Conor Jackson Rumors
Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia is finally set to make his minor-league debut, Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports reports. The Orioles have assigned Urrutia to Double-A Bowie, and he will join the Baysox on Friday. Urrutia signed with the Orioles last year for $779K, but he was forced to stay in Haiti for several months after that with visa problems. Here are more notes from the Orioles.
- Kubatko also explains why the Orioles didn't trade for outfielder Julio Borbon, who had been designated for assignment by the Rangers. The Orioles were rumored to be interested in Borbon. Kubatko says the Orioles didn't want to deal the minor-leaguers the Rangers wanted, and didn't see Borbon as an upgrade over Chris Dickerson. Borbon ultimately ended up on waivers.
- Conor Jackson has not yet turned in his retirement paperwork, Kubatko notes (on Twitter). News of Jackson's retirement emerged last weekend, but for now, the Orioles are keeping him on the restricted list in Triple-A Norfolk. If Jackson decides to return to the game while he's still on the restricted list, he'll return as a member of the Orioles organization. Jackson hit .200/.333/.240 in nine games for Norfolk this year.
The 2013 Blue Jays are the only team since 2009 to make three or more waiver claims in April, R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus notes. The Jays have claimed Casper Wells, Edgar Gonzalez and Mauro Gomez this month. The Jays are typically very active on the waiver wire, frequently claiming players and then trying to sneak them through waivers again in an attempt to build depth in their minor-league system. (Toronto also claimed four players in the last half of March: Todd Redmond, Guillermo Moscoso, Alex Burnett and Clint Robinson. Moscoso and Burnett were lost after other teams claimed them.) The Jays' waiver-claim strategy is unusual for a contending team, Anderson says. Here are more notes from around the American League.
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter reiterates that 1B/OF Conor Jackson retired at least in part because his enjoyment of the game diminished, MASN's Roch Kubatko reports. "[Jackson] loved being with the organization and all that, but he's at the stage of his life where it wasn't something he wanted to continue to do," says Showalter. "I just wanted to know whether there was something he was unhappy about. It wasn't at all. He had been thinking about it for a little while and just didn't enjoy going to the park like he used to." Jackson appeared in nine games this year for Triple-A Norfolk, hitting .200/.333/.240.
- Rule 5 Draft pick T.J. McFarland, from the Indians' system, remains in the Orioles' bullpen, notes MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. He has appeared in just one game so far, throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings April 6. The Orioles' recent trade of Luis Ayala to the Braves gives McFarland some breathing room, but he'll still have to pitch well to remain on Baltimore's roster the entire year. "We've been throwing him down in the bullpen. Keeping the ball in his hand," Showalter tells Ghiroli. "There will come a time this season, I hope, when it's not always saving him for long relief."
- Indians manager Terry Francona isn't fixated on his past with the Red Sox, against whom the Indians have an upcoming series, MLB.com's Zack Meisel reports. "To be honest, I'm an Indian," says Francona. "I'm aware of the questions and everything, and I have a lot of great memories, but I don't think it's fair to the players. ... They don't need to be worrying about me having nostalgia week. They just need to try to beat them." The Red Sox let Francona go in 2011, and after a season working for ESPN, he took over as manager in Cleveland.
Outfielder Conor Jackson has decided to retire, according to a tweet by the Norfolk Tides, the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate. Jackson signed a minor league deal with the Orioles last December and was their final cut this spring after posting a slash line of .302/.327/.528 with three home runs and six RBIs in 22 games. Norfolk manager Ron Johnson said Jackson is healthy but he has been wrestling with the decision to retire as his heart is just not into baseball right now, reports MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko (Twitter links).
"A lot happens during the season and I've been on teams where the 25-man roster starts one way and ends up a different way within six weeks," Jackson said when he was cut (as quoted by Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun). "It's a funny game and things work differently."
Things did work differently when Jackson managed only five hits in 25 at-bats for a .200/.333/.240 batting line in his nine games with the Tides. Taken by the Diamondbacks with the 19th overall pick in the 2003 amateur draft, Jackson was ranked by Baseball America as the 17th best prospect entering the 2006 season and he didn't disappoint averaging a slash line of .292/.371/.451 from 2006-2008 for Arizona. Jackson then contracted Valley Fever that offseason and was never the same. His last MLB action came in 2011 when appeared in 114 games for the A's and Red Sox, the most since his illness, hitting .244/.310/.341. The 30-year-old spent the entire 2012 campaign at Triple-A in the White Sox's organization recording a line of .277/.363/.434.
According to Baseball Reference, the 30-year-old made nearly $10.5MM during his seven-year MLB career (658 games) and finishes with a slash line of .271/.351/.407.
The latest on the Orioles:
- The Orioles signed Conor Jackson to a minor league deal, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com and other reporters. Jackson, 30, spent 2012 with the Triple-A affiliate of the White Sox, hitting .277/.363/.434 in 366 plate appearances while playing the outfield corners and third base.
- Though executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette would like to add a power bat, he dismissed Nick Swisher as a possibility.
- The Orioles announced they've signed 18-year-old lefty Jan Novak from the Czech Republic. I'm told Novak is tall and athletic southpaw who sits in the high 80s with the makings of a change-up and slider. He's understandably a bit raw.
A total of 549 minor league players became free agents after the season, and Baseball America's Matt Eddy lists each and every one by team and position. Some are big league veterans (Joel Pineiro, Conor Jackson), some are former top prospects (Andy LaRoche, Brandon Wood), and most fall somewhere in between.
Players who have been in the minor leagues for at least parts of seven seasons are automatically granted free agency, though there are other conditions that allow players to hit the open market earlier in their careers.
Jackson, 29, was released by the Rangers earlier this month. He hit .244/.310/.341 in 390 plate appearances for the Athletics and Red Sox last year. Jackson has plenty of experience in both outfield corners and first base, and he typically does his best work against left-handed pitchers.
Here's the latest out of Arlington...
- The Rangers are looking for a right-handed hitting bench bat who can play in the outfield, manager Ron Washington told reporters (including Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News). The club just released a player who fits that description in Conor Jackson, and the Rangers could be interested in bringing him back on another minor league deal. If Texas does re-sign him, it would be after March 30, as then the team wouldn't have to pay Jackson a $100K bonus as a six-year veteran.
- Jackson, for his part, says he's willing to play in the minors for Texas if he can't find another job elsewhere. "I do enjoy this organization," Jackson said. "I'll consider all my options, including going to Triple-A and trying to be their right-handed option."
- Another veteran in the Rangers camp, Brad Hawpe, is not open to going to the minors, reports Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (via Twitter). Hawpe wants to remain at the Major League level and feels he is still capable of performing in the big leagues. Hawpe is another potential release candidate given that he is also in line for a $100K bonus, he has been unable to throw from the outfield due to his shoulder problems and the Rangers seem set for left-handed hitters.
- C.J. Wilson tells Gil Lebreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the Rangers approached him about a three-year extension during last year's Spring Training but that was the only formal offer the team made to retain him. While Wilson was disappointed the Rangers didn't make much of an effort to re-sign him last winter, he understands why the team decided to move on to signing Yu Darvish and extending Derek Holland.
- MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan doesn't think the Rangers will sign Josh Hamilton, Colby Lewis or Mike Napoli to contract extensions before Opening Day. All three players are entering the last year of their contracts with the team.
The Rangers have released first baseman Conor Jackson and left-handers Joe Beimel and Mitch Stetter, reports Evan P. Grant of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). All three players were in the Texas camp on minor league contracts.
Jackson hit .244/.310/.341 in 390 plate appearances for the Athletics and Red Sox last year. Jackson's release increases Brad Hawpe's chance of making the Texas roster as both players were competing for the same bench role as a backup first baseman/outfielder. By cutting Jackson before March 30 (five days before Opening Day), the Rangers avoid paying the veteran a $100K bonus.
Beimel, who turns 35 in April, posted a 5.33 ERA in 25 1/3 innings for the Pirates last season before being released in August. Stetter, 31, has held left-handed hitters to a .645 OPS for his career and has spent his entire five-year career with the Brewers. Both pitchers stand a good chance of getting a look from another club in need of southpaw bullpen help.
The Rangers made a minor trade earlier today, sending Kelvin De La Cruz to the Indians in exchange for cash considerations. De La Cruz was a Ranger for less than a month, as he was originally acquired by Texas in another deal with Cleveland on February 21.
Some more news from the two-time defending AL champions...
- In an interview Ben & Skin of ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM radio, Jon Daniels said that the Rangers are better served by having Alexi Ogando in the bullpen, though the GM admitted that Ogando probably deserves a starting job after his solid performance in the rotation last year. No firm decision has yet been made, however, about Ogando's status. ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett collects some of the notable topics in Daniels' interview.
- Shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar may see some time playing second base, Rangers director of minor league operations Jake Krug tells Bryan Dolgin of the Rangers Magazine radio show. The 19-year-old Profar was ranked as the seventh-best prospect in the game by Baseball America's 2012 minor league rankings. Giving him time at second base would give Texas a possible option if Ian Kinsler can't be signed to an extension, though it seem a waste of Profar's defensive skills to move him away from short.
- The Rangers spent the most on any team on international bonuses last year, according to a report by Baseball America. The Rangers spent an estimated $12.83MM (not counting Japanese professionals or Cuban defectors) on international signings, more than $5MM ahead of the second-place team on the list, the Blue Jays.
- Texas accounts for the top two spots (Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman) on another Baseball America list, chronicling the top 30 international bonuses from last year.
- Brad Hawpe and Conor Jackson are both trying to keep their Major League careers going in the Rangers camp, reports MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. Hawpe and Jackson are both signed to minor league deals and are fighting for jobs on the Rangers' bench. "It's hard to imagine either player going to Triple-A," Sullivan writes, so Hawpe and/or Jackson could find themselves waived by March 30.
The Rangers signed outfielder/first baseman Conor Jackson and left-handed reliever Joe Beimel to minor league contracts, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan tweets. The deals include invitations to big league Spring Training.
Jackson posted a .244/.310/.341 line in 390 plate appearances with the Athletics and Red Sox in 2011. The 29-year-old SFX client played all four corner positions last year. Jackson, a right-handed hitter, owns a .283/.381/.436 career line against left-handed pitching, so he could spell left-handed hitters such as Mitch Moreland, Josh Hamilton and David Murphy if he makes the MLB roster.
Beimel, 34, posted a 5.33 ERA with 6.0 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 41.2% ground ball rate in 25 1/3 innings in 2011. The Pirates signed the Joe Sroba client to a minor league deal last January and released him in August. The Rangers don't have much in the way of experienced left-handed relief after losing Darren Oliver and Mike Gonzalez via free agency.