- No Extension Talks Between White Sox, Samardzija
- Hunter Pence To Miss 6-8 Weeks With Forearm Fracture
- Hector Olivera May Have UCL Damage
- Orioles Release Suk-min Yoon
- Cubs To Sign Phil Coke
- Orioles, Suk-min Yoon Finalizing Contract Settlement
- Phil Coke “Very Close” To Deal With Unknown Team
- Dodgers Willing To Pay Half Of Ethier’s Contract In Trade
- Joel Hanrahan To Undergo Tommy John Surgery, Released By Tigers
- Twins, Brian Dozier Making Progress On Extension
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- MRI Reveals Ligament Damage In Tim Collins’ Elbow
- AL Central Notes: Moss, Collins, Twins, Coke
- Braves, Peter Moylan Agree To Minor League Deal
- Quick Hits: Vogelsong, Royals, Lee, Erasmo
- No Extension Talks Between White Sox, Samardzija
- AL East Notes: Castillo, Yoon, Hoffman, Yankees
- Hunter Pence To Miss 6-8 Weeks With Forearm Fracture
- Mariners Designate Ji-Man Choi For Assignment
- Hector Olivera May Have UCL Damage
- White Sox Release Tony Campana
- Orioles Release Suk-min Yoon
- NL East Notes: Minor, Haren, Lee, Phillies
- NL Central Notes: K-Rod, Brewers, Badenhop, Cubs
- 2015 Draft Pool Changes By Team
- Cubs To Sign Phil Coke
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Detroit Tigers Rumors
Indians outfielder Brandon Moss nearly retired from baseball in 2012, writes MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Moss had nine days left before an opt-out clause in his minor league deal with the A’s and planned on playing out the season in Japan — on a more lucrative deal. His plans were then to join a high school friend as a firefighter in his native Georgia. However, Moss was called up to the A’s on June 6 that year and, after initially struggling, proceeded to mash five homers in a four-game span. That burst of power set the tone for Moss, who stuck with the A’s through this offseason when he was traded to Cleveland. Over the past three seasons, the late-blooming Moss is a .254/.340/.504 hitter with 76 home runs. Bastian’s article has several interesting quotes from Moss, his former coaches/managers and his friends and is well worth the read.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- Royals lefty Tim Collins had an MRI on his left elbow yesterday after experiencing tightness Wednesday of this week, writes MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. The Royals and Collins remain hopeful that it’s just normal soreness that can often be expected of pitchers early in Spring Training. If not, the team does have other lefty options in camp, including Franklin Morales, Brian Flynn, Joe Paterson and top prospect Brandon Finnegan.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan told reporters, including MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, that his club isn’t hindered by payroll or revenue. Ryan’s goal, he says, is to reach the postseason this year, though he admits that a lot will need to go right for that to happen. Namely, the Twins will need to stay healthy and see a number of their younger players take their game to a new level.
- Phil Coke, who agreed to a minor league deal with the Cubs yesterday, told MLive.com’s Chris Iott that he’ll miss being a Tiger and enjoyed his time in the Motor City. Iott writes that while the Tigers never officially closed the door on re-signing Coke, his fate was more or less sealed once the team signed Tom Gorzelanny to his one-year, $1MM deal. Detroit didn’t want to carry a pair of veteran lefty relievers without options when it had a number of younger in-house options, such as Blaine Hardy, Ian Krol and Kyle Ryan, Iott explains. Iott adds that he, too, hears Coke rejected a Major League offer in favor of his minor league deal with the Cubs; it’s certainly possible that the relatively sizable $2.25MM salary Coke will be paid if he makes Chicago’s roster outweighs a more modest salary he received on a guaranteed deal.
In his look at the game’s most untradeable contracts, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com rates Josh Hamilton of the Angels as the least desirable in the game. While that deal already had a reasonable stake to that label, Hamilton’s recent surgery and still-unresolved disciplinary matter definitely seem to take it to another level of difficulty. The Halos have rightly put the focus on Hamilton’s personal health and wellness, but the fact remains that the contract would be all but impossible to move at this point. Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports report that a decision on Hamilton could come as soon as next week and is anticipated to occur before the season starts. The league and union have disagreed on the proper suspension and/or treatment scenario, with possibilities ranging from a relatively short suspension to a full-year ban. The matter is now before an arbitrator, whose determination will decide the nature of the violation. If a material violation is found, per FOX Sports, commissioner Rob Manfred would have “broad authority to determine the length of Hamilton’s suspension.”
Here are some more notes from the American League:
- Good and/or bad 2014 campaigns changed the future outlook for many players, and Ben Lindbergh of Grantland evaluates the players whose campaigns most swayed projection systems. On the positive side, a host of American League bats saw nice bumps, including youngsters Mookie Betts and Joey Gallo as well as longer-tenured players J.D. Martinez, Steve Pearce, and Victor Martinez.
- The Tigers appear set to give a long look at backstop James McCann, Chris Iott of MLive.com writes. Detroit needs to find out what it has in the 24-year-old, says Iott, with veteran Alex Avila having dealt with concussion issues and set to reach free agency after the season.
- Physical setbacks are an unfortunate but inevitable part of the spring, and two talented younger players have already suffered significant injuries. The Yankees have announced that catching prospect Luis Torrens will miss the season after tearing his right shoulder labrum. Torrens opened spring rated the ninth-best prospect in the New York system. Also, Mariners farmhand Ji-Man Choi will miss four to six months after suffering a fractured right fibula, as MLB.com’s Greg Johns tweets.
Placido Polanco didn’t play in the Majors or Minors in 2014, and the 39-year-old infielder tells Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald that he considers himself to be “90 percent” retired at this stage. However, Polanco did say he’s leaving a door open in case the right situation arises. He listed the Tigers, Phillies and Marlins — the final three teams for which he played — as possibilities.
Polanco said he’s satisfied with the body of work he put together in his 16-year career, however he’s also disappointed to not have won a World Series despite coming close on multiple occasions. Polanco speculated that perhaps, in the future, he could achieve that goal as a coach or manager, noting that he’s accumulated a wealth of baseball knowledge. He feels he could help younger Latin American players learn how to handle both good and bad situations and teach discipline to a new generation of players.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Polanco moved to the United States and attended high school in Miami before being selected as a 19th-round pick by the 1994 Cardinals. He debuted with St. Louis in 1998 and soon emerged as a regular in their infield. Over the course of his 16-year career, Polanco appeared with the Cardinals, Tigers, Phillies and Marlins, compiling a very nice .297/.343/.397 batting line. He made two All-Star appearances, won a Gold Glove at both second base and third base, and took home a Silver Slugger with the 2007 Tigers. Polanco earned nearly $52MM in salary over the life of his days as a big leaguer, according to Baseball-Reference.
8:01am: Detroit has released Hanrahan, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweets.
7:35am: Tigers reliever Joel Hanrahan will undergo his second Tommy John procedure after failing to progress in his rehab, Jason Beck of MLB.com reports (Twitter links). Hanrahan indicated that he is not yet sure whether he will be able to mount another comeback effort.
The 33-year-old originally had his UCL replaced in May of 2013. He signed with Detroit last year in hopes of returning to the bigs, and re-signed with the club on a minor league deal this season to continue his rehab. He has yet to throw a competitive pitch for the organization.
Hanrahan had looked like a nice bounceback option for a team that has struggled to achieve consistent results from its relief corps, but reports yesterday indicated that he was experiencing problems with his elbow again after already taking additional time to deal with a lack of rehab progress. His most recent consultation appears to have set the course.
During his time with the Pirates over the 2009-12 seasons, Hanrahan was good for 229 1/3 innings of 2.59 ERA ball, logging 10.4 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 229 1/3 innings. That led to a trade to the Red Sox in advance of 2013, Hanrahan’s final season of arbitration eligibility, but things turned south quickly in Boston as poor results were followed in short order by the season-ending surgery.
Twins righty Blaine Boyer hung up his spikes after 2012, in spite of good health and a live arm, in large part to spend more time with his family, as he tells Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. But his clan has made it work since, aided by busy travel arrangements, and Boyer is in camp with Minnesota after a strong campaign last year with the Padres. His minor league deal with the Twins includes a late March out clause, Miller also reports.
Here are a few more notes from the AL Central:
- Tigers reliever Joel Hanrahan has seemingly stalled out in his comeback attempt, as Jason Beck of MLB.com reports. Since going in for a Tommy John procedure in the middle of the 2013 campaign, Hanrahan has been unable to get his elbow back into form. Soreness has kept him from moving onto the mound this spring, and he has already received at least one suggestion that he undergo a second TJ surgery. There appears to be at least some question at this point whether the 33-year-old will ever return to a big league pen, let alone contribute to the club in 2015.
- While Hanrahan tries to figure out his situation, fellow Tigers righty Joba Chamberlain discussed his recent free agent process with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. His son’s connection with Detroit proved a strong inducement for the righty, who said he left money on the table to return. Among the teams with interest in him were the Rangers, Dodgers, Royals, and Brewers, some of which were willing to pay him in the range of his $2.5MM salary from 2014.
Torii Hunter spoke with Bob Nightengale of USA Today about his return to the Twins and an interesting aspiration that he has in his post-playing days. The 39-year-old Hunter would eventually like to not only work in the Twins’ front office, but take the reins as general manager of the team. “I really want to get into that front office, make some changes, and build a team that I want to build,” Hunter explained. “I’d love to learn everything from [Twins GM Terry Ryan]. He’ll be a mentor. One day, that’s my goal, to be GM of the Twins.” Nightengale spoke with Ryan about the idea and writes that Hunter “will have a door waiting for him,” though Nightengale writes that Ryan also advised Hunter not to rush any decisions about retirement. Hunter said he’s considered hanging it up next winter, though he very much sounds like a good year at the plate would leave him open to a return in Minnesota. “…unless I hit .300, then I’m going nowhere,” said Hunter, who has batted .301 over the past three seasons. Hunter also has interest in working in TV, he said, and he spoke with Nightengale at length about his prayers for friend Josh Hamilton.
A bit more from Nightengale’s piece and the AL Central…
- Nightengale reports that the Rangers made Hunter a one-year, $8MM offer to play near his Dallas home, and the division-rival Royals offered Hunter one year and $8.5MM with a player option. Hunter, however, ultimately decided he wanted to return to Minnesota, and Nightengale adds that Billy Butler‘s three-year, $30MM contract with Oakland “raised the stakes” for Hunter (presumably implying that Butler’s deal caused Hunter to aim for a higher annual value). Hunter said a 90-minute phone call with Ryan, in which the GM explained that he wants Hunter in Minnesota “forever,” impacted him a great deal as well.
- Tigers right-hander Joel Hanrahan is traveling to Texas to see Dr. Keith Meister about persistent elbow problems that have slowed his comeback attempt, writes MLive.com’s Chris Iott. Hanrahan, who hasn’t thrown since Feb. 22, tells Iott that he’s past the point of frustration and wants to get answers as to why his elbow still is not working properly. Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press also spoke with Hanrahan, who told him that at times, it feels like bones in his arm are rubbing together, and at other times, like his biceps is being pinched (Twitter link). Hanrahan missed all of the 2014 season and most of the 2013 season recovering from Tommy John and flexor tendon surgery.
- Mike Aviles‘ outgoing personality and vocal leadership abilities factored into the Indians‘ decision to exercise his $3.5MM option this offseason, writes Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com. Manager Terry Francona told Meisel: “We told him that in our one-on-one. That’s part of his responsibility. We love what he does as a player, because he plays all over the place and he can play every position professionally. But when he’s not playing, he needs to be in a leadership role. We need that out of him. He understands that.”
Last year, Zach Duke and Pat Neshek both entered Spring Training as non-roster invitees and parlayed their outstanding 2014 seasons into multi-year free agent contracts (three years, $15MM for Duke and two years, $12.5MM for Neshek). Who will be the NRIs to watch this spring? Andrew Simon for Sports on Earth tabs White Sox reliever Jesse Crain as the most intriguing NRI citing positive reports as he recovers from his 2013 biceps surgery, which has forced him to the sidelines for the past 20 months. If Crain can return to the form he showed in his previous stint with the White Sox (2011-13) where he pitched to a 2.10 ERA, 10.6 K/9, and 3.9 BB/9 in 150 innings covering 376 games, Simon believes the 33-year-old could assume a prominent role in the White Sox bullpen.
In other news and notes from the AL Central:
- Yoenis Cespedes told reporters, including Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links), he can see himself playing for the Tigers long-term. “I would like to be in a Tigers uniform for a lot of years,” Cespedes said through his translator. “This is a good team now and will be for a lot of years to come.” Cespedes added he does not know whether his agent and the Tigers have engaged in extension talks.
- Corey Kluber, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, is not concerning himself with the lack of movement on a contract extension, according to Zack Meisel of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. “It’s not for me to worry about,” said Kluber, who is slated to earn near the MLB minimum. “I’d rather just talk about pitching and not contract stuff.“
- Royals reliever Luke Hochevar blew out his elbow last spring with a curveball, but has been throwing the pitch in his bullpen sessions, writes MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. “It’s not like you’re scared when you start spinning curves again,” Hochevar said. “You know your elbow is fixed. But still you think about it. You have to sort of stare down your demons.” Hochevar will face hitters for the first time off a mount tomorrow.
- Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer are two former top prospects who are poised for a breakout 2015, opines MLB.com’s Michael Clair.
- Earlier today, we learned of the passing of White Sox legend Minnie Minoso. Dayn Perry of CBSSports.com and MLB.com’s Phil Rogers both pay tribute to “Mr. White Sox” while Hayes and MLB.com’s Scott Merkin chronicle the reaction of White Sox players.
Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer bet on himself when he rejected the Tigers $144MM extension offer last spring, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The ace discussed the Tigers’ offer, the resultant insurance policy he took out, and his current contract with Rosenthal. Below are the specifics from that article, although it also contains a number of great quotes from Scherzer not included here.
Of interest, Scherzer’s insurance policy would have paid $40MM if an injury forced him to take an offer below the $144MM offered by Detroit. The policy cost $750K and covered every type of injury including elbow and shoulder ailments. Said Scherzer, “once you took the injury-risk factor out of it, and you can just go play baseball and not have to worry about anything . . . I was set.”
Ultimately, Scherzer did not need to call upon the policy. He inked a seven-year, $210MM deal with the Nationals in January. Half of the total is deferred until 2022-2028 and will be paid in $15MM yearly installments. The players’ union values the contract at $191.4MM due to the deferrals.
The structure of the deal is actually beneficial to both Scherzer and the Nationals. The signing bonus and deferrals won’t be subject to state income taxes. Washington D.C. doesn’t have an income tax for non-residents. Scherzer has set up residency in Florida, which also does not have an income tax. The deferrals will be paid to him there.
As you might expect, Scherzer wasn’t hoodwinked when taking the deferred money. Nor was another club pushed out of the bidding by the Nationals. “I know finance. I know deferral money. I get all that. But this was the best offer. If another team wanted to make a better offer without a deferment, we never received it. This was the best offer.”
In my view, Scherzer’s use of insurance could have implications for other players. Earlier today, we learned about the confidence Andrew McCutchen received from his team friendly contract extension. It’s intuitive, a player who doesn’t have to worry about his financial future can focus on playing his best. Insurance could offer an alternative to an early career contract extension for some athletes – especially those who want to test free agency at the earliest opportunity.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league:
- Veteran southpaw Rich Hill has agreed to a minor league deal with the Nationals, the club announced. Hill, who has appeared in parts of ten MLB seasons, will receive an invite to big league camp. Soon to turn 35, Hill has long been effective against lefties but rather susceptible to opposite-handed bats, with good strikeout numbers in recent years offset by a hefty accumulation of free passes.
- Former top Phillies prospect Tyson Gillies has signed a minor league deal with the Padres, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com tweets. Philadelphia released Gillies over the summer while he was in the midst of a tough .214/.270/.289 run at Triple-A. Now 26, the center fielder was a part of the 2009 deal that sent Cliff Lee to the Mariners.
- The Rays have released former first-round pick Josh Sale, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy tweets. The outfielder hit .238/.313/.344 in 361 plate appearances for Class A+ Charlotte in 2014 before being suspended in August for drug use. He also received a 50-game suspension for drug use in 2012 and was suspended by the Rays in 2013 following an incident at a strip club.
- The Tigers have signed righties Ryan Perry and Ross Seaton and first baseman Bobby Borchering to minor-league deals, Eddy tweets. Detroit drafted Perry, 28, in the first round in 2008, and he pitched for three seasons in their bullpen from 2009-2011. He also appeared with the Nationals in 2012 before struggling in Washington’s minor-league system in 2013 and 2014. The 25-year-old Seaton was a third-round pick of the Astros in 2008. He got through the lower levels of Houston’s system fairly quickly despite low strikeout rates, but struggled to establish himself in the Astros’ Triple-A rotation. Borchering, 24, was the 16th overall pick in the 2009 draft, and he headed from the Diamondbacks to the Astros in 2012 in the trade that sent Chris Johnson to the desert. He struggled that year at the Double-A level and hasn’t yet made it back yet, hitting .238/.324/.333 in 71 plate appearances at Class A+ Lancaster last season.
- The Diamondbacks have signed lefties Erick Threets and Trevor Reckling, Eddy tweets. Threets, 33, appeared in parts of three seasons with the Giants and White Sox from 2007 through 2010. He pitched in Mexico last season and last appeared in affiliated ball when he posted a 2.79 ERA, 6.3 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in a 2012 season spent in Triple-A with the Athletics and Dodgers organizations. Reckling, a former Angels draftee, pitched in independent ball in 2013 and did not pitch in 2014.
- The Dodgers have signed outfielder Travis Witherspoon, Eddy tweets. The athletic Witherspoon was once on the 40-man rosters of the Angels and Mariners. The 25-year-old hit .252/.338/.448 in the friendly hitting environment of Class A+ High Desert in 2014, mostly playing center field.
The Athletics have claimed right-hander Chad Smith off waivers from the Tigers, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Detroit had designated the 25-year-old for assignment in order to clear space on the 40-man roster for the recently re-signed Joba Chamberlain.
Smith is a former 17th-round pick of the Tigers that made his big league debut in 2014, allowing seven runs on 15 hits and three walks with nine strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings. He has worked to a strong 2.68 ERA over his minor league career, averaging 8.8 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine innings pitched. After working as a starter for part of his first minor league season, he transitioned to the bullpen in 2013 and has posted solid numbers since, though he did struggle in 27 innings at the Triple-A level last year.