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Brandon Morrow Rumors
The front office shuffling of the NL West continued today with another pair of moves. The Dodgers will hire Scott Bream away from the Tigers to be their new pro scouting director, tweets Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Padres announced that they’ve promoted regional supervisor Mark Conner to director of scouting. The 38-year-old Conner joined the Friars in 2010 as an amateur scout and was the scout responsible for signing the highly touted Matt Wisler.
Here’s more from the NL West…
- New Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi declined to give a firm answer when asked by Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times whether or not the team will tender a contract to A.J. Ellis. However, Zaidi offered strong praise for Ellis’ leadership and relationships with the pitching staff. “…it’s clear he’s a big part of this team and a big part of the preparation and comfort level for the pitchers,” Zaidi told Hernandez.
- In a second tweet, Saxon notes that Brandon Morrow is a name to keep an eye on for Dodgers fans. As Saxon points out, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has had success turning starters with dynamic arms and transitioning them to the bullpen. Of course, it’s not clear if he is open to ‘pen work. Morrow indicated late in the season that his preference was to be a starter.
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that the team “absolutely, 100 percent” needs to upgrade its rotation. Bridich said the club is keeping all avenues open to acquire pitching talent. One possibility that may intrigue Rockies fans is Jeremy Hellickson, whom the Rays are said to be discussing with an NL club. However, Saunders hears from a Major League source that the Rockies aren’t targeting Hellickson at this time, although they have shown past interest.
The Blue Jays have announced that they’ve exercised their option on catcher Josh Thole and declined their options on first baseman Justin Smoak and righties Brandon Morrow and Dustin McGowan. Smoak is still eligible for arbitration and will remain in the organization. Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca was the first to report on Smoak’s status (via Twitter), while Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish was first on McGowan.
Thole will make $1.75MM next season after hitting .248/.320/.278 in 150 plate appearances last season. He’ll continue to serve as the Jays’ catcher when knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is pitching.
The Jays will pay the newly acquired Smoak a $150K buyout rather than picking up his $3.65MM option. They’ll gamble that he’ll make less in arbitration. With Adam Lind headed to Milwaukee, the lefty now has a clearer path to a role with the Jays in 2015.
Morrow will receive a $1MM buyout on his $10MM option after missing much of the season due to a finger injury. He still throws hard, however, and his intriguing track record (including an excellent 9.4 K/9 in a career mostly spent as a starter) will make him a free agent to watch. McGowan, who posted a 4.17 ERA in 82 innings split between the rotation and the bullpen last year, will receive a $500K buyout rather than a $4MM option.
The Blue Jays are set to place corner infielder Matt Hague on waivers, tweets MLBTR’s Zach Links. Hague, who just turned 29, was recently designated as part of Toronto’s roster-clearing for September call-ups.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Blue Jays righty Brandon Morrow has shown recently that his stuff can play up in a bullpen role, as Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca writes. While his $10MM club option for next year is still unlikely to be exercised, the 30-year-old could revive his career by returning to the pen, where he spent some time previously. Of course, as Davidi notes, Morrow still may be intriguing enough as a starter that he could look for an opportunity to stay in that role, where he thrived in 2012 (2.96 ERA in 124 2/3 frames). Saying that he still hopes Toronto will exercise the option, Morrow said he will otherwise “see what offers come in” and choose “which option you feel like is your best opportunity.” Morrow emphasized that he still thinks he can bring more value as a starter.
- Recent Red Sox signee Rusney Castillo is now just one step removed from the majors, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. The big dollar Cuban free agent is expected to play in a playoff series for Triple-A Pawtucket and then debut with the big club sometime next week.
- Yesterday, I asked MLBTR’s readers to weigh in on the Orioles‘ slate of possible qualifying offer candidates. With over 12,000 votes recorded, outfielder/DH Nelson Cruz proved the most popular option as a potential recipient, followed by shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielder Nick Markakis. It will be interesting to see how executive VP Dan Duquette handles the trio, especially with rising arbitration salaries for position players like Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Alejandro De Aza, and Steve Pearce. Given Cruz’s big season and Hardy’s consistent production, it would seem quite enticing for both to turn down a QO if it is made. Given their respective ages, however — Cruz recently turned 34, while Hardy just turned 32 — draft compensation could prove a significant hindrance to their markets.
The Red Sox are planning on having Will Middlebrooks play winter ball this offseason in an attempt to get him back on track, and they’re telling teams that they won’t simply give the soon-to-be 26-year-old away, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. Middlebrooks may seem a good buy-low candidate, as the former top prospect has followed a strong rookie campaign with a .213/.264/.375 line over a pair of injury-plagued seasons in 2013-14, but it sounds as if the Red Sox aren’t ready to give up on him.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington spoke with reporters before tonight’s game, and Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com has some highlights from the session. Cherington says that “barring something unforeseen,” Rusney Castillo will join the Major League club this month. He also said that the club will continue to have Mookie Betts focus on center field, noting that having three plus center fielders isn’t a bad thing if Castillo, Betts and Jackie Bradley all pan out. “We believe we’re better off having more than one major league center fielder,” said Cherington. “In the long run, in terms of long-term control, hopefully we have three at the upper levels.”
- While there’s been an unthinkable amount of ink dedicated to the Phillies’ Ryan Howard problem, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the Yankees have a similar issue on their hands with Mark Teixeira. Sherman reports that while the Phillies have aggressively shopped Howard, the Yankees haven’t even tried to move Teixeira, knowing that he would be nearly impossible to jettison due to his injuries, his no-trade protection and the $45MM he’s owed in 2015-16. Teixeira, who turns 35 next April, has batted just .213/.316/.404 in 493 plate appearances over the past two seasons.
- Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is interested in the Astros’ managerial opening, writes MLB.com’s Adam Berry. Martinez, who was on a short list of candidates for the last Astros managerial search, called the opening a “great opportunity” but made it clear that his current focus is on helping the Rays. “I interviewed for them a couple years ago, and they had good baseball people, very creative minds over there, and I kind of like that whole situation over there,” said Martinez. “Right now, my concern is being the bench coach for the Tampa Bay Rays and hopefully we win as many games as possible this month.” As Berry points out, Martinez is a good fit with the Astros after watching the way in which longtime Rays manager has Joe Maddon has built a rapport with an analytically inclined front office. Martinez noted that he got along well with Astros owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow in his previous interview, adding that he thinks Houston has a very bright future.
- Brandon Morrow wants to pitch in the rotation in 2015 and beyond, he tells MLB.com’s Gregor Chisolm. As Chisholm notes, Morrow may soon have the opportunity to dictate where that could happen, as his $10MM club option is likely to be declined by the Blue Jays after another injury-plagued season. Morrow doesn’t seem to fit into Toronto’s rotation moving forward, with R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris all at the Major League level.
The American League East is about as tightly clustered as possible at this point, with just 1.5 games separating the field. With plenty of interesting situations developing in the division’s five organizations, it should (as usual) be a fascinating race to watch — both on the field and in the transactional rumor mill. Here’s the latest:
- In a preview — or, in some respects, a roundup — of the July 2 prospect signing period, Ben Badler of Baseball America says that the American League East figures to lead the way in spending. We have already heard about the Yankees‘ plans to blow well past their bonus limits on this year’s international prospect market, but Badler says that the division-rival Rays and Red Sox also appear poised to incur the maximum penalties for going beyond their pool allocations. (In an earlier report, Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel reported upon many of the verbal agreements and rumored matches that form the basis of Badler’s piece.) If that holds true, then each of those three AL East competitors — and, potentially, the Brewers — would not only pay a 100% tax on any over-bonus spending, but would also sacrifice the right to sign any July 2 player to more than a $300K bonus next year.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos spoke today about several current topics involving his club, with MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm among those present (links to Twitter). Anthopoulos made clear that there were no active trade discussions taking place at present with rival front offices, which is surely unsurprising at this stage of the season.
- Anthopoulos also provided new information on two situations that we touched upon last night. First, he said that injured starter Brandon Morrow was expected to avoid surgery and could return around the All-Star break, meaning that he may still contribute in 2014 and could conceivably pitch well enough to entice Toronto to pick up his 2015 club option ($10MM/$1MM buyout). Meanwhile, the GM threw cold water on the idea of permanently transitioning Brett Lawrie to second base to free playing time for Juan Francisco. Of course, that still leaves other possibilities for the Jays to keep Francisco in the fold when Adam Lind returns from injury.
- With Yankees infielder Brendan Ryan making his way back to the club, manager Joe Girardi will face an increasingly complicated situation, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Of course, Derek Jeter remains entrenched at short for the time being, but the living legend has struggled at the plate and in the field. New York GM Brian Cashman recently confirmed that Girardi has full authority to determine who plays and where they hit in the lineup. And Sherman notes that the manager has made several moves — both with respect to former catcher Jorge Posada and, more recently, involving Jeter himself — that hint he is not afraid to ruffle some feathers if necessary to win. With the division shaping up to go down to the wire, Sherman says that Girardi may need to “play bad cop” in dividing playing time going forward.
With Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow going to the 60-day DL with a torn tendon sheath, the Star’s Richard Griffin writes that Morrow may well have thrown his last pitch for the club. As Griffin notes, the 29-year-old’s $10MM club option (which comes with a $1MM buyout) seems unlikely to be exercised at this point after yet another significant injury. Here’s more from Toronto and the rest of the AL East:
- Indications are that the Blue Jays will look to keep power-hitting corner infielder Juan Francisco in the fold after Adam Lind is activated, tweets Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star. Discussing the situation, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes that Toronto could conceivably drop one of its eight relievers or shift Brett Lawrie into the club’s regular second base role.
- Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz discussed his difficult last year with MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli, saying that it was hardest on his family. As for the qualifying offer situation, Cruz said he probably would have grabbed it had he known what was in store. “But it’s something that you risk and you trust your instincts,” said Cruz. “In this case, it wasn’t what I expected. But I’m happy with my decision and happy with where I am now. That’s the only thing that matters.” From the O’s perspective, executive VP Dan Duquette said that the deal was made when Cruz’s camp “adjusted what they were looking for in terms of the term” (i.e. length) of the deal. Cruz if off to a hot start, of course, posting a .294/.369/.596 triple-slash with nine home runs in his first 122 plate appearances with Baltimore.
- A less-consequential decision for the Orioles front office was the low-risk signing of one-time ace Johan Santana, who has been working his way back to full strength on a minor league contract. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter that Santana’s fastball has reached the 88-89 mph range, with his slider in the low-80’s and change in the mid-70’s. While that obviously represents a significant drop from his peak years, Santana posted an average fastball velocity of just 89.6 mph in his 2.98 ERA, 199-inning 2010 season.
- In a chat today, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick touched upon the situation of Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia. A scout recently told Crasnick that Sabathia’s offerings are “very fringy,” and that he will need impeccable control to be effective going forward. On the other hand, Crasnick opines that Sabathia has actually delivered decent value to New York on his massive contract. For what it’s worth, Sabathia’s unsightly 5.75 ERA through his first 40 2/3 innings in 2014 is much worse than his 4.16 FIP, 2.95 xFIP, and 2.92 SIERA marks. Indeed, while Sabathia has been hurt by the long ball (21.9% HR/FB rate) and a .361 BABIP, he is sporting 9.74 K/9 against just 1.99 BB/9 while generating a 50.8% ground-ball rate.
A strong young pitching arm has long been the most valuable commodity in baseball, but as ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only column, some executives are beginning to put a greater premium on young hitters. Position players may rate higher due to defensive value, not to mention that big bats are becoming a rarer commodity as scoring declines around the game.
Here are some news and notes from around the baseball world…
- The Cubs are widely expected to be sellers at the trade deadline but GM Jed Hoyer told reporters (including CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney) that trade talks are currently “non-existent” and things won’t get serious for at least a few more weeks. “I certainly talk to a lot of GMs on a daily or weekly basis,” Hoyer said. “But having a GM call about a specific player? I’m not even sure I fielded one of those yet. Really, that trade talk always dies right at the end of spring training.”
- The Blue Jays have shifted Brandon Morrow to the 60-day disabled list, the team announced to reporters, including MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm (Twitter links). The right index finger injury that put Morrow on the 15-day DL earlier today was revealed to be a torn tendon sheath, and if the injury isn’t healed by July, Morrow will have to undergo season-ending surgery. This looks to be the third time in as many years that Morrow has suffered an injury that cost him at least two months of the season.
- LaTroy Hawkins‘ presence could’ve greatly helped solve the Mets‘ bullpen issues, which is why Andy Martino of the New York Daily News opines that the team isn’t serious about contending. Hawkins signed a one-year, $2.5MM deal with the Rockies, a modest contact that Martino feels the Mets should’ve and could’ve easily topped in order to shore up their bullpen’s questionable depth.
- The Angels‘ struggling bullpen could get a boost from the farm system very soon, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes. GM Jerry Dipoto said that Double-A right-handers R.J. Alvarez and Cam Bedrosian could both be “a phone call away. They’re doing it against high-level professional hitters. I feel like both can help sooner rather than later.”
- Indians catcher George Kottaras is likely to be designated for assignment once Yan Gomes returns from the paternity list, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Kottaras was just called up today by the Tribe to take Gomes’ place, but he is out of options. The 30-year-old catcher signed a minor league deal with the Tribe in late March.
- In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Mike Petriello identifies three early weaknesses plaguing the Cardinals, Dodgers and Tigers in 2014.
- Ten well-known names ranging from Major League veterans to retired NBA star Tracy McGrady are active in the independent leagues, Zachary Levine writes for FOXSports.com in a brief review of these ten players’ career situations.
- Giving minor league starting prospects Major League experience as relievers and eventually working them into the rotation is a strategy popularized by Earl Weaver’s Orioles in the 1970’s, and this idea has been one of the cornerstones of the Cardinals‘ success over the last decade, Peter Gammons writes in his latest column for GammonsDaily.com.
Who would have guessed that two AL teams would hand out $200MM+ contracts this winter, and neither of them would reside in the AL East? Here's the latest from the only division with three 90-win teams in 2011…
- The Red Sox have checked in with Edwin Jackson and maintain interest in Roy Oswalt, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). They're also looking at some infielders.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm that he doesn't anticipate a move to upgrade the starting rotation before Spring Training (Twitter links). "I wouldn't expect us to do anything else. Maybe adding a reliever is probably the only thing I think we have a chance at doing," said the GM a few hours before signing Francisco Cordero.
- In an interview with Jim Duquette and Jeff Joyce of MLB Network Radio, Anthopoulos said that Brandon Morrow's work ethic was one reason why the Blue Jays signed him to an extension. "I haven't been doing this very long … but the mistakes we have made, we haven't necessarily put as much stock into someone's character and the work ethic," he said.
- Anthopoulos also acknowledged that the Blue Jays would be able to support a high payroll down the road, but they're "not there yet right now."
- Rays president Matt Silverman told Marc Topkin of The Tampa Times that they haven't found a deal to trade one of their excess starters yet, but that doesn't mean they aren't still looking (Twitter link).
- Yankees closer Mariano Rivera hinted at retirement during Jorge Posada's retirement press conference today, reports MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. "[It's] the same thing; just knowing that it's time to go," Rivera said. "You just have to accept that. I mean, I love the game and I have the passion for the game, but when the time comes and you have to go, you have to go."
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier wrote about the Red Sox in the wake of the Prince Fielder signing, saying they preferred trading for Adrian Gonzalez last offseason to waiting for this year's crop of free agent first baseman.
- Prior to avoiding arbitration with a one-year deal, the Yankees and Russell Martin discussed a two-year contract according to WFAN's Sweeny Murti (on Twitter).
11:20am: Morrow will earn $4MM in 2012 and $8MM in 2013 and 2014, Mike Wilner of Sportsnet Radio FAN 590 in Toronto tweets. There's a $10MM option with a $1MM buyout in 2015 for a total guarantee of $21MM.
7:30am: The Blue Jays have signed right-hander Brandon Morrow to a three-year, $20MM extension, the team announced. The deal includes a 2015 option for $10MM. The Blue Jays and the Wasserman Media Group client were known to be nearing an agreement last night.
Morrow, who is arbitration eligible for the second time, had filed for a 2012 salary of $4.2MM, while the Blue Jays had countered at $3.9MM. The contract buys out both of his remaining seasons of arbitration eligibility and at least one free agent season.
The Blue Jays moved Morrow (pictured) to the rotation full time in 2010, soon after acquiring him from the Mariners for for Brandon League and Johermyn Chavez. In two seasons as a starter, the 27-year-old owns a 4.62 ERA with 10.5 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 over the course of 325 2/3 innings.
Despite Morrow's ability to overwhelm opposing hitters — he led the American League in K/9 last year — he has posted below-average ERAs since joining the rotation. SIERA (3.31) and xFIP (3.53) suggest his ERA of 4.72 could have been considerably lower in 2011. There's reason for the Blue Jays to expect some improvement in terms of ERA, even if Morrow continues under-performing his peripheral stats. Though he's a fly ball pitcher (36.0% ground ball rate in 2011), he hasn't been particularly homer-prone (21 home runs in 2011).
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk examined Morrow as an extension candidate last August and his prediction (a three-year, $19MM deal with an $11MM option) came extremely close to the actual numbers. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet first reported that the sides were nearing a three-year, $20MM extension.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
The Blue Jays are close to a three-year, $20MM contract extension with Brandon Morrow, reports Shi Davidi of Rogers Sportsnet (Twitter link). The deal also contains a $10MM option for 2015 (with a $1MM buyout) and the contract could be announced as soon as tomorrow.
The extension would cover Morrow's remaining two arbitration years and at least his first year of free agency. Morrow has a 4.62 ERA, a 10.5 K/9 rate and a 2.82 K/BB ratio in two seasons and 56 starts with Toronto, pitching a career-high 179 1/3 innings in 2011. I examined Morrow as an extension candidate last August and my prediction (a three-year, $19MM deal with an $11MM option) came quite close to the actual numbers.