Jose Abreu Rumors
The White Sox are off to a solid start to the season with a 7-6 record, and they've already won more games against the division-rival Indians than they did in 2013, writes Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. Hayes spoke with Indians GM Chris Antonetti about his division rivals, and Antonetti said he's not surprised to see the Sox looking like an improved club. "Unfortunately for us, I thought [White Sox GM Rick Hahn] and his staff had an exceptional offseason," Antonetti told Hayes. "They’ve positioned themselves not only better for the short term but also for the long term as well and that’s a challenging thing to do. ... I thought they made a number of tremendous moves that will not only help them this year but for years to come, unfortunately to our detriment."
Here's more about the White Sox and the rest of the AL Central...
- The White Sox' largest move of the offseason, financially speaking, was the signing of Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68MM contract. CSN Chicago's David Kaplan spoke to former Sox GM and current executive vice president Kenny Williams about the Abreu signing. Williams said he initially told Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf that he thought Abreu was worth a four-year, $40MM investment, to which Reinsdorf replied, "Why not $50MM?" Williams said he's 100 percent confident in Abreu as well as Reinsdorf and Hahn, who closed the $68MM deal (Twitter link).
- Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press looks at yesterday's $35MM extension for Jedd Gyorko and examines what that means for the Twins' chances of locking up Brian Dozier. The Twins and Dozier's agent, Damon Lapa, had extension talks this spring that didn't progress beyond the exploratory phase, Berardino writes. He notes that while Gyorko's bat has been superior to Dozier's thus far, Dozier trumps Gyorko in defense, baserunning and overall wins above replacement.
- In the latest edition of his "Hey Hoynsie!" mailbag, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer points out that the Indians are in a familiar situation with Asdrubal Cabrera. Though the club had an affordable option on Omar Vizquel back in 2004, they made no indication of wanting to pick it up and instead let Vizquel walk to make room for Jhonny Peralta. In 2010, the team traded Peralta to the Tigers without showing much interest in retaining him, due to Cabrera's presence in the minors. Now, with Cabrera five-and-a-half months from free agency and Francisco Lindor looming, there's been little to no talk of Cabrera's Cleveland tenure lasting beyond 2014. The bigger question, says Hoynes, is whether or not Cabrera will play well enough to merit a qualifying offer. Given his struggles at the plate over the past year, that seems unlikely at this time.
Left-hander Brady Aiken and righty Tyler Kolek sit atop Baseball America's list of the top 2014 draft prospects, BA's John Manuel writes. The two high schoolers have supplanted NC State southpaw Carlos Rodon, who was long considered to be the favorite as the first overall pick but hasn't looked great this spring. Six of the top seven prospects on BA's list (and 11 of the top 15) are pitchers, as several young arms have improved their draft stock this spring while several of the most-regarded hitters haven't fared as well.
Here's some more from around baseball as we head into the weekend...
- High-ranking executives from the Astros, Marlins, White Sox, Cubs and Phillies have all recently scouted Kolek's starts, Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle reports. These clubs hold the top four overall picks in June's draft, while the Phillies pick seventh overall. According to Manuel, "Kolek has hit 100 mph repeatedly and has the best pure arm in the draft."
- Joe Smith tells ESPN New York's Adam Rubin (Twitter link) that the Mets were interested in signing him last winter, and "floated" a contract offer similar to the three-year, $15.75MM deal that Smith received from the Angels. Rubin was surprised that the Mets were willing to commit that much to a setup man, though Smith would've added some quality depth to a Mets bullpen that is already hurting thanks to the absence of Bobby Parnell.
- Both Chase Headley and the Padres are off to slow starts, which only further complicates the difficult contract-year situation for the third baseman, MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince writes. With an extension unlikely, Headley could be a midseason trade candidate if the Friars fall out of the race, though if Headley continues to struggle, the Padres could conceivably see him leave for free agency and get nothing in return.
- The Padres parting ways with Headley is "looking [like] the most realistic option," Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune said during an online chat with readers. "Players don't get better with age so much anymore, so regardless of what Headley does this year, it doesn't make financial sense to pay for past production," Sanders writes.
- The Astros made a strong bid for Jose Abreu before the slugger signed with the White Sox, and Houston GM Jeff Luhnow discussed his club's pursuit with MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. "We stretched ourselves further than we intended to and we came pretty close. When you factor in the tax advantages of Texas vs. other markets, the gap was really only a couple of million dollars at the end of the day," Luhnow said. "It's one of those things, should we have pushed a little harder? Possibly. When you're in negotiations like that and you're in a bidding war like that, you have to have limits or you'll be the one that overpays. That's one I do think we came close. He's going to be a good player, and that's why we put all that effort into it."
- The Tigers have been extraordinarily successful in trades since Dave Dombrowski joined the organization in 2001, Grantland's Rany Jazayerli writes. Given Dombrowski's impressive with not only the Tigers, but also the Marlins and Expos over his long career, Jazayerli thinks it's too early to write off the much-maligned Doug Fister trade as a mistake for Detroit.
In an article for ESPN.com, Jayson Stark collects opinions from around baseball on the new wild card game. While the arrangement motivates teams to win their divisions, Braves catcher Brian McCann, a veteran of last year's NL wild card contest, tells Stark that the game doesn't have a playoff atmosphere. "I just feel like, you play 162 games, you win 90-plus, and all of a sudden, it's one game and you're home?" McCann said. Stark's article also covers suggestions on how to address complaints with the one-game format. Here's more links from around the majors:
- For the Rangers, the season is increasingly looking like a troubling repeat of last year's collapse down the stretch. Looking ahead at possible free agent targets, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets that the team could pursue one of the top international free agents -- first baseman Jose Abreu and pitcher Masahiro Tanaka -- but not both. Brian McCann will be the team's primary target, however, Grant predicts in another tweet.
- The Angels' decision to give Friday's start to minor-leaguer Matt Shoemaker isn't an encouraging sign for Tommy Hanson or Joe Blanton, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes. Hanson was recalled from Triple-A on Monday, while Blanton has spent the last two months in the bullpen. Though manager Mike Scioscia indicated the club merely wanted to get a look at Shoemaker, DiGiovanna says there's a good chance that Blanton will be released before the 2014 season, while Hanson is a non-tender candidate.
- The Astros' Chris Carter is aware of his high strikeout total this season, which currently sits at 202 and is the highest in the majors, Gene Duffey writes in an article for MLB.com. "Everybody's talking about it, but I just try to have good at-bats," Carter said. "I want to be around .290. I want to be a complete hitter. I've got to get the strikeouts down and the average up." While Carter's batted just .221 this season, he leads the Astros with 67 walks.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn addressed his team's long-term plans in an interview with Scott Merkin of MLB.com. Two of the most significant items in the Sox's budget will be spending in the draft and international market, Hahn says. "Spending to our max in those two areas is important to the long-term sustaining of our success that we are trying to build to," the GM said. "Those will be kind of the first two items, and [they will be] significantly more than the past."
- Cubs righty Scott Baker says he'd like to return to the club next season, Manny Randhawa of MLB.com reports. "I think it's a wonderful place to play," Baker said. "I kind of feel like with these last few starts, there's less of a question mark about me next year than there was going into this year ... Hopefully, whether it's the Cubs or other teams, [they] feel the same way." Baker made just three starts for the Cubs in 2013 after spending most of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery.