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There is some intrigue surrounding the Marlins‘ field staff once again, according to multiple reports. Third base coach Brett Butler has been re-assigned to an outfield and base running coaching role, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. Assistant hitting coach Lenny Harris will replace Butler at third, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports (Twitter link). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported on Twitter that there was some action involving Butler. Miami recently installed former GM Dan Jennings in the managerial role vacated when the team fired Mike Redmond.
Here’s more from the NL East:
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that “nothing is imminent” on the trade front, but that he is glad to see his club’s veterans performing, as Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. “These guys having success is good for us on all fronts, whether they stick with us and continue to be part of what we’re trying to do moving forward or whether we utilize those assets to improve our club,” Amaro explained. “Them doing well can only help our club.” As the “dialogue” continues with other clubs, the trade value of players like Jonathan Papelbon, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard has been on the upswing in recent weeks, as Salisbury explains.
- Amaro went on to explain that the Phillies will be “conservative” in advancing young pitchers like Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin. As for whether fans would be upset with a slow advance from prospects while the big league team struggles, Amaro spoke directly (read the article for the comments in their full color). “[Fans] don’t understand the game,” Amaro said. “They don’t understand the process. … There’s a plan in place and we’re sticking with the plan. We can’t do what’s best for the fan. We have to do what’s best for the organization so the fan can reap the benefit of it later on. That’s the truth.”
- The Mets have fallen back after a hot start, and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com takes a look at the team’s various issues. He identifies the health status of David Wright as perhaps the largest single cause for concern, rating just ahead of the club’s other injury issues and a generally less-than-inspiring offense.
- Having been designated for assignment by the Mets this time last week, outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis will be set to hit the waiver wire today if a last-minute trade can’t be reached, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com notes on Twitter. It will be interesting to see whether another team is willing to stake a 40-man roster spot on Nieuwenhuis after his miserable start to the year. If not, the Mets could benefit from a chance to help bring him back to form at Triple-A.
- Nieuwenhuis is one of ten players currently in DFA limbo, as MLBTR’s DFA Tracker shows.
The Pirates hope they’ll be able to keep the just-designated Radhames Liz in the organization, manager Clint Hurdle tells Adam Berry of MLB.com (Twitter link). Nevertheless, Hurdle says that he expects another club to claim the live-armed righty. As MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth explained earlier today, Liz has continued to be unable to limit the free passes in his latest run in the majors. His $1MM salary, too, may cause other teams to hesitate to place a waiver claim.
- The Marlins will bring up Jose Urena tomorrow to make his first big league start, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports on Twitter. Urena entered the year rated as Miami’s fourth-best overall prospect in the eyes of Baseball America, which praised his mid-90s fastball and quality change. The issue, per BA, is whether Urena’s breaking ball can play well enough to keep him in the rotation. The 23-year-old righty made two relief appearances in the big leagues last year, but only reached the Triple-A level to start the 2015 season. Thus far, he owns a 1.21 ERA over 37 1/3 innings (5.3 K/9 vs. 2.9 BB/9) at the highest level of the minors. Miami was in need of new blood, both as a general matter and because both Henderson Alvarez and Mat Latos were recently placed on the disabled list (joining Jarred Cosart and Jose Fernandez on the DL).
- While it’s of historical interest only at this point, manager Fredi Gonzalez says that the Braves attempted to sign lefty Brett Anderson over the winter, as MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (Twitter link). Anderson ultimately signed with the Dodgers, of course, and had another successful outing tonight against Atlanta. Of course, the major question with Anderson has been health, and he experienced some back stiffness tonight. It doesn’t appear to be cause for much concern at this point, but Los Angeles can ill afford any missed time from its top three starters.
The Marlins showed interest in Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon right around when they fired Mike Redmond, reports Ken Rosenthal in his latest video for FOX Sports. However, it’s unclear if the club will buy after a slow start to the season. Prior to the season they promised Giancarlo Stanton that they will aim to compete, but there may come a point where it makes more sense to trade some of the higher priced mercenaries. Players like Mike Morse, Dan Haren, and Mike Dunn could find themselves on the trade block. Here’s more from Rosenthal.
- The Padres are scouting the Brewers for a shortstop. They may lack the prospects to acquire Jean Segura, but San Diego GM A.J. Preller is familiar with Luis Sardinas from his days in the Rangers system. The Brewers are also taking calls on right-hander Mike Fiers, but they’re not interested in trading him.
- The Angels have plenty of starting pitching depth to acquire offensive firepower. They could call upon Andrew Heaney if they trade a major leaguer pitcher. Alternatively, Heaney or Nick Tropeano could be offered in a swap. The Halos also have Tyler Skaggs and Sean Newcomb as long term options. Skaggs is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Newcomb is working his way through the system (currently in High-A) after being selected 15th overall last June.
- The Twins aren’t yet buyers, but they’ll receive reinforcements when Ervin Santana and Casey Fien return to action. Santana is eligible to return from his PED suspension on July 4. Fien is currently on the disabled list. The club has received poor production from center field and designated hitter. They could stick with Aaron Hicks in center with Kennys Vargas as the primary designated hitter, but the addition of a “big bopper” would improve the overall outlook. My own speculation: I wonder if a combination of Ben Revere and Ryan Howard would make sense – assuming the Phillies ate enough cash.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Andrew Heaney | Casey Fien | Dan Haren | Ervin Santana | Jean Segura | Jonathan Papelbon | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Miami Marlins | Mike Dunn | Milwaukee Brewers | Minnesota Twins | Nick Tropeano | Philadelphia Phillies | San Diego Padres | Texas Rangers | Tyler Skaggs
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.
- The Dodgers have signed righty Mickey Storey to a minor-league deal, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Storey will head to Double-A Tulsa. Storey pitched in the Blue Jays system in 2014 and began his 2015 season with five dominant starts for Somerset in the Atlantic League. The 29-year-old has a career 4.19 ERA, 10.5 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 34 1/3 career big-league innings with the Astros and Blue Jays.
- The Marlins have announced that they’ve selected the contract of Vin Mazzaro from Triple-A New Orleans and recalled fellow righty Andre Rienzo. The two pitchers will take the places of Henderson Alvarez (shoulder inflammation) and Mat Latos (knee inflammation) on the Marlins’ active roster as Alvarez and Latos both head to the 15-day DL. The 28-year-old Mazzaro pitched in only 10 1/3 big-league innings for the Pirates in 2014 despite an effective 2013 season in the Bucs’ bullpen. He had a 3.15 ERA, 9.9 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 20 innings of relief at New Orleans this season. The Marlins won’t need another starter until Tuesday, with Dan Haren, Tom Koehler and David Phelps scheduled to pitch the next three days, so Mazzaro and Rienzo will likely provide bullpen help at least until then.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has published the latest installment of his weekly Inside Baseball column, and he kicks it off by reporting that the Blue Jays have inquired on Cole Hamels. However, Heyman hears that Hamels was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to allow a trade to Toronto, which is a blow for both clubs. The Jays desperately need help in both the rotation and the bullpen, and the Phillies, Heyman notes, would love to get their hands on young pitchers with the upside of Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris. The Blue Jays have a bit of financial leeway after going with inexpensive options at second base, center field and left field, and Heyman writes that the Blue Jays are expected to look at other potential front-line starters this summer as they become available. (He speculatively mentions Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir, though neither’s available just yet.) Additionally, Heyman notes that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons’ job is safe, as GM Alex Anthopoulos has a strong relationship with the skipper and recognizes that the team’s problems are roster-related and shouldn’t be pinned on Gibbons.
Some more highlights from the column, though it’s worth a read in its entirety…
- The Braves are said to be disappointed in the play of Christian Bethancourt, even from a defensive standpoint, and recently inquired with the Brewers on Jonathan Lucroy. However, Atlanta executives were told by the Brewers that Lucroy isn’t available at this time. That the Brewers wouldn’t trade Lucroy isn’t a shock; he’s owed a very affordable $4MM in 2016 with a $5.25MM option for the 2017 season, so even if the team can’t quickly right the ship, he’d still have enormous trade value at the 2016 trade deadline. More interesting, to me, is that the Braves would so quickly look for an upgrade over Bethancourt and that they’re acting somewhat as buyers. Lucroy, of course, could be called a long-term piece that would be around to help the team when its rebuild is closer to completion. However, acquiring him would surely require the sting of parting with some of the key components of that rebuild.
- Some rival execs feel that the Cubs are willing to part with Javier Baez and Dan Vogelbach in trades, in part because each was drafted under the previous administration and is not held in as high a regard by the new front office. Each player comes with issues, however, as Baez is trying to cut down on his swing and improve his contact skills, while a scout described first baseman Vogelbach as a “30 fielder” to Heyman (in reference to the 20-80 scouting scale).
- There are members of the Astros‘ field staff that want to see Carlos Correa with the team right now, but Houston will likely keep him in the minors for another month or so in order to lessen the risk of Correa achieving Super Two status. I’ll add that the Astros will have a more legitimate claim that Correa still needs minor league time than other teams in similar situations have had in the past. Correa is still just 20 years old and has only nine games of experience at the Triple-A level, though he’s continued his brilliant work at the plate there, hitting .326/.362/.558 with a pair of homers. Also of interest to Astros fans — or to fans of teams needing outfield help — the Astros are on the lookout for starting pitching upgrades, and outfield prospect Preston Tucker “seems to be available.” Tucker recently made his MLB debut and has a .963 OPS through 34 plate appearances to go along with a strong minor league track record.
- Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez has been pitching for years with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, according to Heyman. Some have described it as a “90 percent tear,” but he’s been able to pitch effectively in spite of the issue. Alvarez wouldn’t be the first to pitch through a UCL tear; Ervin Santana and Adam Wainwright are both recent examples of pitchers who pitched for many seasons with partially torn UCLs. Wainwright ultimately underwent Tommy John, though Santana’s is said to have healed and is no longer an issue. In another Marlins-related note, Heyman hears that pitching coach Chuck Hernandez is “under the microscope” with both Jarred Cosart and Steve Cishek struggling greatly in 2015.
- Brewers starters Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza have little trade value due to their 2015 struggles, but Lohse’s lesser financial commitment and superior clubhouse reputation give him more value. The team is reluctant to trade not only Lucroy, but shortstop Jean Segura as well. The Brewers are a bit more open to dealing Carlos Gomez than that pair, as Gomez is closer to free agency (he’s controlled through 2016).
- The Mets remain reluctant to trade any of their top arms, as they’ve seen on multiple occasions how quickly Tommy John surgery or other injuries can thin out a club’s depth. (Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz have all had TJ in their careers.) The Mets are also not rushing to find a shortstop, but they have indeed been “all over the map” in terms of trade possibilities with the Cubs.
- Coco Crisp‘s neck injury is apparently quite serious, and there’s a fear that the oft-injured Athletics outfielder will ultimately require surgery that could bring his season to an end.
- The Blue Jays would still like to extend both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but there have yet to be serious discussions with either slugger’s camp. Both players are controlled through the end of the 2016 season.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Aaron Sanchez | Atlanta Braves | Carlos Correa | Carlos Gomez | Chicago Cubs | Christian Bethancourt | Coco Crisp | Cole Hamels | Dan Vogelbach | Daniel Norris | Edwin Encarnacion | Henderson Alvarez | Houston Astros | Javier Baez | Jean Segura | John Gibbons | Johnny Cueto | Jonathan Lucroy | Jose Bautista | Kyle Lohse | Matt Garza | Miami Marlins | Milwaukee Brewers | New York Mets | Oakland Athletics | Philadelphia Phillies | Preston Tucker | Scott Kazmir | Steven Matz | Toronto Blue Jays | Zack Wheeler
The game of baseball is struggling to maintain youth participation, writes Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal, who says that the trend poses real concerns for an otherwise thriving sport. Newly-minted commissioner Rob Manfred has honed in on the issue since taking office, saying that “the biggest predictor of fan avidity as an adult is whether you played the game.” It’s a fascinating read that’s well worth your time.
Let’s check in on some amateur notes from around the game:
- ESPN.com’s Keith Law (Insider link) posts his first mock draft as June 8th draws near. While acknowledging that it is still early, Law predicts that the Diamondbacks will take Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson with the first overall pick while the Astros will add LSU shortstop Alex Bregman and high school outfielder Kyle Tucker with the second and fifth picks. Law adds that he does not expect Vandy righty Carson Fulmer to make it past the White Sox with the eighth pick.
- Speaking of Fulmer, Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs suggests that he represents a relatively rare “Black Swan” option in this year’s draft. You’ll need to read the piece to understand the concept, but McDaniel uses that classification for a subset of players that have been somewhat underappreciated by traditional player assessment tools: “small, right-handed, major-college starting pitchers with little to no injury history and a good performance record.”
- The antithesis of the Black Swan pitcher, perhaps, is the high school power arm, and the Marlins took an enticing one last year in Tyler Kolek. Josh Norris of Baseball America checks in on the 2014 second overall selection, who the club chose over Carlos Rodon. Now featuring an increasingly promising curve, the 19-year-old is said to be showing signs of developing into the top-of-the-rotation starter that Miami dreamed of when it chose him. Of course, his stat line has yet to reflect that promise, and he has a long way to go.
- The White Sox join a growing list of clubs with “serious interest” in Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets. The 20-year-old is free to sign at any time, though it’s possible he could wait until the next July 2 period kicks off this summer.
- Agent Joshua Kusnick discussed the draft from an advisor’s perspective in a podcast with Ryan Sullivan (draft talk begins around the 24:00 mark), sharing his thoughts on the slotting system and the possibility of a worldwide draft, among other issues.
Hector Olivera is Los Angeles’ newest star, but he easily could have wound up elsewhere given the widespread interest clubs had in him. On a conference call Tuesday evening, I asked the infielder how many teams he had serious conversations with and whether he was close to signing with any of them.
“There were five teams that had interest in me [including] San Francisco, Atlanta, and Miami,” Olivera said through a translator. “But, in the end, I decided to sign with the Dodgers because I know that this is a great organization.”
Hours ago, team president Andrew Friedman told reporters that he is open to different positions for Olivera, who is said to have the ability to play second base, third base, and the corner outfield. It appears that Olivera and Friedman are in agreement.
“My whole career I played second base, but I don’t think I’m in the position to decide where I should play or to say what my preference is,” said the Cuban star when asked what position he is most comfortable playing. “Wherever they put me, I’m going to give my best…Wherever they put me, they’ll see results.”
Friedman was unwilling to put a timetable on Olivera’s Major League debut, but the player doesn’t think it’ll take all that long. The second baseman told reporters that he’ll probably need “three or four weeks” to get ready before making the leap to L.A. As he prepares to make the biggest transition of his professional career, he’ll do so unencumbered by any elbow trouble. For weeks, it has been reported that Olivera was dealing with an issue in his arm, rumored to be a a slight UCL tear in his right elbow.
“I don’t know where that rumor came from. I know that there was a little bit of inflammation in my forearm…It was just fatigue in the muscle, but it wasn’t a serious problem and I don’t know where that rumor started.”
Braves infielder Phil Gosselin will miss about eight weeks with a thumb fracture, the team announced. Gosselin will require surgery. Taking his place on the active roster is fellow infielder Adonis Garcia, a 30-year-old who had a rather quiet minor league career before posting strong results at Triple-A over the last two seasons. After logging 368 plate appearances with a .319/.353/.474 slash last year in the Yankees organization, the infielder/outfielder has slashed .351/.380/.455 thus far at Gwinnett. Garcia signed with New York out of Cuba back in 2012, ultimately settling for a minor league deal when early rumors of a $16MM to $18MM bonus never panned out.
Here’s more from the NL East:
- Righty Kyle Kendrick discussed his departure from the Phillies, telling Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News that the end did not come without some perceived irony. “Ruben [Amaro Jr.] called me about a week after the season and said we’re going to go in a different direction, we’re going to go younger,” Kendrick said, “and then he signs Aaron Harang and Jerome Williams. So I was like, [huh]. That’s the way it is. Honestly I think it’s just part of the game and [they] wanted some different faces. That’s the way it goes.”
- Meanwhile, the Phillies are struggling with pitching health, as the club announced that righty Chad Billingsley is headed to the 15-day DL with a right shoulder strain. The talented but oft-injured thirty year old had made his first starts since early in 2013. He has permitted 12 earned runs over 16 total frames, striking out seven and walking three, though the good news is that his fastball velocity is sitting right at career norms. While the setback is discouraging, Philly will certainly hope that Billingsley can return in relatively short order and provide innings — if not also a trade piece.
- ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick profiles the recently-extended Mets center fielder Juan Lagares, explaining that Lagares has undergone a rather interesting breakout on the defensive side of the ledger after receiving some middling scouting grades in center in the minors. It is now broadly recognized, of course, that his glove is what gives Lagares such unique value. You’ll want to give the piece a read to learn about the 26-year-old’s journey.
- Deposed Marlins manager Mike Redmond will still take home a fairly significant amount of guaranteed money from his former team, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. In addition to the remainder of this year’s $850K salary, says Heyman, the Fish owe Redmond just over $1MM annually over the next two seasons.
The Marlins’ decision to fire manager Mike Redmond was, perhaps, not terribly surprising at this point given the team’s high expectations and lackadaisical start. But the club shocked many around the game by shifting GM Dan Jennings into the dugout to take his place. President of baseball operations Michael Hill said before the announcement that the club was looking for a “new voice” to help trigger a turnaround, and it turns out that his front office partner will attempt to do just that.
Here are some reactions from around the game:
- It does not appear that the decision to turn to Jennings was made at the spur of the moment, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the club had discussed the possibility earlier in the year. Regardless, says Rosenthal, it is an “outrageous” decision that constitutes an “insult” to other qualified potential candidates. The veteran reporter’s strong words were based, in large part, on the club’s apparent decision not to interview any minority candidates.
- Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria discussed the situation, including the so-called Selig Rule on consideration of minority candidates, with Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. (Twitter links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.) On that topic, Loria said that he had contacted commissioner Rob Manfred to explain that the situation required an immediate change, without a full hiring process. He also noted to Morosi that the organization had made numerous recent managerial hires of minorities, and would comply with the rule in full if another search occurs after the season.
- Of course, it is far from a given that Jennings will step down after the year; as Loria noted, there is no interim tag on his new title. The controversial owner told Morosi that he is looking for “structure, accountability and energy” from the new skipper. He also rejected the notion that the hiring was a major surprise, saying: “I’m not a maverick.” Loria pointed to other recent hires of managers who did not have professional experience in such a role.
- In earlier comments to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Loria did indicate that the club’s structure will be revisited after the season. “Dan still is going to be very much involved in trades and things,” he said. “We’ll internally figure out what will happen at the end of the year, but our hope is that it stays like it. The only difference is that our GM is now the manager. We just dropped the general.” Loria also said that he played a role in the process but did not personally dictate the move from Redmond to Jennings. But he left no doubt about how he felt regarding the team’s performance, using interesting language to drive home the point: “We’re supposed to be the Fish. The Marlins. We shouldn’t be the Flounders. A Marlin isn’t a flounder. We’ve got to get it going.”
- There are plenty of questions about the hiring of Jennings, says Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, but he advocates maintaining an open mind. As he rightly notes, the game has already evolved greatly in how it allocates authority between the front office and field staff. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com explains, meanwhile, that Loria’s penchant for change makes a lengthy tenure for Jennings unlikely.
- For Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider link), this is a boom-or-bust move. Among other challenges, Jennings will take on the day-to-day spokesperson role occupied by the modern manager — a stressful undertaking — and could face added difficulties in gaining trust within the clubhouse. Pulling no punches, Olney’s colleague Jerry Crasnick argues that the move is ill-conceived, predicting a rough transition and wondering whether things will end well.
- From my perspective, it seems that the last point from Olney, regarding the organization’s relationships with its players, could be precisely where the Marlins are focused with this gambit. Jennings is, as all of the above articles reference, an affable and universally respected figure around the game. But there will be no question amongst the team’s players that the front office is present at all times; to a greater or lesser extent, after all, each man on the roster owes his job to Jennings, and Loria acknowledges that the former GM will continue to have heavy input in higher-level decisionmaking. That does indeed seem to offer some prospect of significant tension; on the other hand, it very likely brings added urgency to players’ day-to-day efforts. The notion of a player needing to step up in a contract year is commonly cited as a motivating factor. Now, the Marlins stand to find out whether a similar (but perhaps more invasive) kind of pressure can help to drive performance.
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Marlins announced that they’ve outrighted Nick Masset to Triple-A New Orleans. The 33-year-old right-hander was designated for assignment over the weekend in order to clear a spot on the roster for Henderson Alvarez‘s activation from the 15-day disabled list. Masset has actually delivered strong results in 9 2/3 innings for the Marlins — a 1.86 ERA with six strikeouts against one walk. However, he’s also seen his fastball velocity drop by more than a mile per hour this season, as it’s now averaging 91.5 mph. Still, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Masset eventually earn another crack at the Marlins’ big league roster, assuming he accepts the outright assignment.
- The Astros have placed right-hander Sam Deduno on the 15-day DL and transferred Jed Lowrie to the 60-day DL in order to clear space for right-hander Lance McCullers, Jr. on both the 25-man and 40-man rosters, the club announced. McCullers’ contact has officially been selected from Triple-A, and he will start tonight’s game against the A’s. Houston selected McCullers with the 41st pick in the 2012 draft — 40 picks after they picked Carlos Correa with the No. 1 overall selection.
- Left-hander Omar Duran signed a minor league deal to return to the Athletics organization, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Duran spent his entire career in Oakland’s minor league ranks prior to the 2015 season but signed with Detroit this past winter. After being released, Duran signed on and was assigned to Class-A Advanced Stockton, where he made his debut last night. The 25-year-old has a career 3.28 ERA with 12.1 K/9 and 5.7 BB/9 through 288 minor league innings, but he’s thrown just 22 2/3 innings at Double-A and has not advanced beyond that level.