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Per the latest iteration of Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, players with six years of service time who finished the 2014 season on a 40-man roster or on the 60-day DL but signed Minor League deals over the offseason are entitled to a $100K retention bonus if their new team wishes to assign them to the Minor Leagues. Otherwise, they must be added to the MLB roster or Major League disabled list. Players who do receive the retention bonus are also given June 1 opt-out dates in their Minor League pacts.
MLBTR’s Jeff Todd ran down a list of this year’s Article XX(B) free agents earlier in the month, and we’re now arriving at the juncture of Spring Training where decisions must be made on these players — the deadline will come at 11am CT tomorrow. Many such players have already been released or granted their release today (some will re-sign with the teams that released them, as Chris Perez did in Milwaukee), but here are updates on players who were paid this bonus or learned that they’ve made their respective teams…
- Yahoo’s Jeff Passan tweets that utility man Kelly Johnson has made the Braves‘ 25-man roster. Johnson inked a Minor League pact that included a yet-unreported base salary. His versatility, the organization’s familiarity with him and the fact that the 32-year-old slashed a hefty .273/.396/.523 with a pair of homers in 54 plate appearances this spring likely all factored into the decision.
- The Nationals will pay left-hander Rich Hill the $100K retention bonus, tweets James Wagner of the Washington Post. The 35-year-old yielded a pair of runs in 7 1/3 innings this spring and will give the Nats some left-handed relief depth. Of course, the Nats also just traded away some lefty relief by dealing out-of-options southpaw Jerry Blevins and his $2.4MM salary to the Mets.
- Padres catcher Wil Nieves has received a $100K retention bonus, tweets Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Nieves is still in the running for the team’s backup catching slot, Lin adds. Tim Federowicz was slated to be the team’s backup, but knee surgery has sidelined him for the next several months. The team must make a final call by this Sunday.
- The D-Backs and catcher Gerald Laird and agreed to a five-day extension that will allow him to remain in big league camp, reports Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona (on Twitter). Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic adds some clarity, noting that Laird still received the $100K retention bonus but will have the opportunity to fight for a roster spot (Twitter link). The five days will give the Snakes a bit more time to determine whether or not they want to take the veteran Laird north with them to open the season.
- The Blue Jays have paid the $100K retention bonus to both Johan Santana and Munenori Kawasaki, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Both players were on Minor League deals, but Santana didn’t get into a game with the big league club as he continued to rehab from injury. Kawasaki hit .333/.481/.571 in 27 plate appearances but didn’t make the big league roster. He’ll head to Triple-A and wait for a call to the Majors in an organization with which he is quite familiar and where he is quite popular among the coaches and his teammates.
- Right-handers Brad Penny and Jesse Crain both received retention bonuses from the White Sox, Passan also reports (on Twitter). The duo will remain in the Minors in the hopes of a spot opening with the big league club. Penny struggled to a 6.89 ERA in 15 2/3 innings this spring, though little can be gleaned from such a small sample, and he did issue only four walks along the way. Crain, like his former Twins teammate Santana in Toronto, didn’t pitch in a big league game as he continued to rehab from injuries that cost him the entire 2014 season in Houston.
- Both Geovany Soto and Matt Albers, on the other hand, have made the White Sox‘ roster and will be added to the 40-man, Passan reports in the aforementioned tweet. Presumably, Soto will be in the mix for everyday at-bats behind the plate following a strong spring performance. Albers will slot into the bullpen and bring an experienced arm to serve as a right-handed setup option. Soto’s base salary is an unknown, wheres Albers stands to reportedly receive a $1.5MM base for making the club.
White Sox Executive Vice President Kenny Williams was included in the Blue Jays executive search, recalls Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. However, he’s happy with his current post. While he misses trade talks and the other daily duties of a GM, he now has more flexibility in his schedule. Williams has the final say in personnel decisions, but he doesn’t have to manage the day-to-day operations. That duty falls to GM Rick Hahn.
Here’s more from Chicago’s south side:
- NRI Brad Penny will earn $100K if he is assigned to Triple-A, tweets Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. Penny, 36, appeared in eight games for the Marlins last season, including four starts. His last full season was in 2009. He has a 4.29 ERA, 5.95 K/9, and 2.89 BB/9 in 1,925 career innings.
- The Sox have a history of building cheap bullpens under the current leadership, but they reversed course for the 2015 season, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. The club didn’t have a good bullpen plan entering last season, and it showed in the results. Per manager Robin Ventura, “when you’re not confident in the seventh, eighth and ninth, it just deflates your team. If you blow it late, and if they don’t feel that they can win consistently, it just sucks the life out of them.” The new look relief corps, which includes David Robertson and Zach Duke, should do a much better job maintaining late game leads. The White Sox blew 21 saves last season.
- Chicago liked that Robertson succeeded with the Yankees after Mariano Rivera‘s retirement, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. His ability to thrive on the biggest stage helped the club to make a pricey multi-year commitment to Robertson. The Yankees were also interested in re-signing him, but didn’t want to go as high as the Sox. Instead, New York was able to sign Andrew Miller for slightly less and net a compensation draft pick.
Here’s the latest from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:
- The Orioles are open to trading Brian Matusz, but the Mets, who just lost fellow lefty Josh Edgin to injury, might not be interested. Rosenthal writes that Matusz’s $3.2MM salary and additional year of arbitration eligibility might be an issue to potential trade partners. That might say more about those teams’ situations than it says about Matusz, however — the Orioles are only on the hook for that money because they chose to tender Matusz this winter, then settled with him. And, of course, the team that controls Matusz would be able to non-tender him next offseason if it wanted. $3.2MM isn’t a bargain for Matusz, but it’s reasonable. Nonetheless, Rosenthal indicates that the Orioles are willing to include cash in a Matusz trade. Matusz has been a reliable member of the Orioles’ bullpen the last two seasons, posting a 3.48 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 51 2/3 innings in 2014.
- With Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez in the big leagues and Francisco Lindor and fellow shortstop Erik Gonzalez on the way, the Indians could soon have a wealth of middle-infield talent from which to trade, Rosenthal writes. They could, at some point, trade a young middle infielder (more likely Ramirez or Gonzalez than Kipnis or Lindor, presumably) for a young pitcher.
- White Sox pitcher Brad Penny nearly signed with the team last year, but chose the Marlins instead. This offseason, he picked Chicago because of a connection to White Sox assistant GM Buddy Bell that dates back to 1999, when Bell managed Penny in the Pan Am Games.
Last year, Zach Duke and Pat Neshek both entered Spring Training as non-roster invitees and parlayed their outstanding 2014 seasons into multi-year free agent contracts (three years, $15MM for Duke and two years, $12.5MM for Neshek). Who will be the NRIs to watch this spring? Andrew Simon for Sports on Earth tabs White Sox reliever Jesse Crain as the most intriguing NRI citing positive reports as he recovers from his 2013 biceps surgery, which has forced him to the sidelines for the past 20 months. If Crain can return to the form he showed in his previous stint with the White Sox (2011-13) where he pitched to a 2.10 ERA, 10.6 K/9, and 3.9 BB/9 in 150 innings covering 376 games, Simon believes the 33-year-old could assume a prominent role in the White Sox bullpen.
In other news and notes from the AL Central:
- Yoenis Cespedes told reporters, including Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links), he can see himself playing for the Tigers long-term. “I would like to be in a Tigers uniform for a lot of years,” Cespedes said through his translator. “This is a good team now and will be for a lot of years to come.” Cespedes added he does not know whether his agent and the Tigers have engaged in extension talks.
- Corey Kluber, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, is not concerning himself with the lack of movement on a contract extension, according to Zack Meisel of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. “It’s not for me to worry about,” said Kluber, who is slated to earn near the MLB minimum. “I’d rather just talk about pitching and not contract stuff.“
- Royals reliever Luke Hochevar blew out his elbow last spring with a curveball, but has been throwing the pitch in his bullpen sessions, writes MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. “It’s not like you’re scared when you start spinning curves again,” Hochevar said. “You know your elbow is fixed. But still you think about it. You have to sort of stare down your demons.” Hochevar will face hitters for the first time off a mount tomorrow.
- Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer are two former top prospects who are poised for a breakout 2015, opines MLB.com’s Michael Clair.
- Earlier today, we learned of the passing of White Sox legend Minnie Minoso. Dayn Perry of CBSSports.com and MLB.com’s Phil Rogers both pay tribute to “Mr. White Sox” while Hayes and MLB.com’s Scott Merkin chronicle the reaction of White Sox players.
The White Sox have signed righty Brad Penny to a minor league contract, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter links). The 36-year-old righty will look to continue his comeback with one of this offseason’s most aggressive teams.
Penny will have a chance to compete for a rotation spot this spring, Cotillo adds, though it would appear to be a longshot for him to earn a regular spot on a club that has declared its intentions to win now. Depth never hurts, of course, though another signing by the White Sox probably cannot be ruled out.
After a failed try in the spring with the Royals, Penny joined the Marlins late last year. His addition coincided with the departure of Jacob Turner, an odd move at the time and in retrospect. Penny threw 26 innings for the Fish over four starts and four relief appearances, posting a 6.58 ERA with both 4.5 strikeouts and walks per nine. ERA estimators painted a slightly better picture, but all saw him as well below average.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the game:
- The Diamondbacks have outrighted Andy Marte to Triple-A, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Marte was designated for assignment on August 7.
- The Rockies have outrighted Jason Pridie to Triple-A. Pridie was designated for assignment on August 6.
- Diamondbacks farmhand Michael Lee has been traded to the Blue Jays and assigned to Double-A, according to the PCL’s transactions page. This season, the 27-year-old righty mostly worked out of the Diamondbacks Double-A rotation, where he compiled 4.49 ERA, 5.26 K/9, and 2.50 BB/9 over 104 innings and one-third innings. He also made two similarly effective starts in Triple-A. No word on what Arizona received in return.
- Righty Matt Daley was has been outrighted by the Yankees, per the International League transactions page. Daley had been designated for assignment yesterday, and apparently went right onto waivers.
- Catcher Chris Gimenez of the Rangers has cleared outright waivers and is at least exploring the possibility of electing free agency, according to a tweet from Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. If he does hit the open market, the Rays would have interest, says Topkin.
- The Yankees have re-signed infielder Scott Sizemore to a minor league deal, reports MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (via Twitter). He will go right onto the Triple-A disabled list. The 29-year-old, who has not seen significant MLB action since 2011, was released just over a week ago by New York.
- Reliever David Carpenter has accepted an outright assignment with the Angels rather than electing free agency, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 26-year-old righty — not to be confused with the Braves pitcher of the same name — was designated for assignment a week ago today. Over 49 Triple-A innings this year, Carpenter has a 2.20 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9.
- The Yankees have announced that they’ve unconditionally released infielder Brian Roberts, who they designated for assignment at the end of July. The Yankees also placed catcher Brian McCann on the 7-day concussion DL and recalled Austin Romine to take his place on the active roster. The Yankees signed Roberts to a one-year, $2MM deal before the season, but he hit just .237/.300/.360 in 348 plate appearances with them.
- The Marlins have selected Brad Penny‘s contract, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Penny will start tonight against Alfredo Simon and the Reds. Penny is ultimately replacing Jacob Turner on the roster (although, officially, the Marlins cleared space for Penny by optioning Edgar Olmos to Triple-A New Orleans). As MLBTR’s Steve Adams points out, it’s questionable whether Penny will be better than Turner in the short term, even before considering the years of control Turner has left. Penny did pitch well in five Triple-A starts, however. Tonight will be his first big-league appearance since 2012, and his first appearance with the Marlins since 2004.
Brad Johnson contributed to this post
The Marlins announced today that Kevin Gregg‘s season is over, as the 36-year-old right-hander will undergo surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. The Fish inked Gregg to a minor league deal back in early June and guaranteed him a base salary that was roughly equivalent to the value of the Competitive Balance pick they traded to the Pirates for fellow righty Bryan Morris. While the Morris acquisition has paid off in spades — he’s allowed one earned run in 31 1/3 innings — the decision to essentially reallocate that money to Gregg didn’t work out anywhere near as nicely. Gregg allowed 10 runs in nine innings with Miami before hitting the DL last month.
Here’s more on the Marlins and the rest of the NL East…
- The Marlins‘ decision to designate former top prospect Jacob Turner for assignment raised some eyebrows, and MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tries to shed some light on the rationale behind the move. Having tried Turner in both the rotation and the bullpen, Frisaro writes, the Marlins lost patience with his struggles. Wanting to change up their roster with the faint hope of a playoff push still in their minds, the club designated the out-of-options righty to clear roster space for Brian Flynn. However, Frisaro writes that it will likely end up being Brad Penny that takes Turner’s roster spot. While Penny has excelled in five Triple-A starts with the Marlins, it’s tough to buy the idea that a veteran who hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2012 and posted a 5.41 ERA from 2011-12 is a more viable alternative based on 27 2/3 Triple-A innings. Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus give the Marlins a 4.6 percent shot at making the playoffs (via division title or wild card), and the notion that Penny increases those odds enough to justify parting with four years of team control over Turner is a tough sell in my mind.
- Disagreeing with an earlier piece from colleague Rob Neyer, Dave Cameron writes that the Phillies should have traded Cole Hamels prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. While much has been made of the fact that the Phillies don’t need to shed salary, Cameron notes that the salary saved on Hamels could have been reallocated to the free agent market (one that will be filled with high-end pitchers) to acquire immediate help. Those free agents could’ve paired with potential MLB-ready help to improve the club’s immediate future. Cameron also cautions against the notion that Hamels can help the next contending team in Philadelphia, as the club looks to be far away from contention, and there’s little guarantee when it comes to pitchers — even elite ones — sustaining their success into their 30s.
- Nationals manager Matt Williams sounded off to reporters, including MLB.com’s Daniel Popper, expressing his anger over the fact that some had inferred from Williams’ comments on a radio station that Bryce Harper could be sent to the minor leagues. In a Wednesday morning radio appearance, Williams was asked if it was a stupid idea to suggest that Harper could be demoted for a week to fix his swing. Williams responded by saying it wasn’t stupid — as such tactics are often employed with struggling young talent — but quickly followed by saying that Harper’s situation was different because he is a “special young player.” In talking with reporters Wednesday evening, Williams vented a bit, stating: “It [ticks] me off to even think about the fact that somebody would take a comment that I make on the radio and infer that I am thinking one way or another. I’ve had it. … [Harper]’s a very important part of our team, just like everybody else is. Do we understand each other? It’s not fair to the kid. It’s not fair to the rest of the clubhouse to even think about sending Bryce Harper to the Minor Leagues or to cause a stir. It’s unacceptable. It won’t happen.”
The Marlins were tied for first place in the NL East on June 8, but have posted an 11-20 record since and have fallen to fourth place, 7.5 games behind the Braves and Nationals. Before losing their fourth in a row, Marlins President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill held court with reporters at Citi Field:
- The Marlins are in the market for starting pitching, but want controllable arms. “A rental, it may help you in the short term,” Hill said (as quoted by MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro). “We want something we can move forward with. I think that will definitely influence the direction we go.“
- Hill added (also quoted by Frisaro) putting a premium on team control is part of the franchise’s philosophy, “We’re never [shortsighted] with anything that we do. There is always an eye on the present. We never lose sight of the future and what we’re trying to build. We want to build sustained winning here. We do control all of our roster, for the most part.“
- Failing to swing a trade, internal rotation options include Jacob Turner and Brad Penny, who was promoted recently to Triple-A after signing a minor league deal last month, reports the Miami Herald’s Manny Navarro.
- The search for rotation reinforcements does not signal a lack of faith in the Marlins’ young arms, including Anthony DeSclafani and Andrew Heaney. “We have the people to do the job,” Hill explained (as quoted by Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel). “We’ve had varied success. Some of our young starters have shown their youth and we’ll always try to do what’s in the best interest of our players. If DeSclafani needs more seasoning we’re going to give him that. If the decision is Heaney needs more seasoning, we’re going to give him that, but we still have all the faith in the world in our young players.“
- The Marlins are also looking to fill the void at second base created last month when Rafael Furcal landed on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. “We thought he would be that speed/leadoff player for us,” said Hill (also quoted by Rodriguez). “Injuries have prevented him from doing that. That’s still a part of our team that’s missing and we feel we would like to have, whatever form or shape that comes in.“
- Hill expects to sign the two remaining holdouts among their top top ten picks (seventh-round shortstop Anfernee Seymour and 10th-round left-hander Dillon Peters) prior to Friday’s deadline, per Navarro.
- There isn’t any reason for the Mets to fire GM Sandy Alderson or manager Terry Collins since such moves would only prolong the club’s rebuilding process, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post opines. While the Mets are on pace for another losing, the team is in good shape for the future with young talent on the rise and Chris Young‘s contract seems to be the only true mistake on the current roster.
- Nationals lefty Ross Detwiler could be a trade target for teams looking to add rotation help, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Detwiler “could start for most” teams, as Heyman notes, and the southpaw has had trouble finding a spot in Washington’s deep rotation despite some good career numbers. Detwiler currently has a 4.00 ERA, 1.29 K/BB rate and 5.5 K/9 in 36 relief innings for the Nats, and he’s had control issues, as his 4.3 BB/9 is markedly up from his 2.6 BB/9 over the previous three seasons.
- Brad Penny and Marlins GM Dan Jennings talk to Greg Stoda of the Palm Beach Post about Penny’s minor league comeback attempt and why Miami brought Penny back to his original franchise.
- The impending trade of minor league right-hander Andrew Robinson from the Astros to the Braves is taking an unusually long time to complete for a move outside the 40-man roster, which makes MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo think Robinson could be part of a larger transaction between the two clubs. Cotillo makes it clear that he is just speculating, however.
The Marlins have agreed to a minor league deal with pitcher Brad Penny, reports Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald (Twitter links). Penny is represented by Jonathan Maurer and Millenium Sports Management.
If the 36-year-old righty can return to the big leagues, he will make a prorated $800K salary. Should he not receive a call-up by July 31, he will be able to exercise an opt-out clause, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Cotillo adds that the incentives could drive the deal into seven figures.
Penny started a comeback attempt with the Royals over the spring, but he and Kansas City reportedly agreed to a release when it became clear that he would not make the team’s Opening Day Roster. In four Spring Training frames, Penny allowed 13 hits (including two long balls) and seven earned runs.
Of course, Penny started his career with the then-Florida Marlins back in 2000. At his best, in 2007 with the Dodgers, Penny tossed 208 innings of 3.03 ERA ball. He last featured as a starter in the bigs in 2011, working to a 5.30 ERA in 181 2/3 frames. Penny threw 28 innings out of the bullpen for the Giants in 2012, posting a 6.11 ERA and striking out only 3.2 batters per nine innings.