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- Smyly Will Not Have Surgery, Is Confident He Can Pitch In 2015
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Joba Chamberlain Rumors
Twins righty Blaine Boyer hung up his spikes after 2012, in spite of good health and a live arm, in large part to spend more time with his family, as he tells Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. But his clan has made it work since, aided by busy travel arrangements, and Boyer is in camp with Minnesota after a strong campaign last year with the Padres. His minor league deal with the Twins includes a late March out clause, Miller also reports.
Here are a few more notes from the AL Central:
- Tigers reliever Joel Hanrahan has seemingly stalled out in his comeback attempt, as Jason Beck of MLB.com reports. Since going in for a Tommy John procedure in the middle of the 2013 campaign, Hanrahan has been unable to get his elbow back into form. Soreness has kept him from moving onto the mound this spring, and he has already received at least one suggestion that he undergo a second TJ surgery. There appears to be at least some question at this point whether the 33-year-old will ever return to a big league pen, let alone contribute to the club in 2015.
- While Hanrahan tries to figure out his situation, fellow Tigers righty Joba Chamberlain discussed his recent free agent process with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. His son’s connection with Detroit proved a strong inducement for the righty, who said he left money on the table to return. Among the teams with interest in him were the Rangers, Dodgers, Royals, and Brewers, some of which were willing to pay him in the range of his $2.5MM salary from 2014.
Joba Chamberlain‘s new deal with the Tigers includes a pretty hard-to-reach incentive, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter): the reliever will get an additional $100K if he wins the Cy Young award. Chamberlain, 29, will receive a $1MM base salary plus an additional $100K for reaching 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 appearances. The right-hander posted a 3.57 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9, and 53.2% groundball rate in 63 innings for the Tigers last year. More from the AL Central..
- Many expected that Phil Coke had a better chance of returning to the Tigers than Chamberlain, but that was apparently not the case, Jason Beck of MLB.com writes. The Tigers have shown no signs of interest for Coke and although he has thrown for teams in San Diego recently, neither manager Brad Ausmus nor Tigers scouts had watched him as of a week ago.
- Chris Iott of MLive.com looked at the multiple implications of Chamberlain signing with the Tigers. The pact, among other things, gives the bullpen depth and also insurance for Bruce Rondon as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. Detroit expects Rondon to be their main seventh-inning guy, but if he’s not good to go for some reason, the Tigers could turn to the newly-acquired Chamberlain or Al Alburquerque.
- A lot of fuss has been made over Royals outfielder Alex Gordon and his player option for 2016, but it doesn’t sound like he’s all that distracted by it. “[I] don’t think about it,” Gordon said, according to Jeffrey Flanagan (on Twitter) “The only time I think about it is when you guys ask me.” Last August, Gordon told reporters he intended to exercise his $13.25MM player option for the 2016 season but now he’s not so sure.
Looking to get some more insight into the trade that sent Brandon Moss from Oakland to Cleveland, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer spoke with Athletics assistant GM David Forst and manager Bob Melvin about the swap (Oakland received second base prospect Joe Wendle in exchange). Though Wendle has never ranked as a Top 100 prospect according to outlets such as Baseball America, ESPN, etc., Forst said that the A’s don’t concern themselves with prospect rankings. Rather, the A’s have been enamored with Wendle for more than a year and tried to trade for him in the past. “He is a high-contact hitter. He plays good defense. He has an outstanding makeup. We like him,” Forst explained. Melvin explained that the A’s very much like Moss, but were hoping to get a bit younger. Candidly, the Forst told Pluto that the A’s feel Ike Davis can replace Moss’ bat at a cheaper price.
A bit more from Pluto’s interview and the rest of the AL West…
- Forst told Pluto that the Athletics never discussed Josh Donaldson with the Indians. Oakland targeted a few select teams, and the Blue Jays were at the top of their list of potential trade candidates, he added. Meanwhile, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star chimed in on that same trade (via Twitter), noting that Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said that his initial hope was to acquire Donaldson and move Brett Lawrie to second base, but it eventually became clear that Lawrie had to be included in the return to obtain Donaldson.
- The Rangers offered Joba Chamberlain more than the $1MM base salary he received on his new deal with the Tigers, but Chamberlain elected to return to Detroit, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Earlier this morning, GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters that Chamberlain had received more lucrative offers elsewhere but “really wanted” to be a Tiger again.
- Also from Heyman (on Twitter), infielder Elliot Johnson will receive a $900K base salary if he makes the Rangers‘ big league roster. Johnson signed a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite yesterday, the team announced.
- Drew Butera‘s Major League experience and the fact that he’s out of options make him the favorite to win the Angels‘ backup catcher job, writes Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. However, Fletcher does quote manager Mike Scioscia, who says he’s also been impressed by candidates Carlos Perez and Jett Bandy. “All of these guys have shown on the defensive side they are ready for the challenge,” said Scioscia.
- Astros catcher Jason Castro recently spoke to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle about the feeling of seeing his name floated in trade rumors for much of the offseason. “I think if you focus too much on it, you kind of drive yourself crazy,” said Castro, who called trade rumors “part of the offseason.” The White Sox and Rangers were among the teams with interest in Castro, per Drellich. Castro’s spot with the Astros became secure again once the team dealt Carlos Corporan to the Rangers. Castro and Hank Conger will see the bulk of the time behind the plate for Houston.
Joe Blanton, who is in Spring Training with the Royals on a minor league deal this year, missed the game more than he thought he would upon briefly retiring in 2014, writes ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Blanton spent his year off with his wife and three children, but he tells Crasnick that he felt he owed it to himself to take one more shot at the game. “It was nice being home with my family,” Blanton explains. “But the window is small. I’ve done this my whole life. I’ve put a lot into it, so why not see what’s left? I felt like it was almost an injustice to myself to just step away like that.” Blanton recognizes that there may not be an immediate path to the Major League roster in Kansas City and is open to pitching at Triple-A. “I didn’t play in 2014, and 2013 was a terrible year,” says Blanton. “That’s two years of basically nothing — no good work or no playing at all. So I’m kind of starting back at square one, really.”
Some more news and notes from Blanton’s new division, the AL Central…
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski says that Joba Chamberlain turned down more lucrative offers from other clubs to return to Detroit, according to MLB.com’s Jason Beck (Twitter links). Talks between the two sides picked up over the past few days and came together last night, Beck adds. “He really wanted to come back,” Dombrowski said.
- Non-roster invitees Jesse Crain and Matt Albers could be significant boosts to the White Sox bullpen if healthy, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. Crain is already further along than he was in an injury-plagued 2014 season in which he spent the entire year on the disabled list. He tells Merkin that he’s already throwing off a mound with just one day between sessions, which is something he didn’t do at all last year. As for Albers, Merkin interestingly notes that he nearly signed with the White Sox last offseason but instead chose to sign with the Astros, where he missed nearly the entire year after tearing a muscle in his shoulder.
- Glen Perkins called the first day of Spring Training under new Twins manager Paul Molitor the most mentally intensive first day of camp he’s ever had in his career, writes Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN. Molitor worked with pitchers and catchers to outline the ways in which the Twins need to improve on holding runners to help limit the running game, specifically focusing on tendencies throughout the staff that other teams exploited in 2014. Perkins spoke highly of Molitor’s baseball acumen and teaching ability, and Mackey writes that Molitor’s wealth of knowledge and attention to detail could boost the Twins’ on-field product if he’s able to communicate everything effectively.
7:54am: Chamberlain can earn up to $500K with the same incentive scale that he had on his previous one-year deal with the Tigers, tweets MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Per Cot’s Contracts, that included an additional $100K for reaching 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 appearances.
7:33am: Chamberlain will receive a $1MM base salary plus incentives, tweets Rosenthal.
6:50am: The Tigers have reached an agreement on a one-year, Major League deal with reliever Joba Chamberlain, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Chamberlain, a client of Excel Sports Management’s Jim Murray, was spotted in Tigers Spring Training camp this morning, notes Rosenthal.
Chamberlain, 29, posted a 3.57 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9, and 53.2% groundball rate in 63 innings for the Tigers last year. The Dodgers also had late interest in him this offseason. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted earlier this month, Chamberlain makes for a solid buy on a one-year deal, perhaps more so than remaining free agent relievers Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano. Chamberlain did experience a second-half dropoff, at a time he was also helping his ailing mother.
Chamberlain rejoins a Tigers bullpen that hasn’t seen much turnover since the end of last season. The Tigers did add lefty Tom Gorzelanny in January, and they’ve got Bruce Rondon on the mend from March 2014 Tommy John surgery. They’ll have a full season of Joakim Soria, and closer Joe Nathan remains under contract as well. However, for the most part, the Tigers will deploy a very similar mix to the grouping that cost them in the 2014 American League Championship Series. Receiving better production from that group will be vital for the Tigers in an improved AL Central that saw the White Sox, in particular, make an aggressive push toward contention this winter.
On the whole, Detroit relievers posted an unsightly 4.29 ERA and a 4.09 FIP, both of which ranked 27th among 30 big league clubs. They’ll hope that the return of Rondon and a full season of Soria can help to right the ship in the bullpen.
In today’s Insider-only blog on ESPN.com, Buster Olney discusses some of the remaining relief options on the market, noting that right-hander Joba Chamberlain is expected to make a decision on his 2015 club sometime this week. The Dodgers are among the teams with interest, Olney writes, but there are others involved. Olney also notes that part of the reason Rafael Soriano remains unemployed is that scouts feel that his stuff evaporated late in the 2014 season with the Nationals.
A bit more on what’s left of the relief market…
- The Rangers are still looking for left-handed relievers and are considering both Phil Coke and Joe Beimel, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. As Wilson notes, the team needn’t worry about a 40-man roster spot, as they can move an injured player to the 60-day disabled list if they accommodate either southpaw with a big league contact.
- The Brewers and Marlins remain in the mix for Francisco Rodriguez, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The two teams have been the most commonly linked clubs to Rodriguez’s market, with reports over the weekend indicating that Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has discussed K-Rod with agent Scott Boras. Last week, the Marlins were rumored to be interested in the two-year, $10MM range, but Rodriguez is said to be eyeing a $10MM figure for 2015 alone.
- Right-hander Dustin McGowan, who signed a Major League deal with the Dodgers earlier today, is viewing himself as a reliever at this point in his career, he told reporters (including FOX’s Ken Rosenthal). The Dodgers view McGowan as a relief candidate based on his 95 mph fastball and his splits; McGowan had a 5.08 ERA in the rotation last year compared to a 3.35 mark in the bullpen. His career 3.79 ERA as a reliever is nearly a run lower than his 4.78 mark as a starter.
The Dodgers, who recently learned that closer Kenley Jansen will be sidelined for eight to 12 weeks due to foot surgery, are showing interest in Joba Chamberlain, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The team is also considering “other possibilities,” though Rosenthal doesn’t elaborate any further on that notion.
Speculation following the news of Jansen’s injury was that the Dodgers may jump into the top end of the free agent relief market — specifically meaning Francisco Rodriguez or Rafael Soriano. However, multiple reports quickly downplayed that speculation, suggesting that if anything, adding a middle relief arm would be more likely.
Chamberlain, 29, fits that description, although as I noted recently, one could make a case that he’s the best buy remaining on the free agent market. He’s certainly the youngest notable free agent left in free agency, and he enjoyed an overall solid year on the mound, pitching to a 3.57 ERA with 8.4 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 53.2 percent ground-ball rate. It’s true that Chamberlain faded in the season’s second half, but much of that is attributable to a nearly seven-percent dip in his strand rate.
Chamberlain stranded better than 75 percent of baserunners in the season’s first half — a mark that’s well in line with his lifetime 74.6 percent clip — and saw that number dip to 69 percent in the second half. Strand rate can fluctuate in small samples but typically regresses toward a pitcher’s average rate, giving reason to believe that Chamberlain could see improved all-around results in 2015. (A move to the National League, of course, may be beneficial to his bottom-line numbers as well.)
Adding a reliever in the wake of Jansen’s injury may seem an overreaction to some, but the Dodgers had some bullpen depth issues even when Jansen was healthy. Beyond Jansen, the team projects to have Joel Peralta Brandon League, J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez in the ‘pen, with candidates for the final two spots including Juan Nicasio, Chris Hatcher and Pedro Baez. Non-roster invitees include David Aardsma, Sergio Santos, Erik Bedard and David Huff. While the makings of a solid bullpen certainly could be in that mix of players, man offer question marks in terms of health, inexperience and/or recent struggles at the big league level.
The Marlins don’t appear likely to make a significant free-agent addition to their bullpen, as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports that the team isn’t expected to add Phil Coke or Joba Chamberlain, and the asking price of Francisco Rodriguez remains too high. Frisaro had previously written that Miami was considering Rodriguez and had its eyes on a minor league deal for Coke.
According to Frisaro, the Marlins are comfortable offering Rodriguez a two-year deal worth roughly $10MM in total. However, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported last night that K-Rod is seeking that same level of financial compensation on a one-year deal. I’d imagine that agent Scott Boras would listen if the Marlins were to expand (though certainly not double) their comfort zone on a two-year deal, but Frisaro gives no indication that such a scenario is likely. He does note that if Rodriguez’s demands drop, he’s the most realistic external option to boost the bullpen. The Marlins don’t have serious interest in Chamberlain, Frisaro adds.
As for Coke, the Marlins remain unwilling to give the former Tiger anything other than a minor league contract. Miami is very interested to see what Rule 5 pick Andrew McKirahan can do in Spring Training, and adding Coke would likely snuff out that competition before it had a chance to begin, as the team already has a second lefty locked into a bullpen spot in the form of Mike Dunn. Coke, though, is said to be looking for about $2MM on a Major League contract.
Another name that intrigues the Marlins is that of minor league signee Nick Masset, who excelled as a setup man for the Reds from 2009-11 before shoulder problems kept him on the shelf for the entire 2012 and 2013 seasons. Masset returned to the Majors in 2014 but struggled to a 5.80 ERA in 45 innings with the Rockies. However, Masset did still average nearly 93 mph on his fastball with a 51.7 percent ground-ball rate, so there are some elements of his rough season that merit optimism.
Right-hander Dillon Gee is likely the odd man out and headed to the Mets‘ bullpen this season, and ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin was among the reporters to speak with him today regarding the move (video link). Gee says he is ready to contribute in whatever role he is asked, even though he obviously prefers to stay in the rotation. Though he did not ever speak with anyone in the front office, he relayed that his agent did, and was seemingly left with the impression that a trade was never quite as likely as was believed in some quarters.
Let’s have a look at a few segments of the pitching market where action still seems open:
- It would still be unwise to bet against two other well-known closers — Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano — landing substantial contracts, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Notably, both free agents are represented by Scott Boras, who Rosenthal says not to bet against. As Rosenthal rightly points out, it will be interesting to see whether that pair of big-named arms manages to top the guarantees given to names like Pat Neshek ($12.5MM) and Zach Duke ($15MM).
- As previously reported, Rodriguez has drawn interest from the Marlins, who have also had discussions about fellow free agent righty Joba Chamberlain, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). And those aren’t the only arms still under consideration in Miami, per Heyman. The club is seemingly casting a wide net — waiting for a good value, perhaps — in adding a final piece before camp.
- Red Sox closer Koji Uehara said today that his mid-season swoon was due in part to injury issues, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. The trouble was related to Uehara’s lower back, GM Ben Cherington said. Obviously, the club believes that he will be able to return without issue, given the contract it gave the veteran relief ace.
- Breakout Angels starter Garrett Richards threw his first pen session since undergoing knee surgery last year, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Reports were solid on the 26-year-old righty, whose return — and ability to match his outstanding results from last year — will go a long way toward defining the club. Anything close to his 2014 showing would seemingly make Richards a prime extension target.
The Blue Jays and Indians appear not to be involved with any of the three best remaining relievers — righties Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Joba Chamberlain — according to ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider link). Other theoretically plausible landing spots seem fairly dried up as well, he notes in assessing the most likely remaining suitors.
Here are a few more pitching notes:
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik says that the club spoke with lefty reliever Joe Beimel but that a deal could not be reached, Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN tweets. Beimel had a nice rebound campaign last year in Seattle, and is one of the few southpaws left on the market.
- The Mets will not be dealing away any pitchers unless circumstances change, Marc Carig of Newsday reports (Twitter links). Dillon Gee generated the most discussion, but New York never found an offer it liked and its prospective trade partners went with other options.
- We checked in earlier this evening on K-Rod and lefty Phil Coke, each of whom has received some interest from the Marlins. Within that post, we noted a report from Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter) indicating that Coke still has hope of landing a big league pact.
- Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays is likely not going anywhere any time soon, but I can’t help but link to this interesting piece from Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs, who explains that Stroman’s arsenal of pitches looks like it was assembled from amongst the best offerings of some of the very best arms in the game.