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A pair of AL West teams are without permanent managers at the moment, following the Astros‘ firing of Bo Porter and Ron Washington’s abrupt an unexpected resignation from his post with the Rangers. Some new candidates are emerging for the positions, as Mike DiGiovanna tweets that Angels bench coach Dino Ebel is a candidate to fill the void in Houston. Meanwhile, the Orange County Register’s Jeff Fletcher tweets that Rangers first base coach and former big league catcher Bengie Molina is a candidate for both managerial openings. Molina would continue a growing trend of recent big league backstops becoming managers, following in the footsteps of Mike Matheny (Cardinals), Mike Redmond (Marlins) and Brad Ausmus (Tigers).
Here’s more out of the AL West…
- Angels manager Mike Scioscia spoke highly of Ebel and Molina as future managers to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. Of Ebel, he said, “He’s always been an incredible teacher, has a great passion … There’s no doubt that someday he’s going to be a terrific manager.” He offered similar praise for Molina, who served as Scioscia’s catcher when the Halos won the World Series in 2002: “…just has an incredible way of connecting with people, has a great understanding of the pitcher-catcher relationship, understands the offensive part, and I know he’ll eventually get an opportunity.”
- Josh Hamilton spoke with Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News regarding Washington’s resignation and had nothing but praise and well wishes for his former skipper. “He was always very enthusiastic, always on your side and encouraging, so you always want to play for a guy like that.”
- Commissioner Bud Selig fielded a question on recent rumors that the Astros could still sign Brady Aiken when speaking to reporters, including the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich (Twitter links). Selig himself may have fueled some speculation with recent comments to the San Diego media, but that sounds inadvertent based on his response: “I didn’t mean to create confusion although I guess Ive been known to do that,” said Selig. Drellich notes that it remains “very, very unlikely” that Houston would be allowed to sign Aiken.
- Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus examines the theory that the culture of losing could have long-term negative impacts on the talent the Astros have already promoted to the Major Leagues. Using an adapted Cox Regression model, Carleton concludes that a player is seven or eight percent more likely to flame out after spending three years in a losing environment. However, he concludes that while the end result may be one extra player flaming out, the Astros could likely recoup that value via the extra money they’ve been garnering in the draft and international signing arenas by the virtue of the poor records. While there could be negative effects, Carleton writes, fixing them likely isn’t worth it from a mathematical standpoint.
The state of next year’s free agent class will be impacted by whether or not players with vesting options in their contracts achieve the necessary playing time to trigger those conditional options. As we near the end of the season, here’s a rundown of these players and their progress toward triggering their options …
- Nick Punto, Athletics: Punto has a $2.75MM club option that will automatically vest if he spends fewer than 30 days on the disabled list, assistant GM David Forst told reporters at the time of the signing. Though Forst did add that there are other ways for Punto’s option to vest, the health route is no longer available. Punto was only activated yesterday — ten days into the September active roster expansion — after going on the DL on August 3rd. If the option doesn’t vest, the A’s have the choice of picking him up at $2.75MM or buying him out for $250K.
- Rickie Weeks, Brewers: Weeks has an $11.5MM option that won’t be vesting, as he would have needed to total 600 PA in 2014 or 1,200 PA in 2013-14 and finish the season healthy. He has just 255 PAs on the season, so he’ll fall well shy of that mark. Weeks will also fall shy of reaching 400 PAs, which would have entitled him to a $1MM buyout of his option.
- Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: Rollins’ option vested earlier this year when he reached 1,100 plate appearances over 2013-14. (He has also made 600 trips to bat in 2014, an independent basis for triggering the provision.) That clause, however, also required that he not finish the year on the disabled list, and Rollins left yesterday’s game with a hamstring injury. Word is that Rollins should be able to return, but with just three weeks left even a minor setback could well end his season. Nevertheless, Philadelphia would need to go out of its way to place him on the DL at this point, with active rosters expanded. And, in any event, the option would still vest if a mutually agreed-upon doctor deemed Rollins ready to start the 2015 season.
- Dan Haren, Dodgers: Haren needs 180 innings to trigger a $10MM player option for the 2015 season. Heading into his scheduled outing this evening, he has already notched 162 frames. Haren should be in line for at least three more starts (including tonight’s) before the end of the month, and maybe another depending upon how the club approaches the last few games of the year. Having averaged 5.79 innings per start on the year, it will be incumbent on Haren to pitch his way to the option — especially in the midst of a playoff race and backed by a well-stocked bullpen.
- Mike Adams, Phillies: Adams’ $6MM club option for 2015 would have vested with 60 innings pitched in 2014, but he’s obviously not going to get there with just 17 2/3 innings in the tank. Adams has thrown just 42 2/3 innings in his season-and-a-half with the Phils, and it seems highly unlikely that the team will pick him up at $6MM given his injury troubles. He should, however, be an attractive buy-low candidate given his general success when on the field.
- Rafael Soriano, Nationals: Soriano’s $14MM club option vests with 120 games finished over 2013-14. While that always seemed a longshot, any realistic hope was snuffed out when Soriano lost his closing gig to Drew Storen, the man he replaced when he signed on with Washington. Whether or not Soriano makes it back into the 9th inning role over the next few weeks, he now sits at 104 games finished over the last two seasons, making it all but impossible for him to trigger the vesting provision. With the Nationals all but certain to decline their club option on Soriano, he should make for an interesting free agent to watch.
- Kyuji Fujikawa, Cubs: The Cubs hoped that Fujikawa, one of the best relievers in Japanese history, would help to fortify their bullpen when they signed him to a two-year, $9.5MM contract in the 2012-13 offseason. Instead, both player and team received a hefty dose of bad luck when Fujikawa needed Tommy John surgery after just 12 innings last season. He has a vesting option based on games finished, but the 33-year-old has made it back for only 10 1/3 innings in 2014 and surely won’t be crossing that (unreported) threshold.
- Sean Burnett, Angels: Burnett’s $4.5MM club option vests if he appears in a total of 110 games between 2013-14, but like Fujikawa, he’s been plagued by injury and has no chance of that happening. Burnett has appeared in just 16 games total over the past two seasons and underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year. The Halos will certainly be paying the $500K buyout on his club option.
- Scott Downs, White Sox: Downs had a $4MM vesting option that would have vested with 55 appearances, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported in June (via Twitter). Though he appeared to be headed in that direction earlier in the year, the White Sox cut bait with Downs and his then-6.08 ERA. He owns a 3.55 mark over 12 2/3 innings with the Royals — who signed him to a separate, minor-league deal — and has now thrown in 53 games, but the vesting clause is now a moot point.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Dan Haren | Jimmy Rollins | Kyuji Fujikawa | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Mike Adams | Milwaukee Brewers | Newsstand | Nick Punto | Oakland Athletics | Philadelphia Phillies | Rafael Soriano | Rickie Weeks | Scott Downs | Sean Burnett | Washington Nationals
Here are the latest minor transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post…
- Now-former Angels righty Michael Kohn has elected free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Kohn was designated for assignment earlier this month in spite of his 3.04 earned run average, having struggled to stay in the zone all year.
- The Angels have purchased the contract of right-hander Jairo Diaz, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. The Halos will need to make another move to create a spot for Diaz on their 40-man roster (Twitter links). Diaz, 23, has a 3.48 ERA, 11.8 K/9 and 4.25 K/BB rate over a combined 64 2/3 relief innings at the high-A ball and Double-A levels in 2014.
- The Blue Jays granted left-hander Mike Zagurski his release earlier this week, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently reported on Twitter. Zagurski signed a minor league deal with Toronto in May and he has a combined 2.08 ERA, 12.3 K/9 and 2.86 K/BB rate over 60 2/3 relief innings with the Jays’ and Indians’ Triple-A affiliates this season. The southpaw has been largely dominant in the minors over his career but his control issues have caused problems at the Major League level, as Zagurski has a 7.05 ERA, 5.5 BB/9 and 75 strikeouts over 75 1/3 career innings in the Show.
The Angels have designated corner infielder Ryan Wheeler for assignment, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports (Twitter link). The move created a 40-man roster spot for right-hander Jairo Diaz, whose contract was purchased by the Halos in corresponding move.
A fifth-round pick of the Diamondbacks in the 2009 draft, Wheeler was dealt to the Rockies in exchange for southpaw Matt Reynolds in November 2012 and then was claimed off waivers by the Angels last month. Wheeler has a .233/.280/.335 slash line and three homers in 225 career PA with Arizona and Colorado and hit well for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate, slashing .326/.373/.402 in 102 PA at Salt Lake.
Wheeler joins fellow Angel Michael Kohn in “DFA Limbo,” and the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker tells us that four other players (the Royals’ Blake Wood and Chris Dwyer and the Blue Jays’ Matt Hague and Darin Mastroianni) are also awaiting resolution.
The Rangers have officially shut down Yu Darvish for the remainder of the season, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Darvish, who has a 3.06 ERA and 11.35 K/9 in 22 starts, is currently on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. His comment on the decision, per FOX Sports Southwest’s Anthony Andro (via Twitter): “It is what it is.”
- With Darvish out for the remainder of the season, Rangers players will combine to spend at least 1,990 days on the disabled list, says Andro (also Twitter). That number shatters the most days lost last year. In an analysis of injury data published after the 2013 season, Jeff Zimmerman of FanGraphs found that the Marlins and Braves lost the most time to injury with a little over 1,500 days apiece. Teams averaged about 900 days lost between 2010 and 2013.
- The Angels are among several teams scouting Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda, tweets Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. The 26-year-old could be posted over the offseason. He currently has a 2.86 ERA, 7.4 K/9, and 2.2 BB/9 in 148 innings for the Hiroshima Carp.
So far, the best move of the July trading season has been the Angels‘ acquisition of Huston Street, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes in a piece published before Street’s bad outing Friday. The acquisitions of Street and Jason Grilli have helped stabilize what had been a weak Angels bullpen. Meanwhile, higher-profile acquisitions like the Tigers’ trade for David Price and the Athletics’ deals for Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija haven’t had as great an impact. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- Before the White Sox traded Adam Dunn to the Athletics, the Dodgers tried to acquire him to help with their bench, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. Dunn’s lack of defensive value would have been a more serious issue in the National League, but his power and patience would surely have been appealing in a pinch-hitting role, especially with expanded September rosters that might have prevented him from having to play much in the field.
- Joe Wieland will pitch for the Padres Saturday afternoon, and it will be his first start in over two years, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. Wieland had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and has had setbacks since then that have delayed his return. “I won’t say it’s going to be quite like my debut, but it’s going to be pretty darn close. Two-and-a-half years is a long time,” he says. Wieland got hurt less than a year after the Padres acquired him (with Robbie Erlin) from the Rangers in a deal for Mike Adams, and he’s only started five big-league games since the trade and for his career.
The Angels exercised their 2015 option to retain general manager Jerry Dipoto, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports. The decision was made around the All-Star break, though Dipoto didn’t want to publicize it. The Halos also hold an option on Dipoto for 2016, though no decision has yet been made on that year. Financial terms of Dipoto’s contract aren’t known.
Since becoming the Angels’ GM on October 29, 2011, Dipoto’s tenure has been marked by several major free agent signings (Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, Josh Hamilton) and trades (acquiring Zack Greinke, Jason Vargas, Huston Street, David Freese) yet the team didn’t reach the postseason in either of Dipoto’s first two seasons. Between this lack of success and rumors of discord between Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia, there was speculation that Dipoto (or Scioscia) could be replaced last offseason.
Now, with the Angels owning the best record in baseball and looking like World Series contenders, it seems as if Dipoto could remain in Anaheim for a while. It’s fair to speculate that a deep playoff run will likely get Dipoto that 2016 option or even an extension.
Dipoto, 46, enjoyed an eight-year career as a reliever with the Indians, Mets and Rockies before transitioning to scouting and front office work with the Red Sox, Rockies and Diamondbacks. He served as Arizona’s interim GM for the last half of the 2010 season after Josh Byrnes was fired.
The move is a homecoming for Shuck, who was born in Westerville, Ohio and went to Ohio State. The Halos designated Shuck for assignment three days ago, and now he joins a Tribe roster that is already pretty deep in left-handed hitting outfielders. Still, Shuck has experience at all three outfield positions and could be a longer-term option for Cleveland since he’s controlled through the 2018 season. Shuck has a .272/.316/.344 slash line over 658 career PA with the Angels and Astros.
With Shuck’s situation resolved, check out the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker to follow which players are still in “DFA limbo.”
In an excellent piece at Fangraphs, August Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics‘ acquisition of Adam Dunn as the final piece of GM Billy Beane’s playoff roster. Fagerstrom notes that if the A’s play in a Wild Card game — which is very likely — they’ll likely face either Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Max Scherzer or David Price. Five of the six are right-handed, making Dunn a formidable weapon in such a matchup. Beyond that, Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics’ bench versus a right-handed pitcher and versus a left-handed pitcher, noting that each group is composed of entirely different players (with the exception of Sam Fuld). However, each group will also feature two catchers that can hit reasonably well, an infielder that can play all four infield positions, and a pair of elite defensive outfielders. The balance of the roster is truly impressive, and Fagerstrom’s piece highlights the roster construction particularly well.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- In a lengthy piece for ESPN The Magazine, Tim Keown spoke with Beane at length about his team’s bold moves this season and the competition they’re facing in their quest for the World Series. Beane referred to division rival Mike Trout as “the best player who has ever walked on the planet” and said he doesn’t care for the narrative that the A’s are “all in” this season: “Just assume that every move we make in the front office means we’re all-in. We can’t afford a five-year plan, so every move means we’re trying to win every game we possibly can. All-in — I never liked that term. For one thing, I don’t have that many chips to throw into the middle of the table.” Keown also spoke with Jon Lester about his trade from the Red Sox to Oakland, and his piece also contains quotes from assistant GM Farhan Zaidi and Jeff Samardzija. The entire article is well worth the read not only for A’s fans, but for baseball fans in general.
- Angels infielder John McDonald tells Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com that he may end up retiring following the 2014 season. McDonald says he’s more than aware of his dwindling playing time — he’s received just 81 PA despite appearing in 81 games this season — and knows the market for 40-year-old infielders isn’t great. “I got more out of my career than I ever thought was possible,” said McDonald. “I didn’t think I’d get a day in the big leagues, let alone parts of 16 years.” For the time being, he’s trying not to even think about the offseason, however, as it’s “just too much fun” to go to the stadium every day in the midst of a pennant race.
- In a second Fangraphs piece pertaining to the AL West, Tony Blengino (former special assistant to the GM with the Mariners) looks at Dustin Ackley‘s batted ball data in an attempt to determine whether or not his second-half resurgence is legitimate. As Blengino notes, Ackley’s production has soared on pulled fly-balls, and his line-drive production has trended upward as well. The trade off has been some loss of authority on ground-balls, but as he notes, hitters will gladly make that swap. Blengino concludes that Ackley may never become a star, as his previously excellent walk rate now looks more pedestrian, but he’s capable of hitting .275-.280 with a .310-.310 OBP and a slugging percentage around .425 with solid-or-better defense in left field — an asset that seemed unlikely just a few months ago.
- Also of interest, Blengino discusses how those with the benefit of hindsight may wonder why Trout didn’t go at the top of the draft class when Ackley was selected, but most clubs felt he was too raw to select near the top of the draft despite being an obvious talent. The Mariners had Stephen Strasburg atop their board and Ackley second, and current Reds righty Mike Leake was “likely” their backup plan should anything go wrong with Ackley, whom he says was “considered a pretty obvious second selection back in 2009.”
The Angels have designated righty Michael Kohn and outfielder J.B. Shuck for assignment, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter links). Los Angeles needed 40-man roster spots to accommodate its September call-ups.
Kohn, 28, has produced a 3.52 ERA in 76 2/3 MLB relief innings over the last two years. But his 9.2 K/9 over that stretch has been countered by 5.6 BB/9, and his control issues worsened this year both at the major league and minor league level. ERA estimators are not fans of his work, moreover, with his earned run numbers propped up by a low home run-to-flyball rate and a .192 BABIP-against.
Meanwhile, the 27-year-old Shuck is out of chances in Los Angeles just one season after receiving 478 plate appearances for the big club. He posted a .293/.331/.366 slash in last year’s audition, but has been much less productive over just 88 plate appearances in 2014. It would not be surprising to see some interest in Shuck from other clubs, however. The controllable outfielder has actually posted his best minor league numbers this year, slashing .320/.382/.446 in 465 plate appearances at Triple-A.