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The Astros have loaned massive first baseman Japhet Amador to the Diablos Rojos of the Mexican League, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Amador was signed away from his new club this past August, and appeared at both Triple-A (where he has struggled mightily) and the Arizona Fall League (where he slashed .284/.286/.507). As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle explains (Twitter links), Amador’s contract had a clause that required the team to decide by May 3 whether to purchase his contract, and the team was not going to do so. Nevertheless, Amador’s agent, Oscar Suarez, says that there is some hope that the 27-year-old could return to the Houston organization (possibly with another AFL stint). Here’s more from the American League:
- While talks have been put on hold with the season well underway, the Red Sox seemingly remain quite interested in keeping Jon Lester in the fold, as Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. “Every effort is going to be made to make sure that Jon remains in a Red Sox uniform,” said manager John Farrell. “We’re hopeful that takes place.”
- The Tigers‘ trade for Alex Gonzalez raised some questions at the time it was made, and that only increased as he struggled and was ultimately released. MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes that the deal was unquestionably a miss, but says that GM Dave Dombrowski took a calculated risk based on the assessments of the same scouts that have supported other risks that worked out for the club. Another stop-gap acquisition at short is unlikely at this point, Beck adds.
Infielder Ryan Roberts has cleared waivers after being designated for assignment and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket, the Red Sox announced yesterday.
The 33-year-old Roberts collected just two hits and three walks in 22 plate appearances for the Sox after signing a Major League deal with them when Will Middlebrooks went down with an injury. Though he didn’t perform particularly well in that very small sample, Roberts has demonstrated in the past that he has enough pop and speed to post double-digit totals in homers and stolen bases, particularly in his 2011 campaign with the D’Backs when he slashed .249/.321/.427 with 19 homers and 18 steals.
For his career, Roberts owns a .243/.320/.388 batting line with 46 homers and 35 stolen bases. He’s been particularly useful against left-handed pitching, hitting at a .261/.337/.435 clip. Defensive Runs Saved feels that he’s an average defender at third base and has been worth +5 runs in about a season’s worth of innings at second base (1357), while UZR/150 feels he’s a plus defender at each position.
A year ago, Jon Lester was coming off a poor season and his long-term future in Boston looked in doubt. Now, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes, Lester has rebuilt his career following a rebound season and another World Series ring, and it seems he's in position for a nine-figure contract from either the Red Sox or another club as a free agent next winter. Lester and the Sox have discussed an extension, and Lauber notes that the Sox (for all their promising young arms on the farm) have nobody who can replace Lester's 200 innings in 2015, so the club needs their star southpaw back.
Here's the latest from around the AL East…
- Yankees officials tell Joel Sherman of the New York Post that the Tigers haven't asked about Ichiro Suzuki in the wake of Andy Dirks' injury. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski tells Sherman that his team is "not actively seeking a big move," though they haven't decided if they'll use an internal or external player to platoon with Rajai Davis in left.
- Ichiro, for his part, had "nothing to say about" the subject of whether or not he would want to play for another team that could offer him more regular playing time. “But as far as being part of [trade rumors], when I first came to New York, I knew it was something that happens here," Suzuki said. "You have to be emotionally ready and prepare yourself for it."
- Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli seems somewhat torn between his desire for more playing time and his desire to remain with the Yankees. "I’ve been here forever. I don’t have that answer right now because this is, I feel like, my house," Cervelli told reporters, including Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. "But if somebody wants me to go over there, I’ve got to make the adjustment. I told you guys many times that my dream is to be a starting catcher. Right now, my role is a backup. That’s what I’m playing for. But I’m never going to stop because an opportunity is going to come again." Cervelli has drawn interest from several teams (including the White Sox and Diamondbacks) as one of Yankees' backup catchers could be traded to bring infield help to the Bronx.
- The Blue Jays' lack of success in obtaining starting pitching this offseason leads Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi to re-evaluate the team's decisions to not tender a qualifying offer to Josh Johnson and to pass on a potential trade for Brett Anderson due to medical concerns.
- According to some Red Sox players, Stephen Drew regrets not accepting Boston's $14.1MM qualifying offer, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports. Drew has lingered on the free agent market in his search for a multiyear deal, and while the possibility of returning to the Sox as a veteran alternative for Xander Bogaerts or Will Middlebrooks seemed to have potential earlier this winter, the club seems to have moved on. Red Sox veterans, Abraham writes, no longer feel the team needs to re-sign Drew after seeing how Middlebrooks has conducted himself during Spring Training.
- No matter how well the Rays perform on the field or how much they spend on payroll, Cork Gaines of Rays Index notes that the team can't seem to top an average of 23,000 fans per game at Tropicana Field. Gaines speculates that even a World Series title could only bump the Rays over that 23K attendance threshold for a season or two, at most.
How do teams take players from promise to big league production? Grantland's Jonah Keri takes a look at some different developmental approaches for players approaching MLB readiness, most of them from AL clubs. The Twins, for example, advance players based upon their readiness to fill a need at the MLB level, while the Rays pay close attention to service time in a bid to maximize the value of each player asset. Here's more from the American League:
- The Indians are still believed to be discussing an extension with second baseman Jason Kipnis, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. With just two years and 69 days of service, Kipnis will not reach arbitration eligibility until next year (though he received a relatively sizeable $554,900 contract from Cleveland for the coming season). As Hoynes notes, there is an interesting comp in the Cardinals' recent six-year, $52MM extension of Matt Carpenter, an older player with less service (and, on the whole, a less impressive overall track record).
- Grady Sizemore is an increasingly plausible option not just to break camp with the Red Sox, but to beat out Jackie Bradley Jr. for the center field job, writes Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. He has shown enough for the club (and, perhaps, Sizemore) to dare to dream, even if manager John Farrell is still preaching caution. But the skipper also joined those offering praise for Sizemore's performance thus far in camp. "The fact that Grady's having encouraging signs in spring training is not a bad thing for Jackie Bradley or for anybody," Farrell said. "It means we've got another good player. Grady gives us the potential to build another talented and deep roster."
- Though an achilles tear ended Mark Mulder's comeback bid this year with the Angels, the 36-year-old says that does not mean he is giving up entirely, reports MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez. "Barring a setback, or me not being able to pitch with my ankle for some reason, I don't see why not," Mulder said. "My arm's still going to be the same next year."
Here are today's minor moves from around Major League Baseball …
- The Reds have released infielder Henry Rodriguez, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Rodriguez was designated and then outrighted in February. The 24-year-old has seen bit action at the MLB level in each of the last two seasons.
- The Phillies announced that they've outrighted right-hander Michael Stutes off the 40-man roster after he cleared waivers. Stutes, 27, posted a 4.58 ERA with 4.6 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 17 2/3 innings for the Phils last season. He's posted a 4.01 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in 85 1/3 career innings but struggled since a solid rookie campaign in 2011. Philadelphia's 40-man roster now stands at 39.
- The Angels have outrighted catcher John Hester and left-hander Robert Carson to Triple-A Salt Lake, according to the club's transactions page. The 30-year-old Hester got just one plate appearance in the Majors in 2013 after batting .212/.287/.329 in 95 PAs the previous season. Hester has a career batting line of .282/.346/.457 in nearly 1300 Triple-A PAs. Carson, 25, posted an 8.24 ERA in 19 2/3 innings with the Mets last season but has a 3.45 career ERA in 60 Triple-A innings. The Halos had claimed him off waivers in October.
- Michael Olmsted, who was released by the Brewers just yesterday, has agreed to terms on a minor league deal with the Red Sox and will be in minor league camp with the team upon completion of a physical, according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish (Twitter links). The 26-year-old struggled with command and posted a 5.82 ERA in his first taste of Triple-A last season but has a 3.02 career ERA in the minors as a whole to go along with a gaudy 11.1 K/9 rate and a serviceable 3.7 BB/9 rate.
New Cardinals prospect Aledmys Diaz participated in team drills with the club on Monday but will return to Mexico next week to receive a work visa that will allow him to compete in Spring Training games, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. GM John Mozeliak said the club will have Diaz focus on shortstop rather than trying to carve out a utility role. However, asked about the overlap between Diaz's contract and that of fellow offseason signee Jhonny Peralta, Mozeliak simply said, "Jhonny Peralta is our shortstop. We think he's really good."
Here's more from baseball's Central divisions…
- The Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel writes that the Cardinals were Missouri native Max Scherzer's dream team growing up. Scherzer told Hummel he always envisioned playing for the Cards as a kid, and he had the chance to do so when St. Louis drafted him in the 43rd round out of high school. However, Scherzer honored his commitment to Mizzou and now doesn't think about his old Cardinals aspirations: "The thing is that now I’ve gotten to the big leagues and I’m in this position, it’s really hard to still dream about that when you’ve got this clubhouse and you look around and see Miguel Cabrera. You see the talent here. This clubhouse can win and it’s so much fun. This is my dream now, playing with the Tigers."
- Left-hander Chris Capuano told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the Twins showed some early interest in him, but that interest seemed to dry up after the team re-signed Mike Pelfrey in December (Twitter link).
- Indians manager Terry Francona spoke with reporters, including Zack Meisel of the Northeat Ohio Media Group, and said that he would be lying if he knew what the team's third base plans were this coming season. Reports have pegged Carlos Santana as uncomfortable at the position to date. Francona also said he thinks David Murphy will be an excellent addition to the team, adding that Cleveland was able to get him due to a down year in 2013: "If he would've had his normal year, he probably wouldn't have been as available."
- Phil Coke has struggled this spring, and this could be a big week for him, writes MLB.com's Jason Beck. The Tigers can cut ties with Coke this week and only owe him $316K of the $1.9MM the two sides agreed to in arbitration. However, Beck expects Coke to hang around at least until the end of Spring Training; Detroit would only owe him $475K were they to cut him at that point. Detroit made a similar move with Brennan Boesch last spring, and Casey Crosby's return from injury gives the team another left-handed option out of the bullpen. MLive.com's Chris Iott also expects Coke to hang around beyond Wednesday's deadline.
Here's a quick look in at the American League East:
- With Red Sox outfielder Grady Sizemore progressing towards cracking the team's Opening Day roster, WEEI.com's Rob Bradford provides the details of his incentive-heavy contract. If Sizemore breaks camp, he would earn a $250K bonus and draw a $750K base salary. He can, as previously reported, boost the total value to $6MM if he were to hit all incentives. Here's how: $250K each for reaching 60, 90, 120, and 150 days in the big leagues; $250K for each increment of 25 plate appearances from 225 to 500; and a slate of award bonuses (including $50K for being named AL Comeback Player of the Year).
- Orioles third baseman Manny Machado says that his $519K contract for 2014 is "disappointing," reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Of course, with less than two years of service, Machado had little choice in the matter. The two sides have yet to discuss the possibility of an extension, though Connolly says there are "indications" that talks could take place once the health of the 21-year-old's left knee is more certain. Machado maintains that he would "love to be an Oriole forever," noting that his only wish is "to be treated fairly."
- The Yankees have drawn significant trade interest in backstop Francisco Cervelli, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Among the teams giving the catcher a look is the White Sox. Though the out-of-options, 28-year-old Cervelli figures to have the inside track on the reserve role for New York, the club has several other viable options to back up Brian McCann (as MLBTR's Steve Adams recently explained).
Big-league ballplayers make plenty of money, but that doesn't mean free agency isn't stressful. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal takes a fascinating look at free agency as seen through the eyes of Red Sox players. Chris Capuano reports that, whenever he's a free agent, he sends his agent a list of teams in order of preference, but then has to wait to see if there's mutual interest. He also notes that, typically, playing for a winner becomes more and more important to a player the older he gets. David Ross says that, before the 2009 season, he signed to be a backup with the Braves rather than a starter with the Astros because the Braves offered a two-year deal.
Here are more notes from around the American League:
- Conflicting reports yesterday regarding Ervin Santana has everyone confused. "I really don’t know what’s real and what’s not real in that case," Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette told reporters, including Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
- The biggest culprit for Santana's situation is the right-hander's own camp, which dramatically overestimated his market and then was slow to change gears, ESPN's Buster Olney writes (Insider subscription required). Olney suggests that, if Santana's demands had been more realistic, he could have at least wound up with a contract similar to Matt Garza's or Ricky Nolasco's, rather than the one-year deal he now appears likely to receive.
- Back to the Orioles, Duquette still has the financial flexibility to improve the roster, but is confident in the pitching they currently have in camp, according to MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. "We have some more resources that we can invest in our team, and we'll take a look at each case as it comes up," Duquette said. "We do have a little more pitching depth with our starting pitching going into the season, and some of the young pitchers we have high hopes for are continuing to develop their skills."
- GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers won't be trading any starting pitchers, including Rick Porcello, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. Earlier today, the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo reported that the Tigers would field offers for Porcello.
- Starting pitcher Justin Masterson, who is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season, has surprisingly suggested to the Indians that he might be willing to sign a shorter-term extension, perhaps three years, but the Indians have not yet responded with an offer, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets.
- The Rangers are trying to develop a long-term answer at catcher, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Texas hasn't had stability at catcher since Ivan Rodriguez left over a decade ago. "It’s a topic of conversation, absolutely," says GM Jon Daniels. "We’ve had some guys come over here as big-time catching prospects, but we haven’t developed our own long-term championship-caliber starter." The Rangers have beefed up their coaching staff in an attempt to help their catchers develop. The Rangers' best hope of becoming a homegrown regular catcher is, of course, top prospect Jorge Alfaro, who played most of the 2013 season with Class A Hickory.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders if Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton could wind up with the Red Sox. Marlins GM Dan Jennings swears up and down that Stanton isn't going anywhere and even if he was for sale, Boston would be one of many clubs in pursuit. If things suddenly changed and the Fish made Stanton available, Cafardo wonders if a package of Will Middlebrooks or Garin Cecchini plus Matt Barnes, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts could get a deal done. More from today's column:
- The Twins have some interest in White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza, who is getting interest even though he's not everything a club would want in a center fielder, leadoff type. Last season, De Aza slashed .264/.323/.405 with 17 homers in 675 plate appearances.
- Major league sources say the Tigers are still willing to listen to offers on Rick Porcello. While he has shown promise, Detroit would like a hurler with more consistency.
- The bidding for Ervin Santana has reportedly come down to the Orioles and Blue Jays. Cafardo hears the Rockies were also in it for some of the day while the Phillies did their due diligence but did not appear to be in the hunt.
- Bud Norris could be an alternative if Tommy Hunter can’t do the job as Orioles closer, but he also has trade interest and could have some appeal in the NL. For budgetary reasons, the O's probably wouldn't go for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, but it's possible if the Angelos family believes that they have a chance to win it all.
- One Red Sox player says that he's not crying for free agent Stephen Drew. “Why not accept a $14.1 million qualifying offer for one year?” the player said. “Is that a bad deal? That’s a lot of money. Stephen would be here playing with us by now if he’d done that.”
- Scouts are watching Orioles pitcher Zach Britton closely as he is out of options. Still only 26, Britton is still a pitcher scouts think they can salvage. The O's are aware of his value and the interest other clubs have, but could stash him in the bullpen if they can’t get good value for him.