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In his look at the game’s most untradeable contracts, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com rates Josh Hamilton of the Angels as the least desirable in the game. While that deal already had a reasonable stake to that label, Hamilton’s recent surgery and still-unresolved disciplinary matter definitely seem to take it to another level of difficulty. The Halos have rightly put the focus on Hamilton’s personal health and wellness, but the fact remains that the contract would be all but impossible to move at this point. Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports report that a decision on Hamilton could come as soon as next week and is anticipated to occur before the season starts. The league and union have disagreed on the proper suspension and/or treatment scenario, with possibilities ranging from a relatively short suspension to a full-year ban. The matter is now before an arbitrator, whose determination will decide the nature of the violation. If a material violation is found, per FOX Sports, commissioner Rob Manfred would have “broad authority to determine the length of Hamilton’s suspension.”
Here are some more notes from the American League:
- Good and/or bad 2014 campaigns changed the future outlook for many players, and Ben Lindbergh of Grantland evaluates the players whose campaigns most swayed projection systems. On the positive side, a host of American League bats saw nice bumps, including youngsters Mookie Betts and Joey Gallo as well as longer-tenured players J.D. Martinez, Steve Pearce, and Victor Martinez.
- The Tigers appear set to give a long look at backstop James McCann, Chris Iott of MLive.com writes. Detroit needs to find out what it has in the 24-year-old, says Iott, with veteran Alex Avila having dealt with concussion issues and set to reach free agency after the season.
- Physical setbacks are an unfortunate but inevitable part of the spring, and two talented younger players have already suffered significant injuries. The Yankees have announced that catching prospect Luis Torrens will miss the season after tearing his right shoulder labrum. Torrens opened spring rated the ninth-best prospect in the New York system. Also, Mariners farmhand Ji-Man Choi will miss four to six months after suffering a fractured right fibula, as MLB.com’s Greg Johns tweets.
Josh Hamilton‘s fate is in the hands of an arbitrator, report Bill Shaikin and Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times, after a four-person panel was unable to come to an agreement on the course of treatment after the outfielder’s recent relapse with substance abuse. The panel, made up of a league-appointed doctor, a league-appointed lawyer, an MLBPA-appointed doctor and an MLBPA-appointed lawyer, split their vote down the middle, per the L.A. Time duo. As such, an arbitrator will break the tie.
As MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez wrote earlier today, Hamilton was on the Rays’ 40-man roster for his first violation, so he is considered a multiple offender. (The Times duo notes that it is unclear how many of the “at least six drug tests” failed by Hamilton when with the Rays occurred whilst on the 40-man roster.) A first-time offender could be suspended for 15-25 games, a second-time offender for 25-50, a third-time offender for 50-75 and a fourth-time offender for a full season.
Per DiGiovanna and Shaikin, MLB is deciding whether or not to rule Hamilton as a fourth-time offender. That would mean that Hamilton could miss a whole season and forfeit the entirety of his $25MM salary. However, If Hamilton is ruled to enter a rehabilitation program, he’ll earn his full salary for 30 days and half his salary for the following 30 days, per the Times. That would come out to a bit less than $6.2MM.
Commissioner Rob Manfred would have final say on the length of any suspension for Hamilton. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark told both Gonzalez and the L.A. Times pairing that it is the Union’s “responsibility to protect the player and his rights in the process.” However, Clark voiced far more concern for Hamilton as a person than as a baseball player. “What I hope for is support for Josh. There are always baseball concerns. There are, more importantly, life concerns. We have protocols in place to handle the baseball-related issues. But I’m hopeful that anyone in the baseball family who finds himself in a tough spot gets support as a person beyond baseball.”
Angels closer Huston Street is expected to swap formal offers with GM Jerry Dipoto in short order, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports. The Halos have already held exploratory discussions with the 31-year-old, who, as Gonzalez writes, is one of the rare big league players to take on his own representation. (Street discusses his decision to represent himself within Gonzalez’s article.)
As Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register wrote earlier this week, Street and the Angels have talked over the winter but took a break when pitchers reported to Spring Training. Street’s plainly stated to the media that he feels a new, four-year deal in the $36-46MM range (the respective deals given to Andrew Miller and David Robertson this winter) would be fair. Street is eyeing a deal that would override his 2015 salary, meaning he’s seeking three new years.
Per Fletcher, the Angels are only about $15MM away from the luxury tax threshold, so a new deal for Street will certainly come with financial implications. He’s earning $7MM right now, but a four-year deal in the $40MM range would mean an additional $3MM or so going against the luxury tax barrier, as the luxury tax is calculated based on the average annual value of contracts. Of course, the Angels could have some additional leeway in that area in the event of a suspension of Josh Hamilton.
Gonzalez writes that Street will not let negotiations drag into the regular season unless the two sides are merely hashing out the final details, so it seems likely that we’ll soon know one way or another whether Street will be remaining in Anaheim long-term or testing the waters of the open market next winter.
According to the current pre-season projected standings and playoff probabilities from Fangraphs, the National League may be expected to be rather top-heavy next season. But the American League appears wide open, with nine teams projected to have .500 records but none projected at more than 87 wins. (And that doesn’t include the Royals, Orioles, or White Sox, all of which rate as sub-.500 teams in the eyes of the model.)
Here are some notes from that tightly-bunched side of the game:
- As today’s spring opener showed, Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino is in store for a busy run as he tries to convince the team — and the team tries to convince others — of his health and productivity, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. Victorino is back to hitting from both sides of the plate and is being presented as the club’s top option in right, but a trade certainly still appears to be a plausible option.
- The increasing signing of career minor leaguers to major league deals in free agency is an interesting recent trend, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes explored last year. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register takes a look at one of this year’s examples, Jeremy McBryde of the Angels. “For me, he was one of the most intriguing bullpen guys in the minor leagues,” said GM Jerry Dipoto said. “… All the boxes you’d have for a prospect, he seems to check off those boxes.” As Dipoto further explained, McBryde’s lack of big league service and 40-man time also means that he comes with three option years remaining.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan says he is receptive to the idea of mentoring Torii Hunter in the ways of the front office, as MLB.com’s Spencer Fordin reports. “He’s thought about his career after his playing days, like most players should,” said Ryan. “He’s got a good baseball mind and I’m happy to hear he wants to be a GM. That’s good.”
Catcher Eli Whiteside has opted to accept a coaching job with the Giants rather than taking one of several offers he had to continue playing, MLB.com’s Chris Haft reports. The veteran played in parts of six MLB seasons, including a three-year run in which he was a significant contributor for San Francisco. He will retire after getting one last short run in the bigs last year with the Cubs.
More from the NL West:
- Padres righty Josh Johnson has progressed to the point that he’ll throw to a catcher on flat ground, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. With his training program currently on track, Johnson is scheduled to throw a pen session for the first time by mid-March with a target of game action by June, if all goes according to plan. Johnson’s deal with San Diego promises him only $1MM but can increase all the way to $7.25MM if he maxes out his incentives.
- Fellow two-time TJ patient Cory Luebke is also hoping to return strong for the Padres, as MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports. The story details some of the ups and downs that Luebke has had in dealing with his two procedures. As with Johnson, 2015 is something of a make-good season for the lefty: his early-career extension is up after the season, when San Diego will have to decide whether to exercise a $7.5MM option or pay a $1.75MM buyout.
- The Rockies pursued utilityman Daniel Descalso not only because he would offer a versatile bench option, but because of his big-game experience, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. Skipper Walt Weiss explained that the former Cardinals infielder brought an underappreciated element to the squad. “All of that factored in quite a bit,” said Weiss. “I think we sometimes underestimate the value of that — guys that have played in big games, pennant races, and have won a World Series. Those types of players are valuable, and that’s a big reason why we brought Danny in here.”
- Alex Guerrero‘s contract and the Dodgers roster situation makes for quite a puzzle, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. On the one hand, Guerrero can refuse an optional assignment and has said he will do just that. On the other, if he is traded he will earn the right to opt out of his deal after the season. Cameron posits that the club could send Guerrero out in exchange for some savings on his 2015 tab, agreeing to remain responsible for post-2015 responsibilities while hoping he will opt out. The Angels, Blue Jays, Rockies, and Rangers all look like reasonable landing spots, in Cameron’s estimation.
The White Sox announced today that they have promoted Jeremy Haber, who was previously assistant to general manager Rick Hahn and will now bear the title of assistant GM. The 31-year-old Haber led negotiations on the team’s five-year, $21MM extension with Jose Quintana last offseason, says Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter), and he also leads salary arbitration negotiations. CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes profiled Haber last offseason, noting an impressive educational background but little experience in the baseball world. Haber has a B.A. in political science from Brown as well as an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Haber was initially hired as an intern with the Red Sox after a series of blind emails to teams in search of a front office opportunity, and he’s since helped in the White Sox’ hiring of hitting coach Todd Steverson in addition to making player acquisition recommendations for Hahn and the rest of the Chicago front office.
More from the American League:
- Huston Street tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register that he and Angels GM Jerry Dipoto have begun swapping text messages to figure out a time when they can have more serious extension discussions in the near future. Street, who acts as his own agent, has said he wants to get a new contract worked out in Spring Training and made no attempt to hide the fact that he’s eyeing something between the four-year, $36MM deal inked by Andrew Miller and the four-year, $46MM contract signed by David Robertson. He did say he envisions a new contract overriding his current one-year deal, so he’s essentially looking for three new years.
- Ryan Ludwick told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com that multiple teams for which he had played in the past expressed interest in bringing him back this offseason, though he declined to specify which teams. The Rangers are clearly one, as the now-36-year-old signed a minor league pact to return to Texas, where he made his big league debut 13 years ago. “It’s cool knowing that teams are willing to take you on,” Ludwick said Sunday. “I guess that means I’m somewhat of a decent guy.” The Rangers will hope that in addition to being a “somewhat decent guy,” Ludwick will bring the offense he showed as recently as 2012, when he hit .275/.346/.531 with 26 homers in just 472 plate appearances for the Reds. He’s also played for the Cardinals, Indians, Padres and Pirates.
- Replacing Nelson Cruz‘s production will not be straightforward but may yet be possible for the Orioles, as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com writes. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette explains that the current roster not only has power across the board but does so with generally well-rounded players. And, as he notes, the team will never “grab a lot of headlines in the offseason,” as would have been needed to bring Cruz back or replace him with a single player. “We pick up players year round,” said Duquette. “We don’t do it all in the offseason.”
David Ortiz told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he’s extremely excited to have Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval in the Red Sox’s lineup alongside healthy versions of Dustin Pedroia, Shane Victorino, and Mike Napoli. “It’s going to make a huge difference.” Ortiz said. “Last year we had the big struggle with injuries. Pedroia struggled with injuries. Nap struggled with injuries. Even myself toward the end, I had a wrist problem. When you have pretty much the center of the lineup going through all those injuries, it’s hard to recover from the struggles we had offensively last year. Hopefully that’s not the case now. Everyone is healthy now. And you’ve got more thunder coming into the lineup.” Here’s more from the AL East..
- Andrew Miller turned down a four-year, $40MM deal from the Astros to join the Yankees on a four-year, $36MM this offseason, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. While he believed that the Astros are headed in the right direction, he thought it would take them time to realize their goals. Miller also told Cafardo that the rival Red Sox made an excellent offer, but the Yankees’ situation was just too good for him to pass up. It’s believed that the Red Sox topped out at $32MM over four years. Miller recently spoke with MLBTR’s Jeff Todd about his free agent journey.
- The Angels will turn to Matt Joyce in the wake of Josh Hamilton‘s issues, but Cafardo wonders if they could call the Red Sox about Allen Craig or Shane Victorino. He also posits that the Blue Jays could have interest in talking with Boston after Michael Saunders‘ injury.
- The Rays made the right move in releasing thrice-suspended 2010 No. 1 draft pick OF Josh Sale before he anything else went wrong, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. Sale has run into a litany of problems over the last few years, including two suspensions imposed by MLB and one from the Rays. Of course, it also didn’t help that he had yet to play above Class A in five pro years.
- No one is expecting Johan Santana to revert back to his prime form, but scouts see the Blue Jays signing him as a smart, low-risk move, Cafardo writes. “He obviously isn’t the Santana of old, but I’m not sure there is a more competitive pitcher in the game, and he’s learned to pitch with less,” said one National League scout.
Top 2014 White Sox draft pick Carlos Rodon could receive more attention in Spring Training with ace Chris Sale out with an avulsion fracture, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. Chris Beck, Scott Carroll, Brad Penny and Francellis Montas could also get extra looks. GM Rick Hahn emphasizes, however, that the timing of Rodon’s eventual promotion to the big leagues will be dictated by how ready he is, not by a vacancy in the rotation. After racing through the minor leagues and getting all the way to Triple-A after signing last year, Rodon appears close to being ready, although he only has a total of nine minor-league outings under his belt. Here’s more from the American League.
- The terms of Josh Hamilton‘s likely suspension following his relapse are, clearly, secondary to the relapse itself, and what’s most important is Hamilton’s recovery. MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez notes, though, that the impending suspension could have implications for the Angels‘ payroll. The team will save about $126K for every day Hamilton is suspended. They’ll also save the prorated portion of the Hamilton contract’s $25MM average annual value against the luxury tax threshold. It’s probably too late for them to use any of that money on free agents, but Gonzalez notes that they could spend it on players they add in-season. Gonzalez also writes that Hamilton’s suspension would begin at the start of the season, when he could still be rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
- Barry Zito will appear in his first game action since 2013 when he faces the Cubs in Cactus League action on Thursday, MLB.com’s Jane Lee writes. Zito is in camp on a minor-league deal with the Athletics after taking a year off following the Giants’ decision to decline his 2014 option. “I have a fresh perspective,” he says. “I’ve got my passion back, and I just want to continue to work hard and go out and enjoy competing. I guess you could say I’m competing against all these guys, but for me, it’s more about competing against myself.”
Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey is already helping new reliever Ernesto Frieri make adjustments, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune writes. “That’s why I’m here,” says Frieri. “He knows what he’s doing. He fixed a couple of guys before, and I hope I’m not the exception. I’m pretty sure he’s going to give me the right information and I’m going to take advantage.” The Rays have helped veteran relievers like Fernando Rodney, Kyle Farnsworth and Joaquin Benoit improve their stock, and Frieri hopes to be the next in line. The 29-year-old is coming off a terrible season with the Angels and Pirates in which he posted a 7.34 ERA and struggled mechanically. His 10.4 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and good velocity suggest he might have more gas in his tank, however, even if his fly-ball tendencies make him homer-prone, so he could be a bounce-back candidate if he can make the right adjustments. Here’s more from the American League.
- MLB plans to be compassionate in the case of Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton after his relapse, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi report. The league is expected to suspend Hamilton for 25 games or more, but for less than a full season, although an official decision is not close. Hamilton’s relapse violated the terms of the treatment program the league required of him when he was reinstated in 2006 following a lengthy suspension.
- The Royals will use Joe Blanton exclusively as a reliever, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports. “The only way he is really going to help us is in the bullpen,” says Ned Yost. “We’re not going to stretch him out.” Blanton, 34, recently signed a minor-league deal with Kansas City after sitting out the 2014 season. He has spent almost his entire ten-year big-league career as a starter.
Major League Baseball has let teams know the bonus pool values for the 2015 amateur draft, and Baseball America’s John Manuel has the full list of what each team can spend on players taken in the first 10 rounds. The Astros have the highest bonus pool (at a bit more than $17.289MM) in part because they received the second overall selection as compensation for not signing Brady Aiken with the No. 1 pick last summer — Houston has both the second and fifth overall picks in the 2015 draft. As noted earlier today, the 2015-16 international draft pool values were also determined and revealed by Baseball America’s Ben Badler.
Here’s some more from around the game…
- Huston Street and the Angels haven’t begun yet talks about an extension during Spring Training, he tells MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter link). Street said he wanted “a week or so to settle in first” at camp and then the two sides would start negotiating. The closer is known to be looking for a new deal comparable to the contracts signed by David Robertson and Andrew Miller this offseason.
- The Indians are still interested in adding Dayan Viciedo but only on a minor league contract, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets. Hoynes reported on the Tribe’s interest in Viciedo two weeks ago, though Hoynes felt Viciedo would more likely opt for a team who could offer him a Major League deal and a clearer path to playing time.
- Melky Cabrera was already intrigued by the White Sox since his wife loves Chicago, though the outfielder wasn’t totally sold until he saw the team’s winter moves, Cabrera told CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes. When GM Rick Hahn approached Cabrera earlier in the offseason, he was more skeptical since he wanted to play for a contender. Cabrera “really wanted to win,” Hahn recalled. “(He said) ‘But with all due respect are you guys really in a position to win and am I really a difference maker for you?’ ”
- With Michael Saunders sidelined for several months, the Blue Jays are lacking in solid left field replacement options, Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith writes. Nicholson-Smith lists several internal and external candidates who are flawed (or unlikely to be pursued) for one reason or another. The Padres‘ Will Venable is cited as perhaps the best trade candidate for the Jays’ LF hole, though even he isn’t a perfect fit.
- The Mariners are putting a lot of faith in Logan Morrison to be healthy and productive this season, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes, given Morrison’s injury history and Seattle’s lack of depth at the first base position.