Johan Santana Rumors

Pitching Notes: Johan, Shields, Twins

Most of the meat left on the free agent bone belongs to the pitching segment of the market. Indeed, five of the seven players who I listed this morning as intriguing free agents were right-handed pitchers.

Here’s the latest on some arms from around the league:

  • There was more cloudy news out of Venezuela regarding Johan Santana‘s comeback attempt, as his agent tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports that he will not attempt to pitch again in the winter league. (Twitter links.) Santana may still aim to take a mound for scouts, but any such plans are “unclear” at this point.
  • The Angels are still not interested in chasing James Shields, even if his price may have dropped somewhat, GM Jerry Dipoto tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter).
  • For their part, the Twins have no intentions of going after free agent righties John Axford and Alexi Ogando, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune tweets. As he notes, the market has several attractive right-handed relief arms, though it is not clear whether Minnesota has any interest in adding to its pen. Both Axford and Ogando made my list of interesting players to watch. I consider the pair to be among the remaining free agents who could either break out or break down in 2015.

AL Central Notes: Johan, Hughes, Reimold, Swisher, Sox

Though Johan Santana‘s comeback attempt briefly stalled when he experienced some shoulder discomfort, it appears he’s back on course, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the former Cy Young winner will throw a bullpen session today and is tentatively scheduled to pitch Game 5 of the Venezuelan Winter League finals next week. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports (via Twitter) that the Twins will be scouting each of those showings, though his sense is that a return to his former stomping grounds isn’t in the cards for Santana.

More on the Twins and their division…

  • Right-hander Phil Hughes told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger that he was excited to sign a long-term extension with the Twins in December due to the high level of comfort that he felt in his first year with the club. Hughes implied that he entered the offseason hoping to work out a longer deal and was clearly able to do that, signing for an additional three years and $42MM on Dec. 22. However, Hughes noted that he wouldn’t have signed if he didn’t think the team was close to contending in the near future. Minnesota’s enviable farm system and their willingness to spend on veterans, demonstrated by signing Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana this winter, were both factors in Hughes’ decision as well.
  • The Indians are showing a great deal of interest in Nolan Reimold, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (on Twitter). Cleveland is trying to sign the former Oriole to a minor league deal, Kubtako notes, though he adds that the Orioles remain in the mix as well. Reimold, 31, has battled significant injuries over the past few seasons but does own a solid .251/.324/.439 batting line in 1134 big league plate appearances.
  • Nick Swisher struggled through the worst season of his career last year with the Indians, though many of his struggles were likely attributable to knee problems that plagued him all season. Swisher, who underwent surgery on both knees in August, explained to MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince that his knees were so bad that he literally could not walk to the bathroom at night (Twitter links). He admitted to Castrovince that he wished he’d had the operations sooner, but wanted to play through the pain due to the investment that the Indians made in him. Cleveland inked the Ohio native to a four-year, $56MM pact two offseasons ago.
  • At their annual Sox Fest event earlier today, White Sox GM Rick Hahn told reporters, including MLB.com’s Scott Merkin, that bullpen depth and another utility infielder to use versus left-handed pitching were the two primary items remaining on his offseason wishlist (Twitter link). Hahn also said that minor league signee Geovany Soto has a good chance to make the team out of Spring Training, so long as he can show that he is healthy (via CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes).

Quick Hits: Moncada, Dodgers, Johan, Varona

In an interview with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (audio link), Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said his team will scout Yoan Moncada as they would any prospect of “great intrigue,” but “given our financial situation, I wouldn’t expect us to be the winners of an auction.”  Silverman feels this is another example of how difficult it is for successful small-market teams to replenish their systems, as “all of the [player acquisition] structures, whether it’s the draft or international, put us at a disadvantage.

Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • A group of South Korean investors are talking with the Dodgers about buying a minority stake of the franchise, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports.  The news was originally reported by two South Korean newspapers, one of which (the Korea Joongang Daily) reports that the discussed terms were $370MM for 20 percent of the team.  A source with knowledge of the talks told Shaikin there is a “zero” chance the Dodgers’ ownership group would give up control of the team in these negotiations.
  • The Phillies face a tough road back to respectability but they can get there within two to four years if they augment their financial resources with good young talent, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan opines.  The worst-case scenario would be if they make the wrong moves and revenues decline, thus putting the club in a long streak of losing seasons, a la the Orioles prior to their 2012 playoff appearance.
  • Peter Greenberg, Johan Santana‘s agent, said his client doesn’t have any structural damage in his shoulder, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets.  Santana was recently scratched from a Venezuelan Winter League start due to his shoulder, though Greenberg said Santana might return to pitch in the league playoffs.
  • Cuban outfielder Dayron Varona receives a scouting report from ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider subscription required), who praises Varona’s running and plus arm but has some questions about his hitting.  The current popularity of Cuban players could inflate Varona’s market, Law feels, though he thinks Varona will sign for “close to eight figures as a potential big league backup.”
  • The Blue Jays could consider Everth Cabrera as an option at second base, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.  Presumably the Jays’ interest would hinge on the outcome of Cabrera’s ongoing legal case, which may not take place until April.  Heyman also notes that Rickie Weeks “seems to be further down [Toronto’s] list.”
  • ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield lists the five teams he felt improved the most and least this winter.


Pitching Notes: Santana, Shields, Haren, Lynn

Johan Santana‘s comeback bid has hit a snag, as the southpaw was scratched from a planned Venezuelan Winter League start with shoulder soreness (via the league’s Spanish language website). Though he will surely find another opportunity to showcase for MLB clubs, shoulder health was already an obvious concern for the two-time Cy Young winner.

Here are some more notes involving starting pitching:

  • It has been a challenge to find obvious fits for free agent righty James Shields, but ESPN.com’s Dan Szymborski (Insider link) makes the attempt by focusing on which clubs would stand to receive the greatest boost in projected wins. Three NL West teams (DodgersGiantsPadres) and a trio from the AL Central (TigersRoyalsWhite Sox) join the Marlins as the clubs that the ZiPS projection system thinks would benefit most by signing Shields.
  • The Marlins have not yet received any trade offers for righty Dan Haren, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Miami is in an interesting spot with regard to the veteran, as Jackson explains.
  • Before reaching agreement on a three-year deal that bought out all of his arb-eligible seasons, the Cardinals and righty Lance Lynn considered longer extension scenarios, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. That did not come to fruition because the team was interested in delaying Lynn’s free agency by one or two years whereas the pitcher was only interested in foregoing the open market for a larger, longer pact. Lynn explained that he would be open to revisiting talks later: “It’s not something that we could get situated, but there’s always going to be a process later. If everything goes well and I pitch the way I’m capable of, I’m sure that will be revisited down the line.”

Free Agent Notes: Moncada, Olivera, Belisario, Santana, Zito

While he awaits clearance from the government, Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada is putting on showcases for interested teams. The Yankees have already put the 19-year-old through the paces, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. In addition to New York and the previously-reported Giants, Moncada has worked out for the BrewersRangersRed Sox, and Padres, per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Meanwhile, the DodgersRaysCubs, and Phillies have shown interest. For their part, the Twins will not seek a private workout because they believe the bidding will go too high, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.

Here are some more free agent notes:

  • Fellow Cuban second bagger Hector Olivera will begin a two-day open showcase in the Dominican Republic tomorrow, Badler reports on Twitter. Olivera figures to be more of an immediate contributor than the younger Moncada.
  • Clubs interested in righty Ronald Belisario, as with Burke Badenhop, include the Blue Jays and Nationals, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 32-year-old has run up solid innings totals over each of the last three years, but has seen his ERA steadily move north during that stretch. On the other hand, ERA estimators have viewed him as a solidly average performer in each of those seasons, with a low strand rate likely causing most of his troubles in 2014.
  • The YankeesBlue Jays, and Padres are three of the approximately six teams pursuing lefty Johan Santana, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. An upcoming Venezuelan league start could have some bearing on where the one-time ace ends up.
  • Another prominent lefty is plotting his comeback as well. Per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link), Barry Zito still plans to return to baseball after a year off and will put on a showcase this spring. The 36-year-old last threw in 2013, working to a career-worst 5.74 ERA over 133 1/3 innings.

Pitcher Notes: Scherzer, Gallardo, Santana

The Nationals now might be the favorites to sign Max Scherzer, and that’s a bit surprising, given the quality of their existing rotation and the fact that they don’t seem likely to push their payroll to Dodgers/Yankees levels, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post writes. By backloading the deal, though, the Nationals could keep their 2015 payroll reasonable, then be able to pay Scherzer higher salaries in later years, when several highly paid current players (Ian Desmond, Doug Fister and Denard Span among them) could be gone. The Nationals could also trade Jordan Zimmermann after acquiring Scherzer, netting them prospect talent and essentially replacing one top starter with another. Here are more notes on pitchers.

  • The Rangers are rumored to be close to acquiring Yovani Gallardo from the Brewers, and such a deal would make sense from Texas’ perspective, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes. Gallardo would give the Rangers a needed veteran innings-eater without requiring a long-term commitment.
  • Johan Santana already has at least one offer after pitching two innings in the Venezuelan Winter League Tuesday, but it isn’t from the Twins, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN tweets. The 35-year-old Santana is attempting a comeback after having missed the 2013 and 2014 seasons due to shoulder and Achilles injuries.

East Notes: Duquette, Gattis, Santana

The Blue Jays and Orioles have reached the point of discussing compensation if current Baltimore executive VP Dan Duquette were to head to Toronto as the club’s new president, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (links to Twitter). The Orioles are “open to his departure,” says Rosenthal, whose sources tell him that some in the organization want him to leave to resolve what has become an uncomfortable situation. No deal is close at present, per the report.

Here are a few more quick notes from the east:

  • The Braves are still talking with clubs regarding catcher/outfielder Evan Gattis, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets. Nothing appears to be imminent, however, according to the report. As things stand, Gattis appears slated to open the season as Atlanta’s left fielder, though the right offer could presumably change that quickly.
  • Among the teams interested in veteran southpaw Johan Santana is the Yankees, according to Dan Martin of the New York Post. New York had eyes on Santana in his recent Venezuelan winter league outing and pursued him last year before he launched an unsuccessful comeback bid with the Orioles.

AL East Notes: Sox, Bradley, Hunter, Zobrist, O’s, Yankees, Jays

The Red Sox made their annual announcement of front office personnel changes today, and among the most significant changes is the creation of a department of behavioral health, writes Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. The Red Sox will hire Dr. Richard Ginsburg as the department head, and he will pair with former Major Leaguer Bob Tewksbury, who served as a mental skills coach with Boston from 2005-13. Tewksbury left the club for a year to work with the MLBPA, and Speier writes that his absence was noticed by young players such as Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts as they struggled to transition to everyday roles. Said GM Ben Cherington of the new department: “We’re trying to take care of the body as well as we possibly can… Health extends past the body, but it’s all related. … We’re really just trying to help players be as healthy as they possibly can be, physically and mentally.”

More from the AL East…

  • The Red Sox may have to sell low on Bradley Jr., as they did with Will Middlebrooks, writes Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com. Boston will likely trade Bradley or another outfielder before Opening Day due to the fact that they have a logjam in the outfield. Mastrodonato opines that Bradley absolutely has the upside to be an everyday center fielder in the field and at the plate — his defense is already considered among the best in baseball — and worries about the danger of moving him only to see him take off with another club. He likens Bradley to Carlos Gomez, who was slow to develop but has always possessed a good glove and is now a perennial MVP candidate in the NL. Bradley may not have that type of power, but Cherington has told Mastrodonato this offseason that he thinks there are other clubs that will perceive Bradley as an everyday outfielder, and the Sox feel he has that ability as well.
  • Though the Orioles have not approached right-hander Tommy Hunter about an extension, the setup man tells Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore that he’s certainly open to a long-term deal to remain with the club. Hunter’s agent, Mike Moye, just wrapped up negotiation on a contract to avoid arbitration for the final time, settling on a $4.65MM salary for 2015. Hunter is one of 11 Orioles that can hit the open market next winter, and while he says he’d love to see the group stay together, he acknowledged that that the business element of the game prevents that before adding, “Let’s win this year, and worry about everything else after.”
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com penned a column with multiple Orioles notes, including the fact that the Orioles had definite interest in acquiring Ben Zobrist from the Rays before he was dealt to Oakland. However, the Rays brought up names such as Dylan Bundy and Chance Sisco in talks, neither of whom GM Dan Duquette was willing to surrender.
  • Kubatko also notes that the Orioles don’t appear to have interest in a reunion with Johan Santana, and there’s nothing hot between the O’s and Colby Rasmus at this time. Baltimore’s interest hasn’t waned, but they’re maintaining the same level and don’t appear willing to go beyond their comfort zone to add him to the roster.
  • The Yankees are wise to have looked at the big picture this offseason rather than focusing on the immediate, opines Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Historically speaking, the Yankees have lived largely in the present, doling out large contracts with little regard for the potential negatives at the end of a deal. However, despite needs in the rotation, the Yankees have stayed out of the Max Scherzer market and haven’t been seriously connected to James Shields or Cole Hamels. Rather, the club is prioritizing defense and a strong bullpen. While their 2015 outlook may not have improved much, Castrovince writes, the team is in a better place in the long-term due to exercising caution.
  • Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith hosted a Blue Jays chat with readers today and covered a wide variety of hot stove topics. To name a few, Ben noted that he doesn’t foresee a reunion with Casey Janssen, that he expects Dioner Navarro to open the season with the club and that he believes the team will end up acquiring a new closer prior to Spring Training.

Pitching Notes: Shields, Cards, Ogando, Albers, Baker, Coke, Comebacks

As things stand, the Nationals have the game’s best rotation while the Royals have the top pen, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney opines (Insider links). Of course, the offseason is not yet over. Here are the latest notes on the pitching market:

  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart confirmed that the team has active interest in starter James Shields, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Stewart adds that he likes the idea of  Shields serving as a mentor while fronting the team’s rotation. Fellow free agent Max Scherzer, however, is too spendy for Arizona.
  • When the Cardinals pursued lefty Jon Lester, the team indicated it was willing to spend only to the $120MM range, Olney tweets. That could give an idea of what kind of payroll space the club feels willing to occupy, says Olney. St. Louis was recently linked to a trio of top starting pitchers, each of whom would represent quite a different investment.
  • Alexi Ogando apparently produced solid results in his recent workout, with Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com tweeting that scouts were impressed. The Red Sox and Dodgers are “aggressive” on Ogando, Gammons adds. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe had tweeted that Boston was in attendance.
  • Righty Matt Albers is throwing in preparation for a showcase early next month, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). The shoulder issues that shut him down last year did not involve any structural damage, says Morosi.
  • Agent Bobby Witt says that client Scott Baker, another free agent righty, prefers to join a team that will allow him to enter camp as a starter, Morosi reports (Twitter links). Baker has five minor league offers in hand but is hoping to receive a major league contract.
  • Interest in lefty Phil Coke is “amping up,” Chris Iott of MLive.com tweets. Nevertheless, a signing does not appear to be imminent, per the report.
  • The Twins are planning to watch lefty Johan Santana throw today after already seeing him on the mound last week, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets. Santana is not the only prominent hurler eyeing a comeback, it seems. Former closer Carlos Marmol threw in the Dominican earlier this winter and is now pitching in Venezuela, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. And one-time relief ace Daniel Bard, whose career derailed with a failed conversion back to the rotation, is also seeking a return, Cafardo reports. The 29-year-old says he is finally healthy and expects to sign a deal this week.

Quick Hits: Orioles, Ogando, Santana, Reds

The Orioles could be preparing for Delmon Young to play more next season, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. “Delmon Young is an accomplished major league hitter who had a nice year with a lot of clutch hits in part-time duty in 2014,” texts Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette. “We look forward to his return and contribution on our 2015 team. Depending on how the team is structured, he could have a more vital role this season.” Playing the right-handed Young more regularly could help make up for the loss of Nelson Cruz, although the Orioles continue to look at the left-handed Colby Rasmus as well, with an Orioles source telling Encina the odds that the team will sign him are “50-50.” Here are more notes from around baseball.

  • About two dozen teams were expected to be on hand for Alexi Ogando‘s showcase yesterday in Tampa, tweets Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons. Ogando, 31, was non-tendered by the Rangers this offseason after he missed much of the 2014 campaign with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Although he had a rough time in 2014 with an ERA near 7.00, Ogando entered the season with a career 3.12 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 381 innings split between the Rangers’ rotation and bullpen. Given his track record of success as both a starter and reliever, it’s not surprising that more than two-thirds of the team in the league would want to get a look at him to gauge his health for themselves.
  • Johan Santana is again plotting a comeback, and ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick updates his progress. The lefty is preparing to appear in a Venezuelan winter league game and hopes to sign before camp opens, agent Peter Greenberg says.
  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty didn’t want to handicap the odds of his club signing ace Johnny Cueto to an extension prior to his specified Opening Day deadline when asked by MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Jocketty says the Cincinnati front office has a lot on its plate right now, with arbitration cases for Mike Leake, Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Aroldis Chapman and Zack Cozart on the horizon. The Reds are also still pursuing upgrades for the bench and bullpen — a process Jocketty referred to as “slow.” Sheldon feels that given the Reds’ full 40-man roster, the most likely scenario would be a few additions on minor league deals with invites to big league camp.