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- East Notes: Ibanez, Phillies, Mathis
- Blue Jays To Exercise J.A. Happ’s Option
- Central Notes: Maddon, Dirks, Giambi, Indians
- Alex Rios Hires Scott Boras
- Dodgers Decline Option On Chad Billingsley
- West Notes: Sandoval, Lewis, Ethier, Angels
- AL East Links: Chavez, Yankees, Breslow, Jays
- Angels Likely To Trade Kendrick Or Freese
- Rockies Exercise LaTroy Hawkins’ Option
- Mets Outright Satin, Rice, Eveland, Carlyle
- Cubs Hire Joe Maddon As Manager
- Yankees To Extend Qualifying Offer To David Robertson
- Rangers Decline Rios’ Option; Outright Adcock, Lucas, Figaro
- Brewers Exercise Mutual Option On Aramis Ramirez
- Rays Exercise Ben Zobrist’s Option
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Houston Astros Rumors
A federal bankruptcy judge today approved a Chapter 11 reorganization that will allow DirecTV and AT&T to purchase Comcast SportsNet Houston, reports David Barron of the Houston Chronicle. The network will be relaunched next month as ROOT Sports Houston and will provide the Houston area with significantly greater accessibility to television coverage of Astros games. The team has issued a statement, via press release, expressing its pleasure with the outcome: “We are very pleased with Judge Isgur’s confirmation of the plan to reorganize the Network under AT&T and DirecTV. Throughout this long process, our main goal has been to provide broad coverage of Astros games for our fans throughout our region. This new Network will allow us to achieve this goal. There are still a few obstacles that we have to overcome, but today’s decision is a big victory for Astros fans and the City of Houston.”
Here’s more from the AL West…
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels has already had discussions with Alan Nero, the agent for free agent righty Colby Lewis, about a return to the organization for Lewis, reports MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. The Rangers have extended a preliminary offer to Lewis, which Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports is a Major League offer. There’s mutual interest on both sides, according to the pair of reports, but the process has likely been slowed somewhat by the fact that Nero also represents manager Joe Maddon, who is said to be in line to take over as skipper of the Cubs. Lewis struggled in the first half of the 2014 season but rebounded quite well in the second half, posting a 3.86 ERA over his final 13 starts. His 5.18 ERA on the season was likely inflated by a .339 batting average on balls in play.
- Also of note from Sullivan, the Rangers are expected to look to make rotation additions beyond Lewis this offseason, however they’re more likely to come via the trade market than via free agency. The Rangers do possess a good deal of middle infield depth. Both Jurickson Profar and Rougned Odor both are seen as highly regarded talents, but the Rangers don’t have a place to slot both of them into the starting lineup. (It should be noted that the Profar/Odor speculation is my own, as opposed to something which Sullivan is reporting as likely.)
- The Athletics today announced the promotions of three coaches (Twitter link). Darren Bush, who previously served as the team’s bullpen coach, will now shift into the role of hitting coach and fill the void left by Chili Davis (who signed on to fill the same role with Boston). Scott Emerson, who had previously served as a minor league pitching coach and minor league pitching coordinator, was promoted to the role of bullpen coach. Lastly, Marcus Jensen, who has served as a Rookie-league manager and minor league hitting instructor for the A’s, was named assistant hitting coach/catching coach.
- Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has several updates on the Rangers‘ search to fill out new manager Jeff Banister’s coaching staff, noting that several announcements could come as soon as tomorrow.
Hisashi Iwakuma‘s 2015 option technically vested by operation of performance bonuses, Mariners officials tell Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Of course, Seattle would gladly have exercised the $7MM option on its own, as Iwakuma has been outstanding since joining the team before the 2012 season. The club has interest in exploring a new deal for the 33-year-old righty, Dutton reports.
Here’s more from Seattle and the AL West:
- The Mariners have a rotation spot open but may not be interested in re-signing Chris Young to fill it, writes Dutton. That is due in large part to the fact that Taijuan Walker may have pitched himself into the starting five, making it hard for Seattle to commit dollars or make roster promises to free agents. While the team will no doubt pursue some veteran depth, Dutton notes that it is unlikely to match what Young can receive elsewhere.
- Down in Houston, the Astros are preparing for a busy offseason, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes. GM Jeff Luhnow said that the club is hoping to improve in the pen and corner infield while adding some pop through an outfielder. The team has as much as $20MM in added payroll capacity to accomplish that, per Luhnow, who says that the organization already has a list of free agent targets and has had contact with a dozen clubs in preparation for trade talks. “There’s been some turn over in front offices,” said Luhnow. “We think we know what players might be available, but you never know until the season’s over and people are taking stock of their areas of improvement and where they have excess and you never know where there’s going to be a match. You’ve just got to talk to everybody.”
- One player who the Astros will not be able to get a look at to start the spring is righty Brad Peacock, who had bone spurs removed from his right hip. Per Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, the club does not view the surgery as a long-term concern, but Peacock seems rather unlikely to be ready by Opening Day. Having already dealt away Jarred Cosart at the trade deadline, Peacock’s situation could make Houston somewhat more inclined to add starting depth through free agency.
Here’s the latest off-the-field notes from around the league, as the Royals nurse a misbegotten 4-1 lead.
- The Astros have added former Cardinals scout Charlie Gonzalez as a special assistant, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Gonzalez is not the first Cardinals employee to follow GM Jeff Luhnow to Houston. Drellich lists pitching coach Brent Strom, amateur scouting director Mike Elias and pitching coordinator Dyar Miller as others who moved south with Luhnow. Gonzalez may help to fill recently vacated positions left by Dave Post (now with the Padres) and Marc Russo (with the Braves).
- Assistant hitting coach is the final coaching position the Astros must fill, writes Drellich in a separate article. One name to watch is incumbent Ralph Dickenson. He’s expected to remain with the organization if he is not chosen for the job.
- Bruce Bochy and Kevin Towers are long time friends, but don’t expect a reunion in San Francisco, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Understandably, the club is happy with the current management team.
Sad news today out of Chicago, as longtime White Sox scout Paul Provas passed away from brain cancer at age 63. As Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports, Provas had been scouting for the South Siders since 1993 after doing the same for the cross-town rival Cubs dating back to 1983. MLBTR extends its condolences to his family and friends.
Here are the day’s news and rumors out of the American League:
- Left-hander Joe Beimel would love to return to the Mariners, and the team has expressed interest in re-signing him as a lefty specialist, reports Greg Johns of MLB.com in his latest Mariners Inbox. The veteran southpaw made the club after signing a minor league deal and posted a 2.20 ERA in 45 innings. Beimel’s 5.0 K/9 leaves something to be desired, but he was a legitimate weapon against lefties. Beimel held same-handed hitters to a .188/.217/.288 batting line. Sabermetric stats such as FIP (3.18) and xFIP (2.96) both approved of his work against left-handers, though he was well north of 5.00 in each stat when facing righties.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Marius Payton of CSN Houston that top prospect Carlos Correa‘s rehab is considered complete at this point (h/t: Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter). Baseball America’s No. 3 midseason prospect saw his season come to an end prematurely due to a broken leg, but he was impressive when on the field, hitting .326/.415/.510 with six homers and 20 steals in 62 games at Class-A Advanced.
- Even as the Royals are gunning for a World Series title in 2014, thoughts inevitably must drift at times to the future. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders whether starter James Shields may present a double-edged sword with his history of huge innings totals: on the one hand, those innings show his durability; on the other, they act as an arm odometer. Then, of course, there is the matter of his increasingly poor postseason track record.
- Kansas City faces tough decisions as it ponders its amazing late-inning arms, Sherman adds. Wade Davis and Greg Holland might combine for a $15MM tab next year, with further increases for 2016. GM Dayton Moore said the team can fit those salaries, but also indicated that he already is thinking about how things will play out in the long run. “Yes, in the immediate, it works,” he said. “We can make that fit. But we do have to analyze our roster from an economic standpoint every year.”
- Meanwhile, former Royals GM — and current Red Sox VP of player personnel — Allard Baird tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he looks back fondly on his time in Kansas City and is pleased with the club’s run of success. As Cafardo notes, Baird’s time resonates in the current roster, as he drafted players like Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Zack Greinke (who was later flipped for several current key roster pieces) during his time at the helm.
Palm Beach County has approved $108MM in public funding for a $135MM spring training complex to be shared by the Nationals and Astros, writes James Wagner of The Washington Post. The clubs must still agree to a site for their new spring home. The move to Florida’s east coast also has implications for the Cardinals and Marlins. They are now more likely to remain in their shared complex, which included an opt out based on number of teams in the area.
- Phil Plantier has been relieved of his duties as hitting coach for the Padres, writes Corey Brock of MLB.com. The Padres featured the worst offense by many measures in 2014, although much of that can be pinned on sub-par personnel. Assistant hitting coach Alonzo Powell is expected to remain with the club.
- Jose Bautista spoke about Melky Cabrera‘s upcoming free agency on Sportsnet 590 the FAN and handicapped a return at about 50-50, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. According to Bautista, Cabrera will see what’s out there, but he’s “had a good experience in Toronto.” With Colby Rasmus expected to leave via free agency, the Blue Jays outfield could be in a state of flux is Cabrera also departs.
- Newly hired Astros bench coach Trey Hillman has worn a lot of different hats in his career. Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle profiles Hillman in his latest piece. He was let go from on-field positions with the Royals (manager) and Dodgers (bench coach) before latching on with the Yankees as a special assistant. Per Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News, Yankees GM Brian Cashman approached Hillman about the opening left by former head of minor league operations Mark Newman. Hillman reportedly declined the position because he preferred an on-field role.
Here are the latest minor league transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post. All moves reported by Baseball America’s Matt Eddy unless cited otherwise.
- Jesus Guzman elected free agency rather than accept a Triple-A assignment from the Astros, Union Radio’s Pascual Artiles reports (Twitter link). Houston outrighted Guzman off its 40-man roster earlier this month. Guzman was acquired from the Padres last December and hit .188/.272/.248 in 184 plate appearances in 2014.
- Second baseman Tony Abreu has elected to become a free agent, leaving the Giants organization. Abreu has been with the Giants for the last two seasons, appearing in three games with the team in 2014 and 53 in 2013. Abreu has 615 PA to his name since debuting in the majors in 2007, posting a career .254/.283/.373 line for the Giants, Royals, Diamondbacks and Dodgers.
- Second baseman Cord Phelps has elected free agency. Phelps played for the Orioles in 2014, appearing in three Major League games and hitting .259/.361/.388 over 403 PA at Triple-A Norfolk.
- The Dodgers re-signed left-hander Robert Carson. The southpaw posted a 5.74 ERA over 62 2/3 IP in the minors with the Angels and Dodgers in 2014, getting released by L.A.’s red team in May and signing with L.A.’s blue team a week later. Carson threw 33 innings for the Mets in 2012-13, posting a 6.82 ERA in his brief time in the Show.
- Left-hander Pedro Hernandez has elected to become a free agent, leaving the Rockies. Hernandez posted a 6.42 ERA in 88 1/3 IP for Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2014, and made one start for the Rockies in July. The southpaw has a career 7.33 ERA over 66 1/3 IP with the Rockies, Twins and White Sox since 2012.
- The Rockies released and then re-signed right-hander Simon Castro, according to the club’s official transactions page. He first signed with Colorado in April but didn’t pitch at all in 2014 due to injury. Castro was ranked as the game’s 58th-best prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2011 season while in the Padres farm system, and was dealt to the White Sox as part of the Carlos Quentin trade package in the 2011-12 offseason. His Major League experience consists of 6 2/3 IP with Chicago in 2013.
- Left-hander Cesar Cabral, most recently of the Yankees organization, has elected to become a free agent, Examiner.com’s Dan Pfeiffer reports (Twitter link). Cabral appeared in four games for the Yankees in 2014, totaling one inning pitched and allowing three earned runs. His Major League resume also includes 3 2/3 IP for New York in 2013. The southpaw has a 4.01 ERA, 2.58 K/BB rate and 420 strikeouts over 422 1/3 career minor league innings.
A number of teams have made staff moves today. Here’s the latest.
- The Padres have announced several changes to their player development staff, reports Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Randy Smith, formerly VP of player development, is now the senior adviser for baseball operations and will focus on scouting. Three others were let go from their posts. GM A.J. Preller will focus on hiring a new farm director. Per Preller, “I think it’s a matter of maybe a little different look, a chance to get some other voices in the organization.”
- Scout Mike Russell has left the Tigers to serve as a special assistant to Diamondbacks senior VP of baseball operations De Jon Watson, writes Jason Beck of MLB.com. Russell worked with Watson under GM Dave Dombrowski while with the Marlins in the mid-1990’s.
- Beck also learned that the Tigers are expected to replace Russell with former Pirates GM Dave Littlefield. Most recently, Littlefield has worked as a scout with the Cubs. Littlefield was with Dombrowski in Miami from 1999 through 2001.
- The Blue Jays have hired Nationals scout Paul Tinnell, tweets Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun. Tinnell, a former scouting director with the Pirates, is credited with the signings of Michael Burgess and Steve Lombardozzi per Baseball Reference.
- The Padres have hired former Blue Jays scout Rob St. Julien, according to another tweet from Elliott. Evan Crawford, Danny Farquhar, and Aaron Loup are among his notable signees.
- The Nationals may target former Reds executive Bob Miller to fill the shoes of erstwhile assistant GM Bryan Minnitti, writes Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post. Minnitti resigned last week. Miller’s specializes in budgetary matters, specifically arbitration and other contractual considerations. This makes him a good candidate to fill in for Minnitti.
- Speaking of Minnitti, he has emerged as a front runner for the Diamondbacks assistant GM role, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Minnitti has also been linked to the Dodgers front office, so the Diamondbacks may be looking to outpace their division rivals. MLBTR profiled Minnitti as a possible GM candidate back in 2011.
- The Astros have hired Dave Hudgens as their hitting coach, reports Adam Rubin of ESPN New York. Hudgens served for four seasons as the Mets hitting coach before he was dismissed this past May. The Mets have also re-assigned their most recent hitting coach, Lamar Johnson, to the minors. Dave Magadan and Kevin Long are candidates for the role.
The Rangers overcame the first hurdle of their offseason when they signed manager Jeff Banister earlier this week. Speaking of hurdles (and bad puns), the erstwhile Pirates bench coach is drawing frequent comparisons to recent colleague Clint Hurdle. Shortstop Elvis Andrus sees a similar passion for the game, reports Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. Another Rangers insider speaking with Bill Madden of the New York Daily News said, ““(The Rangers) have long had a love crush on Hurdle…and, in Banister, they felt like they were getting the closest thing to him.”
- We learned earlier today that the Rangers have expressed interest in re-signing right-handed pitcher Colby Lewis. In a separate article for the Dallas Morning News, Fraley writes that the next step for the Rangers is to re-open communications with Lewis’ agent Alan Nero. Said Daniels, “We haven’t been able to spend much time on that. We can get back to that now.”
- The Astros are thought to raise payroll by as much as $20MM next season and starting pitching could be a target, writes Chris Perry of The Crawfish Boxes. Perry focuses his attention on the shape of the market rather than picking a specific target. The top end of the free agent market – Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and James Shields – aren’t good fits, but anyone below the first tier could be in play. My own opinion: innings eaters like Kyle Kendrick, Roberto Hernandez, and Kevin Correia could make sense. Keep in mind, the Astros department of decision sciences identified Collin McHugh prior to the season, so they could have other stealthy names in mind.
The Rangers would like to finish an extension with president of baseball operations and GM Jon Daniels by the start of spring training, ESPN Dallas’ Calvin Watkins writes. Daniels is entering the last year of a four-year deal. His contract had been on the back burner as the Rangers looked for a new manager, but with Jeff Banister now in the fold, the Rangers should have more time. “We’ve been consumed for the last month on this, so [Daniels' extension] will fall in place,” says team co-chairman Ray Davis. Daniels’ teams have played in two World Series and had four 90-plus-win seasons since he was hired in 2005. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- The Rangers are interested in retaining pitcher Colby Lewis, and Daniels says he’s talked to Lewis’ agent, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest tweets. The Rangers are the only team allowed to negotiate with Lewis until five days after the World Series. The impending free agent pitched 170 1/3 innings in 2014, and his 7.0 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 indicated he was somewhat better than his 5.18 ERA suggested.
- The Astros have announced new manager A.J. Hinch’s 2015 coaching staff, as noted by Mark Berman of FOX 26 (on Twitter). Former Mets hitting coach Dave Hudgens will take the same role with the Astros. Rich Dauer, previously the manager of the Double-A San Antonio Missions in the Padres organization, will be Houston’s first base coach. The team also officially announced that Gary Pettis will be their third base coach and Trey Hillman their bench coach.
- The Padres announced a variety of changes in their player development area Friday, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Randy Smith, who had been vice president for player development, will become a senior advisor for baseball operations, and will focus on scouting. The team will not retain field coordinator Randy Johnson (not the former star pitcher), hitting coordinator Sean Berry or outfield and baserunning coordinator Glen Barker. The Padres could consider Rangers field coordinator Jayce Tingler for their farm director position, Lin notes.
After years of spending to acquire elite players, the Dodgers finally wised up and spent to acquire an elite GM, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Andrew Friedman has turned down previous interest from the Angels and Astros, but he finally took an opportunity to step onto a bigger stage. His transition to L.A. won’t be like Theo Epstein’s transition to Chicago, however, Rosenthal notes, as people will expect Friedman and the Dodgers to win immediately and to win each year. Friedman will look to hire a GM, and Rosenthal wonders about former Nationals assistant GM Bryan Minniti, who resigned from that post last week. Major League sources tell Rosenthal that Friedman interviewed Minniti for a position with the Rays five or six years ago, so there’s clearly some interest there, and Minniti also has ties to president Stan Kasten.
Here’s more on the Dodgers and from the game’s Western divisions…
- Minniti’s name also surfaces in a piece from Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles, as Saxon runs down some potential GM candidates for Friedman and the Dodgers. Saxon suggests one in-house candidate — director of analytics Alex Tamin — and four external names in addition: Yankees AGM Billy Eppler, Athletics AGM David Forst, Athletics AGM Dan Feinstein and Red Sox AGM Mike Hazen. In his full article, Saxon goes into much further detail about his reasoning behind suggesting each as a candidate.
- The D’Backs are still working to round out their coaching staff, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, with only pitching coach Mike Harkey, first base coach Dave McKay and bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. guaranteed to return. Interestingly, Piecoro writes that the Snakes offered Jim Tracy their bench coach job after he was a finalist in their managerial search, but the former Rockies skipper refused. “The bench coach job is not what he wants to do,” said chief baseball officer Tony La Russa.
- Cory Rasmus could be stretched into a full-time starter for the Angels in 2015 after a strong string of spot starts late in the season, writes MLB.com’s Matthew DeFranks. Rasmus says he’s yet to discuss the possibility with the team but expects it to come up over the winter and will prepare himself to be ready to throw as much as the team wishes. The Halos are short on rotation depth following Tyler Skaggs‘ Tommy John surgery and a late knee injury to Garrett Richards that will likely keep him on the shelf for the early portion of the 2015 campaign.
- Former Royals manager Trey Hillman, who has been working as a special assistant to Yankees GM Brian Cashman, will be named the Astros‘ new bench coach, reports the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich. In addition to his work in the Kansas City dugout and the Yankees’ front office, Hillman has 12 years of minor league managerial experience and five years of experience managing in Japan.