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The Nationals‘ signing of Max Scherzer dropped righty Tanner Roark — one of the most effective starters in baseball in 2014 — to the bullpen, and Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com examines what the best role for Roark is in 2015. As Zuckerman notes, Roark ranks sixth or better in ERA, WHIP and opponents’ OPS dating back to Aug. 7, 2013, when he made his big league debut. One could make a case, therefore, that he is deserving of a high-leverage spot in what will be a new-look Nationals bullpen, but reducing him to a one-inning role complicates matters if he needs to be stretched out due to an injury to another starter. However, if he’s used in a long relief role, that will limit his usage, particularly given how strong the starting five project to be. The way in which Roark will be deployed figures to be a fascinating storyline for Nats fans, and I should note that there could be longer-reaching ramifications. Pitching in a high-leverage setup role for a year would likely be better for Roark’s first arbitration case as opposed to being used as a long man; accumulating holds and possibly the occasional save would likely be better for his financial future than pitching in blowout games, as many long relievers end up doing. Of course, Roark isn’t arb-eligible until the 2016-17 offseason, so he should still have another season of starting duty to add to his first arbitration platform.
Some more NL East items as Spring Training games draw near…
- Previous reports have indicated that the Phillies may add veteran depth at shortstop and catcher during Spring Training, but MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki clarifies that the team will only make a move if it is first determined that younger options such as Freddy Galvis and Cameron Rupp aren’t able to fill those roles. Non-roster alternatives are in place at each position, such as Andres Blanco and Chase d’Arnaud at short and Koyie Hill and John Hester behind the dish. However, none of those players has much of a big league track record.
- Matt Reynolds feels comfortable at shortstop and tells Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he thinks he can help the team at the position in 2015. Kernan notes that Mets‘ officials consistently praise Reynolds’ focus and determination, and the .343/.405/.454 batting line he compiled between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014 doesn’t do anything to hurt his chances, of course. Reynolds says he is close with Wilmer Flores and hopes to see Flores succeed, adding that the situation “will play itself out.” Reynolds also spoke glowingly of the benefit he’s received from David Wright‘s down-to-Earth nature and willingness to share his wisdom as he’s risen through the ranks. Flores is expected to open the season at shortstop for the Mets, but Reynolds could challenge for time if Flores struggles.
- The lofty goals publicly expressed by several members of the Mets organization could have harsh ramifications among the fan base should the team struggle, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Matt Harvey is the latest to join the big talk — telling reporters over the weekend (in unprompted fashion) that it was “very realistic” that the team could find itself in the World Series. That the Mets’ offseason has been largely uneventful aside from the addition of Michael Cuddyer is a well-documented fact, and I’d imagine the quiet offseason could expedite a negative reaction to stated expectations should the team struggle in the early-going.
The Diamondbacks announced that they have exercised their 2015 club options on right-hander Daniel Hudson and left-hander Matt Reynolds. Hudson’s option guarantees him $800K next season, while Reynolds will earn $600K.
Hudson, 27, hasn’t seen regular MLB action since 2012 season due to not one, but two Tommy John surgeries. He looked to have recovered from his first Tommy John operation before re-injuring the elbow early in a rehab stint and requiring a second procedure. Hudson remained determined and worked his way through the rehab process once again, this time reaching the Majors at the tail end of the 2014 season and making three relief appearances. The D’Backs appear likely to use him as a reliever in 2015, and Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets that he can earn an additional $300K in roster bonuses.
Originally acquired from the White Sox along with lefty David Holmberg in exchange for Edwin Jackson, Hudson looked to be a key cog for the Diamondbacks’ rotation after a brilliant debut for Arizona. He posted a 1.69 ERA in 11 starts for the D’Backs in 2010 and followed that up with a 3.49 mark in 222 innings the following year before injuring his UCL in 2012.
Reynolds, 30, was acquired from the Rockies in a rare intra-division trade that sent Ryan Wheeler to Colorado. Reynolds was enjoying an excellent first season with the D’Backs in 2013, having pitched to a 1.98 ERA with 23 strikeouts against five walks in 27 1/3 innings before his injury. He spent the 2014 season rehabbing and did not take the mound in either the Majors or Minors, though at just $100K over the league minimum, there’s little risk for the Diamondbacks in exercising their option.
Here’s the recap of some notable players who saw their roster status changed over the weekend…
- The Marlins moved Jose Fernandez to the 60-day disabled list, opening up roster space for newly-acquired reliever Bryan Morris. Fernandez, of course, will be sidelined for roughly the next year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
- The Rays moved infielder Tim Beckham to the 60-day DL and filled his 40-man roster spot by purchasing the contract of outfielder Jerry Sands from Triple-A. Sands will help fill in for Wil Myers, who went on the 15-day DL yesterday. Beckham, the first overall pick of the 2008 draft, tore his right ACL during the offseason.
- The Diamondbacks moved left-hander Matt Reynolds to the 60-day DL in order to create a 40-man roster spot for outfielder David Peralta, who had his contract purchased from Double-A. (A.J. Pollock was placed on the 15-day DL in a corresponding move.) Reynolds posted an impressive 1.98 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 4.60 K/BB rate in 27 1/3 IP out of the Arizona bullpen last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery in September.
3:02pm: Reynolds will earn $550K in 2014 and there's a club option for the following year worth $600K, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (on Twitter).
11:42am: The Diamondbacks announced that they have avoided arbitration with left-hander Matt Reynolds by agreeing to a one-year contract with a club option for the 2015 season.
Reynolds, 29, was enjoying an outstanding season in his first year with the Snakes before going down with a left elbow strain. That injury resulted in the worst possible outcome for team and player, as Reynolds ultimately underwent Tommy John surgery on Sept. 24.
In 27 1/3 innings for the D-Backs this season, Reynolds had a pristine 1.98 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9. By locking him up for 2014 and securing a club option for 2015, the Diamondbacks gain some cost certainty over an asset who is controlled through the 2016 season. Arizona acquired Reynolds last November in a rare intra-division trade that sent third baseman Ryan Wheeler to the Rockies.
Wladimir Balentien smashed his 56th home run for the Yakult Swallows on Sunday to break Sadaharu Oh's Japanese single-season record and some within the Giants organization have wondered if they could find a way to acquire him, writes Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. There's one problem, however - Balentien signed a three-year deal with the Swallows before this season, which means he will not be a free agent until the end of 2015. “He wants to come back. That’s what he told me two or three weeks ago. His dream is to come back and play in the major leagues," said Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens. “We’ve talked about him, but nobody knows how to go about it, to get out of the contract." While the idea has been batted around, Schulman cautions that the conversations have been theoretical and have not involved GM Brian Sabean. Here's more out of the NL West..
- The Dodgers have scouted Japanese right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, a source tells Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Earlier today we learned that the rival Angels are also looking at the Rakuten Golden Eagles standout.
- Diamondbacks left-hander Matt Reynolds learned that he'll require Tommy John surgery after his MRI was reviewed, according to Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona (via Twitter). The 28-year-old, who posted a 1.98 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 30 relief outings this season, will probably go under the knife with Dr. James Andrews next week.
- Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) runs down the players that have exceeded his expectations this season, highlighted by the MVP-caliber play of Diamondbacks standout Paul Goldschmidt.
Reynolds, 28, appeared in 71 games for the Rockies in 2012. He posted a 4.40 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 57 1.3 innings. He's not yet arbitration eligible. Wheeler, 24, made his MLB debut in 2012. He appeared in 50 games, posting a .239/.294/.339 batting line in 119 plate appearances. He also posted a .351/.388/.572 batting line in 399 plate appearances at Triple-A this past season.
6:26pm: Matt Reynolds is also drawing trade interest, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Reynolds, 27, has a 3.61 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 46.3 percent ground-ball rate in 42 1/3 innings of work this season.
6:15pm: Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the Rangers, Braves, Red Sox and Blue Jays are all inquiring on Betancourt (Twitter link).
Sunday, 6:02pm: Betancourt continues drawing trade interest but nothing is imminent, according to Renck (Twitter link). It's probably fair to assume that several of the teams who are currently discussing Brandon League with the Mariners are also intrigued by Betancourt, though that's my own speculation. – Steve Adams
Saturday: The Orioles, Yankees, and Athletics are among the teams with interest in Rockies reliever Rafael Betancourt according to Troy Renck of The Denver Post. The Red Sox had interest earlier this month and both the White Sox and Angels are digging around for bullpen help.
Betancourt, 37, has pitched to a 3.00 ERA and gone 17-for-21 in save chances. His strikeout (9.3 K/9) and walk (2.5 BB/9) rates are superb as usual. Betancourt is owned approximately $1.5M for the rest of the season and is under contract for $4.25MM next year. His deal includes a $4.25MM mutual option ($250K buyout) for 2014 as well.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Rockies have been scouting the Giants’ minor league teams, so a deal could be developing, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes (Twitter links). The Giants asked about acquiring Marco Scutaro for bench help a couple of weeks ago and relievers Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle could also interest San Francisco, Schulman writes. Here are more notes on the 37-60 Rockies…
- The Rockies don’t want to move Michael Cuddyer and are determined to keep Belisle, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes.
- Scutaro, Jason Giambi, Betancourt, Matt Reynolds and Jonathan Herrera are the most likely Rockies to be traded in that order, Heyman writes.
- The Rays, Nationals, Rangers and A’s appear to have interest in Scutaro, along with the Giants. Heyman reports that the Rockies could either seek a highly-regarded prospect for Scutaro or accept salary relief and a fringy prospect.
- Several teams have called about Reynolds, Heyman reports.
The chances of Cole Hamels getting traded are diminishing, but they haven't disappeared, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports. The Phillies are trying to sign the left-hander to a long-term deal, but will weigh trade offers if they can’t agree on an extension. Here are Stark’s latest rumors…
- The Rays would be looking for a combination of high-end young pitchers, a young catcher and a controllable hitter if they discuss trades involving James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson. Wade Davis is drawing as much interest as Shields, now that he’s pitching well out of the Tampa Bay bullpen, Stark reports.
- The Astros have told rival teams that they’d absorb a substantial percentage of Wandy Rodriguez’s salary in a trade if it allows them to get “the best value back.”
- The Padres aren’t shopping Edinson Volquez, but they haven’t made him untouchable.
- Teams don’t expect the Marlins will trade Josh Johnson, who’s under contract for 2013.
- Brandon McCarthy’s history of shoulder problems diminishes his trade value. “He's not going anywhere," one executive predicted to Stark.
- The Nationals haven’t been focused on finding a center fielder.
- Hunter Pence is attracting as much interest as anyone on the Phillies, including Hamels. However, the Phillies have downplayed their interest in trading the right fielder. Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Joe Blanton, Placido Polanco and Kyle Kendrick would be available if the Phillies decide to sell this month, Stark reports. Rollins can veto any trade and would only accept deals to West Coast contenders.
- The Pirates have asked about tons of hitters, including Billy Butler, but they’re still in a “buy-low frame of mind.” The Royals have told clubs they’d have to be overwhelmed to part with Butler, Stark reports.
- The Rockies are trying to move Marco Scutaro and Jason Giambi, but they’d have to be “bowled over” to deal relievers such as Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle and Matt Reynolds.
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The Mets are interested in Rockies catcher Ramon Hernandez, but New York officials aren’t willing to offer significant prospects to complete a trade, the New York Post reported yesterday. The Mets have shown a willingness to take on most, but not all, of Hernandez’s annual $3.2MM salary for 2012 and 2013 once the catcher comes off of the disabled list, Joel Sherman of the Post reports today.
“We are not talking about acquiring Gary Carter in 1985 here,” one Mets person told Sherman.
The Rockies really like Mets minor leaguers Matt Den Dekker and Josh Edgin and they also have interest in prospects Wilfredo Tovar, Jacob deGrom and Domingo Tapia, Sherman writes. The Rockies have suggested the Mets might want to expand discussions to include left-handed reliever Matt Reynolds, but the Mets aren’t interested, according to Sherman.