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Jordan Schafer Rumors
Several MLB clubs have dabbled with neurological training in a bid to improve their hitters’ pitch recognition, as Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal writes. The Red Sox, Cubs, and Rays have already initiated programs, but more could be on the way. As Boston GM Ben Cherington explains, the purpose of taking this approach is to help young batters develop a stronger mental connection between seeing a pitch and deciding whether or not to swing. Quick reactions — physical and mental — are all the more important given rising fastball velocities around the league. One mark of that: at least 52 minor league hurlers have been clocked at or above 100 mph this year, according to the count of Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper.
Here are a few notes of interest from around the league:
- Twins center fielder Jordan Schafer has had an up and down time since becoming a professional, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes. Most recently, he was claimed by Minnesota over the summer after he failed to live up to a solid 2013 campaign with the Braves. The speedy 28-year-old has put up excellent numbers in his new home: a .298/.365/.386 slash with 15 stolen bases over 131 plate appearances. He will be eligible for arbitration for the second time after the year.
- As the Giants welcome back Michael Morse from injury, other developments could limit his playing time over the last few weeks of the regular season and the playoffs to come, as Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com reports. With Brandon Belt returning to the fold and Gregor Blanco having performed well in Morse’s stead, a regular spot may no longer be available. Though Morse rebounded from a mid-year swoon with a strong August, his defensive shortcomings have become more of an issue, according to Baggarly. Morse remains a difficult player to peg as a pending free agent: the 32-year-old has a productive .280/.338/.477 line with 16 home runs over 480 plate appearances, but defensive metrics paint a rough image of his contribution in the field.
- The Reds are still contemplating whether Cuban free agent signee Raisel Iglesias will take the mound competitively over the winter in Puerto Rico, reports MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Iglesias, a 24-year-old righty, has been working on strength and conditioning since inking a seven-year, $27MM deal with Cincinnati, and only just began long-tossing. He is under reserve with the Santurce Cangrejeros, and would throw for that club if he does play winter ball.
The Twins have claimed outfielder Jordan Schafer off waivers from the Braves, tweets LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune. The team has confirmed the transaction and announced a corresponding 25-man roster move will be made before their next game on Tuesday. Schafer fills the open spot on the Twins’ 40-man roster.
Schafer, who was designated for assignment Friday in the wake of the Braves’ acquisition of James Russell and Emilio Bonifacio, will become Minnesota’s backup center fielder and be the seventh different player to man the position once he makes his Twins’ debut, Neal notes on Twitter. The 27-year-old can also play both corner outfield spots allowing Danny Santana to return to natural position, shortstop, according to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Schafer has struggled this year for Atlanta slashing .163/.256/.213 line in 93 plate appearances, though he has stolen 15 bases.
The Braves have designated outfielder Jordan Schafer for assignment, reports MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (via Twitter). He was expected to be a roster casualty after the team picked up Emilio Bonifacio yesterday via trade.
Schafer, 27, has struggled to a .163/.256/.213 line in 93 plate appearances this year for Atlanta, though he has racked up 15 stolen bases in that time. He was a valuable contributor last year, slashing .247/.331/.346 with 22 swipes. The Braves claimed him from the Astros in the fall of 2012 after originally shipping him to Houston in the Michael Bourn deal.
We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.
Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…
- After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
- The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
- The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter).
- Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
- Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
- Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
- MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
- Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
- The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
- The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
- Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
- Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
- MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
- The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
- The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter). He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).
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The Braves announced that they claimed outfielder Jordan Schafer off of waivers from the Astros. Schafer played in the Braves' organization from 2005-11 before going to Houston in last summer's Michael Bourn trade.
Schafer appeared in 106 games for the Astros this past season, posting a .211/.297/.294 batting line with 27 stolen bases as the team's primary center fielder. The 26-year-old spent most of August on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. Now that Bourn's a free agent Schafer provides the Braves with some insurance in center field. Atlanta originally selected him in the third round of the 2005 draft.
After seeing top outfield trade candidates Carlos Beltran and Hunter Pence land with National League rivals, Braves GM made a splash today by acquiring center fielder Michael Bourn and cash from the Astros for center fielder Jordan Schafer, southpaw Double-A starter Brett Oberholtzer, righty Double-A starter Paul Clemens, and righty Triple-A reliever Juan Abreu. The Astros announced the deal via press release.
Bourn (pictured) is hitting .303/.363/.403 in 473 plate appearances, and he leads MLB with 39 steals. He fills the Braves' need for a center fielder and leadoff man through next year. The 28-year-old Scott Boras client has $1.45MM remaining on his contract this year and is arbitration eligible for 2012 before hitting free agency. The Astros' outfield purge continues, as they sent Pence to the Phillies on Friday. The Reds, Giants, Indians, and Nationals had also shown interest in Bourn.
Schafer, 24, figures to replace Bourn as the Astros' regular center fielder once he returns from the disabled list for a finger injury. He owns a .223/.310/.303 line in 414 big league plate appearances, coming in '09 and this year. Before the 2008 and '09 seasons, he was considered one of the best 50 prospects in the game, but an HGH suspension and wrist surgery dropped his stock.
None of the three pitchers are top 50 prospects, but they did rank ninth, 26th, and 27th respectively for the Braves on Baseball America's preseason rankings, and the team has a highly-regarded farm system. Oberholtzer, 22, ranked ninth and is seen as a potential third or fourth starter in the big leagues. Clemens and Abreu both have big upside and impressive fastballs.
A few more newsbits as we near the end of a busy Tuesday…
- Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times singles out the Cubs and Yankees as "among those interested" in Rocco Baldelli. Bryan Hoch of MLB.com thinks Baldelli would be a good fit in the Bronx, though he notes that New York GM Brian Cashman "refused an internet rumor" claiming that the Yanks had already signed Baldelli.
- Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are looking over Chien-Ming Wang's medical history.
- Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports (via Twitter) that pitcher Steven Jackson was designated for assignment by the Pirates to make room for Ryan Church on the 40-man roster. Jackson posted an impressive 3.14 ERA in his 2009 rookie season, making 40 appearances out of the bullpen for Pittsburgh.
- MLB.com's Mark Bowman thought the Braves might try to trade Jordan Schafer earlier this winter, but no more.
- The Cubs have settled with five arbitration-eligible players, but still don't have deals worked out with Carlos Marmol and Ryan Theriot, reports Dave van Dyck of The Chicago Tribune.
- Grant of the McCovey Chronicles blog is, shall we say, less than enthused about the Bengie Molina signing.
Mark Bowman of MLB.com discussed some of Atlanta's options in the free agent market, and here are a few of the more notable pieces of news….
- Relievers Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez "will likely leave Atlanta" for greener free agent pastures, and thus the Braves are looking for new options at the back of their bullpen. Bowman says the Braves have talked to free agent closer Billy Wagner's representatives and "won't necessarily be scared" by Wagner's Type A status since Soriano and Gonzalez are also both Type A's. If those two were to sign elsewhere, the compensation that Atlanta would receive would more than make up for the picks they would lose for signing Wagner. The Braves and Wagner's most recent club, the Red Sox, may end up virtually trading relievers since Soriano and Gonzalez are two names on Boston's lengthy list of possible free agent targets.
- Bowman lists former Brave Octavio Dotel as a potential set-up option, and Fernando Rodney as a signing who could serve as either a set-up man or a closer.
- There isn't anything to rumors that Atlanta will try to trade with Detroit for Miguel Cabrera, or sign free agent Jermaine Dye. Cabrera's big contract is too rich for the Braves' blood, and as for Dye, there is no DH spot in the National League to stash a right fielder who posted a -20 UZR and -24.5 UZR/150 last season.
- Signing Marlon Byrd would make Jordan Schaefer expendable, Bowman reports. Byrd wouldn't necessarily solve Atlanta's need for a right-handed outfield bat, however, given that Byrd's career splits against right-handed and left-handed pitching are pretty even — a .769 lifetime OPS against southpaws and a .759 OPS against righties. Byrd actually hit significantly better against righties (.835 OPS) last season than he did against lefties (.744 OPS).
- The Braves are prepared to see what other offers Adam LaRoche receives before they decide if they want to bring him back next season.
Links for Monday…
- Former GM Kevin Towers will attend the Winter Meetings and meet with three or four teams about possible employment, according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Towers prefers the American League.
- Randy Johnson is undecided about pitching in 2010, say Rosenthal and Morosi.
- MLB.com's Mark Bowman tells readers in his latest mailbag that he wouldn't be surprised to see the Braves trade Jordan Schafer.
- Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues speculates on what the Yankees would have to give up for Josh Johnson.
- ESPN's Buster Olney compares a potential Joe Mauer extension to Todd Helton's contract, in that it'd make up such a large percentage of the Twins' payroll.
- Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel discovered that a handful of teams have avoided four-year commitments to pitchers in recent years.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos talked to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports about the team's strategy to beef up scouting.
- For someone who hasn't been paying attention to the hot stove, Bronson Arroyo has a reasonable take on the Reds' direction and recent Scott Rolen/Ramon Hernandez commitments (MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reporting).
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick discusses the role of advanced defensive metrics in player acquisitions.
- MetsBlog's Matthew Cerrone notes that a very similar report surfaced in three different media outlets within a span of a few hours.
Talks have swirled this weekend about the Nationals' pursuit of Pirates CF Nyjer Morgan, but it looks like he's not the only outfielder on the team's radar. Bill Ladson at MLB.com has updated his previous post on the discussions, and this time he throws Braves CF prospect Jordan Schafer's name into the mix as a potential target for the Nats.
Ladson says the Nationals are seeking an improvement in their outfield defense, as they have apparently concluded that Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham profile more as designated hitters and Elijah Dukes still makes too many mental errors. Schafer was sent down earlier this season to make room for Nate McLouth, but it isn't clear if the Braves would be willing to move him.
It seems like the Nats are looking for a young, cost-controlled and speedy outfielder as well as a defensively adept one. Who else comes to mind that might be attainable for the Nationals?