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- Right-Hander Norge Ruiz Leaves Cuba, Will Seek Deal With MLB Club
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Jarrod Saltalamacchia Rumors
The Padres could be facing an extended absence for first baseman Yonder Alonso following a shoulder injury sustained in last night’s contest, reports MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom. Alonso is slated to have an MRI today after jamming his shoulder while diving to field a grounder. The 28-year-old was already scheduled for an x-ray on the shoulder today as well, Bloom notes, having been hit by a pitch there over the weekend — an incident which led to soreness that cost him two games in this week’s series against the Giants. Losing Alonso would be a difficult setback for the Padres for a number of reasons. The former top prospect is hitting well this season, with a .333/.427/.437 batting line in 103 plate appearances. He’s also the only true first baseman on the 25-man roster, and he’s been the most productive left-handed bat on an exceptionally right-leaning Padres roster.
In other news from the NL West…
- The D-Backs made no promises to Jarrod Saltalamacchia upon signing him to a Minor League deal, writes Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic. In fact, chief baseball officer Tony La Russa tells Buchanan that the team wouldn’t have signed Saltalamacchia had he and agent Jim Munsey insisted on being added to the 25-man roster. The club has received virtually no offense from Tuffy Gosewisch thus far — though Gosewisch did respond to Salty’s signing by lacing three doubles on Thursday — but manager Chip Hale said they knew they’d likely be sacrificing some offense for Gosewisch’s glove. The D-Backs were hoping to have more offense from the rest of the order, making the need for production from catcher a bit less glaring. “It depends on how much our shortstop hits, how much our second baseman hits,” said Hale. “You can’t have it be really tough on you after the fifth hitter.”
- Hunter Pence has yet to play in the second season of his five-year, $90MM contract with the Giants, but the right fielder is set to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Sacramento on Friday, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Pence is in line for a relatively long rehab assignment, possibly as many as 10 games according to Schulman, in order to make up some of the lost ground from missing Spring Training. Justin Maxwell and Gregor Blanco have shouldered the load in Pence’s absence, but the Giants’ collective .229/.305/.400 line from right fielders clearly isn’t equal to what Pence can provide.
- Dodgers righty Brandon Beachy is traveling with the Dodgers and working with VP of medical services Stan Conte and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt on changing his mechanics, writes Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. The changes, made in an effort to prevent further elbow injury once he’s healed from his second Tommy John surgery, were Beachy’s idea. Conte immediately supported the pitcher’s interest in pitching mechanics and biomechanics. Beachy admitted that he’s having trouble commanding his pitches thus far in bullpen sessions, perhaps in part due to the new mechanics. While he has plenty of time to iron out the kinks, reduced control would be a trade-off Beachy would happily make if it meant avoiding another surgery. “I think I’d rather be less effective and be able to stay healthy for longer than one or two months.”
7:39pm: Saltalamacchia can opt out of his contract if he isn’t on Arizona’s Major League roster by June 1, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. The opt-out clause likely won’t be an issue, however, as the catcher is expected to join the D’Backs well before the end of the month.
2:22pm: The Diamondbacks took some strides to address their early catching woes on Thursday when they announced that they’ve signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a Minor League contract following the veteran catcher’s release from the Marlins (Twitter link). Saltalamacchia is a client of agent Jim Munsey, who took some time to sit down with MLBTR Podcast host Jeff Todd to discuss his client’s release from the Marlins (in addition to several other issues).
The 30-year-old Saltalamacchia inked a three-year, $21MM pact with the Marlins in the 2013-14 offseason, but the south Florida native’s homecoming didn’t go as planned. Saltalamacchia batted just .220/.320/.362 with the Marlins last season, and he found himself released this year after a 2-for-29 start to the season. The move came as somewhat of a surprise, given the fact that Saltalamacchia had roughly $14.16MM remaining on his contract at the time he was designated for assignment. The Marlins attempted to trade Saltalamacchia, according to several reports, and it was at least somewhat of another surprise that they weren’t able to find a team willing to pay $1-2MM of the remaining commitment to ensure that they were able to sign him.
As it stands, the D-Backs will reap the benefits, as Miami is on the hook for the entirety of Saltalamacchia’s salary, minus the pro-rated portion of the league minimum that the D-Backs will pay him for any time spent on the active roster.
Arizona’s catching situation has been dismal in 2015, with Tuffy Gosewisch and Jordan Pacheco combining to bat .219/.276/.250 — much of which has been fueled by an unsustainable .400 BABIP for Pacheco (as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted last night). The move from the spacious Marlins Park to Arizona’s Chase Field should prove to be quite advantageous for Saltalamacchia, who has 15-25 homer pop in the past and boasts an above-average .175 isolated power mark (slugging minus batting average). Saltalamacchia has long been a better hitter against right-handed pitching than left-handed pitching, as evidenced by a career .775 OPS versus righties and a .596 mark versus lefties. That could allow the D-Backs to effectively platoon Saltalamacchia and Gosewisch, and while Gosewisch doesn’t offer much offense against lefties, he’s considered a stronger defender, so a platoon would minimize some of Saltalamacchia’s defensive deficiencies, to an extent.
Saltalamacchia at one point, from 2011-12, graded as an excellent pitch-framer, but his marks in that regard of deteriorated, as he was below-average in 2013 and graded out as one of the worst in the league in 2014. He’s also thrown out just 22 percent of attempted base-stealers in his career, although in 2011 he was decisively above average in that regard as well, catching 31 percent of those who attempted to run against him.
In the end, the move is a no-risk endeavor for the D-Backs, who will hope that Saltalamacchia can help bridge the gap to prospect Peter O’Brien, whom the organization still hopes can handle catching in the Majors. O’Brien has been moved to the outfield in the early stages of the season after developing a concerning issue with throwing the ball back to the mound at the end of Spring Training, and scouts from other organizations have long questioned whether or not the powerful prospect will be an adequate defender behind the plate.
Saltalamacchia will head to Triple-A to get some at-bats before joining the big league club, tweets Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona. Between paternity leave and his DFA period, Saltalamacchia hasn’t appeared in a game since April 23.
The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro was the first to report that the D-Backs were expected to sign Saltalmacchia. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reported that the two sides had agreed to a Minor League deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Red Sox announced today that they have relieved pitching coach Juan Nieves of his duties. Nieves joined the Boston coaching staff prior to the 2013 season and assisted the club’s World Series run in a year in which the team’s pitching staff posted a collective 3.79 ERA. GM Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell spoke to the media on a conference call today to discuss that change, the club’s rotation and a few other notes. Here are some highlights and a bit more on the BoSox…
- The Red Sox have a very small list of replacement candidates for Nieves, Cherington said (Twitter links via WEEI’s Rob Bradford). Boston is considering at least one internal and one external candidate. The primary reason for Nieves’ dismissal was an inability to get through to Boston’s current group of starters, Bradford tweets. Cherington stressed that there was no singular incident that led to the decision to let Nieves go, the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber tweets. There will be no further changes to the coaching staff, he added (via Bradford).
- Despite struggles within the rotation, there will be no changes to the starting five, according to Cherington (via the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier). Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson, Wade Miley, Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz have combined for a 5.54 ERA that is the second-worst rotation ERA in the Majors, with only Colorado’s 5.59 mark coming in above Boston’s starting five.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that Indians Triple-A pitching coach Carl Willis is a consideration to replace Nieves (Twitter link). Willis, who has formerly served as the Major League pitching coach in Cleveland, worked with Farrell in the Indians organization in the early to mid-2000s, Rosenthal adds in a second tweet. Willis was also the Mariners’ pitching coach as recently as 2013.
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia spoke with Bradford yesterday and told him that he “was definitely hoping to come back” to Boston after initially learning that the Marlins had designated him for assignment. However, Saltalamacchia was told that he’d have to search elsewhere for employment, and he tells Bradford that he understands the Sox’ decision in wanting to give Blake Swihart a chance behind the plate. “I can completely respect that,” said Saltalamacchia, in regards to Swihart. “As a player you appreciate something like that, when a team has a homegrown, young guy they want to give an opportunity to. That’s what every player hopes for and wants, that opportunity to prove himself.”
Jim Munsey of Munsey Sports Management, the representative of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and other big leaguers, sat down with host Jeff Todd for today’s podcast. Munsey discusses his work for the just-released Saltalamacchia, including a busy last couple of days looking for a new home for his client.
Munsey also talks about the challenges and rewards of running a smaller agency, and gives some updates and insight into two of his other other clients: injured relievers Sean Burnett (a free agent) and Neil Wagner (Rays).
The MLB Trade Rumors Podcast runs weekly on Thursday afternoons.
The Diamondbacks are expected to agree to terms with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports on Twitter. Saltalamacchia must first clear release waivers, which will occur today, before he can reach formal agreement.
Saltalamacchia, 30, was released by the Marlins in the early going this year despite still having two years and about $14MM left on his contract. Miami will be left with those obligations since the club was unable to find a taker for some of his salary.
Of course, that means that the veteran backstop offers an essentially free opportunity for other clubs to add a power left-handed bat behind the dish. (The switch-hitter has always fared better against righties.) Though he has had his struggles defensively, Saltalamacchia remains as intriguing a player as can be hoped for in early May.
All said, linking up with Arizona makes eminent sense for both sides. The D’Backs’ catching situation has been even worse than expected, with starter Tuffy Gosewisch scuffling badly offensively. The team has little to lose and plenty to gain by installing Saltalamacchia in some kind of timeshare.
6:11pm: The Orioles are not expected to land the backstop, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports on Twitter.
6:08pm: A deal could come together by tomorrow, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Mariners, Orioles, and Royals are the teams that have joined the D’Backs in pursuit, per Cafardo.
9:11am: The D’Backs are joined by three other teams in “looking at” the backstop, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. The Red Sox and Rays are not among them, he adds.
8:28am: Arizona has indeed already reached out to Saltalamacchia, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. Multiple clubs are involved early in the process, per the report.
8:19am: The Diamondbacks are considering a run at newly-minted free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Arizona was said to be one of the teams discussing the veteran with the Marlins prior to his release.
“He’s a player that we’re going to talk a little bit more in-depth about,” said GM Dave Stewart. “I have to see what our scouts are saying and talk to our internal guys, and if it makes sense then we’ll make the next step.”
Now that Saltalamacchia’s large salary is destined to remain entirely on the Marlins’ tab, clubs can pursue him as a risk-free addition. It remains to be seen what kind of market will develop now that Salty is back on the open market, but competition to acquire his services will presumably focus on non-compensatory matters, such as playing time, fit, and location.
Arizona’s catching situation has been as unproductive as expected, though at least four other teams have compiled more negative fWAR at the position. Starter Tuffy Gosewisch has slashed just .176/.222/.176 through 72 plate appearances. And while the versatile Jordan Pacheco has provided some value offensively, his .280/.379/.400 slash is fueled by a .400 BABIP and seems highly likely to come back to earth.
Stewart acknowledged that situation, saying while he liked the job Gosewisch has done behind the plate, “we still expect a little more offense from him.” While the rookie GM did not give any indication that Gosewisch’s time was short, he did make clear that change was not out of the question: “He may make those adjustments,” said Stewart, “but with that being said, we have to at least go through the process internally and see if Saltalamacchia is an option to bring here.”
All said, the D’Backs look like precisely the kind of club that ought to take a shot on a return to form from Saltalamacchia, who just turned thirty a few days ago. He may never get back to the low-OBP but high-power option he was before going to Miami, but his ceiling is known and is obviously higher than that of most freely available talent. At the very least, the switch-hitting Saltalamacchia has always high right-handed pitching, making him a useful option to pair with a right-handed bat.
After a more in-depth look at the Brewers earlier today, here’s a look around the rest of the NL Central…
- The Reds will not pursue catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia despite an injury that could force Devin Mesoraco to undergo hip surgery, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Mesoraco will serve as a pinch-hitter/interleague DH and try to delay surgery for as long as he is able. The Reds have 8 games in AL parks over the coming two weeks, Rosenthal adds. The decision not to place Mesoraco on the disabled list is strange, to say the least, as he’s contributed a mere eight plate appearances to the Reds dating back to April 12. By opting not to place Mesoraco on the DL, the Reds have given manager Bryan Price a limited bench with which to work and prevented themselves from perhaps adding some defensive versatility or speed to the bench.
- Oft-injured Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia has ramped up his throwing program to a 70-pitch live BP, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports on Twitter. At this point, St. Louis probably cannot count on much from Garcia, given his significant shoulder problems, but would surely welcome the opportunity to get what it can from him with Adam Wainwright down for the year.
- The Pirates ought to seriously consider giving more time to infielder Jung-ho Kang, Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review opines. Pittsbugh’s offense has scuffled badly, of course, with shortstop Jordy Mercer and third baseman Josh Harrison among the struggling starters. It would not be surprising to see Kang appear more frequently in the lineup, particularly given that he has exhibited some promising signs with a 10.3% walk rate, 17.9% strikeout rate, and sturdy .265/.333/.412 overall batting line, along with solid-enough defensive ratings, all in a short sample. Harrison, at least, presumably has a reasonably long leash after signing a significant extension over the offseason.
Right-hander Brett Myers, who spent parts of 12 Major League seasons with the Phillies, Astros, White Sox and Indians, said in an interview with Section215.com that he’s enjoying retired life and believes that his playing days are likely over. Myers explained that over the final few years of his playing career, he missed spending time with his children, but he now is enjoying coaching his 10-year-old son’s baseball team. In his career, the former 12th overall pick posted a 4.25 ERA a 97-96 record, 40 saves, 7.3 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 1710 big league innings spent as both a starter and a closer. His playing days were also marred by off-field issues, including charges of domestic violence that were eventually dropped at his wife’s request, and an expletive-laced tirade aimed at a Phillies beat reporter whom he ultimately threatened with physical violence.
Some more notes from around the league…
- Though Chris Iannetta has struggled tremendously with the bat in 2015, the Angels don’t consider Jarrod Saltalamacchia a fit, reports MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. The 30-year-old Saltalamacchia cleared release waivers earlier today and is free to sign with any club. Gonzalez also adds that the Angels are hopeful that fellow catcher Drew Butera will clear waivers, giving them a chance to keep him in the organization following his recent DFA.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow discussed the timelines for prospects Carlos Correa and Mark Appel with Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, and Drellich notes that the 20-year-old Correa could very likely beat the 23-year-old Appel to the Majors. Luhnow acknowledged that Correa has a good chance of being promoted to Triple-A this month, once they see a bit more of how he reacts to facing teams and pitchers for the second time in Double-A. Appel, meanwhile, has struggled a bit at Double-A, and the GM said he’d like to see some consistently dominant outings from Appel before moving him up the Minor League ladder.
- Brendan Rodgers of Florida’s Lake Mary High School is the first of three shortstops perched atop Keith Law’s list of Top 100 Draft prospects at ESPN.com (Insider subscription required and highly recommended, particularly for draft followers). Arizona’s Kevin Newman and Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson add a pair of college shortstops to the mix, while UC Santa Barbara righty Dillon Tate and prep lefty Kolby Allard round out the top five. Former No. 1 overall consideration Mike Matuella has dropped to 19th, as the Duke right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this spring. Last year’s No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken sits 26th on Law’s list following his own Tommy John surgery.
Miami has announced the release of struggling catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Marlins were not able to find a trade partner for the recently-designated backstop, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Twitter. He will hit the open market after clearing release waivers.
The news rates as at least a mild surprise. Miami had hoped to find a team to pick up at least some of the approximately $6MM left on his 2015 salary, to say nothing of the $8MM owed next year. Several clubs were reported to be in talks with the Fish, but apparently none were willing to offer enough value to warrant a deal.
Salty is a virtual certainty to clear release waivers and reach free agency, given that any claiming team would need to take on his contract. That will afford the clubs with prior interest an opportunity to add him at a pro-rated portion of the league minimum salary.
It has been a swift fall from grace for Saltalamacchia, who like several recent free agents before him simply never panned out in Miami. He has slashed a meager .209/.310/.351 over his 468 plate appearances since joining the club, a far cry from his .243/.307/.455 output over four seasons with the Red Sox.
Despite his troubles on offense and generally poorly-regarded work behind the plate, Saltalamacchia has a rare track record of useful production from the left side of the plate. The switch-hitter managed a .707 OPS last year against right-handers, making him a potentially appealing platoon mate for multiple teams around the league.
While several young backstops (J.T. Realmuto, Austin Hedges, Blake Swihart) have been promoted in recent weeks, there is still a dearth of offensively-useful catchers in the game. Among those who have seen at least twenty turns at bat this year, just 19 have registered above-average batting production. Meanwhile, injuries to players such as Matt Wieters, Travis d’Arnaud, Ryan Hanigan, and Christian Vazquez have sapped the overall depth around the game.
The Phillies are “waiting with open arms” to find the right trade for at least one of their big-name veteran players, a major league official tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. That list of big names, of course, includes ace Cole Hamels, though Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley could also be moved, Cafardo writes. Amaro recently told reporters that he’s willing to eat part of Hamels’ contract in a trade if necessary, and that could help bring about a deal for the Phillies. More from today’s column..
- Major league sources tell Cafardo that the tampering investigation brought by Rays owner Stuart Sternberg against the Cubs for their hiring of Joe Maddon was reopened when Sternberg objected to the original verdict. In the end, however, it was found that there was no tampering in the negotiations.
- Marlins GM Dan Jennings thought he had trade possibilities for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was designated for assignment last week. He’s currently in the 10-day limbo period in which he could be traded, claimed, or put on waivers.
- Scouts are still waiting for Red Sox outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig to bust out and it appears Boston is going to play him more to boost his trade value. Cafardo notes that Craig has historically hit well in the month of May.
- The Red Sox are trying to create roster versatility by using players at different positions. Shortstop Deven Marrero is the team’s latest experiment after seeing time at second base. One NL scout isn’t so wild about the concept. “He’s a terrific athlete so he’ll do well at the other positions, but this is the type of guy where you know he’s a terrific shortstop so why mess around with that?” said the scout. “He’s got high confidence as a shortstop and now you’re reducing that confidence level by making him play positions he’s not used to.”