Max Pentecost Rumors

Heyman’s Latest: Bryant, Upton, Rays, Leake, Soriano, Polanco

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is said to be “ready to reach out to [Kris] Bryant soon to determine his mindset” on whether or not a grievance should be filed against the Cubs for holding him in Triple-A to start the season, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in his latest Inside Baseball column. Heyman notes that the union could file a grievance on Bryant’s behalf even without his consent, though that’s unlikely. The issue at hand, of course, would be whether or not Bryant was clearly one of Chicago’s 25 best players and the demotion was made purely for service time implications. (Chicago bought an extra year of control over Bryant by stashing him in the Minors for all of eight games/11 days). Heyman points out that it would be difficult to an arbitrator to rule in Bryant’s favor, as there’s no precedent for this type of grievance. Players in similar situations have historically been hesitant to file a grievance, he adds, because it would be a contentious way to begin a relationship with a team to which a player will be tied for the next six-plus years. A “Cubs connected person” called the notion of a grievance “laughable” when asked by Heyman. However, the points that Bryant was recalled on the first day the team could add him while still delaying free agency and slotted directly into the cleanup spot could make a case that the club had an understanding of his value, Heyman writes. From the union’s perspective, it’s understandable that they’d have interest in preventing this type of situation in the future, even if it’s a long shot.

More highlights from a lengthy Heyman column…

  • The Padres don’t yet view Melvin Upton Jr. as a throwaway piece and will use him as an occasional outfielder and pinch-runner, Heyman writes. He also looks back on Upton’s original five-year, $75.2MM pact and notes that it’s one of the worst contracts in recent history, particularly given the fact that the next-highest offer was believed to come from the Phillies at somewhere in the $40MMs.
  • The league’s investigation into the Rays‘ allegations of the Cubs‘ tampering in the Joe Maddon saga could come to a close as soon as next week, per Heyman. MLB was still interviewing people as recently as last week, but to this point there “is believed to have been no smoking guns found.”
  • The Reds never approached right-hander Mike Leake about a contract extension this offseason, and the free-agent-to-be is said to be a bit hurt not to have been contacted. Leake’s not a front-line starter, but he’ll hit the open market heading into his age-28 season and currently sports a 3.56 ERA in 427 1/3 innings dating back to Opening Day 2013. A third straight season of 190+ innings and an ERA in the mid-3.00s should position him for a nice contract, especially considering the fact that half of his starts have come in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
  • Multiple teams have worked out Rafael Soriano, and while he’s on the Tigers‘ radar, there’s also been some contact with the Mariners. Heyman adds the Pirates, Indians and Dodgers as “logical suitors,” though I’d imagine the Pirates and Indians in particular would have some payroll constraints, depending on the asking price of agent Scott Boras.
  • Heyman echoes ESPN’s Buster Olney in speculating that the Dodgers could make a run at extending Howie Kendrick, noting that the Dodgers love Kendrick both on the field and in the clubhouse. He also notes that the Dodgers are impressed with Alex Guerrero‘s bat and may coming around on him as a passable option at third base or in left field, though the team is already well-stocked at each position.
  • The Pirates and Gregory Polanco may have come as close as about $1MM on agreeing to a seven-year contract, Heyman hears. The biggest holdup was over the three club options on the deal, which ranged from $11-13MM, and when the team would have been required to exercise them.
  • Though recent reports have indicated that John Lackey hopes the Cardinals will approach him about an extension, Heyman writes that it’s not a likely scenario. St. Louis likes its pitching depth and the young starters in line beyond those in the 2015 rotation.
  • The Orioles asked the Blue Jays for both of the team’s first round picks from the 2014 draft — right-hander Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost — in exchange for the ability to hire EVP/general manager Dan Duquette as their new president, according to Heyman.

AL East Notes: Victorino, Pedroia, Pentecost, Blue Jays, ARod

Red Sox manager John Farrell says the club will start veteran Shane Victorino in right field if he’s healthy, tweets Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Farrell added that Victorino is “full go,” indicating that only a setback could change those plans. With Hanley Ramirez the obvious starter in left field, that could mean Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo will compete for the center field job. Others like Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley, Brock Holt, and Daniel Nava appear thoroughly blocked in the outfield. Here’s more from the AL East.

  • Dustin Pedroia is healthy and ready to go, reports Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston. My take: a healthy Pedroia means that Betts and Holt are also blocked in the infield. Should everybody remain healthy, some kind of trade looks all but inevitable. Several players like Betts, Castillo, and Holt still have options, so the club can stow some major league quality talent at Triple-A if necessary.
  • The Rays lost great talent this offseason, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Executive Andrew Friedman tops the list of 13 impactful losses. His departure is mitigated by the presence of Matt Silverman. Rounding out the top five poignant losses include Ben Zobrist, Joe Maddon, Joel Peralta, and bench coach Dave Martinez.
  • Blue Jays top draft pick Max Pentecost has undergone shoulder surgery, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca. Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure. Pentecost, a catcher, is expected to resume throwing in about three months.
  • The Blue Jays continue to be faced with three big questions, writes Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. They include the identity of their closer, second baseman, and fifth starter. Brett Cecil and Aaron Sanchez are expected to compete for ninth inning duties, although Sanchez could factor in the rotation battle too. Other candidates to start include Marco Estrada and prospect Daniel Norris. Second base will probably go to Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins, or prospect Devon Travis.
  • The Yankees are right to allow beleaguered veteran Alex Rodriguez to attend camp, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. It’s surprising to see other writers suggest the club swallow the $61MM remaining on Rodriguez’s contract without at least giving him a chance to provide some value. If he fails to remain healthy, the club can also recoup part of the money via insurance.

Blue Jays End Negotiations For Dan Duquette

The Blue Jays have broken off negotiations over Dan Duquette after refusing the Orioles’ demand of Jeff Hoffman and two other top prospects as compensation, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. The Blue Jays’ interest in hiring Duquettte to replace Paul Beeston as team president first broke last December, but Davidi writes a deal between the two clubs was at no point close. MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko adds this is not the first time talks have stalled and the Orioles have no knowledge of the Blue Jays’ intentions.

The Blue Jays, according to Davidi, were willing to offer a package of minor league players similar to past precedents (the Red Sox receiving right-hander Chris Carpenter from the Cubs for Theo Epstein, for example) with the baseball departments of both clubs negotiating over names once a deal for Duquette was reached. MLB would mediate, if necessary, as it did between the Red Sox and Cubs. Davidi notes the Blue Jays never proposed any names, but the Orioles were believed to be seeking, in addition to Hoffman (the ninth overall pick in the 2014 draft), catcher Max Pentecost (the 11th overall selection in that 2014 draft) and infielder Mitch Nay (the 58th overall pick in the 2012 draft).

In the last 48 hours, reports emerged that MLB was tiring of the courtship, the Orioles were pushing for a substantial return for Duquette, and were considering tampering charges against the Blue Jays. Toronto also began receving criticism for its pursuit of Duquette.

This development leaves both franchises at a crossroads. For the Orioles, the question is can Duquette repair any hard feelings within the Baltimore organization which may have developed over his flirtation with a division rival, as the Orioles aim to defend their AL East title amidst a winter of distraction. For the Blue Jays, will they be able to overcome the black eye suffered with their messy negotiations over Duquette and the White Sox denying them permission to interview Kenny Williams and find a talented executive willing be their third choice to replace the outgoing Beeston.

 



AL East Notes: Lester, Blue Jays, Hoffman, Yankees

ESPN’s Buster Olney thinks that extension talks between the Red Sox and Jon Lester are “all but over” and the left-hander will hit free agency, he said Wednesday on the WEEI radio. Olney states that if the Sox had approached Lester and offered something like $100MM over five years in Spring Training, a deal may have been reached, but that didn’t happen. The only way for a long-term deal to be reached now, in Olney’s opinion, may be to go the route the Phillies went to extend Cole Hamels in 2012 — offer top-of-the-market value ($140-150MM) on a final midseason offer.

Here’s more on Lester and the AL East…

  • Tim Britton of the Providence Journal spoke with Red Sox skipper John Farrell, who said that Lester has been a model example for how to handle a contract year. Lester has kept his contract discussions private and hasn’t created any sort of distraction or tension in the clubhouse, choosing instead to focus on the season at hand, according to Farrell.
  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons are noncommittal when asked what areas the Jays might seek to upgrade via trade this summer, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. Anthopoulos noted that it would be very difficult for a club to acquire anyone from the Jays’ current 25-man roster unless they were acquiring an upgrade at that same position, and he also discussed Brett Lawrie‘s role with the team when he returns from the DL.
  • In the video at the top of the previous link, Anthopoulos discussed the signings of top picks Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost. Anthopoulos touched on the team’s previous inability to sign first-rounders Tyler Beede and Phil Bickford, but noted that he wouldn’t draft a player he didn’t think he could sign. He added that Hoffman will head to Florida to continue his rehab from Tommy John, while Pentecost will eventually head to short-season Class A Vancouver (once he gets a passport). Anthopoulos also said that the team agreed to the full-slot value with Hoffman because they felt the “discount” on signing him was already built in to the fact that he fell to the No. 9 pick. He and his staff thought Hoffman had a chance to go in the Top 3 or even Top 2 picks before tearing his UCL.
  • The Yankees have garnered a lot of attention with their international spending spree today, and Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com tweets that the team could spend as much as $30MM on international free agents, once the 100 percent overage tax is accounted for. That figure assumes that the team eventually agrees to terms with Colombian outfielder Bryan Emery, as many expect them to.

Blue Jays Sign First-Rounders Hoffman, Pentecost

The Blue Jays have signed first-round choices Jeff Hoffman (9th overall) and Max Pentecost (11th overall), the club announced via press release. Both players will receive at-slot bonuses, as reported by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) and Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter), meaning that Hoffman will take home $3,080,800 while Pentecost will earn $2,888,300.

As the draft approached, Hoffman was very much in the mix with the three pitchers that ultimately went with the first three choices. Though a UCL tear put a dent in his value, he did not fall far. Even after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the righty out of Eastern Carolina was ranked the 13th available prospect by MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo. He features a mid-90s heater, big curve, and occasionally plus change.

Pentecost, meanwhile, came in at 19th on the MLB.com list. He was the MVP of the prestigious Cape Cod League, and is described by MLB.com as “a rare catcher who could have average or better tools across the board.” Though Pentecost will need to add some polish behind the dish, the expectation is that he will be able to man the position as a professional.

With its top two picks under contract, Toronto can focus its attention on its remaining unsigned picks. Seventh-rounder Zack Zehner, a college senior, is the only Jays draftee that remains unsigned from the first ten rounds. Even after going $407K over slot to sign fifth-rounder Lane Thomas, the Jays remain $71.4K under the club’s total allocation.


Draft Links: Top 200, Rodon, Cubs, Aiken, Nola, Beede

Baseball America has expanded its 2014 Draft Database to include the Top 200 names on the board, with high school left-hander Brady Aiken topping the list, followed by high school right-hander Tyler Kolek, NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon, high school catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson and Evansville left-hander Kyle Freeland. The list of names and video on each player is available for free to the public, while scouting reports require a subscription that is highly recommended for draft enthusiasts.

Here’s some more draft-related news…

  • In BA’s latest Mock Draft, Rodon is now projected to slide to the White Sox with the No. 3 pick. As John Manuel explains, there is some concern over Rodon’s usage at the end of the season, including the decision to allow him to return to the mound after a 75-minute rain delay. NC State did not use him on three days’ rest with its season on the line in its final game, either. Manuel spoke to one executive who said, The $6 million question is whether or not he is athletic enough to start long-term. Some guys think he is, but other guys aren’t so sure and think he may wind up a reliever. It just seems like there isn’t a $6 million player in this draft.” BA’s latest mock draft is available to the public without a subscription.
  • Within that mock draft, Manuel notes that president Theo Epstein was part of a Cubs contingent that scouted Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost in last weekend’s Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. If Rodon doesn’t fall to the Cubs at No. 4, the team could sign Pentecost to a money-saving deal that would allow them to spend more in the later portions of the draft. BA’s current projection is for that very scenario to play out.
  • Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reported last night (via Twitter) that Astros GM Jeff Luhnow attended Aiken’s most recent outing on Monday before heading to Japan with director of pro scouting Kevin Goldstein.
  • BA’s Aaron Fitt writes that Louisiana State right-hander Aaron Nola is “clearly college baseball’s best pitcher” and feels that he should reach the Major Leagues relatively quickly after being drafted. Fitt recaps Nola’s most recent start, noting that his fastball sat 95-96 mph when he got into a first-inning jam then settled in at 92-94 mph through the eighth inning. He also features a 79-81 mph slider that gives right-handers fits when thrown inside and an 83-84 mph changeup that generates grounders versus lefties. Nola has dominated the nation’s best conference for two years running, writes Fitt. He is universally regarded as a Top 10 pick in the upcoming draft.
  • From that same piece, Fitt reports that at least five GMs were on-hand to see surefire first-rounder Tyler Beede (Vanderbilt) turn in an underwhelming performance. Beede’s command issues have caused his draft stock to slip this season, and he did little to help that perception with his latest outing. Though he set down the first seven he faced, he opened the fifth inning with three straight walks. After escaping unharmed, he opened the sixth with a walk and would later hit a pair of batters to open the seventh.
  • ESPN’s Keith Law tweeted yesterday that the White Sox were in heavy on Nola’s start in the SEC Tournament, as Kenny Williams Jr. and owner Jerry Reinsdorf were on-hand to watch his outing. On a similar note, 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson reports that the Twins had VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff and top national crosschecker Tim O’Neil on-hand for Nola’s start (Twitter link).