Justin Morneau Rumors
The Royals made this a special Father's Day for 21 dads as the team invited the players' fathers to travel with them on their current road trip to Tampa and Cleveland. Dick Kaegel of MLB.com reports the idea was the brainstorm of the Royals' senior director of travel Jeff Davenport, who borrowed the idea from NHL teams, and was approved quickly by GM Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost. The idea came as a shock to some of the dads including the father of infielder Elliot Johnson, Robert. "Elliot told me about it and I had to call him back three times to make sure I got this story right -- I said, 'You've got to be kidding me. All I have to do is get to Kansas City and they're going to put me on a plane and fly me along with you and not charge me anything? And I'm going to get in a hotel and eat with you guys and hang out with you?" The trip hasn't been without incident. Robert Johnson admitted he had an argument with Hall of Famer and new Royals batting coach George Brett over - what else - Elliot's hitting. In other news and notes from MLB's Central divisions:
- After struggling for most of the season, Yovani Gallardo has now tossed 14 consecutive scoreless innings. With the Brewers in last place and Gallardo controlled affordably through 2015 ($11.25MM in 2014 and a 2015 club option worth $13MM), the right-hander's name has popped up as a trade candidate (including by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes two weeks ago) and he has heard the talk. "We'll see what happens," Gallardo told reporters including MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. "It's definitely a little bit different. It's the first time I've been in a situation like this -- not to say that anything is going to happen." McCalvy reports Gallardo can block trades to ten teams, but Gallardo acknowledges even he doesn't know the identity of all of them.
- While the Brewers don't anticipate Corey Hart returning from offseason knee surgery until after the All-Star break, at the earliest, GM Doug Melvin will not rush first base prospect Hunter Morris to the Majors, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Melvin told Haudricourt service time considerations aren't part of the decision-making process, "He needs to play more at Triple-A. We just want to make sure he's ready before making a move like that." The Brewers entered the weekend last in the NL at first base with a .493 OPS and 14th with four home runs and a .275 slugging percentage.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan told Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, and Kevin Correia will be the most asked about players as the Trade Deadline approaches (Twitter link).
- Twins closer Glen Perkins will also be sought after by teams looking to bolster their bullpen, including the division rival Tigers. Ryan, however, told Bowden he has not had any conversations with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski and would rather have Perkins pitch for him than against him (Twitter link).
- Yesterday, the White Sox announced the signing of seventh-round draft choice Trey Michalczewski. Today, Jim Callis of Baseball America tweeted the prep third baseman will receive a $500K bonus, which is $323.4K above the recommended slot (per Baseball America).
Kyle Lohse has appeared in 192 games since he last wore a Twins uniform in 2006, but the veteran righty is facing his old team for the very first time tonight when the Brewers visit Target Field. Should Lohse earn the victory tonight, he will become just the 13th pitcher in history to record a win against all 30 current teams. Here are some more news items out of the Twin Cities...
- Led by top prospects Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Alex Meyer, the Twins' farm system drew high praise from an NL general manager and a rival scout, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports. Buxton, in particular, drew raves and was compared to such stars as Matt Kemp and Mike Trout. "[Buxton] is a better athlete than A-Rod. He's a crazy athlete," the scout said. "These guys come once every 10 years, every 20 years. If you see this guy run, it's unreal. Five steps and he's on the bag."
- The Twins "hold the power" when it comes to Justin Morneau's future, 1500ESPN.com's Brandon Warne writes. This is Morneau's last year under contract and given his performance (a .735 OPS through 213 PA), the Twins could look to internal options or sign a cheap free agent rather than bring Morneau back.
- Right-hander Kyle Gibson was hit hard in a start for Triple-A Rochester today, putting an end to rumors that he would soon get called up to the Majors, 1500ESPN.com's Phil Mackey writes. Twins GM Terry Ryan hinted earlier this week that Gibson could be in line for a quick promotion with another strong appearance though this setback will likely keep him in Rochester for another week or two. Gibson has posted a 2.82 ERA, 3.12 K/BB ratio and a 7.9 K/9 rate at Triple-A this season and entered the year as a consensus top #50 prospect (ranked 41st by Keith Law, 45th by MLB.com, 49th by Baseball America) in the sport.
Here are a few notes from around baseball's Central divisions:
- With the Reds welcoming the division-rival Cubs for a three-game set on the same day that Cincinnati reliever Sean Marshall made another DL trip, Hal McCoy of the Dayton Times looked back on the December 2011 deal between these clubs that put Marshall in the Reds' pen. Travis Wood, the primary piece going to Chicago in that trade, is off to a sparkling start to the year with a 2.24 ERA over 60 1/3 innings. While he has posted a pedestrian 5.8 K/9 to go with 2.8 BB/9, Wood has managed a stellar .928 WHIP this season, good for seventh best among starters, tied with Shelby Miller. (Of course, that mark owes to the lefty's exceedingly low .193 BABIP-against. He sports a career mark of .262; league average currently sits at .292.) Marshall, meanwhile, continues to be effective when he is healthy: he sports an ERA of just over 2.50 over his two seasons in Cincinnati. It is worth noting, as well, that the Reds' rotation is in fine shape thus far without Wood: Cinci starters own the second-best collective ERA in baseball, after the Cardinals.
- Even if the Cubs have played better than their record, the team is looking up in the standings at a host of strong ballclubs. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the club is already feeling the mid-summer trade deadline, though it remains a ways away. Manager Dale Sveum acknowledged that, while the team is still "trying to put things together where you pull off some streaks ... to give yourself a chance to give yourself hope," the team "all know[s] that if we don't, there can be changes." Wittenmyer says that a number of players could be on the trading block, including starters Scott Feldman and Matt Garza, relivers Kevin Gregg and James Russell, and outfielder David DeJesus.
- The Cubs' major offseason acquisition, pitcher Edwin Jackson, has been a disappointment among an otherwise solid rotation. Nevertheless, the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan reports, Jackson is in no danger of losing his starting role. Sveum said that the team is "going to stick with him," in part due to Jackson's four-year, $52MM deal. Said Sveum: "You've got a commitment there and you've got to stick with the commitment."
- Twins first bagger Justin Morneau, a soon-to-be free agent, has not engaged in any extension talks with his team, a source tells Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com. As Morneau finishes off his six-year, $80MM deal with Minnesota, he has failed to restore the power that landed him that contract. Morneau slashed .345/.437/.628 over an injury-shortened 2010 season, but registered a .267/.333/.440 line last year and currently sits at .312/.353/.416 over 190 plate appearances this season.
For the fourth straight year, Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony sat down with Jesse Lund of SB Nation's Twinkie Town to discuss the state of affairs with his team. Antony and Lund discussed the Twins' offseason at length, ranging from the trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere to the Twins' pursuit of starting pitching. Here's a look at some of the highlights, but bear in mind that entire piece is well worth your time...
- The Twins never intended to trade both Revere and Span, but the Phillies' offer of Trevor May and Vance Worley was too strong not to pull the trigger. Antony identifies May as someone who could get a September call-up in 2013 if he enjoys a strong season.
- The Twins had conversations with both Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano, but were unable to agree to terms with either one. In particular, the Twins sought a club option for Baker, who wanted strictly a one-year deal. Antony said they didn't want 2013 to "be a donation" to Baker in the event that he wasn't healthy and effective for most of the season. That decision looks wise, with Baker on the 60-day disabled list for the Cubs.
- Mike Pelfrey identified the Twins as a team he wanted to pitch for and was aggressive in working out a deal, according to Antony. The Twins did quite a bit of homework on Pelfrey's recovery from Tommy John surgery in order to ascertain that the right-hander would indeed be ready for Opening Day, as he promised.
- The Twins made several "competitive offers" to free agent starting pitchers, in some cases making better offers than the ones those pitchers ultimately took. The Twins had conversations with nearly every free agent starting pitcher and spoke with around 15 agents for pitchers at the Winter Meetings in December.
- Following the Span trade, most teams didn't believe that the team would also trade Revere. Antony says four teams were in the mix for Revere, but the Phillies were the most aggressive and ultimately landed him with the aforementioned offer.
- The Twins were willing to do a one-for-one swap of Span and Alex Meyer because they believe Meyer is a legitimate front-of-the-rotation candidate who can be a "dominant" strikeout pitcher.
- The decision to bring Aaron Hicks north as the team's Opening Day center fielder was a result of Hicks' strong play in Spring Training and his poise off the field. The Twins' front office was never overly concerned with delaying Hicks' free agency by a season: "If he's that good of a player we're going to do what we can to sign him long term and none of that's going to matter."
- Antony, GM Terry Ryan and the rest of the front office prefer to gradually expose their top prospects to the Major Leagues so as not to field a team of all rookies. Additionally, that line of thinking prevents mass arbitration and free agency issues: "If you can bring a couple guys, a couple rookies in each year, it helps infuse that and it helps to spread it out so that not everybody becomes arbitration eligible at the same time or free agents at the same time, all that stuff."
- The Twins "admire" the Royals' bullpen of power arms and would like to build a similar bullpen. The team prioritized power arms in the 2012 Draft, selecting a number of hard-throwing college relievers.
- Antony offered a definitive "No," when asked if the team had interest in Aaron Harang prior to his trade to the Mariners. The Twins feel they have a number of similar arms in the organization already.
- There's been no contact between the Twins and Jim Thome for "a couple of months," and the two were never on the same page. Minnesota had interest in Thome, but they were far apart in discussions.
- "It would be great if he could be a Twin for life," Antony said of Justin Morneau. "He's a guy who's meant a lot for this organization and we'd love it if he were to play his entire career here, but you just don't know how things are going to work out in the end."
- Antony feels that too much has been made of the decision not to extend Ron Gardenhire prior to this season. Many have speculated that Gardenhire is on the hot seat following a pair of 90-loss seasons, but Antony said it was intended to be an organization-wide message that they're looking to get better from top to bottom. He adds that he hopes Gardenhire is the Twins' manager for years to come, and that in three years people are surprised there was even a debate.
Here's the latest from around the AL Central...
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski admitted to reporters (including Lynn Henning of the Detroit News) that teams had been calling him about the Tigers' starting pitching depth. The Rangers reportedly asked about Rick Porcello earlier this week and several teams have shown interest in the right-hander throughout the offseason.
- Dombrowski and Jim Leyland revealed no new details about the Tigers' closer situation other than saying that rookie Bruce Rondon is still very much a candidate for the job despite struggling in four Spring Training outings.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn discussed Chris Sale's extension with reporters (including MLB.com's Scott Merkin) and likes that the team was able to lock up a potential ace at what could end up being a bargain price. "Obviously this past offseason was a pretty robust one in terms of where the compensation was going. So being able to lock something down before there was further escalation in Chris' market had a lot of appeal to us," Hahn said.
- Scott Kazmir can opt out of his minor league deal with the Indians if he isn't on their Major League roster by April 2, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (via Twitter). Daisuke Matsuzaka, another Tribe minor league signing, also has an opt-out date "about the same time."
- Unless Justin Morneau improves on his 2012 numbers, Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities feels the Twins will struggle to get "anything significant" for the slugger in a possible trade, and could have to settle for a trade package similar to what they received for Francisco Liriano last summer. Morneau hit .267/.333/.440 with 19 home runs in 570 PA in 2012 and is entering his last season under contract with Minnesota. Mackey also discusses the Twins payroll, various roster decisions and other topics during this chat with fans.
On this day in 2007, the Twins signed Liam Hendriks as an amateur free agent out of Australia. Hendriks, 24, has struggled in the Majors to date but owns a solid minor league track record. He has twice cracked Baseball America's list of Top 10 Twins prospects and boasts a 2.95 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 155 2/3 Triple-A innings. He'll fight for a rotation spot with the Twins this Spring. Here are some links pertaining to baseball's two Central divisions...
- New Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter told ESPN's Jayson Stark that his comments about the Angels and owner Arte Moreno following the Josh Hamilton signing were a "joke that went bad." At the time, Hunter tweeted that Moreno must have had "some money under a mattress," as he'd been told the team couldn't afford him. Hunter praised the Angels' organization and said he's enjoying his time with the Tigers so far.
- The Indians could look to trade outfielder Ezequiel Carrera near the end of Spring Training, writes MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. Carrera is out of options, and the Tribe has no doubt that they would lose the 25-year-old if they placed him on waivers in an attempt to send him to Triple-A.
- Former AL MVP Justin Morneau couldn't have picked a better time to get healthy, writes Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN. The 31-year-old Twins slugger is set to hit free agency following the season and could find himself a midseason trade candidate, extension candidate, or the recipient of a qualifying offer with a strong, healthy season.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports wonders if Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras could be the next 20-year-old to take the Majors by storm. Taveras, however, doesn't have a clear path to the Majors given the presence of Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran.
Earlier this week, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports speculated that the Rockies could trade a catcher in order to bolster their pitching staff and of the team's three backstops, Ramon Hernandez would be the most likely to go. The 36-year-old, who is earning $3.2MM this season on the backend of his two-year deal, has learned not to be bothered by trade talk, writes MLB.com's Thomas Harding. "I remember when I was with the Reds, it was the same thing..The last few days before the deadline, the Giants' manager told me, 'You're leaving with us. You're going back to San Francisco.' Then later on I was told I wasn't going anywhere until the end, right at the deadline. Then the Reds put me on waivers, somebody claimed me, they pulled me back out, and I didn't go anywhere." Here's more from around baseball..
- Twins star Justin Morneau downplayed comments he made earlier this week in which he said that it would be "very cool" to play for the Blue Jays since he grew up in Canada, writes Phil Miller of the Star-Tribune. While he didn't disown the remark but he did restate his desire to win in Minnesota.
- Pitcher Kyle McClellan wants to be more than just insurance for the Rangers this season, writes Anthony Andro of FOXSportsSouthwest.com. The right-hander signed a minor league deal with Texas this winter and can opt out of his deal on March 22nd if he does not make the big league roster. The Rangers could potentially use McClellan as a starter or place him in the bullpen.
- John Maine is looking to get back on track with the Marlins in 2013 and the former Mets hurler says that he is throwing without pain for the first time since 2012, writes Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post.
Justin Morneau, who has spent his entire ten-year career with the Twins, told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that he’ll understand if he’s no longer part of the organization’s long-term plans. But as Morneau enters the final year of his contract, he’s prepared to talk if general manager Terry Ryan wants to discuss an extension during the season.
“I’m not against it,” he told Morosi. “It’s not something I’d like to do, unless it starts close and seems realistic from beginning. You don’t want to drag negotiations out for weeks in the middle of the year and become a distraction.”
Morneau, 32 in May, will earn $14MM in 2013 before hitting free agency. He hit 19 home runs and posted a .267/.333/.440 batting line in 2012 after battling concussion-related issues and undergoing various surgeries. The New Westminster, British Columbia native says his preference is to stay with the Twins and win in Minnesota. Yet he acknowledged that he’s intrigued by the possibility of playing for the team he rooted for as a kid: the Blue Jays.
"That was my favorite team growing up, so that would be very cool,” he said.
Morneau signed a six-year, $80MM deal before the 2008 season. However, he sustained a concussion in July of 2010 and missed the remainder of the 2010 season and much of the 2011 season. The left-handed hitting SFX client won the 2006 AL MVP.
Twins first baseman Justin Morneau is entering the final year of his contract with the Twins but the former MVP told reporters that he won't discuss a new deal with the club once the season starts, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com (on Twitter). Morneau also says that he hasn't been approached by the front office about an extension yet and his reps won't raise the issue with the Twins this fall (Twitter link).
From Morneau's tone, it sounds as though he has every intention of testing the open market after the season. The slugger will earn $14MM this season in the home stretch of his of his six-year, $84MM contract. He also figures to be a trade candidate given his status and the Twins were reportedly gauging interest in him during the winter meetings.
While Morneau may be bound for free agency, he has made it known in the past that he is happy playing in Minnesota. At the same time, winning is important to the 31-year-old.
"I want to win, obviously, so that's the important thing," said Morneau, according to Phil Miller of the Star-Tribune. "If it looks like there's a chance we're going to win, I'd love to stay here. I've been here my whole career, and this is where I hope to be in the future...But sometimes those decisions aren't yours."
It has been six weeks since the Red Sox and Mike Napoli agreed to terms on a three-year, $39MM contract. The holdup in finalizing the deal is concern with one of Napoli's hips and the team's desire to write protective language into the contract. Recently, we learned the Red Sox are continuing negotiations with Napoli, but would like to shorten the deal to just one year and have been in contact with the Nationals about Mike Morse. A major league source told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe this about Napoli's hip, "It’s one of those things where it could go anytime or five years from now. Nobody really knows, which is why the Red Sox want strong language after putting $40 million on the table for him.” Cafardo believes it's starting to make sense for the Red Sox to trade for Justin Morneau or to make Daniel Nava a first baseman/left fielder. More from Cafardo:
- That Kyle Lohse is still available at this late date is somewhat of a stunner to Cafardo. Lohse's market has been stunted with him being tied to draft pick compensation and that no one seems willing to go beyond two years, although several teams needs starting pitching and his stuff translates to both leagues.
- Draft pick compensation has also shrunk the market for Michael Bourn. Another factor, according to a NL GM, has been the Twins trading both Denard Span and Ben Revere and the Braves signing B.J. Upton.
- Cafardo thought it was strange for Justin Upton to reject his trade to Seattle since it's one of the nicest cities in the country and the fences at Safeco Field have been moved in.
- Cubs President Theo Epstein has come to realize Alfonso Soriano is an excellent clubhouse presence because of his willingness to help younger players. With that and his excellent 2012 season, Epstein wants a player of note in any deal where the Cubs eat a majority of the $36MM left on Soriano's contract.
- Discussions to include Garrett Jones in the Joel Hanrahan trade never progressed very far because "the Pirates really valued Jones highly," a major league source told Cafardo.
- One NL GM told Cafardo Roy Oswalt may still want to pitch, but on his terms and perhaps for only a half a season. Many teams have given up trying to persuade the 35-year-old to pitch, feeling the vibe is that he just doesn’t want it bad enough. Cafardo also notes Oswalt suffered a forearm strain at the end of his time with the Rangers last season.
- Bobby Valentine has turned down some opportunities to serve as an advisor for teams. Valentine has instead decided to focus on expanding his restaurant business, growing his film company, and working for NBC Sports since being fired as manager of the Red Sox.