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Boston Red Sox Rumors
Red Sox skipper John Farrell said today that “we fully expect” first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig to break camp with the club, as Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports. The veteran will need to find his opportunities from the bench, says Farrell, but there is “nothing to expect” regarding a transaction involving Craig.
While it is certainly possible to downplay the importance of Farrell’s comments as regards Craig — broadcasting a desire to deal him would probably be unwise — they nevertheless provide some insight into Boston’s plans for its voluminous collection of outfield bats. As I wrote recently, the club has at least eight viable contenders for the team’s various outfield slots and bench roles.
Assuming that Craig joins Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, and Brock Holt on the Opening Day roster, with Holt serving in part as a reserve infielder, the club will likely have only two additional spots to allocate between Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Daniel Nava, and Jackie Bradley Jr. Each of those players, excepting Nava, is eligible for an optional assignment, though there are fairly strong reasons to think that Boston would rather not take that route with Castillo and Betts.
A seemingly minor injury to Castillo has slowed his start, and could provide some justification for starting him off at Triple-A along with Bradley. But unless Castillo suffers a setback or another injury intervenes, the Sox will presumably need to decide whether to option him or Betts, or instead to strike a deal to move one of Craig, Nava, or Victorino.
Many players grow up as fans of the game, but once they sign with a pro team, the nature of their fandom changes, FanGraphs’ David Laurila writes. “Once you sign a contract, you have a team of your own,” says Orioles reliever T.J. McFarland, who grew up a fan of the White Sox. “My family still roots for the White Sox, but I went from being a fan to an employee – an actual worker – within the profession.” Of course, the associations they had with veteran players they rooted for as kids don’t just disappear. McFarland says he took pride in playing opposite Mark Buehrle and Paul Konerko, and says he found it “surreal” when he faced Derek Jeter. Here’s more from throughout the league.
- Earlier today, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported that the Yankees had come closer than any other team to acquiring Phillies star Cole Hamels. If that’s true, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes, that might mean the Phillies haven’t come close to dealing Hamels to any team, because the two sides have not had discussions recently and never were near a deal. The Phillies are fans of Yankees prospects Luis Severino and Aaron Judge, but the Yankees likely don’t want to trade Severino in a Hamels deal. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have refused to deal Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart for Hamels. The Rangers are another possibility, but they too appear disinclined to trade their top prospects, including Joey Gallo and Jorge Alfaro.
- Cliff Lee‘s recent bout of elbow soreness demonstrates the risk the Phillies are taking with Hamels, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. Each time Hamels pitches, he could get injured, causing his trade value to decrease or simply vanish.
- It’s wise to be skeptical of reports suggesting Cuban infielder Hector Olivera will get $70MM or more, FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel writes. That says more about Olivera’s representative Rudy Santin’s use of the media than about Olivera’s actual market. Finding comparables for a Cuban player with no MLB experience is difficult, so it’s hard for the U.S. media to be appropriately skeptical of reported offers for a player like Olivera, McDaniel argues. McDaniel says he would be surprised if Olivera topped $50MM.
The Red Sox shouldn’t be in any rush to trade Allen Craig, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. Craig gives them depth at first base, DH, and both outfield corners, all positions where the Sox have injury and age concerns. He’s not an obvious fit for the Red Sox’ lineup right now, but after a miserable stretch run (Craig hit .128/.234/.191 in 107 plate appearances after Boston acquired him), he doesn’t have trade value either, so it would be best for the team to wait before dealing him. Here’s more from the American League.
- It’s not often wise for players to represent themselves, but Angels reliever Huston Street is an exception, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. Street, who is about to exchange extension figures with the Angels, is a real-estate investor in Austin who’s capable of handling contract negotiations. (If Street hits the free-agent market next winter, though, he’ll trust Austin lawyer Bill Stapleton to represent him.) “There’s mutual interest,” Angels GM Jerry Dipoto says regarding extension talks. “He understands where we are, and we understand where he is. He’s a big part of what we’re doing. But it’s not going to happen today or tomorrow.”
- White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija is trying not to focus on his impending free agency, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports. “When you step back and look at your situation from afar, it’s a pretty intense situation with a lot on the line,” says Samardzija. “But … I like to think what I demand of myself each time out is more pressure than what a contract or what situation my career is in (can bring).” The White Sox hope to retain Samardzija, but it doesn’t appear that any extension is imminent.
The Rangers have an insurance policy on Yu Darvish and could recoup more than half of his $10MM salary if he undergoes Tommy John surgery and misses the year, reports Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News. The Rangers could use the insurance proceeds to add payroll. The policy’s total value to the club, however, is dependent on when the clock begins on the deductible. Grant notes the Rangers could make a case that this injury is a recurrence of the elbow problems Darvish suffered last year sidelining him for the final 50 days of the 2014 season.
Elsewhere in the American League:
- Darvish’s injury is not just a blow to the Rangers, but to all of baseball, opines CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman.
- Rick Porcello told reporters, including Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal (via Twitter), he has not had extension talks with the Red Sox this spring and does not expect to have any.
- The Indians and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber have not made any progress in negotiating a contract extension, writes Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Kluber is a pre-arbitration eligible player and Wednesday is the deadline for signing such players. If a deal cannot be reached, teams can renew the contracts of those players at their discretion, usually for a fraction above the MLB minimum of $507.5K. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently provided a primer on understanding pre-arbitration salaries.
- In a separate article, Hoynes chronicles how the Indians have re-built their farm system through the draft (especially their willingness to select high-upside high schoolers rather than college players), trades, and international free agent signings.
- Royals GM Dayton Moore told reporters, including MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan right-hander Chris Young, who the club signed yesterday, will make the team and pitch out of the bullpen. Flanagan notes, in a second article, the Royals have discussed keeping eight relievers and, if so, will have several contenders battling for just one spot.
- Evan Gattis has had two months to reflect upon his trade to Astros and still has mixed feelings, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The negative is that there’s a good fan base in Atlanta, I felt loved there,” Gattis said. “The positives are that I’m in the American League, I might be a little more durable; I’m going to try to have a healthy season. And I’m in Texas, stoked about that. So yeah, positives and negatives.“
Drew Smyly has been slowed by shoulder tendinitis this spring and may not be ready for the start of the regular season, but Rays manager Kevin Cash isn’t about to panic, Roger Mooney of The Tampa Tribune writes. Meanwhile, Nathan Karns, Burch Smith and Matt Andriese, who began camp competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, could be pitching for a second spot, if Smyly isn’t ready.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Orioles GM Dan Duquette sent his best starting pitching prospect, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, to the Red Sox in order to land Andrew Miller last season. If he had his druthers, that’s not neccessarily the deal he would have made, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes. “I offered about 50 other pitchers before him,” said Duquette. “It was required that we give up Rodriguez for Andrew Miller. We had to take a shot.” O’s manager Buck Showalter thought the deal was worth it for both teams, but Silverman wonders if Rodriguez could prove to be the next great ace in Boston.
- CC Sabathia threw live batting practice this morning and remains on track in his recovery from right knee surgery, reports MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. “I haven’t had a setback and I’ve been feeling so good,” Sabathia said. “I’ve been able to participate in every drill and haven’t had where I’ve needed a day [off]. I feel good about how we’re going and the pace that we’re moving at.” The Yankees left-hander could make his Grapefruit League debut next week, if an upcoming two-inning simulated game goes well.
- The Red Sox‘s decision to play Hanley Ramirez in left field is the biggest gamble a team is taking on a position switch, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
- The AL East is wide open for the taking by any of the five teams, not because of its strength but because of its mediocrity, opines CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam. “I never thought I’d say this,” one talent evaluator told McAdam, “but you could make the case that the AL East is the thinnest division in the game.“
A number of Orioles players worked temporary jobs in the offseason when they were minor-leaguers, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. Caleb Joseph rode a scooter to deliver packages for UPS, Darren O’Day worked as a bouncer (wearing five T-shirts one on top of the other to look more intimidating, he says), and Miguel Gonzalez worked early mornings in a grocery store stocking shelves. Minor-league salaries are, for the most part, very low. “We could always order fast food because fast-food restaurants would be the only thing open after the game and guys would stand by the cash register and ask for your change,” O’Day says of some of his old teammates in the Angels system. “You’d give them two dimes and a nickel, whatever you got back, and after we all ordered, they would go to the back of the line and order whatever they could with the change. You don’t make a lot of money.” Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- The Mets are gambling on Wilmer Flores, who played no shortstop at all in the minors in 2012 or 2013, as their starting shortstop next year, and they aren’t the only team hoping a position change works out, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Across town, the Yankees are hoping Stephen Drew works out at second base. In Boston, Hanley Ramirez is trying his hand at the outfield, although he could eventually wind up at designated hitter when David Ortiz departs.
- The Red Sox still aren’t quite sure what they have in outfielder Rusney Castillo, but the early returns are promising, and Castillo himself is trying to look forward despite the twisting path he took to the big leagues, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes. “Obviously, it goes without saying that leaving family behind is very difficult,” says Castillo. “But once I made the decision, at least for me personally, I didn’t look back. No regrets. It was easy for me to turn the page.” The Red Sox signed Castillo last August after he defected from Cuba the previous November, and he made his way to the Majors by the end of the season. Now, though, as he deals with an oblique strain, he says he isn’t worried about whether the Red Sox have him start the season in the big leagues or in the minors. “If that’s what it’s got to be, that’s what it’s got to be. I’m just worrying playing and continuing to get reps and reps wherever they may come,” he says.
Hector Olivera‘s newly-reported free agency could make for an interesting weekend. While we await further word on his market, let’s have a look at a few stray links to round out the evening:
- The Giants do not appear to have interest in pursuing a trade for Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig to fill in for the injured Hunter Pence, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. While that could change if the asking price is “oddly low,” per Heyman, San Francisco is not inclined to make a move of that magnitude with Pence expected to return around the first of May. While a prior report had suggested the possibility of a Craig acquisition, the team would have no apparent role for him upon Pence’s return.
- Alex Speier of the Boston Globe takes a close look at the evolving ownership and leadership situation with the Red Sox — and, in particular, Fenway Sports Group part-owner and president Michael Gordon. Though some speculated that Gordon was attempting to build his influence over the ballclub as he gained control of the second-largest stake of the FSG umbrella entity, Speier explains that the notion of a power struggle in Boston is just not true.
- Displaced Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is enjoying his “respite” from the decisionmaking seat, as Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times writes in a fascinating look at the former top baseball man in Los Angeles. Now working as a senior advisor to club president Stan Kasten — who actually extended his contract through 2016 — Colletti says that he is enjoying a more grass-roots role than he could ever have hoped to play in the GM position. At the same time, he indicated that he does not intend to slowly ease out of the game. “The song isn’t over,” says Colletti. “It is just a pause.”
- Addressing the facially odd decision of lefty Phil Coke to take a minor league deal with the Cubs rather than a reported MLB deal elsewhere, CJ Nitkowski of FOX Sports says it is all about opportunity. Nitkowski says that he, too, made the decision to take a better opportunity on a non-guaranteed deal, though in his case it did not work out as hoped.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league, all via the Twitter account of Baseball America’s Matt Eddy …
- First baseman Mat Gamel will make another attempt at a comeback, this time with the Yankees, Eddy tweets. Now 29, the former Brewers prospect had been set to try for a return last year with the Braves, but was released after yet another knee injury. Gamel has not had a full season of action since 2011, when he was productive at Triple-A.
- Righty Chris Carpenter has inked a minor league pact with the Reds, per Eddy. The 29-year-old worked to a 4.73 ERA over 32 1/3 innings in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league last year. He has spent time with the Cubs and Red Sox previously, briefly cracking the bigs in both 2011 and 2012.
- After being released in late February, backstop Ali Solis has re-signed with the Dodgers, according to Eddy. The 27-year-old has just 11 MLB plate appearances to his name, and owns a .237/.266/.337 line in 404 Triple-A plate appearances.
- The Red Sox have signed veteran infielder/outfielder Joe Thurston to a minor league deal, tweets Eddy. The 35-year-old has a bit of big league experience, most of which came with the 2009 Cardinals when he hit .225/.316/.330 in 307 plate appearances. Thurston has spent the past two seasons playing in the Mexican League and the independent Atlantic League. He has a career .292/.356/.429 batting line in parts of 12 Triple-A seasons.
Rusney Castillo‘s strained oblique may cause him to miss a bit of Spring Training time, yet the injury isn’t considered to be particularly serious. Still, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford posits that this setback might convince the Red Sox to give Castillo some extra minor league preparation time at the start of the season and give the center field job to Mookie Betts. Castillo told Bradford that he would be open to being in the minors if the team felt it necessary, and his long-term contract makes him secure about his role in Boston’s plans. “Of course there is a degree of comfort in that that I’m going be here for a while,” Castillo said. “At the same time, if you don’t want to be in the minor leagues ramp it up and work harder to not be there.”
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette spoke to reporters (including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko) about the team’s release of Suk-min Yoon earlier today and Yoon’s subsequent return to the KBO’s Kia Tigers. Duquette confirmed that Yoon gave up the $4.15MM still owed to him under the Orioles contract in order to make the deal happen. “The good part of this is that this didn’t work, but we were able to correct the mistake, if you will, and we have that money available to invest in other players,” Duquette said.
- After a tumultuous year that has included Tommy John surgery, being drafted by the Blue Jays and then mentioned in trade rumors to acquire Duquette as Toronto’s new team president, Jeff Hoffman tells Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi that he is looking forward to just “putting on a uniform again” once he’s finished his rehab work. Hoffman provides a progress report on his recovery from his surgery last May.
- After years of struggling to find reliable left-handed relievers, the Yankees look to have solved the problem with Andrew Miller, Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson all in the fold, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Ironically, this comes at a time when there are only a few standout left-handed hitters amongst the Yankees’ AL East rivals, Sherman notes.