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It’s definitely not the race the Rangers hoped to be leading in late August, but Texas is currently in position to land the first overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft. As you can follow on MLBTR’s Reverse Standings, the Rangers currently have the game’s worst record at 52-81, narrowly putting them “ahead” of the Rockies (53-80), Diamondbacks (55-78) and Astros (57-78). Houston, of course, is in line for two top-five draft choices since the team is already guaranteed the #2 pick in 2015 as compensation for failing to sign first overall selection Brady Aiken this past summer.
Here’s the latest from Arlington…
- Colby Lewis wants to return next season and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News figures the team wouldn’t hesitate to re-sign him aside from the troubling issue of Lewis’ struggles at Globe Life Park. Lewis has a 7.17 ERA in 13 home starts this season, as opposed to a 3.69 ERA in 11 road starts. Overall in 2014, Lewis has a 5.44 ERA in 137 1/3 innings, though ERA predictors such as FIP (4.35), xFIP (4.30) and SIERA (4.15) indicate that he has been unlucky this year, possibly due to a .365 BABIP. The veteran right-hander returned to action this season after being sidelined since July 2012 due to injuries, and his minor league deal with Texas is up after the season.
- The Rangers have long been interested in Orioles right-handed pitching prospect Parker Bridwell and have attempted to acquire him several times over the last three years, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports. Bridwell, 23, was a ninth-round draft pick in 2010 and currently has a 4.51 ERA, 2.03 K/BB rate and 136 strikeouts over 135 1/3 IP at the high-A ball level this season. Though Bridwell’s career numbers are nothing to write home about, Kubatko thinks the O’s should put him on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft since “he’s also got some of the best stuff in the organization.”
- Also from Evan Grant, manager Ron Washington says that Adam Rosales is performing well enough to be considered for a utility role in 2015. Rosales has started at all four infield spots for Texas this season and is enjoying by far his best season with the bat, posting a .907 OPS in 80 plate appearances. Rosales is eligible for arbitration for the third and final time this offseason.
The Mets have placed Daniel Murphy on the disabled list and will recall Double-A second baseman Dilson Herrera to fill his roster spot. The 20-year-old Herrera was the second player acquired from the Pirates (along with Vic Black) in last year’s Marlon Byrd/John Buck trade. In 274 plate appearances with Binghamton this season, he slashed a healthy .333/.401/.544 with nine homers and nine steals. Herrera’s overall numbers this season are quite strong, and his continued development has led some, including ESPN’s Keith Law, to consider him among the game’s Top 100 prospects.
Here are some more links from around the league…
- The Orioles have continued to be active on the waiver wire despite the fact that they’ve yet to make an August acquisition, executive vice president Dan Duquette tells Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. The O’s have been on the hunt for a left-handed hitting infielder but have come up empty in their search, Connolly writes.
- While the Mariners very much want to make the playoffs, team president Kevin Mather tells Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune that the M’s weren’t “going to sell [their] souls for a one-game Wild Card opportunity” by mortgaging the future at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Mather characterizes the acquisitions of Kendrys Morales, Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia as “strategic” but “not crazy.” The team held onto top prospects Taijuan Walker and D.J. Peterson as well as young lefty James Paxton.
- Cubs president Theo Epstein told reporters, including ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers, that the team will have the financial wherewithal to add to the payroll in the coming years due to its young core. Epstein said he never looks at one offseason and decides that he has to get something done that year, but he expects to add impact starting pitching from outside the organization in the next 18 to 24 months.
- Victor Martinez would like to play for “a few more years” but thinks he’ll be out of the league by the age of 40, he tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Morosi spoke to Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who offered lofty praise for his DH, calling him the most prepared and focused hitter he has ever encountered. Morosi looks at the weak DH situations that many teams around the league have and wonders if the 35-year-old Martinez can fetch something in the neighborhood of Carlos Beltran‘s three-year, $45MM contract from last offseason.
AUGUST 27: Machado’s surgery was successful, and the likeliest scenario remains that he will be at full strength for the start of Spring Training, according to a tweet from Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.
AUGUST 22: Orioles third baseman Manny Machado is likely out for the rest of the season, Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports tweets. He will have knee surgery at some point within the next week. The Orioles announced last week that Machado had a right knee ligament sprain and had previously been hopeful that he would be able to return as soon as next Wednesday. He has been out since August 11, when he twisted his knee while swinging.
Machado’s absence will be tough for the Orioles, who currently are 73-53 and atop the AL East. Machado has hit .278/.324/.431 this season, and as usual has contributed plenty of value with his defense. He has, however, been limited to 82 games, having missed all of April with a separate knee injury. The Orioles could respond by moving Chris Davis to third base and having Steve Pearce play first, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com suggests (via Twitter).
The 27-year-old Phelps, formerly a top prospect with the Indians, went hitless in two at-bats with the O’s this season. He’s spent the rest of the season with Triple-A Norfolk, where he posted a .258/.358/.380 batting line with seven homers in 395 plate appearances. Those marks are noticeably lower than the career .281/.365/.453 batting line he owns at the highest minor league level.
The Orioles originally claimed Phelps off waivers from Cleveland, and they’ve already outrighted him to Triple-A once. He can be a minor league free agent following the season.
Rusney Castillo will likely serve as the Red Sox center fielder, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in his latest video. As Rosenthal points out, the Red Sox also need a center field quality outfielder for their spacious right field, but Castillo may not have the necessary arm strength for right. The club views Castillo as similar to Shane Victorino. He should be able hit second, sixth, or seventh while delivering power and good base running skills. Once he receives his work visa, the Sox plan to get Castillo some reps at the minor league level before exposing him to the majors in September.
- The Orioles are going to miss the presence of Manny Machado, who is sidelined for the remainder of the season while recovering from knee surgery. Chris Davis will slide to third with Steve Pearce at first. Club officials were peeved that news of the surgery leaked so quickly, since they believe it will affect their leverage in trade discussions.
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty’s contract expires after this season, but he will remain in Cincinnati. He has “unfinished business” to resolve, including a rotation that is set to lose four of it’s five members following the 2015 season.
The Mets are likely to shop Daniel Murphy again this offseason, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The free agent market for hitters is weak, so they might be able to do well in a deal. If they do trade him, Wilmer Flores could take over at second until a more permanent starter emerges, perhaps prospect Dilson Herrera. The Mets also could wait to trade Murphy until next summer. A long-term deal seems unlikely. Here are more notes from the East Coast.
- The Mets placed Bartolo Colon on revocable waivers today, and while he’s pitched reasonably well this season and is only due $11MM in 2015, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that one executive thinks that a waiver claim would be “like a lightning bolt from the heavens for the Mets.”
- Manny Machado‘s season-ending knee injury could impact whether J.J. Hardy returns to the Orioles next season, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com suggests. Hardy is a free agent, and the idea was that Machado would move to shortstop once he left. With Machado’s knee issues, though, it’s not yet clear whether he will be able to handle the move to a tougher spot on the diamond.
- The Orioles are unlikely to make a move to replace Machado at third, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. Trades are difficult this time of year, and it would be difficult for the Orioles to find someone who could improve on Chris Davis and Ryan Flaherty anyway.
Andrew Miller‘s transition from the Red Sox to the Orioles has gone smoothly, Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com reports. “There’s a ton of differences. Things in general match up,” says Miller, for whom the Orioles traded at last month’s deadline. “The winning teams I’ve been on have a nice, loose clubhouse that expects to win.” Miller has pitched brilliantly in his first 7 1/3 innings with the Orioles, striking out 11 and walking three while allowing just two hits and one run. Here’s more from around the AL East.
- Carlos Beltran will see a doctor after feeling something wrong with his elbow while swinging last night, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweets. The Yankees scratched Beltran from their lineup tonight. It’s been a rough season for Beltran, who’s hit .233/.291/.416 (weak numbers for a DH/OF with little defensive value) while battling injury in the first year of a $45MM deal.
- Jon Lester is not likely to return to the Red Sox this offseason, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. Instead, the Yankees and Cubs could emerge as possible suitors. It is, perhaps, no surprise that the Red Sox aren’t considered the favorites to sign him — they just traded him, and reportedly weren’t close in extension negotiations before that. Lester should be able to get a six- or seven-year deal in free agency, Heyman writes, and the Red Sox are likely to consider that to be too risky. Heyman does note, however, that the Red Sox may have been prepared to offer Lester five years and $100MM last month.
- The Blue Jays have promoted top outfield prospect Dalton Pompey to Triple-A Buffalo. Pompey, 21, hit .295/.378/.473 in 127 plate appearances at Double-A New Hampshire. MLB.com ranks Pompey the No. 3 prospect in the Jays’ system (behind Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez), praising his plate discipline and speed.
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.