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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.
Despite the high-profile signing of Yasmany Tomas this winter, the D-Backs will use him primarily off the bench in his first taste of Major League action, GM Dave Stewart told reporters, including Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Tomas was promoted today, due in part to a lack of other options on the 40-man roster, Piecoro writes. Arizona had few other position players both healthy and on the 40-man, but despite that fact, Stewart said he didn’t consider transferring injured pitchers Matt Stites or Patrick Corbin to the 60-day disabled list. Stewart feels that each is close enough to being healthy that he didn’t want to risk a move to the 60-day DL. The GM also noted that he has not considered making a trade to alleviate some of his logjam of outfielders.
More on the D-Backs and their division…
- D-Backs prospect Peter O’Brien will go about a month without playing behind the plate, manager Chip Hale tells MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. O’Brien will see some time in left field and at first base but is apparently receiving a mental break from catching after developing an issue throwing the ball back to the pitcher late in Spring Training. Clearly, that’s not the type of issue that any team wants to see from a player it has dubbed the “catcher of the future.” Common consensus among scouts and other organizations has been that O’Brien isn’t a good enough defender behind the plate to remain at the position, though he’s certainly hitting well enough to garner some attention early in the year. Through a small sample of 28 plate appearances, O’Brien’s batting .333/.357/.519 with a homer and two doubles. Many felt Arizona should have traded for catching help this offseason, but Stewart stated on multiple occasions that such a move was not the plan, partly because the club believed O’Brien could handle the position eventually.
- Padres right-hander Ian Kennedy is nearing a rehab assignment, reports MLB.com’s Corey Brock. Kennedy is slated to throw a bullpen session on Friday, and if all goes well, he’ll join a Minor League affiliate and look to throw 75 to 90 pitches in a rehab start. It’s possible that Kennedy will need a couple of rehab outings, though he’d probably prefer to return to the field sooner rather than later. As a pending free agent, Kennedy has quite a bit riding on his 2015 performance.
- Adam Ottavino has been named the new closer for the Rockies, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Manager Walt Weiss wasted little time this season in swapping the hard-throwing 29-year-old and former closer LaTroy Hawkins, who will now pitch in a setup or middle relief role. An effective season as a closer would do wonders for Ottavino in arbitration next offseason, as he’d stand to see a sizable raise from this year’s $1.3MM salary if he can accumulate a year’s worth of saves. Ottavino’s numbers over the past two seasons indicate that he can indeed thrive in the role, as he’s pitched to a 2.97 ERA with 158 strikeouts against 48 walks in 148 2/3 innings dating back to 2013. Of course, as a closer, he’ll be more exposed to lefties, who have given him trouble in the past, but Ottavino tells Saunders that he feels more comfortable against opposite-handed batters after making some adjustments and keeping them in check during Spring Training. Fantasy players, remember that you can keep up with all closer trends and performances by following @closernews on Twitter.
Yesterday, for the first time in nearly 15 years, five pitchers threw at least seven innings and allowed two hits or fewer, notes MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels, Milwaukee’s Jimmy Nelson, Baltimore’s Ubaldo Jimenez, Boston’s Joe Kelly, and Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer turned the trick. Bartolo Colon was one of the quintet from 2000 (then with the Indians) and was the Mets’ starting pitcher today and drove in a run for the first time since 2005. Time marches slowly in our national pastime.
In other hurler news from around baseball:
- The Rockies have placed reliever John Axford on the family medical emergency list to tend to his two-year-old son, reports Nick Groke of The Denver Post. Doctors have had to remove all the tissue and skin at the spot of a rattlesnake bite Jameson Axford suffered last month (the incident is detailed by Groke), down to the tendon and bone. To replace Axford on the roster, the Rockies selected the contract of right-hander Scott Oberg and created a spot on the 40-man roster for the 25-year-old rookie, who will make his MLB debut, by moving infielder Charlie Culberson to the 60-day disabled list.
- The Braves‘ Mike Minor has suffered a setback while rehabbing his left shoulder, but surgery is not under consideration for now, reports MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. “He’s experienced some discomfort as he’s started to stretch himself out,” Braves Director of Baseball Operations John Hart said. “So, we’ve brought him up here to have…our medical people take a look at what is going on. We don’t have any recommendation yet. At the moment, he’ll return to Florida to continue the rehab. But there’s obviously some level of concern because the discomfort came back.“
- Former closer Carlos Marmol held a showcase in the Dominican Republic today and displayed velocity in the mid-90s with a new arm slot, tweets MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Marmol was released by the Reds last November, but has been pitching in the Dominican and Venezuela this winter. Over a nine-year MLB career with the Cubs, Dodgers, and Marlins, Marmol has a 3.57 ERA, 11.6 K/9, and 6.2 BB/9 mark in 577 innings with 117 saves.
- Cuban right-hander Jorge Hernandez auditioned for 20 teams in the Dominican Republic and struck out 11 of the 18 hitters he faced, according to Sanchez in a separate tweet. The Twins did not have a presence at either the Marmol or Hernandez showcase, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.
The Cubs aren’t concerned with Jon Lester‘s issues throwing to first base, writes the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo in his weekly Sunday Notes column. “I think it’s being a little overplayed right now, quite frankly,” said manager Joe Maddon to Cafardo. “…I’d much prefer he worries more about getting his fastball where he wants and his cutter where he wants and all the normal pitching things. … I don’t want to make this an issue, because it’s not for me at all.” Still, Cafardo notes, it is an issue that the Red Sox worked to correct for years with little success. The Cardinals exploited the issue in Lester’s first outing by swiping four bases against him, but as Cafardo notes, not every team will go that route. One AL scout told Cafardo: “I always included in my reports about the throwing, but our team chose not to do anything about it.”
Here’s more from Cafardo’s column…
- Newly minted Giants GM Bobby Evans tells Cafardo that he doesn’t envision his team pursuing another starting pitcher despite early injuries to Matt Cain and Jake Peavy. The Giants feel that Peavy, who avoided the DL and is slated to pitch today, is healthy. The team is also not anticipating that Cain’s elbow injury, which did require a trip to the 15-day DL, will be a major issue.
- Cody Ross was recently released by the D-Backs and signed with the A’s, and Cafardo looks back on Ross’ best season — his 2012 campaign with the Red Sox — and notes that Boston offered Ross a two-year deal to remain with the team. Ross, however, found a three-year, $26MM contract in Arizona. Injuries turned that deal into a bust for the Snakes, but Ross will hope to reestablish himself in green and gold.
- The Rockies will likely have plenty of suitors for Troy Tulowitzki this summer if they slide to the cellar of the NL West, but one AL GM tells Cafardo that it’s difficult to envision a trade: “There would be a lot of work to get that done. The money remaining on his salary [$110 million] and the player acquisition cost. Not as easy as it seems. The Rockies need to get a ton for him and I doubt they’ll pick up the money.”
- Earlier this week, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Tigers have been monitoring Rafael Soriano‘s workouts, and Cafardo hears the same, adding that it “wouldn’t be shocking” if Detroit pulled the trigger on a deal.
- Much like the Giants, the Twins have taken a hit to their rotation early in the year following Ervin Santana‘s suspension and Ricky Nolasco‘s injury, but after talking with their front office personnel, Cafardo gets the impression that they’ll give opportunities to young starters rather than pursue an established upgrade. Trevor May gets the first crack, but Cafardo lists Alex Meyer and Jose Berrios as other candidates.
- The Dodgers are still “all ears” about potential Andre Ethier trades and are willing to eat some of the $56MM on the three years remaining on his contract, but there have been no bites to this point.
Here are today’s minor transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post…
- The Diamondbacks have optioned Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, the team reports via Twitter. The club signed Tomas for $68.5MM over the offseason. He struggled both defensively and offensively this spring. A stint in Triple-A should give him time to adjust to the outfield and improve his plate approach.
- Phillies Rule 5 pick Andy Oliver has elected free agency after he was outrighted, the club announced via Twitter. The hard throwing lefty has struggled with walks throughout his career. That continued this spring with 11 walks and 22 strikeouts in 12 and two-thirds innings. The club also announced on Twitter that they reassigned catcher Rene Garcia, first baseman Russ Canzler, and infielder Cord Phelps to Triple-A.
- Marlins utility infielder Reid Brignac has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A, tweets Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. In 905 major league plate appearances, Brignac has a .222/.266/.314 line.
- Athletics pitcher Barry Zito has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A, tweets Jane Lee of MLB.com. The former star is working his way back from a one-year hiatus. He posted a 4.79 ERA in 20 and two-thirds spring innings. The 37-year-old struck out 14 and walked five. A former ninth overall pick of the A’s, the southpaw struggled after moving across the Bay to San Francisco on a seven-year, $126MM contract. That deal concluded after the 2013 season.
- The Red Sox have released Casey Crosby, Bryan LaHair, and Matt Hoffman per the MLB transactions page. Crosby was once a top prospect with the Tigers, but the 26-year-old lefty has yet to develop command. Lahair, 32, had a nice run with the Cubs in 2012 when he hit .259/.334/.450 with 16 home runs in 380 plate appearances. He spent the 2013 season in Japan and split 2014 between Cleveland’s Double and Triple-A clubs.
- The Phillies have released shortstop Tyler Greene according to the MLB transactions page. Greene, an 11th round pick, was once rated among the Phillies’ best prospects. He missed the entire 2014 season and has never posted a strikeout rate below 33 percent at any level.
- The Giants have released pitcher Edgmer Escalona per the MLB transactions page. Escalona pitched in parts of four seasons for the Rockies, accruing 100 innings. He has a career 4.50 ERA with 6.39 K/9 and 2.88 BB/9.
- The Cubs have released lefty pitcher Francisley Bueno according to the transactions page. The 34-year-old has pitched in parts of four season for the Braves and Royals. The soft tossing lefty has a career 2.98 ERA with 4.92 K/9 and 1.79 BB/9 in 60 innings. He’s a pure platoon pitcher.
- The Braves released former closer Matt Capps per MLB.com. The righty last appeared in the majors in 2012. He has a career 3.52 ERA with 6.53 K/9 and 1.72 BB/9. He’s thrown just 12 minor league innings over the last two seasons – both with the Indians.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Andy Oliver | Arizona Diamondbacks | Atlanta Braves | Barry Zito | Boston Red Sox | Bryan LaHair | Casey Crosby | Chicago Cubs | Cleveland Indians | Colorado Rockies | Cord Phelps | Detroit Tigers | Edgmer Escalona | Francisley Bueno | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Dodgers | Marc Topkin | Matt Capps | Miami Marlins | Minnesota Twins | Oakland Athletics | P.J. Walters | Philadelphia Phillies | Pittsburgh Pirates | Reid Brignac | Russ Canzler | San Francisco Giants | Seattle Mariners | St. Louis Cardinals | Susan Slusser | Tampa Bay Rays | Toronto Blue Jays | Transactions | Tyler Greene
The Padres have “sort of banned the word ‘small-market’ ” in regards to how they both perceive themselves and how they wish to be seen around the league, team co-owner Peter Seidler tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The Padres’ busy offseason and second straight year with a payroll in the $100MM range were made possible by increased revenues from Petco Park and national and local TV contracts. Team president/CEO Mike Dee notes that the Padres’ recent spending “should not be looked upon as an aberration. This should not be looked upon as ownership is going for broke. This should be looked upon as ownership is doing what they said they were going to when they bought the team, which is trying to make this a franchise that operates at a very high level.”
Here’s the latest from around the NL West…
- Archie Bradley‘s promotion to the Major Leagues and to the Diamondbacks‘ starting rotation is all but official, Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic writes. Bradley’s strong performance during Spring Training gave the Snakes reason to explore trading Trevor Cahill, eventually sending the veteran righty to the Braves. “If [Bradley] had needed more work, Cahill would still be here,” Tony La Russa said. “Trevor got the attention of a number of clubs, so we started getting calls from different clubs. It wasn’t a question of let’s trade him at some point. It came to a decision of Archie versus Trevor.”
- Speaking of highly-touted young arms in the NL West, Eddie Butler still has a chance to earn a place in the Rockies‘ rotation after his start today, Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes. Jon Gray, the Rockies’ top prospect and one of the top-ranked prospects in all of baseball, will not be starting his MLB career quite yet, as Groke notes in another piece that Gray will begin the season at Triple-A.
- Brian Sabean’s promotion from Giants general manager to VP of baseball operations will allow Sabean to personally scout new talent, he tells reporters (including The San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea). This includes players currently in MLB and also international prospects who could become more available thanks to the expanding Cuban market and the possibility of an international draft being instituted. “The international schedule is moving fast. I don’t see enough of our minor-league teams to draw my own conclusions,” Sabean said. “I hardly see any games before the June draft, which I used to do. Selfishly, I’d like to see some guys who could be in play trade-wise and free agents to be. This allows me to be more places.”
With rosters being finalized around the league, it’s a busy time for players departing and ascending to the 40-man roster. Here’s the latest:
- The Twins announced that they’ve selected the contract of outfielder Shane Robinson, who had been in camp on a Minor League deal. The 30-year-old Robinson had previously spent his entire career in the Cardinals organization and will presumably serve as the right-handed half of a center field platoon with Jordan Schafer. Minnesota entered Spring Training hoping that Aaron Hicks would show progress and win the center field job outright, but he struggled throughout the month and was optioned to Triple-A, paving the way for Robinson to make the roster. In parts of five seasons with St. Louis, Robinson is a .231/.303/.308 hitter in 452 plate appearances. He’s received strong marks at all three outfield spots, per UZR and DRS, and he hit .283/.340/.370 in Grapefruit League action this year.
- The Reds are set to add several veterans to their 40-man roster, as John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Veteran righties Kevin Gregg and Jason Marquis will be joined by reserves Brennan Boesch and Chris Dominguez on the Opening Day roster, and all will need a 40-man spot. That crunch already led the team to outright reliever Sam LeCure, and several other slots will need to be created before things are official.
- The Rockies have selected the contract of right-hander Rafael Betancourt, the team announced last night (on Twitter). Betancourt, who will turn 40 at the end of this month, has gone through a somewhat remarkable comeback, recovering from Tommy John surgery that he underwent as a 38-year-old to return to the 40-man roster. The former Rox closer has had an excellent spring, yielding just one run on eight hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings. He adds another arm with closing experience to what is looking like a fairly murky bullpen situation in Colorado. It’s worth mentioning that setup man Rex Brothers was optioned to Triple-A and won’t be a factor in the ‘pen in the season’s early stages.
- The Braves have released catcher Yenier Bello. Bello, of course, signed out of Cuba for a $400K bonus last year, but the 30-year-old obviously did not show enough to stay in the system. He slashed .308/.315/.404 over just 55 plate appearances last season split between the Rookie and low-A levels.
- Brewers right-hander David Herndon will also be in search of a new organization after being released. The 29-year-old carries a 3.85 career ERA over 117 big league frames, but has not seen action at the game’s highest level since 2012.
- The Diamondbacks have released big league veterans Jeremy Accardo and Henry Rodriguez. Both righties, Accardo (eight years) and Rodriguez (six years) each have seen their share of time at the major league level, including action in a closing role. Accardo owns a 4.30 ERA with 6.5 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 across 284 2/3 big league innings, but last saw action at that level in 2012. Rodriguez, still just 28, has worked to a 4.31 ERA over his 150 1/3 lifetime frames, striking out 9.0 and walking 6.4 per nine.
- The Rangers also released a couple of right-handers in Mark Rogers and Mitch Atkins. Rogers, once one of the game’s brightes pitchign prospects, has struggled with a variety of injury issues and was not able to gain traction in camp. Atkins, 29, had worked to a 3.76 ERA with 7.0 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 in 141 1/3 innings last year in the upper minors. Both players have some big league experience to their credit, but none in recent campaigns.
- Reds right-hander Wilmer Font and oufielder Felix Perez have both been released. Font is just 24 and has reached the bigs briefly in each of the last two seasons with the Rangers. But he ended last season with an elbow injury and never played in major league camp this spring. The 30-year-old Perez, meanwhile, hit .280/.325.450 at the Triple-A level last year but struggled in camp this spring.
The Orioles have acquired catcher Audry Perez from the Rockies in exchange for cash, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports on Twitter. Perez is the third minor league backstop dealt away by Colorado this year.
The 26-year-old has played just three games in the big leagues, but had a solid year at Triple-A last season (.292/.298/.419) with the Cardinals. Perez has not done much with limited plate appearances in big league camp with Colorado, where he signed as a minor league free agent. He will provide some additional depth to a Baltimore organization that is still waiting to see how its major league catching situation sorts itself out over the season.
An overhaul of the Rockies pitching process could pay dividends, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The club brought in Steve Foster and Darren Holmes to serve as the pitching and bullpen coaches, and the new organizational hierarchy is expected to provide better leadership and creativity. Additionally, the club has moved Wilin Rosario to the third catcher role. The addition of Nick Hundley over the offseason should help the staff perform at a higher level. Rosenthal notes that Rosario is viewed as a poor defensive catcher who allowed too many passed balls, rarely caught base stealers, struggled with game calling, and worked too slowly behind the plate. Of course, these changes don’t solve the long standing issue of pitching in a massive, elevated stadium. That’s up to the new front office.
- Speaking of the Rockies front office, GM Jeff Bridich is excited about the new internal structure, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Bridich hears the criticism that the new group is too tied to the old guard. He is quick to point out that this is a developing front office team. The decision to bring in Hundley was the opening gambit for Bridich. The move should help the entire pitching staff.
- The Angels plan to open the season with four starting pitchers, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times. That means offseason acquisitions Nick Tropeano and Andrew Heaney will open the year in Triple-A. The Angels don’t need a fifth starter until April 14, so they’ll roster an additional reliever for Opening Day. Garrett Richards is working his way back from injury. He probably won’t be ready for the April 14 start, but he could be back before much longer.