Jimmy Rollins Rumors

Free Agent Stock Watch: Shortstops

It’s often dangerous to read too much into a hot streak, as the endpoints of the streak will often be arbitrary, and shrinking the sample size makes the data more susceptible to randomness. Though it’s dangerous to use them as a predictive tool, hot streaks can hold some significance for upcoming free agents — particularly ones that have struggled for much of the season. A well-timed hot streak can take a player’s numbers from good to great or from terrible to passable. A huge second half following a disastrous first half can demonstrate that a player hasn’t suddenly lost all of his skill, giving offseason suitors hope for more consistent production in the season(s) to follow.

The overall numbers on the following players may not quite look appealing, but here are three that could be in the midst of bolstering their offseason earning power after dreadful starts to the year (coincidentally — they’re all shortstops!)…

  • Ian Desmond, Nationals: Perhaps no player looked to be costing himself as much money as Desmond entering the All-Star break. Heading into his contract season, there was a legitimate case to be made for Desmond as the game’s most productive shortstop over the past three seasons, but he slumped to a .211/.255/.334 batting line in the first half and endured an awful error-prone stretch in the field early on. He’s tightened up the errors after those first few weeks, though, and is finally showing signs of life at the plate. Over his past 21 games, Desmond is hitting .312/.376/.636 with seven homers and four steals. The question for him will become whether or not a huge second half can make his first half simply look like an anomaly and convince a team to invest more than $100MM.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera, Rays: Cabrera settled for a one-year deal this winter, and through the first eight to 10 weeks of the season, he looked like a player that didn’t deserve anything more. However, since mid-June, Cabrera’s hitting .357/.393/.579 with four homers, 13 doubles and a triple. It’s easy enough to see that his .418 BABIP in that stretch is inflating his numbers, but there’s been some improvement as well. Cabrera struck out at a 23.1 percent clip through June 18, but since that night he’s at a more palatable 18.4 percent. He’s also hitting the ball with more authority, as evidenced not only by his spike in power but by his decrease in soft contact and increase in medium and hard contact (per Fangraphs). Surprisingly, Cabrera grades out as a plus defender at shortstop in 2015 as well, though it may take more than a few hundred innings to overturn his previous reputation as a poor defender. At the very least, he’s positioning himself to land the multi-year deal that eluded him this past winter.
  • Jimmy Rollins, Dodgers: Suffice it to say, the 2015 season hasn’t gone as the Dodgers or Rollins had hoped. In his first season sans Phillies pinstripes, Rollins has flirted with the Mendoza Line and carried a sub-.600 OPS for much of the year. His current line is about 20 percent worse than the league-average hitter (80 wRC+, 78 OPS+), but a good deal of his struggles have also been BABIP-related, and his fortunes have begun to turn. Dating back to July 1, Rollins is hitting a much-improved .256/.315/.453, including hits in 15 of his past 18 games. Though his steals are well down, he’s already sporting a double-digit home run total. Rollins has not drawn strong ratings on his defense this year, but he does have a lengthy track record of high-quality glove work on which he can fall back. If he can continue his late surge at the plate and continue to make the first half look more like a blip, he should draw plenty of interest from teams looking for a sturdy veteran option up the middle.
  • Alexei Ramirez, White Sox: Not long ago, Ramirez’s $10MM club option looked like a no-brainer to be bought out. Glancing at his overall numbers, that’d still be the case, but like the others on this list, he’s looked like a different player over the past month-plus. Ramirez was hitting .212/.235/.281 on June 30, but he’s hitting .291/.321/.480 with five homers and six steals in 34 games since. He’s not walking much (4.4%), but he’s also not striking out (7.4%), so his solid production comes with a very sustainable .283 BABIP. Ramirez can’t erase his ugly numbers through June 30, but if he sustains this production through season’s end, the White Sox or another team could easily be convinced that a .234 average on balls in play was responsible for his poor first half than a total collapse of his skill set.

Clearly, these four can’t all sustain their recent production (especially in the case of Desmond and Cabrera). However, it’s worth keeping an eye on each player’s production over the final seven weeks of the season, as none of the four looks as lost as he did even six weeks ago. In Desmond’s case in particular, that could mean the difference of tens of millions of dollars.


Rosenthal On Padres, Rockies, Rollins, Rangers

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video at FOX Sports:

  • The Cubs and Astros would make sense as teams who could pursue the Padres‘ starting pitching, Rosenthal suggests. The Padres would likely have interest in the Cubs’ collection of young middle infielders, and Astros manager A.J. Hinch used to work for the Padres.
  • The Rockies are open to trading Troy Tulowitzki but haven’t been aggressive in trying to do so, Rosenthal says. Nonetheless, the Rockies could have a huge impact as sellers if they chose, given that they have Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, John Axford and LaTroy Hawkins.
  • The Dodgers plan to give Jimmy Rollinsa long leash.” Rollins hasn’t hit well this year, but he’s been better this month (.286/.333/.464). Top prospect Corey Seager isn’t exceptional defensively, and if they went with him as a full-time starter, they’d likely feel they had to deal or release Rollins out of respect. That would leave them in a tough spot if Seager didn’t play well.
  • The Rangers could both sell and buy at the deadline, perhaps dealing Yovani Gallardo but acquiring fellow veteran starting pitcher Cole Hamels, who could then join Texas’ rotation for the next several years. They could also pursue less of a headline-grabbing route by simply pursuing relievers, as well as a hitter they could use against left-handed pitching.

Heyman On Grilli, D-backs, Marlins, Dodgers

Here are the highlights from Jon Heyman’s massive new Inside Baseball article for CBS Sports. Be sure to check out Heyman on the latest edition of the MLBTR Podcast.

  • The Braves have had “serious talks” about dealing closer Jason Grilli to a contender, Heyman writes, with the Blue Jays and Dodgers among the teams that make the most sense.
  • The Diamondbacks have made infielder Aaron Hill and pitchers Jeremy Hellickson and Addison Reed available in trades, and all three players have attracted at least some interest.
  • The Marlins could trade starter Dan Haren for the right return. On paper, the Dodgers would seem to make sense, but that seems unlikely, since the Dodgers treated Haren basically as a throw-in in the Dee Gordon trade in the offseason. The Dodgers would also prefer to find a starter they could use in the playoffs, and Haren likely doesn’t qualify.
  • Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins could become available in a trade as top prospect Corey Seager continues to demonstrate he’s ready for the big leagues.
  • The Dodgers, Blue Jays, Nationals and perhaps other teams had scouts on hand as Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma returned from a lat injury this week. Iwakuma could be a trade candidate, but Heyman notes that giving up four homers to the Tigers probably didn’t exactly increase his value.
  • Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez still seems set on retiring after the season, despite agent Paul Kinzer’s efforts to get him to continue.
  • The Padres have been scouting the Mets lately, leading to speculation that the Mets could be trying to trade for Justin Upton.
  • The Phillies are “not bending” in their demands for Cole Hamels, and his limited no-trade clause remains an obstacle.
  • The Giants have had talks with free agent infielder Everth Cabrera. The Orioles released Cabrera last month. He would provide depth for San Francisco.


NL West Notes: Ellis, Rollins, Freeland, Dahl

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis is the top game caller in the league, writes Harry Pavlidis for ESPN. In recent years, new data and techniques have allowed analysts to measure catcher framing skills. Pavlidis evaluated the various factors controlled by a catcher’s game calling and converted them into a runs saves statistic. Ellis draws negative reviews for the other aspects of his defensive game, but he’s credited with 38 game calling runs saved from 2012-2014. Rounding out the top five are Alex Avila, Yadier Molina, Derek Norris, and Ryan Hanigan.

  • Shortstop Jimmy Rollins is taking a pragmatic approach to the possibility that he could be supplanted by top prospect Corey Seager, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rollins is under contract for the remainder of the 2015 season, and he’s hitting a tepid .210/.278/.352 with five home runs and five stolen bases. The club moved him down to eighth in the lineup this evening, signaling impatience with his slow start to the season. Seager recently had a 13-for-18 stretch at Triple-A, but Dodgers officials haven’t indicated any plans to promote him. Rollins understands that his role is to help the Dodgers bridge the gap until Seager is ready for major league action.
  • Rockies 2014 first round draft pick Kyle Freeland has yet to pitch this season, writes Nick Groke of the Denver Post. The left-handed pitcher was selected eighth overall last June. He is currently recovering from shoulder fatigue and surgery to remove bone chips. He began a throwing program within the last week. Freeland had a positive debut for the Rockies, throwing 39 innings with a 1.15 ERA, 7.6 K/9, and 1.4 BB/9.
  • Another Rockies prospect, outfielder David Dahl, required emergency surgery after colliding with a teammate, reports Thomas Harding or MLB.com. Dahl had surgery to repair his spleen but did not suffer a concussion or a broken rib as was originally feared. The 2012 first round pick is ranked as the second best Rockies prospect by MLB.com. Dahl is hitting .269/.296/.379 in 189 plate appearances at Double-A.

NL Notes: Rendon, McCarthy, Rollins, Braves Stadium

While most have assumed that Anthony Rendon will return to third base upon his activation from the disabled list, with Yunel Escobar shifting to second base, but Jon Heyman of CBS Sports hears that may not be the case. Some close to the situation have told Heyman that Escobar may continue to play third base, with Rendon handling second base, though GM Mike Rizzo and manager Matt Williams would only comment by saying nothing definitive has been decided. “They can both play both very well,” said Rizzo. Escobar’s time at either position may only be temporary, as he figures to slide into the shortstop position next year if Ian Desmond departs as a free agent. As for timing, Rendon sat out a scheduled rehab start today for precautionary reasons with what the team described as fatigue. Washington will surely continue to exercise care, but needs him to return as soon as possible, as the club has struggled to produce runs while dropping six straight.

Here’s more from the National League:

  • Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman says that he intends to fill in for injured starter Brandon McCarthy with internal options for the foreseeable future, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports“We’ll wake up in June having scouted other organizations over the next four to six weeks, and we’ll see where we are,” said Friedman, who noted that deals are “pretty uncommon” in the season’s first two months.
  • Meanwhile, Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins acknowledges that this is the toughest start to a season that he has experienced, but says he is not worried, as Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register writes. Saying that he believes his “process is good” at the plate, Rollins expressed confidence that some minor tweaks will get him back on track. Los Angeles is paying Rollins $10MM this year, with the Phillies picking up an additional $1MM as part of the deal that brought the veteran out west.
  • The Braves continue to line up major corporate partners for their new ballpark, with Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporting that Omni Hotels will participate in the mixed-use development that is set to accompany the stadium. The club is counting on a revenue boost from the controversial project to improve its financial standing going forward.

NL Notes: Ichiro, Melvin, Rollins

New Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki says being an older free agent is like being an older dog in a pet store, Brad Lefton of the Wall Street Journal writes. “Amongst all the cute little puppies jumping and tumbling for prospective owners, there’s one who’s a little older, a little more mature, who keeps getting passed over for the more adorable ones,” says Ichiro. “When someone finally comes along and points a finger at him, an undying loyalty is born.” The 41-year-old Ichiro’s offseason training routine helps him stay relevant, Lefton writes. Ichiro works out at the Orix Buffaloes’ home park in Japan, with a pitcher who throws batting practice for him and another player he plays catch with. Ichiro might take 150 swings against live pitching each day in the offseason. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • GM Doug Melvin has recently discussed an extension to his contract with the Brewers, although it’s unlikely he and the team will agree to one before the season starts, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Melvin’s contract expires after the 2015 season. Counting his previous job with the Rangers, Melvin has now been a GM for about two decades, and it sounds like he remains at least somewhat enthusiastic about continuing. “I still think I’m good at what I do and I still enjoy it,” he says. “I like the draft-and-development part of the job and that’s something we’ll always have to do in our market.”
  • The fact that he’s with the Dodgers now doesn’t mean Jimmy Rollins can’t relate to fans who dislike them, Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “For a long time – you don’t hear ‘Beat the Dodgers,’ you don’t hear ‘Beat the Lakers,’ even the Clippers now – it’s ‘Beat L.A.,'” says Rollins. “It’s everything L.A. stands for. . . . I’ve heard [it] for the first time on this side, and I was cracking up. Because I know how the crowd feels, the fans feel, on the other side.” This isn’t the first interview Rollins has given about how strange it can feel for a player to spend years with one organization and then abruptly switch to another, but his perspective on a common but little-discussed situation is still refreshing to read.

West Notes: Peters, Rollins, Deduno

Hall of Fame baseball writer Nick Peters, who covered the Giants for 47 years, has died, Marcos Breton of the Sacramento Bee writes. Peters was 75. He worked for the Bee, the Oakland Tribune, the Berkeley Gazette and the San Francisco Chronicle, covering a total of nearly 5,000 games. The BBWAA honored him with a Spink Award in 2009. Breton writes that Peters had an especially good relationship with Barry Bonds, who Peters had known from being around the Giants since Bonds was child following his father Bobby and godfather Willie Mays. “Nick was known not only for his writing talent and encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, but also for his mentorship of many young reporters who rose through the ranks of sports journalism,” write the Giants in a statement. “He will be deeply missed by the entire Giants organization and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Lise and the entire Peters family.” Here are more notes from the West divisions.

  • Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins‘ new interview with FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal offers an unusually candid look at what it’s like to change teams. Rollins spent 19 seasons in the Phillies organization before heading to Los Angeles. That involved quite a mental adjustment, as Rollins explains. “It was real tough in the beginning to give in to the LA thing, the Dodger thing, the wearing of blue, being the best organization in pro sports. That’s their belief,” he says. “Now I’m part of that product. But it was tough – 14 years on the other side, learning to . . . I can’t say hate, that’s a strong word . . . but learning to want to beat the brakes off anything with L.A. and Dodger blue in it.”
  • Sam Deduno, who’s out of options, appears to have a good shot at making the Astros‘ roster because he can relieve, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes. Deduno is competing with Roberto Hernandez and Asher Wojciechowski for the fifth spot in the Astros’ rotation, but he has a better chance than either of the other two of making the roster because he can head to the bullpen if he doesn’t get the rotation job. The Astros have two bullpen openings. One will likely go to a lefty (perhaps Joe Thatcher), but Deduno could win the other spot.

NL West Notes: Bumgarner, Dodgers, Navarro

The Dodgers weren’t the only NL West team looking at Cuban right-hander Pablo Millan Fernandez, as MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports that the Giants and Padres also had interest.  The Rangers and Red Sox, two of the more aggressive teams on the international signing front in recent years, were also interested in Fernandez, who agreed to an $8MM bonus with Los Angeles yesterday.  Here’s some more from around the NL West…

  • Madison Bumgarner has no plans to approach the Giants about re-negotiating his contract and said he has no regrets over signing his five-year extension, the World Series MVP tells Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News.  In April 2012, Bumgarner signed a deal that, at the time, paid him the highest average annual value of any contract given to a player between 1-2 years of service time.  The five-year, $35MM deal includes a $12MM vesting option for 2018 and a $12MM team option for 2019.  While those options could increase to $16MM based on Cy Young finishes, Bumgarner’s contract has obviously been a major bargain for the Giants.
  • The Brewers were one of a few teams interested in trading for Dodgers infielder Alex Guerrero, though nobody was interested in paying Guerrero the $14MM he’s owed through 2017, ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon reports.  Some teams were staying away from a trade and instead hoping L.A. would just release the Cuban prospect in the wake of his tough 2014 campaign.  A good Spring Training, however, has earned Guerrero a spot on the Opening Day roster and kept him in the Dodgers’ future plans.
  • The Dodgers won’t be considering extensions for Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick or Juan Uribe until at least partway through the season, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes.  All three veteran infielders are entering their walk years, but L.A. can afford to wait given the presence of Guerrero and Corey Seager, not to mention the possible signing of Hector Olivera.  For his part, Uribe says he wants to stay with the Dodgers beyond 2015.
  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart told reporters (including MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert) and The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro) that Dioner Navarro‘s $5MM salary is too much to fit into his team’s payroll.  The Snakes have been linked to the Blue Jays catcher for much of the offseason and they’re reportedly still scouting him, though Stewart said there isn’t any substance to those rumors.

NL West Notes: Outfielders, Rosario, Rollins, Dodgers

The trade market is still full of outfielders, writes Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. That is especially true in the NL West, where four teams — the Rockies (Brandon Barnes, Charlie Blackmon, Drew Stubbs), Dodgers (Andre Ethier), D-Backs (Cody Ross, Ender Inciarte, David Peralta and, to a lesser extent, Mark Trumbo and A.J. Pollock), and Padres (Will Venable, Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin) — all have surpluses. And the Red Sox, too, may feel compelled to move an outfielder given their slate of options, as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd covered at length in February. Jeff and I discussed Ethier in particular on the latest MLBTR Podcast, in light of recent reports indicating that the Dodgers may be willing to absorb as much as $28MM of his remaining $56MM to facilitate a trade.

Here’s more from the NL West…

  • Wilin Rosario has looked comfortable at first base early in game action this spring, writes MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. The Rockies signed Nick Hundley to be their primary backstop, so Rosario will see increased time at first base this winter, particularly against tougher left-handed pitching. Doing so will help spell Justin Morneau. However, Rosario is still expected to see some time behind the dish. And, I would speculate that Rosario is likely very much still available on the trade market should another team make what GM Jeff Bridich and his staff consider to be a suitable offer, though the rookie GM said in January that no such offers had been received.
  • Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that the Phillies presented him with four possible trade destinations: the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets and Padres. A report earlier this week said that the Mets may have been Rollins’ second choice, and he admitted to Heyman that was perhaps possible, but it’d have required some thought. The Dodgers, however, were his clear first choice, Rollins explained. He wasn’t interested in trying to fill Derek Jeter‘s shoes at age 36 (“If I was 26, OK. But I’m 36. There was not enough time.”) and he didn’t feel the Padres were close enough to competing. Of course, little did Rollins know what type of aggressive restructuring San Diego GM A.J. Preller was about to undertake. The shortstop also told Heyman he’s open to the idea of playing until age 40 and said the idea of reaching 3,000 hits (he’s 694 shy) holds great appeal to him.
  • Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel posted his ranking of the Dodgers‘ top prospects today, and some fans may be interested to see that he ranked the highly touted Julio Urias ahead of fellow top prospect Corey Seager. While the two have similar future value and risk, in McDaniel’s estimation, most other outlets do have Seager slightly ahead of Urias. Of course, I’m splitting hairs by calling attention to the distinction, as McDaniel recently ranked Urias as the No. 4 and No. 6 prospects in all of baseball, respectively, and most agree that the duo ranks firmly in the game’s Top 10-15 prospects.

Phillies Notes: Rollins, Herrera, Oliver, Aumont

Former Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins viewed the Dodgers as his number one choice for a new club, writes Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. But if a deal hadn’t been reached, Rollins would have considered a trade to the division rival Mets. Rollins said, “I considered the Mets to be No. 2. They have some arms over there.” Rollins clarified that he’s unsure if he would have ultimately accepted a trade to New York. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweets that the Mets inquired about Rollins in November but were told he would not accept a trade.

  • The Phillies are working quickly to evaluate Rule 5 picks Odubel Herrera and Andy Oliver, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. Herrera will start in the outfield and Oliver will pitch an inning of relief as the Phillies take on the University of Tampa in an exhibition Sunday. Neither Herrera, who posted good on-base percentages in the Rangers system, nor Oliver, a hard-throwing but wild lefty from the Pirates organization, expected to wind up with the Phillies. “This is a good opportunity for me,” says Oliver. “I feel like I’m in a better place than where I came from.”
  • In addition to Oliver, Phillippe Aumont and non-roster invitee Jeanmar Gomez could make the opening day bullpen due to transactional reasons, writes Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. The Phillies acquired Aumont in 2009 as part of the haul from the Mariners for Cliff Lee. He’s the lone remaining asset from that trade and is out of options. If he does not make the club, he’ll be subject to waivers. Gomez, 27, would have to earn a spot on the 40-man roster, but the club isn’t in a position to pass on viable major league pitchers. He has a 3.28 ERA in 78 appearances over the last two seasons, although his peripherals suggest we should expect something closer to a 4.00 ERA.