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Rob Manfred will make a fine commissioner, notes Peter Gammons of Gammonsdaily.com. Among the many reasons are his familiarity with the issues of the game. Those include upcoming PED news, growing dissent between small and large market clubs, and the upcoming legal battle between the Orioles and Nationals over MASN revenues. Gammons concludes that the game would benefit most if the owners put some effort into helping Manfred settle into the job.
- The Marlins have a seriously bad reputation when it comes to dealing away their stars in fire sales. According to Gammons, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria knows that a big brand can go a long way to improving attendance. With Lebron James back in Cleveland, Giancarlo Stanton is the top name in Miami sports. This is the reason why the Marlins have rebuffed all offers for Stanton.
- The Rockies are on the hook for a combined $167MM between Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. This trade deadline included rumors that the club would consider dealing one or both of their stars, but their season ending injuries will probably prevent any offseason deals. Gammons notes that the rarefied air in Colorado can make recovery difficult.
- One talent evaluator compares Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a center field capable Ron Gant. The Yankees are among the biggest players for Castillo, but they have to contend with a hefty luxury tax penalty. Because Alex Rodriguez will be back on the books, the Yankees will pay a tax in the range of 40% to 50% if they add Castillo. As Gammons notes, a $50MM contract would come with a $20MM to $25MM tax.
- The league is concerned about two things related to Cuban imports. The defection process is morally troubling, as it supports human trafficking. The other issue is the diet of Cuban players. The stress fractures that have sidelined Jorge Soler and Jose Iglesias could be related to calcium deficiency. According to one insider, his team will be monitoring the “bone structure and diet” of their Cuban acquisitions.
Despite reports that Terry Collins is likely to reprise his role as Mets manager in 2015, Joel Sherman of the New York Post gets the sense that a change of skipper is a definite possibility in Queens. Sherman writes that the final six weeks are critical to determining whether or not Collins will return. He explains that the Mets’ upper management believe that plate discipline and power are the key to scoring runs, but the Mets rank 26th in walks in the second half and dead last in the Majors in walks this month. Those trends will have to change, writes Sherman, in order for Collins to remain. As it stands, there is a slight lean toward bringing Collins back, he states, but Sherman feels that Collins needs to demonstrate to his bosses that he is able to consistently emphasize the organizational philosophy.
More from the NL East…
- The Mets face several questions around the diamond, but one area that previously looked like a question mark has been resolved, MLB.com’s Tim Healy writes. Travis d’Arnaud‘s play since returning from Triple-A has been more than enough to solidify him at the position going forward, and Collins offered high praise for the 25-year-old backstop, stating that over the course of a full season, the numbers will dictate that d’Arnaud “is the real deal.” Collins adds that the Mets have gone from batting d’Arnaud eighth and regularly pinch-hitting for him to making him their everyday five-hole hitter, and they’re comfortable with him in that role.
- Nationals second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera is happy in his new setting, but he tells MLB.com’s Bill Ladson that his preference in the long run is to play shortstop. Says Cabrera: “…I just have to see after the season and wait. I like to play short. That’s the position I like to play more. I’m just going to see who wants me to play short, who wants me to play second, and figure it out from there.”
- It’s safe to say that the Marlins‘ Rafael Furcal experiment didn’t work out. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that the veteran infielder, signed this offseason to a one-year deal that guaranteed him $3MM, will undergo hamstring surgery and miss the remainder of the season. The 36-year-old appeared in just nine games for the Fish and batted a paltry .171/.216/.229 in 37 plate appearances.
Reports have surfaced that the Marlins plan to make legitimate run at extending Giancarlo Stanton this offseason, and MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro hears the same, shedding more light on the situation. According to his sources, the Marlins are serious about not only building around Stanton, but supplementing him by adding a top-flight starter this winter. Frisaro says the 2015 payroll could jump to $75MM, which, while modest relative to the rest of the league, would be about $30MM higher than the team’s Opening Day payroll from the current season. He suggests that the team could make a run at James Shields on the open market, who would front the rotation while Jose Fernandez rehabs from Tommy John surgery.
Suffice it to say, Frisaro gets the impression that the Marlins won’t be trading Stanton under any circumstances this offseason. In fact, he hears that even in the event that Stanton doesn’t sign an extension, the team is comfortable going year-to-year and keeping him as long as possible, then watching him leave in free agency. Miami feels that it has built a team that can be a serious postseason contender in 2015 and 2016 — Stanton’s final two years of arbitration eligibility.
As it stands right now, the Marlins could slot a free agent starter atop their rotation and fill in the remaining four spots with Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi, Jarred Cosart and Tom Koehler. Fernandez projects to return around the All-Star break next year, if not sooner, and the team also has one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball — Andrew Heaney — looming in the minor leagues. With rising young talent such as Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna on board, that would seem to be enough to give them a chance to contend in 2015.
Frisaro adds that in the hypothetical event that the Marlins ever do decide to move Stanton, it won’t be solely for a package of prospects. The Marlins would require Major League talent from another club’s roster in addition to top prospects in order to part with their elite slugger. As Frisaro writes: “You’re not going to see a repeat of the Miguel Cabrera trade. It’s not going to be Stanton for six prospects.”
Here’s the latest news out of Fenway Park…
- Ben Cherington said the Red Sox “haven’t gotten to” the stage of exploring a contract extension for closer Koji Uehara, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports, though they’ll broach the topic in October. “He’s a guy who has done a great job for us, certainly one of the guys that we would love to have here. We’ll address that after the season,” Cherington said. As for Uehara, he is “happy and honored they feel that way…Boston has been good for me, but they are one of 30 teams I would consider.” As Abraham notes, there has been speculation that the Sox could extend a one-year qualifying offer to Uehara since they (unlike many teams) can afford spending approximately $15MM on a one-year deal for a closer.
- Jackie Bradley Jr.‘s offensive struggles have gotten to the point that WEEI.com’s Alex Speier is wondering about his long-term future with the Sox. While Bradley hit in the minors and was a heralded prospect entering the season, Speier finds little historical evidence to suggest that Bradley will be able to recover from his poor start and eventually become a decent hitter at the Major League level.
- If the Marlins are unable to extend Giancarlo Stanton and decide to trade the slugger, John Tomase of the Boston Herald feels “no team is better positioned” than the Red Sox to procure Stanton’s services given the number of top-flight prospects in Boston’s farm system. The Sox could add a Major League piece to the mix as well in Yoenis Cespedes, though he’d have limited value to Miami given that he can opt out of his contract after the 2015 season.
- Also from Tomase, the Red Sox are “realistic about their chances” of bringing Jon Lester back in free agency. Though Boston certainly intends to pursue Lester, the team’s reluctance to commit too much money to over-30 pitchers could see the Sox get outbid by another suitor.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the game:
- The Diamondbacks have outrighted Andy Marte to Triple-A, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Marte was designated for assignment on August 7.
- The Rockies have outrighted Jason Pridie to Triple-A. Pridie was designated for assignment on August 6.
- Diamondbacks farmhand Michael Lee has been traded to the Blue Jays and assigned to Double-A, according to the PCL’s transactions page. This season, the 27-year-old righty mostly worked out of the Diamondbacks Double-A rotation, where he compiled 4.49 ERA, 5.26 K/9, and 2.50 BB/9 over 104 innings and one-third innings. He also made two similarly effective starts in Triple-A. No word on what Arizona received in return.
- Righty Matt Daley was has been outrighted by the Yankees, per the International League transactions page. Daley had been designated for assignment yesterday, and apparently went right onto waivers.
- Catcher Chris Gimenez of the Rangers has cleared outright waivers and is at least exploring the possibility of electing free agency, according to a tweet from Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. If he does hit the open market, the Rays would have interest, says Topkin.
- The Yankees have re-signed infielder Scott Sizemore to a minor league deal, reports MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (via Twitter). He will go right onto the Triple-A disabled list. The 29-year-old, who has not seen significant MLB action since 2011, was released just over a week ago by New York.
- Reliever David Carpenter has accepted an outright assignment with the Angels rather than electing free agency, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 26-year-old righty — not to be confused with the Braves pitcher of the same name — was designated for assignment a week ago today. Over 49 Triple-A innings this year, Carpenter has a 2.20 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9.
- The Yankees have announced that they’ve unconditionally released infielder Brian Roberts, who they designated for assignment at the end of July. The Yankees also placed catcher Brian McCann on the 7-day concussion DL and recalled Austin Romine to take his place on the active roster. The Yankees signed Roberts to a one-year, $2MM deal before the season, but he hit just .237/.300/.360 in 348 plate appearances with them.
- The Marlins have selected Brad Penny‘s contract, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Penny will start tonight against Alfredo Simon and the Reds. Penny is ultimately replacing Jacob Turner on the roster (although, officially, the Marlins cleared space for Penny by optioning Edgar Olmos to Triple-A New Orleans). As MLBTR’s Steve Adams points out, it’s questionable whether Penny will be better than Turner in the short term, even before considering the years of control Turner has left. Penny did pitch well in five Triple-A starts, however. Tonight will be his first big-league appearance since 2012, and his first appearance with the Marlins since 2004.
Brad Johnson contributed to this post
As expected, the Marlins are planning to open extension talks with star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton after the season, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. That seems the logical course after Miami reportedly declined to field trade offers on its best player. While the club intends to make a “legitimate” run at locking up Stanton for the future, some within the front office are reportedly not optimistic about the likelihood of reaching agreement.
The powerful 24-year-old is in the midst of perhaps his finest season as a pro, bouncing back after a down year (by his lofty standards). Through 496 plate appearances in 2014, Stanton has slashed .289/.389/.546 with 27 long balls in the books. Stanton’s career line (.270/.361/.537) is a rare one in today’s game. Of course, that kind of production does not come cheap, and his $6.5MM first-year arbitration salary portends big earnings over his final two seasons of arb eligibility.
With two years of team control left after this season, it could be now or never for Miami to lock up Stanton, who would hit the open market before his age-27 season if he is not signed to a long-term pact. (If neither injury nor ineffectiveness intervene, the free agent bidding for his services would surely be a thing to behold.) Sources tell Heyman that the game’s premier slugger is more motivated to play for a winner than to maximize his earnings, but it remains to be seen whether his personal predilections make it more or less likely that he’ll commit to the Marlins.
Of course, teams will be lining up to talk with the Marlins if negotiations do not progress. With Stanton working hard to round out his game and now profiling as one of the league’s better players and biggest stars, he would have no shortage of suitors. Especially given his age, a not-insignificant portion of the value in Stanton’s rights stems from the exclusive right to negotiate a long-term deal. If Miami cannot cash in on that value, then perhaps another club can. But the Fish apparently are not (rightly, in my view) in any rush to make a move.
The Cubs have bought low on another once-promising right-hander, as they’ve announced the acquisition Jacob Turner from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-handers Tyler Bremer and Jose Arias. Chicago placed a claim on Turner earlier this week after Miami designated the once prized prospect for assignment and placed him on revocable waivers.
Turner, who only recently turned 23, is a former first-round pick of the Tigers, and it wasn’t long ago that he was regarded as one of baseball’s top prospects. Acquired by Miami as the centerpiece to 2012’s Anibal Sanchez/Omar Infante trade with Detroit, Turner has struggled with the Marlins and was designated for assignment because he is out of minor league options. While the Marlins reportedly had lost patience with Turner after his struggles in both the rotation and the bullpen, the move is a curious one for a team that typically doesn’t spend much; cost-controllable starters with this type of upside are hard to come by, and Turner’s rotation spot will reportedly be filled by Brad Penny, making this decision a puzzling one, to say the least.
Though Turner’s ERA jumped from 3.74 last year (in 118 innings) to 5.97 in this year’s 78 1/3 innings, there’s plenty to like about the rest of his numbers in 2014. Turner’s K/9 rate, swinging strike rate and average fastball velocity have all increased (though he has not shown a significant jump in the latter measure when taking into account only his innings as a starter). Meanwhile, his BB/9 rate has dipped from 4.1 to 2.6. He’s also seen his ground-ball rate spike from a solid 45.7 percent to a strong 51.3 percent this season. Sabermetric ERA estimators such as FIP (4.01), xFIP (3.93) and SIERA (3.98) all feel that Turner has been markedly better than his earned run average would suggest in 2014.
Turner, who signed a Major League deal out of the draft (before the CBA banned such contracts), has a $1MM option for next season and can be controlled via arbitration once he has accumulated three years of Major League service. He’s controllable through at least the 2018 season for the Cubs and represents a chance for Chicago to buy low on another talented but struggling arm, as they did in 2013 with Jake Arrieta.
Turner, of course, may never bounce back to the level which Arrieta has in 2014, but the marginal cost to acquire him made this a fairly easy call for president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer once the Rockies surprisingly neglected to make a claim.
The 24-year-old has a 3.10 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in in 52 1/3 innings of relief between Class-A Kane County and Class-A Advanced Daytona this season. Arias, a 23-year-old Dominican hurler, has a 1.77 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 40 2/3 innings at Kane County this season. Neither pitcher ranked among the Cubs’ top 30 prospects (per Baseball America) heading into the season.
ESPN’s Keith Law first broke the news of the trade (on Twitter). Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune tweeted that two Class-A pitchers were headed to the Marlins, with Law tweeting that both were relievers. Bremer’s brother, Noah, first tweeted his inclusion in the deal, while ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers tweeted that Arias was the second pitcher.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Mets could jettison struggling outfielder Chris Young in the next week to ten days, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Young, signed before the season to a one-year, $7.25MM deal, has hit just .206/.284/.348 in 286 plate appearances, and cutting him could create opportunities for the younger Matt den Dekker (who’s hitting .331/.403/.533 in hitter-friendly Triple-A Las Vegas) to play every day. Here are more notes from the NL East.
- The list of 2014 draftees off to hot starts to their pro careers includes former LSU pitcher Aaron Nola, the No. 7 overall pick by the Phillies, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo writes. Nola got off to a great start with Class A+ Clearwater and pitched well in his first start at Double-A Reading. Mayo notes that the sample sizes for 2014 are all very small at this point. (Also, stats for players in the lower minors can be very difficult to interpret.) But it’s not uncommon for players to get off to hot starts in their first pro seasons and then continue that success into the following year, just like Cubs slugger Kris Bryant has.
- Jacob Turner‘s impending departure from the Marlins serves as a reminder that the trade with the Tigers that brought him to Miami hasn’t worked out so well, Dave Tepps of the Palm Beach Post writes. Turner hasn’t worked out, and Rob Brantly and Brian Flynn have struggled to establish themselves in the Majors (although Flynn, who has pitched fairly well at the Triple-A level, may still have a future). Meanwhile, the Marlins gave up Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, who both played well in Detroit, with Sanchez emerging as a mainstay in a terrific Tigers rotation.
The Marlins announced today that Kevin Gregg‘s season is over, as the 36-year-old right-hander will undergo surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. The Fish inked Gregg to a minor league deal back in early June and guaranteed him a base salary that was roughly equivalent to the value of the Competitive Balance pick they traded to the Pirates for fellow righty Bryan Morris. While the Morris acquisition has paid off in spades — he’s allowed one earned run in 31 1/3 innings — the decision to essentially reallocate that money to Gregg didn’t work out anywhere near as nicely. Gregg allowed 10 runs in nine innings with Miami before hitting the DL last month.
Here’s more on the Marlins and the rest of the NL East…
- The Marlins‘ decision to designate former top prospect Jacob Turner for assignment raised some eyebrows, and MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tries to shed some light on the rationale behind the move. Having tried Turner in both the rotation and the bullpen, Frisaro writes, the Marlins lost patience with his struggles. Wanting to change up their roster with the faint hope of a playoff push still in their minds, the club designated the out-of-options righty to clear roster space for Brian Flynn. However, Frisaro writes that it will likely end up being Brad Penny that takes Turner’s roster spot. While Penny has excelled in five Triple-A starts with the Marlins, it’s tough to buy the idea that a veteran who hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2012 and posted a 5.41 ERA from 2011-12 is a more viable alternative based on 27 2/3 Triple-A innings. Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus give the Marlins a 4.6 percent shot at making the playoffs (via division title or wild card), and the notion that Penny increases those odds enough to justify parting with four years of team control over Turner is a tough sell in my mind.
- Disagreeing with an earlier piece from colleague Rob Neyer, Dave Cameron writes that the Phillies should have traded Cole Hamels prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. While much has been made of the fact that the Phillies don’t need to shed salary, Cameron notes that the salary saved on Hamels could have been reallocated to the free agent market (one that will be filled with high-end pitchers) to acquire immediate help. Those free agents could’ve paired with potential MLB-ready help to improve the club’s immediate future. Cameron also cautions against the notion that Hamels can help the next contending team in Philadelphia, as the club looks to be far away from contention, and there’s little guarantee when it comes to pitchers — even elite ones — sustaining their success into their 30s.
- Nationals manager Matt Williams sounded off to reporters, including MLB.com’s Daniel Popper, expressing his anger over the fact that some had inferred from Williams’ comments on a radio station that Bryce Harper could be sent to the minor leagues. In a Wednesday morning radio appearance, Williams was asked if it was a stupid idea to suggest that Harper could be demoted for a week to fix his swing. Williams responded by saying it wasn’t stupid — as such tactics are often employed with struggling young talent — but quickly followed by saying that Harper’s situation was different because he is a “special young player.” In talking with reporters Wednesday evening, Williams vented a bit, stating: “It [ticks] me off to even think about the fact that somebody would take a comment that I make on the radio and infer that I am thinking one way or another. I’ve had it. … [Harper]‘s a very important part of our team, just like everybody else is. Do we understand each other? It’s not fair to the kid. It’s not fair to the rest of the clubhouse to even think about sending Bryce Harper to the Minor Leagues or to cause a stir. It’s unacceptable. It won’t happen.”
Though the 2014 draft is long in the rear view mirror, there have still been a couple notable signings of undrafted players of late. Lost in last week’s trade deadline shuffle was the Twins‘ signing of right-hander Brandon Poulson for a $250K bonus. Minnesota scout Elliott Strankman told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger about Poulson’s discovery, noting that the former art school student and independent league right-hander needed to throw just 18 pitches in order to convince Strankman to sign him. The 24-year-old Poulson reached a blistering 100 mph with Strankman in attendance, and of the 37 outs he recorded this summer prior to signing (12 1/3 innings pitched), an incredible 31 came via strikeout.
More on another undrafted free agent receiving a significant bonus and some minor moves from around the league…
- The Marlins have signed Vanderbilt outfielder and College World Series hero John Norwood for a $275K bonus, reports Jim Callis of MLB.com (Twitter link). Norwood slashed .298/.368/.404 with three homers for the Commodores this season, and he blasted a game-winning homer off of first-rounder off Reds first-rounder Nick Howard. A good showing in this summer’s Cape Cod League helped Norwood go from undrafted talent to a six-figure signing, Callis notes in a second tweet. Norwood, who didn’t place on Baseball America’s Top 500 prospect list heading into the draft, hit .324 (23-for-71) with three homers and three doubles for the Cotuit Kettleers this summer.
- The Reds have outrighted right-hander Nick Christiani to Triple-A Louisville, according to the club’s transactions page. The 27-year-old allowed eight runs in 13 innings with the Reds this season and has struggled in Triple-A as well, posting a 7.71 ERA with 10 strikeouts against an unsightly 15 walks in 18 2/3 innings for Louisville.
- The Blue Jays have acquired minor league righty Hunter Carnevale from the Mets in exchange for cash considerations, reports Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. The 25-year-old was New York’s 33rd-round pick in 2010 and has struggled to a 5.59 ERA between Class A and Class-A Advanced in 2014. He has a career 4.17 ERA with 150 strikeouts in 138 minor league innings, but he’s never progressed past Class-A Advanced.