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We just heard that the Angels and Huston Street could continue their efforts to find a new deal before he hits the open market, but the same may not be true of several other prominent free agents-to-be. Here’s the latest:
- Johnny Cueto and the Reds are not expected to reach agreement, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets, confirming the expectations from recent reports. As Cincinnati takes the field, it appears the start of Cueto’s last year with the club.
- The same holds true of Jordan Zimmermann and the Nationals, who as Morosi tweets never made progress on a new deal that could have kept him in D.C.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson says that he does not foresee restarting talks with first baseman Lucas Duda, as Matt Ehalt of the Record tweets. Of course, it seems likely that Alderson is merely referring to the notion that the team will not look to re-open talks during the coming season, not that it sees no future possibility of discussing a longer-term arrangement.
- Meanwhile, it appears that an extension is all but a formality for the Brewers and GM Doug Melvin, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports (Twitter links). Owner Mark Attanasio says that he is still talking about a new deal with Melvin, with the major question being how long the veteran executive wants to stay at the helm.
New Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki says being an older free agent is like being an older dog in a pet store, Brad Lefton of the Wall Street Journal writes. “Amongst all the cute little puppies jumping and tumbling for prospective owners, there’s one who’s a little older, a little more mature, who keeps getting passed over for the more adorable ones,” says Ichiro. “When someone finally comes along and points a finger at him, an undying loyalty is born.” The 41-year-old Ichiro’s offseason training routine helps him stay relevant, Lefton writes. Ichiro works out at the Orix Buffaloes’ home park in Japan, with a pitcher who throws batting practice for him and another player he plays catch with. Ichiro might take 150 swings against live pitching each day in the offseason. Here are more notes from the National League.
- GM Doug Melvin has recently discussed an extension to his contract with the Brewers, although it’s unlikely he and the team will agree to one before the season starts, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Melvin’s contract expires after the 2015 season. Counting his previous job with the Rangers, Melvin has now been a GM for about two decades, and it sounds like he remains at least somewhat enthusiastic about continuing. “I still think I’m good at what I do and I still enjoy it,” he says. “I like the draft-and-development part of the job and that’s something we’ll always have to do in our market.”
- The fact that he’s with the Dodgers now doesn’t mean Jimmy Rollins can’t relate to fans who dislike them, Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “For a long time – you don’t hear ‘Beat the Dodgers,’ you don’t hear ‘Beat the Lakers,’ even the Clippers now – it’s ‘Beat L.A.,'” says Rollins. “It’s everything L.A. stands for. . . . I’ve heard [it] for the first time on this side, and I was cracking up. Because I know how the crowd feels, the fans feel, on the other side.” This isn’t the first interview Rollins has given about how strange it can feel for a player to spend years with one organization and then abruptly switch to another, but his perspective on a common but little-discussed situation is still refreshing to read.
Now that the Brewers have settled Ron Roenicke’s contract situation, the focus has now naturally turned to GM Doug Melvin, whose own deal is set to expire after the 2015 season. Talking with reporters, including Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter links), Melvin said that he felt Roenicke’s extension was the more important deal to complete first so Roenicke wouldn’t have “lame duck” status hanging over him with the players. Getting an extension of his own isn’t as important to Melvin at the moment, though he figures he may talk to owner Mark Attanasio about the topic at some point.
Here are some more items from around both the NL and AL Central…
- Jaime Garcia‘s checkered injury history and high salary ($9.25MM in 2015 plus $500K to buy out his $11.5MM club option for 2016) make him a tough sell as a trade candidate, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes in his breakdown of Garcia’s trade value. The Cardinals could pay some money to help make a deal happen, though that presumes they want to deal Garcia at all — Miklasz notes that Garcia has pitched well this spring and could be a valuable depth piece for the Cards this season.
- While the White Sox were looking for a player with Gordon Beckham‘s skillset this winter, GM Rick Hahn tells ESPN Chicago’s Doug Padilla that he initially didn’t consider Beckham “because I didn’t think this was necessarily right fit for Gordon Beckham, individually.” Hahn felt Beckham might be better suited to getting a fresh start with a club rather than returning to his original team, but after discussing the matter with Beckham and his agent, the infielder assured the GM that he was happy and eager to return to Chicago. From that same piece, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that the Halos “were competitive” in making Beckham an offer close to the $2MM he received from the Sox.
- Danny Santana‘s $530K salary for 2015 makes him the highest-paid of the Twins‘ pre-arbitration players, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Berardino has the full list of salaries for all 17 Minnesota pre-arb players.
In December, MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk wrote Brewers GM Doug Melvin, who is entering the final year of his contract, could be on the hot seat if the team falters in the increasingly competitive NL Central. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwauke Journal Sentinel, in a recent chat, speculated, if Melvin isn’t extended during Spring Training, the whispers will grow if the Brewers stumble out of the gate. Haudricourt adds Melvin’s future, and that of manager Ron Roenicke, isn’t necessarily tied to the Brewers making the playoffs, but how the team plays over the course of the season, if they remain healthy.
In other Brewers notes from Haudricourt:
- The Brewers have eight bullpen candidates on their 40-man roster (in addition to non-roster invitees Chris Perez and Dontrelle Willis). Haudricourt does not envision the club carrying eight relievers, so a trade is likely.
- Closer Francisco Rodriguez is in the process of obtaining his work visa and the Brewers hope he arrives in camp by the end of the week, Haudricourt tweets. Rodriguez agreed to a two-year, $13MM deal with the Brewers last month.
- With Aramis Ramirez announcing 2015 will be his last season and no obvious replacement within the organization, the Brewers will give waiver claim Luis Jimenez first crack. If Jimenez struggles, Haudricourt thinks Milwaukee will use its shortstop depth to acquire a third baseman.
- Despite that shortstop depth, Haudricourt does not see current shortstop Jean Segura being moved to the hot corner because of his lack of power.
- Haudricourt also downplays the likelihood of Brewers 2012 first-rounder Clint Coulter, drafted as a catcher, being moved to third base. The organization did consider such a switch, but believe his bat (.287/.410/.520 with 22 home runs in 529 plate appearances for Class A Appleton) and arm will translate better to the outfield allowing him to reach the Majors faster.
Exactly one week after the trade of Yovani Gallardo was first reported, Milwaukee hosted its annual winter fan festival Brewers On Deck. One year ago, Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio opened the event by announcing the signing of Matt Garza to the richest free agent contract in franchise history. Today, Attanasio told the crowd he will be very surprised if the Brewers do not make one more signing before Spring Training starts, tweets MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. GM Doug Melvin has said his focus is strengthening the bullpen and told the assemblage, as tweeted by Andrew Gruman of FOX Sports Wisconsin, he is having negotiations with a few people and there is a chance of adding a reliever. Melvin downplayed the Jonathan Papelbon rumors while Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweeted he feels a reunion is in store with Francisco Rodriguez, who saved 44 games for the Brewers last year.
In other news and notes coming out of Brewers On Deck:
- Ryan Braun‘s right thumb, which has plagued him for the past two seasons, is feeling fine allowing him to perform his normal offseason regimen with no restrictions, reports Haudricourt. Braun underwent a cryotherapy procedure on the thumb last October and there are no current plans or need for a follow up session, tweets Haudricourt’s Journal Sentinel colleague Todd Rosiak.
- Attanasio addressed the Gallardo trade (transcript provided by Rosiak). “I could go on and on about how terrific Yovani Gallardo was for our team and the city. There’s a huge amount of risk in doing that. But in the nature of the sport, we need to do that. The goal is not to be average in Milwaukee.“
- The Gallardo deal has left the Brewers without any proven MLB rotation depth which concerns manager Ron Roenicke, Rosiak tweets. Roenicke, however, maintains the team has some good prospects who could step up.
- “I don’t think we have room for a notable starting pitcher,” said Melvin, per Gruman (Twitter). “We’d like to add a pitcher that could be a spot starter.“
- Filling Gallardo’s void in the rotation will be Jimmy Nelson who told Haudricourt he knows why he struggled in 2014. “The problem was when I got to the big leagues I got away from my game plan. The things I was doing to be successful, I got away from that when I got up here.“
- Jim Henderson, who missed most of 2014 battling bone spurs in his right shoulder, began throwing off a mound last week and will have his first true bullpen sessions this week, McCalvy tweets.
- Fellow right-hander Tyler Thornburg, who also missed most of 2014, says platelet-rich plasma therapy and lots of rest has helped heal his UCL injury and is throwing two bullpens per week and plans on being ahead of schedule when pitchers and catcher report next month, according to Gruman (Twitter links).
- The Brewers introduced a new addition to their mascot family: Barrelman. No word if he and Bernie Brewer will have joint custody of the slide.
Earlier today, we learned the Brewers will conduct an offseason review of the club. Owner Mark Attanasio and GM Doug Melvin met with media moments ago to discuss the state of the franchise. As part of the press conference, we learned that Melvin’s job is safe, tweets Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Manager Ron Roenicke and the rest of the coaching staff will be evaluated after the season, according to Rosiak (also on Twitter). Melvin explained that the club will evaluate the team’s play at home (tweet). He also expressed some concern about clubhouse attitudes, saying, “I’m going find out about who cares about winning and losing (tweet).”
- Attanasio will also be involved in the evaluation process. He’ll meet with select players to learn what the club is missing, tweets Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. Per Attanasio, “if we’re not making any changes, we’d better have a damn good reason for why.”
- It’s been 11 years since the Marlins have reached the postseason, and club president David Samson views Giancarlo Stanton as crucial to an October return, writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. The Marlins, who haven’t seen postseason action since 2003, now possess the third longest playoff drought after the Blue Jays (1993) and Mariners (2001). As for locking up Stanton, Samson had this to say on the subject: “I’m very much looking forward to sitting down and talking to Giancarlo at the end of the season, which we promised to do and we want to do.”
As a former player, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly can relate to what Cubs prospects Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara are going through, writes David Just of the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s just a time factor with the young guys,” Mattingly said. “They can look good right away, and the next year they come out and it doesn’t look good. Or they can look kind of shaky and figure a lot of it out. So time is going to tell.” As a youngster, Mattingly got off to a slow start with the Yankees, hitting .278 with a .326 on-base percentage in his first 98 games during the 1982 and ’83 seasons. He then led the American League in hits, doubles, and batting average in 1984.
Here’s the latest from the NL Central:
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington says re-signing catcher Russell Martin is a priority for the franchise, tweets Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We are going to try to do everything we can to keep Russ,” said Huntington. “We’d love nothing more than to have (Martin) in a Pirates uniform.“
- Huntington, however, reiterated the Pirates will not veer from their financial philosophy. “We’re going to continue to have to pay guys for what we believe they’re going to do, and not what they’ve done,” said Huntington (as quoted by MLB.com’s Stephen Pianovich). “The bigger markets certainly have luxury to be able to extend much beyond comfort levels to pay an extra year or two, to pave over prior mistakes with more money.“
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin does not “think there’s a need to go out and try to get another starter” and will instead focus on offense this offseason, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. The Brewers are all but certain to pick up the $13MM option on Yovani Gallardo, McCalvy opines.
- The Brewers‘ biggest offseason decisions will be the infield corners and whether to exercise Gallardo’s option, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a recent chat. The Brewers will consider both internal and external options at first base, but Haudricourt notes finding productive first basemen is easier said than done.
- In a separate piece, Haudricourt writes Rickie Weeks is nearing the end of his tenure with the Brewers (his $11.5MM option isn’t expected to be exercised), but the team’s senior member in terms of service time is not thinking about 2015. “I’ll worry about that when the time comes,” Weeks said. “I’m still with the Brewers right now. That’s the way I look at it.“
- “What we’d really like is to have a bunch of really good baserunners,” is what Cubs manager Rick Renteria told reporters, including MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, when asked about the club’s 2015 wish list.
The Brewers enter play today with the most wins in baseball and a 6.5 game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central. With Milwaukee’s success to date and the Trade Deadline looming, will GM Doug Melvin pull off a major acquisition like he did the last two times the Brewers made the playoffs (CC Sabathia in 2008 and Francisco Rodriguez in 2011)? Melvin told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he’s “always open for anything,” but there isn’t a lot of holes needing to be filled. “You have to ask, where are you going to play a guy?” said Melvin. “We have a pretty good lineup. I’m not going to trade for a catcher or a second baseman or shortstop or left fielder or center fielder or right fielder.”
In other Brewers’ news and notes from Haudricourt:
- One position Melvin did not mention was first base with the platoon of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay producing a .683 OPS, which ranks 26th in the majors. Melvin says the duo has “done a nice job for us,” and “there’s not a big offensive first baseman available anyway.“
- The Brewers could be in the market for relievers with Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg still on the disabled list. “We’ve talked about bullpen help,” Melvin said. “Over the course of the year, your bullpen gets worn down pretty good. A lot of teams are going to be looking for bullpen help.“
- Melvin, however, will not sacrifice the future for short-term gain in any trade. “We’re not going to deal the young impact player to help our big club now. It’s going to be tough to do that. I think we do have a lot of players in our system that will play in the big leagues.“
- Melvin acknowledged other teams have called about second baseman Rickie Weeks, but no specific proposals have been made. Weeks is earning $11MM this season with a $11.5MM vesting option for 2015. MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently noted the option isn’t likely to be triggered.
Today is Father’s Day and to celebrate MLB.com has profiled the father-son bond for one player on each of the 30 clubs. Carlos Gomez, who signed his first professional contract on Father’s Day, is featured in the Brewers’ vignette telling Adam McCalvy he wouldn’t be where he is today without his dad, Carlos Sr. “He’s the guy I owe everything,” the younger Gomez said. “He’s an example to [get an] education, be a good father, respect — and give everything I have right now. I remember the words they told me. ‘If you’re going to play ball, you’re going to play right, or not play.’” Carlos Sr. was a well-regarded second baseman and center fielder in the Dominican Republic. So, who is the better player? With the younger Gomez translating, the elder Gomez told McCalvy, “When we were the same age, 16-21, I used to be better. I used to be faster. I knew the game more than him.” Gomez, with a wide smile, retorted, “I have more tools, more ability to play. Every time we joke around, play around like that, ‘Who’s better? Who’s better?’ I say, ‘I’m the one who has almost eight years in the big leagues!’” Fathers and sons.
In other Brewers news and notes:
- The franchise has reaped substantial dividends from their decision to sign Jonathan Lucroy to a five-year, $11MM contract extension two years ago, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Lucroy, owner of baseball’s second-best batting average and slashing .333/.396/.504 entering play today, is under team control through 2017.
- The Brewers are resisting the temptation to recall top prospect Jimmy Nelson and insert him into the rotation in place of Marco Estrada, Haudricourt reports. “Some people say bring Jimmy Nelson up and put him in the bullpen,” GM Doug Melvin told Haudricourt. “But out there you don’t know how much he’ll pitch. We want him to stay sharp down there (Triple-A Nashville) in the event we need him.” The need is fast approaching as Estrada was rocked for three home runs against the Reds this afternoon and has given up 23 gopher balls – most in the Majors – ballooning his HR/9 to 2.46 (84 innings). Haudricourt notes on Twitter 35 of the 45 earned runs allowed this year by Estrada, a non-tender candidate entering his second arbitration year this winter, have come on home runs. MLB.com’s McCalvy tweets Estrada will remain in the rotation until manager Ron Roenicke speaks with Melvin.
- It would be too big of a gamble for the Brewers to exercise their half of Aramis Ramirez‘s 2015 mutual option ($14MM with a $4MM buyout) because he’s at the age where players, even reliable and productive ones like the soon-to-be 36-year-old third baseman, start to break down physically, opines Haudricourt’s colleague, Todd Rosiak, in a recent chat. Ramirez played only 92 games last season with knee issues and has missed more than three weeks this year due to a hamstring pull.
- The Brewers are satisfied with the first base tandem of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay and, barring an unexpected trade, what you see is what you’re likely going to get at that position, according to Rosiak.
- If the first-place Brewers are inclined to make any Trade Deadline deals, they could focus on strengthening their bullpen and bench, Rosiak writes.
Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio opened Brewers On Deck, the team's annual winter fan festival, earlier today by announcing the signing of right-hander Matt Garza (#7 on MLBTR's 2014 Top 50 Free Agents list). The four-year, $50MM contract also includes deferred money, $1MM per year in incentives, and a $13MM vesting option for 2018. The total take for Garza could total $67MM over five years. In other Brewers news and notes coming out of Milwaukee today:
- "I was expecting an open market, and that’s what I got. I’m really happy I’m a Milwaukee Brewer," Garza told reporters, including MLB.com's Adam McCalvy (Twitter link), in an impromptu news conference. Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provides a transcript of Garza's comments including this tidbit: Brewers fans heard about the deal before he did because he was attending his son's basketball game.
- GM Doug Melvin said the Brewers' interest in Garza dates back to the Winter Meetings and his addition provides rotation depth, but will wait until Spring Training to see how the starting five shakes out, Rosiak reports (Twitter links).
- Melvin told WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee the lack of draft pick compensation attached to Garza was a very important factor in the signing (h/t Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Twitter).
- Ryan Braun was in attendance at the fan event and continues to be apologetic for his actions which led to his 65-game suspension, writes Rosiak. "I don’t ever know if I could apologize enough for what’s occurred, you know?" said Braun. "I just continue to move forward and obviously I’ll be apologetic. I wish I could go back and do things differently, but I can’t. All I can do is move forward and make the best of the opportunities presented to me." Braun refused to divulge further details of why he was suspended saying he addressed everything last November at a team-sponsored food drive and "I think I addressed it pretty specifically in the statement that we gave (in August)."
- Braun also offered praise for his newest teammate, Garza, according to McCalvy. "I’m excited about it," Braun said. "I think he could be a difference-maker. Facing him over the last few years, I think he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. One of the toughest at-bats. Great stuff. Very competitive — a fiery competitor, which is something I think could benefit the whole pitching staff and our whole team."
- Mark Reynolds says he signed with the Brewers because of the starting opportunity at first base, playing in the NL, and the fan support in Milwaukee, Rosiak tweets.
- Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, has yet to begin a throwing program, but he expects to be ready for Opening Day, tweets McCalvy.
- In response to a fan's question about payroll, Melvin said (as tweeted by Rosiak), "Ask Mark." To which the principal owner replied, "Wallet is a lot lighter now."
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets his approval of what Melvin and the Brewers have been able to accomplish this offseason: spent money on a starting pitcher, filled the hole at first base with a solid combinaton of Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, kept right-hander Tyler Thornburg (the Mets' reported price for Ike Davis), and their draft picks.