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The international market provides opportunities to make (mostly) open-market purchases of the rights to the types of players who rarely can be acquired in that manner. Recent years have brought early-prime starters (Masahiro Tanaka, Hyun-jin Ryu), still-youthful sluggers (Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes), and high-upside talents (Yasiel Puig, Jorge Soler). Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada certainly fits into that last category, rating as the type of player who would be chosen at or near the top of an amateur draft. In that regard, his ultimate payday (bonus plus ~100% penalty) will provide some fascinating insight into team valuations. But, of course, we are still waiting for the United States Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) to establish Moncada’s eligibility to sign. Here’s the latest:
- The precise hold-up in Moncada’s seemingly overdue OFAC application is not clear, writes Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs. Moncada’s agent indicated that he has not heard from OFAC since President Obama announced changes in the US diplomatic stance toward Cuba, seemingly indicating that higher-level activity is playing a role in Moncada’s situation. As McDaniel explains, MLB is working with the government to determine how to apply new unblocking policies. For what it’s worth, as MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez notes on Twitter, a similar policy appears to have been in place several years back, when Cespedes was preparing to enter the market.
- One entirely hypothetical reason for the delay with regard to Moncada, apart from the broader diplomatic considerations, is the fact that he was allowed to leave the island legally. Per McDaniel, concern that money could flow from Moncada back to the Cuban government is a possible, but by no means substantiated, factor distinguishing his situation.
- Of note, fellow top young middle infielder Andy Ibanez is also rumored to have left the island with the blessing of the government. There are rumblings that he could be unblocked soon, however, McDaniel notes.
- As for another largely-uncertain bit of information, McDaniel adds that the latest chatter has Moncada going for about a $80MM total investment (based on a $40MM bonus).
- Moncada worked out for the Dodgers this morning, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports on Twitter. Los Angeles has given public indication of its interest, and if impressed with its private look will certainly have to be counted among the most capable suitors. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Don Mattingly were both on hand, Sanchez reports on Twitter.
- The other teams to have held private workouts are the Brewers, Rangers, Giants, Yankees, Red Sox, and Padres, Sanchez tweets.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- Righty Jair Jurrjens has agreed to return to the Rockies on a minor league deal with a big league camp invite, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reports. The 28-year-old righty has never regained the form he showed early in his career with the Braves. Last year, he was hit hard in two big league starts and worked to a 4.54 ERA over 81 1/3 Triple-A frames with the Reds and Rockies organizations.
- The Orioles sent cash to the Braves in exchange for lefty Daniel Rodriguez. Baltimore had tried to nab Rodriguez out of Mexico several years ago, says Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). The 30-year-old came to Atlanta from Saltillo before the 2012 campaign and went straight to Triple-A Gwinnett, where he has generally struggled while working as a starter. The team is likely interested in taking a look at Rodriguez out of the pen, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets.
- The Rangers have signed righty Ross Ohlendorf to a minor league deal that includes a spring invite, the club announced. Ohlendorf had a quality 60 1/3 inning run with the Nationals in 2013, working to a 3.28 ERA with 6.7 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9. That earned him a $1.25MM arbitration deal, but injury derailed his entire 2014 campaign.
- Two former Rangers ballplayers are among the recent moves reported by Baseball America’s Matt Eddy (links to Twitter). The Dodgers have signed righty Ben Rowen, a 26-year-old righty who cracked the Rangers’ pen last year and who has had solid results in the upper minors. And the White Sox signed center fielder Engel Beltre, a defense-first player who has struggled to produce offensively and missed most of last year with a fractured tibia.
- Also via Eddy, the Braves have inked former Angels reliever David Carpenter — not to be confused with the other right-handed reliever by the same team that Atlanta just traded. Carpenter has struggled in limited MLB exposure, but last year put up a 2.17 ERA over 62 1/3 innings, with 8.3 K/9 against 6.4 BB/9, despite pitching in the notoriously hitter-friendly PCL.
In an interview with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (audio link), Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said his team will scout Yoan Moncada as they would any prospect of “great intrigue,” but “given our financial situation, I wouldn’t expect us to be the winners of an auction.” Silverman feels this is another example of how difficult it is for successful small-market teams to replenish their systems, as “all of the [player acquisition] structures, whether it’s the draft or international, put us at a disadvantage.”
Here’s some more from around baseball…
- A group of South Korean investors are talking with the Dodgers about buying a minority stake of the franchise, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. The news was originally reported by two South Korean newspapers, one of which (the Korea Joongang Daily) reports that the discussed terms were $370MM for 20 percent of the team. A source with knowledge of the talks told Shaikin there is a “zero” chance the Dodgers’ ownership group would give up control of the team in these negotiations.
- The Phillies face a tough road back to respectability but they can get there within two to four years if they augment their financial resources with good young talent, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan opines. The worst-case scenario would be if they make the wrong moves and revenues decline, thus putting the club in a long streak of losing seasons, a la the Orioles prior to their 2012 playoff appearance.
- Peter Greenberg, Johan Santana‘s agent, said his client doesn’t have any structural damage in his shoulder, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets. Santana was recently scratched from a Venezuelan Winter League start due to his shoulder, though Greenberg said Santana might return to pitch in the league playoffs.
- Cuban outfielder Dayron Varona receives a scouting report from ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider subscription required), who praises Varona’s running and plus arm but has some questions about his hitting. The current popularity of Cuban players could inflate Varona’s market, Law feels, though he thinks Varona will sign for “close to eight figures as a potential big league backup.”
- The Blue Jays could consider Everth Cabrera as an option at second base, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Presumably the Jays’ interest would hinge on the outcome of Cabrera’s ongoing legal case, which may not take place until April. Heyman also notes that Rickie Weeks “seems to be further down [Toronto’s] list.”
- ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield lists the five teams he felt improved the most and least this winter.
Johan Santana‘s comeback bid has hit a snag, as the southpaw was scratched from a planned Venezuelan Winter League start with shoulder soreness (via the league’s Spanish language website). Though he will surely find another opportunity to showcase for MLB clubs, shoulder health was already an obvious concern for the two-time Cy Young winner.
Here are some more notes involving starting pitching:
- It has been a challenge to find obvious fits for free agent righty James Shields, but ESPN.com’s Dan Szymborski (Insider link) makes the attempt by focusing on which clubs would stand to receive the greatest boost in projected wins. Three NL West teams (Dodgers, Giants, Padres) and a trio from the AL Central (Tigers, Royals, White Sox) join the Marlins as the clubs that the ZiPS projection system thinks would benefit most by signing Shields.
- The Marlins have not yet received any trade offers for righty Dan Haren, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Miami is in an interesting spot with regard to the veteran, as Jackson explains.
- Before reaching agreement on a three-year deal that bought out all of his arb-eligible seasons, the Cardinals and righty Lance Lynn considered longer extension scenarios, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. That did not come to fruition because the team was interested in delaying Lynn’s free agency by one or two years whereas the pitcher was only interested in foregoing the open market for a larger, longer pact. Lynn explained that he would be open to revisiting talks later: “It’s not something that we could get situated, but there’s always going to be a process later. If everything goes well and I pitch the way I’m capable of, I’m sure that will be revisited down the line.”
With Max Scherzer off the market following a historic seven-year agreement with the Nationals, all eyes will be on top remaining free agent James Shields and agent Page Odle leading up to Spring Training. ESPN’s Jayson Stark has spoken to a number of industry sources for his most recent look at Shields’ market, and he lists various reasons that the industry doesn’t expect Shields to end up with the Marlins, D-Backs, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Royals, Tigers, Rangers, Astros, Cardinals and Brewers (the Padres, at least, are listed as “possible, but not likely”).
Of particular note from Stark is that the D-Backs are actively trying to trim their payroll, rather than add salary; the Cubs are likely to look for another big-name starter, but not until next offseason; and the chances of the Marlins signing Shields are precisely “zero,” the latter of which meshes with a recent report from Grantland’s Jonah Keri.
Nonetheless, one executive to whom Stark spoke said he sees jumping back into the mix for Shields. However, one of the reasons, per that exec, is that teams believe Shields will have to settle for less than the $110MM that he reportedly was offered earlier this month and are revisiting the situation with the assumption that the price has dropped. Said Stark’s source, “But the problem is, now everyone is bottom-feeding. And when you’re someone like him, that’s the last thing you want, is a lot of teams bottom-feeding on you in late January.”
Regardless of the imperfect fits that litter the market for Shields, most executives tell Stark they can’t see Shields signing for anything less than $80MM over a four-year term, and nearly everyone to whom he spoke thinks that Shields could sign at virtually any time.
One club that won’t be signing Shields is the Giants, it seems, based on comments made by GM Brian Sabean earlier today on KNBR radio. As KNBR scribe Dieter Kurtenbach writes, Sabean plainly stated that while his club has wiggle room to add another piece, “it’s not going to be a high ticket item.” Sabean explained that while the team made a run at a pair of “high ticket” items in the form of Pablo Sandoval and Jon Lester, the team made the decision to spread the money throughout the roster. As such, the club acquired Casey McGehee and Nori Aoki to fill respective holes at third base and in left field, and Jake Peavy was re-signed to add some stability to the rotation. (Of interest to Astros fans may be Sabean’s statement of the fact that he believes Ryan Vogelsong is “going elsewhere as we speak,” as Vogelsong is said to be nearing a deal with Houston.)
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While he awaits clearance from the government, Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada is putting on showcases for interested teams. The Yankees have already put the 19-year-old through the paces, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. In addition to New York and the previously-reported Giants, Moncada has worked out for the Brewers, Rangers, Red Sox, and Padres, per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Meanwhile, the Dodgers, Rays, Cubs, and Phillies have shown interest. For their part, the Twins will not seek a private workout because they believe the bidding will go too high, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.
Here are some more free agent notes:
- Fellow Cuban second bagger Hector Olivera will begin a two-day open showcase in the Dominican Republic tomorrow, Badler reports on Twitter. Olivera figures to be more of an immediate contributor than the younger Moncada.
- Clubs interested in righty Ronald Belisario, as with Burke Badenhop, include the Blue Jays and Nationals, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 32-year-old has run up solid innings totals over each of the last three years, but has seen his ERA steadily move north during that stretch. On the other hand, ERA estimators have viewed him as a solidly average performer in each of those seasons, with a low strand rate likely causing most of his troubles in 2014.
- The Yankees, Blue Jays, and Padres are three of the approximately six teams pursuing lefty Johan Santana, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. An upcoming Venezuelan league start could have some bearing on where the one-time ace ends up.
- Another prominent lefty is plotting his comeback as well. Per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link), Barry Zito still plans to return to baseball after a year off and will put on a showcase this spring. The 36-year-old last threw in 2013, working to a career-worst 5.74 ERA over 133 1/3 innings.
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- The Brewers and Nationals seemed intriguing trade partners after their most recent moves, but Milwaukee did not ship out Yovani Gallardo with intentions of dealing for local product Jordan Zimmermann, according to a report from Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Instead, the club will trust young righty Jimmy Nelson with a rotation spot for the coming year.
- Meanwhile, the Rangers added Gallardo with hopes that he will throw well enough to warrant a longer-term relationship or, at least, a qualifying offer, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. It remains to be seen whether Gallardo will warrant a qualifying offer after the season, but he seems reasonably likely to receive and reject one. After all, the Brewers picked up his option this year at close to the QO rate and he will surely be looking for a long-term deal entering his age-30 season.
- Much of the free agent market has been resolved, but right-handed relief remains an area with several options, including not only several former closers but also sturdy middle relief options such as Burke Badenhop. Among the teams with interest in building out their bullpens are the Red Sox, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Nationals, and Brewers, Rosenthal notes on Twitter.
- Righty Kevin Gregg will put on a showcase today for around half of the league’s teams, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Gregg, 36, had elbow chips removed in August but reportedly feels good and is hoping to sign soon. The 12-year MLB veteran was hit hard in just a dozen outings last year, but managed a 3.48 ERA over 62 frames in 2013 with the Cubs.
The Giants are still looking for another starting pitcher, but probably not one in the Jordan Zimmermann / James Shields class. Instead, they could bring back Ryan Vogelsong, who remains on the free agent market, Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes (Twitter links). The defending champs have had a quiet offseason overall, and in a long article, as Schulman explains. They tried to sign Jon Lester, but haven’t made similar pushes to sign Shields or Max Scherzer, since they felt Lester was the best gamble of the three (although Schulman leaves open the possibility that they could bid for Shields). They’ve pursued trades for Justin Upton and other players to help make up for the loss of Pablo Sandoval, but do not want to give up one or more of their better young players for a rental. That means the Giants might not make any big moves, perhaps waiting to add talent via trade during Spring Training or the regular season. Here are more notes from the National League.
- The Dodgers are trying to acquire a late-inning relief option, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Casey Janssen, Rafael Soriano and Francisco Rodriguez are among the top names remaining on the free agent market. The Dodgers have been active in trades this offseason, however, and one might think they could easily pursue an upgrade there rather than paying for an established late-inning type in free agency.
- The Mets‘ shortstop situation might not be as bad as it appears, Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes. Assuming Wilmer Flores gets most of the playing time, the Mets only project to be a bit below the middle of the pack at that position, and many of the shortstops available one way or another this offseason (Stephen Drew, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, Yunel Escobar, and so on) came with significant offensive or defensive question marks. There are bigger-ticket options like Troy Tulowitzki and Ian Desmond, but they would only be available to the Mets at steep prices. At least at the shortstop position, the Mets aren’t victims of complacency so much as they’re victims of a lack of options.
9:08pm: The deal is “close” but will not be completed tonight, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post tweets.
6:54pm: Scherzer is “very close” to signing with the Nationals, although the deal is not yet done, a source tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (via Twitter).
6:10pm: Max Scherzer is talking with the Nationals and one other team about a seven-year contract, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, on Twitter, categorizes the negotiations as “close.” Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweeted earlier the impression around baseball is the Nationals will sign Scherzer, but it was unclear whether a deal was imminent. Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski denies Detroit is the other team, telling Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press their pursuit of Scherzer is still inactive (Twitter). The New York Post’s Joel Sherman tweets the Yankees are not the other team and Rosenthal reports the Red Sox, Astros, and Dodgers are also not in on Scherzer (Twitter links). The Angels aren’t the mystery team, either, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets, and neither are the Giants or Cardinals, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links).
Agent Scott Boras has said it would be an ownership-level decision on whether a team will sign Scherzer and that it could be a “two-step process” – ink Scherzer and then trade another member of their rotation. Barry Svlurga of the Washington Post sees Boras pitching Nationals owner Ted Lerner the notion of signing Scherzer to win the World Series in 2015 knowing the salaries of impending free agents Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, and Denard Span will be coming off the books for 2016 (Twitter links).
The Nationals have engaged multiple teams over the past few weeks in trade talks for Zimmermann, tweets FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi. If Scherzer signs, Zimmermann is the most likely trade candidate; but, if an acceptable offer for Zimmermann does not materialize, sources tell Morosi the Nationals will look to move Stephen Strasburg (Twitter links).
Washington, amidst reports the club has not had significant extension talks with Desmond, has discussed its All-Star shortstop with other teams, most notably the failed three-way trade involving the Mets and Rays. The Nationals also have not re-engaged Fister in extension talks since last spring and are said to be willing to listen to any trade proposals for the right-hander.
Bedard, 35, pitched 75 2/3 innings for the Rays in 2014, posting a 4.76 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 before being designated for assignment in late July and then released in August by current Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, then the Rays’ GM.
Bedard’s strikeout rate and velocity have declined steeply in the past several years, and he’s developed pronounced fly ball tendencies, making him vulnerable to home runs. He’s also never been an innings-eater, averaging just over five innings per start in the last three seasons. Still, reduced velocity isn’t always a kiss of death for a lefty, and Bedard’s peripherals remain palatable, if unspectacular. He could provide the Dodgers with useful depth, particularly if oft-injured fellow southpaw Brett Anderson isn’t available.