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More than 20 teams were on hand for Joel Hanrahan‘s April showcase and the former closer reportedly dazzled everyone in attendance. Ostensibly, Hanrahan had a number of opportunities to pick from and earlier today he came to terms on a deal with the Tigers. The 32-year-old came out strong and hit 93 mph on the gun, which is extremely impressive considering that he’s just under one year removed from Tommy John Surgery. On today’s conference call I asked Hanrahan if he was surprised by his fast turnaround.
“No, not really,” the confident veteran said. “I put in the hard work while everyone else was playing this summer. I was going to rehab five times a week at 8:00 in the morning. That was my season. I’ve still got a bit of work to do here. Hopefully when they put a hitter in the box and I get some adrenaline going, the velocity will be there. I’ve always been a velocity type guy with a bit of the breaking ball.”
While Hanrahan is a very notable addition and one that could help fortify a Tigers bullpen that struggled in 2013, there is another notable name that the club has been linked to heavily over the past few months in Stephen Drew. When asked if there could be addition room for another major league free agent this season, Dombrowski said such a move wasn’t in the works but didn’t exactly shut the door.
“Our owner has always been generous but we’re not in a spot to do that necessarily. We’ve made some moves with our club through trades, Andrew Romine has done a good job for us at shortstop, that was one area of need we had…” the GM said. “The area we wanted to address most was our bullpen if we had the opportunity to.”
As for Hanrahan, both the pitcher and Dombrowski emphasized that there will be no clear timetable for his Tigers major league debut. Hanrahan wouldn’t guarantee that he’ll be on the mound for Detroit in the next 30 days and the GM said his minor league warmup will be “sort of a Spring Training,” so it sounds like there’s little, if any, pressure on the reliever to rush himself back. Hanrahan is extremely eager to getting back to what he does best but won’t take any chances to expedite the process.
The retirements of Yankee icon Derek Jeter and Commissioner Bud Selig and the Red Sox's quest to repeat as World Series champions are baseball's top storylines this season, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Mike Trout/Miguel Cabrera debate also makes Cafardo's list along with five other topics to monitor in 2014. Stoking the discussion, the dynamic duo both agreed to lengthy and lucrative contract extensions just one day apart this past week: six years, $144.5MM for Trout and eight years, $248MM for Cabrera.
In other news and notes from the American League:
- Within the same article, Cafardo opines Jon Lester better be willing to accept less from the Red Sox than the six-year, $144MM proposal the Tigers made to Max Scherzer adding negotiations with the left-hander will be a true test of how much faith the club has in its top pitching prospects.
- Lester addressed the media today, including WEEI.com's Rob Bradford (who provides a transcript of the extension-related portion of the presser) and contrasted his situation to Scherzer's. "Every situation is different, every negotiation is different, every person is different, so until it's there in front of you with a pen to sign it, or not presented to you and you have to go the other way, then like I said, we'll deal with that when it comes."
- Contact lenses could be the key to the season for Red Sox's third baseman Will Middlebrooks, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. An eye test this spring revealed Middlebrooks' vision had deteriorated to 20-25 in his right eye and 20-30 in his left. "For everyday life, you’d never correct it," the 25-year-old said. "But for what I do, you need to be able to see the little things. Once I put them in, I could really see the spin on the ball. I was always just reading trajectory of the ball. I was never seeing the spin."
- Pitching and offense are reasons why the Red Sox can repeat while history (no team has sucessfully defended its World Series title since 2000) and questions up the middle are reasons why they won't, writes CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam.
- Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski told MLB Network Radio (Twitter link) he had the financial wherewithal to extend both Cabrera and Scherzer. "We had both negotiations going simultaneously," said Dombrowski. "We were trying to sign both."
- The Royals have had mixed results with their philsophy of developing pitchers, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The organization believes you need 10 pitching prospects to deliver one to the Majors and that has worked in developing relievers, but only four prospects have started a game for Kansas City during GM Dayton Moore's seven-year tenure, McCullough notes.
- The Astros have been active at the Trade Deadline the past two seasons, but that may not be the case this year, writes the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich. "No question. This year's different," GM Jeff Luhnow told Drellich. "This year, we have veteran players. If they play well, we're likely to keep them as opposed to move them. There’s always going to be that temptation…we’ll balance all the factors, including the fact that we do want to show significant progress."
Five years ago today, Alex Rodriguez admitted and apologized for using PEDs during his tenure with the Rangers. Rodriguez blamed the pressure of trying to fulfill the expectations created by his then-record 10-year, $252MM contract. Two days ago, Rodriguez voluntarily dismissed his federal lawsuit against MLB, the Commissioner's Office, and the MLBPA and will serve his 162-game suspension stemming from his role in the Biogenesis affair. Here's the latest from the American League:
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio (Twitter link) he doesn't expect anything to happen with Stephen Drew before the start of Spring Training; but, out of respect for the shortstop, has maintained a dialogue with agent Scott Boras.
- Cherington also told the pair he is working the phones to add another reliever (via a Bowden tweet).
- The Red Sox's starting rotation, currently flush with experienced hurlers, could take on a much younger and cheaper look in the next 12-18 months, writes the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber. Left-hander Henry Owens headlines the list of Boston's pitching prospects on the verge of reaching the Majors, according to Lauber.
- Having lost out on Bronson Arroyo and entering the second week of February without a truly significant free agent acquisition, the Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck opines it's fair to wonder how much the Orioles really want to win this year.
- Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters recently, including Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, the Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade set the tone for the other moves he made this offseason. "If that move wasn’t made, you’re really in a position where you’re kind of back to where you were. It was one move that set off our plans in place." One part of that plan has received much scrutiny: dealing Doug Fister to the Nationals. Dombrowski said Fister was expendable because the Tigers have six solid starters with three of them (Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Drew Smyly) under contract for at least the next four years while also proclaiming he'd love to have Max Scherzer "stay as a Tiger for a long time."
- Johnny Damon, whose last MLB appearance was with the Indians in 2012, is open to managing or resuming his playing career, but only on the Major League level, reports the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin.
In what might be the most eclectic collection of names to ever headline a division notes post, here's the latest from the AL Central…
- Despite the Tigers' late-game problems this season, Dave Dombrowski has no regrets over not acquiring a proven closer last winter, the general manager tells MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince. "We didn't feel there was a lock-down, shut-down option in the wintertime that fit in with what we were trying to do, role-wise and financially," Dombrowski said. "Other people may think differently, but there weren't a lot of guys out there, and we felt we had options internally. Now, it may have taken some time, but we still have a chance to do that."
- Joaquin Benoit has recently taken over the closer's role in Detroit and pitched well, which could erase any plans the Tigers had to acquire a stopper at the deadline. "Where are you going to go out and get a guy with better stuff than Benoit?" Dombrowski said.
- Marten Gasparini, the 16-year-old Italian prospect who signed a $1.3MM contract with the Royals, spoke to Fangraphs' David Laurila about his transition to North America.
- The Twins haven't asked agent Jaime Torres about the location of Cuban right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne's showcase in Barcelona tomorrow, 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson reports (Twitter link). Wolfson notes in a follow-up tweet that this just means the Twins haven't informed Torres, not that they won't attend altogether, and Wolfson says the Twins "have a book" on Despaigne.
- Byron Buxton holds the top spot on Baseball America's midseason ranking of the top 50 prospects in the sport. The Twins outfielder "is even better than expected with power, speed, defense and an extremely advanced hitting approach," states BA's staff report. Buxton was ranked as the No. 10 prospect in Baseball America's preseason rankings but has risen to No. 1 after hitting .344/.424/.548 with nine homers and 33 steals in 366 PA at the low and high-A levels this season.
- In AL Central news from earlier today, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reported that Twins right-hander P.J. Walters had cleared outright assignment waivers.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum told reporters, including MLB.com's Carrie Muskat, that Matt Garza will most likely miss the first month of the season. Garza, ranked ninth on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings and one of the prime trade targets last summer until he hurt his elbow, strained his left lat two weeks ago when he faced live hitters for the first time since July. In other news involving teams from the NL and AL Central Divisions:
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski says he is not looking to add anyone as projected closer Bruce Rondon continues to struggle, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
- First base going forward is going to be very interesting for the Brewers, opines the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt. Corey Hart, currently recovering from knee surgery, is a free agent at the end of the year and has stated his desire to remain in Milwaukee. The Brewers also have Hunter Morris, the organization's player of the year and the Southern League (Double-A) MVP, waiting in the wings.
- With the Royals likely to open the season with a club-record $79MM payroll, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star doesn't anticipate any contract extensions for the team's young talent especially Eric Hosmer, a Scott Boras client.
- The Royals will keep their eye on the outfield trade market, tweets CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler.
Blockbuster trades motivated by one team's desire for financial flexibility (AKA a salary dump) like the Marlins-Blue Jays deal or the Red Sox-Dodger swap are nothing new in baseball history. On this date in 1947, the St. Louis Browns and the Boston Red Sox began a two-day trading frenzy involving 13 players (four Browns and nine Red Sox) and the Browns receiving $375K (worth nearly $3.1MM in today's dollars). Here's the latest news, notes, and comments from the present-day American League:
- The Yankees continue to have conversations with free agent outfielder Scott Hairston, writes the New York Post's Dan Martin. Hairston would bring a right-handed power bat to the outfield mix and could fit into a platoon, as the Yankees have already had preliminary discussions to bring back Raul Ibanez.
- The Yankees still want to trim payroll to $189MM by 2014 for luxury tax and revenue sharing refund purposes, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders if Hal Steinbrenner isn't risking a brand worth billions for the millions the team would earn by doing so.
- If the Tigers fail to re-sign Anibal Sanchez, the signing of Torii Hunter will still make the offseason a success, team president and GM Dave Dombrowski told George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press. "We'll see where other things take us," Dombrowski said. "If we end up with this major move (Hunter) being our major move of the winter, I would be very happy."
- The Indians have yet to set their 2013 budget, but it is expected to be in the neighborhood of this past season's $65MM, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes. As a result of this "fluid" situation, GM Chris Antonetti must take any intriguing proposals to ownership.
- Also in that article, Hoynes lists the five best and five worst free agent signings by the Tribe.
- The Red Sox will interview Craig Counsell and Greg Colbrunn for their hitting coach opening, reports Alex Speier of WEEI.com. Counsell, a special assistant to Brewers GM Doug Melvin, will interview tomorrow while Colbrunn, the hitting instructor for the Yankees' Single-A affiliate in Charleston, is in the process of being scheduled for another time during the week. The Red Sox have already interviewed their minor league hitting coordinator Victor Rodriguez, former Diamondbacks hitting coach Rick Schu, and Braves assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher.
The Tigers, American League champions for the second time in seven years, won’t know who they’re playing in the World Series until the NLCS ends tonight. Here are some Tigers-related links in the meantime…
- Tigers president and GM Dave Dombrowski acknowledged that he targets hard-throwing pitchers, Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press reports. "But so do a lot of other people, too,” Dombrowski said. “I think everybody likes them." The GM declined to elaborate beyond that. “I don't want to Moneyball you and give away my thought processes, either. Why should I?”
- Longtime Tigers owner Mike Ilitch told Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News that he wants a World Series title, no matter the costs. "I don't worry about the investment, I want to win," Ilitch said. Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland say they want to win a championship for the 83-year-old owner.
- Leyland says his team is ready to play in the World Series even after an extended break, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports.
The Yankees completed a sweep against the Nationals on Sunday afternoon in Washington D.C. with a 4-1 victory. The win marked New York's third consecutive sweep of three games or more for the first time since 1998. With the Yankees taking three from the Nationals, the Reds (7-5) are now the lone MLB team with an all-time winning record against the Bronx Bombers. Here's the latest from around the majors…
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has already conceded his interest in acquiring a right-handed bat before the non-waiver trade deadline, but any potential move hinges on the health of Victor Martinez, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. “The possibility (of Martinez returning) exists in a strong enough fashion that you have to give it some thought, but I don’t really know where that stands – and I don’t know that we will know until July,” Dombrowski said in an interview Sunday morning. “We may get Martinez and (Al) Alburquerque back. Those would be two pretty good acquisitions, and our bullpen actually has pitched pretty well in recent times.”
- ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports (via Twitter) that the Dodgers are not interested in Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair but are talking with Chicago about right-hander Ryan Dempster. Los Angeles may want to reconsider its stance as LaHair has a slash line of .297/.380/.560 as compared to .261/.322/.368 for the Dodgers' first basemen.
- According to calculations by Baseball America, the Red Sox will face increased penalties from MLB if they continue spending at their current pace to go 5% over their draft budget as pointed out by Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal. When a team exceeds its budget by 5% or less, it is penalized by paying 75% on the amount over the threshold. Teams that go over by 5 to 10% are mandated to pay a luxury tax of 100% on the excess spending and forfeit their next first round draft pick.
Tigers owner Mike Ilitch silenced questions about the job security of his leadership team by announcing extensions for manager Jim Leyland and president and general manager Dave Dombrowski today. It’s a move toward stability and, Ilitch hopes, the Tigers’ first World Championship since 1984.
“Dave has built a solid foundation for this organization and assembled competitive teams that give us a chance to win year in and year out,” Ilitch said.
Dombrowski’s top assistants – assistant GM Al Avila, special assistant David Chadd, VP of player personnel Scott Reid and legal counsel John Westhoff – also received contract extensions. That continuity helps the front office team work effectively, Dombrowski said.
“I think it’s extremely important,” he said on a conference call. “They’re very knowledgeable, they’re hard-working, they’re loyal.”
But don’t confuse continuity with an aversion to change. Dombrowski says the Tigers rely on more statistical analysis now than they did a five or ten years ago. Mike Smith and other executives supplement scouting reports with numbers for balanced evaluations.
“We don’t rely on them as much as other people do, but there’s all different types of statistical analyses available,” Dombrowski told reporters. “I think everybody has grown through the use of computers and the use of scouting reports, having access to them. It’s at your fingertips any time, anywhere you go.”
Though Dombrowski’s top assistants obtained extensions and the GM himself is locked up through 2015, Leyland’s coaches did not get extensions and the manager obtained a one-year extension. However, Dombrowski said Leyland did not ask for more job security than he was offered.
By now, I'm sure you've looked over our list of players that will be free agents after the 2011 season numerous times, but what about general managers? With some help from Cot's Baseball Contracts, here's the list of GMs without contracts for 2012…
- Andy MacPhail, Orioles – Technically, MacPhail isn't the GM, he's the president of baseball operations. He's still the guy calling the shots though. Last October we heard that he doesn't have any plans to approach owner Peter Angelos about a new deal before his current one expires.
- Neal Huntington, Pirates – Team president Frank Coonelly said he expects Huntington to be in Pittsburgh "for a long time" earlier this year.
- Walt Jocketty, Reds – Cincinnati is clearly a team on the rise, so it seems likely that ownership would want to bring Jocketty back after the season.
- Dave Dombrowski, Tigers – A few months ago we heard that the fates of Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland could be a package deal based on the team's performance in 2011.
- Brian Cashman, Yankees – The third longest-tenured GM in the game would seem to be on rocky ground after being over-ruled by ownership on the Rafael Soriano signing, but we heard afterwards that he still has the "full backing" of the Steinbrenners.