- Brady Aiken Undergoes Tommy John Surgery
- Chris Tillman, Orioles Begin Extension Discussions
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- Twins Extend Brian Dozier
- White Sox Extend Adam Eaton
- Rangers Release Joe Beimel
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- Dodgers To Sign Cuban Pitcher Pablo Millan Fernandez
- Rockies Release Jhoulys Chacin
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Minnesota Twins Rumors
While Kris Bryant‘s situation is grabbing all of the headlines in Chicago (and nationally, for that matter), Jon Morosi of FOX Sports believes that another Chicago phenom — White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon — is making a strong case for the Opening Day roster as well. Morosi argues that the ChiSox are running out of reasons not to bring last year’s No. 3 overall pick north with the team, as the lefty has whiffed 19 hitters in 12 1/3 innings thus far and recently struck out nine of 16 Royals hitters in a four-inning effort. The Sox will need a pitching boost early in the season, he adds, with Chris Sale unavailable for Opening Day and veterans such as John Danks and Brad Penny struggling. Starting Rodon’s service clock early isn’t as problematic as it would be in the case of Bryant (or any position player), Morosi writes, because the Sox could use the All-Star break as a means of limiting his innings and also regaining enough service time to delay his free agency by a year. Rodon could strategically be optioned to Triple-A in advance of his final first-half start, then have his second-half debut delayed as late as possible.
- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told reporters, including MLive.com’s James Schmehl, that there’s no competition for the closer job, which firmly belongs to Joe Nathan. The 40-year-old Nathan is coming off perhaps his worst season since becoming a closer and has struggled further this spring, while setup man Joakim Soria has been excellent, but no change is imminent. Soria spoke to Schmehl about pitching in a setup capacity and admitted that he’s “not excited” about not being a closer, though he added that pitching the eighth inning isn’t much different, and he’ll be happy pitching in any role. MLBTR will again be tracking all closer-related situations with our @Closernews Twitter account this season, for those who play fantasy baseball and want to stay current.
- Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that while most believed Danny Salazar was capable of breaking camp in the Indians’ rotation, the right-hander has done nothing to deserve that spot and should be passed over for Zach McAllister, at least in the short term. McAllister is out of Minor League options and was believed to be ticketed for bullpen duty, but using him in the rotation early on would give Salazar some much-needed time to regroup at Triple-A. Manager Terry Francona voiced disappointment in Salazar’s spring thus far, Pluto writes, noting that his stuff is still electric, but the results and control haven’t been there.
- Non-roster invitee Shane Robinson has made a good impression on the Twins in camp thus far, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The 30-year-old Robinson is battling for an outfield job with the Twins and has batted .257/.333/.371 in 39 plate appearances. He’d likely only make the team in the event that both Aaron Hicks and Eddie Rosario were optioned to Triple-A, however, Berardino notes. Robinson tells Berardino that a number of teams called him once he became a Minor League free agent this winter, but a very candid 25-minute phone conversation with GM Terry Ryan and the Twins’ strong early interest led him to select Minnesota. The former Cardinal has an April 2 opt-out date and would earn $550K in the Majors, Berardino reports.
The Twins are looking to add bullpen help, two sources tell La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The club is looking to add at least one and possibly two hurlers to their relief corps, possibly through trades or via waiver wire pickups as teams make roster cuts at the end of Spring Training.
“This bullpen has been a topic of conversation at headquarters,” Neal writes, and it “isn’t surprising” that Minnesota is looking for reinforcements given that their pen has an overall lack of experience and pitchers who can miss bats. Getting another left-hander could be a specific need, Neal notes. Besides closer Glen Perkins, the Twins have Brian Duensing and Caleb Thielbar as their primary lefty bullpen arms. Southpaw Aaron Thompson has had a good Spring Training and may have gotten himself in the mix, though the 28-year-old has only 15 career Major League innings to his name.
Twins relievers ranked 21st in the league in ERA (3.73), 24th in fWAR (0.9), 29th in xFIP (4.18) and dead last in strikeouts per nine innings (6.66 K/9). Perhaps the biggest issue facing Minnesota’s bullpen is Perkins’ health, as the star closer has missed most of Spring Training with an oblique injury, though he is back pitching now and is expected to be ready for Opening Day.
If all the high-profile moves the White Sox have made this offseason don’t work out, the organization plans to be “nimble” in trying to contend in 2016 and beyond, GM Rick Hahn tells MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “Knock on wood, given the young players that we have in the organization now and the ones we have coming and players under control for the next several years, I don’t think that what happens in ’15 is going to cause us to take a significant step backwards in terms of that plan,” says Hahn. “It just may have us reallocate assets to future seasons so that we can get back on track quickly.” That might suggest that the White Sox could trade someone like Jeff Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency after 2015, if the team doesn’t contend this summer. That stands to reason, of course, although it’s somewhat rare to hear a GM describe contingency plans in a year in which his team is expected to contend. Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- Twins infielder Brian Dozier‘s new extension contains a few potential bonuses, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Dozier can make $100K for winning and MVP or World Series MVP award, plus $25K for Gold Gloves or All-Star appearances.
- The Cubs haven’t yet decided whether Javier Baez will make the team out of camp, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com writes. “You put your present and future hat on. In the present tense, there has to be some adjustments made at the plate; future tense, I can see all those things coming together,” says manager Joe Maddon. Baez hit nine homers in 229 big-league plate appearances last year, but struck out in 41% of his plate appearances. As Tim Dierkes noted in today’s Offseason In Review post on the Cubs, Baez is part of a hazy middle infield picture in Chicago.
- Royals reliever Ryan Madson says he has an opt-out at the end of Spring Training, but he hasn’t thought about exercising it, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Madson, who has not appeared in the big leagues since 2011, is simply enjoying getting back to pitching after years of injury troubles.
The Rays will honor the late Don Zimmer by announcing that his #66 jersey will be retired in a ceremony on Opening Day. Zimmer only wore #66 for one season during his 11 years as a senior advisor for the Rays, as he increased his uniform number by one every season to reflect how many years he had spent in baseball. The beloved long-time coach, manager and player passed away last June.
- Using Max Scherzer‘s signing with the Nationals as an example, Scott Boras discusses how he markets (though the agent dislikes that term) and presents his major free agent clients in an interview with Bloomberg’s Joshua Green. Boras and his staff identify which teams are ideal fits for his clients and then specifically tailors each pitch to relate to each team owner during negotiations. With Scherzer, Boras had four lengthy meetings with Nats owner Ted Lerner highlighting how Scherzer would create more value to the franchise both baseball-wise and from a business perspective.
- MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo debate which club has had the best farm system of the last five years. Callis chose the Nationals since they’ve found more superstar talent, while Mayo picked the Cardinals due to their system’s overall depth.
- The possibility of an international draft has been a topic of discussion throughout baseball lately, with proponents like commissioner Rob Manfred advocating a “single modality of entry” to allow consistency in the way MLB teams sign amateurs from various parts of the world. Flipping the idea around, however, Rob Neyer of FOX Sports suggests that MLB could instead ensure consistency by abolishing the amateur draft. Instead of a draft, MLB could allow teams to spend a predetermined amount on amateur players (be they domestic or international) each year. Neyer favors doing so in such a way that would stop baseball from penalizing winning by having the top teams take lower draft picks. The idea could also be easily modified so that teams with the worst records would be able to spend more money. In either case, Neyer believes his system would encourage all teams to hunt for talent both at home and abroad.
- It’s becoming rare to see pre-arbitration players sign extensions that don’t cover at least one free agent year, yet Brian Dozier‘s new contract with the Twins is such a deal, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards writes in his analysis of the extension. Edwards thinks more players could possibly pursue “a safe deal” like Dozier’s if they “place an emphasis on getting to free agency.”
- Orlando Hudson is in the Diamondbacks‘ camp to work with the infield, though he plans to be back on a diamond in more than an instructor role, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports (via Twitter). Hudson hopes to play winter ball and attempt a Major League comeback for the 2016 season. The 37-year-old former Gold Glove second baseman last played in the bigs in 2012 and had seemingly hung up his spikes following brief stints in the Mexican and Dominican winter leagues in 2013.
It’s already been a busy day for AL Central news. We’ve learned Corey Kluber and the Indians aren’t close in contract negotiations, MLBTR’s Zach Links has a pair of interviews with Twins GM Terry Ryan and right-hander Mike Pelfrey, and Minnesota also grabbed headlines by inking second baseman Brian Dozier to a four-year, $20MM extension. Here’s even more from around the division…
- Dozier, Ryan, Twins assistant GM Rob Antony and Dozier’s agent Damon Lapa discussed the contract during a press conference today (Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has the details). The two sides discussed extensions of up to eight years in length, but they instead settled on a deal that only covers Dozier’s arbitration years and doesn’t include any club options. “In Brian’s case, we felt it important to restrict the club’s ability at the back end of the contract to have any options or anything like that,” Lapa said. “To us that resulted in a shorter term, but we feel in the long run that’s in Brian’s best interests. It preserves his ability to hit free agency on time at 31 as opposed to some of the other players who will be in their mid-30s.”
- While retaining the ability to test free agency was a key point for Dozier, he made it clear that he would like to spend the rest of his career in Minnesota. He’s quite open to a future extension with the team and “hopefully this [contract] is a stepping stone for something possibly even longer.”
- “There are rumblings some talks are in the works” between David Price and the Tigers about an extension, Tony Paul of the Detroit News writes. Price said two weeks ago that there hadn’t been any negotiations between the two sides but he expected the club to approach him before the start of the season.
- Also from Paul’s piece, he suggests the Tigers should explore extending J.D. Martinez or Nick Castellanos now in order to gain cost certainty over the young players, pick up another year or two of team control and possibly score a bargain if they keep producing. While I’m sure the Tigers would take a team-friendly figure if they could find it (especially with Martinez coming off a huge 2014 season), they might be more inclined to wait a bit longer to make sure of what they really have in either player.
- Royals lefty Brandon Finnegan will begin the season at Double-A, the team announced yesterday. Finnegan, the Royals’ first-round draft pick last July, was fast-tracked to the majors after just 27 minor league innings and he made some important bullpen appearances for K.C. during their playoff run. There was some question as to whether Finnegan would pitch out of the Royals’ bullpen again on Opening Day or if he’d continue developing as a starter at Triple-A, though GM Dayton Moore tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that the move to Double-A was made because “we’re still learning about Brandon.” Pitch counts and workload were also factors, though Moore was pleased with how Finnegan accounted for himself while in the bigs.
Phil Hughes was two years away from free agency but both he and the Twins realized that they wanted to hammer out something for the long term. In December, Hughes agreed to a three-year extension that will pay him $42MM but also allow him to cash in again at the age of 32.
For both sides, the deal appeared to be a win-win. The Twins locked up Hughes following his best season to date and Hughes will get to hit the open market roughly at the same age as James Shields when he inked a four-year, $75MM deal with the Padres in February. In a pre-game scrum with the Twins’ beat writers on Monday, I asked GM Terry Ryan if the club ever pushed for a longer deal with the right-hander.
“I think that’s kind of where our comfort level was, he was signed for two and we tacked on more…In essence, I think that’s where we felt pretty comfortable in terms of his age and what he accomplished in his life and all that stuff,” Ryan said. “We were comfortable with it and so was he. At the end of the deal he’ll be  and that’s getting to an age when you start to have a bit of…concern at that point but then again, that’s how old Ervin Santana is and we signed him to a four-year deal. He’s a young guy, he’s been around for a long time. That’s what happens when you sign out of high school and move into the majors quickly.”
Meanwhile, this spring, Eduardo Escobar has presented the Twins with one of those good problems to have. Escobar’s production at the plate has made some wonder if he could force shortstop Danny Santana back to the outfield, unseating Aaron Hicks. I asked Ryan about that possibility and he seemed to downplay the chances of that happening.
“No, we’re still going with that path, there’s still competition but Santana is certainly playing well at short. Paul [Molitor] said he’d like him to be there if he plays well and to this point he has. Escobar has had a fine spring and I’ve stated this many times. It’s going to be tough to get him out of that position because he played well last year and he played well this spring,” Ryan said. “I don’t think I’m prepared right now to tell you who is going to play center and I’m not prepared to tell you who is going to play short, but Hicks is certainly in the mix and Santana is in the mix.”
Later, Escobar saw some time in the outfield in an effort to get him comfortable with playing multiple positions off the bench, as Ryan explained to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger and other reporters after the game.
In a spring start against the Phillies on Monday, Mike Pelfrey made his final argument for joining the Twins rotation. Unfortunately for the right-hander, a few bad breaks (including Cody Asche‘s two-run smash early in the afternoon) might have punched his ticket for the bullpen. The veteran has been in a strange spot this spring; while Pelfrey was fighting hard to make the starting five, he also knew there was a good chance that he would be asked to pitch out of the bullpen instead. One might see the uncertainty as a potential stumbling block in Pelfrey’s preseason preparation, but he refused to make excuses in a postgame chat with reporters.
“It hasn’t been that big of an issue. It’s all about routine. I’m not saying I can’t do it, I’ve just never done it. I’m a competitor, so I’ll make an adjustment if I need to. At the end of the day, pitching is still pitching,” Pelfrey explained, while adding that he’s “at peace” with what he’s shown over the past few weeks.
Between his seven years with the Mets and his two seasons with the Twins, Pelfrey has made a grand total of four relief appearances. Of course, during his time in New York, the former No. 9 overall pick had fans dreaming that he would blossom into an ace. For all we know, Pelfrey could have been on his way to that status in 2012 before he tore his UCL after three solid outings in April. Later that year, the Mets elected to non-tender Pelfrey rather than wait and see how things would shake out for him after surgery. I asked Pelfrey if he wishes that he had gotten another chance to put it all together in New York.
“I understood the business side of it, when they non-tendered me the GM [Sandy Alderson] actually called me and said that he appreciates everything I did there. I have no problems with that. I get it,” said the 31-year-old. “Then the Twins called and I have some family in Minnesota and I thought, man, this is a good opportunity, and like I said, I came back early [from Tommy John surgery]. Now is probably the best I’ve felt since I’ve been in Minnesota.”
Pelfrey would rather be gearing up every fifth game, but he says he’ll do just fine pitching out of the pen and he’s prepared to do whatever is asked of him to help the Twins win. However, one has to wonder if he could be helping another team in need of a starter instead. A contending club with a hole in its rotation could do a lot worse than adding Pelfrey, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Twins received calls on him once the season starts.
The Twins have gained cost certainty over a key piece of their lineup after announcing a four-year, $20MM extension for second baseman Brian Dozier. The deal will pay Dozier $2MM this season, $3MM in 2016, $6MM in 2017 and $9MM in 2018. There isn’t any no-trade protection in the contract, as noted during the club’s press conference (hat tip to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). Dozier is represented by Damon Lapa of All Bases Covered Sports Mangaement.
The extension gives Dozier a raise for 2015 (he was already contracted for $590K as a pre-arbitration player) and covers his three years of arbitration eligibility. There weren’t any option years attached to the deal, so the 27-year-old Dozier is still on track to become a free agent following the 2018 season.
Looking at other recent extensions for second basemen with between 2-3 years of service time, Dozier’s deal has fewer years and dollars than the contracts signed by Matt Carpenter and Jason Kipnis within the last 13 months. Carpenter received six years and $52MM (plus an $18.5MM club option) from the Cardinals while Kipnis received six years/$52.5MM (plus a $16.5MM club option) from the Indians. If you look at just the first four years of those two contracts, however, both Carpenter and Kipnis received $22MM guaranteed over that span, so Dozier’s deal is a fair comparable. (It’s also worth noting that Carpenter and Kipnis were both coming off overall stronger seasons prior to their extensions.)
The two sides were known to be discussing an extension earlier this month, and the Twins in fact first explored locking Dozier up last offseason. “Many scenarios were discussed,” ESPN 1500’s Darren Wolfson reports, and Wolfson was a little surprised the Twins didn’t look to add at least one option year onto the deal. On the one hand, if Dozier keeps producing, the Twins now face paying a lot more for his 2019 season and beyond if they want to keep him. That said, the Twins would obviously be ecstatic if Dozier keeps hitting since it will make their four-year/$20MM commitment look like a bargain, yet the deal is also short enough that it gives Minnesota flexibility if Dozier comes back to earth. From Dozier’s perspective, he scores one big payday now and still has the freedom to test the open market at age 31.
An eighth-round pick as a shortstop in the 2009 draft, Dozier has produced two solid seconds as Minnesota’s everyday second baseman. He hit .242/.345/.416 with 23 homers, 21 steals and 112 runs in 2014, posting the fifth-highest fWAR (4.8) of any second baseman in baseball. Most of that value came with the bat as Dozier is still a bit of a work in progress at second (a -4.4 UZR/150 and no Defensive Runs Saved last year), though it seems to be a tradeoff the Twins are happy to make for 20-20 production from the keystone. The power is something of a new development for Dozier — he’s already hit 47 home runs over his 1670 Major League plate appearances after hitting only 16 homers over 1613 minor league PA.
Photo courtesy of Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports Images
In March, it’s not uncommon to see over-the-hill veterans in camp looking to extend their careers for just one more season. By the same token you don’t normally see marketable 30-year-old players call it quits, but that’s what reliever Blaine Boyer did three years ago. Boyer didn’t fall out of love with baseball, but he was decidedly heartsick and missing his family back home. When the right-hander told his wife Ginsey that he wanted to retire and potentially leave a mountain of money on the table, she understood the way he felt and the reasons behind his decision.
“I grew up in a household that was broken early. My parents divorced when I was three and there was just so much inconsistency there,” Boyer told MLBTR in the Twins’ dugout prior to their afternoon contest against the Phillies. “I’ve had to live with that for a long time. I was coming and going and I wasn’t consistently there for my boys and my wife and that brought back a lot of what I went through when I was little, so she understood that. It wasn’t about me not wanting to play baseball anymore, it was much deeper.”
While Boyer’s sabbatical from the game effectively amounted to a boxer’s retirement, he was confident that he was done with baseball for good. When the pull of the sport was too strong for Boyer to resist, he and his wife came up with an unorthodox game plan: she and their two young sons would travel with Boyer on the road as much as humanly possible throughout the season.
Boyer, 33, feels as though he has found the right balance between being an active parent and doing what he feels he was put on this planet to do professionally.
“The boys, they’re 3 and 4 now, they’re at the point where they’re kind of expecting baseball season and they love it. My wife especially, she loves the atmosphere of the games, she loves sitting back and eating a hot dog, watching the boys and the seventh inning stretch and it’s just so much fun for her to be their mother watching them watch their daddy,” Boyer said. “For me, I’m able to experience this as their father and my wife always being with me, it’s kind of like the Boyer family adventure and it’s a blessing.”
For the right-hander, traveling with the family entourage means that he doesn’t have to live with regret in the present or in the future.
“I feel like God has given me the ability to throw a baseball and he hasn’t given that many people this kind of ability. So, when I have to answer to him about the gifts he has given me, I don’t want to have to say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry I wasted that one.’ On top of that, I didn’t want to be 60 years old and thinking what might have been,” Boyer explained. “So, the whole no regrets mindset and still playing baseball gives me the opportunity stand up and talk about family and talk about God. Helping people understand my relationship with Jesus Christ is important to me.”
Boyer has taken his family with him all over the map, even internationally in 2013 when he pitched for Japan’s Hanshin Tigers. Boyer, who bristled at the thought of takoyaki and some of the country’s more adventurous cuisine, experienced a bit of culture shock, but he also fell in love with Japan’s baseball culture and its people. It also helped that friend Jason Standridge was pitching with Hanshin and, of course, his family was by his side.
For now, the Boyer family adventure has landed the traveling clan in Minnesota, but that could change in a matter of days. The reliever has a March 30th opt-out clause that can be exercised if he has not been added to the 40-man roster by that time. Boyer doesn’t know how that will play out yet, but he’ll have his own personal cheering section with him no matter where he winds up.
Twins infielder Eduardo Escobar is now represented by Barry Praver and Scott Shapiro, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press writes. Escobar had previously been represented by MDR Sports Management, according to MLBTR’s Agency Database. As Berardino notes, Praver and Shapiro also represent Escobar’s Twins teammates Oswaldo Arcia and Tommy Milone.
Escobar, 26, hit .275/.315/.406 in a breakout season in 2014, playing mostly shortstop but also logging significant time at second and third. He’s on track to become eligible for arbitration for the first time following the 2015 season.