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The Orioles announced today that they have selected the contract of first base prospect Christian Walker for the final few games of the season. Walker, 23, was Baltimore’s fourth-round pick in 2013 and batted a combined .288/.357/.489 between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk this season. As Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com explains, Baltimore will take a look at Walker while resting Steve Pearce over the remainder of the regular season. The team was hesitant to add Walker to the 40-man roster, as he did not need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft this winter, but they decided to give him a mini-audition of sorts (Twitter links). No moves were needed to clear a spot in light of the suspension of Chris Davis, tweets Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
Here’s more from the American League East…
- The Red Sox have interest in Japanese hurler Kenta Maeda, tweets Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, but that interest is similar to their interest in many free agent starters, including Francisco Liriano. That is to say, according to Bradford, that Boston considers him a middle-of-the-rotation arm rather than an ace to slot atop the team’s starting five.
- The struggles of Koji Uehara have not changed the interest of the Red Sox in bringing him back, GM Ben Cherington tells Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). After showing excellent form for much of the season, Uehara’s age-39 campaign took a quick downturn from mid-August onward. He remains a tantalizing free agent, however, given his recent track record of dominance.
- For the time being, of course, all eyes will be on Rusney Castillo tonight as he makes his debut for the Red Sox. But with so little time left in the season, his real work will come over the winter, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. Castillo is expected to play in both the Arizona Fall League and the Puerto Rican Winter League as he looks to dial in his play in anticipation of competing for a starting job next spring.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos expects Melky Cabrera to test the free agent market rather than sign an extension, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. While reports have indicated that Cabrera will receive a qualifying offer and Toronto hopes to retain him on a new multi-year deal, Anthopoulos said that it just makes sense for most players who get to this point to see what’s out there. Anthopoulos added that he’s open to bringing back any of the team’s pending free agents if it makes financial sense.
- The Rays‘ immediate future is not promising, in the opinion of Gary Shelton of the Tampa Bay Times. With the team expected to oversee a drop in payroll, it will take bounce-backs from several key players (such as Wil Myers and Evan Longoria) to improve the team moving forward. For his part, skipper Joe Maddon says that he foresees a return to form for Tampa, especially given the team’s talented pitching staff. “I just want to believe it’ll be more offensive,” Maddon said of next year’s club. “Whether it’s with the guys who are here or potential acquisitions.”
Hall of Fame journalist and MLB Network contributor Peter Gammons appeared on MLBN’s High Heat yesterday (video link) and published a full notes column today, both of which have plenty of excellent information. Here are some highlights from Gammons’ latest work…
- While Braves GM Frank Wren did well to patch their rotation with Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang this season, the team’s offense has been woeful, and Wren has the Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton contracts weighing on him. Former Indians GM John Hart, who was brought on as a senior advisor last offseason, could be moved into a more significant role, such as a president of baseball operations (like Theo Epstein in Chicago) or a chief baseball officer like Tony La Russa in Arizona. Hart served as an overseer to Jon Daniels in Texas, and the Braves do have a prime young GM candidate in the form of John Coppolella.
- Gammons thinks that Pablo Sandoval‘s days as a member of the Giants are numbered. Sandoval will be one of baseball’s most sought-after free agents this offseason, and the Marlins and Red Sox are both “very interested,” according to Gammons. “The Giants, I don’t think have any chance of re-signing him,” he adds.
- The Rockies had a July deal agreed to that would have sent Jorge De La Rosa to the Orioles in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, but Rockies owner Dick Monfort nixed the trade. De La Rosa was eventually extended on a two-year, $25MM deal, while Rodriguez was traded to the Red Sox in exchange for Andrew Miller. Gammons uses this story as a means of illustrating Monfort’s fierce loyalty — a trait that makes him an enigma even to the Rockies’ own employees. No one in Colorado is quite sure what Monfort will do this offseason, Gammons writes, though trying to pluck former Rockies assistant Thad Levine from the Rangers, where he is currently an assistant GM, is one scenario on which he speculates.
- At least two dozen teams will be on hand to see Yasmani Tomas‘ showcase in the Dominican Republic this weekend, and Gammons hears that the early front-runners to sign him are the Giants, Phillies, Padres, Rangers and Tigers. All of that, of course, could change quickly following his showcase. The Padres might seem a curious fit there, given the team’s typically tight payroll, but I’d imagine that the international focus of new GM A.J. Preller might be a factor.
- While the common belief is that Padres manager Bud Black is safe even with the GM change, one person who interviewed for the position told Gammons that he was asked by CEO Mike Dee how he felt about the possibility of Jason Varitek coming on board as the team’s new skipper. Dee, as Gammons notes, is quite familiar with Varitek and his leadership from their days together in Boston. This isn’t the first time that Varitek’s name was connected to the Padres.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Atlanta Braves | Baltimore Orioles | Boston Red Sox | Colorado Rockies | Detroit Tigers | Eduardo Rodriguez | Frank Wren | Jason Varitek | Jorge de la Rosa | Miami Marlins | Pablo Sandoval | Philadelphia Phillies | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Texas Rangers | Yasmani Tomas
In his latest Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney runs down a list of pending free agents that are candidates to receive qualifying offers. Olney spoke with several executives from around the league and is of the mind that James Shields, Max Scherzer, Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy, Victor Martinez, Ervin Santana, David Robertson and Hanley Ramirez will receive qualifying offers, which should fall between $15MM and $15.5MM.
Here are a few more notes from Olney’s piece…
- The Giants intend to give Sandoval a QO with the assumption that he will reject the offer and test the open market. San Francisco appears willing to offer him just three years, says Olney, and even going to four years might be too much of a stretch. Such a commitment seems much too light to land Sandoval, who, at 28 years old, will be one of the youngest free agents on the market.
- It looks like the Dodgers and Ramirez could be moving in separate directions, as rival evaluators anticipate the team will extend a qualifying offer with the expectation that Ramirez signs elsewhere.
- The value of Martin on a one-year deal, even north of $15MM, makes a QO for the Pirates “an easy call,” one rival GM said to Olney. Some may wonder whether or not Francisco Liriano is a QO candidate, but executives polled by Olney feel that his injury history and lack of innings present too much risk for the Bucs to extend such an offer. I’m inclined to agree; while Martin is a lock to turn down the QO, Liriano would have more hesitancy, and a $15MM salary would represent nearly 21 percent of the Pirates’ Opening Day payroll from 2014.
- Some evaluators think that Cruz will again find himself with a more limited market than he expects due to his age, 2013 PED suspension and the fact that his OBP and defense are less impressive than his power totals.
- Many rival executives feel there’s simply no way that the Tigers will let Martinez get away. Olney’s right in noting that a QO is “an easy call” for V-Mart, who currently sports a hefty .333/.401/.567 with a career-high 31 homers.
- Olney also feels that a QO for Robertson is an easy call. While he notes that teams don’t pay $15MM for closers anymore, one evaluator said to him: “…with any other team, we wouldn’t be talking about this. But it’s the Yankees, and they can do it.” On a somewhat related note, Olney adds that Koji Uehara‘s late-season swoon may be a blessing of sorts for the Red Sox, who can now approach him with an offer much lower than a QO would have been. I noted in yesterday’s MLBTR chat that I’d be more hesitant to give Robertson a QO, but the Yankees could certainly afford to run the risk.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Atlanta Braves | Baltimore Orioles | Boston Red Sox | David Robertson | Detroit Tigers | Ervin Santana | Francisco Liriano | Hanley Ramirez | J.J. Hardy | James Shields | Kansas City Royals | Koji Uehara | Los Angeles Dodgers | Max Scherzer | Nelson Cruz | New York Yankees | Pablo Sandoval | Pittsburgh Pirates | Russell Martin | San Francisco Giants | Victor Martinez
Rusney Castillo will make his highly anticipated debut with the Red Sox tonight, and WEEI.com’s Alex Speier breaks down which Red Sox players will be impacted by his arrival. As Speier points out, Castillo batted .293/.370/.463 in his 11 minor league games prior to his summoning to the Majors. He will split time with Jackie Bradley in center field, but if Brock Holt returns from a concussion, Will Middlebrooks could lose some playing time as well.
Here’s more on the Red Sox…
- The one-year, $16MM extension (which comes with a pair of club options) that the Red Sox issued to David Ortiz has proven to be a good move, writes WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Big Papi himself said as much to Bradford, noting that critics and doubters have gone eerily silent following a strong season: “It’s all about having the chance by this time [of the season] to say, ‘See, I told you it was wrong to sign him.’ That’s what it’s all about, so that’s why I don’t pay any attention to that,” said Ortiz. Papi would’ve joined a thin list of free agent hitters, and multiple execs tell Bradford that at least two years and $40MM wouldn’t have been an outlandish ask on the free agent market. Ortiz doesn’t seem to have any regret that he signed the deal, though he did note that “it would have cost [the Red Sox] more” to sign him had they waited until free agency. Ortiz has batted .263/.357/.508 with 32 homers this season.
- David Ross would like to return to Boston, he tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, but he knows that might not be in the cards. “I feel like if they really want me, they might’ve already come to me,” says Ross. The Red Sox are impressed with Christian Vasquez‘s glove behind the plate but may well feel the need to get more offense from their backstops, Lauber writes. Ross is hitting just .185/.264/.356 in 165 plate appearances this season. Lauber adds that Ross would like to play at least one more season for a contending team.
In his latest Insider-only piece for ESPN, Buster Olney expressed doubt that the Orioles would re-sign Nelson Cruz this winter. The O’s are more likely to let Cruz go and pick up an extra draft pick (via the qualifying offer) since Cruz’s big season may have made him too expensive for Baltimore. If the team looks for a right-handed bat to replace Cruz, Olney opines that the Braves’ Evan Gattis, rumored to be a trade candidate, would be a perfect fit as the Orioles’ new designated hitter.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Also from Olney, Yankees GM Brian Cashman originally passed on the idea of signing Chris Young when the team’s statistical analysts recommended that the Yankees pick up the recently-released Met. Cashman’s change of heart paid off, as Young has a whopping 1.266 OPS in his short stint (29 PA) as a Yankee and three homers, including a walkoff to beat the Rays last Thursday.
- Rookie right-hander Shane Greene‘s emergence has been a boon for the Yankees‘ injury-riddled rotation, and Kevin Kernan of the New York Post details the unlikely story of how Greene originally caught the eyes of team scouts. Greene, a 15th-round draft pick in 2009, has a 3.56 ERA, 9.2 K/9 and 2.92 K/BB rate over 68 1/3 IP this season.
- Dustin Pedroia‘s contract extension was considered to be very team-friendly when it was signed last year, but ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes wonders if the Red Sox were too quick to extend Pedroia given how recurring injuries caused his performance to drop off in 2014. The Sox already had Pedroia locked up through 2014 (with a team option for 2015) on a prior contract before tearing that deal up for his new extension that runs through the 2021 season.
- The Rays‘ planned payroll cut might not be all that drastic, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes, as the team still plans to contend next season. Any payroll saved “will be the product of trades and tough choices.” For instance, Topkin thinks Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Joyce could be trade candidates, as both players will get raises in arbitration this winter.
- Earlier today, MLBTR’s Steve Adams compiled more news from around the AL East.
For those who missed it over the weekend, reports from MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez pegged this coming Sunday (Sept. 21) as the date for Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas‘ showcase, which will be held at the Giants’ complex in the Dominican Republic. Here are a few notes on the international prospect front…
- Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, told Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald in Miami last week (Spanish link) that he expects to set a record this offseason when negotiating Tomas’ contract. Rusney Castillo‘s seven-year, $72.5MM contract currently stands as the most lucrative contract ever for a Cuban player, but Tomas’ combination of age and power will certainly give him a chance to top that figure. It would also seem possible that Tomas tops Jose Abreu‘s $11.33MM average annual salary as well.
- The Red Sox have scouted Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda extensively, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo says it would be a surprise if Boston didn’t make a bid for the 26-year-old, assuming he is posted this offseason (Cafardo makes the assumption that he will be). Maeda has posted a 2.71 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 156 innings for the Hiroshima Carp this season — his sixth straight season with an ERA south of 3.00. Set to turn 27 next April, Maeda has a career 2.45 ERA over seven seasons in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. Of course, Maeda is a rather high-profile arm, so it’s likely that a large amount of other clubs have been scouting him as well.
- Sanchez traveled to the Dominican Republic this weekend for a week-long Dominican Prospect League showcase — an event at which roughly 200 teenagers will be seen by scouts. According to Sanchez (Twitter links), 29 of baseball’s 30 clubs will be in attendance. The Indians, he says, are the lone club that is not expected to attend. Sanchez’s timeline currently has plenty of Vine clips of prospects performing drills for those who are interested in the event.
Infielder Nick Franklin, part of the haul that the Rays acquired in the David Price trade, will be recalled to join the club today, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Once ranked as one of the game’s top 50 prospects by MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus, Franklin struggled for much of his time at Triple-A with the Rays, hitting just .210/.288/.290. As Topkin points out, Franklin did hit .424 with a pair of homers in nine playoff games that aren’t included in that stat line, and he of course had an excellent first half as a rookie with the Mariners in 2013, hitting .268/.337/.451 in 169 plate appearances.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- The Red Sox could follow the same method they did with Andrew Miller and the one the Royals/Rays employed with Wade Davis by moving some of their current young starting options to the bullpen, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. MacPherson notes that Brandon Workman already looks like a future reliever and speculates that some or all of Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo and Rubby De La Rosa could end up in the bullpen eventually as well. MacPherson also spoke with Miller about the transition from the rotation to the bullpen.
- Masahiro Tanaka will throw 60 pitches — including some splitters — in a simulated game today, writes John Harper of the New York Daily News. If Tanaka pitches well, he could re-join the Yankees‘ rotation and make a couple of starts before season’s end. While that may be too little, too late for the Yankees’ playoff hopes, a few healthy starts from Tanaka would give the Yankees some peace of mind heading into 2015.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at Jake Peavy‘s effect on the Giants this season. “He brings a lot of intensity, he brings a lot of energy, he brings a lot of veteran leadership, he brings a lot of guts,” Hunter Pence said last week. “He’s been a big charge to this run we’ve made. That energy is exciting to be around. It’s a different dugout when he’s in it.” More from today’s column..
- John Boggs, the agent for Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, told Cafardo he will sit down with his client and put together a new 20-team no-trade list by November 1. Boggs says the Red Sox were on Hamels’s 2014 no-trade list and the Phillies would have to have asked permission to deal him to Boston. “It doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have accepted it,” Boggs said. “We are still deliberating on what teams will be on that list for 2015.”
- After a one-year pillow offer, Nelson Cruz appears to have riches awaiting for him this winter. The Orioles will make him the $15MM+ qualifying offer, but he’ll be in demand as one of the few right-handed power hitters out there. The Yankees can be expected to have interest and the Rangers could look to bring him back.
- Manager Buck Showalter has talked with J.J. Hardy about how much the Orioles want him to re-sign, but they may not offer the most money. Showalter said the team would make him a fair offer, but he tried to appeal to how much Hardy has enjoyed playing in Baltimore.
- Showalter is a realist when it comes to the Orioles‘ financial limitations, but he feels he can still come up with good players going the minor league free agent route. The Orioles did it with journeyman first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce, who has had an excellent season. Showalter feels that he can do it again with 28-32 year old hitters that are just starting to figure it out.
- One team’s international scout tells Cafardo that Yasmani Tomas could command as much as $100MM. The scout said Tomas has gotten himself in shape and if he performs well at his showcase later in the month, the money will get “really high.”
- One American League evaluator thinks it’s possible for the Phillies to move Ryan Howard to the American League, where he could be a full-time DH. “He’s not a lost cause,” said the evaluator. “He’s knocked in 92 runs for a bad team, so there’s obviously something still there. He could help an American League team as a DH.” However, that would require the Phillies to eat a good portion of the $60MM left on his contract.
Top prospects must often react to failure for the first time in their career at the major league level, writes the Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson in a pair of articles (first, second). Red Sox manager John Farrell points to the mental side and getting to know his young players. Their ability to handle adversity can explain the different developmental patterns for players like Will Middlebrooks, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley - all of whom have experienced similar struggles this season. Bogaerts has played through the worst of his slump while Middlebrooks and Bradley Jr. spent time in the minors. Teams can also use veterans like David Ross to help young players like Christian Vazquez transition to the majors.
- Continuing our theme, Eno Sarris of FanGraphs wonders if the Indians ought to trade Francisco Lindor this offseason. The club is pleasantly surprised with Jose Ramirez, who features superb defense and a typical bat for a shortstop. While his .256/.298/.339 slash is unexciting, it’s comparable to the average line produced by all major league shortstops – .250/.306/.362 (and that line includes Troy Tulowitzki). Shortstop prospects are the most common in baseball, and they bust 10 percent more frequently than any other position. Perhaps the Indians ought to consider acquiring a “sure thing” for their top prospect.
The Red Sox are “expected” to promote Rusney Castillo on Tuesday, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal tweets. This wouldn’t be shocking news, given that Ben Cherington has already said that Castillo is on track to be promoted this month and Triple-A Pawtucket’s season is about to come to an end, with the final game of the International League championship series taking place tonight. Castillo has played three games so far for Pawtucket. Here are more notes from around baseball.
- Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu is set to have his sore shoulder examined today, and Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times wonders what might happen if the results are unfavorable. Ryu missed several weeks with a shoulder inflammation earlier this season. Losing Ryu for the rest of the season would leave a Dodgers rotation (which has already lost Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley and Paul Maholm) thin, and they’re in a tight race with the Giants for the NL West pennant. Of course, the cross-town Angels faced a similarly tough-looking situation when they lost Garrett Richards for the season, and they’ve been fine since then.
- If this is the last year for Athletics slugger Adam Dunn, it will be the end of an extremely unusual career, ESPN’s Jayson Stark writes, noting that more than half of Dunn’s career plate appearances have ended without him putting the ball in play. Players with similarly high strikeout, walk and homer totals usually have shorter careers, but Dunn has managed over 8,000 plate appearances (over 2,300 of which ended in strikeouts).
- Despite Chris Davis‘ suspension, the Orioles aren’t inclined to promote first base prospect Christian Walker, CSNBaltimore.com’s Rich Dubroff writes. Walker has hit .288/.357/.489 in 599 plate appearances split between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk this year, but he isn’t on the Orioles’ 40-man roster. “[S]ome guys don’t have to be protected this off-season, so unless I’m going to play them every day or mostly every day, or if I know they’re going to be on our team next year, then you’re really doing something that’s not very smart,” says Buck Showalter.