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Lonnie Chisenhall Rumors
The 2015 Indians have not yet made good on their evident promise, in spite of quality performances from many of the team’s better long-term pieces. That frames them as a possible seller, though a late run is not out of the question. Reflecting recent comments from GM Chris Antonetti, however, the latest rumors suggest that a large-scale sell-off is unlikely, with the club perhaps looking instead to re-tool for 2016.
- Cleveland is “unlikely” to deal outfielder Brandon Moss, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. The 31-year-old would undoubtedly draw interest, though he’s produced a somewhat tepid .220/.293/.424 batting line. Moss does have 15 home runs, has suffered from a .261 BABIP despite a ton of hard contact, and is earning only $6.5MM with one year of arbitration control remaining. He’s also looked better in the field in the eyes of advanced metrics. All of those factors leave the Indians motivated to keep him in the fold for next season.
- An entirely different set of considerations will likely keep Mike Aviles in Cleveland, Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). The veteran utilityman is dealing with a terribly unfortunate family situation, as his four-year-old daughter is being treated for leukemia at the Cleveland Clinic. Despite receiving some interest, the Indians have (admirably) determined not to trade Aviles in light of those circumstances.
- The Indians are, however, willing to move third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. He’s currently playing in Triple-A after scuffling to start the year and only comes with two more years of control (his salary this year is $2.25MM). But the 26-year-old has shown more in the past and is putting up solid, if unspectacular, numbers at Columbus. Olney suggests he could be a bench piece for a team like the Mets, and the former top-fifty prospect carries some upside down the line.
In an interview with Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (video link), Tigers ace David Price discussed his lasting connection with the Vanderbilt baseball program, the absence of Victor Martinez in his team’s lineup, his early picks for the AL Cy Young and, perhaps most interestingly to MLBTR readers, his upcoming free agency. Price says that free agency hasn’t been on his mind very often throughout the year to this point, as he tries to focus on the season at hand. Price adds that winning “takes precedent over everything else” when thinking about where he will play after 2015, but he feels the culture of the team will be important as well. “I want to have fun,” said Price. “There are some teams that are just a no-fun zone. I don’t care how much money I’m making. To me, I couldn’t imagine waking up and [not wanting to go to the field]. I couldn’t handle that. I’ll quit before that happens.” The 2012 Cy Young winner also reiterated that he wants a chance to win both immediately and long-term.
More from the AL Central…
- Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com looks at the Indians’ recent decision to option Lonnie Chisenhall and Jose Ramirez in favor of Zach Walters and Giovanny Urshela. Ramirez’s demotion was long overdue, says Meisel, but a lack of alternatives in the Majors delayed the decision. Meisel notes that the clock is ticking on a promotion for top prospect Francisco Lindor, and he also wonders if Chisenhall might’ve “burned through his last chance” with the Indians after another demotion.
- Via MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link), Indians GM Chris Antonetti said that Lindor was, in fact, a consideration to join the big league roster. However, Lindor has been bothered by some minor hand and core issues and is not currently at 100 percent. As Meisel noted in his piece, Lindor is slashing .295/.363/.446 over the past month after a slow start, so it’s fair to wonder just how much longer it will be before the consensus Top 10 prospect joins Cleveland’s big league roster. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets that he gets the sense that the team wants to see Lindor consistently perform at the Triple-A level before a promotion.
- The Twins have optioned struggling shortstop Danny Santana to Triple-A Rochester and recalled DH Kennys Vargas in his place. Both switch-hitters were in Minnesota’s Opening Day lineup, but each endured struggles. Santana received a longer leash than Vargas, who was optioned in early May, but the team seems to have run out of patience for the time being. Santana batted just .218/.235/.291 just one year after hitting .319/.353/.472 as a rookie. He’ll work on rediscovering his stroke and also cutting down on the errors at shortstop, but I’d imagine that with Jorge Polanco performing well at Double-A and being a more well-regarded defender, there’s a chance that Polanco could leapfrog Santana. As for Vargas, the hulking slugger hit .308/.403/.519 with three homers in 16 Triple-A games. He should get another chance to hold down Minnesota’s DH spot for the duration of the season. However, Twins DHs are hitting just .249/.308/.328, so if Vargas struggles, that may be an area they consider short-term upgrades this summer. In fact, I could envision the Twins looking for help at either of those positions in July, if they hang in near the top of the division.
As we approach tomorrow’s deadline for exchanging filing numbers, the volume of arb deals will increase. All arb agreements can be monitored using MLBTR’s 2015 Arbitration Tracker, but here are today’s smaller agreements, with all projections referring to those of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz:
- The Indians have avoided arbitration with third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and agreed to a one-year, $2.25MM deal, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). It’s a slight bump over Chisenhall’s projected $2.2MM salary. Chisenhall hit .280/.343/.427 with 13 homers in 533 PA with the Tribe last season.
- The Indians and left-hander Marc Rzepczynski have agreed to a one-year, $2.4MM contract to avoid arbitration, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Rzepczynski surpassed his projected salary with the contract, as he was pegged to earn $1.9MM next season. The southpaw posted a 2.74 ERA, 2.42 K/BB rate and an even 46 strikeouts over 46 innings out of Cleveland’s bullpen last season.
- The Nationals and catcher Jose Lobaton will avoid arbitration after agreeing to a deal, CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman reports. Lobaton will earn $1.2MM, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets, which exactly matches his projected 2015 salary. Lobaton hit .234/.287/.304 over 230 PA in backup duty for the Nats last season.
- The Athletics and outfielder Craig Gentry agreed to a one-year, $1.6MM deal to avoid arbitration, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets. Gentry was projected to earn $1.5MM. After posting a .759 OPS over 556 PA in 2012-13, Gentry took a step back at the plate last season, slashing just .254/.319/.289 over 258 plate appearances but still providing tremendous defense (a +16 UZR/150).
- The Nationals have avoided arbitration with second baseman Danny Espinosa, agreeing to a one-year, $1.8MM contract, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. This deal falls below Espinosa’s projected $2.3MM contract, though Espinosa hit .219/.283/.351 in 364 plate appearances for the Nats last season and managed only a .465 OPS in 167 PA in 2013.
- The Indians agreed to a one-year, $2.337MM deal with right-hander Carlos Carrasco, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter). This figure is a significant increase over the $1.4MM contract that was projected for Carrasco in his first arb-eligible year. The righty enjoyed a breakout 2014 season, posting a 2.55 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and 4.83 K/BB rate over 134 innings with the Tribe. Carrasco pitched mostly out of the bullpen but also delivered several quality starts down the stretch.
- The Dodgers and outfielder Chris Heisey agreed to a one-year deal worth $2.16MM to avoid arbitration, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. This is slightly less than the $2.2MM Heisey was projected to earn. Heisey is coming off a .222/.265/.378 slash line over 299 PA with the Reds last season and was dealt to L.A. last month.
- The Angels inked catcher Drew Butera to a one-year, $987.5K deal to avoid arbitration, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Butera was projected to earn $900K next season. The catcher posted a .555 OPS in 192 PA with the Dodgers last season and was dealt to the Halos last month.
- The Nationals agreed to a one-year, $2.25MM contract with Craig Stammen, avoiding arbitration with the right-hander, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (via Twitter). This figure slightly tops Stammen’s projected $2.1MM contract. Stammen posted a 3.84 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and a 4.00 K/BB rate over 72 2/3 innings out of Washington’s bullpen last season.
- The Cardinals agreed to a one-year, $1.65MM deal with outfielder Peter Bourjos to avoid arbitration, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Bourjos was projected to earn $1.6MM. Bourjos displayed his usual top-shelf defense with the Cards last season but only hit .231/.294/.348 over 294 PA.
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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.