, noting that one scout said that Howard simply looks “lost” at the plate. Heyman also notes that the stacked starting pitching class on next year’s free agent market may be hindering the Phillies’ ability to move Cole Hamels, as teams are content to wait to bid on the likes of David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija and others.
- The Orioles checked in on Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro at some point late in the spring. Navarro, who has been supplanted as the starting catcher in Toronto by Russell Martin, is hoping to go elsewhere and start. The diplomatic Navarro spoke with MLBTR’s Zach Links last month about the trade talk surrounding him.
- One GM who has some interest in Elvis Andrus suggested to Heyman that it’d be hard for the Rangers to trade him now. While Texas has infield depth, most of it is at the lower rungs of their system. Meanwhile, they’ll be without Jurickson Profar for a second straight year.
- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has one year to go on his contract, but word is that the front office likes him and they mainly want to see progress from their younger players before extending him. It’s said that Gonzalez won’t be judged on his win-loss record, but so far he’s doing pretty well in that department too.
- The Red Sox made at least a preliminary offer to Yoenis Cespedes before trading him, which seems to poke a hole in the theory that Boston coaches “hated” the outfielder.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Atlanta Braves | Austin Hedges | Baltimore Orioles | Boston Red Sox | Cole Hamels | Detroit Tigers | Dioner Navarro | Elvis Andrus | Fredi Gonzalez | Hunter Renfroe | Mark Buehrle | Matt Wisler | Philadelphia Phillies | Ryan Howard | San Diego Padres | Shane Greene | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays | Yoenis Cespedes
Kevin Pillar was expected to be the Blue Jays‘ fourth outfielder this season and, until Michael Saunders returned from the DL, only a short-term replacement in left field. After a hot start both offensively and defensively (including an incredible homer-robbing catch last night), however, Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith notes that Pillar is making a strong bid for regular playing time even after Saunders is back. Given Saunders’ knee injury and recent hamstring issue, I’d guess that he could see some DH time to keep him fresh, opening the door for Pillar to continue playing in left. Switch-hitting center fielder Dalton Pompey has badly struggled against left-handed pitching in his brief career, so Pillar (a right-handed hitter) could also be used in a semi-platoon situation.
Here’s some news from around the AL East…
- The Orioles are dealing with several roster questions, and MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko notes that the club’s decisions involve both making the team better in 2015 and also looking ahead to who might fill some holes on the 2016 roster. Baltimore has 10 players scheduled for free agency this winter, leaving plenty of room to evaluate players for bigger roles, like T.J. McFarland or Mike Wright for a possible rotation spot next year.
- Also from Kubatko’s piece, the Orioles want to keep Rule 5 Draft pick Jason Garcia as a piece for 2016 and beyond, though keeping him on the roster for all of this season could be tricky. Garcia also has some interest from other teams, as “at least one member of the organization is convinced that the Rays would claim” the young righty if he was put on waivers.
- Grantland’s Jonah Keri explores why the Orioles are keeping Kevin Gausman in the bullpen when the promising youngster and former fourth overall pick could be more valuable in the rotation. One theory Keri has heard is that the O’s are giving their five veterans an opportunity to start in order to showcase them for possible trades, which would then open a space for Gausman. Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris are both free agents after the season and the O’s would likely love to rid themselves of Ubaldo Jimenez‘s contract, though it’s worth noting that Gausman has thus far struggled (8.31 ERA and a 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio over four innings) in a relief role.
- The early returns on the Yankees‘ offseason three-team trade with the Diamondbacks and Tigers aren’t promising for the Bronx Bombers, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Shane Greene, who went to Detroit from New York, has yet to allow a run in 16 innings for the Tigers, while Didi Gregorius has had an all-around rough start to his Yankees career. While it’s still early, one scout tells Sherman that Greene made some strong adjustments and “was the best pitcher he had seen in March.” Sherman also notes that the Yankees haven’t historically had much success in trades with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski.
The Red Sox have placed Rusney Castillo on the Minor League disabled list due to a shoulder injury suffered in a diving attempt for a fly ball, writes Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. Manager John Farrell said Castillo will be out for “a little bit of time” and downplayed the possibility of the injury being a long-term problem. However, as Mastrodonato points out, injuries have already followed Castillo through his brief time with the Red Sox. A thumb injury ended his Arizona Fall League season, an oblique injury sidelined him for a portion of Spring Training, and he’ll now miss an unknown amount of time due to this shoulder injury. Farrell didn’t want to say that Castillo is predisposed to injuries, but the manager did acknowledge that Castillo has an aggressive style of play, seemingly suggesting that it does increase the chance for minor injuries.
More on the Red Sox and their division…
- Red Sox right-hander Brandon Workman is headed to see Dr. James Andrews to get a second opinion on his ailing right elbow, tweets CSN New England’s Sean McAdam. The thought at this time, according to McAdam, is that surgery will not be required. Workman was placed on the Major League 15-day DL yesterday in a move that may seem curious because he’d been optioned to Triple-A at the end of Spring Training. However, via NESN.com’s Ricky Doyle, Farrell said that Workman’s elbow flared up in his final spring outing. Had he gone on the Minor League DL, I’d imagine that Workman and his agents could’ve theoretically filed a grievance, stating that he was optioned and placed on the DL in the Minors to prevent him from accumulating service time.
- In more injury news for the Sox, Xander Bogaerts is being sent to have an MRI on his right knee, tweets the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. Bogaerts injured the knee running the bases last night and was swapped out of the lineup for Brock Holt, who is filling in at short for Boston tonight.
- Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold is suing Johns Hopkins Hospital for negligent medical care, alleging that he was cleared to return to baseball too soon following neck surgery, according to Justin Fenton, Meredith Cohn and Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Reimold underwent surgery to repair a C5-C6 disk herniation in his neck in 2012 and was cleared to return to baseball seven months later. However, Reimold continually experienced pain, and follow-up x-rays at a Florida medical facility later that year showed that the bones had not yet fused, according to Reimold’s suit. He had “revision surgery” that July after playing 40 games and posting a career-low OPS+ of 59. Reimold’s suit claims that his doctor “negligently misinterpreted the film and/or failed to consider the official radiology report.”
- Blue Jays players feel that the Rogers Centre’s new artificial turf is slowing down ground-balls a considerable amount, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. Jose Bautista told Davidi that it “feels like no balls are going to get to the wall” unless they’re one-hoppers, and he felt that the turf may also impact players when running. Rays skipper Kevin Cash said that from his vantage point, “It appeared as if the ball was never getting to you.” Bautista feels that the turf will change over time as the material settles, but I’d imagine this won’t be the only time we hear about this topic in the early stages of the season.
Yoan Moncada made his debut in a Red Sox uniform yesterday, though it was not as publicized as the one he’ll eventually make in the big leagues. As David Dorsey of News-Press.com reports from extended Spring Training, Moncada’s coaches and teammates have been impressed with his work ethic early on. While literally only one fan was on hand to see it — Mr. Tony Medina of Fort Myers will have a unique story if Moncada lives up to his contract — the young Cuban banged a stand-up triple in his first plate appearance (video available at the above link).
Here’s the latest from the eastern divisions, featuring some other offseason storylines:
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo confirmed that he held offseason talks with the Red Sox about starter Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports. Nothing ever materialized despite what “looks like a reasonable matchup on paper,” said Rizzo, who explained that the teams had serious discussions over realistic scenarios. “I don’t think we laughed away any of [the offers],” Rizzo said. “We took them all serious. We were fortunate to be in a position where we didn’t have to move the player and if we would’ve got the right deal we would’ve. The right deal is in the eye of the beholder and we felt like we needed to get legitimate value for who Zimmermann was, and not the fact that he has one year left of control.”
- The Orioles never pursued lefty Andrew Miller this offseason beyond a single “touch-base” conversation, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. That was, of course, not due to any dissatisfaction with Miller’s services down the stretch, but merely reflected the reality that he was going to (and did) command a significant commitment in free agency. Miller — who discussed his free agent experience on a recent episode of the MLBTR Podcast — has continued to dominate since joining the division-rival Yankees, including a lock-down 1 2/3 inning appearance last night at Baltimore.
Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com runs down the laundry list of less-than-productive pitchers who have logged significant innings for the Twins in recent years after being acquired via trade, claim, or free agency. It is, as Mackey notes, not a happy read for Minnesota faithful.
Here’s more from the American League:
- The Rangers have lost another pitcher to Tommy John surgery, as righty Lisalverto Bonilla will need the procedure, Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports on Twitter. Bonilla, 24, threw 20 2/3 innings (including three starts) for the injury-ravaged Texas club last year. He has split his time as a professional evenly between starting and relief, and looked like a useful depth piece for the club.
- Rangers outfielder Ryan Rua, meanwhile, has a fracture in his right foot, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest tweets. He will be in a walking boot for at least three weeks, and will obviously need some time after that to get back up to speed.
- The Orioles learned today that they will be without lefty Wesley Wright for four to six weeks, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets. He will require rest, but not surgery, after an MRI found shoulder inflammation. Baltimore has another southpaw in its current pen mix in Brian Matusz, along with lefty closer Zach Britton, and can also call upon T.J. McFarland from Triple-A.