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Brandon Belt Rumors
Injuries continue to dominate the headlines around the league, led of course by the most impactful UCL tear in a year already full of them. The news that star Marlins hurler Jose Fernandez is likely to undergo Tommy John surgery has capped off a difficult stretch of pitching injuries, leading to reactions from around the game. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports says that understanding and addressing the rash of elbow injuries is in its infancy, and could be decades away from any kind of satisfying resolution. Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider link) writes that the club did not mishandle Fernandez, and that the lesson teams have drawn from the rash of TJ procedures is to maximize the innings of young arms before they hit the open market. And Tom Verducci of SI.com argues that the issue is not use at the major league level so much as years of added stress before players become professionals, and explores various possible solutions.
Let’s run through the latest injury news that carries potential hot stove implications:
- A beleaguered Astros bullpen (collective 5.91 ERA) will be without young righty Jose Cisnero for the rest of the year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, tweets MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. The 25-year-old threw just 4 2/3 ineffective innings in 2014, but tossed 43 2/3 frames of 4.12 ERA ball in his debut season last year. Entering 2013, Cisnero was rated Houston’s 15th-best prospect by Baseball America, which noted that he could become an innings-eating starter.
- Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia has seemingly defied the odds and worked himself back to the point that he is now a candidate to receive a big league start this weekend, tweets Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Garcia’s most recent problems have been in the shoulder, though he has previously undergone TJ surgery. Garcia, still just 27, has logged just 177 innings under his four-year, $27MM contract, which runs through 2015 and includes club options for the two following seasons ($11.5MM and $12MM, respectively, each with a $500K buyout).
- The Giants will be without first baseman Brandon Belt for at least six weeks after successful thumb surgery, reports Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com (on Twitter). It appears that the team will utilize a mix of Michael Morse and Hector Sanchez at first while Belt recovers.
- Twins minor leaguer Byron Buxton — the game’s consensus top overall prospect — learned today that he has re-aggravated the wrist injury that cost him most of the early portion of the season, reports MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (Twitter links). Though the team does not believe the wrist is any worse than when it was first injured, but another extended absence would obviously further delay the 20-year-old’s final development push.
- Outfielder Carlos Beltran, one of the major offseason signings by the Yankees, has been diagnosed with a bone spur in his right elbow. As MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports, the club will see if a cortisone show can allow Beltran to avoid surgery. “They believe it’s an old bone spur,” said manager Joe Girardi. “It’s aggravating his elbow now. If in a couple of days he doesn’t feel better, then my level of concern would be pretty high.”
The Giants received some tough news tonight, as young first baseman Brandon Belt suffered a broken thumb on a hit-by-pitch, CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly tweets. San Francisco does have internal options, Baggarly writes, with recent signee Travis Ishikawa and career minor leaguer Adam Duvall on the team’s Triple-A roster. Among currently active players, outfielder Michael Morse has spent significant time at first. The best bet in the immediate term, Baggarly says, is for Buster Posey to shift from behind the plate.
Here’s more from San Francisco and some other western division clubs …
- Even before Belt’s injury, the Giants were already looking forward to some roster moves with righty Matt Cain and lefty David Huff nearing returns from the DL. As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, the club will probably not try to sneak one of their so-far-outstanding relievers through waivers. Instead, outfielder Juan Perez and pen arm George Kontos will likely lose their spots since they can be optioned down.
- Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin is nearing a return, which could come on the team’s upcoming road swing, reports Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Quentin signed a three-year extension in the middle of the 2012 season that guarantees him $27MM through 2015 and includes a $10MM option ($3MM buyout) for 2016. While Quentin has done nothing but hit when healthy — he had a 145 OPS+ last year in a half-season of work — injuries have limited his time on the field. Sporting a league-worst 67 wRC+, San Diego will no doubt hope that Quentin can begin to make good on his contract. But with the club buried well back in the NL West, a healthy and productive return from Quentin could hypothetically make him a trade target this year or next.
- Former Rangers backstop Mike Napoli said today that he thought about returning to Texas before re-signing with the Red Sox, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. “If there was any other place I’d be happy playing,” said Napoli, who has since converted to first, “it’d be Texas.” Though the Rangers showed interest in Napoli last November, he told his agent that he preferred to stay in Boston. “I don’t think it ever got to where push came to shove,” Napoli said of talks with his previous team.
The Giants have avoided arbitration with first baseman Brandon Belt, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). The sides have agreed upon a one-year deal for $2.9MM, tweets Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com, just eight hours before Belt's hearing was set to begin.
Belt, who hits and throws from the left side, is coming off of an outstanding season in which he put up a .289/.360/.481 line in 509 plate appearances, establishing himself as one of the league's best young hitters. The 25-year-old knocked 17 home runs and upped his overall power production while continuing to get on base at a solid clip.
Belt had filed at $3.6MM, while the Giants countered at $2.05MM, meaning that Belt lands just above the mid-point. That left the sides further apart than all but two other arbitration cases (in relative terms) on filing day. Belt was projected to earn $2.4MM by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, but beats that figure by a substantial margin. While his $2.9MM baseline falls shy of the $3.6MM figure landed by Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, the fellow Super Two-eligibles are closer than Swartz had expected, as he had pegged Hosmer at $4.1MM.
Homer Bailey and the Reds were said earlier today to be close to a new deal, but nothing had materialized as of this evening. In the latest update, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports that details are still being worked out. GM Walt Jocketty echoed his star hurler's comments, saying that progress had been made. "There are still some outstanding issues," said Jocketty. "Hopefully they get resolved in the next 24 hours or else people are going to have to suit it up and go east." Jocketty was referring, of course, to donning not baseball uniforms but rather the business attire necessary for an arbitration hearing. "It's a lot of little things," Jocketty continued. "The structure of the contract, how it's paid and things like that."
Here's a look at some other potential extension situations shaping up around baseball …
- Though the threat of an arbitration hearing has been avoided between Justin Masterson and the Indians, those parties could be operating on something of a deadline of their own. Masterson, a comparable pitcher to Bailey in many ways, is also entering his final season of arb-eligibility before hitting the open market. Though Masterson has said he'd be willing to continue discussions into the season, club GM Chris Antonetti says that he would rather keep talks to the spring, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.
- Another power pitcher, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, currently stands to qualify for free agency after 2015. As ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers reported today, team president Theo Epstein still hopes a deal can be worked out. On the other hand, his comments echoed some of the sentiment recently expressed by Samardzija, who indicated that the sides had reached something of a stalemate in negotiations. "Sometimes there is going to be a natural gap where a player values himself for what he can do and the team has to factor in a little bit more what he has done," Epstein explained. "It doesn't mean we're tremendously far apart, but if you are apart you kind of table it for another day and we'll see what happens."
- The Brewers previously explored extension talks with young shortstop Jean Segura, but those discussions did not lead anywhere. The club remains interested, but as MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports, nothing has occurred in the interim. "We're always open to [extension talks]," said GM Doug Melvin. "We've locked up some, some we didn't. We didn't get Prince [Fielder]. We offered him a deal earlier on to buy into free agency, but it just depends what players want. Not a lot of them want long-term deals that will take away free agency, and we like to get deals that have at least a year of free agency if we can."
- Another promising young shortstop, the Braves' Andrelton Simmons, has watched as three youthful teammates inked long-term deals in recent deays. As David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes (link behind paywall), Simmons is keeping his eye on the field but would be interested in a new contract. "I'm just focused on playing," said Simmons. "If it happens, great. I love Atlanta. So hopefully something gets done. But you never know." As O'Brien points out, uncertainty remains in Simmons' arbitration value. Not only does it remain unclear whether he will qualify as a Super Two (he has 1.125 years of service time), but his immense defensive value may not translate into commensurate arbitration earnings. Of course, another defense-first shortstop — Elvis Andrus of the Rangers — was able to ink a shorter-term, early-career deal (at three years of service) and then land another, much greater extension just a year later.
- The Giants have at least two worthy extension candidates. The first and more pressing, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, is entering his final season before hitting the open market at age 28. But the sides are currently not engaged in talks, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Cotillo notes that today's physical could have a bearing on how things play out. Sandoval, who at times has seen his conditioning questioned, has made some waves by slimming down entering camp this year.
- A different sort of urgency is shaping up with regard to Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who is scheduled for an arbitration hearing bright and early tomorrow. As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, though discussions are presently focused on Belt's 2014 salary (the sides stand far apart at $3.6MM and $2.05MM), GM Brian Sabean says he remains interested in exploring a longer-term deal. "We like the player," said Sabean. "We think he's one of the up-and-coming players in the National League and we want to hold onto him. But first things first." What Sabean seems to mean is that Belt's future earning capacity through arbitration is very much tied to the divergent filing figures submitted by each side.
- Indeed, Belt would stand at the same starting point as fellow Super Two first baseman Eric Hosmer (who agreed to a $3.6MM price with the Royals) if he wins his hearing. That would set both players on a potentially higher arbitration trajectory than that of another young first bagger, Atlanta's Freddie Freeman, who just inked a monster extension to avoid arbitration in his first of just three seasons of eligibility. Freeman had filed at $5.75MM, with the Braves countering at $4.5MM; both Belt and Hosmer could easily land in that realm with another big year. As I recently explained in discussing the impact of the Freeman deal, Belt and Hosmer could potentially look to Freeman's eight-year, $135MM contract as a target — though it remains to be seen, of course, whether their employers would go to that level.
Padres fans got some welcome news this evening, as it was announced that Time Warner Cable will begin airing Padres games for the coming season, MLB.com's Corey Brock tweets. As Wendy Thurm of Fangraphs has explained, the failure of Time Warner (and, at the time, AT&T U-verse and DISH Network) to agree to the Fox Sports San Diego subscriber fee not only left many fans without access to games, but put a significant dent in the Friars' expected annual payout. Here's more from San Diego and the rest of the NL West:
- When the Padres inked reliever Joaquin Benoit to a two-year, $14MM deal earlier in the off-season, it raised an immediate question whether he or incumbent Huston Street would close. As Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes, both back-end arms are content with the situation and their roles. "[Street] is going to shut the door," said Benoit, "and I'm going to try to give him as many games with leads as I can." For his part, Street — whose deal includes a $7MM club option for 2015 — says that he understands the business side of things and hopes only for success for his new teammate. "It's a smart move on the Padres' part," he said. "It gives them options for 2015. It gives them options if I go down. It gives them options if I struggle."
- After a breakout campaign last year put him in position for a nice payday as a Super Two, Giants first baseman Brandon Belt has yet to reach agreement with his club on a price for his 2014 season. The sides' filing figures ($3.6MM against $2.05MM) are the furthest apart in relative terms among remaining arbitration cases. As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, however, it remains likely that a hearing will be avoided, as team and player both recently expressed an expectation that a settlement will be forthcoming.
- Despite adding another rotation arm in Bronson Arroyo, Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says that top prospect Archie Bradley can still earn a starting spot out of camp, reports FOX Sports Arizona's Jack Magruder. "We want to get out of the gate quick," said Towers. "I've said from the beginning, with Archie, it's not about trying to save a year, save money. We need to win games. If he's ready coming out of the spring and we're a better ballclub with Archie being in it, he's going to be there." Putting the 21-year-old on the MLB roster for Opening Day would mean giving up the ability to extend team control for an extra season, but Towers' statement indicates that is still a real possibility. (On the other hand, given that factor and Bradley's limited seasoning, it will probably be a tall order for him to unseat one of the expected five as a practical matter.) Fellow righty Randall Delgado would likely join the bullpen if he does not earn a turn in the rotation, said Towers, since he is out of options.
- The Arroyo signing has earned mixed reviews; as MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth opined, for example, the $23.5MM guarantee that he received is a debatable investment in a market that promised Paul Maholm just $1.5MM. One under-the-radar issue with Arroyo, argues Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, is that his pronounced struggles against lefties have been masked somewhat by pitching in a division (the National League Central) that has not featured the volume of left-handed bats to take full advantage of the platoon split. In particular, Cameron says, should the Diamondbacks reach the post-season, Arroyo's achilles heel could significantly impair his usefulness to his new club.
The Giants have a number of interesting young pitching prospects in their farm system and the time may soon come when the club considers trading from this surplus, MLB.com's Chris Haft writes as part of a reader mailbag piece. That time, however, isn't happening soon since many of these young arms are a long way from being finished products. Of the nine names mentioned by a reader, Haft thinks "the Giants can consider themselves fortunate if two or three of these young pitchers become productive starters for them." Haft also discusses the Giants' bench depth, Francisco Peguero's departure, the possibility of a Vernon Wells signing and other topics in response to reader questions.
Here's some more news out of San Francisco…
- Giants GM Brian Sabean told reporters (including Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle) that he doesn't have the "flexibility" to add another free agent starter to the rotation mix. Sabean said he is fine with his current starting five but noted that while he likes his depth options beyond the rotation, "I can’t tell you we have that confidence yet" until they see them pitch in Spring Training.
- Sabean also thinks the team will reach an agreement with Brandon Belt before the two sides have to go to an arbitration hearing. The Giants offered Belt $2.05MM for 2014 while the first baseman asked for $3.6MM, and Belt recently said he wouldn't be offended if the case does end up going to an arbiter.
- Tim Lincecum told reporters (including an Associated Press writer) that when the Giants' season ended, he didn't think he'd be returning to San Francisco. As it turned out, Lincecum didn't even get a chance to test the open market as the Giants re-signed him to a two-year, $35MM deal before the World Series ended.
Now that A.J. Burnett has decided to pitch in 2014, the Diamondbacks would be interested in adding him to their rotation, tweets Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. However, the D-Backs don't feel that Burnett is interested in pitching for a team on the West coast, according to Piecoro, so there may not be mutual interest. More on the D-Backs and the rest of the NL West below…
- The Diamondbacks are beginning to kick the tires on Bronson Arroyo, according to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo (on Twitter). Arroyo told ESPN's Jayson Stark earlier this week that he's yet to receive a formal offer from a club.
- Giants manager Bruce Bochy told Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle that his team is done pursuing free agent starting pitchers (Twitter link). The Giants seem likely to head into the season with Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and one of Ryan Vogelsong or Yusmeiro Petit in the rotation.
- Schulman also spoke with Brandon Belt, who said he has no ill feelings toward the Giants for submitting a $1.55MM arbitration figure ($2.05MM lower than his own figure) and won't have any hard feelings if they go to a hearing and he listens to the team make a case against him (Sulia link). "I don't think they think little of me," said Belt. "I think that's what teams do. That's the business side of baseball. I think what both sides are trying to do is create a midpoint, maybe. … I know what I wasn't good at, so if I go in there it's not going to hurt my feelings any. If they have to tear me down a little bit, I'll be OK."
- New Dodgers second baseman Alexander Guerrero tells Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com that shortstop and second base are "completely different" and admits to struggling to adapt to a new culture. However, he called Los Angeles "beautiful" and voiced confidence that he'll be ready to handle second base come Opening Day. Saxon reports that the Dodgers are still looking to add one more infielder to their bench, likely to serve as insurance.
- Earlier in the week, Troy Renck of the Denver Post wrote that the Rockies have "mild" interest in Ervin Santana but aren't pursuing him at his current price and are also reluctant to surrender the 35th pick in this year's draft.
Pitcher Collin McHugh has published a fascinating chronicle (at ESPN New York) of his year in baseball, which includes stints with the Mets and Rockies. McHugh ended the calendar year by getting claimed by the Astros, and at the end of his article, he lists what seem to be the key differences between the two franchises, at least for someone in his situation. One of the more interesting of those is that the Rockies' Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs is just 45 minutes from Denver, while the Astros' Triple-A team in Oklahoma City is six hours from Houston. That's not something a fan would consider, but it's part of the reality of life on the fringes of the big leagues. Here's more from the West divisions.
- The Astros announced that they've named Kevin Goldstein their Director of Professional Scouting. They also named Stephanie Wilka their Specialist of International Operations and Associate Counsel, and Pete Putila their Coordinator of Baseball Operations. Goldstein, who joined the Astros organization in 2012, was previously a writer for Baseball Prospectus and ESPN.
- The Mariners want to add a top-notch starting pitcher, and the Robinson Cano signing demonstrates a kind of "urgency" or "desperation," so their pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka could get wild, Jeff Sullivan of USS Mariner writes. The market for Tanaka could reach the point where paying his price no longer makes sense, though, and if it does, it might be better for the Mariners to sign someone like Ubaldo Jimenez for half of what Tanaka will cost.
- It's unclear whether the Giants might consider signing Brandon Belt to an extension, but if they did, the Anthony Rizzo, Allen Craig, Paul Goldschmidt and Billy Butler deals might provide a basic framework, writes Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles. Belt is a Super Two, which means the Giants control him for the next four years, but at arbitration prices. Brisbee suggests a fair deal for Belt might be something like five years and $42MM, with an option for 2019.
Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com participated in a live chat with fans today and shared a number of Giants-related hot stove items…
- The Giants "went hard after" Jose Dariel Abreu and offered the Cuban slugger a contract that paid him roughly the same average annual value of his six-year, $68MM deal with the White Sox. The catch was that the Giants' offer wasn't six years long as they didn't want to make that long a commitment to a player that is projected by many scouts to be a future designated hitter.
- Ryan Vogelsong's $6.5MM option won't be picked up by the Giants but Baggarly thinks the veteran righty will re-sign on a cheaper one-year deal with incentives.
- There is mutual interest between the Giants and Javier Lopez, and the money saved by declining Vogelsong's option could help the club afford the veteran southpaw.
- The Giants are "probably not" realistic players for Masahiro Tanaka, as Baggarly figures that his posting price will exceed what the Giants are willing to offer, plus big spenders like the Dodgers and Yankees are in the mix. Baggarly reported in August that San Francisco had an interest in the Japanese righty.
- Brandon Belt could be approached about a contract extension in Spring Training but the Giants will just work out a one-year deal in the meantime to cover Belt's first year of arbitration eligibility. MLBTR's Matt Swartz projects Belt to earn $2.4MM in 2014 and MLBTR's Tim Dierkes suggests that Allen Craig's extension could be a model for a Belt extension, though with some adjustments since Belt is a Super Two player.
- The Giants are looking only for "reliable innings guys" in their rotation so the likes of Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson and Josh Johnson will only draw the club's interest if they're healthy.
- Though the Giants are looking for a right-handed power bat and might trade prospects to get one, the club is unlikely to move the likes of Kyle Crick, Edwin Escobar or Adalberto Mejia.
- When it comes to left field, the Giants may prioritize defense. Baggarly expects San Francisco to look for a left fielder in a trade rather than free agency.
- Baggarly hasn't heard Scott Kazmir's name mentioned as a possibility in San Francisco.
- Mark Trumbo "has his admirers in the [Giants] front office." While the Angels are known to be willing to move Trumbo for young pitching talent, I'm not sure the Giants are a good trade partner given that they're looking for arms themselves.
- Given Marco Scutaro's age, Brandon Phillips "makes a lot of sense" for the Giants. Baggarly makes it clear that he's only speculating, however. Phillips is rumored to be on the shopping block but Reds GM Walt Jocketty recently denied that he's talked about Phillips with other teams.
- The Giants are very unlikely to surrender their first round (14th overall) draft pick to sign a free agent who has rejected a qualifying offer. This could have a major impact on the chances of the team pursuing Bronson Arroyo, who could be extended a qualifying offer by the Reds. Baggarly feels that Arroyo and Dan Haren are the free agent pitchers who are most likely to be San Francisco targets.
- Recent Pablo Sandoval trade rumors are "total scuttlebutt," in Baggarly's opinion.
Ryan Dempster began serving his five-game suspension for throwing at Alex Rodriguez yesterday, and as MLB.com's Ian Browne writes, off-days on Thursday and Monday will allow the Red Sox to juggle their other four starters without forcing them to find a replacement starter. Of the suspension, Dempster said: "It [stinks], any time you get suspended. I've never been suspended in my career so it's not a fun feeling to have, but [I'll] start serving, be done with it on Sunday and get back to trying to help my team." Here's more on the Red Sox…
- Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes that the Red Sox selected Brandon Belt out of high school as a pitcher back in the 11th round of the 2006 draft, but the team didn't see enough in his mound potential to buy him out of his commitment to the University of Texas.
- MassLive.com's Evan Drellich spoke with Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, assistant GM Mike Hazen, manager John Farrell and Dodgers president Stan Kasten about last August's blockbuster that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to Los Angeles. It's a lengthy piece that does a terrific job of illustrating the number of people involved in making the trade a reality and also explaining how technology has impacted trade negotiations over the years. Cherington said that he wasn't nervous to take the plunge and make a trade of historic proportions.
- Within the same piece, Farrell notes the differences between the Blue Jays, whom he calls a scouting-based organization, and the Red Sox, whom he calls a player-development-based organization.
- Xander Bogaerts' debut as a 20-year-old shortstop puts him in elite company, writes Marc Hulet of Fangraphs. Red Sox director of player development told Hulet that he's not worried about Bogaerts spending time at third base despite his lack of professional experience at the position: “Xander shows enough athleticism to play third base despite his limited reps, but will continue to get better the more he plays.”