- GM Jack Zduriencik said today that, while he is still keeping an eye out for additions, he is focused primarily on evaluating his current roster as it enters camp, reports Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. "I could have already done a couple of deals," said Zduriencik. "I didn't want to do them. I wanted to figure out what we had here. I want to see our players with our own eyes. Let's let a whole new coaching staff put their hands on them. Get their opinions, and we'll see. There will be opportunities if we want to do something. Not that we will, but I think they'll exist."
- Whatever hopes the Seattle organization once had for once-treasured prospect Jesus Montero have all but vanished, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. "I have zero expectations for Jesus Montero," said Zduriencik. "Any expectations I had are gone." It would be hard to think of a player who has had a rougher year than Montero, who struggled through injury, PED suspension, and performance issues. Now, he is 40 pounds over his target weight at the start of camp. "After winter ball, all I did was eat," the catcher forthrightly acknowledged. "We are disappointed in how he came in physically," said Zduriencik. "He's got a ton to prove. It's all on him."
- Another prospect whose star has dimmed somewat is second baseman-turned-outfielder Dustin Ackley,who has now failed to deliver on his promise as a hitter in two straight seasons. Though Ackley had worked mostly in center while learning on the fly last year, new skipper Lloyd McClendon says that he expects Ackley to "be in left field the majority of time." The 25-year-old had graded out quite well at the keystone over his career before the shift. Preliminary returns on his outfield defense have not been promising, though he has logged few innings outside of the infield dirt. On the whole, it seems far less likely that Ackley will be able to carve out a place as a productive big leaguer at the corner outfield than at his native second base, though he has little chance of returning to that spot with Seattle.
Hiroki Kuroda gave the Yankees "top priority" this offseason after he decided to pitch another year, the hurler tells Sponichi (via an article by Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues). Kuroda says the Yankees approached him about an extension as early as August. As Axisa notes, the episode is another indication that the Yankees have abandoned their "no extensions" policy. Here's more Yankees notes, with a heavy emphasis on Alex Rodriguez, who will be suspended for the entire 2014 season:
- The A-Rod suspension gives the Yanks a much better chance of getting under the $189MM luxury tax threshold, but they'll also need to find someone to play third base, Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News writes. While the Yankees have Kelly Johnson in the fold, he's played just 16 games at third in his Major League career.
- Other potential fits include Mark Reynolds and Michael Young. Reynolds, you may remember, played 36 games in pinstripes last season. There's also Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin of the Mariners, whom another source says the Yankees expressed interest in at the Winter Meetings. A trade may not be in the cards, however, McCarron says.
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick examines the fallout from the suspension, noting that cases such as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro indicate A-Rod has little chance of entering the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Commissioner Bud Selig can now argue that he's left the game "in a better place."
- While Rodriguez plans to take his case to federal court, Ian O'Connor of ESPN New York opines that such a bid is also unlikely to succeed. "Federal judges historically have little interest in hearing cases already settled in collectively bargained arbitration," O'Connor writes.
- Daniel Lazaroff, a professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, says A-Rod winning an injunction that would allow him to play in 2014 "is about as likely as the 'steroid-era' players being elected to the Hall of Fame." Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times has more from Lazaroff in his column on the suspension.
- Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun expects a long court battle, which might be A-Rod's "only chance to preserve any semblance of a legacy."
Despite pitching just 28 1/3 innings in 2013, Gavin Floyd inked a one-year deal with the Braves yesterday that is worth $4MM and could reach $8.5MM via incentives. That's a fine payday for a mid-rotation arm coming off Tommy John surgery, but Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that Floyd could have been paid even more handsomely. According to Connolly, the Orioles offered Floyd a two-year deal that could have reached $20MM after incentives, but Floyd turned them down. Here's more out of the AL East…
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that there's no traction to trade talks between the Yankees and Mariners regarding Dustin Ackley (Twitter link).
- David Ortiz told WEEI.com's Rob Bradford that, contrary to reports, he and the Red Sox never made an agreement to hold off on discussing a new contract until the completion of his current two-year deal. Said Ortiz: "Why would I do that? I want to get a deal done." Ortiz and the Sox are discussing an extension.
- The Rays are interested in infielders Jamey Carroll and Mark Reynolds, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter).
By participating in the three-team Mark Trumbo trade with the Diamondbacks and Angels, the White Sox hindered their cross-town rivals' hopes of dealing Jeff Samardzija, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. The Diamondbacks have been interested in Samardzija since the summer, and one of the players they dealt in the Trumbo deal, pitcher Tyler Skaggs, would have been a key component of any package strong enough for the Cubs to send Samardzija to the desert. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Wittenmyer also reports that the Cubs haven't yet made an offer to Scott Baker, who worked through an elbow injury and made three late-season starts for the Cubs in 2013. They have, however, talked with his agency. Baker is represented by Octagon.
- The Blue Jays are still prefer not to sign players for more than five years, although, as Sportsnet.ca's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently noted (via Twitter), there may be signs that could be softening somewhat. Still, their reluctance removes them from the market for top-tier free agents, who usually sign for longer, MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm points out. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos prefers to trading for high-profile players rather than signing them. "There are some players out there in trade that signed long-term contracts, and then a year or two later, they're already getting moved," he says. "That's pretty telling. I still think five years is a long period of time."
- Chisholm also reports that Anthopoulos says that prospects Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman "come up in every trade talk we probably have," due to their relatively close proximity to the Majors. "If you're trying to get a controllable starter, everyone would prefer to get the talent level that's closest," Anthopoulos says.
- Even though the the Royals didn't sign Carlos Beltran, they haven't ruled out the possibility of trading DH Billy Butler, ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets. If they do, they could end up signing Nelson Cruz.
- The Rangers, Mariners and Orioles still appear to have interest in Cruz, Stark tweets, noting that it could still be awhile before Cruz signs.
- The Orioles have also checked in on free agent starting pitcher Bartolo Colon, tweets FOX Sports' Jon Morosi.
- The Yankees, Mets and Padres have asked about Dustin Ackley of the Mariners, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets. Ackley, 25, hit .253/.319/.341 in 427 plate appearances in 2013, with his time split between second base and outfield.
- Ten teams are interested in infielder Justin Turner, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes writes (via Twitter). Turner hit .280/.319/.385 in 214 plate appearances and played all four infield position for the Mets in 2013.
- Astros outfielder L.J. Hoes is now represented by MVP Sports Group, Dierkes tweets.
The Cardinals will need another starter on Thursday to replace John Gast, and that could be Michael Wacha, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggests. Wacha, who would be making his big-league debut, was scratched from his start Sunday, which the Cardinals now say is due to his innings count so far this year. Wacha ranked No. 76 in both MLB.com's and Baseball America's preseason top prospects lists, and he has pitched well so far in 2013 at Triple-A Memphis (albeit with a low strikeout rate), posting a 2.05 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. Cards GM John Mozeliak says that the team will likely decide on Tuesday who will make Thursday's start. Here are more notes from around the majors.
- It's unclear what will happen to infielder Munenori Kawasaki of the Blue Jays once Jose Reyes returns, but Jays manager John Gibbons would like Kawasaki to stick around, Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com reports. "When the time comes, we'd definitely like to keep him, that's for sure. But we don't know when Reyes is coming back, either." Kawasaki has become a fan favorite, and he has played decently, hitting .247/.345/.320. But Chisholm notes that the Jays already have Maicer Izturis, Emilio Bonifacio and Mark DeRosa.
- It's a bad day for the Mariners' rebuilding efforts, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes. The Mariners promoted prospect Nick Franklin but demoted former No. 2 overall draft pick Dustin Ackley in the process. That move followed the demotion of Jesus Montero. Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders haven't hit particularly well, and Brandon Maurer has struggled. "Right now, the Mariners are being carried by a bunch of veterans on one-year deals who were supposed to be here to round out that young core and help stabilize the environment through which young guys were going to take their games to the next level," says Baker, noting that Kyle Seager is the only starting player who has accomplished that.
- Ron Gardenhire feels Carlos Gomez of the Brewers "learned a lot" from his time with the Twins, MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports. Gomez played with the Twins for two years before heading to Milwaukee in exchange for J.J. Hardy after the 2009 season. The Twins tried to help Gomez calm down as a player, McCalvy writes. "I thought he learned a lot with us," Gardenhire says. "Gomez was a lot of fun. I think everybody knew it from the time he was with the Mets, how much talent he had, if he could ever harness it and calm himself down enough."
- It's questionable whether the Angels and Dodgers have spent their money well, but it's important that they're spending, says Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. "You can't win on scouting and player development alone. That is a foundation, with free agency a necessary supplement. Spending does not guarantee winning, but spending absolutely correlates with winning," says Shaikin. Still, Shaikin notes that the Angels' core of homegrown players includes Mike Trout, Jered Weaver, and Howie Kendrick; the Dodgers' includes Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. Shaikin quotes Dodgers president Stan Kasten, who reiterates that his team's long-term plan is to build through its farm system, just as the Braves did when Kasten worked there.
- The Cubs aren't quite ready to declare themselves sellers, but it sounds like they're getting there, ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers reports. GM Jed Hoyer says that teams begin to assess their trading options "50-60 games within the deadline." Hoyer adds, "You always hold out hope you can string things together and make a run. It’s really hard in this division, I’ll say that. You have three teams playing really well." In a recent poll, MLBTR readers thought the Cubs' Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano were among the players most likely to be traded.
Arizona GM Kevin Towers told Bob Nightengale of USA Today that he expects a “lightning round” of trades during the 48-hour period leading up to the July 31st trade deadline. “That's when things really are going to pick up," Towers predicts. Until then, here are Nightengale’s latest rumors:
- The Dodgers are the leaders for Ryan Dempster, a Cubs official told Nightengale (latest Dempster rumors here).
- Meanwhile, the Rangers and Tigers would love to trade for Matt Garza.
- Justin Upton will be traded, Nightengale writes. It’s a question of whether the Diamondbacks complete the trade now or after the season.
- The Diamondbacks plan to trade shortstop Stephen Drew by the end of the month. They talked to the Mariners about a potential deal, but infielders Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager and pitching prospects Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton are off-limits in trade talks.
- Nightengale suggests the Marlins and Mariners could consider trades for Hanley Ramirez and Ichiro Suzuki, respectively.
Rival teams say the Mariners have made many players untouchable in trades, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. However, a Seattle official tells Rosenthal the team is “wide open” on possible deals.
The list of untouchable players includes Felix Hernandez, Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, and prospects Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Nick Franklin, Rosenthal reports. Some executives question whether Ackley and Seager should be off-limits at this stage in their careers.
Mariners such as Jason Vargas, Kevin Millwood, Brandon League, Miguel Olivo and Brendan Ryan could draw interest this summer. GM Jack Zduriencik will be expected to consider trade offers for some veterans given Seattle's 36-51 record.
Some GMs believe the White Sox have set an extraordinarily high asking price for right-hander Gavin Floyd, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reported last night. Olney passes on more rumors in today’s Insider-only column; here they are:
- Stephen Drew will likely miss Opening Day as he recovers from last summer’s ankle injury, and the Diamondbacks have started evaluating other long-term solutions at short. They’ve scouted Ian Desmond of the Nationals and could have interest in Cliff Pennington of the Athletics. Drew’s contract includes a $10MM mutual option for 2013, so replacing him isn’t a top priority just yet.
- Scouts say Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley looks “exceptional” this spring.
- The Cardinals could pursue free agent right-hander Roy Oswalt aggressively if Chris Carpenter isn’t ready for Opening Day.
Here are some late night links as Thursday turns into Friday…
- Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports spoke to rival executives who believe the only three Mariners off limits in trade talks are Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, and Dustin Ackley. Impending free agents like Adam Kennedy, Jack Wilson, and Jamey Wright are certainly on the block, but pitchers Jason Vargas, Brandon League, and Doug Fister would be the most interesting trade candidates.
- The Blue Jays scouted Kevin Slowey's minor league rehab start on Wednesday night, tweets Morosi. They've had interest in him since Spring Training.
- MLB.com's Todd Zolecki says the Phillies are unlikely to add both a reliever and a right-handed bat before the trade deadline. Healthy returns from Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras could be all the bullpen help they need.
Mariners top prospect Dustin Ackley will make his big league debut tomorrow against the Phillies. The second baseman has a .303/.421/.487 line at Triple-A this year. He was the second overall pick in the 2009 draft.
No 40-man roster move was necessary; Luis Rodriguez was optioned to open a spot on the 25-man. It appears that Ackley will accrue a maximum of 104 days of service this year, so he's unlikely to qualify as a Super Two player after the 2013 season should the criteria remain the same. He'll be arbitration eligible after the 2014 season and under team control through 2017.
The Ackley call-up prompts the Seattle Times' Geoff Baker to think about the possibility of trading infielder Jack Wilson. Baker thinks the team may keep the veteran, as the current focus is the pennant race.