Lonnie Chisenhall Rumors

Quick Hits: Indians, Beede, D’Backs, Giants

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.

Update On The Timing Of Top Prospects’ Debuts

Teams like saving money and extending their control over top young players. Why wouldn't they? Having impact players on affordable contracts simplifies a GM's job. As a result, teams call top young players up strategically every season to control their service time and, in doing so, delay their free agency and/or limit their earnings.

Though service time is a consideration all season long, it's most evident at two times: in April and again midseason, around early June. If teams wait until a few weeks after the season has begun to call a prospect up for his MLB debut, the player doesn't collect a full year of service time, which delays his free agency by a year.

The precise date until which teams must wait before calling prospects up varies each year and according to whether players are on the 40-man roster. Now that we're nearly three weeks into the season, even prospects on the 40-man roster can be called up, since they have spent the requisite 20-day period in the minor leagues. 

None of the following prospects have big league service time, which means that their teams can call them up at any point and keep them through the 2017 season, if not longer: Dustin Ackley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brett Lawrie, Mike Moustakas, Jesus Montero, Eric Hosmer, Julio Teheran, Manny Banuelos, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles.

On the other hand, Michael Pineda, Zach Britton and Brandon Belt are now in the majors, picking up service time. Because those players are now on MLB rosters, they're currently on track to hit free agency after the 2016 season. However, if their respective teams option them to the minors for 20 days or more, their path to free agency could be slowed as well (that's an immediate possibility for Belt and a long-term one for the pair of impressive rookie hurlers).

That may sounds complicated, but it's the easy part. Later this spring, in late May and early June, the guessing game begins. Teams do not (and can not) know exactly when future cutoffs for super two status will be, so if they want to play it safe and ensure that prospects like Montero and Ackley only go to arbitration three times, they'll want to wait until at least the middle of June before calling them up.

Central Notes: Royals, Chisenhall, Theriot, Brewers

Let's take a look at some items from both the AL and NL Central..

  • Royals manager Ned Yost told the Associated Press that he would like to have two left-handers in the bullpen to start the year, though he won't have two southpaw relievers just for the sake of it.  For the time being, it sounds like Kansas City will look for an answer in-house, starting with their newest acquisition Robert Fish.
  • When asked if service time factored into the decision to demote Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians GM Chris Antonetti said, "That's certainly not the case," tweets Jordan Bastian of MLB.com.
  • After being dealt from the Dodgers to the Cardinals, Ryan Theriot says that he's looking to play the way he did in 2008, writes MLB.com's Matthew Leach.  In '08, Theriot posted a slash line of .307/.387/.359 for the Cubs.
  • Chris Cwik of Fangraphs wonders if the Brewers' acquisition of Zack Greinke has left them too thin in some areas.

AL Central Links: Chisenhall, Milledge, Buehrle

Some links for your Sunday reading pleasure…

Indians Notes: LaPorta, Sizemore, Rotation, Chisenhall

Even on a day filled with football news, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has a pair of Indians articles up filled with some information on what we can expect from the Tribe in 2011. Let's look at some highlights:

  • The upcoming season will play a large role in gauging the return that the Indians got from the C.C. Sabathia trade. Both Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley are expected to play full seasons as part of Cleveland's rebuilding efforts. LaPorta, who recently turned 26, is fully healthy unlike 2010 when he underwent two mid-season surgeries.
  • Both Grady Sizemore and Fausto Carmona could be traded if they perform well in the first half. Sizemore is more likely, given that he's only under Cleveland's control through 2012 (the $8.5MM club option on his deal becomes a player option if he's traded). Carmona is through 2014 through a series of club options.
  • The club is still interested in both Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Bonderman, though Hoynes says the Indians haven't changed their stance on Millwood's asking price; they don't want to invest $4MM-$5MM.
  • Lonnie Chisenhall will open the season at Triple-A Columbus no matter what, according to Hoynes. He has a chance to push some current big-leaguers eventually, as do Jason Kipnis, Jared Goedert, and Cord Phelps. Keith Law recently ranked Chisenhall as the game's 39th best prospect. Kipnis placed 56th.

Third Base Options For The Indians

Indians GM Chris Antonetti told Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that finding a third baseman will be one of his main jobs this winter. Here’s a look at needs, options and possible solutions for the Tribe:

The Goal

It would make sense to sign someone who can play third for a year while Jared Goedert and Lonnie Chisenhall develop into major league regulars. Goedert, 25, batted .283/.358/.532 with 27 homers in the upper minors this year. Chisenhall, who turned 22 this week, had a strong season at Double-A, but likely needs seasoning. 

Antonetti told Hoynes that he’d like to see improved infield defense next year, so free agents who can hold their own at the hot corner will appeal to Cleveland's front office.

The Options

Jayson Nix, Cord Phelps, Luis Valbuena and Andy Marte are internal options for the Indians, but none of the four have guarantees and it seems more likely that the Indians will add someone from outside the organization.

Adrian Beltre is a fantastic defender, but he has set himself up for a long-term deal and the Indians are probably not looking to make a long-term commitment to a third baseman given their minor league depth at the position.

Lots of other third basemen hit free agency this winter; the Indians could approach Jorge Cantu, Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada, Brandon Inge or Juan Uribe about a deal. All of those players should draw interest from multiple teams – Inge has discussed a deal with the Tigers – but there should be plenty of alternatives.

Joe Crede has a reputation as a good defender and could look to return next year after sitting out the 2010 season. Felipe Lopez and Pedro Feliz could also be considerations for the Tribe, but, like Crede, both come with question marks.

Kevin KouzmanoffJose Lopez and Edwin Encarnacion are all non-tender candidates and could be available via trade or, by December, free agency.

A Possible Solution

The Indians have lots of choice, but here’s one solution I’d like to see: longtime Indian Omar Vizquel paired with Edwin Encarnacion (if he’s non-tendered). Vizquel, a switch-hitter who handles right-handers better than left-handers, could face tough righties and be a late-game defensive replacement at third and short. Encarnacion, who mashes lefties, could start against all southpaws and lots of right-handers. 

The Indians may not have the chance to sign either player and even if they’re both available, there are surer ways for Antonetti to improve his infield defense than combining a 44-year-old with someone who has played below average defense in every season of his career (Encarnacion’s career UZR/150 is -11.7).

But Vizquel can still get on base (.341 OBP in 2010) and play all around the infield and Encarnacion definitely has power. It’s one fun option to think about, even if the Jays decide Encarnacion is worth $5-6MM in arbitration and Vizquel re-signs with the White Sox.

Odds & Ends: Orioles, Scheppers, Pirates, Blue Jays

As we prepare for a weekend of watching AL pitchers take ineffective swings, here are a few news items…

Indians Sign First Round Pick Chisenhall

According to Justice B. Hill of MLB.com, the Indians signed their first round pick Lonnie Chisenhall for $1.2MM.  Chisenhall, a left-handed hitter, played mostly shortstop in college but the Indians view him as a third baseman.

Chisenhall may have dropped to #29 partially because of a burglary incident last year.  On draft day, only 17% of MLBTR readers polled thought the Indians made the right choice.  That may just be because Chisenhall was not a household name.