Masahiro Tanaka Rumors

AL East Notes: Moncada, Castillo, Tanaka, Estrada, Jays

In his latest at WEEI.com, Rob Bradford takes an excellent look at Yoan Moncada‘s journey from Cuba to Boston, chronicling his relationship with agent David Hastings along the way. Hastings, a Tampa-based CPA, was introduced to Moncada through a client and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to represent him, but he admits to being stunned at the level of work that went into it. Hastings recalls that his printer ran out of paper as he printed 300+ pages of rules and regulations for representing a player. “Looking back, I don’t know how I did it. It became a life,” Hastings tells Bradford. Moncada and friend Carlos Mesa (a 27-year-old outfielder who became Moncada’s mentor and was also signed by Boston) became part of the Hastings family, writes Bradford. Hastings’ wife, Jo, who was born in Cuba, formed a quick bond with the pair at an apartment they had previously had built for Hastings’ mother-in-law. Bradford includes plenty of quotes from Sox international scouting director Eddie Romero and the details of a last-minute push to increase their original offer of $25MM. Asked if they could up their offer to $30MM, GM Ben Cherington and Romero tried to track down owner John Henry, who was at the Daytona 500. When Henry’s wife got a hold of him, his response spoke volumes about the team’s top-to-bottom interest in Moncada: “Go to 31.” Another $500K was tacked on shortly after, writes Bradford, and the two sides had their deal. Still, Bradford notes that Hastings was seemingly more concerned with Moncada’s well-being early in the negotiation process, asking where he would live, where he would eat, and who would help him transition to his new life before even attempting to get the Sox to up their offer.

Moncada’s introductory press conference will be held at 11:30 ET today, but in the meantime, here are a few more notes more from the AL East…

  • Rusney Castillo may not be ready for Opening Day, writes MLB.com’s Ian Browne. Even if Castillo is healthy by that point, however, it’s not a guarantee that he’d make the Red Sox‘ 25-man roster, Browne notes. Mookie Betts has been excellent in camp thus far, and Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino are expected to man the outfield corners. Castillo’s injury status might make it more likely that both Allen Craig and Daniel Nava remain with the club as bench options, however. Manager John Farrell recently said the team fully expects Craig to remain on the roster, but the out-of-options Nava makes sense as a trade candidate on paper.
  • Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka fired two perfect innings and struck out two in his spring debut yesterday, writes Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. While individual spring starts rarely carry significant meaning, this was Tanaka’s first test of his elbow a season after slightly tearing his UCL. “We’re aware that things could crop up at any time, but it’s been very positive,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild. “I think (the injury) hasn’t affected him because he hasn’t felt anything. He’s going at it like it’s normal. He’s just going to pitch.” Tanaka used all of his pitches, including his splitter, in the outing.
  • Marco Estrada tells John Lott of the National Post that his preference is to pitch out of the Blue Jays‘ rotation, but he’s happy to work in relief as long as the team is winning games. While Estrada’s ERA as a starter and ERA as a reliever last season were separated by nearly two full runs, Estrada doesn’t feel that indicates that he’s better deployed as a reliever; rather, he maintains that he corrected some mechanical flaws shortly after his move to the bullpen and feels that he’d have seen a similar turnaround even in the Brewers’ rotation. Estrada is in the mix for two open rotation spots, along with top prospects Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris, following the loss of Marcus Stroman to a torn ACL.
  • Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweets that if the Blue Jays go with Brett Cecil as their closer, then manager John Gibbons would like to have a third lefty in his ‘pen in addition to Cecil and setup man Aaron Loup. Lefty options on the 40-man roster include Jayson Aquino, Scott Barnes, Colt HynesRob Rasmussen and Norris. Non-roster lefties in camp include Jeff Francis, Andrew Albers and Johan Santana, though Santana isn’t expected to be healthy by Opening Day.

Quick Hits: Tanaka, Sabathia, Royals, Cuba, Extensions

Yankees starters Masahiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia are generating positive reports, team pitching coach Larry Rothschild tells Mark Didtler of the Associated Press (via the LoHud Yankees Blog). Tanaka has “felt good” while going through a normal winter progression, says Rothschild. The pair’s progress this spring will be critical for the Yankees. If Tanaka’s partially torn UCL or Sabathia’s balky knee are problematic, the club would seem a prime candidate to add pitching.

  • In the final analysis, the Royals‘ run with James Shields was an example of the team “beating the system,” according to Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star. By selling high on Wil Myers to add Shields, Kansas City added the arm it needed before cashing him in for a new first-round pick through the qualifying offer system.
  • The Red Sox and Orioles have at least begun looking into the idea of playing a spring game in Cuba this year, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports. While it appears unlikely that will happen in such short order, it certainly hints at how quickly things could move in that arena.
  • Signing players to big extensions is obviously risky, and rarely works out in the way that many expect when a deal is struck. But that does not mean that they fail to deliver good value, or that teams are irrational in reaching them, Russell Carleton of Baseball Prospectus writes.

AL Notes: Rios, Leyva, Tanaka

Alex Rios‘ career with the Rangers could be over. The outfielder has a bruised right thumb, and MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports that Rios has decided it would be better to simply not play, since the thumb has not gotten better and risks infection. The Rangers are expected to decline Rios’ $13.5MM option this offseason and pay his $1MM buyout, which means that his next big-league plate appearance could come with another team. In Rios’ absence, Sullivan writes, the Rangers will likely move Shin-Soo Choo from left field to right and spend their savings on pitchers. Here’s more from the American League.

  • The Orioles have officially announced the signing of Cuban pitcher Lazaro Leyva. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported the signing in September, although Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reported earlier this weekend that the two sides were still in the process of finalizing the signing. The deal is reportedly for $725K.
  • Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka made a successful first start on Sunday after missing two months with an elbow injury, allowing one run while striking out four and walking none in 5 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays. He says that his elbow feels good and that he does not think he needs Tommy John surgery, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com reports. “It’s pain-free,” Tanaka says, adding that he rarely thinks about the injury. A strong full season from Tanaka would, clearly, provide a huge boost for the Yankees in 2015 — he’s been one of the best pitchers in the American League this year when he’s been healthy.


AL East Notes: Franklin, Red Sox, Tanaka

Infielder Nick Franklin, part of the haul that the Rays acquired in the David Price trade, will be recalled to join the club today, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Once ranked as one of the game’s top 50 prospects by MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus, Franklin struggled for much of his time at Triple-A with the Rays, hitting just .210/.288/.290. As Topkin points out, Franklin did hit .424 with a pair of homers in nine playoff games that aren’t included in that stat line, and he of course had an excellent first half as a rookie with the Mariners in 2013, hitting .268/.337/.451 in 169 plate appearances.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • The Red Sox could follow the same method they did with Andrew Miller and the one the Royals/Rays employed with Wade Davis by moving some of their current young starting options to the bullpen, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. MacPherson notes that Brandon Workman already looks like a future reliever and speculates that some or all of Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo and Rubby De La Rosa could end up in the bullpen eventually as well. MacPherson also spoke with Miller about the transition from the rotation to the bullpen.
  • Masahiro Tanaka will throw 60 pitches — including some splitters — in a simulated game today, writes John Harper of the New York Daily News. If Tanaka pitches well, he could re-join the Yankees‘ rotation and make a couple of starts before season’s end. While that may be too little, too late for the Yankees’ playoff hopes, a few healthy starts from Tanaka would give the Yankees some peace of mind heading into 2015.

Yankees Notes: Playoffs, Tanaka, Player Development

Yankees GM Brian Cashman isn’t ready to throw in the towel on the 2014 season, reports Jake Kring-Schreifels of MLB.com. While nobody should be surprised by the comments, the Yankees do face an uphill battle. They currently trail the second Wild Card by 4.5 games with 15 left to play. More daunting than the deficit in the standings is the sheer number of teams in the race – the Yankees will have to leapfrog four teams to reach the Wild Card game. As Cashman says, “we’ve just got to win games.”

  • Of course, with a need to win every game possible, many will be watching the progress of pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, writes Kring-Schreifels. Tanaka is currently rehabbing from a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament – an injury that often requires Tommy John surgery. According to Cashman, “we’re trying to finish off his rehab in a proper way, guided by the experts on the medical staff.” If the club isn’t able to get him back in time to help for the 2014 season, they’ll continue his rehab into the offseason. The goal is to determine if he can reach full health without the time intensive surgery.
  • The retirement of Senior VP of Operations Mark Newman presents an opportunity to improve the farm system, according to Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Under Newman, the Yankees failed to draft any star players since 1996. Madden notes that the Yankees could benefit from better scouting personnel while wondering if Cashman is the right man to oversee a pivot.

Yankees & Red Sox Notes: Tanaka, Lindgren, Shields

Masahiro Tanaka threw a simulated game in Detroit earlier this week, but the Yankees have sent him back to New York with “general soreness” in his arm, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News writes. “There’s not a specific spot; it’s just throughout the arm that’s sore,” says Tanaka. “I’m glad that it’s not the elbow itself.” Right now, Yankees manager Joe Girardi describes the situation as a “little setback.” The setback further delays Tanaka’s return, however, meaning it’s increasingly unlikely he’ll be able to make it back before the season ends. Tanaka’s elbow injury has kept him out of action since July 8. Here’s more out of New York and Boston.

  • Girardi says he’s keeping his eye on 2014 second-round pick Jacob Lindgren, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com writes. After zooming through four levels in his first pro season, Lindgren could be a potential September call-up, perhaps helping the Yankees bullpen down the stretch. So far, he’s pitched 24 2/3 innings and has struck out an amazing 17.5 batters per nine innings, or almost half the batters he’s faced. He’s currently at Double-A Trenton.
  • Missing on Jose Abreu last year helped lead the Red Sox to put in the highest bid for Rusney Castillo, owner John Henry tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “Yes, the financial aspects were impacted by coming close on Abreu. The White Sox did their homework,” says Henry. Castillo is scheduled to play his first minor league game with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox tomorrow.
  • The Red Sox could pursue Royals ace James Shields to upgrade their rotation this offseason, particularly if they’re unable to stage a reunion with Jon Lester, Bradford notes. The Red Sox spent their July acquiring hitting and are likely to address starting pitching this offseason, and ESPN’s Buster Olney had previously noted that Shields was a potential target for the Red Sox. At 32 (33 in December), Shields isn’t young, but he might be able to get a four-year deal this winter.

East Notes: Colon, Castillo, Tanaka, Yanks, Stanton, Phils

It remains to be seen whether the Mets will pull off a deal for veteran starter Bartolo Colon, whose fate will be one of the most-watched storylines over the next few days. Over at Fangraphs, Mike Petriello questions why there has seemed to be such little demand for the righty, concluding that he is likely worth his $11MM salary for next season and could well be an important last-minute upgrade for a contender.

Here’s more from the east …

  • Recent Red Sox signee Rusney Castillo has obtained a work visa in surprisingly short order and is now clear to play, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reports on Twitter. It remains to be seen whether Boston will expose him to MLB action this year, but that is now a possibility with about a month left to go in the regular season.
  • The Yankees continue to move forward in a fairly high-stakes attempt to rehab Masahiro Tanaka for a return this year, with success meaning a top-end arm down the stretch and failure potentially meaning a delayed resort to surgery. As George A. King III reports for the New York Post, Tanaka continues to pass hurdles, with colleague Ken Davidson writing that today’s simulated game was a significant step towards a return.
  • Recent acquisitions of the Yankees — including Martin Prado, Stephen Drew, and Chase Headley — could hint at a broader strategic shift, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. All of those players have seen action at multiple positions, and Sherman argues that New York could well commit more resources to depth and versatility going forward, essentially putting additional cash behind the strategies of the Athletics and Rays.
  • Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton said that some have misconstrued his recent comments regarding his contractual situation, as Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel reports“There is no answer to what my future is,” he said, explaining that some have over-interpreted his words in either direction. Nevertheless, planned offseason extension discussions are sure to lead to immense scrutiny and speculation.
  • Cole Hamels was just the latest Phillies player to publicly show up manager Ryne Sandberg in some manner, as Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com explains. Though the skipper downplayed the incident and said he has control of his clubhouse, Salisbury paints a picture of a tense situation in Philadelphia. As Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes, this on-field drama is playing out in the midst of broader leadership questions with the club. Martino says that the “fiercely loyal organization” is facing a difficult choice between that loyalty and the evident need for accountability.

Injury Updates: Skaggs, Darvish, Tanaka, Fife

Angels manager Mike Scioscia announced to reporters today that Tyler Skaggs underwent successful Tommy John surgery this afternoon. News of Skaggs’ injury first broke on Sunday afternoon. While the Halos have yet to make a move to address the void in their rotation, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them make some kind of waiver transaction in the next two to three weeks. Skaggs is expected to be out until 2016, Scioscia said on Sunday.

Here’s more on some injury notes from around the league…

  • The Rangers announced tonight that ace Yu Darvish has been placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to Sunday) due to inflammation in his right elbow. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes that Darvish will undergo further testing in the next day or two. Darvish apparently felt tightness when playing catch on Monday, and the discomfort failed to dissipate prior to a scheduled bullpen session on Tuesday. GM Jon Daniels tells reporters, including Grant (Twitter link), that doctors do not believe there is any ligament damage in the elbow. Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest tweets that team doctor Keith Meister feels that Darvish may be suffering from pronator flexor tendinitis. Darvish will undergo an MRI tomorrow, and in the meantime, the Rangers have selected the contract of right-hander Alex Claudio to take his roster spot. Daniels says the team is hopeful that Darvish will only miss two starts.
  • Injured Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka threw fastballs from flat ground today — a step forward from playing catch — tweets MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Tanaka feels that he still has a chance to pitch in a Major League game again this season. Skipper Joe Girardi told reporters, including Brendan Prunty of the Star-Ledger, that the team also has hope that Tanaka is not lost for the year.
  • Yet another pitcher has fallen prey to the Tommy John scourge, as Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times tweets that Dodgers righty Stephen Fife will undergo the procedure. Fife, who started 10 games for the Dodgers last year and one this season, has a 3.66 ERA in 91 Major League innings over the past three seasons. It seems likely that the 27-year-old would miss most, if not all of the 2015 campaign.

Yankees Notes: Tanaka, Torres, Judge, A-Rod

The Yankees’ playoff chances may hinge on a game of catch that will take place today at Yankee Stadium.  General manager Brian Cashman confirmed to George A. King III of the New York Post that Masahiro Tanaka will throw today for the first time since a slight UCL tear was discovered in the righty’s throwing elbow.  If Tanaka feels good after his session, he’ll continue his rehab process with an eye towards a return in September.  If he doesn’t feel right, Tanaka may have to undergo Tommy John surgery and could be in jeopardy of missing the entire 2015 season.

Here’s some more about the Bronx Bombers…

  • The trainer for Christopher Torres, a 16-year-old Dominican shortstop, made a complaint to the commissioner’s office claiming the Yankees backed out of an agreed-upon $2.1MM bonus with the youngster, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports.  The Yankees claim no deal was ever reached, while Torres’ trainer says that by not informing Torres of their decision until June, the shortstop was left unsigned with no teams had room left in their international budget.  Badler goes into great detail about the case and the gray area created when teams agree to sign international players months in advance of the July 2 signing period, which is against MLB rules but is very common around the league.
  • The Phillies asked for Aaron Judge in exchange for Marlon Byrd, according to Bill Madden of the New York Daily News.  Needless to say, the Yankees balked at giving up Judge, who was drafted 32nd overall in 2013 and is ranked by MLB.com as the fifth-best prospect in the Yankees’ farm system.
  • With the Yankees struggling at the plate and facing questions at third base and DH for 2015, Newsday’s David Lennon writes that Alex Rodriguez would’ve been a useful piece on the roster right now.  Had A-Rod worked out a 125-150 game suspension last August instead of appealing and ending up suspended for all of 2014, he would already have been eligible to return, Lennon notes.
  • Also from King’s piece, Rusney Castillo‘s private workout with the Yankees will take place on Friday.  The Cuban outfielder also has an upcoming session with the Mariners, and he has already worked out for the Phillies and Red Sox.  King hears from sources that Castillo could sign for between $35-45MM, which is a step up from the $25-35MM we last heard was Castillo’s likely price range, though given the heavy interest in his services and the big-market teams involved, it isn’t surprising his price tag is going up.

Tanaka Has Slightly Torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament

TODAY: Dr. James Andrews was also consulted on Tanaka’s elbow, and concurred with the other three doctors that rehab was the appropriate action at this point, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).

YESTERDAY: Yankees general manager Brian Cashman gave reporters devastating news today, as he revealed that Masahiro Tanaka has a slight tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, and Tommy John surgery is possible (All Twitter links to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News). Tanaka was examined by three doctors, all of whom confirmed the tear. For now, a platelet rich plasma injection is being recommended, and the Yankees are hopeful that he can return in six weeks’ time.

Cashman stressed that this is a slight tear, Feinsand tweets, and if the immediate recommendation had been Tommy John surgery, Tanaka would be undergoing the operation. It’s not unheard of for pitchers to throw with slightly torn UCLs, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports notes (on Twitter). Adam Wainwright did just that for nearly five years, he notes, and Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that Luke Hochevar did the same. Ervin Santana is another example of a pitcher who has successfully avoided Tommy John despite a UCL tear. Still, this is highly disheartening news for the Yankees, and those pitchers’ circumstances are the exception, not the rule.

Even with the likes of Cliff Lee, David Price and Cole Hamels potentially on the trade market, it’s unlikely that any acquisition could replace the brilliant performance that Tanaka has turned in to this point in the season (and, the Yankees likely don’t have the prospects to acquire those big names anyhow).

Three months into his seven-year, $155MM contract — a contract he signed after undergoing an MRI that showed his UCL was intact, Cashman notes (via Feinsand) — Tanaka has a masterful 2.51 ERA with 9.4 K/9, 1.3 BB/9 and a 45.9 percent ground-ball rate. That’s good for 3.2 fWAR and 4.1 rWAR, and those numbers would be even better if his two most recent starts (which may or may not have been impacted by the injury) were thrown out. Tanaka allowed nine runs in 13 2/3 innings over those two contests but had a 2.10 ERA in 115 2/3 innings prior.

As far as the Yankees’ approach at this year’s deadline, Cashman said that he will continue to be aggressive unless he is told otherwise (link). The Yankees have already acquired Brandon McCarthy from the Diamondbacks and were expected to pursue infield upgrades and potentially some further pitching help. Cashman likely wouldn’t concede to selling right off the bat anyway, however, and it’s difficult to see the Yankees making a sustained run if they end up losing Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova for the season.