Milwaukee Brewers Rumors
In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Keith Law blasted the North Carolina State coaching staff's decision to let Carlos Rodon throw 134 pitches in a start on Friday night. Rodon is expected to be one of the top picks in June's amateur draft, yet Law felt the southpaw's promising future was being risked by a coaching staff desperate to reach the NCAA tournament.
Here's some news from around the Majors...
- If Alfonso Soriano doesn't retire at season's end, he'd like to play through 2016, preferably as a member of the Yankees, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (Insider-only link). If he has a tough season this year, however, Soriano will retire. The veteran outfielder is in last year of his contract and has previously discussed retiring after 2014, as Soriano's health will also factor into his decision.
- Bobby Abreu is hitting .500 in Triple-A and is "the best hitter Las Vegas has got by far," a talent evaluator tells Mike Puma of the New York Post. Since Abreu can opt out of his minor league deal on April 30, the Mets will have to make a decision soon, and they could free up a roster spot by moving one of Ike Davis or Lucas Duda.
- The Brewers have a dozen players making the Major League minimum salary (or slightly above), and this influx of cheap, young talent helps the smaller-market club afford the six $10MM+ salaries on the payroll, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes.
- Scheduling and tougher PED testing/penalities are two factors for increased injuries this season, according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman. Travel during both the regular season and Spring Training has become more arduous at a time when players' bodies might not be recovering as quickly due to a lack of performance enhancers.
- Baseball America's Matt Eddy recaps the week's minor league transactions.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
A pair of intra-division matchups are on tap for the weekend as the Cardinals host the Cubs for a three-game series and the Pirates travel to Miller Park for a three-game set against the Brewers. The Reds, meanwhile, will host the Rays in interleague play and face a tough matchup in Tampa ace David Price tonight. Here's some news from around the NL Central...
- Shelby Miller has struggled in his first two starts of 2014, and as Fangraphs' Dave Cameron explains, Miller's problems began at the end of last season, which explains his near-total absence from the Cardinals' playoff run. An injury could be responsible for Miller's issues, "but this version of Shelby Miller isn’t very good, and unless he flips a switch sometime soon, [the Cardinals are] going to have to start looking for alternatives."
- Carlos Gomez's strong 2013 season and his red-hot start to 2014 has made his three-year, $24MM extension from the Brewers "look like a steal," in the words of Sports Illustrated's Jay Jaffe. Gomez's extension, signed in March 2013, kicked in this season and keeps the center fielder in Milwaukee through the 2016 campaign. As Jaffe notes, it's rare for a player to improve as much as Gomez has after amassing over 1000 PA in the Major Leagues.
- Jason McLeod, the Cubs' VP of scouting and player development, tells CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney that though the Cubs' system is somewhat lacking in blue chip pitching prospects, it doesn't mean the Cubs will specifically focus on adding a young arm with the fourth overall pick of the 2014 draft. “We’ve made no secret that we’ve tried to acquire as much pitching as we can....But if you look at our last two drafts, we’ve taken two position players with our first pick, because we felt Albert [Almora] and Kris [Bryant] were the best players at those picks," McLeod said. "That’s how we’re going to approach this draft as well. We’re not going to draft on need. We’re going to draft the guy that we feel will provide that long-term impact for us.”
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has a lengthy new column up that takes a look at the hot start for the Giants' offense as well as an impressive sweep of the Red Sox by the Brewers this weekend. Beyond that, it has quite a bit of info on the top two remaining free agents and come contract extensions. Here are some highlights from his latest work...
- Scott Boras is telling tems that he could soon land a deal for Kendrys Morales, a source tells Rosenthal. However, some of the interested parties are debating between signing him (and fellow Boras free agent Stephen Drew) now or waiting until after the June draft. Rosenthal points out that this could potentially save a club multiple picks, as the signing team wouldn't have to surrender a 2015 draft pick, and if they offer a multi-year deal, they won't have to forfeit a 2016 pick to fill the hole on the free agent market next offseason.
- The Indians have been trying to extend Jason Kipnis for the past two years, but Kipnis and agent Dan Horwits of the Beverly Hills Sports Council rejected offers in the $15MM range (following Kipnis' two-month debut in 2011) and $24MM range (prior to the 2013 season).
- The main hangup in extension talks between the Dodgers and Hanley Ramirez isn't the average annual value but rather the length of the contract, says Rosenthal. Ramirez is likely to receive an AAV in the $22-25MM range, but the length of the contract is a concern for the Dodgers given Ramirez's lengthy injury history.
- Surgery remains an option for Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun as he battles nerve damage in his right thumb, but general manager Doug Melvin said to Rosenthal that going under the knife wouldn't even guarantee that the damage could be repaired. For the time being, Melvin said the team "is not overly concerned" about Braun's injury.
Here are Sunday's minor moves from around MLB:
- The Brewers have released left-hander Will West, per Baseball America's Matt Eddy. West received a 100-game suspension in January after being suspended for 50 games last August. The 21-year-old has now failed three tests for recreational drug use plus another for a performance enhancing drug (amphetamine), according to Eddy. When on the field during his three-year tenure in the Brewers' organization, West had a 5.98 ERA, 8.2 K/9, and 3.2 BB/9 in 105 1/3 innings covering 29 games, including 20 starts.
- Also from Eddy, the Cubs have released outfielder Mitch Maier. Maier, drafted by the Royals with the 30th overall pick of the 2003 amateur draft, spent 2013 with the Red Sox's Triple-A affiliate and posted a .310/.431/.451 line, though he only received 137 plate appearances due to a wrist injury. The 31-year-old, who signed a minor league deal with the Cubs last December, hasn't appeared in a MLB game since 2012, but has slashed .248/.327/.344 during his six-year career, all with the Royals. Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com tweets Maier is recovering from surgery and will be ready to play in three months.
- The Tigers have released left-hander Wil Ledezma, reports James Schmehl of the Detroit Free Press. Ledezma, who inked a minor league contract with the Tigers in March, last saw MLB action in 2011 with the Blue Jays, but made 26 relief appearances (covering 30 2/3 innings) for NPB's Chiba Lotte Marines in 2013 good for a 3.23 ERA, 6.5 K/9, and 3.8 BB/9. Over the course of his nine-year MLB career with the Tigers, Braves, Padres, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Pirates, and Blue Jays, the 33-year-old has a mark of 5.40 ERA, 6.4 K/9, and 4.5 BB/9 over 192 games (including 45 starts) and 396 1/3 innings.
- With the Dodgers' designation of Mike Baxter for assignment earlier today, there are now eight players in DFA limbo, per MLBTR's DFA Tracker: Baxter, Vin Mazzaro (Pirates), Eduardo Nunez (Yankees), Jeremy Jeffress (Blue Jays), Hector Noesi (Mariners), Pedro Ciriaco (Royals), and Frank Herrmann and Preston Guilmet (Indians),
Writing for ESPN The Magazine, Dan Le Batard observes that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig's controversial off-the-field behavior isn't so different from other young Hispanic players who have had to grow up in the limelight. Some were quick to criticize the 23-year-old after he showed up late to batting practice on Friday. "We love rags-to-riches stories," Le Batard writes. "But rarely, in any walk of life, does it happen as fast and as extremely as it does to the Hispanic ballplayer -- to go from soap stealing to multimillionaire in a flash." Here are more NL links:
- Nerve damage at the base of Ryan Braun's thumb continues to hobble the Brewers outfielder, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. "The analogy is if you touch a hot stove, no matter how badly you want to keep your hand there, the natural reaction will be to take your hand off it," Braun said. "That's kind of what happens every time I make contact."
- The Cubs made headlines today after acknowledging that they were seeking minority partners to support renovations for Wrigley Field, but selling such shares isn't so uncommon in professional sports, David Haugh writes for the Chicago Tribune. The Diamondbacks and Mets are among clubs who have recently sought minority ownership.
Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun is again dealing with a thumb injury that hampered his swing in 2013, according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. Braun and the team's doctors thought the extended rest between his suspension and the offseason would heal his thumb. That was the case early in Spring Training, as he was pain-free, but as spring wore on, Braun began to again experience numbness in his right thumb. Because he cannot feel the thumb, he's unable to tell how tightly he is gripping the ball when throwing, leading to bruising and blisters on the digit. The root of the problem appears to be a damaged nerve, which can be corrected via surgery, but Braun says he doesn't want to think about that alternative now, as the recovery would not be quick.
More links pertaining to baseball's Central divisions as we gear up for a weekend of baseball early in the 2014 campaign...
- The Cubs are exploring the idea of selling minority ownership shares as a way to help finance the stadium renovation, multiple sources tell Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com. The team is looking at selling a non-controlling interest, though no official decision has been reached. The potential sale wouldn't impact president of business operations Crane Kenney or president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who are both locked into long-term contracts. While the deal may be perceived negatively by some, Mooney points out that the Giants and Cardinals list 30 principal owners while the Cardinals have 15 investors, and both are considered to be well-run franchises. Any sale would need to be approved by Major League Baseball, Mooney adds.
- Earlier today, the Indians signed second baseman Jason Kipnis to a six-year, $52.5MM extension. At the press conference, GM Chris Antonetti told reporters that there's no "either/or" situation with Kipnis and Justin Masterson (MLB.com's Jorda Bastian reporting on Twitter). The club still has the financial flexibility to make something happen with Masterson, should talks re-ignite. The similarity between Kipnis' guarantee and Masterson's reported three-year, $51MM proposal may have led to some speculation prior to Antonetti's comments.
- Bastian also tweets that the Indians have been trying to extend Kipnis since he had just 69 days of service time; in other words, Cleveland has been pursuing an extension for their second baseman since the completion of the 2011 season. Kipnis batted .272/.333/.507 with seven homers and five steals in 150 plate appearances in his big league debut that year. The deal was wrapped up on Sunday but not announced until today, he adds.
- Fangraphs' Jason Collette looks at how Yan Gomes went from being "the other guy" in the trade that netted the Indians Mike Aviles to becoming the recipient of a six-year, $23MM extension. Gomes was never afforded a chance to catch everyday in the Blue Jays' minor league system because of their depth at the position. Collette calls the contract the "inverse of all free agent deals" as it rewards Gomes for his future production rather than past laurels. He also wonders if the new rules regarding home-plate collisions made the extension more palatable, as there is now less long-term risk with catcher extensions.
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin confirmed to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that his club has tabled its extension talks with shortstop Jean Segura. Said Melvin: "Nothing was going to happen so we decided it didn't make sense to keep talking. We told Jean to just go out and play. We never close anything off but there's nothing going on now." As Haudricourt points out, Andrelton Simmons' seven-year, $58MM deal likely didn't do the Brewers any favors. Segura will $534K in 2014, representing a healthy (when compared to the salaries of many pre-arbitration players) bump over the $500K Major League minimum.
More from baseball's Central divisions...
- Shelby Miller was the landmark pick that demonstrated how the Cardinals would evaluate, draft and develop pitching back in 2009, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Goold describes the Cards' prioritization of athleticism and velocity. Former Cardinals pitcher and current Padres scout Kevin Jarvis tells Goold: "For those of us in the game, what they have done should be analyzed, evaluated and then emulated."
- On the other side of the spectrum, the Kansas City Star's Andy McCullough examines the Royals' difficulty in developing starting pitchers over the years. McCullough spoke with left-hander John Lamb, whose rise and fall as one of the game's top pitching prospects has been well documented in the Kansas City media after he fell victim to Tommy John surgery. He also spoke with several Royals officials, who admitted their difficulty is a combination of bad luck and one particularly woeful decision. One Royals official said the decision to draft Christian Colon over Chris Sale is, to this day, the lone decision that causes him to lose sleep. However, consensus among the Royals' brass at the time was that Sale wouldn't last as a starter (they were far from the only ones to think so).
- White Sox manager Robin Ventura told reporters today, inlcuding Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times, that Matt Lindstrom will open the season as his closer. That's big news for Lindstrom, whose free agent stock next offseason could rise substantially with a successful season in the ninth inning. GM Rick Hahn said he hopes Lindstrom takes the closer's role and runs with it, but the bullpen roles are "not etched in stone" (Twitter links). For those fantasy baseball players out there, remember that you can follow @closernews on Twitter during the season to get daily tips and news updates for chasing saves in your leagues.
The 22-year-old was drafted in the fifth round in 2010 by the Orioles, and has topped out at the high-A level thus far.
Here are today's minor transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the page...
- The Diamondbacks have released first baseman Shelley Duncan, shortstop Tommy Manzella and right-hander Adam Russell, Matt Eddy reports (via Twitter). All three players signed minor league deals with the Snakes during the offseason. Duncan had a .606 OPS in 64 PA with the Rays in 2013, while Russell and Manzella last appeared in the majors in 2011 and 2010, respectively.
- The Royals released veteran reliever Jon Rauch, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Rauch, 35, signed a minor league deal with K.C. in January. The right-hander posted a 7.56 ERA in 16 2/3 IP with the Marlins and a 2.89 ERA in 9 1/3 IP for the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate last season.
- The Nationals released infielder Mike Fontenot. The veteran last played in the Majors in 2012, spending last season with the Rays' Triple-A affiliate and then signing a minor league deal with Washington in January. Formerly a staple of the Cubs infield, Fontenot has a .265/.332/.401 line over 1586 career PA with the Cubs, Giants and Phillies.
- The Cardinals outrighted Joey Butler to Triple-A Memphis. Butler, 28, made his Major League debut last season by appearing in eight games for the Rangers, following six years in the Texas farm system that saw him post a .291/.375/.442 slash line with 72 homers over 3036 PA. The outfielder was claimed off waivers by St. Louis in October.
- The Brewers released outfielder Greg Golson, who had been signed to a minor league contract in January. Golson appeared in 40 Major League games with the Phillies, Rangers and Yankees from 2008-11 and has playing in the minors ever since.
11:43pm: The Rangers are scouting the Cubs, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reports, and perhaps not just because of Kottaras. The Cubs also have infielders Darwin Barney and Donnie Murphy. The Rangers like Barney better, Sullivan writes.
4:50pm: In the wake of Soto's injury, the Rangers are considering acquiring George Kottaras of the Cubs, Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com tweets. Kottaras currently projects to back up Welington Castillo in Chicago, but the Cubs are reportedly considering rostering John Baker instead. Kottaras, 30, hit .180/.349/.370 in 126 plate appearances for the Royals last year. In response to Soto's injury, the Rangers have already signed Chris Snyder to a minor-league deal.
The Rangers also looked at Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks today, Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel tweets. As Haudricourt notes, Weeks' $11MM salary could be an impediment to a trade. Weeks hit .209/.306/.357 in 399 plate appearances with the Brewers last year.
12:08pm: Texas has checked in with several clubs with catching depth, including the Yankees, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com. Though Francisco Cervelli may be available, Olney says that there does not appear to be a fit between those two clubs.
10:50am: The Rangers have had trade talks in a bid to add depth at catcher and/or second base, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. The expected starters at those two spots -- catcher Geovany Soto and second baseman Jurickson Profar -- are each expected to miss ten to twelve weeks to open the year.
While it would be pure speculation to guess at possible trade partners in this kind of scenario, we can look at the available free agent pool for other alternatives. With the list growing as final roster decisions are made, Texas could look to players like Tony Abreu, Ronny Cedeno, or Cesar Izturis for the middle infield. Meanwhile, available catching options include recently-released players like Ramon Hernandez, Chris Snyder, and Yorvit Torrealba.
Of course, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wrote yesterday, it could be that the greater concern is with the state of the rotation. That is all the more true now, with this morning's report (via Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News) that ace Yu Darvish will miss his Opening Day start and undergo an MRI to determine the cause of his stiff neck.
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.