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Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright has left the team’s Spring Training complex in Florida and will head to St. Louis after experiencing abdominal pain, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Wainwright will see a specialist in St. Louis to diagnose the source of the injury. GM John Mozeliak said it would be incorrect to label the injury a sports hernia at this time. Wainwright said that he’s been feeling better each day, but seeing a specialist will give the team some further clarity.
- The Cubs announced today that they have hired Manny Ramirez as a hitting consultant. Ramirez, who spent the 2014 season as a player-coach with Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate, will work with the Cubs’ Major League and Minor League players on the fundamental and mental aspects of hitting, according to a press release from the team.
- Via ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers, commissioner Rob Manfred said yesterday that the investigation into the Cubs‘ alleged tampering regarding their hiring of Joe Maddon will be resolved by Opening Day (Twitter link). The Cubs agreed to bring Maddon on as their new manager on a five-year deal just 10 days after he opted out of his contract with the Rays.
- Corey Hart had other offers in free agency but welcomed the opportunity to return to the familiar setting of the NL Central when the Pirates made a one-year offer, he tells Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Hart admits that he also rushed back to action too quickly in 2014 after missing the entire 2013 season due to surgery on both of his knees. The fact that Pirates have morphed into one of the National League’s best teams over the past few seasons also played a role in his decision to select Pittsburgh’s offer.
- The Pirates are drawing some influence from the NBA’s Golden State Warriors in determining how much to rest their stars this offseason, writes ESPN’s Jayson Stark. Manager Clint Hurdle said that an interesting article on how much the Warriors are resting their best players and how the on-court production has improved as a result Seeing the analysis was no accident, however, as GM Neal Huntington tells Stark that the Pirates are constantly studying successful teams in other sports to see if any trends or philosophies can carry over to baseball.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick presents his always-enjoyable annual poll of baseball GMs and other executives today. Among the leading opinions: Jon Lester provides better value than Max Scherzer, Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract situation will remain unresolved, and the Cubs will sign Russell Martin. Crasnick asks eight questions in all, and some are not clear-cut, such as whether Cole Hamels or Starlin Castro is more likely to be traded. On top of that, here’s some free agent reading…
- First, stop what you’re doing and bookmark MLBTR’s free agent tracker and list.
- Dave Cameron of FanGraphs has his free agent landmines, which is always a good read. Cameron was spot-on last year. My slight disagreement would be with Edinson Volquez. I agree that paying him based on a 3.04 ERA would be folly, but he’s not a bad buy on a two-year deal if his reduced walk rate from 2014 can be sustained. Marry that with his strikeout rate from 2010-12, his propensity for groundballs, and his solid fastball velocity, and you’ve got an interesting, healthy 31-year-old pitcher.
- ESPN’s Jim Bowden predicts contracts for his top 50 free agents. I’ll take the over on Bowden’s predictions for Lester, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Andrew Miller, Chase Headley, Brandon McCarthy, and Jake Peavy.
- Manny Ramirez is playing in the Dominican Republic and is “not ready to give up the dream” of returning to MLB, agent Barry Praver tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Ramirez, 42, last appeared in the Majors in 2011 when he had 17 plate appearances with the Rays and chose to semi-retire rather than serve a 100-game PED suspension. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports talked to the former slugger in March. Manny went on to hit .222/.273/.375 in 77 Triple-A plate appearances for the Cubs’ affiliate this year.
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Onto tonight’s links from around the league!
- New Padres GM A.J. Preller is impressed with the rotation that he’s inheriting in his new post, writes MLB.com’s Corey Brock. Preller’s new team boasts a rotation fronted by Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross and Jesse Hahn, and Brock wonders if the team will make a second run at extending Cashner with a new GM in place. Of his new club, Preller said to Padres fans: “I want Padres fans to understand that it’s not going to be smooth sailing from Day 1, But I can promise you we’re going to have the hungriest, hard-working group of employees in the game.”
- A theoretical return to the Red Sox for Jon Lester could follow the same path as Mike Lowell‘s return following the 2007 season, writes WEEI’s Rob Bradford. Lowell spoke with Bradford at length about his decision to reject a four-year, $48MM offer from the Phillies in favor of a three-year, $38MM offer to return to Boston. Lowell feels that Lester might not feel the need to take something like $150MM over seven years, but he adds that the Red Sox can’t simply offer a four-year deal if the rest of the market is willing to offer five or more years.
- Uncertainty surrounding Josh Beckett‘s health for the remainder of the season and an unwillingness to part with their top three prospects led to the Dodgers‘ acquisition of Roberto Hernandez earlier today, writes Tim Brow n of Yahoo Sports. Brown feels the decision to hang onto Corey Seager, Joc Pederson and Julio Urias was defensible and notes that a team source told him that Beckett could need season-ending surgery.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki that the team felt it made sense to flip Hernandez, as they had no plans to make a qualifying offer following the season (Twitter link). While that’s hardly a surprise, the philosophy behind the move could be applied to other current Phillies such as Kyle Kendrick, although that’s just my own speculation.
- Cubs prospects Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara both offer high praise for Triple-A player/coach Manny Ramirez and the help they received on their swing mechanics from the former MVP candidate, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. “He helped my approach to right-center, [following] his routine every day, going to the cage, the way he works,” said Baez. “He’s always got a bat in his hand doing something, either swinging the bat or just hitting in the cage. He talked to a lot of the guys. A lot of people learned from him.” In his most recent chat with readers, ESPN’s Keith Law wrote that he was a believer in Ramirez’s positive influence on Baez.
Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett threw the season’s first no-hitter on Sunday, an act that must have seemed hard to follow. But fellow Dodgers hurler Hyun-Jin Ryu did his best on Monday, pitching seven perfect innings before allowing a double to the Reds’ Todd Frazier to lead off the eighth inning. Including a hitless inning by Paul Maholm against the Phillies in the eighth inning Saturday, the Dodgers pitched 17 straight no-hit innings this weekend. Here are more notes from around the National League.
- It was a hard day for Mets GM Sandy Alderson, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. He only reluctantly fired hitting coach Dave Hudgens, with whom he also worked in Oakland. “This is a very difficult decision to have to make,” said Alderson. “I’ve known Dave for many years — decades. I have tremendous respect for him, his expertise, his work ethic, his personal relationships with players.” Alderson says the Mets’ approach to hitting will not change dramatically under new hitting coach Lamar Johnson. Martino suggests that Hudgens was merely “the fall guy” for the performance of the team Alderson assembled.
- David Ortiz believes the Cubs‘ decision to hire his former Red Sox teammate Manny Ramirez as a Triple-A player/coach was a good one, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe writes. Ortiz believes Ramirez has changed since he and the Red Sox parted company in 2008. “It’s a different guy. He’s been doing different things for the past couple of years,” says Ortiz. “I’ve been talking to him a lot on the phone and sometimes I get confused because I don’t know if I’m talking to him or not. This is legit.”
“While Manny is not and will not be a fit on the Cubs major league roster, we do think at this stage of his life he’s a nice fit as a mentor for some of the young talented hitters we have in the organization,” Epstein said in the press release. “Manny will coach full-time and play part-time in a limited role that does not take at-bats away from our prospects. If he shows there is still some magic in his bat, perhaps he will find his way to the major leagues and help another team, but that is not why he is here. We are thrilled that he wants to work with our young hitters and make a difference.”
Ramirez, who turns 42 this week, last appeared in the Majors in 2011, when he made 17 plate appearances for the Rays and was then served with a 100-game suspension for PED use. The suspension caused Ramirez to briefly retire, but he returned and served a reduced 50-game ban after signing a minor league deal with the A’s before the 2012 season. Ramirez spent 2013 playing in Taiwan and for the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate.
MLB is nearing agreement on a plan to send an All-Star squad off to Japan this November for a series against the Japanese national team, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Of course, the league has a rich history of sending its best on tour to one of the world’s great ballplaying nations.
Here are some notes from around the American League:
- Manny Ramirez is still looking for another opportunity, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. While recent contact with the Orioles failed to materialize into an offer, a scout who has seen Ramirez work out recently said that the 42-year-old slugger looks fit and was impressive with the bat. Agent Alex Esteban tells Heyman that most of the interest has come from American League teams, though several NL clubs have checked in as well. MLBTR’s Zach Links reported back in February that Ramirez had elected to join Miami Sports Management.
- The Rangers regretted the need to designate Scott Baker for assignment after a brief call-up, reports MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. With Baker needing several days of rest after throwing 5 1/3 innings of relief in his only appearance, and the bullpen looking overworked, GM Jon Daniels said the move was an unfortunate necessity. “He did everything we asked,” said Daniels. “Unfortunately we are at a spot where the bullpen is taxed because our starters are not getting deep into games.” (Of course, the most recent Rangers starter — ace Yu Darvish — did manage to go deep in tonight’s game.) As for Baker’s fate, Daniels says that the club will “see if there is trade interest” but otherwise will place him on outright waivers.
- With the fifth overall slot in the upcoming amateur draft, the Twins could be eyeing either high school shortstop Nick Gordon or college righty Aaron Nola, ESPN.com’s Keith Law wrote in a chat yesterday. Law also notes that the Blue Jays could be a player for injured righty Jeff Hoffman, who could also intrigue several other AL clubs (Law lists the Astros, Royals, and Red Sox, while also citing the Nationals as a possibility).
Free agent slugger Manny Ramirez has drawn interest from several Major League teams and is only considering a return to the majors, minors or Japan, MLBTR's Zach Links reports (Twitter links). These are the only options Ramirez would consider in order to continue his career, Links hears, as rumors connecting Ramirez to independent league teams are "totally untrue." There isn't any timetable on when, or if, Ramirez could sign with a team.
Ramirez last appeared in the Majors in 2011, when he made 17 plate appearances for the Rays and was then served with a 100-game suspension for PED use. The suspension caused Ramirez to briefly retire, but he returned and served a reduced 50-game ban after signing a minor league deal with the A's before the 2012 season. Ramirez spent 2013 playing in Taiwan and for the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate. Though he turns 42 in May, Ramirez has been vocal about wanting to keep playing and switched his representation in February.
Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew both share the same agent (Scott Boras), the same predicament (unsigned free agents with draft pick compensation attached), and the same frustration over their situation, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. "Nothing I can do," Morales told Cafardo. "I don’t understand, but I’m just waiting for something." Morales and Drew work out together for five hours each day, six days a week. "We don’t talk too much about what we’re going through," said Drew, who turns 31 today. "We talk about other things mostly, but he’s been a good guy to work out with and go through this with." Cafardo opines that the pair reside in baseball prison, adding that Morales makes sense for the Mariners, Brewers, and Pirates, while the Mets remain the best fit for Drew. Also from his Sunday Baseball Notes column:
- According to Cafardo, there are scouts and front office people who feel the best fit for Drew is actually New York's other team: the Yankees.
- The Yankees are a little cautious about dealing catcher Francisco Cervelli since they believe he's the best option to start if something should happen to Brian McCann.
- Manny Ramirez is eyeing another MLB comeback and is working out in Miami with Miguel Tejada, but the 12-time All-Star has an image problem to overcome. "He's poison," one National League GM told Cafardo. “I know he's changed his life around and his personality has changed, but I doubt anyone would take the risk, especially with a 42-year-old player. I think a lot of teams would pardon one PED offense, but two? I doubt it, but crazier things have happened. Never take away the fact he was one of the greatest right-handed hitters ever."
- In a separate article, Cafardo reports, with the renaissance of Grady Sizemore and the very good camps of Bryce Brentz and Corey Brown, the Red Sox's outfield depth could lead to a trade. Mike Carp is the leading candidate to be dealt because of his ability to also play the infield corners. The Tigers, Brewers, and Pirates have reportedly shown interest in the 27-year-old.
Manny Ramirez last saw MLB action with the Rays (briefly), and of course will always be associated with the Red Sox. As he continues to look for another chance at the bigs, the slugger spoke with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, acknowledging and expressing contrition for his prior PED use. Ramirez says he could play a role similar to that of Raul Ibanez on the field and in the clubhouse. Here are some notes from around the American League East:
- Always-interesting Red Sox slugger David Ortiz says that he faces an unprecedented amount of responsibility to lead the way in the lineup, reports WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. "I'll give it a try, but I don't think there's a baseball player that has lived through this pressure at my age," said Ortiz. "Think about it. Guys my age are supposed to be complementary players. Nobody signs guys my age to be 'The Man.'" The 38-year-old, of course, is entering the final year of his current contract, and there has been no word of progression on extension negotiations.
- The Orioles are looking at out-of-options pitcher Zach Britton in different roles in anticipation of a possible move to the pen, reports Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Britton, a 26-year-old lefty, has been mentioned as a possible trade chip for Baltimore. As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently explained in addressing the O's out-of-options players, the team faces a roster crunch that will require it to make some tough calls on a number of players, Britton among them.
- There is still no movement on the extension situation of Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, writes MASNsports.com's Steve Melewski. Hardy comes across as somewhat frustrated with having to deal with speculation, noting that his previous extension came about in short order. "There has been not much talk at all," he said. "I don't know what they're thinking. The ball is in their court if they want me. They know I like it here." Hardy also added that he would want to address his long-term position before inking a new deal. "If there are any intentions at all of signing me to a long-term deal and wanting Manny to move over to short I would definitely want to know that before," he explained, "because, yeah, I still feel like I can play shortstop and that is what I want to do."
As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes explained yesterday in looking at NL West out-of-options players, the Diamondbacks already have a seeming logjam in the bullpen. Nevertheless, the team agreed to a two-year deal today with southpaw Oliver Perez. That may be a reflection of the team's view of fellow lefty Joe Thatcher, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Indeed, manager Kirk Gibson had said earlier today that the club would not carry a left-handed reliever if none warranted a roster spot, Zach Buchanan of AZCentral.com reports. "You've got to have people that can command the zone," Gibson said, possibly an oblique reference to the control issues last year of Thatcher and Tony Sipp. Thatcher was the only MLB piece that came to Arizona in the Ian Kennedy trade, and recently agreed to a $2.375MM deal to avoid arbitration. The 32-year-old has a solid track record, but struggled in his 22 appearances upon joining the D'backs. Now, with Perez in line for a pen slot and Randall Delgado likely headed the same way, Thatcher or another established arm may be without a role.
- Yankees starter Michael Pineda took an important step tonight on the road back from shoulder surgery, writes Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. Throwing a slider that catcher Brian McCann called "pretty much unhittable," Pineda tossed two scoreless innings and struck out four Tigers — including Austin Jackson, Rajai Davis, and reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera. Needless to say, an effective Pineda would be a major boon to a New York club with questions at the back of the rotation (to say nothing of the future implications). The 25-year-old Pineda enters the year with 2.099 years of service, much of it accrued on the DL over the last two years.
- Meanwhile, the Mariners — the club that dealt Pineda to New York — are looking closely at several non-roster invitees for Opening Day slots, writes MLB.com's Greg Johns. Starter Randy Wolf has had poor results, but says he is progressing. And southpaw reliever Joe Beimel is making a surprising run at a pen role, despite not having appeared in the bigs since 2011. Manager Lloyd McClendon preached patience with Wolf but lavished praise on Beimel, saying that the 36-year-old has "looked great" and "has the ability to get guys out from both sides of the plate."
- Irrepressible former superstar Manny Ramirez says he still wants to play, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com. The 41-year-old has not been able to earn a call-up over the last two seasons, but says he is waiting for an MLB opportunity and has so far declined requests for a repeat of his successful stint in Taiwan. MLBTR's Zach Links recently reported that Ramirez had changed agents, seemingly an indication that Ramirez was serious about continuing his career.
- As the Athletics continue to work through their difficult stadium situation, co-owner Lew Wolff says the team is considering all methods for dealing with a stalemate in lease negotiations, reports Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com. "I am hopeful of expanding our lease at the Oakland Coliseum for an extended term," Wolff recently wrote. "If we cannot accomplish a lease extension, I hope to have an interim place to play in the Bay Area or in the area that reaches our television and radio fans — either an existing venue or in the erection of a temporary venue that we have asked our soccer stadium architect (360 Architecture) to explore." Needless to say, the notion of a temporary ballpark is intriguing, if somewhat frightening. Wolff took care to note that "looking outside the Bay Area and our media market is an undesirable option to ownership at this time."