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The Padres can control Tyson Ross for another three seasons, but to justify the rising cost, they’ll need more games like the gem he delivered yesterday, writes Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego. Through 21 starts this season, the All-Star owns a 2.70 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. Here’s more out of the Western divisions..
- Padres assistant GM A.J. Hinch told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter) that “Chase Headley is free agent at the end of the year, so we are acting accordingly.” Hinch also indicated that several teams are interested in the third baseman.
- Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (via Twitter) that he started working on the Huston Street deal right after the June draft about six weeks ago.
- Dipoto went on to add that the Angels are not likely to do any more deals this month unless there is an injury to a starter (link). However, the Halos will remain in “feeler mode” just in case.
- The Astros have a major perception problem, writes ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider sub. req’d). Between the Brady Aiken situation, their handling of George Springer, and the widespread belief that they tanked the 2013 season, many are questioning Houston’s game plan.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders if the Red Sox will succumb to fan pressure and re-sign Jon Lester. Lester turned down a four-year, $70MM offer from the Red Sox in spring training and other clubs will almost certainly offer six- or seven-year deals if he reaches the open market. Boston, of course, doesn’t want to go that far. “If that’s your philosophy you can’t make exceptions or it will be viewed as a joke,” said one American League general manager. “If you vary from it, that sends a weak message to the baseball community, agents etc., when it comes with dealing with other players. I think the players themselves need to know where you stand as an organization, and if you keep deviating that sends the wrong message.” Here’s more from today’s column..
- The Mariners don’t mind dealing for Rays ace David Price without an agreement in place for a long-term deal, but that’s not the case for everyone. The Cardinals are interested in Price but would want a financial commitment, a major league source tells Cafardo. Cafardo cautions not to rule out the Giants, who also have had interest in Ben Zobrist.
- The Phillies have been discouraged by what they’re hearing from other teams on Cole Hamels. The Phillies consider him their biggest trade chip, but will hold on to him if they don’t get what they consider a fair deal. The Red Sox sent their top pitching scout to watch the hurler before the break and the Phillies have scouted Boston’s major and minor league teams all season. One major league source said if the Phillies get a taker on the full contract and they get three top prospects, he’s gone, and Hamels, according to another major league source, wouldn’t mind.
- Joaquin Benoit is one of the most sought after relievers on the market but a Padres official tells Cafardo that they won’t just give him away.
- Chad Qualls has resurrected his career with the Astros and teams are calling on him, according to a major league source. Houston left-hander Tony Sipp has also drawn interest.
- A.J. Pierzynski, who cleared waivers Friday, has told agent Steve Hilliard that he would like to continue playing.
67 players in this year’s draft signed for at least $1MM, Clint Longenecker of Baseball America writes. Many teams signed two players to deals worth at least $1MM, although the Indians, Pirates and Royals, who all had extra Day 1 picks, signed four players each to deals worth that much. The Orioles, who didn’t have a selection until the No. 90 overall pick, were the only team without a $1MM signing. Here are notes on the draft.
- The Astros‘ failure to sign Brady Aiken is baffling, MLB.com’s Richard Justice writes. The difference between the Astros’ final offer of $5MM and the $6.5MM to which the two parties initially agreed is tiny in terms of MLB talent. Meanwhile, another draft pick, Jacob Nix, saw his own deal disappear as the Astros lost the bonus pool allotment for the first overall pick. Justice also argues that it will take time for the Astros to repair the damage to their reputation the Aiken decision will cause.
- “Nobody wins” in the Aiken/Astros snafu, Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca writes. Nix, in particular, loses out through no fault of his own. Nicholson-Smith cites an agent who notes that the current system forces teams to prioritize balancing their draft budgets, even when that means they lose out on talent — because the Astros didn’t sign Aiken, they couldn’t sign Nix, even though Nix and the Astros had previously agreed to a deal.
- Aiken advisor Casey Close ripped Astros GM Jeff Luhnow on the phone for leaking the results of Aiken’s physical, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. Close also reportedly suggested that other teams dislike dealing with the Astros because of their approach in negotiations.
The Astros did not sign first-round pick Brady Aiken or fifth-rounder Jacob Nix, reports MLB.com’s Jim Callis (on Twitter). Aiken becomes just the third No. 1 overall pick ever to not sign, per Callis (Twitter link). Nix had previously been reported to have agreed to terms, which Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports (on Twitter) was by way of a verbal agreement.
The two young pitchers are both reportedly advised by Casey Close. Houston also ultimately failed to reach terms with another well-regarded arm, 21st-rounder Mac Marshall, Callis adds. That confirms Marshall’s own announcement that he would instead attend LSU.
The Astros will receive the No. 2 pick in next year’s draft, Callis further notes, meaning that Houston did at least offer Aiken 40 percent of his slot value ($3,168,840), which Aiken did not accept. In fact, Houston ultimately upped its offer to $5MM, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). “We tried to engage Casey Close three times today,” Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter), but “there was no interest.” Ultimately, the team made three offers today, Heyman tweets, the second of which came with 30 minutes left on the clock. The final, $5MM offer was made with just five minutes to go. Aiken did not counter any of the offers.
Aiken and the Astros had reportedly agreed upon a $6.5MM bonus, with Aiken heading to Houston for his physical and an introduction. But things took a turn when a dispute arose over the interpretation of MRI results regarding Aiken’s elbow.
In many ways, the news represents a disappointing result for both Houston and the two players who had been expected to sign. The club will of course have an opportunity to choose another top-end player next year (along with the team’s regular first-round choice, which should be a good one), but will have to wait to get that player started. And Houston will miss out on a pitcher who Luhnow himself called the “most advanced high school pitcher” he’s even seen. Not only that, but the team has now foregone the opportunity to sign Nix, and could even face some form of grievance proceeding as a result of the handling of Nix’s negotiations.
Meanwhile, Aiken will need to perform at rather a high level to beat the $5MM that he ultimately was offered, and will need to wait some time for a check to cash. It is not yet clear where he will go, though presumably he will either enroll at UCLA (where he was committed) or else choose the junior college route. Of course, the very public nature of the recent negotiations regarding Aiken and Nix might conceivably have some ramifications for those players’ future collegiate eligibility, which would obviously be an unfortunate byproduct of a difficult situation.
Needless to say, the situation has led to quite a bit of chatter around the game. As MLB.com’s Jim Callis explains, speculation arose that Houston was hoping to drive down Aiken’s price in a bid to make a last-minute run at Marshall, who had long before said he was going to college. Of course, it was never certain that such a possibility was realistic, let alone that the club would ultimately pass on the chance to add Aiken (and with him Nix) without some genuine concern.
Indeed, the apparent medical dispute regarding Aiken, and its impact on Nix, have led to indications that fallout may be yet to come. The Astros released a statement, saying that the club’s final offer was “extremely fair considering all the factors involved in this case” and insisting that the team “approached these negotiations in good faith and with the best interests of the Astros organization in mind, both short-term and long-term.”
But the MLB Player’s Association sees things somewhat differently, stating the view that Aiken and Nix were wronged. “Today, two young men should be one step closer to realizing their dreams of becoming Major League ballplayers,” said executive director Tony Clark. “Because of the actions of the Houston Astros, they are not. The MLBPA, the players and their advisers are exploring all legal options.”
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
JULY 15, 6:35pm: The concern regarding Aiken involves his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), a source tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. “He may have some [of the ligament], but not much,” the source said, apparently referring to the natural size — rather than any tearing — of Aiken’s UCL. A hypothetical Tommy John procedure would not be a straightforward solution in Aiken’s case, the source adds.
While the issue may be “cut-and-dry,” per Drellich’s source, it appears that its interpretation is the crux of the ongoing debate. The young lefty has seen two team doctors and three independent specialists (including Dr. James Andrews) to assess the situation, according to Drellich. Close, Aiken’s agent, told Rosenthal that his client “has been seen by some of the most experienced and respected orthopedic arm specialists in the country, and all of those doctors have acknowledged that he’s not injured and that he’s ready to start his professional career.”
Drellich spoke with an expert orthopedist — Dr. Chris Geary of the Tufts Medical center, apparently not among those who have seen Aiken — who tells him that a congenitally small UCL would not necessarily indicate a greater risk of a UCL tear or lowered success rate if a TJ procedure became necessary. Geary indicated that further information would be necessary to assess Aiken’s overall susceptibility to elbow trouble, and said that other physical attributes could mean that he is perfectly capable of pitching without any particular concern.
9:54am: The Astros believe that Aiken’s MRI revealed a “significant abnormality,” Major League sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Aiken’s adviser, Casey Close of Excel Sports Management, tells Rosenthal that the team has made just one revised offer — a bonus of $3,168,840. That amount represents the minimum bonus Houston would need to offer in order to receive the second pick in next year’s draft as compensation.
Close, who insists that Aiken is asymptomatic and healthy, offered some harsh words for the Astros and the way they’ve handled negotiations:
“We are extremely disappointed that Major League Baseball is allowing the Astros to conduct business in this manner with a complete disregard for the rules governing the draft and the 29 other clubs who have followed those same rules.”
Meanwhile, GM Jeff Luhnow tells Rosenthal that he has been in contact with MLB throughout the entire process to ensure that their actions were within the rules. Pat Courtney, a spokesperson for MLB, said that “Major League Baseball is comfortable that the Houston Astros have acted in complete accord with Major League rules.”
Rosenthal reports that the team informed Nix’s family that the reported $1.5MM agreement between the two sides had to be rescinded because the team first needed to complete its deal with Aiken before finalizing that deal.
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said the players’ association will weigh all options in support of the players. Specifically regarding Nix, he said: “We believe that it is a clear violation of the rules being attempted solely to avoid penalty. The Astros made a deal with Jacob Nix and should honor that agreement.”
This Friday is the deadline for teams to sign their draft picks.
JULY 7, 4:19pm: Drellich spoke with Aiken’s athletic trainer, Paul Flores, who says that to his knowledge, Aiken is “absolutely healthy.” Flores says that there is nothing Aiken is unable to do in their regular workouts, adding: “When it comes to throwing off a mound, that’s not my area of expertise. But I know he’s throwing, so. He’s not in pain. He comes to me after, and I always ask, … ‘How do you feel today?’ … He always tells me he feels great — and not good — great.”
1:25pm: The ominous delay between No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken‘s arrival in Houston to sign his contract and the announcement of an official deal now has some clarity, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Aiken has an issue with a ligament in his left elbow. The Astros are now seeking to reduce his signing bonus from the previously agreed upon $6.5MM to $5MM, according to Heyman’s sources.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports speculated recently that there might be an issue with Aiken’s ligament, noting that the curiously long delay between his arrival to sign his contract and an announcement from the Astros was similar to the delay when a free agent fails his physical.
As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle explained in late June, Aiken would become a free agent if he failed his physical and the Astros did not make an offer of at least 40 percent of his slot value (roughly $3.17MM). Clearly, based on Heyman’s report, Houston is still comfortable enough with Aiken’s elbow that this scenario is unlikely.
However, the Astros would also lose the value of Aiken’s slot from their bonus pool should he elect not to sign, which would be problematic. The Astros were set to save about $1.4MM on Aiken’s original $6.5MM bonus, and a great deal of those savings were reserved for the $1.5MM bonus they’ve agreed to with fifth-rounder Jacob Nix – a bonus that is $1.13MM over slot. It is in Houston’s best interest to get some form of deal worked out, as losing Aiken’s slot would drop Houston’s overall pool to roughly $5.44MM, leaving them unable to officially sign Nix at that figure without incurring penalties in future drafts (the maximum penalty, which is enforced if a team exceeds its draft pool by more than 15 percent, is the forfeiture of a team’s next two first-round picks and a 100 percent luxury tax on the overage).
Obviously, the news is troubling for Astros fans, who had hoped Aiken would sign quickly and begin his progression from high school superstar to the mound Minute Maid Park. The Astros have until July 18 to finalize a deal with Aiken. The team would receive the No. 2 selection in next year’s draft, should it fail to come to terms with Aiken.
Earlier today, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provided an update on the Astros’ talks with Brady Aiken after speaking to GM Jeff Luhnow, Casey Close of Excel Sports Management (Aiken’s adviser), a league official and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark. Close feels that the the Astros are acting “with disregard” to the draft’s rules, while an MLB official noted that everything about the process has been within the CBA’s guidelines. Here are a few reactions to that story, and some other notes from around the AL West…
- Jim Callis of Baseball America feels that there’s more than just gamesmanship going on with the Aiken situation (Twitter link). Medical reports are highly subjective, he notes, adding that he can’t see the Astros concocting the concern as part of some plan.
- Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com tweets that the Astros are being demonized for doing something that is allowed within the rules laid out in the last CBA. He feels that Major League Baseball created this problem by leaving a loophole in the rules. McDaniel also notes that this is what more traditional organizations dislike about the Astos; while their moves can be perceived as smart or strategic, they come off as cold and calculating (All Twitter links). Interested parties should also note that McDaniel’s timeline is full of discussion with his followers regarding this very topic.
- Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle looks at last year’s extension for Jose Altuve and provides some detail regarding the negotiations. Luhnow and Altuve’s representatives at Octagon had laid most of the groundwork, but there were some loose ends, so Luhnow had a one-on-one breakfast meeting with Altuve (conducted entirely in Spanish) to address the remaining issues. Drellich spoke to Altuve’s former agent, Scott Boras, who unsurprisingly said that he would’ve advised against taking the four-year, $12.5MM guarantee (which can be worth as much as $25MM if two club options are exercised).
- The Astros’ No. 1 pick from 2013, Mark Appel, recently had a cortisone shot in his wrist, agent Scott Boras told Drellich at yesterday’s All-Star game festivities. While Boras characterized the wrist issue as minor (Twitter links), it’s hard not to wonder how much the wrist has bothered him in 2014. Appel has struggled tremendously, posting a 9.57 ERA in 36 2/3 innings.
- The Mariners are casting a wide net in their search for a bat and have even contacted the Royals about underperforming DH Billy Butler, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Those talks are not new, however, according to a tweet from Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Over the weekend we learned that the M’s have had serious talks on Marlon Byrd, who would be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
- Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, meanwhile hears that the Mariners have shown interest in Ben Zobrist of the Rays (Twitter link). Zobrist could fill a variety of roles for the Mariners (among many other teams), as Seattle could stand to improve its production at shortstop or in the outfield.
- Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN feels that it would be a mistake for the Mariners to pursue David Price, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggested they should do last week. Drayer feels that parting with a package including Nick Franklin, D.J. Peterson and Taijuan Walker too closely resembles the Erik Bedard trade that cost Seattle Adam Jones and Chris Tillman. While trading prospects isn’t necessarily something to shy away from, such a trade would too greatly diminish the team’s hope for sustained success, she opines.
Brewers shortstop Jean Segura has left the team after learning of the death of his nine-month-old son Janniel, Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. There are few details about what happened, although Brewers manager Ron Roenicke notes that Segura’s son had been sick. “It’s tough,” says Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez. “After I leave last night, I can’t wait to come home and hug my kid and sleep with my kid. It’s hard to imagine. It’s painful. It’s not my kid, but I feel like it.” We at MLBTR send our deepest condolences to Segura and his family after this tragedy.
- Brady Aiken and the Astros still don’t see eye-to-eye over the pitcher’s injury status, Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes in a long feature. The Astros have dropped Aiken’s bonus offer from $6.5MM to $5MM over an issue with his elbow, but Kenney quotes Aiken’s high school coach and trainer, who both say he’s healthy. The issue, as Kenney points out, might be that interpreting an MRI is more art than science — a player can appear healthy and yet have abnormalities in his MRI, and yet it isn’t easy to tell which abnormalities are significant and which ones aren’t.
- Despite the aftereffects of a PED suspension and a fall into the cracks of the qualifying offer system, the Orioles‘ Nelson Cruz didn’t spend the offseason worrying about where he would end up, Childs Walker of the Baltimore Sun writes. Instead, he took comfort in spending the offseason in his home country of the Dominican Republic. “It feels natural,” Cruz says. “Everything is more calm [in the U.S.] You have more peace. But I miss my people.”
Here are today’s minor moves:
- The White Sox have acquired righty Bobby Doran from the Astros, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (via Twitter). Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports that shortstop Jeffry Santos is headed to Houston (Twitter links). Doran, 25, has pitched in the upper minors since 2012, working as a starter and out of the pen while compiling a 3.83 ERA at the Double-A level and 4.90 mark at Triple-A. He was taken in the fourth round out of Texas Tech back in 2010. The 21-year-old Santos is old for his current Arizona Rookie League club, where he’s posted a .295/.483/.386 batting line in 60 PA.
- The Phillies have released outfielder Steve Susdorf, tweets the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb. The 29-year-old outfielder is a veteran of seven minor league seasons (all with the Phils) and was very well-liked by his teammates, Gelb adds. He’s a career .291/.360/.379 hitter in 964 PA in Triple-A.
- Justin Maxwell has accepted an outright assignment with the Royals rather than electing free agency, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. This is the second time this year that the veteran outfielder has taken a demotion from Kansas City.
- Ramon Ramirez has signed a new deal to remain with the Orioles after being outrighted, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reported yesterday (via Twitter). The right-handed reliever could have sought a new home through free agency, but will instead return to Triple-A Norfolk.
- The Angels have released southpaw Rich Hill, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Hill was designated for assignment on Saturday just four days after being acquired via trade from the Red Sox. The veteran had three very rough outings with the Halos, and has a roller coaster history in the majors, but had been quite effective at Triple-A this year.
Recently-released Astros hurler Jerome Williams has already drawn inquiries from eight clubs, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. That does not include the Twins, he notes. Williams’ agent tells MLBTR’s Zach Links (Twitter link) that he believes the veteran righty will get a chance to start on a major league club.
Here’s more from the AL West:
- The Astros are interested in upgrading the club’s bullpen in both the short and long-term, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Owner Jim Crane said that the team’s relief corps has cost the club ballgames, indicating that he hopes to find some solutions during the current season. Nevertheless, any moves would keep an eye firmly on the future: “We’re always looking more long term,” he said, “but we want to try to establish a nucleus this year and win a lot more ballgames than we did last year.”
- Of course, the Angels‘ bullpen needs are on a much shorter fuse. Even after making several recent acquisitions, club GM Jerry Dipoto says that the team is still browsing the market, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter). Dipoto hopes to form a late-inning nucleus that can record the “last nine outs” of a game. “We will continue to look for a guy who can join that group,” he said.
- Multiple teams have expressed interest in Mariners righty Erasmo Ramirez, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports on Twitter. The 24-year-old has not had sustained success at the major league level, but does offer plenty of youth and team control. Ramirez would seem to make a useful trade chip in a lower-level deal for Seattle, or as a part of a package in a larger swap.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- Righty Jerome Williams has been released by the Astros, according to the MLB.com transactions page. The 32-year-old swingman owns a 6.04 ERA through 47 2/3 innings (all as a reliever) on the year for Houston, with 7.2 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. Across nine MLB seasons, he has allowed 4.45 earned runs per nine while working mostly as a starter.
- The Phillies have agreed to a minor league deal with Jo-Jo Reyes, reports MLBTR’s Zach Links (via Twitter). The 29-year-old lefty has seen time in parts of five MLB seasons, the last of which came in 2011. He owns a 6.05 career ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 through 334 2/3 innings, mostly as a starter. Reyes has been playing in Korea since the start of the 2013 season.
- The Orioles have outrighted righty Ramon Ramirez to Triple-A, the club announced. Ramirez got just one inning during his time with Baltimore, though he has seen action in parts of nine MLB seasons.
- After being designated for assignment by the Blue Jays on Sunday, outfielder Brad Glenn has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A, reports Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star (via Twitter). The 27-year-old notched his first MLB hit during a brief call-up.
- The DFA rolls are growing, with the following players are currently in limbo (per MLBTR’s DFA tracker): Justin Maxwell (Royals), Jeff Francis (Athletics), Rich Hill (Angels), Raul Fernandez (Rockies), Alfonso Soriano (Yankees), Brad Mills (Athletics), Donnie Murphy (Rangers), George Kottaras (Indians), John Buck (Mariners), and Mark Lowe (Indians).