Jose Fernandez Rumors

NL East Notes: Phillies, Papelbon, Nats, Storen, Marlins

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick looks at the future of the Phillies‘ front office, noting that industry insiders mention Royals assistant GM J.J. Picollo and former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington as possible successors to Ruben Amaro Jr. in the event that president-to-be Andy MacPhail makes a change. Interim president Pat Gillick, who’s stepping down after the season, tells Crasnick that he’s not sure if he’ll remain with the club in some capacity. Though the Phillies are one of the worst clubs in baseball this season and have long been on the downswing, there’s hope in the future due to Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, Odubel Herrera, shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford and others, to say nothing of a favorable payroll and television deal. “That organization is a gold mine,” one rival exec opined to Crasnick. “Look at the ballpark. Look at the spring training facility. Look at the television deal. This is a goose that’s going to lay a golden egg. No wonder Andy MacPhail came out of retirement.”

Elsewhere in the NL East…

  • Jonathan Papelbon has thrown just eight innings since being acquired by the Nationals a month ago, and James Wagner of the Washington Post spoke to the D.C. closer about how he handles long bouts of inactivity. “For me, it’s about mentally staying prepared,” said Papelbon. “Staying mentally focused on the task at hand and not losing sight of that even though you’re not pitching. It’s easy to get out of that mode.” Papelbon says he feels he’s adjusted well to his new team and that his lack of usage is part of the “ebb and flow” of a season, Wagner writes. However, plenty have been critical about manager Matt Williams’ bullpen usage and his reluctance to use his top relievers in anything other than traditional save/hold situations.
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo tells the Post’s Thomas Boswell that August has been his “worst month ever.” Rizzo notes to Boswell that the Nats have a group of star players that combined for 28.5 wins above replacement in 2014 but are collectively negative in 2015. “That’s a swing of 29 wins,” said Rizzo, likely in reference to struggles from Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth (among others). Rizzo referenced that swing as a means of defending Williams, stating: “It’s injuries. It’s coming back without your timing and not hitting for a while. It is bad years [for good players]. It’s everything. Twenty-nine lost wins [in player production] — and that’s on the manager?”
  • Within his piece, Boswell also notes that the Nationals are unlikely to pursue any top starting pitchers this winter and that Drew Storen wants a trade “that he’ll almost certainly get this winter.” Storen, of course, was reportedly unhappy to be displaced from his ninth-inning role by Papelbon in the midst of a strong season.
  • Jose Fernandez‘s most recent bullpen session for the Marlins was described as a “wow” by manager Dan Jennings, writes Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. Jennings called mid-September a realistic return date for Fernandez, whom the Marlins previously feared might not pitch again in 2015.
  • Mike Morse spoke to the Herald’s Barry Jackson about his disappointing tenure with the Marlins, expressing that he wishes he’d have gotten a longer leash to sort things out at the plate. “I came out really bad [but] I wish they would have given me more at-bats just to prove myself,” said Morse. “…When you sign as a free agent, you expect to play on that team those years and you expect to get at least some time to play. But I got this opportunity to come to an amazing ball club [Pittsburgh]. It’s a gift and a curse.” Morse said he was very appreciative that owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson took the time to personally call and inform him of his trade out of Miami, however. Morse is hitting a much-improved .310/.394/.379 with the Pirates, albeit in a minuscule sample of 33 plate appearances.

NL East Notes: Gordon, Hech, Stanton, Nats, Phils, Braves

The Marlins‘ top two extension priorities over the offseason are middle infielders Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports. It remains to be seen whether Miami will be able to gain traction in talks with the pair, which it already controls through the 2018 campaign. But, per Frisaro, the club is more concerned with striking new deals with Gordon and/or Hechavarria than it is with acquiring any particular player on the open market. A deal with Jose Fernandez still seems unlikely, he writes, and the same holds true of Marcell Ozuna.

More from Miami and the rest of the NL East:

  • While it remains unclear whether Fernandez will make it back to the Marlins this year, slugger Giancarlo Stanton appears to be on track to return to action at some point, as the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). Stanton began hitting yesterday, though his precise timetable remains unclear. The club will surely be cautious given its place in the standings and massive commitment to the 25-year-old.
  • Nationals ownership is “unhappy” with the team’s performance this year, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. It would be hard to imagine any other general reaction to a club that suddenly finds itself below the .500 mark despite a big payroll and high expectations, of course, and it’s not at all clear whether that sentiment will manifest itself in any modification in the decisionmaking structure. Rosenthal goes on to discuss the team’s front office situation, but it all seems to boil down to one key point: change is unlikely unless the Lerner family no longer wishes to place its trust in GM and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo. (For what it’s worth, from my perspective, it seems difficult to blame him for the sudden fall-off of numerous key contributors, and the organization appears well-prepared for a coming offseason that will feature roster turnover at multiple key positions.)
  • The insurance policy on Matt Harrison‘s contract — which was acquired by the Phillies in the Cole Hamels deal — could still pay out to Philadelphia, Rosenthal suggests, though there is plenty of uncertainty. As he notes, too, the Phils would need to use at least some of any savings to fill in innings that might otherwise be occupied by the veteran lefty.
  • The future for the Phillies, of course, will depend less on freeing some extra cash than it will on the development of the team’s best young players. Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News profiles one if the organization’s most important assets: 20-year-old shortstop J.P. Crawford.
  • Braves reliever Chris Withrow, who was acquired along with Juan Uribe earlier this year, is progressing but likely won’t pitch this year, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Withrow is still working back from Tommy John and back surgeries. Meanwhile, another Atlanta upside grab — Rule 5 pick Daniel Winkler — is on track to take the bump in fall or winter league action, O’Brien adds on Twitter. Once activated from the DL, Winkler will need to stick on the active roster next year for the club to retain his rights.

NL Notes: Brewers’ GM Search, Giants, Utley, Russell, Fernandez

Brewers owner Mark Attanasio outlined a composed and orderly search for his organization’s next general manager, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. Attanasio says that he won’t be in a rush to make a decision, and will pursue a “corporate”-style process, though he hopes to install a new GM before the Winter Meetings. “The process needs to be exhaustive, so as a result, there is no timetable for the process,” he explained. Per Attanasio, the organization is likely to go with a “younger person” as its chief baseball decisionmaker, and he’ll consider candidates from inside and outside not only the organization but also the game of baseball. (He called it “unlikely, but possible” that the team would ultimately go with an “outside the box” choice.) The owner added that he is open minded about what kind of contention timeline the organization will pursue, saying he would “like to see it more in the two to three years” range but noting that “we don’t want to do something halfway.”

  • Giants GM Bobby Evans talked about the team’s second base questions, as Carl Seward of the Bay Area News Group reports (links to Twitter). Joe Panik is at least a week away from beginning baseball activity, increasing the urgency of an addition. While Evans confirmed interest in Chase Utley of the Phillies, he indicated that the asking price remains above his comfort level. San Francisco is looking at multiple options to add depth up the middle, per the GM.
  • The Cubs will utilize Addison Russell as the team’s primary shortstop, manager Joe Maddon told the press today, including Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter links). Starlin Castro appears ticketed for more of a utility role and could line up at second against lefties. Looking ahead, Maddon said that Russell is “absolutely” the shortstop of the future. Of course, the 25-year-old Castro is under team control through 2020 (the final year through an option), and he’s lined up to be the subject of immense offseason trade speculation.
  • The Marlins feel good about the health of young ace Jose Fernandez, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. The diagnosis of a biceps strain was “great news,” said Fernandez, who added that he has felt no pain since. He added that he has every hope and intention of returning to pitch again this season.


Jose Fernandez To DL With Right Bicep Strain

SUNDAY: Fernandez is suffering from a right bicep strain, Spencer reports, and the righty will be placed on the DL.  There’s a chance Fernandez could return to pitch in 2015, as the Marlins were relieved that the injury showed no damage to his shoulder and wasn’t something that would require surgery.

SATURDAY: Marlins ace Jose Fernandez is dealing with stiffness in his right shoulder and has returned to Miami to see a doctor, the Miami Herald’s Clark Spencer reports (Twitter links). The nature and severity of the injury are unclear. “Let’s see what it is before we speculate on something,” says Marlins manager Dan Jennings.

Another significant injury to Fernandez would be yet another blow to what’s turned into an awful season for the Marlins, whose 43-67 record is tied with the Phillies for worst in the big leagues. The 23-year-old Fernandez has only pitched 43 innings this season after missing much of the last two seasons due to injury. That injury was an elbow problem that required Tommy John surgery, so his current shoulder issue would appear to be a somewhat, or completely, different issue.

Fernandez has been brilliant in those 43 innings, posting a 2.30 ERA, 11.1 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. He pitched five innings yesterday against the Braves, striking out six batters and walking one while allowing two runs. He was removed after 76 pitches, including 38 thrown in the fourth inning, although there were no reported indications of any injury at that time.


NL Notes: Strasburg, Mozeliak, Boras, Fernandez

Stephen Strasburg left the mound during the fourth inning of today’s Giants/Nationals game with an injury in his left side.  The Nats ace wanted to keep pitching but “given his season, so far, I don’t want to take a chance there,” manager Matt Williams told reporters, including MLB.com’s Bill Ladson.  Strasburg has already had one extended DL stint to recover from a strained left trapezius and he’s been dealing with neck and back soreness all year, which has undoubtedly contributed to his 5.16 ERA over 61 innings (though an ungainly .365 BABIP also hasn’t helped).  Here’s the latest from around the senior circuit…

  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak tells Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he’s targeting starting pitching depth and a left-handed bench bat.  While the Cards’ rotation has been one of the best in the game this season, it’s also a pretty young staff with some pitchers who have had checkered injury histories, so Mozeliak said he has to “be aware of the potential hazards” and that “my job is to make sure if it doesn’t last, then how do you answer it?
  • Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks the July 2 prospects already signed by the Cardinals (righty Alvaro Seijas and shortstop Raffy Ozuna, both 16 years old) and how the team has evolved its forays into the international market.
  • Scott Boras tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that he sees no reason why the Marlins couldn’t afford to keep Jose Fernandez, even with Giancarlo Stanton already locked up on a historically large deal.  “With TV rights and the general fund contribution and everything — every club, before they sell a ticket, they’re making $120 million,” Boras said.  “There’s a lot of revenue in this game to pay a lot of players and keep players at home.”  The Marlins believes that Fernandez and Marcell Ozuna both declined to pursue extensions last winter under Boras’ advice, but the agent said that his players make those decisions.
  • Cubs president Theo Epstein cautioned that his team may not make any huge moves at the trade deadline, telling reporters (including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune) that “if you look at the history of teams that go on and play in the World Series, very rarely is it (because of a) deadline deal.  We know what we’d like to do, but we’re realistic about what we might be able to do.”  Epstein also noted that some teams who are solely in the wild card hunt may not favor making a big push just to get into a one-game playoff; while he was “just speaking generally,” Epstein’s comments could relate to the Cubs themselves, who are 8.5 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central.

NL Notes: Jennings, Fernandez, Gee, Lynn, Moscot, Beachy

Dan Jennings is likely to remain in the dugout for the Marlins next year, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports. That is far from a sure thing, per the report, but the club is preliminarily sketching out a 2016 that includes Jennings as the manager. The club is showing signs of gelling under Jennings, says Frisaro, and Miami still is holding out hope of getting back into the mix.

  • One key component of a Marlins turnaround would be the successful return of young righty Jose Fernandez, who announced yesterday that he hopes to return to start on July 2. Fernandez has, of course, been out since early 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
  • Mets GM Sandy Alderson said yesterday that he had just one “serious conversation” about an offseason Dillon Gee deal, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports on Twitter. Presumably, he is having more now, as Gee remains in DFA limbo. While Gee has struggled this year, he should have appeal to teams looking for some back-of-the-rotation options. A deal would allow New York to save some money on the $5.3MM owed Gee this year; he’ll also come with one more season of control via arbitration.
  • The Cardinals have received good news on righty Lance Lynn, as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports. Lynn is back throwing after hitting the DL with forearm tightness, and St. Louis hopes that he can come back after missing just two starts.
  • A quick return may not be in the cards for Reds righty Jon Moscot, who suffered a dislocated left shoulder yesterday in a freak accident, as John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. The 23-year-old rookie was making his third start for Cincinnati, which has been beset by injuries of late.
  • Brandon Beachy is set to begin a rehab assignment for the Dodgers, with the club’s Rancho Cucamonga affiliate announcing that he’ll make his first appearance tonight. The 28-year-old righty has not appeared in the big leagues since 2013, undergoing successive Tommy John procedures in the interim. His ability to return to provide innings for Los Angeles could play a role in the team’s summer trade plans.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Reds, A’s, Orioles, Marlins

The Reds are doomed by injuries and an 11.5 game deficit, says FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal in his latest video. However, owner Bob Castellini is not yet ready to concede. The baseball operations staff understands that the club needs to convert veterans and soon-to-be free agents into future talent – they just have to convince their boss.

  • The A’s have performed well by run differential as well as the BaseRuns metric used by FanGraphs. However, they are 13 games below .500 and 10 games back in the AL West. The bullpen is a serious issue. Other clubs are looking to snipe players like Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard. Expect GM Billy Beane to jump on a properly enticing offer.
  • The Orioles have nine impending free agents. They should act as both buyers and sellers at the trade deadline. The club needs a power hitting corner outfield. They could trade a starter like Bud Norris.
  • The Marlins may also look to deal a starter. Jarred Cosart will return from the disabled list soon. Jose Urena or Tom Koehler are candidates to be optioned. However, there will be a surplus once Jose Fernandez returns from Tommy John surgery. At that point, the club could look to trade Dan Haren or Mat Latos. The Marlins are currently nine games below .500 but just six back in a weak NL East.
  • If Cincinnati shops Aroldis Chapman, count the Marlins among the potential suitors. The club is always a fit for Cuban talent. Personally, I’m not sure if Chapman is the best use of Miami’s resources. Reliever A.J. Ramos has ably replaced Steve Cishek as the closer, but he has bouts of wildness in his track record. However, Carter Capps is standing by should Ramos falter.

Injury Notes: Medlen, Mesoraco, Bailey, Fernandez, Rendon, Janssen, Verlander, Nathan

Injuries remain perhaps the largest driver of needs in the early part of the season — a topic that MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes and I explored in today’s podcast with respect to starting pitching. Let’s have a look at some key injury situations around the game:

  • Rehabbing Royals starter Kris Medlen is headed to extended Spring Training to begin throwing against live batters, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports. That leaves him on track for a rehab assignment in May. Kansas City has $8.5MM riding on the righty’s ability to return to form after his second Tommy John surgery.
  • The Reds are missing two key cogs in backstop Devin Mesoraco and righty Homer Bailey. As Michael Hunt reports for MLB.com, manager Bryan Price says that Mesoraco — still not on the DL despite a 17-game absence from his usual catching duties — is still not ready “to try it out just yet,” adding that Mesoraco is “coming along slowly.” There are longer-term concerns with regard to Bailey, of course, and surgery is said to be on the table. “We’re probably going to know in the next one-to-two days what our plans are with Homer,” Price said. “You spend a lot of time when you make a diagnosis, fact-finding and making sure everything you see is as it appears. That’s been the time consumer, making sure it is what we think it is and finding the best way to treat it.”
  • Marlins starter Jose Fernandez is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, of course, and recently faced hitters in a live BP session for the first time. You can check out the video of his outing, courtesy of FOX Sports Florida.
  • After a pause in his rehab, Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon is preparing for another Double-A appearance in the coming days, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. The issue has not been with his knee, which caused him to hit the DL to start the year, but with tightness in his side. That’s good news for the club, obviously, as is the fact that reliever Casey Janssen appeared in an extended spring game. He is set to begin his own run up through the minors in short order, per Ladson.
  • Injured Tigers starter Justin Verlander is set for a third MRI on his right triceps area early next week, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports (Twitter links). Meanwhile, reliever Joe Nathan underwent his Tommy John procedure yesterday, Fenech tweets, with Nathan saying that it went well. It figures to be a long road back for the 40-year-old, but indications are that he’ll try to return to the big leagues.

11 MLB Top Prospects Who Conquered Service Time

Is there ever a good reason for a team to put their MLB-ready top prospect on the Opening Day roster, as the Diamondbacks recently did with Archie Bradley?  As we’ve seen with the Cubs and Kris Bryant, waiting at least 12 days into the season ensures the team will control the player for a seventh season.  Forward-looking teams that are willing to wait before calling up their phenom can delay his free agency by a year, and that extra year of control is generally more valuable than having the player for the first two weeks of April.  However, we found 11 examples in the last decade of top MLB prospects who did make the Opening Day roster.  You might say these players conquered the service time issue, or at least were lucky enough to have GMs who disregarded it.

Jul 28, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez (16) delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Marlins lost a year of control of Jose Fernandez to get five additional innings from him.

1.  Jose Fernandez, Marlins SP.  Marlins President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest certainly would have been justified giving Fernandez a little more minor league seasoning in 2013.  The game’s #5 overall prospect according to Baseball America, Fernandez was just 20 years old and had never pitched above A ball.  But when Marlins starters Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez got hurt, Fernandez surprisingly made the team.

Was it worth it?  Fernandez didn’t make his Marlins debut until April 7th, 2013, so they ultimately traded his five-inning debut for control of his age-26 season, which will happen in 2019.  He was clearly ready to make the jump, as Fernandez won the National League Rookie of the Year award.  However, over a year of the Marlins’ control of their young ace was lost when he went under the knife for Tommy John surgery the following season.  The team put him on the 2013 Opening Day roster even with the knowledge that he was represented by notorious agent Scott Boras, who generally encourages players to avoid extensions that delay free agency.  In December, the Marlins reportedly made a six-year offer (with two club options) worth close to $40MM, but no deal was reached.  Even if they do reach some kind of precedent-shattering deal, five extra innings from Fernandez as part of a 100-loss season was not worth it for the Marlins.

2.  Jedd Gyorko, Padres 2B.  Gyorko came into 2013 as BA’s #71-ranked prospect, and he spent Spring Training working on the transition from third to second base.  Injuries to Chase Headley and Logan Forsythe helped open the door for GM Josh Byrnes to put Gyorko on the Opening Day roster.

Was it worth it?  It’s possible that the goodwill from Byrnes’ lack of regard for service time helped encourage Gyorko to sign a six-year, $35.5MM extension with a club option with the Padres a year later.  In that contract the Padres paid a free agent price for the 2019 season ($13MM), which potentially could have been cheaper had that represented his fourth year of arbitration.  Or, an extra year of control might have convinced Byrnes to wait another season before proposing an extension.  Gyorko struggled mightily with injuries and performance as a sophomore in 2014, and the extension might end up being regrettable.

3.  Mike Leake, Reds SP.  The Reds drafted Leake eighth overall in 2009 out of Arizona State, and with nothing more than an Arizona Fall League stint under his belt as a pro, he beat Travis Wood for the fifth starter job to begin the 2010 season.  He pitched well enough as a rookie, but was moved to the bullpen in August and his season ended on the 24th of that month.

Was it worth it?  The Reds won the division by five games in 2010, and Leake was a part of that.  Leake was wild on his April 11th debut, but still beat the Cubs.  Since GM Walt Jocketty could have easily let him make his debut a few days later, it was not worth it.  Controlling Leake for 2016, his age 28 season, would have been valuable, even if he would have cost $14MM through arbitration.

4.  Austin Jackson, Tigers CF.  Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski acquired Jackson in the epic three-team December 2009 trade that also included Max Scherzer, Curtis Granderson, Ian Kennedy, Edwin Jackson, Phil Coke, and Daniel Schlereth.  Jackson was regarded as the #76 prospect in baseball, and he became the Tigers’ Opening Day center fielder.

Was it worth it?  Jackson hit quite well in his first dozen games or so, and his performance easily could have led to an additional win or two.  It wasn’t worth it in that the Tigers finished at .500, but at the time Dombrowski’s decision was defensible.  Jackson was again part of a big three-team deal at the 2014 trade deadline.  He would have carried more trade value with 2016 control, though teams will be down on him for next year if his current struggles persist.

5.  Jason Heyward, Braves RF.  In a situation analogous to Bryant, the Braves had the game’s best prospect prior to the 2010 season in Heyward.  Heyward had just three games of Triple-A experience, but GM Frank Wren couldn’t resist putting the 20-year-old on the Opening Day roster after a legendary Spring Training.

Was it worth it?  The Braves won the Wild Card by one game and Heyward had a very strong start, so this is a rare case where it was worth it.  The Braves traded Heyward to the Cardinals last November with Jordan Walden for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins.  That was a solid return, but of course the Braves would have done better if they controlled Heyward for ’16 as well.

6.  Colby Rasmus, Cardinals CF.  Rasmus was Baseball America’s #3 prospect prior to the 2009 season.  He made GM John Mozeliak’s Opening Day roster, but wasn’t in the outfield when the Cards battled Pittsburgh on April 5th.

Was it worth it?  The Cardinals won the Central Division handily in ’09, but since Rasmus didn’t start every game those first few weeks, it probably wasn’t worth putting him on the Opening Day roster.  When Mozeliak traded Rasmus to the Blue Jays in an eight-player deal in July 2011, the outfielder had three-plus seasons of control remaining.  It was well-known by that point that Rasmus had worn out his welcome in St. Louis, so while the additional year of control always increases a player’s trade value, it might not have made a huge difference here.

7.  Elvis Andrus, Rangers SSIn December 2008, Rangers GM Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington told face of the franchise Michael Young he’d be shifting from shortstop to third base in 2009, paving the way for one of the game’s top 40 prospects in Andrus.

Was it worth it?  Andrus hit quite well in those first few weeks, and surely made some plays at shortstop Young would not have.  The Rangers won 87 games and fell short of the Wild Card, but at the time the decision was made, it was defensible.  Three years later Andrus signed a deal buying out only his arbitration years, and then a year after that Andrus asked agent Scott Boras to get him a long-term extension, even though it meant missing the chance at being the rare 26-year-old free agent.  Boras got Andrus a huge deal with a pair of opt-outs.  If in spring 2013 the Rangers already controlled Andrus through 2015, they would have at least approached those extension talks differently.

8.  Brett Anderson, Athletics SP.  Savvy GMs had no problem putting top prospects on Opening Day rosters back in 2009.  Even Billy Beane did it with Anderson, the game’s #7 prospect heading into that season, even though the lefty had made only six starts above A ball.  Anderson was the team’s fourth starter out of the gate, losing his first couple of starts.

Was it worth it?  With a starting pitcher it’s almost never “worth it,” since the extra MLB time amounts to one or two starts.  Anderson had a solid rookie year for the A’s, and maybe Beane’s gesture of putting him on the Opening Day roster was a factor in him signing a four-year, $12.5MM deal with two club options a year later.  The contract bought back the potential year of control the A’s lost (2015), and that $12MM club option probably still had a bit of value to the Rockies when they acquired Anderson in December 2013.  They ultimately chose a $1.5MM buyout instead, as Anderson’s injury woes continued in Colorado.

9.  Johnny Cueto, Reds SP.  Cueto was BA’s #34 prospect prior to the 2008 season,  and he broke camp as part of the Reds’ rotation.  Cueto dazzled in his first couple of the starts, and the Reds won his debut by one run.

Was it worth it?  That extra Cueto-related win didn’t matter much for the Reds, who finished in fifth place in ’08.  It’s possible that some goodwill from GM Wayne Krivsky’s decision came into play in January 2011, when new GM Walt Jocketty signed Cueto to a four-year deal with a club option for ’15 (an easy choice to exercise last fall).  If Cueto was held in Triple-A for a few weeks to begin ’08, would he have chosen not to sign an extension later?  In that scenario, he would have reached free agency after 2014.  It’s also possible that a few weeks as a rookie wouldn’t have mattered to him, and controlling him through ’14 could have meant signing him to an extension running through ’16.

10.  John Danks, White Sox SP.  White Sox GM Kenny Williams acquired Danks from the Rangers in December 2006, sending Brandon McCarthy to Texas.  Like Dave Dombrowski with Austin Jackson, Williams couldn’t wait to get his new acquisition on the big league club.  It’s kind of like a kid getting a new toy and opening the box on the ride home.

Was it worth it?  Danks would have benefited from additional Triple-A seasoning, as he posted a 5.50 ERA as a rookie.  He was decent in his first couple of starts, though the White Sox lost both games en route to a fourth place finish.  Williams’ decision set Danks up for free agency after 2012, but he signed a five-year, $65MM extension prior to his walk year.   Danks wound up needing shoulder surgery in 2012.  An extra year of control might have prevented the White Sox from extending Danks in general, in which case they wouldn’t have him on the books currently.

11.  Nick Markakis, Orioles RF/LF.  Top Orioles exec Mike Flanagan put Markakis on the team’s Opening Day roster back in 2006.  The 22-year-old had played just 33 games above A ball.

Was it worth it?  Markakis didn’t play every day in the season’s first few weeks and the Orioles finished in fourth place.  Flanagan’s roster decision had Markakis on track for free agency after 2011, but in January 2009 Andy MacPhail signed him to a six-year, $66.1MM extension with a club option for 2015.  I don’t think much would have changed with the contract had Flanagan waited a few weeks in ’06 to call Markakis up.

What have we learned?  Two weeks of a rookie in April is rarely directly worth trading for a seventh year of control, but the tradeoff can be defensible for certain teams and players.  Also, the extra year of control could impact extensions in multiple ways.  On one hand, it’s possible some players signed extensions partially because of the goodwill from being placed on the Opening Day roster.  On the other hand, an additional year of control might have bought GMs more time to gather data on whether certain extensions were worth pursuing in the first place.

Please note that we looked for examples within the last ten seasons, omitting players like Joe Mauer, and we also left out relievers such as Joel Zumaya and Huston Street.


NL East Notes: Fernandez, Toscano, Braves, Mets

Marlins ace Jose Fernandez and manager Mike Redmond spoke with Anthony Castrovince for a Sports On Earth piece about the 23-year-old Fernandez’s recovery from Tommy John surgery. Fernandez says that he’s become close with NL East rival and fellow Tommy John victim Matt Harvey, who made his season debut for the Mets today (and dominated the Nationals). The two aces have discussed the rehab process, with Fernandez checking in to compare their rehab cycles. Fernandez has replaced a borderline ridiculous offseason cycling program — he used to cycle up to 600 miles per week, Castrovince notes — in favor of bulking up to add muscle and hopefully avoid further injuries to his arm. Redmond is pleased with the amount of time Fernandez is spending on the bench and with his teammates, always looking to learn, improve and ready his mind for the day he returns to the mound.

Elsewhere in the NL East…

  • Cuban outfielder Dian Toscano, who signed a four-year, $7.5MM deal with the Braves this winter, has arrived in the U.S. and is working with Major League Baseball to establish residency, reports MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. While there’s no timeline on how long that will take, Bowman notes that it’s one of the final hurdles Toscano needs to clear before beginning his Braves career. Bowman adds that Toscano could emerge as a backup outfield option in Atlanta as soon as this season.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports feels that the belief that the Braves‘ farm system had become unproductive under the previous front office was misguided. Rosenthal looks at the number of players that had graduated to the Majors, pointing to them as evidence that the system continued to churn out quality talent. Aside from the team’s major trades of Evan Gattis, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Craig Kimbrel, Rosenthal finds other player personnel decisions questionable, highlighting the risk involved in acquiring Manny Banuelos and the decision to leave former top prospect J.R. Graham unprotected in this year’s Rule 5 Draft.
  • Mets GM Sandy Alderson tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News that he doesn’t instruct manager Terry Collins on how to construct his lineup, despite recent media speculation that the opposite is true. Alderson said that much like Collins offers input on roster moves but the front office has final say, he will offer input on lineup decisions, but Collins has final say.