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MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is said to be “ready to reach out to [Kris] Bryant soon to determine his mindset” on whether or not a grievance should be filed against the Cubs for holding him in Triple-A to start the season, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in his latest Inside Baseball column. Heyman notes that the union could file a grievance on Bryant’s behalf even without his consent, though that’s unlikely. The issue at hand, of course, would be whether or not Bryant was clearly one of Chicago’s 25 best players and the demotion was made purely for service time implications. (Chicago bought an extra year of control over Bryant by stashing him in the Minors for all of eight games/11 days). Heyman points out that it would be difficult to an arbitrator to rule in Bryant’s favor, as there’s no precedent for this type of grievance. Players in similar situations have historically been hesitant to file a grievance, he adds, because it would be a contentious way to begin a relationship with a team to which a player will be tied for the next six-plus years. A “Cubs connected person” called the notion of a grievance “laughable” when asked by Heyman. However, the points that Bryant was recalled on the first day the team could add him while still delaying free agency and slotted directly into the cleanup spot could make a case that the club had an understanding of his value, Heyman writes. From the union’s perspective, it’s understandable that they’d have interest in preventing this type of situation in the future, even if it’s a long shot.
More highlights from a lengthy Heyman column…
- The Padres don’t yet view Melvin Upton Jr. as a throwaway piece and will use him as an occasional outfielder and pinch-runner, Heyman writes. He also looks back on Upton’s original five-year, $75.2MM pact and notes that it’s one of the worst contracts in recent history, particularly given the fact that the next-highest offer was believed to come from the Phillies at somewhere in the $40MMs.
- The league’s investigation into the Rays‘ allegations of the Cubs‘ tampering in the Joe Maddon saga could come to a close as soon as next week, per Heyman. MLB was still interviewing people as recently as last week, but to this point there “is believed to have been no smoking guns found.”
- The Reds never approached right-hander Mike Leake about a contract extension this offseason, and the free-agent-to-be is said to be a bit hurt not to have been contacted. Leake’s not a front-line starter, but he’ll hit the open market heading into his age-28 season and currently sports a 3.56 ERA in 427 1/3 innings dating back to Opening Day 2013. A third straight season of 190+ innings and an ERA in the mid-3.00s should position him for a nice contract, especially considering the fact that half of his starts have come in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
- Multiple teams have worked out Rafael Soriano, and while he’s on the Tigers‘ radar, there’s also been some contact with the Mariners. Heyman adds the Pirates, Indians and Dodgers as “logical suitors,” though I’d imagine the Pirates and Indians in particular would have some payroll constraints, depending on the asking price of agent Scott Boras.
- Heyman echoes ESPN’s Buster Olney in speculating that the Dodgers could make a run at extending Howie Kendrick, noting that the Dodgers love Kendrick both on the field and in the clubhouse. He also notes that the Dodgers are impressed with Alex Guerrero‘s bat and may coming around on him as a passable option at third base or in left field, though the team is already well-stocked at each position.
- The Pirates and Gregory Polanco may have come as close as about $1MM on agreeing to a seven-year contract, Heyman hears. The biggest holdup was over the three club options on the deal, which ranged from $11-13MM, and when the team would have been required to exercise them.
- Though recent reports have indicated that John Lackey hopes the Cardinals will approach him about an extension, Heyman writes that it’s not a likely scenario. St. Louis likes its pitching depth and the young starters in line beyond those in the 2015 rotation.
- The Orioles asked the Blue Jays for both of the team’s first round picks from the 2014 draft — right-hander Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost — in exchange for the ability to hire EVP/general manager Dan Duquette as their new president, according to Heyman.
Full Story | 56 Comments | Categories: B.J. Upton | Baltimore Orioles | Chicago Cubs | Cincinnati Reds | Dan Duquette | Detroit Tigers | Gregory Polanco | Howie Kendrick | Jeff Hoffman | Joe Maddon | John Lackey | Kris Bryant | Los Angeles Dodgers | Max Pentecost | Mike Leake | Philadelphia Phillies | Pittsburgh Pirates | Rafael Soriano | San Diego Padres | Seattle Mariners | St. Louis Cardinals | Tampa Bay Rays | Toronto Blue Jays
Rusney Castillo‘s strained oblique may cause him to miss a bit of Spring Training time, yet the injury isn’t considered to be particularly serious. Still, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford posits that this setback might convince the Red Sox to give Castillo some extra minor league preparation time at the start of the season and give the center field job to Mookie Betts. Castillo told Bradford that he would be open to being in the minors if the team felt it necessary, and his long-term contract makes him secure about his role in Boston’s plans. “Of course there is a degree of comfort in that that I’m going be here for a while,” Castillo said. “At the same time, if you don’t want to be in the minor leagues ramp it up and work harder to not be there.”
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette spoke to reporters (including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko) about the team’s release of Suk-min Yoon earlier today and Yoon’s subsequent return to the KBO’s Kia Tigers. Duquette confirmed that Yoon gave up the $4.15MM still owed to him under the Orioles contract in order to make the deal happen. “The good part of this is that this didn’t work, but we were able to correct the mistake, if you will, and we have that money available to invest in other players,” Duquette said.
- After a tumultuous year that has included Tommy John surgery, being drafted by the Blue Jays and then mentioned in trade rumors to acquire Duquette as Toronto’s new team president, Jeff Hoffman tells Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi that he is looking forward to just “putting on a uniform again” once he’s finished his rehab work. Hoffman provides a progress report on his recovery from his surgery last May.
- After years of struggling to find reliable left-handed relievers, the Yankees look to have solved the problem with Andrew Miller, Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson all in the fold, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Ironically, this comes at a time when there are only a few standout left-handed hitters amongst the Yankees’ AL East rivals, Sherman notes.
The Orioles‘ reported asking price of right-hander Jeff Hoffman (and others) from the Blue Jays in exchange for executive vice president/GM Dan Duquette seemingly ended those negotiations, but Jeff Blair of Sportsnet reports that the Orioles weren’t the only club to try to acquire Hoffman from Toronto this winter. According to Blair, the Braves also asked the Blue Jays for Hoffman when the two sides discussed a trade involving Justin Upton. Toronto’s answer, Blair says, was an emphatic “no.” Coincidentally, the Braves wound up acquiring another high-upside, former first-round pitcher that’s recovering from Tommy John — Max Fried — as the centerpiece in their trade of Upton to San Diego. Meanwhile, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Blair that Hoffman, who was selected ninth overall in 2014 despite his surgery, is expected to get stretched back out in April, with an eye on activating him with a minor league club in May.
A few more notes pertaining to the game’s Eastern divisions before the northeast portion of the country is buried in snow…
- The Phillies never presented the Brewers with a firm financial offer in their trade talks regarding Jonathan Papelbon, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Those talks appear to be largely dead at this point, and the Phillies may end up hanging on to Papelbon to begin the season, based on Rosenthal’s writings. He adds that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. isn’t under pressure from ownership to move Papelbon and will only trade him if the move is to the team’s benefit.
- The acquisition of Alejandro De Aza last summer could end up being a key factor in the Orioles‘ 2015 season, as the former White Sox outfielder now looks to be a big piece of the roster, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. With Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis gone and no external replacements brought in, De Aza figures to be the team’s primary left fielder and leadoff hitter. Though that may seem an underwhelming option to some, Kubatko points out that De Aza’s career OBP mark (.330) would be a nice boost over last season’s team OBP of .311.
- Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel takes a look at the Yankees‘ new glut of international prospects in his ranking of the team’s minor leaguers, with colleague Dave Cameron noting in an introduction that the team’s philosophical shift could pay off in spades a few years down the line. While the Yankees have always been known for spending significantly on free agency, they instead opted to go on a spending spree and blow past their allotted international bonus pool this year while exercising what some consider to be surprising restraint in terms of big league free agents.
The Blue Jays have broken off negotiations over Dan Duquette after refusing the Orioles’ demand of Jeff Hoffman and two other top prospects as compensation, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. The Blue Jays’ interest in hiring Duquettte to replace Paul Beeston as team president first broke last December, but Davidi writes a deal between the two clubs was at no point close. MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko adds this is not the first time talks have stalled and the Orioles have no knowledge of the Blue Jays’ intentions.
The Blue Jays, according to Davidi, were willing to offer a package of minor league players similar to past precedents (the Red Sox receiving right-hander Chris Carpenter from the Cubs for Theo Epstein, for example) with the baseball departments of both clubs negotiating over names once a deal for Duquette was reached. MLB would mediate, if necessary, as it did between the Red Sox and Cubs. Davidi notes the Blue Jays never proposed any names, but the Orioles were believed to be seeking, in addition to Hoffman (the ninth overall pick in the 2014 draft), catcher Max Pentecost (the 11th overall selection in that 2014 draft) and infielder Mitch Nay (the 58th overall pick in the 2012 draft).
In the last 48 hours, reports emerged that MLB was tiring of the courtship, the Orioles were pushing for a substantial return for Duquette, and were considering tampering charges against the Blue Jays. Toronto also began receving criticism for its pursuit of Duquette.
This development leaves both franchises at a crossroads. For the Orioles, the question is can Duquette repair any hard feelings within the Baltimore organization which may have developed over his flirtation with a division rival, as the Orioles aim to defend their AL East title amidst a winter of distraction. For the Blue Jays, will they be able to overcome the black eye suffered with their messy negotiations over Duquette and the White Sox denying them permission to interview Kenny Williams and find a talented executive willing be their third choice to replace the outgoing Beeston.
With the 2014 free agent class thinning out behind James Shields, Francisco Rodriguez, and Rafael Soriano, the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff takes a look ahead at the 2015 free agent market. Davidoff predicts David Price will sign the richest contract of the class – if he doesn’t ink an extension first. He also predicts Matt Wieters will sneak his way into a big contract while Justin Upton could be seriously hurt by his move to San Diego.
- If Orioles Executive VP Dan Duquette does join the Blue Jays, Baltimore should receive one or two good prospects, opines John Lott of the National Post. However, Lott also figures first round pick Jeff Hoffman is too steep a price. Historically, executives have not cost much in player talent to acquire. Randy Winn represents the best such return, with most trades featuring minor leaguers who barely sniff the majors. Baseball should enforce stiffer costs to front office poaching in Lott’s opinion. Personally, I imagine a punitive but purely financial cost would be the fairest way to approach the problem.
- From the Orioles perspective, the club needs to definitively decide Duquette’s future before their upcoming FanFest, writes Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun. Both Duquette and owner Peter Angelos do “things at [their] own pace,” so the situation could linger. For what it’s worth, the White Sox diffused the rumors quickly when Ken Williams was in the spotlight. That tells me the Orioles are genuinely open to dealing Duquette.
- With the signing of Geovany Soto, White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers has competition, writes Scott Merkin of MLB.com. Flowers is still penciled in as the starter behind the dish, but the club has plenty of depth with Soto, George Kottaras, Rob Brantly, and Adrian Nieto. GM Rick Hahn mentioned Kottaras as a potential platoon partner for Flowers.
- Alex Meyer, the Twins fourth best prospect and 27th overall per MLB.com, figures to compete to become the club’s fifth starter, reports Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Candidates for the back of the rotation include Mike Pelfrey, Tommy Milone, and Trevor May. Given that he still has options, he’ll have to seriously impress to beat out his veteran counterparts and May.
The Blue Jays have been graceless in their attempt to replace president Paul Beeston, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun writes. Elliott’s timeline of events begins in early November, when Rogers Communications chairman Ed Rogers contacted the White Sox seeking permission to hire Ken Williams for Beeston’s job, not realizing that Beeston and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf were best friends. Later, Reinsdorf told Williams the Blue Jays were interested in him, and Williams said he already knew, indicating that there had been tampering, according to Elliott. Here’s more on the Blue Jays’ search for a new president.
- Rogers has left behind a “trail of stink-bombs” in attempting to replace Beeston, writes John Lott of the National Post. The Blue Jays could have improved the situation by issuing a joint statement from Beeston and the team indicating his agreement to retire. The Orioles reportedly want more than just first-round pick Jeff Hoffman in return for allowing Dan Duquette to take the Blue Jays job. Hoffman might be too much to give up, Lott writes, but the Blue Jays should have to give up a good young player, or perhaps two.
- If Duquette does leave for the Blue Jays, the Orioles will be fine, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko writes. With Duquette gone, manager Buck Showalter could play a greater role in personnel decisions. Meanwhile, the rest of the Orioles’ front office (including Brady Anderson, Tripp Norton, Gary Rajsich, Brian Graham and John Stockstill) are capable as well, Kubatko argues.
Talks between the Brewers and Phillies on closer Jonathan Papelbon do not appear to be gaining momentum, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter links). There was “no traction today” and there remains “no reason to believe” that a deal is close, says Haudricourt. The Papelbon situation comes down to money, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who says that the veteran righty “almost certainly” would require Milwaukee to guarantee his 2016 option as a condition of waiving his no-trade rights against the club. Echoing that focus on the bottom line, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes that the the cost may be large but the Phillies need to pay what’s necessary to move on from Papelbon.
Here’s more from the east coast:
- As regards the Phillies‘ most significant trade piece, Cole Hamels, Rosenthal suggests that there is at least some line of thinking in the organization that Hamels and Cliff Lee could front an imposing rotation if a significant free agent arm were added next winter. (Links to Twitter.) That is not to say that a Hamels trade is no longer a possibility, as Rosenthal adds that the club is looking for one MLB-ready, impact prospect to go with further-off talent in a swap.
- The Orioles would seem unwilling to let executive vice president Dan Duquette leave for the Blue Jays in exchange for first-round draft pick Jeff Hoffman alone, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. That does seem to suggest, as Connolly writes, that Baltimore still has a high price tag on Duquette, though the scribe adds that he senses an increased likelihood that a deal gets worked out.
- All this intra-AL East intrigue has left us with plenty to think about, and there are plenty of worthwhile pieces breaking down the situation. Among them: Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star argues that the Blue Jays have bungled the pursuit of a new president and should stop chasing Duquette. And if you are wondering how to go about calculating a reasonable return for an executive, have a look at this piece from last September, in which Jeff Long of Baseball Prospectus attempts to value front office figures in terms of top prospects.
Several reports have been floating around about Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette and the oft-discussed possibility of him moving to the Blue Jays to become the division rival’s president. The outcome still seems tough to predict, but action is increasing. Here’s the latest:
- The Orioles are considering several compensation packages that would allow Duquette to leave for Toronto, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. While no deal appears close and talks could still fall apart, Connolly notes that this could be the closest the two sides have come to an agreement given that the O’s are now actually looking at offers. Duquette has reportedly made his interest in the Jays’ job known to Orioles ownership, which could explain why the O’s are more open to letting him go, though that doesn’t mean they’ll relax their compensation demands. A top prospect like Jeff Hoffman would only be one part of Baltimore’s asking price, Connolly writes.
- If the O’s continue with these high demands, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi opines that “the Blue Jays should, and in all likelihood would, look elsewhere in their search for a new president and CEO,” noting that Duquette is far from the only qualified executive who would be interested in the Toronto job.
- Despite the rising value of top front office minds around baseball, “many in the industry will privately question the Blue Jays if they part with a top prospect for an executive,” Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith writes. An expendable Major League roster piece like Dioner Navarro or Kevin Pillar might be more palatable compensation for the Jays, though Nicholson-Smith notes that the O’s will want more.
- Kubatko hears that the Orioles are pushing for more substantial compensation as a trade-off for not filing tampering charges against the Blue Jays (Twitter link).
- Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun gets the sense that while a resolution to the situation isn’t close, it’s certainly gotten closer over the past few days (Twitter link).
- ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (via Twitter) that if a deal gets done, the compensation for Baltimore will be “substantial.” Olney hears that one name that has been discussed is right-hander Jeff Hoffman, whom the Blue Jays selected ninth overall in the 2014 draft. Hoffman was at one point in the mix to go first overall or certainly in the top five, but he slipped a bit due to the fact that he had Tommy John surgery shortly before the draft.
- A deal is “getting close and going to happen,” a source tells ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Twitter link), who cautions that the information is not confirmed. Of course, that would appear to conflict with another seemingly unconfirmed report yesterday from Sportsnet.ca radio host Bob McCown (via Ben Nicholson-Smith), which stated that Paul Beeston would stay on for another year as the Jays’ president and CEO.
- Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reported yesterday that MLB was running out of patience with the dalliance and was pressuring Baltimore to get something done or close down the possibility. Perhaps looking to increase its own leverage, the Orioles have themselves discussed the possibility of filing tampering charges against Toronto, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets.
ESPN’s Buster Olney thinks that extension talks between the Red Sox and Jon Lester are “all but over” and the left-hander will hit free agency, he said Wednesday on the WEEI radio. Olney states that if the Sox had approached Lester and offered something like $100MM over five years in Spring Training, a deal may have been reached, but that didn’t happen. The only way for a long-term deal to be reached now, in Olney’s opinion, may be to go the route the Phillies went to extend Cole Hamels in 2012 — offer top-of-the-market value ($140-150MM) on a final midseason offer.
Here’s more on Lester and the AL East…
- Tim Britton of the Providence Journal spoke with Red Sox skipper John Farrell, who said that Lester has been a model example for how to handle a contract year. Lester has kept his contract discussions private and hasn’t created any sort of distraction or tension in the clubhouse, choosing instead to focus on the season at hand, according to Farrell.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons are noncommittal when asked what areas the Jays might seek to upgrade via trade this summer, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. Anthopoulos noted that it would be very difficult for a club to acquire anyone from the Jays’ current 25-man roster unless they were acquiring an upgrade at that same position, and he also discussed Brett Lawrie‘s role with the team when he returns from the DL.
- In the video at the top of the previous link, Anthopoulos discussed the signings of top picks Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost. Anthopoulos touched on the team’s previous inability to sign first-rounders Tyler Beede and Phil Bickford, but noted that he wouldn’t draft a player he didn’t think he could sign. He added that Hoffman will head to Florida to continue his rehab from Tommy John, while Pentecost will eventually head to short-season Class A Vancouver (once he gets a passport). Anthopoulos also said that the team agreed to the full-slot value with Hoffman because they felt the “discount” on signing him was already built in to the fact that he fell to the No. 9 pick. He and his staff thought Hoffman had a chance to go in the Top 3 or even Top 2 picks before tearing his UCL.
- The Yankees have garnered a lot of attention with their international spending spree today, and Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com tweets that the team could spend as much as $30MM on international free agents, once the 100 percent overage tax is accounted for. That figure assumes that the team eventually agrees to terms with Colombian outfielder Bryan Emery, as many expect them to.
The Blue Jays have signed first-round choices Jeff Hoffman (9th overall) and Max Pentecost (11th overall), the club announced via press release. Both players will receive at-slot bonuses, as reported by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) and Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter), meaning that Hoffman will take home $3,080,800 while Pentecost will earn $2,888,300.
As the draft approached, Hoffman was very much in the mix with the three pitchers that ultimately went with the first three choices. Though a UCL tear put a dent in his value, he did not fall far. Even after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the righty out of Eastern Carolina was ranked the 13th available prospect by MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo. He features a mid-90s heater, big curve, and occasionally plus change.
Pentecost, meanwhile, came in at 19th on the MLB.com list. He was the MVP of the prestigious Cape Cod League, and is described by MLB.com as “a rare catcher who could have average or better tools across the board.” Though Pentecost will need to add some polish behind the dish, the expectation is that he will be able to man the position as a professional.
With its top two picks under contract, Toronto can focus its attention on its remaining unsigned picks. Seventh-rounder Zack Zehner, a college senior, is the only Jays draftee that remains unsigned from the first ten rounds. Even after going $407K over slot to sign fifth-rounder Lane Thomas, the Jays remain $71.4K under the club’s total allocation.