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Former NBA star Tracy McGrady has made the independent Sugar Land Skeeters roster, Chris Cotillo tweeted earlier today. The club confirmed that the swingman-turned-hurler has been inked, as Mark Berman of FOX 26 Sports Houston reports. “He showed enough progress,” said manager (and 20-year MLB veteran) Gary Gaetti. “He showed enough ability and we’re going to see where this goes.”
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- Infielder Alberto Gonzalez was released by the Padres, according to MLB.com’s Corey Brock (via Twitter). The 31-year-old had been working in Triple-A, but presumably was supplanted by the just-acquired Tyler Greene at Tucson. Gonzalez, who has seen action in seven MLB seasons, was off to a tough .208/.218/.264 start in 56 plate appearances.
- The Rangers announced that they have acquired outfielder Dan Robertson from the Padres in exchange for cash considerations. Texas has purchased Robertson’s contract and will bring the 28-year-old to Oakland, where he will be available to play today. The move likely comes as an unexpected thrill for Robertson, who was a 33rd-round pick in 2008 and has spent the past two-plus seasons in Triple-A, where he has compiled a triple-slash line of .295/.371/.394 with six homers and 41 steals in 270 games. Texas had an open spot on its 40-man roster and placed Pedro Figueroa on the 15-day disabled list in order to clear a 25-man roster spot for Robertson.
- The Royals have released right-hander Cory Wade from Triple-A Omaha, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter). The 31-year-old Wade posted a 6.57 ERA in 12 1/3 innings for Omaha this year, with just four strikeouts against four walks in that short time. Wade was a solid relief option for the Dodgers in his 2008 rookie campaign (2.27 ERA in 71 1/3 innings) and again for the Yankees in 2011 (2.04 ERA in 39 2/3 innings). He last appeared in the Majors with the Yanks in 2012, posting a 6.46 ERA in 39 innings of work. Wade inked a minor league deal with Kansas City back in November.
The Padres have sold the contract of Triple-A right-hander Anthony Carter to the Nippon Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball, MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports (via Twitter). The 28-year-old Carter appeared in just three games for Triple-A El Paso this season, allowing a pair of runs in three innings of work. The former 26th-round draft pick (White Sox) has punched out more than a batter per inning in his minor league career and owns a 4.93 ERA with a 2.51 K/BB ratio in 680 1/3 innings. In addition to the Sox and Padres, he spent the 2013 season — arguably his best year — with the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate. In Pawtucket, he posted a 3.47 ERA with 11.4 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 62 1/3 innings. Here are the rest of today’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Padres have inked righty Billy Buckner to a minor league deal, tweets Corey Brock of MLB.com. Buckner, 30, has tossed 155 2/3 MLB innings in parts of five MLB seasons, splitting his appearances about evenly between starting and relieving. His lifetime ERA stands at 6.07, and he has averaged 6.4 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 with a 44.7% ground-ball rate.
- Two former big leaguers decided to hang up their spikes rather than continue on at the Triple-A level, according to the PCL transactions page. Joe Martinez of the Angels and Steve Edlefsen of the Dodgers both retired today. The right-handed relievers had both seen relatively minimal MLB action over their professional careers, and were off to rough starts in the season’s early going.
- The Reds have signed right-hander Elvin Ramirez, per Cincinnati’s official transactions page. The 26-year-old struggled in 61 innings with the Angels’ minor league affiliates last season but had a strong 2.13 ERA in 55 innings with the Double-A and Triple-A affiliates for the Mets in 2012. In 422 2/3 career innings in the minors, the Dominican native has a 4.02 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9.
- Right-hander Matt Hauser has signed a minor league deal with the Orioles, according to the team’s transactions page. A former seventh-round pick of the Twins (2010), Hauser enjoyed strong minor league numbers until posting a 5.09 ERA between Double-A and Class-A Advanced last year. The 25-year-old has a career 2.95 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9.
- The Royals have inked outfielder Cory Scammell to a minor league contract (also via the club’s transactions page). The 20-year-old Canadian was a 35th-round pick of the Mariners in the 2011 draft and spent two seasons with the team’s Rookie-level affiliate, slashing a solid .274/.349/.355 in 358 plate appearances.
Addressing his team's sudden and successful entry into the market for starter Ervin Santana, Braves GM Frank Wren said that he did not expect to be in the market for free agent starters, but felt Santana was the best option available going into the offseason. (Video of press conference via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.) It was Atlanta's good fortune that Santana remained unsigned when Kris Medlen walked off the mound with an injury on Sunday. Wren immediately made contact, knowing that he had to catch up quickly with other clubs further down the road on talks with Santana. "Once we started talking, we realized that Ervin was very interested in us as well, thought this was a good opportunity for him, and it was a perfect fit for us."
- For Atlanta, the message to the field staff and players was clear. "[The signing] means our GM and our front office want to win," manager Fredi Gonzalez said, as MLB.com's Joe Frisaro tweets.
- The key for Santana was his desire to pitch in the National League, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos confirmed, saying that he was told Santana "had a strong desire to pitch in the NL and there was no way to compete with that." (MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm provides a transcript of Anthopoulos's chat with the media today.) The GM also emphasized that he was "very comfortable we did everything we could" to land Santana, who the club "viewed … as an impact starter." Anthopoulos implied some disappointment with the way things unfolded, declining comment on several questions about reports that a deal was done last Saturday by saying that he was "trying to take the high road here."
- From the Twins' perspective, most talks were "very exploratory," assistant GM Rob Antony told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I think what they were looking at and were looking for was different from what we were thinking," explained Antony. "… We weren't necessarily looking for a one-year guy."
- Meanwhile, the Royals' short run with Santana is now officially over, but the team feels fine about how things worked out, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter. "I think Erv's going to do very well," GM Dayton Moore said, "and we're going to get the pick. And it all worked out." Indeed it did: K.C. got a valuable draft choice and excellent season from Santana, all for the low price of $12MM and the rights to minor league lefty Brandon Sisk.
The Braves are indeed very interested, with financial concerns the main limitation. Meanwhile, the Royals have put in a call on Santana. The Blue Jays and Orioles have standing offers out, Rojas adds.
2:21pm: O'Brien hears from a person connected to the Royals that the Braves may now be making a run at Santana (Twitter link). In addition to Medlen's injury, Brandon Beachy left today's Spring Training start with biceps tightness.
10:17am: The Braves haven't completely ruled out Santana in the event of a serious Medlen injury, writes MLB.com's Mark Bowman, but the financial and draft pick costs are definite factors. Atlanta would very much like to strengthen its crop of top prospects, and sacrificing the No. 26 selection in the draft would go against that thinking.
9:19am: Over the weekend it was reported that Ervin Santana has completely changed course and is now seeking a one-year deal with an eye toward a lucrative multi-year deal next offseason. With one-year offers of $13MM plus incentives and $14MM without incentives from the Orioles and Blue Jays, respectively, there appear to be a pair of clear favorites for Santana.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provides some updates on the Santana sweepstakes this morning, noting that the Blue Jays' players are lobbying for Santana to come to Toroto. Santana has many friends on the club, including countrymen Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes. One source told Rosenthal that several Jays players got together and texted Santana a picture of themselves holding a poster that read, "Come to Toronto."
One potentially game-changing factor to the Santana market could be the severity of the injury to Braves right-hander Kris Medlen, who left Sunday's Spring Training game with a forearm strain. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution touched on the topic this morning, wondering if the Braves could consider expanding their budget to bring him into the fold. Rosenthal writes that the Braves will get the results of an MRI on Medlen today. The draft pick loss wouldn't be as big for the Braves as some teams around the league, as Atlanta would surrender the No. 26 selection after already having received the No. 32 selection for losing Brian McCann to free agency. That forfeiture, however, would be the most significant of the specific teams mentioned in Rosenthal's piece.
Rosenthal also has some specifics on recent offers made to Santana; the Orioles' last three-year offer was believed to be in the $27MM range, while the three-year offer from the Twins was in the $30-33MM range. That offer was still on the table as of last night. However, as Rosenthal notes, Santana could earn nearly that much over the next two seasons by taking $14MM or so in 2014 and receiving a qualifying offer following the season, as next year's QO could jump to the $15-16MM range.
The Orioles and Nationals may be based just an hour away from each other, but they're far apart in terms of strength of schedule this year. The Orioles' 2014 schedule is projected to be the toughest in baseball, while the Nationals' is projected to be the weakest, Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs writes. Unsurprisingly, AL schedules are much tougher than NL schedules, and schedules for AL East teams rate as the toughest of all — after Baltimore, the other four AL East teams' schedules are the third-, fifth-, sixth- and seventh-toughest. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Sean Manaea is healthy, which could make him a bargain for the Royals, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes. Manaea was widely considered a top-tier draft prospect last year before hip and shoulder issues damaged his stock. He fell to the Royals with the No. 34 overall pick. He's now throwing 93-94 MPH in Royals minor-league spring training.
- Manager Robin Ventura and the White Sox aren't concerned about potential trades, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. "Something could come up and that changes but I’m preparing with this group. If something happens then you can roll it and change and go from there. Right now it is what it is here and you have to get your roster together with these guys," Ventura says. Outfielders Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza have recently been the subjects of trade rumors.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for Alex Castellanos of the Padres, MLB.com's Corey Brock writes. In late October, the Dodgers traded Castellanos to the Red Sox. Two months later, the Rangers claimed him off waivers. Then, the Rangers designated him for assignment in order to make room for Joe Saunders, and the Padres claimed him. "Don't take any pictures with any jerseys on," Castellanos said when asked the offseason had taught him. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- A year after joining the Royals as part of the James Shields / Wil Myers trade, Wade Davis is now a reliever, writes Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The move is a response to the Royals' loss of Luke Hochevar to Tommy John surgery. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Davis isn't thrilled about the move. "What are you going to do? Say no?" he says. Davis struggled as a starter last season, though, posting a 5.67 ERA in 24 starts, and he's gotten good results as a reliever in the past. The decision could impact Davis' future earnings — if the Royals don't pick up his $7MM option for 2015, he can become a free agent after the season.
- 2011 Astros third-round draft pick Jack Armstrong Jr. is switching from pitching to first base, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports. The Astros paid Armstrong a $750K bonus, but he has not pitched competitively since being drafted, dealing with elbow and shoulder injuries along the way. Now, at 24, he'll try to make the big leagues as a hitter. "The moment I got cleared in September, I started swinging immediately. It's been a good five or six months of hard work," says Armstrong. "It's good I was a two-way guy in college so I was always swinging." Armstrong is the son of former big-league starting pitcher Jack Armstrong.
6:46pm: The Royals are "moving forward" without Santana even if he is available on a one-year pact, GM Dayton Moore tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter). "The candidates for our rotation are in-house," said Moore.
6:29pm: Free agent starter Ervin Santana has switched gears and is now looking for a one-year deal, reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (links to Twitter). Santana wants to get signed and into camp as soon as possible, and does not intend to wait to ink a deal until after Opening Day.
Of course, if Santana signs a one-year deal before Opening Day, he could still be made a qualifying offer again next year. That type of scenario was said to be out of the question by Santana's agent, but we learned last night and this morning that Santana's team of representatives was undergoing some changes. It would appear that a change of strategic direction has resulted.
With the new focus on achieving a pillow contract, Santana hopes to land on a team with a strong offense, says Rosenthal. The Blue Jays and Orioles are two teams that could meet that requirement and have had interest, Rosenthal adds. It is not clear whether there is anything connecting those teams specifically to Santana since his shift of plans.
Neither is it clear whether other clubs remain in the mix, or whether Santana's market could expand. Earlier today, there were conflicting reports as to whether the Phillies had (Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, via Twitter) or had not (Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, via Twitter) inquired about the righty's services. Of course, in theory, many other clubs could potentially have renewed interest in Santana under these changed circumstances.
FRIDAY: Royals manager Ned Yost told reporters, including Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star, that Hochevar will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the season (Twitter link).
General manager Dayton Moore also spoke to reporters and said the Royals hope to retain Hochevar beyond 2014 (per 610 Sports Radio's Josh Vernier on Twitter): "We wouldn't rule Luke out for the future… We'll hopefully be able to keep him in the organization going forward."
Vernier also quotes Hochevar, who is understandably distressed: "I feel terrible… The toughest part about it is we're primed to win… You want to be a part of that dog pile in September."
WEDNESDAY: The Royals got bad news today when they learned that they will be without right-hander Luke Hochevar until at least late May or early June due to a sprained ulnar collateral ligament, manager Ned Yost tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Hochevar also has a strain in the musculature surrounding the ligament. He will be shut down entirely for two to three weeks (All links to Twitter).
Yost described a May/June return as a "best-case scenario," indicating that even after being shut down, Hochevar will face at least two months of rehab. As is the case with most UCL injuries, the scare of Tommy John surgery is present.
After struggling for years as a starter, Hochevar enjoyed a dominant season out of the bullpen in 2013. The former No. 1 overall pick pitched to a 1.92 ERA with 10.5 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 35 percent ground-ball rate in 70 1/3 innings of work. The move to the 'pen caused his fastball velocity to jump three miles per hour to 95.5 mph. Hochevar also scrapped his slider and focused primarily on using his fastball and cutter with an occasional sinker and curve mixed in, per Fangraphs' PITCHf/x data.
The timing for the injury could hardly be worse for Hochevar, who agreed to a one-year, $5.21MM contract in his final season of team control before free agency next offseason. Another dominant year in the bullpen could've positioned him for a similar salary over multiple seasons, though as Bob Dutton reported back in December, Yost had mentioned giving Hochevar and Wade Davis one more crack at the rotation (indeed, Hochevar's contract contains $400K of incentives based on games started and games finished).
As McCullough notes, if he's able to return, Hochevar will do so as a reliever. However, even if rest and rehab proves to be successful, teams could be still wary of Hochevar's elbow, driving down his potential earnings. And, because he has just one excellent season under his belt, the injury prevents him from another 20 to 30 innings of proving that he can sustain that performance.
With Hochevar's status now up in the air, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy and perhaps Davis could see their chances at a rotation spot improve. Top prospect Kyle Zimmer could enter the mix early in the year as well, though his 2013 season was cut short by a shoulder injury, and the Royals are being cautious with him thus far.
12:47pm: The Royals informed Penny that there wasn't a good chance of him making the roster, and the two sides agreed to part ways so that Penny could seek out a better opportunity, according to MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo (Twitter links).
Kansas City did add Bruce Chen roughly two weeks after agreeing to a minor league deal with Penny, which likely diminished his chances at making the club.
Penny was signed back in January and stood to earn a $1MM base salary with another $1.5MM available via incentives if he made the team. However, the right-hander was hit hard in a pair of Spring Training appearances, yielding seven runs on 13 hits (two homers) and a walk with just one strikeout in four innings of work.
The former National League All-Star hasn't appeared in the Majors since a 28-inning stint with the Giants in 2012, and he's posted just a 5.41 ERA over his past 209 2/3 big league innings. He has a 4.26 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 1899 career innings at the Major League level between the Marlins, Dodgers, Giants, Tigers, Red Sox and Cardinals.
12:38pm: Royals general manager Dayton Moore told reporters, including Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star, that he spoke with Alou today regarding Santana and said that there's still no fit with his club (Twitter link). However, Moore did tell the group that Alou is still representing Santana.
8:01am: Reports last night indicated that Ervin Santana has parted ways with agent Bean Stringfellow, however agent Jay Alou of Proformance (Stringfellow's agency) tweeted that Santana is "still represented by the same person that he fist signed with 15 years ago." This morning, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal calls Santana's representation is "unsettled," adding that a split between the agents is possible, and the players union is involved in the situation (Twitter links). As Rosenthal adds in a third tweet, Alou is referring to himself in the above quote, which doesn't necessarily mean that Stringfellow is still in the picture.
Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes tweeted last night that Santana had fired Stringfellow and was contemplating negotiating his own deal. ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted shortly after that should Santana go that route, he needs to understand that teams are still very leery of his medical reports and concerned about his elbow. Olney points out that teams are nervous due to the fact that Santana threw more sliders than any pitcher in baseball last year.
Santana, however, pitched through a UCL injury for years without requiring Tommy John surgery, and this past October, esteemed surgeon doctor James Andrews stated, "[Santana] doesn’t need any further treatment for his right elbow partial UCL tear, as on (the) MRI today it appears that it has completely healed." (As reported by Rosenthal.) That, of course, doesn't mean that every team doctor will agree with the assessment, but Andrews' opinion would be considered among the most highly regarded in the industry.