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- Right-Hander Norge Ruiz Leaves Cuba, Will Seek Deal With MLB Club
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Huston Street Rumors
Angels closer Huston Street spoke with Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca about his decision to ink a mid-season extension. Though he ultimately handed off the job of negotiating that deal to agent Alan Hendricks, much of the groundwork was laid by Street himself. He says the process was enjoyable, but noted that he learned from mistakes in how things were relayed to the media this spring. Street spoke at length about the compromises struck to reach the deal, explaining the “interesting crossroad to be fascinated by the money but also to not be driven by it at all.”
- Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp is still struggling with the same neck issues that bothered him last year, but Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (links to Twitter) that surgery is off the table. Normally, that’s a good thing, but in this case the issue is that a surgical solution would very likely end Crisp’s playing career. Ultimately, Crisp may need another DL stint but is expected to be able to play with the injury.
- The Athletics are not interested in dealing catcher Stephen Vogt and are not moving now on pitcher Scott Kazmir, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com reports. “I’m not trading Vogt,” said GM Billy Beane. “Period.” As for the veteran lefty Kazmir, Gammons writes that Beane and co. had intended to make him a qualifying offer but could ultimately consider a deal — though they’ve not yet had any action in that area.
- From the same report, Gammons says that the Dodgers are generating plenty of interest in their younger players from clubs that have pitching to deal. The Phillies, Reds, and Athletics, among other teams, are “scouring” the Los Angeles farm, per Gammons. The veteran journalist also adds that some other executives think that L.A. could potentially make a run at Cole Hamels by dangling interesting utilityman Enrique Hernandez, pitchers Zach Lee and Chris Anderson, and catcher Julian Leon to Philadelphia. While Gammons does not make clear whether his sources suggest that package would be enough, it certainly seems at face value that Philly would demand a headliner to top things off.
Mike Trout isn’t the only baseball talent in his family, as Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh details in a piece about the Angels superstar’s father. Jeff Trout was a Twins fifth-round draft pick in 1983 and he put up an impressive .303/.382/.425 slash line in 1575 career minor league at-bats, with three of his four seasons coming at the Double-A level. The elder Trout chose to retire early, however, partially due to injuries and partially out of some frustration that his career was stalling in the minors. Here’s some more from around baseball…
- Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez could sign with a team as early as next week, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter links). The 20-year-old was seen by scouts and executives from 17 teams during a workout in the Dominican Republic today. He boasts a 6.4 second time in the 60-yard dash and has two years of experience in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, including hitting .229/.333/.324 over 133 PA as an 18-year-old in 2013. Martinez is subject to international pool guidelines, and if he does sign during what’s left of the 2014-15 signing period, it will mean the Cubs and Rangers (due to penalties) won’t be able to land him unless he accepts a bonus of $300K or less. If Martinez doesn’t sign until after the 2015-16 period opens on July 2, the Angels, Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and Diamondbacks will be under those penalties.
- Huston Street “might have gotten the best deal he could get,” Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times opines about the closer’s two-year, $18MM extension with the Angels. Shaikin thinks that Street might not have found such a generous deal in free agency given how several teams are becoming more likely to rely on cheap power arms in the ninth inning rather than spend big on veteran closers. An injury also could’ve hurt Street’s value, which is a significant concern given that he’s spent a notable amount of time on the DL in his career.
- Ben Revere is no stranger to trade rumors, though the Phillies outfielder is trying to focus on playing rather than speculation that he could be dealt, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes. “I know it’s a business. I know we need some guys to help this program out, this organization out,” Revere said. “If I do [get traded], it’s a part of the game. But the only thing I’m trying to do is help the team win. I’m not worrying about it. If it does happen, it happens. If it doesn’t, I’m going to try to bring some W’s to this team.”
Explaining his presence in Oakland during a tough stretch for his club, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington offered some words of general wisdom for the sometimes overly-eager interpretation of his movement outside of Boston. As Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports, Cherington says that he flew out to join the team as part of a previously-planned, monthly effort. “If something is going I need to be there for I’ll go,” said Cherington, “but 99 percent of the time it’s just what is scheduled. As GM, I don’t remember ever being with the team on the road where it just hasn’t been part of the schedule.” The same, often, holds true of top execs being present to see amateur talent. “Somebody will make a deal of me being somewhere to see an amateur player. It’s almost never about seeing that player, but rather that’s the opportunity to go spend some time with your scouts and connect with them,” Cherington explaned. “I’m not sitting in the draft room and saying, ‘I saw this guy on May 13 and this is what he did.’ I’m just not doing that.” Of course, the Kremlinologists among us will note that Cherington’s words provide perfect cover for more surreptitious missions.
- Royals righty Joe Blanton has an opt-out opportunity tomorrow, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com tweets. Kansas City hopes to keep Blanton, with Flanagan writing that the expectation is the veteran will be “patient” in assessing his options. Certainly, given the state of the K.C. rotation, Blanton can reasonably expect to earn a shot at some big league innings at some point this year. The Royals staff is just one of many subjects touched upon by Steve Adams and myself in today’s AL Central-centric podcast (check back at about noon central for that).
- The “timing isn’t now” for Francisco Lindor to reach the Indians roster, GM Chris Antonetti told reporters including MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter links). That assessment is “not at all” due to an effort to avoid Super Two status, says Antonetti. Instead, the club believes that Lindor — who has not forced his way up with his play at Triple-A — simply needs more time. Cleveland is hurting for production at shortstop at present, though it is not clear that Lindor would be an immediate upgrade over the scuffling Jose Ramirez.
- Last night, Huston Street inked a two-year, $18MM extension with the Angels. As MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports on Twitter, Street was motivated in part by a desire to play for a competitor. “It’s multiple years where I have a chance to really matter,” he explained. On the financial side of the ledger, my own opinion is that Street could and would have earned more on the open market — which is generally the case, of course, but is especially true given the somewhat less top-loaded relief market expected next winter. Then again, the decision to pass on some future earning opportunity to lock down a guarantee in a situation he favors is eminently understandable; such is the tradeoff that must be made to avoid the risk of a full season’s workload, especially for a low-velocity reliever.
The Angels have agreed to a two-year extension with closer Huston Street that includes a club option for 2018, the club announced. The deal guarantees Street $18MM, including a $1MM buyout on the option year, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter).
Street had been representing himself in negotiations, but brought on agent Alan Hendricks to handle talks when the season started. He was set to reach the open market after the season, but will instead be controlled through his age-34 campaign. The option is valued at $10MM, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter link). Street will earn approximately $8MM next year and $9MM in 2017, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter).
Street, 31, has long been a quality back-end arm, though his flawless early start to the year has given way to a few less-than-perfect outing of late. On the year, he owns a 3.29 ERA with an excellent 9.9 K/9 against a somewhat uncharacteristic 3.3 BB/9.
All said, Street has produced as expected since coming to the Halos via trade last year. In 2014, between the Padres and Angels, Street worked to a 1.37 ERA over 59 1/3 frames, striking out 8.6 and walking 2.1 batters per nine in the process.
Never highly reliant on velocity, Street has maintained his average fastball in the upper eighties in recent seasons. Though he has missed a few games here and there with minor issues in the last few seasons, Street has not been troubled of late with the arm issues that cropped up at times earlier in his career.
The contract looks to be a solid investment for a Los Angeles club that has benefited greatly from Street’s presence in the 9th inning. It lines up rather closely with the two-year, $18MM contract agreed to by the Red Sox and Koji Uehara just before he would have reached free agency last fall. Street is much younger, albeit somewhat less dominant in terms of his strikeout history, and also gives a potentially useful option to Los Angeles.
Street and the Angels have long been said to be discussing an extension, and it seemed as if the groundwork was laid for a deal to get done. While it is probably too much to say that the recent Josh Hamilton deal spurred this investment, it certainly did not hurt that the Halos were able to clear some space under the luxury tax going forward.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
In the press conference announcing the deal that sent Josh Hamilton from the Angels back to the Rangers, the slugger explained that he wishes he never left Texas, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. GM Jon Daniels, who explained that it was “a pretty easy decision” to add a player of Hamilton’s ability. (Though he did not say so explicitly, the slight investment required obviously played a significant role.) For his part, Hamilton expressed disappointment with how his tenure with the Angels ended, saying that he had worked hard there even if the results were disappointing.
We already ran some early reactions to the deal before it was finalized. Here are some more notes and reactions from around the game:
- Grant breaks down the support system and plan that the Rangers hope will allow them to keep Hamilton healthy and focused. In terms of timing, Hamilton will report immediately to extended spring training and head shortly thereafter to Triple-A for a rehab stint. The Rangers are targeting a return to big league action in mid to late May, says Daniels, with Grant pegging the club’s May 11-17 homestand as a possible debut.
- Before the deal was consummated with the Rangers, Hamilton used his no-trade protection to block a deal that would have sent him to a National League club, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter link). While that proposal would not have required Hamilton to give up any salary, the 33-year-old was willing to sacrifice cash to facilitate a return to Texas.
- Some players around the game are unhappy with the way the Angels handled Hamilton’s relapse, tweets Rosenthal. In particular, perceptions are that the club violated the confidentiality provisions of the Joint Drug Agreement.
- This deal is not really the win-win it is being made out to be, argues Rosenthal, who labels it “an ugly divorce, a forced second marriage, a series of events that never should have been set in motion.”
- Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Lyle Spencer suggests that the Halos may have been acting with a higher purpose in making the deal, because there is a real risk that it will blow back from a baseball perspective.
- Relieving themselves of some $20MM in salary obligations does not make a Huston Street extension any more likely for the Angels, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets. That decision will come down to the club’s assessment of the reliever’s worth, it appears; it is worth noting, of course, that Street has enhanced his value with an excellent start.
- My take: with Hamilton apparently determined to return to the Rangers, and the Angels committed not to continue their relationship, this was obviously the best that Los Angeles could do. Had the team simply cut bait with Hamilton, he would have been free to sign with the Rangers for the league minimum salary. Of course, it remains fair to debate whether the Angels could or should have given Hamilton another chance to make good on his deal, but the club did at least ensure that he landed in the best possible situation. For Texas, meanwhile, the move has plenty of upside — both on the field and in the ticket office — which more than justifies the marginal financial risk.
Rangers right-hander Nick Tepesch was optioned to Triple-A on March 29, but after working with the MLBPA, he’s had his option reversed and been placed on the Major League disabled list, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Tepesch felt soreness in his shoulder the day after being optioned and has since been shut down due to inflammation in his ulnar collateral nerve. As Grant notes, Tepesch will benefit financially from the move, as he’ll now receive the pro-rated portion of his $517.5K salary while on the MLB DL. He could also end up qualifying for arbitration as a Super Two player, as he entered the year with 1.136 days of service time. A full year would boost his service time to 2.136, which is near the early projected cutoff of 2.140.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has recently expressed an interest in being a two-sport star in the mold of Deion Sanders, and the Rangers hold his rights after taking him in the Minor League portion of the 2013 Rule 5 Draft. We’ve been tracking the latest on Wilson at Pro Football Rumors, with the latest reports from this evening indicating that such talk may be more of a bargaining ploy on Wilson’s behalf. (You can track previous updates on Wilson by clicking his tag at PFR or using this link.)
- The Rangers have been decimated by injuries over the past year, but as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes, the team conducted a thorough examination of its medical staff and training procedures this winter to see if there was anything that they could have done to prevent the outbreak. Dr. Keith Meister, the team’s head physician, said he feels that a lot of the natures were of the fluke variety. Ryan Rua and Shin-Soo Choo had ankle injuries suffered while in the field. Derek Holland‘s knee injury came when he tripped over his dog. Jurickson Profar is the only position player that Meister has ever seen to have his current injury — a tear in a subscapular muscle in his throwing shoulder. Prince Fielder‘s injury likely dated back to his days with the Tigers, and the Tommy John surgeries they’ve incurred have plagued teams league-wide.
- Early struggles in the Mariners rotation might have prompted the team to dip into its farm system in previous years, but Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes that there’s no such luxury this year. The top two alternatives for Seattle, Roenis Elias and Jordan Pries, have both struggled in Triple-A. The lack of quality innings from the rotation has manager Lloyd McClendon concerned about his bullpen, Dutton notes. Mariners relievers have worked three or more innings in eight of the team’s past 10 games.
- Angels closer Huston Street tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register that there have been no recent developments in talks of a contract extension. Street, who was representing himself in Spring Training, has enlisted his former agent, Alan Hendricks, to handle the negotiation process with GM Jerry Dipoto now that the season has begun.
APRIL 7: Street is still interested in an extension with the Angels, but he told MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter links) and other reporters that he’s re-hired former agent Alan Hendricks to handle the bulk of the negotiations now that the season has started. “We are close enough that I’m still engaged,” said Street.
APRIL 6: Angels GM Jerry Dipoto tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter link), that an extension with closer Huston Street is “still possible.” Negotiations have remained “friendly,” he adds,’ noting that “Opening Day was never a deadline.”
Talks have been well-publicized, with the self-represented Street making clear that he knows what kind of deal he wants to give up the right to free agency after this season. The sides have not seemed to be close on numbers this spring, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweets.
Street, 31, does not have the kind of obscene strikeout numbers that the game’s best relievers tend to carry. Nevertheless, he has produced impeccable results, even though ERA estimators suggest he has outperformed his true contributions. Since leaving the Rockies for less hitter-friendly environs after the 2011 season, Street has thrown 155 innings of 1.97 ERA ball with 8.7 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9.
Valuing Street as an extension candidate or free agent remains challenging, however. Aging relievers with a fair bit of mileage are notoriously fickle investments, and Street has missed some time over the years with shoulder and lower-leg issues (among other things). Then again, he has never relied on velocity and still throws as hard as ever (high 80s).
Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was in attendance as the team his son coaches at the University of Wisconsin-Stout took on a Twins rookie team Tuesday, would be thrilled to manage again, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes. “Oh, no. I’ve got a lot left in me in baseball,” says Gardenhire, shown in a photo wearing a T-shirt and smoking a cigar. “If somebody is looking for a manager and I’m a fit, great. I would love to manage again.” After the Twins fired him following last season following the team’s fourth straight season of 92-plus losses, Gardenhire lived for a month in an RV parked near his daughter’s house in Oklahoma while he waited for his first grandchild to be born. Gardenhire turned down a front-office job with the Twins, but says he’s still willing to help his former organization, perhaps with occasional scouting tasks. Here’s more from around the game.
- MLBPA head Tony Clark says it’s “unfortunate” that teams delay promotion of top prospects for service-time reasons, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports. “We don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest, and we don’t think it’s in the industry’s best interest, to not have the best players on the field all the time,” says Clark. This has become, of course, a point of discussion every year. This season, top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant has been the focus of the issue. The Cubs are likely to send him to the minors to start the season even though he’s leading MLB in Spring Training homers with six.
- One Padres move that didn’t attract much attention in a high-profile winter was their signing of former Diamondbacks, Astros and Tigers closer Jose Valverde to a minor-league deal. Valverde has performed well in camp, however, and now appears to have a good shot to make the team, Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com writes. “I feel like I’m 21 because I’m throwing 98 [mph],” says Valverde. “I’m surprised because I haven’t walked anybody yet.” Bloom suggests Valverde could even be the Padres’ closer. That would be an upset if it came to pass, since Joaquin Benoit performed well in that role last year after the team traded Huston Street.
Josh Hamilton‘s recovery from shoulder surgery has lowered the urgency felt by commissioner Rob Manfred to reach a quick decision on a potential suspension, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times. “Because Josh isn’t in a position where he’s going to be on the field, it has made the timing a little more relaxed,” Manfred told reporters. Manfred and the MLBPA have debated how many times it should be ruled that Hamilton has violated the Joint Drug Agreement, and at this point, the commissioner said that Hamilton’s fate is in his hands. “I’m the decision-maker on this one,” he said.
More from Hamilton’s team and division…
- Within that same piece, DiGiovanna writes that both Matt Joyce and C.J. Cron have expressed desires to be more than platoon players. While that could be possible with Hamilton through at least May, DiGiovanna notes that Collin Cowgill will likely get some starts in left versus tough lefties, which will likely cost Joyce some at-bats. Manager Mike Scioscia said that the team “definitely” want Cowgill and Cron in the lineup against lefties. The situation figures to intensify by the time Hamilton is back, though at least at that point, the Halos will have had more time to make some determinations.
- Angels closer Huston Street won’t be speaking with the media any more about his extension talks until the deal is complete or almost complete (if one is agreed to at all), writes Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Street is seeking a four-year deal worth between $36MM and $46MM, beginning this year and running through the 2018 season. To this point he’s been very open with the media, but it sounds like there won’t be any further updates until something more final can be revealed.
- MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan tweets that the release of Michael Kirkman by the Rangers was the biggest surprise in camp so far, but the team wanted to give him the opportunity to hook on with another club. Kirkman still has three weeks to land somewhere and impress enough to position himself for a bullpen spot.
- A’s manager Bob Melvin didn’t know anything about right-hander Kendall Graveman when he was acquired in the Josh Donaldson trade, writes Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com, but the skipper went right to work on researching his new rotation candidate. Now, Melvin knows plenty about Graveman and offered strong praise for the righty, who, as Bloom notes, is making a strong case to make the Oakland rotation out of camp.
The Red Sox shouldn’t be in any rush to trade Allen Craig, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. Craig gives them depth at first base, DH, and both outfield corners, all positions where the Sox have injury and age concerns. He’s not an obvious fit for the Red Sox’ lineup right now, but after a miserable stretch run (Craig hit .128/.234/.191 in 107 plate appearances after Boston acquired him), he doesn’t have trade value either, so it would be best for the team to wait before dealing him. Here’s more from the American League.
- It’s not often wise for players to represent themselves, but Angels reliever Huston Street is an exception, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. Street, who is about to exchange extension figures with the Angels, is a real-estate investor in Austin who’s capable of handling contract negotiations. (If Street hits the free-agent market next winter, though, he’ll trust Austin lawyer Bill Stapleton to represent him.) “There’s mutual interest,” Angels GM Jerry Dipoto says regarding extension talks. “He understands where we are, and we understand where he is. He’s a big part of what we’re doing. But it’s not going to happen today or tomorrow.”
- White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija is trying not to focus on his impending free agency, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports. “When you step back and look at your situation from afar, it’s a pretty intense situation with a lot on the line,” says Samardzija. “But … I like to think what I demand of myself each time out is more pressure than what a contract or what situation my career is in (can bring).” The White Sox hope to retain Samardzija, but it doesn’t appear that any extension is imminent.