- 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).
Alex Rodriguez and 12 other players will be suspended for their involvement with Biogenesis, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Earlier today, we learned Rodriguez is to be suspended through the 2014 season and Heyman names Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, and Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli among the Major League players also expected to be suspended, as well as minor leaguers Fernando Martinez, Jordan Norberto, Fautino de los Santos, and Cesar Puello. Heyman adds there are also three players on the suspension list whose names have yet to become public.
Heyman writes Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera, A's right-hander Bartolo Colon, and Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal will not be suspended in connection with Biogenesis, as they have served 50-game penalties already.
All or almost all of the other 12 players are expected to accept 50-game suspensions, though there could be an additional holdout or two for appeal beyond Rodriguez, reports Heyman. All the players have the option to appeal, but it is believed close to all of them have made agreements for 50-game bans with MLB, Heyman adds. Players who appeal are eligible to keep playing until their case is heard.
Cruz told reporters, including MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, "I haven't decided what I'm going to do about anything. It's not just about myself, it's also about the team." Today is the 112th game played by the Rangers, so Cruz would be eligible to return for the playoffs (assuming Texas reaches the post-season), if he serves a 50-game suspension beginning Monday. Sullivan surmises the Rangers will recall an outfielder from the minors adding Manny Ramirez is not an option and manager Ron Washington is reluctant to use Jurickson Profar in the outfield. Regardless of what the Rangers end up doing, assistant GM Thad Levine acknowledges, "At this stage of the season, that's a difficult bat to replace."
12:33am: Cruz has not decided whether he will serve his suspension or appeal it, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (on Twitter).
7:17pm: Major League Baseball is preparing 50-game suspensions for Biogenesis-linked players who have not been disciplined in the past, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Players such as Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Jesus Montero and Francisco Cervelli are among those facing these 50-game suspensions, as are minor leaguers Fernando Martinez, Cesar Puello and Fautino de los Santos. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports writes that the vast majority of players connected to these 50-game suspensions — including playoff contenders Cruz and Peralta — are believed to be willing to accept the punishment rather than file appeals. Doing so will allow suspended players to play toward the end of September and into the playoffs, though their teams would be at a significant disadvantage down the stretch
Passan also tweets that MLB has threatened to double the penalty for players who do not cooperate with the suspensions, making cooperation a much more appealing option. Additionally, he adds that players who lied during the investigation could receive an additional 15 games on their suspensions, similar to Ryan Braun's case (Twitter link).
Bartolo Colon, Melky Cabrera and Yasmani Grandal are not likely to receive additional suspensions, having already served 50-game bans, according to Heyman. Both Heyman and Passan agree that Alex Rodriguez remains firm in his refusal to cooperate with a deal, as was reported earlier today. MLB would like Rodriguez to serve a suspension through the 2014 season but could pursue a lifetime ban if he does not cooperate.
9:46pm: Besides Braun and Rodriguez, "other major, major names" are also involved in the Biogenesis case, a source tells Bob Klapsich of the Bergen Record (Twitter link).
6:56pm: Major League Baseball is planning to suspend at least 20 players connected to Biogenesis, the Miami clinic under investigation for supplying performance-enhancing drugs, reports T.J. Quinn, Pedro Gomez and Mike Fish of ESPN's Outside The Lines. Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch has agreed to cooperate with the investigation and begin naming players, with suspensions possibly following within two weeks.
The list of possible suspensions includes Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Bartolo Colon, Yasmani Grandal, Francisco Cervelli, Jesus Montero, Jhonny Peralta, Cesar Puello, Fernando Martinez, Everth Cabrera, Fautino de los Santos and Jordan Norberto, plus others who are named in documents that the ESPN team haven't had access to, or are known under code names.
MLB officials have also investigated a possible connection between Biogenesis and Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, as the spokeswoman for Cano's foundation (Sonia Cruz) has had her name appear in some clinic documents. Nationals southpaw Gio Gonzalez isn't expected to face suspension for his connection to Biogenesis since the products he obtained from the clinic weren't banned.
The league could look for a 100-game suspension (the penalty for second-time PED offenders) for Rodriguez, Braun and other first-time offenders since both the connection to Biogenesis and previous denials to MLB officials would serve as seperate offenses. It is unknown how MLB would deal with players like Cabrera or Colon who already have PED suspensions on their record, though these players probably wouldn't face a lifetime ban as three-time offenders — their prior suspensions would likely count as their so-called "first strike," with this next violation putting them in line for 100-game suspensions as well.
Quinn/Gomez/Fish report that, as expected, the accused players will challenge any possible suspensions and it could be difficult for the league to obtain corroborating evidence in the appeals process beyond Bosch's testimony.
The Cardinals will need another starter on Thursday to replace John Gast, and that could be Michael Wacha, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggests. Wacha, who would be making his big-league debut, was scratched from his start Sunday, which the Cardinals now say is due to his innings count so far this year. Wacha ranked No. 76 in both MLB.com's and Baseball America's preseason top prospects lists, and he has pitched well so far in 2013 at Triple-A Memphis (albeit with a low strikeout rate), posting a 2.05 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. Cards GM John Mozeliak says that the team will likely decide on Tuesday who will make Thursday's start. Here are more notes from around the majors.
- It's unclear what will happen to infielder Munenori Kawasaki of the Blue Jays once Jose Reyes returns, but Jays manager John Gibbons would like Kawasaki to stick around, Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com reports. "When the time comes, we'd definitely like to keep him, that's for sure. But we don't know when Reyes is coming back, either." Kawasaki has become a fan favorite, and he has played decently, hitting .247/.345/.320. But Chisholm notes that the Jays already have Maicer Izturis, Emilio Bonifacio and Mark DeRosa.
- It's a bad day for the Mariners' rebuilding efforts, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes. The Mariners promoted prospect Nick Franklin but demoted former No. 2 overall draft pick Dustin Ackley in the process. That move followed the demotion of Jesus Montero. Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders haven't hit particularly well, and Brandon Maurer has struggled. "Right now, the Mariners are being carried by a bunch of veterans on one-year deals who were supposed to be here to round out that young core and help stabilize the environment through which young guys were going to take their games to the next level," says Baker, noting that Kyle Seager is the only starting player who has accomplished that.
- Ron Gardenhire feels Carlos Gomez of the Brewers "learned a lot" from his time with the Twins, MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports. Gomez played with the Twins for two years before heading to Milwaukee in exchange for J.J. Hardy after the 2009 season. The Twins tried to help Gomez calm down as a player, McCalvy writes. "I thought he learned a lot with us," Gardenhire says. "Gomez was a lot of fun. I think everybody knew it from the time he was with the Mets, how much talent he had, if he could ever harness it and calm himself down enough."
- It's questionable whether the Angels and Dodgers have spent their money well, but it's important that they're spending, says Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. "You can't win on scouting and player development alone. That is a foundation, with free agency a necessary supplement. Spending does not guarantee winning, but spending absolutely correlates with winning," says Shaikin. Still, Shaikin notes that the Angels' core of homegrown players includes Mike Trout, Jered Weaver, and Howie Kendrick; the Dodgers' includes Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. Shaikin quotes Dodgers president Stan Kasten, who reiterates that his team's long-term plan is to build through its farm system, just as the Braves did when Kasten worked there.
- The Cubs aren't quite ready to declare themselves sellers, but it sounds like they're getting there, ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers reports. GM Jed Hoyer says that teams begin to assess their trading options "50-60 games within the deadline." Hoyer adds, "You always hold out hope you can string things together and make a run. It’s really hard in this division, I’ll say that. You have three teams playing really well." In a recent poll, MLBTR readers thought the Cubs' Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano were among the players most likely to be traded.
Miguel Cabrera might have been hitting home runs in Anaheim if the Angels had been able to swing a deal for him in 2007, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. The Marlins had Cabrera on the trade market, and the Angels offered Howie Kendrick, Jeff Mathis and either Ervin Santana or Nick Adenhart. But the Marlins wanted both Santana and Adenhart, and the Angels changed their minds about dealing Kendrick, and the trade fell through. Had the deal worked out, Shaikin says, Cabrera could have joined with fellow 2012 MVP candidate Mike Trout in the Angels' lineup. (Of course, Trout was acquired with the No. 25 pick in the 2009 Draft, which was a compensation pick for losing Mark Teixeira. If the Angels had acquired Cabrera, they might not have acquired Teixeira, which means it's possible they wouldn't have drafted Trout. They also would have had to sign Cabrera to a long-term deal, the way the Tigers did. Reimagining history can be complicated.)
The Marlins' side of the deal would have worked out a bit better, too. We'll never know what might have been with Adenhart, who died in an accident in 2009, and Mathis hasn't hit well. But Kendrick turned out to be a better player than any the Marlins got when they sent Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for a package centered around Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin.
Here are more notes from around MLB.
- After Jesus Montero's demotion, his role in the Mariners' future is unclear, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. Mike Zunino now appears to be the Mariners' future catcher, and Montero will work on playing first base at Triple-A Tacoma. If Montero will play predominantly first base and designated hitter going forward, that puts him in an awkward position, because one of the reasons he was sent down in the first place was that his hitting wasn't particularly good even for a catcher. Still, the door remains open to Montero, Morosi notes, since Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak has not hit well, and main DH Kendrys Morales will be a free agent at the end of the season.
- Yan Gomes' play so far is creating a "pleasant problem" for the Indians, Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon-Journal writes. Gomes, who arrived in Cleveland with Mike Aviles when the Indians sent Esmil Rogers to the Blue Jays last offseason, is hitting .311/.328/.672 with five home runs in 61 at bats so far. His performance suggests he might be able to one day become an everyday catcher, not just a utility player who catches occasionally, Ocker writes. Carlos Santana is, of course, the Indians' starting catcher, but if Gomes keeps hitting, the Indians will have to find a way to get him more playing time.
- The Dodgers were criticized for absorbing hundreds of millions of dollars in salary (and giving up five players, including prospects Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa) when they acquired Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto from the Red Sox last August. But, MLB.com's Lyle Spencer tweets, Gonzalez, Crawford and Punto have been the Dodgers' three best position players this year. Of course, that says more about the Dodgers' offense than anything else — the Dodgers are scoring just 3.39 runs per game, second-to-last in the National League.
Epifanio "Epi" Guerrero, one of the key figures in the history of Dominican baseball, passed today at age 71. Guerrero signed a number of notable international talents (including Cesar Cedeno, Carlos Delgado and Tony Fernandez) while working in the Astros, Yankees, Blue Jays and Brewers organizations as a scout and coach during a career that began in 1965. Guerrero was one of the first scouts to be involved in the development of the academy system that gave countless young Dominican prospects chances at a professional career. We here at MLBTR extend our condolences to Guerrero's friends and family on his passing.
Here are some news items from around the baseball world…
- While it has been assumed that the Cardinals will part ways with Carlos Beltran after this season, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks both Beltran and the Cardinals could benefit from Beltran re-signing a short-term contract, provided the veteran was willing to take a hometown discount. While Miklasz has a point that Beltran is a surer thing to produce for a contender than youngsters like Oscar Taveras or Matt Adams, I would be surprised if Beltran returned to St. Louis in 2014. If the Cards were confident enough in their young talent to let Albert Pujols and Kyle Lohse go, they'll do with the same with Beltran.
- The Diamondbacks may not need to make any major moves before the trade deadline, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. The Snakes have depth at several positions and further reinforcements are coming as some injured players return from the disabled list. The only possible area of need could be at closer given J.J. Putz's elbow problems but GM Kevin Towers is "100% confident" that Putz will recover.
- The Mariners talked with Jesus Montero about a long-term contract before he was linked to the Biogenesis scandal, but nothing came of those conversations, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets. Earlier today, the M's demoted the 23-year-old to Triple-A.
- If MLB announces that an international draft will take place in 2014, Baseball America's Ben Badler notes that teams like the Rangers, Yankees, Cardinals or Reds (who are likely to pick near the end of that draft's first round) could be wise to exceed the spending cap on international prospects this year. Such teams would lose their 2014 or '15 international draft first-rounder for going over the cap, but it could be worth it to get a jump on the non-American/Canadian talent market.
- MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo profiles some of the top corner infielders in the upcoming amateur draft, a list led by University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant.
- ESPN's Keith Law discusses draft prospects, minor leaguers and other moves from around the game in a live chat with fans.
- Andrew Cashner is making great strides as a starting pitcher for the Padres, MLB.com's Corey Brock writes. Cashner has a 2.80 ERA in six starts for the Friars in 2013 after being limited to mostly bullpen work over his first three seasons due to injuries and concerns about his arm strength. If Cashner develops into a solid starter, it will obviously give the Padres a much greater return on the Anthony Rizzo trade from January 2012.
- The Rays' pitching depth is the envy of baseball, MLB.com's Bill Chastain writes, and that depth at the Major League level gives all their minor league arms time to properly develop into the club's next generation of rotation stalwarts.
MLBTR's Zach Links contributed to this post
Mariners catcher Jesus Montero will be sent to Triple-A Tacoma today, reports Ryan Divish of The News Tribune. Catcher Jesus Sucre will be selected to join the big league club, and it appears Montero won't do much catching at Triple-A.
It was a blockbuster challenge trade of two extremely promising and valuable young players. Montero had 18 excellent big league games for the Yankees under his belt when he was sent to the Mariners in January 2012. The principal player coming to New York in the deal was soon-to-be 23-year-old righty Michael Pineda, who had averaged nearly 95 miles per hour on his fastball as a rookie, made the All-Star team, and finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting. Young players of this caliber are rarely traded. Things went south quickly for Pineda, as decreased velocity in his second Spring Training start was a harbinger of a shoulder injury that would lead to surgery in May 2012. What's more, Pineda was arrested for a DUI in August of that year. Pineda continues to work his way back from the surgery, with the expectation of making his Yankee debut this year. Whether Pineda's rookie campaign was the high point in his career is anybody's guess.
Montero's first full season in 2012 was disappointing. Known almost entirely for his offensive prowess, he posted a .260/.298/.386 line in 553 plate appearances. Montero caught in 56 games, serving as DH in 78. In a full-time catching role this year, he did even less with the bat. As "a man without a position," as Divish puts it, the bar for Montero to become a regular designated hitter in the Majors is quite high. Oh, and the reported connection to Biogenesis doesn't help.
There were a couple of additional players in the Montero-Pineda swap. The Mariners acquired righty Hector Noesi, who hasn't impressed in 120 1/3 big league innings so far. The Yankees added prospect Jose Campos, rated their fifth-best by Baseball America prior to the season. Campos made only five starts last year in low A ball, missing most of the season due to a bone bruise or a small fracture in his elbow. The injury has Campos on an innings limit in the 85-90 range this year.
One year and four months after the exciting Montero-Pineda swap, the players involved in the trade are a mess across the board, which leads to today's poll: which pair of players do you prefer moving forward?