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APRIL 14: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that Hamilton’s contract does indeed contain language that would allow the Angels to terminate or convert the deal if he is physically/mentally incapacitated due to alcohol and drugs (specifically, if he is less than “first-class condition”), though the clause is not unique to his deal. However, Hamilton and the union would still be able to argue that the JDA supersedes contractual clauses of this nature, so it remains unclear if the Angels would be able to take any form of action. If they were eventually able to attempt such action, they can only target Hamilton’s $30MM salaries in 2016 and 2017, as his 2015 salary of $23MM became fully guaranteed on Opening Day.
APRIL 10, 9:44pm: The union has issued a statement rejecting the idea that the Angels would have any basis to pursue Hamilton (h/t Ken Rosenthal):
“The MLBPA emphatically denies Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno’s assertions from earlier today that the Angels had requested and received the approval of the Union to insert language into Josh Hamilton’s contract that would supersede the provisions of the Joint Drug Agreement and/or the Basic Agreement. To the contrary, the collectively bargained provisions of the JDA and the Basic Agreement supersede all other player contract provisions and explicitly prevent Clubs from exactly the type of action Mr. Moreno alluded to in his press comments today.”
7:38pm: Angels owner Arte Moreno told reporters today that his club may seek to enforce provisions of the team’s contract with Josh Hamilton relating to the use of alcohol or drugs, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times was among those to report (Twitter links). Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register reports further details.
Hamilton was recently determined not to have violated his treatment program by an arbitrator, despite apparently admitting a relapse of some kind. (His early career was, of course, marred by numerous drug-related suspensions.) That led to a rather firm rebuke from the club.
The the precise language that the Angels might rely upon remains unknown, as does the remedy they could theoretically seek. “It’s not about money, nothing about money,” Moreno said. “In our contract, there’s language that he signed and that his agent approved that said he cannot drink and use drugs. So, we have specific language in the agreement. We have a couple other players who have the same language.” While the language may not be unique, Moreno did say that it was a point that the team specifically negotiated: “When we started talking to him, we went through his history. We felt it was important for us to have language in our agreement.”
Underlying the matter at this point is the fact that Hamilton not only has apparently relapsed, but that he is starting the year on the DL after two rough seasons to start his career with the Halos. The club owes Hamilton $83MM from this season through 2017 under his deal, and at this point would certainly welcome a chance to avoid some or all of that obligation (though Moreno says “it’s not about money”).
Moreno’s statements (coming on the back of the strong words from GM Jerry Dipoto) certainly seem to indicate that the team is serious about pursuing some action. Asked if he could say that Hamilton would again play in an Angels uniform, Moreno replied: “I will not say that.”
But one major issue with any attempt to pursue action under Hamilton’s contract is the collectively-bargained Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program (JDA). As Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets, the prevailing wisdom holds that the JDA — which outlines punishment for PEDs and recreational drugs — precludes resort to contract terms to punish players for violating the league’s drug rules. There may be some arguments around the JDA’s bar on other means of enforcing violations of its terms, but they seem to face an uphill battle.
The Rays tied a franchise record by using 21 players against the Marlins in a 10-inning, 10-9 loss on Friday, writes MLB.com’s Bill Chastain. That included two players making their big-league debut, outfielder Mikie Mahtook and righty Matt Andriese, as Chastain notes. Mahtook, a first-round pick in 2011, is perhaps the more likely of the two to make a long-term impact. He hit .292/.362/.458 for Triple-A Durham last season. “I think everything happened so fast yesterday, you don’t realize what was going on,” says Mahtook. “So in the moment, I wouldn’t even say I was super nervous. I was just kind of going with it.”
- Phillies prospect Jesmuel Valentin has been arrested and suspended indefinitely for his role in a domestic violence incident, writes Jim Salisbury of of CSNPhilly. GM Ruben Amaro said the team was “getting the young man some help, but we take this very seriously as does the Commissioner’s office.” Valentin, the son of former major leaguer Jose Valentin, was acquired by the Phillies last August as part of the return for Roberto Hernandez.
- Angels pitcher and union player rep C.J. Wilson commented on the ongoing Josh Hamilton saga, per Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times (two tweets). Wilson said, “it doesn’t seem like any bridges are being built. It’s a fairly contentious situation.” Wilson added, “Josh went through the whole process. It should be about him rehabbing and playing baseball again.” Per Pedro Moura of the Orange Country Register (also Twitter), Wilson also suggested that performance is driving owner Arte Moreno’s plans to take action against Hamilton. In case you missed the latest kerfuffle involving Hamilton, here’s a detailed summary from MLBTR’s Jeff Todd.
- It’s “difficult to imagine” Josh Hamilton will play for the Angels again given the team’s current dispute with him, Rosenthal says.
- Mike Napoli of the Red Sox had an insurance policy that would have paid him a tax-free $10MM if he had failed to meet certain salary thresholds. Because he collected $8MM in incentives on his contract with the Red Sox in 2013, however, he did not need to file a claim.
- With the addition of a Competitive Balance pick in their trade for Ryan Webb, the Dodgers now hold four of the first 74 picks of the draft in June, including one they got as compensation for losing Hanley Ramirez. The Dodgers will pick at No. 24, No. 35, No. 67 and No. 74.
- The Rangers could be trade-deadline sellers, but they don’t have much to deal besides Yovani Gallardo, Rosenthal says. They don’t have enough middle-infield depth to trade Elvis Andrus unless they get another shortstop back.
Here’s the latest out of the game’s western divisions:
- Padres righty Ian Kennedy is headed to the 15-day DL, as Dennis Lin of theSan Diego Union-Tribune reports. Fortunately, Lin tweets, skipper Bud Black says that Kennedy already has shown improvement and that the team does not believe he’ll be out long. Then there is the fact that, as Jon Morosi of FOX Sports notes on Twitter, San Diego has solid rotation depth and will be comfortable handing the ball off to Odrisamer Despaigne.
- The fact that the city of Anaheim has a new lead negotiator does not change the Angels‘ stance in stadium talks, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports on Twitter. “Why would it change anything?” queried owner Arte Moreno. “We are not negotiating.”
- The Dodgers have been said to be indeed lining up as top contenders for the services of hyped Cuban hurler Yadier Alvarez. As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has gone to watch Alvarez pitch in the Dominican Republic, where he established residency upon leaving Cuba.
APRIL 7: Street is still interested in an extension with the Angels, but he told MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter links) and other reporters that he’s re-hired former agent Alan Hendricks to handle the bulk of the negotiations now that the season has started. “We are close enough that I’m still engaged,” said Street.
APRIL 6: Angels GM Jerry Dipoto tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter link), that an extension with closer Huston Street is “still possible.” Negotiations have remained “friendly,” he adds,’ noting that “Opening Day was never a deadline.”
Talks have been well-publicized, with the self-represented Street making clear that he knows what kind of deal he wants to give up the right to free agency after this season. The sides have not seemed to be close on numbers this spring, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweets.
Street, 31, does not have the kind of obscene strikeout numbers that the game’s best relievers tend to carry. Nevertheless, he has produced impeccable results, even though ERA estimators suggest he has outperformed his true contributions. Since leaving the Rockies for less hitter-friendly environs after the 2011 season, Street has thrown 155 innings of 1.97 ERA ball with 8.7 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9.
Valuing Street as an extension candidate or free agent remains challenging, however. Aging relievers with a fair bit of mileage are notoriously fickle investments, and Street has missed some time over the years with shoulder and lower-leg issues (among other things). Then again, he has never relied on velocity and still throws as hard as ever (high 80s).
After winning the World Series in three out of the last five years, the Giants have become a model front office, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. They’ve done a little bit of everything ranging from developing their own home grown pitching staff to acquiring and extending Hunter Pence. GM Brian Sabean has balanced sabermetric ideas with traditional scouts, and brought in one of the top managers in Bruce Bochy.
Here’s more from the NL West:
- The Padres are willing to eat a “chunk of money” to move Cameron Maybin or Carlos Quentin, a talent evaluator tells Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Per the evaluator, experiments with Quentin at first base did not meet with success. Both players are being shopped aggressively, although rivals may think one or both will be released before long.
- The Padres don’t consider themselves to be a small market club, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. While it may look like the club “opened the coffers” over the offseason, it was all a part of a steady build up. The franchise now supports a $100MM payroll thanks to a lucrative TV contract, central revenue, local sponsorships, and non-baseball events at Petco Park.
- The Diamondbacks have made Aaron Hill available, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. However, the club has not talked with the Angels about the second baseman. That Arizona would like to deal Hill is no surprise. He has two-years and $24MM remaining on his contract, but he’s been ousted by a combination of Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings. The club also has utility infielder Cliff Pennington available. The Angels do appear to be an obvious fit after naming Johnny Giavotella as their starting second baseman.
- Arizona is searching for a new formula to develop ace pitching, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The club has a plethora of high upside pitching, but they still need to find that breakout talent. Piecoro examines a few of 2014’s newest studs. Corey Kluber is said to have an elite work ethic, which is obviously an important but difficult-to-measure skill. Others like Garrett Richards and Jake Arrieta always had excellent stuff but lacked consistency. Some of the pitchers that could take a step forward for the D’Backs include Archie Bradley, Robbie Ray, Rubby De La Rosa, and Allen Webster.
Here’s a roundup of some 40-man roster news as teams decide who will break camp for Opening Day….
- The Diamondbacks have announced (via Twitter) that Archie Bradley, Gerald Laird, and Jordan Pacheco have made the roster. Bradley, a top prospect, will join the rotation. Laird will serve as the backup catcher while Pacheco will probably take on a super utility role that includes some catching.
- The Astros have selected the contract of Roberto Hernandez, per the MLB transactions page. The right-handed sinker specialist has a 4.60 ERA in 1,264 innings. He split the 2014 season between the Phillies and Dodgers.
- The Dodgers have released right-handed pitcher Barry Enright, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Enright is a veteran of four major league seasons, although he struggled at the top level. He owns a 5.57 ERA, 4.60 K/9, and 3.15 BB/9 in 148 innings.
- The Nationals will select the contract of outfielder Clint Robinson, reports Chelsea Janes of the Washington Times. Robinson, 30, is a career minor leaguer with just 14 major league plate appearances. In 1,771 Triple-A plate appearances, he’s hit .303/.392/.494. Janes also notes that the club is almost certain to retain second baseman Dan Uggla. He’s one of just five healthy infielders with the club.
- The Blue Jays have opted to roster eight relievers for the start of the season with Liam Hendriks making the cut, writes Sean Farrell of MLB.com. The righty appeared for the Jays and Royals last season. He has a career 5.92 ERA in 188 innings. Second baseman Ryan Goins was optioned in a corresponding move.
- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told Mark Bowman of MLB.com that utility man Pedro Ciriaco and pitcher Cody Martin will probably make the team. Ciriaco is a career .270/.299/.372 hitter over 498 plate appearances split over five seasons. The pair were added at the expense of outfielder Todd Cunningham and pitcher Michael Foltynewicz.
- Also making the Atlanta roster is pitcher Eric Stults, writes Bowman. The soft-tossing lefty has a solid big league career with a 4.12 ERA, 5.69 K/9, and 2.53 BB/9. His best season came with the Padres in 2013 when he pitched 203 innings with a 3.93 ERA.
- The Yankees have selected the contract of infielder Gregorio Petit, reports Chad Jennings of LoHud. Petit, 30, is a career .278/.301/.391 hitter in 156 plate appearances.
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels says Anthony Bass will travel with the club to Oakland, reports Stefan Stevenson (via Twitter). He’ll make the team barring a last minute acquisition. The 27-year-old reliever struggled with the Astros last season. In 27 innings, he allowed a 6.33 ERA with 2.33 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9.
- The Phillies have selected the contracts of right-handed reliever Jeanmar Gomez and left-handed reliever Cesar Jimenez, the team announced on Twitter. Gomez owns a career 4.41 ERA with 5.23 K/9 and 3.14 BB/9. He pitched well this spring in 12 and two-thirds innings, allowing a 0.71 ERA with nine strikeouts and one walk. Jimenez is familiar with the Phillies as he’s bounced between Philadelphia and Triple-A over the past two seasons. In 81 innings, he has a career 4.32 ERA with 6.09 K/9 and 3.09 BB/9.
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Rafael Soriano is talking with multiple teams at the moment but doesn’t appear close to signing, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). Soriano is still looking for a team as Opening Day approaches despite a largely successful season with the Nationals in 2014. Some scouts felt, however, that his stuff deteriorated late in the season, and Soriano did indeed lose his grip on the closer’s role in September. The last team connected to Soriano was the Twins, though team officials have since downplayed their interest. Here’s some more from around baseball…
- The Astros are looking to add another starting pitcher, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.
- Also from Heyman, he opines that the recently-released Wandy Rodriguez could be of interest to the Phillies. Rodriguez almost joined the Phils earlier this winter but failed a physical, which led him to sign with the Braves instead.
- While the relationship between Josh Hamilton and the Angels seems strained at best, the two sides “like it or not…are stuck with each other,” ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only piece. Hamilton’s big contract, lack of production and off-the-field issues make him virtually impossible to trade, while Hamilton will likely have to accept a reduced role when he returns to the club.
- The Nationals are facing the most pressure of any team in baseball this season, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes in his rundown of the top 12 teams who have a particularly big need for strong results in 2015.
11:48am: Angels GM Jerry Dipoto has released the following statement on the team’s behalf:
“The Office of the Commissioner informed the Angels that an arbitrator determined Josh Hamilton’s recent conduct did not violate his treatment program under MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, and therefore the Commissioner is not permitted to suspend or otherwise discipline Hamilton. The Club had no involvement in the proceeding or the ruling. The Angels have serious concerns about Josh’s conduct, health and behavior and we are disappointed that he has broken an important commitment which he made to himself, his family, his teammates and our fans. We are going to do everything possible to assure he receives proper help for himself and for the well-being of his family.”
11:12am: Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton will not be suspended following a relapse into substance abuse, the league announced today. An outside arbitrator ruled that Hamilton’s conduct did not violate his treatment program and, as such, he is disallowed from being suspended by commissioner Rob Manfred. The commissioner’s office has issued the following statement:
“The issue of whether Josh Hamilton violated his treatment program was submitted to the Treatment Board established under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The MLB representatives and the Players Association representatives on the Treatment Board deadlocked on that issue, with MLB taking the position that Hamilton violated his treatment program and is subject to discipline by the Commissioner. Under the procedures of the Program, an outside arbitrator was appointed to break the tie, and the arbitrator ruled that Josh Hamilton’s conduct did not violate his treatment program. As a result of that decision, the Office of the Commissioner is not permitted to suspend or impose any discipline on Hamilton. The Office of the Commissioner disagrees with the decision, and will seek to address deficiencies in the manner in which drugs of abuse are addressed under the Program in the collective bargaining process.”
In addition to the personal implications for Hamilton and his well-being, the situation comes with financial implications for the Angels. Namely, had Hamilton been suspended without pay, the team would not be required to pay him his $23MM salary (at least, not while he was on the restricted list).
It’s unclear exactly how long a potential Hamilton suspension would have lasted, but based on the comments from the commissioner’s office, it seems rather likely that Manfred had intended to suspend Hamilton, should the arbitrator’s decision have gone the other way.
An overhaul of the Rockies pitching process could pay dividends, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The club brought in Steve Foster and Darren Holmes to serve as the pitching and bullpen coaches, and the new organizational hierarchy is expected to provide better leadership and creativity. Additionally, the club has moved Wilin Rosario to the third catcher role. The addition of Nick Hundley over the offseason should help the staff perform at a higher level. Rosenthal notes that Rosario is viewed as a poor defensive catcher who allowed too many passed balls, rarely caught base stealers, struggled with game calling, and worked too slowly behind the plate. Of course, these changes don’t solve the long standing issue of pitching in a massive, elevated stadium. That’s up to the new front office.
- Speaking of the Rockies front office, GM Jeff Bridich is excited about the new internal structure, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Bridich hears the criticism that the new group is too tied to the old guard. He is quick to point out that this is a developing front office team. The decision to bring in Hundley was the opening gambit for Bridich. The move should help the entire pitching staff.
- The Angels plan to open the season with four starting pitchers, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times. That means offseason acquisitions Nick Tropeano and Andrew Heaney will open the year in Triple-A. The Angels don’t need a fifth starter until April 14, so they’ll roster an additional reliever for Opening Day. Garrett Richards is working his way back from injury. He probably won’t be ready for the April 14 start, but he could be back before much longer.