- The Diamondbacks signed pitcher J.C. Ramirez and re-signed catcher Blake Lalli. The 26-year-old Ramirez pitched 24 innings for Philadelphia in 2013, but performed poorly. He spent 2014 in the Indians system. Scouts like his 94 mph fastball, but he struggles with command and control as evidenced by a 5.63 BB/9 in his major league sample. Lalli, 32 next season, hit .275/.340/.373 in 2014 at the Triple-A level. He briefly appeared in the majors for the Cubs and Brewers during the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
- Utility infielder Ramiro Pena has elected free agency after the Braves outrighted him off the 40 man roster. Pena owns a career .244/.288/.330 line over 610 plate appearances in parts of six seasons. Capable of playing shortstop, second, and third base, the 29-year-old offers plenty of flexibility. He’s spent his entire career with the Yankees and Braves.
- The Reds signed pitchers Jose De La Torre, Marcus Walden, and utility infielder Irving Falu. De La Torre, 29, offers big strikeout stuff with control issues out of the bullpen. He appeared briefly for the Red Sox in 2013. Walden is less flashy than De La Torre, and he has spent most of his minor league career in the rotation. The 26-year-old has posted a 3.92 ERA, 5.4 K/9, and 3.1 BB/9 over 622 minor league innings. His results in the upper minors have been markedly worse. Falu, 32 next season, has appeared briefly for the Royals, Brewers, and Padres over the past two years.
- The Indians have signed outfielder Destin Hood. Possibly one of the gems of the minor league market, Hood hit .298/.348/.460 across three levels last season – mostly with the Nationals Triple-A affiliate. The former second round pick struggled prior to the 2014 campaign, which is probably why the Nationals did not add him to their 40 man roster. As Eddy notes, Hood hit .315 and slugged .556 against left-handed pitching last season, making him a good fit for a lefty heavy Cleveland lineup. He’s 25 next season.
- The Angels signed 26-year-old pitcher Alex Sanabia. The former Marlin has 138 major league innings to his name with a 4.15 ERA, 5.58 K/9, and 2.86 BB/9. The righty should serve as rotation depth.
- The Marlins signed pitcher Chris Narveson and outfielder Cole Gillespie. Narveson, a former Brewer and Cardinal, has a 4.65 ERA over 396 innings. He pitched in Japan last season with similar results. He’ll turn 33 later this month. Gillespie, once a prospect with the Diamondbacks, has bounced around the league. He’s briefly appeared with five major league clubs and owns a .230/.295/.329 batting line in 270 plate appearances. He’s 31 next season.
- The Padres have re-signed left-handed pitcher Jason Lane. The former Astros outfielder reached the majors as a pitcher last season and performed well in 10 and one-third innings. He allowed just one run on a home run, struck out six, and walked none in his age 37 season.
- The Mariners signed 32-year-old pitcher Justin Germano. The soft-tossing righty is best used as minor league depth, although he’s appeared with eight major league clubs over nine seasons. He owns a 5.40 ERA, 5.70 K/9, and 2.92 BB/9 in 330 career innings. His fastball averaged 85.5 mph last season.
Here are today's minor moves from around baseball.
- After non-tendering Matt Daley in early December, the Yankees have agreed to a new minor league deal with the 31-year-old right-hander, per the team's transactions page. Daley pitched well in six innings for the Yankees in 2013 and owns a career 4.38 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 86 1/3 big league innings.
- Lefty Chris Narveson has signed with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, the Japan Times reports. Narveson pitched in the Brewers' rotation in 2010 and 2011, but missed much of the 2012 and 2013 seasons due to injury. He pitched well this winter for Licey in the Dominican. He will reportedly make $850K plus incentives.
The Red Sox' recent experience shows the need for teams to be flexible at the closer position, writes ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. The Sox traded four players last offseason to get Joel Hanrahan (and infielder Brock Holt), but Hanrahan quickly went down with an elbow injury. They then replaced him with Andrew Bailey, and then Koji Uehara, who pitched brilliantly. The Red Sox weren't the only playoff team that changed closers for one reason or another, Crasnick notes — so did the Cardinals, Pirates, Tigers, Dodgers and Indians. That's worth keeping in mind this offseason, where the market for closers includes Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Brian Wilson, Fernando Rodney and Edward Mujica. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- The Twins are interested in starting pitchers Gavin Floyd and Chris Capuano, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Floyd's agent, Mike Moye, says his client is progressing well in his return from Tommy John surgery, and Berardino suggests Floyd will be ready to go by the time spring training games begin. The Twins' top target is still Bronson Arroyo, Berardino notes.
- One under-the-radar starting pitcher on the free agent market is Chris Narveson, who pitched this winter for Licey, in the Dominican. A number of scouts have their eyes on Narveson, Crasnick tweets. Narveson missed much of the 2012 and 2013 seasons due to injury, but was a reliable member of the Brewers' rotation in 2010 and 2011.
- Ian Kinsler could block trades to all but ten teams, but he didn't put the Tigers on the list because he liked their chances of winning a championship, John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press reports. That's what allowed the Rangers to deal Kinsler to Detroit. "I’m really excited," he says. "Our chance to win the World Series is better than anyone's."
- Reliever Javier Lopez, who recently signed for three years and $13MM, figures he might have been able to get similar money elsewhere, but he chose to stay with the Giants because he's happy in San Francisco, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. "In my case, I felt I wanted to be in a comfortable setting first and in a place that I feel has a chance to win. That’s why I chose San Francisco," he says. "I knew the offers would be around the same dollars, so it was just a matter of happiness."
Here are the day's minor moves …
- The Brewers have re-signed corner infielder Taylor Green to a minor league deal after he was recently outrighted, agent Joshua Kusnick announced via Twitter (hat tip to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Andrew Gruman of FOXSportsWisconsin.com). The contract includes several opt outs and an invitation to big league spring training. Though the 27-year-old missed most of 2013 due to injury, he has a nice .311/.386/.513 line in parts of two seasons at the highest minor league level. His major league career line is less impressive — .207/.266/.343 — but it has come in just 154 plate appearances over two seasons. MLB.com's Adam McCalvy has the details.
- The club is also close to reaching a deal to bring back lefty Zach Kroenke, who is also represented by Kusnick, McCalvy reports in the same link. Kroenke has spent much of his time in Triple-A since 2009, splitting time between relieving and starting. Last year, he put up a 4.51 ERA in 129 2/3 innings. His deal does not include an invitation to MLB spring training.
- Meanwhile, both lefty Chris Narveson and catcher/first baseman Blake Lalli have elected to become minor league free agents, notes McCalvy via Twitter. The news was originally tweeted by the Brewers Player Development account. Narveson, who spent 2010 and 2011 in the Milwaukee rotation but has not seen substantial MLB time since, was outrighted back in June. He posted a 5.14 ERA in 15 Triple-A starts this past season. Lalli, who was designated and then outrighted in September, has never been given a real chance in the bigs, but did put up a .282/.334/.447 line in 311 Triple-A plate appearances last year.
- The White Sox recently dealt for first baseman Jackson Laumann, sending the Braves cash considerations in return, reports Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. Laumann, a 20-year-old righty, has done little to impress in rookie ball but will get a new shot with an organization whose amateur scouting department is headed by his father, Doug Laumann.
- Alex Castellanos of the Dodgers remains the only player in DFA limbo at present, as reflected in MLBTR's DFA Tracker.
We'll keep track of today's minor moves here.
- The Brewers have activated pitcher Chris Narveson from the disabled list, and have outrighted him to Triple-A Nashville, MLB.com's Adam McCalvy tweets. Narveson had been on the DL with a finger injury in 2013 after missing most of the 2012 season with a rotator cuff injury. He struggled in five rehab starts at Nashville, posting a 7.00 ERA in 18 innings.
Today, the Brewers are hosting Brewers On Deck, their annual winter fan festival. Here's the news being made at the event:
- Owner Mark Attanasio says there's always a chance the Brewers could enter the bidding for free agent starter Kyle Lohse, according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. "It’s a function of size of contract, length of contract." Attanasio said. "Kyle had a phenomenal two seasons the last two seasons. We just have to see if that fits in our overall scheme." Attanasio refused to specifically say if the team has spoken with Scott Boras, Lohse's agent.
- Manager Ron Roenicke indicated Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada are locks for the starting rotation leaving Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers, and Chris Narveson vying for the other three spots, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Roenicke questioned whether Narveson, who underwent rotator cuff surgery last May on his throwing shoulder, will be ready for camp; but, assistant GM Gord Ash said everything is great with the left-hander and he is not behind schedule, reports Haudricourt.
- Roenicke touted the team’s rotation depth, arguing the five starters at the beginning of the season don’t have to be the same five at the end, writes McCalvy. Roenicke referred to options like recently signed free agent reliever Tom Gorzelanny, who has experience as a starter, and prospects Tyler Thornburg and Hiram Burgos.
- Earlier today, we learned the Brewers are seeking first basemen in light of Corey Hart's knee surgery on Friday, which will force him to miss the first two months of the season. Mat Gamel, Hart's replacement, himself underwent knee surgery last May. Assistant GM Gord Ash said Gamel was examined today and "he is ready to go," Haudricourt tweeted.
- Melvin did say he is talking to a couple of free agent infielders, reports McCalvy on Twitter. Haudricourt opines it sounds like shortstop Alex Gonzalez is still in play (Twitter link). Gonzalez played 24 games for the Brewers in 2012 before his season was cut short by knee surgery.
- The Brewers will lose the only catchers on their 40-man roster, Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado, to the World Baseball Classic. Haudricourt stumped Roenicke when he asked the manager about the catching depth chart. "Don't ask me that question because I don't know," said Roenicke. "I want a guy that's going to be with us to be working with these (pitchers), to get them locked in. We're not going to have our two guys there talking to them all the time. So it's going to be difficult. There isn't (an obvious No. 3 catcher)." The Brewers will have five non-roster catchers in camp who have a combined six games of big league experience.
5:53pm: Narveson will earn $840K in 2013, reports Jim Goulart of Brewerfan.net (Twitter link).
2:46pm: The Brewers announced that they avoided arbitration with left-hander Chris Narveson. The SFX client obtains a one-year deal for the 2013 season.
John Axford, Burke Badenhop, Marco Estrada and Carlos Gomez are the Brewers' remaining arbitration eligible players, as MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows. Though Narveson's 2013 salary isn't known, MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected a salary of $800K.
Clayton Kershaw's salary jumped from $500K to $7.5MM this year, and it wasn't just because of his Cy Young performance. Kershaw qualified for arbitration for the first time in his career over the winter, so he obtained the right to establish his salary by comparing his production to that of his peers.
Though $7MM raises are reserved for elite performers like Kershaw, many first-time eligible starting pitchers will see their salaries rise from $500K or so to $2-4.5MM this coming offseason. A player’s case depends in large part on his career numbers, but his most recent season, or platform year, matters a great deal.
Advanced statistics like xFIP, wins above replacement and swinging strike rate don't generally figure in to arbitration cases. Instead, traditional stats such as innings, starts, wins and ERA determine players' salaries.
With one third of the season now complete, let’s check in on the prominent starting pitchers on track to be first-time arbitration eligible this coming offseason:
Brewers left-hander Chris Narveson told reporters, including MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, that he needs season-ending surgery on his pitching shoulder. The operation will repair a partially torn rotator cuff and require between six and nine months of rehab.
The Brewers moved right-hander Marco Estrada to Narveson's spot in the rotation, so they have enough starting pitching for now. Estrada struck out nine over five innings while allowing one run in his first start of the season on Saturday. Wily Peralta, who was recently optioned back to the minor leagues, provides GM Doug Melvin with another internal candidate for the rotation.
Narveson, 30, made 28 starts for the Brewers in each of the past two seasons. He has a 4.67 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 394 2/3 innings as a big leaguer and will be arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason.
When the Brewers effectively replaced starters Manny Parra and Braden Looper with Randy Wolf and Doug Davis this offseason, the rotation seemed better-positioned to carry the team than it was last year, when Brewers pitching was largely disappointing.
Their starters posted a 5.37 ERA a year ago and their pitching staff as a whole allowed more runs than every NL club except the Nationals. GM Doug Melvin discussed trading for Kevin Correia, Jarrod Washburn, Doug Davis, Brian Bannister and others when the team was in contention last summer. The Brewers even claimed Davis, but they never made a major move.
This year the Brewers are among the worst teams in the National League in runs allowed (14th) and home runs allowed (15th). Their bullpen has been disappointing, but the starters have done better than last year, combining for a 4.70 ERA.
Yovani Gallardo has been fantastic so far, with a 3.07 ERA and 11.0 K/9. Wolf's ERA is below 4.00, but he's walking significantly more batters than he did with the Dodgers last year. Like Wolf, Dave Bush has an ERA around 4.00, but is walking far more batters than usual. Meanwhile, hitters are batting .415 on balls they put in play off of Davis. That figure should drop and drag Davis' 7.56 ERA down along with it. Rounding out the rotation, Chris Narveson pitched well against the D'Backs on Sunday, but he is no sure thing.
The Brewers have some options within the organization should their current starters falter. Carlos Villanueva has experience starting and this year he's throwing harder than ever. Villanueva, the team's pitcher of the month in April, is striking out more than a batter per inning. John Axford, ranked 23rd among Brewers prospects by Baseball America before the season, is pitching well in Triple A and could be called upon to replace Villanueva in the 'pen.
The Brewers have a solid but unremarkable rotation at this point, though they're surely hoping to see Wolf and Bush limit their free passes. We can expect Davis to improve and Villanueva could contribute, so the Brewers don't appear as desperate to acquire arms as they were a year ago. It may all be a moot point. If Milwaukee can't turn things around, they may become sellers and Jeff Suppan, Davis and Bush could be trade bait for other clubs.