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7:21pm: Hamilton’s meeting involves an admission to the league earlier in the offseason that he had used prohibited drugs of abuse, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter links). There are no indications that he failed any tests. Hamilton, of course, has a well-documented history of addiction, leading Heyman to characterize the event in question as a relapse.
As Heyman notes, the 33-year-old would seemingly technically qualify only as a first-time offender under the JDA (Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program) since his early-career suspensions occurred before he was in the big leagues. (Though, as MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez notes, Hamilton was on the 40-man at the point of his first failed drug test in 2003.) Were that the case, Hamilton would be handled under the first-time offender protocol. A treatment program would be established, with a 15 to 25 game ban standing by if Hamilton failed to comply with that program.
But as Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links), that will probably not be the case here. Hamilton’s discipline will fall within the discretion of commissioner Rob Manfred, per the report, because his prior failed drug tests take him “outside [the] standard program.” Having been re-admitted to MLB “via Bud Selig’s discretion and terms” back in 2006, says Morosi, Hamilton is now subject to the discretion of Selig’s successor.
The JDA does include provisions for players who have been suspended for one year after more than four violations of their individualized treatment program. It provides that the commissioner may impose discipline “consistent with the concept of progressive discipline,” seemingly suggesting a more advanced punishment than those already levied. Of course, circumstances such as the time that has passed could presumably also factor in to the decisionmaking process, and it is not clear whether those provisions would hold sway in this case.
5:21pm: Angels slugger Josh Hamilton is in New York meeting with MLB officials regarding a possible disciplinary matter, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. While GM Jerry Dipoto confirmed that Hamilton was in New York for the meeting, he otherwise declined to provide any information on the nature of the issue.
It appears that Hamilton is not facing any accusations of PED use: a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports indicates that some other matter is at play. The executive that Rosenthal spoke with labeled the apparent transgression “worse” than PED use, though of course that is rather an ambiguous label and is open to a range of interpretation.
While it would be wrong to speculate as to the basis for the possible discipline at this point, DiGiovanna does write that Los Angeles is “bracing for possible penalties.” Needless to say, any disciplinary action could have important ramifications for the Angels and Hamilton. The veteran is owed $23MM this year and $60MM over 2016-17 under the free agent deal he signed in December of 2012. Time missed due to suspension would not be compensated.
There is also the matter of potentially replacing Hamilton in the lineup. Though he is coming off of a rough 2014 season and was already set to miss the beginning of the year recovering from shoulder surgery, Hamilton possesses rare talent at the plate. The Halos do have some depth in place already in offseason addition Matt Joyce, who is expected to step in for Hamilton while he recovers from his procedure.
Despite all of their success, it’s not easy for the Giants to land free agents thanks to the tax rate in California, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News writes. The top income tax rate in California is 13.3%, which is more than double the top tax rate in all but a handful of states with major league teams. “It’s exponential when you get into the size of some of these numbers,” Sabean said. “It makes a difference.” The Giants have had to build differently and a little more creatively than others, sometimes with some key moves in the summer, but it has worked out pretty well for them. Here’s more from the West divisions..
- The Rangers‘ interest in lefty reliever Phil Coke has waned and the club doesn’t expect to sign the free agent reliever, a source tells Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram (via Twitter). The Rangers claimed a left-handed reliever earlier today when they plucked Edgar Olmos from the Mariners. The Tigers apparently haven’t expressed much interest in a reunion and another spot in their ‘pen was filled when they signed Joba Chamberlain.
- If shortstop prospect Ketel Marte plays well enough to reach the big leagues this year, the Mariners’ willingness to move Brad Miller or Chris Taylor will increase in the coming months, if not sooner, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. One Mariners official compared Marte, a switch hitter, to a younger version of Jose Reyes. He also has some second base experience, but he’s blocked there by Robinson Cano.
- All of the Angels‘ core relievers throw fastballs at an average speed of less than 92 mph, which means they’re basically ignoring baseball’s dogma about power arms in the bullpen, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. Recently, the Angels have placed more of a premium on strike-throwing ability than velocity.
- Trea Turner, who will be joining the Nationals as the player to be named later in the Wil Myers trade, is in camp with the Padres, Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego writes. Lin checks in on Turner’s unusual camp experience as he is still more than three months away from joining the Nats.
Looking to get some more insight into the trade that sent Brandon Moss from Oakland to Cleveland, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer spoke with Athletics assistant GM David Forst and manager Bob Melvin about the swap (Oakland received second base prospect Joe Wendle in exchange). Though Wendle has never ranked as a Top 100 prospect according to outlets such as Baseball America, ESPN, etc., Forst said that the A’s don’t concern themselves with prospect rankings. Rather, the A’s have been enamored with Wendle for more than a year and tried to trade for him in the past. “He is a high-contact hitter. He plays good defense. He has an outstanding makeup. We like him,” Forst explained. Melvin explained that the A’s very much like Moss, but were hoping to get a bit younger. Candidly, the Forst told Pluto that the A’s feel Ike Davis can replace Moss’ bat at a cheaper price.
A bit more from Pluto’s interview and the rest of the AL West…
- Forst told Pluto that the Athletics never discussed Josh Donaldson with the Indians. Oakland targeted a few select teams, and the Blue Jays were at the top of their list of potential trade candidates, he added. Meanwhile, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star chimed in on that same trade (via Twitter), noting that Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said that his initial hope was to acquire Donaldson and move Brett Lawrie to second base, but it eventually became clear that Lawrie had to be included in the return to obtain Donaldson.
- The Rangers offered Joba Chamberlain more than the $1MM base salary he received on his new deal with the Tigers, but Chamberlain elected to return to Detroit, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Earlier this morning, GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters that Chamberlain had received more lucrative offers elsewhere but “really wanted” to be a Tiger again.
- Also from Heyman (on Twitter), infielder Elliot Johnson will receive a $900K base salary if he makes the Rangers‘ big league roster. Johnson signed a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite yesterday, the team announced.
- Drew Butera‘s Major League experience and the fact that he’s out of options make him the favorite to win the Angels‘ backup catcher job, writes Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. However, Fletcher does quote manager Mike Scioscia, who says he’s also been impressed by candidates Carlos Perez and Jett Bandy. “All of these guys have shown on the defensive side they are ready for the challenge,” said Scioscia.
- Astros catcher Jason Castro recently spoke to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle about the feeling of seeing his name floated in trade rumors for much of the offseason. “I think if you focus too much on it, you kind of drive yourself crazy,” said Castro, who called trade rumors “part of the offseason.” The White Sox and Rangers were among the teams with interest in Castro, per Drellich. Castro’s spot with the Astros became secure again once the team dealt Carlos Corporan to the Rangers. Castro and Hank Conger will see the bulk of the time behind the plate for Houston.
Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has rejected a position within his old organization and will spend the year away from the game, MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger writes. “He’s doing fine, but he’s not going to be participating with us,” says GM Terry Ryan. “I talk to him often. He’s doing pretty good, but he wants to take a year off.” Ryan adds that Gardenhire is interested in continuing to manage. The Twins fired him in September after the team had four straight seasons of 70 wins or fewer. Here’s more from the American League.
- Josh Hamilton could be out for up to 12 weeks after having shoulder surgery earlier this month, but the Angels are not actively looking for an outfielder to replace him, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. “If throughout the spring, if we see something that fits for us, like we do any other spring, we’ll certainly pay attention,” says GM Jerry Dipoto. “But it’s not something we are focused on at this point.” The Angels feel that Matt Joyce, Collin Cowgill and Dan Robertson give them enough options to fill Hamilton’s spot until he returns.
- Fellow Angel Albert Pujols could retire before his contract expires in 2021 if his gymnast daughter, Sophia, makes it to the Olympics, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. The plan for Sophia is to get to the Olympics by 2020. “That might have to be the year I retire,” says Pujols. “You can put that in the paper, because I don’t want to miss it. … Either that, or they’ll have to put me on the disabled list for two weeks.” Of course, that’s still five years away, and Sophia is only nine and will still be too young to compete in 2020 under current rules, so it might be unwise to read much into Pujols’ comments at this point.
- The Orioles considered a multiyear extension for outfielder Alejandro De Aza before figures were filed for De Aza’s arbitration case, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. De Aza says he was not aware of those discussions, but that he would consider an extension. “I’m interested in the opportunity,” he says. “I’m excited about the opportunity here, and I want to be here for a long time.” De Aza, who lost his arbitration hearing yesterday, is eligible for free agency after the season.
Jesus Montero has been a massive disappointment with the Mariners, but spent the offseason putting himself in position for a turnaround, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. Montero is in great shape, as photo and video confirms, and is certainly young and talented enough to hold plenty of promise.
More from the west:
- The Rangers are still looking at lefty Phil Coke and watched him throw again recently, reports Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. GM Jon Daniels discussed the possibility of adding an arm today, noting that depth is always valuable but expressing interest in seeing his current group in camp. (Video via Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest.) While the club has to this point been unwilling to make Coke a major league offer, with the southpaw still holding out for a 40-man spot, Fraley notes that the bad news on Jurickson Profar will clear a big league roster space since he is destined for the 60-day DL.
- As for the unfortunate news on Profar, the Rangers‘ head baseball decisionmaker firmly rejected the idea that the prospect deserved criticism for trying to avoid surgery by rehab. While the news that a procedure would be required was not a total surprise, Daniels said that the 22-year-old infielder made the difficult decision for good reasons and worked very hard over the offseason. Certainly, Daniels did not sound like he was interested in giving up on Profar. “Fortunately, he’s still just 22 years old,” said the GM. “We’ll get him back and we’ll get him out there.”
- Angels slugger Josh Hamilton is going to require a longer recovery from shoulder surgery than originally expected, as MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports. At this point, it isn’t even clear that Hamilton will be close enough to report to spring camp. It still does not seem that an addition will truly be necessary, with Matt Joyce on hand to step in. Hamilton’s absence will presumably also create additional opportunities for players like Collin Cowgill and waiver claimees Alfredo Marte and Roger Kieschnick.
Huston Street told reporters yesterday that he’s seeking a four-year extension (beginning with the 2015 season, meaning it would override his current deal) worth something between the contracts signed by Andrew Miller ($36MM) and David Robertson ($46MM) this offseason. Street, interestingly, is acting as his own agent, and Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times has some quotes from the closer explaining the reasoning behind that decision. “I think agents are beneficial to a lot of guys who are fringe players or superstars,” Street told reporters. “How do you say no to $130 million and end up getting $180 million? It takes an agent. I’m not one of those guys. I’m pretty slotted within a range of what I believe is fair, of guys I’m comparable to. I don’t have anything negative toward agents. I just felt like I could handle my own business.”
Today, Angels owner Arte Moreno met with the media and offered up several more items that should be of interest to Halo fans. MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez has the highlights…
- The Angels have gotten “nowhere” with the city of Anaheim in regards to talks for a new lease for Angel Stadium. The team is able to opt out of the lease beginning in 2016 and as late as 2019, Gonzalez writes. If they stay beyond that point, the lease then runs through 2029. Moreno said there are no intention to restart talks at this time. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register adds that while Moreno wouldn’t comment on the viability of other locations, he did say “we’re still looking at opportunities.”
- Moreno isn’t completely opposed to running into the luxury tax threshold of $189MM as long as the team would only exceed that payroll level for one year. Moreno feels the team has about $10-15MM to spend on in-season additions if necessary.
- The Angels “took a peek” at James Shields this offseason but never made a formal offer. Moreno says the team had interest in Shields on a three-year deal but wasn’t interested in going beyond that length of contract. Shields, of course, signed a four-year, $75MM contract with the Padres earlier this month.
Angels closer Huston Street, who acts as his own agent, told reporters at Angels camp today that he has been in “steady” negotiations with the team dating back to September (via the L.A. Times’ Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter). Street thinks a contract will eventually get done, but he has his sights set high, as DiGiovanna tweets that Street sees something between the four-year, $36MM contract signed by Andrew Miller and the four-year, $46MM pact inked by David Robertson this offseason as fair value. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register clarifies that Street is envisioning a new contract that would override his current $7MM salary and run through the 2018 season (Twitter link).
If that’s the case, then Street is essentially eyeing something along the lines of three years and $34MM worth of new money on an extension (using a $41MM midpoint between the aforementioned Robertson/Miller deals) — a lofty goal for a reliever entering his age-31 campaign. The Angels, conversely, are trying to sell Street on an extension that runs through the 2017 season, per MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter links). There’s no deadline on extension talks, Gonzalez adds.
From a performance standpoint, it’s easy to see why Street feels that he should be compensated at a level that is commensurate with the top arms on the market. Over the past three seasons, he’s worked to a 1.97 ERA with 8.7 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 35 percent ground-ball rate in 155 innings between the Padres and the Halos. His 97 saves in that time tie him for 10th in the Majors.
However, there’s also reason for the Angels to express caution. Aside from the standard caveat emptor that comes with giving long-term contracts to all relievers, who are typically volatile assets, Street is a full year older than Robertson and Miller. A four-year deal covering the 2015-18 seasons would span Street’s age 31-34 seasons, whereas Robertson and Miller are under contract for their age 30-33 seasons. Street also has a lengthy injury history, with seven separate DL stints under his belt in the Major Leagues — three of which came from 2012-13.
Street has never been a flamethrower, but he’s averaged just north of 89 mph on his heater over the past three seasons and relies greatly on inducing weak contact and stranding runners. That’s not to say that his K/9 rate is sub-par — he’s whiffed nearly a better per inning — rather that he is of a different breed than the more prototypical elite relievers to which we’ve become accustomed (e.g. Robertson, Miller, Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, Greg Holland).
There are few recent historical precedents for a reliever of this age signing an extension. The most recent comparable is probably Glen Perkins, who tacked an additional two years and $14.1MM onto his existing deal prior to the 2014 season. However, while that deal buys out a similar portion of Perkins’ career in terms of age, there are varying factors that prevent the two from being a truly apt comparison. Firstly, Perkins was two full seasons away from free agency as compared to Street’s one. Secondly, Perkins stated after the deal was completed that maximizing his earnings was never his top priority; he instead had simply hoped to remain with his hometown team for the bulk of his career.
As such, Street would seem to be in relatively uncharted territory. Not only is he negotiating his own deal, but he’s doing so at a time of his career when his peers have typically preferred to test the waters of the open market (or are already in the midst of long-term deals). Were Street to enjoy a typically excellent season and remain healthy, it’s not hard to envision teams showing interest in the three-year realm that he currently seeks. However, going that route would come with the risk of an injury in 2015 as well as the task of negotiating his own deal with not one, but many teams that would likely show interest.
It stands to reason then, that both sides have a motivation to get a contract worked out. Some form of vesting option could be a compromise, though such clauses can prove to be a headache down the line (as Jonathan Papelbon‘s current trade talks demonstrate). While there’s no deadline on talks, one would think that each side would prefer to complete something prior to the onset of the season, meaning that Street could ultimately be one of the many Spring Training extensions we see on a yearly basis, assuming a deal is eventually agreed upon.
7:40pm: Lindstrom will receive a $1MM base salary if he makes the Major League roster, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
4:19pm: The Angels announced today that they have signed right-handed reliever Matt Lindstrom to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. The 35-year-old Lindstrom is represented by Greg Genske of the Legacy Agency.
Lindstrom opened the 2014 season as the White Sox closer and recorded six saves with a 3.32 ERA through his first 19 appearances, but he suffered a subluxed tendon in his ankle while fielding a grounder, causing him to spend nearly three full months on the disabled list. Upon returning, he struggled to a 7.20 ERA in 16 appearances, yielding 12 runs in 15 innings of work.
From 2011-13, Lindstrom enjoyed a quite productive run with the Rockies, Orioles, D-Backs and White Sox, pitching to a combined 2.95 ERA with 6.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 51.4 percent ground-ball rate. Lindstrom’s ground-ball tendencies have trended upward over his career, and as he’s gotten older, he’s relied increasingly on a power sinker to maintain his effectiveness. Lindstrom averages roughly 95 mph on the pitch, though his velocity last season was more in the 93 mph range.
Right-hander Dillon Gee is likely the odd man out and headed to the Mets‘ bullpen this season, and ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin was among the reporters to speak with him today regarding the move (video link). Gee says he is ready to contribute in whatever role he is asked, even though he obviously prefers to stay in the rotation. Though he did not ever speak with anyone in the front office, he relayed that his agent did, and was seemingly left with the impression that a trade was never quite as likely as was believed in some quarters.
Let’s have a look at a few segments of the pitching market where action still seems open:
- It would still be unwise to bet against two other well-known closers — Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano — landing substantial contracts, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Notably, both free agents are represented by Scott Boras, who Rosenthal says not to bet against. As Rosenthal rightly points out, it will be interesting to see whether that pair of big-named arms manages to top the guarantees given to names like Pat Neshek ($12.5MM) and Zach Duke ($15MM).
- As previously reported, Rodriguez has drawn interest from the Marlins, who have also had discussions about fellow free agent righty Joba Chamberlain, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). And those aren’t the only arms still under consideration in Miami, per Heyman. The club is seemingly casting a wide net — waiting for a good value, perhaps — in adding a final piece before camp.
- Red Sox closer Koji Uehara said today that his mid-season swoon was due in part to injury issues, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. The trouble was related to Uehara’s lower back, GM Ben Cherington said. Obviously, the club believes that he will be able to return without issue, given the contract it gave the veteran relief ace.
- Breakout Angels starter Garrett Richards threw his first pen session since undergoing knee surgery last year, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Reports were solid on the 26-year-old righty, whose return — and ability to match his outstanding results from last year — will go a long way toward defining the club. Anything close to his 2014 showing would seemingly make Richards a prime extension target.
Happy birthday to A’s right-hander Tyler Clippard, who turns 30 years old today. The newly-acquired bullpen arm received a pretty nice gift earlier this week when he and the Athletics avoided going an arbitration hearing by agreeing to an $8.3MM contract for 2015. Here’s some more from around the AL West…
- The Angels are “not aggressive” in their pursuit of any available Cuban players in the Dominican Republic, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets, though the club has had scouts watching. The Halos have already made one major international acquisition this offseason, signing Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin to an $8MM bonus. Baldoquin’s deal already put the Angels over their signing pool threshold for this international signing period, though I’d argue that since the team is already being penalized for that overage (limited to only $300K signings for each of the next two int’l signing periods), Anaheim might as well make a push to add more international talent before their penalty kicks in on July 2.
- Rickie Weeks could end up playing all over the diamond in a depth role for the Mariners, GM Jack Zduriencik told reporters (including Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune), including both corner infield and outfield positions. Weeks has never played anywhere in the field besides second base over his 11-year career, but said as his free agent market developed, “teams were thinking about me playing other positions, and I just opened up to it, really.”
- Astros owner Jim Crane’s recent divorce settlement won’t have any impact on the club’s payroll or operations, team attorney Giles Kibbe told Evan Drellich and David Barron of the Houston Chronicle. “During our purchase of the Astros, MLB requested that the documents include certain language that would address these types of issues,” Kibbe said. The league’s approach stems from how Frank McCourt’s 2011 divorce proceedings affected the Dodgers, an MLB official confirmed to Drellich and Barron, though Crane’s situation is far different than McCourt’s.