Brady Aiken Rumors

AL West Notes: Manager Searches, Aiken, Astros

A pair of AL West teams are without permanent managers at the moment, following the Astros‘ firing of Bo Porter and Ron Washington’s abrupt an unexpected resignation from his post with the Rangers. Some new candidates are emerging for the positions, as Mike DiGiovanna tweets that Angels bench coach Dino Ebel is a candidate to fill the void in Houston. Meanwhile, the Orange County Register’s Jeff Fletcher tweets that Rangers first base coach and former big league catcher Bengie Molina is a candidate for both managerial openings. Molina would continue a growing trend of recent big league backstops becoming managers, following in the footsteps of Mike Matheny (Cardinals), Mike Redmond (Marlins) and Brad Ausmus (Tigers).

Here’s more out of the AL West…

  • Angels manager Mike Scioscia spoke highly of Ebel and Molina as future managers to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. Of Ebel, he said, “He’s always been an incredible teacher, has a great passion … There’s no doubt that someday he’s going to be a terrific manager.” He offered similar praise for Molina, who served as Scioscia’s catcher when the Halos won the World Series in 2002: “…just has an incredible way of connecting with people, has a great understanding of the pitcher-catcher relationship, understands the offensive part, and I know he’ll eventually get an opportunity.”
  • Josh Hamilton spoke with Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News regarding Washington’s resignation and had nothing but praise and well wishes for his former skipper. “He was always very enthusiastic, always on your side and encouraging, so you always want to play for a guy like that.”
  • Commissioner Bud Selig fielded a question on recent rumors that the Astros could still sign Brady Aiken when speaking to reporters, including the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich (Twitter links). Selig himself may have fueled some speculation with recent comments to the San Diego media, but that sounds inadvertent based on his response: “I didn’t mean to create confusion although I guess Ive been known to do that,” said Selig. Drellich notes that it remains “very, very unlikely” that Houston would be allowed to sign Aiken.
  • Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus examines the theory that the culture of losing could have long-term negative impacts on the talent the Astros have already promoted to the Major Leagues. Using an adapted Cox Regression model, Carleton concludes that a player is seven or eight percent more likely to flame out after spending three years in a losing environment. However, he concludes that while the end result may be one extra player flaming out, the Astros could likely recoup that value via the extra money they’ve been garnering in the draft and international signing arenas by the virtue of the poor records. While there could be negative effects, Carleton writes, fixing them likely isn’t worth it from a mathematical standpoint.

Latest On Astros And Brady Aiken, Jacob Nix

AUG. 27, 4:51pm: The Astros are highly unlikely to be afforded any chance to sign Aiken, a source tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The source also expressed the belief that Selig must have been referring to Nix.

Given the present state of confusion, it should be noted that Aiken could at least theoretically be seeking to receive some accommodation from the league that would not be directly tied to Houston’s own rights, obligations, and interests moving forward. That hypothetical possibility would potentially square reports that the club is not talking with the first overall choice with Selig’s comment that a “solution” of some kind is being pursued.

4:03pm: There are no current discussions between the Astros and Aiken, according to a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. On the other hand, Houston is working to reach agreement on some sort of deal with Nix before his grievance hearing, Heyman says.

Heyman suggests that Selig may have misunderstood the question he was asked — which referred specifically to Aiken — when he said that some “solution” to the Aiken situation was in the works. On the other hand, it is worth noting that Selig said no grievance action had been filed, which is (so far as has been reported) true with respect to Aiken but not Nix.

2:35pm: Commissioner Bud Selig was in San Diego yesterday for the opening of the Padres’ Hall of Fame plaza — named Selig Plaza — and was asked by Jennifer Jensen of 10 News whether or not Aiken had been granted an extension on his signing window:

“We’re working on that right now. There are a lot of things in movement there so it would be inappropriate for me to comment, but I would say we are working towards a hopeful solution.”

Asked a second time, Selig again refused to confirm or deny that an extension had been granted, but he repeated that they are “working toward a solution.” Selig did reveal that no grievance has been filed yet by Aiken’s camp. While his comments are somewhat vague, the commissioner did not shoot down the possibility that Aiken could still reach a deal with the Astros. As Jim Callis of Baseball America points out (on Twitter), it seems fair to assume that the other 29 teams in the league would be none too pleased to see Aiken strike a deal with Houston well beyond the signing deadline.

AUG. 21, 11:46am: “There’s nothing to report, nothing going on there,” Astros owner Jim Crane tells Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston (Twitter link) in regards to a possible Aiken deal.

11:25am: The Astros could still end up signing first overall draft pick Brady Aiken, and “the expectation from those close to the negotiation” is that the two sides will reach an agreement around the time of Jacob Nix‘s grievance hearing, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel reports (Twitter links).  The MLBPA filed the grievance on Nix’s behalf last month, and the hearing will reportedly be held during the offseason.

As McDaniel puts it, the possibility of Aiken inking a deal beyond the July 18th deadline for signing draft picks is an “MLB’s discretion situation.”  It had been presumed that Houston had forfeited their right to sign Aiken (plus Nix and 21st-rounder Mac Marshall) when they couldn’t reach agreements with any of the players by July 18th.  In failing to sign Aiken, the Astros received the second overall pick in the 2015 draft as compensation.

Aiken had a verbal agreement in place with the Astros just a few days after he was selected as the #1 pick in the 2014 draft, but no official deal was finalized due to the team’s concerns over Aiken’s unusually small UCL, a detail discovered during a post-draft physical.  This led Houston to drop their offer from the agreed-upon $6.5MM bonus (which was already over $1.4MM below the assigned slot price of the first overall pick) to $5MM.  This set off a chain reaction that caused the Astros to pull their $1.5MM agreement with Nix off the table, as signing Nix at that price would’ve put the Astros over their draft pool limit and put them in danger of facing penalties such as the loss of two future first-round picks.

Needless to say, it would be surprising to see Aiken wind up wearing Astros orange given the harsh words that Casey Close (the agent for both Aiken and Nix) had for the organization and GM Jeff Luhnow in the wake of the controversy.  As it stands, Aiken would have to either attend a junior college and re-enter the draft next year or commit to a college and not be able to turn pro for three more years.  It’s possible the high schooler is simply eager to begin his professional career and/or wants some financial security now, given that anything could happen to lower his stock over the next 1-3 years.

For the Astros, signing Aiken would help the team save face after it was widely criticized for its handling of the situation.  Aiken has until September 1 to file a grievance himself, though that deadline could be extended.


West Notes: Dodgers, Aiken, Padres, Posey, Angels

The Dodgers will change their Triple-A affiliation from Albuquerque to the Oklahoma City RedHawks next season, Michael Baldwin of the Oklahoman reports. Oklahoma City is currently affiliated with the Astros. Mandalay Baseball Properties will reportedly sell the RedHawks to a group tied to the Dodgers for a sum in the $22MM to $28MM range. Baldwin writes that the Dodgers are trying to get out of Albuquerque, a difficult environment in which to evaluate prospects because its park is so favorable to hitters. The move is part of what could be a big shakeup in the Pacific Coast League, with the Athletics also moving from Sacramento to Nashville (currently a Brewers affiliate) and the Giants moving from Fresno to Sacramento. It’s unclear where the Astros and Brewers will end up in such a scenario. Here’s more from the West divisions.

  • Brady Aiken may have selected a junior college after being selected first overall and then going unsigned in a dispute with the Astros, MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets. Aiken could end up at Yavapai JC in Arizona, which has helped develop future big-leaguers like Curt Schilling, Kole Calhoun, Bob Milacki, Billy Hatcher and Kyle Blanks.
  • Carlos Quentin is likely “on his way out” with the Padres, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes in a recent chat. Quentin is under contract for $8MM in 2015, but the Padres likely won’t want to keep him, given his struggles to stay healthy. (What they might do with him is a different question — it’s hard to imagine Quentin having much trade value, given that he’s hit poorly in limited action this season.) Seth Smith and Rymer Liriano are the only near-locks for spots in the San Diego outfield next year, Lin writes.
  • With Andrew Susac emerging as a potential starting option at catcher and Buster Posey showing signs of wear, the Giants might consider moving Posey to a new position in the future, Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News writes. The Giants have no plans to move Posey at this time, however. If Posey does eventually move, he will probably move to first base.
  • With Garrett Richards out for the rest of the season, the Angels will presumably be looking for pitching, and Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com has a list of pitchers who might be available. Given the obstacles to making August trades, perhaps it’s no surprise that it isn’t an incredibly inspiring list, with some of the better options possibly being either unwilling to play for the Angels (A.J. Burnett, who can block trades to West Coast teams) or unlikely to make it all the way to them on waivers (Mat Latos).


Grievance Against Astros Focused On Nix, Not Aiken

Last month, the Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance against the Astros regarding their practices in this year’s draft, but while previous reports indicated that the grievance pertained to both No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken and fifth-round selection Jacob Nix, the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich hears from a pair of sources that the grievance is focused on Nix rather than Aiken.

This doesn’t preclude a grievance being filed for Aiken as well, but Aiken’s case is weaker than that of Nix. Aiken’s physical revealed an abnormality in his ulnar collateral ligament — it was, reportedly, smaller than that of a standard UCL — which led the Astros to attempt to reduce his signing bonus from $6.5MM to $5MM. The two sides were unable to reach an agreement, which therefore caused the Astros to lose the entirety of Aiken’s $7.9MM draft slot from their bonus pool.

As such, Houston could not afford to go significantly over slot to sign Nix, the team’s fifth-round selection. That wouldn’t have been a problem were it not for the fact that Nix had already taken a physical and reached a reported verbal agreement on a $1.5MM bonus. When Aiken’s deal fell through, the Astros allegedly backed out of their deal with Nix, creating a great deal of scrutiny from the public, Nix’s camp and the MLBPA.

According to Drellich’s sources, Nix’s grievance will not be addressed until the offseason. His grievance is one of many grievances — nearly all of which go unreported — on a backlog that need to be addressed. The two sides could reach a monetary settlement to avoid bringing the case before an arbiter, but should the case reach arbitration, it would be to determine whether or not the Astros are required to honor their $1.5MM agreement and give Nix a contract. That scenario could have significant ramifications for the Astros, as that bonus would catapult them well beyond their allotted bonus pool. Without Aiken’s $7,922,100 bonus slot, the Astros’ bonus pool shrinks to $5,440,100. As such, Nix’s $1.5MM bonus — which is $1,129,500 above his slot’s $370,500 value — would put the Astros 20.7 percent above their total bonus pool. Such a stark overage would result in not only a 100 percent tax on said overage, but also the loss of a first-round pick in each of the two upcoming drafts.

As for Aiken, a grievance can still be filed. As Drellich notes, the collective bargaining agreement stipulates that a grievance must be filed within 45 days of the offense, meaning that Aiken’s camp could push for a grievance anytime between now and Sept. 1. That’s not a firm deadline, however, as Drellich’s sources indicate that extensions can be granted.


MLBPA Files Grievance Against Astros Relating To Unsigned Draft Picks

The MLB Player’s Association has filed a grievance action against the Astros relating to the team’s recent failure to sign top overall draft choice Brady Aiken, reports Murray Chass. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also reports the filing, via Twitter.

Though details remain vague, it appears that the union’s action alleges that Houston inappropriately manipulated the signing situations of Aiken and fifth-rounder Jacob Nix after a dispute arose over Aiken’s medicals. Ultimately, the Astros reportedly offered Aiken only $5MM after having reportedly agreed to a $6.5MM bonus. The club also did not go forward with signing Nix after having reportedly agreed to sign him for $1.5MM.

Having failed to sign Aiken, inking Nix to that reported over-slot bonus would have put the Astros well above their pool allocation for signed players and subjected them to the penalty of forfeiting each of their next two first-round choices. As MLB.com’s Jim Callis has explained, some have charged that Houston sought to sign Aiken at the lower price tag in order to make a run at 21st-round choice Mac Marshall, who had previously announced that he would go to college. Of course, it remains to be seen what precise allegations have been made by the union.

While the result sought in the grievance proceeding remains unknown, presumably the MLBPA could seek some relief for Aiken and/or Nix if not also some action against the club. As things stand, the pair of hurlers face the decision whether to matriculate at a university (both were UCLA commits) or play junior college ball and re-enter the draft next year.


Draft Notes: Bonuses, Astros, Aiken

67 players in this year’s draft signed for at least $1MM, Clint Longenecker of Baseball America writes. Many teams signed two players to deals worth at least $1MM, although the Indians, Pirates and Royals, who all had extra Day 1 picks, signed four players each to deals worth that much. The Orioles, who didn’t have a selection until the No. 90 overall pick, were the only team without a $1MM signing. Here are notes on the draft.

  • The Astros‘ failure to sign Brady Aiken is baffling, MLB.com’s Richard Justice writes. The difference between the Astros’ final offer of $5MM and the $6.5MM to which the two parties initially agreed is tiny in terms of MLB talent. Meanwhile, another draft pick, Jacob Nix, saw his own deal disappear as the Astros lost the bonus pool allotment for the first overall pick. Justice also argues that it will take time for the Astros to repair the damage to their reputation the Aiken decision will cause.
  • Nobody wins” in the Aiken/Astros snafu, Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca writes. Nix, in particular, loses out through no fault of his own. Nicholson-Smith cites an agent who notes that the current system forces teams to prioritize balancing their draft budgets, even when that means they lose out on talent — because the Astros didn’t sign Aiken, they couldn’t sign Nix, even though Nix and the Astros had previously agreed to a deal.
  • Aiken advisor Casey Close ripped Astros GM Jeff Luhnow on the phone for leaking the results of Aiken’s physical, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. Close also reportedly suggested that other teams dislike dealing with the Astros because of their approach in negotiations.

Astros Fail To Sign Aiken, Nix, Marshall

The Astros did not sign first-round pick Brady Aiken or fifth-rounder Jacob Nix, reports MLB.com’s Jim Callis (on Twitter). Aiken becomes just the third No. 1 overall pick ever to not sign, per Callis (Twitter link). Nix had previously been reported to have agreed to terms, which Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports (on Twitter) was by way of a verbal agreement.

The two young pitchers are both reportedly advised by Casey Close. Houston also ultimately failed to reach terms with another well-regarded arm, 21st-rounder Mac Marshall, Callis adds. That confirms Marshall’s own announcement that he would instead attend LSU.

The Astros will receive the No. 2 pick in next year’s draft, Callis further notes, meaning that Houston did at least offer Aiken 40 percent of his slot value ($3,168,840), which Aiken did not accept. In fact, Houston ultimately upped its offer to $5MM, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). “We tried to engage Casey Close three times today,” Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter), but “there was no interest.” Ultimately, the team made three offers today, Heyman tweets, the second of which came with 30 minutes left on the clock. The final, $5MM offer was made with just five minutes to go. Aiken did not counter any of the offers.

Aiken and the Astros had reportedly agreed upon a $6.5MM bonus, with Aiken heading to Houston for his physical and an introduction. But things took a turn when a dispute arose over the interpretation of MRI results regarding Aiken’s elbow.

In many ways, the news represents a disappointing result for both Houston and the two players who had been expected to sign. The club will of course have an opportunity to choose another top-end player next year (along with the team’s regular first-round choice, which should be a good one), but will have to wait to get that player started. And Houston will miss out on a pitcher who Luhnow himself called the “most advanced high school pitcher” he’s even seen. Not only that, but the team has now foregone the opportunity to sign Nix, and could even face some form of grievance proceeding as a result of the handling of Nix’s negotiations.

Meanwhile, Aiken will need to perform at rather a high level to beat the $5MM that he ultimately was offered, and will need to wait some time for a check to cash. It is not yet clear where he will go, though presumably he will either enroll at UCLA (where he was committed) or else choose the junior college route. Of course, the very public nature of the recent negotiations regarding Aiken and Nix might conceivably have some ramifications for those players’ future collegiate eligibility, which would obviously be an unfortunate byproduct of a difficult situation.

Needless to say, the situation has led to quite a bit of chatter around the game. As MLB.com’s Jim Callis explains, speculation arose that Houston was hoping to drive down Aiken’s price in a bid to make a last-minute run at Marshall, who had long before said he was going to college. Of course, it was never certain that such a possibility was realistic, let alone that the club would ultimately pass on the chance to add Aiken (and with him Nix) without some genuine concern.

Indeed, the apparent medical dispute regarding Aiken, and its impact on Nix, have led to indications that fallout may be yet to come. The Astros released a statement, saying that the club’s final offer was “extremely fair considering all the factors involved in this case” and insisting that the team “approached these negotiations in good faith and with the best interests of the Astros organization in mind, both short-term and long-term.”

But the MLB Player’s Association sees things somewhat differently, stating the view that Aiken and Nix were wronged. “Today, two young men should be one step closer to realizing their dreams of becoming Major League ballplayers,” said executive director Tony Clark. Because of the actions of the Houston Astros, they are not. The MLBPA, the players and their advisers are exploring all legal options.”

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.


Latest On Astros, Brady Aiken

JULY 15, 6:35pm: The concern regarding Aiken involves his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), a source tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle“He may have some [of the ligament], but not much,” the source said, apparently referring to the natural size — rather than any tearing — of Aiken’s UCL. A hypothetical Tommy John procedure would not be a straightforward solution in Aiken’s case, the source adds.

While the issue may be “cut-and-dry,” per Drellich’s source, it appears that its interpretation is the crux of the ongoing debate. The young lefty has seen two team doctors and three independent specialists (including Dr. James Andrews) to assess the situation, according to Drellich. Close, Aiken’s agent, told Rosenthal that his client “has been seen by some of the most experienced and respected orthopedic arm specialists in the country, and all of those doctors have acknowledged that he’s not injured and that he’s ready to start his professional career.”

Drellich spoke with an expert orthopedist — Dr. Chris Geary of the Tufts Medical center, apparently not among those who have seen Aiken — who tells him that a congenitally small UCL would not necessarily indicate a greater risk of a UCL tear or lowered success rate if a TJ procedure became necessary. Geary indicated that further information would be necessary to assess Aiken’s overall susceptibility to elbow trouble, and said that other physical attributes could mean that he is perfectly capable of pitching without any particular concern.

9:54am: The Astros believe that Aiken’s MRI revealed a “significant abnormality,” Major League sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Aiken’s adviser, Casey Close of Excel Sports Management, tells Rosenthal that the team has made just one revised offer — a bonus of $3,168,840. That amount represents the minimum bonus Houston would need to offer in order to receive the second pick in next year’s draft as compensation.

Close, who insists that Aiken is asymptomatic and healthy, offered some harsh words for the Astros and the way they’ve handled negotiations:

“We are extremely disappointed that Major League Baseball is allowing the Astros to conduct business in this manner with a complete disregard for the rules governing the draft and the 29 other clubs who have followed those same rules.”

Meanwhile, GM Jeff Luhnow tells Rosenthal that he has been in contact with MLB throughout the entire process to ensure that their actions were within the rules. Pat Courtney, a spokesperson for MLB, said that “Major League Baseball is comfortable that the Houston Astros have acted in complete accord with Major League rules.”

Rosenthal reports that the team informed Nix’s family that the reported $1.5MM agreement between the two sides had to be rescinded because the team first needed to complete its deal with Aiken before finalizing that deal.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said the players’ association will weigh all options in support of the players. Specifically regarding Nix, he said: “We believe that it is a clear violation of the rules being attempted solely to avoid penalty. The Astros made a deal with Jacob Nix and should honor that agreement.”

This Friday is the deadline for teams to sign their draft picks.

JULY 7, 4:19pm: Drellich spoke with Aiken’s athletic trainer, Paul Flores, who says that to his knowledge, Aiken is “absolutely healthy.” Flores says that there is nothing Aiken is unable to do in their regular workouts, adding: “When it comes to throwing off a mound, that’s not my area of expertise. But I know he’s throwing, so. He’s not in pain. He comes to me after, and I always ask, … ‘How do you feel today?’ … He always tells me he feels great — and not good — great.”

1:25pm: The ominous delay between No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken‘s arrival in Houston to sign his contract and the announcement of an official deal now has some clarity, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Aiken has an issue with a ligament in his left elbow. The Astros are now seeking to reduce his signing bonus from the previously agreed upon $6.5MM to $5MM, according to Heyman’s sources.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports speculated recently that there might be an issue with Aiken’s ligament, noting that the curiously long delay between his arrival to sign his contract and an announcement from the Astros was similar to the delay when a free agent fails his physical.

As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle explained in late June, Aiken would become a free agent if he failed his physical and the Astros did not make an offer of at least 40 percent of his slot value (roughly $3.17MM). Clearly, based on Heyman’s report, Houston is still comfortable enough with Aiken’s elbow that this scenario is unlikely.

However, the Astros would also lose the value of Aiken’s slot from their bonus pool should he elect not to sign, which would be problematic. The Astros were set to save about $1.4MM on Aiken’s original $6.5MM bonus, and a great deal of those savings were reserved for the $1.5MM bonus they’ve agreed to with fifth-rounder Jacob Nix – a bonus that is $1.13MM over slot. It is in Houston’s best interest to get some form of deal worked out, as losing Aiken’s slot would drop Houston’s overall pool to roughly $5.44MM, leaving them unable to officially sign Nix at that figure without incurring penalties in future drafts (the maximum penalty, which is enforced if a team exceeds its draft pool by more than 15 percent, is the forfeiture of a team’s next two first-round picks and a 100 percent luxury tax on the overage).

Obviously, the news is troubling for Astros fans, who had hoped Aiken would sign quickly and begin his progression from high school superstar to the mound Minute Maid Park. The Astros have until July 18 to finalize a deal with Aiken. The team would receive the No. 2 selection in next year’s draft, should it fail to come to terms with Aiken.


AL West Notes: Aiken, Altuve, Appel, Butler, Zobrist, Price

Earlier today, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provided an update on the Astros’ talks with Brady Aiken after speaking to GM Jeff Luhnow, Casey Close of Excel Sports Management (Aiken’s adviser), a league official and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark. Close feels that the the Astros are acting “with disregard” to the draft’s rules, while an MLB official noted that everything about the process has been within the CBA’s guidelines. Here are a few reactions to that story, and some other notes from around the AL West…

  • Jim Callis of Baseball America feels that there’s more than just gamesmanship going on with the Aiken situation (Twitter link). Medical reports are highly subjective, he notes, adding that he can’t see the Astros concocting the concern as part of some plan.
  • Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com tweets that the Astros are being demonized for doing something that is allowed within the rules laid out in the last CBA. He feels that Major League Baseball created this problem by leaving a loophole in the rules. McDaniel also notes that this is what more traditional organizations dislike about the Astos; while their moves can be perceived as smart or strategic, they come off as cold and calculating (All Twitter links). Interested parties should also note that McDaniel’s timeline is full of discussion with his followers regarding this very topic.
  • Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle looks at last year’s extension for Jose Altuve and provides some detail regarding the negotiations. Luhnow and Altuve’s representatives at Octagon had laid most of the groundwork, but there were some loose ends, so Luhnow had a one-on-one breakfast meeting with Altuve (conducted entirely in Spanish) to address the remaining issues. Drellich spoke to Altuve’s former agent, Scott Boras, who unsurprisingly said that he would’ve advised against taking the four-year, $12.5MM guarantee (which can be worth as much as $25MM if two club options are exercised).
  • The Astros’ No. 1 pick from 2013, Mark Appel, recently had a cortisone shot in his wrist, agent Scott Boras told Drellich at yesterday’s All-Star game festivities. While Boras characterized the wrist issue as minor (Twitter links), it’s hard not to wonder how much the wrist has bothered him in 2014. Appel has struggled tremendously, posting a 9.57 ERA in 36 2/3 innings.
  • The Mariners are casting a wide net in their search for a bat and have even contacted the Royals about underperforming DH Billy Butler, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Those talks are not new, however, according to a tweet from Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Over the weekend we learned that the M’s have had serious talks on Marlon Byrd, who would be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
  • Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, meanwhile hears that the Mariners have shown interest in Ben Zobrist of the Rays (Twitter link). Zobrist could fill a variety of roles for the Mariners (among many other teams), as Seattle could stand to improve its production at shortstop or in the outfield.
  • Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN feels that it would be a mistake for the Mariners to pursue David Price, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggested they should do last week. Drayer feels that parting with a package including Nick Franklin, D.J. Peterson and Taijuan Walker too closely resembles the Erik Bedard trade that cost Seattle Adam Jones and Chris Tillman. While trading prospects isn’t necessarily something to shy away from, such a trade would too greatly diminish the team’s hope for sustained success, she opines.

Quick Hits: Segura, Aiken, Cruz

Brewers shortstop Jean Segura has left the team after learning of the death of his nine-month-old son Janniel, Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. There are few details about what happened, although Brewers manager Ron Roenicke notes that Segura’s son had been sick. “It’s tough,” says Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez. “After I leave last night, I can’t wait to come home and hug my kid and sleep with my kid. It’s hard to imagine. It’s painful. It’s not my kid, but I feel like it.” We at MLBTR send our deepest condolences to Segura and his family after this tragedy.

  • Brady Aiken and the Astros still don’t see eye-to-eye over the pitcher’s injury status, Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes in a long feature. The Astros have dropped Aiken’s bonus offer from $6.5MM to $5MM over an issue with his elbow, but Kenney quotes Aiken’s high school coach and trainer, who both say he’s healthy. The issue, as Kenney points out, might be that interpreting an MRI is more art than science — a player can appear healthy and yet have abnormalities in his MRI, and yet it isn’t easy to tell which abnormalities are significant and which ones aren’t.
  • Despite the aftereffects of a PED suspension and a fall into the cracks of the qualifying offer system, the OriolesNelson Cruz didn’t spend the offseason worrying about where he would end up, Childs Walker of the Baltimore Sun writes. Instead, he took comfort in spending the offseason in his home country of the Dominican Republic. “It feels natural,” Cruz says. “Everything is more calm [in the U.S.] You have more peace. But I miss my people.”