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Josh Hamilton Rumors
A.J. Burnett will prove to be a bargain for the Pirates, Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. The Pirates have a great record with recent free agents like Russell Martin and Edinson Volquez, and Burnett is still a strikeout pitcher. He’ll also be recovered from a hernia issue that dogged him in 2014, and he’ll have a more favorable ballpark and defense than he had in Philadelphia. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- Potential offseason extension candidates include NL Central and AL Central players like Josh Harrison of the Pirates, Corey Kluber of the Indians, and Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas of the Royals, Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com writes. It will be awhile before Kluber can really cash in on his AL Cy Young award win, Castrovince notes — he isn’t eligible for free agency until after 2018, by which point he’ll be heading into his age-33 season. Extending him now would give the Indians cost certainty through his arbitration seasons. As Castrovince points out, extensions for Harrison, Hosmer and Moustakas don’t appear that likely — the Pirates would probably like to see how Harrison performs in 2015, and Hosmer and Moustakas are represented by Scott Boras, who may prefer to see what his players might get in free agency in a few years. Also, neither Hosmer nor Moustakas were nearly as impressive in the regular season as they were in the playoffs.
- GM John Mozeliak says the Cardinals aren’t heavily involved in the market for Asian players right now, Fangraphs’ David Laurila tweets. Mozeliak does add that the Cardinals can’t totally ignore that market, however. The GM’s answer came in response to a question about Japanese phenom Shohei Otani, who struck out 179 batters in 155 1/3 innings and threw 101 MPH as a pitcher, as well as hitting .274/.338/.505 as an outfielder for the Nippon Ham Fighters last season. Otani is probably many years away from playing in the US, if he ever does, but MLB scouts are keeping an eye on him, for obvious reasons.
Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton has suffered a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament of his left thumb as well as a torn capsule, the team announced. He will undergo surgery in the next few days and is expected to miss six to eight weeks.
Replacing the injured slugger will be J.B. Shuck, a 26-year-old outfielder who narrowly missed a roster spot out of the spring. In the most extensive MLB action of his career last year, Shuck put up a .293/.331/.366 line in 478 plate appearances for the Halos. With 1.055 years of MLB service at the start of the season, Shuck will not have a chance to reach Super Two status next year, but could now hope to end the year with over 2 years of service.
Hamilton, of course, is in the second year of a mammoth five-year, $125MM contract. The deal is heavily backloaded, as his $15MM annual salary in the first two years will jump to $23MM next year and then $30MM in 2016-17. Though he disappointed last season, Hamilton — who will turn 33 during his rehab — had been off to a hot start to the 2014 campaign with a 1.286 OPS. Needless to say, the loss of Hamilton's bat (especially if it ends up being for longer than two months) will be a significant loss for an Angels club that hopes to compete in a loaded AL West.
It's been a disastrous 2013 for the Angels, who sit 10 games below .500 and 11 games out of first place in the AL West. Angels owner Arte Moreno spoke with Bob Nightengale of USA Today regarding his team's slow start. Here are some highlights from the piece…
- Manager Mike Scioscia and GM Jerry Dipoto aren't in immediate danger of losing their jobs, though Moreno notes that he will re-evaluate the team in the offseason. Moreno says that he likes Dipoto's analytical systems and still considers Scioscia an elite manager.
- Moreno says he's never seen anything like the struggles that Josh Hamilton has endured to open the season, however he feels it's too early to judge 32-year-old: "Five years from now, we can sit down, and then ask me about the investment in the man.'' Hamilton, of course, is batting just .207/.262/.378 and has played below replacement level according to both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.
- Moreno tells Nightengale that he has no buyer's remorse when it comes to the Albert Pujols deal. The opportunity to bring one of the best hitters in the history of the game to Anaheim was a "treat." Pujols hasn't struggled at Hamilton's level, but his .258/.330/.447 batting line and injury problems don't bode well, considering he's owed $212MM from 2014-21.
- There have yet to be any serious negotiations about Mike Trout, partly because it's so difficult to put a value or dollar amount on his incredible numbers to date.
- The Halos can opt out of their stadium in 2016 to either have the 50-year-old park refurbished or have a new one constructed. Moreno says that the ideal situation would be to remain in the current Angel Stadium.
Matt Harvey posted a game score of 97 while taking a perfect game into the seventh, striking out 12, and walking none over nine innings against the White Sox Tuesday night, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports notes (on Twitter). Only 40 outings of nine innings or fewer since 1916 have earned a higher game score. Here's a collection of notes from around the majors.
- The nine Asian-born pitchers who have pitched in the big leagues this year have combined to post numbers similar to a typical Justin Verlander season, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs says. Those nine pitchers have 241 1/3 innings pitched so far in 2013, with a 2.91 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. Yu Darvish has been a big part of that, of course, but Hyun-Jin Ryu, Hisashi Iwakuma, Hiroki Kuroda, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara have also pitched well. The past struggles of pitchers like Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Irabu have allowed today's Asian-born pitchers to fly under the radar somewhat, Cameron argues, and he wonders whether pitchers from overseas leagues might be undervalued in the market. Specifically, he says, emphasis on fastball velocity and breaking balls may cause teams to undervalue pitchers with great splitters or changeups.
- Free agency has become "a used car lot cluttered with lemons," with only a few bargains to be found, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated argues, citing the examples of Josh Hamilton (Angels), B.J. Upton (Braves) and Zack Greinke (Dodgers). Thus far, Hamilton and Upton have failed to produce with their new teams, and Greinke is hurt. In the past four seasons, Verducci notes, there have been 24 free-agent contracts worth $35MM or more. Most of those have turned out badly, and some (such as Jason Bay's deal with the Mets) have looked bad almost immediately. That means that "win[ning] the winter" by signing the biggest-name free agents isn't all it's cracked up to be, as the 2012 Marlins can attest. This year's Angels and Dodgers have struggled out of the gate, and so have the Blue Jays (who had a big offseason mostly driven by trades).
- The Astros' decisions to designate Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez for assignment made their outfield more athletic, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart says. Robbie Grossman, Brandon Barnes and Jimmy Paredes started in the outfield for the Astros Tuesday night. "We went out to get more athletic, get more guys who have the ability to mishit the ball and still have a possibility of getting on base because of their athletic ability," says manager Bo Porter.
- Will Middlebrooks and David Ross left the Red Sox's game against the Twins Tuesday night after they collided. There is no indication yes that Middlebrooks will miss significant time. But after Middlebrooks, the Red Sox have little depth at third base, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports. Utility infielder Pedro Ciriaco "isn't the answer," MacPherson says, and the choices at Triple-A Pawtucket aren't thrilling. Minor-league veteran Justin Henry, who was acquired in the offseason for Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus, may be the best option there. Brock Holt, who arrived from the Pirates with Joel Hanrahan in the offseason, is another possibility. Of course, Middlebrooks himself has struggled this year, hitting just .195/.232/.281.
- Jake Peavy does not have a no-trade clause in his new contract with the White Sox, and he doesn't need one, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. "I told (GM) Rick Hahn that if he didn’t trade me before spring training was over, that was good enough for me," says Peavy, pointing out that it's unlikely he will be traded if the White Sox are contending.
- Rosenthal also notes that Madison Bumgarner's contract with the Giants could be one of the most team-friendly in baseball. Bumgarner, 23, would have been eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, but his new deal contains cheap team options that can allow the Giants to carry him through 2019.
- The Brewers have assigned Francisco Rodriguez to Class A+ Brevard County, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes. Rodriguez will make three relief appearances there, then head to Triple-A Nashville. The Brewers must promote Rodriguez to the majors by May 17, or he can become a free agent. Rodriguez posted a 4.38 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 78 appearances with the Brewers in 2012.
- Diamond Mines' new database provides a fascinating look at old scouting reports, including many in the scouts' own handwriting.
GM Jeff Luhnow and the Astros have some unusual methods, but don't believe everything you hear, says Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. There's no truth to the rumor that the Astros won't allow their minor-league hitters to swing at 3-2 pitches, for example. The Astros are using a piggyback system at all their minor-league levels, planning to use two starting pitchers, one after the other, in each game. The Astros feel that system allows them to distribute innings to their best pitchers, and to protect their health. But that system appears to be breaking down at the Triple-A level, since some Triple-A pitchers have already been promoted to the majors and another, John Ely, went down with Tommy John surgery. "Basically, the argument for having eight instead of five (at Triple A) is dissipating quickly," says Luhnow. Here are more notes from the AL West.
- Josh Hamilton's aggressive approach at the plate is clouding his future and could make his contract with the Angels a very bad one, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs argues. Cameron says that Hamilton needs to make adjustments and stop chasing bad pitches, because right now, "Hamilton is just a hack who has terrible at-bats and makes a lot of outs." Currently, Hamilton is hitting .202/.246/.298 while swinging at 45% of pitches outside the strike zone.
- The Mariners dodged a bullet when the Angels signed Hamilton, Cameron argues at USS Mariner. The Mariners reportedly offered Hamilton four years and $100MM, with two vesting options that would have brought the total value of the contract to $150MM. But Hamilton signed with the Angels for $125MM guaranteed instead.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum is upset with his team's recent play and says that players who don't perform won't have big-league jobs, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times reports. That goes for top young players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. "I don’t think [anyone’s] invincible if you’re not performing," Sveum says regarding Castro and Rizzo. "It’s not about what we think can happen three or four years from now. It’s time to perform on a consistent basis."
Wittenmyer writes that Sveum's harsh words for Castro and Rizzo "threw a sudden dose of skepticism and doubt into the widespread assumptions about the Cubs’ core," but acknowledges that, in reality, Castro and Rizzo will be with the Cubs for the foreseeable future. Sveum is suggesting they might be demoted, but that seems extremely unlikely, and it's even less likely that either of them would be traded. The Cubs signed Castro to a seven-year, $60MM contract last August. Rizzo is not signed to a long-term deal. Both players have hit well this season despite occasional mistakes in the field. Here are more notes from around the majors.
- John Poloni — also known as the "fat scout" in Michael Lewis' Moneyball – lobbied for the Athletics to draft Tim Hudson in 1997, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Hudson wasn't regarded as a top draft prospect due to his size, but Poloni told the A's that Hudson had "the best sinker he'd ever seen." 16 years later, Hudson is nearing his 200th win in the big leagues. That doesn't mean Poloni is rushing to take credit, however. "He exceeded my expectations, too," Poloni says. "A lot of times, it's pure luck."
- Last offseason's big-ticket free agents haven't performed well so far, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel. One of the highest-profile disappointments thus far has probably been Josh Hamilton of the Angels, although it's still early enough in the season that one big series could make any player's statistics look considerably better.
Rangers outfielder Julio Borbon describes his future as "a real question mark," Evan Grant of DallasNews.com reports. Texas appears likely to trade Borbon or designate him for assignment, when they add starter Nick Tepesch to their active roster on Tuesday. If the Rangers designate Borbon for assignment, the Astros might claim him, Grant says. Borbon hit .304/.349/.433 for Triple-A Round Rock in 2012. Here are more notes from around the American League.
- Ranger-turned-Angel C.J. Wilson understands why Rangers fans weren't happy to see fellow former Ranger Josh Hamilton play in Arlington for the Angels this weekend, MLB.com's Lyle Spencer reports. "We're all baseball players," Wilson says. "It's not real life. Sports gives you something to cheer for or boo about. It's your choice. They're not going to cheer for him, obviously." Hamilton signed a five-year, $125MM contract with the Angels in December.
- The upcoming Yankees-Indians series in Cleveland will be a reunion for both Nick Swisher and Travis Hafner, Zack Meisel of MLB.com reports. "Oh, man, that's going to be the jam," says Swisher, who left New York in the offseason and signed a four-year, $56MM contract with the Indians. Hafner signed a one-year, $2MM contract with the Yankees in February.
The strength of the 2013 Mets appears to be their rotation, but when you compare New York's starting five to the rotations of the Nationals, Phillies and Braves, the group no longer seems as intimidating. As Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes, the Mets seem even more vulnerable in areas such as the outfield and the bullpen. Here are some more links from around the Major Leagues, starting in New York…
- Free agent right-hander Francisco Rodriguez said he "definitely" wants to return to the Mets and "redeem himself" in New York, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports (Twitterlinks). While the Mets won't rule out a reunion with Rodriguez, it doesn't seem like a 'front burner issue' for the team in Martino's view.
- The Rangers must find a way to keep CEO Nolan Ryan in place, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. In Rosenthal's view it would be a shame if the Hall of Famer left after the contributions he has made in Texas. It’s possible Ryan will leave the team, but the Rangers say they want him to stay.
- Josh Hamilton says he isn't out for revenge against the Rangers this season, but one Texas official tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that he is skeptical of that assertion. The Rangers person predicted that the slugger may hit 50 homers in his first year with the Angels, fueled in part by a grudge against his former club.
- Within the piece, Heyman reports that the Mariners offered Hamilton about $90MM for four years with vesting options for two additional seasons. The Rangers offered a three-year deal with three additional options, Heyman reports. Hamilton obtained a five-year, $125MM contract from the Angels.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke is a “baseball junkie,” writes FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, who notes that Greinke participated in scouting trips with the Brewers’ front office while he pitched for Milwaukee. Greinke wanted the Brewers to pick infielder Corey Seager, but Greinke’s current team, the Dodgers, took Seager before the Brewers had a chance to select him. Here are more notes from the Dodgers and Angels:
- Greinke doesn’t mind making less money than Felix Hernandez, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports. The Mariners right-hander recently signed a seven-year, $175MM extension, topping Greinke’s six-year, $147MM deal with the Dodgers. Hernandez is “a better pitcher than I am,” Greinke says.
- ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden predicts that the Dodgers will extend manager Don Mattingly’s contract during Spring Training. Bowden suggests that Davey Johnson’s impending retirement, which will create what would appear to be a desirable managerial opening with the Nationals, could help convince the Dodgers to extend Mattingly, preventing him from leaving.
- New Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton describes hitting in the Los Angeles lineup, alongside Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, as “appealing,” the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reports (on Twitter).
- Pujols, meanwhile, says that “We look good on paper, but we still have to go out there and perform,” MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes (on Twitter).
- Phil Mickelson will not be part of the Padres' ownership group, reports Tod Leonard of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The golf star said he isn't "able to make that kind of long-term commitment to the city and to the team."
- It doesn't seem logical for the Rangers to give Edwin Jackson (what would have to be) a four-year, $50MM contract, opines MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. We heard earlier tonight that the Rangers and Cubs were the final two contenders for Jackson's services.
- Major League Baseball has ruled that the $2MM the Angels will donate to Josh Hamilton's charitable foundation will count towards the team's luxury tax payments and be counted as "noncash compensation," reports The Associated Press. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal noted the charitable portion of Hamilton's contract earlier today.
- It can be difficult for players to mentally adjust to the "baseball limbo" that is the offseason rumor mill, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick writes.
- Money has been no object for Tigers owner Mike Ilitch as he pursues a World Series title, but ESPN's Buster Olney wonders if the Tigers' next owner will be able to keep the club's payroll in the $150MM range given the limitations of Detroit's market. (An ESPN Insider subscription is required to read Olney's column.)
- Nick Swisher will not be visiting the Giants during his tour of potential destinations, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. With the Giants not having enough payroll space left to pursue Swisher, I think we can finally put this rumor to bed.
- The Twins and Carl Pavano don't appear to be a fit, MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger writes. The two sides met during the Winter Meetings and though Pavano has pitched well in Minnesota, he turns 37 in January and missed most of last season with an injured shoulder. I agree with Bollinger that the Twins would probably want a more reliable option than Pavano given that several other projected members of the Twins rotation are also coming back from injuries.
- Baseball people suggest Trevor Bauer has a better chance of becoming an impact player than Didi Gregorius, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. The Diamondbacks sent Bauer to the Indians last week in the three-team deal that brought Gregorius to Arizona. As Piecoro explains in detail, however, there were some questions about Bauer's personality and his ability to be a team player.
MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith contributed to this post