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Jesus Montero Rumors
The Mariners held their yearly pre-Spring Training media luncheon yesterday, and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune has some highlights from sessions with manager Lloyd McClendon and GM Jack Zduriencik…
- There’s been a bit of speculation that left-hander J.A. Happ, acquired from the Blue Jays in the Michael Saunders trade, would pitch out of the bullpen, but McClendon quickly squashed that chatter. “We didn’t acquire Happ to pitch out of the bullpen,” McClendon said. “We can put all of that to rest. He will be pitching in our rotation.”
- McClendon added that there will be a competition for only one spot in the rotation, though he declined to specify who on the club’s roster will definitively be joining Happ, Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in the rotation. Dutton, however, writes that “all signs point” to James Paxton being guaranteed a spot, meaning that the fifth slot in the rotation will be a battle between Taijuan Walker, Roenis Elias and possibly Erasmo Ramirez.
- Others could join that competition, as Zduriencik told the media that he’s hopeful of adding another starting pitcher, although further additions would likely come in the form of minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training. The Mariners would like any non-roster invitees to be able to provide depth in the minors, which may be a tough sell, Dutton notes, as veteran starters that will have to settle for minor league deals may prefer to sign with a club that presents a clearer path to a Major League roster spot.
- The Mariners are likely to sign a veteran outfielder as well, Dutton writes. Zduriencik acknowledged that the team “may do a few little tinkerings” before Spring Training to bring in a veteran player or two that could compete for a job. Seattle has been linked to Endy Chavez on multiple occasions.
- Seattle is very happy with Jesus Montero‘s offseason conditioning, as the former top prospect has lost roughly 40 pounds and is down to the team’s target weight of 235 pounds. Said Zduriencik of Montero: “He appears to be a guy who, maybe, the lights have gone on for him. He’s going to get a chance in spring training. We’ll see.”
- Left-hander Joe Beimel is still a “possibility” for the club, Dutton writes. The 37-year-old Beimel (38 in April) posted a 2.20 ERA with 5.0 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 49.6 percent ground-ball rate in 45 innings for Seattle last season. He also held left-handed hitters to a paltry .188/.217/.288 batting line.
- Dutton also provides updates on a few of the club’s top prospects and injury updates on Elias, Willie Bloomquist, Danny Hultzen and Dustin Ackley in addition to discussing what is likely to be a Spring battle between Brad Miller and Chris Taylor to see who will be the Mariners’ everyday shortstop. The entire roundup is worth a look for Mariners fans.
The Angels employ a young quartet of analysts in their baseball operations department, and the four young executives took some time to talk about the work they do with the Orange County Register’s Pedro Moura. Jeremy Zoll, Jonathan Strangio, Nate Horowitz and Mike LaCassa (whose ages range from 24 to 28) discuss their efforts, which include seeing if trends translate from college to minor league ball and grouping players by swing path and testing splits for trends. Manager Mike Scioscia spoke with Moura as well regarding the team’s increased usage of information: “As we’ve organized and analyzed numbers better, it’s helped us, primarily on the defensive front. It’s also helped with some lineup issues or determinations. I think our decisiveness was noticeable last year.” GM Jerry Dipoto said that each of Zoll, Strangio, Horowitz and LaCassa is future GM material and offered high praise for his young lieutenants.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- New Rangers special assistant Michael Young sat down with Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News to discuss his new role with the team. Among the topics they discussed were Young’s involvement in the hiring of manager Jeff Banister — Young particularly praised Banister’s communication prowess — and the problems with the 2014 club. Young said that in addition to injuries, the Rangers lacked leadership with their best players out, which sometimes led to a poor collective approach to the daily grind of a 162-game season.
- In a piece for Baseball America, the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Jeff Wilson writes that Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields Jr. will be given an opportunity to make the Rangers‘ Opening Day roster as a backup center field option. GM Jon Daniels tells Wilson that he likes “the combination of now and the future” with DeShields, whom he can envision getting some time in left field in addition to backing up Leonys Martin. DeShields’ work ethic has been questioned in the past, but Wilson writes that the Rangers feel the environment fostered by Banister will help turn that around.
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told reporters today, including the Tacoma News Tribune’s Bob Dutton, that he isn’t concerned about adding a backup first baseman to serve as a safety net in the event that Logan Morrison is again injured in 2015. “We’re going to work real hard with Jesus Montero in spring training,” Zduriencik said. “We’ve talked about the strides he’s made this winter. We’ll see if he’s a player or not. That’s going to be up to him, and we’ll see what happens.” Dutton also mentions Brad Miller as a backup possibility at first, although Zduriencik didn’t list Miller specifically.
The Mariners have re-instated Jesus Montero to their 40-man roster and designated pending free agent Corey Hart for assignment in order to make room, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune (Twitter link).
Because Hart is a pending free agent, the move is a largely procedural one; he’d have been off the team’s 40-man roster following the postseason anyway and wasn’t a candidate for a qualifying offer base on a down season. The former Brewer batted just .203/.271/.319 in his lone season with the Mariners — a clear disappointment for a team that was undoubtedly hoping to have secured something closer to the .279/.343/.514 batting line he posted from 2010-12 in Milwaukee. Anything close to that production would’ve made his $6MM base salary a bargain, but Hart was a known risk after missing all of 2013 due to a pair of knee surgeries.
Left-hander Yasmany Hernandez has left Cuba for an undisclosed third country with the goal of signing a MLB contract, per Diario De Cuba (h/t Baseball America’s Ben Badler). Badler provides a scouting report on the 23-year-old, who led Serie Nacional with a 1.66 ERA this past season. Hernandez will be exempt from international bonus restrictions after pitching five seasons in Serie Nacional, but Badler doesn’t expect teams to show as much interest in Hernandez as fellow Cubans have drawn. Here are more notes from around the game.
- Badler also recently appeared on the Providence Journal’s Super Two podcast with Tim Britton and Brian MacPherson, where he discussed new Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo. Badler says teams are becoming increasingly receptive to spending big money on Cuban players thanks to the successes of players like Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig, adding that the added power Castillo demonstrated since leaving Cuba increased his value on the market.
- Free-agent-to-be Russell Martin would be a great fit for the Cubs, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Signing Martin would involve making a significant financial commitment and giving up on Welington Castillo as a starting catcher, but Martin could help mold the Cubs’ young pitching and provide a strong example for the rest of its young roster.
- The Mariners will not retain national cross-checker Butch Baccala, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports. Baccala is the scout who sent Jesus Montero ice cream during a minor league game while Montero was rehabbing, seemingly as an insult regarding Montero’s weight. Montero threw the ice cream at Baccala and was suspended.
- The Pirates had a quiet trade deadline, but they’ve had a strong second half anyway, MLB.com’s Tom Singer writes. In particular, they didn’t complete a trade for a starting pitcher and didn’t improve what appeared to be a weak bullpen. Since then, though, their bullpen has quietly become a strength, thanks in part to the emergence of John Holdzkom, and their offense has papered over any rotation issues. “You’ll get second-guessed no matter what you do,” says Bucs manager Clint Hurdle. “That’s just the nature of the world. So you gotta do what you feel in your gut is right.”
- The Rays are ready to see what they’ve got in Nick Franklin, who they’re promoting Monday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. The Rays, of course, acquired Franklin from the Mariners in the three-team deal in which they sent David Price to Detroit. Since the trade, Franklin has hit .210/.288/.290 in 113 plate appearances for Triple-A Durham, although his track record indicates he’s capable of hitting better.
- Padres assistant director of scouting operations Don Welke, who arrived recently from the Rangers organization along with new GM A.J. Preller, is enjoying his first month with San Diego, Corey Brock of MLB.com writes. Welke and other members of the Padres’ front office are currently in Arizona, where they’re watching Padres prospects play in the instructional league.
The Mariners have placed first baseman Jesus Montero on the suspended list for the remainder of the 2014 season, the team announced. The move comes as no surprise given that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik recently said that Montero wouldn’t play again this year in order to focus on off-the-field issues. Montero’s suspension and Willie Bloomquist being moved to the 60-day DL creates two spots on the team’s 40-man roster that have been filled by catcher Humberto Quintero and right-hander Carson Smith, who had their contracts selected in corresponding moves.
It was only a few years ago that Montero was considered one of the very best prospects in all of baseball, yet his star has almost completely dimmed after three tumultuous years in Seattle. Montero has hit only .251/.291/.378 with 19 homers over 680 PA as a Mariner while battling injuries, weight issues and a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis case. Just last Thursday, Montero got into a heated altercation with a Mariners scout that apparently stemmed from the crosschecker sending an ice cream sandwich to the dugout as a taunt about Montero’s weight.
Montero was hitting well (an .839 OPS in 409 PA) at Triple-A this season and it seems far too early to write off his career given that he’s just 24 years old. It remains to be seen, however, whether he’ll get another chance with the Mariners organization following this latest incident.
Jesus Montero was at the center of a bizarre situation on Thursday night, as MILB.com’s Tyler Maun reports. While on a rehab assignment at Seattle’s short-season class A affiliate, Montero reportedly had to be restrained from going after a Mariners crosschecker with a bat after the scout reportedly sent an ice cream sandwich to the dugout. Butch Baccala, the crosschecker in question, tells Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times that the incident is “not what is being portrayed,” though he didn’t want to comment further until speaking with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.
- There is discord between Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports, and things may have gotten bad enough that “it’s difficult to imagine the Astros starting the 2015 season with the same management team.” Porter feels he doesn’t have enough input in the team’s plans and Luhnow too often second-guesses his in-game decisions, plus there were some hard feelings over Mark Appel‘s bullpen session at Minute Maid Park last month.
- Yadier Molina‘s return shouldn’t end A.J. Pierzynski‘s stint with the Cardinals, FOX Sports Midwest’s Stan McNeal writes. Molina will need to be eased into his usual workload behind the plate, and with rosters expanding, the Cards will have room for three catchers (Tony Cruz being the third). Pierzynski has also been a fit in the Cardinals’ clubhouse following the drama that marked his exit from Boston.
- The Braves were the other finalist for right-hander Brandon Poulson, Baseball America’s Bob Padecky reports. Poulson ended up signing a $250K bonus with the Twins, capping off a fairly incredible route to pro baseball for the 6’7″ fireballer.
- Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred figures to differ from Bud Selig in several areas, and ESPN’s Jayson Stark outlines some of the areas that Manfred will focus on when he officially takes over the job.
New Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler offered up some surprisingly candid remarks surrounding his old team, the Rangers, in an interview with Robert Sanchez of ESPN the Magazine. Kinsler touched on the fact that he wasn't happy to be asked to move off second base, didn't approve of how Michael Young was treated by the organization and ultimately called general manager Jon Daniels a "sleazeball." Kinsler, who told Sanchez he hoped the Rangers go 0-162 in 2014, tells the Detroit Free Press (All Twitter links) that he's not pleased with the way the story turned out: "I’m not happy about it. The story was written for drama and taken a little out of context. But it is what it is." Asked about the 0-162 comment, Kinsler told the Free Press: "It’s a matter of telling a joke, to be honest with you." The three-time All-Star said he's not planning to reach out to Daniels about the "sleazeball" comment, but stressed that it, too, was taken out of context.
Here's a bit more on Kinsler and some other AL West-related news items…
- Kinsler's former teammates Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre aren't bothered by the comments and don't have any ill will toward Kinsler, writes Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. Beltre told Fraley, "It doesn't bother me. He's still my friend." Andrus had a similar take, stating, "He's my buddy. … He's still my friend. I don't take anything from that." Manager Ron Washington told Fraley he's not affected by Kinsler's opinions.
- MLB.com's Doug Miller looks back on what seemed to be a win-win trade in January 2012, noting that neither the Mariners nor Yankees have gotten much value out of the Michael Pineda/Jesus Montero trade. Miller spoke with both players and their respective managers about the chances that each has to make an impact with their clubs this season.
- Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez tells Tom D'Angelo of the Palm Beach Post that he doesn't have hard feelings toward the Marlins for trading him and doesn't feel that the team gave up on him. "They thought that trade was in the best interest, decided to give me up, it’s worked out for me." Dominguez says that "everyone" knew his glove was ahead of his bat at the time of the deal, but he's starting to get his confidence back at the plate. The 24-year-old slashed .241/.286/.403 with 21 homers for the Astros last season.
- Bob Dutton of Tacoma News Tribune writes that Mariners top prospect is scheduled to begin playing catch on Thursday and is on a three-week program to build up arm strength. Barring setbacks, he could be able to join Seattle's rotation in mid-April.
- GM Jack Zduriencik said today that, while he is still keeping an eye out for additions, he is focused primarily on evaluating his current roster as it enters camp, reports Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. "I could have already done a couple of deals," said Zduriencik. "I didn't want to do them. I wanted to figure out what we had here. I want to see our players with our own eyes. Let's let a whole new coaching staff put their hands on them. Get their opinions, and we'll see. There will be opportunities if we want to do something. Not that we will, but I think they'll exist."
- Whatever hopes the Seattle organization once had for once-treasured prospect Jesus Montero have all but vanished, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. "I have zero expectations for Jesus Montero," said Zduriencik. "Any expectations I had are gone." It would be hard to think of a player who has had a rougher year than Montero, who struggled through injury, PED suspension, and performance issues. Now, he is 40 pounds over his target weight at the start of camp. "After winter ball, all I did was eat," the catcher forthrightly acknowledged. "We are disappointed in how he came in physically," said Zduriencik. "He's got a ton to prove. It's all on him."
- Another prospect whose star has dimmed somewat is second baseman-turned-outfielder Dustin Ackley,who has now failed to deliver on his promise as a hitter in two straight seasons. Though Ackley had worked mostly in center while learning on the fly last year, new skipper Lloyd McClendon says that he expects Ackley to "be in left field the majority of time." The 25-year-old had graded out quite well at the keystone over his career before the shift. Preliminary returns on his outfield defense have not been promising, though he has logged few innings outside of the infield dirt. On the whole, it seems far less likely that Ackley will be able to carve out a place as a productive big leaguer at the corner outfield than at his native second base, though he has little chance of returning to that spot with Seattle.
The Mariners are letting teams know that Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak are available in trade talks, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). The report comes on the heels of the Mariners striking deals to add Corey Hart and Logan Morrison to their lineup.
As our Steve Adams pointed out on Wednesday, the signing of Hart and acquisition of Morrison called Montero's and Smoak's roles into question. While it's not clear exactly what position Seattle would be targeting in trade talks, the club clearly hopes to contend in 2014 and would likely prefer immedate contributors to prospects.
Both Montero and Smoak arrived in Seattle as part of major trades. Montero was acquired from the Yankees in a 2012 swap for Michael Pineda, while Smoak was part of the package the Mariners received from the Rangers in exchanged for Cliff Lee in 2010.
So far, neither player has produced as the M's had anticipated, though Smoak enjoyed the best season of his career in 2013, hitting .238/.334/.412 with 20 homers in 512 plate appearances. Montero had a disastrous campaign, underperforming early in the year before suffering a torn meniscus and then receiving a 50-game suspension as part of the Biogenesis case.
After months of speculation, we have some finality for a dozen of the players implicated in the Biogenesis scandal. Major League Baseball has officially announced 50-game suspensions for Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Antonio Bastardo, Jesus Montero, Francisco Cervelli, Jordany Valdespin, Fautino De Los Santos, Jordan Norberto, Cesar Puello, Fernando Martinez and Sergio Escalona.
All of those players will accept their suspensions, while Alex Rodriguez, who was suspended for 211 games (effective Aug. 8), will appeal his suspension and be eligible to play until that process is complete.
The suspensions carry particular weight for the Rangers and Tigers. The Rangers, who are 2.5 games back of the A's in the AL West and just a half-game behind the Indians for a Wild Card berth, will lose their starting right-fielder and club home run leader in Cruz for the remainder of the regular season.
The Tigers will lose Peralta, their starting shortstop, for the remainder of the season as they look to fend off surging Cleveland and Kansas City clubs and win the American League Central division. Detroit safeguarded itself somewhat against the loss of Perata by acquiring Jose Iglesias in a three-team deal with the White Sox and Red Sox prior to the trade deadline.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today was the first to tweet that Cruz would accept his suspension. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first tweeted that Peralta, Cabrera, Bastardo and Valdespin would also accept 50-game bans. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports added Escalona to the list (Twitter link), and Rosenthal reported that Cervelli, Montero, Puello, De Los Santos, Martinez and Norberto would do the same (on Twitter).
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Antonio Bastardo | Biogenesis | Detroit Tigers | Everth Cabrera | Fautino De Los Santos | Fernando Martinez | Francisco Cervelli | Houston Astros | Jesus Montero | Jhonny Peralta | Jordan Norberto | Jordany Valdespin | Nelson Cruz | New York Mets | New York Yankees | Philadelphia Phillies | San Diego Padres | Seattle Mariners | Texas Rangers