- Brady Aiken Undergoes Tommy John Surgery
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Matt Harrison Rumors
Giants reliever Sergio Romo left no doubts about how glad he is to be back with San Francisco, as Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com reports (Twitter links). “It was like, we can get this done in five minutes, for real,” Romo said of his free agent stance towards the Giants. “Call me up.” Though other clubs offered him a chance to return to a closing role, Romo says he “just didn’t want to go anywhere.”
Here’s more from the game’s western divisions:
- Rangers lefty Matt Harrison feels increasingly confident in his ability to make it back to the big leagues, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan writes. Now working his way up to a full-size mound, Harrison still faces a difficult road in his return from spinal fusion surgery. “I don’t think about [retirement] anymore,” Harrison said. “It would definitely be hard to do without giving it another shot. The more I learn and the more I understand the rehab, I feel good about the possibility of getting back to a five-day rehab.” Obviously, any future contribution from Harrison — who is owed owed $41MM between now and 2017 (including a buyout on an option for 2018) — would be welcome news for a Texas club that has been beset by a variety of pitching injuries in recent years.
- New commissioner Rob Manfred says a new ballpark for the Athletics is a priority, as the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). While Major League Baseball will remain involved, Manfred said that he is not sure how much influence it can have on the process and said he prefers the team to work with Oakland on a solution.
- Padres owner Ron Fowler vetoed a June 2013 proposal from the team’s baseball executives to make a bid to acquire Cliff Lee, Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Then just ten months into his chairmanship, and overseeing a front office led by then-GM Josh Byrnes, Fowler decided the move did not make sense given the team’s overall situation and Lee’s expense. San Diego had been hovering at .500 at the time, but quickly fell back and out of contention that year, and obviously the move could have had significant long-term repercussions as things turned out.
James Shields, the top free agent still available, has lost his leverage and is in the worst possible spot as most teams have exhausted their payroll space and are more willing to identify reasons to dismiss an available player, opines ESPN’s Buster Olney in an Insider piece (subscription required). The longer a premium free agent like Shields remains unsigned, Olney notes, the more his negotiating strategy and leverage position are picked apart. Along those lines, a National League GM tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, “It’s hard to project a team would go five years.”
In today’s news and notes from the American League:
- Agent Mark Rodgers told MLB Network Radio’s Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette (audio link) he will listen to any overtures from the White Sox to extend Jeff Samardzija, but his client will most likely find out what his “ultimate value is in the open market, which is what free agency is all about.“
- The Tigers hosted a private workout for Yoan Moncada, reports Lynn Henning of the Detroit News. MLB.com’s Jason Beck adds the workout was held last week at the team’s facility in Lakeland. Both Henning and Beck believe this was simply due diligence on the Tigers’ part because of the signing bonus Moncada will command.
- In today’s mailbag, a reader asks Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer why the Indians allowed J.D. Martinez to slip through their fingers and join their divisional rivals last year. The Tigers, he explained, needed depth in the outfield late in Spring Training. The Tribe, on the other hand, had more than enough with David Murphy, Ryan Raburn, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Michael Brantley. At the time, they didn’t know Raburn would struggle and both Swisher and Bourn would be hindered by injuries.
- Matt Harrison told reporters, including Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News, he expects the Rangers to place him on the 60-day disabled list to open the season. Harrison also acknowleged a minor setback in his rehab, but the issue had to do with his mechanics rather than his health.
- Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar told reporters, including FOX Sports Southwest’s Anthony Andro, he is pleased with the results his throwing program has had on his right shoulder. Profar, who is slated to take some dry swings from the right side this week, said his goal is to play in all of Texas’ Spring Training games.
- In a nod that today is Super Bowl Sunday, Rangers GM Jon Daniels confirmed Russell Wilson will participate in the club’s Spring Training camp, Andro tweets. To illustrate the quarterback’s love of baseball, Rodgers, who also represents Wilson, told MLB Network Radio (audio link), if Wilson could figure out a way to play both sports, he would.
The Rangers and pitcher Matt Harrison seemingly received positive news yesterday, as the righty, as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets that an X-ray of Harrison’s back came back clean. He will undergo a CT scan on Wednesday in hopes of being cleared to throw in January.
More from the American League:
While multiple reports yesterday raised the possibility of the Athletics trading Josh Donaldson this offseason, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) spoke with an A’s official who completely dismissed the notion, bluntly stating, “That would be stupid.” Of course, one such comment doesn’t completely rule out the possibility, but it does seem unlikely that the A’s are feeling too much pressure to move their All-Star third baseman, as he’s just hitting arbitration for the first time.
In other Oakland and AL West news…
- Athletics GM Billy Beane doesn’t regret pulling the trigger on the trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to Boston in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, he told reporters, including Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com. “Simply put, if we don’t have Jon Lester, I don’t think we make the playoffs,” Beane said. First baseman Brandon Moss also spoke, noting that he doesn’t think there was any way for the A’s to catch the Angels based on their torrid second-half run.
- The A’s could potentially have a strong pitching staff fronted by Sonny Gray, Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir in 2015, writes John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, but they’re left with question marks surrounding that strength. The team has no middle infield to speak of, and the free agent market doesn’t offer much in the way of impact options. Meanwhile, a large portion of the roster — including Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Brandon Moss, Stephen Vogt, John Jaso, Derek Norris, Craig Gentry and Sean Doolittle — is marred by injury concerns. Building a team that can contend in 2015 is a long shot, in Hickey’s estimation.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has some more details on Michael Young‘s upcoming role in the Rangers‘ front office. Young and the Rangers are finalizing a deal that will make him a special assistant to GM Jon Daniels — a role that the Rangers are also discussing with Darren Oliver. However, while many former players that land special assistant roles are loosely affiliated with the club and have a light workload, Grant reports that these roles would be far more significant. The Rangers feel they’ve lacked insight into the psychology of modern players when making recent decisions, and the presence of Young and Oliver could help to provide that insight. The roles will also involve field work and player evaluation at times.
- Rangers lefty Matt Harrison has pushed back the beginning of his offseason throwing sessions from November to January, reports Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com. Harrison called the move precautionary, noting somewhat ominously, “I got only one shot at this. I just have to make sure it’s right.” The talented southpaw, who is entering the third year of a five-year, $55MM extension, is attempting to work his way back from his third back surgery in a span of two years.
- Perhaps the Mariners‘ biggest weakness was the lack of a productive DH this season, writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. That flaw, he opines, should be remedied with a hard pursuit of Victor Martinez. Though he’s 36, will cost a draft pick and is sure to be expensive, Stone points out that the time for exhibiting patience is waning, as Felix Hernandez and especially Robinson Cano move closer to the end of their primes. He also points out that Martinez “reveres” manager Lloyd McClendon, who was his hitting coach with the Tigers prior to becoming Seattle’s manager.
While GM Jeff Luhnow and scouting director Mike Elias recognize how much three straight No. 1 overall picks have helped the Astros organization, the duo said in a press conference yesterday (video link) that they’re hopeful they won’t be in that spot again in 2015. Elias discussed the club’s approach to picking first overall: “We enter the year with a pool of players who we deem to be candidates for the pick. It’s usually about seven players long, the list. And we try to hang with those players as long as we can, reasonably, into the spring. We want to get as much info on these guys as possible so that we’re not blindsided if one of them storms up the list at the end, or if one of them might fall off the list for whatever reason.” Luhnow adds that while the first-round picks add huge value, “you really make your money on the draft in the later rounds.”
Here’s more out of the AL West …
- While it is far too soon to judge last year’s draft results, Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper explains why the Astros‘ Mark Appel‘s early-career struggles could actually be cause for concern about his true ceiling. Appel, a college hurler taken first overall last year by Houston, has been knocked around in the low minors — putting him in the company of high-end busts. College arms that have gone on to dominate at the big league level, says Cooper, have tended to overpower lower-level competition easily with their combination of stuff and polish. What is most troubling, Cooper says, is that those stats have coincided with scouting reports that paint Appel as more of a mid-rotation arm.
- Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison underwent disc fusion surgery today, reports Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest (via Twitter). That means, of course, that he will not attempt to rehab and pitch through his back issues. While Harrison sounds determined to have a go at a comeback, so long as it is a viable possibility, success seems far from given at this point.
- Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes that while the Angels have delayed a tough decision by optioning Jarrett Grube to make room for the returning Josh Hamilton, something has to give soon. By this weekend, the team will need another pitcher, and either C.J. Cron or Grant Green — both of whom have hit very well — is likely to be optioned. Fletcher calls Raul Ibanez the elephant in the room, noting that the veteran DH’s numbers haven’t improved since he’s been platooned. Ibanez’s roster spot was said to be secure as recently as May 19, though he’s batted just .143/.226/.286 since that time and is hitting .147/.259/.272 overall.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
Athletics GM Billy Beane may have outdone himself with his most recent round of immense production from unheralded players, writes MLB.com’s Richard Justice. Third baseman Josh Donaldson, who has continued his torrid pace since seemingly emerging out of nowhere last year, stood out to Beane with his somewhat hidden elite athleticism and extreme competitiveness. Now, reclamation project Jesse Chavez is taking the league by storm from the mound. “We liked him in the minor leagues,” Beane explained, “and felt he’d never really got an opportunity in the big leagues.” While Beane’s much-publicized success with statistical analysis has required consistent adaptation to maintain an edge, he says that the club identified Chavez through the same use of “objective numbers” that drove the Moneyball era. “We’ve had to reinvent ourselves a few times,” he explained. “There were things we were doing 10 years ago we weren’t able to continue to do. To constantly solve the challenges we have is not easy. It’s very self-satisfying for all of us.” Given Beane’s comments on Chavez’s lack of opportunity, it will certainly be interesting to see whether recent addition Kyle Blanks is able to harness his potential with healthy, consistent playing time in Oakland.
Here’s more out of the American League:
- If Chavez is not the most surprising top performer through the season’s first quarter, that is only due to the emergence of 26-year-old journeyman Yangervis Solarte, who sports a .907 OPS in his rookie campaign. The Tigers were keen to sign Solarte before acquiring Ian Kinsler, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. With Detroit assistant GM Al Avila reportedly a big fan of Solarte, the team had also unsuccessfully pursued him as a minor league free agent before the 2011 and 2012 campaigns. Solarte’s agent, Peter Greenberg, says that Solarte chose to go to the Yankees because the team had an easier path to a big league opening and ultimately gave him a relatively robust $22K monthly salary in the minors (with three months guaranteed).
- Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette addressed today’s signing of free agent reliever Heath Bell, who will look to revive his career by starting over at Triple-A. “Bell is a proven veteran pitcher with experience who has agreed to a Triple-A deal,” Duquette told Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (Twitter link). “We believe he can help our major league club later this season.”
- Injured Rangers starter Matt Harrison will undertake an epidural injection in hopes of quieting the pain from his back condition, but the next steps remain unclear, reports Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. “It’s kind of put me in the position where either I deal with it or have the surgery and get it fused together and try to make a comeback from that,” said Harrison. “It’s going to be even tougher than it was the last time but I’m willing to give it a try. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what’s going on at this point in time and trying not to let it sink in that it may have been my last game.” Ultimately, while he clearly hopes to do whatever it takes to return, Harrison indicated that he would keep his long-term future in mind with the dangerous condition he has. “Obviously your health is most important but I know there are guys who’ve come back before,” he said. “I’m going to give that a shot if I end up having it but if I come back and things are the same or worse as they were before it’s not worth the risk. It’s really not worth me being 29 years old and not being able to walk.”
10:19pm: The team would expect to recover a “significant portion” of Harrison’s $13MM annual salary over 2015-17 in the unfortunate event that he cannot throw due to the injury, Grant adds in an update to his post.
7:51pm: Should Perez try to avoid a TJ procedure, he would sit out for ten to twelve weeks while rehabbing, per an updated report from Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Of course, that strategy comes with the risk of delaying his recovery time by that period if he ultimately goes under the knife.
The prospects for Harrison, should he elect surgery, seem fairly grim. “There just aren’t a lot of guys who have had it and come back successfully,” said GM Jon Daniels. “I’m hoping that while the odds might not be good he will be the exception.” Grant does note that an insurance policy on Harrison paid out $2.5MM last year and could afford the club coverage of $6MM of the $8MM salary owed for 2014. The report does not indicate how the policy impacts the future years of the deal.
In terms of dealing with the injuries, Daniels said that the team is going to stick with internal options for the time being. “We will look to ride it out,” he said. “We might consider the trade market at some point, but right now, we’ll look to ride it out.”
6:02pm: Two key Rangers starters — lefties Martin Perez and Matt Harrison — have significant injuries that could result in long DL stints, reports Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest (Twitter links).
Perez, 23, has a partial UCL tear in his left elbow. While he is weighing the possibility of resting and pitching through the injury, a Tommy John procedure is on the table.
Meanwhile, the 28-year-old Harrison has another serious back issue (called spondylolisthesis) that could require a form of spinal fusion surgery. He, too, could potentially try to throw without surgery. However, if it becomes necessary, the procedure could potentially be career-threatening, according to a tweet from Jeff Wilson of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram.
The pair of hurlers had been expected to be key rotation pieces in Texas for the long haul. Perez was signed this November to a four-year, $12.5MM extension, which includes club options for 2018 through 2020. Harrison inked his own, even larger deal before the 2013 season. The extension, which covers the 2013 through 2017 campaigns and comes with a club option, guarantees him $55MM.
Needless to say, even if both Perez and Harrison see enough to gain in attempting to avoid surgery, the news clouds the outlook this year for a club that has already been hit hard by injuries. With fellow long-term commit Derek Holland still working back from his own serious knee injury, there are plenty of questions in the staff outside of ace Yu Darvish. While the rotation has fared reasonably well by measure of fWAR to date, it ranks fourth from the bottom in the league in terms of earned run average. Sitting at .500, Texas now seems an obvious potential pitching buyer over the summer — if, that is, the team can stay within striking distance.
Of course, the downside scenarios — a one-year plus recovery for Perez, and an uncertain rehabilitation process for Harrison — could have major implications for the franchise’s trajectory. Texas has committed significant future payroll (through extensions, free agency, and trades), and certainly is built to win in the immediate future. Lacking surefire pitching prospects who appear ready to step into the MLB rotation, Texas could face some tough decision-making if Perez and Harrison are gone for extended periods of time.
FEB. 24: It's good news for the Rangers, as Harrison's MRI came back clean, tweets Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. Though Harrison will not be ready by Opening Day, he is expected to re-start his throwing program in just two days.
FEB. 20: After missing most of last season due to a series of surgeries — two relating to a herniated disk in his back along with a procedure on his non-throwing shoulder — southpaw Matt Harrison entered camp hopeful of regaining his form as one of the Rangers' top starters. But after experiencing lower back stiffness, Harrison is now set for an MRI and examination by his spine surgeon, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
Harrison will not participate in baseball activities until his appointment on Monday, at the earliest. The news was met with a blend of concern and cautious optimism. "With everything he went through last year, there is a level of concern," said GM Jon Daniels. "Hopefully, it's just some irritation from getting going. … He did a lot this winter without having any issues." Harrison, too, acknowledged "some concern" but said he "hope[s] that it's not a serious issue."
The 28-year-old inked a five-year, $55MM extension in January of last year, but has not yet had much of a chance to make good on it. Fortunately for the club, an insurance policy is reportedly in place that should ease the burden of his absence on the pocketbook.
But with sights set on a World Series run, cost savings will not ameliorate the impact on the field of any missed time. The Rangers are already dealing with an injury to another key starter, Derek Holland. It is far from clear, of course, whether Harrison's injury — even if it is serious — would precipitate a new addition. But as ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick wrote recently, the club already faced questions at the back of the rotation, where several candidates are vying for spots. Yu Darvish, Martin Perez, and Alexi Ogando figure to be good bets to occupy a regular turn, but several players of less-certain capabilities line up behind them. The team recently signed Tommy Hanson, adding him to a mix that potentially includes Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers, Nick Tepesch, Michael Kirkman, and Colby Lewis.
The list of pitchers likely to receive qualifying offers this year includes Hiroki Kuroda, Ervin Santana and A.J. Burnett, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. But Cameron also looks into some less obvious candidates, like Tim Lincecum of the Giants and Josh Johnson of the Blue Jays. Three pitchers (Kuroda, Rafael Soriano, and Kyle Lohse) received qualifying offers last offseason; Cameron seems to think that number should be slightly higher this winter. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Jhonny Peralta, who was suspended for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, will soon be eligible to begin a rehab assignment, but the Tigers aren't sure what they'll do with him, MLB.com's Jason Beck reports. The season has ended for all the Tigers' minor-league teams, which makes the Florida instructional league, which begins September 19, the most likely possibility. The Tigers must decide by September 26 whether to place Peralta back on the active roster. They don't appear to have made that decision yet. Peralta becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
- Starter Matt Harrison had his third surgery of the season on Monday, but the Rangers have insurance on his contract, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports. Harrison is signed to a five-year, $55MM contract that begins this season. He's set to make $13MM annually in 2015 through 2017. The insurance on Harrison is fortunate for the Rangers, as is the fact that Harrison's latest surgery is on his non-throwing shoulder.
Recent Mariners callup Taijuan Walker's skin color is important for the future of baseball, as just 2.3 percent of the 648 pitchers who have thrown in the majors this year are American-born black players, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports writes. The rise of Walker, whose father is black and mother is half-Mexican, half-white; and the Rays' Chris Archer, who was born to a black father and white mother, "represents what the league desperately hopes is a trend and not an anomaly," Passan says. On to more Saturday night major league links:
- Over the last two seasons, National League starters acquired by the Rangers have failed to succeed in the AL West, tweets Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, posting a collective 4.72 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and 1.37 HR/9. Though Grant rightly acknowledges that the sample is far too small to be conclusive, it is certainly true that both of the team's major trade-deadline acquisitions – Ryan Dempster (2012) and Matt Garza (2013) — have put up pedestrian numbers for Texas.
- Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison will have surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder on Monday, Grant reports. Harrison had the same procedure, in which a rib is removed, on his throwing shoulder in 2009. “Since I’m already shut down with the back issues for the year, I might as well get it taken care of,” Harrison commented. Rangers GM Jon Daniels says he believes Harrison will be ready for 2014 spring training, Anthony Andro of Fox Sports Southwest tweets.
- Blue Jays assistant GM Andrew Tinnish and scout Danny Evans were in Japan in August to scout Masahiro Tanaka, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports via Twitter. Clubs connected to Tanaka so far include the Twins, Giants and Yankees.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.