Jose Julio Ruiz Rumors

Rangers Sign Ruiz, Taubenheim

The Rangers have added a pair of players on minor league deals, inviting one of the two, Jose Julio Ruiz, to Spring Training.'s T.R. Sullivan tweets news of the Ruiz signing, while Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas writes that right-hander Ty Taubenheim also inked a minor league contract with the club.

Ruiz, 25, signed with the Rays last summer, spending the remainder of the season in the minors. Tampa Bay released the Cuban first baseman in November rather than committing to a four-year, $4MM deal by a November 15th deadline. While Ruiz didn't display much power during his time in the Rays' system, he did hit .331/.416/.468 across two minor league levels.

Taubenheim, 28, has seen major league playing time for the Blue Jays and Pirates. The righty, who spent 2010 in the Phillies' system, has posted a 5.09 ERA in 46 career innings, pitching in the bigs most recently for Pittsburgh in 2008.

International Links: Marmol, Cano, Jeter, Ruiz

Baseball was an afterthought on most international sports pages this morning, due to FBC Barcelona's 5-0 humiliation of Real Madrid, but links in Spanish still abound…

  • Carlos Marmol confirmed that he and the Cubs are in discussions about a long-term extension, talking to Hoy's Dionisio Soldevila. "There still isn't anything, but we're talking," Marmol said. "I would like to sign something long and stay with the team."
  • Derek Jeter's double-play partner Robinson Cano thinks the shortstop "would retire before he would go to another team," Cano told Soldevila on his Dominican talk show La Semana Deportiva.
  • The Rays released Cuban first baseman Jose Julio Ruiz in mid-November, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. After a long and complicated courtship, the team signed Ruiz to a minor-league deal last June and had until November 15 to offer him a $4MM major league contract. He showed little of his reputed power over the summer in brief stints with Double-A Montgomery and in the Arizona Fall League. Less than a year ago, Ruiz seemed like the most promising Cuban power hitter since Kendry Morales, drawing interest from numerous teams and being rumored as a possible successor to David Ortiz in Boston.

Rays Sign Jose Julio Ruiz

The Rays signed Jose Julio Ruiz to a minor league deal, according to Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald. Ruiz will make $20K per month and the Rays will have the option to sign the Cuban first baseman to a four-year $4MM major league deal on November 15th (all Twitter links). The minor league deal guarantees Ruiz much less than he was seeking last offseason.

Ruiz became a free agent in the fall and immediately attracted interest from multiple teams. In February, his trainer claimed to have received "concrete proposals" worth more than $1MM from three major league clubs. The Blue Jays and Red Sox appeared interested, but reports of disastrous tryouts emerged, teams started backing off and Ruiz changed agents. 

The Rays may have found themselves a bargain and Jorge Arangure Jr. of suggests (via Twitter) that Ruiz could become a candidate to replace Carlos Pena. The Rays signed another Cuban first basemanLeslie Anderson – in March. Anderson, 28, is hitting .266/.310/.418 in high A ball, so he doesn't appear ready to play in the majors.

Latin Links: Liriano, Ruiz, Ramirez, Garcia

News from sources that use subjunctive tenses. Links are in Spanish…

  • Francisco Liriano tells Hoy's Dionisio Soldevila he seriously considered retirement eight months after his elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2006. He also gives perhaps his clearest rejection yet of the idea that he take the John Smoltz route and step into Joe Nathan's slot as closer. "I don't want to be a closer," Liriano says. "I don't know if I'm ready to roll out there three or four times a week." After a dominant winter in the Dominican and a reportedly resurgent fastball this spring, Liriano is currently manager Ron Gardenhire's pick for the fifth spot in the Twins rotation.
  • Two weeks after his acrimonious split from agent Jorge Luis Toca, Cuban prospect Jose Julio Ruiz has surfaced again. Representatives from 22 teams recently watched Ruiz and fellow new Legacy Sports client Yadil Mujica at a staged tryout in the Dominican Republic, writes Jorge Ebro at the Nuevo Herald. The Blue Jays, Red Sox, Rangers, and Rays have all reportedly made offers to the left-handed first baseman this winter, all at around $2MM. The Rays at minimum can likely be crossed off the list of Ruiz's potential suitors after the team signed Leslie Anderson.
  • Rangers prospect Max Ramirez is getting more serious about moving to first, just like Mike Lowell, the player for whom Ramirez was almost traded earlier this winter. "I played a fair amount of first (base) in Venezuela," Ramirez tells Lider en Deportes' Carlos Rodriguez. "I didn't do it as much in the minors, but I've improved and I feel good." Ramirez, who is currently blocked at catcher by Taylor Teagarden and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, has been mentioned as a possible solution to the Rangers' seeming shortage of reserve corner infielders. He played 23 innings at first during a brief 2008 call-up.
  • White Sox fifth starter Freddy Garcia tells Lider's Rodriguez that retirement never crossed his mind after he was released by the Mets last spring after just two starts at Triple A. "They told me one thing and did another," Garcia says. "I came to fight for a spot and they never gave me a chance."
  • Former Twins outfielder Lew Ford has signed with the Oaxaca Warriors of the Mexican League, reports Eduardo Gonzalez Garcia at Noticias Sureste. After a one-year sojourn in Japan, Ford signed with the Reds last August and played for their Triple A Louisville affiliate. He last appeared in the majors in 2007.

Escobar To Decide About 2010 On April 1

The R-word has been swirling around Kelvim Escobar lately, amidst reports that the 33-year-old Mets reliever may need shoulder surgery again after managing just one start in two seasons. Escobar answers some of these concerns in an interview with Rafael Tejera at the Venezuelan paper El Nacional (link in Spanish), telling Tejera, "If I wanted to retire, I would have done it already."

As for the 2010 season, Escobar insists he hasn't given up on it yet, but he will only make his final decision after picking up a ball again. "In the coming weeks, I'll simply work to strengthen my shoulder, and then it will be April 1 when I return to throwing," he says. "If I feel the same pain that day, I'll have to make the decision I have been considering since I was with the Angels: to rest for a full year and recover."

Other links from the Spanish language beat:

  • With Cuban prospect Leslie Anderson's foot now planted in the door to the tune of $3.75MM for four years with the Rays, the question becomes: When and at what position will he play? A source close to the negotiations tells the Nuevo Herald's Jorge Ebro that the Rays want to see the 27-year-old "wearing the uniform as quickly as possible," while Marc Topkin at the St. Petersburg Times notes that Anderson is widely expected to start off in the minors. Neither brings up the subject of positions, although Anderson's agent Jaime Torres tells Topkin that Anderson will head to Rays camp later this month ready to fight for a spot on the big league roster at first base and all three outfield positions.
  • Another high-average hitter from the Cuban Serie Nacional, shortstop Yadil Mujica, has been cleared as a free agent, tweets ESPN's Jorge Arangure Jr. In the same day, Mujica switched agents to Legacy Sports, also the new home of Jose Julio Ruiz. A scouting report on Mujica can be found here.
  • Jesus Guzman tells Lider en Deportes' Carlos Rodriguez that he has received no guarantee of making the Giants' opening day roster, but he has received another sort of guarantee from manager Bruce Bochy: Whatever chance he has will be in the outfield, as opposed to the infield, where Guzman has almost exclusively played in the past. After three brief callups in 2009, the Giants designated the 26-year-old Venezuelan for assignment to make room for Bengie Molina this offseason, then invited him back to spring training. Last season at Triple A Fresno, Guzman put up a .321/.379/.507 line in 500 PA while playing mostly first base.

Ruiz, Ex-Agent Clash Over Split

Jose Julio Ruiz's recent change in agents, from Jorge Luis Toca to Legacy Sports, appears to have been far from amicable. Both Ruiz and Toca lobbed barbs yesterday through the Nuevo Herald's Luis Rangel (link in Spanish).

Among the claims: Toca says the Red Sox offered $2.5MM for Ruiz, but adds the team later withdrew their offer after seeing Ruiz "out of shape and overweight" last Monday. He also says Ruiz showed up for tryouts without a glove, leading some on the Boston side to conclude the Cuban prospect had "a bad character."

According to the agent, the Rangers offered $2MM to Ruiz and the Blue Jays offered $1.5MM, even though Ruiz's tryouts in front of scouts were disastrous, with the first baseman only managing 10 or 12 hits in over 100 ABs. Toca says he was negotiating with Tampa Bay last Thursday when Ruiz called him and announced the split because "he could not stand it anymore." He says he is planning legal action against the player for expenses, claiming Ruiz used his agency to get information about teams and money to give to other agents.

Ruiz replies that far from being out of shape, he was "better than ever" in recent workouts for Texas and Toronto. In regards to the Red Sox, he says he "could not do anything" during the workout because of a hangnail on his ring finger. He claims not to know where Toca's "10 or 12 hits" figure comes from, as he never staged any official tryouts. Ruiz insists his value fell on the market because of Toca's agency communicating poorly and "not doing their job," saying, "I believe if I had been with other people, I would have signed long before."

Latin Links: Ruiz, Haitian Players, Ramirez

Links in Spanish, because English is so last season…

  • Jose Julio Ruiz's new agent Mike Maulini tells Jorge Ebro at Nuevo Herald that the Cuban first baseman made the switch from Jorge Luis Toca after realizing that his much-rumored signing with a major league team was "long overdue." Ruiz had a $2MM offer in hand from Tampa Bay in February, but since then, the market has stagnated and the lefty feared he was in danger of missing his opportunity to play stateside.
  • While Haitian baseball prospects exist, don't expect to see any of them signing with Major League teams, writes Juan Mercado in the Dominican newspaper El Dia. He talks with two coaches who complain that the MLB office on the island won't allow promising Haitian players to attend teams' academies because of the difficulty in verifying the players' backgrounds and paperwork. One source tells Mercado that the teams simply "prefer not to waste time" in fruitless investigations, while the two coaches call the policy discriminatory, saying many Cuban and Venezuelan players don't receive the same level of scrutiny. The only current Major Leaguer of Haitian descent is the Orioles' Felix Pie, though he was born in the Dominican.
  • Several veteran players were signed during this offseason under the justification of mentoring developing players. But lost in the circle-of-life storyline is the idea that those veterans are being paid for their blunt critical eye. New White Sox backup shortstop Omar Vizquel brings the point home to Luis Rangel of Nuevo Herald when he says that mentee Alexei Ramirez "needs to move his feet when fielding. He has the tendency to stand still and not move to the ball." Ramirez committed 20 errors in his first full season at short, tying for fourth most among major league shortstops.
  • Who says winter leagues help keep players in shape for the regular season? Yankees reliever Jonathan Albaladejo tells Esteban Pagan Rivera at Primera Hora that he shed 30 pounds this offseason after the team forbade him from playing in his home country of Puerto Rico. At the other end of the scale sits Pablo Sandoval, whose much-ballyhooed "Camp Panda" proved for naught when he came back from the Venezuelan Winter League in January heavier than when he arrived. 
  • The Twins signed one of Sandoval's fellow Navegantes of Magallanes in Venezuela, righty reliever Yoslan Herrera, to a minor league deal, confirms Joe Christensen at the Star Tribune. Herrera, who defected from Cuba in 2005, was a highly touted prospect in the Pirates system but disappointed in his only brief showing with the team in 2008. He showed more promise at the Bucs' Double-A and Triple-A levels in 2009 and will start out at Triple-A Rochester for the Twins. The Cuban blog Terreno de Pelota first reported the signing on Tuesday.

Odds & Ends: Ruiz, Braves, Offenses, Yankees

Links for Thursday…

Red Sox Still In On Ruiz

Earlier this week, the Blue Jays appeared to be taking the lead in the race to sign Cuban first base prospect Jose Julio Ruiz. But don't count out the Red Sox yet, says ESPN's Jorge Arangure, Jr. in a recent blog post.

Arangure cites a "source knowledgeable about the situation" as saying that the Red Sox are still actively pursuing Ruiz as a low-cost preemptive replacement for David Ortiz, and that the interest is mutual. Ruiz is eyeing Boston, the source says, because he believes he would soon have the opportunity to take Ortiz's spot, even if it means playing in the minors in the short term. This seemingly conflicts with Ruiz's agent Jorge Luis Toca's quote earlier this month that "the idea is to find a team where he'll have the best opportunity to rise the quickest," but on the other hand, Ortiz's slow start in 2009 didn't make him look like a huge roadblock. The team holds a $12.5MM club option for Ortiz in 2011, which if declined could make for an easy transition.

The Red Sox are said to be looking at the 25-year-old defector much in the same way that they looked at Ortiz when he was released by the Twins at age 28: a big (Ortiz is 6'4"; Ruiz is 6'3") lefty masher whose stats "augur an eventual breakout season." To wit, Arangure quotes the Latin American scouting director of a National League team as saying, "Ruiz is a David Ortiz-looking dude." Ruiz was also favorably compared to Carlos Delgado when he first defected in June of 2009. 

Of course, none of this is to rule out the possibility that the Red Sox trade for Adrian Gonzalez. Arangure quotes "sources close to" the Padres first baseman as saying that while the Red Sox are not actively pursuing him at the moment, Gonzalez considers a trade to Boston "inevitable."

Other links from the threshold between major league baseball and world baseball…

  • The Braves signed 21-year-old Nicaraguan shortstop Ivan Marin to a minor league contract on February 10, reports Oscar Gonzalez at La Prensa.
  • Cuban pitcher Juan Yasser Serrano held a private tryout for the Rays last Wednesday, according to the Cuban baseball blog Las Avispas.
  • Former major leaguer Randall Simon has signed with the Rockford Riverhawks of the independent Northern League, reports Simon hasn't logged a big league PA since 2004, but he has remained active in Europe, most recently in the Italian Baseball League and for the upstart Dutch national team in last year's World Baseball Classic.

Odds & Ends: Thames, Manzella, Royals, Marlins

Links for Friday…