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The Astros have loaned massive first baseman Japhet Amador to the Diablos Rojos of the Mexican League, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Amador was signed away from his new club this past August, and appeared at both Triple-A (where he has struggled mightily) and the Arizona Fall League (where he slashed .284/.286/.507). As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle explains (Twitter links), Amador’s contract had a clause that required the team to decide by May 3 whether to purchase his contract, and the team was not going to do so. Nevertheless, Amador’s agent, Oscar Suarez, says that there is some hope that the 27-year-old could return to the Houston organization (possibly with another AFL stint). Here’s more from the American League:
- While talks have been put on hold with the season well underway, the Red Sox seemingly remain quite interested in keeping Jon Lester in the fold, as Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. “Every effort is going to be made to make sure that Jon remains in a Red Sox uniform,” said manager John Farrell. “We’re hopeful that takes place.”
- The Tigers‘ trade for Alex Gonzalez raised some questions at the time it was made, and that only increased as he struggled and was ultimately released. MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes that the deal was unquestionably a miss, but says that GM Dave Dombrowski took a calculated risk based on the assessments of the same scouts that have supported other risks that worked out for the club. Another stop-gap acquisition at short is unlikely at this point, Beck adds.
In his latest Notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports begins by examining the managerial change for the Nationals. As Rosenthal points out, the change from the laid-back Davey Johnson to the intense Matt Williams hasn’t prevented sloppy play. A source tells Rosenthal that Williams called a team meeting to call out how sloppy they’d been and how they needed to hustle down the line. Rosenthal also points out Washington’s poor defense — something that wouldn’t be expected under Williams. Here are some more highlights from Rosenthal’s latest piece…
- The Mets‘ bullpen woes under Sandy Alderson can’t be blamed on payroll constraints, writes Rosenthal. He looks at the success the A’s, Royals and Giants have had in building a relief corps on the cheap before looking at Alderson’s misses on Frank Francisco, D.J. Carrasco, Ramon Ramirez and Brandon Lyon. Though they did well in landing Carlos Torres and Scott Rice, the team’s financial state isn’t an excuse for its poor relief work, he concludes.
- Rosenthal also looks at the Tigers‘ puzzling Alex Gonzalez situation. Detroit gave up infielder Steve Lombardozzi (who was part of the return for Doug Fister) and spent $1.1MM for nine games of Gonzalez before cutting him loose. Asked by Rosenthal about the possibility of Stephen Drew, GM Dave Dombrowski replied: “I’m sure people will focus on that, but we’re going to look internally at our situation first and foremost.” The Tigers would likely only want Drew on a one-year deal, as Jose Iglesias will be healthy in 2015.
- Torii Hunter tells Rosenthal that he’s physically capable of playing another two or three years, but it’s going to be a matter of whether or not he wants to do so. Hunter certainly didn’t hint that retirement was on his mind, though: “I’m a man. A man is supposed to work. This is the only thing I know, the only thing I’m supposed to do.”
- One executive told Rosenthal that the increase in extensions for younger players is due to the lack of overall talent in today’s game. With so few impact performers, teams are more compelled than ever to lock them up through their prime. As an example, that executive pointed to this year’s draft class, noting that NC State shortstop Trea Turner might be the only college shortstop selected in the Top 250.
Earlier tonight, Jeff Todd recapped and analyzed the Padres' winter moves in the latest entry of the MLBTR Offseason In Review series. Jeff has also covered the Giants and Diamondbacks thus far in the OIR series. Here's some more from around the NL West…
- "There has been buzz" that the Phillies and Tigers are interested in the Rockies' extra outfielders, Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes. Even if Colorado uses a center field platoon of one of Corey Dickerson or Charlie Blackmon (both left-handed hitters) and one of Drew Stubbs or Brandon Barnes (both righty batters), that still leaves a surplus. Detroit could use a left-handed hitting outfielder to replace the injured Andy Dirks, though the Tigers aren't yet sure if they'll look outside the organization to make such a move.
- Could the Dodgers cut Brandon League? Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times doesn't quite think the club is ready to take that step given the $17MM remaining on League's contract through 2015. That deal looks worse and worse for L.A. given how League struggled in 2013 and during this year's Spring Training, while the Dodgers have a number of impressive young bullpen arms who might be relegated to Triple-A.
- Tim Lincecum dicusses his pitching evolution with Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, noting that though he has lost a few miles off his fastball, he is working to become a better overall pitcher as he ages.
- Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com discusses the Giants' roster and other topics during a Giants-centric chat with readers.
A year ago, Jon Lester was coming off a poor season and his long-term future in Boston looked in doubt. Now, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes, Lester has rebuilt his career following a rebound season and another World Series ring, and it seems he's in position for a nine-figure contract from either the Red Sox or another club as a free agent next winter. Lester and the Sox have discussed an extension, and Lauber notes that the Sox (for all their promising young arms on the farm) have nobody who can replace Lester's 200 innings in 2015, so the club needs their star southpaw back.
Here's the latest from around the AL East…
- Yankees officials tell Joel Sherman of the New York Post that the Tigers haven't asked about Ichiro Suzuki in the wake of Andy Dirks' injury. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski tells Sherman that his team is "not actively seeking a big move," though they haven't decided if they'll use an internal or external player to platoon with Rajai Davis in left.
- Ichiro, for his part, had "nothing to say about" the subject of whether or not he would want to play for another team that could offer him more regular playing time. “But as far as being part of [trade rumors], when I first came to New York, I knew it was something that happens here," Suzuki said. "You have to be emotionally ready and prepare yourself for it."
- Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli seems somewhat torn between his desire for more playing time and his desire to remain with the Yankees. "I’ve been here forever. I don’t have that answer right now because this is, I feel like, my house," Cervelli told reporters, including Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. "But if somebody wants me to go over there, I’ve got to make the adjustment. I told you guys many times that my dream is to be a starting catcher. Right now, my role is a backup. That’s what I’m playing for. But I’m never going to stop because an opportunity is going to come again." Cervelli has drawn interest from several teams (including the White Sox and Diamondbacks) as one of Yankees' backup catchers could be traded to bring infield help to the Bronx.
- The Blue Jays' lack of success in obtaining starting pitching this offseason leads Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi to re-evaluate the team's decisions to not tender a qualifying offer to Josh Johnson and to pass on a potential trade for Brett Anderson due to medical concerns.
- According to some Red Sox players, Stephen Drew regrets not accepting Boston's $14.1MM qualifying offer, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports. Drew has lingered on the free agent market in his search for a multiyear deal, and while the possibility of returning to the Sox as a veteran alternative for Xander Bogaerts or Will Middlebrooks seemed to have potential earlier this winter, the club seems to have moved on. Red Sox veterans, Abraham writes, no longer feel the team needs to re-sign Drew after seeing how Middlebrooks has conducted himself during Spring Training.
- No matter how well the Rays perform on the field or how much they spend on payroll, Cork Gaines of Rays Index notes that the team can't seem to top an average of 23,000 fans per game at Tropicana Field. Gaines speculates that even a World Series title could only bump the Rays over that 23K attendance threshold for a season or two, at most.
Here are today's minor moves and outright assignments from around the league…
- The Cubs granted outfielder Aaron Cunningham his release, the team announced. Cunningham, 27, signed a minor league deal with Chicago in November and had appeared in six Spring Training games for the Cubs. Cunningham last appeared in the majors with the Indians in 2012, and he has a career .628 OPS over 501 PA with Cleveland, San Diego and Oakland.
- The Tigers have released right-hander Luis Marte, tweets Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. The 27-year-old posted a 2.77 ERA with 7.6 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 32.9 percent ground-ball rate in 26 innings for Detroit from 2011-12. However, a great deal of that success was tied to an unsustainable 92.1 percent strand rate. Though Marte has a solid minor league track record — a 3.23 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 454 innings — he has just 56 career innings above Double-A and missed nearly all of 2013 due to shoulder surgery. Manager Brad Ausmus told Fenech that the team knew Marte wouldn't make the club and didn't have room for him in the minors.
New Cardinals prospect Aledmys Diaz participated in team drills with the club on Monday but will return to Mexico next week to receive a work visa that will allow him to compete in Spring Training games, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. GM John Mozeliak said the club will have Diaz focus on shortstop rather than trying to carve out a utility role. However, asked about the overlap between Diaz's contract and that of fellow offseason signee Jhonny Peralta, Mozeliak simply said, "Jhonny Peralta is our shortstop. We think he's really good."
Here's more from baseball's Central divisions…
- The Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel writes that the Cardinals were Missouri native Max Scherzer's dream team growing up. Scherzer told Hummel he always envisioned playing for the Cards as a kid, and he had the chance to do so when St. Louis drafted him in the 43rd round out of high school. However, Scherzer honored his commitment to Mizzou and now doesn't think about his old Cardinals aspirations: "The thing is that now I’ve gotten to the big leagues and I’m in this position, it’s really hard to still dream about that when you’ve got this clubhouse and you look around and see Miguel Cabrera. You see the talent here. This clubhouse can win and it’s so much fun. This is my dream now, playing with the Tigers."
- Left-hander Chris Capuano told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the Twins showed some early interest in him, but that interest seemed to dry up after the team re-signed Mike Pelfrey in December (Twitter link).
- Indians manager Terry Francona spoke with reporters, including Zack Meisel of the Northeat Ohio Media Group, and said that he would be lying if he knew what the team's third base plans were this coming season. Reports have pegged Carlos Santana as uncomfortable at the position to date. Francona also said he thinks David Murphy will be an excellent addition to the team, adding that Cleveland was able to get him due to a down year in 2013: "If he would've had his normal year, he probably wouldn't have been as available."
- Phil Coke has struggled this spring, and this could be a big week for him, writes MLB.com's Jason Beck. The Tigers can cut ties with Coke this week and only owe him $316K of the $1.9MM the two sides agreed to in arbitration. However, Beck expects Coke to hang around at least until the end of Spring Training; Detroit would only owe him $475K were they to cut him at that point. Detroit made a similar move with Brennan Boesch last spring, and Casey Crosby's return from injury gives the team another left-handed option out of the bullpen. MLive.com's Chris Iott also expects Coke to hang around beyond Wednesday's deadline.
In his latest notes column for FOXSports.com, Jon Paul Morosi spoke with several Blue Jays players, including Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie, about the team's chemistry and whether or not it played a role in their disappointing 2013 campaign. Bautista said that it wasn't a problem, but the team will benefit in 2014 from having spent a year together. Morosi writes that the Jays' players are paying particularly close attention to the level of resources (dollars) ownership is willing to allocate to a potential Ervin Santana signing. Here are some highlights from Morosi's piece…
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told Morosi on Sunday, via email, that the club is "looking at [its] own personnel" and "will continue to evaluate" outside alternatives for left field in the wake of Andy Dirks' injury. Non-roster invitees Ezquiel Carrera and Trevor Crowe will compete for a spot to platoon with Rajai Davis, though neither has been impressive thus far in Spring Training.
- The Cardinals could've lined up as a trade partner for Dombrowski had Oscar Taveras been fully healthy, as he could've served as more of a challenge to Jon Jay's spot in Spring Training. Taveras has played in just two games at this point, however.
- Morosi also hears that the Rockies aren't looking to trade an outfielder and haven't had discussions about doing so, even though it may be tough to fit Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson on the Opening Day roster. Either left-handed hitter would be a logical target for Detroit to pursue should Colorado change its mind.
- Michael Pineda could give the Yankees a playoff-caliber rotation if he's able to pitch a full season, Morosi writes. He spoke with Yankees catcher Brian McCann, who recalled feeling uncomfortable when facing Pineda in 2011 and has been encouraged by his work in Spring Training thus far.
- MLBPA executive director Tony Clark told Morosi that the union and MLB continue to discuss potential changes to the Joint Drug Agreement that could take effect for the 2014 season. Clark has received "extensive" feedback from players on whether stiffer penalties are needed, including opinions on the 50-game suspension for first-time offenders.
Big-league ballplayers make plenty of money, but that doesn't mean free agency isn't stressful. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal takes a fascinating look at free agency as seen through the eyes of Red Sox players. Chris Capuano reports that, whenever he's a free agent, he sends his agent a list of teams in order of preference, but then has to wait to see if there's mutual interest. He also notes that, typically, playing for a winner becomes more and more important to a player the older he gets. David Ross says that, before the 2009 season, he signed to be a backup with the Braves rather than a starter with the Astros because the Braves offered a two-year deal.
Here are more notes from around the American League:
- Conflicting reports yesterday regarding Ervin Santana has everyone confused. "I really don’t know what’s real and what’s not real in that case," Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette told reporters, including Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
- The biggest culprit for Santana's situation is the right-hander's own camp, which dramatically overestimated his market and then was slow to change gears, ESPN's Buster Olney writes (Insider subscription required). Olney suggests that, if Santana's demands had been more realistic, he could have at least wound up with a contract similar to Matt Garza's or Ricky Nolasco's, rather than the one-year deal he now appears likely to receive.
- Back to the Orioles, Duquette still has the financial flexibility to improve the roster, but is confident in the pitching they currently have in camp, according to MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. "We have some more resources that we can invest in our team, and we'll take a look at each case as it comes up," Duquette said. "We do have a little more pitching depth with our starting pitching going into the season, and some of the young pitchers we have high hopes for are continuing to develop their skills."
- GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers won't be trading any starting pitchers, including Rick Porcello, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. Earlier today, the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo reported that the Tigers would field offers for Porcello.
- Starting pitcher Justin Masterson, who is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season, has surprisingly suggested to the Indians that he might be willing to sign a shorter-term extension, perhaps three years, but the Indians have not yet responded with an offer, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets.
- The Rangers are trying to develop a long-term answer at catcher, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Texas hasn't had stability at catcher since Ivan Rodriguez left over a decade ago. "It’s a topic of conversation, absolutely," says GM Jon Daniels. "We’ve had some guys come over here as big-time catching prospects, but we haven’t developed our own long-term championship-caliber starter." The Rangers have beefed up their coaching staff in an attempt to help their catchers develop. The Rangers' best hope of becoming a homegrown regular catcher is, of course, top prospect Jorge Alfaro, who played most of the 2013 season with Class A Hickory.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders if Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton could wind up with the Red Sox. Marlins GM Dan Jennings swears up and down that Stanton isn't going anywhere and even if he was for sale, Boston would be one of many clubs in pursuit. If things suddenly changed and the Fish made Stanton available, Cafardo wonders if a package of Will Middlebrooks or Garin Cecchini plus Matt Barnes, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts could get a deal done. More from today's column:
- The Twins have some interest in White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza, who is getting interest even though he's not everything a club would want in a center fielder, leadoff type. Last season, De Aza slashed .264/.323/.405 with 17 homers in 675 plate appearances.
- Major league sources say the Tigers are still willing to listen to offers on Rick Porcello. While he has shown promise, Detroit would like a hurler with more consistency.
- The bidding for Ervin Santana has reportedly come down to the Orioles and Blue Jays. Cafardo hears the Rockies were also in it for some of the day while the Phillies did their due diligence but did not appear to be in the hunt.
- Bud Norris could be an alternative if Tommy Hunter can’t do the job as Orioles closer, but he also has trade interest and could have some appeal in the NL. For budgetary reasons, the O's probably wouldn't go for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, but it's possible if the Angelos family believes that they have a chance to win it all.
- One Red Sox player says that he's not crying for free agent Stephen Drew. “Why not accept a $14.1 million qualifying offer for one year?” the player said. “Is that a bad deal? That’s a lot of money. Stephen would be here playing with us by now if he’d done that.”
- Scouts are watching Orioles pitcher Zach Britton closely as he is out of options. Still only 26, Britton is still a pitcher scouts think they can salvage. The O's are aware of his value and the interest other clubs have, but could stash him in the bullpen if they can’t get good value for him.
Here are today's notable minor moves …
- The Tigers have inked a minor league deal with southpaw Wil Ledezma, tweets Matt Eddy of Baseball America. The 33-year-old last saw MLB time in 2011 with the Blue Jays, but threw 30 2/3 innings of 3.23 ERA ball for the Japanese Chiba Lotte Marines last year. Over his nine years of big league action, Ledezma has compiled a 5.40 ERA in 396 1/3 total innings.
- When Alex Castellanos was claimed by the Padres this morning, the MLBTR DFA Tracker was left without any players in DFA limbo.