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In a revealing piece, Medium.com’s Joe Lemire profiles MLB agent Josh Kusnick’s rare birth defect and the life-threatening complications he faces to this day. Kusnick — the agent for Michael Brantley, Jeremy Jeffress, Steve Clevenger and Adrian Nieto, among others — was born with a defect called bladder exstrophy, which has led to 42 surgeries in his life despite the fact that he is just 32 years of age. Though Kusnick faces constant trips to the hospital, he remains in contact with his players while there, Brantley tells Lemire, and he even once negotiated a minor league deal for client Philippe Valiquette from his hospital bed. Lemire writes that Kusnick delayed his 43rd surgery in order to attend the 2014 Winter Meetings. I had the pleasure of meeting Josh at the meetings in San Diego and, along with the rest of MLBTR, would like to wish him the best of luck in his next operation on Wednesday of this week.
Here are some more notes from around the game…
- Though he won’t be eligible to sign until July 2, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has already drawn significant interest from the Mets, Blue Jays and Angels, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (on Twitter). His father, of course, is the same Vladimir Guerrero that won an MVP with the Angels in 2004 and made nine All-Star teams in a 16-year career that saw him bat .318/.379/.553 with 449 home runs.
- The Braves made a similar offer to the one-year, $5MM contract that Aaron Harang signed with the Phillies early in free agency, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). However, at the time, Atlanta was told that Harang had other offers for more money and more years.
- Former Orioles and Indians GM Hank Peters, who passed away at the age of 90 this weekend, took a big gamble on John Hart, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Peters plucked Hart — then a third base coach with managerial aspirations — off the diamond and gave him a front office gig because he felt strongly about Hart’s ability to evaluate players. Hart discusses the transition with Hoynes as well as his role in architecting the 1989 Joe Carter trade with the Padres. Hart assisted Peters in that deal prior to taking the GM reins himself and insisted that the trade couldn’t be made without acquiring both Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carlos Baerga — two critical components to the Indians’ 1995 World Series appearance.
- The Royals have announced the retirement of longtime assistant general manager Dean Taylor. Taylor’s front office career began with the Royals back in 1981, as he worked his way from administrative assistant to assistant director of scouting. Taylor’s other stops around the game include working as an assistant GM during the Braves’ excellent run in the 1990s as well as Brewers GM from 2000-02. Taylor returned to the Royals in 2006 and spent the final eight seasons of his career there. Josh Vernier of FOX Sports Kansas City tweets that assistant GM J.J. Picollo will assume Taylor’s duties as vice president/assistant GM, and director of player development Scott Sharp has been promoted to assistant GM as well.
James Shields is expected to get at least five years and $100MM, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Two executives tell Rosenthal that Shields already has a $110MM offer in hand. As Rosenthal notes, however, rumors of an $110MM offer don’t mean that Shields will ultimately sign for that much or more. For example, there were rumors of a $65MM offer for Chase Headley, who ultimately settled for less from the Yankees.
It’s still not clear who will sign Shields. The Marlins and Diamondbacks feel Shields is out of their price range, Rosenthal writes, and the Giants, Padres and Red Sox don’t currently seem highly motivated, either. And the Royals, who have spent on several players already this offseason, don’t appear likely to re-sign Shields. It’s possible that one or more of those teams has more interest than it’s letting on, however. Rosenthal also suggests the Tigers, Yankees and Angels as possibilities, although Shields hasn’t been closely connected to any of those teams.
Mark Polishuk recently polled MLBTR readers about Shields’ likely destination, and the results reflect the uncertainty that seems to exist throughout the industry. Less than 20% of you feel the Giants will sign Shields, followed by the Red Sox, Yankees, and “Other,” which got over 10% of the vote, even with 13 teams in the poll.
The return of Alex Rodriguez headlines the top ten baseball storylines in 2015, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. With the 39-year-old Rodriguez and his two degenerating hips returning after serving a 162-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, Cafardo posits the best-case scenario for the Yankees would be if A-Rod cannot hold up physically or the team and/or MLB come up with more damaging material to keep him out of baseball for good. Also making Cafardo’s list, the start of Rob Manfred’s tenure as Commissioner and Pete Rose testing the waters of reinstatement in the wake of the retirement of Bud Selig, a staunch opponent of allowing the all-time hits leader back into the game.
In other tidbits from Cafardo’s Sunday Notes column:
- It has been hard to gauge the market for James Shields because his negotiations have been private. However, a MLB source tells Cafardo the Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Dodgers, Rangers, Blue Jays, and Giants have had discussions or shown interest in the right-hander. Cafardo adds the Giants have cooled on Shields after re-signing Jake Peavy, but remain open-minded.
- The Giants, Nationals, Angels, and Cubs are seriously pursuing Ben Zobrist with the Rays‘ asking price being at least one top prospect and a mid-level one.
- Dan Uggla is confident in returning to his former self after being diagnosed with oculomotor dysfunction (poor motion vision when moving the head or body), which was caused by being hit in the head by a pitch on two separate occasions. After a two-week exercise regimen, doctors have declared the second baseman’s motion vision normal. The Nationals, who signed Uggla to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite the day after Christmas, have prior experience in dealing with oculomotor dysfunction, as Denard Span suffered through it in 2013. The Orioles and Rangers also expressed interest in Uggla.
- Despite his less-than-stellar reputation, Cafardo finds it hard to fathom a team would not trade for closer Jonathan Papelbon. Cafardo notes Papelbon has found a way to keep getting batters out with diminished velocity as evident by his 106 saves over the past three seasons, including 39 (with just four blown saves) for a bad Phillies team last year.
- Clubs are only offering outfielder Nori Aoki two-year deals. The Orioles have definite interest in Aoki, who also has some appeal to the Giants.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Alex Rodriguez | Baltimore Orioles | Ben Zobrist | Boston Red Sox | Chicago Cubs | Dan Uggla | James Shields | Jonathan Papelbon | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | New York Yankees | Norichika Aoki | Philadelphia Phillies | San Francisco Giants | Tampa Bay Rays | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays | Washington Nationals
The Angels are likely to trade Josh Hamilton before his contract expires, but not before letting him play out at least part of the 2015 season, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. Given Hamilton’s production (.263/.331/.414 last year) and contract, his value can’t slip much further, so the Angels might as well wait to see if they can recoup some of that value with a rebound season, Gonzalez suggests. And then, of course, there’s the fact that Hamilton has a full no-trade clause. The Angels reportedly discussed potential Hamilton deals with the Rangers and Padres this offseason, although those talks did not appear particularly likely to result in a trade. Here’s more from the West divisions.
- After reaching a deal with Nick Hundley last week, the Rockies could trade Wilin Rosario, or they could keep him and go with three catchers (Hundley, Rosario and Michael McKenry), MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes. Many teams have two catchers but are reluctant to use the backup to pinch-hit, so having three would allow the Rockies to use their spare catchers more liberally. Also, they could have Rosario pick up playing time at first base or in the outfield. Harding adds that the Rockies have “checked in with” Max Scherzer and James Shields this offseason, although, unsurprisingly, they’re not likely to sign either one, and they’ll likely acquire a veteran to eat innings instead.
- Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith should form a solid platoon for the Mariners, David Golebiewski writes for GammonsDaily.com. Neither one projects to be anything special if he plays every day, but Ruggiano has a .925 OPS against lefties in the last three seasons, while Smith has an .825 OPS against righties. Those are very strong numbers (even though we should probably expect regression for Ruggiano, and it’s impossible to completely hide any batter from same-handed pitching), and the Mariners should get effective production from right field while they wait for a long-term starter to come along.
The Angels employ a young quartet of analysts in their baseball operations department, and the four young executives took some time to talk about the work they do with the Orange County Register’s Pedro Moura. Jeremy Zoll, Jonathan Strangio, Nate Horowitz and Mike LaCassa (whose ages range from 24 to 28) discuss their efforts, which include seeing if trends translate from college to minor league ball and grouping players by swing path and testing splits for trends. Manager Mike Scioscia spoke with Moura as well regarding the team’s increased usage of information: “As we’ve organized and analyzed numbers better, it’s helped us, primarily on the defensive front. It’s also helped with some lineup issues or determinations. I think our decisiveness was noticeable last year.” GM Jerry Dipoto said that each of Zoll, Strangio, Horowitz and LaCassa is future GM material and offered high praise for his young lieutenants.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- New Rangers special assistant Michael Young sat down with Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News to discuss his new role with the team. Among the topics they discussed were Young’s involvement in the hiring of manager Jeff Banister — Young particularly praised Banister’s communication prowess — and the problems with the 2014 club. Young said that in addition to injuries, the Rangers lacked leadership with their best players out, which sometimes led to a poor collective approach to the daily grind of a 162-game season.
- In a piece for Baseball America, the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Jeff Wilson writes that Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields Jr. will be given an opportunity to make the Rangers‘ Opening Day roster as a backup center field option. GM Jon Daniels tells Wilson that he likes “the combination of now and the future” with DeShields, whom he can envision getting some time in left field in addition to backing up Leonys Martin. DeShields’ work ethic has been questioned in the past, but Wilson writes that the Rangers feel the environment fostered by Banister will help turn that around.
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told reporters today, including the Tacoma News Tribune’s Bob Dutton, that he isn’t concerned about adding a backup first baseman to serve as a safety net in the event that Logan Morrison is again injured in 2015. “We’re going to work real hard with Jesus Montero in spring training,” Zduriencik said. “We’ve talked about the strides he’s made this winter. We’ll see if he’s a player or not. That’s going to be up to him, and we’ll see what happens.” Dutton also mentions Brad Miller as a backup possibility at first, although Zduriencik didn’t list Miller specifically.
Here’s the latest from Joel Sherman of the New York Post:
- The Blue Jays, Athletics, Cubs, White Sox and Angels are interested in Stephen Drew to play second base but don’t want to pay his $9MM-$10MM asking price, Sherman writes. There’s concern that Drew’s poor 2014 season marks the beginning of a serious decline. “Fine, you want to say June and July [last year] were spring training for him, well, how about August or September? There was never a time in which he looked like a major league hitter,” says one executive. The Yankees could have interest in him, but want to commit to Didi Gregorius at shortstop and could have concern Drew would provide an easy distraction from those plans, even if he’s signed as a second baseman. Earlier this month, we guessed Drew would get a one-year, $7MM deal.
- The Royals signed Alex Rios this offseason even though Rios rejected a trade to Kansas City last summer, Sherman says. The Rangers tried to trade Rios to the Royals, but Rios requested that Kansas City exercise his 2015 option as a condition of the deal. The Royals said no, so Rios used his no-trade clause to stop the trade. Rios thus spent the entire season with the Rangers, refusing a chance to join a team in the midst of a playoff race.
- There have already been rumors of the Padres trading Wil Myers to Philadelphia in a Cole Hamels deal, and Sherman writes that San Diego would, in fact, consider dealing Myers, who they might feel isn’t good enough defensively to handle center field.
With a rash of waiver claims today, several players made it through without being added to another club’s 40-man. The Angels announced that outfielder Shawn O’Malley cleared waivers and was released. Meanwhile, the Athletics have outrighted righty Fernando Rodriguez to Triple-A after he cleared, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Indians lefty Nick Maronde has cleared waivers, been assigned to Triple-A, and received an invite to big league camp, per Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer (via Twitter). And the Dodgers announced that outfielder/first baseman Kyle Jensen was outrighted to Triple-A.
Here are the day’s further minor moves:
- The Rays announced that right-hander Brandon Gomes has cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Durham. He will be invited to Major League Spring Training. The 30-year-old Gomes found himself designated for assignment last week following the Wil Myers trade.
- Infielder Ian Stewart has joined the Nationals on a minor league pact, Matt Eddy of Baseball America tweets. As Eddy notes, Stewart seems to be a solid match for a Nats’ roster that currently features all right-handed-hitting infielders (if you count Danny Espinosa, who currently sits atop the depth chart at second and is a much better hitter from the right side than the left). Soon to turn 30, Stewart — not unlike Espinosa himself — has failed to maintain the promise of prior MLB seasons, but has shown significant power capability in the past. Stewart will receive $800K in the bigs plus a possible $350K in incentives, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets.
- The Padres have signed first baseman Brett Wallace to a minor league pact (via Eddy, on Twitter). Like Stewart, Wallace was once a highly-valued prospect. But the 28-year-old has yet to end an MLB campaign with an above-average hitting line, and he does not offer the kind of defensive value that lets his bat play. That said, he could still have some upside remaining and will provide San Diego with a depth piece at a position of need.
- The Red Sox agreed to terms with lefty Casey Crosby (again, via Eddy). Per Eddy, Crosby landed amongst the Tigers’ top thirty prospects seven times. The oft-injured 26-year-old only received three big league starts in Detroit, however, and continued to have control issues after being converted to relief last year at Triple-A.
- 28-year-old outfielder Adron Chambers will head to camp with the Cubs, Cotillo tweets. After seeing minimal playing time at the big league level from 2011-13 with the Cardinals, Chambers spent last year at the Triple-A level with the Astros and Blue Jays. Over 206 plate appearances, he slashed a rather typical .283/.351/.411 in the highest level of the minors.
- The Reds have added several more minor league signings, also via Cotillo. In addition to the previously-reported signing of Ivan De Jesus, Cincinnati has locked up outfielder Jermaine Curtis and righty Nathan Adcock. Curtis, 27, managed only a .675 OPS at Triple-A last year for the Cardinals, and will be looking for a fresh start after spending his entire professional career in that organization. The 26-year-old Adcock has thrown 104 MLB innings over the last several years, mostly in relief, working to a 3.86 ERA in that stretch.
- The Twins have made a series of additions, per a club announcement (via Dustin Morse, on Twitter). Among them are outfielder Wilkin Ramirez and second baseman Jose Martinez. The former is a 29-year-old who has called the Minnesota organization home since 2012. Last year, he put up a .262/.305/.368 line at the highest level of the minors. Martinez, soon to turn 29, slashed .276/.345/.372 at Triple-A last year with the A’s.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Boston Red Sox | Brett Wallace | Casey Crosby | Chicago Cubs | Cincinnati Reds | Cleveland Indians | Fernando Rodriguez | Ian Stewart | Jermaine Curtis | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Minnesota Twins | Nathan Adcock | Oakland Athletics | San Diego Padres | Shawn O'Malley | Tampa Bay Rays | Transactions | Washington Nationals
A number of teams are expected to break the bank on international talent next July, writes Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs.com. Due to international spending restrictions, teams that spend more than 15% above their allotted pool may not ink any international free agents for over $300,000 in the following two signing periods. However, there is growing consensus within the industry that an international draft will be implemented when baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement is re-visited after the 2016 season. If a draft is put in place, teams will have only two years to live with the current arrangement.
McDaniel’s sources have suggested that as many as 10 teams may blow past their limit when the next signing period begins on July 2. The Cubs, Blue Jays, and Phillies will “almost definitely” exceed their respective pools. As McDaniel notes, plans will likely be affected by verbal commitments as we get closer to July. Additionally, the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Angels have greatly exceeded their budgets during the current signing period, meaning they will be penalized during the next two periods.
If there truly are only two more years before a draft is implemented, then teams have an interesting “strategic choice.” At least four clubs – possibly five pending the outcome of the Yoan Moncada bidding – will be handicapped. More will spend heavily next summer, making themselves ineligible for big signings in 2016. If enough teams are aggressive, it could be advantageous to wait until 2016 for a spending spree. McDaniel also points out that the penalized teams are mostly those who usually spend a lot on international talent.
Put it all together, and it’s increasingly clear that clubs are unconcerned about the international bonus pool. While small market clubs may be loathe to pay excessive taxes (100% on overages), those theoretically get passed onto the player via a lower signing bonus. In my opinion, if most of the big spenders are excluded from the marketplace in 2016, then we could see some nontraditional sources of big bonuses.
The Padres‘ new lineup might not make them the best in the NL West, but GM A.J. Preller’s flurry of activity has made the team relevant again, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes. “I think he went in there very open-minded,” says Preller’s former boss Jon Daniels, who notes that Preller’s background in finding amateur talent with the Rangers might have made rebuilding the more obvious course than the one he ended up following. “To his credit, when he saw they had a strong pitching foundation and such a good environment with the staff, he knew they had an opportunity to build off that and not take it backwards.” Here’s more from the NL West.
- Giants GM Brian Sabean says the team has not had discussions with Max Scherzer and does not plan to, the San Jose Mercury News’ Alex Pavlovic tweets. Pavlovic adds that Sabean does not think much of the current free agent market for left fielders, and instead could attempt to acquire one in a trade. Sabean says (via John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle on Twitter) that the team has “limited financial flexibility,” given their recent signings of Jake Peavy and Sergio Romo and trade for Casey McGehee, and must decide whether to spend aggressively on James Shields or a left fielder.
- Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman is aware of the risks involved in trading Matt Kemp to San Diego, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times writes. “We get it. I have a lot of respect for what he can do in the batter’s box,” says Friedman. Nonetheless, the Kemp trade and the Dodgers’ many other offseason moves have been aimed at “mold[ing] our roster into the most highly-functioning baseball team, as opposed to a collection of talent,” he says.
- The Dodgers’ acquisition of Howie Kendrick from the Angels for top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney might not work out unless the Dodgers can sign Kendrick to an extension, Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times writes. If Heaney becomes a reliable starter for the Angels, the Dodgers will need to sign Kendrick to get good value from the deal. Both Kendrick and the Dodgers say the two sides have not yet discussed an extension, although Friedman suggests they could at some point.
Today’s minor moves..
- The Angels announced that they have requested release waivers for infielder Shawn O’Malley, to make room on the 40-man roster for the newly-acquired Johnny Giavotella. O’Malley saw time in eleven games for the Halos last season, notching three hits in 16 plate appearances. In parts of two seasons at the Triple-A level, the soon-to-be 27-year-old hit .296/.369/.408.