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Here’s the latest out of the National League:
- Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday left last night’s game with what looked to be a fairly significant quadriceps strain, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The severity of the injury is not yet known, but we can expect more information today. While the team does have options in left — Randal Grichuk, Peter Bourjos, and Jon Jay are all available on the MLB roster, and top prospect Stephen Piscotty is waiting at Triple-A — any lengthy loss would be a huge blow. Holliday, 35, has put up a typically strong (although atypically low-power) .303/.417/.421 batting line thus far. And St. Louis is already dealing with the loss of first baseman Matt Adams to a severe quad injury, leaving some questions in the middle of the order.
- The Mets are in an interesting spot as the trade deadline approaches, with some useful trade chips that are also somewhat redundant assets. Among the young, big league level players who the team could conceivably deal, catcher Kevin Plawecki is not really an option to be moved, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post (Twitter links). Though he’ll likely be replaced soon by Travis d’Arnaud, the Mets don’t want to sacrifice depth behind the plate. But righty Rafael Montero could well be moved, says Puma, though he’ll need to get over his shoulder issues and back on track to carry the kind of value the team would hope.
- While the Mets continue to receive strong results from their rotation, the club’s handling of the staff has been problematic, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Top lefty prospect Steven Matz is being held down until Super Two avoidance can be assured, says Sherman, while the club struggles to figure out what to do with Jon Niese and Dillon Gee.
- Sherman adds that the club “may have been able” to get Juan Uribe from the Dodgers in exchange for Gee, but passed on the opportunity because the team did not yet appreciate the severity of David Wright‘s back problems. The club is now struggling to fill in at the hot corner, particularly with Daniel Murphy joining Wright on the DL.
Rockies outfield prospect David Dahl suffered serious injuries in a collision today and is undergoing surgery on his spleen, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (Twitter links). Dahl, the club’s top prospect according to Baseball America, likely also has a concussion and broken rib. Needless to say, the immediate concern is with Dahl’s personal well-being, and MLBTR extends its best wishes to him and his family.
- Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams is set to miss most or all of the rest of the regular season, a topic that MLBTR’s Steve Adams and I discussed on today’s podcast. Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the topic in depth, as well, in an excellent piece. He notes that there is not as much urgency as one might think: the team is playing well regardless, Adams was not exactly a driving force in the first two months, and Mark Reynolds is worthy of an extended look. That being said, if and when the Cardinals do look for an upgrade, Miklasz says the club should not limit itself either to left-handed hitters or to traditional first basemen. There’s plenty more of interest in the article, and I recommend a full read (and a listen to the podcast, of course).
- The Dodgers‘ bullpen has been something of a revelation, but it is being taxed even with Kenley Jansen back for duty, Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes. Los Angeles starters are in the middle of the pack in terms of total innings, notes Saxon, who says that could be by design — at least in part. The team’s relief corps has shown some cracks, though its incredible start was unsustainable as a general matter. If the Dodgers’ front office is indeed dictating increased bullpen use for strategic purposes, that would also help explain the club’s rather notable hording of relief arms in recent weeks.
- Now-former Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe, who was recently traded to the Braves, says that he never personally requested a deal, J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group reports. “When I had the conversation with [Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman] I didn’t demand anything,” said Uribe. “I didn’t ask to play every day. I just wanted to know what my role was.” Friedman had indicated that Uribe’s agent had indicated that a trade to open playing time would be preferred. Of course, it’s important to bear in mind that neither side has expressed bitterness and that there’s room for truth both ways. Friedman indicated that he had been conveyed something of a suggestion of a deal from Uribe’s representatives, rather than a demand of a deal from Uribe himself.
Giants right-hander Juan Gutierrez has a June 1 opt-out clause approaching in his contract that will allow him to request his release if he is not added to the 25-man roster, as MLBTR reported back at the end of Spring Training. The 31-year-old has struggled in some regards at Triple-A this season, as he’s posted a 4.94 ERA thus far. However, he’s posted a nice 21-to-8 K/BB ratio in that time and is sporting a 3.42 FIP, suggesting that he may have better results were it not for a .400 BABIP. Gutierrez worked to a 3.96 ERA with 6.2 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 in 63 2/3 innings for the Giants’ big league club in 2014.
A few more NL West items as the day’s games come to a close…
- Though Juan Uribe was choked up about leaving the Dodgers when interviewed by reporters following last night’s contest, president of baseball operations told reporters today that Uribe’s agents at Praver/Shapiro had made it known earlier in the week that their client would welcome a trade (Twitter link via the Orange County Register’s Pedro Moura). Uribe, Friedman continued, had hoped for a situation that would allow him to play every day. He may very well have that opportunity with the Braves, though Atlanta does have Chris Johnson as an option at the hot corner as well.
- Also via Moura, Friedman told reporters that he’s tried on multiple occasions to acquire left-hander Ian Thomas from the Braves before landing him in this six-player trade. Friedman feels that Thomas’ floor is that of a quality Major League reliever. However, multiple reporters (including the L.A. News Group’s J.P. Hoornstra) have noted that the Dodgers will stretch Thomas out as a starter for now at the Triple-A level.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports looks at a number of different reasons that the Dodgers made the trade. While some have already questioned the move, Rosenthal hears that the Dodgers preferred Callaspo’s switch-hitting bat and ability to cover first base. Rosenthal, too, notes that the team is high on Thomas, and he adds that they weren’t sure if they’d be able to keep Chris Withrow on the 40-man roster this winter, as his 2016 production figures to be somewhat of a question mark. Shedding Uribe’s contract also saves the team not only $1MM in salary, but a greater amount in luxury taxes, as Uribe’s $7.5MM average annual value creates a bigger luxury tax hit than Callaspo’s mere $3MM AAV.
- Tony La Russa’s one-year anniversary as the Diamondbacks‘ chief baseball officer was May 17, and Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic writes that La Russa is pleased with the organization’s progress. “I think we feel good about the front-office team and we feel good about our scouts and scouting directors and our player development and our coordinator,” La Russa said. Of course, that front office looks markedly different, as Dave Stewart has replaced Kevin Towers at GM and been joined atop the baseball operations pyramid by senior VP De Jon Watson. Also new to the organization is scouting director Deric Ladnier, who formerly held that position with the Royals and replaced the well-respected Ray Montgomery in Arizona. With the new front office in place, the team aggressively pursued international free agents and trade veteran players, and the fruits of those efforts are already surfacing with the big league team. Rubby De La Rosa, Buchanan notes, is outperforming Wade Miley, for whom he was traded. (Arizona also got Allen Webster in that deal.) Yasmany Tomas is contributing at the plate, and the decision to trade Trevor Cahill to free up a rotation slot for Archie Bradley has injected some youth and upside into the starting mix (though Bradley has struggled since returning from a line-drive to the face).
WEDNESDAY, 3:30pm: The deal is official, with both teams announcing it. Stults has been acquired and designated in one fell swoop, indicating that he was included in large part to offset Uribe’s salary. With more than three but less than five years of service, Stults will have the right to elect free agency if he clears outright waivers, but would have to give up his guaranteed salary to do so.
On the Los Angeles side of the deal, only Callaspo will head to the club’s active roster. Jaime will look to work into form at extended spring training, while Thomas will take a job at Triple-A.
2:55pm: The Braves paid Callaspo $100K to waive his no-trade rights, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link).
8:41am: Callaspo received a “stipend” as inducement to agree the trade, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com tweets.
TUESDAY: Trade talks between the Dodgers and Braves regarding Alberto Callaspo and Juan Uribe fell apart Tuesday morning after Callaspo vetoed the transaction, but talks rekindled just hours later after Callaspo had a change of heart, and the two sides have reportedly reached a deal, pending approval from the commissioner’s office. The Braves will acquire Uribe and right-hander Chris Withrow from the Dodgers in exchange for Callaspo, right-hander Juan Jaime and left-handers Ian Thomas and Eric Stults.
As a player that signed as a free agent just this offseason, Callaspo was ineligible to be traded prior to June 15 without his consent. After news of the revitalized deal broke, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted that Callaspo reconsidered after his initial decision to stay with a team that wanted him traded weighed on him further.
Though the Dodgers are surrendering talent to acquire him, it’s worth wondering how long Callaspo will be retained by his new team. The Dodgers, earlier this season, were content to acquire Ryan Webb and release him almost immediately in order to acquire a Competitive Balance draft pick from the Orioles. The Dodgers may view this as a means of shedding a bit of payroll and unclogging their logjam at third base, though that’s still purely speculative at this point.
The Dodgers have Alex Guerrero, Justin Turner, Hector Olivera and, eventually Corey Seager as potential in-house options at the hot corner, making both Uribe and Callaspo seem somewhat expendable. Callaspo has batted just .206/.293/.252 for the Braves this season, so his on-field production isn’t necessarily something the Dodgers would view as an upgrade, even though he has a superior track record to that output. Callaspo is capable of handling multiple infield positions, but while that versatility is appealing, the same could be said of Turner, who has experience at more positions and superior numbers at the plate.
From the Braves’ standpoint, the team likely views Uribe as an upgrade over Callaspo and, quite possibly, the injured Chris Johnson (who will be activated from the DL later this week). Uribe has posted consistently excellent defensive marks at third base over the past three seasons, and he batted .295/.334/.439 while playing half his games at the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium from 2013-14. He’s off to a slow start in 2015 — .247/.287/.309 in 87 PAs — but he’s also been slowed by a hamstring injury.
Financially speaking, the Braves are actually taking on some money in this deal, assuming there’s none changing hands (and there has not been, to this point). Uribe is earning $6.5MM in 2015 — the final season of a three-year contract. That means he has about $4.69MM remaining on his contract, which is more than double the $2.16MM remaining on the one-year, $3MM contract signed by Callaspo with Atlanta this offseason. Stults’ minor league contract came with a $2MM base upon making the roster, meaning about $1.44MM is left on his commitment. In total, then, the Braves are taking on just over $1MM in additional salary in order to add Uribe and Withrow.
Withrow, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery at this time, is slated to return from his operation in the second half of the season after undergoing surgery 51 weeks ago, on June 3, 2014. A hard-throwing reliever and former first-round pick of the Dodgers (2007), Withrow spent parts of the 2013-14 seasons pitching in relief for L.A., and doing so quite effectively.
The 56 innings he accumulated in those two seasons are the only Major League work on his resume, but he made quite the impression, registering a 2.73 ERA with 11.4 K/9, 5.0 BB/9, a 39.7 percent ground-ball rate and a fastball that averaged 95.7 mph. It should be noted that while Withrow’s BB/9 rate looks a bit troubling, eight of his 31 Major League walks came over his final 8 2/3 innings prior to Tommy John; his control looked markedly better in 2013, and Baseball America noted prior to the 2014 season that he’d significantly improved upon his ability to locate his fastball.
The 28-year-old Thomas has worked to a 3.94 ERA with 18 strikeouts against 11 walks in 16 innings of relief for the Braves over the past two seasons. Thomas primarily throws a fastball, curveball and changeup, and he posted generally strong marks over the course of his minor league tenure after being signed out of indy ball. The Dodgers aren’t particularly short on left-handed relief, with J.P. Howell, Adam Liberatore and Paco Rodriguez all serving as MLB-caliber options, but Thomas will further give them some depth in that regard.
Stults, 35, was actually drafted by the Dodgers in 2002 and spent parts of four seasons with the team from 2006-09. Of course, that was under different ownership and a different front office. Since that time, Stults bounced around the league a bit before settling into the Padres’ rotation from 2012-14. Over those three seasons, the southpaw worked to a 3.87 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 472 innings. Despite that relatively solid production, Stults was non-tendered this offseason and signed a minor league contract with the Braves, beating out Wandy Rodriguez for the fifth spot in Atlanta’s rotation. The results for Stults haven’t been particularly appealing, however, as he’s posted a 6.34 ERA with a 30-to-13 K/BB ratio in 44 innings out of the Braves’ rotation. The Dodgers may feel that a move back to the NL West will allow him to rediscover some success, and the team clearly is in need of some rotation depth after losing Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-jin Ryu for the season due to Tommy John and shoulder surgeries, respectively.
Jaime, the fourth piece headed to the Dodgers, is a hard-throwing right-hander that found himself designated for assignment earlier this season. He broke camp in the Braves’ bullpen but made just two appearances before being designated for assignment. The 27-year-old cleared waivers and remained with the organization at the time, but his 96 mph average fastball will now be property of the Dodgers. Jaime has just 13 2/3 innings of experience in the big leagues, but he’s posted a lifetime 3.12 ERA with 12.9 K/9 in the minors. However, Jaime has also walked 6.3 hitters per nine in his career, including an alarming 42 walks in 44 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the re-kindled talks, the completion of the trade, and the inclusion of Withrow and Stults (All links to Twitter). MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported that Thomas and Jaime were in the trade (Twitter links). Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez first told reporters, including Bowman, that Callaspo was being discussed in trades last night (Twitter link).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
2:21pm: Callaspo’s primary motivation was that he liked playing in Atlanta and did not want to play on the west coast, Heyman tweets.
12:13pm: The deal is indeed dead at present, and there is “no indication it’ll be revived,” O’Brien tweets.
11:44am: Callaspo has rejected the deal, as is his right, per Rosenthal (Twitter link).
For those unsure of why Callaspo may have declined the move, it’s not clear that he would ever have had a chance to suit up for the Dodgers: Los Angeles may well have intended simply to take on Callaspo’s salary and then release him as part of the broader arrangement. Were that the team’s intention, which seems at least plausibly implied in Callaspo’s veto, he likely would have ended up a free agent (while remaining entitled to his full salary).
Should Atlanta choose to designate him, that would still be the probable result, meaning that Callaspo may ultimately have been unwilling to be run through procedural hoops (all while sitting at home without a chance to play) simply to facilitate a deal between two clubs that aren’t terribly interested in his services at this point.
Alternatively, Callaspo might have preferred to avoid relegation to a 25th-man role in L.A. It’s impossible to know precisely what conversations and considerations were had, but as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes on Twitter, Callaspo may well have had valid reasons to act as he did.
11:28am: The Dodgers would actually receive MLB-level pitching in the deal, Rosenthal tweets, though he cautions not to expect any “major names” to be involved.
11:15am: The deal appears to have “lost traction,” tweets MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. A move is not presently imminent, per the report.
10:15am: The Dodgers would stand to add three minor league players from the Braves, with a farmhand also heading eastbound to Atlanta, Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). Some of the players going to Los Angeles would serve to bolster the club’s upper-level pitching reserves, per the report, suggesting an addition motivation.
The Dodgers would also stand to avoid some piece of their obligation to Uribe, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.
9:48am: The Dodgers are in discussions with the Braves about a deal that would send third baseman Juan Uribe to Atlanta and deliver Alberto Callaspo to Los Angeles, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Other, “lesser names” would also be included in a deal, per the report.
Agreement was close last night, says Rosenthal, who adds that it is not yet known whether progress continues this morning. The holdup could be related to the fact that Callaspo has the right to veto any deal, Rosenthal tweets. As a free agent who signed last offseason, he can decline to be dealt prior to June 15. With more than five years of service time, Callaspo would at least be entitled to refuse a minor league assignment and keep all of his guaranteed money if he ended up being outrighted after the deal.
Both teams have been creative in structuring deals of late: the Braves recently swapped bad contracts as a major part of the Craig Kimbrel trade, and the Dodgers effectively purchased a draft pick by acquiring and designating Ryan Webb. This prospective transaction, too, seems likely to be motivated by a variety of considerations.
Callaspo is playing on a $3MM contract this year, and could conceivably be going to offset some of the balance of the $6.5MM salary owed to Uribe. It seems somewhat unlikely, after all, that the Dodgers would have serious interest in the scuffling Callaspo. The club is loaded with options at second and third quite apart from Uribe, who has all but been displaced at the hot corner already.
Then again, the switch-hitting Callaspo does have a clear track record of sterling plate discipline, and has been better when facing right-handed pitching. (For all their options at second and third, L.A. doesn’t have any left-handed bats in the 4-5-6 mix.) As for Uribe, he’s off to a slow start but has consistently rated as an outstanding defender and produced at the plate when receiving regular playing time over 2013-14.
Needless to say, there are a number of interesting elements to this prospective transaction. Atlanta would certainly like to pick up a solid option at third, where Callaspo and Chris Johnson have struggled, while the Dodgers are probably glad to free up Uribe’s roster spot.
There has been a great deal of trade talk surrounding A’s pitcher Scott Kazmir, but the Dodgers could have interest in another member of Oakland’s rotation, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes. The Dodgers could circle back to Jesse Chavez this summer, a right-hander they discussed with Oakland in the offseason. The Dodgers could use pitching reinforcements and the A’s own the worst record in baseball, so there could be a match there between now and the end of July.
Here’s more from the NL West:
- Some might wonder if Walt Weiss is on the hot seat given the Rockies‘ woes, but GM Jeff Bridich says that’s not the case. “There’s no issue there,” Bridich said, according to Nick Groke of The Denver Post. “Throwing around blame is a very dangerous thing to do. The manager and the coaches don’t step on the field and take a bat and step into the batter’s box, and they don’t take the ball to stand on the mound.” Knowing he has the confidence of his GM, Weiss says he does not feel any heat, “This is my third season, and we haven’t won. And I’m sure people ask about my security here, I’m sure that becomes a topic. But I have to tell you, honestly, I have zero fear of losing my job.” The Rockies enter play today at 16-25, the fourth-worst mark in MLB.
- One bright spot for the Rockies this season has been the play of second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who The Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders is championing to make the NL All-Star team.
- Juan Uribe could be the odd man out when Hector Olivera is ready to join the Dodgers, according to J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group.
- The Dodgers‘ best-pitched game of the season didn’t come from one of their high-priced top line starters or one of their multi-millionaire free agent pickups. Instead, it came from Mike Bolsinger, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks by the Dodgers’ new regime in exchange for cash considerations, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register writes. Through four starts, Bolsinger now boasts a 0.71 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9.
- After a 10-5 start, the Padres have gone 10-18 and former U-T San Diego writer Bill Center (in a piece for MLB.com) wonders if it’s time for San Diego to act with urgency and shake up things.
The latest installment of Jon Heyman’s weekly Inside Baseball column is up over at CBS Sports, and Heyman begins by addressing the Troy Tulowitzki trade talk that has once again surfaced. Heyman, like many others, feels the time has arrived for the marriage between Tulo and the Rockies to come to an end, but neither Tulowitzki or owner Dick Monfort wants to appear to be the “bad guy” in the situation. Heyman hears that Tulowitzki would prefer to play for the Yankees, Giants, Dodgers or Angels if he is traded, though one person who knows the shortstop well told Heyman that he may ok with the Mets, Cardinals and Red Sox as well. Tulowitzki’s preferred destination is largely a moot point though, as his contract doesn’t have a no-trade clause. Heyman notes that in a year’s time, Tulowitzki will receive 10-and-5 rights, allowing him to veto any deal. That reality only furthers Colorado’s need to move Tulowitzki, Heyman opines. Heyman also lists 11 clubs that he could see making some degree of sense for the face of the Rockies’ franchise.
Some more highlights from a lengthy but always-informative column…
- The Cubs “may consider” Rafael Soriano at some point as a means of lengthening their bullpen, according to Heyman. I’d note that while the team has looked a bit thin beyond Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop, the Cubs just got Justin Grimm back from the disabled list and likely won’t be without Neil Ramirez for too much longer.
- Astros top prospect — and arguably the top prospect in all of MLB — Carlos Correa could be up to the Majors within three weeks, one Houston source estimated to Heyman. Also of note on the Astros front, he writes that a pursuit of Cole Hamels would appear to be a long shot, but Scott Kazmir (Houston native) and Clay Buchholz are names to keep an eye on for Houston, should either become available.
- Kyle Lohse seems like a natural candidate to be traded this offseason, but the Brewers are particularly interested in shedding Matt Garza‘s contract. The right-hander is guaranteed $12.5MM in 2015 and will earn the same rate in each of the following two seasons. Neither pitcher, however, has been particularly impressive for Milwaukee.
- Jean Segura is one of the players that the Brewers have the least interest in trading, but Heyman hears that the Padres would be interested, should Brewers GM Doug Melvin entertain offers. San Diego likes Alexi Amarista but prefers to use him in a utility role rather than as a starter.
- Rival teams seriously doubt that the Mets would ever consider parting ways with Noah Syndergaard, but there’s “a little hope” that the team could be persuaded to part with highly touted left-hander Steven Matz in a trade. Heyman adds that the Mets are going to remain patient with Wilmer Flores as their shortstop for the time being.
- It’s been reported that Yunel Escobar wanted no part of playing with Oakland, and Heyman hears that the reasoning was as simple as the fact that Escobar is very particular when it comes to geographical preferences and wanted to remain on the East coast. A trade to the Nationals accomplished that goal.
- The clause in Alex Guerrero‘s contract that allows him to opt out of his deal and elect free agency at season’s end, if he is traded, hinders his trade value. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but given the presence of Guerrero and the versatile Justin Turner, Juan Uribe could end up as a summer trade candidate for the Dodgers.
- In some agency news, Heyman reports that Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius will now be represented by Casey Close of Excel Sports Management — the agent for Gregorius’ predecessor, Derek Jeter. Gregorius had previously been repped by the Wasserman Media Group.
Full Story | 42 Comments | Categories: Alexi Amarista | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Correa | Chicago Cubs | Clay Buchholz | Cole Hamels | Colorado Rockies | Didi Gregorius | Hector Rondon | Houston Astros | Jean Segura | Juan Uribe | Kyle Lohse | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Matt Garza | Milwaukee Brewers | New York Mets | New York Yankees | Noah Syndergaard | Oakland Athletics | Rafael Soriano | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Scott Kazmir | St. Louis Cardinals | Steven Matz | Troy Tulowitzki | Wilmer Flores | Yunel Escobar
In this week’s edition of his Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by looking at the contentious courtroom showdown that stands between Alex Rodriguez and as much as $30MM worth of home run milestone bonuses. As Heyman notes, people on all sides of the case have reasons to dislike A-Rod. Rodriguez filed a lawsuit (that was eventually dropped) against the MLBPA, and he parted ways with agent Scott Boras more than six years ago. The Yankees’ reasons for resenting Rodriguez are obvious, as are those of the league, with whom Rodriguez battled to reduce a 212-game suspension to a still-significant 162 game ban. Heyman looks at the arguments that can be made by both sides as well as the potential fallout once the situation is finally resolved.
Some highlights from the latest edition of Heyman’s newest weekly column…
- Though the Red Sox aren’t blinking when it comes to trade talks with the Phillies regarding Cole Hamels, one rival GM considers Boston the favorite. The Phillies quite like center field prospect Manuel Margot, and Boston does have other nice pieces. Heyman notes that one scout actually expressed concern to him about Mookie Betts‘ ability to hit the ball on the outer half of the plate, but the Sox remain steadfast in their refusal to part ways with Betts.
- The Cubs aren’t concerned with a potential grievance being filed against them on behalf of Kris Bryant. Rather, their main concern is trying to find a way to extend him beyond his current allotment of team control. Heyman hears that Cubs are already considering trying to make him a Cub for life, though he also notes that it’s a bit early for those discussions.
- White Sox skipper Robin Ventura signed an extension of an unreported length prior to the 2014 season, and Heyman now hears that Ventura is under contract through the 2016 season. The contract length is said to be of little importance to ChiSox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who loves Ventura.
- The Royals plan to try to do “whatever they can” to retain Alex Gordon beyond the 2015 season. The 32-year-old Gordon’s $12.5MM player option has increased to $13.25MM based on performance escalators, per Heyman. While Gordon has implied that he will exercise the option in the past, it’s exceptionally difficult to envision him merely picking up the option rather than trying for a highly lucrative multi-year deal. The Royals never felt they had a great shot at retaining James Shields, but their hope with Gordon is that the career Royal and Nebraska native might be easier to retain. Heyman adds that while the club is interested in trying to extend Salvador Perez beyond the 2019 season, those talks aren’t likely to come until after the season.
- Juan Uribe is off to a decent start with the Dodgers, but the hot play of Alex Guerrero and the addition of Hector Olivera in Spring Training could eventually lead to Uribe becoming available on the trade market. Uribe’s at hasn’t lined up with his previous seasons to this point, but he’s hit a perhaps surprisingly strong .293/.333/.435 dating back to Opening Day 2013.
- Rival executives are anxiously anticipating a Brewers fire sale following the club’s awful 5-17 start to the season, Heyman hears. One exec listed Carlos Gomez, Khris Davis, Jean Segura, Gerardo Parra, Kyle Lohse and Francisco Rodriguez as players who will draw interest, noting that Jonathan Lucroy is probably untouchable, while Matt Garza and Ryan Braun are somewhat overpriced.
- The Mets were trying for a three-year extension that contained a club option and would’ve guaranteed Lucas Duda a bit shy of $30MM. I’d imagine that with Duda could end up the beneficiary in that scenario, particularly if he can sustain the increase in his walk rate and the more notable decrease in his strikeout rate.
- Multiple Yankees people have shot down the notion that the team would pursue Hamels when asked by Heyman. One replied that the team is “not looking” at Hamels, while another wondered if Hamels is still a legitimate ace or more of just a big name.
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Much is still unknown about how (or if) the pending addition of Hector Olivera will impact the 2015 Dodgers. The Cuban infielder could struggle in his first taste of American pro ball and require more time in the minors than expected, or Olivera’s slightly-torn UCL in his right elbow could become a major issue and put him on the disabled list. As the Dodgers already have Juan Uribe and Howie Kendrick manning third and second base, they don’t even have any immediate need for Olivera’s services, and could be planning to only give Olivera significant playing time in 2016.
On the other hand, what if Olivera demolishes Triple-A pitching and forces the Dodgers’ hand for a promotion? While Olivera is a versatile player, it’s hard to believe he’d see much time at first base given Adrian Gonzalez‘s presence or in left field given how the Dodgers already have an outfielder surplus. Kendrick over four years younger than Uribe and has a longer track record of consistency and durability, so it would be a big surprise to see Kendrick lose his starting job for any reason other than an injury.
If the Dodgers decide to find a place for Olivera, therefore, it will likely be at the hot corner. Uribe is a free agent after the season, and many have speculated that with Olivera on board, the Dodgers are already planning for a future without the 14-year veteran. As Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins are also both pending free agents, it’s possible the 2016 Dodgers infield could consist of Olivera, Corey Seager and Alex Guerrero, with Enrique Hernandez and Justin Turner in super-sub roles.
With all this in mind, could L.A. consider cutting ties with Uribe early and start shopping the 36-year-old on the trade market this summer? If Uribe starts until Olivera is called up, then Uribe’s first month or two of the season could essentially be an audition for other teams. Turner and Hernandez could become the top fill-in third base options if Olivera were to struggle; both men hit well in 2014, especially Turner and his .897 OPS over 322 plate appearances. (Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron recently opined that the Dodgers didn’t need Olivera since they already had a cheaper comparable in Turner.)
Hamstring injuries limited Uribe to 103 games last season, though he still hit .311/.337/.440 with nine homers in 404 plate appearances. While that slash line was undoubtedly aided by a .368 BABIP, it was Uribe’s second consecutive solid year at the plate (a .769 OPS and 116 OPS+ in 2013), continuing an unlikely career turn-around after his production fell off the table in 2011-12. While his hitting has yo-yoed over the last four years, however, his defense has been uniformly tremendous. Since the start of the 2010 season, Uribe’s 41 Defensive Runs Saved are the fifth-most of any third baseman in baseball and he has the best UZR/150 (25.4) of any player who has played at least 2500 innings at third. Between that stellar glove and his improved bat, Uribe’s 8.6 fWAR over the last two seasons has been topped by only 28 players.
With all this in mind, you could argue that the Dodgers would need to see significant evidence from Olivera before they considered giving up on Uribe. Even keeping Uribe in a bench role would be a fit for L.A. since they certainly have the payroll capacity to afford a $6.5MM backup, and he plays an “integral” leadership role in the clubhouse.
Still, as we’ve already seen from the Andrew Friedman/Farhan Zaidi regime, no move can be ruled out for the Dodgers’ roster. If the team’s starting pitching depth becomes tested (i.e. Brandon McCarthy or Brett Anderson‘s significant injury histories, or Hyun-Jin Ryu’s bad shoulder), Uribe could be an intriguing trade chip for a starter. Or, as the Dodgers are having trouble finding takers for Andre Ethier, they could sweeten the pot by adding Uribe to the mix, though contract size could still be an issue.
Looking at contenders with a possible hole at third base, the Indians, Tigers, Royals and White Sox are all going with young players who have yet to prove themselves as surefire contributors. For these four teams, acquiring Uribe for a pennant race wouldn’t spell the end of, for example, Nick Castellanos or Mike Moustakas as a “third baseman of the future” since Uribe could leave in free agency next winter anyway. Beyond the AL Central, the Giants are relying on Casey McGehee to repeat his solid 2014 season, though it’s near-impossible to see the Dodgers swing a trade with their arch-rivals.
For the moment, Uribe is staying put in Los Angeles. If Olivera (or even Turner) starts swinging a hot bat, however, don’t be surprised if the Dodgers start exploring deals. The Dodgers’ overflow of talent in both the infield and outfield gives them a number of options if they need to patch holes in their rotation or bullpen, and Uribe might be the most realistic trade chip of the bunch.
Photo courtesy of Rick Scuteri/USA Today Sports Images
The Dodgers weren’t the only NL West team looking at Cuban right-hander Pablo Millan Fernandez, as MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports that the Giants and Padres also had interest. The Rangers and Red Sox, two of the more aggressive teams on the international signing front in recent years, were also interested in Fernandez, who agreed to an $8MM bonus with Los Angeles yesterday. Here’s some more from around the NL West…
- Madison Bumgarner has no plans to approach the Giants about re-negotiating his contract and said he has no regrets over signing his five-year extension, the World Series MVP tells Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. In April 2012, Bumgarner signed a deal that, at the time, paid him the highest average annual value of any contract given to a player between 1-2 years of service time. The five-year, $35MM deal includes a $12MM vesting option for 2018 and a $12MM team option for 2019. While those options could increase to $16MM based on Cy Young finishes, Bumgarner’s contract has obviously been a major bargain for the Giants.
- The Brewers were one of a few teams interested in trading for Dodgers infielder Alex Guerrero, though nobody was interested in paying Guerrero the $14MM he’s owed through 2017, ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon reports. Some teams were staying away from a trade and instead hoping L.A. would just release the Cuban prospect in the wake of his tough 2014 campaign. A good Spring Training, however, has earned Guerrero a spot on the Opening Day roster and kept him in the Dodgers’ future plans.
- The Dodgers won’t be considering extensions for Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick or Juan Uribe until at least partway through the season, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes. All three veteran infielders are entering their walk years, but L.A. can afford to wait given the presence of Guerrero and Corey Seager, not to mention the possible signing of Hector Olivera. For his part, Uribe says he wants to stay with the Dodgers beyond 2015.
- Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart told reporters (including MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert) and The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro) that Dioner Navarro‘s $5MM salary is too much to fit into his team’s payroll. The Snakes have been linked to the Blue Jays catcher for much of the offseason and they’re reportedly still scouting him, though Stewart said there isn’t any substance to those rumors.
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