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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 Orioles have had discussions about Andre Ethier with the Dodgers, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Baltimore is in search of a left-handed hitting outfielder and the 32-year-old (33 in April) could be a fit.
While Ethier has been prominently mentioned in trade rumors throughout the winter, it would be somewhat surprising to see the Dodgers part with him after dealing Matt Kemp just weeks ago. Ethier was relegated to the bench last season and while he took it in stride, he made it clear to Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times in early December that he wanted to start in 2015 – whether that was in Los Angeles or elsewhere. The former two-time All-Star hit just .249/.322/.370 with four homers in 380 plate appearances last season.
As Kubatko notes, the Orioles checked on Kemp earlier this winter but decided against pursuing him due to his contract and health issues and the Dodgers’ insistence on getting Kevin Gausman or Dylan Bundy in return. Ethier would not require that same kind of haul, though he also comes with a hefty contract. He’s owed $53.5MM over the next three more years and has a $17.5MM vesting option for 2018 with a $2.5 million buyout, adding up to a full $56MM guarantee.
While there is some degree of interest in Ethier, Kubatko says that the Orioles apparently still rate Colby Rasmus as the most likely possibility of their left-handed hitting outfield targets. The O’s also have interest in fellow free agent Nori Aoki. Baltimore reportedly has interest in 41-year-old Ichiro Suzuki, but Kubatko hears he’d be a tough sell for some in the organization.
We at MLBTR would like to extend our condolences to the friends and family of Bill Kearns, a veteran Mariners scout who passed away last night at age 94. Kearns was hired by the Mariners prior to their debut 1977 season and has been with the franchise for its entire history. A World War II veteran and former Brooklyn Dodgers minor leaguer, Kearns’ long career in baseball led him to scouting jobs with the Dodgers, White Sox and Royals before eventually joining the M’s. In a statement from the team, Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik said “Bill was a gentleman, in the finest sense, and represented his family and the Mariners in a first-class manner. And he was an excellent scout, a true ambassador of the Mariners and the game of baseball. Bill was one of the most positive people I have ever met. He will be missed.”
Here’s some more notes from around the league as 2015 is now upon us…
- Left-hander Luis Avilan‘s name had recently come up in trade talks, though now that the Braves have traded another southpaw in Chasen Shreve, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman wonders (Twitter link) if Atlanta could keep Avilan in the fold. Earlier today, the Braves sent Shreve and David Carpenter to the Yankees in exchange for Manny Banuelos.
- Zduriencik and Seth Smith discussed the recent trade that brought Smith to the Mariners in a conference call with reporters (including Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune). The extension that Smith signed with the Padres last summer was a factor in the trade, as Zduriencik noted that “one of the things we tried to stay away from was giving up talent for one-year returns…I think you’re getting a player who can be with you for at least the next three years.”
- With Craig Breslow‘s physical scheduled for Monday, the Red Sox will face a tough decision in opening up a spot for the reliever on their 40-man roster, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes. Dan Butler, Tommy Layne, Zeke Spruill and Drake Britton are potential candidates to lose their 40-man spots, with Bradford citing Britton as maybe the most vulnerable because he’s out of options. There’s also “a very real scenario” where Boston makes a trade to free up roster space.
- A number of recent Orioles news items and rumors are recapped by MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko, including the new information that the O’s would like to sign a right-handed reliever, possibly on a minor league deal.
- Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi recently said his team won’t be making any other major starting pitching signings, which worries Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times since he feels the rotation lacks depth beyond the top three of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu. On the other hand, Dilbeck wonders if Zaidi’s statement was tactical, similar to how the GM denied that Dee Gordon was being shopped just before Gordon was dealt to Miami.
- In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Tony Blengino describes Adam LaRoche signing with the White Sox as “a perfect marriage of club, player, ballpark and contract.” Using analyses of LaRoche’s swing and U.S. Cellular Field’s park factor, Blengino thinks the veteran first baseman could challenge for the AL homer crown if he stays healthy.
The Dodgers have the money available to sign Max Scherzer or James Shields, but after adding Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson this offseason, they don’t plan to add another top starter to complement Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. “I don’t think our intention ever was to sign one guy and punt on the fifth spot,” says GM Farhan Zaidi, who adds that any further starters the Dodgers add will be for depth. Zaidi also characterizes Anderson’s injuries last year as unlucky, and suggests they expect him to have a normal workload in 2015. “From a health standpoint, we feel very good about it,” Zaidi says. Here are more notes from the National League.
- Nationals Class A+ Potomac manager Tripp Keister is pleased that his team got Chris Bostick and Abel De Los Santos in the Ross Detwiler deal with Texas, Lacy Lusk of Baseball America writes. Both players faced Potomac last year while playing for the Rangers’ affiliate in Myrtle Beach. “He has a really good arm, and he showed some flashes of a really good breaking ball,” says Keister of De Los Santos, who posted a 1.97 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 45 2/3 innings of relief last year. “I don’t know if it’s quite as consistent as you’d like it, but he has a really big arm.”
- The Padres have, of course, spent the past month dealing away prospects in a surprising series of trades for big-league players that have had the team and its new GM, A.J. Preller, spinning wildly in the rumor mill. Credit Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, then, for writing several thousand words about the Padres’ minor-league system, which looks dramatically different compared to the beginning of the offseason. Notably, the Padres have recently dealt with plenty of pitcher injuries (to Max Fried, Casey Kelly, Joe Wieland and Cory Luebke), and McDaniel notes that the Padres themselves have commissioned a study to figure out why, finding no systematic problems, only a string of unfortunate outcomes.
Grant Brisbee of SB Nation lists 13 of the biggest holes facing MLB clubs. Since the article was published, the Reds added a left fielder and the Phillies became even weaker. My favorite is Diamondbacks catcher. Currently, that’s Tuffy Gosewisch with Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez serving as the backup. Despite learning earlier tonight that the Orioles are seeking to add more catching depth, they do have five on the active roster. I’d be willing to bet somebody like Steve Clevenger, Ryan Lavarnway, or a cast-off from another organization will filter into Phoenix before the end of spring training.
- Personal connections between players and evaluators can affect transactions, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Knowing an individual can create a comfort level because so much of baseball is based on character and competitive drive. One NL scout said: “If you just look around, there’s normally a connection there with somebody who is acquiring, they know the guy and sometimes it helps the trade develop.” The article is chock full of good quotes and observations on the topic. The opening is especially pertinent to fans of the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Padres.
- The Seth Smith trade worked out nicely for San Diego, writes Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. They get out from under $12MM owed to Smith while acquisition Brandon Maurer remains club controlled for five seasons. The Friars may give Maurer a chance to start, but he could also be groomed for late inning relief.
- The Padres have overhauled their roster, but there’s still no clear leadoff hitter, writes Corey Brock of MLB.com. It’s possible that could be the next target for GM A.J. Preller. Internal candidates like Will Venable and Yangervis Solarte were discussed for the role prior to the flurry of trades. Both appear to be backups now. Catcher Derek Norris has the on base percentage for the job, if not the classic speed associated with batting first.
- As the Rockies enter the new year, the attention is on newly signed catcher Nick Hundley, writes Thomas Harding of MLB.com. It’s presumed that the move will make it easier to send bat-first catcher Wilin Rosario to the American League. While the Rockies claim they need to be blown away for Rosario, this type of move often presages a transaction.
Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi recently spoke with reporters about the club’s plans. Here’s the latest out of Chavez Ravine:
- Zaidi says the club has no plan to add more starting pitching prior to the season, tweets Ken Gurrick of MLB.com. The club is comfortable turning to Joe Wieland and Mike Bolsinger as depth, tweets Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Any additions will also be depth pieces (Twitter link). If true, this seemingly eliminates the Dodgers as a destination for Max Scherzer, James Shields, and Cole Hamels.
- The Dodgers have discussed recently designated shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena with clubs before today, tweets Shaikin. Zaidi says Arruebarrena has come up in talks with three to five clubs (via Twitter). The additions of Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, and Enrique Hernandez made Arruebarrena expendable. My own two cents: the Phillies have a gaping hole at shortstop, but I assume Arruebarrena came up during the Rollins trade talks. That could mean Philadelphia isn’t interested in the Cuban.
- Also per Zaidi, the Dodgers aren’t pursuing any free agent relievers. Any addition would come via trade, according to Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles (Twitter).
The Dodgers are about to sign Taiwanese righty Chin-hui Tsao, who hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2007 and hasn’t pitched professionally since 2009, when he was banned from Taiwan’s top league amidst allegations that he tried to help fix games. MLB has looked into Tsao’s case and allowed the Dodgers to pursue him, and that might be a mistake, Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown writes. Major League Baseball is typically very strict about the appearance of game-fixing (as Pete Rose’s situation suggests), and allowing Tsao to play, even on a minor-league deal, would set a strange precedent. Here are more notes from the NL West.
- Before today, there were already rumors about the possibility that the Rockies could trade Wilin Rosario, possibly to an American League team. After Colorado agreed to terms with fellow catcher Nick Hundley today, those rumors seemed ever more likely. But ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that the Rockies are telling interested parties that they will keep Rosario unless they’re blown away. Obviously, that could simply be a negotiating stance on the Rockies’ part. It seems unlikely that the Rockies would begin the season with Rosario, Hundley and Michael McKenry all on their active roster.
- Of all the extra outfielders in San Diego, it’s not surprising that the Padres traded Seth Smith first, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. Unlike some of San Diego’s other surplus outfielders, Smith had value in a trade (as the Padres’ acquisition of a power arm in Brandon Maurer suggests). Also, he was owed $13MM for the next two years despite having no clear role with the team.
The Dodgers only signed Arruebarrena early this year, and he still has four years and $16MM on his contract. Clearly, the Dodgers’ new front office does not think as highly of Arruebarrena as the old one did, although it’s likely he’ll wind up back with the Dodgers organization anyway, as he’s a good bet to clear waivers. A trade is also a possibility. The 24-year-old Cuban defector hit .259/.304/.417 in 272 plate appearances split between four minor-league levels this season, notably playing a key role in an ugly brawl with Triple-A Albuquerque. He also struggled through 45 plate appearances in the big leagues, hitting .195/.244/.220. Arruebarrena does, however, have a strong defensive reputation.
The Dodgers have announced that they’ve signed lefty Brett Anderson to a one-year deal. Anderson, a client of the Legacy Agency, will make $10MM, plus up to $4MM in incentives for innings pitched. The incentives would kick in beginning at 150 innings, and Anderson would receive the full $4MM for pitching 200 innings.
The signing represents yet another fascinating move out of the new L.A. front office. Anderson is still only 26 years old and has generally been quite effective when healthy. But he has not thrown over 100 innings since 2010, falling prey to a variety of maladies, including a UCL tear (and resulting Tommy John surgery) and a stress fracture in his foot. Last year, Anderson fell victim to a freak finger fracture on a hit-by-pitch and ended the year on the operating table for a bulging disc in his back.
With risk looming large in his profile, the Rockies paid Anderson a $1.5MM buyout rather than picking up his $12MM club option. Anderson was also pursued by the Yankees and Athletics before picking his new home, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets.
For their money, the Dodgers will be adding a true high-ceiling, high-risk arm for the following season. That is the kind of chance a deep-pocketed club can take, of course, as Los Angeles will have options to fill the void if Anderson fails to stay healthy.
If it all works out, it would not be surprising to find that Anderson becomes the steal of the offseason. He threw to a 2.91 ERA last year in just 43 1/3 frames, posting 6.0 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 along with a typically outstanding 61% groundball rate.
Over 494 career innings, Anderson’s earned run average stands at 3.73, but his career FIP (3.51), xFIP (3.52), and SIERA (3.55) all paint him in even a better light. If one accepts the premise that Anderson would have posted better numbers had he not been constantly succumbing to and returning from injury, his true talent ceiling is probably quite high.
Anderson and Brandon McCarthy will, when their signings are official, step into a rotation fronted by Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu. If all five of those arms manage to stay on the rubber for the most part, that has the look of quite an imposing group. Behind them are pitchers such as Joe Wieland, Zach Lee, and Mike Bolsinger. It would not be surprising, perhaps, to see the Dodgers pursue a veteran to hold down the swingman role played last year by Paul Maholm.
ESPN’s Buster Olney originally tweeted that the two sides had agreed to a deal, and reported the basic financial outline. Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan and the Los Angeles Times’ Dylan Hernandez reported details relating to the incentives in the deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Dodgers have agreed to sign reliever Sergio Santos to a minor-league deal, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Santos, the former White Sox and Blue Jays closer, has fallen on hard times over the past three seasons due largely to injury issues. The converted infielder battled a forearm strain in 2014, a triceps strain in 2013 and underwent surgery in his right shoulder to repair a frayed labrum in 2012.
Prior to his injury issues, Santos posted a strong 3.29 ERA (2.97 FIP) with 11.6 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 in 115 innings with the White Sox. After being traded to the Blue Jays (in exchange for prospect Nestor Molina), Santos struggled in 2012 but was outstanding in 2013 prior to his triceps injury; he posted a 1.75 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 25 1/3 frames out of the Toronto bullpen that season.
Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca originally tweeted that Santos was about to sign a minor-league deal with an NL West team, and Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reported that team was the Dodgers.