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J.D. Martinez Rumors
It’s already been a busy day for AL Central news. We’ve learned Corey Kluber and the Indians aren’t close in contract negotiations, MLBTR’s Zach Links has a pair of interviews with Twins GM Terry Ryan and right-hander Mike Pelfrey, and Minnesota also grabbed headlines by inking second baseman Brian Dozier to a four-year, $20MM extension. Here’s even more from around the division…
- Dozier, Ryan, Twins assistant GM Rob Antony and Dozier’s agent Damon Lapa discussed the contract during a press conference today (Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has the details). The two sides discussed extensions of up to eight years in length, but they instead settled on a deal that only covers Dozier’s arbitration years and doesn’t include any club options. “In Brian’s case, we felt it important to restrict the club’s ability at the back end of the contract to have any options or anything like that,” Lapa said. “To us that resulted in a shorter term, but we feel in the long run that’s in Brian’s best interests. It preserves his ability to hit free agency on time at 31 as opposed to some of the other players who will be in their mid-30s.”
- While retaining the ability to test free agency was a key point for Dozier, he made it clear that he would like to spend the rest of his career in Minnesota. He’s quite open to a future extension with the team and “hopefully this [contract] is a stepping stone for something possibly even longer.”
- “There are rumblings some talks are in the works” between David Price and the Tigers about an extension, Tony Paul of the Detroit News writes. Price said two weeks ago that there hadn’t been any negotiations between the two sides but he expected the club to approach him before the start of the season.
- Also from Paul’s piece, he suggests the Tigers should explore extending J.D. Martinez or Nick Castellanos now in order to gain cost certainty over the young players, pick up another year or two of team control and possibly score a bargain if they keep producing. While I’m sure the Tigers would take a team-friendly figure if they could find it (especially with Martinez coming off a huge 2014 season), they might be more inclined to wait a bit longer to make sure of what they really have in either player.
- Royals lefty Brandon Finnegan will begin the season at Double-A, the team announced yesterday. Finnegan, the Royals’ first-round draft pick last July, was fast-tracked to the majors after just 27 minor league innings and he made some important bullpen appearances for K.C. during their playoff run. There was some question as to whether Finnegan would pitch out of the Royals’ bullpen again on Opening Day or if he’d continue developing as a starter at Triple-A, though GM Dayton Moore tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that the move to Double-A was made because “we’re still learning about Brandon.” Pitch counts and workload were also factors, though Moore was pleased with how Finnegan accounted for himself while in the bigs.
James Shields, the top free agent still available, has lost his leverage and is in the worst possible spot as most teams have exhausted their payroll space and are more willing to identify reasons to dismiss an available player, opines ESPN’s Buster Olney in an Insider piece (subscription required). The longer a premium free agent like Shields remains unsigned, Olney notes, the more his negotiating strategy and leverage position are picked apart. Along those lines, a National League GM tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, “It’s hard to project a team would go five years.”
In today’s news and notes from the American League:
- Agent Mark Rodgers told MLB Network Radio’s Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette (audio link) he will listen to any overtures from the White Sox to extend Jeff Samardzija, but his client will most likely find out what his “ultimate value is in the open market, which is what free agency is all about.“
- The Tigers hosted a private workout for Yoan Moncada, reports Lynn Henning of the Detroit News. MLB.com’s Jason Beck adds the workout was held last week at the team’s facility in Lakeland. Both Henning and Beck believe this was simply due diligence on the Tigers’ part because of the signing bonus Moncada will command.
- In today’s mailbag, a reader asks Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer why the Indians allowed J.D. Martinez to slip through their fingers and join their divisional rivals last year. The Tigers, he explained, needed depth in the outfield late in Spring Training. The Tribe, on the other hand, had more than enough with David Murphy, Ryan Raburn, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Michael Brantley. At the time, they didn’t know Raburn would struggle and both Swisher and Bourn would be hindered by injuries.
- Matt Harrison told reporters, including Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News, he expects the Rangers to place him on the 60-day disabled list to open the season. Harrison also acknowleged a minor setback in his rehab, but the issue had to do with his mechanics rather than his health.
- Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar told reporters, including FOX Sports Southwest’s Anthony Andro, he is pleased with the results his throwing program has had on his right shoulder. Profar, who is slated to take some dry swings from the right side this week, said his goal is to play in all of Texas’ Spring Training games.
- In a nod that today is Super Bowl Sunday, Rangers GM Jon Daniels confirmed Russell Wilson will participate in the club’s Spring Training camp, Andro tweets. To illustrate the quarterback’s love of baseball, Rodgers, who also represents Wilson, told MLB Network Radio (audio link), if Wilson could figure out a way to play both sports, he would.
This weekend, the Rangers selected the contract of infielder Guilder Rodriguez, perhaps an unusual step for a 31-year-old who posted a .269/.347/.298 line in 349 plate appearances at Double-A Frisco this season. “This is a dream of every player,” says Rodriguez, via Dallas News’ Gerry Fraley. “Every single day when you wake up, you want this. I waited too many years, but I’m here now.” Rodriguez has unofficially mentored infield prospects like Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas, and the Rangers hope he’ll keep helping youngsters after his playing career is over. Here’s more from around the American League.
- The Astros released J.D. Martinez in March, even though he wasn’t even on their 40-man roster at the time, but now he’s revived his career with the Tigers, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. Martinez credits changes he made to his swing (lowering his hands and closing his stance) with helping him revive his career. He worked on incorporating those changes in Venezuela over the winter. The Astros noticed them, but weren’t sure Martinez would keep using them. Now, he’s hitting .304/.347/.542 in 401 plate appearances for the Tigers.
- The Rays‘ lack of offense is the biggest reason they’ve struggled this year, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. In particular, they haven’t cashed in enough runners on base or hit enough home runs. They’ve also hit into too many double plays.
- The Rays have loved what they’ve gotten from Drew Smyly since they acquired him in the David Price deal in July, writes Topkin. “Outstanding,” manager Joe Maddon says. “His ability right now to get out righties, which had been a problem for him, really speaks to future success. I’ve just been totally impressed with everything about him. We all have.”
Zach Links contributed to this post.
In the video atop his latest Notes column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal states that he feels this will finally be the year that the Rays deal David Price, as they can receive max value for him by dealing their ace to a team that can use him for two playoff pushes. He also adds that he expects the Rays to move Ben Zobrist, even though his price tag is affordable, simply because the demand for Zobrist will be so high.
Here are some more highlights from his column…
- Hanley Ramirez‘s poor glove is perhaps the main reason that he and the Dodgers have yet to agree to an extension, Rosenthal writes. He wonders how much that flaw will impact Ramirez’s value on the open market at a time when teams are placing a higher premium than ever before on defense. He adds that if Ramirez does stay in L.A. and shift to third base in the long-term on his next contract, the team may have to trade Juan Uribe and his $6.5MM 2015 salary.
- Looking at other Dodgers issues, Rosenthal writes that many executives around the league expect that it will ultimately be Matt Kemp who is traded to clear the team’s outfield logjam, though it likely won’t happen until the offseason. He adds that the Dodgers are likely to be in the market for a starting pitcher after the news that Chad Billingsley is out for the season, as Josh Beckett and Dan Haren are tough to rely on down the stretch.
- Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez completely revamped his swing mechanics this offseason before he was released by the Astros in Spring Training. He signed a minor league deal with Detroit two days later and found himself teammates with the man whose mechanics he spent the entire offseason studying — Miguel Cabrera. Martinez tells Rosenthal he watched video of Cabrera and Ryan Braun all winter and “re-invented” himself at the plate. It may not be sustainable, but the early results are positive; Martinez is hitting .300/.333/.570 with six homers in 108 PA with Detroit.
Due to his back injury, Marco Scutaro still isn't playing in extended spring training games, but it's unlikely the Giants will make a trade to replace him anytime soon, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. This week's Ike Davis trade aside, deals involving valuable players generally aren't made in April, and the Giants would likely have to pay heavily to acquire a talented infielder. Later this summer, the Giants still might not make second base their top priority, Schulman suggests — they may instead focus on their bench. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- The Astros are excited about first baseman Jonathan Singleton's performance at Triple-A Oklahoma City, writes MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. The Astros recently promoted top prospect George Springer, and Singleton, who is hitting .343/.449/.776 so far, might not be far behind. "When we sent him down at Spring Training, we told him he was going to let us know when he was ready to come up here by his performance, and so far he's doing an outstanding job," says assistant GM David Stearns. "We'd like to give him more time to continue to work on the aspects of his game that we identified with him that needed some improvement. So far he's addressing them."
- Former Astros outfielder J.D. Martinez is making a strong case to make it back to the big leagues with the Tigers, MLive.com's James Schmehl writes. Martinez is hitting .308/.366/.846 with a remarkable ten home runs in 71 plate appearances for Triple-A Toledo, and the Tigers are currently playing with only three bench players. The Astros somewhat surprisingly released Martinez last month, even though he wasn't on their 40-man roster at the time and was a 26-year-old with 975 plate appearances of big-league experience. Martinez's salary at Triple-A was apparently a factor in the Astros not being able to find another organization for him.
The Tigers announced they have agreed to terms on a minor league deal with outfielder J.D. Martinez and he has reported to minor league camp. The Astros removed Martinez from their 40-man roster in November, and released him on Saturday.
Martinez, 26, hit .251/.300/.387 in 975 plate appearances for the Astros spanning the 2011-13 seasons. Three years ago, Baseball America ranked Martinez sixth among Astros prospects, suggesting he profiled as a second-division regular. The Tigers can use the depth, having lost Andy Dirks to back surgery possibly until June.