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Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy spoke with MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko about the extension he signed last October, explaining that he told agent Mike Seal he enjoyed Baltimore and wanted to remain there due to the club’s winning ways. Wondering where he was going to play the 2015 season did weigh on him throughout the season, Hardy said, and he was happy to agree to terms on a deal to keep him with the O’s. However, Hardy also discussed the departure of Nick Markakis, noting that the move didn’t necessarily sit well with him or franchise cornerstone Adam Jones. “Adam and I have both thought about that,” Hardy told Kubatko. “I know Adam thinks about it a lot. I mean, losing Nick was big. He was one of the guys out there every single day with us. Obviously, we want to win and the reason we signed our extensions is because we like it here and we like the guys who were around, so if everyone starts leaving, I don’t know.” Hardy said he hasn’t voiced any concerns to executive vice president/general manager Dan Duquette or manager Buck Showalter and that, when signing, he trusted that the Orioles would do everything possible to keep their players. Hardy also discussed teammates Matt Wieters and Chris Davis, pointing out that each has Scott Boras as an agent. “[Boras] kind of does a lot more decision-making,” Hardy said, adding that he hopes to see both Wieters and Davis stay in Baltimore.
More from the AL East…
- The Yankees announced that Hideki Matsui has been hired as a special adviser to GM Brian Cashman. Per ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Marchand, Matsui will work closely with Cashman and vice president of player development Gary Denbo, and he’ll spend much of the 2015 season visiting minor league affiliates to work with their managers, coaches and players, focusing on aspects of hitting.
- Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News spoke to Cashman about why the Yankees re-signed Stephen Drew. The GM explained that the team believes Drew’s rapid offensive deterioration in 2014 to be an aberration, and there’s little concern about the defensive en of the equation despite a change of positions. Andrew Miller, newly signed with the Yankees but a teammate of Drew’s last year in Boston, also weighed in with Feinsand, stating that he doesn’t envy the situation Drew entered in 2014. “Missing spring training and trying to come in with that weight on your shoulders, for it to be such a big story, have a team act so excited to see him, it was a little unfair to him,” Miller explained. “I can’t imagine missing that time and then trying to go to game speed.” Drew himself adds that the missed time hurt him quite a bit, and he’s pleased to be getting reps on schedule this year with the rest of the league.
- The Phillies scouted both the Yankees and Red Sox today, via Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter links). Of course, having a senior scout in attendance doesn’t necessarily indicate that anything eventful is on the horizon in terms of trade activity, as scouts are frequently watching multiple teams over the course of Spring Training. Still, Abraham notes that the Phils have taken quite a few looks at Boston third base prospect Garin Cecchini.
The big news out of the American League today comes from the Royals, who announced Hall of Famer George Brett will take over as interim hitting coach in place of Jack Maloof, while Pedro Grifol will take the major league special assignment coach role from Andre David. Brett has worked with the club since retiring in '93, but this marks his first in-season coaching job. He'll have his work cut out for him, as the Royals rank 12th in the AL with 3.98 runs scored per game, tenth with a .314 on-base percentage, and 14th with a .375 slugging percentage. The team's entire infield has failed to hit, right fielder Jeff Francoeur has been terrible as well, and even Billy Butler is slugging just .404. Losers of their last eight, the Royals still have a 6.3% shot at the playoffs, according to Clay Davenport's calculations.
Elsewhere around the American League…
- Hideki Matsui will sign a one-day minor league contract with the Yankees on July 28th to announce his official retirement that day as a Yankee, according to a team press release. After playing ten seasons with the Yomiuri Giants, Matsui compiled a .292/.370/.482 line with 140 home runs in seven seasons with the Yankees.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post revisits the Yankees' failed attempt to acquire Cliff Lee from the Mariners in 2010, noting that the players GM Brian Cashman refused to include aren't looking so great these days for the most part.
- As the Angels' best player, Mike Trout merits the respect of someone with four or five years of big league service, argues Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who feels Trout should stay in his preferred center field even when Peter Bourjos returns from the disabled list. Rosenthal notes that Trout "never once complained about playing left." I should point out that Trout's agent Craig Landis did bring up that "disappointment" in his March statement expressing displeasure with Trout's contract renewal.
In a poll of over 13,000 MLBTR readers, 9.72% ranked the Rays' Andrew Friedman as the best GM in baseball (technically his title is executive vice president of baseball operations). Friedman ranked behind only the Athletics' Billy Beane, who received 13.65% of the vote. Other notes from all five AL East clubs:
- Aside from the obvious factor of money, a chance to win is what compelled free agents to sign with the Red Sox during the offseason, writes WEEI's Rob Bradford. Left fielder/designated hitter Jonny Gomes relished the fact that the team's core players had something to prove, saying, "The opportunity to play in Boston with these guys having a chip on their shoulder was what I signed up for." At 18-7, the Red Sox have the best record in baseball with about 85% of their season remaining.
- The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are 9.5 games behind the Red Sox with a 9-17 record. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs finds it unlikely the Jays will be one of the expected handful of clubs to play around .600 ball from here on out, which is what they'd reasonably need to do for a shot at a wild card. Furthermore, Cameron notes, "The mid-season trade deadline gives teams with slow starts less time to fully realize their natural regression, since they have to make a buy-or-sell decision when April represents 25-30% of their season, not 16% as it will at season’s end."
- "I'm not sure if the Rays feel like he's polished enough to join the club just yet," writes MLB.com's Bill Chastain in reference to top prospect Wil Myers, while noting the right fielder's solid .309/.402/.457 line in 97 Triple-A plate appearances to date.
- Veteran righty Freddy Garcia has been named the International League pitcher of the week, notes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Having made five starts, Garcia now has the ability to opt out of his minor league contract with the Orioles. Rather than Garcia, 25-year-old Zach Britton is getting tonight's start in Seattle.
- "Plans are in the works" for Hideki Matsui to sign a one-day contract to ceremoniously retire a Yankee, writes George A. King III of the New York Post. Matsui spent his first seven MLB seasons with the Yankees, compiling a .292/.370/.482 batting line with 140 home runs.
- 26-year-old Yankees righty Phil Hughes posted his third consecutive quality start yesterday against the Blue Jays. Hughes, who turns 27 in June, projects to be the youngest established free agent starter after this season. One alternative for teams that prefer young starting pitchers is South Korea's Suk-min Yoon, a Scott Boras client who was born a month after Hughes and will be eligible for free agency after the season.
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at the best big league rosters as we head into 2013. The Nationals top the list as their addition of Denard Span in the leadoff spot made an already strong roster even more impressive. The Reds are second after adding Shin-Soo Choo to the fold. The Blue Jays are only in fifth after annexing a big chunk of the Marlins' roster and the Dodgers rank sixth despite having the highest payroll in baseball. Here's more from today's column..
- When asked if he thought there was any match on a Justin Upton deal with the Red Sox, Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers responded, “Probably not.” Upton would be a fit for the Red Sox, but it could mean giving up prospects such as Xander Bogaerts and Matt Barnes, as ESPN's Jim Bowden recently suggested. Upton is an underachieving player who has frustrated his bosses in Arizona and the Red Sox want something better for those prospects.
- The Marlins have put out word that Giancarlo Stanton is going nowhere, but that hasn’t stopped some teams from trying to put together a package to obtain him. A big league source says that's expected to continue. Teams have also called on righty Ricky Nolasco and the right package for him could net a team a decent starter.
- The Dodgers may jump in on Kyle Lohse, even with Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang slated for the back end of the rotation. The Tigers could also be a possibility as they listen on offers for Rick Porcello.
- People like Brett Myers and what he can bring either as a starter or reliever but he's still on the open market. “The feeling is he’s been asking for too much money,” said an NL GM. “I think teams are waiting for the price to come down. He can certainly help a team. I think a lot of teams have him on a wish list.”
- In his introductory presser, Cody Ross said that right field is his least favorite position. Cafardo theorizes that this could be the reason why the Red Sox wouldn't go beyond two years for him. Ross inked a three-year, $26MM contract with Arizona earlier this month.
- Daisuke Matsuzaka prefers to stay in the US, but Japan may not be out of the question, depending on what type of deal he gets. He likes the Padres, but so far there’s no indication that the feeling is mutual.
- Opinions are mixed on the potential of first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands, who has been traded from the Dodgers to the Red Sox to the Pirates. “He’s one of those guys who could all of a sudden put up a big year if he gets the chance to play every day,” said one AL GM. “Don’t think he’ll be that effective off someone’s bench. He’s got to get into a rhythm at the plate and when he does, he can hit.”
- Hideki Matsui will likely manage the Yomiuri Giants someday, though for now it appears that he will live with his family in the US. The slugger announced his retirement in a press conference late last week.
The Indians are the latest team to get a financial boost from a new TV contract, as the club announced that it has sold SportsTime Ohio (and the broadcasting rights to Indians games) to FOX Sports Media Group. The Tribe's contract with FOX will run for at least 10 years and the team will receive at least $400MM over the course of the deal, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The Indians will get $40MM from FOX in 2013, up from the $33MM the team received from STO in 2012. While it isn't the multi-billion dollar deal that other teams have received in recent TV rights deals, the extra funds have already played a role in the Indians' operations, namely the $56MM contract given to Nick Swisher.
Here are some items from around baseball as we head into the final weekend of 2012…
- Hideki Matsui told reporters (including Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News) that he received offers from several Japanese teams but decided to retire since he felt he wasn't able to play up his standards. Amongst Major League clubs, only the Astros were known to have shown any interest in Matsui this winter.
- The Mariners could be in on Andre Ethier, tweets CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, though there is "no real evidence" that the Dodgers have any interest in dealing the right fielder.
- Matt Sosnick, agent for infielder Freddy Sanchez, tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his client is healthy and has received some interest from teams, though no offers. Sanchez, 35, has been plagued by injuries over the last two seasons and was limited to just 10 minor league plate appearances in 2012.
- The Brewers signed righty Alfredo Figaro to a minor league deal last week but they were unaware that Figaro's rights were still controlled by the NPL's Orix Buffaloes, reports MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. Milwaukee assistant GM Gord Ash said that the Brewers have told Orix that they will retract their offer if the Buffaloes choose to retain Figaro.
- ESPN's Jim Bowden lists five possible transactions that he thinks make sense for contending teams, such as the Cardinals trading for Carlos Gonzalez or the Orioles signing Kyle Lohse.
- Twins assistant GM Rob Antony tells La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the team could still make further additions to its pitching depth. "I wouldn't say we're done," Antony said. "I wouldn't say were pushing hard. We have our feelers out there. If the situation is right, we could do something else. If not, we're OK too.'' Minnesota has already added Kevin Correia, Rich Harden, Mike Pelfrey and Vance Worley this winter but Neal doesn't think the team is willing to give a two-year, $14-$15MM contract to the likes of Joe Saunders, Shaun Marcum or Brett Myers.
After ten years in the major leagues and another ten playing for Japan's Yomiuri Giants, outfielder Hideki Matsui is set to announce his retirement in press conference this afternoon, according to a report from Sanspo (Japanese link). The 38-year-old hooked on with the Rays last season and appeared in 34 games before being released in August.
Matsui made a major splash stateside in December 2002 when he signed a three-year deal worth $21MM with the Yankees. He would then re-up in 2005 on a four-year, $52MM deal which made him the highest paid Japanese player in baseball at the time, surpassing the Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki. Matsui stayed with the Bombers through 2009, posting a slash line of .292/.370/.482 with 140 home runs over that span.
The slugger is fondly remembered by Yankees fans for his MVP award-winning performance in the 2009 World Series, specifically in the decisive Game 6. Matsui captured the award despite starting only three of the six games, as there was no DH spot in the games played in Philadelphia. Matsui would parlay that momentum into a one-year, $6.5MM deal with the Angels over the offseason.
Despite his less-than-stellar 2012 stint in Tampa Bay, Matsui still drew some interest this winter from clubs looking for a DH. Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow told the Japanese press in November that he the team had internal discussions about signing Matsui. For his career, Matsui has earned an estimated $83.3MM in the major leagues, not counting his earnings in Japan.
Special thanks to Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker for his translation.
Here's the latest from the American League's newest team, the Houston Astros…
- Lance Berkman remains atop the team's DH wishlist according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter). There are still issues to be resolved before a reunion takes place.
- Crasnick notes that if the Astros can't bring Berkman back, they're likely to seek a late-20s player who's been blocked and needs an opportunity to serve as DH (Twitter links). They don't have interest in players like Luke Scott, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi, and Travis Hafner.
- A few teams are considering right-hander Bud Norris as a back-end rotation option, reports Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe (on Twitter). The 27-year-old pitched to a 4.65 ERA in 168 1/3 innings last season and projects to earn $2.9MM through arbitration next winter.
News and notes out of the Central divisions..
- The Astros, who will join the AL West in 2013, have had internal discussions about Hideki Matsui, General Manager Jeff Luhnow told Daily Sports (Japanese link, passed along by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker on Twitter). Matsui signed a minor league deal with the Rays in April and was later DFA'd and released over the summer.
- Free agent Shane Victorino is on the radar for the Reds and Indians, tweets ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick. The Rangers and Red Sox are also among the clubs looking into Victorino as they look to improve their outfield situation.
- Not surprisingly, the Indians have been targeted young starters as they begin the process of taking offers for Asdrubal Cabrera and others, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com. It has been speculated that Cleveland could also dangle Shin-Soo Choo, Chris Perez, Justin Masterson, and possibly Carlos Santana.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter) notes that the Reds are looking into two relievers coming off of Tommy John surgery in Joakim Soria and Ryan Madson. Soria will be out until May while Madson should be set to open the season.
The Rays signed Matsui to a minor league deal in April and he appeared in 34 games with the team. The 38-year-old posted a .147/.214/.221 batting line with two home runs in 103 plate appearances. Wasserman Media Group represents Matsui, who is now a free agent.
The Rays announced that they designated Hideki Matsui for assignment to create roster space for newly-acquired infielder Ryan Roberts. They now have ten days to trade Matsui, release him or place him on waivers.
The Rays signed Matsui to a minor league deal in April and he appeared in 34 games with the team. The 38-year-old posted a .147/.214/.221 batting line with two home runs in 103 plate appearances.