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Jose Fernandez Rumors
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Marlins’ signing of Christian Yelich to a deal that guarantees him just under $50MM for seven years marked the second time in the past several months that the team has awarded a young outfielder a big extension. The first, of course, was Giancarlo Stanton‘s enormous $325MM contract. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald spoke with Yelich and agent Joe Longo to see how the deal went down, and evidently the first contract had much to do with the second.
The Marlins initially spoke to Longo about a Yelich extension before signing Stanton, Spencer reports, and Stanton’s deal served as a catalyst for Yelich’s. “(Yelich) tells me it’s different now,” Longo says. “I think the Stanton signing kind of set the tone for that. It certainly set the tone for us.”
Yelich “reminds me a lot of a young Don Mattingly,” says Marlins GM Dan Jennings. “A tremendous hitter who’s only going to get better as he learns the league and the pitchers.”
One might wonder if the Marlins could continue locking up young players. The Stanton and Yelich deals might or might not encourage starter Jose Fernandez to consider an extension of his own — Spencer writes that the Scott Boras client says the possibility of a deal depends on a number of factors. But he’s encouraged by the team’s commitments to Stanton and Yelich. “I think the team is proving to fans that they want to win, and I think that’s what they want in Miami,” says Fernandez. “It’s really nice to see that happen.”
The latest out of Miami..
- When asked if he’s in on James Shields, Marlins GM Dan Jennings told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter) “you never know if you’re still in it or not in it until someone signs him.” At present, however, it would seem that the Marlins are on the outside looking in with the Padres viewed as the favorites and the Cubs still lurking.
- Jennings added, “We have had internal discussions about [Shields] and all other free agents… we’ll see in the next few days where he goes,” (via MLB Network Radio on Twitter).
- Jennings told Bowden (on Twitter) that Dan Haren is preparing for Spring Training and looking forward to being a member of the Marlins. Haren reportedly has been hoping for a trade that would keep him closer to his family in California. At one time, Haren seemed to be considering retirement over spending the season in Miami.
- Jennings said that the timetable for Jose Fernandez to take the mound is between June 15th and July 15th (via Bowden on Twitter).
- Joe Frisaro of MLB.com (on Twitter) opines that the Marlins’ next step should be to try to sign Rafael Soriano or Francisco Rodriguez on the cheap. When asked by Bowden (link) about possible interest in the relievers, Jennings didn’t tip his hat much, saying that he’s “always looking to add.” Jennings added that he’s exploring potentially bringing “one or two more guys to camp,” according to MLB Network Radio (on Twitter).
The Marlins have already locked up Giancarlo Stanton to a record-setting 13-year deal, and they’re now focusing on extending the rest of their young core. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Fish have made long-term offers to ace Jose Fernandez, left fielder Christian Yelich and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, with an offer to center fielder Marcell Ozuna expected to come this week.
Heyman doesn’t have specifics on all four of the deals, but he reports that the Fernandez proposal is said to be for six years and about $40MM. It also contains two club options. While that payday may seem light in comparison to Stanton’s contract, it’s worth noting how different the situations of Fernandez and Stanton are. Both are cornerstone players, but Stanton signed his deal with just two years of team control remaining when he was due to earn roughly $13MM in 2015 already. Fernandez is not yet even arbitration eligible (he’ll earn close to the league minimum next year) and is also coming off a season cut short by Tommy John surgery. Stanton, on the other hand, was coming off a second-place MVP finish.
According to Heyman, the offer to Fernandez would be the largest ever for a pitcher with his service time, though there appears to be a bit of disconnect there. Heyman notes that the offer is for “close to” $40MM. Fernandez currently has exactly two years of MLB service, and Gio Gonzalez‘s six-year, $42MM contract is the biggest extension ever signed by a pitcher with two to three years of MLB service (as can be seen in MLBTR’s Extension Tracker). It’s possible that Heyman is simply referring to a player with exactly two years of service or even a player in the low two-year range, but in terms of service class, anything short of $42MM in guaranteed money would fall a bit shy of a record.
The offer to Yelich, according to Heyman, is said to be modeled after Starling Marte‘s six-year, $31.5MM contract, but it contains a smaller guarantee than that deal. There’s still some work to do before the two sides are close to an agreement, he notes. Yelich, who quietly posted roughly a four-WAR season, has just one year and 69 days of MLB service time. Marte’s contract is the second-largest ever for an outfielder with one to two years of service (Ryan Braun‘s $45MM deal is king), but as the Extension Tracker shows, recent extensions for Paul Goldschmidt (five years, $32MM), Jedd Gyorko (five years, $35MM), Anthony Rizzo (seven years, $41MM) and Andrelton Simmons (seven years, $58MM) have all topped the Marte deal in terms of guarantee.
General manager Dan Jennings wouldn’t comment on specific situations, but he expressed confidence to Heyman in locking up his young stars, even Fernandez, who is represented by Scott Boras. “We’ll get it done,” said Jennings. “We’ll get it done with Scott, too; we’ll just have to rassle a little harder.” Boras, of course, is typically averse to advising his young talents to accept extensions before hitting free agency, though there are notable exceptions (including recent cases of Carlos Gonzalez and Carlos Gomez).
To this point, Heyman writes, there’s yet to be an inclination that Fernandez is amenable to a long-term contract with such little experience under his belt and given his injury status. The pair of proposed club options, in particular, would seem to go against Boras’ typical philosophy. However, Jennings maintained optimism and felt that extension talks with all four of his young players are going well: “We’ve had some great exchanges. I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”
The Marlins have opened long-term extension talks with injured ace Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich and Adeiny Hechavarria, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. As Rosenthal notes, nothing is close with any of the three. Fernandez, a client of Scott Boras, is a particularly long shot to be extended. Boras typically encourages his clients to test the open market, and while his players have on rare occasion signed long-term deals before reaching that point (e.g. Carlos Gonzalez and Carlos Gomez), Fernandez isn’t in a great spot to talk contract as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery.
It’s not hard to see why Miami would have interest in extending Fernandez, however, as he was among the game’s most dominant young arms before undergoing surgery and figures to get back to that point in the near future. The former first-rounder skipped Double-A and Triple-A entirely and debuted in the Majors as a 20-year-old. While that jump would be difficult for most, Fernandez had no trouble acclimating to the Majors and notched a ludicrous 2.25 ERA with 10.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 through his first 224 1/3 innings. He won Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 and finished third in the NL Cy Young balloting that season.
Fernandez is controlled through 2018, although now that he’s missed a season with injury, the Marlins’ decision to have him break camp in 2013 looks even more questionable; Miami could’ve secured another year of team control by leaving him in the minors for just three weeks or so. Of course, if an extension is worked out, that will be a relatively moot point (though still puzzling, in principle).
Yelich, 23 in a month, quietly enjoyed a breakout season. Also a former first-round pick, he batted .284/.362/.402 with nine homers, 21 steals and excellent defense in left field. Baseball-Reference valued him at 3.6 WAR, while Fangraphs pegged him for 4.3 WAR. Yelich can be controlled through 2019 and won’t be arbitration eligible for two more years, so there’s no immediate urgency for the Marlins to extend him. He’s repped by Paragon Sports.
Hechavarria, 26 next April, is a client of Praver-Shapiro Sports and is a more curious case. While most acknowledge that he has the tools to be an excellent shortstop, most defensive metrics peg him as below-average at shortstop despite his affinity for highlight-reel plays. He’s under control through 2018 and isn’t arbitration eligible until next winter. Hechavarria posted an improved .276/.308/.356 batting line in 2014, though his offense still hasn’t caught up to its minor league levels, where he slashed .327/.376/.446 with eight homers in 606 Triple-A plate appearances.
In addition to this group, the Marlins are, of course, trying to extend franchise cornerstone Giancarlo Stanton. Earlier today, reports indicated that talks are ongoing and the Marlins are aware of and comfortable with the fact that Stanton may cost $28-30MM annually.
The Marlins hope to have Giancarlo Stanton signed to a long-term extension before the Winter Meetings, Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill tells Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link). Hill said that Jose Fernandez‘s rehab from Tommy John surgery is going well but the team is “not going to push anything because he is so valuable to us.” Not included in the audio link, but available via Bowden’s Twitter feed, are Hill’s remarks about wanting to add another starting pitcher and a big bat to the Marlins’ roster this offseason.
Here’s some more from around baseball…
- Ten hitters who the Mariners could pursue via trades or free agency are listed by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Victor Martinez, Michael Cuddyer and Billy Butler seem to be Seattle’s likeliest targets, Dutton believes, while players like Melky Cabrera (desire to play on the East Coast), Nelson Cruz and Yasmany Tomas (salary demands) seem unlikely to join the M’s.
- Alex Rios is likely viewed by the Mariners and other teams as “a fall-back option” if their preferred outfield choices aren’t available, Dutton writes. “Few if any” scouts would sign Rios to a two-year contract, though a one-year deal worth no more than $10MM “could be a reasonable…risk.” MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted Rios would find a one-year, $8.5MM deal this winter.
- A number of trends emerged from a study of how the last 46 playoff teams allocated their payroll, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. Spreading salaries around seemed to be a key factor — only nine of the 46 teams spent more than 17% of their Opening Day payroll on a single player, and the teams averaged 54.5% on their five most expensive players. Of the 46 teams studied, only two had a highest-paid player who was also their most productive player (according to WAR).
- With offense down, starting pitchers (maybe even the top arms) could see their market diminished in free agency this winter, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only piece. Conversely, this also raises the value of free agent hitters, plus some teams could receive some big returns in trades for quality bats. Olney lists a few hitters that have already been mentioned as possible trade candidates (i.e. Yoenis Cespedes and Cubs‘ middle infielders) as well as longer-shot options as Manny Machado.
- Mike Elias, the Astros‘ director of amateur scouting, discusses Houston’s scouting department, some prospects the difficulty in accurately grading hitting and a number of other topics as part of a wide-ranging interview with Fangraphs’ David Laurila.