Josh Hamilton Rumors

AL West Notes: Hamilton, Kazmir, A’s, Ichiro

Josh Hamilton could return from the DL as early as Monday, and he could be coming back to the Rangers as a center fielder.  As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes, Hamilton played center in each of his last two minor league rehab games and he could displace the struggling Leonys Martin from the starting CF job.  Hamilton has only played 13 games in center since the start of the 2013 season, and while his advanced defensive metrics have varied from year to year, Hamilton has below-average numbers (-8.4 UZR/150 and -16 defensive runs saved) over his career as a center fielder.  Here’s more from around the AL West…

  • Several clubs have been scouting Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir recently but, for his part, the veteran doesn’t want to leave Oakland, as John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group writes.  “I would love to stay here. This is a group of guys I love being around. When you go up and down the team, the organizational staff, there’s a lot to like. I’d like to stay here,” Kazmir said.  Hickey notes that scouts from the Astros and Blue Jays were on hand Saturday as the 31-year-old pitched against the Royals.
  • Also from Hickey, he questions why the A’s have kept Max Muncy on the MLB roster when there’s no obvious route for him to find any playing time, a situation that doesn’t help the team or the player.  Muncy has only played in two of Oakland’s last 11 games, and Hickey wonders if this rustiness might’ve contributed to a key throwing error Muncy made during today’s 5-3 loss to the Royals.
  • Could the Mariners look to reunite with Ichiro SuzukiGeoff Baker of the Seattle Times opines that Ichiro could be a good fit for the team, as he would add some defensive help to the outfield and also add a contact bat with a bit of on-base ability to the struggling M’s lineup.  Baker doesn’t suggest the club should give up anything too valuable for Ichiro, as the Mariners are already on the fringes of the playoff race.

AL West Notes: Rangers, Ruggiano, Trumbo, Astros, Hamilton

As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News discussed with host Jeff Todd on yesterday’s MLBTR podcast, the Rangers are likely to be tempted mostly by high-quality arms at the deadline. Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com opines that Texas may be the Phillies‘ best match in terms of prospects. Seidman speculates that a package centering around Jorge Alfaro and Nomar Mazara — two names previously said by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman to be of interest to Philadelphia — makes sense for Cole Hamels, as the Phillies are “desperate” to add a young catcher and would like an outfielder with some pop. Seidman wonders if including a rejuvenated Aaron Harang or paying a chunk of Jonathan Papelbon‘s contract and including him, too, would entice the Rangers. Of course, all of this boils own to speculation at this juncture, but the Rangers do seem to be a fit given their somewhat unexpectedly strong start. Texas is 28-26 after a win last night, but their ranks 19th in ERA (4.24), 24th in FIP (4.36) and 28th in xFIP (4.51).

More from the AL West to kick off your Friday morning…

  • The decision to designate Justin Ruggiano for assignment over Rickie Weeks was not an easy one for the Mariners, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune“The particulars are not something I want to discuss,” manager Lloyd McClendon told Dutton. “Hopefully, this gives (Ruggiano) a chance to catch on with somebody else. It was a very difficult decision.” As Dutton notes, there was going to be an extreme lack of playing time for whoever remained on the roster, following the acquisition of Mark Trumbo. Dutton also points out that McClendon frequently used Dustin Ackley and Willie Bloomquist as late defensive replacements, rather than Ruggiano, perhaps indicating that the Mariners weren’t particularly enamored with his defense.
  • Dutton also spoke with Mark Trumbo, the man whose acquisition led to Ruggiano’s DFA. Trumbo said that the news he’d been traded “was a lot to take, initially,” but that when he found out he was headed to Seattle, his mind eased. “I couldn’t have been happier,” said Trumbo. “I’ve loved coming here when I was with the Angels. It’s one of my favorite places in the country — or the world, for that matter.” Trumbo went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and started at first base in his Mariners debut.
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle yesterday that he believes Brady Aiken has joined Jacob Nix in not consenting to allow the Astros to draft him again in 2015, as is his right after not signing in 2014. When a Twitter follower asked Drellich whether or not 21st-round pick Mac Marshall, who also did not sign, had done the same, Marshall himself replied on Twitter to say that he had “no hard feelings” toward Houston and has given his consent to be drafted by the Astros again in 2015.
  • Josh Hamilton tells Grant that he’s only had a hamstring injury of this significance one other time in his career in 2007  when he put an extreme amount of effort into rehabbing as he first got back into the Majors following four years of drug-related suspensions. Hamilton likely pushed too hard in his rehab in an effort to get back on the field with the Rangers but says he does not regret how he went about his rehab. Grant reports that he has received a platelet rich plasma injection in the injured area that the team hopes will accelerate the healing process.

Josh Hamilton Out Four Weeks With Hamstring Strain

Newly-activated Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton is expected to miss a full month after being diagnosed with a Grade 2 hamstring strain, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest was among those to report (Twitter link). The slugger returned to Texas in a complicated recent deal with the Angels.

Hamilton, 34, was off to a fantastic start in his return to Texas, sporting a .273/.385/.636 batting line with two long balls in his first 26 plate appearances. With the rest of the lineup clicking, the Rangers suddenly looked like the powerhouse offense of seasons past.

Now, Hamilton joins the outstanding Adrian Beltre on the shelf. Of course, that combination of maladies — neither of which looks to be serious concerns in the long run — has also created an opportunity for top prospect Joey Gallo.

The Rangers will need to do some roster juggling, but have plenty of options. Importantly, Hamilton’s power left-handed bat was already accompanied by a combination of Gallo, Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland, and Shin-soo Choo in corner positions. Gallo and Moreland have both spent time in the outfield, and could see time there, while the club can also utilize speedsters Leonys Martin and Delino DeShields Jr. in that capacity.

Jake Smolinski is also on the active roster for another right-handed-hitting option, joining DeShields in that regard. And the rehabbing Ryan Rua is about two weeks away from a return, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets, providing another a righty bat. Kyle Blanks is also injured, and seems a bit further off.

Texas could also ultimately elect to bring back struggling second baseman Rougned Odor, though the team has indicated that it wants to see him get back on track at Triple-A. For the time being, Hanser Alberto is hitting well in his very first MLB action, and DeShields might also be utilized at his old position.

All said, an outside addition seems rather unlikely given the array of possibilities. But there will probably be more roster movement over the coming weeks for an organization that has paced the league in use of the DFA over the past year or so (due in large part to a nearly incomprehensible volume of pitching injuries).

From a transactional perspective, the biggest impact probably relates to the much-hyped Gallo, who was not previously expected to see big league time this soon. He has impressed in his first two games at the big league level, swatting two long balls (including one off lefty Zach Duke tonight) and creating plenty of excitement.

If Gallo can entrench himself on the roster, he has a plausible shot at earning enough service time to set himself up as a Super Two candidate down the road. Starting from his call-up yesterday, he can rack up as many as 124 days of big league time this year, which has been enough in some (but not most) recent seasons.

Odor, too, could see a similar impact if the loss of Hamilton frees up a place for him to return. He entered the year with 144 days of service, making him a likely Super Two, but a lengthy optional assignment would jeopardize his ability to qualify for an additional year of arbitration.



Quick Hits: Hamilton, Howard, Otani

The Rangers will activate outfielder Josh Hamilton on Monday, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. GM Jon Daniels has announced that Hamilton is “physically and game ready” per Wilson (via Twitter). The Angels are on the hook for most of the remaining salary on his contract. Hamilton is hoping to rebound from a couple sub-par seasons by his standards. Statistically, 2013 was his worst season on a rate basis, and he was still five percent better than the average hitter. His rehab work produced mixed results. He battered Double-A pitching (9-for-17), but scuffled in Triple-A action (7-for-29).

  • Ryan Howard has recovered some trade value after a hot month of hitting, writes Corey Seidman of CSN Philly. The Phillies‘ first baseman has hit 10 home runs with 21 RBI and a .303 average over his last 30 games. Seidman identifies three clubs as potential fits for Howard – the Angels, Rays, and Twins. The Angels have struggled mightily against right-handed pitching. They could easily insert Howard into the designated hitter slot to help solve that issue. The Rays and Twins have performed better overall, but both clubs have received poor production from their designated hitters. I happen to agree with Seidman’s analysis and even tabbed Minnesota as a potential fit for Howard earlier this evening.
  • Shohei Otani could be the next Japanese star to transition to the majors, writes Jim Caple of ESPN. The 20-year-old is still three to four seasons from being posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters. He owns a 2.71 ERA with 274 strikeouts in 259 innings. The righty can reach back for 100 mph heat, but he also displays solid ability at the plate. In between starts, he plays about three to four games a week in the field. In 485 plate appearances, he’s hit .253/.303/.445 with 15 home runs. Major league teams will be more interested in his triple-digit heater, but pitchers like Madison Bumgarner can tell you about the value of an offensive presence in the nine-hole.

Quick Hits: Marlins, Montreal, Moncada, Hamilton

Thanks in part to revenue sharing, the Marlins remain profitable, and Jeffrey Loria’s fellow owners might take issue with his indecisive and costly approach to building a team, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. The Marlins are now paying two former managers who are still under contract (Mike Redmond and Ozzie Guillen), plus former executives Larry Beinfest and Jim Fleming. They’re also paying former catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia through next season. Meanwhile, their attendance remains poor despite the recent opening of Marlins Park. Here’s more from throughout the game.

  • Redmond’s firing demonstrates the Marlins’ inability to follow a steady course, Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports writes. The manager the Marlins hire tomorrow will be their eighth in the last decade, the others being Jack McKeon, Joe Girardi, Fredi Gonzalez, Edwin Rodriguez, McKeon again, Guillen and Redmond.
  • Montreal mayor Denis Coderre will meet with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on May 28, and he plans to convey to Manfred the city’s love for baseball, the Associated Press reports. Montreal, of course, hasn’t had a team since the Expos were moved to Washington following the 2004 season. Coderre would like for big-league baseball to return, but it sounds like he expects it will be awhile before that can happen. “I don’t want to negotiate openly, but we’ll clearly talk about Montreal,” he says. “We need a step-by-step approach. You don’t pull the flower to make it grow faster.”
  • The Greenville Drive, the Red Sox‘ Class A affiliate, have announced that Yoan Moncada will make his professional debut Monday night, playing second base. The 19-year-old Cuban phenom had been in extended spring training. Red Sox fans will surely be paying close attention to tomorrow’s box score, hoping for hints as to what to expect from Moncada, who officially signed for a $31.5MM bonus in mid-March.
  • Josh Hamilton hasn’t yet joined the Rangers, but he’s happy to be back in the Dallas area on a rehab assignment with Double-A Frisco, Ryan Gerbosi of the Dallas Morning News writes. “It’s been a good reception,” says Hamilton. “It’s been good to hear a little twang in people’s voices and just go out there and it’s just a good feeling.” Hamilton, who has also played a handful of games for Triple-A Round Rock, doubled today in his second game with the RoughRiders and appears close to a return from his shoulder injury.
  • 19-year-old lefty Cionel Perez has left Cuba in search of a deal with a big-league team, but MLB’s registration rules will be an obstacle, Ben Badler of Baseball America writes. (Perez’s departure from Cuba was originally reported by MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez.) Badler notes that Perez isn’t a top-tier prospect, but he has improved his standing lately and had become one of the better pitchers in Cuba before his departure. (Badler notes in a subscriber-only scouting report that Perez is small, at 5-foot-10, but has added velocity lately and is now throwing in the low 90s.) Because Perez was born after September 1, 1995, though, and has not yet registered with the commissioner’s office, he will not be eligible to sign until the international signing period that begins next July. Once he’s eligible, he will be subject to rules regarding international bonus pools.

Quick Hits: Brown, Martinez, Hamilton

Ollie Brown, known to the San Diego faithful as the “Original Padre” has died of complications from mesothelioma, reports Corey Brock of MLB.com. The outfielder was the first player selected by the Padres in the 1968 Expansion Draft. Brown hit 52 home runs in parts of four seasons with the Padres including 23 blasts in 1970. Brown was 71 and is survived by two brothers, a wife, a daughter, and five grandchildren. We at MLBTR wish to extend our condolences to Brown’s family and friends.

  • Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez could sign for $10MM, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. The 20-year-old is subject to the international spending pool which could affect the bidding. Among the interested teams include the Braves, Giants, Yankees, Cubs, Nationals, and Diamondbacks. New York and Arizona may have an advantage since they’ve already exceeded their bonus pool. Chicago won’t be able to jump into the bidding until July 2nd. It was reported two days ago that Martinez could sign as early as next week.
  • While still with the Angels, Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton repeatedly tried to reach out to owner Arte Moreno, writes Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. Instead, Hamilton says his efforts were blocked by GM Jerry Dipoto and team President John Carpino. Hamilton attempted to contact Moreno regarding his poor performance last season and again after his offseason relapse. The embattled slugger is currently rehabbing in Double-A and could return to major league action soon. Los Angeles is responsible for most of the remaining $80MM on his contract.

AL Notes: Hamilton, Ventura, Graham, Texas, Hassan

The Angels signing of Josh Hamilton has set the franchise back in ways other than financial, opines Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. During the 2012 offseason, the Angels decided to invest their payroll in Hamilton rather than make a serious bid to retain Zack Greinke. The five-year, $125MM contract forced GM Jerry DiPoto to cut corners when building his pitching staff for the 2013 sesaon and eventually he had to deal bats like Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick to acquire young arms (Hector Santiago, Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney) over the next two offseasons. Shaikin posits the Angels’ lineup is a Mike Trout injury away from being devasted.

Elsewhere in the American League:

  • With public criticism mounting against White Sox manager Robin Ventura, first baseman Jose Abreu came to the defense of his skipper, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune tweets. “If the people want someone to blame, it’s the players, not Robin,” Abreu said.
  • Twins Rule 5 pick J.R. Graham is here to stay, manager Paul Molitor tells reporters, including Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press (on Twitter). “He’s going to be here all year,” the manager said. Graham threw two scoreless innings to close out the Twins’ 13-3 beating of the White Sox this afternoon.
  • The Rangers will have a logjam at first base once Mitch Moreland recovers from his elbow surgery, but they won’t be able to move some of the surplus to the outfield because of the injury history of Moreland and Kyle Blanks, reports Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News. Moreland says there was only one bone chip (a little bigger than the size of a watermelon seed) that needed to be removed from his elbow, tweets FOXSportsSouthwest.com’s Anthony Andro.
  • Indications are the continuing waiver wire saga of outfielder Alex Hassan (who has been claimed five times over the past seven months after being picked up by the A’s yesterday) will prompt the MLBPA to make this an issue during the next round of collective bargaining, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. The concern is the procedural movement hampers a prospect’s development, a sentiment echoed by Hassan. “You’re just behind,” Hassan said. “Do I prefer to be claimed by another team and have to break my lease and have to move my family and have to go find another apartment and take another short-term lease and get settled — and have to perform right away, knowing you’re the last guy on the 40-man roster? Or would it be better to stay where you are and get some stability and hopefully play well enough to where you might earn your way back up there? I don’t know the answer to that.

Quick Hits: Angels, Price, Brewers, Drew

In the wake of Josh Hamilton‘s departure from the Angels, his five-year, $125MM deal with the club may be the worst free agent signing of all time, ESPN’s Jayson Stark opines.  The Hamilton deal tops Stark’s list of the five worst signings ever, which also includes another ongoing contract in Melvin Upton Jr.‘s five-year, $72.25MM pact with the Braves.  Two other current deals receive dishonorable mentions: Shin-Soo Choo‘s seven year, $130MM contract with the Rangers is cited as a “disaster in the making,” while Alex Rodriguez‘s ten-year, $275MM contract with the Yankees is a “category unto himself.”

Here’s more from around the baseball world…

  • The Angels seem likely to make a trade for left field help, according to MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez, though such a move isn’t likely to happen for at least another month.  Acquiring a new left fielder to replace Hamilton would allow the Halos to shift Matt Joyce and C.J. Cron into a platoon at DH.
  • David Price said he hasn’t “heard anything” new about extension talks with the Tigers, the southpaw told Mlive.com’s Chris Iott (Twitter link).
  • Teams are looking at the Brewers as the first team who could start selling, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes.  One executive speculated that Milwaukee could make everyone available except Jonathan Lucroy and Jimmy Nelson.  Sherman thinks Carlos Gomez could be a big trade chip if the Brewers decide on a full rebuild and don’t think they can sign Gomez to an extension.
  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman is satisfied with Stephen Drew and isn’t looking for any internal replacements at second base, he tells ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand.  Drew is hitting .177/.274/.419 with four homers in 74 plate appearances and has posted below-average defensive numbers as a second baseman.  Despite Drew’s numbers, Jose Pirela‘s concussion recovery and Rob Refsnyder‘s defensive issues have left the Yankees without a ready replacement for the veteran.
  • In his latest Insider-only piece, ESPN’s Jim Bowden gives his opinion on how five struggling teams can solve their problems.  One suggested fix, for the Nationals, is simply to do nothing; Bowden thinks the front office should wait until everyone is healthy before deciding if changes need to be made.

Dodgers Notes: Aardsma Opt-Out, Hamilton, Ryu

Right-hander David Aardsma has a May 1 opt-out on his Minor League pact with the Dodgers, Jacob Unruh of NewsOK.com reported yesterday. Aardsma can opt out on Friday if another club wants him on its Major League roster, and he has a complete opt-out from the Dodgers on June 15, per Unruh. The 33-year-old veteran didn’t make the club’s bullpen out of Spring Training despite strong numbers, but he’s continued to pitch effectively, yielding one run on five hits with six strikeouts and no walks in seven Triple-A innings. Aardsma hasn’t logged significant big league action since 2013, but he pitched quite well for the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate last year (1.48 ERA, 38-to-18 K/BB ratio in 37 innings) before a groin injury sidelined him for the season’s second half. The Dodgers’ bullpen has been surprisingly dominant despite incurring significant injuries, and with Kenley Jansen nearing a return, things will get even more crowded, further blocking Aardsma’s path to L.A. It wouldn’t be a shock for one of the many teams around the league in need of ‘pen help to look at the former Mariners closer as a potential upgrade.

Here’s more on the Dodgers…

  • The Dodgers were involved in trade talks regarding Josh Hamilton before he was moved to the Rangers, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. However, the Dodgers were more interested in acting as a third party with the Angels and Rangers, contributing cash to the deal as a means of acquiring prospects to add to their farm system. The Dodgers also discussed a straight up deal to acquire Hamilton, according to Heyman, but even in that scenario they’d likely have just flipped Hamilton to the Rangers in the long run, as they weren’t interested in adding to their outfield glut. This marks another effort by the Dodgers’ new front office to use the team’s financial muscle to bolster the farm system in a unique way. The Dodgers already essentially bought a draft pick by agreeing to take on Ryan Webb‘s $2.75MM salary from the Orioles in order to convince Baltimore to part with a Competitive Balance draft selection.
  • Left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu is at least a month away from rejoining the Dodgers’ roster, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweeted yesterday. The loss of Ryu for nearly two months and of Brandon McCarthy for the entire season has thinned out the Dodger rotation considerably, though president of baseball ops Andrew Friedman recently stated that he was likely to utilize internal options until at least June as he assessed what the team had in-house.

More Notes On The Josh Hamilton Trade

In the press conference announcing the deal that sent Josh Hamilton from the Angels back to the Rangers, the slugger explained that he wishes he never left Texas, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. GM Jon Daniels, who explained that it was “a pretty easy decision” to add a player of Hamilton’s ability. (Though he did not say so explicitly, the slight investment required obviously played a significant role.) For his part, Hamilton expressed disappointment with how his tenure with the Angels ended, saying that he had worked hard there even if the results were disappointing.

We already ran some early reactions to the deal before it was finalized. Here are some more notes and reactions from around the game:

  • Grant breaks down the support system and plan that the Rangers hope will allow them to keep Hamilton healthy and focused. In terms of timing, Hamilton will report immediately to extended spring training and head shortly thereafter to Triple-A for a rehab stint. The Rangers are targeting a return to big league action in mid to late May, says Daniels, with Grant pegging the club’s May 11-17 homestand as a possible debut.
  • Before the deal was consummated with the Rangers, Hamilton used his no-trade protection to block a deal that would have sent him to a National League club, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter link). While that proposal would not have required Hamilton to give up any salary, the 33-year-old was willing to sacrifice cash to facilitate a return to Texas.
  • Some players around the game are unhappy with the way the Angels handled Hamilton’s relapse, tweets Rosenthal. In particular, perceptions are that the club violated the confidentiality provisions of the Joint Drug Agreement.
  • This deal is not really the win-win it is being made out to be, argues Rosenthal, who labels it “an ugly divorce, a forced second marriage, a series of events that never should have been set in motion.”
  • Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Lyle Spencer suggests that the Halos may have been acting with a higher purpose in making the deal, because there is a real risk that it will blow back from a baseball perspective.
  • Relieving themselves of some $20MM in salary obligations does not make a Huston Street extension any more likely for the Angels, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets. That decision will come down to the club’s assessment of the reliever’s worth, it appears; it is worth noting, of course, that Street has enhanced his value with an excellent start.
  • My take: with Hamilton apparently determined to return to the Rangers, and the Angels committed not to continue their relationship, this was obviously the best that Los Angeles could do. Had the team simply cut bait with Hamilton, he would have been free to sign with the Rangers for the league minimum salary. Of course, it remains fair to debate whether the Angels could or should have given Hamilton another chance to make good on his deal, but the club did at least ensure that he landed in the best possible situation. For Texas, meanwhile, the move has plenty of upside — both on the field and in the ticket office — which more than justifies the marginal financial risk.