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In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe checked in with Max Scherzer, who is missing former teammate Rick Porcello. Scherzer, of course, left the Tigers in free agency to sign with the Nationals in January. Porcello, meanwhile, was shipped from the Tigers to the Red Sox in December. Scherzer still texts a lot with Porcello, and they have had conversations about free agency.
“He understands the business of the game really well and what teams are trying to accomplish,” said Scherzer. “As most players, he’s motivated by winning as well. What works is going out there and having one motivation and that’s winning. And those things will take care of themselves.”
Cafardo has talked with a few baseball executives who believe Porcello will walk from the Red Sox and do exactly what Scherzer did – go to the highest bidder. Here’s more from today’s column..
- The Rockies tried to trade Jhoulys Chacin but couldn’t find a buyer, so they released him last week. The 27-year-old was a victim of Coors Field, where his ERA was 4.21 as opposed to a much more palatable 3.24 on the road. Cafardo writes that the Red Sox, Dodgers, Rays, and Blue Jays have been looking for a veteran starter and may be considering him.
- Braves people insist that they will not entertain a deal for closer Craig Kimbrel, but a few executives expect that Atlanta will be thinking differently if they are out of contention at the trade deadline. The Braves are eyeing 2017 as their relaunch, so Cafardo doesn’t see the need for them to hang on to a top closer like Kimbrel in the interim.
- Dan Uggla has an April 1st opt-out on his minor league deal with the Nationals and his play this spring is giving GM Mike Rizzo something to think about, but roster space is an issue. If Uggla doesn’t make the cut in Washington, Cafardo suggests that the Angels, Braves, Orioles, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Padres, and Rays could all justify bringing him aboard.
Despite their acquisition of lefty Sam Freeman today, the Rangers are still on the hunt for bullpen help, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. They are not currently in any discussions for position players or starting pitchers. Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers and Freeman currently appear to be the only near-locks for the Rangers bullpen. They have, however, gotten some impressive Spring Training performances from inexperienced pitchers like Keone Kela, Roman Mendez and Jon Edwards. Here are more quick notes from the American League.
- Former Twins starting pitcher and free agent Scott Diamond threw for the Rays yesterday, 1500ESPN’s Darren Wolfson tweets. The Rays have a number of injuries in their rotation and are known to be hunting for starting pitching depth to stash at Triple-A Durham. Diamond last appeared in the big leagues in 2013. He spent last season pitching at Triple-A Rochester and Louisville, where he posted a combined 6.57 ERA, 4.8 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 123 1/3 innings.
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter says the team doesn’t seem likely to upgrade its backup catcher spot via the trade market, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets. “We haven’t had any name come up that we like better than the people we have,” says Showalter. With Matt Wieters recovering from elbow surgery, Caleb Joseph is likely to serve as the Orioles’ starting catcher. Joseph himself isn’t much of an offensive threat, although he balanced some of his poor hitting last year with strong defense. Ryan Lavarnway appears to lead the competition to be Joseph’s backup.
Here are the highlights from an enormous notes post by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
- There’s the potential for lots of trade activity between now and Opening Day, with an unusual number of teams with logjams at particular positions. But there aren’t many good pitching options, and many teams are already close to their payroll limits.
- The Rays are one of several teams looking for starting pitching, but they’re currently focusing their efforts on depth, figuring they only need to cover for injured starters Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly for a month or so.
- If the Phillies struggle early in the year, trade whispers involving Chase Utley could grow louder, with the Padres, Angels and possibly Giants looming as potentially interested teams. Utley would, of course, have to waive his no-trade clause, but he has West Coast roots.
- The Diamondbacks are currently unwilling to trade Mark Trumbo, but that could change if they become dissatisfied with their outfield defense.
- The Orioles discussed trading lefty Brian Matusz to the Rangers before Texas acquired Sam Freeman, and have listened to other clubs interested in Matusz as well. But the Nationals might be more willing than the Orioles to trade a lefty reliever — some within the Orioles see Matusz as a better option than either T.J. McFarland or Wesley Wright.
MARCH 26: Tillman told Orioles reporters today, including Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (Twitter link), that not much has changed on the extension front since January. He’s open to a long-term deal but is letting his agent handle the situation. MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli tweets that Tillman also said he’d prefer that talks didn’t carry on into the regular season.
MARCH 25: Starting pitcher Chris Tillman and the Orioles have initiated extension talks with a goal of completing a deal by the start of the season, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. The talks have not gotten specific yet in terms of dollar figures, a source tells Heyman.
I profiled Tillman as an extension candidate in January. Tillman has established himself as a workhorse in the past two seasons, pitching over 200 innings with good ERA numbers in both. His peripheral numbers have suggested he’s a somewhat worse pitcher than that, however, and his velocity has fallen in each of the past two seasons, dropping to an average fastball speed of 90.7 MPH last year. He might, however, be able to outperform his peripheral numbers to a degree due to his excellent work controlling the running game. He also pitched very well in the second half last year, and he’ll be 27 next month, an age at which he could take a step forward.
If no extension is reached, Tillman will make $4.315MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility this season. That should set the Beverly Hills Sports Council client up to make $20MM or so in his three arbitration seasons, depending on how he performs this year and next. Any extension discussions for a contract of three or more years would have to begin there, with the ultimate total of the deal dictated by its length. At the long end, Tillman could ask for something like the five years and $55MM Matt Harrison received prior to the 2013 season, although the Orioles might perceive such a contract to be a risk given the underwhelming numbers (6.5 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 4.20 xFIP in 2014) beneath Tillman’s ERA.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.
- The Orioles have acquired first baseman Mike McDade from the Rangers for future considerations, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets. The Rangers signed McDade to a minor-league deal in January after he hit .242/.298/.349 in 326 plate appearances, most of them spent with Double-A New Hampshire in the Blue Jays system. The 25-year-old Triple-A veteran has been on the 40-man rosters of the Blue Jays, Indians and White Sox, but he will likely provide minor-league depth for the Orioles.
Here are a few notes on the Orioles, many of them from CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman:
- The team has received more inquiries about lefty reliever Brian Matusz since the emergence of rumors connecting him to the Mets. That could increase the chances that the Orioles will trade him, Heyman writes. The Orioles already have lefties T.J. McFarland and Wesley Wright, plus closer Zach Britton, in their bullpen.
- The Orioles also have an abundance of starting pitchers, and they want Kevin Gausman in their rotation, so they could consider optioning Miguel Gonzalez or Wei-Yin Chen to the minors.
- The Orioles would like to keep both their Rule 5 picks, Logan Verrett (Mets) and Jason Garcia (Red Sox), but it will be hard for them to retain both. Verrett, who has pitched well this spring, is more likely to stick, Heyman writes. (Verrett also has far more experience in the upper minors than Garcia does.) Even keeping one might be somewhat difficult, in my opinion, given all the Orioles’ more experienced relievers (Britton, McFarland, Wright, Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter, Brad Brach and Ryan Webb, although McFarland and Webb could be optioned, as Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes). Trading Matusz would help if they’re serious about keeping Verrett and/or Garcia.
- Garcia’s fastball has been “pretty unhittable” this spring, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo writes. He has never pitched above Class A, so the Red Sox might have thought no one would select him. Unsurprisingly for a young reliever, his secondary pitches aren’t strong, but a fastball in the upper 90s could help him have big-league success anyway.
The Orioles still have multiple roster competitions ongoing, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. Out-of-options infielder Jimmy Paredes may be hitting his way onto the roster, while option-less outfielder David Lough faces a logjam. Neither player will be easy to keep, but the organization will be loath to part with the pair. Baltimore also has tough decisions in the rotation, the bullpen, and behind the dish (assuming that Matt Wieters is not ready to open the year on the active roster).
Here’s more from Baltimore and the rest of the AL East:
- One Orioles player who is said to possibly be available is lefty Brian Matusz, with the Mets being a rumored destination. But Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets that the clubs have not talked about the players and money that would be involved in a possible deal. Instead, New York has only proceeded to the “scouting stage” on Matusz.
- The Red Sox‘ glut of outfielders has been a story to follow all spring, and as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes, the situation remains about as complicated as might have been expected. Optioning Mookie Betts seems not to be a realistic or desirable possibility at this point, and Rusney Castillo is back in action and looking solid, creating problems — good ones, for the time being. As Cafardo explains, the difficulty at present revolves around questions such as whether Allen Craig can be dealt and whether Shane Victorino can or should open the season on the DL.
- Rays righty Nate Karns has been impressive in camp, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain writes. Picked up from the Nationals in last year’s Jose Lobaton deal, Karns is expected to open the year in the rotation, due in part to the team’s rash of injuries. The 27-year-old still has only 24 innings of big league experience to his credit, but has already burned two option years and will look to take full advantage of the opportunity to prove he can stick as a major league starter.
Here’s the latest from around the AL East…
- The Diamondbacks still have interest in Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro, as Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair writes that the Snakes “have been trailing…Navarro for the better part of a week.” Navarro himself recently said that he believed Arizona and Detroit were interested in acquiring his services, and both teams have room to upgrade behind the plate.
- Matt Wieters will begin the season on the DL as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters (including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko) that the lack of precedent for catchers recovering from the surgery is why the O’s pursued several backups this offseason. “I think there’s a lot of unknown there. We’re hoping for the best,” Showalter said. “They’ll have something to base the future on when the start trying to analyze this, because he’s been a model blueprint for rehab as far as what he’s done. We followed it to the letter of the law. Matt, if anything, has been above and beyond.”
- Orioles southpaw Brian Matusz has been the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks, most notably in connection to the Mets. MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports that New York indeed still has interest in Matusz but would need the O’s to cover part of Matusz’s $3.2MM salary. Previous reports have suggested the Orioles would be add some cash to make a deal happen, so there could be a bit if the two sides can make the numbers line up.
- Scouts haven’t been impressed with either Carlos Beltran or Stephen Drew this spring, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. Neither of the two Yankees veterans are hitting well, and there is also question about Beltran’s ability to play right field. This is a particularly important Spring Training for Drew, as his loose hold on the second base job could be broken entirely given the presence of Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela.
Here’s the latest from the league’s eastern divisions.
- Blue Jays infielder Maicer Izturis may miss the start of the season, reports Jim Hawkins for MLB.com. Izturis, who was competing for the open second base job, is sidelined with a pulled groin. The Jays also lost veteran infielder Ramon Santiago to a broken collarbone last weekend. The injuries have improved the outlook for prospect Devon Travis. He was acquired from the Tigers in exchange for outfielder Anthony Gose. Per manager John Gibbons, if Travis earns the job, he won’t be platooned.
- The Orioles may offer to return Rule 5 pick Logan Verrett to the Mets, speculates Joel Sherman of the New York Post. If they do, Verrett could be included in a trade package for lefty reliever Brian Matusz. The Orioles are shopping their excess pitching per Sherman, with Matusz appearing in the most rumors. Several clubs, including the Mets, are hunting for left-handed relief.
- Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown could open the season on the disabled list, writes Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly. Brown has dealt with Achilles tendonitis for the last couple weeks, and he will be rested for one week. Salisbury also notes that Ben Revere and Odubel Herrera are the only outfielders who are a lock to make the major league roster. Grady Sizemore, owed $2MM this season, has not been impressive this spring. Other options include Darin Ruf, Jeff Francoeur, Brian Bogusevic, Jordan Danks, and Russ Canzler.
- The Mets have optioned left-handed pitcher Steven Matz to minor league camp, writes Marc Carig of Newsday. Matz, along with Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, is on the cusp of a major league assignment. Presently, the Mets are expected to use Dillon Gee in place of Zack Wheeler. Should Gee falter, Matz is a candidate to fill his spot in the rotation. I also heard him discussed as a potential relief ace over the offseason.
Yesterday, we learned the Brewers had re-assigned reliever Jim Henderson to minor league camp. Milwaukee has rescinded the decision and will instead keep him in major league camp, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The move was made for a couple reasons. The Brewers will place him on the disabled list and can backdate the move. It also allows Henderson to maintain “continuity of treatment” with the major league strength and conditioning team. Though he remains in major league camp, he will only pitch in minor league games for the remainder of spring.
- The Mets didn’t discuss Zack Wheeler in trade scenarios this offseason because they believed any deal would be scuttled upon reviewing medicals, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Rival executives were left with an impression that Wheeler was part of a protected core. In actuality, a torn tendon, multiple MRIs, and a PRP injection led the Mets to believe a deal was out of reach. With this information in hand, it’s easy to understand why the club kept Dillon Gee on hand as a sixth starter.
- Angels pitcher Cory Rasmus will miss the next six to eight weeks with a core injury, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. The injury, which has bothered him on and off for years, will require surgery. Rasmus was used as a swingman last season, pitching to a 2.57 ERA with 9.16 K/9 and 2.73 BB/9. He was expected to contribute to the bullpen.
- While tests have come back clean, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is expected to open the season on the disabled list, writes Mark Townsend of Yahoo.com. The club is eyeing a 10-month rehab program, which would have Wieters return to action in mid-April. Manager Buck Showalter says hitting negatively affects his rehab, so he won’t be used as a designated hitter while he recovers.