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Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos says it’s easy to do business with A’s GM Billy Beane thanks to the rapport he has with him, MLB.com’s Mike Bauman writes. “I have a pretty good relationship with Billy Beane,” Anthopoulos said. “We’ve done a bunch of small deals. The one thing about Billy, he’s always open-minded and you can never offend him; you can ask about anybody at any time to make a deal.” The two execs got together in November for the deal that brought Josh Donaldson to Toronto. Here’s more from the AL East..
- When asked about David Ortiz‘s future beyond 2015, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that “David knows he’s going to be a Red Sox [player] as long as he wants to be a Red Sox [player],” according to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. Cherington went on to explain that the two sides haven’t discussed his future recently. This upcoming season will be the last guaranteed year of his deal and he’ll earn $16MM, the most money he has ever been paid in a single season. With 425 plate appearances, his deal will vest for 2016 and he can increase his salary even further if he surpasses higher PA thresholds.
- Everth Cabrera is likely to ink his deal with the Orioles on Wednesday, Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com writes. Cabrera agreed to a one-year, $2.4MM deal that could balloon to $3MM total if he hits certain incentives.
- Rays star Evan Longoria says that he didn’t want manager Joe Maddon to leave the Rays but he believes that they will be better for it, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. “I just think there comes a time when it’s just the right time for somebody new,” Longoria said.
- Earlier tonight, we rounded up today’s news on the Red Sox.
Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has rejected a position within his old organization and will spend the year away from the game, MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger writes. “He’s doing fine, but he’s not going to be participating with us,” says GM Terry Ryan. “I talk to him often. He’s doing pretty good, but he wants to take a year off.” Ryan adds that Gardenhire is interested in continuing to manage. The Twins fired him in September after the team had four straight seasons of 70 wins or fewer. Here’s more from the American League.
- Josh Hamilton could be out for up to 12 weeks after having shoulder surgery earlier this month, but the Angels are not actively looking for an outfielder to replace him, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. “If throughout the spring, if we see something that fits for us, like we do any other spring, we’ll certainly pay attention,” says GM Jerry Dipoto. “But it’s not something we are focused on at this point.” The Angels feel that Matt Joyce, Collin Cowgill and Dan Robertson give them enough options to fill Hamilton’s spot until he returns.
- Fellow Angel Albert Pujols could retire before his contract expires in 2021 if his gymnast daughter, Sophia, makes it to the Olympics, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. The plan for Sophia is to get to the Olympics by 2020. “That might have to be the year I retire,” says Pujols. “You can put that in the paper, because I don’t want to miss it. … Either that, or they’ll have to put me on the disabled list for two weeks.” Of course, that’s still five years away, and Sophia is only nine and will still be too young to compete in 2020 under current rules, so it might be unwise to read much into Pujols’ comments at this point.
- The Orioles considered a multiyear extension for outfielder Alejandro De Aza before figures were filed for De Aza’s arbitration case, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. De Aza says he was not aware of those discussions, but that he would consider an extension. “I’m interested in the opportunity,” he says. “I’m excited about the opportunity here, and I want to be here for a long time.” De Aza, who lost his arbitration hearing yesterday, is eligible for free agency after the season.
Yoan Moncada might be the best $100MM the Yankees can spend, Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines. Of course, it’s a huge gamble to invest $60-$100MM in a player who might be two years away from the majors, but elite position players are now rare commodities on the free agent market. If Yankees evaluators truly believe that Moncada is the next coming of Robinson Cano, then Sherman says they should roll the dice. Here’s more from the American League..
- David Price said that as far as he knows, there have been no discussions regarding an extension with the Tigers, according to Chris Iott of MLive.com (on Twitter). Price says that he won’t close the door on negotiations on Opening Day, but he would prefer if the talk “dies down a bit” at that point, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). Price would “rather not talk about it all year long” but he’s “not closing every door,” Heyman tweets.
- Right-handed reliever Tom Wilhelmsen has no regrets about challenging the Mariners to an arbitration hearing despite losing his case, as Bob Dutton of The News Tribune writes. “You hear so many things about it,” he said. “I’m glad I did it. I got to stand up for what I believe in, man. That’s a pretty cool thing to do.” Wilhelmsen sought $2.2MM but the three-judge panel sided with the club’s offer of $1.4MM.
- Recently, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs ranked the Braves‘ signing of Nick Markakis and the Mariners‘ signing of Nelson Cruz as two of the worst moves of the offseason. Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com understands why the Orioles opted not to go that far in terms of years and dollars but he doesn’t see either deal as harshly as Cameron.
The Orioles have won their arbitration case against outfielder Alejandro De Aza, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets. De Aza, who had filed for $5.65MM, will make $5MM next season in his last year before free agency eligibility.
De Aza made $4.25MM last season, so his $5MM 2015 salary will represent only a relatively modest raise. He had been in the midst of a disappointing season with the White Sox before arriving in Baltimore after an August trade. A strong stretch run with the Orioles helped save his season, but he still experienced overall declines (some of them admittedly slight) in most offensive categories, hitting .252/.314/.386 with just eight home runs for the season.
Via MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, the Orioles have now either settled or completed the arbitration process with all 11 of their arb-eligible players. They will pay a total of about $57.5MM to those players, including Chris Davis at $12MM, Bud Norris at $8.8MM and Matt Wieters at $8.3MM.
The Pirates have acquired lefty Steven Brault from the Orioles, the Pirates announced. He will serve as the player to be named later from this January’s Travis Snider deal, joining another young lefty — Stephen Tarpley — to make up the final package for Pittsburgh.
Brault, 22, was floated as a possible name to change hands at the time of the deal, and will indeed be on the move. The southpaw has worked primarily as a starter, reaching the High-A level at the tail end of 2014. He spent most of the year in the Sally League, compiling a 3.05 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9.
Prospect watchers generally saw Brault as something like the twentieth-best prospect in the O’s system. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs explains that the southpaw will need to find consistent arm speed to reach the bigs as a back-of-the-rotation starter
The Yankees hosted their second private workout for Cuban sensation Yoan Moncada last night, reports George A. King III of the the New York Post. The Yankees like Moncada quite a bit but are a bit leery of the financial commitment it will take to sign the 19-year-old, King adds. He also hears from an international scouting source that the Dodgers could be willing to spend up to $40MM on a bonus for Moncada (meaning an $80MM total commitment after tax), which one scout described to King as “a lot of money for someone to begin at [Single-A].”
Elsewhere in the American League East…
- Orioles GM/executive vice president Dan Duquette spoke to the media on a number of roster-related issues today, and Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com provides a quick rundown of the items discussed. Duquette says the team is still looking to add a reliever, likely on a minor league deal, and he also said there’s little chance of the team avoiding arbitration with Alejandro De Aza, whose hearing is set for tomorrow. Additionally, Duquette revealed that minor league signee Paul Janish had surgery to remove bone spurs from his throwing elbow and will be out six to eight weeks. That news led the team to its now-official minor league deal with Jayson Nix.
- Rays right-hander Kevin Jepsen spoke with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times about the strange feeling of being traded from the only organization he’s ever known. Traded by the Angels to the Rays for Matt Joyce this offseason, Jepsen, an Arizona resident, describes the peculiar feeling of heading to Spring Training in Florida. Though the transition is jarring, he does have a familiar face in closer Jake McGee, who grew up with Jepsen in Nevada, Topkin writes. The brief look at Jepsen’s transition serves as a reminder of the human element to these transactions that we often take for granted.
- While it’s easy to suggest that the Red Sox should simply trade Shane Victorino, it’s also important for them to maintain some outfield depth, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. Hanley Ramirez has averaged just 116 games over the past four seasons, and Rusney Castillo is still “more potential than certainty.” A healthy Victorino is typically a valuable asset and could be of use in any outfield spot if needed.
- Abraham also spoke to Brandon Workman, who said he’s not the least bit bothered by being moved from the rotation to the bullpen by the Red Sox. “I want to be in the majors,” Workman told Abraham. “You feel terrible when you get sent back to Triple A and this is where I want to be. I’m not worried about anything else.”
The agent for Cuban teenager Yoan Moncada, David Hastings, says that “offers are coming in,” Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Hastings says he is “still hopeful” that he and his client “can make a decision soon.” Last we heard from Hastings, on Valentine’s Day, he indicated that no formal offers had been made and softened somewhat the idea that Moncada would be in position to sign by February 23rd. While there appears to be some movement, the precise timeline remains uncertain.
- The market for more advanced Cuban infielder (and, presumably, soon-to-be free agent) Hector Olivera seems quite robust. Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons has heard from additional team executives, and he counts at least five that predict a deal of $70MM or more for Olivera. (Twitter link.)
- The Orioles may not be done adding, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. That holds true even if the club’s deal with Everth Cabrera is finalized, presumably, as the report indicates that Baltimore is expected to sign at least one more pitcher to a minor league deal.
- One arm that the O’s have been connected to is Dustin McGowan. Another team that has expressed interest in the 32-year-old, the Twins, is not expected to land the free agent righty, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.
The Orioles and infielder Jayson Nix have agreed to a minor league contract that will pay the 32-year-old Turner Gary Sports client $750K in the Majors with another $50K worth of incentives, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Nix will be invited to Major League Spring Training, per MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko (on Twitter). 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson tweeted last night that Nix was on the cusp of signing.
Nix spent time with three different clubs in 2014 but struggled across the board, batting .120/.169/.157 in 91 plate appearances between the Phillies, Pirates and Royals. Earlier in his career, the former No. 44 overall pick (Rockies, 2001) showed 15-homer/15-steal potential, but he’s never been able to consistently produce at the Major League level.
Nix, who has experience at all four infield positions, will provide depth to an Orioles infield that projects to use Manny Machado at third base, J.J. Hardy at shortstop, Jonathan Schoop at second base and a combination of Chris Davis and Steve Pearce at first base. Ryan Flaherty is currently slated to be the backup infielder, and the club also has Jimmy Paredes on the 40-man roster, so Nix seems likely to end up at Triple-A to serve as depth at this juncture. He’s a career .280/.344/.443 hitter at that level.
Determining a manager’s value to the on-field success of a team is anything but a quantifiable science, but Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com points out one easily identifiable advantage that Buck Showalter has given the Orioles. Showalter, since day one, has “demanded” that his pitchers control the running game by learning to hold runners and quickening their time to home plate in order to give the team’s catchers a chance. “When Buck came I focused on it,” Chris Tillman told Kubatko. “Before I didn’t really pay all that much attention to it. … But once he put the video in front of us and the stats in front of us about runners advancing another 90 feet, as a pitcher that’s everything.” Tillman is perhaps the most extreme example of success in Showalter’s mandate; he’s allowed just two steals in 13 attempts over the past two seasons.
A bit more from Kubatko and more on the Orioles in general…
- If the Orioles are going to add another utility infield option or another relief arm to their Major League Spring Training camp, it’s got to happen within the next few days, Kubatko points out. GM Dan Duquette listed both as items on his wish list on Jan. 31, and pitchers and catchers will report for the Orioles on Thursday of this week.
- The Orioles and Alejandro De Aza seem destined for an arbitration hearing, but there’s little risk for either side in this scenario, writes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. As Encina notes, the $650K gap — a similar gap to the one that separated the O’s and Ryan Flaherty — means less to De Aza than it would to a player like Flaherty, who had filed at $1.6MM (De Aza filed at $5.65MM to the team’s $5MM). As for the Orioles, they can take some solace in knowing that they’re 9-1 over their past 10 arb hearings under owner Peter Angelos, including 7-0 since hiring general counsel H. Russell Smouse to lead their arbitration proceedings. Encina also writes that in today’s game, players are more used to seeing criticism and having their flaws highlighted — likely referring to the rise of web content and players’ accessibility to potentially negative reports on their game — so there’s lesser risk that a player hearing about his negative traits will be affected in terms of on-field performance.
- Also over at MASNsports.com, Steve Melweski takes a look at Baltimore’s roster questions heading into Spring Training. Though Ubaldo Jimenez can’t be simply handed a rotation spot due to his salary, that salary also means he cannot be written off entirely and does need a fair chance at the rotation. Melewski also opines that J.P. Arencibia and Ryan Lavarnway were brought in for more than the opportunity to compete for the backup job; either could break camp with the team in a larger role, in the event that Matt Wieters needs to open the season on the disabled list. Of Baltimore’s two injured stars, Melewski notes that Manny Machado is more likely to be ready for the opener than Wieters.
Entering 2015, the Royals possess baseball’s best defense, writes Anthony Castrovince of Sports On Earth. With stalwarts like Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, and Alcides Escobar, the club can count on preventing dozens of runs next season. On the bench lurks speedy defensive whiz Jarrod Dyson to help track down fly balls. Rounding out Castrovince’s top five defenses are the Orioles, Reds, Yankees, and Cardinals.
- Baseball is fighting for relevance, writes Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic. While football can claim a larger fandom than baseball, it’s not the job of Commissioner Rob Manfred to reverse that trend. Instead, the league needs to improve its relevance with youth. A lot of attention has fixated on minor tweaks to the game like a faster pace of play. Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall has some more novel ideas for improving the fan experience. He suggests letting the home team take batting practice second to improve player-fan interactions. He also proposes using pre-game fielding practice as a stage for displays of athleticism.
- The Red Sox have a revamped lineup, new rotation, deeper bullpen, and a $200MM payroll, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. The rotation is viewed as a weakness because nobody stands out as a potential ace. However, manager John Farrell believes the current unit will be sufficient. The lineup should provide plenty of fire power and the defense can also help to bail out the rotation. If the rotation is revealed to be a weakness, the club has plenty of prospects to acquire reinforcements.
- The Astros are looking to win in the present season for the first time in the Jeff Luhnow era, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The club is setting a target for a .500 finish, which does appear to be a viable goal. With several 2014 breakouts and more impactful prospects on the way, Houston appears to be turning the corner on their rebuild. Luhnow points to building chemistry as one important piece of the puzzle. Several roster decisions will be made this spring, most notably in the outfield where Robbie Grossman and Alex Presley will be fighting for jobs.