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Brian Matusz Rumors
Though the Rays are just 24-21 for the season and 5-5 over their last 10 games, they’ve vaulted into first place in the AL East as the division’s only winning team. The Yankees have lost 10 of their last 11 games to drop to an even 22-22 while the Red Sox (21-23), Orioles (19-22) and Blue Jays (20-26) are just struggling to get back to the .500 mark. Here’s the latest from the struggling division…
- Orioles reliever Brian Matusz was ejected from Saturday’s game with the Marlins for having a foreign substance on his arm, and now the southpaw has been suspended for eight games, Major League Baseball announced today. Matusz is appealing the suspension. As Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun notes, the suspension comes at an inopportune time for the O’s, as their pitching depth will already be tested due to a stretch of 14 games in 13 days (thanks to a double-header). Left-handed batters have only hit .185/.214/.296 this season against Matusz, who has a 3.18 ERA in 17 innings. The eight games matches the length of the suspension handed out to Brewers lefty Will Smith for a similar offense last week.
- Masahiro Tanaka told reporters (including Dan Martin of the New York Post) that he is “not gonna make a change” to his pitching style in the wake of forearm and wrist injuries, but admits that he is “going to have to oversee my body a little bit better.” Tanaka’s health has been of great concern since it was revealed that he had a partially-torn UCL last summer, and despite a couple of DL stints since, the Yankees still hope their ace can avoid a longer-term stay on the injured reserve. Tanaka will make his second minor league rehab start on Wednesday.
- J.P. Arencibia is trying to stay optimistic as the catcher continues his pro career for the Rays‘ Triple-A team, he tells Sportsnet’s Greg Mercer. Arencibia goes into detail about how he felt he didn’t deal with the pressure of being an everyday player with the Blue Jays, and also about his surprise at being released by the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate earlier this season.
Both names have been mentioned as candidates to land with another team for some time now, with Matusz at one point being connected to the Mets midway through Spring Training (New York, of course, opted instead to acquire Alex Torres and Jerry Blevins). Though that door may be shut, Matusz likely holds appeal to clubs in need of left-handed relief. The Rangers currently don’t have a lefty in their bullpen, for example, while teams like the Cubs (Phil Coke) and Rays (Jeff Beliveau) have just one southpaw in the bullpen. I can envision the Tigers as a fit also, given Ian Krol‘s struggles in 2014.
Part of the reason that Matusz is considered expendable for the Orioles is his $3.2MM salary for the 2015 season, so moving him would require an acquiring club to expand its payroll, although Baltimore could theoretically be willing to include some cash to help facilitate the deal. Over the past two seasons, Matusz has been exceptional against 224 same-handed hitters, holding them to a .192/.251/.314 batting line.
As for Webb, the 29-year-old has reportedly already cleared outright waivers and, as a player with five-plus years of Major League service, can reject an outright assignment and force the team to either trade or release him (while still paying his salary). Webb’s $2.75MM salary undoubtedly played a role in his clearing waivers, though a team may be interested in bringing him on board if Baltimore is willing to pick up a portion of his contract. Of course, interested teams may be reluctant to give up much for a player that they know could soon be a free agent. Webb worked to a respectable 3.83 ERA with 6.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 48.7 percent ground-ball rate last year in Baltimore.
Here are the highlights from an enormous notes post by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
- There’s the potential for lots of trade activity between now and Opening Day, with an unusual number of teams with logjams at particular positions. But there aren’t many good pitching options, and many teams are already close to their payroll limits.
- The Rays are one of several teams looking for starting pitching, but they’re currently focusing their efforts on depth, figuring they only need to cover for injured starters Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly for a month or so.
- If the Phillies struggle early in the year, trade whispers involving Chase Utley could grow louder, with the Padres, Angels and possibly Giants looming as potentially interested teams. Utley would, of course, have to waive his no-trade clause, but he has West Coast roots.
- The Diamondbacks are currently unwilling to trade Mark Trumbo, but that could change if they become dissatisfied with their outfield defense.
- The Orioles discussed trading lefty Brian Matusz to the Rangers before Texas acquired Sam Freeman, and have listened to other clubs interested in Matusz as well. But the Nationals might be more willing than the Orioles to trade a lefty reliever — some within the Orioles see Matusz as a better option than either T.J. McFarland or Wesley Wright.
Here are a few notes on the Orioles, many of them from CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman:
- The team has received more inquiries about lefty reliever Brian Matusz since the emergence of rumors connecting him to the Mets. That could increase the chances that the Orioles will trade him, Heyman writes. The Orioles already have lefties T.J. McFarland and Wesley Wright, plus closer Zach Britton, in their bullpen.
- The Orioles also have an abundance of starting pitchers, and they want Kevin Gausman in their rotation, so they could consider optioning Miguel Gonzalez or Wei-Yin Chen to the minors.
- The Orioles would like to keep both their Rule 5 picks, Logan Verrett (Mets) and Jason Garcia (Red Sox), but it will be hard for them to retain both. Verrett, who has pitched well this spring, is more likely to stick, Heyman writes. (Verrett also has far more experience in the upper minors than Garcia does.) Even keeping one might be somewhat difficult, in my opinion, given all the Orioles’ more experienced relievers (Britton, McFarland, Wright, Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter, Brad Brach and Ryan Webb, although McFarland and Webb could be optioned, as Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes). Trading Matusz would help if they’re serious about keeping Verrett and/or Garcia.
- Garcia’s fastball has been “pretty unhittable” this spring, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo writes. He has never pitched above Class A, so the Red Sox might have thought no one would select him. Unsurprisingly for a young reliever, his secondary pitches aren’t strong, but a fastball in the upper 90s could help him have big-league success anyway.
The Orioles still have multiple roster competitions ongoing, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. Out-of-options infielder Jimmy Paredes may be hitting his way onto the roster, while option-less outfielder David Lough faces a logjam. Neither player will be easy to keep, but the organization will be loath to part with the pair. Baltimore also has tough decisions in the rotation, the bullpen, and behind the dish (assuming that Matt Wieters is not ready to open the year on the active roster).
Here’s more from Baltimore and the rest of the AL East:
- One Orioles player who is said to possibly be available is lefty Brian Matusz, with the Mets being a rumored destination. But Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets that the clubs have not talked about the players and money that would be involved in a possible deal. Instead, New York has only proceeded to the “scouting stage” on Matusz.
- The Red Sox‘ glut of outfielders has been a story to follow all spring, and as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes, the situation remains about as complicated as might have been expected. Optioning Mookie Betts seems not to be a realistic or desirable possibility at this point, and Rusney Castillo is back in action and looking solid, creating problems — good ones, for the time being. As Cafardo explains, the difficulty at present revolves around questions such as whether Allen Craig can be dealt and whether Shane Victorino can or should open the season on the DL.
- Rays righty Nate Karns has been impressive in camp, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain writes. Picked up from the Nationals in last year’s Jose Lobaton deal, Karns is expected to open the year in the rotation, due in part to the team’s rash of injuries. The 27-year-old still has only 24 innings of big league experience to his credit, but has already burned two option years and will look to take full advantage of the opportunity to prove he can stick as a major league starter.
Here’s the latest from around the AL East…
- The Diamondbacks still have interest in Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro, as Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair writes that the Snakes “have been trailing…Navarro for the better part of a week.” Navarro himself recently said that he believed Arizona and Detroit were interested in acquiring his services, and both teams have room to upgrade behind the plate.
- Matt Wieters will begin the season on the DL as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters (including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko) that the lack of precedent for catchers recovering from the surgery is why the O’s pursued several backups this offseason. “I think there’s a lot of unknown there. We’re hoping for the best,” Showalter said. “They’ll have something to base the future on when the start trying to analyze this, because he’s been a model blueprint for rehab as far as what he’s done. We followed it to the letter of the law. Matt, if anything, has been above and beyond.”
- Orioles southpaw Brian Matusz has been the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks, most notably in connection to the Mets. MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports that New York indeed still has interest in Matusz but would need the O’s to cover part of Matusz’s $3.2MM salary. Previous reports have suggested the Orioles would be add some cash to make a deal happen, so there could be a bit if the two sides can make the numbers line up.
- Scouts haven’t been impressed with either Carlos Beltran or Stephen Drew this spring, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. Neither of the two Yankees veterans are hitting well, and there is also question about Beltran’s ability to play right field. This is a particularly important Spring Training for Drew, as his loose hold on the second base job could be broken entirely given the presence of Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela.
Here’s the latest from the league’s eastern divisions.
- Blue Jays infielder Maicer Izturis may miss the start of the season, reports Jim Hawkins for MLB.com. Izturis, who was competing for the open second base job, is sidelined with a pulled groin. The Jays also lost veteran infielder Ramon Santiago to a broken collarbone last weekend. The injuries have improved the outlook for prospect Devon Travis. He was acquired from the Tigers in exchange for outfielder Anthony Gose. Per manager John Gibbons, if Travis earns the job, he won’t be platooned.
- The Orioles may offer to return Rule 5 pick Logan Verrett to the Mets, speculates Joel Sherman of the New York Post. If they do, Verrett could be included in a trade package for lefty reliever Brian Matusz. The Orioles are shopping their excess pitching per Sherman, with Matusz appearing in the most rumors. Several clubs, including the Mets, are hunting for left-handed relief.
- Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown could open the season on the disabled list, writes Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly. Brown has dealt with Achilles tendonitis for the last couple weeks, and he will be rested for one week. Salisbury also notes that Ben Revere and Odubel Herrera are the only outfielders who are a lock to make the major league roster. Grady Sizemore, owed $2MM this season, has not been impressive this spring. Other options include Darin Ruf, Jeff Francoeur, Brian Bogusevic, Jordan Danks, and Russ Canzler.
- The Mets have optioned left-handed pitcher Steven Matz to minor league camp, writes Marc Carig of Newsday. Matz, along with Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, is on the cusp of a major league assignment. Presently, the Mets are expected to use Dillon Gee in place of Zack Wheeler. Should Gee falter, Matz is a candidate to fill his spot in the rotation. I also heard him discussed as a potential relief ace over the offseason.
Yankees owner and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner covered a number of topics in a recent chat with Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Among other things, Steinbrenner credited the front office with having “better drafts of late,” naming prospects Greg Bird, Rob Refsnyder, and Aaron Judge as some of the players to show promise. He also addressed the team’s offseason spending, which — while still substantial — was not as extraordinary as it has been at times in the past. Steinbrenner noted that the team still put out a lot of money on the international market even as it missed on Yoan Moncada. He also gave some thoughts on the team’s future intentions in free agency: “I’m not saying we’ll never give another seven-year contract, but going in you know you’re probably only going to get three-four good years out of it. It remains my goal to get under that $189 million (luxury-tax threshold), but it’s not going to happen for at least two more years when these big contracts we have expire. But I’ve continued to say you shouldn’t need $200 million to win a championship.”
Here are some more links from the AL East:
- The Orioles continue to discuss contractual matters with starter Chris Tillman even after agreeing to an arbitration salary for 2015, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. President of baseball operations Dan Duquette said earlier this year that the sides have “mutual interest” in an extension. MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth recently examined his extension case.
- Meanwhile, Orioles lefty Brian Matusz has seen his name come up in trade rumors. After tossing four scoreless frames today, he acknowledged the chatter, as MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli reports. Matusz is still hoping to line up a starting role, but says he is most focused on providing value in any capacity. “I mean, it’s no secret. I’m well aware of talks and things going on,” said Matusz regarding the possibility of a deal. “But for me all I can control is what I can control. To be able to go out and pitch and get extended and throw all four pitches and mix. Be able to pitch my game is really what it’s all about.”
- Young lefty Daniel Norris seems to have all but established himself as the Blue Jays‘ fifth starter, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star reports. While veteran Marco Estrada is still considered part of the competition, Kennedy says that it would take a major change to move Norris out of the role now. Both Norris and fellow youngster Aaron Sanchez would stand to put themselves on track to hit arbitration eligibility in 2018 before qualifying for free agency in the 2021 season, if they can hold onto their big league roster spots for all or most of 2015. (Norris 29 days of big league service at present, while Sanchez has 69 days.)
Sandy Alderson’s new biography (Baseball Maverick: How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball and Revived the Mets, by Steve Kettmann) contains several interesting background tidbits about many of Alderson’s major transactions as the Mets general manager. ESPN’s Adam Rubin runs down some of the highlights, including some alternate trades for Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey, extension talks with Jose Reyes and even a flirtation with Robinson Cano last winter. The book also includes comments from Alderson about the Mets payroll situation, which led to Alderson clarifying his position last week. Here’s some more from the Amazins…
- Perhaps the most timely revelation from the book was that last August, Alderson told Kettmann that Terry Collins’ chances of returning as the Mets’ manager in 2015 stood at roughly 51 percent and “Frankly, for me, that percentage has been eroding.” Alderson was upset that the Mets’ patience at the plate seemed to be dropping, but a meeting with the club’s hitters apparently saved Collins from being fired. Collins is entering the last year of his contract and he’s been rumored to be on the hot seat unless the Mets take a step forward to contention.
- While Zack Wheeler was indeed pitching through pain last season, it was due to a torn tendon in his right elbow, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports. Nothing was thought to be wrong with Wheeler’s UCL until last week’s examination revealed that the right-hander had suffered a tear and would need to undergo Tommy John surgery.
- B.B. Abbott, Wheeler’s agent, told reporters (including Dan Martin of the New York Post) that he has “zero issues whatsoever with how the Mets handled Zack last year or in the offseason.“
- The Mets are only one of several teams interested in Orioles southpaw Brian Matusz, a scout tells Adam Rubin (Twitter link). As teams make roster cuts over the next two weeks, however, “there should be plenty of lefties that shake loose of lesser ilk.” Needless to say, these other left-handed relief options would presumably also come at a much lower price tag than Matusz’s $3.2MM salary.
- The scout also suggests that Marlins left-hander Andrew McKirahan is better than any of the Mets’ internal lefty relievers and would be a good addition to the team if Miami cuts him. McKirahan was selected by the Fish in last December’s Rule 5 draft and must spend the entire season on the Marlins’ 25-man roster or else be offered back to the Cubs.
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.