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Josh Hamilton Rumors
Josh Hamilton‘s recovery from shoulder surgery has lowered the urgency felt by commissioner Rob Manfred to reach a quick decision on a potential suspension, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times. “Because Josh isn’t in a position where he’s going to be on the field, it has made the timing a little more relaxed,” Manfred told reporters. Manfred and the MLBPA have debated how many times it should be ruled that Hamilton has violated the Joint Drug Agreement, and at this point, the commissioner said that Hamilton’s fate is in his hands. “I’m the decision-maker on this one,” he said.
More from Hamilton’s team and division…
- Within that same piece, DiGiovanna writes that both Matt Joyce and C.J. Cron have expressed desires to be more than platoon players. While that could be possible with Hamilton through at least May, DiGiovanna notes that Collin Cowgill will likely get some starts in left versus tough lefties, which will likely cost Joyce some at-bats. Manager Mike Scioscia said that the team “definitely” want Cowgill and Cron in the lineup against lefties. The situation figures to intensify by the time Hamilton is back, though at least at that point, the Halos will have had more time to make some determinations.
- Angels closer Huston Street won’t be speaking with the media any more about his extension talks until the deal is complete or almost complete (if one is agreed to at all), writes Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Street is seeking a four-year deal worth between $36MM and $46MM, beginning this year and running through the 2018 season. To this point he’s been very open with the media, but it sounds like there won’t be any further updates until something more final can be revealed.
- MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan tweets that the release of Michael Kirkman by the Rangers was the biggest surprise in camp so far, but the team wanted to give him the opportunity to hook on with another club. Kirkman still has three weeks to land somewhere and impress enough to position himself for a bullpen spot.
- A’s manager Bob Melvin didn’t know anything about right-hander Kendall Graveman when he was acquired in the Josh Donaldson trade, writes Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com, but the skipper went right to work on researching his new rotation candidate. Now, Melvin knows plenty about Graveman and offered strong praise for the righty, who, as Bloom notes, is making a strong case to make the Oakland rotation out of camp.
In his look at the game’s most untradeable contracts, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com rates Josh Hamilton of the Angels as the least desirable in the game. While that deal already had a reasonable stake to that label, Hamilton’s recent surgery and still-unresolved disciplinary matter definitely seem to take it to another level of difficulty. The Halos have rightly put the focus on Hamilton’s personal health and wellness, but the fact remains that the contract would be all but impossible to move at this point. Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports report that a decision on Hamilton could come as soon as next week and is anticipated to occur before the season starts. The league and union have disagreed on the proper suspension and/or treatment scenario, with possibilities ranging from a relatively short suspension to a full-year ban. The matter is now before an arbitrator, whose determination will decide the nature of the violation. If a material violation is found, per FOX Sports, commissioner Rob Manfred would have “broad authority to determine the length of Hamilton’s suspension.”
Here are some more notes from the American League:
- Good and/or bad 2014 campaigns changed the future outlook for many players, and Ben Lindbergh of Grantland evaluates the players whose campaigns most swayed projection systems. On the positive side, a host of American League bats saw nice bumps, including youngsters Mookie Betts and Joey Gallo as well as longer-tenured players J.D. Martinez, Steve Pearce, and Victor Martinez.
- The Tigers appear set to give a long look at backstop James McCann, Chris Iott of MLive.com writes. Detroit needs to find out what it has in the 24-year-old, says Iott, with veteran Alex Avila having dealt with concussion issues and set to reach free agency after the season.
- Physical setbacks are an unfortunate but inevitable part of the spring, and two talented younger players have already suffered significant injuries. The Yankees have announced that catching prospect Luis Torrens will miss the season after tearing his right shoulder labrum. Torrens opened spring rated the ninth-best prospect in the New York system. Also, Mariners farmhand Ji-Man Choi will miss four to six months after suffering a fractured right fibula, as MLB.com’s Greg Johns tweets.
Josh Hamilton‘s fate is in the hands of an arbitrator, report Bill Shaikin and Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times, after a four-person panel was unable to come to an agreement on the course of treatment after the outfielder’s recent relapse with substance abuse. The panel, made up of a league-appointed doctor, a league-appointed lawyer, an MLBPA-appointed doctor and an MLBPA-appointed lawyer, split their vote down the middle, per the L.A. Time duo. As such, an arbitrator will break the tie.
As MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez wrote earlier today, Hamilton was on the Rays’ 40-man roster for his first violation, so he is considered a multiple offender. (The Times duo notes that it is unclear how many of the “at least six drug tests” failed by Hamilton when with the Rays occurred whilst on the 40-man roster.) A first-time offender could be suspended for 15-25 games, a second-time offender for 25-50, a third-time offender for 50-75 and a fourth-time offender for a full season.
Per DiGiovanna and Shaikin, MLB is deciding whether or not to rule Hamilton as a fourth-time offender. That would mean that Hamilton could miss a whole season and forfeit the entirety of his $25MM salary. However, If Hamilton is ruled to enter a rehabilitation program, he’ll earn his full salary for 30 days and half his salary for the following 30 days, per the Times. That would come out to a bit less than $6.2MM.
Commissioner Rob Manfred would have final say on the length of any suspension for Hamilton. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark told both Gonzalez and the L.A. Times pairing that it is the Union’s “responsibility to protect the player and his rights in the process.” However, Clark voiced far more concern for Hamilton as a person than as a baseball player. “What I hope for is support for Josh. There are always baseball concerns. There are, more importantly, life concerns. We have protocols in place to handle the baseball-related issues. But I’m hopeful that anyone in the baseball family who finds himself in a tough spot gets support as a person beyond baseball.”
Top 2014 White Sox draft pick Carlos Rodon could receive more attention in Spring Training with ace Chris Sale out with an avulsion fracture, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. Chris Beck, Scott Carroll, Brad Penny and Francellis Montas could also get extra looks. GM Rick Hahn emphasizes, however, that the timing of Rodon’s eventual promotion to the big leagues will be dictated by how ready he is, not by a vacancy in the rotation. After racing through the minor leagues and getting all the way to Triple-A after signing last year, Rodon appears close to being ready, although he only has a total of nine minor-league outings under his belt. Here’s more from the American League.
- The terms of Josh Hamilton‘s likely suspension following his relapse are, clearly, secondary to the relapse itself, and what’s most important is Hamilton’s recovery. MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez notes, though, that the impending suspension could have implications for the Angels‘ payroll. The team will save about $126K for every day Hamilton is suspended. They’ll also save the prorated portion of the Hamilton contract’s $25MM average annual value against the luxury tax threshold. It’s probably too late for them to use any of that money on free agents, but Gonzalez notes that they could spend it on players they add in-season. Gonzalez also writes that Hamilton’s suspension would begin at the start of the season, when he could still be rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
- Barry Zito will appear in his first game action since 2013 when he faces the Cubs in Cactus League action on Thursday, MLB.com’s Jane Lee writes. Zito is in camp on a minor-league deal with the Athletics after taking a year off following the Giants’ decision to decline his 2014 option. “I have a fresh perspective,” he says. “I’ve got my passion back, and I just want to continue to work hard and go out and enjoy competing. I guess you could say I’m competing against all these guys, but for me, it’s more about competing against myself.”
Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey is already helping new reliever Ernesto Frieri make adjustments, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune writes. “That’s why I’m here,” says Frieri. “He knows what he’s doing. He fixed a couple of guys before, and I hope I’m not the exception. I’m pretty sure he’s going to give me the right information and I’m going to take advantage.” The Rays have helped veteran relievers like Fernando Rodney, Kyle Farnsworth and Joaquin Benoit improve their stock, and Frieri hopes to be the next in line. The 29-year-old is coming off a terrible season with the Angels and Pirates in which he posted a 7.34 ERA and struggled mechanically. His 10.4 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and good velocity suggest he might have more gas in his tank, however, even if his fly-ball tendencies make him homer-prone, so he could be a bounce-back candidate if he can make the right adjustments. Here’s more from the American League.
- MLB plans to be compassionate in the case of Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton after his relapse, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi report. The league is expected to suspend Hamilton for 25 games or more, but for less than a full season, although an official decision is not close. Hamilton’s relapse violated the terms of the treatment program the league required of him when he was reinstated in 2006 following a lengthy suspension.
- The Royals will use Joe Blanton exclusively as a reliever, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports. “The only way he is really going to help us is in the bullpen,” says Ned Yost. “We’re not going to stretch him out.” Blanton, 34, recently signed a minor-league deal with Kansas City after sitting out the 2014 season. He has spent almost his entire ten-year big-league career as a starter.
7:21pm: Hamilton’s meeting involves an admission to the league earlier in the offseason that he had used prohibited drugs of abuse, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter links). There are no indications that he failed any tests. Hamilton, of course, has a well-documented history of addiction, leading Heyman to characterize the event in question as a relapse.
As Heyman notes, the 33-year-old would seemingly technically qualify only as a first-time offender under the JDA (Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program) since his early-career suspensions occurred before he was in the big leagues. (Though, as MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez notes, Hamilton was on the 40-man at the point of his first failed drug test in 2003.) Were that the case, Hamilton would be handled under the first-time offender protocol. A treatment program would be established, with a 15 to 25 game ban standing by if Hamilton failed to comply with that program.
But as Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links), that will probably not be the case here. Hamilton’s discipline will fall within the discretion of commissioner Rob Manfred, per the report, because his prior failed drug tests take him “outside [the] standard program.” Having been re-admitted to MLB “via Bud Selig’s discretion and terms” back in 2006, says Morosi, Hamilton is now subject to the discretion of Selig’s successor.
The JDA does include provisions for players who have been suspended for one year after more than four violations of their individualized treatment program. It provides that the commissioner may impose discipline “consistent with the concept of progressive discipline,” seemingly suggesting a more advanced punishment than those already levied. Of course, circumstances such as the time that has passed could presumably also factor in to the decisionmaking process, and it is not clear whether those provisions would hold sway in this case.
5:21pm: Angels slugger Josh Hamilton is in New York meeting with MLB officials regarding a possible disciplinary matter, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. While GM Jerry Dipoto confirmed that Hamilton was in New York for the meeting, he otherwise declined to provide any information on the nature of the issue.
It appears that Hamilton is not facing any accusations of PED use: a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports indicates that some other matter is at play. The executive that Rosenthal spoke with labeled the apparent transgression “worse” than PED use, though of course that is rather an ambiguous label and is open to a range of interpretation.
While it would be wrong to speculate as to the basis for the possible discipline at this point, DiGiovanna does write that Los Angeles is “bracing for possible penalties.” Needless to say, any disciplinary action could have important ramifications for the Angels and Hamilton. The veteran is owed $23MM this year and $60MM over 2016-17 under the free agent deal he signed in December of 2012. Time missed due to suspension would not be compensated.
There is also the matter of potentially replacing Hamilton in the lineup. Though he is coming off of a rough 2014 season and was already set to miss the beginning of the year recovering from shoulder surgery, Hamilton possesses rare talent at the plate. The Halos do have some depth in place already in offseason addition Matt Joyce, who is expected to step in for Hamilton while he recovers from his procedure.
Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has rejected a position within his old organization and will spend the year away from the game, MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger writes. “He’s doing fine, but he’s not going to be participating with us,” says GM Terry Ryan. “I talk to him often. He’s doing pretty good, but he wants to take a year off.” Ryan adds that Gardenhire is interested in continuing to manage. The Twins fired him in September after the team had four straight seasons of 70 wins or fewer. Here’s more from the American League.
- Josh Hamilton could be out for up to 12 weeks after having shoulder surgery earlier this month, but the Angels are not actively looking for an outfielder to replace him, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. “If throughout the spring, if we see something that fits for us, like we do any other spring, we’ll certainly pay attention,” says GM Jerry Dipoto. “But it’s not something we are focused on at this point.” The Angels feel that Matt Joyce, Collin Cowgill and Dan Robertson give them enough options to fill Hamilton’s spot until he returns.
- Fellow Angel Albert Pujols could retire before his contract expires in 2021 if his gymnast daughter, Sophia, makes it to the Olympics, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. The plan for Sophia is to get to the Olympics by 2020. “That might have to be the year I retire,” says Pujols. “You can put that in the paper, because I don’t want to miss it. … Either that, or they’ll have to put me on the disabled list for two weeks.” Of course, that’s still five years away, and Sophia is only nine and will still be too young to compete in 2020 under current rules, so it might be unwise to read much into Pujols’ comments at this point.
- The Orioles considered a multiyear extension for outfielder Alejandro De Aza before figures were filed for De Aza’s arbitration case, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. De Aza says he was not aware of those discussions, but that he would consider an extension. “I’m interested in the opportunity,” he says. “I’m excited about the opportunity here, and I want to be here for a long time.” De Aza, who lost his arbitration hearing yesterday, is eligible for free agency after the season.
Jesus Montero has been a massive disappointment with the Mariners, but spent the offseason putting himself in position for a turnaround, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. Montero is in great shape, as photo and video confirms, and is certainly young and talented enough to hold plenty of promise.
More from the west:
- The Rangers are still looking at lefty Phil Coke and watched him throw again recently, reports Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. GM Jon Daniels discussed the possibility of adding an arm today, noting that depth is always valuable but expressing interest in seeing his current group in camp. (Video via Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest.) While the club has to this point been unwilling to make Coke a major league offer, with the southpaw still holding out for a 40-man spot, Fraley notes that the bad news on Jurickson Profar will clear a big league roster space since he is destined for the 60-day DL.
- As for the unfortunate news on Profar, the Rangers‘ head baseball decisionmaker firmly rejected the idea that the prospect deserved criticism for trying to avoid surgery by rehab. While the news that a procedure would be required was not a total surprise, Daniels said that the 22-year-old infielder made the difficult decision for good reasons and worked very hard over the offseason. Certainly, Daniels did not sound like he was interested in giving up on Profar. “Fortunately, he’s still just 22 years old,” said the GM. “We’ll get him back and we’ll get him out there.”
- Angels slugger Josh Hamilton is going to require a longer recovery from shoulder surgery than originally expected, as MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports. At this point, it isn’t even clear that Hamilton will be close enough to report to spring camp. It still does not seem that an addition will truly be necessary, with Matt Joyce on hand to step in. Hamilton’s absence will presumably also create additional opportunities for players like Collin Cowgill and waiver claimees Alfredo Marte and Roger Kieschnick.
The Marlins‘ offseason moves position them for a “measured buildup,” Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Mat Latos has just one year of control remaining, while Martin Prado and Michael Morse have two. And even the post-opt-out portion of Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract is structured so that the Marlins will be able to afford it once they renegotiate their TV deal. This isn’t like the 2011-2012 offseason, when the Marlins signed Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to long-term deals, only to trade all three. For that reason, Rosenthal writes, the Marlins are unlikely to sign James Shields to a big contract, even though they’ve been connected to him lately. Here’s more from throughout the big leagues.
- After Ichiro Suzuki plays his first game with the Marlins, the Reds will be the last team that hasn’t had a Japanese-born player, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. The Reds did express interest in Nori Aoki this offseason, but they don’t have a strong presence in Japan (although Rosecrans notes that the Reds aren’t the only team that doesn’t). “We do have some people who do cross checking. We don’t have a scout in Japan,” said GM Walt Jocketty. “It’s too costly.”
- The White Sox signed closer David Robertson for four years and $46MM, but GM Rick Hahn says they weren’t the highest bidder for his services, CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes tweets. It’s unclear who the top bidder might have been, although the Blue Jays and Astros were connected to Robertson this offseason.
- GM Jon Daniels said today at Rangers Fan Fest that the team is unlikely to trade for Josh Hamilton, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest tweets. The Rangers reportedly discussed a Hamilton deal with the Angels earlier this offseason, although those talks were not in-depth. Also, free agent lefty reliever Neal Cotts is not likely to re-sign with the Rangers, Andro tweets.
The Angels are likely to trade Josh Hamilton before his contract expires, but not before letting him play out at least part of the 2015 season, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. Given Hamilton’s production (.263/.331/.414 last year) and contract, his value can’t slip much further, so the Angels might as well wait to see if they can recoup some of that value with a rebound season, Gonzalez suggests. And then, of course, there’s the fact that Hamilton has a full no-trade clause. The Angels reportedly discussed potential Hamilton deals with the Rangers and Padres this offseason, although those talks did not appear particularly likely to result in a trade. Here’s more from the West divisions.
- After reaching a deal with Nick Hundley last week, the Rockies could trade Wilin Rosario, or they could keep him and go with three catchers (Hundley, Rosario and Michael McKenry), MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes. Many teams have two catchers but are reluctant to use the backup to pinch-hit, so having three would allow the Rockies to use their spare catchers more liberally. Also, they could have Rosario pick up playing time at first base or in the outfield. Harding adds that the Rockies have “checked in with” Max Scherzer and James Shields this offseason, although, unsurprisingly, they’re not likely to sign either one, and they’ll likely acquire a veteran to eat innings instead.
- Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith should form a solid platoon for the Mariners, David Golebiewski writes for GammonsDaily.com. Neither one projects to be anything special if he plays every day, but Ruggiano has a .925 OPS against lefties in the last three seasons, while Smith has an .825 OPS against righties. Those are very strong numbers (even though we should probably expect regression for Ruggiano, and it’s impossible to completely hide any batter from same-handed pitching), and the Mariners should get effective production from right field while they wait for a long-term starter to come along.