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Joel Hanrahan Rumors
Last night, the Tigers landed one of the top available relievers on the trade market in Rangers right-hander Joakim Soria. While Soria should go a long way towards shoring up Detroit’s bullpen, many have wondered if Detroit might continue to work the phones for an additional relief option, particularly given the struggles of left-handers Phil Coke and Ian Krol. I asked Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski earlier today if he might go after a southpaw in the next week.
“I don’t know I would get into what we’re specifically addressing, but we’re open-minded to different thought processes. Our bullpen has struggled at times and we want to have people that put up zeroes out there,” Dombrowski said. “We’ve tried a lot of guys at that and we remain open-minded if something makes sense to make us better before the trade deadline.”
The Tigers have been in need of bullpen reinforcements for some time and Dombrowski has been focused on Soria “for a while.” The GM said that he started chatting with Rangers GM Jon Daniels in June and things picked up more and more with time. And while Soria didn’t come cheap — he cost the Tigers promising pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel — he believed that it was a price they could afford to pay thanks to their pitching depth. Soria’s affordable $7MM club option also helped Dombrowski to pull the trigger since he will likely be more than just a rental.
“I don’t think it made the deal, but it was a real plus for us,” the GM said.
Of course, if things went differently for the Tigers this season, they might not have had to make a trade like this at all. Dombrowski acknowledged that he’d be in a “different situation” if Bruce Rondon was with the club. They’re also “not counting” on a 2014 return for Joel Hanrahan and the odds were termed as being “highly unlikely.”
While Soria has a long history as a successful closer, Dombrowski is insistent that Joe Nathan will continue to pitch in the ninth-inning despite his struggles this season. When asked what it might take for Soria to possible leapfrog Nathan and close out games, the Tigers GM declined to speculate or set expectations for the 39-year-old. For now, Soria is there to help build a better bridge to Nathan and the veteran appears to be all for it. Before pulling the trigger on the deal, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and pitching coach Jeff Jones asked Nathan and Ian Kinsler about how they feel Soria might fit in with the team. One of the replies they got back was, “Why don’t we have him yet?’“
Despite the fact that the Royals recently went through a stretch of 18 losses in 27 games, GM Dayton Moore tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that manager Ned Yost’s job is safe. Perhaps more pertinent to MLBTR faithful is that Moore tells McCullough his 49-50 ball club will not be sellers at this year’s deadline. Moore says that he doesn’t blame the players, coaches or anyone but himself: “I look at myself, and what I can do, and what we can do as a baseball operations department to improve our team. … We’re going to keep pushing until the standings say we’re done.”
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- The Royals scouted the Phillies twice this week already, tweets Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Salisbury notes that Antonio Bastardo performed well in front of Kansas City evaluators, who are on the lookout for bullpen help.
- Joel Hanrahan is a “long shot” to pitch in the Majors this season, reports Lynn Henning of the Detroit News (Twitter link). The Tigers, who signed Hanrahan for a guaranteed $1MM base salary in May, have been hopeful that he will eventually fortify their late-inning relief corps, but they’ve also been linked to numerous bullpen arms, suggesting that they may not be counting on much from the former Pirates All-Star.
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that while it may have been a planned promotion, the timing of Francisco Lindor‘s promotion to Triple-A is “as subtle as a brick to the head.” The Indians announced Lindor’s promotion to Columbus shortly after Asdrubal Cabrera left Monday’s contest with an injury, and while Lindor likely wouldn’t be the immediate replacement, there’s little doubt that he’s seen as Cabrera’s replacement next year. Hoynes also notes how poorly timed a DL stint would be for Cabrera, as it would hurt the team’s chances to stay in the AL Central race while also costing them a potential trade chip.
- The two White Sox players that are generating the most interest in trade are John Danks and Dayan Viciedo, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation’s MLB Daily Dish. The Yankees have reportedly had some discussions with the South Siders about acquiring Danks as of yesterday afternoon. Danks has a six-team no-trade clause, with only four contenders on the list, according to yesterday’s report from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. He can block deals to the Orioles, A’s, Nationals and Blue Jays.
It’s been more than two months since the Tigers inked Joel Hanrahan, but GM Dave Dombrowski tells Chris Iott of MLive.com that there’s still no timetable for the former All-Star’s return. “Really, there have been no expectations,” said Dombrowski. “Really, he’s made progress, but I can’t also say that he’s close.” As Iott notes, it’s all but certain that Hanrahan won’t return prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, which is unfortunate for Detroit, as it doesn’t give them an opportunity to fully assess what they have in their bullpen.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- Iott spoke with Dombrowski for a second piece at MLive.com, but the GM wouldn’t tip his hand when asked about his trade deadline approach. Dombrowski acknowledged that most feel he needs to pursue bullpen help, but he also noted recent improvements from Joe Nathan, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Coke. Iott writes that by process of elimination, the bullpen is the most likely spot for the Tigers to improve. Dombrowski said the level of trade talks to this point has been pretty standard, but he expects them to pick up now that the All-Star Game is complete.
- In a similar interview, Zack Meisel of the Cleveland Plain Dealer attempts to read between the lines on some vague comments from Indians GM Chris Antonetti. One thing that Antonetti did imply is that he’s not overly interested in rental pieces: “We’re exploring a lot of different things, opportunities to improve our team for the balance of this season and then position us better moving forward, too. We’ve spent a lot of energy on fits for acquiring guys that we’d have control over beyond this year, not just guys that would just be here for the balance of the year.”
- Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star spoke with Royals owner David Glass about a plethora of Royals-related topics in an excellent Q&A. Some highlights of note are that Glass expressed confidence in GM Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost, refusing to call this a “make or break year” for Yost. He also said he doesn’t feel his club necessarily needs to make a move to contend, but he would consider adding payroll in trades if it created an obvious opportunity for improvement. Regarding James Shields, he wasn’t sure how involved the Royals would be in pursuing him as a free agent.
We’ve already had one batch of AL Central news items earlier today, but here are a few more from around the division…
- It seems “certain” that the Tigers will extend a qualifying offer to Victor Martinez this winter, MLive.com’s Chris Iott writes as part of a reader mailbag. Though Martinez turns 36 in December, he’s still swinging a live bat, bringing an .859 OPS over 99 PA into today’s action. This is just my speculation, but given Martinez’s age and defensive limitations, I wonder if he could actually accept the one-year qualifying offer (which should be worth roughly $15MM) to stay in a familiar situation in Detroit rather than risk facing a Kendrys Morales -esque extended wait in free agency.
- Torii Hunter did a bit of recruiting to bring Joel Hanrahan to the Tigers, both players tell MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Hunter and Hanrahan are both represented by agent Larry Reynolds and work out together during the offseason.
- Kyle Zimmer, the fifth pick of the 2012 draft, skipped Spring Training and will see his first game action this coming week, Jim Callis writes for MLB.com. While Zimmer is presently healthy, he had a bout of late-season biceps tendinitis and said his arm still didn’t feel when throwing in December. As such, the Royals are taking it very easy with their star prospect and plan to cap him around 148 innings, though they could call on him for a pennant race. “If he pitches like we expect him to, we’ll have a fresh Kyle Zimmer in September,” Royals assistant GM J.J. Picollo said. “He’s as important as anybody in the organization for this year and the future, and this just made more sense.”
- In other prospect-workload news, Twins assistant GM Rob Antony hinted to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that Alex Meyer could see roughly a 30-percent increase in his innings from 2013. “I think 30 percent is pretty much the standard,” Antony said. “It’s kind of the guideline you work under. You monitor it….We just want him to stay healthy throughout the year and continue to progress.” This projects to around 156 IP for Meyer in 2014, and since he’s pitched so well in five Triple-A starts, the big righty could be a late-season callup. Antony didn’t address that possibility other than to say “The intensity is a lot different (in the minors).”
The Indians had Aaron Harang in spring training this year, but released him due to an out clause in his contract, the Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes explains. Since then, Harang has pitched very well for the Braves (despite a nine-run outing against the Marlins earlier this week), and Carlos Carrasco has struggled in the Indians’ rotation. Hoynes argues, however, that Harang is more of an NL pitcher, and that he has benefited from the Braves’ defense, which is much better than Cleveland’s. Here are more notes from the AL Central.
- Rick Porcello‘s improvements this season are legitimate, and it may be time for the Tigers to sign him to a long-term contract if they can, MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes. Through five starts, Porcello has a 5.50 K/BB ratio, thanks largely to a reduction in walks, and he’s getting lots of swings and misses. He’s also due to hit the free-agent market after next season, just before he turns 27. That could make him a valuable commodity indeed.
- The Tigers’ bullpen is “a mess,” which was why Detroit was wise to give Joel Hanrahan a guaranteed deal this week, MLive.com’s James Schmehl writes. The Tigers sent Hanrahan to the disabled list upon signing him, since he’s still recovering from Tommy John surgery, and it’s unclear exactly when he’ll return. If he does, though, and he’s anything like he was in the past, he could help transform the Tigers’ struggling bullpen into a “dangerous” one, Schmehl argues.
More than 20 teams were on hand for Joel Hanrahan‘s April showcase and the former closer reportedly dazzled everyone in attendance. Ostensibly, Hanrahan had a number of opportunities to pick from and earlier today he came to terms on a deal with the Tigers. The 32-year-old came out strong and hit 93 mph on the gun, which is extremely impressive considering that he’s just under one year removed from Tommy John Surgery. On today’s conference call I asked Hanrahan if he was surprised by his fast turnaround.
“No, not really,” the confident veteran said. “I put in the hard work while everyone else was playing this summer. I was going to rehab five times a week at 8:00 in the morning. That was my season. I’ve still got a bit of work to do here. Hopefully when they put a hitter in the box and I get some adrenaline going, the velocity will be there. I’ve always been a velocity type guy with a bit of the breaking ball.”
While Hanrahan is a very notable addition and one that could help fortify a Tigers bullpen that struggled in 2013, there is another notable name that the club has been linked to heavily over the past few months in Stephen Drew. When asked if there could be addition room for another major league free agent this season, Dombrowski said such a move wasn’t in the works but didn’t exactly shut the door.
“Our owner has always been generous but we’re not in a spot to do that necessarily. We’ve made some moves with our club through trades, Andrew Romine has done a good job for us at shortstop, that was one area of need we had…” the GM said. “The area we wanted to address most was our bullpen if we had the opportunity to.”
As for Hanrahan, both the pitcher and Dombrowski emphasized that there will be no clear timetable for his Tigers major league debut. Hanrahan wouldn’t guarantee that he’ll be on the mound for Detroit in the next 30 days and the GM said his minor league warmup will be “sort of a Spring Training,” so it sounds like there’s little, if any, pressure on the reliever to rush himself back. Hanrahan is extremely eager to getting back to what he does best but won’t take any chances to expedite the process.
11:29am: Hanrahan’s base salary is $1MM, and he can earn up to $3MM total after incentives, reports USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (on Twitter).
11:10am: Acknowledging a need for bullpen help, the Tigers announced today that they’ve signed right-hander Joel Hanrahan to a one-year, incentive-laden Major League contract. Hanrahan will begin the season on the disabled list and build up arm strength in the minors before joining the big league club, according to GM Dave Dombrowski. Detroit was one of five teams recently reported to have “strong” interest in the Reynolds Sports Management client.
The 32-year-old Hanrahan is two weeks shy of the one-year anniversary of the Tommy John/flexor mass repair surgery that cost him the majority of the 2013 campaign. Roughly two weeks ago, Hanrahan impressed at a showcase for interested teams that saw upwards of 20 Major League clubs attend. Reports from the showcase said he looked to be in good physical condition and was throwing as hard as 93 mph despite being just 11 months removed from surgery.
A two-time All-Star, Hanrahan posted a 2.59 ERA with 10.4 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and 82 saves in 229 1/3 innings with the Pirates from 2009-12 before a trade that sent him to Boston last in the 2012-13 offseason. Hanrahan fits the Tigers’ affinity for power arms, as his 96.5 mph average fastball from 2011-13 ranked seventh in the game among qualified relievers.
Detroit’s bullpen took a hit before the season even began, when it was learned that fireballing setup man Bruce Rondon would require Tommy John surgery and miss the 2014 season. That loss and a lack of quality internal options has led the Tigers to a collective 5.37 ERA from their relievers thus far in 2014 — second-worst in the Majors. When he is healthy enough to take the field, Hanrahan will presumably slide into a setup role alongside Joba Chamberlain, Al Alburquerque and Ian Krol to help bridge the gap to closer Joe Nathan.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick was the first to connect Hanrahan to a press conference that the Tigers had scheduled (on Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported the agreement (Twitter link), and Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish added that it’s a Major League deal (Twitter link).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
WEDNESDAY: The Rockies, Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees and Tigers are among the teams showing strong interest in free agent reliever Joel Hanrahan, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Hanrahan impressed scouts from as many as 20 teams at a showcase two weeks ago, hitting 93 mph on the gun and appearing to be in good shape. The 32-year-old Hanrahan is roughly two weeks shy of the one-year anniversary of his Tommy John surgery.
The teams listed by Heyman have all seen some degree of bullpen struggles with the exception of the Red Sox, whose collective 3.25 bullpen ERA ranks eighth in the Majors. The other four teams are each in the bottom half of the Majors in terms of reliever ERA, with the Tigers (5.48) and Rangers (4.45) displaying the most troubles in run prevention. Each of the clubs mentioned by Heyman has been relatively stable in the ninth inning to this point, meaning that Hanrahan would likely be ticketed for a setup role should he latch on with any of the five.
Recent reports have indicated that the Mets are also interested in Hanrahan, to an extent, but they aren’t sure whether or not they’ll be making him an offer.
The Mets‘ relatively low payroll has left them with the ability to make additions that will boost the payroll on the trade market this summer, GM Sandy Alderson told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times yesterday. “We have the authority to go higher if it’s necessary at the trade deadline,” Alderson told Kepner. “I’m not worried about that at all.” Alderson, who somewhat controversially stated a goal of 90 wins for the Mets prior to the season, said he’s optimistic about his team’s chances, knowing that the rotation can continue to compete and the offense is bound to improve.
Here’s more from the NL East…
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. participated in a Q&A with Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News and discussed a host of Phillies-related topics. Asked if he was concerned that every right-hander who opened the season in the bullpen (with the exception of Jonathan Papelbon) had been demoted to Triple-A, Amaro replied: “We’ve already started looking outside with other teams and also with possible free agents. We’ve touched base with a couple of them to see if they’re fits.” Asked if the team had the money to spend on a free agent reliever (i.e. Joel Hanrahan), Amaro said, “If there’s money to spend and we feel it’s something we should do, then we’ll have to address it.”
- Also within that piece, Amaro discussed his lack of production at third base from Cody Asche. Amaro noted that Asche has typically been a slow starter at every level and preached patience in Asche. Of course, if his struggles continue, the Phillies do have top prospect Maikel Franco waiting in the wings. Franco, however, is hitting just .172/.234/.253 in 94 Triple-A plate appearances after his monstrous .339/.363/.563 line at Double-A in 2013.
- FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes that there’s too much scrutiny on Bryce Harper, who, at 21 years of age, would be the youngest player on the Nationals‘ Triple-A affiliate and even the youngest on their Double-A affiliate. He praises Nats manager Matt Williams for pulling Harper following a lack of a hustle just two days after a team meeting in which he mandated such behavior. However, Rosenthal questions Williams’ willingness to discuss the situation at length with the media.
- In a blog from earlier this week, ESPN’s Keith Law took a more critical view regarding the Nationals‘ handling of Harper (ESPN Insider required and recommended). Law feels that Williams singled Harper out with his public reprimand, pointing to the fact that veteran Jayson Werth gave a similarly half-hearted effort on a check-swing grounder a day after Harper’s benching and received no public criticism. Law writes that the Nats made a mistake in hiring a manager with zero experience.
- Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan analyzes the curious way that pitchers are pitching to Anthony Rendon and wonders why the league hasn’t adjusted to him yet. Rendon, Sullivan writes, has seen more in-zone fastballs than all but two hitters over the past year, and he’s tattooed those pitches accordingly, yet the rate of in-zone fastballs he’s seeing is actually increasing. Sullivan points out that players who see a comparable amount of fastballs are names like Jeff Keppinger and Jamey Carroll, but Rendon possesses significantly more power than either, leading to his great success thus far in 2014.
The Tigers have a clear need for bullpen help but finding relief arms is easier said than done, MLive.com’s Chris Iott writes. Iott’s reasons include the difficulty of making trades this early in the season, the scarcity of quality left-handers and the amount of competition that Detroit could have in signing free agent Joel Hanrahan.
A few more items from around baseball…
- Phil Nevin, the Diamondbacks‘ Triple-A manager, would likely be the choice to replace Kirk Gibson in the Major League dugout if GM Kevin Towers decides a change is necessary, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports. This is only Nevin’s first season in the Arizona organization, though he has ties to Towers from his playing days in San Diego (when Towers was the Padres’ GM). Prior to joining the D’Backs, Nevin managed the Tigers’ Triple-A team from 2011-13 and their Double-A team in 2010.
- John Ryan Murphy has drawn the attention of several opposing scouts and the young catcher could become a sought-after trade chip for the Yankees, John Harper of the New York Daily News reports. “Some team might see him as a guy who could start for them,’’ one scout told Harper. “He’s solid with the bat and behind the plate.’’
- Delaying a prospect’s Super Two service clock “is not a driving factor” behind the Pirates‘ decision to call up a young star, GM Neal Huntington tells Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in regards to Gregory Polanco‘s continued presence at Triple-A. Huntington said that Polanco is “continuing to refine some of the intricacies of his game” and didn’t give details for fear that opposing teams would use the info against the outfielder (an explanation that Biertempfel doesn’t buy). Polanco currently has a 1.104 OPS in 100 PA at Triple-A this season and his bat would be a big addition to the offensively-challenged Bucs lineup.