- The Brewers have paid a lot of attention to center field this winter, Tom Haudricourt writes for Baseball America. In the immediate term, the organization will hold “an open competition,” per GM David Stearns, with veterans Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Eric Young Jr. looking to hold off youngsters Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton. Of course, Santana is seen more as a corner outfielder in the long run, but the club will presumably dedicate most of its playing time there to Ryan Braun and Khris Davis. As for Broxton, Stearns had praise for him as a near-term and future option. “He gives us increased depth in the outfield and has a chance to play center field,” he said. “We think Keon has a chance to be a real asset to our team, beginning this year.”
The Yankees don’t appear to have any inclination to go hunting for a big league replacement for injured first baseman Greg Bird, as Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweets. “[Dustin] Ackley is the backup first baseman on the big-league level and we’ll explore replacing Bird for Scranton,” said Cashman. Needless to say, that quote doesn’t appear to put New York in the running for any of the better remaining free agent options.
Here are a few more stray notes from around the game:
- While the Cardinals have pursued outfield moves this winter, that doesn’t mean the team isn’t excited about its current group, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch writes. The lack of a major addition certainly opens the door to a full opportunity to younger options — Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, in particular. “You look at his progression through the Minor Leagues, and it was a perfect trend,” said GM John Mozeliak of Piscotty. “It was always getting better. There is a level of confidence that he’s the right guy to make the bet on.”
- The Fangraphs team has a few interesting looks at the recent five-player trade between the Brewers and Diamondbacks. Jeff Sullivan suggests that righty Chase Anderson delivers some sneaky value upside to Milwaukee. And Dave Cameron argues that Arizona might not have chosen the wisest route to upgrading its middle infield.
- The MLB.com prospect team rates the best tools among prospects. It’s no surprise that many of the leaderboards are dominated by the game’s very best overall young talents, but there are a few (somewhat) less-prominent players that took home top honors, too. Among them: Yankees shortstop Jorge Mateo (best speed) and righty Dillon Tate of the Rangers (top slider).
The Nationals have interest in Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy but are one of eight clubs on the 29-year-old’s no-trade list, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. That, of course, presents an immediate roadblock but does not eliminate the possibility of a trade. In such instances, players will sometimes agree to forfeit their no-trade rights for some form of incentive from the acquiring team. The Nationals themselves made a compromise with Jonathan Papelbon last July, agreeing to guarantee his 2016 option at a slightly lesser rate ($11MM instead of $13MM) in order for Papelbon to accept the trade.
Lucroy is on one of baseball’s most favorable contracts, slated to earn just $4MM this season with an equally reasonable $5.25MM club option for the 2017 season. The overwhelmingly affordable nature of that option means that a Papelbon type of situation — exercising the option in advance — probably isn’t enough, as the option is likely to be picked up even in the event that Lucroy suffers an injury in 2016. An extension beginning in 2017 or, at the very least, an extension covering the 2017 season at a higher rate, could seemingly provide motivation for Lucroy to green-light a swap between the two sides.
Recently, Lucroy took to the media to voice his desire to play for a winning club. The longtime Brewer was respectful toward the Milwaukee organization — the only one he has ever known — speaking highly of the team but plainly stating that he preferred to be on a winning club. The implication, of course, is that a trade would be best for all parties involved. In that sense, a trade to the Nationals, whom many expect to contend for the NL East or at least for Wild Card spot, seem like an appealing landing spot for Lucroy.
Extracting full value in a trade of Lucroy, however, will be challenging for the Brewers. Lucroy started slowly in 2015 and then missed a sizable chunk of time due to a fractured toe suffered in late April. He returned on June 1 and hit more like himself over the next three months before suffering a concussion in early September. That injury sidelined him for about three weeks, and upon his return, he was limited to first base duties. While he’s fully expected to catch again in 2016, the possibility of lingering concussion issues and a down season that saw him post an overall batting line of .264/.326/.391 are factors working against his trade value.
The Nats were rumored to be seeking catching help earlier this offseason, although GM Mike Rizzo responded to those rumors quickly by offering high praise for incumbent backstop Wilson Ramos. Of course, moving Ramos to a backup role, while an unfavorable outcome for the player (Ramos is a free agent after the 2016 season), would certainly serve to deepen the Nationals’ roster, and the team hasn’t shied away from stockpiling depth (or attempting to, anyhow) all around the roster this winter. Daniel Murphy and Stephen Drew were both signed despite the fact that the Nats entered the season with reasonable middle infield depth, and the team has pursued Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes despite not having a clear need at any of their respective positions. The Nats have more of a need behind the plate than they did in those spots, so a run at Lucroy certainly wouldn’t be unreasonable.
Here’s some of the news coming out of the “Brewers On Deck” winter fanfest event held today in Milwaukee…
- Rebuilding is “a little bit of a new experience” for Mark Attanasio, and while the Brewers principal owner tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he wants his team to return to contention as soon as possible, he also wants to give his front office a fair amount of time to properly rebuild the roster. “I’ve told them [GM David Stearns and assistant GM Matt Arnold] to look at what we need to do to get back to the playoffs,” Attanasio said. “If that takes a few years, it takes a few years. You don’t have to make a trade every few months.” Here’s some more from around the NL Central…
- Attanasio expects Jonathan Lucroy to still be a Brewer when Spring Training camp opens. “Jonathan is like me; he wants to win,” Attanasio said. “He works hard. He’s one of our hardest-working guys. So, we have the same mind set on this….As an owner, I’m delighted he’ll be playing for us this year. I’m very supportive of Jonathan. He’s been an awesome part of this team.” Lucroy was quite candid in a recent interview with Haudricourt about how a trade could benefit both he and the Brewers, while the catcher stopped short of actually asking for a trade.
- Matt Garza plans to “pitch selfishly” in 2016, the righty told reporters (including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy), meaning that he will “stop trying to be someone [else], stop trying to please people and just go out there and be me. I’ve been trying to please people to stay places, and it’s just the point in my career where I’m over it.” Garza said he’s revamped his offseason training procedures to rebound after a tough 2015 season that saw him leave the team after he was removed from the rotation in September. That departure coincided with a tough situation in Garza’s personal life, as his wife was bedridden while pregnant with twins (thankfully, the delivery went smoothly in October). With the difficulties of 2015 behind him, Garza also said that he wants to remain in Milwaukee. “I want to see [the rebuilding] through. I want to be here when all the fruits come bearing. I’m going to do what I’ve got to do to stay here,” Garza said.
- Ryan Braun is excited by all of the young talent entering the Brewers’ system, he tells Tom Haudricourt and other reporters. “I think we have probably more potential, young impact players than we’ve had in a long time, probably since I’ve been part of the organization….I think we’re building toward something that we’ll be able to have sustained success and have some impact players,” Braun said. “We’re completely dependent upon our system being able to produce impact players. I think that’s something we haven’t done very well the last five or six years.” It’s for this reason that Braun takes a realistic view of the Brewers’ trades of veteran players and the decision to rebuild, noting “It is not like we’re breaking up a team that had a tremendous amount of success.”
- For more on the Brewers, check out the most recent edition of the MLBTR Podcast, which features an interview with Milwaukee general manager David Stearns about the team’s offseason moves, future plans and more.
On Saturday, the Diamondbacks acquired shortstop Jean Segura and reliever Tyler Wagner from the Brewers in exchange for starting pitcher Chase Anderson, second baseman Aaron Hill, and prospect Isan Diaz. The deal brings a notable player to the Diamondbacks’ lineup while also creating something of a logjam at his position.
Here’s a look at what Arizona GM Dave Stewart has said about the deal and what could come next for the D’Backs:
- Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart did not dispute the idea that the D’Backs could parlay their infield depth into a trade to bolster another area, as Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic writes. Stewart also indicated that another GM has already approached him about that idea. “It does give us flexibility and also the dollars saved give us some flexibility as well,” Stewart said. “You guys know we’ve been looking at middle relievers. We’ve been looking at closers. We’ve been looking in those areas to try to get better. If there is a deal out there to be made we have to look at it.”
- Stewart added that dealing Hill also saves the club some money if they want to take another look at the free agent market. Hill, the veteran of the trade, has declined steadily since a peak season in 2012. Injuries and playing time battles held him to 353 plate appearances last season and he hit just .230/.295/.345. Entering his age 34 season, he’s owed $12MM in the final year of his contract.
- Prospect Isan Diaz was “one of the first names” mentioned by the Brewers in trade talks, Stewart said (Twitter link via Jack Magruder of FOX Sports). Baseball America rated Diaz the ninth best prospect in the Arizona system. Diaz, 20 in May, is coming off a strong season in rookie ball in which he was dubbed the MVP of the Pioneer League.
- While giving proper respect to Nick Ahmed, Stewart told MLB Network Radio (on Twitter) that Segura is going to get most of his reps at shortstop rather than second base.
- Also in his chat with MLB Network Radio, Stewart confessed that the D’Backs took payroll into consideration by acquiring Segura instead of a free agent like Howie Kendrick. “We are not, right now, as financially solid as we’d like to be,” Stewart said (audio link). “But the addition of [Zack] Greinke took some dollars out of our pocket. We were considering our compensation pick and we also lost our first round pick and I think, as a group, we weren’t willing to give up the comp pick.”
The Giants are just about done with making offseason moves, GM Bobby Evans tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Evans has been monitoring free agent Tim Lincecum, but he doesn’t anticipate a reunion since the team already boasts a star-studded starting five. Cafardo raises the idea that Lincecum could be in store for a bullpen role in 2016, but Evans’ comments make it seem as though that won’t take place in San Francisco.
Before being shut down midway through the season, Lincecum had posted a 4.13 ERA, although with a 7.1 K/9 and a high 4.5 BB/9 that were even less impressive than that modest ERA figure. His average fastball velocity also fell from 89.6 MPH in 2014 to 87.2 MPH. Lincecum will probably be forced to settle for a one-year deal as he looks to come back from hip surgery entering his age-32 season.
Here’s more from today’s column:
- “A few baseball folks” tell Cafardo that they get the sense something is brewing with Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy. The Brewers backstop has a limited no-trade clause, but teams such as the Astros and Nationals could have interest in adding a top catcher like Lucroy. The veteran isn’t coming off his best season, but his highly contract still makes him an attractive trade target. Lucroy is set to earn just $4MM in 2016 and $5.25MM (or a $250K buyout) in 2017.
- A few teams had concerns about the medicals on Doug Fister, one NL team official told Cafardo. Fister got a one-year, $7MM deal from the Astros, but some teams thought they could get him on a minor league deal. Fister, soon-to-be 32, could be a bounceback candidate for Houston. After several strong years in Detroit, he put up a stellar 2.41 ERA over 164 frames in 2014, his first season with the Nationals. But things went south last year, as he dealt with injury issues and lost his rotation spot after he was tagged for a 4.60 ERA and .302/.341/.471 batting line in 15 starts.
- One NL scout tells Cafardo that free agent shortstop Ian Desmond should move to third base. “I think he would be excellent there,” said the scout. “He’s a shortstop who probably doesn’t have the great range, but he’d be very good at third. He’s a great kid in the clubhouse who works hard. At some point, there has got to be a team, maybe one who has a pick at the end of the first round, who’d give that up for a guy like this.” As the former All-Star continues to sit on the open market, some have wondered if a deal could be possible with the Rays.
- Mat Latos remains on the open market in part because of a perceived attitude problem. One NL official believes that he needs some discipline to stay in line. “You would need a strong manager to keep him in line and acting the way you want him to act. A Buck Showalter, a Bruce Bochy, a Dusty Baker. The guy really competes, but he just gets too outspoken for his own good,” the official said.
The Diamondbacks have acquired shortstop Jean Segura and reliever Tyler Wagner from the Brewers in exchange for starting pitcher Chase Anderson, second baseman Aaron Hill, and prospect Isan Diaz, tweets Keith Law of ESPN. The Brewers will also receive $5.5MM to partially cover the $12MM owed to Hill, hears Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (tweet). The Diamondbacks and Brewers have confirmed the deal.
Segura, soon-to-be 26, was an oft-rumored trade candidate for the rebuilding Brewers. He broke out in 2013 as a 23-year-old with a 3.5 WAR season. He hit a solid .294/.329/.423 with 12 home runs, 44 stolen bases, and league average defense. However, he slumped steeply in the second half of that season, foreshadowing his struggles over the next two campaigns. Since his first full season, Segura has offered replacement level production in 1,141 plate appearances.
In Arizona, Segura will join the defensively-minded Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings. Ahmed is coming off a solid 1.7 WAR season, but his .226/.275/.359 leaves a lot to be desired at the plate. Owings spent most of 2015 at second base where he was expected to return this year. The addition of Segura not only gives the club more depth up the middle, it will give them the opportunity to mix and match offensive and defensive skill sets as needed.
Interestingly, the Angels once included Segura in a package for Zack Greinke (h/t Bill Shaiken of the LA Times). He’ll now have an opportunity to play alongside the ace. Per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (tweet), Segura will start for the DBacks – probably at second base. However, GM Dave Stewart told reporters including Nick Piecoro of Arizona Central Sports (tweet) that Segura would compete for the shortstop job. Segura has three more seasons of club control. He avoided arbitration with Milwaukee earlier this offseason, signing for $2.6MM. He’s a future non-tender candidate if he does not rebound this season.
The trade creates an opportunity for the Brewers to fully evaluate Jonathan Villar before top prospect Orlando Arcia is ready to join the club. GM David Stearns confirmed that Arcia will begin the year in Triple-A. Villar, who the Brewers acquired from the Astros earlier in the offseason for Cy Sneed, has played in parts of three major league seasons. He’s offered replacement level production to date, but he features an intriguing combination of power and speed for a middle infielder.
Wagner, 25, is a starting pitcher prospect. The righty averaged roughly 90 mph with his fastball in a three start debut last season. In the minors, he was said to top out at 95 mph with his sinker. He has a solid command and control profile but lacks big swing-and-miss stuff. The DBacks have plenty of pitching depth so Wagner will likely report to Triple-A or revert to the bullpen – he was a college closer.
On the Brewers end of the haul, Anderson is the jewel of the trade. The 28-year-old is a reliable changeup specialist. In 267 career innings, he has a 4.18 ERA (4.17 FIP) with 7.28 K/9 and 2.70 BB/9. His stuff performed slightly better in 2014 than 2015 as evidenced by superior strikeout and swinging strike rates. As a slightly homer prone fly ball pitcher, he’s not a great fit for power happy Miller Park (the same was true at Chase Field). Anderson comes with five seasons of club control and will be a member of the rotation.
Hill, the veteran of the trade, has declined steadily since a peak season in 2012. Injuries and playing time battles held him to 353 plate appearances last season. He hit just .230/.295/.345. Entering his age 34 season, he’s owed $12MM in the final year of his contract. Per Haudricourt (tweet), Stearns envisions an active role for Hill mentoring the club’s many young middle infielders. He’s an obvious fit as a platoon mate for Scooter Gennett who rarely plays against left-handed pitching.
The Brewers also acquired a high quality prospect in the form of Diaz. Baseball America rated Diaz the ninth best prospect in the Arizona system. 20 in May, Diaz is coming off a strong season in rookie ball in which he was dubbed the MVP of the Pioneer League. He hit .360/.436/.640 with 13 home runs and 12 stolen bases in 312 plate appearances. The former second round pick will remain at shortstop for the time being, although his future home may be farther down the defensive spectrum.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Milwaukee’s GM David Stearns joins the show to talk about how he’s begun shaping the Brewers in his first three months on the job. He covers an array of topics, including the team’s efforts to acquire controllable talent, the status of veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy, and what he’s hoping for out of the 2016 season.
MLBTR’s Steve Adams then hops on with host Jeff Todd to talk through the current market outlook for talented infielders Ian Desmond and Howie Kendrick. While there are still plenty of possibilities for both players, the requirement of draft compensation and a dwindling number of contenders with clear needs may have sapped some of their leverage.
The MLB Trade Rumors Podcast runs weekly on Thursday afternoons.
The Brewers announced on Thursday that they have acquired outfielder Rymer Liriano from the Padres in exchange for minor league left-hander Trevor Seidenberger. In order to clear a spot for Liriano on the team’s 40-man roster, the Brewers designated fellow outfielder Shane Peterson for assignment.
Liriano, formerly one of the Padres’ most highly regarded prospects, was designated for assignment himself last Friday to clear a spot for shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who signed a one-year deal with the Padres.. Still just 24 years old, Liriano struggled in his lone glimpse of Major League action, batting just .220/.289/.266 in 121 plate appearances back in 2014. He is, however, a highly accomplished hitter in the minors, having batted a combined .311/.399/.483 to go along with 14 homers and 21 steals in 620 Triple-A plate appearances. Liriano has played more corner outfield throughout his minor league career, but he also saw 168 innings in center field this past season and 349 innings there in 2014. That, it would seem, is his best path to the Brewers’ Major League roster, as Milwaukee is already flush right-handed-hitting corner outfield options, including Khris Davis, Ryan Braun and Domingo Santana.
Prior to the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Liriano made an appearance on a number of league-wide Top 100 prospects, including those from Baseball America, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus, where he ranged anywhere from 39th overall (B-Pro, pre-2013) to 60th overall (MLB.com, pre-2012). Baseball America credited him with the best outfield arm in San Diego’s system for three consecutive seasons, and prior to the 2012 campaign BA also tabbed him as the best power-hitting prospect in the Padres’ minor league ranks.
Liriano underwent Tommy John surgery that cost him the entirety of his 2013 season, but he’s always produced at the minor league level when on the field. Scouting reports have, in the past, praised him for his ability to hit to all fields with power, even though there’s a general expectation that he’ll lose some of the speed he displayed earlier in the minors as he continues to fill out his frame.
Seidenberger, 23, was Milwaukee’s 12th-round pick in the 2013 draft and advanced to the Double-A level last season, though he struggled in a short time there after excelling at Class-A Advanced. He’s worked exclusively as a reliever — said by Baseball America at the time he was drafted to be his best role — and pitched to a collective 4.38 ERA as a professional thus far. After struggling initially in 2013 following the draft, Seidenberger has stepped up his game, averaging better than a strikeout per inning and working to a 3.77 ERA. He’ll likely head to Double-A to begin the 2016 campaign in the Padres organization, though he is, of course, not on the 40-man roster.
Peterson, 27, batted .259/.324/.353 with a pair of homers in 226 plate appearances for Milwaukee last season, spending time in all three outfield spots. He’s a career .297/.383/.461 hitter in parts of five seasons at the Triple-A level but never received much of a look in the outfield with the Athletics, who originally acquired him from the Cardinals as part of the 2009 Matt Holliday trade. This past season was Peterson’s first in the Milwaukee organization, and he’ll hope now to be claimed by a new club looking for some outfield depth with a fair bit of success in the minor leagues.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports first reported that the Brewers were nearing a deal for Liriano (on Twitter).
- There’s been little in the way of trade talk surrounding Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun, Jon Heyman tweeted recently. Milwaukee has made more of an effort with catcher Jonathan Lucroy to this point, per Heyman, perhaps due to the club’s recognition of what would be a limited market for Braun. The asking price on Lucroy is said to be high, though Lucroy himself is open to a deal. As for Braun, his five-year, $105MM extension begins this season, but his value has been tarnished by a PED suspension as well as offseason back surgery and a nerve issue in his thumb that twice required a cryotherapy treatment last year. Braun did enjoy a nice season at the plate, however, hitting .285/.356/.498 with 25 homers and 24 steals.
- “Tanking” has become a popular buzzword due to the number of rebuilding clubs in the National League, but Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron rejects the idea that any of the so-called tanking teams is actually trying to lose as many games as possible. The Brewers have held onto the likes of Lucroy and Will Smith thus far despite favorable contracts that appeal to other clubs, and they haven’t paid down a significant portion of Braun’s deal to move his bat, either — a reasonable expectation for a club gunning for the No. 1 pick. The Reds have prioritized proximity to the Majors over long-term upside in trades of veterans and haven’t made an effort to move their best player, Joey Votto, Cameron writes. The Braves have signed Nick Markakis and targeted MLB-ready help like Shelby Miller, Ender Inciarte and Hector Olivera in trades over the past 15 months, to say nothing of their Nick Markakis signing (and, I might add, the complementary signings of A.J. Pierzynski, Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson and others). The Phillies are the only team that could reasonably fit the definition of “tanking” we see in the NBA, writes Cameron, but the best players in baseball can’t influence a team in the same manner they can in basketball. And, he rhetorically asks, would baseball truly be better off if the Phillies followed the path the Rockies have for the past several years — staunchly refusing to trade veterans (prior to this summer’s Troy Tulowitzki deal) and remaining in a noncompetitive state as opposed to “bottoming out in the hopes of bouncing back to high levels?”