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New White Sox closer David Robertson discusses his decision to go to Chicago with ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick. “I’m here for a reason,” Robertson said. “I want to win some ballgames and get back to the postseason. Chicago likes a winner, and I want to be a part of it.”
Here are a few more quick notes out of the game’s central divisions:
- Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez has now received his visa and will be on his way to camp in short order, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports on Twitter. That is good news for Milwaukee, which now has a much greater financial stake in K-Rod than it has over the past two seasons.
- Daniel Bard‘s comeback effort with the Cubs appears to be showing some promise. As MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports, the 29-year-old threw a simulated game on Sunday for the first time this spring. “I haven’t felt this good in so long,” said Bard. Indeed, the former Red Sox relief ace was working into the upper 90s with his fastball today, ESPN’s Rick Sutcliffe tweets. Muskat takes a deeper look at Bard’s trials over recent years in an interesting piece that details the physical and mental developments that have helped boost him in camp thus far.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- White Sox outfielder Michael Taylor has retired at age 29, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweets. Once a well-regarded prospect in the Phillies and Athletics systems and a top-50 prospect leaguewide, Taylor took only 114 career plate appearances at the Major League level. He did put up a fairly productive .278/.369/.441 slash over six seasons and more than 2,500 turns at bat at Triple-A, but never forced his way into the big league mix.
- The D-Backs have inked right-hander Kevin Vance to a minor league deal, tweets agent Joe Rosen. The 24-year-old was a 19th-round pick by the White Sox out of Connecticut in 2011 and has worked to a 3.69 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 268 1/3 innings of work throughout his minor league career to date. Baseball America ranked him 19th among ChiSox farmhands prior to the 2013 season, noting that his fastball/curveball combination could eventually land him in a Major League bullpen.
11:15am: While the Yankees did indeed ask about Heyward, along with many other teams, the White Sox and Giants were actually the teams that came closest to landing him before St. Louis pulled the trigger, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).
That is not necessarily surprising, in the sense that both clubs were obviously in need of corner outfield help. The former ultimately signed Melky Cabrera and the latter added Nori Aoki. While Chicago ought to be set for the foreseeable future in that position, assuming that Avisail Garcia can fix his hold on one corner, San Francisco could be on the market (though it holds a club option over Aoki).
8:11am: The Yankees engaged the Braves this offseason in trade talks regarding outfielder Jason Heyward, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. Atlanta ultimately dealt Heyward to the Cardinals, of course.
While the report does not indicate how serious the interest was or whether any actual offers were submitted, it does suggest that the Yankees are a plausible suitor when Heyward hits free agency. The team already has Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Carlos Beltran under contract for 2016, and prospects like Aaron Judge coming up behind them. But New York had a plan to shift Beltran to a DH role if it acquired Heyward, per Martino, and could certainly chart such a course next season.
The other salient takeaway — the item is otherwise largely of historical interest — is that there is increasing evidence that the Yankees are now targeting a certain type of player (young, defensively valuable) that does not quite align with the club’s offseason acquisitions of yore. Indeed, Martino notes that the team also asked the Braves about Andrelton Simmons, although it is far from clear that Atlanta ever engaged on him. New York ultimately traded instead for another fielding-first infielder in Didi Gregorius.
The Tigers will have a significant amount of money coming off the books with nine player set to hit free agency this coming winter, writes Chris Iott of MLive.com. With David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, Alfredo Simon, Alex Avila, Rajai Davis, Joba Chamberlain and Tom Gorzelanny all ticketed for free agency, Iott looks at each player and the likelihood that he’ll return. Iott feels that Price could land a $200MM+ contract on the open market next year. I agree that there’s a chance of that with a typically strong season, making it difficult for the Tigers to retain him when considering the long-term commitments already guaranteed to Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and, to a lesser extent, Victor Martinez.
A bit more from the AL Central…
- Unlike some big-name free agent hurlers heading into their walk year, White Sox right-hander Jeff Samardzija hasn’t taken out an insurance policy on his arm, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. For example, Max Scherzer recently revealed that he paid $750K for a $40MM insurance policy on his arm that protected him against shoulder and elbow injuries in his walk year. Samardzija could be in line for $100MM+ next winter if he can repeat last season’s success.
- Samardzija’s best case scenario is to remain in Chicago for the rest of his career, he recently told Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. However, Samardzija also feels a responsibility to the Union and other players to keep salaries in line with the $9 billion industry that is Major League Baseball, writes Levine.
- While Nick Swisher‘s goal is to be ready for Opening Day, there’s no timetable for when the Indians switch-hitter will be ready to make his Cactus League debut, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Swisher, who underwent surgery on both knees on Aug. 20 last year, is still working on running drills, performing serpentine and ribbon runs to get his body used to running in something other than a straight line, Hoynes writes. Swisher’s timetable bears monitoring, as it’s been speculated previously that a healthy Swisher and Brandon Moss (who is returning to action today) could mean that David Murphy will end up being traded.
The Red Sox shouldn’t be in any rush to trade Allen Craig, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. Craig gives them depth at first base, DH, and both outfield corners, all positions where the Sox have injury and age concerns. He’s not an obvious fit for the Red Sox’ lineup right now, but after a miserable stretch run (Craig hit .128/.234/.191 in 107 plate appearances after Boston acquired him), he doesn’t have trade value either, so it would be best for the team to wait before dealing him. Here’s more from the American League.
- It’s not often wise for players to represent themselves, but Angels reliever Huston Street is an exception, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. Street, who is about to exchange extension figures with the Angels, is a real-estate investor in Austin who’s capable of handling contract negotiations. (If Street hits the free-agent market next winter, though, he’ll trust Austin lawyer Bill Stapleton to represent him.) “There’s mutual interest,” Angels GM Jerry Dipoto says regarding extension talks. “He understands where we are, and we understand where he is. He’s a big part of what we’re doing. But it’s not going to happen today or tomorrow.”
- White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija is trying not to focus on his impending free agency, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports. “When you step back and look at your situation from afar, it’s a pretty intense situation with a lot on the line,” says Samardzija. “But … I like to think what I demand of myself each time out is more pressure than what a contract or what situation my career is in (can bring).” The White Sox hope to retain Samardzija, but it doesn’t appear that any extension is imminent.
Since taking over as the Rays‘ head of baseball operations, Matt Silverman has taken the somewhat unusual step of polling a small group of key players (including Evan Longoria and Alex Cobb) so that their voices can help inform his decision-making, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Silverman consulted with players about hiring new manager Kevin Cash, as well as on other moves. “It opened up conversations about their feelings not just on the manager position, but the organization and how it operates,” says Silverman. “And I believe those conversations led to some outcomes, and to better dialogue between the front office and the clubhouse. … There are certain things I learned that I wasn’t aware of, and wouldn’t have known, given my prior position [as team president].” Here’s more from the American League.
- Dayan Viciedo was taken aback by the White Sox‘ decision to release him, but he’s landed on his feet after signing a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, the Associated Press reports. “I was slightly surprised because I thought I had an agreement in place to stay there, but I understand it’s a business,” Viciedo says. “You have good days, you have bad days. I took it in stride. I’m not upset. It kind of surprised me at first but everything had worked out and is OK.”
- Athletics manager Bob Melvin says outfielder Josh Reddick will be out for two weeks with a right oblique strain, MLB.com’s Jane Lee writes. Reddick will then have to take additional time to prepare to play, which means it’s questionable whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day. In the meantime, the Athletics will take looks at a variety of players in right field, including Rule 5 pick Mark Canha and newly-claimed (or, rather, re-claimed) former Red Sox farmhand Alex Hassan. Billy Burns, Jason Pridie, top prospect Matt Olson and perhaps even first baseman Ike Davis will also get looks. From the outside, though, the Athletics’ opportunity to get a better sense of what they have in Canha, who hit an impressive .303/.384/.505 with Triple-A New Orleans in the Marlins’ system last year, looks like the clearest silver lining to Reddick’s injury.
The possibility of a contract extension between Jeff Samardzija and the White Sox “hasn’t even been a topic of conversation,” the right-hander tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. “We haven’t come close to crossing that bridge. We’re all working on getting the team where we want. That’s our main goal.” Like most players, Samardzija would prefer to avoid negotiations once the season begins, as those talks “can become a distraction.”
Samardzija is heading into his last year under contract and will be one of the most sought-after names on the open market next winter; Tim Dierkes currently has the righty ranked ninth in the initial edition of the MLBTR 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings. Samardzija’s case is somewhat unique since, as Heyman notes, he’s already made a significant amount of money in his career. This could mean Samardzija would prioritize choosing a comfortable situation and winning team over a suitor that simply offers the biggest salary. On the other hand, Samardzija also said that “it’s nice to see guys getting compensated for their work” in reference to other pitchers landing expensive deals and hinted that he’s looking for a contract that will cover his “next six, seven years.”
This next contract could still be with the White Sox, as Samardzija made it known that he is very “excited” by the team’s offseason moves and their promise for 2015. He said he is “on great terms” with the club and there is similar interest on Chicago’s side, though it isn’t known whether the Sox have even brought up the topic with Samardzija since acquiring him from the A’s in December.
“Whenever there’s a next deal with Jeff Samardzija, hopefully, it’s with the White Sox,” GM Rick Hahn said. “The guy’s a competitor. He wants to win, and he’s a tireless worker who’s succeeded on the big stage. He’s a leader in the clubhouse, and a nice complement between Chris Sale and Jose Quintana.”
Given that Samardzija is only a year away from testing the market, however, it’s very unlikely that he would take an extension now unless the Sox greatly overpaid him — a move that, Heyman writes, would be very uncharacteristic of the club. Along those same lines, it may be hard to see the White Sox spend the $100MM+ it will likely take to re-sign Samardzija next winter, though I’d argue that the team could indeed be suitors given how aggressive the Sox have been under Hahn. Sale and Quintana are locked up on through (at least) 2018 and 2019 on what are looking like very team-friendly deals, which could Chicago to splurge on another front-of-the-rotation arm with a bigger price tag.
Here are today’s minor transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post…
Astros righty Roberto Hernandez has finally received his visa an is set to report to spring camp for a physical, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart tweets. Hernandez has a bit of catching up to do if he hopes to make the roster after inking a minor league deal earlier in the offseason.
Here are some notes from the AL West:
- A rough 2014 season for Elvis Andrus of the Rangers has left some looking askance at his eight-year, $120MM extension, which officially kicks in this season. As the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com), Andrus says that he is ready for a better campaign after reporting out of shape last year. “This year I took it a thousand times [more] seriously than I did the year before,” he said. “… That was an offseason that I hope never happens again. In spring training I wasn’t ready.” A turnaround from Andrus would go a long way toward restoring the once-promising trajectory of the Rangers, to say nothing of his own. It would also increase his appeal as a trade chip, though Texas no longer has quite the middle infield logjam it once did.
- Coco Crisp is set to play left field this year for the Athletics, manager Bob Melvin tells reporters including Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). That shift, which was occasioned by a desire to protect the team’s investment in Crisp by reducing the toll on his body, will result in Craig Gentry and Sam Fuld platooning in center. In turn, that probably also puts an end to the notion that Oakland could look to acquire a second baseman and move Ben Zobrist to the outfield.
- While it is hard to deny (and not entirely surprising) that the Athletics got less back for Jeff Samardzija than they gave to acquire him (along with Jason Hammel), the team feels good about the young players that it picked up from the White Sox, MLB.com’s Phil Rogers writes. “Look, both of those deals are difficult,” said assistant GM David Forst. “You never like trading a guy like Addison [Russell], but Jeff and Jason filled a particular need for us at that time. Then to turn around and lose Jason and feel like trading Jeff is the best option is never an easy decision to make. Jeff is a guy who has his best years ahead of him still. He’s right at the age you want to get a pitcher. He knows his game. His stuff is without question. It was not an easy decision to make. It was part of the balancing act we are forced to make.”
The White Sox announced today that they have promoted Jeremy Haber, who was previously assistant to general manager Rick Hahn and will now bear the title of assistant GM. The 31-year-old Haber led negotiations on the team’s five-year, $21MM extension with Jose Quintana last offseason, says Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter), and he also leads salary arbitration negotiations. CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes profiled Haber last offseason, noting an impressive educational background but little experience in the baseball world. Haber has a B.A. in political science from Brown as well as an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Haber was initially hired as an intern with the Red Sox after a series of blind emails to teams in search of a front office opportunity, and he’s since helped in the White Sox’ hiring of hitting coach Todd Steverson in addition to making player acquisition recommendations for Hahn and the rest of the Chicago front office.
More from the American League:
- Huston Street tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register that he and Angels GM Jerry Dipoto have begun swapping text messages to figure out a time when they can have more serious extension discussions in the near future. Street, who acts as his own agent, has said he wants to get a new contract worked out in Spring Training and made no attempt to hide the fact that he’s eyeing something between the four-year, $36MM deal inked by Andrew Miller and the four-year, $46MM contract signed by David Robertson. He did say he envisions a new contract overriding his current one-year deal, so he’s essentially looking for three new years.
- Ryan Ludwick told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com that multiple teams for which he had played in the past expressed interest in bringing him back this offseason, though he declined to specify which teams. The Rangers are clearly one, as the now-36-year-old signed a minor league pact to return to Texas, where he made his big league debut 13 years ago. “It’s cool knowing that teams are willing to take you on,” Ludwick said Sunday. “I guess that means I’m somewhat of a decent guy.” The Rangers will hope that in addition to being a “somewhat decent guy,” Ludwick will bring the offense he showed as recently as 2012, when he hit .275/.346/.531 with 26 homers in just 472 plate appearances for the Reds. He’s also played for the Cardinals, Indians, Padres and Pirates.
- Replacing Nelson Cruz‘s production will not be straightforward but may yet be possible for the Orioles, as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com writes. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette explains that the current roster not only has power across the board but does so with generally well-rounded players. And, as he notes, the team will never “grab a lot of headlines in the offseason,” as would have been needed to bring Cruz back or replace him with a single player. “We pick up players year round,” said Duquette. “We don’t do it all in the offseason.”