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Javier Baez Rumors
The Cubs announced today that wunderkind Kris Bryant has been assigned to Minor League camp, indicating that he will not make the team’s Opening Day roster out of Spring Training. Second baseman Javier Baez was also optioned to Triple-A today.
The Bryant decision was widely expected, as the Cubs’ long-term benefit by optioning Bryant is almost impossible to ignore. Keeping Bryant in the Minors for even 12 days will leave him with 171 days of Major League service time this season, or one day shy of a full year. In other words, rather than controlling Bryant from 2015-20, the Cubs would gain an extra year of control and have the rights to Bryant through the 2021 season.
Oftentimes, teams will be willing to bring a player north to open the season because they plan on trying to negotiate a long-term deal eventually anyhow. The Cubs may well have interest in extending Bryant — why wouldn’t they? — but Bryant is also a client of agent Scott Boras, who traditionally encourages his players to go year-to-year through arbitration and test the free agent market as early as possible. While there are exceptions — Carlos Gomez, Jered Weaver and Carlos Gonzalez each come to mind — the Cubs have to know that their odds of buying out any of Bryant’s free agent years in advance are considerably thinner than they would be if Bryant had different representation.
Boras has been very vocal on the matter, which has been one of the most oft-discussed storylines this Spring Training. Boras told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that the Cubs had to make a choice regarding Bryant: “Are they going to present to their market that they are trying to win? [Cubs owner] Tom Ricketts said they were all about winning.” Boras would go on to argue that Bryant should have been promoted last September when the rosters expanded.
While it’s not surprising to see an agent advocating for the promotion of his player, it’s also hard to dismiss Boras’ comments as those of a biased party. Bryant batted a ridiculous .325/.438/.661 with 43 homers between Double-A and Triple-A last season, and he crushed nine homers in just 44 spring plate appearances while slashing .425/.477/1.175. Ranked by several outlets as the game’s top prospect, Bryant has certainly made a case that he belongs at the Major League level, and it’s difficult to compose an argument that he is not ready for the Majors, from a baseball standpoint.
The Cubs, of course, will not indicate that service time plays an issue in the decision. (Doing so would open the door for a grievance.) However, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein pointed out to reporters that he has never once taken a prospect north to open the season if it meant making his Major League debut, as he feels that Opening Day is a difficult time for a young player to debut. He also cited a belief that it’s good for players to be in a rhythm when called up to the Majors for the first time.
Needless to say, the service time rules that frequently cause teams to stash prospects in the Minors to delay their free agency or to avoid Super Two status figure to be a major talking point in the next collective bargaining agreement. Last year, there was plenty of controversy around the promotion timelines for prospects Gregory Polanco, Jon Singleton and George Springer, among others. MLBPA executive director has called the tactic “unfortunate,” though certain playerss, including Andrew Miller, have voiced an understanding that it’s part of the game.
In the case of Baez, it’s perhaps not surprising to see him begin the year in the Minors. He hit just 169/.227/.324 last season and struck out in more than 40 percent of his plate appearances, and this spring he batted .173/.218/.231 with 20 punchouts in 55 PA. Baez racked up 55 days of service time last year, and he’ll need 117 additional days in 2015 to reach one full year of big league service time.
If all the high-profile moves the White Sox have made this offseason don’t work out, the organization plans to be “nimble” in trying to contend in 2016 and beyond, GM Rick Hahn tells MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “Knock on wood, given the young players that we have in the organization now and the ones we have coming and players under control for the next several years, I don’t think that what happens in ’15 is going to cause us to take a significant step backwards in terms of that plan,” says Hahn. “It just may have us reallocate assets to future seasons so that we can get back on track quickly.” That might suggest that the White Sox could trade someone like Jeff Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency after 2015, if the team doesn’t contend this summer. That stands to reason, of course, although it’s somewhat rare to hear a GM describe contingency plans in a year in which his team is expected to contend. Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- Twins infielder Brian Dozier‘s new extension contains a few potential bonuses, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Dozier can make $100K for winning and MVP or World Series MVP award, plus $25K for Gold Gloves or All-Star appearances.
- The Cubs haven’t yet decided whether Javier Baez will make the team out of camp, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com writes. “You put your present and future hat on. In the present tense, there has to be some adjustments made at the plate; future tense, I can see all those things coming together,” says manager Joe Maddon. Baez hit nine homers in 229 big-league plate appearances last year, but struck out in 41% of his plate appearances. As Tim Dierkes noted in today’s Offseason In Review post on the Cubs, Baez is part of a hazy middle infield picture in Chicago.
- Royals reliever Ryan Madson says he has an opt-out at the end of Spring Training, but he hasn’t thought about exercising it, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Madson, who has not appeared in the big leagues since 2011, is simply enjoying getting back to pitching after years of injury troubles.
Members of the White Sox are excited about GM Rick Hahn’s high-profile offseason, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com writes. “They were busy, worked hard and instilled confidence in the guys that were here,” says Adam Eaton. “It kind of credits (us) that ‘This is a good base, this is the time to stretch it.’” For a 73-89 team, the 2014 White Sox had a lot go right, including excellent performances from starters Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, along with an exceptional rookie season from Jose Abreu and good contributions from Eaton and Alexei Ramirez. Now they’ve added Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke to that talent base. “You go from not expecting anything or not knowing what to expect to now you expect quite a bit and expect success,” says Eaton. Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- The Twins believed they had completed two trades that ultimately fell through this offseason, as the players they wanted were traded to other teams, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN reports (Twitter links). Wolfson says he wondered if those trades might have involved Jeremy Hellickson (who went to the Diamondbacks) or J.A. Happ (who headed to the Mariners), but was told no in both cases.
- New Cubs manager Joe Maddon traveled to Puerto Rico to see Javier Baez play winter ball, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat writes, citing a report from the Puerto Rican paper El Nuevo Dia. “He’s trying way too hard,” says Maddon. “I want him to back off. The last thing I want him to do is try to impress me tonight. … I said, ‘Hit a couple singles and, above all, I want to see you smile.’” The 22-year-old Baez’s underwhelming 2014 debut (.169/.227/.324 in 229 plate appearances) was understandable given his youth, although he’ll probably have to improve his strikeout rate before he can make an impact in the big leagues. He’ll compete for a spot in the Cubs’ infield in Spring Training.
The Pirates deserve praise for the depth they’ve built on their Major League roster, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his daily Insider-only blog post (subscription required and recommended). More and more, Olney writes, the Pirates are beginning to look like the second coming of the perennially-contending Cardinals, with talented players that can handle multiple positions, safeguarding the club against regression and injury. For instance, Josh Harrison can play right field if Gregory Polanco‘s adjustment to the Majors stalls again in 2015, with Jung-ho Kang sliding into third in his stead. Kang could also unseat Jordy Mercer at short if Mercer struggles, and the team has plenty of options at first base in addition to Pedro Alvarez, including Corey Hart, Sean Rodriguez and Andrew Lambo. That depth breeds success, which paired with the revitalization of pitchers A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, Edinson Volquez and Vance Worley, makes Pittsburgh a very desirable free agent destination — particularly for pitchers.
More on the Pirates and the NL Central…
- The questions about Kang’s defense may not be an issue given how the Pirates have used shifts to cover up for their generally unimpressive fielding, Fangraphs’ Miles Wray writes. If Kang’s defense isn’t an issue, Wray feels the Bucs made an acceptable risk in signing Kang given his power-hitting potential.
- Javier Baez is having a tough time in Puerto Rico winter ball, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reports, as the Cubs prospect is still plagued by strikeouts. It is starting to look like Baez could begin the 2015 season in Triple-A unless he enjoys a big Spring Training.
- Tony Cingrani and Anthony DeSclafani are the current favorites to fill the two remaining spots in the Reds rotation, though manager Bryan Price tells reporters (including C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer) that nothing has been decided. Jason Marquis, David Holmberg and Raicel Iglesias stand out as possible contenders to earn a rotation spot in Spring Training, with Iglesias something of an “X-factor” given how he went several months without pitching while arranging his departure from Cuba.
As a former player, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly can relate to what Cubs prospects Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara are going through, writes David Just of the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s just a time factor with the young guys,” Mattingly said. “They can look good right away, and the next year they come out and it doesn’t look good. Or they can look kind of shaky and figure a lot of it out. So time is going to tell.” As a youngster, Mattingly got off to a slow start with the Yankees, hitting .278 with a .326 on-base percentage in his first 98 games during the 1982 and ’83 seasons. He then led the American League in hits, doubles, and batting average in 1984.
Here’s the latest from the NL Central:
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington says re-signing catcher Russell Martin is a priority for the franchise, tweets Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We are going to try to do everything we can to keep Russ,” said Huntington. “We’d love nothing more than to have (Martin) in a Pirates uniform.“
- Huntington, however, reiterated the Pirates will not veer from their financial philosophy. “We’re going to continue to have to pay guys for what we believe they’re going to do, and not what they’ve done,” said Huntington (as quoted by MLB.com’s Stephen Pianovich). “The bigger markets certainly have luxury to be able to extend much beyond comfort levels to pay an extra year or two, to pave over prior mistakes with more money.“
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin does not “think there’s a need to go out and try to get another starter” and will instead focus on offense this offseason, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. The Brewers are all but certain to pick up the $13MM option on Yovani Gallardo, McCalvy opines.
- The Brewers‘ biggest offseason decisions will be the infield corners and whether to exercise Gallardo’s option, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a recent chat. The Brewers will consider both internal and external options at first base, but Haudricourt notes finding productive first basemen is easier said than done.
- In a separate piece, Haudricourt writes Rickie Weeks is nearing the end of his tenure with the Brewers (his $11.5MM option isn’t expected to be exercised), but the team’s senior member in terms of service time is not thinking about 2015. “I’ll worry about that when the time comes,” Weeks said. “I’m still with the Brewers right now. That’s the way I look at it.“
- “What we’d really like is to have a bunch of really good baserunners,” is what Cubs manager Rick Renteria told reporters, including MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, when asked about the club’s 2015 wish list.
The Cubs will promote star prospect Javier Baez in time for tomorrow’s game against the Rockies at Coors Field, Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com reports (Twitter link). Corresponding moves still need to be made to make room for the Puerto Rico native on both the Cubs’ 25- and 40-man rosters. Baez is a client of the Wasserman Media Group, as he just hired his new representation last week.
Baez is a consensus top-10 prospect in the game, as detailed in recent midseason minor league rankings by Baseball Prospectus (which puts him at #5), MLB.com (#6), Baseball America (#7) and ESPN’s Keith Law (#8). The 21-year-old impressed many with a big Spring Training performance but then got off to a slow start in his first couple of months at Triple-A. After 434 plate appearances for Iowa, however, Baez is hitting .260/.323/.510 with 23 home runs, so it seems his power swing is ready for the big league spotlight.
Originally selected ninth overall in the 2011 draft, Baez has a .278/.336/.545 slash line in 1350 minor league PA, cranking 76 homers and stealing 62 bases (out of 79 attempts) over his four minor league seasons. The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook says that Baez could stand to slow down some of the natural aggressiveness in his game, yet raved about his “special bat speed” and baseball instincts. The Handbook gave Baez’s power a 75 scouting grade (out of 80) and said “he profiles as an all-star-caliber, 30-homer infielder wherever he lands.”
It seems likely that Baez will land at second base for his Major League debut, with Starlin Castro entrenched at shortstop at Arismendy Alcantara (another well-regarded prospect) capable of shifting to center field. Baez is a natural shortstop but has seen playing time at the keystone at Triple-A in preparation for both playing alongside Castro and because there is some concern that he might be better suited for second or third base over the long term. With Castro locked into a relatively expensive contract through at least 2019 and a wealth of strong infield prospects (Baez, Alcantara, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell) in Chicago’s system, it will be interesting to see how the Cubs juggle all these young talents in the coming years.
Photo courtesy of Rick Scuteri/USA Today Sports Images
This is the third agency that Baez has been with in the past year, as he began with Jet Sports Management and then joined KPS Sports before this most recent switch. Baez is a consensus top 10 prospect in the Majors based on the recent midseason lists compiled by Baseball Prospectus (#5), MLB.com (#6), Baseball America (#7) and Keith Law of ESPN (#8). The 21-year-old is currently hitting .254/.314/.486 with 19 homers at Triple-A Iowa and has recently been seeing some time at second base in addition to his usual position of shortstop — perhaps preparing him for a potential position change at the big league level.
By joining WMG, Baez will be represented by the same agency that represents a vast number of Major Leaguers, including Yoenis Cespedes, Nelson Cruz, Bartolo Colon, Yasiel Puig, Kris Medlen and Addison Reed. For additional agency info on more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players, check out MLBTR’s Agency Database. If you see any errors or omissions, please contact us via email: email@example.com.
The Cubs are receiving some trade interest in Starlin Castro but don’t expect to trade him this month, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports 1. That lines up with a tweet from Newsday’s David Lennon earlier this week, when Lennon noted that Castro isn’t expected to be dealt in 2015, and the Cubs may slide him over to third base in 2015. That would be a surprise, given the organization’s wealth of third base prospects, although such a move would clear a spot for Javier Baez.
Here’s more on the Cubs and the NL Central…
- For what it’s worth, Baez made his first professional appearance at second base in last night’s Triple-A contest, as first noted by Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register last night (on Twitter). Getting Baez some looks at second base could also clear a path for him, though the Cubs have been wowed by the early returns on fellow top prospect Arismendy Alcantara. Suffice it to say, the Cubs’ infield depth is flat out enviable.
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin spoke to reporters, including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, and discussed the trade deadline. Melvin noted that he will have his ears open, but he isn’t fixated on the idea that making an acquisition is necessary for his team to reach the postseason. He cited a lack of availability of quality first basemen and the eventual returns of Tyler Thornburg and Jim Henderson when asked about perceived needs in the ‘pen and at first. Said Melvin: “If you can add, you add. But I like our team.”
- Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was a guest on the Baseball Tonight podcast with Buster Olney today and discussed the Cardinals second-half needs. While he says the absence of Yadier Molina should be the team’s biggest issue, a quieter concern is how many innings they get from the rotation. Of the team’s current starters, only Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright have shown the ability to pitch deep into games. Cardinals starters other than Lynn and Wainwright have averaged just 5 1/3 innings per start.
- Goold also says the Cardinals know that at some point, they have to make some kind of move to address their outfield surplus. Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, James Ramsey and Oscar Taveras are all potential long-term pieces, and the team also has Peter Bourjos, Jon Jay and Allen Craig as center field/right field options. Dangling Grichuk, Piscotty, Ramsey and Taveras will get them in the conversation for a number of pitchers, he adds.
- Goold thinks the Cardinals would be willing to at least discuss the possibility of sending Taveras to Tampa in a Price trade (though he doesn’t mention specific confirmation of that fact), but such a deal might be contingent on St. Louis securing an extension with Price. Talks between the two sides would be interesting, Goold notes, because the sides value players and value team control so similarly. Olney speculates that Price would be open to an extension with the Cards, noting the proximity of St. Louis to Price’s native Nashville.
The Mets have made Bartolo Colon available in trades, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin reports. The team isn’t thought to be seriously negotiating a Colon trade at this time, though a Major League source thinks the Mets will start hearing more offers on the veteran right-hander over the next week.
It was reported last week that the Mets were listening to offers for the 41-year-old Colon, who fits as a trade chip given his contract ($3.75MM remaining this season and $11MM in 2015) and the fact that New York has the young pitching depth to take Colon’s spot in the rotation both this season and next. The Mets could wait until past the July 31st deadline to move Colon and “it is not a foregone conclusion that he will be dealt” at all, Rubin writes.
The Mets’ deadline needs include a power-hitting left fielder and a shortstop who can supplant Ruben Tejada, Rubin reports, though these pieces wouldn’t necessarily come from a Colon trade. (While Colon is still pitching effectively, his age will likely prevent the Mets from landing a true impact young player in return.) The Diamondbacks and Cubs stand out as teams with a possible surplus at shortstop, and the Mets have been connected to Didi Gregorius in the past, though Rubin hears that Tony La Russa is still evaluating Arizona’s roster and may wait until the offseason for major moves.
As for the Cubs, the addition of Addison Russell to an organization that already has Starlin Castro in the bigs and star prospect Javier Baez at Triple-A would seem to make them trade partners for the Mets as well. Rubin says that Baez “is believed to be a more realistic target” for the Mets, though it would take a major deal to get Chicago to part with a player who is a consensus top-10 prospect in baseball, despite Baez’s underwhelming Triple-A numbers this season.
To create room in the outfield, the Mets are trying to find trades for Chris Young and Eric Young Jr. Neither player is enjoying a particularly strong season, though Young Jr. will be more attractive to other teams due to his speed (25-for-28 in steals) and two remaining years of team control, whereas Chris Young is owed over $3MM for the rest of the year.
A look at some of the latest pertaining to the White Sox and Cubs…
- In an ESPN Insider piece (subscription recommended), Paul Swydan writes that White Sox GM Rick Hahn and his baseball operations staff are doing an excellent job with the team's rebuild. The Sox are stockpiling young talent such as Adam Eaton, Matt Davidson, Avisail Garcia and Leury Garcia through trades while spending money on young assets like Jose Abreu and still managing to showcase trade chips such as Alejandro De Aza, Adam Dunn and Alexei Ramirez. They're also not stubbornly clinging to the past by overplaying longtime cornerstone Paul Konerko or the disappointing Dayan Viciedo.
- Cubs top prospect Javier Baez provided a reminder that there's more to minor league development than simply producing on the field, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times. After being called out on a check-swing third strike, Baez was ejected for arguing with the umpire and then got into a dugout altercation with veteran catcher Eli Whiteside. Cubs president Theo Epstein offered this take on the incident: "Players are in the minor leagues to develop physically and fundamentally, and also mentally and emotionally. … It was not a huge deal, but something he can grow from. It sounds like from the reports we got, teammates were right to call him out, and he handled that the right way. Javy’s a great kid who’s the youngest player in Triple-A, and he has some room to continue to grow. And he will."
- Wittenmyer also reports that while the Cubs are indeed talking about selling non-voting shares to minority investors, that money won't be seen by the baseball operations department. Epstein tells Wittenmyer that the money from such dealings would be allocated solely to renovations for Wrigley Field. Wittenmyer reports that team officials feel the renovations could be completed in four years as opposed to the previously believed five years. Chairman Tom Ricketts estimates an additional $30-40MM in revenue based on the renovations, but it's unclear how that money will impact the team's payroll.