- Veteran utilityman Don Kelly is headed back to the Marlins on a minor league pact that includes a spring invite, the club announced. Kelly’s 2015 season ended early when he required Tommy John surgery, Soon to turn 36, Kelly has spent parts of eight seasons in the majors, appearing at literally every position on the diamond (including pitcher, catcher, and DH) in his 572 total games. Kelly’s career slash sits at .232/.296/.335.
- The Marlins continue to search for veteran rotation options, but president of baseball operations Michael Hill has very little to work with remaining in the budget that was given to him by owner Jeffrey Loria, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Jackson notes many of the same names that he and Jon Heyman connected to the Marlins a couple of weeks ago: Kyle Lohse, Tim Lincecum, Alfredo Simon and Cliff Lee (though based on the picture Jackson painted in referencing the tight budget, Lee seems somewhat unlikely).
Here are the latest minor moves of note:
- The White Sox have re-signed righty Maikel Cleto and added outfielder Vinny Rottino, according to Baseball America’s Matt Eddy. Cleto, 26, has been hit around in his limited MLB experience but has shown the ability to miss bats. He spent last year at Triple-A, working to a 3.00 ERA in 51 frames with 10.8 K/9 against 4.2 BB/9. The 35-year-old Rottino has not seen the majors since 2012. He slashed .266/.346/.390 over 514 plate appearances at Triple-A in 2015.
- The Marlins have added first baseman Zach Lutz, per Eddy. Lutz saw only minimal time in the Mets system last year, but did briefly reach the majors with New York in the 2012-13 seasons.
- Lefty Edgar Ibarra has joined the Phillies on a minors pact, Eddy adds. The 26-year-old cracked the bigs for the first time last year, but only made two appearances. At Triple-A, he worked o a 5.43 ERA over 66 1/3 innings with 9.1 /9 vs. 4.7 BB/9.
- Fellow southpaw Chris Dwyer is going to the Orioles on his own new deal, according to the BA report. He had spent his entire career in the Royals organization, briefly making it up to the show in 2013. Dwyer was a fourth-round pick out of Clemson back in 2009.
- The Braves reached agreement with Blake Lalli, per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (via Twitter), and expect to utilize him as one of the team’s catchers at Triple-A. The 32-year-old has served in just that role with the Diamondbacks over the last two seasons.
Indians righty Josh Tomlin and club GM Mike Chernoff discussed their newly-minted extension, as Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal reports. While noting that Tomlin has some experience in the pen, Chernoff said that “he’ll have every opportunity to be in the starting rotation” this year. For the pitcher, the agreement was not just about maximizing his career earnings. “When they approached my agent about that contract, it was something that excited me and got me looking forward to this season,” he said. “I wasn’t really looking towards the future saying, ‘OK, these guys are getting this much money. I could potentially have that kind of money.’ It never entered my head. It was, ‘The Cleveland Indians wanted to give me a shot and I’m all about it.’”
Here’s the latest on the market for arms:
- Veteran lefty Eric O’Flaherty is set to throw for scouts today in Seattle, according to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). He’ll be looking to prove that he’s not only healthy, but has worked out some mechanical kinks, per the report. Soon to turn 31, O’Flaherty endured a tough 2015 campaign — in particular, he showed an uncharacteristic inability to avoid the free pass — and will be looking for an opportunity to bounce back in 2016.
- Righty Justin Masterson is beginning a throwing program and could be lining up a mid-March display for teams, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. We’ve heard previously of interest from a handful of clubs, but it seems that the one-time Indians stalwart will be looking to show off his form at full strength before signing.
- The Marlins had interest in right-hander Bronson Arroyo before he inked with the Nationals, according to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro, and the team is leaning toward other free agent options that won’t require a guaranteed deal. While Miami will still consider a rotation piece on a MLB deal, per the report, it will only do so if it’s sure that any such player is at full health. Frisaro explains that the team is looking to maximize an approximately $75MM payroll with players that will be on the field.
- Left-hander Craig Breslow is drawing interest from teams that view him as both a rotation and pen possibility, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. The 35-year-old has been looking for a chance at a late-career move back to the rotation after a successful pair of starts late last year.
Jose Fernandez’s representatives at the Boras Corporation believe that their client can receive upwards of $30MM annually upon reaching the open market following the completion of the 2018 season, writes Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. As such, the Marlins feel “resigned to losing him eventually,” though that doesn’t mean they’ll trade him anytime soon. Fernandez remains affordable and excellent for the time being, and the Marlins could hang onto him until July 2018 and still receive a sizable return in a trade. If the 2016 is “an unmitigated disaster,” Jackson speculates, the timeline for a possible Fernandez trade could be accelerated, possibly making him available next winter. From my vantage point, it seems clear that the Marlins’ hope is to contend in 2016 and 2017 at the very least, as evidenced by their signing of Wei-Yin Chen and the inclusion of a two-year opt-out in his deal. Of course, if Chen opts out of that contract post-2017 (which is certainly not a guarantee) and the team looks to be facing an uphill battle toward contention, trading Fernandez could serve as a means of quickly accelerating their rebuild. Fernandez is, after all, the type of coveted talent for which teams will pay in the form of MLB-ready talent.
The Astros organization is mourning the loss of 20-year-old pitcher Jose Rosario, who died in a motorcycle accident yesterday evening in his native Dominican Republic. Rosario pitched in the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League last year. The organization’s international director Oz Ocampo praised Rosario as “a beloved member of the Astros Latin American program.” Ocampo continued: “He will be remembered as a long, lanky-framed pitcher with tremendous ability, an outgoing personality and an ever-positive disposition. He was a true student of the game and was constantly looking to learn and improve his abilities. He was also a supportive teammate, as he made it a point to encourage his fellow Astros and deliver that message with a smile on his face. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Rosario family.” We here at MLBTR join in that message.
Here are the latest notes from the game’s western divisions:
- The Padres are interested in free agent righty Tim Lincecum, Jon Heyman reports on Twitter. He notes that the Marlins also are continuing to look at the former Giants star, along with other teams, as he readies for a planned February showcase after undergoing hip surgery last year.
- Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon says he was surprised that the team decided to bring in yet another left-handed outfield bat in Gerardo Parra, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes. “I was little perplexed at first,” said Blackmon. “Because I didn’t really see it coming. Going into the offseason, I didn’t know that was in play, really. But after looking at it, he’s a great player. I’ve played against him, seen him play. He’s got one of the best arms in the league. He can only make our team better.” Blackmon, of course, continues to draw trade chatter, all the more so after the Parra signing, but he said he’s not bothered by the rumors — while rightly noting that it’s always “good to be relevant.”
- Athletics closer Sean Doolittle says he is ready to go for spring camp without any restrictions after dealing with shoulder issues last year, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. “I promised I wouldn’t tell anybody I’m in the best shape of my life because I’ll never be 21 again,” said Doolittle. “But I think this is the most important offseason of my career, and I’ve been going about it with that mentality.”
- Meanwhile, the Athletics aren’t yet sure what to expect from outfielder Coco Crisp, Slusser adds. Though he’s beginning to swing the bat, it isn’t yet clear how he’ll bounce back from an injury-plagued 2015. DH Billy Butler is another question mark, but he says he’s “got a lot left in the tank,” as John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Butler will look to build upon a solid final month in an otherwise forgettable season. “I’m in good shape. I’m strong. Everything’s great,” he said. “I know what the expectations are, so let’s go out there and do it. I’ve prepared this winter to do that.”
- It sounds like extension talks could soon take place between the Athletics and outfielder Josh Reddick, and GM David Forst said that the team intends to try to find ground for a multi-year deal, as SB Nation’s Jeremy Koo writes. Oakland “will make an effort at” a deal, said Forst. He added that Reedick has “kind of become the face of our team; somewhat the drive and energy of the club.”
Veteran right-hander Bronson Arroyo has a minor league offer on the table from the Nationals and is receiving interest from four other clubs, including the Reds, reports MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. In addition to that pair of teams, the Marlins, Pirates and Padres all have interest, though the interest of those three clubs does not appear to be as serious as the interest in Cincinnati and D.C. Sheldon tweeted earlier today that the Reds could make an offer soon, and in his column he notes that Arroyo expects to make a decision in the near future.
Arroyo tells Sheldon that he threw a bullpen session with Reds catching coach Mike Stefanski on Friday this past week. Sheldon adds that while the Reds didn’t have other personnel present to watch the session, they’ve received video and are determining a course of action. Arroyo sounds like his hope is to return to the Reds, though he doesn’t explicitly state that. He does, however, say that he hopes the Reds make an offer today, and he also adds: “I wanted to give the Reds every opportunity to keep me. Bryan Price has told me he’d love to have me in their locker room. I think it benefits both sides. It’s an opportunity for me to come into a less-stressed situation after a surgery and help young guys on the staff. If we can get something that’s in the ballpark [financially], I’d be happy.”
It’s unclear if Cincinnati, or any team, would be comfortable guaranteeing Arroyo a spot on the 40-man roster, though a minor league deal with a decent base salary and plenty of incentives could easily afford Arroyo several million dollars by season’s end if he remains healthy and proves capable of replicating anything close to his previous levels of performance. Arroyo does tell Sheldon that his arm feels 100 percent, though he admits that it took a full 16 months to get to that point, and he’s also frank in stating that he’s uncertain what to expect in terms of workload. “I’d be lying if I said I knew I could throw 200 innings with this arm,” said Arroyo. “I just don’t know.”
Arroyo, 39 next month, spent the 2006-13 seasons in a Reds uniform, pitching 199 innings or more in each of those eight campaigns. In total, he amassed a 4.05 ERA in 1690 1/3 innings, averaging 5.9 strikeouts and 2.3 walks per nine innings pitched. However, he underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2014 and missed the entire 2015 season as he worked his way back. The Nationals currently project to have a rotation consisting of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross and Tanner Roark, while Cincinnati’s rotation is far more in flux. Homer Bailey is recovering from his own Tommy John surgery, while Anthony DeSclafani and Raisel Iglesias seem like easy calls for starting gigs. Beyond that, Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, John Moscot and Michael Lorenzen will compete for jobs in the rotation. Top prospect Robert Stephenson could eventually join that mix as well, though he has just 55 2/3 innings above the Double-A level.
Clearly, the Nats offer a better shot at contending than do the rebuilding Reds, and Washington can also offer a reunion with Arroyo’s former manager, Dusty Baker. However, Arroyo knows the Cincinnati organization quite well and has a clearer path to a rotation spot there. Additionally, as Sheldon notes, Arroyo’s girlfriend lives in Cincinnati, adding to the appeal for him on a personal level. The other three clubs, of course, have their merits as well, but they’re characterized more as secondary considerations than prime suitors by Sheldon for the time being.
JAN. 25: MLB Network’s Peter Gammons reports that the Marlins, too, have interest in adding Arroyo as a veteran option in their rotation (Twitter link). Miami has been said to be seeking a veteran to add to the rotation even after signing Wei-Yin Chen to a five-year deal. To this point, they’ve been connected to names like Doug Fister, Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Alfredo Simon and Kyle Lohse.
JAN. 24: The Nationals and Reds are interested in veteran starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. We heard rumors earlier today that Arroyo had recently visited Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park. As Rosenthal reminds us (via Twitter), Arroyo bounced around three teams last season – the Diamondbacks, Braves, and Dodgers – while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The right-handed starter will turn 39 in one month. From 2004 through 2013, he was arguably the most durable pitcher in the game. Nobody made more starts than Arroyo over those 10 seasons (326 starts). Only CC Sabathia and Mark Buehrle threw more than his 2,074 innings. While never the most dominating pitcher in the league, Arroyo provided consistent value with a contact oriented, low-walk approach (career 5.81 K/9, 2.44 BB/9).
Cincinnati’s interest in Arroyo makes perfect sense. The club has a rotation chock full of unproven youngsters, giving Arroyo room to serve as a much needed veteran and inning-eater. The team also has plenty of experience with him – he pitched for the Reds from 2006 through 2013. In terms of opportunity for Arroyo and value to the Reds, there appears to be a strong fit.
Arroyo’s former manager Dusty Baker now manages the Nationals. The club would seemingly view Arroyo as depth. Tanner Roark and Joe Ross appear to have a claim on the final two rotation jobs, although neither pitcher is guaranteed to pitch well. Initially, Arroyo would likely have to compete with Yusmeiro Petit for a long relief role. In wooing Arroyo, the Nationals do have one major advantage over the Reds – they’re a contender.
Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez has made enough progress in his return from Tommy John surgery that he’s comfortable he’ll be ready for Spring Training, he told reporters, including Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald, as the Sox’s Winter Weekend today. Red Sox lefty Brian Johnson also sounds convinced that Vazquez is back to normal — Johnson, who can reach the low 90s, saw Vazquez throw from 150 feet last week and says he thinks Vazquez was throwing harder than he himself could. Mastrodonato suggests it’s likely the Red Sox will have Vazquez start the season in the minors (which isn’t surprising, since Vazquez is optionable and didn’t play at all last year), and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski describes Blake Swihart as the team’s No. 1 catcher. Mastrodonato notes, though, that Swihart could eventually move to another position, with Vazquez, the better defender, ultimately taking over behind the plate. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- The Orioles have more on their to-do list even after re-signing Chris Davis, Rich Dubroff of CSNmidatlantic.com writes. They can still use an outfielder and starting pitcher (maybe Yovani Gallardo, although top Orioles exec Dan Duquette has said he doesn’t want to part with the No. 14 overall pick by signing a free agent who rejected a qualifying offer). Dubroff also notes (perhaps somewhat speculatively) that they could also pursue a Manny Machado extension. An extension for Machado would surely be hugely expensive, since he’ll already be making $5MM this season in his first year of arbitration eligibility and already has one elite season under his belt, which he posted at the tender age of 22. Machado is currently scheduled to hit free agency following the 2018 season, by which point he’ll only be 26; if he can continue at anything resembling his current pace, his mid- to late-20s seasons will be incredibly valuable on the open market.
- The Marlins were interested in Fernando Rodney before Rodney’s signing with the Padres, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes (scroll down). With Rodney off the board, Marlins executive Michael Hill says the team will have an open competition for the closer’s job, with Carter Capps (he of the ridiculous 98-MPH fastball and 16.8 K/9 in 2015) facing off against A.J. Ramos (who himself had a strong season while recording 32 saves in 2015).
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.
- The Rays have signed outfielder Jaff Decker to a minor league deal, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. The 25-year-old Decker has spent the last two seasons in the Pirates organization, mostly playing with Triple-A Indianapolis. Last season, he batted .266/.370/.362 at that level, hitting, as usual, for limited power but a strong on-base percentage. He has generally played the corner outfield spots in the past two seasons, although he’s capable of playing center in a pinch. The Bucs non-tendered him last month, even though he was not yet eligible for arbitration.
- The Royals have agreed to terms with righty Peter Moylan on a minor league deal, ESPN’s Jim Bowden tweets. The 37-year-old sidearmer made 22 appearances with the Braves in 2015, functioning in a ROOGY-type role — he pitched a total of just 10 1/3 innings in that span and only faced lefties four times. (They had three hits off him, although he was, as usual, tough on righties, holding them to a .475 OPS.) Moylan missed the entire 2014 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He had originally signed a two-year minor-league free agent deal with the Braves that covered 2016 and allowed him to work as a player-coach while he recovered, although he elected free agency at the end of the season after returning to pitching form and getting back to the big leagues more quickly than anticipated.
- Bowden also tweets that the Marlins have agreed to terms on a minor league deal with veteran lefty Jo-Jo Reyes. Reyes pitched one inning with the Angels in 2015, making his first big-league appearance since 2011. He’d spent most of the intervening years pitching in the minors and in Korea. He pitched most of last season with Triple-A Salt Lake, posting a 4.76 ERA, 6.0 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 while being used mostly in a starting role.