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Though the Giants have had a rough start to the season — their 4-9 record has them at the bottom of the NL West — new GM Bobby Evans isn’t overly concerned yet, and an early-season trade for reinforcements is unlikely, he tells the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. “At this point you’re just going back to players that were offered you before that you didn’t deal for,” Evans explains. “Players who some teams are still trying to move that you took a pass on.” Injuries have already been a problem for San Francisco, who saw Hunter Pence go down with a broken forearm in Spring Training and have already placed both Matt Cain and Jake Peavy on the 15-day disabled list. Cafardo notes, however, that in all three of the Giants’ recent World Series runs, midseason acquisitions such as Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro and Peavy have played integral roles (I’d add Pat Burrell‘s name to that list as well), and this year will likely be no different if the Giants are to ultimately turn things around.
Here’s more from Cafardo’s weekly Sunday Baseball Notes column…
- The Red Sox are in a catch-22 with Allen Craig, writes Cafardo. His poor 2014 performance has reduced him to a bench player, and no team is currently making much of an effort to acquire the first baseman/outfielder. However, if he doesn’t play much, he’s unlikely to look any better and boost his trade value.
- Right-hander John Lackey is hopeful that the Cardinals will approach him about a contract extension, Cafardo reports, but the team is currently thrilled to have him at just the league minimum. Lackey’s preference may be to remain with the Cardinals, but he’ll likely pitch in 2016 whether it’s in St. Louis or elsewhere, as he recently told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that he wouldn’t be pitching this year if he didn’t plan to play beyond 2015.
- One general manager who has inquired recently tells Cafardo that the Phillies‘ asking price on Cole Hamels has not dropped one bit since the beginning of the season, despite the fact that Hamels has had two rough starts in his first three appearances of the year. Hamels has, somewhat incredibly, yielded seven homers in just 18 innings after surrendering only 14 in 204 2/3 frames last year. Of course, homer-to-flyball ratio tends to stabilize around 10-11 percent (Hamels’ career mark is 11.2 percent), and he’s currently sporting a remarkably high 36.8 percent HR/FB, so better days are almost certainly ahead for Hamels.
- An AL scout who has attended both of Scott Kazmir‘s starts this season says he’s never seen the left-hander more confident or more impressive on the mound. “Don’t know if it’s because it’s his walk year and he can become a free agent, but if he keeps this up most of the season, he’s going to make himself a lot of money,” said the scout. Of course, that’s just one scout’s take, but Kazmir has been electric to date. The 31-year-old has whiffed 18 hitters against five walks in 13 innings, and the 91.7 mph he’s averaged on his two-seamer in those two starts is up from last year’s average of 90.9, though it remains to be seen whether not that increase can be maintained.
- David Price‘s hot start to the season makes it likely that his offseason price will land somewhere in the vicinity of Max Scherzer‘s seven-year, $210MM and Clayton Kershaw‘s seven-year, $215MM pact, one Major League source opined to Cafardo.
- Former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is helping Frank Viola III, the son of former AL Cy Young winner Frank Viola, develop a knuckleball, Cafardo writes. Viola III was a 29th-round pick by the White Sox back in 2004, but Tommy John surgery and knee surgery derailed his career, and he retired from the game in 2010. He returned in 2014 and pitched with the Blue Jays’ Class-A affiliates, and he’s now aiming to get a look in the independent leagues as he attempts to work his way back into the game. Viola III has also worked with R.A. Dickey and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro on honing is skill with the pitch.
Indians GM Chris Antonetti declined to comment on the Corey Kluber negotiations with reporters (including MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian) today, though he reiterated that the team has “a clear preference” to conclude any contract talks before Opening Day in order to “minimize distractions” for the players. The chances of an extension before Opening Day “are said to be less than great” according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, though FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported yesterday that “some progress” had been made between the two sides.
Here are some more items from around the baseball world…
- The Tigers are thought to be more eager to keep David Price on a long-term extension than they were Max Scherzer last year since Price has a better track record of durability, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. Still, three sources tell Heyman that the two sides aren’t close to an agreement that would keep Price in Detroit beyond this season.
- Reliever Mike Adams will not report to Triple-A as planned and has left the Dodgers, Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register reports (Twitter link). Moura suggests that Adams may be on the verge of retirement. After struggling through two injury-plagued seasons, Adams signed a minor league deal with Los Angeles last month.
- Hector Olivera and Jose Millan Fernandez, the Dodgers‘ two recent high-profile Cuban signings, are still awaiting visas and have yet to come to the United States, Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times writes.
- Jon Singleton faced some criticism from fellow players for signing a five-year, $10MM extension (with three club option years) with the Astros before ever appearing in a Major League game. Given the slow start to Singleton’s career, however, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards believes Singleton’s decision is looking better and better. Singleton struggled through his rookie season and will begin 2015 in the minors, yet had he not signed that extension, he would only have earned roughly $540K instead of the $3.5MM he’s guaranteed in 2014-15. There’s also still plenty of time for Singleton to develop into a quality big leaguer and for this deal to become a bargain for Houston.
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels and new manager Jeff Banister talk to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News about what went into Banister’s hiring and how the Rangers view the modern relationship between the front office and the clubhouse.
The Mets are reportedly set to lock into all of the arbitration-eligible seasons of center fielder Juan Lagares while adding control over another year via club option. But that is not the only possible extension scenario ongoing in New York and elsewhere.
Here’s the latest:
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson acknowledged that the club has had conversations with both Lagares and first baseman Lucas Duda, as Mike Vorkunov of the Star-Ledger reports (Twitter links). He explained the team’s process as akin to that which led it to sign deals in the past with players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Jon Niese, calling Lagares and Duda “select individuals who we think have real upside.” A new pact for the power-hitting, arb-eligible Duda will likely cost the Mets a fair bit more than the $23MM the team reportedly committed to Lagares.
- For his part, Duda indicated that he is hopeful of getting a deal done before the presumptive deadline of Opening Day, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets. His agents are still working with the New York front office.
- Arguably the Mets‘ best player, starter Matt Harvey, tells Puma (Twitter links) that he and agent Scott Boras have not been approached to discuss a deal. Of course, that could be due in large part to the fact that Harvey appears to be in a particularly unlikely extension spot: a Boras-represented ace with nearly-unlimited upside who is preparing to enter his arbitration years after missing a season due to Tommy John surgery. When asked whether he would try to get something done with Harvey, Alderson said that the question was “too far afield for me.” Needless to say, it does not appear that there is anything in the works here.
- The Reds have made “no progress” on a deal with ace Johnny Cueto, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. That is really not surprising, given that Cincinnati appears to have a lack of future payroll flexibility and Cueto a rather substantial earning potential as a free agent.
- Morosi also tweets that he does not expect any pending free agents to reach long-term deals barring a surprise, massive offer from the Tigers to David Price, and it is hard to disagree with that assessment. That being said, Price made clear yesterday that he is not putting any timeline on talks about a new deal, as MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports. Price also gave some hints as to his mindset, seemingly indicating that Detroit knows his demands and will have to decide whether to meet them. “It wouldn’t be something that would linger on,” he said. “These guys, they know what they want to do, and so do I. So if we get to that point, then I think once it gets going, it would go quickly. If it doesn’t happen, then it just wouldnât happen. It’s not something that we’d revisit every two weeks. I’m sure the Tigers would rather it be either we can get it done or we can’t and leave it alone. We’ll see how everything starts shaking out.” Price added that he does not necessarily see recent deals for top starting pitchers as setting the salary range that should apply to his next deal: “I guess you could say that, but that’s not my thought behind it.”
Academy Award-winning actor, Michigan native and huge Tigers fan J.K. Simmons will throw out the first pitch at the Tigers’ opener on April 6. Simmons won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar last month for his role in Whiplash, and if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll agree that the Tigers should probably hold off on having Simmons give a pep talk to the rookies before the game. Here’s the latest from around the American League…
- The Tigers‘ chances of extending David Price aren’t good, Mlive.com’s Chris Iott opines, as there are simply too many reasons for Price to test the free agent market this winter. Price could potentially find a $200MM+ contract next offseason, so it’s possible Detroit would have to top that level now in order to retain him.
- The Rangers told outfielder Ryan Ludwick that he wouldn’t make the team, GM Jon Daniels told reporters (including MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan). Daniels described Ludwick as an “all-world guy” who he believes could help another team’s roster, though in the Rangers’ case, “as we look at it today, we thought other options in camp fit the roster better.” Ludwick signed a minor league contract with Texas in February and, as an Article XX(B) free agent, would’ve been obligated to receive a $100K bonus if the Rangers wanted to keep him in the organization but not on the 25-man roster.
- Matt Lindstrom is also an Article XX(B) free agent, and the Angels right-hander’s status could hurt his chances of making the roster since the Halos like to be flexible in sending relievers back and forth to the minors, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes.
- Right-hander Steve Delabar told reporters (including Sportsnet’s Mike Wilner) that “it’s a shock to me” that he won’t be making the Blue Jays‘ Opening Day roster. Delabar pitched well this spring but apparently lost his spot due to the emergence of Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna, both of whom seem very likely to make the team. Delabar was clearly upset by the demotion, and when asked if he would accept a change of scenery to a new team, he said “it could be considered, but I’m not saying that that’s what I’m asking for or anything like that. But if that was to happen… I feel like I’m a major-league player and I can help a bullpen.”
- Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders won’t be ready for Opening Day, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes, though the reason isn’t due to a setback in his rehab from knee surgery. The team and Saunders both want to make sure the outfielder is 100 percent when he takes the field, which could be as soon as Toronto’s home opener on April 13. Saunders had surgery to remove 60 percent of his left meniscus after tearing the cartilage earlier this spring — a decision that accelerated his timeline to take the field from midseason to early April. Manager John Gibbons has referred to the radically altered timeline as “kind of a miracle,” and Saunders has already been DHing in Minor League games, per Chisholm. However, he’s yet to play outfield defense or run the bases; he’s returned to the dugout rather than running after each at-bat in those games, as the focus is currently just on getting his timing down in a game setting.
The Tigers have opened a line of communication with agent Bo McKinnis, the representative for ace lefty David Price, regarding the possibility of a new contract, Price tells reporters including MLB.com’s Jason Beck (Twitter link).
Price downplayed the significance of the communications to date after meeting with McKinnis last night. Numbers have not yet been discussed, said Price. “I wouldn’t even call it groundwork,” he explained.
Though it appears that only the most preliminary contact has been established, that obviously at least indicates that both sides have at least some interest in exploring an extension. Detroit gave up a substantial package of big leaguers and prospects to acquire Price last summer, of course, and went on to watch Max Scherzer depart via free agency. In that regard, team interest has always made some sense.
The question, as always is one of cost. Scherzer reportedly declined a $144MM offer from the Tigers entering his walk year, only to land $210MM on the open market. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes has listed Price at third on his free agent power rankings, but that is largely a reflection of the upside of the two position players above him and the reality of pitching risk. As Dierkes has noted, Price has a strong case to join Scherzer in topping $200MM — if he puts up a typical year.
It’s already been a busy day for AL Central news. We’ve learned Corey Kluber and the Indians aren’t close in contract negotiations, MLBTR’s Zach Links has a pair of interviews with Twins GM Terry Ryan and right-hander Mike Pelfrey, and Minnesota also grabbed headlines by inking second baseman Brian Dozier to a four-year, $20MM extension. Here’s even more from around the division…
- Dozier, Ryan, Twins assistant GM Rob Antony and Dozier’s agent Damon Lapa discussed the contract during a press conference today (Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has the details). The two sides discussed extensions of up to eight years in length, but they instead settled on a deal that only covers Dozier’s arbitration years and doesn’t include any club options. “In Brian’s case, we felt it important to restrict the club’s ability at the back end of the contract to have any options or anything like that,” Lapa said. “To us that resulted in a shorter term, but we feel in the long run that’s in Brian’s best interests. It preserves his ability to hit free agency on time at 31 as opposed to some of the other players who will be in their mid-30s.”
- While retaining the ability to test free agency was a key point for Dozier, he made it clear that he would like to spend the rest of his career in Minnesota. He’s quite open to a future extension with the team and “hopefully this [contract] is a stepping stone for something possibly even longer.”
- “There are rumblings some talks are in the works” between David Price and the Tigers about an extension, Tony Paul of the Detroit News writes. Price said two weeks ago that there hadn’t been any negotiations between the two sides but he expected the club to approach him before the start of the season.
- Also from Paul’s piece, he suggests the Tigers should explore extending J.D. Martinez or Nick Castellanos now in order to gain cost certainty over the young players, pick up another year or two of team control and possibly score a bargain if they keep producing. While I’m sure the Tigers would take a team-friendly figure if they could find it (especially with Martinez coming off a huge 2014 season), they might be more inclined to wait a bit longer to make sure of what they really have in either player.
- Royals lefty Brandon Finnegan will begin the season at Double-A, the team announced yesterday. Finnegan, the Royals’ first-round draft pick last July, was fast-tracked to the majors after just 27 minor league innings and he made some important bullpen appearances for K.C. during their playoff run. There was some question as to whether Finnegan would pitch out of the Royals’ bullpen again on Opening Day or if he’d continue developing as a starter at Triple-A, though GM Dayton Moore tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that the move to Double-A was made because “we’re still learning about Brandon.” Pitch counts and workload were also factors, though Moore was pleased with how Finnegan accounted for himself while in the bigs.
In today’s mailbag, a reader asked Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer if Gavin Floyd suffering an injury so soon after his signing indicates a broader issue with the Indians‘ ability to evaluate a pitcher’s health risk. There have been hits and misses for the Tribe, Hoynes explains, pointing to successes like their cheap gamble on Scott Kazmir. Over the last 20 years or so, Cleveland has established a good reputation for rehabbing injured hurlers from other organizations, so one bad break doesn’t mean that they’ve lost their feel for it. For more on the Indians’ offseason, check out MLBTR’s Steve Adams in-depth review.
Elsewhere in the American League:
- The bounty of starting pitchers in the upcoming free agent class will provide enough of a safety net for the Tigers if they fail to extend David Price, opines MLive.com’s Chris Iott. Owner Mike Ilitch is the wild card whether the Tigers make a strong bid to retain Price, who, Iott notes, will match, if not exceed, Max Scherzer‘s deal and without the deferments.
- Utilityman Don Kelly wanted to return to the Tigers, but signed with the Marlins because they represented a clearer path to the Majors, reports James Schmehl of MLive.com. “Detroit was like a second home for us, so to make that change was tough,” said Kelly. “To be able to bounce around and everything that goes on in a National League game, that was one of the reasons why it was such a good fit. The way the roster was set up at the time, and the way Miami’s was, it just seemed like a better fit to be in the NL and to be here.“
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn focuses on two factors when deciding whether to extend an arbitration-eligible player like Adam Eaton or Avisail Garcia, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “It’s a combination of feeling, one, that the player is a key part to what we have going here and want to make sure we are able to have him longer than the normal six-year control period,” Hahn said. “And second, probably almost as important if not more important, is the belief that the guaranteed money wouldn’t change the player’s approach to their preparation for the game.“
- Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register chronicles the Angels’ recruitment of Roberto Baldoquin and how the franchise believes their $15MM investment ($8MM signing bonus plus the tax for exceeding their international bonus pool) is justified based on the numerous interactions between the organization and the 19-year-old Cuban prior to his signing.
Max Scherzer knows exactly what David Price is experiencing as the left-hander enters his last year under contract, and Scherzer told reporters (including James Schmehl of Mlive.com) that facing free agency inevitably adds another element to a pitcher’s season. “You only get one shot at this, to sign a big deal,” Scherzer said. “He’s going to be in a position to do it, whether he does it now or in the offseason. That’s his choice. But you have to do it right. That’s something you have to be comfortable with.” Scherzer said that he blocked out the pressure by simply focusing on winning games, advice that Price seems to be following. “I’ve gone year-to-year for the last four years now, so every year is a contract year,” Price said. “It doesn’t matter. It’s not what I’m focused on. It’s not what I’m worried about….I just need to go out there, have fun and play baseball.”
Here are more notes from various rotations around the game…
- The Cardinals have a nice problem with Marco Gonzales, Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia all looking good in Spring Training, and Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch doesn’t see any reason why the team shouldn’t keep this rotation surplus in place. Some could argue that the Cards could trade one of these excess starters, yet Miklasz notes that the club will inevitably need starting depth beyond the five in the rotation.
- Beyond Cole Hamels, there aren’t many top-flight pitchers available on the trade market for teams looking to fill rotation holes, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only piece. Olney cites the Padres as a team who might have enough depth to trade some pitching now, while the Rays could conceivably explore dealing Alex Cobb or Drew Smyly in the coming months if they decide they can’t contend this season.
- Also from Olney, he wonders (based only on his own speculation) if the Orioles and Dodgers could fit as trade partners in a bad-contract deal of Ubaldo Jimenez for Andre Ethier. It’s not a bad idea, though the trade probably works better for L.A. than it does for Baltimore since losing Jimenez (even considering his 2014 struggles) would leave the O’s a bit thin on rotation depth.
Tigers ace David Price reiterates that he’s interested in an extension, and says he expects Detroit to approach him about a new deal before he hits free agency, James Schmehl of MLive.com writes. “I doubt it’ll be that long,” says Price.
Price confirms that there have been no talks between the two sides to date. He has repeatedly said, however, that he would be interested in an extension. Price will earn $19.75MM (a record-setting figure for a pitcher settling an arbitration case) in 2015 before potentially becoming eligible for free agency following the season. If the Tigers let him get that far, he’ll join an excellent list of free-agent pitchers that includes Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, Rick Porcello, Doug Fister and perhaps Zack Greinke.
Yoan Moncada might be the best $100MM the Yankees can spend, Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines. Of course, it’s a huge gamble to invest $60-$100MM in a player who might be two years away from the majors, but elite position players are now rare commodities on the free agent market. If Yankees evaluators truly believe that Moncada is the next coming of Robinson Cano, then Sherman says they should roll the dice. Here’s more from the American League..
- David Price said that as far as he knows, there have been no discussions regarding an extension with the Tigers, according to Chris Iott of MLive.com (on Twitter). Price says that he won’t close the door on negotiations on Opening Day, but he would prefer if the talk “dies down a bit” at that point, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). Price would “rather not talk about it all year long” but he’s “not closing every door,” Heyman tweets.
- Right-handed reliever Tom Wilhelmsen has no regrets about challenging the Mariners to an arbitration hearing despite losing his case, as Bob Dutton of The News Tribune writes. “You hear so many things about it,” he said. “I’m glad I did it. I got to stand up for what I believe in, man. That’s a pretty cool thing to do.” Wilhelmsen sought $2.2MM but the three-judge panel sided with the club’s offer of $1.4MM.
- Recently, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs ranked the Braves‘ signing of Nick Markakis and the Mariners‘ signing of Nelson Cruz as two of the worst moves of the offseason. Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com understands why the Orioles opted not to go that far in terms of years and dollars but he doesn’t see either deal as harshly as Cameron.