Joaquin Benoit Rumors

Padres “Pushing Hard” To Trade Big-Name Players

The Padres are “pushing hard” to trade big-name stars, executives from other teams tell Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Obviously, Justin Upton, Will Venable and Ian Kennedy are clear trade candidates, since those players are due to become free agents after the season. But James Shields, Andrew Cashner and Craig Kimbrel, who all are controlled beyond 2015, have also come up very frequently in talks, according to Heyman. Other possibilities include Tyson Ross, who’s due for free agency after 2017, and Joaquin Benoit, whose contract contains a club option for 2015.

This isn’t the first time that any of these players have been mentioned in trade talks, of course, but rival executives now seem to think the Padres could be even more active at the deadline than had previously been anticipated. Given how aggressively GM A.J. Preller remade the team last offseason, it would come as little surprise if he were itching to make another round of big trades in the midst of what’s turned into a disappointing season.

Heyman adds that another potential motivation for the Padres to make trades could be to reduce payroll. (ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote earlier today that the Padres were feeling “pressure” to shed payroll beyond 2015 by making trades.) Via Cot’s Contracts, the Padres had an Opening Day payroll of about $108MM this season, about $17MM more than their 2014 figure. Trading someone like Shields, whose contract is backloaded, would help the Padres reduce their already significant payroll obligations for 2016 and beyond.


Quick Hits: Royals, Pirates, Dodgers, Benoit

Here’s a roundup of the latest trade-deadline-related news:

  • The Royals are still working to upgrade their bench, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets.  Kansas City is looking at both infielders and outfielders to improve its reserve group.
  • Rays reliever Kevin Jepsen is now a stronger trade candidate now that the Rays have slipped to 49-51, Morosi tweets.  Jepsen, who is eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, owns a 2.88 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 through 45 appearances this season.
  • Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is adamant that his team should not sell before the deadline, Chris Iott of MLive.com writes.
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington says that he’s not necessarily done shopping even after acquiring Aramis Ramirez, Adam Berry of MLB.com writes.  “We’ve shored up what we felt was our biggest soft spot. We’ll continue to look,” Huntington said. “It just gives us some versatility and flexibility to find where we think the next best match and next best fit is.”  However, he wouldn’t specify what area he might target in the coming days.
  • One issue for the Dodgers is that they aren’t willing to part with top prospects Corey Seager or Julio Urias, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.  At that point, there’s a big dropoff to whoever their No. 3 prospect might be, whether it’s pitcher Jose De Leon or someone else.
  • The perception in the market is that the Padres will definitely move Joaquin Benoit before the deadline, Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweets.

Central Notes: Twins, Benoit, Kelley, Fiers, Cubs, Samardzija

Rumors from MLB’s central divisions:

  • The Twins are in the market for a power reliever, writes Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. Minnesota has long been known for their reliance on command and control pitchers. Their bullpen has a league worst 6.08 K/9. The Tigers are next worst with 7.30 K/9. Twins GM Terry Ryan acknowledged the advantage strikeouts can provide in big situations. If somebody’s got the out pitch to be able to get a strikeout, that’s great. Unfortunately there are pitchers that don’t have that capability as much as others, so it makes those sac flies or putting the ball in play with the infield back … it just gives the other offense that advantage.
  • Minnesota has spoken with the Padres about relievers, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Morosi lists Joaquin Benoit and Shawn Kelley as possible fits. I would add that Brandon Maurer fits the power pitching profile. However, Benoit and Kelley could both hit free agency after this season. Kelley is unsigned beyond this season, and Benoit has a $8MM club option ($500K buyout). Maurer comes with four more seasons of club control. As such, he’s probably more difficult to acquire.
  • The Brewers are drawing plenty of interest in starter Mike Fiers, tweets Tom Haudricourt of MLB.com. However, the club presently plans to keep Fiers. They are more open to trading veterans Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza. Given the performance of both pitchers this season, they’ll have a hard time finding an interested suitor. Garza has a 5.49 ERA in 100 innings while Lohse has scuffled to a 6.29 ERA in 113 innings.
  • Prior to being no-hit by Cole Hamels, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer reiterated a need for pitching and bench depth, tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPN 1000. Hoyer didn’t elaborate about any specific talks. Rogers opines (via Twitter) that the club could seek to make some smaller moves for veterans to bolster depth and balance a young roster. The offense has struggled recently, but the Cubs are still in the thick of the Wild Card race. They’re just 1.5 games behind the Giants for the second slot.
  • The White Sox are increasingly willing to trade starter Jeff Samardzija, writes Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. Samardzija has performed below expectations this season with a 3.91 ERA, 6.93 K/9, and 1.67 BB/9. However, he’s posted a strong 2.55 ERA over his last eight starts due to a low HR/FB ratio. While teams may no longer view him as an ace, he has failed to last seven innings in just four of his 20 starts this season. This is my speculation: he could prove to be a valuable innings eater for a club on the bubble like the Orioles or Astros. Hayes also notes that the White Sox have lined up Erik Johnson‘s starts with Samardzija. Johnson is in the midst of a breakout season with a 2.59 ERA, 10.05 K/9, and 2.87 BB/9.
  • The big story tonight is that the Royals nearly acquired Johnny Cueto from the Reds; read all about that here.


Deadline Rumors: Cespedes, Cishek, Price, Gallardo, Jays, Royals, Reds, Alvarez, Padres

In another twist regarding the free agent deal he signed out of Cuba, Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes would be effectively precluded from signing with the team as a free agent after this year unless he is traded away in the interim, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. It was already a matter of common knowledge that the club could not make him a qualifying offer after the year, since his deal requires that he be released five days after its conclusion. But Rosenthal now cites a CBA provision providing that a released player also cannot be re-signed by his club until May 15 of the ensuing year. While Detroit could hold Cespedes and attempt to work out an extension at any point up to five days after the World Series, it would otherwise be unable to bring him back unless he sat out a good portion of the 2016 campaign — a highly unlikely scenario. Of course, moving him now would prevent the team from working out a deal until the power-hitting outfielder becomes a free agent. As Rosenthal notes, Cespedes has told friends that he hopes to remain with the Tigers, and Detroit has given every indication that it intends to compete next year even if it moves some pieces this summer.

There are a ton of important deadline developments to cover in the wake of the Scott Kazmir trade, so let’s get to them:

  • There is increasing action on Marlins reliever Steve Cishek, as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald report (Twitter links) that there are multiple clubs involved — some with more apparent interest than the previously-reported Cardinals. The Twins are among the teams continuing to monitor the righty, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets.
  • The Dodgers currently have David Price of the Tigers as their number one target, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. But the expectation is that Detroit will hold their decision until next week.
  • Indeed, the Giants recently spoke with the Tigers regarding outfielder Rajai Davis, Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports on Twitter, but were left with the impression that Detroit is still unsure of its course of action.
  • Another player on the Dodgers radar is Rangers righty Yovani Gallardo, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Though nothing is close, the two clubs have had discussions.
  • The Blue Jays sought to land Kazmir before he went to Houston, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. With the market beginning to move, the team appears to be ramping up is efforts to add a starter, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets.
  • Both the Blue Jays and the Royals are “all-in” on Reds starter Johnny Cueto, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden reports (Twitter links). Kansas City is also considering Mike Leake from Cincinnati as well as Jeff Samardzija, Dan Haren, and Mat Latos. But the club is not interested in Cole Hamels, James Shields, or Yovani Gallardo, per the report.
  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty says he has a green light to sell pieces, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. They’ll make moves “if it makes sense, but we’re not going to give away players,” says Jocketty. “We’ve been talking with a lot of different people, but we haven’t been receiving offers that have us wanting to commit.”
  • One rival general manager tells Passan that the Pirates are working hard to move first baseman Pedro Alvarez (Twitter link). We’ve heard previously that Pittsburgh has interest in an upgrade, and presumably it would make an addition if it can find a taker for Alvarez.
  • Meanwhile, the Padres are officially open for business, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter). In addition to Justin Upton, the team could move relievers Craig Kimbrel and Joaquin Benoit, outfielder Will Venable, and any number of starters. Rosenthal says that Tyson Ross is perhaps the least likely rotation piece to change hands.

Heyman’s Latest: Dodgers/Hamels, Braves, Frazier, Price, Brewers, Upton

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports kicks off his weekly Inside Baseball column by reporting that the Dodgers have “quietly continued having dialogue with the Phillies” regarding Cole Hamels. The Dodgers are also giving serious consideration to the rental market and prioritizing Johnny Cueto over others among such targets. The Dodgers “appear determined” to land a top-of-the-rotation arm to pair with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, writes Heyman, but most executives think they’ll hold onto top prospects Corey Seager and Julio Urias. The Dodgers have a deep farm system beyond that pairing (righty Jose De Leon has recently been ranked a Top 25 prospect by Baseball America and ESPN), and one exec tells Heyman that the Phillies’ asking price on Hamels has become “more reasonable” recently. The Dodgers feel that Greinke is a lock to opt out of his contract at the end of the season, and while they could possibly re-sign him by adding a year or two to the deal and upping his $24.5MM AAV, Hamels would provide insurance should Greinke sign elsewhere. Jeff Samardzija is also a consideration for the Dodgers, but while they like him, they consider him more of a No. 2/3 starter and don’t love him.

Some more highlights from Heyman’s article, though the synopsis won’t cover everything within the piece, so I’d highly recommend reading it in its entirety…

  • The Braves will be deadline sellers, Heyman hears, with Jim Johnson, Juan Uribe and Cameron Maybin among the players that will be available to interested teams. Chris Johnson, too, continues to be available, but there are no takers for his contract, which Atlanta has aggressively tried to move in the past.
  • With the Reds expected to trade so many veterans to other clubs, many in the industry expect the team to make a run at extending Todd Frazier beyond his current two-year deal, Heyman writes. (Frazier has one more year of arbitration following his current pact.) Jeff Todd and I have discussed Frazier’s situation on the MLBTR Podcast in the past (and will do so again this afternoon), and I’ve personally taken the stance that given the significant commitments to Joey Votto and Homer Bailey, the Reds could have a difficult time affording Frazier, whose 2014-15 breakout has hugely inflated his price tag. Given the lack of impact bats on the trade market, Frazier would net a king’s ransom and could rapidly expedite the rebuilding process, though the PR hit of trading him with so much control and on the heels of a Home Run Derby victory would of course be significant.
  • In other Reds news, Heyman hears Mike Leake‘s ground-ball tendencies are appealing to AL East clubs, and he’s drawn interest from the Blue Jays, Orioles and Red Sox in addition to the Royals, Dodgers, Rangers, Cubs and Giants. Manny Parra and Marlon Byrd are both “likely to go” as well.
  • Asked about the possibility of signing with the Cubs this offseason due to his relationship with skipper Joe Maddon, Tigers ace David Price replied, “Wherever I play baseball next year it’s not going to be because of a manager.”
  • The Astros are interested in both Cueto and Leake, and Houston seems willing to deal from its glut of MLB-ready outfield prospects, including Domingo Santana and Preston Tucker. (Previous reports have indicated they’re reluctant to part with Brett Phillips, however, who may be the best among the outfield bunch.)
  • The Brewers are now showing a willingness to trade both Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, Heyman hears. Though it was previously believed they were reluctant to move Segura, the emergence of Orlando Arcia (the younger brother of the Twins’ Oswaldo Arcia) may have changed Milwaukee’s thinking. However, Arcia himself is also drawing a huge amount of trade interest, and the Padres have called to express interest. One NL exec called him the best player he’s seen in the minors this year, while another comped him to Francisco Lindor, but said Arcia is better. Regarding Segura, Heyman hears that the Mets dislike his free-swinging approach.
  • The Twins aren’t closed off to the idea of re-acquiring Gomez from the Brewers, but their primary focus at this point is bullpen help.
  • The Mets are aiming high in their pursuit of an outfield bat and have both Gomez and Justin Upton on their radar. They’re not likely to add Aramis Ramirez from the Brewers unless they receive bad news on the prognosis of David Wright. They also have little interest in swinging a deal for Uribe.
  • Padres officials insist that they haven’t determined their course of action heading into the deadline, but Heyman writes that free-agents-to-be such as Upton, Ian Kennedy, Joaquin Benoit and Will Venable could be traded regardless. James Shields‘ backloaded contract limits his value, but one GM felt Benoit has “big value” and Heyman notes that Craig Kimbrel would be in huge demand as well, should the Padres try to recoup some value from that deal.
  • Cueto, Samardzija and Leake are atop the Blue Jays‘ wish list, and the team was also in talks with the Braves regarding Jason Grilli prior to his season-ending injury. A top starting pitcher is Toronto’s top priority at this point, says Heyman. He also adds that there’s no evidence to suggest that manager John Gibbons is on the hot seat.

2016 Vesting Options Midseason Update

Several notable players could see their 2016 statuses change depending on whether or not they unlock vesting options in their current contracts.  As we enter the All-Star break, let’s check in on the progress each of these players are making towards those getting those options to vest.  All stats are current heading into today’s action…

  • Chase Utley: The veteran second baseman has a $15MM vesting option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed if he makes 500 plate appearances.  (If he doesn’t, it becomes a team option worth between $5MM-$11MM depending on how much time Utley spends on the DL, with a $2MM buyout.)  Utley, of course, is on the DL right now recovering from an ankle injury and will be out until late July or early August.  Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has openly stated that Cesar Hernandez has earned the everyday second base job, leaving Utley’s playing time in question for the remainder of the season.  Utley is suffering through by far the worst season of his 13-year career with only a .179/.257/.275 slash line and four homers through his 249 plate appearances.  If Utley isn’t back until early August, he’d be hard-pressed to reach 500 PA even in the increasingly unlikely event that he plays every day.
  • Jonathan Papelbon: This Phillie‘s march towards his vesting option is going much more smoothly.  His $13MM option for 2016 vests if he either finishes 55 games this year, or finishes 100 games combined between the 2014 and 2015 seasons.  Papelbon finished 52 games last year and has 29 finishes this season, so collecting those last 19 finishes over roughly two and a half months shouldn’t be difficult for the closer if he stays healthy.  There’s a chance Papelbon could ask for his option to be guaranteed to facilitate a trade, yet he sounds so eager to get out of Philadelphia and pitch for a contender that he may not bother and instead bet on himself to finish those 19 games.
  • David Ortiz: Big Papi has 340 plate appearances, making him a virtual lock to reach the 425 PA he’ll need (plus passing an offseason physical) for his 2016 option to vest.  Ortiz will earn at least $11MM in 2016, plus more depending on how many PA past the 425-mark he ends up recording this season.
  • Joaquin Benoit: With only seven games finished, Benoit has no shot at the 55 games finished he’s need to turn the Padres‘ $8MM club option into a guarantee for 2016.
  • Marlon Byrd: If Byrd has 600 PA this season, or at least 550 PA this season and 1100 PA total between 2014-15, the $8MM club option on his 2016 services will become guaranteed.  A DL stint limited Byrd to 262 PA thus far, so it’ll be difficult for Byrd to reach the 550 PA mark unless he stays healthy and the Reds play him virtually every day.
  • Santiago Casilla: The Giants righty signed a three-year, $15MM deal in the 2012-13 offseason that contained a vesting option. MLBTR has learned that Casilla’s 2016 option will vest at $6.5MM with 55 games finished during the 2015 season. Casilla’s option could have vested at $7.5MM with 100 games finished between the 2014-15 seasons, including 55 in 2015. The option could also have vested at $8.5MM with 150 games finished from 2013-15, including 55 finished in 2015.
  • Nori Aoki: The outfielder was one of the league leaders in plate appearances when he fractured his right fibula, so he already has 291 of the 550 PA he needs to turn the Giants‘ $5.5MM option for 2016 into a mutual option.  If Aoki returns around July 24 (as Bruce Bochy estimates) and resumes his everyday spot atop San Francisco’s lineup, he stands a good chance of reaching the vesting point.
  • Jonny Gomes: If Gomes receives 325 PA, his $3MM option for 2016 will become guaranteed.  He’s just over halfway there with 166 plate appearances, so this one may come right down to the wire.

We already know that Cliff Lee won’t achieve the innings totals required for his 2016 option to vest, as the Phillies southpaw hasn’t pitched all season and is attempting to recover from a torn left flexor tendon without undergoing surgery.  Brandon League also hasn’t pitched this season and has been released by the Dodgers, so he won’t reach the games-finished total required to allow his 2016 player option to vest.


Central Notes: Bruce, Benoit, Tigers, Cardinals

Reds outfielder Jay Bruce is as “as good a bet as anyone” on the team to be dealt, team sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. That is rather a notable viewpoint given the club’s nice collection of even shorter-term assets. Bruce, 28, is controllable for three more years (the last via option), though Rosenthal adds that he rebuffed two offers of a second extension last year. It’s hard to gauge Bruce’s trade value given his rough 2014 and slow start to this season, but he’s bounced back nicely of late. Bruce is neither old nor expensive, offers an established power bat, and has at times graded rather well on defense and on the basepaths.

  • We’ve heard suggestions that the Twins could be looking at bullpen upgrades, and Rosenthal confirms that is Minnesota’s focus. One player the team could pursue is Padres righty Joaquin Benoit, per the report. The righty has been a consistent producer for some time now, and can be controlled for 2016 through a team option.
  • The Tigers should look to take out two needs with one move, argues Chris Iott of MLive.com. Dealing for a starter while shifting Alfredo Simon to the pen would upgrade both sides of the staff, suggests Iott.
  • While the Cardinals still have some padding, their NL Central lead is beginning to dwindle. Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch argues that St. Louis is in need of a move or two to capitalize on its nice first half. Miklasz says it’s time to add some punch to the lineup, noting that first base is the obvious area for an acquisition with Matt Adams out.
  • Miklasz does mention the possibility of shifting well-regarded outfield prospect Stephen Piscotty to first, and indeed colleague Derrick Goold indicates on Twitter that Piscotty could soon get a shot in the big leagues. The 24-year-old was nearly called up on Tuesday, and will now spend time at first at Triple-A to get ready for just that possibility. In his second run through Memphis this year, Piscotty owns a .270/.362/.471 slash with 10 home runs over 340 plate appearances. He has walked 41 times while making just 52 outs via strikeout.

AL Notes: Soria, Pirela, Jimenez

In Joakim Soria, the Tigers have found the top-quality closer they’ve lacked in the past several seasons, James Schmehl of MLive.com writes. Soria has been successful in all ten of his save chances this season while allowing just two runs in 11 2/3 innings. Over the past several years, the Tigers have leaned on the often unreliable Jose Valverde and Joe Nathan, with a strong partial-season performance from Joaquin Benoit in 2013 providing a few months of respite. The Tigers bullpen was a problem last year, and Schmehl notes that much of it is still shaky. But for now, their closer problem seems to be solved. Here’s more from the American League.

  • Jose Pirela‘s terrific hitting on a rehab assignment for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this weekend has the Yankees considering promoting him to the big leagues, Chad Jennings of the Journal News writes. Pirela, who’s returning from a concussion suffered in Spring Training, has had three or more hits in three straight games. Jennings notes that Gregorio Petit currently serves as the Yankees’ righty bench infielder, but that Pirela could provide more offense.
  • Infielder Luis Jimenez, who the Red Sox claimed from the Brewers this weekend, allows Boston to use their other bench players more flexibly, manager John Farrell says (via Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald). “Righthanded utility guy, we like the defense, particularly at third, if that comes into play,” says Farrell. “It gives us some more flexibility with Brock (Holt) and Daniel Nava, and hopefully a chance to get back to 13 position players.” Jimenez rates as a plus defensive third baseman and could prove to be a valuable backup for Pablo Sandoval. Jimenez can also play elsewhere in the infield.

2016 Vesting Options Update

Several notable players could see their 2016 statuses change depending on whether or not they unlock vesting options in their current contracts.  With the opening month of the 2015 season almost in the books, let’s check in on the progress each of these players are making towards those getting those options to vest…

  • Chase Utley: The veteran second baseman has a $15MM vesting option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed if he makes 500 plate appearances.  (If he doesn’t, it becomes a team option worth between $5MM-$11MM depending on how much time Utley spends on the DL, with a $2MM buyout.)  Utley has received 81 PA while playing in 21 of the Phillies’ first 22 games, so he is well on the way to having his option vest despite a very rough start — only a .398 OPS and two homers this season, thanks to an incredibly low .102 BABIP.  There is little chance the Phils would let Utley walk for nothing this winter, especially when they could obtain something for him in a trade this summer if Utley agrees to waive his no-trade clause.
  • Jonathan Papelbon: The Phillies closer’s 2016 vesting option is one of the reasons why he hasn’t yet been traded, as other teams have been wary about acquiring a reliever with such a potentially large price tag.  Papelbon’s $13MM vests if he finishes 55 games this season, or posts a combined 100 games finished between 2014-15.  The stopper finished 52 games last year and has seven finishes thus far in 2015, putting him on pace for that guaranteed salary next year.
  • David Ortiz: If Ortiz makes at least 425 PA and passes a physical after the season, Boston’s $10MM team option on his services for 2016 will become guaranteed at $11MM (or more, depending on how many plate appearances Ortiz makes).  Ortiz has only had less than 425 PA in two of the last 14 seasons, so barring any injury setbacks for Big Papi, this one seems like a safe bet to vest.
  • Joaquin Benoit: The Padres hold an $8MM team option on Benoit for 2016, but the righty can turn that into a guaranteed option if he finishes at least 55 games this season.  Benoit’s chances are pretty remote, as he was relegated to setup man duties after San Diego acquired Craig Kimbrel.
  • Marlon Byrd: His original two-year, $16MM deal with the Phillies included an $8MM club option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed if he reaches 600 PA this season, or a total of 1100 PA over 2014-15 with at least 550 PA this season.  Byrd received 637 PA last season and he has 74 PA over 20 games with the Reds in 2015.  He should continue to get regular playing time for Cincinnati though Byrd is off to a slow start — a .441 OPS with no walks and 24 strikeouts.
  • Santiago Casilla: The Giants righty signed a three-year, $15MM deal in the 2012-13 offseason that contained a vesting option, though little is known about the option’s value or specifics.
  • Nori Aoki: The Giants’ $5.5MM club option on Aoki for 2016 will become a mutual option if Aoki reaches 550 PA.  The outfielder is hitting well and his 102 PA currently leads the league, so he’s well ahead of the pace to vest his option.
  • Jonny Gomes: The Braves outfielder can guaranteed another year on his contract (at a $3MM salary) if he makes 325 PA, and he can unlock higher salaries at the 425 PA and 500 PA plateaus.  Gomes has thus far received 47 PA over 15 games, putting him in decent shape for at least the first level of his vesting option.

We already know that Cliff Lee won’t achieve the innings totals required for his 2016 option to vest.  The Phillies southpaw is attempting to recover from a torn left flexor tendon without undergoing surgery and is currently on the 60-day DL.  Dodgers reliever Brandon League is also recovering from a right shoulder injury and thus stands virtually no chance of reaching the games-finished totals required to allow his 2016 player option to vest.


Quick Hits: Gardenhire, Bryant, Valverde

Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was in attendance as the team his son coaches at the University of Wisconsin-Stout took on a Twins rookie team Tuesday, would be thrilled to manage again, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes. “Oh, no. I’ve got a lot left in me in baseball,” says Gardenhire, shown in a photo wearing a T-shirt and smoking a cigar. “If somebody is looking for a manager and I’m a fit, great. I would love to manage again.” After the Twins fired him following last season following the team’s fourth straight season of 92-plus losses, Gardenhire lived for a month in an RV parked near his daughter’s house in Oklahoma while he waited for his first grandchild to be born. Gardenhire turned down a front-office job with the Twins, but says he’s still willing to help his former organization, perhaps with occasional scouting tasks. Here’s more from around the game.

  • MLBPA head Tony Clark says it’s “unfortunate” that teams delay promotion of top prospects for service-time reasons, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports. “We don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest, and we don’t think it’s in the industry’s best interest, to not have the best players on the field all the time,” says Clark. This has become, of course, a point of discussion every year. This season, top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant has been the focus of the issue. The Cubs are likely to send him to the minors to start the season even though he’s leading MLB in Spring Training homers with six.
  • One Padres move that didn’t attract much attention in a high-profile winter was their signing of former Diamondbacks, Astros and Tigers closer Jose Valverde to a minor-league deal. Valverde has performed well in camp, however, and now appears to have a good shot to make the team, Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com writes. “I feel like I’m 21 because I’m throwing 98 [mph],” says Valverde. “I’m surprised because I haven’t walked anybody yet.” Bloom suggests Valverde could even be the Padres’ closer. That would be an upset if it came to pass, since Joaquin Benoit performed well in that role last year after the team traded Huston Street.