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MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is said to be “ready to reach out to [Kris] Bryant soon to determine his mindset” on whether or not a grievance should be filed against the Cubs for holding him in Triple-A to start the season, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in his latest Inside Baseball column. Heyman notes that the union could file a grievance on Bryant’s behalf even without his consent, though that’s unlikely. The issue at hand, of course, would be whether or not Bryant was clearly one of Chicago’s 25 best players and the demotion was made purely for service time implications. (Chicago bought an extra year of control over Bryant by stashing him in the Minors for all of eight games/11 days). Heyman points out that it would be difficult to an arbitrator to rule in Bryant’s favor, as there’s no precedent for this type of grievance. Players in similar situations have historically been hesitant to file a grievance, he adds, because it would be a contentious way to begin a relationship with a team to which a player will be tied for the next six-plus years. A “Cubs connected person” called the notion of a grievance “laughable” when asked by Heyman. However, the points that Bryant was recalled on the first day the team could add him while still delaying free agency and slotted directly into the cleanup spot could make a case that the club had an understanding of his value, Heyman writes. From the union’s perspective, it’s understandable that they’d have interest in preventing this type of situation in the future, even if it’s a long shot.
More highlights from a lengthy Heyman column…
- The Padres don’t yet view Melvin Upton Jr. as a throwaway piece and will use him as an occasional outfielder and pinch-runner, Heyman writes. He also looks back on Upton’s original five-year, $75.2MM pact and notes that it’s one of the worst contracts in recent history, particularly given the fact that the next-highest offer was believed to come from the Phillies at somewhere in the $40MMs.
- The league’s investigation into the Rays‘ allegations of the Cubs‘ tampering in the Joe Maddon saga could come to a close as soon as next week, per Heyman. MLB was still interviewing people as recently as last week, but to this point there “is believed to have been no smoking guns found.”
- The Reds never approached right-hander Mike Leake about a contract extension this offseason, and the free-agent-to-be is said to be a bit hurt not to have been contacted. Leake’s not a front-line starter, but he’ll hit the open market heading into his age-28 season and currently sports a 3.56 ERA in 427 1/3 innings dating back to Opening Day 2013. A third straight season of 190+ innings and an ERA in the mid-3.00s should position him for a nice contract, especially considering the fact that half of his starts have come in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
- Multiple teams have worked out Rafael Soriano, and while he’s on the Tigers‘ radar, there’s also been some contact with the Mariners. Heyman adds the Pirates, Indians and Dodgers as “logical suitors,” though I’d imagine the Pirates and Indians in particular would have some payroll constraints, depending on the asking price of agent Scott Boras.
- Heyman echoes ESPN’s Buster Olney in speculating that the Dodgers could make a run at extending Howie Kendrick, noting that the Dodgers love Kendrick both on the field and in the clubhouse. He also notes that the Dodgers are impressed with Alex Guerrero‘s bat and may coming around on him as a passable option at third base or in left field, though the team is already well-stocked at each position.
- The Pirates and Gregory Polanco may have come as close as about $1MM on agreeing to a seven-year contract, Heyman hears. The biggest holdup was over the three club options on the deal, which ranged from $11-13MM, and when the team would have been required to exercise them.
- Though recent reports have indicated that John Lackey hopes the Cardinals will approach him about an extension, Heyman writes that it’s not a likely scenario. St. Louis likes its pitching depth and the young starters in line beyond those in the 2015 rotation.
- The Orioles asked the Blue Jays for both of the team’s first round picks from the 2014 draft — right-hander Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost — in exchange for the ability to hire EVP/general manager Dan Duquette as their new president, according to Heyman.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: B.J. Upton | Baltimore Orioles | Chicago Cubs | Cincinnati Reds | Dan Duquette | Detroit Tigers | Gregory Polanco | Howie Kendrick | Jeff Hoffman | Joe Maddon | John Lackey | Kris Bryant | Los Angeles Dodgers | Max Pentecost | Mike Leake | Philadelphia Phillies | Pittsburgh Pirates | Rafael Soriano | San Diego Padres | Seattle Mariners | St. Louis Cardinals | Tampa Bay Rays | Toronto Blue Jays
Here’s the latest on a trio of intriguing international prospects…
- The Cubs, Dodgers and Rangers are all interested in Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox and scouts consider the three teams to be the “biggest threats” to sign the 17-year-old prospect, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel reports. Since many teams have already planned out their budgets and made unofficial agreements to prospects for the 2015-16 international signing period, a player like Fox (who is projected to receive a bonus of at least $1.5MM) is perhaps more likely to land with a team like the aforementioned trio who have money to spend and are aggressive enough to surpass the spending pool limit. The Giants, Padres and Reds have also been linked to Fox but are seen as less likely to spend as freely as Chicago, Los Angeles and Texas.
- Yusnier Diaz, an 18-year-old outfielder, has left Cuba and is looking to play in the majors, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports. The 6’1, 185-pound prospect has plus speed and a plus arm and Badler praised his hitting tools, though he feels Diaz’s right-handed swing is a bit long. Diaz is subject to international spending pools, and since he is unlikely to secure permanent residence in another country by the May 15 deadline, he may not be able to sign until the 2016-17 international signing period opens on July 2, 2016. Any team that exceeds its pool limit in the 2015-16 signing period is therefore probably out of the running for Diaz, as such teams are prohibited from signing any of the next year’s class for more than $300K. The Angels, Diamondbacks, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees are already under this penalty until the 2017-18 signing period.
- Also from Badler, he provides some background on Cuban righty Yaisel Sierra, who isn’t subject to the bonus pools but is still several months away from gaining the necessary clearance to sign with a team. Sierra can throw all his pitches (including a 96mph fastball and a slider) from various arm angles, though the 23-year-old is still a bit unpolished. “Between his stuff, pitching style and history of control problems in Cuba, Sierra has a lot of similarities to Reds right-hander Raisel Iglesias, with Sierra having more size but Iglesias better performance in his final year in Cuba,” Badler writes.
Here’s the latest on a few managerial situations that could already be hot seats…
- Ron Roenicke is earning $1.3MM to manage the Brewers this season, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). Milwaukee exercised its option on Roenicke’s contract for 2016, and while Rosenthal doesn’t know the dollar figure for that extra year, he believes it can’t be too far beyond the $1.3MM figure. With the Brewers off to a terrible start, Rosenthal figures that if the team wants to make a change in the dugout, Roenicke’s guaranteed salary wouldn’t be a major obstacle.
- Wally Backman was recently mentioned as a potential candidate to replace Mike Redmond as the Marlins‘ manager, though Backman was reportedly “shocked” to hear it, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports. Mets GM Sandy Alderson said that the Marlins hadn’t asked for permission to speak with Backman, who is currently managing the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.
- Reds manager Bryan Price issued an expletive-filled tirade about the media prior to Monday’s game, a reaction that Joel Sherman of the New York Post believes could be partially inspired by frustration over Cincinnati’s shaky situation. The Reds are considered by many to be closer to a rebuild than they are to contention, and “Price is not just feeling the seat hot beneath him, but is living within a culture with an ugly near future,” Sherman writes. Price apologized for his language today via the Reds’ official Twitter page (hat tip to the SportsCenter Twitter feed), though he stood by the content of his comments.
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.
Indians manager Terry Francona relates an entertaining story about contracts and signing bonuses that goes back two generations, via Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer. Francona’s father, former big-league outfielder Tito, was trying to get a better deal from the Tigers in 1958, telling team GM John McHale he needed more money because his wife was pregnant. “That’s not my problem,” McHale responded. The baby, of course, was Terry, and McHale was president of the Expos 22 years later when they picked him in the first round of the 1980 draft. Tito acted as Terry’s agent and negotiated a $100K bonus. He then called McHale. “Remember when my wife was pregnant and I wanted a raise,” he said. “Well, that baby is Terry and he just cost you $100,000!” Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- The Reds have reinstated starter Homer Bailey (elbow) from the disabled list and optioned reliever Pedro Villarreal to Triple-A Louisville, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Bailey’s start against the Cardinals on Saturday will be his first since last August. Bailey pitched reasonably well in 2014 when he was available, and he’s in the second year of a $105MM contract, so the Reds will depend on him to be productive yet again.
- Cubs Triple-A infielder Chris Valaika is confident Kris Bryant will be successful in the big leagues, although he’s undoubtedly facing a new challenge, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat writes. “Everything’s escalated, the media presence doesn’t go away, and the game is crisper — it’s the big leagues for a reason,” says Valaika. “Those guys are the best of the best. They find a weakness and they exploit it until you close that hole. He will make adjustments, they will find a new one, and he will close it again.”
The Dodgers announced today that they have claimed right-hander Daniel Corcino off waivers from the Reds and designated lefty Ryan Dennick for assignment. Strangely, the Dodgers had just claimed Dennick off waivers from the Reds two days ago.
The 24-year-old Corcino formerly ranked as one of Cincinnati’s top 10 prospects, according to Baseball America, but his career hasn’t taken off the way that the Reds had hoped. Though Corcino made his Major League debut last season, posting a 4.34 ERA with a 15-to-10 K/BB ratio in 18 2/3 innings, he never built on the strong 2011-12 Minor League numbers he compiled.
Corcino entered the 2013 season ranked as the No. 94 prospect on BA’s Top 100 list, but he posted a surprising 5.86 ERA that year with 6.3 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9 in his first taste of Triple-A. His numbers in 2014 were better, but not markedly so, and his control remained a bit troubling. BA’s scouting reports as Corcino rose through the system noted that he had some effort to his delivery and struggled to command his secondary offerings. Corcino will head to Double-A with the Dodgers, who will hope that they can work with him to refine his control and make the most of a still-youthful reclamation project.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark examines the rising payrolls around the game, noting that even 10 years ago, just three teams has payrolls topping $100MM. This year, Stark points out, 22 clubs have $100MM+ payrolls. Stark spoke with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, Giants CEO Larry Baer and sports economics expert Andy Zimbalist about the change and its impact around the league. Dombrowski notes that the extra Wild Card added to each league has made teams more willing to spend, because more teams believe they can win, and he also discussed the impact of increased payrolls on roster construction around the league. Baer commented that the additional sources of revenue — namely, TV deals, I would presume — have made it easier for teams to sign players to long-term deals, because revenue is easier to project. Not that long ago, Baer notes, revenue was tied much more heavily to ticket sales, and signing a young player to an extension was riskier, because teams could only project revenue a few years out at a time.
A few more miscellaneous notes from around the league…
- Baseball America’s Matt Eddy provides a thorough, comprehensive explanation of his belief that it’s time for the National League to adopt the DH rule. Eddy notes that pitcher productivity is at an all-time low, relative to the production of non-pitchers — even as the production of non-pitchers declines in its own right. One NL assistant GM spoke to Eddy about the advantage that AL teams have not only in interleague games in AL stadiums, but in the ability to rest their best players while still giving them four at-bats. Eddy also argues that because improving their offensive prowess doesn’t accelerate their timeline to the Majors — no pitcher will be promoted because he’s a good hitter or withheld from the Majors to work on his swing — there is neither means nor incentive to improve their hitting skills. Eddy views the DH and the pitcher as “two sides of the same, hyper-specialized coin,” noting that a DH contributes solely to the offensive element of a game, whereas a pitcher functions as the key constituent of the defense. Interestingly, a 2013 poll of 18 MLB managers revealed that 12 of those managers were in favor of adding the DH to the NL, Eddy adds.
- Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post looks at the recent suspensions of Mariners lefty David Rollins, Twins right-hander Ervin Santana, Mets closer Jenrry Mejia and Braves prospect Arodys Vizcaino for Stanozolol and investigates a possible connection. Commissioner Rob Manfred said earlier this week that the league conducts an investigation anytime that there are multiple suspensions for the same banned substance, though he has no reason to assume a connection at this point. Kilgore spoke with subject matter expert Dr. Charles Yesalis about the tests and was told, “There is no way, in my mind, this is one big coincidence.”
- Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, Carlos Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir and Adrian Beltre top a list of midseason trade candidates compiled by Jim Bowden of ESPN (Insider subscription required/recommended). Kazmir’s inclusion is interesting, in that Bowden expects a trade to occur whether the A’s are contending or not, as he notes that the team won’t be able to afford to re-sign Kazmir. He speculates that Kazmir will be flipped, possibly for another Major League caliber starter to step into his spot, though as I pointed out in reviewing their offseason, the A’s already have a sizable reserve of rotation options from which to draw.
While some have suggested that the Cubs preferred Mark Appel to Kris Bryant in the 2013 draft, scouting director Jason McLeod explains to Phil Rogers of MLB.com that that isn’t the case; the Cubs only planned to select Appel if the Astros selected Bryant with the No. 1 overall pick that season. Rogers spoke with McLeod and cross-checker Sam Hughes about the decision to draft Bryant and how he moved up the Cubs’ draft board with a strong performance in his junior year at San Diego. McLeod admitted that the Cubs had concerns about Bryant’s hit tool, but Hughes went to bat strongly for Bryant after watching him and other top draft bats, including Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier. Most pundits expected the pitching-hungry Cubs to select on of Appel or Jon Gray — whichever the Astros didn’t draft — but McLeod said the Cubs preferred to take a volume approach to pitching rather than select one of the top arms. “History tells us pitching comes from all different parts of the Draft,” said McLeod. With Bryant’s debut nearing, Rogers notes that perhaps one of the best decisions under the Cubs’ new front office has been defying the widely expected decision to select a pitcher in favor of Bryant’s bat.
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that despite the team’s bullpen issues, he hasn’t reached out to agent Scott Boras about Rafael Soriano, and Boras hasn’t contacted the Reds about Soriano (Twitter link). Jocketty feels that Soriano would be too expensive, according to Fay. While Soriano may not be in the mix, the Reds certainly need to pursue some form of upgrade. Kevin Gregg has allowed runs in each of his four outings (two runs in three and one in another), and the team’s collective 4.55 ERA is the fifth-highest in baseball. The group’s FIP is even worse, as no team sports a worse mark than Cincinnati’s 5.10.
- Carlos Gomez will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a small defect or tear in his right hamstring, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He has already received a cortisone shot. Earlier today, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy wrote that Gomez was back in Milwaukee for an MRI after feeling a “pop” while running to first base in the ninth inning of last night’s game. The Brewers will need to make a roster move in order to replace Gomez, and as McCalvy notes, Shane Peterson is the only outfielder on the 40-man roster that is not in the Majors.
- Cardinals right-hander John Lackey has every intention of playing in 2015, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “I wouldn’t be pitching this year if I didn’t plan on pitching next year,” Lackey told Nightengale. The veteran Lackey is, of course, playing for the league minimum in 2015 because of a clause in his previous five-year, $82.5MM pact with the Red Sox that added an additional year at that rate in the event of a significant elbow injury. (Lackey had Tommy John surgery midway through that deal.) The Redbirds acquired him from the BoSox last year in exchange for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.
Dennick, 28, has only minimal experience at the big league level. He struggled through the 4 2/3 innings he saw last season, allowing six earned runs, including two long balls, and walking four batters while only retiring three by way of strikeout. But Dennick was solid last year at Triple-A. Over 50 frames, he put up a 2.34 ERA while striking out 7.2 and walking 3.2 batters per nine.
Huff, meanwhile, is a 30-year-old southpaw who received a spot start for Los Angeles last night. He lasted four innings, allowing four earned on seven hits and a walk while striking out a pair of Mariners hitters. Huff was actually quite effective last year after signing with the Yankees in the middle of the season, tossing 39 innings of 1.85 ERA ball for New York out of the pen.
The Reds received some favorable results on Devin Mesoraco‘s MRI, reports MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. The MRI showed no serious issue in Mesoraco’s sore right hip, and the catcher is expected to avoid a trip to the disabled list, per manager Bryan Pr ice. Mesoraco is rehabbing at the facility of Reds medical director Dr. Timothy Kremchek but could be available at some point during the current series with the Cubs or the next series against the Cardinals.
Some more NL Central items as Cincinnati and Chicago square off…
- The Cubs placed Tommy La Stella on the disabled list today and recalled lefty Zac Rosscup from Triple-A in his place. But, as Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago details, the situation is particularly intriguing because of what it could mean for a potential call-up of Kris Bryant. Cubs president Theo Epstein sidestepped a question on how the situation pertains to Bryant, stating that his call-up depends on what’s happening with the Cubs’ roster and with Bryant’s development. Rogers points out that both La Stella and Mike Olt are dealing with injuries now, however, and Friday marks the point at which promoting Bryant will not cost the team a year of club control. The Cubs have made a habit of promoting prospects on the road, Rogers points out, but he wonders if La Stella’s injury will change their thinking in this instance.
- Maddon is pleased with the information and scouting reports he’s receiving from the Cubs‘ baseball operations department, he tells MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. “Our geeks are good,” Maddon joked. Maddon also voiced a comfort in rostering three catchers, referring to David Ross, Miguel Montero and Welington Castillo as the team’s “three-headed catcher.”
- In an infographic piece for FOX Sports, David Golebiewski outlines the reasons that fans should buy into Josh Harrison‘s late emergence as a star. In particular, Golebiewski notes a drastic change in Harrison’s ability to handle inside fastballs and his ability to use the entire field. While Golebiewski points out that Harrison likely won’t maintain last year’s .353 BABIP, his new approach at the dish and defensive prowess make it very likely that he can remain a key component of the Pirates‘ roster.