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Milwaukee Brewers Rumors
Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:
- Outfielder Jerry Sands has elected free agency rather than accept his outright assignment to Triple-A by the Rays, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The 27-year-old played just 12 games for the Rays last season (.190/.227/.333 in 22 plate appearances) before being sidelined by wrist surgery in July.
- Within the same tweet, Topkin reports the Rays have outrighted infielder Vince Belnome to Triple-A. The 26-year-old was designated for assignment, along with Sands, last Monday. Belnome, who made his MLB debut with the Rays in 2014 with 14 plate appearances in four games, has spent the past three seasons in Triple-A, but posted his worst slash at that level this year (.245/.358/.383 in 492 plate appearances).
- The Brewers have released left-hander Miguel De Los Santos, according to the team’s transactions page. The Brewers claimed the 26-year-old off waivers from the Rangers two years ago, but he never threw a pitch for the organization because of shoulder surgery and visa issues. Baseball America ranked De Los Santos 29th among Texas prospects before the 2012 season with the best changeup in the Rangers’ system.
- Eric Stults (Padres), Donn Roach (Padres), Rob Scahill (Rockies), and Roger Kieschnick (Angels) are the players remaining in DFA limbo, per MLBTR’s DFA Tracker.
One of the questions facing all teams in free agency is whether to pay for top talent or delve into the second tier for a bargain. Ben Lindbergh of Grantland lists five instances where the generic option could provide more financial value than the name brand asset. In the case of players like Pablo Sandoval, James Shields, and David Robertson, cheaper options probably won’t outperform them, but they could come close at less than half the guaranteed cost. Here’s more from the realm of free agency.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post picked destinations for 10 “hot MLB free agents.” Sherman thinks the Mets could be the surprise winners of the Yasmany Tomas sweepstakes, since the move would energize a depressed fan base. In my opinion, his oddest pick is Max Scherzer to the Brewers. Sherman reasons that Milwaukee has been aggressive under owner Mark Attanasio, but I’m not sure they can support a massive investment in a starting pitcher. Meanwhile, the Tigers could grab two trendy free agents with Sandoval to man third base and Andrew Miller to play the role of relief ace.
- For those who aren’t satisfied with MLBTR’s list of MLB free agents, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy has all the minor league free agents for your perusal. As we learned earlier this week via FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, MiLB free agents represent a potentially under-exploited opportunity to buy value. To a stats analyst, not many names jump of the page. One I’ll be tracking, if only because he’s an interesting story, is Jason Lane.
The Dodgers made more headlines yesterday when it was reported that A’s assistant GM Farhan Zaidi would become their new GM to work under president of baseball ops Andrew Friedman, and that former Padres GM Josh Byrnes would join the front office as well. That may be the biggest front office news that’s come out recently, but it’s not the only news. Here’s are some more notes on front offices and coaching staffs, all of which happen to pertain to baseball’s Western divisions…
- The Rockies announced yesterday their entire 2014 coaching staff as well as some front office promotions (Twitter links). Former Rox reliever Darren Holmes will assume the role of bullpen coach, while Steve Foster was named pitching coach. Foster has worked as a minor league pitching coach and bullpen coach with the Marlins and also worked with the Royals bullpen from 2009-11.
- In the Rockies‘ front office, five executives were promoted. Rolando Fernandez is now the VP of international scouting and development, Zachary Rosenthal and Jonathan Weil were promoted to assistant GM, Zachary Wilson will assume the role of senior director of player development, and Danny Montgomery was named a special assistant to new GM Jeff Bridich.
- The Astros hired Alan Zinter as their new assistant hitting coach, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweeted yesterday. The 46-year-old Zinter had a 19-year minor league career and also saw time in Japan back in ’99. He was twice called up for a taste of big league action, first in 2002 with Houston and again in 2004 with the D’Backs.
- After missing out on the chance to become the Rangers‘ permanent manager, Tim Bogar has taken a role with the division-rival Angels as a special assistant, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Bogar took over as the interim manager in Texas following Ron Washington’s abrupt resignation, but the Rangers ultimately hired former Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister as their new skipper.
- The Rangers today officially announced the hiring of Michael Young as a special assistant to GM Jon Daniels. The move was first reported back in October though not made official until today. Young will assist GM Jon Daniels in player evaluation and development at the Major League and Minor League level in addition to going on scouting trips and special assignments.
- The Brewers officially announced on Monday that they had hired Ray Montgomery away from the D’Backs as their new vice president of amateur scouting and a special assistant to GM Doug Melvin, and Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic looks at what the loss means for the Diamondbacks. Montgomery interviewed for the team’s GM job before Dave Stewart was hired, and he was said to be in line for a promotion. Stewart tells Piecoro that the team was working to expand Montgomery’s responsibilities but hadn’t figured out exactly how his role would grow prior to his departure. Stewart and VP of baseball operations De Jon Watson will meet this week to discuss replacement candidates, and Piecoro lists a few internal candidates.
Aramis Ramirez has exercised his side of his $14MM mutual option with the Brewers and will return to the club in 2015, the Brewers announced via their Twitter feed. Milwaukee exercised its end of the option on Friday. Ramirez is represented by Paul Kinzer.
Ramirez said in September that he was keeping his options open, though he preferred to return to Milwaukee and wasn’t sure if he wanted to play beyond the 2015 season. Exercising this option checks off both boxes for the 36-year-old slugger, though as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes noted in Ramirez’s Free Agent Profile, it’s very rare for a team and player to both agree on a mutual option, let alone one worth as much as $14MM. Dierkes projected Ramirez to find a two-year deal worth between $26-$30MM (depending on if Ramirez had a qualifying offer attached to him or not) this winter.
“He is comfortable in Milwaukee, and obviously Aramis has made a lot of money in his career and he has invested wisely and is in very good shape (financially),” Kinzer tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He told me he wants to control his own destiny. He’ll decide after next year if he wants to keep playing.
“If he signed a two- or three-year deal (with another club) now, he’d feel obligated to fulfill that contract. This is his choice. He’s happy in Milwaukee and if he puts up the numbers and wants to play another year, it’s his decision and nobody else’s. He said he’ll sit down with his family at the end of next year and decide if he wants to play more. It was an easy decision for him.”
Ramirez hit .285/.330/.427 with 15 homers and a 109 wRC+ over 531 plate appearances in 2014. While still a productive bat, there were a few red flags around Ramirez’s performance — he hasn’t posted a lower slugging percentage since the 2002 season, a lower walk rate since 2000, and his .142 ISO was a career-low over a full season. If Ramirez’s decline gets sharper, the Brewers may have dodged a bullet by only having the veteran under contract through next season. Milwaukee’s corner infield situation for 2015 has become much clearer with Ramirez returning at third and the newly-acquired Adam Lind getting much of the time at first base, though Lind will need a platoon partner to face left-handed pitching.
Dierkes ranked Ramirez as the 19th-best free agent of the 2014-15 offseason, and the fairly sparse third base market gets even thinner with Ramirez off the board. This further strengthens Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley‘s chances of finding big contracts as the best available 3B options, though Hanley Ramirez could also still explore signing as a third baseman.
Photo courtesy of Benny Sleu/USA Today Sports Images
Here’s the latest from around the league:
- Potential free agent Aramis Ramirez will meet with his agent on Sunday to determine if he will exercise his side of a $14MM mutual option with the Brewers, reports Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. The Brewers exercised their end of the deal on Friday. Ramirez has hit well when healthy, including a .285/.330/.427 line last season. However, he’s averaged just 441 plate appearances over the past two years. Entering his age 37 season, teams may be hesitant to commit to many years or a high annual value. Even so, he can likely earn better on the open market. Ramirez will receive a $4MM buyout (paid in two, $2MM installments) if he declines the option.
- With Root Sports Houston solving the Astros broadcasting disaster, Houston may have more money to spend in free agency, according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Owner Jim Crane is on the record as saying payroll could edge up by $20MM, which is fairly modest considering the club ranked dead last in 2014 with an opening day payroll of $44.5MM, per ESPN. The new partnership with Root Sports Houston could further improve the Astros financial position. As Drellich points out, just don’t expect Max Scherzer.
- Also via Drellich, the Astros could aim to improve via trade, as they did with Dexter Fowler last offseason. The club is loaded with young talent, and at some point it will be necessary to consolidate some of that depth. The bullpen and infield (aside from Jose Altuve) are the top problem areas for the club, and they could stand to add a starter too.
- The Padres front office hires under new GM A.J. Preller have a common trait, notes Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego. The group of Don Welke, David Post, Chris Kemp, Sam Geaney, and Logan White all have very strong reputations as talent evaluators. At least one outside source believed talent evaluation was a weakness for the Padres, so the focus seems well placed.
The Brewers have acquired 1B/OF Adam Lind from the Blue Jays, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets. SportsNet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith initially reported the two sides were close to a deal. The Jays will receive righty Marco Estrada in return, Andrew Walker of Sports590.ca tweets.
The Blue Jays exercised Lind’s $7.5MM option on Lind earlier today, and Lind’s contract also includes a 2016 option for $8MM or a $500K buyout. Even though the Jays picked up the option, there were rumors they might trade Lind. Lind hit .321/.381/.479 in 290 plate appearances this season, but the Jays’ acquisition of another lefty first baseman, Justin Smoak, last week was a possible indication that they were planning for Lind’s departure.
The Brewers had a need at first base, and Lind will presumably take most of the at-bats there. He’s below average defensively at any position, but he should be able to make up for that with his hitting. At age 31, there isn’t much reason to expect a steep decline from his .273/.336/.450 career numbers, although a repeat of his 2014 offensive performance is perhaps unlikely.
Lind is a career .212/.257/.331 hitter against lefties, so the Brewers will surely use him in a platoon, possibly with someone like Jason Rogers or with another outside addition. As Brewers GM Doug Melvin points out (via Todd Rosiak of the Journal Sentinel on Twitter), though, the NL Central is heavy on right-handed starting pitching. The main Brewers 2014 first basemen, lefty Lyle Overbay and righty Mark Reynolds, are both set to become free agents.
Estrada posted a 4.36 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 for the Brewers in 2014. He’s entering his last season of arbitration eligibility (in which he’s projected to make $4.7MM) before he can become a free agent. He lost his job in the Brewers’ rotation in July, then pitched significantly better down the stretch as a reliever. He’s a fly ball pitcher and he isn’t a hard thrower, which led to 29 home runs allowed last season. Still, his other peripherals are solid, particularly if he can revert to his 2013 numbers, when he posted 8.3 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. The Blue Jays currently appear mostly set in their rotation, particularly after picking up J.A. Happ‘s option last night, so Estrada could be ticketed for the bullpen.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Brewers are close to a trade for 1B/DH Adam Lind, Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca tweets. The Blue Jays exercised their 2015 option on Lind today, but they’ve taken calls on him already this offseason.
Scouting director Ray Montgomery has left the Diamondbacks to becomes special assistant to the general manager and vice president in charge of scouting for the Brewers, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. It’s a significant hire for the Brewers — Piecoro notes that Montgomery is widely considered to be very promising, and that he interviewed for the Padres’ open GM job months ago. Montgomery worked with the Brewers before the Diamondbacks hired him in 2010. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- The Indians exercised Mike Aviles‘ option in part because they would like top shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor to get more time at Triple-A Columbus, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. Lindor earned a promotion to Columbus last season but only collected 180 regular season plate appearances there. With Lindor in the minors, Jose Ramirez will start at shortstop, with Aviles backing up Ramirez and second baseman Jason Kipnis. Pluto feels Aviles would have trade value if Lindor earned a promotion more quickly than the Indians anticipate.
- Tigers ace Max Scherzer could receive a seven-year, $175MM contract to top this offseason’s free agent market, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post, projecting salaries for ten top free agents. Sherman notes that his guess on Scherzer might be low, but that Masahiro Tanaka‘s 2014 season with the Yankees demonstrates the kinds of uncertainties that often accompany big-money investments in pitchers.
The Brewers have exercised their half of a $14MM mutual option on third baseman Aramis Ramirez, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Ramirez and his agents at Kinzer Management will now have three days to decide whether to accept their half or decline in favor of free agency.
Should Ramirez exercise his half, he’d be locked into a one-year, $14MM deal to return to the Brewers. If he forfeits that salary, the Brewers could still make him a one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer. The team has obviously expressed a willingness to pay him $14M, so it stands to reason that the additional $1.3MM wouldn’t be too much of a detriment, especially considering the fact that it would secure them a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round of the 2015 draft should Ramirez decline the offer and sign elsewhere.
MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently penned a free agent profile on Ramirez noting that he believes Ramirez can find a two-year, $30MM contract on the open market without a qualifying offer attached but may have to settle for a lesser annual value and take something along the lines of a two-year, $26MM deal if the Brewers make the QO.
One other option, as Tim covered in the profile, would be for the two sides to work out a compromise over the next 72 hours and draw up a new two-year deal at a slightly lesser rate than the QO or the current $14MM sum. Tim speculated that the same $26MM price tag might make sense for both sides, and I’m inclined to agree.
Ramirez, 36, batted .285/.330/.427 with 15 homers in 133 games (531 plate appearances) this season, though he did struggle in the season’s second half. Nevertheless, 2014 marked the 11th time in the past 12 seasons that Ramirez has posted an OPS+ of 100 or better. He averaged a 134 OPS+ from 2011-13, suggesting that he can still produce at a very high offensive level even as he ages.
Centeno, 24, received 43 plate appearances with the Mets from 2013-14 and batted .225/.279/.225. In 439 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, the Puerto Rican backstop has a much more palatable .298/.345/.355 batting line. Baseball America ranked Centeno as the Mets’ No. 28 prospect following the 2013 season and named him the best defensive catcher in the Pacific Coast League this past season.