Matt Albers Rumors

AL Central Notes: Blanton, Joba, Crain, Albers, Twins

Joe Blanton, who is in Spring Training with the Royals on a minor league deal this year, missed the game more than he thought he would upon briefly retiring in 2014, writes ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Blanton spent his year off with his wife and three children, but he tells Crasnick that he felt he owed it to himself to take one more shot at the game. “It was nice being home with my family,” Blanton explains. “But the window is small. I’ve done this my whole life. I’ve put a lot into it, so why not see what’s left? I felt like it was almost an injustice to myself to just step away like that.” Blanton recognizes that there may not be an immediate path to the Major League roster in Kansas City and is open to pitching at Triple-A. “I didn’t play in 2014, and 2013 was a terrible year,” says Blanton. “That’s two years of basically nothing — no good work or no playing at all. So I’m kind of starting back at square one, really.”

Some more news and notes from Blanton’s new division, the AL Central…

  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski says that Joba Chamberlain turned down more lucrative offers from other clubs to return to Detroit, according to MLB.com’s Jason Beck (Twitter links). Talks between the two sides picked up over the past few days and came together last night, Beck adds. “He really wanted to come back,” Dombrowski said.
  • Non-roster invitees Jesse Crain and Matt Albers could be significant boosts to the White Sox bullpen if healthy, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. Crain is already further along than he was in an injury-plagued 2014 season in which he spent the entire year on the disabled list. He tells Merkin that he’s already throwing off a mound with just one day between sessions, which is something he didn’t do at all last year. As for Albers, Merkin interestingly notes that he nearly signed with the White Sox last offseason but instead chose to sign with the Astros, where he missed nearly the entire year after tearing a muscle in his shoulder.
  • Glen Perkins called the first day of Spring Training under new Twins manager Paul Molitor the most mentally intensive first day of camp he’s ever had in his career, writes Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN. Molitor worked with pitchers and catchers to outline the ways in which the Twins need to improve on holding runners to help limit the running game, specifically focusing on tendencies throughout the staff that other teams exploited in 2014. Perkins spoke highly of Molitor’s baseball acumen and teaching ability, and Mackey writes that Molitor’s wealth of knowledge and attention to detail could boost the Twins’ on-field product if he’s able to communicate everything effectively.

Central Links: McCutchen, Zito, Albers, Herndon

The expensive costs of youth travel leagues are an obstacle to attracting young talent to baseball, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen writes in a piece for The Players Tribune.  The full scholarships provided by college basketball or football make them more appealing sports than the long, usually financially-unrewarding path to the majors that the vast majority of prospects face — McCutchen himself admits that, were it not for an ACL tear when he was 15, he would’ve likely pursued NCAA football and not been a big league star today.  He argues that kids from low-income families need more entry points into the game, with one possible solution being a new system similar to the academy program for international prospects.

Here’s the latest from around the NL and AL Central divisions…


AL East Notes: Eovaldi, Cecchini, Albers, Blue Jays

The Yankees‘ primary focus with trade acquisition Nathan Eovaldi will be on improving his offspeed offerings, writes Dan Martin of the New York Post. Despite Eovaldi’s imposing velocity, the 25-year-old generates a surprisingly low number of strikeouts. And, while he struggles more against left-handed hitters, his lack of whiffs isn’t as a result of any platoon issue (6.5 K/9 vs. RHB in his career; 6.0 K/9 vs. LHB). He’s already begun working with pitching coach Larry Rothschild on improving those pitches and would do well to improve his change-up to give him a true out pitch versus lefties. As it is, lefty hitters have batted .466 with a .655 slugging percentage against Eovaldi’s change in his career. The Yankees, Martin writes, were drawn to Eovaldi because of his velocity (95.9 mph fastball from 2013-14), age and the durability he showed in 2014, throwing 199 2/3 innings.

A few more notes from around the AL East…

  • Red Sox third base prospect Garin Cecchini isn’t worried about the team’s addition of Pablo Sandoval, he tells Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe“I take it as a positive for my career,” Cecchini explains. “I get to hang out with a great player like that and work with him in spring training. That has to help me. It’s easy to say, ‘Where is my spot?’ but I can’t worry about that. You have to create your own opportunity.”  Of course, creating that opportunity won’t be easy, barring an injury to Sandoval. And even in that instance, left fielder Hanley Ramirez could slide over to third base, as the Sox have tremendous outfield depth. Cecchini acknowledged to Abraham that a position change or trade could be the eventual outcome. “You hear that kind of stuff. But I don’t look too much into it. … I understand Pablo is in front of me but I hope I can do something to help.”
  • The Blue Jays had two scouts watch Matt Albers‘ recent workout, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Albers turned down multiple offers to sign with the White Sox, according to Nicholson-Smith, though it’s not clear if Toronto was one of the teams to make an offer. Shortly after Albers signed, the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich tweeted that Albers had offers from four teams besides the ChiSox.
  • Nicholson-Smith also spoke with someone familiar with the arbitration process who estimated that the Blue Jays‘ win over Josh Donaldson in yesterday’s arbitration hearing may have saved the club upwards of $6MM over the next several winters, as each salary is based upon the previous year’s figure (Twitter link).


White Sox, Matt Albers Agree To Minor League Deal

10:17am: Albers will earn $1.5MM if he makes the Major League roster, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter links). The White Sox were one of five clubs to make him an offer, Drellich adds.

10:05am: The White Sox and right-hander Matt Albers are in agreement on a minor league contract, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). The SSG Baseball client recently worked out for as many as 12 teams and hit 91 mph on the radar gun after missing nearly all of the 2014 season with shoulder issues.

The 32-year-old Albers has been excellent when healthy over the past three seasons. In that time, he owns a 2.63 ERA with 5.9 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 59.4 percent ground-ball rate. That ground-ball rate likely appeals to the White Sox, who play their home games in a particularly homer-friendly environment.

White Sox relievers posted baseball’s third-worst ERA in 2014 (4.38), and GM Rick Hahn and his staff have made revamping the relief corps a priority this offseason. Adding David Robertson on a four-year, $46MM contract was the most significant move toward that effort, but the team has also added Zach Duke on a three-year, $15MM contract and brought back Jesse Crain on a minor league deal as well. In-house options to fill out the White Sox bullpen include righties Jake Petricka, Daniel Webb, Javy Guerra and Zach Putnam as well as lefties Dan Jennings and Eric Surkamp.


Pitching Notes: Porcello, Aardsma, Albers, Zito

Red Sox starter Rick Porcello figures to present a fascinating free agent case, as Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes. The righty will enter free agency in advance of his age-27 campaign and remains a candidate to put up a big year in Boston. Even if he ends up with more typical results than a true breakout, and even accounting for robust market supply, his age could make him a $100MM player, in Petriello’s view.

Here are a few notes on some of the few remaining current free agents:

  • Reliever David Aardsma pushed his velocity up to 92 mph in a recent showcase in front of eighteen scouts, MLBTR’s Steve Adams reports (Twitter links). The 33-year-old has not seen MLB action since 2013, but worked to a 1.46 ERA with better than a strikeout per inning last year at Triple-A with the Cardinals organization. He is expected to choose a team in the near future.
  • Fellow righty Matt Albers also threw for teams recently, as already reported, and the Indians were among those in attendance, as Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. Cleveland also had a look at lefty Barry Zito, who threw for observers yesterday.
  • Speaking of prior reports on Albers and Zito, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle — who broke the news last night — tweets today that Astros owner Jim Crane says the team could bring in Zito with a spring training invite. Drellich cautions that it still seems unlikely that Zito will land with Houston.

Barry Zito, Matt Albers Held Workouts Tuesday

Veteran free agents Matt Albers and Barry Zito held separate pitching sessions in Houston on Tuesday, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The Astros were in attendance for Zito’s workout but did not watch Albers throw, he adds.

It’s unclear how many clubs were in attendance for Zito’s Tuesday showing, but Drellich notes that four to five teams have seen him. Previous reports have indicated that the A’s won’t be watching Zito throw, and based on Drellich’s report, Houston won’t be adding the former AL Cy Young Award winner, either. While Houston is interested in adding some veteran rotation depth, Drellich tweets that Zito “has interest elsewhere” and notes within his story that Houston’s a long shot to sign the lefty. The Giants did not watch him throw last week, GM Brian Sabean told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle last week (Twitter link).

Zito sat out the 2014 season after struggling to a 5.74 ERA in his final season with the Giants. Zito’s seven-year, $126MM contract with the Giants was an infamous disappointment, but the durable soft-tosser did soak up 180 or more innings in five of his seven years with San Francisco, and he cleared 190 innings in four of those seasons.

As for Albers, 12 teams were in attendance for his workout, during which he hit 91 mph on the radar gun. A recent MRI showed that the shoulder problems that sidelined Albers for nearly all of the 2014 season have cleared up, and he’s looking to sign with a team before Spring Training begins. Presumably, given the fact that Albers threw just 10 innings last year due to the injury, he’ll land somewhere on a minor league deal.

Such a deal could prove to be a bargain for a signing club, as the 32-year-old Albers has been excellent when healthy over the past three seasons. In that time, he owns a 2.63 ERA with 5.9 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 59.4 percent ground-ball rate. The Twins were made aware of Albers’ showcase last week and are open to adding a bullpen arm, according to a previous reports. Other clubs looking to add to the bullpen are the Blue Jays, Brewers and Marlins. One would think that the Tigers could use additional bullpen depth after their relief corps struggled so greatly in 2014, and the Pirates, with their affinity for ground-ball pitchers, strike me as a possible match as well.


Pitching Notes: Shields, Albers, Cotts, Gee

In his latest piece on the market for James Shields, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports looks at the most recent significant contracts for starting pitchers of age 33 or older and points out that history is not on Shields’ side. MLBTR took a similar look at Shields in Spring Training of last year, noting that recent history suggested it’d be difficult to find a team willing to guarantee his age-37 season. Rosenthal notes that executives to whom he has spoken cite Shields’ age, innings backlog, declining strikeout rate and shaky postseason track record as negatives. At this point, Rosenthal feels a four-year deal worth less than $20MM annually is likely.

A few more pitching notes from around the league…

  • Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports that the Twins were informed yesterday of a Feb. 10 showcase for right-hander Matt Albers in Houston (Twitter link). All teams are invited to watch Albers throw, of course, and Wolfson does note that the Twins are open to adding a bullpen arm. A shoulder injury limited Albers to just eight appearances with the Astros in 2014, but he does have a pristine 2.63 ERA over his past 133 1/3 big league innings (three seasons’ worth of work).
  • While it’s been previously written that the Rangers expect Neal Cotts to sign elsewhere, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram now reports (via Twitter) that the Rangers have been officially informed that the 34-year-old lefty will sign with a different team this offseason. Cotts wasn’t able to replicate his exceptional 1.11 ERA from his 2013 comeback, but he did post a 4.32 ERA with solid peripheral stats in 2014 (8.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 3.58 FIP, 3.41 SIERA).
  • The Mets still aren’t close to trading Dillon Gee, tweets MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, nor are they close to dealing any of their other potentially available starters (presumably referring to Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon). However, as DiComo notes, that type of situation can change quickly in the three weeks leading up to Spring Training, and of course, a deal could always be negotiated in Spring Training as well.

Pitching Notes: Shields, Cards, Ogando, Albers, Baker, Coke, Comebacks

As things stand, the Nationals have the game’s best rotation while the Royals have the top pen, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney opines (Insider links). Of course, the offseason is not yet over. Here are the latest notes on the pitching market:

  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart confirmed that the team has active interest in starter James Shields, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Stewart adds that he likes the idea of  Shields serving as a mentor while fronting the team’s rotation. Fellow free agent Max Scherzer, however, is too spendy for Arizona.
  • When the Cardinals pursued lefty Jon Lester, the team indicated it was willing to spend only to the $120MM range, Olney tweets. That could give an idea of what kind of payroll space the club feels willing to occupy, says Olney. St. Louis was recently linked to a trio of top starting pitchers, each of whom would represent quite a different investment.
  • Alexi Ogando apparently produced solid results in his recent workout, with Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com tweeting that scouts were impressed. The Red Sox and Dodgers are “aggressive” on Ogando, Gammons adds. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe had tweeted that Boston was in attendance.
  • Righty Matt Albers is throwing in preparation for a showcase early next month, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). The shoulder issues that shut him down last year did not involve any structural damage, says Morosi.
  • Agent Bobby Witt says that client Scott Baker, another free agent righty, prefers to join a team that will allow him to enter camp as a starter, Morosi reports (Twitter links). Baker has five minor league offers in hand but is hoping to receive a major league contract.
  • Interest in lefty Phil Coke is “amping up,” Chris Iott of MLive.com tweets. Nevertheless, a signing does not appear to be imminent, per the report.
  • The Twins are planning to watch lefty Johan Santana throw today after already seeing him on the mound last week, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets. Santana is not the only prominent hurler eyeing a comeback, it seems. Former closer Carlos Marmol threw in the Dominican earlier this winter and is now pitching in Venezuela, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. And one-time relief ace Daniel Bard, whose career derailed with a failed conversion back to the rotation, is also seeking a return, Cafardo reports. The 29-year-old says he is finally healthy and expects to sign a deal this week.

Quick Hits: Scherzer, Santana, Zimmermann, Segura

Agent Scott Boras says he will not give the Tigers the opportunity to match offers for his client Max Scherzer, Chris Iott of MLive.com writes. “This is not church bingo,” Boras told the media Wednesday. “You pretty much are in the market on a player. You tell all the teams and everyone involved that he can sign at any time. He’s open to signing at any time.” A Tigers official recently said that a new deal with Scherzer was “not happening,” however, so right now, it sounds like the Tigers aren’t that inclined to play bingo either. Here’s more from around the big leagues.

  • The Yankees are considering signing Ervin Santana, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Santana has lately been connected to the Twins, Giants and Royals, with the Twins reportedly prepared to offer a deal in the range of four years and $50MM. The Yankees, meanwhile, are looking for starting pitching, but GM Brian Cashman has said he’s being “patient” at the Winter Meetings.
  • The Nationals met with Jordan Zimmermann‘s agent, Mark Pieper, on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings, James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. “It was a re-acquaintance, if you will, to talk about philosophies and parameters and that type of thing,” says Nats GM Mike Rizzo. The two sides had not attempted to negotiate an extension for Zimmermann since before the 2014 season. Zimmermann is eligible for free agency next winter. Last week, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Nationals would again attempt to extend Zimmermann. Wagner adds that the Nationals do not plan to trade Zimmermann, Doug Fister or Ian Desmond (all of whom are eligible for free agency at the end of the year) before the start of spring training.
  • Jean Segura‘s struggles last season have the Brewers thinking they shouldn’t offer players extensions in the spring, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes. The Brewers offered Segura a six-year, $38MM extension last spring, but Segura’s camp turned it down. Segura had a poor first half, and the Brewers feel he was pressing. Near midseason, Segura tragically lost his infant son. He then returned to the team and struggled through July and August before hitting better in September. “I do think [the extension offer] was a distraction for Segura,” says GM Doug Melvin. “You’re around all the players (in camp) and they talk about it. I just think the focus on spring training is important to get ready.”
  • The Braves have not contacted Kris Medlen since they non-tendered him, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tweets. Medlen missed the entire 2014 season after having his second Tommy John surgery.
  • Reliever Matt Albers, who missed much of the 2014 season due to shoulder trouble, will begin throwing in February, SportsNet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets. More than one team has shown interest, Nicholson-Smith notes. Albers, 31, has appeared in parts of nine big-league seasons with the Astros, Orioles, Red Sox, Diamondbacks and Indians, posting a 4.42 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9.

Astros Decline Matt Albers’ Option, Outright Jesus Guzman And Rudy Owens

After letting Jorge De Leon go on a waiver claim, the Astros have cleared three additional roster spots with a series of moves today. As the club announced in a press release, it has declined its option over reliever Matt Albers and outrighted first baseman Jesus Guzman and lefty Rudy Owens. According to the team, Houston’s 40-man roster now has four vacancies, though it would appear from this list that it stands at 37 (with Albers still technically on the 60-day DL).

Albers, 31, will head back to the open market after an injury-shortened 2014 campaign. He allowed only one run in his ten frames on the year, striking out eight and walking three batters, but shoulder troubles ended his season. Houston had signed him to a one-year, $2.45MM deal that included the option. The Astros elected to pay a $200K buyout rather than taking on the $3MM option price.

Guzman, 30, continued to see his star fade after showing some promise earlier in his career with the Padres. He hit just .188/.272/.248 at the major league level. The 26-year-old Owens, meanwhile, had his first big league start but posted a 4.33 ERA in 135 innings at Triple-A, striking out 6.9 and walking 2.2 batters per nine.