Chris Young Rumors

AL Notes: Young, Aro, Smyly, Jaso

The Royals had little obvious need for veteran righty Chris Young heading into the season, but GM Dayton Moore had the team sign him anyway, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes. The Royals offered a big-league deal just as Young was strongly considering a minor-league offer from the Dodgers, even though the Royals didn’t have a clear spot for Young in either their rotation or their bullpen. “The analytical guys can’t understand me, either,” says Moore. Moore’s “impulse,” as McCullough puts it, has paid off so far — Young has performed better than anyone else in the Royals rotation, except perhaps Edinson Volquez. Young’s contract calls for a base salary of just $675K, but he’s already reached some roster benchmarks, and he looks likely to collect incentives that should get him close to a maximum $6MM. Here’s more from the American League.

  • Red Sox righty Jonathan Aro‘s path to the big leagues was an unlikely one, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes. As a teenager, Aro twice contracted Dengue fever. He was already contemplating his life after baseball before finally signing at 20, a late age for a Dominican player, and for just $10K. “First of all, I signed as a 20-year-old. Secondly, I signed as a $10,000 guy. Thirdly, all the guys who signed in my class were high-dollar guys. I thought I was at the low end of the priority list,” says Aro through a translator. “So, in short, no — I didn’t think this was attainable.” Aro gradually made his way through the minors, though, and excelled for Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket this year, posting a combined 2.22 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 44 2/3 innings. He made his big-league debut Thursday.
  • Rays lefty Drew Smyly will pitch from a mound for the first time on Saturday since heading to the disabled list in May with a torn labrum, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. In early May, it looked like Smyly was headed for season-ending surgery, but he currently appears set to rejoin the Rays at some point late this season.
  • In other Rays injury news, DH John Jaso will start a rehab assignment Saturday with the Class A+ Charlotte Stone Crabs, Topkin tweets. Jaso has missed much of the season with a wrist injury. Jaso should provide the Rays with another reliable bat, although they’ve done well at DH this season, with Joey Butler and David DeJesus taking most the available plate appearances.

AL Central Notes: Buxton, Sox, V-Mart, Tigers, Young

Speaking about the team’s recent promotion of top prospect Byron Buxton, Twins GM Terry Ryan told Kris Atteberry of Twins Radio (audio link): “We brought up Buxton because he’s the best one we had available at the time. We have a few guys down there that we considered, but they aren’t as good as Buxton, so we brought up Byron to give him a shot. … I’m hoping that things go well enough that we don’t have to worry about it.” Based on Ryan’s comments, it seems that Buxton will have the opportunity to play his way into a regular role moving forward. A productive Buxton would certainly increase Minnesota’s chances of remaining in the hunt for the division and could also eliminate a potential area of need in trades — an upgrade in the outfield.

More from the AL Central…

  • Asked by MLB.com’s Scott Merkin about the possibility of the White Sox becoming deadline sellers, David Robertson said that he would be understanding of any route that GM Rick Hahn felt was best for the team. “If that happens, you know, that’s just part of the game,” said the closer, who signed a four-year, $46MM contract this winter. “That’s obviously a decision that I’m not even involved in. The organization has to do what’s best for them. If that’s the way this season turns out, then so be it.” Robertson, however, feels that the Sox still have the pieces to contend and believes a turnaround is possible with strong performances against division rivals in Kansas City and Detroit. Chicago is currently seven games under .500 and nine back in the AL Central.
  • Victor Martinez will rejoin the Tigers this weekend in New York and could be activated from the disabled list at that time, writes James Schmehl of MLive.com. Martinez has been out since May 19 but looked strong on a Triple-A rehab assignment to date, going 4-for-12 with a double in 12 plate appearances.
  • In a mailbag column, Schmehl addresses potential trade scenarios for the Tigers this summer, reporting that the team will consider adding starting pitching. Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir are two seemingly speculative names tossed out by Schmehl. He adds that Detroit is likely to add a relief arm as well, though not an elite closer like Aroldis Chapman, as the team is happy with Joakim Soria in the ninth inning.
  • In a piece for FOX Sports, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs examines the unique nature of Chris Young‘s ability to drastically outperform his FIP by virtue of consistently posting one of the lowest BABIP marks in baseball. While there’s a good amount of luck involved in BABIP, Young’s extreme fly-ball tendencies — specifically his ability to induce infield flies — has allowed him to post a .240 BABIP dating back to 2006. Cameron notes that in such a heavily analytical era, it’s not surprising that teams were so reluctant to gamble on a 36-year-old soft-tosser with a 5.02 FIP in 2014, but Young’s mastery of a rare skill set has made him a bargain.

AL East Notes: Cuba, Clevenger, Ellsbury

Major League Baseball denied statements of a Cuban official indicating that the Orioles were set to play the Cuban national team in Havana this year, as Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. The league is clearly interested in forging ties with the neighboring country, but is also proceeding quite cautiously given the still-uncertain political situation.

  • Recently-recalled Orioles catcher Steve Clevenger says that he primarily focused on improving his defense during his minor league stint to open the year, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. Of course, he also put up some impressive numbers at the plate. Discussing the move manager Buck Showalter made clear that Clevenger is playing as much for next year — when the team will see Matt Wieters reach free agency — as for this one, when Wieters will likely force him back to Triple-A. “I try to be blunt to a fault about what they need to do when they’re there,” Showalter said. “I talked about continue to be engaged with the pitcher and catching and throwing. I said, ‘You’re going to be out of options next year, you’re going to control all this.’ I said, ‘Try to present yourself for us and everybody else in the game as good as possible. Go down there and lead the league in hitting.'”
  • Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury could miss a month or more with his knee injury, skipper Joe Girardi told reporters, including NJ.com’s Ryan Hatch. While the club has received excellent production from Chris Young and can also use Slade Heathcott in center to spot him and take the platoon advantage, a prolonged absence from Ellsbury is a major hit to New York. On the plus side, the Yankees ought to have a handle on Ellsbury’s progress well in advance of the trade deadline.


AL Notes: Chris Young, Price, Rodon, Red Sox

Chris Young‘s career turned on a 1,168-word email the Royals right-hander wrote to a St. Louis surgeon in 2013 where he diagnosed himself as suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome, writes Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star. Dr. Robert Thompson, director of the Washington University Center for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome concurred, and performed a decompression procedure to free the nerves in Young’s shoulder. “I feel better now at 35 than I did when I was in my late 20s, early 30s, because I was dealing with so much pain,” Young said. “I forgot what it was like to be healthy. Now I try to make up for lost time.” And that he has. Nearly two years after undergoing the career-saving operation, Young, the reigning AL Comeback Player of the Year, has been a relevation for the Royals pitching to a 1.06 ERA in seven games (including one start) with a 8.5 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 over 17 innings of work.

Elsewhere in the American League:

  • The next start for Tigers ace David Price will be pushed back from Thursday to Saturday to give his mild hamstring strain extra time to heal, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links). Price says he could have pitched on normal rest, so the move is simply precautionary.
  • The Tigers have a need for a left-handed power bat off the bench, but risk losing out-of-options infielder Hernan Perez to waivers if they attempt such an move, according to MLive.com’s Chris Iott.
  • After throwing 108 pitches in winning his MLB debut as a starter, the White Sox remain coy on whether Carlos Rodon will remain in the rotation or return to the bullpen, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “You’re also somewhat protecting the amount of usage you’re going to get out of him over the course of the year, so there’s some factors that go into it for him and his learning curve and things like that,” said manager Robin Ventura. “There’s more to it than he’s just ready to go.” If Rodon remains in the rotation for the rest of the season, Merkin calculates the left-hander will approach the team’s unofficial innings limit of 160.
  • The Red Sox‘s July 2014 trade of John Lackey for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly is looking worse and worse, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe opines. Craig performed poorly down the stretch in 2014 for the Red Sox and has been just as bad this year, and while Kelly’s radar gun readings have been impressive, his performance hasn’t (although his peripherals this season have been much better than his 5.72 ERA). Meanwhile, Lackey has pitched well for the Cardinals while making the league minimum salary.

AL Central Notes: Young, Salcedo, Hu, Indians

A conversation with Minor League teammate Shawn Hill and an email to a St. Louis-based surgeon Robert Thompson in 2013 saved the career of Royals right-hander Chris Young, writes Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Young was unknowingly suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome — a difficult-to-detect shoulder condition in which nerves are pinched between the collarbone and top rib. Young described his symptoms to Hill, who first suggested thoracic outlet syndrome as a possibility, having suffered through the condition himself a year prior. Young had difficulty even turning his head side to side and often felt numbness in his fingers and hands. The surgery to alleviate the pain led to a 2014 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award for Young, but the 6’10” righty found little interest on the free agent market this winter. He expressed confusion to McCullough that just three teams showed significant interest, though fatigue at the end of the season and a subsequent 8.35 ERA over his final five starts may have had something to do with that, he acknowledged. Young notes that he eventually vowed to prove himself to big league teams this year. “…I had to remind myself to step back and say, ‘You know what? If I don’t like it, go perform better than I did last year.'”

Here’s more from the AL Central…

  • Twins Double-A right-hander Adrian Salcedo was suspended 80 games after testing positive for a PED and a stimulant (which USA Today’s Bob Nightengale identifies as Tamoxifen and Heptaminol, respectively), and GM Terry Ryan expressed disappointment and frustration in the situation to the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Mike Berardino“We met about it all spring. This is one where I guess it doesn’t matter how much you try to educate players. It happened, and it will happen again, unfortunately. No matter how much we preach and no matter how much the penalty, there are going to be people that are going to try to take advantage of the situation.” Salcedo is the second 80-game suspension in the Twins organization over the past month, though the first was far more detrimental to the organization, as it was issued to right-hander Ervin Santana, who signed a four-year, $55MM contract this winter.
  • Taiwanese right-hander Chih-Wei Hu, signed by the Twins for $220K in 2012, is seeing his prospect stock rise dramatically early in the year, writes Baseball America’s Josh Norris. Perhaps the most interesting note on Hu is his usage of a palmball — a pitch not often seen in today’s game. Norris notes that the pitch acts more like a splitter than a changeup but has changeup-like velocity, sitting in the mid-90s.
  • Though Terry Francona wouldn’t say he is questioning T.J. House‘s slot in the rotation, the Indians skipper did note that House’s pronounced struggles this season are troublesome, writes Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel. House’s five earned runs in three innings last night further ballooned an already concerning ERA to 13.15, and the lefty has walked nearly a batter per inning in four starts this season. Meisel wonders who might step into the rotation, noting that Zach McAllister looks more at home in the bullpen. He speculatively lists Triple-A veterans Bruce Chen and Shaun Marcum as options, noting that each his pitched well in the upper Minors this far.

Latest From Rosenthal: Papelbon, Braun, Young, Redmond

Some within the industry believe the Nationals should trade for Jonathan Papelbon and install Drew Storen as the setup man, says Ken Rosenthal with FOX Sports (video link). While there is some concern over Papelbon’s velocity, he’s off to a great start and “never misses his spots.” His $13MM vesting option for 2016 remains an obstacle. Rosenthal notes that the Tigers and Blue Jays are other possible destinations. I agree that these three clubs could all use relief help. To me, it makes more sense for the Nationals to address their bullpen at the trade deadline. The Blue Jays have a tougher path to the postseason, so they could really use the reinforcements now. Here’s more from Rosenthal.

  • The Brewers may shift to a rebuilding stance, and teams are in constant contact about Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura. Another star, Ryan Braun, will be difficult to trade. He’s slumped to start the season. He’s owed $105MM through 2020, and his no trade clause includes every team by the Angels, Dodgers, Nationals, Rays, and Marlins.
  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman credits his analytics department for recommending Chris Young. The outfielder is off to a blazing start with four home runs and a .357/.426/.762 line in 48 plate appearances. The Yankees have become familiar with buying low. They also acquired Chris Capuano, Martin Prado, and Brandon McCarthy at discount prices.
  • The Marlins are en route to their fourth consecutive victory, but manager Mike Redmond may remain on the hot seat. As one insider told Rosenthal, once owner Jeffrey Loria gets an idea in his head, “he can’t let it go.” If that’s the case, Redmond will need his team to go on an impressive streak.

Quick Hits: Astros, Young, Mesoraco

Five current members of the Astros bullpen (Luke Gregerson, Chad Qualls, Pat Neshek, Joe Thatcher and Sam Deduno) were on the 2011 Padres, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart notes. Astros manager A.J. Hinch was an executive with the Padres in 2011, but he says the Astros weren’t intentionally aiming to acquire former Padres players. “When we started this offseason, we wanted to have multiple guys that could finish games,” says Hinch. “Chad Qualls has a long history of closing, and Neshek and Gregerson were added for that reason. The way the game has evolved, those last nine outs are really hard to get, and to have guys that have done it before is nice to have.” Here are more quick notes from around the Majors.

  • Outfielder Chris Young has had much more success with the Yankees than he had with their crosstown rivals, writes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. “We’ve always talked about [how] New York sometimes can be a tough place to get used to and adjust to. Sometimes it takes some players some time,” says Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “The way he’s played for us, I’m a little bit surprised that’s what happened [with the Mets], but he’s been really good for us.” Young now has 17 extra-base hits in 112 plate appearances with the Yankees going back to last season, after having just 20 in 287 plate appearances with the Mets. He’s also done a better job hitting for average and getting on base. His history suggests he might come back to earth, but at only 31, he could continue to help in a part-time role in the Bronx. Hoch notes that Young’s contract contains a series of bonuses for plate appearance thresholds, so if Young continues to play well, he could end up making significantly more than the $2.5MM he’s guaranteed.
  • The Reds say catcher Devin Mesoraco (hip impingement) was available to pinch-hit this weekend, but his absence in the ninth inning with the tying run aboard against the Cardinals says otherwise, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Mesoraco wasn’t even in the team’s clubhouse after the game, Rosecrans reports. Mesoraco has been out for a week now, but the Reds continue to play with a short bench, even though they could place Mesoraco on the disabled list and backdate the move to April 13. In any case, being without a healthy Mesoraco hurts the 5-6 Reds — he earned a January extension after hitting .273/.359/.534 in a breakout 2014 season.

Contract Details: Young, Cabrera, McGowan

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has some details on the incentive structures of a trio of late signings from the offseason, so let’s take a look (All Twitter links)…

  • As has been reported, Chris Young‘s contract with the Royals has a $675K base and can reach $6MM via incentives. Per Heyman, Young has $1MM available in roster bonuses, $2.25MM available for games started (capping at 29 starts) and $2.075MM available for total innings pitched (which run up to 140 innings).
  • Everth Cabrera‘s deal with the Orioles, which pays him $2.4MM and can reach $3MM in total, awards him $75K for reaching each of 250, 300, 350, 400, 425, 450, 475 and 500 plate appearances, according to Heyman.
  • Dustin McGowan signed a Major League deal with the Dodgers that guarantees him just the MLB minimum ($507.5K), but per Heyman, he’ll receive a $1MM roster bonus for spending as little as one day on the active roster. As was previously reported, he can earn $1.5MM worth of incentives via appearances and innings pitched, maxing out at 60 appearances and 60 innings.

AL Notes: Darvish, Porcello, Kluber, Royals, Gattis

The Rangers have an insurance policy on Yu Darvish and could recoup more than half of his $10MM salary if he undergoes Tommy John surgery and misses the year, reports Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News. The Rangers could use the insurance proceeds to add payroll. The policy’s total value to the club, however, is dependent on when the clock begins on the deductible. Grant notes the Rangers could make a case that this injury is a recurrence of the elbow problems Darvish suffered last year sidelining him for the final 50 days of the 2014 season.

Elsewhere in the American League:

  • Darvish’s injury is not just a blow to the Rangers, but to all of baseball, opines CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman.
  • Rick Porcello told reporters, including Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal (via Twitter), he has not had extension talks with the Red Sox this spring and does not expect to have any.
  • The Indians and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber have not made any progress in negotiating a contract extension, writes Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Kluber is a pre-arbitration eligible player and Wednesday is the deadline for signing such players. If a deal cannot be reached, teams can renew the contracts of those players at their discretion, usually for a fraction above the MLB minimum of $507.5K. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently provided a primer on understanding pre-arbitration salaries.
  • In a separate article, Hoynes chronicles how the Indians have re-built their farm system through the draft (especially their willingness to select high-upside high schoolers rather than college players), trades, and international free agent signings.
  • Royals GM Dayton Moore told reporters, including MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan right-hander Chris Young, who the club signed yesterday, will make the team and pitch out of the bullpen. Flanagan notes, in a second article, the Royals have discussed keeping eight relievers and, if so, will have several contenders battling for just one spot.
  • Evan Gattis has had two months to reflect upon his trade to Astros and still has mixed feelings, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The negative is that there’s a good fan base in Atlanta, I felt loved there,” Gattis said. “The positives are that I’m in the American League, I might be a little more durable; I’m going to try to have a healthy season. And I’m in Texas, stoked about that. So yeah, positives and negatives.

Royals Sign Chris Young

The Royals have announced that they’ve signed pitcher Chris Young to a one-year, big-league deal. Young will receive $675K in base salary, plus up to $5.325MM in bonuses. Those bonuses will be for roster days, innings pitched and starts, with Young receiving $250K on Opening Day and then $250K for 30 days, 60 days and 90 days on the roster. To clear space for Young on their 40-man roster, the Royals moved Kris Medlen to the 60-day disabled list.

USATSI_7960795_154513410_lowresYoung, 35, enjoyed a comeback season with the Mariners in 2014, posting a 3.65 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 165 innings after not appearing in the big leagues in 2013. He has obvious weaknesses — he doesn’t throw hard, doesn’t strike out many batters and allows tons of fly balls, suggesting he won’t be able to sustain his relatively low ERA from last season. As Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan tweets, though, the Royals’ strong defensive outfield should help Young. Also, he could benefit from Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, which has stifled home runs lately. Young has suffered from injuries in recent years, but the Royals’ guaranteed commitment to him is minimal, so they’re insulated from significant risk.

It’s unclear how Young will fit on the Royals’ roster. He’s surely most useful as a starter, but he doesn’t appear likely to supplant anyone in the Royals’ current rotation of Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Jason Vargas, Edinson Volquez and Jeremy Guthrie. He could, instead, find a home in the Royals’ bullpen, perhaps working in long relief until or unless he’s needed in the rotation.

For Young to receive a big-league deal at this point in the offseason qualifies as a minor coup. He had been one of only a few significant free-agent starters remaining on the market, along with Kevin Correia and Randy Wolf.

Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star was the first to tweet Young’s base salary and maximum incentive earnings. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick and MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweeted key details about the structure of Young’s contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.