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Detroit Tigers Rumors
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.
Joba Chamberlain‘s new deal with the Tigers includes a pretty hard-to-reach incentive, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter): the reliever will get an additional $100K if he wins the Cy Young award. Chamberlain, 29, will receive a $1MM base salary plus an additional $100K for reaching 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 appearances. The right-hander posted a 3.57 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9, and 53.2% groundball rate in 63 innings for the Tigers last year. More from the AL Central..
- Many expected that Phil Coke had a better chance of returning to the Tigers than Chamberlain, but that was apparently not the case, Jason Beck of MLB.com writes. The Tigers have shown no signs of interest for Coke and although he has thrown for teams in San Diego recently, neither manager Brad Ausmus nor Tigers scouts had watched him as of a week ago.
- Chris Iott of MLive.com looked at the multiple implications of Chamberlain signing with the Tigers. The pact, among other things, gives the bullpen depth and also insurance for Bruce Rondon as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. Detroit expects Rondon to be their main seventh-inning guy, but if he’s not good to go for some reason, the Tigers could turn to the newly-acquired Chamberlain or Al Alburquerque.
- A lot of fuss has been made over Royals outfielder Alex Gordon and his player option for 2016, but it doesn’t sound like he’s all that distracted by it. “[I] don’t think about it,” Gordon said, according to Jeffrey Flanagan (on Twitter) “The only time I think about it is when you guys ask me.” Last August, Gordon told reporters he intended to exercise his $13.25MM player option for the 2016 season but now he’s not so sure.
Joe Blanton, who is in Spring Training with the Royals on a minor league deal this year, missed the game more than he thought he would upon briefly retiring in 2014, writes ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Blanton spent his year off with his wife and three children, but he tells Crasnick that he felt he owed it to himself to take one more shot at the game. “It was nice being home with my family,” Blanton explains. “But the window is small. I’ve done this my whole life. I’ve put a lot into it, so why not see what’s left? I felt like it was almost an injustice to myself to just step away like that.” Blanton recognizes that there may not be an immediate path to the Major League roster in Kansas City and is open to pitching at Triple-A. “I didn’t play in 2014, and 2013 was a terrible year,” says Blanton. “That’s two years of basically nothing — no good work or no playing at all. So I’m kind of starting back at square one, really.”
Some more news and notes from Blanton’s new division, the AL Central…
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski says that Joba Chamberlain turned down more lucrative offers from other clubs to return to Detroit, according to MLB.com’s Jason Beck (Twitter links). Talks between the two sides picked up over the past few days and came together last night, Beck adds. “He really wanted to come back,” Dombrowski said.
- Non-roster invitees Jesse Crain and Matt Albers could be significant boosts to the White Sox bullpen if healthy, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. Crain is already further along than he was in an injury-plagued 2014 season in which he spent the entire year on the disabled list. He tells Merkin that he’s already throwing off a mound with just one day between sessions, which is something he didn’t do at all last year. As for Albers, Merkin interestingly notes that he nearly signed with the White Sox last offseason but instead chose to sign with the Astros, where he missed nearly the entire year after tearing a muscle in his shoulder.
- Glen Perkins called the first day of Spring Training under new Twins manager Paul Molitor the most mentally intensive first day of camp he’s ever had in his career, writes Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN. Molitor worked with pitchers and catchers to outline the ways in which the Twins need to improve on holding runners to help limit the running game, specifically focusing on tendencies throughout the staff that other teams exploited in 2014. Perkins spoke highly of Molitor’s baseball acumen and teaching ability, and Mackey writes that Molitor’s wealth of knowledge and attention to detail could boost the Twins’ on-field product if he’s able to communicate everything effectively.
7:54am: Chamberlain can earn up to $500K with the same incentive scale that he had on his previous one-year deal with the Tigers, tweets MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Per Cot’s Contracts, that included an additional $100K for reaching 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 appearances.
7:33am: Chamberlain will receive a $1MM base salary plus incentives, tweets Rosenthal.
6:50am: The Tigers have reached an agreement on a one-year, Major League deal with reliever Joba Chamberlain, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Chamberlain, a client of Excel Sports Management’s Jim Murray, was spotted in Tigers Spring Training camp this morning, notes Rosenthal.
Chamberlain, 29, posted a 3.57 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9, and 53.2% groundball rate in 63 innings for the Tigers last year. The Dodgers also had late interest in him this offseason. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted earlier this month, Chamberlain makes for a solid buy on a one-year deal, perhaps more so than remaining free agent relievers Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano. Chamberlain did experience a second-half dropoff, at a time he was also helping his ailing mother.
Chamberlain rejoins a Tigers bullpen that hasn’t seen much turnover since the end of last season. The Tigers did add lefty Tom Gorzelanny in January, and they’ve got Bruce Rondon on the mend from March 2014 Tommy John surgery. They’ll have a full season of Joakim Soria, and closer Joe Nathan remains under contract as well. However, for the most part, the Tigers will deploy a very similar mix to the grouping that cost them in the 2014 American League Championship Series. Receiving better production from that group will be vital for the Tigers in an improved AL Central that saw the White Sox, in particular, make an aggressive push toward contention this winter.
On the whole, Detroit relievers posted an unsightly 4.29 ERA and a 4.09 FIP, both of which ranked 27th among 30 big league clubs. They’ll hope that the return of Rondon and a full season of Soria can help to right the ship in the bullpen.
The Tigers have designated right-hander Chad Smith for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster for the newly re-signed Joba Chamberlain, GM Dave Dombrowski tells Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link).
The 25-year-old Smith had his Major League debut with the Tigers in 2014, yielding seven runs on 15 hits and three walks with nine strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings of work. A 17th-round pick of the Tigers back in 2011, Smith has a career 2.68 ERA in the minor leagues with 8.8 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. 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.