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MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is said to be “ready to reach out to [Kris] Bryant soon to determine his mindset” on whether or not a grievance should be filed against the Cubs for holding him in Triple-A to start the season, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in his latest Inside Baseball column. Heyman notes that the union could file a grievance on Bryant’s behalf even without his consent, though that’s unlikely. The issue at hand, of course, would be whether or not Bryant was clearly one of Chicago’s 25 best players and the demotion was made purely for service time implications. (Chicago bought an extra year of control over Bryant by stashing him in the Minors for all of eight games/11 days). Heyman points out that it would be difficult to an arbitrator to rule in Bryant’s favor, as there’s no precedent for this type of grievance. Players in similar situations have historically been hesitant to file a grievance, he adds, because it would be a contentious way to begin a relationship with a team to which a player will be tied for the next six-plus years. A “Cubs connected person” called the notion of a grievance “laughable” when asked by Heyman. However, the points that Bryant was recalled on the first day the team could add him while still delaying free agency and slotted directly into the cleanup spot could make a case that the club had an understanding of his value, Heyman writes. From the union’s perspective, it’s understandable that they’d have interest in preventing this type of situation in the future, even if it’s a long shot.
More highlights from a lengthy Heyman column…
- The Padres don’t yet view Melvin Upton Jr. as a throwaway piece and will use him as an occasional outfielder and pinch-runner, Heyman writes. He also looks back on Upton’s original five-year, $75.2MM pact and notes that it’s one of the worst contracts in recent history, particularly given the fact that the next-highest offer was believed to come from the Phillies at somewhere in the $40MMs.
- The league’s investigation into the Rays‘ allegations of the Cubs‘ tampering in the Joe Maddon saga could come to a close as soon as next week, per Heyman. MLB was still interviewing people as recently as last week, but to this point there “is believed to have been no smoking guns found.”
- The Reds never approached right-hander Mike Leake about a contract extension this offseason, and the free-agent-to-be is said to be a bit hurt not to have been contacted. Leake’s not a front-line starter, but he’ll hit the open market heading into his age-28 season and currently sports a 3.56 ERA in 427 1/3 innings dating back to Opening Day 2013. A third straight season of 190+ innings and an ERA in the mid-3.00s should position him for a nice contract, especially considering the fact that half of his starts have come in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
- Multiple teams have worked out Rafael Soriano, and while he’s on the Tigers‘ radar, there’s also been some contact with the Mariners. Heyman adds the Pirates, Indians and Dodgers as “logical suitors,” though I’d imagine the Pirates and Indians in particular would have some payroll constraints, depending on the asking price of agent Scott Boras.
- Heyman echoes ESPN’s Buster Olney in speculating that the Dodgers could make a run at extending Howie Kendrick, noting that the Dodgers love Kendrick both on the field and in the clubhouse. He also notes that the Dodgers are impressed with Alex Guerrero‘s bat and may coming around on him as a passable option at third base or in left field, though the team is already well-stocked at each position.
- The Pirates and Gregory Polanco may have come as close as about $1MM on agreeing to a seven-year contract, Heyman hears. The biggest holdup was over the three club options on the deal, which ranged from $11-13MM, and when the team would have been required to exercise them.
- Though recent reports have indicated that John Lackey hopes the Cardinals will approach him about an extension, Heyman writes that it’s not a likely scenario. St. Louis likes its pitching depth and the young starters in line beyond those in the 2015 rotation.
- The Orioles asked the Blue Jays for both of the team’s first round picks from the 2014 draft — right-hander Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost — in exchange for the ability to hire EVP/general manager Dan Duquette as their new president, according to Heyman.
Full Story | 56 Comments | Categories: B.J. Upton | Baltimore Orioles | Chicago Cubs | Cincinnati Reds | Dan Duquette | Detroit Tigers | Gregory Polanco | Howie Kendrick | Jeff Hoffman | Joe Maddon | John Lackey | Kris Bryant | Los Angeles Dodgers | Max Pentecost | Mike Leake | Philadelphia Phillies | Pittsburgh Pirates | Rafael Soriano | San Diego Padres | Seattle Mariners | St. Louis Cardinals | Tampa Bay Rays | Toronto Blue Jays
After covering five postseason games in St. Petersburg, Florida and two exhibition games at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com is convinced there is a greater passion for the game in Montreal than in Tampa Bay. The Rays aren’t heading north of the border anytime soon; but, in Morosi’s view, this weekend’s big turnout in the Expos’ former home showed that Montrealers feel a greater connection to the team they lost than Tampa Bay fans do for the team they still have.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- The Orioles are still trying to make a trade to give them some flexibility, writes Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com. Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette confirmed to reporters, including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko (via Twitter), submitting the Opening Day roster does not prevent him from making moves. “Once you submit your roster it’s like the regular season,” said Duquette. “You can make moves anytime after you get your roster submitted.” Baltimore will need to make a roster move after its first contest, as Chris Davis will have completed his 25-game suspension for Adderall use.
- The Red Sox didn’t trade Lars Anderson or Ryan Lavarnway at the peak of their value and they have rebuffed whatever advances the Phillies have made toward Blake Swihart in a Cole Hamels deal. Despite outside pressure from some fans, GM Ben Cherington has always erred on the side of patience, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. “The reason that you fight back against trading a young player you believe in,” Cherington said, “is that, when it does happen, when it works the way you hope it works and the way you think it might work at the major-league level, it’s really impactful. If we think a guy has a good shot to be successful in Boston, we are going to have a presumption to try to keep them.”
- The Rays appeared to be in learn-now, win-later mode early in the offseason, but they also made several present-day improvements to put themselves in position to win in 2014, opines Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays now believe they have put together a team that is deeper offensively, more athletic, and improved defensively. The pitching situation also appeared to be improved, though the Rays currently have three starters on the shelf.
- The New York Post’s Joel Sherman posits the Yankees coud miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season and finish with a losing record for the first time since 1992, but their long-term future looks more encouraging that it has in a decade.
The Red Sox have received some impressive performances from non-roster invitees like Mitchell Boggs, Dana Eveland, Dalier Hinojosa, and Noe Ramirez, but they probably won’t crack the 25-man roster due to the numbers crunch, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com writes.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Rays manager Kevin Cash will earn $5MM over the life of his five-year deal, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com recently reported Cash’s deal was for a lengthy five years, giving him more security than a lot of other skippers around the majors. The pact ties Cash with current Cubs skipper Joe Maddon for the lengthiest remaining guarantee in the game. Of course, the financial terms aren’t exactly the same as Maddon will earn a reported $25MM over the same length of time.
- The addition of Cole Hamels would undoubtedly separate the Red Sox from the rest of the AL East, but to what degree the club feels pressure to establish that space is what will determine whether they pull the trigger, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes. Right now, the Phillies are insisting Boston part with Henry Owens and either Blake Swihart or Mookie Betts while taking on Hamels’ monster deal, so the Red Sox feel that they can live without him. Silverman lays out the pros and cons of Boston waiting on a Hamels trade.
- Swihart started against the Phillies today going 2-for-3, including a RBI single, and found the timing pure coincidence. “I think people are looking into it too much,” he told reporters, including Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “It’s just my turn to catch right now.” Swihart also addressed the interest shown in him by the Phillies. “It’s an honor that other teams think highly of you. Ultimately, I want to be here (Boston) and to play for this team. Anything I can do to help this team is what I want to do.“
- Orioles GM Dan Duquette spoke with MLB Network Radio (audio link) about how the O’s can replace the offensive production of their free agent losses. Baltimore, of course, saw Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller head elsewhere this offseason.
Drew Smyly has been slowed by shoulder tendinitis this spring and may not be ready for the start of the regular season, but Rays manager Kevin Cash isn’t about to panic, Roger Mooney of The Tampa Tribune writes. Meanwhile, Nathan Karns, Burch Smith and Matt Andriese, who began camp competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, could be pitching for a second spot, if Smyly isn’t ready.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Orioles GM Dan Duquette sent his best starting pitching prospect, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, to the Red Sox in order to land Andrew Miller last season. If he had his druthers, that’s not neccessarily the deal he would have made, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes. “I offered about 50 other pitchers before him,” said Duquette. “It was required that we give up Rodriguez for Andrew Miller. We had to take a shot.” O’s manager Buck Showalter thought the deal was worth it for both teams, but Silverman wonders if Rodriguez could prove to be the next great ace in Boston.
- CC Sabathia threw live batting practice this morning and remains on track in his recovery from right knee surgery, reports MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. “I haven’t had a setback and I’ve been feeling so good,” Sabathia said. “I’ve been able to participate in every drill and haven’t had where I’ve needed a day [off]. I feel good about how we’re going and the pace that we’re moving at.” The Yankees left-hander could make his Grapefruit League debut next week, if an upcoming two-inning simulated game goes well.
- The Red Sox‘s decision to play Hanley Ramirez in left field is the biggest gamble a team is taking on a position switch, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
- The AL East is wide open for the taking by any of the five teams, not because of its strength but because of its mediocrity, opines CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam. “I never thought I’d say this,” one talent evaluator told McAdam, “but you could make the case that the AL East is the thinnest division in the game.“
The $31.5MM bonus the Red Sox will reportedly pay Yoan Moncada has generated a variety of reactions from players around the league, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe writes. Moncada’s bonus is well beyond what most other 19-year-old prospects might be able to make, since he was able to negotiate with all 30 teams. “It’s not right that a Cuban 19-year-old gets paid [$31.5 million] and the best 19-year-old in the entire USA gets probably 1/6 of that,” wrote Rays pitcher Drew Smyly. “Everyone should have to go through the same process.” An international draft would help standardize the system by which amateurs sign with teams, and new commissioner Rob Manfred seems to favor discussing it in the next round of CBA negotiations. Abraham polls Red Sox players about an international draft, leading to a large range of answers. Here’s Jackie Bradley Jr.’s: “I would have loved to be a free agent in college and made the best deal I could. Maybe I should have moved out of the country. If everybody was a free agent, you’d get what your real value is.” Here are more notes from the AL East.
- More than six years after being selected first overall in the 2008 draft, shortstop Tim Beckham is competing for a big-league job in Rays camp for the first time, Marc Topkin writes for Baseball America (subscription-only). With Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar now gone, the Rays now have more space in their middle infield. Asdrubal Cabrera will take one of the middle infield starting jobs, but Topkin suggests Beckham could be a reserve infielder or even a starter, particularly if the team decides it would be best if Cabrera played second base. Beckham, now 25, moved slowly through the minors and finally made his big-league debut in 2013 before missing most of last season due to a knee injury.
- The Blue Jays‘ pursuit of executive Dan Duquette was serious, but Duquette is back to work with the Orioles, writes MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom. Duquette confirms that he could not leave the Orioles for Toronto because the two teams could not agree on a compensation package for him. This offseason, the Orioles made few big moves of their own and lost Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller and Nick Markakis, although Duquette points out that the O’s should benefit from full seasons from Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis.
Here are a few notes from the Orioles’ FanFest convention on Saturday:
- Executive Dan Duquette says he’s fully committed to helping the O’s win, MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli writes. Duquette had been connected to the Blue Jays’ CEO job (and he admits there was “substance” to those rumors, as Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com tweets). It now appears, however, that Paul Beeston will continue in that role with the Jays, since they’ve extended him through 2015.
- Duquette reiterated that he’s still looking for relief help, although the O’s are open to having Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia help in the ‘pen, Ghiroli tweets. The 22-year-old Garcia posted a 3.70 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 at two levels in the Red Sox farm system in 2014, but has not yet pitched above Class A.
- The O’s are also on the lookout for utility infield depth at the minor league level, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes (Twitter links).
- Starter Bud Norris would like to continue as an Oriole beyond this season, but says he has not heard anything about extension talks, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets. Norris, who posted a 3.65 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 165 1/3 innings in 2014, will make $8.8MM in 2015 before becoming eligible for free agency next winter.
Before a dinner event at the Orioles’ A-ball affiliate in Aberdeen this evening, executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette spoke to reporters (including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko and Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun) about both his own tumultuous offseason and some other hot stove topics. Here are some of the highlights…
- Duquette doesn’t discuss ongoing negotiations for players, and that same logic led to his lack of comment about the rumors connecting him to the Blue Jays president’s job, and the discussions between the Jays and Orioles about a possible trade to free him from his Baltimore contract. “You know, these things happen in baseball. This is rare, but sometimes trades are made for managers, sometimes trades are made for executives and that’s the way it goes,” Duquette said. “It’s a part of the business. If there’s trade discussions that I have as an executive, I really don’t talk about those publicly, because you never know what’s going to come to fruition and what’s not.”
- Despite the Toronto situation, Duquette described his Orioles offseason work as “business as usual” and said he didn’t feel it necessary to reiterate his commitment to O’s upper management. “I’ve always done my job 24 hours a day and to the best of my ability,” Duquette said. “That’s a habit. We’re going to have another good ballclub this year. I’m confident of that.”
- The O’s have offered Nolan Reimold a contract, Duquette said, though he noted that the outfielder is also receiving interest from other teams. The Indians are known to be one of the clubs linked to Reimold this winter.
- Duquette said he is still looking to add a right-handed bullpen arm.
- The Orioles’ recent acquisition of Travis Snider gives the club added depth both offensively and defensively, Duquette said, and he thinks Snider’s bat is a good fit for Camden Yards. Duquette and Pirates GM Neal Huntington had originally discussed a Snider deal during the Winter Meetings, though talks were only rekindled a few weeks ago. “I had stayed in touch with Neal because we were still looking for a left-handed-hitting outfielder, so we continued our persistence and Neal made him available,” Duquette said.
Former Red Sox starter Bill Monbouquette passed away Sunday at age 78. The Massachusetts native tossed nearly 2,000 MLB frames, most of them with Boston, and notched a no-hitter in 1962. He was a three-time American League All-Star. MLBTR extends its sympathies to his family and friends.
Here are some recent notes from the AL East:
- We’ve already heard it suggested that the Yankees could seek to invalidate Alex Rodriguez‘s home run milestone bonus clause, and ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Marchand now reports that the team is indeed attempting to craft a legal strategy to that end. If you are interested in thinking about what kinds of arguments the club might come up with, I addressed this very question in a series of posts last year regarding legal theories and remedies that teams could conceivably pursue against players suspended for PED use. The third part, in particular, covered A-Rod’s situation, while Part II (and, to a lesser extent, Part I) include useful background information.
- The Blue Jays and Orioles now seem destined to return to the status quo in their front offices, at least for the coming season, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says that both sides made missteps in the recent run of Dan Duquette-to-Toronto rumors.
- For his part, once-and-still Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston says that he is glad to still be with the team and that it is time to move on, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. Beeston added that he believes the ownership group would approve additional payroll if the club’s baseball leadership requests it.
- As for the Orioles, it is time for Duquette and the organization to begin the process of re-establishing trust and normalcy, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. The sides were never close to agreeing on compensation, Connolly adds, and Baltimore is still keeping open the possibility of filing tampering charges against Toronto.
The Blue Jays have broken off negotiations over Dan Duquette after refusing the Orioles’ demand of Jeff Hoffman and two other top prospects as compensation, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. The Blue Jays’ interest in hiring Duquettte to replace Paul Beeston as team president first broke last December, but Davidi writes a deal between the two clubs was at no point close. MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko adds this is not the first time talks have stalled and the Orioles have no knowledge of the Blue Jays’ intentions.
The Blue Jays, according to Davidi, were willing to offer a package of minor league players similar to past precedents (the Red Sox receiving right-hander Chris Carpenter from the Cubs for Theo Epstein, for example) with the baseball departments of both clubs negotiating over names once a deal for Duquette was reached. MLB would mediate, if necessary, as it did between the Red Sox and Cubs. Davidi notes the Blue Jays never proposed any names, but the Orioles were believed to be seeking, in addition to Hoffman (the ninth overall pick in the 2014 draft), catcher Max Pentecost (the 11th overall selection in that 2014 draft) and infielder Mitch Nay (the 58th overall pick in the 2012 draft).
In the last 48 hours, reports emerged that MLB was tiring of the courtship, the Orioles were pushing for a substantial return for Duquette, and were considering tampering charges against the Blue Jays. Toronto also began receving criticism for its pursuit of Duquette.
This development leaves both franchises at a crossroads. For the Orioles, the question is can Duquette repair any hard feelings within the Baltimore organization which may have developed over his flirtation with a division rival, as the Orioles aim to defend their AL East title amidst a winter of distraction. For the Blue Jays, will they be able to overcome the black eye suffered with their messy negotiations over Duquette and the White Sox denying them permission to interview Kenny Williams and find a talented executive willing be their third choice to replace the outgoing Beeston.