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Ike Davis Rumors
First baseman Adam LaRoche would like to stay with the Nationals, Chase Hughes of Nats Insider writes. “If it was up to me, I’m signing a deal with D.C. that puts me there for the rest of my career,” says LaRoche. The Nationals are expected to pay LaRoche a $2MM buyout rather than picking up their end of a $15MM option, and with Ryan Zimmerman likely to play first base next season, it’s unlikely the Nats will retain LaRoche even for a smaller amount. Nonetheless, LaRoche, coming off a .259/.362/.455 season, will likely attract significant interest on the free agent market. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- The Marlins might have interest in Pirates first baseman Ike Davis, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. The Marlins already have another former Pirates first baseman, Garrett Jones, under contract for 2015, but Jones is 33 and coming off a second consecutive near-replacement-level season. The Pirates, meanwhile, may want Pedro Alvarez (who suffered from serious throwing issues at third base in 2014) to play first in 2015, which would leave nowhere for Davis, particularly since he and Alvarez are both left-handed. The Bucs could deal or non-tender Davis this offseason.
- After a terrific season in 2014, Nelson Cruz has a big contract coming his way, but whether the Orioles should be the team to pay it is questionable, MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski writes. The O’s plan to extend Cruz a qualifying offer, and they’ll get a draft pick if another team signs him. Also, Cruz is in his mid-30s and is coming off a great season, so it’s possible whichever team signs him won’t get much bang for their buck as Cruz declines over the next few years. Cruz has said he wants to remain in Baltimore, but the Orioles sound skeptical about keeping him.
After covering some Cubs Notes earlier today, let’s take a look around the rest of the NL Central…
- The Blue Jays haven’t shown any interest in Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks since they’re looking to land a better defender at the keystone, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. (Similar defensive concerns were also the reason for Toronto’s lack of interest in Daniel Murphy, as Heyman reported over the weekend.) Weeks is hitting .263/.344/.463 in 90 PA against left-handed pitching this season, and would make sense on paper for a Jays team that is need of both second base help and a right-handed bat.
- The Cardinals are open to acquiring a second or third baseman and have also considered adding a “complement upgrade” for their lineup, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Padres outfielder Seth Smith is cited by Goold as an example of the type of complementary player the Cards are discussing, though Smith himself isn’t necessarily being targeted by the team. If the Cardinals do add a 2B or 3B, Matt Carpenter would play the other position.
- The Pirates‘ trade for Ike Davis is over two months old, and Tim Rohan of the New York Times checks in to see how both the Bucs and Mets have progressed since the deal. The Mets have been very pleased by how Lucas Duda is hitting as the new regular first baseman, and while Davis hasn’t been hitting quite as well (.250/.359/.364 in 217 PA as a Pirate), he mentioned in a recent WFAN interview that he enjoys playing for a team that expects to contend.
The Cardinals are currently determining how to find big-league playing time for top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I actually think from a baseball standpoint he could play in the big leagues,” says GM John Mozeliak. “But we’ve got to determine playing time up here with the current roster. Are we at a point where we’re willing to take away at-bats from the current roster and give them to somebody else?” If the Cardinals were to promote Taveras to play regularly, they would have less playing time for some combination of Allen Craig, Matt Adams, Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay. Taveras is currently hitting .319/.369/.527 in 198 plate appearances for Triple-A Memphis. Here are more notes from the National League.
- While the Cardinals don’t have playing time for their Triple-A outfield talent right now, Strauss writes that they simply don’t have as much Triple-A pitching talent as they’ve had in recent years. Of course, that’s mostly because they’ve graduated so many talented pitchers in the past few seasons, including Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, and Seth Maness. If the Cardinals want to add another strong pitching option this season, Strauss argues, they’ll have to do it via a trade.
- There are rumors that the Padres could fire manager Bud Black, but Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune suggests that it might be worth remembering GM Josh Byrnes’ history firing his manager when he was the GM of the Diamondbacks. In 2009, Byrnes fired Bob Melvin and replaced him with A.J. Hinch. Melvin had a terrific third act as manager of the Athletics, and both Byrnes and Hinch were fired a little more than a year later. Like Byrnes, Hinch is now in the Padres’ front office.
- Now that first baseman Ike Davis is hitting, life with the Pirates is different than it was with the Mets, MLB.com’s Tim Healey reports. “Going to get coffee, I don’t get hitting tips,” says Davis. “I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. But I don’t need to think about my stance at 9 in the morning.” Davis is back in New York as the Pirates play at Citi Field this week.
Ike Davis will return to Citi Field Monday, but the Pirates‘ first baseman isn’t concerned about his return to Queens, MLB.com’s Tom Singer writes. “Truth is, it’s not something big to me,” Davis says. “Just gotta do it, go and try to beat the Mets.” After a rough ending to his career in New York, Davis has played well since the Mets traded him in mid-April for reliever Zack Thornton and a PTBNL — he’s hitting .295/.391/.421 so far for Pittsburgh. Here are more notes from around the National League.
- Cubs infielder Mike Olt is a fan of new Triple-A Iowa player/coach Manny Ramirez, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune writes. The two played together last season at Triple-A Round Rock in the Rangers organization, but the connection goes back further than that — Olt says Ramirez tossed him a ball when an 11-year-old Olt was sitting in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium and Ramirez was playing outfield for the Red Sox. Olt says Ramirez remembered the incident, since he doesn’t usually throw balls into the stands.
- Reds outfield prospect Phillip Ervin attributes his struggles in 2014 to self-imposed pressure after being a first-round pick and receiving a $1.8MM bonus last season, C. Trent Rosecrans writes for Baseball America. Ervin, 21, is hitting .209/.271/.302 in 203 plate appearances for Class A Dayton, a level at which he hit well in a handful of games near the end of last season. “You want to just impress people, put up the numbers for the fans, and you always hear stuff,” says Ervin. “I feel like sometimes I try to do too much just to keep other people happy rather than just go out and have fun.”
The news of the day was out of Arizona, where the Diamondbacks made a bold move to add Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa atop the club’s baseball operations department. Many observers hailed the move, with Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writing that the experienced and respected LaRussa could effect a “cultural overhaul” akin to that delivered to the Orioles by Buck Showalter. Of course, LaRussa’s role will be much broader than that of Showalter, and he’ll face quite a different challenge from the one that brought him to Cooperstown.
Here’s more from the D’Backs and the rest of the National League:
- The immediate reaction to LaRussa’s hiring was that embattled Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers and/or manager Kirk Gibson could be on their way out. After reporting that a further shake-up would likely not occur in the immediate future, Bob Nightengale of USA Today provided some details on the previously unknown terms of the extensions given to both of those team leaders before the start of what has turned into a trying season (via Twitter). Towers’s deal takes him through 2016, while Gibson’s contract is believed to run through 2015, says Nightengale. Of course, that does not mean that the pair is ensured to last until those pacts expire.
- If the Rockies decide to shop for pitching, the club will have plenty of teams banging on the door for a chance to add one of their top two prospect arms (Jon Gray and Eddie Butler), reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (video link). But Rosenthal says that the team is more likely to bring one or both of those power righties up, noting that the team seems to have solid rotation depth.
- Padres staff ace Andrew Cashner was placed on the 15-day DL today after experiencing discomfort and inflammation in his right elbow. As Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, the 27-year-old says he is “not worried about my ligament at all.” Nevertheless, he will undergo a precautionary MRI on Monday. After a solid 175-inning, 3.09 ERA campaign last year, Cashner has elevated his game this year with a 2.35 ERA through 57 1/3 frames (7.4 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9). He is earning a $2.4MM salary for 2014, his first arb-eligible campaign, and should be in line for a big raise if he can stay on the mound and keep producing at those levels.
- Meanwhile, Nationals southpaw Gio Gonzalez suffered through a second-straight rough outing today, and manager Matt Williams said after the game that the club has been monitoring complaints of shoulder stiffness. As Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports, Gonzalez will undergo precautionary testing tomorrow, including an MRI. When asked if he was experiencing any health issues, Gonzalez gave a response that seems open to interpretation. “Realistically, arm was dropping a lot,” he said. “I guess we’ll see.”
- First baseman Ike Davis has regained his form at the plate since being traded to the Pirates, Jorge Arangure writes for the New York Times. Davis has compiled a .286/.383/.414 line through his first 81 plate appearances in Pittsburgh. In part, it bears noting, Davis has benefited from platoon usage: on the year, he has yet to record a hit in 15 plate appearances against same-handed pitchers, while sporting a nifty .902 OPS against righties. After several up-and-down years with the Mets, Davis said he is keeping his focus on the present and does not bear any ill-will to his former club.
The Orioles are in Boston for a wraparound series with the Red Sox culminating tomorrow on Patriots' Day. Mike Seal, the agent for J.J. Hardy is in Boston this weekend, but the Orioles shortstop says it's not for extension talks. "He's here because his wife is running in the marathon, so he came out for this series to watch his wife run," Hardy told reporters, including MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. "There's been nothing. My agent's here now and he hasn't said anything to me the last month or so. There's been no contact. Usually, he gives me the 'still nothing.' I think it's even past that now to where it's like, he doesn't even need to tell me."
Elsewhere around baseball this Easter Sunday:
- Tigers President/CEO/General Manager Dave Dombrowski couldn't wait any longer to see if Alex Gonzalez would turn things around, writes Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press.
- A reader asked John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (on Twitter) if there's any chance the Reds might go after Gonzalez in light of Zack Cozart's struggles. That's doubtful, in Fay's mind, because Gonzalez doesn't offer much range at the shortstop position. Fay, in a second tweet, also doesn't see the Reds signing Joel Hanrahan.
- In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe speculates, after impressing teams in his latest audition, Hanrahan could hold out for a Major League contract. The veteran worked out for 18 clubs and impressed with the depth of his secondary pitches.
- There's no guarantee Ike Davis will see another 32-home run season with the Pirates; but, if it happens, the Mets will be reminded about it frequently, writes David Lennon of Newsday. However, the Mets finally decided on a course of action rather than have uncertainty at first and they must be prepared to live with the fallout.
- Davis is eager to play more often as a member of the Pirates, writes Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It was pretty negative over there [with the Mets] for me for a little while," Davis said. "Hopefully, I can come here and hear some positive energy and start building forward and start playing better."
- Did the Indians make a mistake by not keeping Aaron Harang? The veteran pitched seven hitless innings for the Braves on Friday, but Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer defends the Tribe's decision. The 36-year-old, he notes, didn't set the world on fire last season and his release allowed the Indians to see what Carlos Carrasco can offer as a starter.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
SATURDAY: The PTBNL in the deal is likely to be a 2013 draft pick, Heyman tweets. He also notes that that player, and not Thornton, is the "key piece." 2013 picks will not be eligible to be traded until the summer.
FRIDAY 6:22pm: The PTBNL is "fairly significant," tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. It is worth bearing in mind, as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com points out on Twitter, that 2013 draft picks still cannot technically be included in a deal.
5:45pm: A long-awaited deal has finally been struck, as the Mets officially dealt first baseman Ike Davis to the Pirates in exchange for minor league righty Zack Thornton and a player to be named later. A deal involving the struggling Davis has long been rumored, with the Pirates long said to be a likely trade partner.
For New York, the departure of Davis means that the club will move ahead with Lucas Duda as its regular first baseman, a role that he had taken on early in 2014. It also marks the end to an ultimately disappointing tenure in New York for the 27-year-old, left-handed hitting slugger.
Meanwhile, the Pirates will take on the $3.14MM left on Davis's 2014 salary, and will control his rights via arbitration through 2016. Davis will presumably work in some form of platoon with the right-handed hitting Gaby Sanchez, who the club picked up after he too took steps backward after a promising early career.
Once a top-100 prospect, Davis raised expectations with a strong rookie campaign in 2010, in which he hit .264/.351/.440 with 19 home runs over 601 plate appearances at age 23. He was off to a hot start the next year, hitting .302/.383/.543, before he was sidelined with ankle issues. Before the 2012 season, Davis reportedly contracted valley fever, but nevertheless managed to hit 32 long balls in 584 trips to the dish. But his OBP dropped to .308 that year, and he has not returned to form since. Over 407 MLB plate appearances in 2013-14, Davis has just a .205/.329/.337 line with 10 home runs and a rising strikeout problem (he reached a career-high 26.8% K% last year.)
Thornton is a 25-year-old reliever who was working in Triple-A this season after reaching that level late last year for the first time. He did not appear on Baseball America's list of the Bucs' top prospects this year or last year. Pittsburgh acquired Thornton in exchange for Chris Resop in May of last year. According to Thornton's profile on PiratesProspects.com, he has been much more effective against same-handed hitters in his minor league career.
As the profile also notes, Thornton was left unprotected in this year's Rule 5 draft but was not selected even after a good showing in the Arizona Fall League. While he should provide depth to a struggling Mets pen, he seems a disappointing return for a player of Davis's former promise. It remains to be seen, of course, whether the PTBNL can bring additional value to the Mets.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first tweeted that a deal was in the works. Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (Twitter links) first reported that the deal was done, and that one or two prospects would head back to New York.
The Pirates hope that Ike Davis will be a long-term solution for them at first base, but they aren't giving up on prospect Andrew Lambo, Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune-Review reports (Twitter links). "Hopefully, (Ike Davis) is a move that solves our first base needs for years to come," GM Neal Huntington says. "We still think Lambo is going to be good big league player. Right now Davis is better fit for us. We'll see how it plays out." Lambo had been the presumed starter against right-handed hitters, but he headed back to the minors after a disappointing spring training. He can also play outfield, although the Pirates appear to be set for the foreseeable future there, with Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen taking two positions and Gregory Polanco soon taking another. Here's more on the trade.
- An executive from another team points out to ESPN New York's Adam Rubin (on Twitter) that Zack Thornton, the minor-league pitcher the Mets acquired in the deal, was eligible for last year's Rule 5 Draft but was not selected. Thornton is now in his age-26 season and has posted great stats in the high minors, so he seemed like a good candidate to be selected in the Rule 5. That every team passed on him might indicate that they aren't enamored of his upside. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the PTBNL in the deal will be "fairly significant," as CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweeted yesterday.
- Davis has mixed feelings about the trade, Kevin Kernan of the New York Post reports. "It’s weird, I’ve been with the Mets a long time and made some good friendships," says Davis. "I’m excited. I know a couple of guys [in Pittsburgh] and they have a great young team. Some good veterans too. I’m looking forward to playing and hopefully helping them win."
- Davis' agents at Octagon encouraged the trade, Heyman tweets.
Mets first baseman Ike Davis might make sense for the Yankees, Newsday's Anthony Rieber writes, suggesting that the Yankees could give up a hard-throwing reliever like Dellin Betances for him. While Mark Teixeira is out with a hamstring injury, Davis would be a good replacement for the Yankees since his left-handed power would play well in their ballpark, Rieber argues. Until the Mets deal Davis, Rieber says, they aren't maximizing his value by keeping him on the bench. Here are more notes from the American League.
- Catcher George Kottaras, who recently agreed to a minor-league deal with the Indians, will make $950K if he's on the big-league roster, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets. Kottaras can also receive as much as $50K in incentives based on games played. He can opt out of the deal on April 30 if he isn't added to the roster by then.
- Brian Omogrosso's agency, MCA, says (via Twitter) that the pitcher is drawing interest from the Yankees, Rangers and Blue Jays after pitching at a showcase Friday in Arizona. The White Sox recently released Omogrosso. He appeared in 37 1/3 innings for them in the past two seasons, posting a 5.54 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9.
The Mets still see dealing first baseman Ike Davis as their "likely endgame," Andy Martino of New York Daily News tweets. They would still like to receive a good return for him, however. Martino had previously reported that the Mets would give Lucas Duda an extended tryout at first base, leaving Davis without a position. Martino writes in a follow-up piece that the Orioles once offered offered Zach Britton for Davis, although that offer is no longer pending.
The Pirates, who tonight will start Travis Ishikawa at first base for the fourth straight game to start the season, remain an obvious potential trade partner if the Mets do decide to trade Davis. Trade rumors surrounding Davis decreased in volume this spring after he spent much of March working through a calf injury. Davis, 27, hit a disappointing .205/.326/.334 in 377 plate appearances for the Mets last season, although he hit .286/.449/.505 in the second half.