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MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is said to be “ready to reach out to [Kris] Bryant soon to determine his mindset” on whether or not a grievance should be filed against the Cubs for holding him in Triple-A to start the season, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in his latest Inside Baseball column. Heyman notes that the union could file a grievance on Bryant’s behalf even without his consent, though that’s unlikely. The issue at hand, of course, would be whether or not Bryant was clearly one of Chicago’s 25 best players and the demotion was made purely for service time implications. (Chicago bought an extra year of control over Bryant by stashing him in the Minors for all of eight games/11 days). Heyman points out that it would be difficult to an arbitrator to rule in Bryant’s favor, as there’s no precedent for this type of grievance. Players in similar situations have historically been hesitant to file a grievance, he adds, because it would be a contentious way to begin a relationship with a team to which a player will be tied for the next six-plus years. A “Cubs connected person” called the notion of a grievance “laughable” when asked by Heyman. However, the points that Bryant was recalled on the first day the team could add him while still delaying free agency and slotted directly into the cleanup spot could make a case that the club had an understanding of his value, Heyman writes. From the union’s perspective, it’s understandable that they’d have interest in preventing this type of situation in the future, even if it’s a long shot.
More highlights from a lengthy Heyman column…
- The Padres don’t yet view Melvin Upton Jr. as a throwaway piece and will use him as an occasional outfielder and pinch-runner, Heyman writes. He also looks back on Upton’s original five-year, $75.2MM pact and notes that it’s one of the worst contracts in recent history, particularly given the fact that the next-highest offer was believed to come from the Phillies at somewhere in the $40MMs.
- The league’s investigation into the Rays‘ allegations of the Cubs‘ tampering in the Joe Maddon saga could come to a close as soon as next week, per Heyman. MLB was still interviewing people as recently as last week, but to this point there “is believed to have been no smoking guns found.”
- The Reds never approached right-hander Mike Leake about a contract extension this offseason, and the free-agent-to-be is said to be a bit hurt not to have been contacted. Leake’s not a front-line starter, but he’ll hit the open market heading into his age-28 season and currently sports a 3.56 ERA in 427 1/3 innings dating back to Opening Day 2013. A third straight season of 190+ innings and an ERA in the mid-3.00s should position him for a nice contract, especially considering the fact that half of his starts have come in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
- Multiple teams have worked out Rafael Soriano, and while he’s on the Tigers‘ radar, there’s also been some contact with the Mariners. Heyman adds the Pirates, Indians and Dodgers as “logical suitors,” though I’d imagine the Pirates and Indians in particular would have some payroll constraints, depending on the asking price of agent Scott Boras.
- Heyman echoes ESPN’s Buster Olney in speculating that the Dodgers could make a run at extending Howie Kendrick, noting that the Dodgers love Kendrick both on the field and in the clubhouse. He also notes that the Dodgers are impressed with Alex Guerrero‘s bat and may coming around on him as a passable option at third base or in left field, though the team is already well-stocked at each position.
- The Pirates and Gregory Polanco may have come as close as about $1MM on agreeing to a seven-year contract, Heyman hears. The biggest holdup was over the three club options on the deal, which ranged from $11-13MM, and when the team would have been required to exercise them.
- Though recent reports have indicated that John Lackey hopes the Cardinals will approach him about an extension, Heyman writes that it’s not a likely scenario. St. Louis likes its pitching depth and the young starters in line beyond those in the 2015 rotation.
- The Orioles asked the Blue Jays for both of the team’s first round picks from the 2014 draft — right-hander Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost — in exchange for the ability to hire EVP/general manager Dan Duquette as their new president, according to Heyman.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: B.J. Upton | Baltimore Orioles | Chicago Cubs | Cincinnati Reds | Dan Duquette | Detroit Tigers | Gregory Polanco | Howie Kendrick | Jeff Hoffman | Joe Maddon | John Lackey | Kris Bryant | Los Angeles Dodgers | Max Pentecost | Mike Leake | Philadelphia Phillies | Pittsburgh Pirates | Rafael Soriano | San Diego Padres | Seattle Mariners | St. Louis Cardinals | Tampa Bay Rays | Toronto Blue Jays
Though the Giants have had a rough start to the season — their 4-9 record has them at the bottom of the NL West — new GM Bobby Evans isn’t overly concerned yet, and an early-season trade for reinforcements is unlikely, he tells the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. “At this point you’re just going back to players that were offered you before that you didn’t deal for,” Evans explains. “Players who some teams are still trying to move that you took a pass on.” Injuries have already been a problem for San Francisco, who saw Hunter Pence go down with a broken forearm in Spring Training and have already placed both Matt Cain and Jake Peavy on the 15-day disabled list. Cafardo notes, however, that in all three of the Giants’ recent World Series runs, midseason acquisitions such as Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro and Peavy have played integral roles (I’d add Pat Burrell‘s name to that list as well), and this year will likely be no different if the Giants are to ultimately turn things around.
Here’s more from Cafardo’s weekly Sunday Baseball Notes column…
- The Red Sox are in a catch-22 with Allen Craig, writes Cafardo. His poor 2014 performance has reduced him to a bench player, and no team is currently making much of an effort to acquire the first baseman/outfielder. However, if he doesn’t play much, he’s unlikely to look any better and boost his trade value.
- Right-hander John Lackey is hopeful that the Cardinals will approach him about a contract extension, Cafardo reports, but the team is currently thrilled to have him at just the league minimum. Lackey’s preference may be to remain with the Cardinals, but he’ll likely pitch in 2016 whether it’s in St. Louis or elsewhere, as he recently told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that he wouldn’t be pitching this year if he didn’t plan to play beyond 2015.
- One general manager who has inquired recently tells Cafardo that the Phillies‘ asking price on Cole Hamels has not dropped one bit since the beginning of the season, despite the fact that Hamels has had two rough starts in his first three appearances of the year. Hamels has, somewhat incredibly, yielded seven homers in just 18 innings after surrendering only 14 in 204 2/3 frames last year. Of course, homer-to-flyball ratio tends to stabilize around 10-11 percent (Hamels’ career mark is 11.2 percent), and he’s currently sporting a remarkably high 36.8 percent HR/FB, so better days are almost certainly ahead for Hamels.
- An AL scout who has attended both of Scott Kazmir‘s starts this season says he’s never seen the left-hander more confident or more impressive on the mound. “Don’t know if it’s because it’s his walk year and he can become a free agent, but if he keeps this up most of the season, he’s going to make himself a lot of money,” said the scout. Of course, that’s just one scout’s take, but Kazmir has been electric to date. The 31-year-old has whiffed 18 hitters against five walks in 13 innings, and the 91.7 mph he’s averaged on his two-seamer in those two starts is up from last year’s average of 90.9, though it remains to be seen whether not that increase can be maintained.
- David Price‘s hot start to the season makes it likely that his offseason price will land somewhere in the vicinity of Max Scherzer‘s seven-year, $210MM and Clayton Kershaw‘s seven-year, $215MM pact, one Major League source opined to Cafardo.
- Former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is helping Frank Viola III, the son of former AL Cy Young winner Frank Viola, develop a knuckleball, Cafardo writes. Viola III was a 29th-round pick by the White Sox back in 2004, but Tommy John surgery and knee surgery derailed his career, and he retired from the game in 2010. He returned in 2014 and pitched with the Blue Jays’ Class-A affiliates, and he’s now aiming to get a look in the independent leagues as he attempts to work his way back into the game. Viola III has also worked with R.A. Dickey and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro on honing is skill with the pitch.
While some have suggested that the Cubs preferred Mark Appel to Kris Bryant in the 2013 draft, scouting director Jason McLeod explains to Phil Rogers of MLB.com that that isn’t the case; the Cubs only planned to select Appel if the Astros selected Bryant with the No. 1 overall pick that season. Rogers spoke with McLeod and cross-checker Sam Hughes about the decision to draft Bryant and how he moved up the Cubs’ draft board with a strong performance in his junior year at San Diego. McLeod admitted that the Cubs had concerns about Bryant’s hit tool, but Hughes went to bat strongly for Bryant after watching him and other top draft bats, including Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier. Most pundits expected the pitching-hungry Cubs to select on of Appel or Jon Gray — whichever the Astros didn’t draft — but McLeod said the Cubs preferred to take a volume approach to pitching rather than select one of the top arms. “History tells us pitching comes from all different parts of the Draft,” said McLeod. With Bryant’s debut nearing, Rogers notes that perhaps one of the best decisions under the Cubs’ new front office has been defying the widely expected decision to select a pitcher in favor of Bryant’s bat.
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that despite the team’s bullpen issues, he hasn’t reached out to agent Scott Boras about Rafael Soriano, and Boras hasn’t contacted the Reds about Soriano (Twitter link). Jocketty feels that Soriano would be too expensive, according to Fay. While Soriano may not be in the mix, the Reds certainly need to pursue some form of upgrade. Kevin Gregg has allowed runs in each of his four outings (two runs in three and one in another), and the team’s collective 4.55 ERA is the fifth-highest in baseball. The group’s FIP is even worse, as no team sports a worse mark than Cincinnati’s 5.10.
- Carlos Gomez will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a small defect or tear in his right hamstring, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He has already received a cortisone shot. Earlier today, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy wrote that Gomez was back in Milwaukee for an MRI after feeling a “pop” while running to first base in the ninth inning of last night’s game. The Brewers will need to make a roster move in order to replace Gomez, and as McCalvy notes, Shane Peterson is the only outfielder on the 40-man roster that is not in the Majors.
- Cardinals right-hander John Lackey has every intention of playing in 2015, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “I wouldn’t be pitching this year if I didn’t plan on pitching next year,” Lackey told Nightengale. The veteran Lackey is, of course, playing for the league minimum in 2015 because of a clause in his previous five-year, $82.5MM pact with the Red Sox that added an additional year at that rate in the event of a significant elbow injury. (Lackey had Tommy John surgery midway through that deal.) The Redbirds acquired him from the BoSox last year in exchange for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.
Cardinals starter John Lackey remains interested in re-working his contract for this season, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Lackey, of course, is set to make the league minimum salary this season due to an unusual clause in the contract he signed with the Red Sox several years ago. Lackey says he would “love to hear something from the Cardinals. I’d listen to any offers. The ball is in their court.” Last month, however, GM John Mozeliak explained why any new arrangement is unlikely. The Cardinals have no reason to restructure Lackey’s contract without adding a year or more of additional control, and the 36-year-old Lackey will likely want to explore free agency after the season. Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- The Pirates appreciate outfielder Travis Snider‘s work with them in the past several seasons, Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. The Bucs faced Snider’s new team, the Orioles, in Spring Training action earlier this week. “The last three months of the season, this guy performed very, very well for us at a time it was critically needed,” says Bucs manager Clint Hurdle. “Just well-liked, well-appreciated.” The Pirates traded Snider this offseason partly to clear space in right field for the younger Gregory Polanco (and also partly because going with Andrew Lambo or someone else on their bench gives them more flexibility than did Snider, who was out of options). “I didn’t take it personally,” says Snider. “I understand the potential of Gregory Polanco.”
- Outfielder Shane Robinson has an April 2 opt-out clause in his minor-league deal with the Twins, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes. He would be paid $550K at the big-league level this season. The longtime Cardinal hit .304/.380/.398 in 216 plate appearances with Triple-A Memphis last season and has had a good track record of getting on base at the Triple-A level in the past several years. He can also play all three outfield positions. Robinson has never really caught on in the big leagues, though, hitting .231/.303/.308 in parts of five seasons.
Reports from earlier this winter indicated that the Cardinals and John Lackey would be discussing “possibly reworking” the veteran righty’s league-minimum salary for the 2015 season. With Spring Training about to begin, however, the two sides don’t appear to be close to either a new 2015 contract nor a multi-year extension, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
“Obviously, the (minimum salary for Lackey) compensation for 2015 was attractive to us. In terms of trying to change that structure, I don’t know if both parties are going to find there’s a very desirable reason to do that, considering the opportunities that might exist for him entering his free agent year,” Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said. “I’m not closing the door on anything but I’m not pursuing anything either at this point. I don’t feel that either party is pushing, for that matter.”
Lackey himself also confirmed that there was “nothing close” in contract talks, though he was open to staying in St. Louis beyond this season. “If it’s something that works for both sides. I would like it,” Lackey said. “This group of guys…this organization…it’s a great place to be and it’s something I would entertain for sure.”
The five-year, $82.5MM contract Lackey signed with the Red Sox in December 2009 contained a clause that added a team option season (at the league minimum) if Lackey was to miss significant time with an elbow injury. This clause was triggered once Lackey spent all of 2012 on the disabled list recovering from Tommy John surgery, and after Lackey returned from injury to throw quality seasons in each of 2013 and 2014, he stands as one of the biggest bargains in the game.
As Mozeliak noted, getting an established quality starter for only $507.5K in 2015 was undoubtedly a major reason why the Cards acquired Lackey from the Sox last July. Likewise, the club may also be wary about extending a pitcher entering his age-36 season. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd pointed out in December that there’s really no reason for the Cardinals to renegotiate Lackey’s 2015 deal unless they were able to work out an extension “that added a reasonably priced season or two to the 36-year-old’s deal.”
From Lackey’s perspective, he may not want to sign an extension that locks him in at what could be another team-friendly price, as he undoubtedly feels his 2013-14 performance (and obviously what he hopes is a similar or better 2015 season) should earn him another significant multi-year commitment. This is probably Lackey’s last shot at a such a deal, so there’s all the more reason for him to maximize his earnings. On other hand, Lackey already has a lot of money in the bank and may be more concerned with winning at this stage in his career, so it’d make sense that he wants to stay with the perennially-contending Cardinals.
The Braves have already received attractive trade proposals for outfielder Justin Upton, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. With several free agents off the board, a deal could come together soon, per Sherman, possibly during the upcoming Winter Meetings. The team’s addition of free agent Nick Markakis would appear to increase the odds of the club dealing Upton and/or Evan Gattis, though its final course remains unclear.
More from the National League:
- The Braves, Cubs, and Padres are among the teams pursuing free agent catcher David Ross, along with the incumbent Red Sox, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 37-year-old Ross rates among the game’s most respected veterans.
- The Rockies have expressed interest in free agent backstop Nick Hundley, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. Were the team to add Hundley or another option, it would likely deal Wilin Rosario, Crasnick adds.
- Though John Lackey is under contract at league minimum for 2015, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak will meet with his representatives at the upcoming Winter Meetings to discuss “possibly reworking” that deal, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports on Twitter. It is not entirely clear what manner of modification could be contemplated, though one would expect that St. Louis would only be interested in a proposal that added a reasonably priced season or two to the 36-year-old’s deal.
- The Cardinals have promoted Chris Correa to become the club’s new scouting director, Langosch reports. The club had an opening arise recently when Dan Kantrovitz left to become an assistant GM with the Athletics.
The move is little more than a formality, as there was never any real doubt that the Cardinals would exercise the mere $500K option. That option was a large part of the reason that Lackey was so desirable at this year’s trade deadline and a large part of the reason that the club was willing to part with both Joe Kelly and Allen Craig to land him.
Lackey’s original five-year, $82.5MM contract with the Red Sox contained a clause stipulating that if he were to miss a year due to a significant elbow injury, Boston would gain a sixth-year option at the league minimum rate. Lackey underwent Tommy John surgery during the life of that original five-year term, thus triggering the clause. Though the salary is obviously not ideal for Lackey, he has said multiple times that he plans to honor the commitment.
Lackey, who turned 36 last week, pitched to a 3.82 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 198 innings for the Red Sox and Cardinals this season. However, he was markedly better with Boston than he was with St. Louis, as he posted a 3.60 ERA (3.56 FIP) with the Sox compared to a 4.30 ERA (4.27 FIP) with the Cards.
A group of former minor leaguers has filed a lawsuit protesting that while they were playing, they received less than minimum wage and did not receive overtime, working for tiny monthly salaries to pursue their dream of making it to the Majors. Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star traveled to Clinton, Iowa as part of a long exposé on working conditions in the minor leagues. Class A players, for example, only make about $6,300 for an entire season, earning only per diems for instructional leagues and mandatory spring training. NBA and NHL minor leaguers make many times that amount. The extremely low wages for minor league baseball players might not be a hardship for early-round picks who receive six- or seven-figure bonuses, but they’re especially tough on the many players who sign for only a few thousand dollars. Here are more notes from around the game.
- A number of Cardinals players were at Busch Stadium Friday to pack their belongings, with some players not knowing whether they’ll return next season, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. 2014 was “up and down,” says Peter Bourjos, who made $1.2MM this season and is eligible for arbitration for the second time this winter. “Inconsistent playing time, inconsistent results — that’s how it goes sometimes. If there’s an opportunity out there, I’d like to play every day.” One player who sounds like he’ll certainly be returning is John Lackey, who says he has “every intention” of playing next season even though the Cardinals have an option on him for the league minimum salary. Also, impending free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski says he’d like to continue playing. It’s unlikely that the Cardinals will re-sign him, however, with Yadier Molina and Tony Cruz at the catcher position.
- Two years after their last playoff game, the Yankees‘ roster is dramatically different, Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog writes. Of the 19 players Yankees who appeared in Game 4 of the 2012 ALCS, just four — Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez and C.C. Sabathia — are under contract for 2015.
Previous experience is no longer the most important criterion for teams deciding on new managers, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes. “There are managers who are in the postseason right now who didn’t have one game of experience as manager,” says Twins GM Terry Ryan. A number of recent hirees have had little or no previous managerial experience, including Mike Matheny of the Cardinals and Brad Ausmus of the Tigers. It sounds like the Twins might not prioritize experience in their search for a manager, either. The Twins have recently interviewed Paul Molitor and Doug Mientkiewicz, neither of whom have been big-league managers, although Mientkiewicz has managed in the minors. Here are more notes from the American League.
- The Red Sox might end up regretting trading John Lackey to the Cardinals, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. Lackey had an option for 2015 at the league minimum salary due to an elbow injury, and that made him very valuable. But Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, who the Red Sox received in return, have been disappointing, or at least questionable. Craig hit just .128/.234/.191 in 107 plate appearances in Boston. Kelly had a respectable 4.11 ERA in 61 1/3 innings, but with 6.0 K/9 and a very high 4.7 BB/9.
- The Tigers, who were eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, are now “expensive, star-laden and old,” Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The Tigers have gone to the playoffs the last four seasons, but they’ve fallen short of a World Series victory each time, and now they have Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera signed to long and potentially onerous contracts.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the waiver deadline period could produce some significant deals around baseball. The Phillies probably won’t find deals for Jonathan Papelbon (contract) and Cliff Lee (health concerns plus contract) but A.J. Burnett could conceivably be moved. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays continue to, as one executive said to Cafardo, “kick the tires on just about everything but never seem to do anything.” More from today’s column..
- The Red Sox may have been scouting Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, but their dialogue with the Dodgers was virtually nonexistent despite the constant rumors connecting the two. The Dodgers, Cafardo writes, were never going to deal Kemp, who has been one of their best right-handed hitters.
- The Dodgers were also never really in on Red Sox hurlers Jon Lester or John Lackey but really wanted Andrew Miller and came close to giving Boston one of their best pitching prospects for him.
- It seems as if the Red Sox and other teams have finally come to the realization that Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton isn’t going anywhere and that could be a reason why the Red Sox obtained Yoenis Cespedes, who obviously isn’t as good but has the power and athleticism to improve. For now, he seems to feel that Miami is moving in the right direction and appears to be all in on staying with the Marlins.
- The buzz around baseball is that the Cubs will be all in on Jon Lester. Cubs president Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod were in Boston with Lester during his trying times. Also, the Cubs will have to rebuild their rotation at some point and adding Lester would be a major, major step in that direction.