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Kendrys Morales Rumors
News earlier today that Prince Fielder will miss the rest of the season sparked speculation that Kendrys Morales would be a fit to replace him, and Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the team has indeed scouted the switch-hitting slugger’s workouts at the Scott Boras Training Institute in Miami. The Rangers, according to Heyman, had seen Morales work out even before the news of Fielder’s injury.
A pair of other clubs with potential need for an offensive boost have also watched Morales — the Brewers and Orioles. Additionally, the Mariners have remained in touch with Morales “at times,” according to Heyman. He adds that it isn’t hard to see the Brewers getting involved after the draft, especially if their offense continues to sputter (Milwaukee has dropped five of its past six games and scored just 15 runs in that time). Heyman runs down a list of potential suitors for Morales, though most are classified by him to be long shots.
In my estimation, the Brewers and Rangers appear to be the best fits on paper. The Orioles may want to keep their DH slot open for Matt Wieters, whose arm issues could prevent him from throwing and therefore from seeing time behind the plate. Seattle already has a large number of first base/DH types, though the news that Corey Hart will be out for an extended period of time and the persistent struggles of Justin Smoak could alter their plan of attack.
Barring a surprise push from the Mariners to re-sign Morales in the next two weeks, it seems unlikely that he’ll agree to a deal before the MLB Draft, which begins on June 5. Teams other than the Mariners, of course, will no longer be required to forfeit a draft pick should they sign Morales at that point.
Earlier today we learned that Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder was “seriously considering” season-ending surgery to fix a herniated disc in his neck. Later, an afternoon conference call with Rangers GM Jon Daniels confirmed that the five-time All-Star will go ahead with that plan. Naturally, the injury to Fielder raised speculation from many that the Rangers could consider free agent Kendrys Morales. While Daniels didn’t refer to the former Mariners slugger directly, I asked him if he might consider making a notable out-of-house pickup to fill the void in the batting order.
“Not today, not right now,” Daniels said. “I think that our focus right now is on the group of guys [including the injured Jurickson Profar and Dan Robertson] that are going to come back…There’s a group of guys that are up here in the big leagues that have put together a few good games this week, and we want to see if we can build on that and then evaluate where we are and adjust if that time comes.”
The Rangers received $30MM from the Tigers to help cover part of Fielder’s deal, but with an Opening Day payroll north of $136MM, one might wonder if the owners are feeling tapped out. When I asked Daniels if he might be afforded some financial flexibility to make a significant out-of-house addition, he simply said that he’s not willing to divulge one way or another.
In addition to losing Fielder, the Rangers also got some bad news concerning Profar, who will be sidelined another 8 to 12 weeks thanks to the Grade 2 strain in his right arm. That’s similar to the timeline we initially heard on Profar in late March, but the clock has been reset and this time around his rehab process will be “even more conservative.” With the rash of injuries that the Rangers have had to deal with, Daniels had a hard time concealing his frustration.
“My reaction to the news unfortunately wasn’t surprise just because from talking to [Prince] and seeing him, we knew that this was serious. We were hoping the injection could keep him comfortable and get him through the season. Sometimes you have that response. His response was initially positive,” Daniels said. “The upside is that I’ve been told that this particular surgery has a high success rate. It doesn’t have the same level of risk that a lumbar [problem] of the lower back has in terms of how you use those two parts of the body and the weight you have to support. I’m looking forward to seeing this guy healthy and what he can do, but that’s more of a 2015 and beyond thing.”
The other silver lining, if there is one, is that Profar is not ticketed for surgery at this time. For Fielder, he’ll have to have a cervical fusion on his c5 and c6 vertebrae on Tuesday. One might wonder if the problem could have been caught if the Rangers had Fielder undergo a full physical after acquiring him, but Daniels says that a cervical MRI wouldn’t have been conducted anyway since there was no prior issue there.
It remains to be seen whether the Rangers will make a splashy move to help bolster their weakened lineup, but there’s no doubt that they’ll miss Fielder in 2014.
The title of the game’s most underrated player has gone to the Rays‘ Ben Zobrist in the past, writes Dave Cameron for FOX Sports, but now belongs to Brian Dozier of the Twins, who has exhibited a similar career trajectory to the late-blooming Zobrist. Showing power that he never carried in the minors, Dozier emerged last year. He has only upped his performance in 2014, with an increasing walk rate, strong defense, and good baserunning combining with that newfound pop to make Dozier one of the game’s most valuable second basemen over the last calendar year. Even better for Minnesota, the 27-year-old will not even be eligible for arbitration until 2016. Certainly, he increasingly appears to be an extension candidate — a possibility that the team has previously explored.
Here’s more from around the American League:
- The Red Sox are considering how to proceed with outfielder Grady Sizemore, who ended the evening with a .218/.293/.336 slash in 133 plate appearances, reports Joon Lee of WEEI.com. Manager John Farrell indicated that a move was not out of the question. “There’s ongoing discussion,” he said, “not just today but for some time. We’re trying to get the best read we can on our guys here. That doesn’t suggest there’s any change imminent.” While Sizemore is set to earn just $750K in base salary on his comeback deal, he does get $250K bonuses for every 25th plate appearance between 225 and 500 as well as for his 60th, 90th, 120th, and 150th day on the roster. As those milestones begin to approach, the team will have increasing incentives to consider alternatives.
- For the division-rival Blue Jays, a move up in the standings only highlights the need to add starting pitching, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. While the results from the rotation have actually been pretty solid, Davidi notes that the staff has failed to go deep into games and still lacks a solid, established group of five starters.
- The struggling Rangers should consider marketing star infielders Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus over the summer, opines Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. While the club has attractive infield prospects rising through the ranks, its rotation looks thin after its recent run of devastating injuries. Adding some young pitching and temporarily shedding salary in advance of a pitching-rich free agent market could better align the club’s resources for a run in 2015, says Morosi.
- In the midst of a difficult stretch at the plate, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas has been optioned to Triple-A in favor of Jimmy Paredes. As Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes, the move was not surprising at this point, with the 25-year-old sporting a 152/.223/.320 line. Needless to say, Kansas City will hope that the former top prospect can regain his form with some time in the minors; as Cameron writes on Fangraphs, Moustakas has shown serious contact issues.
- Notably, the demotion comes not long before Moustakas would have passed the key threshold of three years of MLB service (he entered the season with 2.111 to his credit). As occurred last year with Danny Espinosa of the Nationals, Moustakas could see his arbitration and free agent eligibility delayed by a year apiece if he does not make it back to the bigs. The same holds true for Hector Santiago of the Angels, who was recently optioned to the minors after beginning 2014 with 2.024 years of service in the bag.
- With the recent example of Stephen Drew‘s re-signing with the Red Sox, it is time for the Mariners to seriously consider a move to bring back Kendrys Morales, writes Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. The need is now there with Corey Hart joining Logan Morrison on the disabled list, he says, and the club should have the financial flexibility to make it work. Obviously, it is also important to note that the team now has little chance of acquiring a compensatory draft choice arising out of Morales’s decision to decline a qualifying offer. With no obvious alternative suitors for Morales, Seattle should be in a fairly solid position to make a win-win offer.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders why Red Sox fans have been heading for the exits early this season. Cafardo surveyed his Twitter followers for the answer and got a wide range of excuses, but winter weather was the No. 1 overall answer. More from today’s column..
- One major league source indicated the Yankees may change their thinking on whether to sign Stephen Drew if they find Derek Jeter can’t endure a full season at shortstop. The Yankees, according to the source, don’t want the Red Sox to get a draft pick, so they’d wait at least through the June draft so there would be no compensation. Ken Rosenthal theorized yesterday that it might make sense for the Red Sox to re-sign Drew if only to keep him away from the Yankees. If Boston wanted to, they could theoretically move Xander Bogaerts to third base in order to make room.
- This winter’s free agent class includes Max Scherzer, James Shields, and Justin Masterson, but one National League General Manager sees Jon Lester as the top available pitcher. “Lester is the most appealing,” said the GM. “He’s left-handed, a bulldog, big-game experience, and just 30. Will he get six or seven years? I’d say he will.”
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin acknowledged that Kendrys Morales’ name came up in the team’s first base discussions, but, “there are just a pool of players we can’t consider because of the National League-American League dynamic. That’s why I’m hoping we’re all playing by the same set of rules someday. It’s a reason we had to let Corey Hart go because we play 36 day games and it’s tough to come back after a night game.”
- The Dodgers would like Hanley Ramirez to prove he can stay healthy before signing him to an extension, Rosenthal reports. Ramirez has played in fewer than 100 games in two of the past three seasons. He can become a free agent this winter.
- The Giants want to keep Pablo Sandoval, but would prefer to sign him to a shorter deal due to his inconsistency and weight issues. Sandoval is also off to a poor start this season, hitting .171/.250/.276 thus far.
- It might still make sense for the Red Sox to re-sign Stephen Drew, particularly given that signing him would prevent him from signing with the Yankees. The Red Sox could move Xander Bogaerts to third base in order to clear space for Drew. The team would prefer not to do that, though, allowing him to develop at shortstop.
- Scott Boras is trying to pique the Brewers‘ interest in Kendrys Morales, Rosenthal suggests. Whether the Brewers would have interest might depend on their perception of Morales’ defense at first base, however. Milwaukee currently has Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay splitting time at first.
Teams won’t be able to sign Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales before the draft without forfeiting a draft pick, but that doesn’t mean teams shouldn’t consider signing them before then, FOX Sports’ Rob Neyer writes. The problem isn’t just the draft pick, but rather the draft pick plus the cost of the signing, so the right teams should be willing to sign Drew or Morales if the price is low enough. Teams negotiating with those players now would have the advantage of a limited market, since the draft pick will scare other teams away. Finding the right team for Morales is difficult at this point, but Drew would make a good deal of sense for the Yankees, Neyer argues. The Yankees would only lose the No. 56 pick in the draft as a result of signing Drew. Here are more notes from the American League.
- Joe Saunders wants to make it back to the Rangers as a starter, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. Saunders has been out for a month with a stress fracture in his ankle, and the Rangers wanted to activate him in order to have him pitch as a long reliever. Saunders still believes he is a starter, however, and has asked the team to allow him to make two additional rehab starts in the minors. “Once you go to the bullpen, it’s hard to get back to starting,” says Saunders. “They paid me to start, and I think I can most help this club by starting.”
- Former Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who was honored at Comerica Park Saturday morning, has no regrets about stepping aside, George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press reports. “It was a great run,” says Leyland. “The missing piece was the World Series trophy, so we’ll be forever held against us, but it was such a wonderful run for everybody.” Leyland now serves as a special assistant to GM Dave Dombrowski. He’s done some scouting work and says he has watched almost every game the Tigers have played this year.
Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette appeared on Buster Olney’s podcast today and discussed a variety of topics, including Kendrys Morales (Duquette appears around the 27:00 mark). Asked by Olney about the speculation that Morales could help his team, Duquette replied, “We don’t have any plans to add anybody to our ball club right now … Matt Wieters, with the issue he has in with his elbow, is going to take some at-bats in our DH position, so we’re all set. When we signed Nelson Cruz, that pretty much closed the door on that speculation.” Duquette also talked about his team’s strong start to the year in spite of several injuries as well as Manny Machado‘s elite defense. More from that interview and the rest of the AL East below…
- Duquette also fielded questions on the contract status of Wieters and Chris Davis (around the 36:20 mark), noting that the club has twice tried to extend Wieters and once tried to extend Davis as well. “I like Chris and Matt on the ball club, but having said that, we’ve already made that effort, and I’m not really going to be discussing that this year during the season with those players.” Both Wieters and Davis are Scott Boras clients, which makes the task of hammering out a long-term deal a more difficult one, as Boras typically encourages his players to go year-to-year and test the open market.
- Shifting gears from the O’s to the Blue Jays, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm tweets that the main reason behind Juan Francisco choosing to sign in Toronto was a recruiting pitch from Edwin Encarnacion. After Francisco was cut by the Brewers in Spring Training, Encarnacion called his countryman and pitched Toronto, and the result has been a .311/.403/.623 batting line with five homers in 72 PAs for Francisco.
- In a special piece for ESPN New York, Danny Knobler writes that the perception of the Yankees as an “old-school” team is misleading. Knobler spoke with Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, who called the Yankees “way more [progressive] than people think.” Knobler also points out that the Yankees trail only the Astros in terms of infield shifting this season, a fact that isn’t lost on division rival Joe Maddon. The Rays skipper told Knobler: “They’re exceeding us. It doesn’t surprise me. It disappoints me. I much preferred when they thought we were nuts, that we were bastardizing the game.”
With Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales still unsigned with less than a month to go before the amateur draft, it is looking increasingly plausible that the pair will wait to shed their accompanying draft pick compensation before finding a new club. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter, teams will be able to ink either of the two free agents without giving up a pick as soon as the first day of the draft is completed on June 5. Of course, that is also the point at which their former clubs — the Red Sox and Mariners, respectively — would no longer stand to gain a compensatory choice should they sign elsewhere after declining qualifying offers.
Here’s more from around the league …
- Reds third baseman Chris Nelson will not exercise the opt-out clause in his contract that came due today, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 28-year-old will continue on with Triple-A Louisville for the time being, though his deal includes another opt-out date a month from now.
- A rival talent evaluator tells ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider link) that the Cardinals‘ decision on the promotion of star prospect Oscar Taveras is complicated by the team’s defensive issues. In that source’s estimation, Taveras is better suited to the corner outfield than center. The team’s best method of creating space, he opines, would be to deal first baseman Matt Adams and put Allen Craig back in the infield. As Olney notes, Adams would figure to draw plenty of trade interest given his solid bat (career .803 OPS) and lengthy team control (through 2018).
- 17-year-old high-school hurler Jacob Bukauskas, a potential first-round choice in the upcoming draft, has notified scouts that he plans to attend the University of North Carolina, according to John Manuel of Baseball America. The hard-throwing righty had pitched himself into consideration for selection in the late first or early second round, though some scouts believe he may not be able to stick as a starter. As Manuel notes, the Stone Bridge High School product will not be eligible for the draft again until 2017 if he matriculates at UNC.
Matt Cain has been placed on the 15-day DL in order to recover from a cut on his right index finger that already cost him one start earlier this week. While making a sandwich in the Giants’ clubhouse last Tuesday, Cain dropped a knife and tried to catch it in mid-air, cutting his finger in the process. While the injury isn’t serious and Cain could return to the rotation as early as Saturday, the Giants ace may have earned himself a mention in future lists of oddball MLB injuries.
Here are a few notes from around the baseball world…
- The Rangers have done the best job of signing international prospects since 2006, as ranked by Baseball America’s Ben Badler. Not only has Texas signed 14 international players (the second-most of any team in that span), but several of them are making waves in the minors and the likes of Martin Perez, Leonys Martin and Jurickson Profar have contributed to the Major League club. The Royals, Pirates, Twins and Red Sox round out the rest of the top five in Badler’s rankings.
- Former first overall draft pick Matt Bush is halfway through a 51-month prison sentence and he talks to FOX Sports’ Gabe Kapler about his regrets and his battles with alcoholism.
- Scott Boras’ inability to adapt to the new qualifying offer system in free agency is why clients Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew are still waiting for new contracts, Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel opines. While Boras has pulled impressive deals seeming out of nowhere for many clients in the past, McDaniel argues that teams have more information now and are less apt to give up a draft pick or commit major dollars to “second tier free agents.”
- Fangraphs’ David Laurila catches up with right-hander Mike Ekstrom about playing in Italy and his Baseball Round The World website, which chronicles the experiences of Ekstrom and other players who continue their careers in far-flung locales. Ekstrom pitched 61 Major League innings with the Padres, Rays and Rockies from 2008-12 and spent last season at the Triple-A level in the Athletics’ and Angels’ systems.
Late last week it was reported that the Orioles are still talking with free agent Kendrys Morales, but Orioles Executive Vice President Dan Duquette isn’t interested in fueling speculation. It could very well just be posturing, but earlier today, Duquette told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of SiriusXM (Twitter link) that the O’s haven’t discussed Morales since they signed Nelson Cruz.
Duquette went on to say (link) that Chris Davis‘ pending return plays a role in their lack of interest in Morales. With everyone healthy, Davis will play first while Cruz frequently plays DH, leaving limited room for Morales. Davis today told the Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo A. Encina that he was “a little ahead of schedule” in his bid to return from an oblique strain.