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Johan Santana Rumors
The Orioles are nearing a minor league deal with former AL Cy Young winner Johan Santana, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio tweeted earlier today that Santana was in Orioles camp and wondered if something might be cooking between Baltimore and the Peter Greenberg cilent. The Orioles view Santana as a potential lefty reliever, tweets MLB.com's Britt Ghiroli.
Santana, who turns 35 in 10 days, did not pitch in 2013 after undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder for the second time in three years. Santana's last work came in 2012, when he was excellent through the season's first half. That strong stretch was highlighted by the first no-hitter in Mets history on June 1, when Santana shut down a strong Cardinals lineup. However, Santana also walked five in the game and needed a whopping 134 pitches to complete the no-no — 26 more than he'd thrown in any other start of the year. Santana posted an 8.27 ERA over his next 49 innings before being shut down for the season.
One of the best Rule 5 Draft selections in history, Santana broke out with the Twins in 2002, posting a 2.99 ERA in 108 innings. Over the next five seasons in Minnesota, Santana posted a 2.92 ERA and won a pair of AL Cy Young Awards before being traded to the Mets for a package of prospects highlighted by Carlos Gomez and former No. 3 overall draft pick Phil Humber. Santana signed a six-year, $137.5MM extension with the Mets and was solid when on the field but looks poor in hindsight due to his injury troubles.
TODAY: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com provides a list of the other clubs who sent representatives to watch Santana: the Phillies, Blue Jays, Pirates, and Rangers. Scouts in attendance told Heyman that Santana still needs to build his arm strength back up, but looked to be in great shape and threw as expected given his point on the recovery curve.
YESTERDAY, 5:40pm: The Orioles were among the teams to see Santana, tweets Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun. The club could be interested in bringing him in on a minor league deal, says Encina.
3:26pm: Throwing in Fort Myers today, rehabbing starter Johan Santana showed his current form to seven teams, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. Santana mostly threw in the high-70s, topping out at just 81 mph, though he did flash his usually phenomenal change.
Though those numbers sound less than promising, the workout comes very early on in the process for Santana to regain strength on the mound following a second shoulder surgery, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Indeed, a mid-season return has always been the early target for Santana. Agent Peter Greenberg said there is no "firm date," with Santana committed to "tak[ing] it conservatively this time" and "not rushing things."
Per the above two reports, both the Yankees and Twins were among the teams with scouts in attendance.
The Brewers shipped out reliever John Axford to the Cardinals at last year's trade deadline, bringing back young righty Michael Blazek. Milwaukee has been impressed with the 25-year-old, with manager Ron Roenicke saying he profiles as a late-inning arm, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentine. Meanwhile, after being non-tendered by the Cards and signed by the Indians, Axford hopes to continue learning from his brief stint in St. Louis. As MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports, his former club informed him that he'd been tipping pitches, and Axford hopes that correction — along with regained velocity — will allow him to return to his peak form.
Here are more stray notes from around the game …
- Another trade deadline mover, Mike Olt of the Cubs, has shown substantial improvement in the eyesight issues that plagued him last year with the Rangers, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times. Though his prospect stock has fallen in the meantime, all that matters to Olt is maintaining his health. "As long as I'm healthy," he said, "I know that I can do what I was capable of."
- Reliever Jason Frasor explained that he elected to re-sign with the Rangers for the simple reason that he likes playing for the club, reports Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. "Free agency isn't that great for middle relievers," he said. "I never wanted to be the kind of guy that bounced around from team to team as middle relievers often do with one-year deals. I found a place I really, really liked. … I think I was the first [free agent] to sign [this offseason]. I just didn't feel it was worth it to try to scrape out maybe a little better contract … ."
- One free agent who faces a much more open-ended market is former ace Johan Santana. As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports, Santana has fielded interest from at least three American League clubs. The 34-year-old is hoping to be ready to take the mound in a big league game in June.
- The Rays' roster battle features several situations where options will play a role, reports Bill Chastain of MLB.com. Among the players who must make the active roster or face a DFA are Chris Archer, Josh Lueke, Jake McGee, Cesar Ramos, Brandon Guyer, and Matt Joyce.
As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reported today (Twitter links), some of the four remaining draft-compensation free agents may prefer to wait until after the draft to sign than agree to a sub-market deal. Dierkes notes that the high-risk strategy would threaten their former clubs with not receiving a compensation pick, which could increase the impetus for re-signings. It took until March 25th for the last compensation-bound player (Kyle Lohse) to reach agreement in 2013.
Of course, while carrying compensation is a hindrance, players only come to know its burdens after turning down a sizeable, one-year qualifying offer from their former club (this year, for $14.1MM). For many other free agents, an offer of any kind is all they are really looking for. Established big leaguer Tim Byrdak, now 40, is among them. He posted an image of a handwritten flyer on his Twitter account earlier today, advertising himself to GMs as a "high mileage but very serviceable," "late model LHR" that "comes with warranty" (via ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin).
Here are some more notes on an increasingly sparse market:
- Though a return of Johan Santana to the Twins was beginning to look like a foregone conclusion, writes LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star-Tribune, several other clubs have recently expressed interest in the 34-year-old. Minnesota is certainly still in the hunt, with assistant GM Rob Antony telling Neal that he was waiting to hear back from Santana's agent in their latest round of talks. Noting that the Orioles have also seen the two-time Cy Young recipient throw of late, Neal says that Santana could be planning a showcase of sorts to allow more clubs to see his progress as he recovers from a second significant shoulder procedure.
- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said today that the club made strong runs at Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez before they signed elsewhere, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports. "There were a couple of [trades] in the works that ended up falling through," said Gibbons, "and then with the free agents, there's a little bit of a bidding war out there, it's not automatic that you're going to get those guys." Gibbons declined to comment on current free agent starter Ervin Santana, other than to say that the club likes his arm.
- Do not expect Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos to go beyond the team's internal valuation to sign Santana, writes Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. Griffin argues that the Orioles' signing of Jimenez to a Garza-like contract — while giving up a first-round pick to do so — has undermined the Jays' apparent plan to wait out the market for compensation-bound starters and leverage the club's protected first-round choices.
- Former Nationals and Twins righty Shairon Martis is weighing two minor league offers along with the possibility of playing abroad, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Though he made his debut in 2008, the native of Curacao is still just 26 years of age.
Johan Santana will throw for interested teams at some point soon, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com tweets. When he does, the Twins will be in attendance. Yesterday, Santana himself indicated that he had begun throwing off a mound, the latest step in his recovery from shoulder surgery. Here are more notes on free agents, all of them pitchers.
- Brian Burres threw for teams on Thursday, and he will throw again on Monday in Florida, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has learned. Burres last appeared in the big leagues in 2011 with the Pirates. He spent 2012 in the Giants' system, and 2013 in Taiwan.
- The Red Sox continue to "check in on" reliever Joel Hanrahan, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports (via Twitter). Hanrahan's agent told MLBTR yesterday that Hanrahan would host a showcase for interested teams in March. Hanrahan is making his way back after a 2013 season mostly lost to elbow troubles.
- The Red Sox watched Ryan Madson on Friday in Arizona, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets. Like Hanrahan, Madson is a once-dominant reliever trying to make his way back after dealing with elbow problems. The Phillies are among the teams that have shown interest in Madson, who last appeared in the big leagues in 2011 as a Phillie.
Here's the latest on free agent situations around the league:
- Bronson Arroyo's decision came down to the Diamondbacks and the Orioles, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick tweets, with Arroyo's preference to stay in the National League playing a role in his decision to sign with Arizona. Baltimore's best offer was "competitive" with the two-year, $23.5MM guarantee that Arroyo landed, tweets Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun.
- Reliever Ryan Madson hit 93 mph on the radar gun during an audition today in front of 15 clubs, reports Crasnick (via Twitter). Multiple teams have expressed interest in the one-time relief ace, who is working back after missing each of the last two seasons due to elbow issues. Madson's former club, the Phillies, are one of the teams that planned to watch Madson, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reported earlier today.
- Another rehabbing pitcher, former ace Johan Santana, tweeted today that he started throwing off of a mound this week. Last we heard, Twins GM Terry Ryan suggested that Santana probably would not be ready to throw competitive pitches until the summer.
- Multiple teams have shown interest in free agent reliever Brandon Lyon, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 34-year-old threw 34 1/3 innings of 4.98 ERA ball for the Mets last year, but advanced metrics (3.98 FIP, 4.48 xFIP, 4.38 SIERA) put a somewhat more positive spin on things.
- Free agent outfielder Rick Ankiel told SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (hat tip to Cotillo, on Twitter) that he is still open to playing. But having yet to hear from clubs with interest, Ankiel says he is "in a holding pattern."
Still in the midst of recovering from his second major shoulder surgery, one-time Twins and Mets ace Johan Santana could still be half-a-year away from taking the hill in a major league game, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports. Discussing Santana at the Twins' winter fan event yesterday, Minnesota GM Terry Ryan said that Santana will "be held back" and "won't be ready to go probably … [until] the summer at some point."
That does not mean, however, that the Twins and other clubs are not keeping an eye on the 34-year-old southpaw. "We do have some interest in him," said Ryan. "Whether or not he wants to sign with us will be up to him." Ryan said that Santana "would be a good fit" for a Twins organization that made three significant free agent rotation additions over the offseason.
Meanwhile, a return by Santana to his more recent home — the Mets — does not appear to be in the cards. As Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports, with Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan now added to the club's fifth-starter competition, Santana's time in Queens is now all but certainly over.
Though he never again dominated at his 2004-2006 levels, the Venezuelan native remained quite valuable over his first three years in New York, authoring a 2.85 ERA over an even 600 innings between 2008 and 2010. Over the final three years of his $137.5MM deal, however, Santana threw only 117 innings of 4.85 ERA ball. Unsurprisingly, the Mets declined their $25MM option for Santana's services for the 2014 season, instead paying him a $5.5MM buyout.
Santana figures to be available on a minor league deal given the extent of his injury issues, though the Grady Sizemore signing suggests that a guaranteed deal is not an impossibility. At a minimum, the changeup artist will surely draw plenty of interested onlookers when he decides to audition. After all, it was only two summers back that Santana — returning from his first shoulder surgery — no-hit a potent Cardinals lineup and ended the month of June with a 2.76 ERA over 98 innings (only to see things fall apart thereafter).
The Indians have signed a couple of notable names to minor league deals this week, picking up right-hander Scott Atchison and outfielder Jeff Francoeur. They were also one of the two finalists on infielder Jamey Carroll. Here's the latest out of Cleveland (All courtesy of the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes)…
- Hoynes writes that the Indians have been in contact with Masahiro Tanaka's agent, Casey Close, and could meet with him and his client in the coming days. The Indians "are in the game" and could make a lucrative multiyear offer, but Hoynes calls the chances of a deal "slim," noting that Cleveland isn't likely to outbid big spenders like the Yankees and possibly the Diamondbacks.
- From that same piece, Hoynes writes that if they do not land Tanaka, they're content to wait for a starter to come to them at their price. Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Bronson Arroyo could all be of interest and could all sign after Tanaka. Hoynes writes that Cleveland has long coveted Garza, and also adds that they may be able to sign Jimenez if he's the last man standing from the remaining free agent starters. At that point, they could get Jimenez at their price and would have an advantage over other teams due to draft pick compensation. Cleveland is also content to let Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Shaun Marcum and Josh Tomlin battle for the fifth spot if they can't find a starter at the right price.
- In a mailbag piece, Hoynes tells readers that while the Indians have spoken to Johan Santana's agents, his sense is that the team is focused on adding healthier, more dependable arms if it makes further pitching additions.
- Cleveland isn't likely to sign Bobby Abreu because Jason Giambi is already in the fold, Hoynes reports. However, the Indians are impressed by Abreu's swing and improved conditioning. If it becomes clear that Giambi cannot fill the role he did for the Indians in 2013, then Abreu would be a candidate to do so.
Florida State quarterback and pitcher/outfielder Jameis Winston may not ultimately be long for the game of baseball, but he has potential first-round talent, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America writes in an interesting piece. If Winston were to end up pursuing baseball, he has legitimate ability both as a switch-hitting position player and as a pitcher. But his developmental process may mean he now has more value through his arm, Cooper writes. One scout says that, if he sees enough time on the mound, Winston is a top-20 draft candidate given his low-to-mid-90's fastball and solid slider.
Here are some pitching notes from around the league:
- The Tigers announced today that former American League Cy Young winner Justin Verlander underwent successful core muscle surgery in Philadelphia this morning. Verlander injured himself in late December during his regular offseason conditioning and will undergo rehab for the next six weeks. "We fully anticipate Justin to participate in spring training and be in a position to compete at the beginning of the 2014 season," said GM Dave Dombrowski in the press release. Here's more from around the league…
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that Johan Santana expects to throw off a mound this month and could either sign with a team to complete his rehab or wait until he is healthy to showcase for teams. The two-time Cy Young Award winner is still deciding the best course of action, it seems.
- The Yankees are among several teams keeping an eye on Santana's rehab progress, reports Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger. He may audition for scouts before Spring Training, McCullough adds.
- The Brewers have been running quietly in free agency thus far, but GM Doug Melvin says that the team is talking with several relievers, reports MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, who breaks down the remaining options. On the other hand, Melvin seems content taking his current array of relievers into Spring Training without a significant addition. "Right now, we're just going to [fill the bullpen] internally," said Melvin, "unless that changes."
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
SB Nation's Grant Brisbee examines the ups and downs of Joe Mauer's contract and wonders what Mauer would have signed for had he been a free agent this offseason. Mauer is owed $115MM over the remainder of his contract, and while Brisbee feels he'd fall a bit shy of that, he still predicts a healthy six-year, $101MM contract. Mauer would have been the second-best hitter in this year's free agent class, Brisbee notes, pointing out that among 2013-14 free agents, only Robinson Cano has a higher OPS+ than Mauer over the past two seasons. More Twins-related news and rumors…
- Mike Pelfrey's two-year, $11MM contract with the Twins includes $3.5MM in incentives based on innings thresholds, as broken down by Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- There isn't any change in negotiations between the Twins and Matt Garza, according to 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson (Twitter links). As Wolfson reported earlier this week, Minnesota is willing to meet Garza's price but only on a short-term deal, while Garza is looking for a longer commitment.
- The Twins are not one of the six teams that have expressed interest in a minor league deal for Nyjer Morgan, according to Darren Wolfson (Twitter link). Morgan recently switched agents and is weighing a return to the Majors after a strong season in Japan.
- Major League sources tell Andy Martino of the New York Daily News that a reunion between the Twins and Johan Santana is a real possibility. Minnesota has continued to discuss its former ace internally, has stayed in contact with Santana's agents and has some interest in a reunion.
- The Twins face an interesting battle for the fifth spot in their rotation, wrote MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger in his most recent Twins Inbox. Samuel Deduno, Vance Worley and Scott Diamond are all out of minor league options, but the rotation figures to have room for just one of the three with Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey all under control. That's to say nothing of top prospect Kyle Gibson, who struggled in 2013 but still projects to be in the rotation at some point. Bollinger feels that Deduno is the front-runner for the fifth spot but doesn't see a Worley or Diamond trade happening until at least midway through Spring Training, as each pitcher's value is at a low point.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post