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Milwaukee Brewers Rumors
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has nothing to report about whether he might soon receive an extension, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes. “That’s a private matter,” says Epstein. “I look at it and the club looks at it like this is going to be a longer-term marriage, and we’re not concerned about the fact there is no extension.” Epstein’s contract ends after 2016. With salaries for big-name executives increasing (Sullivan points out that Andrew Friedman got five years and $35MM from the Dodgers), Sullivan wonders if Epstein could go elsewhere after his contract expires if the Cubs’ rebuild pans out as most fans hope. Here are more notes from the National League.
- The Diamondbacks do not plan to make a deal for a catcher, GM Dave Stewart tells FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (via Twitter). “We’re not going to trade for a catcher. Some people think we are. We’re not,” Stewart says. The Diamondbacks took Oscar Hernandez in the Rule 5 Draft with the idea that he would compete for time behind the plate, but he has a broken hamate bone. Tuffy Gosewisch currently projects as the Snakes’ starter, and they also have Gerald Laird, Peter O’Brien and Blake Lalli in camp.
- Now that Francisco Rodriguez is in camp, the Brewers have a logjam in the bullpen, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton, Will Smith, Jeremy Jeffress, Neal Cotts and Brandon Kintzler join Tyler Thornburg and Jim Henderson (who are both returning from injury, although Henderson is struggling with his velocity) as pitchers who seem like they should get spots out of camp. Even that is too many relievers unless the Brewers want to carry a 13-man staff. (One short-term fix might be to send down Thornburg or a starter like Jimmy Nelson, if only for the first few weeks of April in Nelson’s case — the Brewers won’t need a fifth starter until April 20). That means it could be tough for pitchers like Chris Perez (who is signed to a minor-league deal and has May 1 and June 1 opt-out dates) and Rob Wooten to make the team.
The Indians announced that former star third baseman Al Rosen died last night. He was 91. “He was an inspiration to us all and had a special presence, strength and intellect,” says Indians president Mark Shapiro, calling Rosen’s competitiveness and toughness “legendary.” Rosen hit .285/.384/.495 over a ten-year big-league career spent entirely with the Indians. His best season came in 1953, when he hit .336/.422/.613, won the AL MVP award and missed a Triple Crown by one point of batting average. Injuries ended his playing career early, but he went on to become president and chief operating officer of the Yankees (1978-79), then became president and GM of the Astros (1980-85) and Giants (1985-92). Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- The White Sox paid $46MM for closer David Robertson, but they weren’t planning on spending heavily on a closer if they didn’t get him, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes. Robertson was the specific player they wanted, and if they hadn’t gotten him, they would have developed a closer internally. “I still feel strongly that we have a very solid track record in terms of that development, whether it’s (Bobby) Jenks or (Sergio) Santos or (Addison Reed) or whomever else through the years, like Keith Foulke before that,” says GM Rick Hahn. “And that’s going to continue to serve us as we build out the bullpen from the back in front of David.”
- Reliever Francisco Rodriguez, who officially signed with the Brewers Saturday, turned down more money elsewhere to return to Milwaukee, Todd Rosiak of the Journal Sentinel tweets. His decision to sign with the Brewers was primarily about his comfort with pitching for them, not about finances, he says. 2015 will be the fifth consecutive season in which Rodriguez will have spent at least part of the year with the Brewers.
The Brewers have announced that they’ve signed closer Francisco Rodriguez to a two-year, $13MM deal with an option for 2017. The Scott Boras client will receive $3.5MM in 2015 and $5.5MM in 2016, with $2MM in deferred salary and a $2MM buyout on the option. That option will cost either $6MM and $8MM, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
At $13MM, Rodriguez will land just shy of the $14MM that MLBTR predicted before the start of the offseason, though the option structure had to be agreed upon to achieve that. The deal appears to slot in fairly sensibly among recent contracts for similar-quality relievers. Only the younger Luke Gregerson landed a three-year deal (at a $6MM AAV), while Koji Uehara ($18MM — just before hitting the market), Sergio Romo ($15MM), and Pat Neshek ($12.5MM) all got significant guarantees on two-year pacts.
Rodriguez, 33, has spent most of the past four seasons in Milwaukee. All said, he owns a 3.11 ERA over his 193 2/3 frames with the Brewers. He has maintained double-digit strikeout-per-nine rates over the last two years in addition to an excellent K%-BB%. Though FIP has been down on Rodriguez’s work in recent campaigns, other ERA estimators like xFIP and SIERA view him as a 3.00 or better performer.
One potential knock on Rodriguez — the many miles on his otherwise relatively young arm — has a positive side as well. Rodriguez has been exceptionally durable, putting up an average of 69 innings running all the way back to 2003. And he still delivers his fastball in the same general, low-90s range that he has found success with in the past.
In nailing down the closer role in Milwaukee and taking Rodriguez off of the market, the signing goes a long way to clarifying the remaining relief market. For one thing, it leaves Rafael Soriano as the undisputed best free agent still available. For another, it takes away the most obvious trade match for the Phillies and closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported the signing, length, and presence of an option (Twitter links). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the total guarantee on Twitter. Haudricourt tweeted the annual breakdown.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Left-hander Dontrelle Willis, who was in camp with the Brewers on a minor league deal, has informed the Brewers that he will retire, tweets MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. A neck injury has slowed him this spring, and the former Rookie of the Year had yet to get into a game.
Willis beat out Scott Podsednik and Brandon Webb for the 2003 NL Rookie of the Year Award at the age of 21 and helped the Marlins to their World Series victory that season. In his first four years in the league, the “D-Train” turned in a strong 3.44 ERA with 6.7 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9. Though he reached the 200-inning mark for a third straight season in 2007, however, Willis’ ERA spiked to 5.17, and he was traded to the Tigers alongside Miguel Cabrera that winter. Willis’ career never got back on track after that point, however, as the southpaw worked just 199 innings over the 2008-11 seasons, pitching to a 6.15 ERA with more walks than strikeouts.
Since the 2011 season — the last that he pitched in the Majors, Willis has pitched for minor league affiliates of the Giants (twice), Reds, Orioles and Angels in addition to a pair of stints in the independent leagues. He’ll retire with a 4.17 ERA in 1221 2/3 Major League innings and over $40MM worth of career earnings, per Baseball-Reference.com. We at MLBTR wish Willis well in his post-playing days.
New White Sox closer David Robertson discusses his decision to go to Chicago with ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick. “I’m here for a reason,” Robertson said. “I want to win some ballgames and get back to the postseason. Chicago likes a winner, and I want to be a part of it.”
Here are a few more quick notes out of the game’s central divisions:
- Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez has now received his visa and will be on his way to camp in short order, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports on Twitter. That is good news for Milwaukee, which now has a much greater financial stake in K-Rod than it has over the past two seasons.
- Daniel Bard‘s comeback effort with the Cubs appears to be showing some promise. As MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports, the 29-year-old threw a simulated game on Sunday for the first time this spring. “I haven’t felt this good in so long,” said Bard. Indeed, the former Red Sox relief ace was working into the upper 90s with his fastball today, ESPN’s Rick Sutcliffe tweets. Muskat takes a deeper look at Bard’s trials over recent years in an interesting piece that details the physical and mental developments that have helped boost him in camp thus far.
While early word on Yasmany Tomas‘ work at third base was positive, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports now hears from scouts that Tomas isn’t cutting it at the hot corner (Twitter links). The result, then, could end up a significant outfield logjam featuring Tomas, A.J. Pollock, Mark Trumbo, David Peralta, Cody Ross and Ender Inciarte. Scouts feel that Tomas’ arm is accurate at third base, Passan adds, but are concerned with his lack of lateral quickness and athleticism. Manager Chip Hale told reporters, including MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert (Twitter links), that Tomas “needs to be better,” but he believes part of the problem is a lack of focus on Tomas’ behalf. It should be noted that the opinion of rival scouts doesn’t mean the D-Backs won’t use Tomas at third; most scouts think there’s no chance that powerful prospect Peter O’Brien can remain at catcher, but the D-Backs believe he can stick at the position so strongly that they forwent adding other catching options outside of Gerald Laird and Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez this offseason.
Here’s more from the NL West…
- The D-Backs announced today that Hernandez was removed from today’s Spring Training game due to soreness in his left wrist (Twitter link). While the team labeled the move precautionary, a significant injury to Hernandez would thin out the team’s paper-thin catching situation even more and could lead to Hernandez being returned to the Rays.
- Giants right-hander Jake Peavy received interest from at least six other teams before signing his deal to return to San Francisco, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Rangers, Brewers, Twins, Royals, Marlins and Braves all had interest in the 34-year-old veteran, per Heyman, but the bond formed over a World Series victory was too strong to sign elsewhere, Peavy said: “When you’re World Series teammates, it takes you to another level relationship-wise.” The Giants engaged Peavy after missing out on Jon Lester and being spurned by James Shields in December, at a time when Peavy was giving consideration to both Miami and Atlanta.
- Pablo Sandoval recently said that he felt the Giants disrespected him and agent Gustavo Vasquez when negotiating an extension last spring, but Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that the team offered a four-year extension with a vesting option worth just under $85MM in Spring Training 2014. Assuming the $85MM figure includes the vesting option, that’s $10MM and one year less than Sandoval was guaranteed on his five-year, $95MM deal with the Red Sox. It’s possible, however, that Sandoval was turned off by the Giants’ initial conversation-starter, which was said last April to be a three-year, $40MM offer. Evans adds that the Giants’ first offseason offer to Sandoval came the day after the World Series parade, though he didn’t disclose any details on that offer.
- Heyman also tweets that the Dodgers‘ new front office has been highly impressed by manager Don Mattingly thus far in Spring Training. Mattingly is under contract through the 2016 season, but it’s not uncharacteristic for new-look front offices to bring in a hand-picked manager, regardless of the contractual status of the incumbent.
- For those who didn’t see, earlier tonight it was reported that the Padres are considering making an offer worth “upwards of $50MM” to Cuban second baseman/third baseman Hector Olivera.
Several MLB teams continue to value the relationship between certain pitchers and otherwise reserve backstops, as Jay Cohen of the Associated Press writes (via the Dayton Daily News). While the concept is hardly a new one, Cohen explains that pitch framing (to say nothing of pitch calling and the even more nebulous notion of pitcher handling) all come into play as well. Whether it is worth giving up a roster spot to a specific player with the idea that he will primarily catch just one (or more) particular starters is, of course, a difficult and context-specific question.
Here are a few more stray notes from the day:
- The Mariners posted a $11.6MM operating profit last year, which — as MLB.com’s Greg Johns explains — the team reported per its stadium lease agreement. Seattle has a provision in is lease that requires it to share profits with the public entity that operates Safeco Field, the details of which are included in the above-cited piece. Needless to say, this is just another indicator of the current upswing that the team has enjoyed since a disappointing run from 2010-2013.
- Still searching for options at first base with Adam Lind dealing with back issues, the Brewers plan to give Gerardo Parra a look at the position, as Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweets. The 27-year-old has some experience in that role as an amateur, though he has played exclusively in the outfield as a professional. As a roughly league-average hitter, much of Parra’s value has come from his work with the glove in the outfield grass.
In December, MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk wrote Brewers GM Doug Melvin, who is entering the final year of his contract, could be on the hot seat if the team falters in the increasingly competitive NL Central. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwauke Journal Sentinel, in a recent chat, speculated, if Melvin isn’t extended during Spring Training, the whispers will grow if the Brewers stumble out of the gate. Haudricourt adds Melvin’s future, and that of manager Ron Roenicke, isn’t necessarily tied to the Brewers making the playoffs, but how the team plays over the course of the season, if they remain healthy.
In other Brewers notes from Haudricourt:
- The Brewers have eight bullpen candidates on their 40-man roster (in addition to non-roster invitees Chris Perez and Dontrelle Willis). Haudricourt does not envision the club carrying eight relievers, so a trade is likely.
- Closer Francisco Rodriguez is in the process of obtaining his work visa and the Brewers hope he arrives in camp by the end of the week, Haudricourt tweets. Rodriguez agreed to a two-year, $13MM deal with the Brewers last month.
- With Aramis Ramirez announcing 2015 will be his last season and no obvious replacement within the organization, the Brewers will give waiver claim Luis Jimenez first crack. If Jimenez struggles, Haudricourt thinks Milwaukee will use its shortstop depth to acquire a third baseman.
- Despite that shortstop depth, Haudricourt does not see current shortstop Jean Segura being moved to the hot corner because of his lack of power.
- Haudricourt also downplays the likelihood of Brewers 2012 first-rounder Clint Coulter, drafted as a catcher, being moved to third base. The organization did consider such a switch, but believe his bat (.287/.410/.520 with 22 home runs in 529 plate appearances for Class A Appleton) and arm will translate better to the outfield allowing him to reach the Majors faster.
Francisco Rodriguez still has to pass a physical with the Brewers before he can have his deal officially announced, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. However, Rodriguez is still getting his visa sorted out and is therefore experiencing a delay in the process. The Brewers, of course, re-signed Rodriguez to a two-year, $13MM deal to serve as their closer once again.
Here’s more from the National League Central…
- Luis Jimenez, who is out of options, is competing with Luis Sardinas and Hector Gomez for a utility infield role with the Brewers, writes Haudricourt. Jimenez and Gomez may have the upper hand, but if Sardinas hits and proves himself to be capable at third base, Jimenez could be squeezed out of a roster spot. The Brewers have two bench spots to be filled by these three players, writes Haudricourt, but going with Sardinas would of course lead to the risk of losing Jimenez on waivers at the end of Spring Training.
- Reds reliever Burke Badenhop tells MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that he found the free agent process “nerve-racking” despite being pleased with the results. “I continued to fall back on the point that we knew what was out there,” said Badenhop, “kind of where I fit in the market. It’s kind of a funky spot, not really crystal clear. Nobody that was ahead of me was getting worse deals than I thought I should have got and nobody behind me was getting better deals.”
- The role of Cubs‘ fifth starter is “for all practical purposes” Travis Wood‘s to lose, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers wrote yesterday. The Cubs have Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks in the front four slots, with Wood, Edwin Jackson and Tsuyoshi Wada competing for the fifth slot. Rogers does note that Jackson or Wada could force their way into the role, but it seems likely that at least one of the three candidates for the final spot will be traded this spring, in Rogers’ estimation. I have a difficult time seeing any club agreeing to take on Jackson’s remaining $22MM; a release may be the more likely outcome, though that’s a large chunk of money for any team to swallow. For those wondering, Wood will earn just under $5.7MM in 2015 and is controllable through the 2016 season via arbitration, while Wada is earning $4MM this season on a one-year deal.
Big league spring matchups started today, which means that the sights and sounds of game action are officially back. It also provided a first look at Jung-ho Kang of the Pirates, who showed that his raw power is real in swatting a home run to center field. He still has a ways to go in earning playing time and proving his value, of course, but it was a nice start for the Korean ballplayer. Earlier today, MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth broke down the Bucs’ winter in the first installment of this year’s Offseason in Review series.
- Though the Brewers are still in the process of finalizing their deal with Francisco Rodriguez, the team found now a good opportunity to outright righty Brooks Hall, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. “This was strategically calculated,” explained assistant GM Gord Ash, “because [Hall] has not pitched that much, he’s been injured on and off. We hoped we could sneak him through, and that’s exactly what was able to happen.”
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson indicated to reporters today that trade talks regarding the team’s starting pitching have been very quiet of late, as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com tweets. New York has an oft-discussed glut of rotation candidates, but seems content waiting for a good offer to come in or for an internal need to arise before deciding upon a course of action.
- The Braves seem to be angling towards using recently-acquired youngster Manny Banuelos as a reliever to start the year before shifting him to the rotation, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (Twitter links). Whether or not that action comes at Triple-A or with the big league club remains to be seen, but Atlanta is hoping to mix and match his roles in order to build his innings in a manageable way while allowing him to compete all season. Once considered one of the game’s best prospects, Banuelos will look to turn things around in Atlanta, which gave up reliever David Carpenter to acquire him.