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Red Sox manager John Farrell says you have to take the good with the bad when it comes to mid-season acquisition Yoenis Cespedes. “With it will come some quick outs, but at the same time the ability to impact the baseball is a result of the aggressiveness as well,” Farrell said of Cespedes’ plate approach, writes Katie Morrison of WEEI.com. “He hasn’t become more aggressive since coming over here. This is the player we were well aware of and pursued heavily. We’re fully accepting of the style of player he is.” So far with Boston, Cespedes has a .219/.231/.406 line. Here’s more out of the AL East..
- Orioles skipper Buck Showalter announced that the club is moving Ubaldo Jimenez to the bullpen, Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com writes. Needless to say, this isn’t how the O’s expected things to pan out when they signed Jimenez to a four-year, $50MM deal this winter.
- Earlier today, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that he would consider trading prospects this winter in the right deal. With that in mind, Jason Mastrodonato of The Springfield Republican looks at some of the youngsters Cherington could possibly part with. If the Red Sox can’t find a way to utilize catcher Blake Swihart, who is doing well at the plate in the minors and catching 48% of base stealers, he could be made available in a deal. Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo is another promising prospect, but there’s already tons of young rotation talent in the organization.
- It was unthinkable just months ago, but Yankees catcher Brian McCann couldn’t be given away for free right now, writes Mike Petriello of Fangraphs. It’s unknown whether McCann has been placed on waivers, but no team would risk putting in a claim on him and getting stuck with his $17MM annual salary, Petriello opines. So far this year, McCann has a .235/.291/.380 slash line.
- The deal the Rays made on July 31 will always and forever be known as the day they traded away David Price, but, someday, it could also be known as the day they got Willy Adames, writes Marc Topkin for Baseball America. “The guy that’s really intriguing to me is Adames,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s the kind of guy there, when you make a trade like this, people are always going to look at who’s coming to the big leagues primarily, but you got to look under the surface. … To be that young and that proficient, he sounds very exciting.’’
AUGUST 18: The presiding judge has awarded MASN a preliminary injunction that will prevent the Nationals from acting to enforce the arbitration award for the time being, according to a tweet from James Wagner of the Washington Post. The immediate effect is that Washington will not be able to demand the increased rights fees while the litigation plays out.
More broadly, the order would appear to be a promising development for the Orioles’ side of the dispute, indicating that the court could be inclined to allow the case challenging the arbitration award to move forward. (See the last paragraph of this post for further explanation.) But even that still must be briefed and argued before the sides engage in any discovery or reach the merits of the immediate dispute — which is, itself, a step removed from the ultimate question of the rights fee amount.
JULY 29: The Orioles and Nationals have a long-running dispute over the distribution of broadcast fees from the jointly-owned Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. (Wendy Thurm of Fangraphs detailed the background of the dispute here; James Wagner of the Washington Post did the same here.) The sides have been unable to agree to terms on the broadcast fees to be paid to the Nationals, who own a minority share in MASN. According to a report from The Hollywood Reporter, that the disagreement has escalated to the point that it is now in open court.
While the fact that the parties have now filed competing complaints in New York is noteworthy, the real news probably consists in the precursor to those actions. An arbitration hearing occurred in April, with Mets COO Jeff Wilpon, Pirates president Frank Coonelly, and Rays owner Stuart Sternberg composing the panel. The decision was made on June 30, according to THR, with the result landing in the Nationals’ favor. (Details are not known, but the Nationals were said to be seeking somewhere in the realm of $100MM to $120MM annually.)
In a letter, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig issued warnings to the teams’ owners (Peter Angelos of the Orioles and Ted Lerner of the Nationals) to avoid litigation, saying he would impose “the strongest sanctions available” if that occurred. He had strong words for both men, saying that neither “has approached this negotiation with the best interest of the game at heart” and charging the pair with an “unfathomable inability to agree on a fair division of [the rights fee's] value.”
The legal battle began (or, really, continued) thereafter. Orioles representatives claimed that the arbitral proceeding lacked in procedural fairness. The club has also claimed that MLB was not disinterested because it stood to recoup a cash stipend paid to the club. As Jonah Keri of Grantland reported, a payment was made to help account for the Washington franchise’s lagging revenue as the dispute carried on. According to the Orioles letter cited in the THR piece, at least one $25MM payment was made by MLB to the Nationals.
Attorneys for the Nationals, meanwhile, countered that MASN (which, remember, is majority-owned by the Orioles) was required to begin paying the newly-escalated rights fee, per the arbitration award. The Nationals presented the network with formal notice of defaults, and later petitioned the MLB Commissioner’s Office to confirm and enforce the panel’s decision. (It appears from the report that no action was taken on that request.)
At this point, MASN initiated a legal proceeding in New York state court seeking to modify or vacate the arbitration award, which is the common cause of action in such circumstances. On July 24, the Nationals responded and apparently filed their own petition (presumably, including a counterclaim to enforce the arbitration award).
MLB issued the following comment: “Although certain legal maneuvering has taken place, Commissioner Selig remains hopeful that the parties can reach an agreement in an amicable manner.” As Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets, the Nationals declined comment, the Orioles said that “contracts are meant to be honored,” and MASN declared that there would be “no impact on the telecast of games.”
The actual legal dispute will of course be governed by standard arbitration law (albeit with all the wrinkles of baseball’s unique circumstances). Arbitration awards are routinely upheld by courts except in limited circumstances such as procedural unfairness, and parties seeking to overturn awards face an uphill battle to plead and prove a claim. Barring settlement, it is likely that the parties to this dispute (as any other) will exchange legal briefs regarding whether a court should hear the complaint at all, with the Nationals arguing that the award should be upheld even if everything alleged by the opposition were to be proved. If the dispute is allowed to proceed (if, in other words, it survives a motion to dismiss), then MLB would be faced with the prospect of an open court battle. That would risk the public disclosure of court filings and, potentially, sensitive documents and depositions.
Over the last three years, the Orioles have consistently walked away with more victories than models would predict (whether based on forecasts or observed game action), but Dave Cameron of Fangraphs argues that random variation is still the most likely explanation. You’ll need to read the full piece, but in essence, Cameron says that the O’s outperforming streak is probably not attributable to some skill or special insight, but is rather an outlier that falls within the expectations of the models that predict win-loss record.
More from around the game:
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer indicated that the team is focused on building out its big league staff in the near term, as Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports on Twitter. “We know we have to have balance,” said Hoyer. “That’s going to be our main area of focus.” With several of Chicago’s touted young position players beginning to make an impact at the MLB level, many have suggested that the organization could become a big player on next year’s free agent market — especially to fill out a rotation that is now without Jeff Samardzija.
- Designated hitter Billy Butler reiterated recently that he is still hopeful of remaining with the Royals, Jeffrey Flanagan of FOX Sports Kansas City reports. In spite of a recent hot streak, his $12.5MM club option for 2015 seems a bit steep. “After the season, we’ll see what happens,” said Butler. “We’ll know five days after the World Series what will happen. But even if they decline, it doesn’t mean they won’t offer me something else. I hope that’s the case.”
- Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg’s comments about Darin Ruf‘s playing time reveal a continued flaw in the organization’s decisionmaking, argues David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. “The situations he’s been in the last couple of years here, not being able to have a string of at-bats, it’s hard to really get a gauge still,” Sandberg said of Ruf. But while consistent playing time would appear to offer a means of evaluating the outfielder/first baseman, Sandberg said “that’s the tricky part about making lineups and also trying to win a game.” As Murphy opines, this line of thinking suggests that the organization is still focused primarily on winning meaningless games this year, rather than setting up the organization for future success.
As baseball’s owners gather in Baltimore to decide upon the next Commissioner, it appears the game’s next steward will find a legal dispute between the region’s two ballclubs — the Orioles and Nationals — waiting for resolution. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports on some details gleaned from court filings, including allegations from Baltimore that the Nationals hoped to use the rights fee renegotiation to render insolvent the jointly owned TV network (MASN) so as to to free the club’s broadcast rights. Today, Kilgore reports (Twitter links) that, based upon filings and already-public information, it appears that the arbitration panel that previously ruled on the dispute awarded the Nationals approximately $55MM in annual rights fees.
Here’s more from the NL East:
- Mets manager Terry Collins is likely to return next year, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Collins has been at the helm since the 2011 season, and now seems likely to have the chance to try to guide the club through its hoped-for transition from rebuilding to competing.
- The Phillies‘ rotation may take time to reconstitute, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. When asked if there were any internal options that looked prime to step up to the MLB staff next year, manager Ryne Sandberg could name only Jesse Biddle (who struggled at Double-A this year and is only now returning to that level after a temporary demotion) and, upon prompting from a reporter, recent draft pick Aaron Nola (who just made it to Double-A himself). Meanwhile, Gelb writes that the team is not likely to pursue the top-end arms available in free agency, though could play in the next tier down.
- Indeed, there is quite a bit of uncertainty in the Phils’ starting five. Cliff Lee‘s availability for next season is still in doubt, Kyle Kendrick will be a free agent, and it remains to be seen whether A.J. Burnett will exercise his player option. And trade speculation has followed the one seemingly sure thing: Cole Hamels, the club’s best trade asset. As Ryan Lawrence of the Daily News writes, Hamels says he wants to pitch for a winner, though he hopes that he can do so in Philadelphia. (With a 20-team no-trade clause, Hamels’s preferences do have a role in any trade discussions.)
- Turning to the bullpen, lefty Antonio Bastardo — a much-discussed piece of July trade bait who was not moved — could instead be dealt this winter, writes Gelb. Bastardo has had something of an up-and-down year as he approaches his last season of arbitration eligibility. Of course, with his salary rising and the immediate needs of the trade deadline no longer in play, it remains to be seen whether the Phils can extract maximum value for the set-up man.
In an interesting discussion with Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, Red Sox reliever Burke Badenhop discussed his use of the Pitch F/X tool at BrooksBaseball.net. Velocity, vertical movement, strike zone plots, and release point are among the pieces of information that Badenhop utilizes to evaluate his outings.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Jon Lester may be playing in Oakland, but he knows his time there will almost certainly be short, as John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports. Looking ahead to the free agent market, the lefty said that the Red Sox made clear that they intend to pursue a return. “At the end of the season, [the trade is] not going to change my mind about going back there if they are aggressive and competitive and do the things they say they’re going to do,” Lester said in reference to his long-time club. “They told me, ‘We’re going to be aggressive. You’re going to get blown out of the water by some of these [other] offers,’” said Lester, who maintains that the sticker shock will not be the most important factor for him. “I’m not going to the highest bidder. I’m going to the place that makes me and my family happy. If that’s Boston, it’s Boston.”
- Of course, Lester should have no shortage of suitors, in large part due to the fact that he has been outstanding this year. Indeed, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports writes, Lester has set himself up for free agency with as good a walk year (thus far) as any recent starter.
- After failing to extend Lester last offseason, the Red Sox will soon face a similar situation with regard to the man he was traded for, Yoenis Cespedes. As Alex Speier of WEEI.com writes in discussing the possible parameters of an extension for Cespedes, it seems somewhat curious that Boston would have chosen him as the return if it did not have at least some hope of locking him up past 2015 (especially since Cespedes will not be eligible to receive a qualifying offer). Though his power is undeniable, the 28-year-old’s overall value has lagged his visibility to an extent. Regardless, he seems quite likely to draw plenty of attention in free agency, and Speier suggests that comparables could include B.J. Upton (five-year, $75MM free agent deal) and Hunter Pence (five-year, $90MM late-season extension). Of course, as Speier notes, a full season in Fenway could provide Cespedes the opportunity to post some outlandish numbers and boost his value.
- Orioles third baseman Manny Machado seems destined for a DL stint but, more importantly, appears to have avoided another major knee injury. The club announced yesterday that a MRI revealed a right knee ligament sprain, saying that further update would be forthcoming today. Executive VP Dan Duquette said that the club had not yet decided whether it would shop around for additional options at the hot corner, but will make that assessment when more is known on Machado’s timetable, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports on Twitter.
- The Blue Jays announced yesterday that righty Neil Wagner will undergo Tommy John surgery. Wagner, 30, has been hit hard in ten games with Toronto on the year, though he was playing at the Triple-A level at the time of the injury. He has not matched his successful 2013, when he worked 38 frames of 3.79 ERA ball in the majors and dominated at Triple-A (2 earned runs in 23 2/3 innings).
Let’s take a look at a few injury situations from around the game that could have hot stove implications:
- Tigers starter Justin Verlander lasted only one rough inning today, leaving with right shoulder soreness. The veteran will undergo an MRI tomorrow, reports Chris Iott of MLive.com (Twitter links). “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous,” said Verlander. “I’ve never been through this before.” Indeed, the 31-year-old righty has never been on the disabled list in his excellent career. But there have been signs of trouble this season, as Verlander has worked to an uncharacteristic 4.57 ERA and seen his strikeout numbers plummet (6.6 K/9). Eno Sarris of Fangraphs wrote recently that some indicators suggested Verlander may have been playing hurt, and the hurler confirmed today that the issue “has been lingering for a while,” as John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press reports on Twitter. In the immediate term, Verlander’s situation — combined with a DL stint for Anibal Sanchez — creates significant rotation difficulties for the club, which just dropped out of first in the AL Central. Detroit will call up youngsters Robbie Ray and Buck Farmer (who has just two Double-A appearances to his name) to take upcoming starts, but another addition cannot be ruled out at this point. In the long run, of course, questions continue to pile up regarding the outlook for the Tigers’ remaining $140MM commitment to a player who was once considered by many to be the game’s best pitcher.
- Orioles third baseman Manny Machado also left early today after twisting his right knee awkwardly at the plate. A severe injury seemed possible based on replays, but the team has expressed hope that it dodged a bullet after initial X-rays did not reveal any ligament damage, as MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli tweets. But an MRI will be needed for a full assessment, and Machado will have a scan tomorrow morning, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports on Twitter. Machado missed the early portion of the season due to surgery on his left knee. With Baltimore still fending off competitors from atop the AL East, any significant absence for Machado would be a big blow. Though the team could scan the trade market (with all the usual August complications) for a replacement, if it became necessary, the O’s would perhaps be more likely to turn to in-house options such as Ryan Flaherty and Jimmy Paredes.
- Outfielder Alex Rios of the Rangers received positive news from an MRI on his left ankle, which revealed only a sprain, as Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest reports on Twitter. Rios, who has cleared waivers, may be ready to return to action as soon as tomorrow. He could still hold appeal for clubs looking to add a right-handed-hitting, corner outfield bat to the mix, though one possible suitor likely dissipated today when the Royals acquired Josh Willingham.
- Rockies starter Brett Anderson will undergo surgery to repair a disc in his lower back, reports Thomas Harding of MLB.com. The procedure is expected to come with a five-month recovery period, which would set Anderson on track for Spring Training but will certainly make it difficult for Colorado to justify exercising its $12MM club option over the lefty. While Anderson was strong in limited action this year, and is still just 26 years old, he has not stayed healthy enough to throw over 100 innings since 2010.
Mets right-hander Jeremy Hefner received awful news after experiencing discomfort in his third rehab outing last week. Via Adam Rubin of ESPN New York (Twitter link), Hefner has a fracture in his elbow and will have to undergo his second Tommy John operation of the past year. The 28-year-old has spent the past year recovering from TJ and will now likely miss most, if not all of the 2015 campaign as well. MLBTR wishes Hefner the best of luck and a full recovery in the next round of rehab.
Here are some more links from baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles aren’t interested in bringing back longtime second baseman Brian Roberts, who was recently released by the Yankees (Twitter link).
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post examines the Yankees‘ midseason rentals — Stephen Drew, Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy — and wonders if any of the three will be back with the team in 2015 (and beyond). As Sherman notes, the final months of the season will serve as an audition for each player, and each could have a logical spot on the roster. Drew could replace the retiring Derek Jeter, Headley could handle third base when Alex Rodriguez DHs, and McCarthy can serve as valuable rotation depth given the uncertainty surrounding New York’s internal options.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he’s looking for rotation depth following the trade of Roberto Hernandez and the injury to Cliff Lee. That desire led to the claim of Jerome Williams, but it sounds as if the Phils could be on the lookout for other cheap additions that could help them beyond the 2014 season. Salisbury notes that 2014 first-round pick Aaron Nola is not under consideration for a jump to the Majors.
- Within that same piece, Salisbury also speculates that the Tigers and Phillies could reboot their previous trade talks for Jonathan Papelbon due to Joe Nathan‘s recent struggles and Joakim Soria‘s injury (he is on the DL with an oblique strain). Amaro tells Salisbury that the two sides haven’t talked trade recently, but he does acknowledge that he spoke with the Tigers “particularly about the bullpen.” Antonio Bastardo was thought to be a Tigers target at one point, but as Salisbury notes, Bastardo was placed on waivers earlier this month. While no reports surfaced of him being claimed, it’s highly unlikely that he would clear, given that he had a mere $600K or so of his 2014 salary remaining at the time he was placed on waivers.
- One more note from Salisbury, as he reports that Amaro said it’s “possible” that top prospect Maikel Franco will receive a September call-up. An earlier promotion is unlikely for Franco, per Amaro, but there’s little doubt that he’s impressed as of late. While Franco struggled with the jump to Triple-A to open the season, he’s mashed since July 1, hitting .338/.360/.564 in 139 plate appearances.
In the latest edition of his Sunday column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the early struggles of Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have left many around the game wondering how good each player truly is. Bogaerts’ youth makes his scuffles more understandable, but one NL adviser said that Bradley has fallen from a prospect that would be the centerpiece of a trade to a “throw-in.” The 24-year-old is a standout defender, but he’s hit just .208/.284/.303 in 470 big league plate appearances and has shown “absolutely no sign of the hitting getting better,” said the adviser. Boston will commit to Bogaerts for next year regardless of his finish, writes Cafardo, but he concludes that Bradley will have to show improvement over the final seven weeks in order to handed the center field job in 2015.
More from his column…
- In 30 years covering baseball, Cafardo says he cannot recall an instance of a team scouting another club as much as the Phillies scouted the Red Sox without pulling the trigger on a trade. The Phillies have continued to send scouts to all three of Boston’s post-deadline series, and Cafardo wonders if the team could be preparing for offseason negotiations regarding Cole Hamels. He hears that the Sox, Rangers, Angels, Dodgers and Cubs will be the big players for Hamels this winter.
- The Red Sox will have interest in bringing back right-hander Justin Masterson back to the organization as a free agent this winter.
- James Shields will be one of the most sought-after free agents on this year’s market, and while his age presents risk, one AL GM tells Cafardo that being older than Jon Lester and Max Scherzer actually has some appeal: “He’s thrown a lot of innings and pitched a lot of games and there’s always the possibility of breakdown, but the fact you might be able to get him at a shorter term reduces that big risk.”
- “The Phillies are just unreasonable in their demands,” an AL official said when discussing the trade market for Jonathan Papelbon. Still, that official feels that Papelbon will indeed be traded in August, though it may not happen until the end of the month when the Phillies will be forced to “get a bit more realistic.”
- The Red Sox want to retain Koji Uehara, but they don’t want to go as high as the approximately $15MM qualifying offer. It appears that Uehara wants to return, though Cafardo notes that the Orioles could be a factor, as the closer’s family makes its home in the Baltimore area.
- The Mariners‘ Chris Young just picked up his 10th win, but he tells Cafardo that the statistic doesn’t mean much to him these days. “Earlier in my career, I think it’s something I’d get excited about,” he said. “But at this point in my career, I know that wins are so far beyond a pitcher’s control. One day, the media will stop evaluating us on that.”
We at MLBTR tend to focus on transactions, but the big news of tonight comes from Baltimore, where catcher Caleb Joseph homered for a fifth straight game. The Orioles catcher had hit just three major league home runs before his current onslaught. Last season, he did pop an impressive 22 home runs for the O’s Double-A affiliate. Prior to tonight, Joseph was hitting .220/.281/.401 on the season.
- Last August, Mets Assistant GM Paul DePodesta discussed Moneyball misconceptions and the role of analysis in an interesting interview with Nautilus. Among the many topics, DePodesta talked about the importance of putting themselves in a position to get lucky. The Mets system certainly reflects that thought process. While the club has yet to succeed at the major league level, they are beginning to receive meaningful contributions from somewhat unexpected sources like Lucas Duda and Jacob deGrom.
- Rays owner Stuart Sternberg doesn’t regret trading David Price despite the club’s current three game winning streak, writes Bill Chastain of MLB.com. Said Sternberg, “It really was the classic one-eye-on-the-present, one-eye-on-the-future kind of deal.” The Rays remain 10 games back in the AL East and five games back in the Wild Card race. Sternberg does regret failing to acquire a big bat after losing in the 2010 division series.
- Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy isn’t interested in following the Joe Mauer model, according to Tom Haudricourt. “I feel like I’d go from an above-average catcher to an average first baseman,” said Lucroy. Defensive measures rate him as among the best backstops in the game, and his current batting line (.307/.374/.493) is strikingly similar to that of Adrian Beltre. Lucroy recently missed a game with a hamstring issue, but that’s a far cry from the issues plaguing Mauer.
Here’s the latest from around the game …
- Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is not currently engaged in extension talks with Baltimore and could make sense to a lot of clubs on the free agent market, says Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (audio link). But he would still fit back with the O’s, with club executive vice president Dan Duquette telling Rosenthal that the team puts a high value on keeping Manny Machado‘s glove at third, seemingly indicating that it may not look to move him back to his natural short. Though Hardy has not repeated his home run tallied from recent seasons, he is still a just-below-average offensive contributor with outstanding defense, and both major methods of calculating wins above replacement see him as having already contributed 2.5 WAR this year.
- The Braves were close to pulling off a major deadline deal that would have sent center fielder B.J. Upton and a starter (which could have been either Mike Minor or Ervin Santana) to an unidentified club and for an unidentified return. The nature of the hypothetical return has not been revealed, but Rosenthal says that Atlanta ultimately felt it was not receiving sufficient value in return. Ultimately, the conception of the move was intended more to shake up the roster and clubhouse (in addition, no doubt, to shedding Upton’s future obligations), and Rosenthal says that a deal of that type could be revisited in the offseason.
- The Cardinals should find a way to upgrade the bench in the coming weeks, opines Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. While Peter Bourjos has been an asset even as he sees less action than Jon Jay, Miklasz looks at the numbers on the rest of the non-regulars and sees plenty of room for improvement.
- The Phillies have found themselves in a seemingly intractable situation in part due to GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s willingness to bend and then break the organization’s own rules on limiting pitching contracts, writes Mitch Goldich of Baseball Prospectus. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, and Cole Hamels were all viewed to some extent as exceptions to the team’s internal guidelines. And while all have had their moments of success, the aggregate commitment (and already-clear lack of back-end value from at least the first three) has played a significant (albeit not exclusive) role in the team’s current predicament.