Esmil Rogers Rumors

Quick Hits: Wuertz, Cespedes, Helton, Dodgers

On this day in 1991, the Royals released leftfielder Bo Jackson after he suffered a serious hip injury in the NFL playoffs against the Cincinnati Bengals.  That was Jackson's final NFL game but the iconic athlete eventually returned to baseball in 1993 with the White Sox and played 75 games for the Angels in '94 before the players strike brought the season to an end.  Here's a look at what's happening today..

  • Angels outfielder Torii Hunter would "love to stay" with the Halos but understands that at age 37, and with Los Angeles having plenty of money on the books, this season may be his last, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. The five-year, $90MM deal that Hunter signed prior to the 2008 season expires after this year.
  • Free agent starter Javy Vazquez is not considering coming out of retirement, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com.
  • Free agent reliever Michael Wuertz will throw for teams on Thursday in Tempe, Arizona, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  The Twins are expected to be among the clubs in attendance.
  • Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes was willing to sign with the Cubs and had reason to believe that he might wind up in Chicago, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.  Ultimately, the Cubs offered six years for $36MM while the Athletics offered that same number for four years.  The Cuban star also said that he was seeking either a four-year deal or one that was for eight years or more.  Through a translator, Cespedes said that he probably would have wound up in Chicago had the Cubs offered him the same deal before the A's did.
  • Rockies first baseman Todd Helton insists that he hasn't thought about retirement, writes Troy Renck of The Denver Post.  The 38-year-old has two years remaining on his contract.
  • More from Renck as he writes that Esmil Rogers is a trade candidate for the club.  Rogers, Edgmer Escalona, and Josh Outman are battling for the final spot in the bullpen.  Rogers is out of options and could be moved.
  • Dodgers play-by-play announcer Vin Scully addressed the club's ownership situation prior to yesterday's broadcast and said that he doesn't believe it is having any effect on the players at all, writes J.P. Hoornstra of the LA Daily News.

Quick Hits: Prospects, Rogers, Tigers

Today we've heard that Rich Harden is out for the year and that Nelson Cruz agreed to a two-year deal with the Rangers. Here are some more notes from around MLB…

  • Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Matt Moore are the top prospects in baseball, Keith Law writes. Law unveiled his annual top 100 list at ESPN.com this morning and Manny Machado of the Orioles and Shelby Miller of the Cardinals round out the early portion of Law's list, and the entire piece is worth reading. 
  • ESPN.com's Buster Olney lists ten prospects who have a chance to make an impact from Opening Day on and names a handful of pitchers who could be traded during Spring Training.
  • Mark Rodgers, the agent who negotiated Mike Hampton's $121MM contract 11 years ago, told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that “not every player is equipped to handle the burden" of a nine-figure deal. Morosi hears from Dan O'Dowd, Dave Dombrowski, Jon Daniels, Scott Boras and Pat Gillick and puts together a piece that's well worth your time. Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes and Yu Darvish required $100MM commitments this offseason.
  • Esmil Rogers of the Rockies has attracted some mild trade interest, Troy Renck of the Denver Post tweets. The 26-year-old is out of options and has yet to put it together at the Major League level.
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski acknowledges that defense is not his team's strength, but insists the Tigers can field a strong defensive lineup if necessary, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports.

Constructing The Rockies’ Rotation

Esmil Rogers retired 18 consecutive batters at one point yesterday and allowed just one run in 7 1/3 innings of work. Not a bad season debut for someone who was supposed to be a shortstop.

When Rolando Fernandez, the Rockies’ senior director of international scouting, signed Rogers out of the Dominican Republic eight years ago, he was intrigued by the teenage infielder’s smooth swing and, especially, his live arm. 

Before long it became apparent that Rogers (pictured) wasn’t a fit at short, so the Rockies decided it was time for a change. Fernandez didn’t want to embarrass Rogers, so one night he waited until all the other players had left the field and told Rogers he wanted to see him throw a bullpen.

Rogers

“He was very natural,” Fernandez said. “Very easy. He was 90-91 [mph] at that point without ever pitching. He looked like he had done it before, like he had been pitching for a few years.” 

Now that Rogers actually has been pitching for a few years, he's a member of the Rockies' rotation, a group that features two other international free agent signings, and Jason Hammel, who was obtained for a fourth internationally signed pitcher, Aneury Rodriguez.

No other rotation in baseball features as many internationally signed, homegrown pitchers. There’s no prize for having lots of Latin American starters or a homegrown rotation, of course. The goal is to win games and, thanks to a decade of production from Fernandez and the Rockies’ other scouts, Rogers, Jhoulys Chacin, and Ubaldo Jimenez should help Colorado do just that. 

Ten years ago this month, Fernandez was scouting tryouts in the Dominican Republic when he came across a skinny right-hander who stood about 6’1”. Intrigued, Fernandez brought the prospect to the Rockies’ complex to watch him pitch. Even as a teenager, Ubaldo Jimenez showed major league potential.

“The arm action, arm speed, delivery and projection was there,” Fernandez said. “At that time he was just a kid and he was a competitor. He kept all the pitches in the strike zone and you could see the live arm.”

Jimenez, now on the disabled list, has since developed into one of baseball's best pitchers. He threw a no-hitter last year and posted a 2.88 ERA in 221 2/3 innings, striking out 214 and finishing second in last year’s NL Cy Young voting

Like most prospects, Jimenez grew into his body; he now stands three inches taller and about 40 pounds heavier than he did in 2001. But his physical development doesn’t compare to what the Rockies have seen from Chacin since he signed out of Venezuela in 2004.

“Sometimes you see 16-year-olds who look like they’re 18 or 19,” Fernandez said. “Chacin was 16 and he looked like he was 14 years old.” 

Despite his youthful appearance and 155 pound frame, Chacin was more polished than Rogers or Jimenez at the time of his signing and he showed good instincts on the mound. He had less pure stuff than the others back then, but he didn't have trouble retiring big league hitters last year. In his first extended stint in the Major Leagues, Chacin posted a 3.28 ERA in 137 1/3 innings, striking out a batter per frame. 

Now in his 19th season with the Rockies, Fernandez is currently in Venezuela preparing for this year’s crop of July 2 prospects. He credits the Rockies’ scouting and player development staff for the heavy international presence in the rotation, but he doesn’t deny that it’s personally rewarding to see the teenagers he signed long ago contribute in the Major Leagues.

“It’s exciting because when we sign these kids at 16 or 17 years old, they are like my kids,” he said over the phone. “I treat them like they are my kids and see them mature and develop.”

Photo courtesy Icon SMI. I recently wrote about Jimenez and Hammel in more detail.



Renck On Rockies’ Pitching Targets

Jon Garland, Hiroki Kuroda and Jake Westbrook were three of the top names on Colorado's wish list of free agent starters, but all three signed elsewhere.  Troy Renck of the Denver Post (via Twitter links) chimes in about some other arms that have caught the Rockies' interest.


Odds & Ends: Marlins, Wigginton, Rockies, Wood

It was on this day in 1905 that Shirley Povich, one of the great sportswriters of all time, was born in Bar Harbor, Maine.  Povich, who passed away in 1998, would've been 105 today and no doubt still would've been keeping an eye on Stephen Strasburg for the Washington Post.

Some news items….