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Cubs prospect Addison Russell tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Jane Lee, that he “was a little shocked” and “confused” when he learned he had been traded by the Athletics last summer. “I was kind of flying through the farm system and playing well at each level and looked forward to playing with the A’s for several more years,” Russell said. “The trade just really surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it. It definitely would’ve been cool to play at the big league level with the team that drafted me.”
Here are a few more notes from the National League:
- Diamondbacks righty Daniel Hudson still does not know what his role will be going forward, as Zach Buchanan and Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic report. Hudson is coming off of two consecutive Tommy John surgeries and rehab stints, and the team is still evaluating whether he will be able to continue ramping up his workload to open the year as a starter.
- The Diamondbacks “have no urgency to go out and get anybody” at catcher, GM Dave Stewart says (quote via the above-cited piece). Arizona is still confident in its depth options and “encouraged by the improvement” shown by prospect Peter O’Brien.
- It appears that the Rockies will have some tough decisions to make in rounding out their bench. GM Jeff Bridich said today that the club intends to carry thirteen arms, “maybe more often than not,” as Matt Eddy of Baseball America tweets. Rolling with a baker’s dozen on the hill likely means that the club will need to part with an outfield option, as Charlie Culberson, Brandon Barnes, and Drew Stubbs will presumably be allocated only two bench spots (with the other two going to Daniel Descalso and whichever catcher is off that day). As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported earlier today, none of that trio is out of options, though Stubbs is a 5+ service time player so is not a candidate to be sent down. One player who does lack options, however, is backstop Michael McKenry, who would seemingly be on the outside looking in with just four position-player reserves — despite the fact that the team gave him just over $1MM to avoid arbitration.
Here’s the latest out of the NL West:
- Though his early work at third for the Diamondbacks has done more to raise questions than to provide answers about his future as an infielder, Yasmany Tomas is drawing positive reviews for his attitude and bat, as ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports.
- Rockies owner Dick Monfort says he is pleased with the organization’s direction under new GM Jeff Bridich, as Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. “I don’t think Jeff set out to make a splash just to make a splash,” Monfort said. “I think when we first met, way back when, his job was to make this current team a winner. He’s not here just to start over and do what some people do. He did not come in to blow things up.”
- There is also some positivity coming from the Padres, where at least one rival scout says the new outfield trio of Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Matt Kemp has looked good, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. It remains to be seen what kind of defensive work that unit can produce over the long haul, of course, though Heyman notes that reserves Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin have looked good at the plate. It still seems that San Diego will need to do something to clear at least one outfielder, with Will Venable under contract in addition to that group.
Other teams asked Major League Baseball about the Rockies‘ decision to add John Axford to their roster so early in the spring, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Axford signed a minor-league deal with the Rockies in early February, but the team added him to its roster March 1, effectively turning a minor-league deal into a big-league one. To clear space on their roster, they moved Tyler Chatwood to the 60-day DL, a move they were not allowed to make in the offseason. The idea is that the team might have effectively agreed to a big-league deal with Axford but signed him to a minor-league deal purely to manipulate its roster. The Rockies, of course, could plausibly claim that they were impressed by Axford early in the spring and wanted to roster him so that he couldn’t exercise his out clause later in the month, perhaps making the decision early as a vote of confidence in Axford and in their team. Here are more highlights from Rosenthal’s latest notes column.
- Scouts have doubts about Stephen Drew as the Yankees‘ second baseman, Rosenthal writes. The Yankees signed Drew for $5MM in the offseason with the idea that he would provide veteran stability in the middle infield, given that they’re going with youngster Didi Gregorius at shortstop and their backup plans at second, Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder, are also inexperienced.
- The Padres are reportedly among the teams most interested in Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, but Rosenthal reports that they are unlikely to pay more than the $70MM Olivera expects to get.
- Teams interested in starting pitching depth could turn to the Braves‘ collection of minor-league signees, including Eric Stults, Chien-Ming Wang and Wandy Rodriguez. Stults can opt out of his deal April 3, while Wang can opt out July 1. Whether Rodriguez has an out, and when, is unknown.
The trade market is still full of outfielders, writes Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. That is especially true in the NL West, where four teams — the Rockies (Brandon Barnes, Charlie Blackmon, Drew Stubbs), Dodgers (Andre Ethier), D-Backs (Cody Ross, Ender Inciarte, David Peralta and, to a lesser extent, Mark Trumbo and A.J. Pollock), and Padres (Will Venable, Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin) — all have surpluses. And the Red Sox, too, may feel compelled to move an outfielder given their slate of options, as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd covered at length in February. Jeff and I discussed Ethier in particular on the latest MLBTR Podcast, in light of recent reports indicating that the Dodgers may be willing to absorb as much as $28MM of his remaining $56MM to facilitate a trade.
Here’s more from the NL West…
- Wilin Rosario has looked comfortable at first base early in game action this spring, writes MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. The Rockies signed Nick Hundley to be their primary backstop, so Rosario will see increased time at first base this winter, particularly against tougher left-handed pitching. Doing so will help spell Justin Morneau. However, Rosario is still expected to see some time behind the dish. And, I would speculate that Rosario is likely very much still available on the trade market should another team make what GM Jeff Bridich and his staff consider to be a suitable offer, though the rookie GM said in January that no such offers had been received.
- Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that the Phillies presented him with four possible trade destinations: the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets and Padres. A report earlier this week said that the Mets may have been Rollins’ second choice, and he admitted to Heyman that was perhaps possible, but it’d have required some thought. The Dodgers, however, were his clear first choice, Rollins explained. He wasn’t interested in trying to fill Derek Jeter‘s shoes at age 36 (“If I was 26, OK. But I’m 36. There was not enough time.”) and he didn’t feel the Padres were close enough to competing. Of course, little did Rollins know what type of aggressive restructuring San Diego GM A.J. Preller was about to undertake. The shortstop also told Heyman he’s open to the idea of playing until age 40 and said the idea of reaching 3,000 hits (he’s 694 shy) holds great appeal to him.
- Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel posted his ranking of the Dodgers‘ top prospects today, and some fans may be interested to see that he ranked the highly touted Julio Urias ahead of fellow top prospect Corey Seager. While the two have similar future value and risk, in McDaniel’s estimation, most other outlets do have Seager slightly ahead of Urias. Of course, I’m splitting hairs by calling attention to the distinction, as McDaniel recently ranked Urias as the No. 4 and No. 6 prospects in all of baseball, respectively, and most agree that the duo ranks firmly in the game’s Top 10-15 prospects.
Catcher Eli Whiteside has opted to accept a coaching job with the Giants rather than taking one of several offers he had to continue playing, MLB.com’s Chris Haft reports. The veteran played in parts of six MLB seasons, including a three-year run in which he was a significant contributor for San Francisco. He will retire after getting one last short run in the bigs last year with the Cubs.
More from the NL West:
- Padres righty Josh Johnson has progressed to the point that he’ll throw to a catcher on flat ground, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. With his training program currently on track, Johnson is scheduled to throw a pen session for the first time by mid-March with a target of game action by June, if all goes according to plan. Johnson’s deal with San Diego promises him only $1MM but can increase all the way to $7.25MM if he maxes out his incentives.
- Fellow two-time TJ patient Cory Luebke is also hoping to return strong for the Padres, as MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports. The story details some of the ups and downs that Luebke has had in dealing with his two procedures. As with Johnson, 2015 is something of a make-good season for the lefty: his early-career extension is up after the season, when San Diego will have to decide whether to exercise a $7.5MM option or pay a $1.75MM buyout.
- The Rockies pursued utilityman Daniel Descalso not only because he would offer a versatile bench option, but because of his big-game experience, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. Skipper Walt Weiss explained that the former Cardinals infielder brought an underappreciated element to the squad. “All of that factored in quite a bit,” said Weiss. “I think we sometimes underestimate the value of that — guys that have played in big games, pennant races, and have won a World Series. Those types of players are valuable, and that’s a big reason why we brought Danny in here.”
- Alex Guerrero‘s contract and the Dodgers roster situation makes for quite a puzzle, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. On the one hand, Guerrero can refuse an optional assignment and has said he will do just that. On the other, if he is traded he will earn the right to opt out of his deal after the season. Cameron posits that the club could send Guerrero out in exchange for some savings on his 2015 tab, agreeing to remain responsible for post-2015 responsibilities while hoping he will opt out. The Angels, Blue Jays, Rockies, and Rangers all look like reasonable landing spots, in Cameron’s estimation.
Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:
- The Rockies have selected the contract of reliever John Axford and moved pitcher Tyler Chatwood to the 60-day disabled list, according to MLB.com’s transactions page. That the Rockies would add Axford isn’t surprising — when they signed Axford to a minor-league deal last month, MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted that it was likely Axford would make the team. Axford’s addition to the 40-man is significant, given that he’s set to make $2.6MM in the Majors, with the possibility of making up to $1.5MM more with incentives. Axford posted a 3.95 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9 in 54 2/3 innings with the Indians and Pirates last season, offering his usual blend of strikeout stuff and control troubles.
- The Rangers have signed right-hander Mark Rogers to a minor league contract, tweets EPSN’s Jerry Crasnick. Rogers, the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Brewers and a top 100 prospect by Baseball America in 2005 and 2006, has seen his career derailed by shoulder injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. The 29-year-old made two appearances last year for the Mariners‘ Triple-A affiliate before being released. He then hooked on with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League making 18 starts with a line of 4.17 ERA, 4.6 K/9, and 6.2 BB/9 in 86 1/3 innings. Rogers’ last MLB action came in 2012 with the Brewers.
Wilin Rosario or Michael McKenry could be traded before Spring Training is over, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post opines, as the Rockies look for ways to solve their catching surplus behind starter Nick Hundley. Manager Walt Weiss said that he doesn’t plan to use three roster spots on players who can only catch, so the club’s plan to give Rosario some time at first base could be a solution. Colorado has explored trades for Rosario this offseason but if they hold onto him, he’d hold the edge on a roster spot over the out-of-options McKenry.
Here’s some more from around the NL West…
- The Diamondbacks will have approximately $19.02MM in combined pool money for the 2015 draft class and the 2015-16 international signing period, though their international spending will be greatly limited due to overage in the 2014-15 period. Given how Arizona’s pool is the second-highest of any team’s, Baseball America’s Ben Badler opines (via Twitter) that the D’Backs made a “questionable” decision to “handcuff themselves” in the international market until 2017 by going over their current pool limit to sign Yoan Lopez.
- Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler was “pleasantly surprised” that GM A.J. Preller was able to make so many major trades this winter, though club ownership went into the offseason knowing changes had to be made. “We knew we had to re-energize the community,” Fowler told reporters, including the Associated Press. “I think last year was sort of the beta test for us: OK, this is not working. It was time….After looking at our numbers in terms of attendance and looking at the interest in the marketplace, we felt we had to do some investment spending.”
- From that same chat with reporters (including MLB.com’s Corey Brock), Padres president/CEO Mike Dee said that the club isn’t too disappointed over not landing Yoan Moncada. “We would have loved to have had him, but we now have flexibility we might not have had [in future international spending],” Dee said.
- Rick Renteria has been offered a number of jobs since being fired as the Cubs’ manager earlier this winter, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes, including a return to the Padres. Though Renteria is reportedly going to take a year away from baseball, manager Bud Black has been “trying to get him to pop over to Peoria [where the Padres train] and get back involved with us. I’m trying to get him back in as soon as possible, just to help us out to whatever extent he wants to help out.” Before being hired by Chicago, Renteria managed and coached in the Padres’ organization for a decade, including six seasons on Black’s coaching staff.
- Yasmani Grandal‘s strong pitch-framing metrics were a big reason the Dodgers acquired him in the Matt Kemp trade, Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles writes.
Tonight is the 87th Academy Awards ceremony and a pre-eminent Oscar prognosticator is Rockies reliever John Axford, who was a perfect 18-for-18 last year and 32-for-33 the past two years. Now, Axford, who graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in Film and Television, is offering predictions in all 24 categories, according to MLB.com’s Thomas Harding and Gemma Kaneko. “I didn’t do all the categories last year, and some people were a little upset by it,” Axford admitted. “This year I’m going all the way, to see what happens. This year, since I got so much stuff last year about it, I did them all.”
And the winner is…
- Axford and the rest of the bullpen will be key to the Rockies‘ 2015 season, opines The Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders.
- Brandon McCarthy, who inked a four-year contract with the Dodgers worth $48MM, expected to re-sign with the Yankees during the five-day signing window after the conclusion of the World Series, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. “It’s so stupid, but you feel like an actor,” said McCarthy. “You sound so pretentious and stupid saying it, but you’re like, ‘someone showed me attention.’ You play your whole life for people to say nice things. And one team is being aggressive, and one team is just kind of hemming and hawing about it.” McCarthy added he “certainly would have had a long discussion about” accepting a three-year deal from the Yankees, if one had ever been offered.
- The signing of Yoan Lopez signals the Diamondbacks‘ new emphasis on the Latin American market, according to Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic. “I do think it’s an area we can impact and continue to get better and grow,” said Arizona’s Senior Vice President De Jon Watson. “It subsidizes your amateur draft. If you’re able to churn out players from the Latin American market, it definitely gives you strength in volume.“
The Rockies have defeated catcher Wilin Rosario in the sides’ recent arbitration hearing, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. Rosario will, accordingly, take home $2.8MM rather than his filing figure of $3.3MM.
Colorado may have been able to sway the panel by pointing out Rosario’s defensive shortcomings and relatively poor 2014, because it drove the price down a fair sight shy of the $3.6MM that MLBTR/Matt Swartz had projected. Rosario has consistently received rather poor defensive marks (see, e.g., Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs), and pitch framing metrics have not been kind (Baseball Prospectus; Stat Corner). That put an even less promising spin on Rosario’s below-average .267/.305/.435 slash, which was good only for a park-adjusted 86 wRC+.
Of course that kind of offensive production is still not bad at all for a catcher. And Rosario, who battled injuries last year, has shown the ability to do much more. Still just 25, Rosario slashed .282/.314/.507 and hit 49 total home runs over just 892 plate appearances from 2012-13.
In addition to saving half a million dollars against the alternative scenario in the binary arbitration decision, Colorado gets the added benefit of holding down Rosario’s earnings for the following two years of eligibility. The slugger will need to earn his playing time this year, though he may be afforded additional turns at bat by slotting in at first base or even the corner outfield.