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Kendrys Morales Rumors
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.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is over his breakup with the Red Sox and now thriving in his new environment with the Marlins. The catcher is not only hitting well, but overseeing one of the most talented young pitching staffs in baseball. “It’s been fun being back home and just being a part of this team and watching us grow together,” Saltalamacchia said. “I think last year the guys were saying here that we really weren’t a team and now it seems we’re coming together. We have each other’s back. We look out for each other. We win together and we lose together. We know what we have to do to get better as a team.” More from today’s column..
- Ike Davis‘ play since his trade from the Mets (.205/.279/.333 in 43 plate appearances) has not deterred the Pirates from trying to acquire a first baseman. However, the Pirates still don’t believe Kendrys Morales is the answer, believing he wouldn’t hold up playing every day and that he should be a DH.
- Scouts are already indicating the Blue Jays will be a major team to pay attention to at the trading deadline. If they start fading, scouts view Mark Buehrle as a top target of contending teams. There’s also Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to consider, but Buehrle, given his ability to pitch in either league at a high level and to work quickly and effectively, will be valued.
- It appears Joel Hanrahan, the newest member of the Tigers, will need about a month to get back into playing mode. Both Hanrahan and GM Dave Dombrowski declined to give a timetable on Friday’s conference call.
- Mark Mulder, 36, is out of his boot and continues to rehab his torn Achilles tendon. He says he’d “absolutely” get back out on the field if he heals properly from his injury, but he also has a long way to go before he knows that he’ll get there. Mulder signed with the Angels after a six-year layoff but saw his comeback bid cut short by the injury.
The Orioles have maintained dialogue with free agent first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales over the last several weeks, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. At present, a “fairly significant gap” still separates the two sides.
Notably, according to Heyman, the key issue is not years but dollars. Negotiations between Baltimore and Scott Boras (Morales’s agent) have focused on one-year scenarios. It is worth noting that Morales will only earn a prorated portion of whatever annual salary rate is agreed upon for 2014.
Heyman notes that the Mariners and Brewers continue to look like other possibilities. Seattle seemingly stepped back from Morales after its rough stretch, but Heyman wonders if they could get back involved if the club continues its recent revival. Of course, the closer we get to the June draft, the greater the possibility becomes that the Mariners will lose the supplemental pick they stand to gain should Morales find a new home before that time, which could increase the club’s motivation.
Performance has not been an issue for Milwaukee, of course, and Morales may well be just the kind of mid-season addition needed to cement the team’s status as a contender. As Heyman notes, the Brewers have recently landed fellow Boras clients Kyle Lohse and Francisco Rodriguez.
Athletics right-hander A.J. Griffin‘s elbow hasn’t responded well after being shut down for a month, and the 26-year-old will seek a second opinion from Dr. Thomas Mehlhoff, who performed Tommy John surgery on Oakland’s Fernando Rodriguez, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Griffin has been out with flexor tendinitis, which is often a precursor to Tommy John, Slusser points out. She goes on to write that the loss of both Griffin and Jarrod Parker for the season would likely lead the A’s to actively seeking starting pitching on this summer’s trade market, even if they were merely looking for a back-of-the-rotation innings eater to provide some stability.
More out of the AL West…
- While Griffin is another potential victim of the Tommy John epidemic, Rangers left-hander Pedro Figueroa can definitively add his name to that list. The team told reporters today, including FOX Sports Southwest’s Anthony Andro, that Figueroa has been diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament and damage to his flexor tendon, and he will likely undergo Tommy John within the next week (Twitter link).
- Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune conducted a Q&A in which he answered many of his Twitter followers’ questions, and within the article noted that the Mariners are still looking to add a bat to improve their lineup. The team has “never stopped looking” for a bat, he writes, before cautioning that they don’t appear to have much interest in Kendrys Morales. Dutton also touches on the team’s payroll, Hisashi Iwakuma‘s health status and Abraham Almonte‘s role with the club.
- The San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea compares Sean Doolittle‘s recent five-year contract extension to previous deals of five-plus years for relievers, noting that Doolittle’s contract has little precedent. Shea concludes that the deal works for both sides and doesn’t carry as much risk as other contracts for a pitcher would, as Doolittle is a converted first baseman that has only been pitching for about three years.
Scouting pitching in the Dominican is a challenging endeavor on many levels, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America. Players are incented to light up radar guns (or, for hitters, launch home runs) in non-game situations due to a “showcase mindset” that pervades the baseball environment. Here are more notes from around the game:
- Baseball executives believe it an increasing likelihood that Kendrys Morales will wait to sign until after the June 5-7 amateur draft, reports CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. If he does so, then a signing club would not lose a draft pick and his former club (the Mariners) would not gain a compensatory choice. Morales has had discussions since the start of the season — Heyman says the Orioles are believed to have had “serious talks” — but apparently nothing is close. In addition to Baltimore and Seattle, says Heyman, possible landing spots could hypothetically include the Brewers and even the Athletics.
- Cubs third baseman Mike Olt, 25, has done enough in the early going to earn a chance at additional playing time, writes Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Though his on-base and strikeout numbers are less than promising, Olt has blasted four home runs in 48 plate appearances. Olt, of course, came over in last year’s Matt Garza trade as something of a buy-low prospect, after eye issues contributed to a rough season at Triple-A in 2013 (.201/.303/.381, with 15 home runs and 132 strikeouts, in 432 plate appearances).
- Outfielder Willy Taveras is eyeing a comeback, according to a report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 32-year-old, who last played in the bigs in 2010, is playing in Mexico at present. Best known for his wheels — he led the league in stolen bases (68) in 2008 — Taveras has swiped seven bags in seven attempts in his first 18 games in the Mexican League, Rosenthal notes. In 279 plate appearances at Triple-A last year with the Royals, Taveras slashed .239/.308/.340 and stole 11 bases.
- With a young staff, the Astros have made the league’s most extensive use of true long relief, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. GM Jeff Luhnow says that the club’s minor league use of a true tandem system is “more of a development thing,” with the big league club’s employment of long men more a “cousin” deployed for “high-pitch count guys.” Looking ahead, though, Luhnow says he “would not be surprised if clubs started to think about some unique solutions to help prevent injuries” noting that “we’re certainly one of them.” Notably, given his organization’s upper-minor tandems, Luhnow observed:“you do it at Triple-A — what’s the difference doing it at the big leagues?” Athletics assistant GM Farhan Zaidi was even more bullish on the possibility of tandem starters appearing in MLB. “I can absolutely see it happening,” he said. “We actually talked about doing it a few years ago when we had pitching depth that wasn’t unlike what the Astros have now. The reason I think it could still happen is overwhelming evidence that limiting the exposure of pitchers to a third time through the lineup is really advantageous.” The full piece includes many more interesting observations from these executives, and is well worth a read.
Kendrys Morales is still without an employer as he and agent Scott Boras appear willing to wait beyond the June draft in order to free a signing team from the burden of having to surrender a draft pick. However, Morales had the opportunity to sign a deal that would've kept him in Seattle through 2017 last summer, according to Todd Dybas of the Tacoma News Tribune. As Dybas writes, general manager Jack Zduriencik recently told fans at a meet-and-greet that the Mariners offered Morales a three-year, $30MM extension after last year's All-Star break.
Reports last summer indicated that talks between the two sides never got serious due to the Mariners' surprise over the asking price from Boras and Morales. Interest in Morales on the open market was clearly never as high as the two had hoped, with the Mariners and Orioles being the teams that were the most frequently connected to the DH/first baseman.
Perhaps shedding the "draft pick compensation" label will aid Morales and get him a deal that is more to his liking, but it's tough to see him landing something north of Seattle's 2013 offer. In a now-controversial piece from ESPN, several executives offered their thoughts on Morales' value, but $8-10MM was as high as any were willing to go in terms of average annual value. (The MLBPA has asked the commissioner's office to investigate that situation, as the anonymous executives' comments are in violation of the collective bargaining agreement.)
The 30-year-old Morales batted .277/.336/.449 with 23 homers last season and earned $5.25MM in his final year of arbitration eligibility.
Scott Boras, the agent for unsigned free agents Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales, claims his clients have been "damaged" by comments from the anonymous executives quoted in a recent ESPN story, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Boras' remarks come two days after the MLBPA requested the Commissioner's Office to investigate those comments made to ESPN's Buster Olney, which appeared in a column he penned Wednesday.
"It's a clear violation of the CBA," Boras told Heyman. "As many as five executives continue to use ESPN as a conduit to violate the collective bargaining agreement. Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew were damaged by these comments."
Boras also warns, "The integrity of the game is challenged when players of this stature have yet to have a negotiation due to the system," adding there needs to be a "remedy" for the pair, which could take the form of monetary damages or relief from a future qualifying offer. Boras points out not only does the CBA disallow negative comments from MLB team officials, which could depress player markets, but also provides for the possibility of monetary damages in such circumstances. Boras says the issue is about the "conduct" of the executives, not the timing suggesting a grievance procedure needs to be implemented where all concerned parties are placed under oath.
MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred disagrees with Boras' assertion the market for Drew and Morales has been damaged by the comments. "It is ludicrous, absurd, that one [Internet] report somehow alters the market for players who have been out there for months," Manfred told Heyman.