- The Redbirds have an impressive selection of outfielders with Dexter Fowler, Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham on hand, but they’re looking to add to the group. General manager John Mozeliak is specifically seeking a left-handed hitter (Piscotty, Grichuk and Pham are righties) who can play multiple positions in the grass. There’s a wide array of current free agents who match that criteria.
- The Cardinals still intend to stretch out erstwhile closer Trevor Rosenthal, a plan which Mozeliak first revealed in November, but it doesn’t seem as if he’ll have a chance to crack their rotation. Instead, the goal is for Rosenthal to serve as a versatile bullpen option. “I think all of us were intrigued by how the postseason went this past year and how pitchers were being used,” said Mozeliak, surely referring to the Indians’ October deployment of Andrew Miller. “I’m not one who thinks that’s really something you can replicate in a 162-game season, but clearly it could be a weapon down the road if you do get to the postseason.”
- There “will be a competition” for the starting third base job this spring, according to Mozeliak. Jedd Gyorko and Jhonny Peralta will vie for the role after experiencing vastly different 2016 campaigns. Gyorko hit a solid .243/.306/.495 and popped a personal-best 30 home runs in only 438 plate appearances, whereas the normally steady Peralta may have endured the worst year of his career. While battling injuries, the 34-year-old batted .260/.307/.408 and posted a negative fWAR (minus-0.5) in 313 PAs.
The Cardinals have informed Matt Carpenter that he’ll be the team’s first baseman entering the 2017 season, GM John Mozeliak told reporters, including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. While Carpenter played quite a bit of first base down the stretch in 2016, he also mixed in some appearances at second base and third base as well. That doesn’t seem like it’ll be the case now, as Carpenter appears poised for everyday duties there.
The 2017 alignment will see Kolten Wong take the reins at second base once again with breakout rookie Aledmys Diaz manning shortstop and serving as his double-play partner on a regular basis. That leaves Jhonny Peralta and Jedd Gyorko as third base options, though Mozeliak did note that Gyorko can move around the diamond and Peralta can occasionally spell Diaz at shortstop.
Nonetheless, the Cardinals’ infield arrangement does seem to lend itself to the possibility of trade scenarios. Peralta has already been an oft-speculated trade candidate as he enters the final season of a four-year $53MM contract that will pay him $10MM in 2017. First baseman Matt Adams, whose primary spot has now been filled by Carpenter, could also be shopped around. Neither player figures to have especially high trade value, though. Peralta missed several months in 2016 due to a thumb injury and batted .260/.307/.408 in 313 plate appearances when healthy. He also drew dismal Defensive Runs Saved/Ultimate Zone Rating marks for his work at third base (-7 and -9, respectively, in just 570 innings).
As for Adams, he batted .249/.309/.471 with 16 homers in 327 trips to the plate. While that power output represented the best of Adams’ career on a rate basis, the 28-year-old has poor overall numbers against left-handed pitching in his career (.212/.243/.352) and carries negative value on the basepaths. He’s also spent time on the disabled list due to myriad physical ailments dating back to the 2012 season, including shoulder inflammation (2016), a torn quad (2015), a calf strain (2014) and an oblique strain (2013). Adams has averaged just 107 games/349 plate appearances per season dating back to 2013 and is projected to earn $2.8MM through arbitration next winter. He’s controllable for two more seasons.
Cardinals shortstop Ruben Tejada left Thursday’s game with a muscle strain in his left quadriceps and will begin the season on the disabled list, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter link). As a result, both infielder Greg Garcia and outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker have made the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com tweets. Tejada’s injury is the latest unfortunate news at shortstop for the Cardinals, who signed the ex-Met earlier this month to replace the injured Jhonny Peralta. With Tejada on the shelf, the Cardinals are expected to start Jedd Gyorko at short in their Sunday opener against Pittsburgh, Goold writes. Garcia, meanwhile, has dealt with his own injury – a sore knee – and put up a meager .289 slugging percentage in 52 plate appearances this spring. Hazelbaker has been far more successful at the plate, amassing a .300/.364/.500 line in 44 PAs. The 28-year-old, a longtime minor leaguer, will finally have a chance to see his first major league action since Boston took him in the fourth round of the 2009 draft.
Here’s more from the National League:
- Righty Matthew Bowman will join Garcia and Hazelbaker on the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster, per Adam Rubin of ESPN.com. The injury to Jordan Walden helped clear a path in the bullpen for Bowman, whom the Cardinals took from the Mets in the Rule 5 draft last December. Bowman has allowed seven earned runs in eight innings this spring while striking out five and walking three.
- Dodgers third baseman/outfielder Alex Guerrero will start the season on the DL after an MRI showed “minimal damage” in his knee, manager Dave Roberts announced (Twitter link via Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times). The fact that Guerrero is DL-bound gives the Dodgers time to delay a roster decision on a player whose contract precludes them from sending him to the minors without his permission. The Dodgers reportedly tried to trade Guerrero over the winter, but they didn’t find any takers. If dealt sometime this season, Guerrero will have a chance to void the final year of his contract and become a free agent next offseason. The 29-year-old is slated to earn $5MM this season after compiling a dismal -0.2 fWAR in 106 games in 2015. In 21 plate appearances this spring, Guerrero slashed .238/.238/.571.
- The Pirates’ decision to give Juan Nicasio their last rotation spot over Ryan Vogelsong was an agonizing one for team brass, general manager Neal Huntington said. “It was the most intense conversation we’ve had,” Huntington stated (via Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review). “There were strong convictions on both sides.” In the end, Nicasio’s dominant Spring Training showing – 15 innings, no runs, 24 strikeouts, five walks – was simply too much for the Pirates to ignore.
- An MRI revealed Thursday that Brewers southpaw Sean Nolin has a left elbow strain, general manager David Stearns said. Nolin will get a second opinion before a prognosis is announced, tweets Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. If Nolin’s diagnosis proves correct, McCalvy expects the 26-year-old to avoid Tommy John surgery. Nolin was a candidate to serve in the Brewers’ bullpen before they had to shut him down earlier this month with the injury. He’ll begin the season on the DL.
10:30am: There are still conflicting reports on the exact amount of money changing hands. $7.5MM will be heading from San Diego to St. Louis, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, with $2.5MM going in 2018 and $5MM in 2019. Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports puts the amount at $7MM (Twitter link) and Scott Miller of Bleacher Report has it at $6.5MM (on Twitter).
9:20am: The Cardinals have officially acquired infielder Jedd Gyorko from the Padres in a deal that will see center fielder Jon Jay head to San Diego. St. Louis will also pick up an as-yet-unreported amount of cash in the trade as well.
Needless to say, that is a surprising development, as St. Louis already has Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong installed at Gyorko’s usual positions of second and third base. While Gyorko could factor as a platoon partner for the left-handed-hitting Wong, who struggled at times last year, and might conceivably also see time at first base, he’d make for a fairly costly super-utility player.
Gyorko is still owed $33MM under the extension he signed with the Pads early in the 2014 season. That covers four years of salary as well as a $1MM buyout on a $13MM club option for 2020.
While the 27-year-old has struggled at times since earning that deal with a strong rookie campaign, he did turn things around at the plate somewhat in the second half of 2015. Over his final 281 plate appearances on the season, Gyorko hit 13 home runs and slashed .259/.299/.440, a batting line that very nearly matches his 2013 output.
Jay, 30, is a left-handed hitter who is owed $6.225MM in 2016 before qualifying for free agency. He missed much of last season with wrist issues, but figures to see steady playing time for the Pads. What remains to be determined is whether he’ll slot in at a corner role or take up the larger part of a platoon with Melvin Upton in center.
While 2015 was more or less a lost season for Jay, he posted five consecutive seasons of average or better offensive production before it. All told, he carries a .287/.354/.384 career slash line in over 2,500 major league plate appearances. Defensively, Jay had a rough 2013 but has generally rated as an average or better option in center.
At his best, Jay is a 2.5 or 3-WAR player. And he fills a need for San Diego at a reasonable price. The team was obviously not only comfortable with, but somewhat interested in, moving on from Gyorko, given that cash will be involved. Presumably, Cory Spangenberg will step into the primary role at second base, though San Diego has several possibilities and may not be done tweaking its infield. Particularly with the future salaries of Gyorko and Craig Kimbrel now off the books (at least in large part) going forward, the club seems a viable threat to add Ian Desmond or another expensive option.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Presented below is the list of players who have qualified for Super Two status for arbitration purposes this year. (Service time in parentheses.) As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently tweeted, the service time cutoff is 2.130. You can find arbitration salary projections for these players right here.
- Dan Jennings, White Sox (2.171)
- George Kontos, Giants (2.171)
- Justin Grimm, Cubs (2.170)
- Arodys Vizcaino, Braves (2.168)
- Avisail Garcia, White Sox (2.167)
- Jurickson Profar, Rangers (2.167)
- Jedd Gyorko, Padres (2.164)
- Juan Lagares, Mets (2.160)
- Didi Gregorius, Yankees (2.159)
- Erasmo Ramirez, Rays (2.158)
- Chris Archer, Rays (2.156)
- Nolan Arenado, Rockies (2.155)
- Will Smith, Brewers (2.155)
- Jean Machi, Red Sox (2.154)
- Seth Maness, Cardinals (2.154)
- Scott Van Slyke, Dodgers (2.151)
- David Lough, Orioles (2.149)
- Chris Hatcher, Dodgers (2.146)
- Evan Scribner, Athletics (2.142)
- Nick Tepesch, Rangers (2.136)
- Zach Putnam, White Sox (2.135)
- Chris Withrow, Braves (2.132)
- Kole Calhoun, Angels (2.130)
- Jeff Manship, Indians (2.130)
- Anthony Rendon, Nationals (2.130)
Click here to read more about how the Super Two concept works. Note that, as the link shows, the originally projected service time cutoff moved down as things played out over the course of the season. That brought some notable names into early arbitration qualification — namely, Calhoun and Rendon — which could have a big impact on their earning power in potential extension scenarios.
It’s also important to bear in mind that several of the players listed above have already agreed to long-term extensions: Gyorko, Lagares, and Archer. Notably, the size of the guarantee provided by Archer’s contract is dependent upon his Super Two status. By reaching it (as had been expected), he keeps a $25.5MM overall guarantee. That total would have been reduced to $20MM otherwise.
That contract structure reflects the importance of reaching Super Two status. Doing so not only bumps a player’s salary a year early, but sets a higher floor for future paydays.
The Pirates may say goodbye to second baseman Neil Walker after the season, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittburgh Tribune-Review. He’s set to earn at least $10MM in his final year of arbitration eligibility. Due to a balky back and the availability of Jung-ho Kang, Jordy Mercer, and Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh may prefer to commit that money to another position. Of course, the Pirates will probably never reach the point of actually non-tendering Walker. Plenty of teams should be interested in a one-year flier on the 30-year-old. Biertempfel offers a fascinating look at Walker who is actually a Pittsburgh native. It’s well worth a read.
- Pittsburgh should actually extend Walker, opines Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Rossi refers to Walker as a fan favorite and lauds his clubhouse presence. Rossi suggests a four-year, $47MM contract as a reasonable compromise. Of course, the notoriously penurious club does have a wealth of affordable middle infield depth with Kang, Harrison, and Mercer on the roster. Prospect Alen Hanson is also close to major league ready. Presumably, Walker could return a decent player via trade too. While it’s tough to part with a hometown fan favorite, sometimes it’s the right thing to do.
- A hot October could lead Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to his desired six-year contract, writes Mark Townsend of Yahoo. While teams may be concerned about offering a big guarantee through his age 36 season, they may be willing to swallow the risk if they can bank on production early in the contract. Of course, no player is a sure thing to repeat past exploits. Postseason success would certainly go a long way towards assuaging any doubts. I said the same earlier tonight when examining the players who most improved their free agent stock.
- The Padres are pleased with Jedd Gyorko’s development at shortstop, writes Corey Brock of MLB.com. The Friars began the experiment to keep both Cory Spangenberg and Gyorko in the lineup. While there is obviously concern about his defense, his offense easily ranks among the best at the position. Advanced statistics like UZR aren’t a fan of his work, but a one month sample is way too small to form a judgment. He hasn’t committed an error and makes all the routine plays. A NL West scout even suggested that he looks more comfortable at short than second. If the club thinks he can continue to man the position in 2016, it could save them from scrounging through the free agent shortstop market.
Though the Diamondbacks have a strong anti-analytics reputation, team president Derrick Hall told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that they’ve hired a pair of full-time employees and two interns recently to add to their growing analytics department. Chief baseball officer Tony La Russa disputed the notion to Rosenthal as well, noting that he feels the data provided by D-Backs analysts is important for game preparation. La Russa wants manager Chip Hale and his coaches to employ “observational analytics” during games, though — that is, to adjust based on what they see on the field and in their guts. That, of course, sounds like a decisively non-analytical approach. The additions to the staff are noteworthy, to be sure, but it’s worth questioning how much buy-in there is at the top of the food chain given quotes such as this one from La Russa: “But once the game starts, you’ve got to really make sure that you don’t let some of the preparation change what your guts and brain are telling you when you look out at the field. During the game, you observe. That supersedes what you would have learned from the preparation going in. … You have to allow your managers and coaches to make adjustments. That’s how you can win extra games.”
Here’s more from the NL West…
- Daniel Hudson has spent the season in the Diamondbacks’ bullpen and seen his velocity tick up to triple digits while working in relief, but the former starter and two-time Tommy John victim tells the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro that he believes he can return to the rotation. “I’d really like to try it again and if we get to a point where we say, ‘Well, we don’t know if this is the smartest thing to do,’ then I’ll be perfectly fine doing whatever they need me to do and just going like that the rest of my career,” says Hudson. As Piecoro notes, the righty was initially placed in the ’pen because doctors didn’t want him tossing more than 80-90 pitches per outing, and there were questions about how deep he could work into games early on as he reestablished his control.
- We’ve touched upon the state of uncertainty in the Giants future rotation several times recently, and Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle is the latest observer to offer his take of the situation. The upcoming rotation market has a lot of talent, of course, but many of its better arms of it will at least start out looking for nine-figure guarantees. Schulman says the “most likely scenario” for San Francisco is to try to bring back Mike Leake, who he pegs in the six-year, $90MM range, while also looking to deal for another mid-rotation arm.
- The Padres face ongoing shortstop questions, and Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune takes a look at the early returns from the latest player under consideration at the position: Jedd Gyorko. Still just 26 and locked up for years to come, Gyorko has come alive at the plate in recent months. While he’s only logged 103 frames at short, Lin suggests that he’s shown enough at least to merit a continued look the rest of the way. With an upcoming shortstop market that is fronted by players like Ian Desmond, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jimmy Rollins, and Alexei Ramirez, there are certainly some free agents that could warrant consideration as everyday options — to say nothing of the possibility of a trade. But Gyorko’s work at short potentially gives the team some flexibility in its acquisition plans.
MLBTR joins the rest of the baseball world in extending its best wishes to veteran Giants beat writer Henry Schulman, who announced yesterday that he is undergoing treatment for a serious illness. We wish Hank a speedy recovery and look forward to his return to the beat.
With a tip of the cap to one of the game’s preeminent journalists, here are some notes from out west:
- The Mariners are beginning to assess whether to make a front office move, says Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, with the team still not decided on whether to bring back GM Jack Zduriencik. Rosenthal addresses the idea of Seattle pursuing Dave Dombrowski for a front office role, noting that many in the game see it as a likely fit, but it appears that the connection is being made on paper rather than through actual indications of specific interest.
- Padres infielder Jedd Gyorko made his first-ever professional appearance at shortstop yesterday, and it seems there is at least an outside chance that he could be considered there in the future. While manager Pat Murphy did not give much of an indication of the club’s plans, as MLB.com’s Corey Brock tweets, neither did he dismiss it as a spot start. “We’ve got to see if our hunch is right first,” Murphy responded when asked whether Gyorko was auditioning for a new position next season.
- The Dodgers bullpen has had its ups and downs this year, but one issue it has not struggled with much is sufficient rest, as J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group explains. With plenty of turnover and careful tracking of the work load, the team has minimized the wear and tear on its relief arms. Of course, as Hoornstra notes, it’s fair to ask whether that tack has been successful, as the pen has struggled at times (in particular, of late).
The Padres are trying to attach the contract of second baseman Jedd Gyorko as they discuss trades for their starting pitchers, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Gyorko is owed more than $33MM through 2019, and has hit .214/.282/.336 since 2014. The Padres are known to be discussing trades for controllable starters Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner.
The latest from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports…
- Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez is attracting interest from contenders and non-contenders alike. The Rangers and Indians have reached out, while the Giants and Astros find Gomez appealing. Rosenthal notes that the Giants may not have the prospects required, while the Astros “appear more focused on bullpen help.” Gomez is under contract next year for just $9MM, after which he’ll reach free agency as a 30-year-old. In a June 1st poll, 80% of MLBTR readers said the Brewers should trade Gomez this summer. He would appeal to many teams beyond the four listed by Rosenthal.
- The Rangers are “acting aggressively as both buyers and sellers,” according to Rosenthal. That explains the interest in Gomez and Cole Hamels and their willingness to listen on pitchers Yovani Gallardo and Wandy Rodriguez, who will be free agents after the season. I should note that Colby Lewis will also be a free agent after the season, but he’s chosen to stay with Texas multiple times when given the opportunity to shop around. On Friday, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram had quotes from Rangers GM Jon Daniels about the team’s deadline stance.
- Rosenthal says the Indians are similarly looking at both additions and subtractions this week, “exploring deals for players who could fit for next season and beyond while listening to proposals for their starting pitchers and corner players such as David Murphy and Ryan Raburn.” Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca wrote yesterday that the Indians came close to trading pitcher Carlos Carrasco to the Blue Jays, but the deal fell apart for unknown reasons and is no longer on the table.
- The Rangers are expected to trade Shin-Soo Choo this offseason, Rosenthal writes. I imagine that may require some kind of bad contract swap, as Choo recently turned 33, can block deals to ten teams, and is owed $102MM from 2016-20.
- The Padres are shopping second baseman Jedd Gyorko hard, tweets Rosenthal. The 26-year-old signed an extension under the previous Padres regime, and at the deadline he’ll be owed more than $33MM through 2019. MLBTR’s Steve Adams wrote about Gyorko and all the other second base trade candidates last week. Rosenthal suggests the Padres could rid themselves of Gyorko’s contract by attaching him to a more desirable player, pitcher Tyson Ross for example. The Braves employed this tactic in April, pairing Melvin Upton with Craig Kimbrel.