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- Darren Oliver Joins Rangers’ Front Office
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Michael Pineda Rumors
In an outstanding profile of Red Sox principal owner John Henry, Joshua Green of Bloomberg Businessweek writes that Henry “captures baseball’s current era” with his financial savvy and mathematical orientation. The full piece comes highly recommended, but a few particularly salient points are worth mention here. According to Henry, Boston’s disastrous 2012 season taught the organization “a lesson in ever-growing, long-term contracts with free agents.” An important element of the team’s turnaround, says Green, was Henry’s “ability to ignore sentiment” in making personnel decisions. Though Henry says “it’s gotten harder to spend money intelligently,” Green paints a picture of a man determined to do just that, precisely because of the challenge. In the immediate term, of course, the question is at what price the Sox deem staff ace Jon Lester a worthwhile investment. (The team has reportedly offered four years and $70MM.)
- Of course, the major topic of conversation last night (and this morning) was the ejection of Yankees starter Michael Pineda for taking the hill with a generous application of pine tar on his neck. Pineda will almost certainly earn a suspension and miss at least one start; last year, Rays reliever Joel Peralta lost 8 games after he was caught with the substance. Of course, virtually every player, manager, front office official, and journalist to have commented on the incident has noted that it is widely accepted that pitchers utilize various kinds of grip-enhancing agents. As ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes (Insider link), it is increasingly ridiculous to maintain a rule that is so rarely enforced and widely disregarded. His recommendation of a pre-approved substance (or, presumably, substances) that pitchers can utilize seems like a good starting point for considering a rule change; it makes little sense, in my view, to implicitly permit “cheating” so long as the pitcher is not “too obvious.”
- The Phillies bullpen — particularly, its grouping of right-handed set-up men — have been an unmitigated disaster thus far. Indeed, Philadelphia relievers currently sport a league-worst 5.64 ERA. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, the club has already demoted three of its righties — B.J. Rosenberg, Brad Lincoln, and Justin De Fratus — and will now rely on a series of questionable arms (for different reasons) in Mike Adams, Jeff Manship, and Shawn Camp. Last August, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that the pen would be an area of focus in the coming offseason, but the team did not spend there in free agency.
- Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons has already established himself as a nearly incomparable defensive shortstop, writes Howard Megdal of Sports On Earth. Club manager Fredi Gonzalez said that it was premature to put his young, newly-extended whiz alongside The Wizard: the legendary Ozzie Smith maintained his defensive prowess for 19 seasons. But, as Megdal explains, Simmons’ early success puts him on that kind of trajectory, and better. With a seemingly greater offensive (and, possibly, defensive) ceiling than the Hall-of-Famer Smith, Simmons has both legitimate upside and a high floor.
- While Atlanta obviously did well to identify starter Aaron Harang, who is off to an incredible start to the season for the Braves after being squeezed out of the Indians’ rotation mix, Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus explains that there are no analytical or scouting reasons to believe that Harang has re-invented himself at this late stage of his career. Ultimately, Harang has benefited from a low BABIP, high strand rate, and unsustainable level of success with runners in scoring position. Though his contributions to date should not be underestimated, says Lindbergh, there remains a good chance that the Braves will end up replacing Harang in the rotation before the season is out.
As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes explained yesterday in looking at NL West out-of-options players, the Diamondbacks already have a seeming logjam in the bullpen. Nevertheless, the team agreed to a two-year deal today with southpaw Oliver Perez. That may be a reflection of the team's view of fellow lefty Joe Thatcher, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Indeed, manager Kirk Gibson had said earlier today that the club would not carry a left-handed reliever if none warranted a roster spot, Zach Buchanan of AZCentral.com reports. "You've got to have people that can command the zone," Gibson said, possibly an oblique reference to the control issues last year of Thatcher and Tony Sipp. Thatcher was the only MLB piece that came to Arizona in the Ian Kennedy trade, and recently agreed to a $2.375MM deal to avoid arbitration. The 32-year-old has a solid track record, but struggled in his 22 appearances upon joining the D'backs. Now, with Perez in line for a pen slot and Randall Delgado likely headed the same way, Thatcher or another established arm may be without a role.
- Yankees starter Michael Pineda took an important step tonight on the road back from shoulder surgery, writes Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. Throwing a slider that catcher Brian McCann called "pretty much unhittable," Pineda tossed two scoreless innings and struck out four Tigers — including Austin Jackson, Rajai Davis, and reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera. Needless to say, an effective Pineda would be a major boon to a New York club with questions at the back of the rotation (to say nothing of the future implications). The 25-year-old Pineda enters the year with 2.099 years of service, much of it accrued on the DL over the last two years.
- Meanwhile, the Mariners — the club that dealt Pineda to New York — are looking closely at several non-roster invitees for Opening Day slots, writes MLB.com's Greg Johns. Starter Randy Wolf has had poor results, but says he is progressing. And southpaw reliever Joe Beimel is making a surprising run at a pen role, despite not having appeared in the bigs since 2011. Manager Lloyd McClendon preached patience with Wolf but lavished praise on Beimel, saying that the 36-year-old has "looked great" and "has the ability to get guys out from both sides of the plate."
- Irrepressible former superstar Manny Ramirez says he still wants to play, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com. The 41-year-old has not been able to earn a call-up over the last two seasons, but says he is waiting for an MLB opportunity and has so far declined requests for a repeat of his successful stint in Taiwan. MLBTR's Zach Links recently reported that Ramirez had changed agents, seemingly an indication that Ramirez was serious about continuing his career.
- As the Athletics continue to work through their difficult stadium situation, co-owner Lew Wolff says the team is considering all methods for dealing with a stalemate in lease negotiations, reports Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com. "I am hopeful of expanding our lease at the Oakland Coliseum for an extended term," Wolff recently wrote. "If we cannot accomplish a lease extension, I hope to have an interim place to play in the Bay Area or in the area that reaches our television and radio fans — either an existing venue or in the erection of a temporary venue that we have asked our soccer stadium architect (360 Architecture) to explore." Needless to say, the notion of a temporary ballpark is intriguing, if somewhat frightening. Wolff took care to note that "looking outside the Bay Area and our media market is an undesirable option to ownership at this time."
New Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler offered up some surprisingly candid remarks surrounding his old team, the Rangers, in an interview with Robert Sanchez of ESPN the Magazine. Kinsler touched on the fact that he wasn't happy to be asked to move off second base, didn't approve of how Michael Young was treated by the organization and ultimately called general manager Jon Daniels a "sleazeball." Kinsler, who told Sanchez he hoped the Rangers go 0-162 in 2014, tells the Detroit Free Press (All Twitter links) that he's not pleased with the way the story turned out: "I’m not happy about it. The story was written for drama and taken a little out of context. But it is what it is." Asked about the 0-162 comment, Kinsler told the Free Press: "It’s a matter of telling a joke, to be honest with you." The three-time All-Star said he's not planning to reach out to Daniels about the "sleazeball" comment, but stressed that it, too, was taken out of context.
Here's a bit more on Kinsler and some other AL West-related news items…
- Kinsler's former teammates Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre aren't bothered by the comments and don't have any ill will toward Kinsler, writes Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. Beltre told Fraley, "It doesn't bother me. He's still my friend." Andrus had a similar take, stating, "He's my buddy. … He's still my friend. I don't take anything from that." Manager Ron Washington told Fraley he's not affected by Kinsler's opinions.
- MLB.com's Doug Miller looks back on what seemed to be a win-win trade in January 2012, noting that neither the Mariners nor Yankees have gotten much value out of the Michael Pineda/Jesus Montero trade. Miller spoke with both players and their respective managers about the chances that each has to make an impact with their clubs this season.
- Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez tells Tom D'Angelo of the Palm Beach Post that he doesn't have hard feelings toward the Marlins for trading him and doesn't feel that the team gave up on him. "They thought that trade was in the best interest, decided to give me up, it’s worked out for me." Dominguez says that "everyone" knew his glove was ahead of his bat at the time of the deal, but he's starting to get his confidence back at the plate. The 24-year-old slashed .241/.286/.403 with 21 homers for the Astros last season.
- Bob Dutton of Tacoma News Tribune writes that Mariners top prospect is scheduled to begin playing catch on Thursday and is on a three-week program to build up arm strength. Barring setbacks, he could be able to join Seattle's rotation in mid-April.
Two years after their trade with the Mariners, the Yankees may finally emerge as the winners in their trade for Michael Pineda, David Waldstein of the New York Times writes. Jesus Montero's stock has fallen sharply in Seattle thanks to his poor hitting and conditioning, and now Pineda, who missed the entire 2012 season with shoulder trouble, has a chance to win a job in the Yankees' rotation. Pineda, who pitched sparingly in the minors last year, says he's finally healthy. "I want to be on the Yankees right away," he says. "I don’t want to go to Triple-A. But I don’t have control over the situation." Here are more notes from around baseball.
- Jon Lester is heading into his last year before free agency, and it seems likely that he and the Red Sox will agree to terms on an extension before that happens. In a podcast, Tim Britton and Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal try to determine what a Lester extension might look like, and they arrive somewhere in the neighborhood of five years and $110MM guaranteed, perhaps with an option of some kind. The Red Sox likely will not want to guarantee more than five years for Lester, they suggest, and his recent workload (he threw 248 innings last year, including the postseason) could be a factor. Lester is already locked into a $13MM salary for 2014, so a five-year, $110MM extension would effectively add four years and $97MM.
- It's unclear how many innings the Rangers will get from their starting pitchers, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. Derek Holland is injured, Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison have back issues, Alexi Ogando hasn't proven he's durable, and Martin Perez is only 22. The Rangers could try to compensate by getting more innings out of their relievers. They could also try to make up for Holland's absence by signing Joe Saunders, who recently worked out for them. Tommy Hanson, Colby Lewis, Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Michael Kirkman could also be candidates to start.
- Vanderbilt pitcher Tyler Beede now looks like a clear top-five draft pick, ESPN's Keith Law writes (Insider-only). Law notes that on Friday night, Beede demonstrated good stuff and solid command, with 92-95 MPH velocity and a strong changeup. Law writes that teams should consider taking Beede beginning with the No. 3 overall pick, with only NC State's Carlos Rodon and high school arm Tyler Kolek obviously representing better picks at this point.
- A.J. Burnett, who made his 2014 spring debut on Sunday, helps clarify the Phillies' rotation, Matt Gelb of the Inquirer writes. As Ryan Lawrence of the Daily News noted earlier today, the back of the Phillies' rotation is uncertain — Cole Hamels, Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin are all dealing with injuries, and it's not clear what they have in Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Burnett gives the Phillies a reliable option to add to Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick.
The Rangers contacted the Yankees earlier this season about the possibility of trading Robinson Cano, Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York reports. Talks went nowhere as the Yankees simply said that Cano was unavailable. The Rangers' interest, however, places them atop Marchand's list of the nine teams who could land Cano in free agency this winter. Cano's presence would crowd a middle infield situation that already includes Jurickson Profar fighting for playing time with Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler, though one scout told Marchand that Texas could move Kinsler to first base.
Here are some more items from the Bronx…
- The Dodgers, Phillies, Mariners, Cubs, Tigers, Nationals, Mets and the "mystery team" round out Marchand's list. The Dodgers are reportedly not planning to bid on Cano this winter but one official tells Marchand "I'll believe it when I see it." Another official noted that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro likes to be "creative," so he could try to sign Cano and move Chase Utley to third.
- Curtis Granderson's agent, Matt Brown, tells Dan Martin of the New York Post that the Yankees are his client's "first choice" and that "he absolutely wants to stay" in New York. Brown admitted that Granderson's injury-shortened 2013 season could impact his next contract "but I think people remember what he did the previous two years.”
- Scouts tell Martin that Granderson isn't considered an injury risk going forward (his broken and forearm and fractured pinkie were both caused when he was hit by pitches) and there is speculation that the Rangers or Red Sox could be interested in Granderson's services. One scout wonders how Granderson will fare away from hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium while other expected Granderson should find a big contract given the lack of power bats on the open market.
- An AL scout who saw Michael Pineda pitch three times this year described the right-hander as a "back-end" starter, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger reports. "He progressed and his arm strength improved, but he still had unreliable command and mechanics," the scout said. Pineda averaged a 94.7 mph fastball with the Mariners in 2011 but the scout clocked him at between 91-93 mph in the minors. Pineda has yet to throw a Major League pitch for the Yankees since he was acquired in January 2012. He missed the entire 2012 season due to shoulder surgery and was limited to 10 minor league starts in 2013, though he posted a 3.32 ERA, 2.93 K/BB and 9.1 K/9 over those starts.
- Earlier today, we collected the latest rumors about Joe Girardi's managerial future.
Mariners catcher Jesus Montero will be sent to Triple-A Tacoma today, reports Ryan Divish of The News Tribune. Catcher Jesus Sucre will be selected to join the big league club, and it appears Montero won't do much catching at Triple-A.
It was a blockbuster challenge trade of two extremely promising and valuable young players. Montero had 18 excellent big league games for the Yankees under his belt when he was sent to the Mariners in January 2012. The principal player coming to New York in the deal was soon-to-be 23-year-old righty Michael Pineda, who had averaged nearly 95 miles per hour on his fastball as a rookie, made the All-Star team, and finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting. Young players of this caliber are rarely traded. Things went south quickly for Pineda, as decreased velocity in his second Spring Training start was a harbinger of a shoulder injury that would lead to surgery in May 2012. What's more, Pineda was arrested for a DUI in August of that year. Pineda continues to work his way back from the surgery, with the expectation of making his Yankee debut this year. Whether Pineda's rookie campaign was the high point in his career is anybody's guess.
Montero's first full season in 2012 was disappointing. Known almost entirely for his offensive prowess, he posted a .260/.298/.386 line in 553 plate appearances. Montero caught in 56 games, serving as DH in 78. In a full-time catching role this year, he did even less with the bat. As "a man without a position," as Divish puts it, the bar for Montero to become a regular designated hitter in the Majors is quite high. Oh, and the reported connection to Biogenesis doesn't help.
There were a couple of additional players in the Montero-Pineda swap. The Mariners acquired righty Hector Noesi, who hasn't impressed in 120 1/3 big league innings so far. The Yankees added prospect Jose Campos, rated their fifth-best by Baseball America prior to the season. Campos made only five starts last year in low A ball, missing most of the season due to a bone bruise or a small fracture in his elbow. The injury has Campos on an innings limit in the 85-90 range this year.
One year and four months after the exciting Montero-Pineda swap, the players involved in the trade are a mess across the board, which leads to today's poll: which pair of players do you prefer moving forward?
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports points out that Jason Hammel has outperformed Jeremy Guthrie so far this season. The right-handers were traded for one another this offseason (with Matt Lindstrom also going to the Orioles) and Hammel has pitched well for Baltimore, while Guthrie is on Colorado’s disabled list. Here are more notes from Rosenthal:
- Some considered Hammel a “passive competitor,” but Dan Duquette and the Orioles viewed him as a dependable innings eater. Hammel, 29, has a 1.73 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 through 26 innings for his new team.
- Though Yankees GM Brian Cashman says his team did more background work than ever before acquiring Michael Pineda from Seattle, one rival executive says his club grew concerned. The right-hander showed diminished velocity in his final start of the 2011 season after struggling in the second half. Pineda will miss the 2012 season with a shoulder injury.
- The Pirates aren’t scoring many runs, but rival executives like the trio of Alex Presley, Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen at the top of Pittsburgh's order, Rosenthal writes.
- Tigers starters other than Justin Verlander and Drew Smyly have struggled so far this year, and rival executives expect Detroit to make a strong push for rotation help by the July trade deadline.
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin told Rosenthal that Carlos Gomez would generate approximately as much interest as Yoenis Cespedes if you put him in a tryout camp. Gomez, who is two months younger than Cespedes, could be a late-bloomer, Melvin said.
Michael Pineda will miss the rest of the season to undergo and recover from arthroscopic shoulder surgery. The injury weakens the Yankees for the current season and creates questions about what the 23-year-old will contribute long-term. Here are the latest links regarding the Yankees and their pitching staff…
- The Yankees were looking forward to strong pitching performances from Pineda at reasonable salaries that would help keep the team's payroll beneath the $189MM luxury tax threshold, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Yankees GM Brian Cashman says he regrets the injury, but not his team's decision-making process. “The deal we did I would do that ten times out of ten,” Cashman told Sherman.
- Andy Pettitte's return is suddenly much more vital to the Yankees, Sherman notes. The left-hander pitched five innings at Double-A Trenton last night, allowing three earned runs.
- John Harper of the New York Daily News says it's not reasonable or fair to blame Cashman for Pineda's shoulder injury. The Yankees evaluated the right-hander's elbow and shoulder carefully at the time of the trade and his arm seemed fine. "He was strong as a bull in resistance testing," Cashman said.
- Harper points out that scouts and executives liked the Pineda-Jesus Montero trade for the Yankees back in January.
Michael Pineda has a tear in his right labrum and will undergo arthroscopic surgery next Tuesday, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). The 23-year-old will likely miss a full year, MLB.com's Bryan Hoch tweets. The Yankees acquired Pineda in an offseason trade that sent their top hitting prospect to the Mariners, but the right-hander has yet to pitch his first inning in pinstripes.
On paper the Yankees have a relatively deep rotation even without Pineda. Andy Pettitte continues working his way back to the Major Leagues, where he’s expected to join C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia.
Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports examined the Pineda-Jesus Montero trade earlier today (before this afternoon's news), declaring the Mariners the early winners of the swap. Yankees GM Brian Cashman says Pineda was healthy when the Yankees acquired him in January, Hoch tweets. Pineda, a rookie in 2011, won't be arbitration eligible until the 2013-14 offseason.
When the offseason started, we figured it would be headlined by a pair of MVP caliber bats (Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder) and a Japanese import (Yu Darvish). While those three certainly garnered their fair share of attention, the winter was mostly dominated by trades involving young, high-upside pitchers with multiple years of team control remaining.
The Doug Fister trade seemed to get it all started. The Mariners sent him and David Pauley to the Tigers for Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, and Chance Ruffin at the trade deadline. Four similar young, high-upside starters with multiple years of contractual control remaining were traded this offseason. Here are those deals, presented chronologically…
- Athletics trade Trevor Cahill (and Craig Breslow) to the Diamondbacks for Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgill, and Ryan Cook.
- Padres trade Mat Latos to the Reds for Edinson Volquez, Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, and Brad Boxberger.
- Athletics trade Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals for Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole, Tom Milone, and Derek Norris.
- Mariners trade Michael Pineda (and Jose Campos) to the Yankees for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.
Each trade involved multiple young players going the other way, including at least one top 100 prospect according to Baseball America. Which team got the best return for their young hurler?