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Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully is celebrating his 65th anniversary in the booth tonight. His first game was at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park featuring Robin Roberts against Don Newcombe. Incidentally, Roberts is also in the Hall of Fame while Newcombe is often discussed as a snub. Here’s more from around the league.
- The Blue Jays did little to address an obvious bullpen problem over the offseason, writes Mike Wilner of Sportsnet.ca. However, the club might have lucked into a valuable solution in the form of Liam Hendriks. The 26-year-old is averaging 93 mph with his fastball – up about two mph from his career norm. Through six innings, he’s allowed two hits and one walk while recording nine strikeouts. Before anybody anoints Hendriks the closer, it’s worth noting that he has a low 5.3% swinging strike rate. At some point, that rate will either increase, or his strikeout rate will decrease.
- The Nationals must learn to thrive under walk year pressure, writes Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. When Jayson Werth entered his walk year with the Phillies, then-manager Charlie Manuel advised him to test free agency (in more colorful language). Now the Nationals have four key players on the road to free agency. Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, and Denard Span could all leave after the season, which gives 2015 a make-or-break feel for Washington. Werth and Max Scherzer have advice for their new teammates – acknowledge all the sources of pressure.
Pete Rose will join the FOX Sports1 team, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. As you’re well aware, Rose is banned from baseball for gambling on the sport over 26 years ago. FOX is a broadcast partner with MLB, but the commissioner’s office has no say over who FOX does and does not hire. The media outlet did clear the move with MLB and says Rose was hired to provide a compelling, on-air personality. As I see it, this is a smart play for Rose as he continues to seek reinstatement.
- In 2013, the Phillies made a mistake by returning Rule 5 pick Ender Inciarte to the Diamondbacks, writes Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly. However, the club is at no risk of repeating the poor decision with Odubel Herrera. The 23-year-old is hitting .308/.372/.513 in 43 plate appearances. He’s temporarily supplanted Ben Revere atop the lineup. Herrera was selected last December from the Rangers – a team that could also use him right around now.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman made a couple trades over the offseason to address shortstop and starting pitcher. Those moves have not shown positive early returns, writes Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Cashman sent pitcher Shane Greene to Detroit in a three-team swap for Didi Gregorius. Greene has pitched excellently in two outings – 16 innings, zero runs, eight strikeouts, and one walk. Meanwhile, Gregorius has hit just .152/.194/.152 and with a couple iffy plays on defense. In a related move, Cashman dealt Martin Prado for hard-throwing Marlins pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. He’s allowed five runs over 10 and one-third innings.
- The Dodgers local TV blackout does not hurt the team’s brand, argues Bill Shaiken of the LA Times. Owner Magic Johnson said the same recently. As you might expect, there was some backlash to the comments. As Shaiken pointed out, the fans returned to the Dodgers after the Frank McCourt era. NFL teams are clamoring to return to the Los Angeles market despite losing a generation of fans. While L.A. residents may be forgiving, the club’s TV plans remain in limbo while federal regulators work through a proposed merger of Time Warner Cable and Comcast.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.
- The Dodgers have announced that they’ve outrighted lefty David Huff, who has accepted an assignment to Triple-A Oklahoma City. The Dodgers designated Huff for assignment on Wednesday after he made one four-inning start for them. The 30-year-old has a 5.06 ERA, 5.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in parts of seven seasons with the Indians, Yankees and Giants in addition to the Dodgers.
- The Yankees have outrighted righty Joel De La Cruz, then sent him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 25-year-old posted a 4.44 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 121 2/3 innings in the high minors last season. The Yankees selected his contract last week, but he did not appear in a game before they optioned him back to the minors.
- The Red Sox have signed righty Denny Bautista to a minor-league deal, Matt Eddy of Baseball America tweets. The 32-year-old Bautista last appeared in the big leagues with the Giants in 2010 and previously pitched for the Orioles, Royals, Rockies, Tigers and Pirates. He pitched in Mexico in 2014 (struggling with his control, also a problem in his big-league days) and in Korea from 2011-2013.
- The Padres have signed former Astros third-round pick Jonathan Meyer, Eddy tweets. Meyer had been an infielder in the Astros’ system, but the Padres will use him as a catcher. The 24-year-old hit .215/.274/.280 at Double-A and Triple-A last year before Houston released him.
- The Nationals are having infielder Emmanuel Burriss join the team, James Wagner of the Washington Post tweets. It’s not clear how the Nats will make room for Burriss on their 25-man roster, although Yunel Escobar suffered a groin strain against the Phillies on Friday. (MLB.com’s Bill Ladson tweets that Burriss is not listed on the Nats’ lineup card today, and Wagner notes that Burriss could simply be with the team as insurance in case the Nats need to make a move.) Burriss, a D.C. native, was hitting .286/.359/.486 in 39 plate appearances with Triple-A Syracuse. The Nats re-signed him to a minor-league deal last November. The 30-year-old appeared in parts of five seasons with the Giants from 2008-2012, hitting .243/.304/.269 in 801 plate appearances.
James Shields didn’t have his best performance today, but the Padres were still able to top the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday, as Corey Brock of MLB.com writes. “I didn’t have the greatest stuff today. I wasn’t locating as well as I wanted to; I was behind in the count all day,” Shields said. In the end, San Diego managed to win 5-4 anyway, thanks to Wil Myers‘ three-run homer in the seventh inning. More from the National League West..
- The Giants offered Nelson Cruz a deal worth upwards of $40MM this offseason, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). The Mariners, meanwhile, landed Cruz on a four-year, $57MM contract. Cruz, 35 in July, led the Majors in home runs in 2014 (40) while putting together an excellent .271/.333/.525 batting line.
- Craig Edwards of Fangraphs looked at the Diamondbacks‘ decision to promote Yasmany Tomas to the varsity squad this week. Arizona generated a good amount of excitement by promoting Tomas, but their $68MM investment was apparently brought aboard to sit on the bench. As Edwards shows, a difficult numbers crunch led Arizona to promote Tomas rather than Double-A prospects like Brandon Drury and Socrates Brito who are not quite ready for primetime.
- The Dodgers have been kept afloat by young relievers Yimi Garcia and Pedro Baez, as Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes. The previous regime put emphasis on experience in building the bullpen, but the new front office gave jobs to Baez and Garcia rather than the veterans they had in camp. The Dodgers bounced Dustin McGowan, told Mike Adams (who later retired) that he wouldn’t make the team, and sent Sergio Santos and David Aardsma to Triple-A.
The Dodgers announced today that they have claimed right-hander Daniel Corcino off waivers from the Reds and designated lefty Ryan Dennick for assignment. Strangely, the Dodgers had just claimed Dennick off waivers from the Reds two days ago.
The 24-year-old Corcino formerly ranked as one of Cincinnati’s top 10 prospects, according to Baseball America, but his career hasn’t taken off the way that the Reds had hoped. Though Corcino made his Major League debut last season, posting a 4.34 ERA with a 15-to-10 K/BB ratio in 18 2/3 innings, he never built on the strong 2011-12 Minor League numbers he compiled.
Corcino entered the 2013 season ranked as the No. 94 prospect on BA’s Top 100 list, but he posted a surprising 5.86 ERA that year with 6.3 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9 in his first taste of Triple-A. His numbers in 2014 were better, but not markedly so, and his control remained a bit troubling. BA’s scouting reports as Corcino rose through the system noted that he had some effort to his delivery and struggled to command his secondary offerings. Corcino will head to Double-A with the Dodgers, who will hope that they can work with him to refine his control and make the most of a still-youthful reclamation project.
Yesterday, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel looked ahead to the 2015-16 international signing period by looking at several of the top prospects expected to land large bonuses on or after July 2. Today, McDaniel is back with the second part of his piece, this time examining how particular clubs are going to approach this next round of international spending. For reference purposes, here are the 2015-16 international bonus pools for each team, as compiled by Baseball America. If a team exceeds its pool, they have to pay a 100% tax on any overage and are prohibited from spending more than $300K to sign any player in the 2016-17 and 17-18 international periods (provided that the current rules aren’t altered in the next collective bargaining agreement).
Some of the highlights of McDaniel’s latest work, focusing on the teams most likely to exceed their bonus pool and face that two-year penalty…
- The Dodgers are, unsurprisingly, the only team McDaniel lists in the “(almost) anything is possible” category. By not signing Yoan Moncada, the Dodgers retained their ability to spend freely in the 2015-16 market, and it seems the team will go far beyond its $2.02MM bonus pool limit. The Dodgers are rumored to already have agreements in place with Yadier Alvarez (for $16MM), Dominican center fielder Starling Heredia ($3MM) and Dominican shortstop Ronny Brito ($2MM).
- The Cubs‘ previous ban on signings of more than $250K will expire on July 2, and the team is reportedly already planning to again exceed its international budget. McDaniel lists seven players who have deals in place with Chicago, the most expensive of which is a $2MM bonus for Dominican shortstop Aramis Ademan.
- The Rangers are another club coming off a ban, and “they’re at least thinking long and hard about” exceeding their pool limit again, though McDaniel hears from rival scouts that Texas’ international planning may have “got a bit of a late start” due to A.J. Preller and Don Welke leaving for the Padres. Three rumored agreements should put the Rangers roughly at their approximate $4.586MM bonus pool already, and the club is still checking in on other high-priced talent.
- The Royals have a shot at staying under their bonus limit if they trade for some extra space, though it looks like Kansas City will probably slightly exceed their pool (a little over $2.07MM).
- The Blue Jays also seem likely to slightly go over their spending pool (roughly $2.324MM) and it could be entirely for the sake of their much-rumored agreement with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. McDaniel believes Toronto’s agreement with Guerrero is worth $4.4MM and he hasn’t heard any news that the Jays have any other deals lined up with other prospects, though he figures they’ll sign one or two other notable players “to make the most of going over.” While fans now associate exceeding the bonus limit with extreme cases like the Yankees or Red Sox, McDaniel notes that most clubs who exceed their pools are like the Jays, who fit the model of a team who “found a couple players they really like in a year they didn’t have a ton of money to spend.”
- Since they had hoped to sign Moncada and thus be facing a penalty for the 2015-16 signing period, the Padres seemingly don’t have any deals lined up. McDaniel considers them a “wild card” due to Preller’s aggressiveness.
Dennick, 28, has only minimal experience at the big league level. He struggled through the 4 2/3 innings he saw last season, allowing six earned runs, including two long balls, and walking four batters while only retiring three by way of strikeout. But Dennick was solid last year at Triple-A. Over 50 frames, he put up a 2.34 ERA while striking out 7.2 and walking 3.2 batters per nine.
Huff, meanwhile, is a 30-year-old southpaw who received a spot start for Los Angeles last night. He lasted four innings, allowing four earned on seven hits and a walk while striking out a pair of Mariners hitters. Huff was actually quite effective last year after signing with the Yankees in the middle of the season, tossing 39 innings of 1.85 ERA ball for New York out of the pen.
Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has an extensive update on the upcoming amateur international market, including some familiar and some new names. Be sure to give the piece a full read for details, but we’ll run through some of the key notes here:
- Word is that young Cuban righty Yadier Alvarez will wait until after July 2 to sign, even if he gets a waiver to do so sooner, in large part because of chatter suggesting that the Dodgers will be major players in the market at that time. Los Angeles is widely tabbed as the likeliest team to land Alvarez, with some believing that a $16MM deal is already in place.
- One interesting name to watch is shortstop Lucius Fox, who was born in the Bahamas, played high school ball in the states, and then moved back to his home country while asking MLB to declare him an international free agent. He would likely land over a million dollars and wait til July 2 to sign if, as expected, MLB grants his request. If not, McDaniel says Fox could be a top-50 selection in the draft.
- McDaniel also breaks down the latest on this year’s crop of more traditional July 2 prospects. Among those expected to crack the $4MM bonus barrier include Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (expected to sign with the Blue Jays), Jhailyn Ortiz (Phillies), and Wander Javier (Twins).
- There are a whole host of July 2 players discussed beyond that group, most all of whom are documented by video.
Following the promotion of former first-round pick Mikie Mahtook to the Majors, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times looks back at what the Rays hoped would be a franchise-altering 2011 draft. Tampa had 10 of the first 60 picks in that year’s draft, but as Topkin points out, a significant number of the picks haven’t panned out. Infielder Brandon Martin and outfielder James Harris have both been released, while surgeries have slowed the careers of several others. Pitchers Taylor Guerrieri and Grayson Garvin have both undergone Tommy John surgery, right-hander Jeff Ames‘ 2014 season was cut short by thoracic surgery, and infielder Jake Hager will miss 2015 following a knee operation.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos is hopeful that outfielder Michael Saunders will be healthy enough to join the roster on the team’s upcoming 10-game homestand, writes Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. However, Anthopoulos stressed that the team isn’t going to “force a timeline” on Saunders’ return. The GM said that the team needs to be convinced that Saunders is able to play nine innings at a time five days in a row, though he won’t necessarily be required to do that on his rehab assignment before activation. Saunders played five innings in the outfield on Saturday and took just one at-bat as a DH on Sunday before being pulled with a tight hamstring, though that decision was a precautionary move, Davidi writes.
- Anthopoulos also briefly addressed Dioner Navarro‘s trade situation, David notes. “If we have any trade discussions on anybody, that’s not something we’re going to advertise,” said Anthopoulos. “But like I said, if there’s an opportunity to get him an everyday job we’ll look to do that, same thing we said in spring training.” It’s pure speculation on my behalf, but I do wonder if the Indians would have interest in Navarro with Yan Gomes out for up to two months. Navarro would eventually be reduced to a reserve role, but he’d likely accumulate more at-bats over the next six to eight weeks in Cleveland than in Toronto.
- Orioles executive VP/general manager Dan Duquette joined MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski on 105.7 The Fan yesterday, and the two discussed the Ryan Webb trade as well as Chris Tillman‘s contract status. Melewski asked if it’s more difficult to trade player that has already been designated for assignment, as was the case with Webb, but Duquette revealed that trade talks with the Dodgers were already fairly advanced when Webb was designated. “In other situations, I wouldn’t designate the player and then continue down the track with a trade,” said Duquette. “I had a good sense that we could make a deal with the Dodgers and get back a couple of players that we liked.” Duquette also acknowledged that there won’t be any continuation of extension talks for Tillman during the season but said that the team had several good talks with Tillman’s representatives about his 2015 contract. He didn’t specify how much, if any, progress was made on a longer-term deal. MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth took an in-depth look at the unique nature of the Webb trade last night.
- Kyle Davies‘ return to a Major League mound as a member of the Yankees marks the culmination of three years spent recovering from shoulder surgery, writes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Coincidentally, last night’s appearance forced Davies to face the final hitter he faced in his last Major League appearance in 2011 — David Ortiz (Ortiz grounded out each time). After the outing, Davies spoke with Hoch about the feeling of returning to the Majors. “This is why you come to work and you still do it,” said Davies. “This is why you did all that stuff and rode the buses in [Class A] and Double-A two years ago. It’s pretty cool.”
The Dodgers outrighted Ryan Webb today, continuing a string of strange transactions for the veteran reliever. First, he cleared outright waivers. Then the Orioles designated him for assignment. Then Baltimore shipped him to the Dodgers with catcher Brian Ward and a Competitive Balance Round B draft pick for pitcher Ben Rowen and catcher Chris O’Brien. Then, the Dodgers outrighted him today.
The guiding factor behind this string of moves was, it seems, Webb’s $2.75MM salary in 2015, the second season of a two-year, $4.5MM deal he signed with the Orioles. The Orioles didn’t want to pay it, and judging from the fact that they were able to outright Webb in the first place, other teams didn’t either. That, in itself, was perhaps a bit strange — Webb has never been an outstanding reliever, but he’s been relatively durable and effective in all of the past five seasons. Perhaps the lesson of the outright is that when selecting right-handed relievers, teams increasingly prefer pitchers who light up radar guns, of which there are many. Righties like Webb, who once sat in the mid-90s but whose velocity has slipped a bit in the last few years, get overlooked.
But the trade of Webb to the Dodgers was even stranger. The Dodgers were the ones receiving the big-league player, but they clearly had little interest in him and they also received what might have been the most valuable property in the trade — the draft pick. Other than Webb, the players in the deal appear to be mostly window dressing. Ward is 29 and has never been on a 40-man roster. Rowen pitched briefly for the Rangers last season, but Texas designated him for assignment and then released him in December after no one claimed him. The Dodgers signed him to a minor-league deal a month later. O’Brien will be 26 in July and has never played above Double-A.
As one might expect, the Orioles say they like the players they received. They were reportedly interested in Rowen this offseason, and it’s possible his ability to generate ground balls could one day make him a contributor, especially given the Orioles’ strong infield defense. (Webb also has ground-ball tendencies, although, of course, he had to be on the Orioles’ 40-man roster, whereas Rowen does not.) Some experts, meanwhile, believe O’Brien has a chance to stick as a backup catcher. The Orioles’ return appears, however, to be marginal, and from the Dodgers’ perspective, they didn’t give up much more than a bit of minor-league depth they didn’t really need.
Since the Dodgers have already outrighted Webb, then, the deal could quickly boil down to this: The Dodgers purchased a draft pick from the Orioles. They agreed to pay the salary of a player they didn’t need, and the Orioles gave them a pick in return. As the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin tweeted, “Moneyball with big money: Dodgers buy draft pick for $2.75MM.”
This is new. Teams have only been able to trade Competitive Balance picks for a few years, and never has there been a trade that amounted to a dollars-for-draft-pick swap the way this one seems to. Here are all the draft pick trades that have taken place since teams have been allowed to deal them.
- The Pirates sent a 2013 pick to the Marlins in a deal for Gaby Sanchez, who played for them for two and a half seasons.
- The Marlins and Tigers also swapped 2013 competitive balance picks to even the scales in the Anibal Sanchez trade.
- The Astros got a 2014 pick from the Orioles in the Bud Norris deal.
- The Pirates received a 2014 pick from the Marlins when they traded Bryan Morris.
- The Diamondbacks got a 2014 pick when they sent Ian Kennedy to San Diego.
- The Braves will receive a 2015 pick from the Padres as part of their recent trade of Craig Kimbrel. They’ll get another from the Diamondbacks for prospect Victor Reyes.
- The Astros received a 2015 pick when they traded Jarred Cosart to the Marlins.
- The Red Sox got a 2015 pick from the Athletics (which they’ve since forfeited) in the Jon Lester deal.
In all draft pick trades before the Webb deal, there are convincing cases that the teams trading picks parted with those picks in large part because they got talent they liked, and not primarily to shed salary. In the Webb trade, in contrast, Webb’s salary was clearly a key component of the deal.
So does the trade make sense for the Dodgers? The pick they will receive in this year’s draft is No. 74. A 2013 study found that the net value of a pick in the No. 61-100 range was $2.58MM, very close to the prorated portion of Webb’s $2.75MM salary the Dodgers are taking on. Add in that No. 74 is closer to the top of that range and add a bit of salary inflation since then, and the value of the pick is likely high enough for the trade to make financial sense for the Dodgers, even if we assume it’s possible that Rowen and O’Brien will provide a bit of value (and if we assume the Dodgers need to think about their budget the way other teams do). The Dodgers also receive a bit of draft pool flexibility with the acquisition of the pick, which could help them lure tougher-to-sign players.
Whether MLB would want deep-pocketed teams like the Dodgers essentially buying draft picks is a different question, although for now, the effects of them doing so are fairly minimal. Teams are currently only allowed to trade Competitive Balance picks, so a draft pick can only make a small impact on a trade, since Competitive Balance picks occur after most marquee talents are off the board. If teams were allowed to trade all draft picks and a big-market team were allowed to take on a larger amount of salary for, say, a top-ten pick, there would probably be controversy.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.