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Lonnie Chisenhall Rumors
It was on this day in 2009 that Mark Fidrych died at age 54 as the result of a freak truck repair accident. Fidrych burst onto the scene as a Tigers rookie in 1976, posting a 2.34 ERA over 250 1/3 innings, starting the All-Star Game for the American League and capturing the AL Rookie Of The Year Award in the process. His pitching aside, "The Bird" was even better known for his unique personality and quirky mound habits (such as talking to the ball or personally smoothing out cleat marks on the mound), as well as appearing on perhaps the greatest cover in Sports Illustrated history. Though Fidrych's career was short, baseball fans will never forget one of the game's great characters. The MLBTR staff extends our condolences to Fidrych's family and friends on this anniversary of his passing.
Here's the latest from around the AL Central…
- Joaquin Benoit and Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski both had nothing but good things to say about the veteran reliever's tenure in Motown, but the Tigers didn't make Benoit a contract offer last winter. Dombrowski tells John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press that “When it came down to it, we had Joe Nathan over Joaquin as a closer, and that’s the direction we decided to pursue. We kept a pulse of his free-agent situation all winter long. But it just looked like he was going to (cost) a little more than we wanted to pay for a set-up guy." Benoit ended up signing a two-year, $15.5MM deal with the Padres.
- Lonnie Chisenhall is hitting well but could be the victim of a roster crunch, so a reader asked Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (as part of a mailbag piece) if the Indians could possibly deal the third baseman. Hoynes believes it's generally too early for teams to be exploring the trade market, barring an injury, and Chisenhall is still an unproven commodity at the Major League level. Since Chisenhall is 25 years old and only a couple of years removed from being regarded as the Tribe's top prospect, I'd think Cleveland would need a big return to consider moving Chisenhall, even though Carlos Santana has seemingly taken over at third base.
- Sam Fuld could be an interesting pickup for the Twins, 1500ESPN.com's Derek Wetmore opines, as he would add depth to a Minnesota team that is thin on outfield options. The Athletics designated Fuld for assignment yesterday.
Indians manager Terry Francona said today that Carlos Santana will serve as the club's everyday third baseman, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports on Twitter. Francona emphasized that Santana will not platoon with Lonnie Chisenhall, but said that he will also serve as the team's backup catcher.
Needless to say, it appears that Cleveland's lineup construction will be interesting to watch as the season progresses. Of course, if Santana really does see regular part-time catching duties while playing every day in the field, any benefits from reduced wear and tear could be countered by the physical and mental burden of taking on a new position and receiving little rest. And if the team gives him some straight off days to account for this unusual challenge, rather than slotting him in at DH, it stands to lose his bat on those occasions.
For his part, Chisenhall will make the squad but faces a "fluid" playing time situation, according to a Bastian tweet. We broke down some of the potential hot stove implications of this possible move back in January.
Former White Sox first-rounder and top prospect Brian Anderson is making one last comeback attempt, he tells MLB.com's Scott Merkin. After trying his luck as a pitcher, the soon-to-be 32-year-old Anderson is looking to catch on as an outfielder once again and believes he's made adjustments that will allow him to succeed. Making those adjustments didn't always come easily, he tells Merkin: "…I was too stubborn to fully commit to making adjustments. That led to my demise and my inconsistency at the plate. I wanted everything that came with the big leagues without having to prove myself." Anderson is hoping for a Spring Training invite with a chance to win a fourth outfielder gig before hitting his way into more playing time. Here's more out of baseball's Central divisions…
- Steph Rogers of Getting Blanked interviewed Twins top pitching prospect Alex Meyer and covered a number of topics ranging from the best advice he's received to the transition to pro ball to the most beneficial aspects of winter ball. Meyer tells Rogers that he treasures the time he's been able to spend with former Reds left-hander Tom Browning in winter ball. Says Meyer of Browning, who pitched a perfect game in 1988: "If I can continue to pick his brain for the limited time I have left, it would be so beneficial."
- New Cardinals center fielder Peter Bourjos told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he wasn't surprised to be traded by the Angels this offseason. Bourjos told Hummel that one of his goals with the Cards is to steal 40 bases, adding that it will depend on how he swings the bat because he knows drawing walks is not one of his strengths.
- MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tackles a number of trade Indians scenarios in his latest Inbox piece but ultimately concludes that Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Masterson and Lonnie Chisenhall will all be in the organization come Opening Day (though he doesn't believe Chisenhall will start at third base).
- Earlier today, I ran down several NL Central notes, including pieces on Kolten Wong, Mark Reynolds and several Cubs topics.
MONDAY: In the "Around the Horn" section of his latest column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that despite Santana's comments, club officials will wait until Spring Training to make a definitive call on his position. The team still hasn't ruled out using Chisenhall at third base, according to Rosenthal.
FRIDAY: Carlos Santana has served as the club's primary backstop for the last three seasons, but says he is preparing to play at the hot corner in 2014, according to ESPNDeportes.com's Enrique Rojas (Spanish language link). Though Santana was known to be trying his hand at a return to third — where he spent some time early in his professional career — this report indicates a much more serious likelihood of a position shift.
As Santana explains (all translation errors mine), he is only preparing to play third at this point in time. "Those are the plans of the team at this moment," Santana said. Indicating that the club asked him to give third a try, Santana said he "took a month thinking about it before accepting."
Santana seemed destined to spend less time at the catcher position anyway next season, for several reasons. To begin with, the 27-year-old's bat is good enough to play anywhere on the diamond. Last year, he posted a .268/.377/.455 triple-slash, including twenty home runs, in 642 plate appearances. That was good for a 137 OPS+, a particularly impressive mark given that Santana labored behind the dish for 84 games.
And while any player can theoretically be more valuable while playing a defense-first position like catcher, Santana had increasingly struggled at the spot. Defensive Runs Saved panned Santana's work in 2013, and recent pitch framing metrics (e.g., here and here) have viewed him as a poor framer. There were good reasons for Cleveland to limit Santana's defensive impact, though of course third is hardly the easiest position. (And UZR has not looked kindly on Santana's 942 2/3 career innings at first, though he told Rojas that he never felt comfortable there.)
Most importantly, perhaps, is the emergence of Yan Gomes, who was picked up from the Blue Jays in a deal that has strongly favored the Indians to date. The 26-year-old's emergence last year played a big role in fueling the club's Wild Card run. He hit .294/.345/.481 in 322 plate appearances, splitting time at catcher with Santana. In just 88 games, Gomes was worth 3.7 fWAR and 4.0 rWAR, drawing positive reviews for his defensive work.
The news on Santana could have hot stove implications. For one, it may explain why the club has done little to push Lonnie Chisenhall outside of inking David Adams, who has just 152 big league plate appearances under his belt despite the fact that he will turn 27 in May. For what it is worth, Santana is a better hitter from the right side (.855 OPS vs. .794 OPS hitting lefty), though he'd surely find his bat at another position in the lineup if he were to platoon at third.
Of course, if Cleveland no longer plans to give Chisenhall regular at-bats, it raises the question why the team was so hesitant to part with him in a prospective Matt Garza trade deadline deal. And if Santana were to spend significant time at third, it could make the 25-year-old a candidate to be dealt. He was once a top-25 prospect, and his career .694 OPS has come in only 682 plate appearances over three MLB seasons.
If Santana is able to play a passable third, moreover, it could impact the fate of both he and Gomes. Spending less energy behind the dish, and more time in the lineup, could lead to bigger offensive numbers for Santana. He would make for quite an interesting multi-position player, given his outstanding bat, and would increase his stock as a trade piece or eventual free agent. (He is signed through 2016, plus the Indians hold an option for the following season.)
As for Gomes, the shifting of the club's prized young catcher off of the catching position would open up a world of opportunity. Gomes would presumably be looked upon as the catcher of the future in Cleveland. The Oliver and Steamer projection systems (via Fangraphs) both project him to keep hitting at better than league average, and view him as a three or four win player in a full-time role. Eligible for arbitration after the 2015 season, Gomes would have a chance to build real value through arbitration or as an extension candidate.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
Let's take a look at the latest news and notes on what could be the final day of the 2012 baseball season.
- Jim Leyland's future as manager of the Tigers is still unclear, tweets Tom Gage of the Detroit News. Before tonight's World Series game, Leyland said nobody puts a team together better than team President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski adding "hopefully he feels I'm the guy to manage it."
- The Orioles' most pressing needs for 2013 are a frontline starter, a second baseman, and dealing with the unsettled positions of left field and first base, writes MASN.com's Roch Kubatko.
- Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy are among the Orioles who could make a big step in 2013, according to Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
- The Indians should only trade Chris Perez if they feel Vinnie Pestano can replace him as closer, opined Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer as he delved into his readers' mailbag. Hoynes also believes Lonnie Chisenhall will be given every opportunity to be the everyday third baseman and Sandy Alomar, Jr. would have been the slam-dunk choice as manager, if Terry Francona hadn’t been so adamant about getting back in the dugout.
- In the wake of Shohei Otani's announced intention to pursue a MLB career rather than play in Japan, Japanese baseball officials are considering stricter rules for amateur players who want to do the same, reports the Associated Press (via the Boston Herald).
- Tom Kotchman denied he was forced out by the Angels insisting his decision to leave was due to a desire to find something closer to his Tampa-St. Petersburg area home, reports Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
- Congratulations to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, who was named the first female president in the 104-year history of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
- Manny Ramirez's quest to resurrect his baseball career has the slugger heading to the Dominican Republic in hopes of catching the eye of a potential suitor during a tryout for three Japanese teams, writes George A. King III of the New York Post.
Daniel Seco contributed to this post.
In a piece inspired by early-season injuries to key relievers Tom Verducci of SI.com points out that closers tend to be inefficient investments. "No one wants to admit it," he writes, "but the modern bullpen is a failure." Here are the rest of today's links…
- Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that he likes what he has seen from manager Ozzie Guillen despite last week's controversial remarks. “He’s very good for here," Loria said. "Excellent. Not only for here, for any team."
- When the Yankees signed Derek Jeter to a three-year, $51MM contract two offseasons ago, they felt it was an overpay, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. But the shortstop played tremendously down the stretch in 2011 and has started the 2012 season well.
- ESPN.com’s Buster Olney suggests the Giants will likely want to see Tim Lincecum rebound from his early-season struggles before offering him an extension at market value.
- Indians manager Manny Acta told Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio that top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall remains Cleveland's future third baseman and won’t become trade bait this summer (Twitter link, audio here).
Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti has an adaptable approach to this offseason’s free agent market. Players such as Michael Brantley offer defensive versatility, so the Indians aren’t about to limit their search for position players so early in the offseason.
“We can either go left field, center field or first base,” Antonetti said. “And we have some creative ideas for other positions as well.”
The Indians feel “very comfortable” with Brantley in center field, since he played for a month and a half with a serious wrist injury but still posted a .702 OPS in 2011. Brantley will play center field or left field in 2012, depending on the rest of Cleveland’s offseason.
The Indians’ winter will revolve around the search for position players, since they have a full five-man rotation heading into Spring Training 2012. However, the Indians aren’t content with their pitching depth.
“I don’t think we’ll ever be satisfied with our pitching,” he said. “We’ll always look for opportunities to improve.”
The Indians enter the 2011 season with Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson, Fausto Carmona, Derek Lowe and Josh Tomlin in the rotation. Since Masterson, Carmona and Lowe induce so many ground balls, the Indians intend on lining their infield with above-average defenders.
Jason Kipnis appears to be the leading candidate for the starting second base job and Antonetti says he has the chance to become an above-average defender. Jack Hannahan, a pleasant surprise in 2011, is an “elite” defender, according to Antonetti. He could start at third for Cleveland and Lonnie Chisenhall is also in the mix for regular work at the hot corner. However, the Indians aren’t going to finalize decisions before Spring Training.
Yesterday we learned that the Tigers have strong interest in Rockies' ace Ubaldo Jimenez, showing a willingness to include top prospect Jacob Turner, who is being called up to start today but not as a showcase. However, Detroit may be out for now and the chances of any Jimenez deal may have slipped below 50%. The latest:
- Pomeranz and White will be in the deal if it happens, Renck tweets.
- Jimenez was scratched from his start tonight, Heyman tweets.
- The Yankees infuriated the Rockies by taking their top prospects off of the table and offering Phil Hughes and others instead, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter).
- The Rockies are moving toward a deal with Cleveland, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (on Twitter).
- White has been scratched from his one-inning rehab outing, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports (on Twitter).
- There are indications that Pomeranz and White could be available in a possible deal, according to Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link).
- The Rockies asked for Pomeranz, Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).
- The Rockies and Indians are in serious talks, Renck reports (on Twitter). He hears that a deal would center around Pomeranz, Alex White and Jason Kipnis.
- Renck gets the "strong sense" that Cleveland hasn't given up (Twitter link) and Morosi says Indians prospect Drew Pomeranz was scratched from his Double-A start today (Twitter link).
- The Red Sox, Reds and Indians are in on Jimenez, according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees aren't talking actively with Colorado and won't include Nova, Betances, Banuelos or Montero in a deal for Jimenez (Twitter links).
- The Rockies haven't dropped their demands and are still asking for three players, according to Jack Curry of the YES Network (on Twitter). The Yankees still won't part with Montero, Betances and Nova for Jimenez.
- Two teams have enhanced their offers, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).
- Rival teams believe the Rockies match up best with the Indians, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (on Twitter).
- The Rockies will have a scout watching Nova tonight at Yankee Stadium, tweets Sherman.
- The price on Jimenez has come down a tad, tweets Jon Heyman. He says the Rockies are no longer asking for Banuelos from the Yankees; Betances, Nova, and Montero would work. That's similar to what Joel Sherman wrote earlier today. The two teams have not talked today, tweets Troy Renck. Renck believes the Yankees currently will not put both Montero and Betances in the deal – just one.
- One executive who has been speaking with the Rockies and Reds believes the teams "have discussed an expanded version that could include someone like Seth Smith, because the Reds also have been targeting controllable bats," reports ESPN's Jayson Stark.
- The Red Sox haven't been in contact with the Rockies about Jimenez since Thursday, tweets Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. And the Reds aren't currently discussing Jimenez with the Rockies, tweets Jon Paul Morosi.
- The Yankees are all over Jimenez, a source tells ESPN's Tim Kurkjian.
- The Yankees are hearing that the Rockies may lower the price on Jimenez today, tweets Ken Rosenthal, but still not to a point that they consider realistic. Renck tweets that the Rockies' price hasn't changed during the process.
- The Indians, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Reds are still in on Jimenez, tweets SI's Jon Heyman, and he's not counting out the Yankees.
- In addition to Turner and maybe Rick Porcello or Max Scherzer, the Rockies asked the Tigers for outfielder Brennan Boesch, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. Knobler notes that Turner is starting for the Tigers today.
- The Indians were willing to discuss southpaw pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz, reports Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post. Pomeranz is ranked anywhere from #14 to #35 among all teams by prospect experts. Red Sox third base prospect Will Middlebrooks and righty Anthony Ranaudo are of interest to Colorado, adds Renck.
- The Rockies want Ivan Nova and two of Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, and Jesus Montero from the Yankees, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman writes, "to say the Yankees and Rockies are not finding common ground on Jimenez’s value is an understatement." The Red Sox, Tigers, and Indians remain involved, while the Reds are "less heated to make a deal."
- "Rival executives believe that if the Rockies lower their asking price at all today, it will signal clear intent to move the pitcher," tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.
Neither Roberto Alomar nor Bert Blyleven will be wearing a Cleveland cap into the Hall Of Fame tomorrow, but both men spent significant parts of their careers with the Tribe. Blyleven won 48 games and posted a 3.23 ERA with the Indians between 1981-85, twice finishing third in AL Cy Young voting in that span. Alomar played in Cleveland from 1999 through 2001, earning Gold Gloves and All-Star appearances in each year and hit .323/.405/.515 as an Indian.
Onto some news about the modern-day Clevelanders, courtesy of Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer….
- Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, Drew Pomeranz and Alex White are "all but untouchable" in trade talks. Without these top prospects on the table, however, it makes it unlikely that the Indians will be able to acquire top-tier trade candidates like Carlos Beltran or Hunter Pence. Hoynes notes that the Tribe's dealings are tempered by the fact that while they have a chance to win the AL Central, they probably don't have a realistic shot at the World Series so the team doesn't want to mortgage the future for just a token playoff berth.
- The Indians have talked to the Dodgers about utilityman Jamey Carroll. Cleveland's interest may have cooled, though, now that Kipnis has been called up. The Rockies and Brewers have shown interest in Carroll. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes explored Carroll's trade candidacy and also had a Q&A with the veteran last month.
- The Indians "aren't close" to working out a deal with the Padres for Ryan Ludwick or Aaron Harang, reports Hoynes (Twitter link). We recently heard that Harang (along with Hiroki Kuroda) were Cleveland's top two targets on the trade market.
On this day in 2005, the Rangers released Andres Torres, a 27-year-old outfielder who had compiled a .534 OPS in parts of four big league seasons. While things looked bleak for Torres at the time, he eventually worked his way back to the bigs four years later with San Francisco. Since then, he has hit .266/.345/.477 and played a key role on the Giants' World Champion squad in 2010. Here are today's links:
- Indians GM Chris Antonetti isn't ready to make additions via trade, writes MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. The club is reluctant to part with prospects like Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis, but the solution may ultimately be to turn to those two as they did with Cord Phelps last week. Chisenhall and Kipnis were ranked 25th and 54th, respectively, on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list entering 2011.
- ESPN's Keith Law tweets that he expects the Blue Jays to sign their first-round pick, Tyler Beede, for around $3MM. Beede, selected out of high school, has said his decision will come down to the money.
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers has targeted "about 20 guys" who could be on the trade market over the next few weeks, according to the Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro. While most teams aren't ready to deal yet, Towers says "that doesn't mean I don't do my due diligence and still call."
- Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News argues that, while the Giants need to acquire a catcher at some point, there's no urgency to do so immediately.
- Bartolo Colon's trip to the DL is a reminder that the Yankees likely won't be a championship-caliber team in 2011 without at least one more starting pitching acquisition, says John Harper of the New York Daily News.
- All the 40-man roster moves the Cardinals have made recently could suggest there's need for a trade, tweets Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- With labor uncertainty surrounding many other professional sports, Bud Selig is proud that baseball is avoiding similar issues, as the commissioner tells Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Hummel's piece includes a rundown of a few key items on the table during CBA talks.