Desmond Jennings Rumors

AL East Notes: Gillick, Dipoto, Yankees, Jones, Jennings

Earlier today, it was reported that former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto had joined the Red Sox‘ front office on an interim basis to serve in an advisory capacity in the offseason. That came from Peter Gammons, who also said today in an MLB Network appearance (video link, with Red Sox talk beginning at about 5:15) that he can “see them at least making overtures to bringing in Pat Gillick” as an adviser to be another voice in the front office. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Red Sox haven’t yet sought permission to speak to the 77-year-old Gillick, who is stepping down as Phillies president at season’s end and giving way to Andy MacPhail. As Cafardo notes, the idea in the addition of some extra advisers is to bring some fresh sets of eyes to the Red Sox’ decision-making process.

Elsewhere in the AL East…

  • Red Sox manager John Farrell addressed the addition of Dipoto following today’s loss to the Marlins, as WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes. Said the Sox skipper: “He’s come in to review our system, our big league club. I know it’s an objective view to be brought in and give feedback, information to Ben, his assessment and recommendations going forward.” Bradford likens the hiring to that of Allard Baird, the former Royals GM who joined the Red Sox as a consultant after he was dismissed in Kansas City. Baird, though, went on to assume a more permanent position with the Sox, as he’s currently their vice president of player personnel. A similar outcome could conceivably be in store for Dipoto, though as Ken Rosenthal reported earlier today, Dipoto’s free to GM opportunities with other clubs at any time.
  • The Yankees elected to hang onto their top prospects rather than make a huge splash at the non-waiver trade deadline, and owner Hal Steinbrenner told the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff that he played a part in that decision. “I don’t think we kind of had the glaring need that you would address by giving up one of your Triple-A prospects,” said Steinbrenner. “…I didn’t want to give those kids up. We’ve been looking at them for two, three years now. They’ve progressed perfectly.” Steinbrenner noted that he was particularly reluctant to do so for a “loaner,” adding that the proximity of much of the organization’s minor league talent to the big league level was another factor.
  • Garrett Jones is at somewhat of a crossroads after again being designated for assignment by the Yankees, writes George A. King III of the New York Post. The veteran first baseman/outfielder is well-liked by his teammates and the coaches and told King that the feeling is mutual, making it difficult to leave. However, he’s also wary about having been let go twice, though, King writes. “I have to talk to my agent and wife and see what’s best for my career: Stay here or go to the new team,” Jones said. King also provides health updates on Michael Pineda and Dustin Ackley.
  • Desmond Jennings‘ prolonged stint on the disabled list is over, as the Rays announced to reporters, including Sports Talk Florida’s Matt Stein (Twitter link), that Joey Butler will be optioned to make room for Jennings’ return Friday. Jennings has been out since late April due to a left knee injury and underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the issue a little more than two months ago.

AL East Notes: Wieters, Davis, Rays, Kelly

Matt Wieters left the third inning of last night’s Orioles loss to the Mariners with a right hamstring strain, and he’ll be re-evaluated on Friday when the club is back in Baltimore.  All parties are hopeful that Wieters can avoid the DL, and the catcher told reporters (including Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun) that “I think we caught it before it became a severe strain. The hamstring got tight and it was getting tighter. I think we stopped before we did any serious damage to it.”  Losing Wieters would obviously be a blow to the Orioles’ postseason chances, and another DL stint also wouldn’t do any favors to Wieters’ free agent stock this offseason.  The catcher already missed the first two months of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery but had been hitting well (.278/.305/.449 with five homers) in 167 PA since his return.

Some more from around the division…

  • Chris Davis has rebounded from a miserable 2014 to have a big 2015 season, with improved health and better performance against fastballs as two major reasons for his resurgence, MLB.com’s Mike Petriello writes.  With a thin market of free agent first basemen this winter, Petriello thinks Davis could make a big cash-in on the open market this offseason, perhaps even a contract topping the $100MM mark.
  • Desmond Jennings and Drew Smyly are both slated to return from DL stints to the Rays this week, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes.  Smyly’s return is the more tenuous of the two, as he didn’t pitch well in a recent rehab start.  He’ll throw a bullpen session on Thursday to determine whether he’ll make his scheduled start against the Rangers on Sunday.
  • With Koji Uehara done for the season, Joe Kelly could be the Red Sox answer at closer both for the rest of 2015 and maybe in the future, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.  Kelly, for his part, tells The Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato that he has no interest in switching to a bullpen role.
  • Has the Jacoby Ellsbury signing already been a bust for the YankeesBrendan Kuty of the Star-Ledger poses the questions and breaks down both sides of the argument, concluding that it’s still too early to judge the seven-year, $153MM contract before even two full seasons have passed.  Ellsbury’s underachieving, injury-plagued 2015 season, however, is a cause for concern for the Yankees, especially since Ellsbury was still expected to perform like a top-level player for at least the first few years of the deal.

AL East Notes: Rays, Smyly, Cueto, Jays, Napoli

Rays GM Matthew Silverman says that he remains confident in his club despite its recent slide, and indicated that he does not see the need for significant deadline additions, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports“If we’re a healthy team there isn’t a glaring need for us at the deadline,” said Silverman.

  • The Rays expect to welcome back both outfielder Desmond Jennings and lefty Drew Smyly in August, Silverman added. While the former has been expected to return this year, it was not at all clear that Smyly would do so. Per a Topkin tweet, there is some chance that the labrum tear identified in Smyly’s pitching shoulder is an old injury, and the team is reasonably optimistic of getting him back in 2015.
  • Among the teams watching Johnny Cueto throw yesterday were three AL East clubs — the YankeesOrioles, and Blue Jays — per a tweet from Joel Sherman of the New York Post. All three line up as possible acquirers of pitchers, of course, so it’s not at all surprising to hear that they would be interested in taking a look at the prized righty (as, no doubt, are plenty of other teams). Who’ll land Cueto remains a hot topic; be sure to check out MLBTR’s Instagram post on just that topic.
  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos continues to publicly address his teams’ needs with some regularity, this time in an appearance on Sportsnet 590 The Fan (via Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca; Twitter links). Anthopoulos certainly did not leave the impression that he is plotting a run at Cueto, saying that the market for pure rental players is “the last aisle that I’d want to shop in.” Rather than going after a single player, it seems, Toronto is exploring a number of possible options. “Anybody that’s going to be out there in trades, we’re going to have interest in,” he said.
  • Mike Napoli increasingly looks like an odd man out with the Red Sox, but it’s far too soon to tell where things are headed. Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes that the first baseman has already lost time with the team playing David Ortiz and rookie Travis Shaw at first, while colleague Brian MacPherson explains the appeal of utilizing Ortiz at first in order to slot Hanley Ramirez as the DH. Manager John Farrell says that he is “not turning from” Napoli, as WEEI.com’s Justin Pallenik reports. And Ortiz himself hardly seems interested in anything more than spot duty in the infield, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. While it remains at least theoretically possible that Boston could look to move Napoli, his $16MM annual salary and lack of an obvious replacement make that a complicated proposition.


Desmond Jennings Out Eight More Weeks Following Knee Surgery

Rays center fielder/left fielder Desmond Jennings could be sidelined as long as eight weeks following arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, the Rays announced (Twitter link via Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune). Three to four weeks had been said to be a best case scenario for Jennings, but the Rays are now expecting a return in early or mid-August.

Jennings has been plagued by the knee issue since late April — the last time he appeared in a Major League game. In his absence, Kevin Kiermaier has seen the majority of time in center field, while David DeJesus, Brandon Guyer and Joey Butler have all seen time in left field. Emerging power threat Steven Souza Jr. has been Tampa’s regular right fielder this season.

The Rays have proven to be capable of getting by without Jennings, whose overall production over the past few years has settled more into the “solid regular” category than the star-caliber category that many thought to be attainable. Rays left fielders, in fact, are hitting an excellent .305/.368/.452 on the season, and their center field output (.245/.294/.417) has been passable as well, especially considering Kiermaier’s defensive prowess.

It would seem, then, that the Rays are unlikely to pursue any sort of upgrade in the outfield. The biggest impact that Jennings’ injury has on the trade market may simply be that it further diminishes the possibility of a DeJesus trade. A trade of DeJesus hasn’t seemed likely for quite some time, of course, but many did expect DeJesus to be moved this offseason. The Rays had John Jaso in place as a DH with Jennings, Kiermaier and Souza projected as regulars in the outfield, leaving DeJesus without an apparent starting spot.

Instead, DeJesus has found a good deal of playing time with injuries sidelining both Jennings and Jaso. Not only has he played fairly regularly, but DeJesus has excelled in a platoon role and been one of the Rays’ most productive hitters. He’s already provided enough value in just 147 plate appearances to justify his modest $5MM salary, as he’s hitting an excellent .313/.367/.470 on the season.

As far as Jennings is concerned, he looks to be in line to miss nearly half a season’s worth of plate appearances due to the troublesome knee. That loss of action will serve to suppress his earning potential in arbitration, as he’ll likely be in for a rather modest raise on his $3.1MM salary. While neither of these are perfect comps, Michael Saunders saw his salary jump from $2.3MM to $2.875MM after tallying just 263 PAs last year, and Josh Reddick moved from $2.7MM to $4.1MM after totaling 396 PAs. Barring some form of extension, Jennings will be arb-eligible twice more before becoming a free agent at the end of the 2017 season.


Injury Notes: Miller, Lynn, Cozart, Jennings

The Yankees today placed closer Andrew Miller on the disabled list with a strained left flexor mass. Manager Joe Girardi told reporters, including the New York Daily News’ Anthony McCarron, that an MRI on Wednesday morning revealed the injury. Miller will not throw for the next 10 to 14 days, and he will be re-evaluated after that time. Though the Yankees have an excellent alternative in Dellin Betances, the loss of Miller weakens the team’s relief corps substantially. After signing a four-year, $36MM contract this winter, Miller has been excellent in pinstripes, yielding just three runs with a 43-to-10 K/BB ratio in 26 1/3 innings as the team’s closer.

That’s far from the only notable injury around the league today, however. Here’s the latest…

  • Lance Lynn is back in St. Louis for an MRI on his right forearm, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Lynn left Sunday’s outing after five innings due to tightness in his forearm and said the following day that he’s experienced the issue before. Earlier reports indicated that the Cardinals didn’t expect the injury to be serious, but Goold now writes that there is some concern among team officials. GM John Mozeliak would not address the situation until Friday when asked by Goold via email.
  • Reds shortstop Zack Cozart is likely headed to the disabled list with a knee injury, writes C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Manager Bryan Price told reporters after the game that Cozart underwent an MRI that will be checked out tonight by team physician Dr. Timothy Kremchek, but a stint on the DL seems likely. “It’s a collective sadness that he’s going to miss some time,” said Price. “It looks pretty certain he’ll miss some time.” The Reds will likely turn to offseason acquisition Eugenio Suarez, notes Rosecrans, but the loss of Cozart simply adds another name to a growing list of contributors for the Reds. Devin Mesoraco has scarcely played this season due to a hip impingement, and Marlon Byrd will be out for an extended period of time due to a fractured wrist. With the Reds 11 games out of the division lead, each notable injury will only fuel speculation that the team will begin selling off pieces in the near future.
  • The Rays will be without Desmond Jennings for an unknown period of time after the outfielder underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the plica band in his left knee, writes Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. Inflammation in the band caused it to compress on his knee, leading to pain whenever Jennings would try to extend the leg fully. Rays manager Kevin Cash told reporters yesterday that the best case scenario for Jennings would be three to four weeks (via Sports Talk Florida’s Matt Stein, on Twitter), but the possibility that he’ll miss more time is certainly present.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

With the deadline to exchange arbitration figures set for noon CT, there figure to be a large number of agreements to avoid arb today, as there were yesterday. All arbitration agreements can be followed using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, and we’ll keep track of today’s smaller agreements in this post, with all projections coming courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz

  • Righty Henderson Alvarez agreed to a $4MM deal with the Marlins, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today on Twitter. Alvarez had been projected to earn $4.5MM after putting up a huge 187-inning, 2.65 ERA campaign entering his first season of arb eligibility.
  • The Athletics have agreed to a $1.4MM deal with righty Ryan Cook that includes, MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports on Twitter. Cook gets a slight increase over the $1.3MM he had been projected to earn. Oakland has also inked outfielder Sam Fuld to a $1.75MM deal, per Mike Perchik of WAPT (via Twitter). He too lands just above his projection, which was for $1.6MM.
  • Outfielder Collin Cowgill avoided arbitration with the Angels for $995K, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets. He was projected to earn $900K.
  • Righties David Carpenter and Nathan Eovaldi both have deals with the Yankees, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. Carpenter will earn about $1.3MM while Eovaldi will take home $3.3MM
  • The Rockies have a deal in place with lefty Rex Brothers, tweets MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. Brothers was projected to earn $1.3MM but will take home $1.4MM, Harding adds via Twitter.
  • ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers reports that the Cubs have settled with both Travis Wood and Luis Valbuena (Twitter links). Wood will receive $5.686MM — a bit north of his $5.5MM projection, while Valbuena will earn $4.2MM, per Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald (on Twitter). Valbuena was projected to earn $3.1MM.
  • Mike Perchick of WAPT in New Jersey has a wave of arbitration agreements, starting with the Astros and Hank Conger settling on a $1.075MM, which is just $25K behind Swartz’s projection (Twitter link).
  • Also via Perchick, the Athletics and Brett Lawrie settled on a $1.925MM contract (Twitter links). Lawrie, who had been projected at $1.8MM, was acquired by Oakland in the Josh Donaldson blockbuster.
  • Rockies backstop Michael McKenry will earn $1.0876MM in 2015, via Perchick. McKenry was projected by Swartz to earn $1.5MM.
  • Michael Pineda and the Yankees settled on a $2.1MM salary for the upcoming season, Perchick tweets, which is a direct match with Swartz’s projection.
  • Domonic Brown and the Phillies settled on a one-year pact worth $2.6MM, via Perchick, which represents a difference of just $100K between Swartz’s projection and the actual figure. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets that Ben Revere has avoided arbitration as well, and the club now announces that he’ll earn $4.1MM — $100K north of his $4MM projection.
  • Red Sox setup man Junichi Tazawa agreed to a $2.25MM payday, according to Perchick. Swartz had pegged him for a $2MM contract.

(more…)


Silverman On Rays’ Payroll, Catchers, Outfielders

Here’s the latest from Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman on the team’s offseason strategy, all via the Twitter feed of the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin.

  • The Rays’ 2015 payroll will be lower than it was in 2014, when it was around $80MM. Silverman says, however, that the Rays have no particular payroll figure in mind, and that they’ll have flexibility.
  • The Rays are looking for an experienced catcher to back up Ryan Hanigan, Silverman says.
  • The team could also sign a veteran starting pitcher, similar to Erik Bedard last season, to compete for innings while it waits for Matt Moore to return. Moore had Tommy John surgery last April.
  • The Rays appear likely to trade an outfielder, with Topkin unsurprisingly suggesting Matt Joyce or David DeJesus as the most likely possibilities, given their salaries. Silverman acknowledges that the Rays have had trade conversations regarding their outfielders. Topkin speculates there could be a chance they would trade Desmond Jennings as well.

Extension Candidate: Desmond Jennings

357110821404_Mariners_at_Rays At the moment, the AL Rookie of the Year race seems to be wide open. Right-handers Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Jordan Walden and Jeremy Hellickson all deserve consideration, as do AL West hitters Mark Trumbo and Dustin Ackley. There was a late addition to the Rookie of the Year race though, and that's Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings.

Tampa did not call up the 24-year-old Jennings until late-July, but since arriving he's been one of the very best hitters in baseball. Not just among rookies either, among all players. His batting line sits at .324/.419/.581 in 175 plate appearances, and since coming up he ranks ninth in MLB in OBP, 18th in SLG, 24th in homers (eight), and first in stolen bases (14). FanGraphs places Jennings' value at 2.2 wins above replacement already, which is fourth most among all rookie position players even though he's come to the plate at least 101 fewer times than the three players ahead of him (Danny Espinosa, Ackley, and Wilson Ramos).

Jennings did receive a September call-up last year and it's not hard to connect the dots and suggest that his promotion in 2011 was delayed due to service time. He will finish the season with less than one full year of service time, which isn't exactly when teams start handing out extensions. The Rays have set a bit of a precedent though, famously inking Evan Longoria to a six-year, $17.5MM contract after just six days in the big leagues. James Shields was barely over one year of service time when he signed his four-year, $11.25MM contract. Tampa has shown a willingness to take on risk in exchange for cost control of their best young players, making Jennings a prime extension candidate.

The recent Jose Tabata extension gives us a great idea of the market value for a young outfielder with approximately a year of service time. The Pirates gave their 23-year-old outfielder six years and $15MM guaranteed, though three club options could push the total value of the package to $37.25MM. The Rays love getting those club option years as well; both Longoria's and Shields' contracts contain three option years each while Ben Zobrist's deal includes two. Tabata is just about two years younger than Jennings and his big league sample is much larger (815 PA vs. 199 PA), but he hasn't hit as much as the Tampa outfielder (.286/.349/.385 career) and UZR doesn't like his defense as much either. There's not much of a point in comparing the two players statistically given how long they've been in the show, but remember that teams are paying for what they expect in future, not what they've gotten in the past.

One legitimate reason not to give Jennings a long-term contract is his durability, or lack thereof. He missed the final month of the 2007 season due to knee surgery, played in just 24 games in 2008 due to back and shoulder troubles (surgery on the shoulder), and then battled a wrist issue in 2010. The Rays can't afford to miss on a long-term contract extension, so they'll need to feel confident in his ability to stay on the field before deciding to take the plunge. Baseball America thinks enough of Jennings' talent that they ranked him as the 22nd best prospect in baseball before the season despite those injury concerns, the fourth consecutive year he's earned a spot on their top 100 prospects list. It's also worth noting that Jennings is a Scott Boras client.

It seems likely that Tampa will part ways B.J. Upton at some point within the next year, at which point Jennings will just slide over to center field. They're guaranteed to have him at a salary close to the league minimum for at least another two seasons thanks to the pre-arbitration rules, but it's not out of the question that the Rays may decide to lock Jennings in at a below-market rate before that transition occurs.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.


Rosenthal On Willingham, Upton, Reds, Twins

It's the middle of June and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (video link) says that teams aren't sure if they'll be buying or selling as the deadline approaches..

  • The Athletics certainly look like sellers but they're not ready to just give players away.  Three of their more attractive hitters, David DeJesus, Coco Crisp, and Josh Willingham all make $6MM or less, salaries that are not prohibitive.  The A's can keep all of them, offer them arbitration, and then collect draft picks if they go elsewhere.  Right now, Willingham is the only one of the trio that projects as a Type A free agent.
  • The Rays could sell even while in contention if they believe that they can build something better for the future.  B.J. Upton remains a difficult call for the club.  Desmond Jennings, their top prospect, wouldn't provide as much of an impact.  At the same time, Upton is likely to make more than $6MM next season in arbitration.  Tampa Bay could wait until the offseason to move him but they might get more value if they act sooner.
  • If the Reds wanted to get creative, they could move one of their catchers for starting pitching and promote prospect Devin Mesoraco.  However, the combination of Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan is one of their strengths and they might not want to disrupt the chemistry between their pitchers and catchers.
  • The Twins are at the bottom of the AL Central but GM Bill Smith says that the team still believes that it's in the race.  It also helps that Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and Joe Mauer are all expected back soon.  Minnesota isn't ready to pack it in just yet, and they're not quite ready to be mid-season sellers.

Minors Notes: Jennings, Transactions, Red Sox

The Phillies' Domonic Brown became the latest prospect to get the call up to the big leagues today (although he debuted in 2010), but some blue-chippers remain down on the farm. Here's a note about one of them, and some other interesting items …