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- Mariners Acquire Kendrys Morales
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Top Astros prospect Carlos Correa will miss the rest of the year after undergoing surgery on a broken fibula, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. “The surgery went very well,” said GM Jeff Luhnow. “We expect him to go through a rehab process and return to exactly the point he was at when he got injured.” The 19-year-old shortstop had been close to earning a promotion to Double-A, says Drellich. He owns a robust .325/.416/.510 triple-slash with six long balls and 20 stolen bases in his first 293 plate appearances at the High-A level.
As Astros fans deal with this tough news, here are a few more notes from the AL West…
- Rangers lefty Derek Holland will have his minor league rehab assignment pushed back, reports Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. Holland participated in fielding drills today but wasn’t ready to progress to pitching in games, manager Ron Washington tells Fraley. GM Jon Daniels tells Fraley that the club hasn’t given consideration to shutting Holland down for the season at any point and won’t do so unless there’s significant risk that he could re-injure his problematic knee.
- Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports looks at the journey of Matt Shoemaker from undrafted college arm to Angels starting pitcher. After Shoemaker went undrafted, his college coach called Major League teams to tell them that they missed a prospect, and he eventually signed with Anaheim for a modest $10K bonus. Brown’s story also chronicles Shoemaker’s journey and his close relationship with his father and the work the pair put into baseball throughout Shoemaker’s childhood.
- Dan Otero has gone from unheralded waiver claim to one of the most valuable relievers in the league, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Assistant GM David Forst — the driving force behind acquiring Otero — tells Slusser that Otero’s command attracted the A’s. Scout John McLaren gave a strong review of Otero after seeing him pitch with the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate. When Otero was waived by the Giants, the Yankees claimed him and tried to sneak him through waivers, only to lose him to the A’s the next day. Since that time, Otero has posted a 1.79 ERA with 5.1 K/9, 1.4 BB/9 and a ground-ball rate north of 57 percent.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
1:07pm: Farnsworth has declined to accept an assignment and will instead elect free agency, tweets MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart.
10:39am: The Astros have outrighted reliever Kyle Farnsworth, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Houston has selected the contract of Jose Veras to take his place on the active roster.
Farnsworth, a 38-year-old righty, has worked to a 6.17 ERA in 11 2/3 innings since joining the Astros, striking out eight hitters while walking nine. Combined with his earlier work with the Mets, his season ERA stands at 4.40 through 28 2/3 frames, with 5.7 K/9 against 4.7 BB/9.
Farnsworth generated some headlines when he expressed his displeasure at being released by the Mets shortly before he would have passed his advance-consent date and been guaranteed his full season’s contract. He then inked a big league deal with Houston that could have been worth up to $1.2MM with incentives.
Meanwhile, Veras will get a chance to right his career with the team for which he closed just last year. Dealt to the Tigers at the 2013 trade deadline, Veras somewhat surprisingly had his option declined by Detroit and ultimately signed on to be the Cubs’ closer. But after a productive 2013 (3.02 ERA in 62 2/3 innings), things went south in Chicago, where Veras saw his ERA balloon to 8.10 in 13 1/3 frames (with 8.8 K/9 against a troubling 7.4 BB/9).
In an Insider piece yesterday, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden listed 21 hitters who could change hands over the trade deadline and handicapped their odds of doing so. Bowden says it is 50/50 whether the following players are dealt: Daniel Murphy, Michael Cuddyer, Josh Willingham, Seth Smith, and Gerardo Parra. He puts better than even money on Chris Carter of the Astros (60%), Alex Rios of the Rangers (65%), and Ben Zobrist of the Rays (70%) landing in new uniforms.
Here’s the latest trade deadline chatter …
- Though he has increased his value with a recent string of outstanding starts, Mets hurler Bartolo Colon is not likely to be dealt, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. The club is disinclined to sell, says Martino, and expects to have plenty of need for the veteran next year — even with the expected return of Matt Harvey and rise of younger arms.
- Brandon McCarthy of the Diamondbacks could be the ideal buy-low starting pitching target, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. While McCarthy’s results have not been encouraging (5.38 ERA), the opposite holds true of his peripherals (80:18 K:BB ratio, 56% groundball rate). In large part, McCarthy has been hurt by a bloated home run rate and batting average on balls in play. The righty could prove a bargain, says Nicholson-Smith, because he won’t require a major prospect return and Arizona may even need to pay part of his $9MM salary.
- The Phillies may ultimately decide to part with some veterans, but David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News questions whether they will get much in return. Marlon Byrd has a lower OPS and less home runs — and is owed a lot more money — than was the case last year when he was dealt for a less-than-overwhelming return. John Mayberry Jr. has been on the block for some time, and his hot start does not mean he’ll suddenly bring back a haul. And even Cliff Lee is not nearly as valuable as one might think, says Murphy, owing to his significant remaining guarantee and current arm issues.
- We heard recently that the Angels were looking to add a lefty and perhaps a closer to their bullpen. According to MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez and Matthew DeFranks, the club has or will look into Huston Street and Joaquin Benoit of the Padres, Jonathan Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies, and Jim Johnson of the Athletics. “There are pieces here that are very functional in getting to a good bullpen, and I believe that we’ll get there,” said GM Jerry Dipoto. “But we are going to have to address some of that in July and help this group out.”
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said yesterday that he would be surprised if the club did not swing at least one deal in advance of the trade deadline, in an appearance on 1090 The Fan’s Steve Sandmeyer Show (Twitter links via co-host Jason Churchill). The club’s head baseball decisionmaker also left the impression that the club will be able to achieve some payroll flexibility in weighing acquisitions.
- One club with whom the Mariners are “expected to talk” is the White Sox, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Some or all of Adam Dunn, Alexei Ramirez, and Dayan Viciedo could hold appeal to Seattle, Morosi suggests. Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweets that the M’s, who have scouted the South Siders recently, are intrigued by Ramirez and have had targeted Viciedo in the past.
JUNE 23: Aiken arrived in Houston today to sign his contract, reports Mark Berman of FOX 26 Sports. Aiken acknowledged to Berman that the deal is done, and he’s set to begin his pro career.
JUNE 7, 7:17pm: The sides are “on the same page” regarding the bonus, though the deal still has pieces left to be negotiated, tweets Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.
5:24pm: The Astros are in agreement with top overall choice Brady Aiken on a $6.5MM bonus, Jim Callis of MLB.com reports on Twitter. As Callis notes, Aiken — who is advised by Excel Sports Management — ties Jameson Taillon (Pirates, 2010) for the largest-ever bonus agreed to by a high school pitcher.
More importantly for Houston, that number falls well shy of the pick’s allotment of just over $7.9MM, leaving the club with ample additional funds to apply to other draft choices. The rest of the team’s day one haul consisted of seven college juniors, one college senior, a JuCo choice (Brock Dykxhoorn, sixth round), and one high-schooler (Jacob Nix, fifth round). One player who could see some money dangled is Mac Marshall, who appears set to attend LSU but was taken by Houston in the 21st round.
Aiken established a clear consensus as the best overall player heading into the draft, though many have noted the shaky recent history of prep arms chosen at the very top of the draft. Of course, focusing only on the players that happened to go at the top of the draft would mean ignoring success stories like that of Clayton Kershaw, who Aiken seems reasonably comparable to at this (early) stage of his development.
Certainly, draft observers agreed that Aiken was worth the top choice. He landed at the head of the final draft boards of Baseball America, ESPN’s Keith Law, and Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com. Those experts credit him with a heater that ranges into the mid-90s, plus secondary offerings (curve and change), fluid mechanics, and outstanding command.
Top Astros prospect Carlos Correa awaits medical evaluation in Houston after an ankle injury Saturday, as Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle notes. “I hit an RBI triple and then my spike got stuck at the bag,” Correa explains. GM Jeff Luhnow says Correa is expected to miss time due to the injury, although it’s not yet clear how much. Correa, the top pick in the 2012 draft, was hitting .325/.416/.510 for Class A+ Lancaster, and the Chronicle guesses he might have been in line for promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi. In any case, losing him to a serious injury would be a significant blow to the Astros, even with their strong farm system. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- Raul Ibanez is not a good fit for the Mariners, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune tweets. Ibanez hit 29 homers for the Mariners in 2013, but the Angels released him yesterday after he hit a mere .157/.258/.265 in 190 plate appearances for them.
- Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins is 41, but he has no plans to stop playing, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. “If I stay healthy, I can pitch forever,” says Hawkins. “That’s my thought process. I have been blessed with a right arm that has definitely defeated all of the odds.” The Rockies signed Hawkins last winter to a deal that pays him $2.25MM in 2014, with a $2.25MM option and a $250K buyout for 2015. Hawkins’ 2.77 ERA suggests the Rockies will pick up that very cheap option, although Hawkins’ peripherals have been underwhelming, with 3.8 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 26 innings so far.
Here’s a look at today’s minor moves from around the league.
- The Braves have purchased the contract of Carlos Fisher from the Somerset Patriots and assigned him to Triple-A, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Fisher, 31, previously spent parts of three seasons with the Reds, most recently in 2011. He posted a 4.74 ERA, 7.84 K/9, and 5.02 BB/9 in 98 2/3 innings.
- The Angels have signed Caleb Clay from the Korean Baseball Organization’s Hanwha Eagles and assigned him to Triple-A, according to Cotillo (via Twitter). Clay was selected 44th overall by the Red Sox during the 2006 amateur draft. He’s since pitched for the Sox and Nationals organizations but never reached the majors. The 26-year-old right-hander struggled in his first season overseas, with a 8.33 ERA, 4.50 K/9, and 5.63 BB/9.
- Once again from Cotillo (on Twitter), the Diamondbacks have signed 27-year-old Argenis Diaz to a minor league deal. Diaz was with the Reds until recently. Interestingly, Arizona’s Triple-A affiliate has only used Didi Gregorius and Nick Ahmed at shortstop to date in 2014. Diaz will presumably provide depth up the middle.
- The Tigers will promote lefty Pat McCoy, Mark Anderson of TigsTown.com tweets. McCoy will have to be added to their 40-man roster. McCoy, 25, has posted a 2.94 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 33 2/3 innings this season divided between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers signed McCoy, a product of the Nationals system, to a minor league deal last fall.
- The Giants will promote prospect Joe Panik, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. Panik, the team’s first-round pick in 2011, will need to be added to the Giants’ 40-man roster. The second baseman was hitting .321/.382/.447 in 326 plate appearances for Triple-A Fresno.
- The Orioles have announced that pitcher Josh Stinson has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles designated Stinson for assignment on Tuesday. He has pitched 13 innings for the Orioles this season, allowing nine runs while striking out six and walking six.
- The Rockies have purchased the contract of pitcher Wilton Lopez, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding tweets. They’ve made space for Lopez by optioning pitching Chris Martin to Triple-A Colorado Springs and moving Michael Cuddyer to the 60-day DL. The Rockies outrighted Lopez last week.
- The Yankees have released 1B/OF Russ Canzler, Donnie Collins of the Scranton Times-Tribune tweets. Canzler last appeared in the big leagues with the Indians in 2012. He hit .263/.332/.389 in 199 plate appearances for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2014.
- The Royals have added selected the contract of OF Justin Maxwell, Jeffrey Flanagan of FOX Sports Kansas City tweets. Maxwell will take Norichika Aoki’s place on the active roster as Aoki heads to the disabled list with a groin injury. The Royals outrighted Maxwell in May, and he’s hit .316/.358/.541 in 106 plate appearances since then.
- The Astros will add Jake Buchanan to their 40-man roster to start Saturday, and Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle notes (via Twitter) that fellow pitcher Jose Cisnero will head to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Buchanan on the 40-man roster. Buchanan, 24, has posted 5.2 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9 in 76 1/3 innings for Triple-A Oklahoma City this season.
While the Rangers find themselves at least facing the unexpected possibility that they will be sellers in July, GM Jon Daniels tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that the team isn’t thinking of trading Adrian Beltre. “We haven’t really considered it,” Daniels said when asked. “He’s our best player, team leader, Hall of Famer.” More from Heyman’s article and more on the AL West below…
- Beltre’s future aside, Heyman writes that the Rangers will have to look hard at dealing veteran pieces such as Joakim Soria, Alex Rios and even Elvis Andrus as they look to retool for the future in what has become a lost year due to injuries. However, Daniels says that his team isn’t giving up on 2014 yet, and it would take a “compelling baseball deal” to move one of the Rangers’ core players.
- Heyman also sheds some light on the Rangers‘ pursuit of Kendrys Morales. Texas made just a $3MM offer to agent Scott Boras to secure Morales’ services, only to be outbid by a Twins team that offered $12MM pro-rated. Shortly thereafter, the Rangers saw another first base/DH option go down with an injury, as Mitch Moreland suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
- The Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich looks at the oddity of service time by pointing out that Astros right-hander Asher Wojciechowski, who has never pitched an inning in the Major Leagues, is closer to free agency and has more service time than standout rookie George Springer. Wojciechowski was added to the 40-man roster this offseason and injured himself on Feb. 1, long before Spring Training was underway and players could be demoted to the minors. Because injured players cannot be demote to the minors — otherwise teams could demote injured players to save countless dollars — Wojciechowski has been on the Major League 15-day DL all season, earning service time and a $500K salary.
- The Athletics were keeping tabs on lefty Brad Mills for awhile before acquiring him from the Brewers, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The team has little starting pitching depth and was aware of the opt-out in Mills’ contract. Of being acquired in exchange for $1 (yes, one dollar), Mills told Slusser: “I thought it was a joke at first. I try not to take it as a value judgment on my worth. Whatever they had to do to make it work.”
The Astros have agreed to a $1.5MM bonus with fifth-round selection Jacob Nix, reports MLB.com’s Jim Callis (via Twitter). Mark Berman of Houston FOX 26 first reported (Twitter links) that Nix was set to sign.l
Needless to say, the agreed-upon bonus lands well above the $370.5K allocation that came with Nix’s 136th overall slot. The high school righty said that he thought he was destined for UCLA after sliding to the fifth round, and was “really surprised we were able to get it done.”
Nix was rated as high as the 87th-best available prospect coming into the draft, with ESPN.com’s Keith Law giving him that relatively lofty ranking. Meanwhile, Baseball America had him at 104 on its board and MLB.com’s Callis and Jonathan Mayo slotted him at 162nd. As the MLB.com duo explain, the powerful hurler has big tools and plenty of projectability, but endured a difficult senior season.
Of course, Houston saved a big chunk of change (about $1.422MM) by signing first overall choice Brady Aiken to an under-slot bonus, and has added some additional savings through later signings. Though he is not reflected in the MLB.com bonus tracker, sixth-rounder Brock Dykxhoorn ($277.4K slot) is apparently among those who have signed for slightly below his allotment, with Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reporting that he inked for $250K.
But much of that cushion now appears to be headed to Nix. The team’s most prominent pick that has yet to sign is 37th-overall choice Derek Fisher, who is still playing with Virginia in the College World Series.
Eyebrows were raised recently when the Astros agreed to an extension with first base prospect Jon Singleton that was reported simultaneously with his first promotion to the big leagues. Extensions have broken new ground in different ways of late, and this deal represented a heretofore unseen foray into long-term guarantees for young players who are completely untested at the MLB level. Let’s take a look …
Framing the Contract
The deal pays Singleton $1.5MM for this season and $2MM annually from 2015 to 2018. It also includes three club option years over 2019-2021, progressing as follows: $2.5MM ($500K buyout), $5MM ($250K buyout), $13MM ($250K buyout). Singleton is assured of earning $10MM for the next five years, would earn up to $30.5MM in base salary if the options are exercised, and could max out the deal with an additional $5MM in incentives.
Since Singleton had zero days of MLB service at the point the contract was agreed upon and was highly unlikely to reach Super Two status, the standard means of describing the contract would be as follows: it pays him an above-minimum MLB salary for his partial first season, guarantees his three pre-arbitration and first arb-eligible campaign, and gives the club options over his final two years of arbitration and first year of free agent eligibility.
But the notion that the deal gives the Astros control over Singleton through to his first free agent year is heavily dependent on a key assumption — namely, that Singleton will stay in the big leagues over the life of the deal. In actuality, it is far from a certainty that Singleton’s play (and/or the team’s impossible-to-predict circumstances) will actually warrant his continued presence on the team’s active roster through to 2021.
Testing the Criticism
Of course, it remains obvious that Singleton has cut off a good chunk of the upside he might have realized through arbitration, and has potentially even delayed his entry to the free agent market by a season. That is the major complaint that has been logged against the deal. Defenders, meanwhile, have generally focused on Singleton’s off-field issues, noting that he may have had valid non-pecuniary motivations for signing.
It strikes me, however, that something basic is being overlooked here. Singleton — a $200K bonus signee out of high school — not only got his cash up front, but has completely avoided the downside scenario. And it is not as if the contract is completely without upside. At worst, Singleton is a bust who walks away with $10MM. At best, he is a top-rate big leaguer who earns over $35MM through his age-22 through age-29 seasons and hits the open market as an attractive commodity at the reasonably youthful age of 30. (That is, if he has not already agreed to a new extension in the meantime.)
Likewise, it has largely been overlooked that the contract is significantly front-loaded. Singleton will earn $7.5MM before reaching arbitration eligibility, which is much greater than he’d expect to bring in at the league minimum rate (this year, $500K). That certainly increases its value.
The real issue, I think, relates to that simple, timeless maxim of which Baseball Prospectus is fond of reminding us: prospects will break your heart. Singleton is every bit a prospect, as he entered the year facing questions about his maturity and ability to hit left-handed pitching. He rose to 27th on Baseball America’s top-100 list last year, only to slide to 82nd before this season. He is a first baseman who will need to hit — a lot — to keep his place in the big leagues.
His situation, in other words, is highly variable — perhaps more so than many have acknowledged. Some observers have touched on the implications of this fact. BP’s Zachary Levine tackled the Singleton extension from an economics perspective, applying marginal value concepts and game theory to the deal, explaining how Singleton’s individual value-maximization strategy may not have aligned with that of the collective (i.e., other union members). Likewise, looking at it from a labor perspective, the Economist recently noted that the Astros “acquired all of Mr. Singleton’s upside without taking on any of his downside risk.”
I am not sure I agree with the Economist’s notion that the team has not added downside; if anything, it has done just that, albeit at a manageable level ($10MM and a relatively firm commitment of a roster spot for some time.) To my thinking, the team agreed to take on some risk from Singleton in exchange for some of Singleton’s upside. He can still achieve significant earnings above his guarantee, and Houston could ultimately be enticed to pay more through the options than it would have through arbitration if Singleton has injury or performance questions but still carries enough promise that the team wishes to retain him.
But that still leaves unanswered whether, based on the reasonably possible outcomes that a player in Singleton’s situation might look forward to, the deal represents a fair exchange of risk and upside. To help answer this, I think it worthwhile to look at some actual, real-world scenarios that have played out in the recent past. (more…)
The Astros‘ sudden improvement this season has been fueled in part by George Springer and Dallas Keuchel, and new first baseman Jon Singleton looks like a contributor as well. All three were acquired during Ed Wade’s tenure as the Astros’ GM, and Wade reflects on his Astros tenure with pride, the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich writes. Drellich argues that the success of players like Springer, Keuchel, Singleton and Jose Altuve (who was signed before Wade’s hiring) suggests that the team’s farm system was not as barren at the time of Wade’s departure as many analysts believed. Some of the Astros’ worst drafting was done before Wade was hired, and Wade’s trade of Hunter Pence for Singleton, Domingo Santana, Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid stands out as a major coup. “I have a sense of pride,” says Wade, “because there were a lot of good baseball people who were involved in the process at that point in time who I think have either been forgotten about or minimized as things have gone forward.” Here are more notes from the American League.
- Top Orioles pitching prospect Dylan Bundy, who’s recovering from Tommy John surgery, made a rehab start for Class A Aberdeen against Hudson Valley Sunday and pitched five innings and struck out six, walking none and allowing one run. The start was Bundy’s first since the 2012 season, and his strong performance surely comes as welcome news to the Orioles. Bundy was on the fast track to the Majors prior to his injury troubles, and if his rehab outings continue to go well, he could make an impact in the big leagues sooner rather than later.
- The Red Sox plan to have Will Middlebrooks work on playing the outfield, Maureen Mullen of Boston.com writes. Middlebrooks, who has been out since last month with a finger injury, recently began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. With Stephen Drew, Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt in the infield, there don’t figure to be many plate appearances there for Middlebrooks when he returns. Playing the outfield could allow Middlebrooks to find more playing time, and also to improve his trade value in time for next month’s deadline.