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With a solo shot off of Chris Tillman during tonight’s 4-3 Yankees win over the Orioles, Alex Rodriguez officially passed Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time home run list. Rodriguez’s 661 career homers put him behind only Babe Ruth (714), Henry Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762) in the record books. While A-Rod’s feat is certainly noteworthy in its own right, his homers have drawn even more attention due to the controversy around the so-called “milestone” bonuses in his contract that the Yankees are refusing to pay. Here’s some more news from around the league…
- Cuban right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez is now eligible to sign with teams during the 2015-16 international signing period, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports. Gutierrez has received residency in Mexico and registered with MLB, though since he still needs to be officially declared a free agent by the league, he may not be able to sign immediately when the signing period opens on July 2. Gutierrez will be subject to the international bonus pool limits, so teams that are facing $300K signing caps in the upcoming signing period (the Angels, Diamondbacks, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees) won’t be able to afford the promising youngster.
- Angels GM Jerry Dipoto was hoping to keep Drew Butera after the catcher was designated for assignment, but as Dipoto told reporters (including MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez), “it became fairly clear that he was going to get claimed on waivers, so putting together a trade made the most sense.” Butera was dealt to the Royals for infielder Ryan Jackson earlier today.
- On the Royals side of that trade, GM Dayton Moore told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan) that Butera won’t supplant Erik Kratz as the primary backup catcher. “We’re just trying to get through this period of time,” Moore said, in reference to Kratz’s stint on the DL with an injured foot. Since Butera is out of options, I’d guess he could be on the move again once Kratz is healthy.
- Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to reporters before a recent Rangers/Astros game about a number of baseball topics, including the possibility of a shorter schedule. The Associated Press has a partial recap of Manfred’s comments.
- One topic that isn’t a major priority for the league office is adjusting the designated-for-assignment period. As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweets, Manfred said “that rule actually has functioned fairly effectively over a period of time.” Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal and MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth both recently explored how some players, like Alex Hassan, can have their careers essentially put on hold due to constantly being in “DFA limbo.”
- In his latest Insider-only post, ESPN’s Buster Olney cites the Athletics‘ Scott Kazmir and the Reds‘ Mike Leake as potential trade candidates if their teams continue to struggle. Both hurlers are scheduled for free agency this winter. Olney speculates that the Dodgers could be interested in either pitcher to bolster their rotation, while Kazmir could also be a fit with the Red Sox or Astros.
- While the Marlins bullpen hasn’t pitched very well this year, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro doesn’t think the club needs to turn to Edward Mujica, who was designated for assignment by the Red Sox earlier today. Mujica pitched well for the Marlins in 2011-12 but as Frisaro notes, he’s struggled this year and Miami doesn’t really have any roster space for him.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: 2015-16 International Prospects | Alex Rodriguez | Boston Red Sox | Cincinnati Reds | Drew Butera | Edward Mujica | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Miami Marlins | Mike Leake | Oakland Athletics | Rob Manfred | Scott Kazmir | Vladimir Gutierrez
Here are the latest minor transactions from around the baseball world, with the newest moves at the top of the post…
- The Royals moved lefty Tim Collins from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL, the team announced. The move was an expected one, as Collins will miss the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March.
- Outfielder Nyjer Morgan has been released by the Korean Baseball Organization’s Hanwha Eagles, Han Lee of Global Sporting Integration reports. Morgan signed a one-year, $700K contract with Hanwha in the offseason and hit .273/.405/.333 over 42 plate appearances, but as Lee reports, Morgan had some personality clashes with the coaching staff. The seven-year MLB veteran appeared in 15 games with the Indians in 2014.
- The Rangers released left-hander Kevin Matthews, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Matthews was picked 33rd overall by the Rangers in the 2011 draft but has only pitched 132 1/3 career minor league innings due to multiple injuries. Wilson notes that Texas probably could’ve parted ways with Matthews later in the season, though his release may have been quickened after the southpaw was charged with a DWI on Wednesday.
For Kansas City to create roster space, lefty Tim Collins has been moved to the 60-day DL. Butera, who was designated for assignment recently by Los Angeles, will presumably slot in as the club’s backup catcher. He has never done much offensively, but represents an experienced option behind starter Salvador Perez, who is the league’s most heavily relied-upon backstop.
Jackson, 26, saw very brief major league time with the Cardinals but has mostly played at the Triple-A level in recent years. Over parts of four years at the last stop in the minors, he owns a .275/.346/.371 batting line.
Top White Sox prospect Carlos Rodon will make his first career big league start on Saturday. Rodon has pitched from the pen in the early going, but will get a chance to take the hill to open the game due to the five-game suspension of Jeff Samardzija. It remains to be seen what the team’s plans are the rest of the way with their highly-touted rookie, who was taken in last year’s draft out of N.C. State, but there seems to be at least a chance that he could pitch himself into a starting role given the struggles the team has had at the back end of the rotation.
- Speaking of interesting Saturday starters, the Indians will purchase the contract of journeyman lefty Bruce Chen to face the Twins this weekend, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets. Chen inked a minor league deal with Cleveland and chose to stay with the organization rather than opting out when he did not make the Opening Day roster. The team will need to clear space on both its 40-man and 25-man rosters.
- Of broader concern for the Indians, GM Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona are facing their biggest challenge of their combined tenure, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer explains. Expectations were high heading into the year, of course, and the club has roundly struggled thus far. The sense of urgency is evident, says Hoynes, as demonstrated by the team’s decision not to play center fielder Michael Bourn against lefties. As Hoynes rightly points out, the Bourn contract looked like a nice value when it was signed, but has hardly worked out for the Indians. Bourn has not only struggled offensively this year, but is not even providing the anticipated positive contribution in the field and on the bases. (Both UZR and DRS rate him as a negative in center over last year and this season’s early going.)
- Royals skipper Ned Yost says that he hopes outfielder Alex Rios will be back from his hand injury in about two weeks, per ESPN News Services. But the veteran just started swinging a bat again and does not have a precise timeline, per a tweet from Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. His replacements — Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson — have actually been pretty good, at least if you buy into a short sample of defensive metrics. Both fWAR and rWAR value the pair at nearly one combined win above replacement.
Royals righty Joe Blanton has rejected several opportunities to play in Asia, tweets MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes. The 34-year-old veteran, who has an opt-out date of May 15, remains committed to working his way back to the big leagues for the first time since 2013. Blanton has produced a 3.71 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 through 26 2/3 Triple-A innings this year with Omaha.
- Another long-time big league right-hander, Kyle Farnsworth, has other athletic endeavors in mind. As Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports, the 39-year-old former reliever is now suiting up on the defensive line for the Orlando Phantoms — and is credited with 11 sacks, the second-highest tally in the Florida Football Alliance. (Attentive fans will recall that Farnsworth showed some gridiron promise at times on the diamond.)
- Speaking of football-baseball crossover, top overall NFL pick Jameis Winston will not be appearing on a mound any time soon, according to Darren Heitner of Forbes (via Twitter). Winston, a promising righty at Florida State, has a clause in his deal that will preclude him from pitching while under contract with the Buccaneers.
- MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez takes a look at this year’s top July 2 prospects. Some of the names will be familiar not only to international prospect followers, but also to general baseball fans. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has already received plenty of attention, but Vlad Sr.’s nephew Gregory Guerrero and Fernando Tatis Jr. are also among the top 30 prospects with big league bloodlines.
- Meanwhile, the Mariners are indeed pulling the plug on their operations in Venezuela, per Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal. The move had been reported back in March, though the team declined comment at that time. Costa takes an interesting, but sobering, look at the decline of the academy system in the struggling country. Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos expressed dismay at the diminishing opportunities for hopeful young ballplayers from his home nation. Of course, Ramos himself endured a terrifying kidnapping ordeal in Venezuela after reaching the big leagues. Now, he says he is applying for a green card in hopes of establishing permanent U.S. residency.
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.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Alex Gordon | Alex Rodriguez | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Gomez | Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Cole Hamels | Francisco Rodriguez | Gerardo Parra | Jean Segura | Jonathan Lucroy | Juan Uribe | Kansas City Royals | Kris Bryant | Los Angeles Dodgers | Lucas Duda | Manuel Margot | Matt Garza | Milwaukee Brewers | Mookie Betts | New York Mets | New York Yankees | Philadelphia Phillies | Robin Ventura | Ryan Braun | Salvador Perez
A conversation with Minor League teammate Shawn Hill and an email to a St. Louis-based surgeon Robert Thompson in 2013 saved the career of Royals right-hander Chris Young, writes Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Young was unknowingly suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome — a difficult-to-detect shoulder condition in which nerves are pinched between the collarbone and top rib. Young described his symptoms to Hill, who first suggested thoracic outlet syndrome as a possibility, having suffered through the condition himself a year prior. Young had difficulty even turning his head side to side and often felt numbness in his fingers and hands. The surgery to alleviate the pain led to a 2014 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award for Young, but the 6’10” righty found little interest on the free agent market this winter. He expressed confusion to McCullough that just three teams showed significant interest, though fatigue at the end of the season and a subsequent 8.35 ERA over his final five starts may have had something to do with that, he acknowledged. Young notes that he eventually vowed to prove himself to big league teams this year. “…I had to remind myself to step back and say, ‘You know what? If I don’t like it, go perform better than I did last year.'”
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- Twins Double-A right-hander Adrian Salcedo was suspended 80 games after testing positive for a PED and a stimulant (which USA Today’s Bob Nightengale identifies as Tamoxifen and Heptaminol, respectively), and GM Terry Ryan expressed disappointment and frustration in the situation to the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Mike Berardino: “We met about it all spring. This is one where I guess it doesn’t matter how much you try to educate players. It happened, and it will happen again, unfortunately. No matter how much we preach and no matter how much the penalty, there are going to be people that are going to try to take advantage of the situation.” Salcedo is the second 80-game suspension in the Twins organization over the past month, though the first was far more detrimental to the organization, as it was issued to right-hander Ervin Santana, who signed a four-year, $55MM contract this winter.
- Taiwanese right-hander Chih-Wei Hu, signed by the Twins for $220K in 2012, is seeing his prospect stock rise dramatically early in the year, writes Baseball America’s Josh Norris. Perhaps the most interesting note on Hu is his usage of a palmball — a pitch not often seen in today’s game. Norris notes that the pitch acts more like a splitter than a changeup but has changeup-like velocity, sitting in the mid-90s.
- Though Terry Francona wouldn’t say he is questioning T.J. House‘s slot in the rotation, the Indians skipper did note that House’s pronounced struggles this season are troublesome, writes Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel. House’s five earned runs in three innings last night further ballooned an already concerning ERA to 13.15, and the lefty has walked nearly a batter per inning in four starts this season. Meisel wonders who might step into the rotation, noting that Zach McAllister looks more at home in the bullpen. He speculatively lists Triple-A veterans Bruce Chen and Shaun Marcum as options, noting that each his pitched well in the upper Minors this far.
Injuries remain perhaps the largest driver of needs in the early part of the season — a topic that MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes and I explored in today’s podcast with respect to starting pitching. Let’s have a look at some key injury situations around the game:
- Rehabbing Royals starter Kris Medlen is headed to extended Spring Training to begin throwing against live batters, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports. That leaves him on track for a rehab assignment in May. Kansas City has $8.5MM riding on the righty’s ability to return to form after his second Tommy John surgery.
- The Reds are missing two key cogs in backstop Devin Mesoraco and righty Homer Bailey. As Michael Hunt reports for MLB.com, manager Bryan Price says that Mesoraco — still not on the DL despite a 17-game absence from his usual catching duties — is still not ready “to try it out just yet,” adding that Mesoraco is “coming along slowly.” There are longer-term concerns with regard to Bailey, of course, and surgery is said to be on the table. “We’re probably going to know in the next one-to-two days what our plans are with Homer,” Price said. “You spend a lot of time when you make a diagnosis, fact-finding and making sure everything you see is as it appears. That’s been the time consumer, making sure it is what we think it is and finding the best way to treat it.”
- Marlins starter Jose Fernandez is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, of course, and recently faced hitters in a live BP session for the first time. You can check out the video of his outing, courtesy of FOX Sports Florida.
- After a pause in his rehab, Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon is preparing for another Double-A appearance in the coming days, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. The issue has not been with his knee, which caused him to hit the DL to start the year, but with tightness in his side. That’s good news for the club, obviously, as is the fact that reliever Casey Janssen appeared in an extended spring game. He is set to begin his own run up through the minors in short order, per Ladson.
- Injured Tigers starter Justin Verlander is set for a third MRI on his right triceps area early next week, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports (Twitter links). Meanwhile, reliever Joe Nathan underwent his Tommy John procedure yesterday, Fenech tweets, with Nathan saying that it went well. It figures to be a long road back for the 40-year-old, but indications are that he’ll try to return to the big leagues.
10:50pm: Heyman adds, via Twitter, that the Orioles are not in the mix for Saltalamacchia.
10:05pm: The Diamondbacks, Rays and Royals are all discussing Saltalamacchia, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. It’s unclear if Kansas City’s interest has picked up at all between McCullough’s report and this latest update, though the Rays and certainly the D-Backs would seem to have a bigger need behind the dish. Like MacPherson yesterday, Heyman hears that the Red Sox aren’t in the mix.
4:14pm: The Royals have some interest in Saltalamacchia, but their interest is said to be very preliminary, according to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter). As McCullough notes, GM Dayton Moore was the Braves’ director of player development when Atlanta drafted Saltalamacchia.
APRIL 27: The Marlins have already had contact with five teams regarding Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. GM Dan Jennings says that he expects to find a deal for the just-designated backstop.
Among the potential landing spots are the Red Sox, Indians, Mariners, and Diamondbacks, one source tells ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link). According to other reports, however, Boston is “unlikely” to be interested in adding the 29-year-old, as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal tweets, even if it were able to add him for just the league minimum.
Saltalamacchia thrived in Boston, slashing a combined .243/.307/.455 during his four seasons there. Since earning a large free agent payday to join the Marlins last year, Saltalamacchia owns a fairly disapointing .209/.310/.351 line at the plate. That output, while still not bad for a catcher, was not enough to outweigh his lightly-regarded defensive work.
Nevertheless, Salty remains an interesting option for teams looking for a backup or injury replacement (as the above list would indicate). The switch hitter has been much more productive historically against right-handed pitching (.775 career OPS) and makes for a natural platoon mate for any right-handed swinging backstop.
Righty Jason Frasor was offered a one-year deal by the Twins this winter but decided to go back to the Royals when Kansas City got involved, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. The 37-year-old also added an interesting take on the process of free agency: “When you become a free agent and you’re a 37-year-old middle reliever, there’s not as many teams that come calling as you would think or hope. But that’s all right. I just needed one team.”
- Veteran Tigers reliever Joe Nathan suffered a setback in a Triple-A rehab appearance today, as James Schmehl of MLive.com reports. Nathan came out after experiencing severe pain after the tenth pitch of his outing. Both Nathan and the club have stayed quiet this evening as to whether any more has been learned, but at a minimum it seems unlikely that he will join the team as quickly as had been expected.
- Cody Allen has struggled thus far, but the Indians are not contemplating a closer change, per Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer. “Cody is about as trustworthy and dependable as anyone we have,” said manager Terry Francona. The Cleveland pen has been poor by any standard thus far, and is not exactly teeming with alternatives. MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted that the team passed on an opportunity to upgrade there over the offseason, and it will be interesting to see whether that becomes an area to target if the Indians stay in contention over the summer.