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The dark side of Venezuelan baseball players reaping the riches of their profession is their family members, who decline to move permanently to the United States and remain in Venezuela, become targets of kidnappers. Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News chronicles the kidnapping attempt made on the brother of Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus last year. Fortunately, Andrus provided his brother’s family with armed bodyguards and they thwarted the attempt after being fired upon and struck in their bulletproof vests. “This happens with everybody who has family there,” said Andrus. “It’s easy for them to kidnap people and ask for money. And everybody knows how much money the players make. They can Google it. It’s just not safe. You have to take steps. It was pretty shocking, for sure.”
In other news and notes from baseball’s West divisions:
- The Diamondbacks will not alleviate their outfield surplus by trading Mark Trumbo, reports CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. “We are not moving Trumbo,” GM Dave Stewart said. “Trumbo is a proven bat. Tough to move him for an unknown.” Stewart went even further with the New York Post’s Joel Sherman (Twitter link) telling the scribe he will not trade any of his outfielders because he values the depth.
- The Rockies are to be commended for releasing Jhoulys Chacin because a team must change direction if a player isn’t performing and the right-hander wasn’t, tweets Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.
- The Angels enter 2015 with the most financial flexibility they have had in four years, but will wait until mid-season to decide if or how to spend that payroll, according to MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. The Angels’ most likely area of need is second base with Gonzalez naming the Phillies‘ Chase Utley, the Reds‘ Brandon Phillips, the Diamondbacks‘ Aaron Hill, and the Mets‘ Daniel Murphy as possible targets.
- The Dodgers‘ pitching depth is sorely being tested in the wake of the team shutting down Hyun-jin Ryu with shoulder inflammation, notes MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick.
- Andre Ethier tells Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com he isn’t monitoring trade rumors online or with his agent and he isn’t counting the number of scouts in attendance at the Dodgers‘ Spring Training games. Ethier has said he is open to a trade and the club is reportedly willing to eat as much as half of the $56MM remaining on the outfielder’s contract to facilitate a swap, but have yet to find any takers.
- Carlos Quentin asked to see some reps at first base in an attempt to earn more at-bats with the Padres, which could also make him more attractive to other teams, writes MLB.com’s Corey Brock.
- Peter Gammons of DailyGammons.com opines some have been cynical of San Diego’s offseason overhaul, but a healthy and productive Matt Kemp can become the poster person of this new age for the Padres.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Aaron Hill | Andre Ethier | Arizona Diamondbacks | Brandon Phillips | Carlos Quentin | Chase Utley | Cincinnati Reds | Colorado Rockies | Daniel Murphy | Elvis Andrus | Jhoulys Chacin | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Mark Trumbo | Matt Kemp | New York Mets | Philadelphia Phillies | San Diego Padres | Texas Rangers
The Padres are baseball’s most improved team, opines Jim Duquette of MLB.com. The additions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Derek Norris should revive an offense that has slumbered for years. GM A.J. Preller managed to overhaul the offense without dipping into his starting pitching depth nor by trading the team’s best prospects. For what it’s worth, I’m more impressed by the efforts of the Cubs, who Duquette lists as the fifth most improved club.
- Dodgers starter Zack Greinke has not decided if he will opt out of his contract following the 2015 season, writes Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. The 31-year-old signed a six-year, $147MM contract prior to the 2013 season, but he can opt out following next season. He’s averaged a 2.67 ERA over the last two seasons, which could set him up for another big, multi-year contract in free agency. In the past, we’ve seen CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez leverage opt outs with the Yankees to gain more guaranteed dollars and years. Greinke may take the same approach with the Dodgers. Per his comments, he seems comfortable in Los Angeles.
- Greinke doesn’t believe the Dodgers improved via “addition by subtraction” this offseason. Outgoing players like Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon, and Brian Wilson weren’t distractions in the clubhouse per Greinke. President Andrew Friedman has admitted the club might lose a little on offense, but the goal is to replace the runs scored with better defense and depth.
- Reliever Chris Withrow may be a long shot to help the Dodgers this season, reports Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles (via Twitter). The righty has pitched well in parts of two seasons with Los Angeles, with a 2.73 ERA, 11.41 K/9, and 4.98 BB/9 in 56 innings. He’s currently recovering from Tommy John and back surgeries. The back issue has slowed the timetable for his Tommy John rehab.
The Dodgers‘ $32MM payment to the Padres in the Matt Kemp deal will include $18MM spread over 2015, the Associated Press reports (via the Boston Herald). After getting most of its salary relief up front, San Diego will receive $3.5MM annually for the rest of the deal. As Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune explains, that means that the Padres currently project to open the year with less than $90MM on the books. That could mean the team has more capacity to add, and indeed chairman Ron Fowler has indicated that there are more moves in the works while not committing to a payroll target.
Here’s more from the National League:
- MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby takes a look at the Rockies‘ inaction to this point. “I am constantly reminding myself and other people are reminding me that when we had health last year, we had a good team,” said GM Jeff Bridich. “It is not our intention from the get-go to give the roster a radical facelift. We are going to stick to our plan.” Injuries, of course, are not the only reason that the club was unable to stay in contention into the summer last year. But Colorado certainly has more talent than its record last year would indicate, and holding pat is an intriguingly bold strategy in its own right.
- Another team that has been quiet in terms of addition is the Reds, though of course Cincinnati was proactive in dealing away two starters. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon breaks down the remaining options for the club in left field, noting that Nori Aoki is still available and positing that the Padres could be a good match for a trade.
- Reds ace Johnny Cueto will give the team until the start of the season to discuss an extension, agent Bryce Dixon tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Dixon also told Heyman that he views Jon Lester and, especially, Max Scherzer as viable comps for what Cueto will be able to land in free agency. The 28-year-old certainly has posted true-ace numbers, when healthy, dating back to 2011, though ERA estimators are not quite as enamored with his work. The Reds started a conversation with Cueto’s camp at the Winter Meetings, but have expressed a lack of confidence in getting something done.
- Alan Nero, the agent for Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang, said yesterday that his client is excited that the Pirates won the rights to negotiate with him — even if the club does not have a direct route to a starting shortstop job. (Via Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, in a series of tweets.) Of course, Kang has little choice in the matter, since the high bidder gets exclusive bargaining. While he may have hoped that a team would add him with intentions of installing him directly into its regular lineup, Kang will certainly have at least some chance to unseat Jordy Mercer and should have other avenues to playing time for an adaptable Pittsburgh organization.
The Padres‘ new lineup might not make them the best in the NL West, but GM A.J. Preller’s flurry of activity has made the team relevant again, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes. “I think he went in there very open-minded,” says Preller’s former boss Jon Daniels, who notes that Preller’s background in finding amateur talent with the Rangers might have made rebuilding the more obvious course than the one he ended up following. “To his credit, when he saw they had a strong pitching foundation and such a good environment with the staff, he knew they had an opportunity to build off that and not take it backwards.” Here’s more from the NL West.
- Giants GM Brian Sabean says the team has not had discussions with Max Scherzer and does not plan to, the San Jose Mercury News’ Alex Pavlovic tweets. Pavlovic adds that Sabean does not think much of the current free agent market for left fielders, and instead could attempt to acquire one in a trade. Sabean says (via John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle on Twitter) that the team has “limited financial flexibility,” given their recent signings of Jake Peavy and Sergio Romo and trade for Casey McGehee, and must decide whether to spend aggressively on James Shields or a left fielder.
- Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman is aware of the risks involved in trading Matt Kemp to San Diego, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times writes. “We get it. I have a lot of respect for what he can do in the batter’s box,” says Friedman. Nonetheless, the Kemp trade and the Dodgers’ many other offseason moves have been aimed at “mold[ing] our roster into the most highly-functioning baseball team, as opposed to a collection of talent,” he says.
- The Dodgers’ acquisition of Howie Kendrick from the Angels for top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney might not work out unless the Dodgers can sign Kendrick to an extension, Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times writes. If Heaney becomes a reliable starter for the Angels, the Dodgers will need to sign Kendrick to get good value from the deal. Both Kendrick and the Dodgers say the two sides have not yet discussed an extension, although Friedman suggests they could at some point.
The NL West blockbuster between the Dodgers and Padres is finally a reality and outfielder Matt Kemp is on his way to the Padres. The two teams officially announced the five-player trade that will send Kemp and catcher Tim Federowicz to San Diego, with the Dodgers receiving catcher Yasmani Grandal, righty Joe Wieland, and pitching prospect Zach Eflin. The Dodgers will also include $32MM to help cover the $107MM remaining on Kemp’s contract, which runs through 2019.
The two teams agreed to the trade over a week ago but, with so many moving parts involved, things naturally took a while to be finalized. The Commissioner’s Office has to approve the deal given the large amount of money involved, the Dodgers’ other pending trade of Jimmy Rollins also played a role (as Elfin is widely-rumored to be flipped to the Phillies in that deal) and all of the players had to take physicals.
This last point might’ve been the main holdup, as Kemp’s physical revealed arthritis in both hips, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. The Padres asked the Dodgers to add more than $32MM in the deal but L.A. refused, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported, and the trade went through as originally planned.
The deal gives the Padres a big bat and star power for their offense, which produced just 535 runs last year, a poor total even in the tough hitting environment in San Diego. The team lost out on Pablo Sandoval and Yasmany Tomas earlier this offseason, but Kemp, who hit .287/.346/.506 with the Dodgers in 2014, gives the Padres the dynamic offensive player they were hoping for. He’ll need to stay healthy, however — he missed significant time in 2012 and 2013 with a series of injuries, and he turned 30 in September. Kemp, who has struggled defensively in center field in recent years, could take one corner outfield spot for the Padres, with Seth Smith in the other. For the Dodgers, the deal clears salary and space in the outfield, where they also have Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke.
Federowicz, 27, should help the Padres compensate for the loss of Grandal. He has five seasons of team control remaining and is coming off a strong year in a good hitting environment at Triple-A Albuquerque, where he batted .328/.383/.555 in 329 plate appearances. He struggled, however, in a small sample of 78 plate appearances at the big-league level. He’ll likely share the Padres’ catching duties with Rene Rivera, whose unexpectedly strong season in 2014 gave the Padres a bit of flexibility at catcher.
Grandal, 26, will join A.J. Ellis in manning the catching position with the Dodgers. He hit .225/.327/.401 for San Diego last season and got good marks for his pitch framing. The latter characteristic is surely attractive to Dodgers executive Andrew Friedman, who employed framing specialist Jose Molina in Tampa Bay and tried to sign another excellent framer, Russell Martin, for the Dodgers earlier this offseason. Grandal also hit 15 home runs in 2014, a solid total for a young catcher, especially in PETCO Park. He can become eligible for arbitration next offseason and eligible for free agency after 2018.
Wieland, 24, had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and took a long time to recover, but he finally made it back to the Majors in September 2014. He posted good numbers coming through the minors (mostly in the Rangers system), but doesn’t have outstanding stuff and probably profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
The Padres drafted the 20-year-old Eflin (whose inclusion in the deal is not yet entirely certain) in the first round in 2012 out of high school. He posted a 3.80 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 128 innings with Class A+ Lake Elsinore in 2014.
The trade was just one of several major transactions for the Dodgers during a frenzied Winter Meetings. Los Angeles also sent Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to Miami in a seven-player deal, acquired second baseman Howie Kendrick from the Angels, signed righty Brandon McCarthy to a four-year deal and agreed to acquire Rollins from the Phillies.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported that the deal was close. Dennis Lin and Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the deal was finalized. Heyman reported (Twitter links) the final terms of the deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Nick Markakis underwent fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck yesterday, but the Braves expect their new right fielder to be 100 percent by Opening Day, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. President of baseball operations John Hart spoke with surgeon Steve Wray, who performed the procedure, and came away with the impression that aside from some possible disruption of his pre-Spring Training routine, Markakis would be fine. He’s expected to be cleared for physical activity within a month’s time and to be fully agile in six weeks.
Some more notes from the Senior Circuit to kick off your Thursday morning…
- The Rockies are interested in right-hander Kyle Kendrick as a potential back-of-the-rotation option, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. The 30-year-old Kendrick pitched a career-high 199 innings last season, and Crasnick notes that his career 46.1 percent ground-ball rate is of interest to Colorado. That mark isn’t too far above the league average, but it’s an improvement over Franklin Morales and Christian Bergman, each of whom logged significant innings in Colorado’s rotation last year. Kendrick’s upside is limited, but he’d be a relatively low-cost option to soak up some innings in a shaky rotation.
- Wilmer Flores is still likely to open next season as the Mets‘ shortstop, writes Marc Carig of Newsday, but a source tells Carig that the team does have interest in Stephen Drew and Everth Cabrera on low-risk, one-year deals. Previous reports have indicated that the Mets weren’t interested in Cabrera. The team hasn’t ruled out bidding on Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang, but they’re likely to pass due to concerns over his defense. Those same concerns have halted their interest in Asdrubal Cabrera from progressing beyond internal discussions.
- In a video blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney opines that the Padres are in perfect position to try to squeeze some extra money out of the Dodgers in their deal for Matt Kemp. While the deal is expected to be completed, Olney notes that Kemp’s medicals are “ugly,” and the Dodgers need the trade more than the Padres do. The Dodgers are reportedly set to send $32MM to the Padres as it is.
- The Padres aren’t done making moves even after striking deals to acquire Kemp and Wil Myers, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. One possible minor addition, he reports, is veteran catcher David Ross, who is still “considering” the Padres.
The Marlins do not think they’ll have to pay out the entire $325MM balance of Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract, Pirates president Frank Coonelly told a crowd (including the Tribune-Review’s Rob Biertempfel) at PirateFest Saturday. Speaking very candidly for a team president, Coonelly recalled a recent conversation with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson: “They said to me, ‘You don’t understand. (Stanton) has an out clause after six years. Those first six years are only going to cost $107 million. After that, he’ll leave and play for somebody else. So, it’s not really $325 million.'” Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- The Mets should trade for Troy Tulowitzki, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Yes, Sherman says, Tulowitzki has $106MM on his contract and a long list of injuries, but if he were a perfect player, the Rockies would not trade him at a reasonable price. (In fact, they still might not trade him at a reasonable price.) And the time is right for the Mets, who have plenty of promising pitching but don’t have a shortstop. A trade for Tulowitzki could be just the risk the Mets need, Sherman writes, like their trade for Gary Carter 30 years ago. As for Tulowitzki, Sherman says that it’s “a poorly kept secret in the game is just how badly he wants out of Colorado now.” He doesn’t have a no-trade clause, but the Rockies’ front office would likely consult him about a possible trade, and Sherman thinks he would appreciate the chance to play for the Mets.
- The Cardinals say they are not actively pursuing Max Scherzer, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. Scherzer is from the St. Louis area, and he reportedly met with the team earlier in the offseason.
- A Mariners official says the team doesn’t want to trade Brad Miller, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. “[U]nderstand this: We’re not looking to trade him,” the official says. “I’m not saying it won’t happen, but it’s a lot less likely than some people seem to think.” Dutton adds, however, that Miller was part of a deal the Mariners proposed to try to get Matt Kemp from the Dodgers. The Dodgers then demanded the Mariners include either Taijuan Walker or James Paxton. The Mariners declined, and the Dodgers agreed to trade Kemp to the Padres instead.
- The Twins have shown interest in former Reds third baseman Jack Hannahan, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com tweets. Hannahan was born in St. Paul and went to both high school and college in the Twin Cities. He played sparingly in 2014 and posted just a .470 OPS in 50 plate appearances, so as Wolfson notes, the Twins would likely have interest in him only on a minor league deal.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Brad Miller | Colorado Rockies | Giancarlo Stanton | Jack Hannahan | James Paxton | Los Angeles Dodgers | Matt Kemp | Max Scherzer | Miami Marlins | Minnesota Twins | New York Mets | Pittsburgh Pirates | Seattle Mariners | St. Louis Cardinals | Taijuan Walker | Troy Tulowitzki
GM Dave Stewart says the Diamondbacks‘ acquisitions of Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster in the Wade Miley trade this week was about adding power arms, Nick Piecoro reports. “We, organizationally, haven’t had any real power arms in our organization since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling,” says Stewart. “So this gave us an opportunity to put two power arms in our rotation.” That’s not entirely accurate, of course — as Piecoro notes, the Diamondbacks’ rotation has recently included Max Scherzer and Daniel Hudson. There have also been any number of relievers, like Matt Stites, who pitched in the Snakes’ bullpen last year. Still, there’s no doubt the Diamondbacks added velocity in the deal. Stewart now says he sees his rotation as Josh Collmenter, De La Rosa, Jeremy Hellickson and Webster, with Vidal Nuno, Trevor Cahill, Chase Anderson, Hudson, Randall Delgado, Andrew Chafin and Robbie Ray battling for the fifth spot, with the possibility that they could use the savings from the Miley and Miguel Montero deals to acquire a higher-end starter.
- One of the Diamondbacks’ top scouts, Todd Donovan, has departed to become a special assignment scout with the Rays, Piecoro writes. Donovan’s move comes on the heels of former scouting director Ray Montgomery leaving for a front office job with the Brewers.
- Many of the Dodgers‘ moves this offseason were made with team defense in mind, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports. Matt Kemp, who’s headed to the Padres, rates as one of the worst defensive center fielders in baseball, and Hanley Ramirez, who signed with the Red Sox as a free agent, is a weak defensive player as well. Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick should be a defensive improvement over Ramirez and Dee Gordon in the middle infield, and the Dodgers’ outfield defense should be better as well.
- Even after acquiring Kemp, the Padres are still looking for a hitter. They’ve already been connected to Justin Upton, but Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune lists four more hitters who might make sense: Reds outfielder Jay Bruce (who might not be available), Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez, C/OF Evan Gattis of the Braves, and free agent 1B/OF Michael Morse. Other than Bruce, though, all four are weak defensive players, and one wonders how they might fit in San Diego, particularly the outfielders. One would think the Padres would want to continue with Seth Smith in a starting role after his strong 2014 season, so adding another corner outfielder to the mix would force Kemp into center, where he’s well below average. Perhaps Smith would become a trade candidate if the Padres do add another outfielder.
Now that the Winter Meetings have come to a close, the Padres are once again the only team dominating the headlines in San Diego. Here’s the latest from the Friars…
- Bud Black told reporters (including MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom) that he hasn’t spoken to A.J. Preller about a contract extension, but the manager isn’t worried about heading into the last year of his current deal. “I’m comfortable with this. I’m comfortable managing,” Black said. “I think those of us in this game realize at certain points contracts will be worked out if they’re going to get worked out. I think we’ve seen over the years a lot of managers go into the last year, head coaches go into the last year of a contract and everything is fine.”
- The Padres’ next step towards improving their lineup is to acquire a corner infield bat, MLB.com’s Corey Brock writes. The Padres talked to several other teams about potential 1B/3B targets, so Brock figures San Diego will probably go the trade route to find its corner infielder.
- Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron isn’t a fan of the Padres’ trade for Matt Kemp, arguing that it was an overly risky move for the team given Kemp’s large salary and limited defensive value. Cameron sees some similarities between this deal and the Angels’ ill-fated 2011 trade with the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells.
- From earlier today, the Padres didn’t reach an agreement with Korean lefty Kwang-Hyun Kim by the 4pm CT deadline.
Before dealing Matt Kemp to one division rival, they were in deep talks with another about a deal, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). The Diamondbacks rejected L.A.’s request for center fielder A.J. Pollock but was willing to ship top pitching prospect Archie Bradley to add Kemp. Of course, we do not know the details of those discussions, including especially the amount of Kemp’s salary that would have been covered.
Here’s the latest from the National League West:
- The Padres are unlikely as things stand to reach agreement with Kwang-hyun Kim before today’s deadline, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. With a 2pm PST expiration, we could learn more on that situation soon.
- The Giants intend to add a starter sooner rather than later and do not intend to participate in a drawn-out bidding process, AGM Bobby Evans told reporters including John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link).
- In addition to checking in with Asdrubal Cabrera, the Giants have inquired with Jed Lowrie about his interest in spending time at second or third, also per Evans. (Via Shea, on Twitter.) Lowrie apparently indicated that would be a possibility. The team could theoretically add a player at second and move Joe Panik to third, Evans also told the scribes, per MLB.com’s Chris Haft (via Twitter).
- The Dodgers will be open to moving shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena after the Jimmy Rollins deal is finalized, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. The 24-year-old is owed $16MM over the next four years.