The Indians and Athletics are progressing on a deal that would send veteran outfielder Coco Crisp to Cleveland, MLBTR’s Steve Adams reports (Twitter links). Crisp has already waived his ten-and-five rights to open the door to a trade, per sources, though a transaction hasn’t yet been finalized.
Veteran Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp says that he believes the team is artificially holding down his playing time to prevent his option from vesting, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Crisp says that he’s “extremely hurt” by the team’s “shady” handling of the situation. While GM David Forst and manager Bob Melvin have stated that Crisp is sitting against lefties to afford younger players more exposure, he sees more to it — particularly since he is not being used much off the bench. Crisp’s $13MM option vests at 130 games played; entering today’s action, he had appeared in 93 contests, meaning he’d need to take the field for most of the club’s remaining 43 games to reach the threshold. “I’m healthy, I’m playing hard and this has surprised me,” said Crisp, who noted that he has loved playing in Oakland. “This calls their integrity into question, it’s very sad.” The 36-year-old, who owns a .239/.307/.410 slash on the year, indicated that he may not be interested in playing after this season, adding: “The business side sure makes it hard to love the game, and I’ve loved the game since I was six years old.”
Here’s more from out west:
- The Padres seemingly intend to give just-acquired infielder Luis Sardinas a good run late this year, as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. Though he hasn’t hit much at Triple-A or the majors thus far in 2016, Sardinas has a solid pedigree — as club GM A.J. Preller well knows having signed him as an amateur. “I don’t think we [acquired] him to relegate him to Triple-A the rest of the year,” said manager Andy Green.
- One Padres player who has thrived upon receiving an opportunity is 26-year-old outfielder Alex Dickerson, who entered the day with a .280/.319/.528 slash and seven home runs over 135 plate appearances. Lin writes that there’s more concern over Dickerson’s glove than his bat, though Green also suggests he has been better than the defensive metrics might suggest. Still, the exciting element of Dickerson’s game is his work on offense. “The way he sees the ball, his plate discipline, he’s a guy that could easily have a 10 percent walk rate to go along with the way he hits, the power numbers he puts up,” said Green. “I’m very pleased with what he’s shown early in his major league career and have every expectation he’ll keep improving.”
- It was reported recently that Major League Baseball is looking into the Padres’ provision of medical information in a pair of recent trades. The initial review, at least, is expected to wrap up this week, Lin tweets. It remains largely unclear whether there’s any possibility of punitive measures being taken against the team, or whether the review is focused more on arriving at a standard approach to swapping health documents for all teams.
- Mariners lefty James Paxton has been scratched from his next scheduled start, as Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports, and could be headed to the DL. Though Paxton wants to pitch, and the team no doubt wants to give him the ball, manager Scott Servais says that the prudent course is further rest. Forearm soreness is almost always scary, but in this case it resulted not from a throwing injury but a line drive. Regardless, Seattle will hope to get the southpaw back in action as soon as reasonably possible. The 27-year-old appears to be harnessing his talent at an opportune time for a Mariners team that is trying to make a run at a Wild Card, if not the AL West title. Over his 81 2/3 innings on the year, Paxton owns a 3.53 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9, and he has been even better of late.
It’s been a little more than a month since we last checked in on the vesting options from around the league. Here’s where this year’s collection of players with vesting options for the following season stand…
- Coco Crisp ($13MM option vests at 550 plate appearances or 130 games played in 2016): Crisp was hitting .234/.304/.405 at the time of my initial look at this group of players, but his bat has gone in the tank since that time. The 36-year-old switch-hitter has batted just .212/.235/.343 in 102 plate appearances since that time, but he’s continued to see playing time in part due to injuries elsewhere on the roster (Josh Reddick, Mark Canha). Crisp is still on pace to come in a bit shy of that 550 PA mark, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a reduced role upon Reddick’s return to health, as the A’s probably don’t love the idea of paying him $13MM for his age-37 campaign when he’s struggling to this level in 2016.
- Matt Holliday ($17MM option vests with Top 10 finish in MVP voting): Holliday is having a strong season, as he’s proven that the power outage he experienced last season was more anomaly than a portent for significant decline. However, he’s hitting .257/.332/.478 — numbers that help the Cardinals but won’t make him a factor in MVP voting barring a mammoth finish to the 2016 season.
- Chris Iannetta ($6MM option vests with 100 games started in 2016): Iannetta has already started 55 games for the Mariners this season, making it seem very likely that he’ll be around in Seattle for the 2017 campaign as well. He hasn’t set the world on fire in his first year with the Mariners, but he’s hitting .237/.337/.395, which translates to an OPS+ of 104 and a wRC+ of 105. (Put another way: he’s been about four to five percent above the league-average hitter after adjusting for his pitcher-friendly home park.)
- Yusmeiro Petit ($3MM option vests with 80 innings pitched in 2016): At last check, Petit was on pace to see his option vest, but he’s been used very sparingly in the month of June, totaling just six innings thus far after combining for 26 innings in April and May. Given his status as a multi-inning reliever, he could pick up some additional innings in a hurry, but as it stands, he’s behind pace to see that payday locked in automatically. Of course, he’s also posted a 2.81 ERA in those 32 innings, so the Nats may simply pick up his option even if it doesn’t automatically trigger. To this point, he’s pitched well enough that it seems like a fairly easy call.
- CC Sabathia ($25MM option vests if he does not end season on DL with shoulder injury or miss 45+ games in 2016 due to shoulder injury): Sabathia’s option seems likely to vest, as his shoulder has remained healthy this season. However, what once looked like an egregious overpay can perhaps be seen in a different light for the time being. While few would argue that the Yankees shouldn’t mind paying Sabathia that sum in 2017, his contract looks considerably better than it did last year. The former Cy Young winner has made 11 starts this season and has posted a resurgent 2.20 ERA with 7.7 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9. Sabathia has benefited from some good fortune in terms of homer-to-flyball ratio and strand rate, but this is the best he’s looked since 2012.
- Kurt Suzuki ($6MM option vests with 485 plate appearances in 2016): Suzuki’s overall production this season has been well below average, but since the last of these updates he’s batting a considerably improved .268/.297/.394 with a pair of homers in 74 PAs. That’s a bit better than the league-average catcher, but the Twins still don’t seem inclined to allow his option to vest. Suzuki has totaled just 158 plate appearances this season even with John Ryan Murphy, his projected replacement, floundering in the Majors and getting optioned to Triple-A (where his struggles have continued). Journeyman Juan Centeno is getting some time behind the dish as well (61 PAs) for the Twins as well. It seems unlikely that Minnesota will allow Suzuki to average 3.5 PAs per game over the final 93 contests after he’s averaged just 2.3 per game thus far.
As noted in the original update, both Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn had vesting options for the 2017 season as well, but those options were negated when each was released from the four-year contracts they initially signed with the Indians.
Each year, the free-agent class is impacted by the performance of players with vesting options (as is the financial future of players with said provisions in their contract). For those unfamiliar with the option, a vesting option is typically a club option that can automatically trigger based on the player’s health and/or performance. Meeting pre-determined criteria for games played, innings pitched, plate appearances, etc. are the most common means of triggering vesting options, though as you’ll see below, there have been some more creative approaches to vesting options in the past as well.
We’ll check in on these players periodically throughout the season, and here’s the first look…
- Chris Iannetta: The Mariners hold a $4.25MM club option over Iannetta for the 2017 season, but that option can also vest at $6MM if Iannetta starts 100 games in 2016 and does not finish the season on the disabled list due to an injured hip, back or right elbow. Having started 30 of the Mariners’ first 39 games, Iannetta is on pace to clear the 100 start threshold with ease, and if he can continue to post an OPS in the mid-.700s, the Mariners probably won’t mind having him back for another season at that price. One factor that could throw a wrench into his playing time: Mike Zunino is demolishing Triple-A pitching thus far, batting .305/.357/.580, though the former first-round pick has cooled off considerably in the past two weeks.
- Kurt Suzuki: Another backstop with a $6MM vesting option, Suzuki needs to reach 485 plate appearances in 2016 for that option to trigger. The big 2014 first-half that earned Suzuki that extension never seemed sustainable, and he has batted just .242/.294/.330 since signing the deal. The Twins probably don’t want to see this one vest, as evidenced by the fact that he’s on pace for 349 plate appearances, which would be his lowest total since signing in Minnesota.
- Matt Holliday: The 36-year-old Holliday has a $17MM club option for the 2017 season that automatically vests if he places within the Top 10 of this season’s NL MVP voting. Holliday isn’t the hitter he once was, and even in his best years with the Cardinals, he (somewhat surprisingly) never landed inside the Top 10 in NL MVP voting. At 36 years of age and off to a good but unspectacular .250/.325/.485 start to the season, it seems safe to assume that his option won’t vest. The club will have the choice of exercising the option or paying Holliday a buyout of $1MM.
- Coco Crisp: Crisp, also 36, has a more complicated vesting option tacked onto his two-year, $22MM deal. The option is valued at $13MM and will automatically kick in if Crisp receives 550 plate appearances or appears in 130 games this season. The option initially could also have vested based on combined playing time from 2015-16 (1100 PAs from 2015-16 or 260 games from 2015-16), but Crisp spent most of the 2015 campaign on the DL, so he’ll have to hope to trigger the option based solely on his 2016 health. He’s appeared in 31 of Oakland’s 41 games and picked up 126 plate appearances, so he’s a bit shy of the pace for either threshold. Clearly, though, there’s still plenty of time to make up ground. He’s batting .234/.304/.405.
- Yusmeiro Petit: The one-year, $3MM contract signed by Petit this winter came with a $3MM club option ($500K buyout) that vests if Petit reaches 80 innings pitched. Petit has occupied a role similar to the one in which he thrived for a few years as a member of the Giants’ bullpen, and he’s picked up 21 innings through the Nationals’ first 40 games. If that pace holds, he’ll indeed clear 80 innings and see that salary lock in. With a 1.71 ERA and 3.28 FIP through his first 21 frames, the Nats probably wouldn’t mind that at all.
- CC Sabathia: The 35-year-old Sabathia’s vesting option is tied to the health of his shoulder. He’ll lock in a $25MM salary for the 2017 campaign if he doesn’t end the 2016 season on the DL due to a shoulder injury or spend 45+ days on the DL this year due to a shoulder injury. Sabathia is currently on the disabled list, but it’s due to a groin injury, so it doesn’t impact the option’s status. While he’s certainly no longer an ace, Sabathia did have a 3.81 ERA through his first five starts of the season, though his strikeout and walk numbers weren’t particularly encouraging.
It’s perhaps worth noting, as well, that both Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher had vesting options for the 2017 season worked into the four-year deals they originally signed with the Indians. However, with each player having been released from that contract and signing new deals (with the D-backs and Yankees, respectively), those options are no longer in play. (The lack of playing time for each player this season would’ve made them a non-issue anyhow.)
The Astros’ first-base situation is one of the more fluid among contenders league-wide, but Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes that the competition is off to a compelling start. Possible options such as A.J. Reed, Tyler White, Jon Singleton, and Matt Duffy are among the players who have begun making their case for major league jobs, and Drellich explains that it won’t be long before the team will begin to make its choices. “The at-bats are going to start to dry up with the competition,” said manager A.J. Hinch, who added that he’ll begin to give more playing time to the most likely candidates in the middle of March.
Here’s some more camp news out of the AL West:
- Athletics righty Jarrod Parker is going to be limited to bullpen duty as he tries to work back from an elbow fracture (not to mention his two prior Tommy John procedures), Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The 27-year-old, who hasn’t seen MLB action since 2013, will likely trim his offerings down to a fastball-change combination. He’s currently building up his arm strength in bullpen sessions, and says that he’s just taking things one step at a time. “Expectations are not in my vocabulary anymore,” said Parker. “I just go day to day and try to be in tune, see how I feel, give what I’ve got that day and not try to reach.”
- The Athletics have received good signs on the injury front from catcher Stephen Vogt and righty Jesse Hahn, as Slusser further reports. Vogt, who isn’t far removed from an elbow procedure, hit two home runs today and says he was glad to be able to “trust the elbow” and “take full swings and not feel any pain.” And Hahn, who was limited last year with a concerning forearm strain, looked good in his two innings and says he feels healthy. Likewise, outfielder Coco Crisp looks to be in good form after an injury-riddled 2015 season, manager Bob Melvin told reporters including John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group (via Twitter).
- Over in Angels camp, the left field situation remains an interesting one to watch, and MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes that 24-year-old Rafael Ortega is a player who has impressed early. Of course, the organization still seems set to go with a platoon of Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry to open the season. As Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports, they have taken a long and winding road to this point.
With the current focus on teams “tanking” seasons, ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) observes that the Athletics’ run over the last two decades is all the more remarkable since the team has never entirely torn things down to rebuild. Last season was the first time since 1997 that Oakland won fewer than 74 games, and even in the wake of 2015’s disappointment, the A’s still made offseason moves with an eye on returning to contention in 2016. Here’s some more from the Athletics’ camp…
- Chris Coghlan is looking forward to his new role as a super-utility man, the newly-acquired Athletic told reporters (including Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle). “When I was younger, my ego, I was like, ‘I want to play one position,’ but as you grow, to be able to play different positions really helps the team, so I’ve learned to embrace it….Zo [Ben Zobrist] set the bar. There were people before, but Zo made it sexy and and cool to be the utility guy. Before, it meant you aren’t an everyday guy. Now it’s the cool thing. So mad props to him,” Coghlan said.
- Despite the numerous injuries that have set back his career, Coco Crisp tells CSNBayArea.com’s Joe Stiglich that he has no plans on retiring. “Really, who wants to stop playing? It’s been everybody’s dream for so long.” Crisp said. “I do enjoy my family, my kids, and I want to be there for them. And I also want them to be able to see their father, (when they’re) at an older age, play ball. And experience some of the joys of being a ballplayer’s kid.” Crisp said he would love to keep playing in Oakland past this season, the last guaranteed year on his contract. Crisp has a $13MM vesting option for 2017 based on amassing either 130 games played or 550 plate appearances this year, though either threshold will be hard to achieve given both his injury history and the Athletics’ logjam of outfield/DH options.
- In a piece about young pitchers who are good extension candidates, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards highlights Sonny Gray’s case for a multi-year deal. Trade rumors have often swirled around Gray since it has been assumed that the A’s can’t afford him once he hits free agency after the 2019 season, and Edwards notes that an extension wouldn’t make sense if Oakland plans on dealing Gray within the next year (the star righty becomes arbitration-eligible next winter). In the short term, however, Edwards argues that a Gray extension helps the Athletics continue to stay competitive and also retains Gray’s trade value. In this case, both the A’s and potential trade suitors would be gaining cost certainty on Gray through his arb years.
The Astros organization is mourning the loss of 20-year-old pitcher Jose Rosario, who died in a motorcycle accident yesterday evening in his native Dominican Republic. Rosario pitched in the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League last year. The organization’s international director Oz Ocampo praised Rosario as “a beloved member of the Astros Latin American program.” Ocampo continued: “He will be remembered as a long, lanky-framed pitcher with tremendous ability, an outgoing personality and an ever-positive disposition. He was a true student of the game and was constantly looking to learn and improve his abilities. He was also a supportive teammate, as he made it a point to encourage his fellow Astros and deliver that message with a smile on his face. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Rosario family.” We here at MLBTR join in that message.
Here are the latest notes from the game’s western divisions:
- The Padres are interested in free agent righty Tim Lincecum, Jon Heyman reports on Twitter. He notes that the Marlins also are continuing to look at the former Giants star, along with other teams, as he readies for a planned February showcase after undergoing hip surgery last year.
- Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon says he was surprised that the team decided to bring in yet another left-handed outfield bat in Gerardo Parra, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes. “I was little perplexed at first,” said Blackmon. “Because I didn’t really see it coming. Going into the offseason, I didn’t know that was in play, really. But after looking at it, he’s a great player. I’ve played against him, seen him play. He’s got one of the best arms in the league. He can only make our team better.” Blackmon, of course, continues to draw trade chatter, all the more so after the Parra signing, but he said he’s not bothered by the rumors — while rightly noting that it’s always “good to be relevant.”
- Athletics closer Sean Doolittle says he is ready to go for spring camp without any restrictions after dealing with shoulder issues last year, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. “I promised I wouldn’t tell anybody I’m in the best shape of my life because I’ll never be 21 again,” said Doolittle. “But I think this is the most important offseason of my career, and I’ve been going about it with that mentality.”
- Meanwhile, the Athletics aren’t yet sure what to expect from outfielder Coco Crisp, Slusser adds. Though he’s beginning to swing the bat, it isn’t yet clear how he’ll bounce back from an injury-plagued 2015. DH Billy Butler is another question mark, but he says he’s “got a lot left in the tank,” as John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Butler will look to build upon a solid final month in an otherwise forgettable season. “I’m in good shape. I’m strong. Everything’s great,” he said. “I know what the expectations are, so let’s go out there and do it. I’ve prepared this winter to do that.”
- It sounds like extension talks could soon take place between the Athletics and outfielder Josh Reddick, and GM David Forst said that the team intends to try to find ground for a multi-year deal, as SB Nation’s Jeremy Koo writes. Oakland “will make an effort at” a deal, said Forst. He added that Reedick has “kind of become the face of our team; somewhat the drive and energy of the club.”
A’s starter Henderson Alvarez is unlikely to pitch for the team before May, according the GM David Forst (via ESPN). The 25-year-old is recovering from shoulder surgery. Oakland signed the right-hander to a one-year, $4.25MM guarantee with up to $1.6MM in incentives back in December. The Marlins had previously non-tendered Alvarez.
Here’s more injury-related notes out of Oakland:
- A’s closer Sean Doolittle says he’s healthy and ready for the 2016 season, writes John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. Doolittle missed most of the 2015 with a shoulder injury. In his absence, the A’s had one of the worst bullpens in the league. Doolittle is pleased with the additions the club has made – particularly Ryan Madson, John Axford, Lian Hendriks, and Marc Rzepczynski.
- Coco Crisp’s availability in 2016 is unknown, per Shea. Injuries limited him to 44 games last season, and he’s only just now beginning to hit. The club will learn more about his availability in Spring Training.
- Also from Shea, manager Bob Melvin expects Jarrod Parker to be ready for spring action. Parker, once a prominent pitching prospect, has missed most of the last two seasons due to Tommy John surgery. He’s experienced success in the majors, including a career 3.68 ERA, 6.45 K/9, and 2.98 BB/9 in 384 innings.
- Two more starting pitchers who ended the season on the disabled list – Jesse Hahn and Kendall Graveman – are fully healthy, writes Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area. Hahn and Graveman were acquired in trades prior to the 2015 season. They will join a competitive battle for a rotation role behind ace Sonny Gray and free agent import Rich Hill.
Athletics VP of baseball operations Billy Beane and GM David Forst sat down with the media today to round things up after the season. As Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle was among those to report, generally, the club is not planning to trade away young assets but also won’t rush them to the big leagues. That could suggest a sort of transition season at the major league level. The sense seems to be that pitching additions — at least one starter as well as some pen help — could be offseason targets. Slussers notes to keep an eye out for deals to address “poor clubhouse chemistry.”
Here’s more from Oakland and the rest of the AL West:
- Beane made clear that the Athletics see outfielder Josh Reddick as a keeper, noting the possibility of an extension before he hits the open market after 2016. “Josh is a good player and he’s still young,” Beane said. “We’ve always liked having him here. Talented guy, does everything well. … We’re all very pleased with the year Josh had.” Fellow outfielder Coco Crisp, meanwhile, still profiles as a starter — if, that is, he can return to health.
- Athletics lefty Drew Pomeranz is likely headed for AC joint surgery on his pitching shoulder, John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group tweets. The 26-year-old, who’ll be arbitration eligible for the first time this winter, put up a 3.66 ERA in 86 innings while serving in a swingman capacity.
- The Mariners have begun turning over their front office after making a change at the top, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). With new GM Jerry Dipoto at the helm, the organization will part ways with special assistants to the GM Duane Shaffer and Joe McIlvaine, pro scouting supervisor Pete Vuckovich, and pro scout Joe Nigro.
- While the Astros are preparing for an exciting post-season trip, that doesn’t mean the club’s front office won’t see some change as well. As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports, farm director Quinton McCracken and assistant director Allen Rowin could end up being reassigned within the organization if they stay in Houston. GM Jeff Luhnow has a “new vision,” apparently relating to player development, that has created some uncertainty, per the report.
- Luhnow recently discussed the Astros’ trade deadline in retrospect, noting that some less-than-ideal performances didn’t change his evaluation. As Drellich reports, the Houston GM defended his approach this summer. “We made those trades for the right reason and I’m comfortable with the process that we went through and why we made those trades,” said Luhnow. “The players on this team that put us in a position to make those trades at end of July deserve the opportunity for us to add talent, and that’s what we did. It doesn’t always work out. I think we know that, we knew that going in. Fortunately for us, we have Fiers and Gomez next year, and we’re still in it.”
- Newly-appointed Angels GM Billy Eppler discussed the kinds of players he’ll be targeting with his new organization, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports on Twitter. Eppler noted the idea of finding baseball intelligence in his position players, with a preference for hitters “with a patiently aggressive approach.” In building a staff, he wants arms that not only have quality offerings, but “can set up a hitter [and] execute a game plan.”
- Angels owner Arte Moreno left no doubt that he will provide Eppler with the means of delivering a competitive club, as Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com reports (Twitter links). “Our plans are not to rebuild,” said the veteran owner. “We would like to become more competitive.” As for the topic of payroll, Moreno indicated that he would not allow the luxury tax threshold to get in the way of an appropriate acquisition. “If it’s the right player, in the right situation, we’ll do whatever is needed,” he said.
In his introductory press conference with the Mariners yesterday, GM Jerry Dipoto said that he wouldn’t let his split with the Angels define his career, and he also stressed the importance of communication between a manager and a GM. Asked about what he’s learned about communication from the drama, manager Mike Scioscia said the following to reporters (including MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez): “I just know how important communication is, not only with the GM and the manager, but also communication with the people who are controlling your depth chart in the Minor Leagues, getting an evaluation of players. When you have that communication, the decision-making process is very, very clean and we have positive situations on the field.” Dipoto said that the perception of a consistent war between himself and Scioscia was “the furthest thing from the truth,” and Scioscia said that he doesn’t anticipate it’ll be tough to smooth out any communication issues with a new GM. Per Gonzalez, Scioscia would, though, like a larger say in player development and a more direct line to the coaches at the team’s upper minor league levels. Scioscia has an opt-out clause in his contract after this season but is expected to return in 2016, Gonzalez adds.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- Coco Crisp expects to be the Athletics’ starting left fielder in 2016, writes John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, but there’s been no official determination from management. Crisp will sit down with manager Bob Melvin, assistant GM David Forst and GM Billy Beane to discuss the future following the 2015 season. His guaranteed $11MM salary certainly figures to play a role in matters. Said Forst of Crisp: “We’re optimistic that he will be able to play out there next year. He takes care of himself, and we think the (physical) issues can be resolved.”
- Astros lefty Scott Kazmir feels that poor execution of his pitches has led to his poor month of September, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Kazmir acknowledged that it’s unreasonable for thoughts of free agency not to creep into a player’s head this close to reaching the open market, but he doesn’t feel that’s the root of the problem either. There’s no physical issue, per Kazmir, and pitching coach Brent Strom agrees that execution (or lack thereof) is the source of his woes.