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The Yankees finalized last summer’s trades for Martin Prado, Josh Outman and Jeff Francis with cash rather than minor leaguers, a team official tells Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees blog. All three deals (with the Diamondbacks, Indians and Athletics, respectively) were made with either cash or a player to be named later going back to the other team in return. Here’s some more from around the baseball world…
- In an entry from Buster Olney’s latest Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, he notes that talent is a rarer commodity than money in today’s game, which is why he feels the Phillies should consider eating some of Cole Hamels‘ contract to bring back better prospects in a deal. Looking at the Hamels-to-Boston trade rumors, Olney wonders why the Red Sox would deal top prospects for Hamels now when a number of ace-level pitchers will be available for only cash in free agency next offseason.
- This offseason has already seen eight arbitration hearings and seven more outstanding cases could go to a hearing, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi notes. It’s an unusually high number given that there were only 13 arb hearings in total over the previous four offseasons, though Morosi doesn’t yet think this could be an omen about the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
- Former big leaguer-turned-FOX Sports analyst C.J. Nitkowski is no stranger to minor league contracts, and he details some of the many factors that a player must consider before signing such a deal.
- Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron lists his ten least-favorite moves of the offseason, with the Padres‘ trade for Matt Kemp topping the list. Cameron believes the Padres paid far too heavy a price in both talent and salary to acquire Kemp, whose best days are possibly behind him due to a checkered injury history.
The expensive costs of youth travel leagues are an obstacle to attracting young talent to baseball, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen writes in a piece for The Players Tribune. The full scholarships provided by college basketball or football make them more appealing sports than the long, usually financially-unrewarding path to the majors that the vast majority of prospects face — McCutchen himself admits that, were it not for an ACL tear when he was 15, he would’ve likely pursued NCAA football and not been a big league star today. He argues that kids from low-income families need more entry points into the game, with one possible solution being a new system similar to the academy program for international prospects.
Here’s the latest from around the NL and AL Central divisions…
- The Indians don’t have interest in signing veteran southpaw Barry Zito, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The Tribe were one of multiple teams who recently saw Zito throw during a workout session.
- Right-hander Matt Albers threw at the same session and the Indians were interested in signing him, Pluto reports, but Albers instead chose a minor league deal with the White Sox.
- David Herndon is happy to finally be healthy and pleased to have signed a minor league deal with the Brewers, the right-hander tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We had dialogue with them throughout the offseason and at the end of the day we got it done. It’s been a long road but we’re going to get back on track this year,” Herndon said. He also mentioned that the Padres were interested in his services, and he threw a workout for San Diego earlier this offseason.
- In less than a year’s time, catcher has gone from a weak spot within the Cubs organization to a position of potentially great depth, CSN Chicago’s Tony Andracki writes. The Cubs have Miguel Montero, David Ross and Welington Castillo at the big league level, and prospects Victor Caratini, Kyle Schwarber and Mark Zagunis developing in the minors.
- Between the big contracts David Robertson and Andrew Miller earned in free agency and Aroldis Chapman‘s sizable $8.05MM deal for 2015, the Twins‘ extension with Glen Perkins is looking better and better for the club, 1500 ESPN’s Derek Wetmore writes. After earning $4.025 MM for another strong season in 2014, Perkins is owed $18.15MM through the 2017 campaign. It’s worth noting that Perkins was shut down in September with a left forearm strain, though he has said his arm has felt good in offseason workouts.
The Blue Jays and Indians appear not to be involved with any of the three best remaining relievers — righties Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Joba Chamberlain — according to ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider link). Other theoretically plausible landing spots seem fairly dried up as well, he notes in assessing the most likely remaining suitors.
Here are a few more pitching notes:
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik says that the club spoke with lefty reliever Joe Beimel but that a deal could not be reached, Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN tweets. Beimel had a nice rebound campaign last year in Seattle, and is one of the few southpaws left on the market.
- The Mets will not be dealing away any pitchers unless circumstances change, Marc Carig of Newsday reports (Twitter links). Dillon Gee generated the most discussion, but New York never found an offer it liked and its prospective trade partners went with other options.
- We checked in earlier this evening on K-Rod and lefty Phil Coke, each of whom has received some interest from the Marlins. Within that post, we noted a report from Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter) indicating that Coke still has hope of landing a big league pact.
- Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays is likely not going anywhere any time soon, but I can’t help but link to this interesting piece from Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs, who explains that Stroman’s arsenal of pitches looks like it was assembled from amongst the best offerings of some of the very best arms in the game.
MLBTR sends our condolences to the family and colleagues of Alison Gordon, who passed away today at age 72. Gordon covered the Blue Jays for the Toronto Star from 1979 to 1983, becoming the first woman to work as a full-time beat writer covering an MLB club, as well as the first female member of the Baseball Writers Association Of America. The Star’s Brendan Kennedy has a fuller examination of Gordon’s career and her influence on countless female sportswriters.
Some news items from around the game…
- GM Jeff Luhnow said the Astros could add “perhaps another reliever but not another starter at this point,” Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter). The Astros added to their rotation depth earlier today by signing Roberto Hernandez, and the team could be closing in on a deal with left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher.
- The Rangers are another team with a “strong interest” in Thatcher, as well as another lefty bullpen arm in Phil Coke, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link). Coke recently threw for Texas.
- The arbitration hearing between Addison Reed and the Diamondbacks is scheduled for Friday unless the two sides can reach an agreement before then, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports.
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich discusses the team’s offseason and his own hiring in an interview with Woody Paige and Les Shapiro of the Denver Post’s Sports Show (video link).
- Critics may claim the Phillies haven’t done enough to move their high-priced veterans this offseason, though Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News feels the Phils have a right to be cautious given the scope of their rebuild.
- “Patience,” is how a Phillies executive responded when asked by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal if the club was frustrated by the lack of quality offers for Cole Hamels. Both Rosenthal and the executive feel more trade opportunities could open up as teams’ needs change due to Spring Training injuries.
- The Blue Jays and Indians don’t appear to be in on any of Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden writes. The Tribe has less of a pressing need at the back of their bullpen given Cody Allen‘s emergence last season, while the Jays may also not specifically be looking for closing help, though they are looking at bullpen upgrades.
- The Dodgers‘ hiring of Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi to run the front office is the top transaction of the 2014-15 offseason, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron opines. Three other Dodgers moves appear in Cameron’s list of the winter’s top 10 moves, and he calls them “probably the scariest organization in baseball” now that their financial resources have been augmented by Friedman/Zaidi’s creative maneuvers.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- Continuing their trend of adding veteran arms on minor league deals, the Braves have added right-hander Todd Coffey on such a pact and invited him to Spring Training, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Coffey missed the 2013 season after undergoing his second career Tommy John surgery and spent much of the 2014 campaign with the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate, where he posted an excellent 1.93 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 37 1/3 innings of work. From 2009-12 with the Brewers, Nationals and Dodgers, Coffey notched a 3.76 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 225 innings. The Braves have also added Jose Veras, Matt Capps, Chien-ming Wang, Wandy Rodriguez and Donnie Veal on minor league deals this winter.
- The Blue Jays announced that first baseman/outfielder Chris Colabello has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A (h/t: Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet). The 31-year-old Colabello found himself designated for assignment to make room for waiver claim Jayson Aquino. The longtime indy ball star has been a nice story since signing with the Twins as a 28-year-old and rising through their ranks to the MLB level.
- The Indians have signed former Phillies utility man Michael Martinez to a minor league deal and invited him to Spring Training, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (on Twitter). The 32-year-old switch-hitter brings plenty of defensive versatility to the table, though he’s just a .181/.231/.251 hitter in 440 big league plate appearances.
- The Marlins have inked infielder David Adams to a minor league deal that does not include an invitation to big league camp, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports (Twitter links). Now 27, Adams slashed a meager .193/.252/.286 in 152 trips to the plate with the Yankees in 2013. He has performed much better in the upper minors, slashing .255/.349/.397 in 333 plate appearances at Triple-A and putting up a .290/367/.443 line in 899 Double-A turns at bat.
- Another utility infielder, Chris Dominguez, has agreed to a minor league pact with the Reds, the club tweeted. Dominguez, who was recently designated and released by the Giants, will participate in MLB camp. The 28-year-old saw his first action in the bigs last year, a quick stop with San Francisco, but has spent most of his time over the last two seasons at Triple-A. In 1,203 total PCL plate appearances, Dominguez owns a solid .278/.312/.446 slash with 39 home runs.
- Lefty Cesar Jimenez has cleared waivers and accepted a Triple-A assignment, the Phillies announced. Despite a strong 2014 and deal to avoid arbitration, Jimenez was designated and then outrighted recently.
Red Sox starter Rick Porcello figures to present a fascinating free agent case, as Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes. The righty will enter free agency in advance of his age-27 campaign and remains a candidate to put up a big year in Boston. Even if he ends up with more typical results than a true breakout, and even accounting for robust market supply, his age could make him a $100MM player, in Petriello’s view.
Here are a few notes on some of the few remaining current free agents:
- Reliever David Aardsma pushed his velocity up to 92 mph in a recent showcase in front of eighteen scouts, MLBTR’s Steve Adams reports (Twitter links). The 33-year-old has not seen MLB action since 2013, but worked to a 1.46 ERA with better than a strikeout per inning last year at Triple-A with the Cardinals organization. He is expected to choose a team in the near future.
- Fellow righty Matt Albers also threw for teams recently, as already reported, and the Indians were among those in attendance, as Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. Cleveland also had a look at lefty Barry Zito, who threw for observers yesterday.
- Speaking of prior reports on Albers and Zito, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle — who broke the news last night — tweets today that Astros owner Jim Crane says the team could bring in Zito with a spring training invite. Drellich cautions that it still seems unlikely that Zito will land with Houston.
The Royals should employ “selective memory” regarding their successful 2014 playoff run, writes Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star. During the Wild Card game, the Royals were just a few outs from elimination against the Athletics. A series of improbable events led to a remarkable comeback victory. Without that first win, Ned Yost would be a punching bag in the media due to questionable decisions, Mike Moustakas would have entered the offseason with another disappointing season on his resume, and Lorenzo Cain would have failed to gain national acclaim. The postseason success also allowed the Royals to bolster their payroll, which should help in 2015.
- The Reds have two more arbitration players – Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman, writes Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. The club continues to talk to agents of both players in an effort to find a middle ground. Per GM Walt Jocketty, “we’re going to keep working on it this weekend and see if we can make some progress.” Both players have fairly substantial differences in their submitted figures. Frazier asked for $5.7MM compared to the club’s offer of $3.9MM in his first season of eligibility. Chapman’s camp submitted for $8.7MM while the Reds countered at $6.65MM. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected a $4.6MM payday for Frazier and $8.3MM for Chapman.
- The Reds are “pretty much done” with free agent signings, reports Sheldon. Cincinnati inked reliever Burke Badenhop earlier today and signed former closer Kevin Gregg to a minor league deal. Jocketty left the door open, saying he’ll see if “something pops up,” but it’s unlikely.
- Patience allowed the Indians to acquire and develop three of their semi-homegrown stars, writes the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto. Michael Brantley was a player to be named later in the 2008 CC Sabathia trade. It took him six seasons to breakout at the major league level. In 2010, Corey Kluber was acquired in a three team trade. As we know, he also took awhile to reach his ceiling. Catcher Yan Gomes is another important trade acquisition for the club. Cleveland sent pitcher Esmil Rogers to Toronto in exchange for Gomes and Mike Aviles. All three players never ranked among the top 100 prospects in the game, and they’re all under club control through at least 2017.
After running through league-wide news and notes, Jeff covers a range of topics with reigning American League Cy Young winner Corey Kluber of the Indians (1:48). As Spring Training draws near, Kluber discusses his preparation and approach after throwing 235 2/3 excellent innings last year.
Jeff then chats with Orioles beat reporter Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (16:22) about how to interpret a fairly quiet but still-interesting offseason in Baltimore.
The MLB Trade Rumors Podcast runs weekly on Thursday afternoons.
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski addressed reporters yesterday and touched on a number of Hot Stove related topics. Via James Schmehl of MLive.com (All Twitter links), Dombrowski again stated that he’s happy with his current group of starters and rejected the idea of a serious pursuit of James Shields. Dombrowski did say he’s open to adding another arm, but it would come in the form of a non-roster invite, if it happens at all. As for free agents Phil Coke and Joba Chamberlain, both of whom posted sub-4.00 ERAs out of the Detroit bullpen last year, there’s been no serious discussions with either of them, and neither is likely to return to the team in 2015.
Here are a few more notes out of the much-improved AL Central as Spring Traning nears…
- The Tigers will be among the teams in attendance to watch righty Matt Albers throw next week, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Shoulder problems limited the big righty to 10 innings of work in 2014, but he’s been quite effective dating back to 2012, posting a combined 2.63 ERA in 133 1/3 frames. Albers averaged 5.9 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in that time, registering an exceptional 59.4 percent ground-ball rate as well.
- The Indians have a standing offer to Jason Giambi to work for the team in a non-playing capacity, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted earlier this week. It’s unclear exactly what role Giambi would fill, but he’s beloved in the Cleveland clubhouse and organization after playing there the past two seasons, so it’s likely that the players would be receptive to such an idea. Giambi, 44, has batted a combined .171/.246/.346 with 11 homers in 286 plate appearances for Cleveland since signing there prior to the 2013 campaign.
- Tony Gwynn Jr.’s representatives at John Boggs and Associates are trying to sell the Twins on his defensive prowess in center field, but the team isn’t biting at this time, tweets 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson. Minnesota’s outfield defense does figure to be a problem in 2015, but they’ll go with a mix of Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, Torii Hunter and Jordan Schafer to open the year. I’d imagine Gwynn could be stashed at Triple-A, making him a reasonable add, although Byron Buxton figures to occupy center field at Triple-A sometime in 2015 as well, so the Twins may simply prefer not to bring in an outside veteran. It’s been a quiet offseason for Gwynn, though this is the second time this month we’ve heard some rumblings about the 32-year-old defensive standout.
FEB. 3, 7:35pm: Team president Mark Shapiro views the notion of adding a right-handed bat as “kind of wishful thinking,” as he tells FanSided blog Wahoo’s on First (Twitter link).
9:15am: Ryan Ludwick, Reed Johnson and Andruw Jones (who was said to be interested in a comeback this weekend) are all options for Cleveland, Heyman tweets. It’s certainly a surprise — to yours truly, at least — to see Cleveland linked to more outfield bats, given the glut of options the team already possesses.
However, Raburn is guaranteed just $2.6MM after hitting .195/.263/.333 against lefties last season, so perhaps Cleveland is comfortable looking for an upgrade due to his modest financial commitment. The team could conceivably move him or Murphy, who recently was candid in saying that while he’s willing to accept reduced playing time, he’d be open to a trade rather than a scenario where he receives 150 or so at-bats over the life of the season.
FEB. 2: It’s been a largely quiet offseason in Cleveland, but the Indians are still on the lookout for a right-handed bat and some relief help, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter).
The easiest spot to envision a right-handed bat entering the mix for playing time in Cleveland would be on the left side of the infield, where Lonnie Chisenhall has long had platoon issues (though he improved against lefties in a small 2014 sample). To a lesser extent, there could be a need at shortstop, given Jose Ramirez‘s inexperience, but the Indians likely feel comfortable with him and the eventual arrival of top prospect Francisco Lindor. Cleveland has little need for additional outfielders, given the presence of Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, Brandon Moss, Nick Swisher, David Murphy and Ryan Raburn. They may, in fact, be better off seeking to trade one of the outfielders already on the roster.
The free agent market offers little in the way of a bat that could help in the infield. Rickie Weeks could be an option at third base (certainly not at short, however) if he is amenable to shifting across the diamond. Aside from Weeks, names like Donnie Murphy, Jayson Nix and Jonathan Herrera offer little upside with the bat but could be moved around the infield while regulars rest or deal with injuries.
Cleveland could also turn an eye toward the trade market. Some speculative names that come to mind include Matt Dominguez (now that Houston has traded for Luis Valbuena), Logan Forsythe or perhaps Eduardo Nunez, though none are particularly exciting names. Going further out on a limb, Cleveland could gauge Atlanta’s interest in a swap of bad contracts sending Swisher (and cash) for Chris Johnson. Replacing Swisher’s contract with that of Johnson would spread out the negative value over a three-year term as opposed to Swisher’s remaining two-year commitment, thereby creating some much-needed 2016 flexibility (a need I examined months ago in Cleveland’s Offseason Outlook). Johnson also crushes left-handed pitching and could therefore form a powerful, albeit defensively challenged platoon at third base with Chisenhall.
As for relievers, there are a number of names remaining on the market. I took a look at the remaining names with above-average velocity this morning, although Cleveland likely doesn’t have interest in reunions with Chris Perez or John Axford. Still, there are some experienced late-inning arms coming off mostly solid seasons, including Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano. Should Cleveland want to gamble a bit, it could by low on a formerly successful late-inning reliever such as Matt Lindstrom, David Aardsma, Brian Wilson or Matt Albers. Trades could also be explored on this front as well; one recent name added to the relief trade market was Edward Mujica.