Matt Wieters Rumors

Orioles Hope To Re-Sign Davis

The Orioles plan to re-sign at least some of their impending free agents, GM Dan Duquette told fans and reporters at an annual event including Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore. Duquette highlighted one power hitter by name, saying “we do want to sign some of our key players for the future, and Chris Davis is one of them.” In addition to Davis, Baltimore currently has seven impending free agents including Matt Wieters, Wei-Yin Chen, Gerardo Parra, Darren O’Day, Steve Pearce, and Nolan Reimold. The club probably can’t sign them all, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.

Specifically regarding Davis, the Orioles may have to compete in a thin market for first baseman. Our free agent tracker lists just eight potential free agents at the position. Of those, Edwin Encarnacion will be retained unless he sustains a major injury. Justin Morneau also has an affordable $9MM option although he has missed most of the 2015 season with injury. Mike Napoli and Pearce are probably the next biggest names at the position.

The lack of free agent first basemen could push Davis’ value north of $100MM, according to Mike Petriello of FanGraphs. The 29-year-old is in the midst of his second best season, slashing .257/.341/.541 with 32 home runs. However, Davis showed last year that there is some downside to his power happy approach. The club may have to weigh whether it makes better sense to commit to Davis or sign multiple other players.

Among the other free agents, Wieters, Chen, and O’Day will be the most difficult to replace. Wieters, 29, missed the early portion of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. He’s battled a few nagging injuries since his return. He appeared to be breaking out in 2014 prior to sustaining the elbow injury. This season, his strikeout rate has spiked to 24.6 percent – up from a career average of 18.7 percent. It’s worth wondering if that number will regress with full health.

MLBTR’s Jeff Todd wrote about Chen recently in a free agent profile, comparing his potential earnings to Bronson Arroyo, Jason Vargas, and Ricky Nolasco. Including inflation, that would seem to peg him for a two to four year deal worth about $12MM to $14MM per season. The Orioles plan to make Chen a qualifying offer, per CBS’ Jon Heyman. That may affect the market for his services.


AL East Notes: Wieters, Davis, Rays, Kelly

Matt Wieters left the third inning of last night’s Orioles loss to the Mariners with a right hamstring strain, and he’ll be re-evaluated on Friday when the club is back in Baltimore.  All parties are hopeful that Wieters can avoid the DL, and the catcher told reporters (including Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun) that “I think we caught it before it became a severe strain. The hamstring got tight and it was getting tighter. I think we stopped before we did any serious damage to it.”  Losing Wieters would obviously be a blow to the Orioles’ postseason chances, and another DL stint also wouldn’t do any favors to Wieters’ free agent stock this offseason.  The catcher already missed the first two months of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery but had been hitting well (.278/.305/.449 with five homers) in 167 PA since his return.

Some more from around the division…

  • Chris Davis has rebounded from a miserable 2014 to have a big 2015 season, with improved health and better performance against fastballs as two major reasons for his resurgence, MLB.com’s Mike Petriello writes.  With a thin market of free agent first basemen this winter, Petriello thinks Davis could make a big cash-in on the open market this offseason, perhaps even a contract topping the $100MM mark.
  • Desmond Jennings and Drew Smyly are both slated to return from DL stints to the Rays this week, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes.  Smyly’s return is the more tenuous of the two, as he didn’t pitch well in a recent rehab start.  He’ll throw a bullpen session on Thursday to determine whether he’ll make his scheduled start against the Rangers on Sunday.
  • With Koji Uehara done for the season, Joe Kelly could be the Red Sox answer at closer both for the rest of 2015 and maybe in the future, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.  Kelly, for his part, tells The Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato that he has no interest in switching to a bullpen role.
  • Has the Jacoby Ellsbury signing already been a bust for the YankeesBrendan Kuty of the Star-Ledger poses the questions and breaks down both sides of the argument, concluding that it’s still too early to judge the seven-year, $153MM contract before even two full seasons have passed.  Ellsbury’s underachieving, injury-plagued 2015 season, however, is a cause for concern for the Yankees, especially since Ellsbury was still expected to perform like a top-level player for at least the first few years of the deal.

Stark’s Latest: Giants, Hamels, Price, Orioles, Gallardo, Alvarez

The latest deadline rumblings from Jayson Stark of ESPN.com

  • The Giants are still searching for starting pitching, but they’re only looking at top-of-the-rotation arms to pair with Madison Bumgarner in a playoff rotation, Stark hears. San Francisco has checked in on both David Price and Cole Hamels, but they’re not considered a favorite to land Hamels from the Phillies, and there’s still no definitive sense that Price has been made available by the Tigers. Yesterday, Stark reported that the Dodgers and Rangers were emerging as the favorites in the Hamels market.
  • The Orioles are speaking with other clubs to get a feel for what kind of return they could get if they market Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Wei-Yin Chen, Tommy Hunter and Bud Norris, Stark hears. However, rival clubs feel the O’s will only sell if they slide to six or more games back in the Wild Card race — and they’re 3.5 games out with four to play before the deadline at this time. If they make up a bit of ground, they could add a bat, but Stark says it’d likely be a bench piece as opposed to a bigger name. Baltimore GM Dan Duquette said last week he would be a buyer regardless of the team’s play, though others have suggested that the Orioles could still end up selling if they struggle enough.
  • Adding help that can be controlled beyond 2015 is the priority for the Rangers, which is why they’re targeting Hamels, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner while also listening to offers on Yovani Gallardo. However, according to Stark, those moves aren’t linked, and Texas could acquire a rotation piece for 2016 but also hang onto Gallardo. Personally, I think Gallardo’s pitched well enough to warrant a qualifying offer. A draft pick and improved odds of making a late run (especially if they do add another rotation arm) present enough value that the Rangers shouldn’t feel obligated to simply take the best offer for Gallardo if the proposed packages aren’t all that impressive.
  • The Pirates are now likely to hang onto Pedro Alvarez after shopping him without success for several weeks. They’ve asked the Brewers, White Sox and Rays about Adam Lind, Adam LaRoche and James Loney, respectively, but with Alvarez in the fold, they’re not likely to make a move at first. Stark adds that multiple sources downplayed the recent reports connecting Pittsburgh to the Red SoxMike Napoli.


Orioles Activate Wieters, Release Everth Cabrera

JUNE 13: The Orioles have announced that they’ve released Cabrera, making him a free agent.

JUNE 5: In a flurry of roster moves that includes the activation of catcher Matt Wieters from the disabled list, the Orioles announced that infielder Everth Cabrera has been designated for assignment. Additionally, Steve Clevenger has been optioned to Triple-A along with right-hander Mike Wright. The team has also recalled infielder Rey Navarro from the minors and selected the contract of left-handed reliever Cesar Cabral.

The 28-year-old Cabrera was non-tendered by the Padres this offseason and spent much of the winter seeing his free agent stock weighed down by legal troubles pertaining to charges of resisting arrest after being pulled over by police for suspicion of driving under the influence. Eventually, once it was ruled that Cabrera would not serve any jail time, he signed a one-year, $2.4MM contract with Baltimore.

Cabrera has played both second base and shortstop for the Orioles this season, though most of his experience in the Majors is at short. He batted a mere .208/.250/.229 in 105 plate appearances, however, and his lack of time on base prevented him from taking advantage of his best tool — speed. Cabrera led the NL with 44 steals back in 2012 despite playing in just 115 games, and he swiped 37 bags in 95 games the following year before he was suspended 50 games for ties to the Biogenesis PED scandal. Cabrera stole just two bases while with the Orioles.

Overall, Cabrera is a .246/.315/.328 career hitter, though those numbers are dragged down a bit by the fact that he’s called Petco Park home for nearly his entire career. Park-adjusted metrics such as OPS+ and wRC+ rate him at 17 percent below the league average, which is still not good, but is more acceptable considering his position. (Shortstops, generally speaking, are below-average offensive performers.) Should he land on another team’s big league roster, Cabrera can be controlled for an additional season via arbitration. He entered the years with four years, 144 days of big league service but has already eclipsed the five-year mark with the service time he’s accrued in 2015.

Wieters will rejoin the Orioles’ roster just less than a year removed his 2014 Tommy John surgery, which was performed on June 16 last year. Baltimore hoped to have his bat in the lineup earlier this season, but his return from the surgery has been slow, as Wieters not only needed to build up strength and reestablish his swing mechanics but also needed to be able to confidently and strongly throw to second and third base.

The 29-year-old Wieters will be left with about four months’ worth of plate appearances to show that he is healthy and can be an above-average contributor both at the plate and behind it, as he’s nearing his first venture into the free agent market. A career .257/.320/.423 hitter, Wieters has not developed into the superstar catcher that many expected when he was selected with the fifth pick in the 2007 draft, but he has been a decidedly above-average performer at his position and was enjoying a strong season last year at the time of his injury. In 112 plate appearances in 2014, Wieters batted .308/.339/.500. Wieters inactivity prevented has prevented him from appearing on MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings, but a strong start to his season could land him on the list in short order, as a switch-hitting catcher with power heading into his age-30 season certainly carries quite a bit of earning power.


AL East Notes: Kelly, Cueto, Whitley, Harvey

Red Sox righty Joe Kelly had the luxury of having Yadier Molina call his games with the Cardinals, yet Kelly is now having to manage his own games, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford.  Kelly has gotten off to a rough start in Boston, and he admits “my stats don’t show, but I feel like I’m better at” reading situations and recognizing what pitches to throw at the right times.  Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Twenty scouts were in Cincinnati to watch Johnny Cueto‘s start tonight, Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News reports.  The group included high-ranking evaluators from the Blue Jays and Padres.  Cueto delivered another impressive start (7 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 9 K) for his audience in a no-decision in the Reds‘ 4-3 victory over the Giants.
  • Yankees right-hander Chase Whitley left tonight’s game after just 1 2/3 innings due to an elbow injury.  Whitley will undergo an MRI tomorrow and he told reporters (including Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees blog) that he has been coping with the injury for a while but hadn’t told the club about it until tonight.
  • Orioles prospect Hunter Harvey will visit Dr. James Andrews next week in regards to his injured right elbow, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports.  Harvey underwent an MRI yesterday and O’s executive VP Dan Duquette said the club believes the injury is a flexor mass strain in Harvey’s right forearm.  Duquette is hopeful the injury won’t require surgery and Harvey can return to action this season after a rest period, though these plans will likely change if Andrews disagrees with the initial diagnosis.  Harvey, the 22nd overall pick of the 2013 draft, drew high placements in preseason prospect rankings from ESPN’s Keith Law (16th), MLB.com (41st) and Baseball America (68th).
  • The Orioles have ten players scheduled for free agency this winter, and if MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko were to set an over/under of three players re-signed by the team, he would “take the under if pressed to wager today.”  The free agent trio represented by Scott Boras (Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters) may potentially be the likeliest to depart, and Kubatko says “you’ll find plenty of people in the industry, and at least a few in the Orioles organization, who are making that assumption.”  Kubatko does stress that it’s still far too early to guess with any certainty about who could be leaving or staying, however — in Wieters’ case, for instance, he has yet to even hit the field this season.

Orioles Claim Jorge Rondon

3:55 pm: The Orioles have confirmed the claim and announced they cleared a 40-man roster for Rondon by placing Matt Wieters on the 60-day disabled list.

2:37 pm: The Orioles have claimed right-hander Jorge Rondon off waivers from the Rockies, tweets CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. The Orioles will option Rondon, who was designated by the Rockies last Sunday, to Triple-A.

Rondon has had an up-and-down 2015. He was sparkling in five relief outings (6 2/3 innings) for Triple-A Albuquerque pitching to a 1.35 ERA, 5.4 K/9, and 2.7 BB/9. However, the 27-year-old’s two-game stint with the parent Rockies was nothing short of horrific including an appearance against the Padres where he failed to record an out while allowing seven earned runs on five hits and a pair of walks. Rondon’s skewed 2015 ERA reads 90.00 after being charged with a total of ten earned runs in just one official inning pitched for Colorado.

The Orioles may be tempted by Rondon’s velocity (an average of 95 mph touching 100 mph) and his career Triple-A line of 3.03, 6.9 K/9, and 4.0 BB/9 over four seasons in the Colorado and St. Louis organizations.


Injury Notes: Bailey, Cobb, Moore, Holland, Wieters, Iwakuma, Hanley

As expected, Reds starter Homer Bailey underwent Tommy John surgery today, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. Though his previously-repaired flexor mass tendon apepared in good shape, Bailey’s UCL was determined to be completely torn, leaving little in the way of options to avoid surgery.

  • Likewise, Rays righty Alex Cobb was found to have a fully torn UCL, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports, meaning he too was virtually assured to require a TJ procedure. Cobb says the best-case scenario would have him return late in 2016. Fellow Tampa hurler Matt Moore has continued to build his way back from his own UCL replacement, with MLB.com’s Bill Chastain reporting that Moore was able to throw all of his pitches in a live BP session. Moore says he is targeting a mid-June return to the big league bump.
  • Though his shoulder has shown some evidence of progress, Rangers lefty Derek Holland will wait an additional two weeks before he begins throwing, as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. Though Texas has enjoyed a somewhat surprising contribution from its starting staff (3.71 ERA, 9th in baseball), peripherals suggest that some regression is forthcoming. Regardless, Holland’s health is critical to the club, both this year and — perhaps even more so — in the future.
  • Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is set to catch seven innings tomorrow as he continues to work fully back from Tommy John surgery, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. Wieters’ ability to return to health and productivity will go a long way toward determining his free agent earning power next winter, of course. It will also tell on Baltimore’s ability to compete for a postseason slot, though replacement Caleb Joseph has been a revelation.
  • The Mariners appear unlikely to see righty Hisashi Iwakuma return until early June, at the soonest, per Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Manager Lloyd McClendon says that Iwakuma is “probably still two to three weeks from going out [on a rehab assignment]” and will then need to throw a few outings before making it back to the big leagues. As with Wieters, Iwakuma needs to get healthy and show that he can continue to be effective in order to bolster his open market case. The scuffling Mariners, meanwhile, are not only firmly in need of his services, but also must assess whether they will be in the market for rotation help over the summer.
  • Red Sox outfielder Hanley Ramirez is not likely to need a DL stint for his left shoulder sprain, manager John Farrell tells Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Boston seems to have dodged a bullet with the injury situation, as the club can ill afford an extended absence from the player who has paced the club in hitting thus far.

Possible Qualifying Offer Players Who Could Be Dealt

Next year’s free agent market contains plenty of players who could receive qualifying offers — David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Heyward, and others. Here’s a look at potential qualifying offer recipients who have the best chance of being traded this season, thus preventing them from receiving that designation.

At issue, of course, is draft pick compensation and forfeiture. A team extending a qualifying offer to a player receives a draft pick in return if the player signs elsewhere. The signing team also gives up a draft pick. But a player who has been traded in the season before he becomes a free agent can’t be extended a qualifying offer and thus isn’t attached to draft picks. That can be an important consideration for teams shopping for free agents, as we’ve seen in recent years in the cases of Kyle Lohse, Nelson Cruz, Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales, whose markets have all shrunk in part because of the qualifying offer.

Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, Reds. The Reds are off to a 4-0 start but still aren’t that likely to contend, which means that Cueto and Leake could hit the free agent market this summer. Trading Cueto, in particular, would be a great way for the Reds to add to their collection of young talent. Leake might be somewhat trickier to trade, since the Reds’ return might not be worth that much more than the draft pick and negotiating leverage they would forgo by dealing him.

Ben Zobrist and Scott Kazmir, Athletics. Billy Beane’s trade for Zobrist this offseason was a somewhat surprising one to begin with. The Athletics could easily contend, but if they don’t, Beane seems unlikely to sit still, and finding a new home for Zobrist wouldn’t be difficult given his versatility. Kazmir is another possibility — if he performs at his 2014 levels, he could receive a qualifying offer if the A’s contend or be traded if they don’t.

Alex Gordon, Royals. The Royals haven’t discussed an extension with Gordon, who would undoubtedly be an attractive trade target if the Royals were to fall out of contention in the AL Central. They’re currently 4-0, however, and there’s still the matter of Gordon’s $12.5MM option. Exercising it would likely not be an optimal financial decision from Gordon’s perspective, but he’s expressed interest in doing so before. If he were to make clear to the Royals that he planned to do so, he almost certainly wouldn’t be a trade candidate.

Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy, Padres. San Diego gambled heavily this offseason on the Padres’ ability to win in 2015. If they don’t, A.J. Preller doesn’t seem like the sort of GM to hang onto two key players who are due to become free agents. One possibility if the Padres were to trade Kennedy or especially Upton would be to acquire big-league talent in return, much like the Red Sox did when they dealt Jon Lester last summer. That would enable the Padres to re-tool for 2016, when they’ll still control most of the players they acquired over the winter.

Yovani Gallardo, Rangers. The Brewers exercised what was effectively a $12.4MM 2015 option ($13MM minus a $600K buyout) before trading Gallardo to Texas. His market value likely is somewhere near the value of a qualifying offer, and extending him one wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Rangers if he performs well this season. They could easily trade him rather than doing that, although that might be somewhat difficult given all the higher-impact starters who might be available and the value that would disappear if the ability to extend Gallardo a qualifying offer were to vanish.

Jeff Samardzija, White Sox. The new-look White Sox are 0-4, and GM Rick Hahn has said he will be “nimble” in turning his attention to the future if the organization’s moves to contend this summer don’t work out. That might mean Samardzija could be traded for the third time in a year. He would likely command significant value on the trade market.

Chris Davis and Matt Wieters, Orioles. Davis and Wieters are worth watching, although it’s somewhat unlikely that they’re valuable enough to receive qualifying offers and that they become trade candidates. Davis had a down season in 2014, while Wieters continues to struggle with health problems (and there’s currently no timetable for his return from an elbow injury). If Davis and Wieters are productive and healthy, the Orioles could well contend, and thus it’s unlikely they’ll be traded. If they aren’t, they might not be qualifying offer candidates.


Injury Notes: Henderson, Wheeler, Rasmus, Wieters

Yesterday, we learned the Brewers had re-assigned reliever Jim Henderson to minor league camp. Milwaukee has rescinded the decision and will instead keep him in major league camp, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The move was made for a couple reasons. The Brewers will place him on the disabled list and can backdate the move. It also allows Henderson to maintain “continuity of treatment” with the major league strength and conditioning team. Though he remains in major league camp, he will only pitch in minor league games for the remainder of spring.

  • The Mets didn’t discuss Zack Wheeler in trade scenarios this offseason because they believed any deal would be scuttled upon reviewing medicals, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Rival executives were left with an impression that Wheeler was part of a protected core. In actuality, a torn tendon, multiple MRIs, and a PRP injection led the Mets to believe a deal was out of reach. With this information in hand, it’s easy to understand why the club kept Dillon Gee on hand as a sixth starter.
  • Angels pitcher Cory Rasmus will miss the next six to eight weeks with a core injury, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. The injury, which has bothered him on and off for years, will require surgery. Rasmus was used as a swingman last season, pitching to a 2.57 ERA with 9.16 K/9 and 2.73 BB/9. He was expected to contribute to the bullpen.
  • While tests have come back clean, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is expected to open the season on the disabled list, writes Mark Townsend of Yahoo.com. The club is eyeing a 10-month rehab program, which would have Wieters return to action in mid-April. Manager Buck Showalter says hitting negatively affects his rehab, so he won’t be used as a designated hitter while he recovers.

AL East Notes: Wieters, Castillo, Sanchez, Jays, Rays

The Orioles got good news on Matt Wieters today, whose elbow X-ray came back clean, as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets. While his new UCL will obviously handled with care, that is good news for the top catcher in next year’s free agent class.

Here’s more from the AL East:

  • Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo still hopes to be able to get enough work in this spring to be ready to make the Opening Day roster, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. But with the time he has lost to an oblique strain, the outstanding play of Mookie Betts, and the team’s otherwise less flexible group of plausible big league outfielders, it seems that a stint at Triple-A is certainly possible — in spite of his huge salary. Castillo says he “wouldn’t feel bad about that at all if that’s the decision that’s made.” As Lauber notes, Boston’s outfield situation remains a fascinating story line as the season fast approaches.
  • Another interesting situation to watch — the Blue Jays staff makeup — is gaining some clarity, as Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star reports. Aaron Sanchez is highly likely to open in the rotation, according to manager John Gibbons, with Marco Estrada and Daniel Norris still in the mix for the last starting spot. Meanwhile, it appears that fellow youngster Miguel Castro is headed for a slot in the pen. Those much-hyped arms all saw their timelines accelerated when fellow young right-hander Marcus Stroman went down to an ACL tear; he had successful surgery today.
  • Meanwhile, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said today on The Fan 590 that the club could still look around for another option at first, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca tweets. The team currently appears set to utilize Justin Smoak and, potentially, Daric Barton at the position when Edwin Encarnacion is in the DH slot. Given Encarnacion’s back issues, that could be more often than not in the season’s early going. The team’s decisions regarding catcher Dioner Navarro could also factor into things, as he could potentially take a bench role if he is not dealt.
  • Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said today that he is still not seeing progress on stadium talks, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Emphasizing that he sees a future for the organization in the greater Tampa area, Sternberg nevertheless expressed frustration with opposition that has been encountered from the St. Petersburg City Council regarding issues relating to the team’s quest to find a new park.