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Daniel Bard Rumors
Building a rotation through free agency can be expensive and frustrating, so teams are understandably open to alternatives. One way for teams to avoid free agent salaries and long-term commitments is to move relief pitchers to the starting rotation. Yet few relievers have the repertoire and durability to succeed in the rotation, so it's not uncommon for converted relievers to flop as starters.
Here’s a mid-season update on four pitchers who jumped from the ‘pen to the rotation this year. None of the pitchers below had started more than three MLB games in a season before 2012 and all of them were big league relievers last year:
- Daniel Bard – Bard walked more batters than he struck out and posted a career-high ERA as a starting pitcher before being optioned to the minor leagues in early June. The right-hander saw his fastball velocity (93.1 mph) and swinging strike rate (7.9%) dip as a starter. He's now pitching out of the bullpen at Triple-A, and the results have been mixed. This attempted transition has been a disappointment.
- Neftali Feliz – The Rangers have successfully converted C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando to starting roles under Ron Washington and Mike Maddux in recent years, but Feliz's conversion didn't go nearly as well. He will miss the rest of the season and much of 2013 to undergo and recover from Tommy John surgery. Feliz's injury may be unrelated to his change in roles, but it doesn't make the reality of his elbow issues any more pleasant for the Rangers. The 24-year-old started just seven games before hitting the disabled list, and the results were acceptable, if not overwhelmingly positive: a 3.16 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9.
- Jeff Samardzija – Credit the Cubs for putting Samardzija in the rotation this spring. He's enjoying a breakout season with a 4.19 ERA, 9.0 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 120 1/3 innings (he recovered from an ugly month of June to string together some strong starts in July). The 27-year-old has maintained his fastball velocity, averaging 95 mph with his heater. Among MLB starters only Cole Hamels and Tim Lincecum generate a greater percentage of swings and misses (12.0%).
- Chris Sale – Sale has pitched to a 2.61 ERA through 124 innings with a 114K/31BB ratio and impressive hit and home run rates. The 2012 All-Star has lost some zip on his fastball (now 92.1 mph), but he continues to generate lots of swings and misses. A major success for rookie manager Robin Ventura, pitching coach Don Cooper and the White Sox.
Note: Though Lance Lynn, Anthony Bass and Felix Doubront pitched in relief last year, they also started in the minors for much of the 2011 season, so I don’t consider them converted relievers. Advanced stats via FanGraphs.
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman discussed how baseball reporting is evolving in the age of social media and a 24/7 news cycle (while giving MLB Trade Rumors a tip of the cap), joked about the infamous "mystery teams" that often dominate the rumor mill and also shared some hot stove chatter during his appearance on Jonah Keri's Grantland podcast. Here are some of the highlights…
- The Yankees have mostly stayed away from major trade deadline moves under Brian Cashman and Heyman suspects the team will largely stand pat this month. There are no glaring needs on the roster plus the first-place Yankees will get a boost from Brett Gardner's return from the DL.
- If the Yankees did make a move for pitching, Matt Garza would be at the top of their list. The Red Sox and Blue Jays are also interested in Garza, not to mention the Dodgers and Tigers, among other clubs.
- When the Diamondbacks toyed with putting Justin Upton on the trade market two years ago, they discussed a deal with the Red Sox that would have sent Upton to Boston in exchange for Jacoby Ellsbury and Daniel Bard.
- The Red Sox and Blue Jays have the same record but the Sox are "more fully invested" in contending this season, while Heyman thinks the Jays' pitching injuries may prevent from making a true push at the deadline.
- Heyman thinks Zack Greinke is a "longshot" to re-sign with the Brewers but the club will at least make him a long-term offer before exploring possible trades before the deadline. The Angels and Braves are two of the teams expected to be in on Greinke should Milwaukee make him available.
- Surprise contenders like the Mets, Orioles and Pirates will look to upgrade themselves for a pennant race, though Heyman thinks these teams are "probably all realistic about their chances" and won't sacrifice their rebuilding process by trading any of their blue chip prospects. The Mets are looking for a veteran bullpen arm, the Orioles a veteran starter and the Pirates a corner outfielder, such as Carlos Quentin or Josh Willingham if the Twins were to make him available.
- Beyond Greinke, Josh Hamilton, Cole Hamels and a few other notables like Michael Bourn or Melky Cabrera, Heyman feels this year's free agent crop is "not a star-studded class." The free agent market has been dimmed by the preponderance of teams who lock their young stars up to multiyear contracts early in their careers.
The Red Sox head into the All-Star break 2.5 games out of the Wild Card race with a 43-43 record. Here are the latest notes and rumors surrounding the team:
- Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald hears the Red Sox could be discussing a deal involving Ryan Sweeney. The Cubs are one possible destination, Silverman writes. Boston GM Ben Cherington may consider deals for Sweeney once Jacoby Ellsbury returns from the disabled list.
- Longtime Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon told Rob Bradford of WEEI.com that Daniel Bard will rebound from his early-season struggles. “He’s going to be fine. I really do think he’s going to be fine,” Papelbon said. “He’s taking some bumps and bruises right now but who doesn’t."
- The Red Sox should be sellers this month, John Tomase of the Herald writes. Cherington should strongly consider trading players such as Mike Aviles, Cody Ross and Kelly Shoppach, Tomase suggests.
- The Red Sox sent just one All-Star to Kansas City (David Ortiz) and until their best players start performing at an elite level, it's hard to imagine the team emerging from its current state of mediocrity, Alex Speier of WEEI.com writes.
There's been lots of draft chatter these past few days, but that's not all that's going on around the Major Leagues. Here are some more notes from around MLB…
- The Red Sox optioned Daniel Bard to Triple-A, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports (on Twitter). Bard has struggled with his command in the rotation and, as Dave Cameron of FanGraphs notes, his velocity is down as well. Bard still figures to go to arbitration for the second time this coming offseason.
- The Royals don’t intend to rush Wil Myers to the Major Leagues despite the top prospect’s minor league successes, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). The Royals could reduce the chances that Myers qualifies for super two status following the 2014 season by waiting another few weeks to call him up.
- Diamondbacks pitching prospect Trevor Bauer has pitched well enough in the minors to deserve a promotion, but "nothing has been decided" regarding the right-hander's timeline, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports (Twitter links). Bauer and Myers are in similar situations; they probably won't qualify as super twos if their teams keep them in the minors for a few weeks.
Carlos Zambrano hit and pitched the Marlins into a first place tie with the Nationals in the NL East. Zambrano hit a 431-foot home run, the longest by a pitcher in four years according to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, and struck out seven in 7 2/3 innings. Here are today's other pitcher-related links.
- The Red Sox may need to take a breather from the Daniel Bard experiment as a starter after his performance today, explains John Tomase of the Boston Herald. According to Baseball Reference, Bard became the first starting pitcher since 1918 to walk six and hit two batters in two or less innings of work.
- Roy Halladay's time on the disabled list could affect his $20MM vesting option for 2014 and make him a free agent one year earlier than expected, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.
- Jorge De La Rosa was pulled from his latest rehab assignment because of a small fluid build-up in his surgically repaired left elbow, says Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. The Rockies also placed right-hander Juan Nicasio on the DL with a strained left knee.
- The Orioles have added Steve Johnson to their 40-man roster after the right-hander sought to opt out of his contract, writes Steve Melewski of MASNSports.com.
One way for teams to avoid building their rotations through free agency is to move relief pitchers to the starting rotation. Few relievers have the repertoire and durability to succeed in the rotation, but teams are understandably tempted by certain promising bullpen arms. After all, starters have the potential to limit the opposition for 180-200 innings, while relievers might pitch 60-70 innings.
The Rangers have successfully converted C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando to starting roles under Ron Washington and Mike Maddux in recent years, but some conversions don't work out quite as well. For example, Phil Coke and Kyle McClellan started the 2011 season in the rotation, before returning to relief roles.
Here’s an early season update on four pitchers who jumped from the ‘pen to the rotation this year. None of the pitchers below had started more than three MLB games in a season before 2012 and all of them were big league relievers last year:
- Daniel Bard – Bard's walk rate has spiked, his strikeout rate is down and he's generating fewer ground balls. His average fastball sits in the 93-94 mph range, down from 97.3 mph out of the bullpen, but he continues to generate swings and misses. A dropoff is expected from relievers who move to the rotation, and Bard showed promise against the White Sox last week.
- Neftali Feliz – Feliz's 3.81 ERA is a little deceptive. He has 18 strikeouts against 14 walks, partly because he's generating fewer swings and misses. He has also been lucky on balls in play, as his .194 opponents' BABIP indicates.
- Jeff Samardzija – The strikeouts are up, the walks are down and the peripheral numbers suggest this may well be sustainable. Samardzija's fastball continues to average 94.7 mph and batters are swinging and missing more than ever. So far, Samardzija's conversion has been a major success, especially relative to pre-season expectations. To his credit he has faced the Cardinals — the NL's top offense — twice.
- Chris Sale – Sale's transition to the rotation is going smoothly. Though his fastball velocity has dipped to 92.4 mph and his strikeout rate is down, he's limiting walks and averaging more than six innings per start.
Note: Though Lance Lynn, Anthony Bass and Felix Doubront pitched in relief last year, they also started in the minors for an extended period of time, so I don’t consider them converted relievers. Advanced stats via FanGraphs.
The last time the Red Sox played a regular season game, they lost to the Orioles and the 2011 season ended in heart-breaking fashion. They'll look to start the 2012 season off with a win when they take on the defending AL Central champions in Detroit this afternoon. Here are some links in the meantime…
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said on WEEI that he didn't consider putting Daniel Bard back in the bullpen this spring, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports (Twitter links). The Red Sox haven't made Bard promises going forward, but they view him as a starter for now.
- Former Red Sox scouting director David Chadd won't be watching when his current team and his former team open the season at Comerica Park today, according to John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press. "I'll be out trying to find another Jon Lester," said Chadd, who’s now a VP with the Tigers. Before Lester became a star in Boston, Chadd scouted and drafted him. "I saw a 6’4” left-hander with a great delivery with a good arm," Chadd said.
- Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe proposes that the Red Sox could have made Vicente Padilla their closer to keep relievers such as Alfredo Aceves and Mark Melancon in their previously-assigned roles. Manager Bobby Valentine says the save opportunities will go to Aceves for now, however. Be sure to follow @closernews on Twitter for the latest updates.
The Tigers released Carlos Pena on this date in 2006. The first baseman spent most of the year in the minors with the Yankees and Red Sox then broke out with a 46-homer season for the Rays the following season. Here are today's AL East-related links…
- Gustavo Cabrera worked out for the Rays recently, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com reports. The 16-year-old Dominican outfielder is one of this summer's top eligible amateurs and could command a bonus in the $1.5-2.5MM range, Mayo writes.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wonders if Daniel Bard can successfully transition to Boston's rotation this year and explains that in a perfect world he wouldn't have to become a starter. A number of baseball people are skeptical that the Red Sox right-hander will succeed in the rotation, Rosenthal writes.
- Executives monitoring the outfield market say the Blue Jays are inclined to keep Travis Snider, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. The Blue Jays optioned the left-handed hitting 24-year-old to Triple-A over the weekend.
- Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he's optimistic Joba Chamberlain will pitch in the Major Leagues this year, Jeff Bradley of the Star-Ledger reports. The right-hander dislocated his right ankle last week and will likely wear a cast for six weeks.
- It doesn't appear that the Yankees have any intention of releasing Chamberlain in an attempt to save money, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes.
The Red Sox and Daniel Bard have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract, the team announced. Earlier this week the SFX client filed for $1.825MM while the team countered with $1.4MM, and MLB.com's Ian Browne says (on Twitter) that they settled at the midpoint: $1.6125MM. Our system projected a $1.6MM salary for the right-hander.
Bard, 26, was arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason. As a Super Two, he'll go through the process four times rather than the usual three. He's pitched to a 2.88 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 197 career innings, all of which were spent setting up the now departed Jonathan Papelbon. Bard will come to Spring Training with a chance to win a job as a starting pitcher this year.
Earlier this morning, we heard about Boston's reluctance to go over the luxury tax threshold this season. Now let's round up a few more Sunday's Red Sox updates….
- The Red Sox plan to stretch out Daniel Bard's innings this spring, writes Michael Vegas of the Boston Globe. "I'm going to go into spring training saying 'whatever's best for the team,'" said manager Bobby Valentine. "But he's going to get innings as a starter would in spring training. He's going to be penciled in to be one of those guys who works going from his bullpen to pitching two innings to pitching four innings to pitching six innings."
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports advises the Red Sox to blow past the luxury tax threshold, if that's what it takes to field a World Series contender.
- Within Rosenthal's piece, he adds that Marco Scutaro is drawing interest from the Rockies, among other teams.
- The Red Sox continue to discuss the possibility of a two-year deal with David Ortiz, GM Ben Cherington told Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald.