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Baltimore Orioles Rumors
Alan Nero, Joe Maddon’s agent, discussed how his client left the Rays for the Cubs in an interview with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette (audio link) on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM. Nero negotiated with the Rays for five or six days before Maddon opted out of his contract, a decision Maddon reached since Tampa didn’t want to make him one of baseball’s five highest-paid managers. Maddon was willing to take below-market value to stay but the Rays’ offer was “so far from reality that it just didn’t make sense” for Maddon to accept, according to Nero. Theo Epstein wouldn’t speak to Maddon until he had written proof of the opt-out and permission from the Commissioner’s office, and Nero considers it “a bit insulting” that the Rays would suspect tampering took place.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Rival teams could be interested in the Orioles‘ catching depth, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko opines. Despite the presence of Caleb Joseph, Steve Clevenger and a number of young backstops in the minors, the team is still interested in bringing back veteran Nick Hundley. Kubatko speculates that Chris Tillman‘s improved performance with Hundley behind the plate could be a factor in why Hundley could return.
- Mutual interest exists between the Yankees and Chase Headley, though Alex Rodriguez‘s presence and Pablo Sandoval‘s price tag remain obstacles to a signing, George A. King III of the New York Post writes. Sandoval’s next deal will set the bar for free agent third basemen, with Headley possibly poised to benefit as arguably the second-best 3B on the open market this winter.
- For the record, King doesn’t think the Yankees are exploring signing Sandoval, though “it is hard to ignore what the Giants third baseman has done in the postseason.”
- The Red Sox have been hesitant to sign hugely expensive contracts in recent years and, of course, spending is no guarantee of success. With so many offseason needs, however, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal thinks the team may be more open to one or more big contracts.
Here are some of the highlights from the latest Sunday notes column by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe…
- The White Sox will have “a lot of interest” in free agent outfielder Nori Aoki, Cafardo predicts.
- David Ross was told by Red Sox GM Ben Cherington earlier this week that the club “wanted to see how the roster shook out before making a commitment to” bring back the veteran catcher. Cafardo speculates that Cherington could be keeping his options open in regards to the team’s need for a left-handed hitting bat; if one can’t be found at another position, the Sox could look to add one at catcher.
- Now that Joe Maddon is managing the Cubs, Cafardo wonders if Andrew Friedman will regret sticking with Don Mattingly in Los Angeles and not making a move to bring Maddon to the Dodgers. “I think it will be a case of, ‘Why didn’t I do what the Cubs did?’ ” a baseball executive tells Cafardo. “Joe Maddon seems to be the hot manager out there and guys like that aren’t available very often. When Maddon is out there you don’t need a long, drawn-out managerial search. If you can afford him, you hire him.”
- Rays bench coach Dave Martinez has been mentioned as a prime candidate to become the team’s next manager, and will surely be on the team’s list of interview candidates. That said, “the feeling is that if…[Martinez] was going to get the job, he would have gotten it by now,” Cafardo writes.
- Nelson Cruz‘s free agency “will test the Orioles‘ commitment to winning.” In Cafardo’s opinion, the team has “no excuses” for not re-signing such a key part of their lineup, especially with extra revenues coming in from TV and increased attendance.
Now that former Rays skipper Joe Maddon has signed with the Cubs, the Rays find themselves at a philosophical crossroads, writes Buster Olney of ESPN (Insider only). The Rays must decide whether to pursue tampering charges against the Cubs. Per Olney, the Rays thought they were close to signing Maddon to a multi-year extension before he ultimately opted out of his contract. The timing seems suspicious, but it may be difficult to prove tampering.
The Rays have two options. They can either ignore the whiff of wrong doing or pursue an investigation. Major League Baseball has the authority to demand phone and email records from all 30 clubs, so a basic investigation is possible. Other small market teams, tired of being bullied by the big spenders, would ostensibly support an investigation. If tampering is proven, the Cubs could be forced to relinquish a player in return for Maddon. Historically, such returns have been middling. Randy Winn was traded for Lou Piniella, reliever Chris Carpenter was dealt for Theo Epstein, and the pair of Jhan Marinez and Ozzie Martinez were sent to the White Sox for Ozzie Guillen.
- Despite turmoil atop the Rays organization, Ben Zobrist is excited to have his $7.5MM club option exercised, writes Marc Tomkin of the Tampa Bay Times. He expressed faith in GM Matt Silverman along with lieutenants Chaim Bloom and Erik Neander. Zobrist is set to become the first player in Rays franchise history to begin a 10th season with the club.
- The Orioles declined a $17.5MM option for Nick Markakis a few days ago, but they’re still striving to re-sign him, reports Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. One person who expects Markakis to return is manager Buck Showalter. The Orioles can negotiate exclusively with Markakis through Monday night. They also need to decide on a potential qualifying offer, which could depend on the character of their negotiations. After considering his $2MM buyout, the $15.3MM qualifying offer is just a $200K savings over the club option. If the club is confident Markakis will pursue a multi-year deal elsewhere, they may be more inclined to make the offer.
- Baltimore officially declined Nick Hundley‘s 2015 option via Twitter. The club is potentially interested in re-signing Hundley at a rate below his $5MM option, tweets Roch Kobatko of MASNsports.com. The 40 man roster now stands at 31 players according to Kubatko (also Twitter). We first learned the Orioles planned to decline the option last Thursday.
The Orioles have claimed left-handed pitcher Pat McCoy off waivers from Detroit, according to a press release from the Tigers.
McCoy, who turned 26 in August, made his big league debut for the Tigers this season, notching a 3.86 ERA in 14 innings. However, his ERA is a bit misleading, as the southpaw walked 13 batters against 11 strikeouts in that time and also allowed an alarming 21 hits.
Formerly a 10th-round pick of the Nationals, McCoy signed a minor league deal with Detroit last offseason and enjoyed a nice campaign in the minors before getting his first call to the bigs. Splitting the season between Double-A and Triple-A, McCoy pitched to a 3.00 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 45 innings of work.
Here are the day’s outright assignments:
- The Cubs have made a series of roster trims, according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). Outfielder Ryan Kalish and infielders Chris Valaika and Josh Vitters have each been outrighted, according to Gonzales. Righty James McDonald has elected free agency as well.
- The Orioles have outrighted righty Evan Meek to Triple-A, the club announced. Meek will have the right to elect free agency, as he has previously been outrighted (including once earlier this year). Meek, 31, threw to a 5.79 ERA over 23 1/3 innings at the MLB level, all in relief. He struck out 6.2 and walked 4.2 batters per nine over that stretch. Meek has had better stretches in the majors, however, and even made an All-Star appearance with the Pirates back in 2010. Over 41 2/3 Triple-A frames this year, Meek worked to a 1.94 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against just 0.9 BB/9.
The Orioles have spoken to Nick Markakis‘ agent and will continue contract discussions this week, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. Markakis is expected to hit free agency when the O’s decline their half of a $17.5MM option on the outfielder’s services for 2015. “Both sides want to get a deal done, but….A hometown discount has its limits,” Kubatko writes. Indeed, Markakis will draw a lot of interest on the open market, with MLBTR’s Steve Adams predicting Markakis will find a three- or four-year deal worth between $39-$48MM (depending on whether the Orioles extend a qualifying offer).
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- The Red Sox had some preliminary talks with Adam Katz, then Yoenis Cespedes‘ agent, about a four- or five-year extension, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News reports. Since then, however, Cespedes changed his representation to Roc Nation Sports and is expected to look for a longer-term deal, making it more likely that the Sox explore trading him this winter. Beyond contract reasons, Boston could look to move the outfielder because, as a source tells Madden, Cespedes “marches to his own drum and the [Red Sox] coaches all hate him.”
- The Red Sox could use Cespedes as a trade chip for starting pitching, and Madden speculates that the Mets line up with the Sox as trade partners. Boston is also “exploring” what the Phillies would want for Cole Hamels, though Philadelphia isn’t interested in Cespedes.
- Ex-Rays manager Joe Maddon spoke with Fangraphs’ David Laurila in September (before the current drama surrounding Maddon’s opt-out) and discussed why pitching and defense are dominating the sport. Beyond the PED crackdown, Maddon pointed out that quite a bit of recent significant sabermetrics work has been focused on pitching and defense, rather than offense. Maddon also said driving a starter out of a game no longer presents the opportunity it once did, as “You see a lot of 95-plus out of the pen now, and some of those guys have quality secondary pitches. I think it’s become easier to build bullpens, and it’s rare a team has a bad one.”
- Maddon also suggested speed might become a more crucial part of the game than it has been in the recent past, when homers and walks became the blueprint for offensive production. The Red Sox, however, are one team that plans to stick to its offensive philosophy, GM Ben Cherington tells Laurila. “We know we need to build a better offense, but we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” Cherington said. “If we can see pitches and get on base, and still hit for power and hit with runners in scoring position, I still think that’s a formula to score runs.”
1:37pm: Johnson will be a free agent, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. Baltimore hopes to sign him to a minor league deal, however, while he continues to rehab his shoulder.
1:12pm: The Orioles have outrighted right-hander Steve Johnson, the club announced. With the move, Baltimore has opened a 40-man roster spot.
Johnson, 27, did not see any time at the MLB level this year after receiving brief stints in each of the last two seasons. In total, he owns a 3.67 ERA over 54 big league innings. Johnson struggled mightily this year at Triple-A, allowing 7.11 earned runs per nine over 13 starts (over which he lasted just 38 innings).
Control issues were the primary culprit, as Johnson issued more than seven free passes per nine innings after never coming close to that mark in prior years. Of course, underlying that may well have been the presence of a significant bone spur in his throwing shoulder, which was ultimately removed surgically.
In his latest mailbag piece, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com looks at various facets of the Indians roster. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t predict any sweeping changes for the Cleveland roster. Here’s more from Bastian and around the AL.
- The Indians bullpen seems set behind closer Cody Allen. The club may wish to bring in a few depth pieces to supplement the middle and long relief components. Nick Hagadone, who is out of options, is a likely candidate as the second lefty. Similarly, the rotation will probably to be filled internally. Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin can provide above average depth for a rotation fronted by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and T.J. House.
- Had the Indians possessed a better defense, they might have reached the postseason instead of the Royals. However, the club may have solved its woes in-season by promoting Jose Ramirez and moving Carlos Santana to first base. If third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall continues to struggle defensively, Bastian mentions prospect Giovanny Urshela as an alternative.
- Torii Hunter is leaning towards playing in 2015 and would like to return to the Tigers, reports Chris Iott of MLive.com. Hunter labels himself as one of the most consistent hitters in the game. That’s not a bad characterization. Over the past nine seasons, he’s ranged from 13 to 31 percent above average per an advanced stat called wRC+. If you prefer traditional stats, he has always contributed in batting average, power, and run production. The 39-year-old’s defense has declined in recent years. Hunter is prioritizing a World Series championship, however he is unsure if he can accept a reduced role.
- The Orioles have a tough decision regarding Chris Davis, writes Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore. Davis may cost upwards of $12MM in his final year of arbitration according to Dubroff, but the Orioles may not want to pay so much for his no-average, all power profile. They do have an internal alternative in Steve Pearce, but he could be needed in the outfield with Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz potentially departing via free agency. There is seemingly no pathway to return value for Davis short of tendering him and hoping for the best.
The Yankees have promoted pro scout and former hitting coach/player development executive Gary Denbo to senior vice president of baseball operations, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweeted yesterday. In a full article, Feinsand and colleague Bill Madden write that Denbo will take over for the retired Mark Newman as head of the team’s farm system. Pat Roessler, who has served as the team’s director of player development since 1995, will not return to the club, Feinsand adds. Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner has recently expressed displeasure with the lack of position players developed by the Yankees’ farm system.
Some other Yankees and AL East notes from around the league…
- In his latest Yankees Inbox piece for MLB.com, Bryan Hoch discusses a number of offseason topics, including the club’s search for starting pitching and a shortstop, as well as its likely inactivity on the market for Cuban players. Hoch won’t be surprised to see the Yankees pursue one of the big three starters (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields), and all indications are that the team will look externally for a shortstop. MLBTR’s Zach Links recently profiled Asdrubal Cabrera, noting that he could be a fit for the Bombers at short.
- Yoenis Cespedes‘ recent agency change does little to change the possibility of the Red Sox signing him to an extension, writes WEEI.com’s Alex Speier. Cespedes is still expected to hit the open market on the heels of past comments with the A’s about looking forward to testing the open market. While he did take a bit more ambiguous stance when asked by Boston reporters late in the year — “I’m still not sure if I want to sign an extension or if I want to be a free agent. It’s too soon.” – Speier feels that a new contract for the Roc Nation Sports client is unlikely.
- David Laurila of Fangraphs spoke with Red Sox setup man Junichi Tazawa at the end of the season about his role with the team and his level of satisfaction with his 2014 results. Tazawa explained, through an interpreter, that he feels he proved his endurance out of the bullpen and is happy to fill whatever role Boston asks of him, especially after they stuck with him through his previous Tommy John surgery. However, Laurila cites a Japanese source in reporting that Tazawa’s preference would be to pitch as a starter. Tazawa wouldn’t comment on any preference when asked directly about the role change, though he did note that he feels he could build up that level of endurance again. The 28-year-old made four starts for the Sox in 2009 and made 28 more in the minor leagues before settling into the big league bullpen.
- Steve Pearce‘s role on the 2015 Orioles is a bit nebulous at this point, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, as it’s somewhat contingent on how the rest of the roster shapes up. The O’s will potentially lose Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis to free agency, and it’s not a given that they’ll tender Alejandro De Aza a contract. Pearce himself is due a large raise in arbitration after his outstanding 2014 season, but Baltimore will happily pay him whatever he is ultimately owed, writes Kubatko. He looks back at the series of events which saw Pearce released and claimed by the Blue Jays. Pearce, of course, was able to refuse the claim due to the nature of release waivers, and he did so knowing that the O’s would soon try to bring him back. The soon-to-be 32-year-old has one year of team control remaining before free agency and earned just $700K in each of the past two seasons.