- Ian Desmond’s work in center field has impressed observers, and the Rangers are not ruling out the possibility of retaining him beyond 2016, Rosenthal says. Even if they don’t (and they do have a wide variety of talented young outfielders), Desmond seems like a good bet to land a multi-year deal as a center fielder.
- Some in the Rangers organization felt the recently promoted righty — and former No. 1 overall pick — Matt Bush could help the team out of Spring Training, but since he was only a few months removed from being released from prison, they decided to wait. Bush, who has a long history of alcoholism, will be joined on the road by either his father Danny or Rangers special assistant Roy Silver (who had previously worked with Josh Hamilton).
- It’s unclear what the Cubs might need at the trade deadline, Rosenthal says. A left fielder is one possibility if Jorge Soler can’t get it going and if the Cubs elect to keep Kris Bryant at third. There’s also a chance they could add pitching. They could move Adam Warren from the bullpen to the rotation if needed, but might need to pursue relief help if they did.
- The Red Sox will be better-prepared for the trade deadline than their divisional competition, with a farm system that rates as significantly better than those of the Orioles or Blue Jays.
- Rosenthal also explains why Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes’ domestic violence suspension was shorter than that of an 80-game punishment for PED use. Rosenthal says that, in the eyes of the league, a positive PED test essentially amounts to proof of guilt, but in Reyes’ case, charges against him were dropped and he has never been convicted. Without “formal proof,” MLB can only make a suspension so long.
- Some players want stiffer sentences for players who fail PED tests, especially for players who use PEDs intentionally. While it’s possible there could be small changes to PED penalties, however, Rosenthal says bigger changes aren’t likely.
The Rangers have promoted right-hander Matt Bush, per a club announcement and as first suggested by T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com on Twitter. An active roster spot will be cleared by the demotion of center fielder Delino DeShields Jr., who has been optioned to Triple-A.
Bush will make his major league debut at 30 years of age, which obviously wasn’t the hope when he was taken first overall by the Padres back in 2004. Originally drafted as a shortstop, Bush eventually shifted to the mound after failing to develop at the plate.
That might’ve just been a diversion on his way to the majors, but Bush dealt with drug and alcohol problems and eventually found himself in prison. He served 51 months for a hit-and-run in which he nearly killed a man while driving under the influence.
Bush signed with the Rangers over the winter as the latest step in his effort to get his life back in order, and proceeded to impress in camp this spring. He’s now thrown 17 innings of 2.65 ERA ball at the Double-A level, with 9.5 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9.
As for DeShields, 23, roster pressures and prolonged struggles made this something of a foregone conclusion. Once Ian Desmond showed that he could be relied upon in center, with Drew Stubbs also providing a more experienced option, the club apparently felt the time was right for a demotion. After all, Nomar Mazara has performed even better than might have been hoped, Shin-Soo Choo is nearing return, and Josh Hamilton may not be far behind.
DeShields, of course, was a revelation last year as a Rule 5 pick, posting a .261/.344/.374 batting line and 25 stolen bases. That made it easy for Texas to keep him on the roster all year, gaining permanent rights, but DeShields has scuffled in his first 121 trips to the plate in 2016. At present, he is hitting at a .217/.294/.302 clip and has managed only four swipes in seven attempts.
After a Spring Training in which they’ve beset by injuries, the Dodgers’ thrifty offseason looms large, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes. The Dodgers’ lengthy injury list (including players who were hurt before the spring started) currently features Andre Ethier, Brett Anderson, Hyun-jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy and Frankie Montas, who all figure to miss significant time, along with Howie Kendrick, Yasmani Grandal, Mike Bolsinger and others, whose maladies currently appear to be somewhat less serious. “It’s one of those freak things, that everything is happening at once,” says Kendrick. “Better it happen here than later, and then hopefully we get on with our season.” The Dodgers’ core issue, as Nightengale sees it, is that despite being a financial powerhouse, they want to succeed by accumulating depth and staying patient, rather than by paying the prices (either in money or in top prospects, of which they have many) necessary to acquire star players. That means they won’t be willing to trade their best young talent for upgrades now, even when they’ve been bitten by the injury bug. Here’s more from the West divisions.
- Dodgers starter Alex Wood looks like a rebound candidate, FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes. That would be a bit of good news for the team’s beleaguered rotation. Wood has raised his release point, which had fallen during his uneven 2015 season. He might also be in the process of regaining some of the velocity he’s lost as well — it fell from an average of 91.7 MPH in 2013 to 89.3 last season, and his pitches this spring have been closer to his 2013 levels.
- Catcher Tony Wolters was an unlikely choice to make the Rockies’ roster, but he’ll head north with the big-league team thanks in part to his ability to play at the middle infield positions as well as behind the plate, Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes. When the Rockies claimed Wolters in February, he had never played above the Double-A level. He initially played shortstop in the Indians organization before switching to catching in 2013. That versatility could make him more useful in extra-inning games — and, I’d think, in long games in general, of which Coors Field has many. “We didn’t know the kid until spring training started,” says manager Walt Weiss. “Over the course of six weeks, he won a lot of people over. That’s hard to do in this game.”
- The Rangers believe Matt Bush could pitch in the Major Leagues in 2016, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Bush, of course, was the first overall pick by the Padres in the 2004 draft, but the path he’s taken since then has been rocky, to say the least. He flamed out as a shortstop, and more troublingly, had a number of run-ins with the law, including a drunk-driving incident that resulted in him hitting a motorcyclist and spending more than three years in jail. But one member of the Rangers’ minor-league staff, Roy Silver, was in contact with Bush during his incarceration and had experience working with Josh Hamilton and other addicts. Bush, now a pitcher, is currently hitting 100 MPH from the mound.
The Padres have sent a scout to watch Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. It’s far from clear whether that is an indication of serious interest, of course, let alone whether the scout is watching more than just Sandoval. Regardless, it’s the latest hint that there could be some remaining trade chatter to be held between these organizations, who already struck a significant swap early in the offseason.
Here’s more from the eastern divisions:
- The Rangers are not only continuing their search for another catcher, but could look outside the organization for rotation help, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. A.J. Griffin may have the inside track to take the fifth starter’s job at present, says Grant, but there’s some concern about the overall starting pitching depth as camp comes to a close. As for the backstop situation, it doesn’t appear that much has changed, but Texas is still looking to improve upon its reserve options — if not to strike a more significant upgrade. (Grant notes that the club has inquired on Derek Norris of the Padres and Bryan Holaday of the Tigers.)
- Of course, interest doesn’t always mean that a deal gets done, and significant spring trades are rare. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also reports that the Rangers have real interest in both areas (Twitter links), but he says the club thinks it has only an “outside chance” at adding a catcher and is “doubtful” to find a new pitcher. All in all, both reports suggest that Texas is looking at its options but is hardly certain to add outside pieces. And still others suggest there’s not much reason to expect movement. Jeff Wilson of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram tweets that outside inquiries have mostly been tire-kicking exercises, while MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan adds on Twitter that club officials have suggested to him that the final rotation piece will come from inside the organization.
- Reclamation righty Matt Bush isn’t in the mix for an Opening Day pen spot with the Rangers, Grant also writes, but he has been enormously impressive this spring and could be an option later in the season. Bush’s story is well-known, of course — the former first overall draft pick recently finished a prison term for severely injuring a man in a DUI.
- Aaron Sanchez has been named as the Blue Jays’ fifth starter, manager John Gibbons told reporters (including John Lott of Blue Jays Nation) this morning. It won’t be a season-long assignment for Sanchez, however, as the righty seems to be under an innings cap and will eventually be transitioned into the bullpen as he approaches his limit. The 23-year-old has never thrown more than 133 1/3 innings in a season. Sanchez and Gavin Floyd emerged as the top two contenders for the fifth starter’s job during camp, and Floyd will join Jesse Chavez in the bullpen while Drew Hutchison has been optioned to Triple-A. It stands to reason that Floyd, Chavez or Hutchison will all be rotation candidates when Sanchez is moved back to relief pitching.
- The Astros have decided to give an Opening Day roster spot to young first baseman Tyler White, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. Houston’s first-base situation has been in flux all spring, but it appears that the 33rd-round draftee is in line for a significant opportunity to take the position and run with it. He is one of several players in the organization who have impressed this spring; third base prospect Colin Moran has also compiled a 1.000+ OPS in more than thirty plate appearances, though Drellich notes on Twitter that he’s not considered a roster option at this point. The same holds true of A.J. Reed, of course, who could also have a chance to make an impact later in the season.
- Angels GM Billy Eppler says that he is “not optimistic” of adding to his roster before the season starts, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports. Gonzalez provides a deep rundown of the club’s remaining roster considerations.
Here are some notable minor league deals on a day that produced a high volume of minor transactions…
- The Nationals have signed veteran left-hander Aaron Laffey to a minor league deal and invited him to Major League Spring Training, tweets MASNsports.com’s Dan Kolko. Because he debuted at 22 years of age, it might be a surprise for some to find that the well-traveled Laffey is still just 30 years old. He spent the 2015 season in the Rockies organization but wound up pitching just 7 1/3 big league innings for Colorado, with the rest of his work coming in the minors. Laffey has spent parts of eight big league seasons in the Major Leagues and, with the exception of the 2014 season, has seen big league action each year dating back to 2007. He sports a career 4.44 ERA with 4.5 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9.
- The Twins announced that they’ve signed outfielder Ryan Sweeney to a minor league deal and invited him to Major League Spring Training. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that Sweeney would receive a $750K base salary upon making the club. Sweeney, also 30, was a significant piece of the Athletics’ roster from 2008-11 but has been limited to a part-time role since that time. Sweeney was out of baseball in 2015 but will look to get back into the Majors in 2016. That he can handle all three outfield positions and has an outstanding defensive reputation in right field would seem to help his cause. Minnesota doesn’t have a clear-cut fourth outfielder at this time.
- Lefty Ryan Buchter is headed to the Padres on a minor league deal with a big league Spring Training invite, MLB.com’s Corey Brock was the first to report (Twitter link). The 28-year-old has just one inning in the Majors — a scoreless frame with the Braves in 2014. However, he had a very strong year at Triple-A with the Cubs and Dodgers in 2015, pitching to a 1.78 ERA with 11.0 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9 in 50 2/3 innings of relief. Control issues have long plagued Buchter, but his strikeout prowess has helped him overcome that trouble in the minors, resulting in a career 3.26 ERA. Lefties barely stood a chance against him at Triple-A this season, where he yielded just a .187/.237/.225 against same-handed batters. His .211/.344/.257 line against righties was strong as well, though it also exemplifies his control issues.
- Right-hander Jarrett Grube will return to the Indians on a minor league pact with a camp invite, tweets Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The 34-year-old has pitched just two-third of an inning in the Majors (2014 with the Angels), and while his overall body of work at Triple-A has resulted in a 5.07 ERA, Grube was outstanding at Triple-A in the Cleveland organization last year, firing 79 2/3 innings of 2.26 ERA ball with 7.7 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9.
- The Mariners have announced five minor league signings. In addition the previously reported signing of infielder Ed Lucas, Seattle has invited outfielder Mike Baxter, left-hander Brad Mills, right-hander Casey Coleman and right-hander Blake Parker to Major League Spring Training. Each player has some big league experience, though Baxter and Coleman have the most of the bunch. Baxter split last season with the Cubs and their Triple-A affiliate, logging 66 PAs in the Majors. Coleman saw significant work out of the Cubs’ bullpen and rotation from 2010-12, while Parker has spent a couple of seasons in the Cubs’ bullpen as well. Mills made one start for the A’s last season and has a fair bit of MLB experience but has never spent more than 21 innings in the Majors in a single season despite a strong track record at Triple-A.
- Former No. 1 overall pick Matt Bush has signed with the Rangers on a minor league deal, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Bush has spent the past three years in prison, serving out a 51-month sentence for critically injuring a motorcyclist in a DWI incident back in 2012. GM Jon Daniels explained to Grant that he was skeptical when learning that Bush was interested in getting back into baseball, but the team was impressed with the level of sincerity expressed by Bush as he explained his regret and desire to turn his life around. (In May 2014, the victim, Tony Tufano, told Gabe Kapler — then of FOX Sports — that he has forgiven Bush and even will root for him in his attempt to turn his life around.) Bush won’t receive an invite to Major League camp and will instead be hoping to make one of the Rangers’ minor league affiliates, Grant notes, adding that Bush is enrolled in a 12-step program and will have to adhere to a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol and drug use with the Rangers.
Matt Cain has been placed on the 15-day DL in order to recover from a cut on his right index finger that already cost him one start earlier this week. While making a sandwich in the Giants’ clubhouse last Tuesday, Cain dropped a knife and tried to catch it in mid-air, cutting his finger in the process. While the injury isn’t serious and Cain could return to the rotation as early as Saturday, the Giants ace may have earned himself a mention in future lists of oddball MLB injuries.
Here are a few notes from around the baseball world…
- The Rangers have done the best job of signing international prospects since 2006, as ranked by Baseball America’s Ben Badler. Not only has Texas signed 14 international players (the second-most of any team in that span), but several of them are making waves in the minors and the likes of Martin Perez, Leonys Martin and Jurickson Profar have contributed to the Major League club. The Royals, Pirates, Twins and Red Sox round out the rest of the top five in Badler’s rankings.
- Former first overall draft pick Matt Bush is halfway through a 51-month prison sentence and he talks to FOX Sports’ Gabe Kapler about his regrets and his battles with alcoholism.
- Scott Boras’ inability to adapt to the new qualifying offer system in free agency is why clients Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew are still waiting for new contracts, Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel opines. While Boras has pulled impressive deals seeming out of nowhere for many clients in the past, McDaniel argues that teams have more information now and are less apt to give up a draft pick or commit major dollars to “second tier free agents.”
- Fangraphs’ David Laurila catches up with right-hander Mike Ekstrom about playing in Italy and his Baseball Round The World website, which chronicles the experiences of Ekstrom and other players who continue their careers in far-flung locales. Ekstrom pitched 61 Major League innings with the Padres, Rays and Rockies from 2008-12 and spent last season at the Triple-A level in the Athletics’ and Angels’ systems.
The Rays have released Matt Bush, reports Marc Topkin of The Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter). The former first overall pick is still incarcerated following a DUI charge in Spring Training. He was on both the 40-man roster and restricted list all season.
Bush, 26, pitched to a 4.83 ERA with 13.8 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 in 50 1/3 relief innings for Tampa Bay's Double-A affiliate in 2011. The Padres originally drafted him as a shortstop with the top pick in 2004, but a lack of production and off-the-field issues stunted his development.
Bush was arrested for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident earlier this spring. The 26-year-old spent last season at Double-A, posting a 4.83 ERA with 13.8 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 in 50 1/3 innings of relief. The Padres selected him first overall in 2004.
Players on the restricted list do not count toward a team's 25-man or 40-man roster. They do not accrue service time and they don't always get paid.
We've already published one batch of AL East Notes today, but there's plenty more happening in the division….
- "I think it's safe to say that he's not going to play for us on the field," Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said in regards to Matt Bush. Speaking to media (including The Tampa Tribune's Roger Mooney) for the first time since Bush was charged with a DUI with bodily injury for his alleged role in a car accident, Friedman said he was surprised at the incident given how well the troubled Bush had performed in his battle with alcholism. Bush, the first overall pick of the 2004 draft, signed a minor league deal with the Rays in 2010 and has yet to reach the Major Leagues in his pro career.
- Travis Snider is becoming the kind of "devalued asset" that Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos usually tries to acquire from other teams, writes Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi. Even if the Jays feel Snider won't be able to perform for them, dealing him for fair value will be difficult given that Snider's trade value is at a low point.
- Brian Roberts tells reporters (including Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com) that the Orioles will put him on the 15-day disabled list to start the season as he continues to recover from concussion symptoms. The fact that it's the 15-day DL and not the 60-day DL is a positive sign for Roberts' chances of returning to playing.
- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine told reporters (including Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston) that he was satisfied with his roster and didn't think the club needed any new acquisitions before Opening Day. Valentine also denied rumors of a "potential rift" between he and general manager Ben Cherington.
- Ben Badler of Baseball America runs down each AL East team's international signings of the past year.
- In case you missed it earlier today, the Blue Jays signed Dustin McGowan to a contract extension.
Some news items from the AL East…
- Toronto's payroll could end up being in the $80-$85MM range, tweets FOXSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi. The Blue Jays currently have just under $49MM committed for 2011 (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts) and have eight players eligible for arbitration. Jose Bautista will get the biggest raise of this group, but even with notables like Yunel Escobar and Brandon Morrow also arb-eligible, the Jays should have a bit of money left to spend beyond settling their arbitration cases.
- Perhaps the Jays' extra money could be spent on Brian Fuentes? We heard about Toronto's interest in Fuentes earlier this week, and now SI's Jon Heyman tweets that the Jays are still "pressing for" the free agent reliever.
- Did Scott Boras wait too long for a Rafael Soriano market to develop? Fangraphs' R.J. Anderson thinks this might be the case, and that Soriano might have to settle another one-year contract with the hopes of finding a long-term deal next offseason.
- A bit of early reaction to Tampa Bay's agreement with Kyle Farnsworth: CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler thinks the signing is risky, but believes the Rays need to take chances on their bullpen if they want to contend. Meanwhile, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs thinks the Rays made a better deal for Farnsworth than Boston did with Bobby Jenks, given that Farnsworth and Jenks put up comparable numbers over the last two seasons.
- Bronson Arroyo tells Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald that he enjoyed pitching for the Red Sox and wouldn't mind returning: "Even though I can safely say that I’ve cemented myself in Cincinnati for a while, [Boston] definitely still feels like home and in the back of my mind I know that there is no better place to play than in Fenway Park." Arroyo said when his three-year extension with the Reds runs out after the 2013 season, he would be interested in pitching for the Rays (to play close to his family), returning to the Red Sox, or staying in Cincinnati.
- MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli has details on the vesting option included in Kevin Gregg's contract with the Orioles. Gregg's 2013 option will become guaranteed if he finishes 50 games in 2012, or if he finishes 100 games total in 2011-12. As SI's Jon Heyman tweeted in the previous link, Gregg will earn between $6-$10MM in 2013 if his option vests.
- Matt Bush, the first overall pick of the 2004 draft, talks to MLB.com's Dawn Klemish about his battle with alcoholism and the progress he's made in the Tampa Bay organization.