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Agent Josh Kusnick, who represents Orioles backstop Steve Clevenger, tells Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com that he’s unsure why the team elected to select Ryan Lavarnway‘s contract and option Clevenger to Triple-A. The sequence has Kusnick questioning Clevenger’s future in Baltimore, and he went so far as to say, “If Steve is going to lose his job to someone with no options remaining, the same age and same position, then it would be great if he could find a major league opportunity somewhere else if it’s not going to work out in Baltimore.” Kusnick says that he and Clevenger haven’t been told of a specific area that Clevenger needs to improve, and he feels that Clevenger has proven himself at the Triple-A level to the point where he should have a chance to stick in the Majors. The 28-year-old Clevenger has a strong .311/.371/.420 batting line at Triple-A (760 plate appearances) and has nearly identical numbers over the life of his Minor League career as a whole. Both the Diamondbacks and Padres have been linked to catchers in the media of late, though the D-Backs have stated that they’re not interested in adding a catcher at this time.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- With Rick Porcello now signed to a four-year extension, Justin Masterson is the only Red Sox starter not signed beyond 2015. WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford spoke to Masterson about that reality, but the 30-year-old didn’t seem fazed by pitching in a contract year for the second straight season. Masterson spoke about his decision not to take an extension with Cleveland last spring, noting that he disagreed with naysayers stating that he should’ve taken the two-year offer that was on the table. “No,” said Masterson. “I would have actually felt worse if I had taken it because I knew I wasn’t feeling good. I just think it’s based off the person. But for some people it can make it hard to play.” Masterson had physical issues from the onset of Spring Training in 2014, writes Bradford, but he’s feeling healthier this year and more focused on the season than a contract.
- Fangraphs’ David Laurila looks at the parallels between Hanley Ramirez as a 22-year-old and Xander Bogaerts, who is entering his age-22 season. Laurila interviewed Ramirez as a 22-year-old back in 2004 and sees similarities in Ramirez’s approach as an inexperienced hitter and the one presently utilized by Bogaerts. One key difference, Laurila notes, is that while Bogaerts’ .240/.297/.362 line from last year was disappointing, Ramirez batted just .271/.335/.385 at the Double-A level when he was 21 years of age. Laurila opines that we shouldn’t be surprised to see a Bogaerts breakout this summer.
- Blue Jays prospect Jeff Hoffman spoke with Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel (audio link) about his return from Tommy John surgery and the progress he’s made since college and pitching in the Cape Cod League. Hoffman, the ninth pick in the 2014 draft, feels that his command is all the way back and is looking forward to getting his Minor League career underway. McDaniel also asked Hoffman about whether or not he followed trade talks in the offseason — Hoffman was prominently mentioned in the Orioles-Blue Jays Dan Duquette talks — to which Hoffman replied that he’s aware of trade discussions but tries not to focus on them. “My agent does a good job of making me aware of what can and can’t happen, and what will happen, because a lot of the stuff out there is kind of crazy,” said Hoffman. (McDaniel also spoke to Twins prospect Nick Gordon — another 2014 draftee — about his transition to pro ball, making for a pair of interesting interviews.)
- The myriad transactions of Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos will be put to the test this year in a season that could very well determine his future with the team, writes Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. Davidi tracks much of Anthopoulos’ more notable moves, including how he masterfully manipulated the CBA’s former draft pick compensation system. Anthopoulos turned Marco Scutaro, Rod Barajas, Miguel Olivo, Scott Downs, Frank Francisco, Kevin Gregg, John Buck, Jon Rauch and Jose Molina into Aaron Sanchez, Justin Nicolino, Daniel Norris, Asher Wojciechowski, Jacob Anderson, Dwight Smith, Kevin Comer, Joe Musgrove, Matt Smoral, Mitch Nay and Tyler Gonzales — often by acquiring marginal free-agents-to-be and offering them arbitration in order to stockpile draft picks when they rejected. This year is a blend of both trades and scouting/development, and if the team fails to make the playoffs, “someone else may very well get a chance to push this team over the finish line,” Davidi writes.
Here are today’s minor transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post…
- The Diamondbacks have optioned Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, the team reports via Twitter. The club signed Tomas for $68.5MM over the offseason. He struggled both defensively and offensively this spring. A stint in Triple-A should give him time to adjust to the outfield and improve his plate approach.
- Phillies Rule 5 pick Andy Oliver has elected free agency after he was outrighted, the club announced via Twitter. The hard throwing lefty has struggled with walks throughout his career. That continued this spring with 11 walks and 22 strikeouts in 12 and two-thirds innings. The club also announced on Twitter that they reassigned catcher Rene Garcia, first baseman Russ Canzler, and infielder Cord Phelps to Triple-A.
- Marlins utility infielder Reid Brignac has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A, tweets Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. In 905 major league plate appearances, Brignac has a .222/.266/.314 line.
- Athletics pitcher Barry Zito has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A, tweets Jane Lee of MLB.com. The former star is working his way back from a one-year hiatus. He posted a 4.79 ERA in 20 and two-thirds spring innings. The 37-year-old struck out 14 and walked five. A former ninth overall pick of the A’s, the southpaw struggled after moving across the Bay to San Francisco on a seven-year, $126MM contract. That deal concluded after the 2013 season.
- The Red Sox have released Casey Crosby, Bryan LaHair, and Matt Hoffman per the MLB transactions page. Crosby was once a top prospect with the Tigers, but the 26-year-old lefty has yet to develop command. Lahair, 32, had a nice run with the Cubs in 2012 when he hit .259/.334/.450 with 16 home runs in 380 plate appearances. He spent the 2013 season in Japan and split 2014 between Cleveland’s Double and Triple-A clubs.
- The Phillies have released shortstop Tyler Greene according to the MLB transactions page. Greene, an 11th round pick, was once rated among the Phillies’ best prospects. He missed the entire 2014 season and has never posted a strikeout rate below 33 percent at any level.
- The Giants have released pitcher Edgmer Escalona per the MLB transactions page. Escalona pitched in parts of four seasons for the Rockies, accruing 100 innings. He has a career 4.50 ERA with 6.39 K/9 and 2.88 BB/9.
- The Cubs have released lefty pitcher Francisley Bueno according to the transactions page. The 34-year-old has pitched in parts of four season for the Braves and Royals. The soft tossing lefty has a career 2.98 ERA with 4.92 K/9 and 1.79 BB/9 in 60 innings. He’s a pure platoon pitcher.
- The Braves released former closer Matt Capps per MLB.com. The righty last appeared in the majors in 2012. He has a career 3.52 ERA with 6.53 K/9 and 1.72 BB/9. He’s thrown just 12 minor league innings over the last two seasons – both with the Indians.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Andy Oliver | Arizona Diamondbacks | Atlanta Braves | Barry Zito | Boston Red Sox | Bryan LaHair | Casey Crosby | Chicago Cubs | Cleveland Indians | Colorado Rockies | Cord Phelps | Detroit Tigers | Edgmer Escalona | Francisley Bueno | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Dodgers | Marc Topkin | Matt Capps | Miami Marlins | Minnesota Twins | Oakland Athletics | P.J. Walters | Philadelphia Phillies | Pittsburgh Pirates | Reid Brignac | Russ Canzler | San Francisco Giants | Seattle Mariners | St. Louis Cardinals | Susan Slusser | Tampa Bay Rays | Toronto Blue Jays | Transactions | Tyler Greene
Here’s the latest from the Twins as they head towards their Monday opener in Detroit…
- The Twins aren’t looking for starting pitching help right now as they feel they already have enough internal candidates to replace Ervin Santana, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (Twitter link). Mike Pelfrey will step into the rotation while Santana serves his 80-game suspension, with Trevor May and Alex Meyer on hand as depth options.
- Though the Twins were recently “kicking the tires” on righty Dustin McGowan, 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson reports that the former Blue Jay isn’t going to end up in Minnesota (Twitter link). The Twins are known to be seeking bullpen help, so they may yet strike a deal with a different player or pick someone up on waivers before Opening Day.
- Santana’s suspension is the latest blow to Minnesota’s recent history of free agent pitching signings, CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa writes. While the Phil Hughes signing was a big success, Pelfrey and Ricky Nolasco underachieved last season after signing multi-year deals and now Santana will miss the first half-season of his four-year, $54MM contract. While there’s still lots of time for Santana, Nolasco and Pelfrey to make good on their deals, Axisa notes that the mid-market Twins can’t afford to make expensive mistakes in free agency.
- Unsurprisingly, Twins GM Terry Ryan tells Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the club bases its decision to call up prospects not on service time, but on the player’s readiness for the majors. The service time debate could soon arise in Minnesota when star prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are close to the bigs. The Twins didn’t delay Joe Mauer‘s service clock in 2004, yet Miller observes that doing so would’ve gained the team an extra year of control over Mauer and possibly saved them some money off the $184MM extension he eventually signed.
3:57pm: The Twins have announced that Pelfrey, not May or top prospect Alex Meyer, will step into the rotation.
3:53pm: Via the MLBPA, Santana has apologized and denied ever knowingly taking a banned substance:
“This is unexpected news for me and my family. I am issuing this statement so the public knows where I stand. First, my deepest apologies to my family, fans, colleagues, teammates and my current employer the Minnesota Twins. I am very disappointed that I tested positive for a performance enhancing drug. I am frustrated that I can’t pinpoint how the substance in question entered my body. I would never knowingly take anything illegal to enhance my performance. What I can guarantee is I never knowingly took anything illegal to enhance my performance. That’s just not me, never has been and never will.”
3:38pm: Twins right-hander Ervin Santana has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for the performance enhancing drug Stanozolol, the league announced.
Clearly, this move is devastating news for a Twins team that committed $54MM — a franchise-record for free agent spending — to Santana on a four-year deal this past offseason. Santana was signed to bring stability to a Twins rotation that has been among the league’s worst in each of the past four seasons. The team has issued the following statement regarding Santana’s suspension:
“We were disappointed to learn of the suspension of Ervin Santana for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. We fully support Major League Baseball’s policy and its efforts to eliminate performance enhancing substances from our game. Per the protocol outlined in the Joint Drug Program, the Minnesota Twins will not comment further on this matter.”
Santana had projected to slot in behind Phil Hughes in the Twins rotation, joining Kyle Gibson, Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Milone in the starting five. One might imagine that Mike Pelfrey, who had previously expressed disappointment in being moved to the bullpen, might get a chance to finally provide the Twins with some healthy innings in the rotation, although I’d imagine that prospect Trevor May will at least garner some consideration as well.
Santana is slated to earn $13.5MM this season, so the Twins will recover approximately half of that sum while he is on the restricted list without pay. Nonetheless, that’s hardly a silver lining for Minnesota. Left-handed reliever Aaron Thompson has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester to take Santana’s roster spot, though no official announcement has been made as to who will step into the rotation in his stead.
Here are today’s minor transactions from around baseball, with the latest moves at the top of the post…
- The Reds outrighted right-hander Dylan Axelrod off their 40-man roster and down to Triple-A, according to the team’s official transactions page. This move will help free up space for one of the several veterans Cincinnati is looking to add to its 40-man roster. Axelrod posted a 2.95 ERA in 18 1/3 IP for the Reds last season and a 4.01 ERA in 103 1/3 innings at the Triple-A level in the Reds and White Sox organizations.
- The Phillies have put Rule 5 Draft pick Andy Oliver on waivers, CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports. If Oliver clears waivers, Salisbury notes that the Phils could try to fully obtain the lefty’s rights from the Pirates in a trade. As a Rule 5 Draft player, Oliver must spend the entire season on a 25-man roster or else be offered back to his original club (Pittsburgh).
- The Giants seem to have released left-hander Travis Blackley, as per the southpaw’s own Twitter page. Blackley tweeted his thanks to the organization for giving him a chance to pitch this spring (on a minor league deal) and used the past tense in describing the Giants as “a very classy organization that I was proud to play for!” Blackley posted a 5.23 ERA over 192 2/3 innings spread over four MLB seasons between 2004-13 with the Mariners, Giants, A’s, Astros and Rangers, and he spent the 2014 campaign pitching in Japan.
- The Twins have released left-hander Wil Ledezma, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (via Twitter). Ledezma, 34, signed a minor league deal with the Twins in December and was looking to reach the big leagues for the first time since 2011.
- The White Sox released outfielder Brian Anderson, CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes reports (via Twitter). The Sox also parted ways with two more veterans according to their team transactions page, releasing right-hander J.D. Martin and infielder Andy LaRoche.
With rosters being finalized around the league, it’s a busy time for players departing and ascending to the 40-man roster. Here’s the latest:
- The Twins announced that they’ve selected the contract of outfielder Shane Robinson, who had been in camp on a Minor League deal. The 30-year-old Robinson had previously spent his entire career in the Cardinals organization and will presumably serve as the right-handed half of a center field platoon with Jordan Schafer. Minnesota entered Spring Training hoping that Aaron Hicks would show progress and win the center field job outright, but he struggled throughout the month and was optioned to Triple-A, paving the way for Robinson to make the roster. In parts of five seasons with St. Louis, Robinson is a .231/.303/.308 hitter in 452 plate appearances. He’s received strong marks at all three outfield spots, per UZR and DRS, and he hit .283/.340/.370 in Grapefruit League action this year.
- The Reds are set to add several veterans to their 40-man roster, as John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Veteran righties Kevin Gregg and Jason Marquis will be joined by reserves Brennan Boesch and Chris Dominguez on the Opening Day roster, and all will need a 40-man spot. That crunch already led the team to outright reliever Sam LeCure, and several other slots will need to be created before things are official.
- The Rockies have selected the contract of right-hander Rafael Betancourt, the team announced last night (on Twitter). Betancourt, who will turn 40 at the end of this month, has gone through a somewhat remarkable comeback, recovering from Tommy John surgery that he underwent as a 38-year-old to return to the 40-man roster. The former Rox closer has had an excellent spring, yielding just one run on eight hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings. He adds another arm with closing experience to what is looking like a fairly murky bullpen situation in Colorado. It’s worth mentioning that setup man Rex Brothers was optioned to Triple-A and won’t be a factor in the ‘pen in the season’s early stages.
Condolences go out to the family and friends of Twins Minor League instructor/manager Riccardo Ingram, who as MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger writes, lost a battle with brain cancer yesterday at the age of 48. Ingram spent 17 seasons in the Twins organization as a manager, coach and roving hitting instructor. “It’s very sad news,” said GM Terry Ryan. “…He’s one of those guys where it would be very difficult for me to find somebody who had a bad thing to say about Riccardo Ingram.” Originally diagnosed in 2009, Ingram overcame his first bout with the disease and returned to his post with the Twins through the 2014 season. Said manager Paul Molitor: “I think we were all blessed we were able to get those five or six years with him after the original diagnosis. But it’s not easy.”
Here are a few more items from around the AL Central…
- There’s been “some progress” between the Indians and ace Corey Kluber on an extension, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link), but it remains unclear whether or not the team will strike a deal by the reported Opening Day deadline. Kluber is not yet arbitration-eligible, but a repeat of anything close to his 2014 Cy Young season would make his first price tag in arb enormous, so there’s some benefit for Cleveland to seek cost certainty at this juncture despite the fact that Kluber is a late bloomer and thus older than most extension candidates.
- Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander will open the season on the disabled list due a right triceps strain, writes MLive.com’s Chris Iott. Incredibly, this will mark the first DL stint of Verlander’s exceptional career. Though the injury is not considered serious, it’s an ominous start for the former ace after he led the AL in earned runs allowed in 2014 and struggled to a 5.63 ERA (10 runs in 16 innings) this spring. He’s tentatively slated to come off the DL on April 12.
- Also opening the season on the DL will be flamethrowing righty Bruce Rondon, who is experiencing biceps tendinitis. The injury appears to be unrelated to last year’s Tommy John surgery, but Rondon didn’t throw back-to-back days all spring and won’t be activated until he is able to do so. Manager Brad Ausmus said he doesn’t know when Rondon will throw again, via Iott. The Tigers already have a precariously thin bullpen, and the loss of Rondon for any significant chunk of time would further cloud the outlook.
- The Twins are “kicking the tires” on right-hander Dustin McGowan, who was recently released by the Dodgers, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). Via Wolfson, the Twins had interest in McGowan back in November, but their interest faded later in the offseason as he remained unsigned. Perhaps disappointing Spring Training efforts from some internal bullpen candidates have rekindled some of that interest. McGowan recorded an uninspiring 4.17 ERA in 82 innings (eight starts, 45 relief appearances) with Toronto last season, but he was much better out of the ‘pen than in the rotation, as he has been throughout his career. McGowan’s 3.79 ERA as a reliever is nearly a full run lower than his 4.78 mark as a starter, though xFIP feels he’s about the same pitcher in either role (4.30 vs. 4.32).
Earlier today the Braves claimed Rule 5 left-hander Andrew McKirahan off waivers from the Marlins — the second Rule 5 player to be claimed off waivers in the past week (the Padres also claimed Rule 5 righty Jandel Gustave of waivers from the Royals). As teams are setting their 25-man rosters, here are the most recent updates on the players selected in this year’s Rule 5 Draft…
- Right-hander J.R. Graham, selected by the Twins out of the Braves organization, has made Minnesota’s 25-man roster, according to Twins director of baseball communications Dustin Morse (on Twitter). The 25-year-old Graham rated as one of the game’s Top 100 prospects two offseasons ago, per Baseball America (No. 93) and Baseball Prospectus (No. 63) but has been slowed by injuries in recent years. This spring with the Twins, he allowed just three runs in 12 2/3 innings, though he also recorded a rather unsightly 7-to-6 K/BB ratio.
- Second baseman/outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. has beaten out Carlos Peguero for a spot on the Rangers‘ 25-man roster, tweets Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. DeShields is currently 1-for-3 in today’s game, having boosted his average to .268. DeShields, the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft, spent last season with the Astros’ Double-A affiliate, batting .236/.346/.360 with 54 steals. The speedster swiped an incredible 101 bases in 135 games across two Class-A levels in 2012. MLB.com rated DeShields as the game’s No. 66 prospect as recently as last offseason.
With teams making decisions on the final piece of their Opening Day rosters, especially regarding Article XX(B) players, we’ll keep tabs on the day’s moves to add non-roster invitees to the 40-man.
Right-handed relievers, somewhat unsurprisingly, dominate today’s news in this arena:
- Lefty specialist Joe Thatcher has been added to the Astros‘ 40-man roster, Rosenthal reports on Twitter. The Article XX(B) veteran will receive a $1MM salary and can add an additional $1.3MM through incentives. If he can return to form, Thatcher could be quite a nice addition to a Houston pen that was an area targeted heavily for upgrades this offseason.
- Fellow non-roster invitee Roberto Hernandez will also make the club, the Astros have announced. As MLBTR originally reported, Hernandez will earn $2.65MM on the year. The 34-year-old joined the fold in Houston late in the spring, but provides a sturdy and versatile presence as the club seeks to take the next step this year.
- The Twins have announced that righty Blaine Boyer is now a member of the team’s major league roster. Boyer’s deal will pay him $750K at the big league level and includes up to $100K in incentives tied to appearances, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. MLBTR’s Zach Links recently spoke with Boyer about his interesting professional journey.
- Likewise, right-handed Carlos Villanueva has been added to the Cardinals‘ 40-man roster, the club announced. That means that the veteran swingman will be entitled to a $2MM salary this year with St. Louis. Villanueva, 31, has racked up 863 2/3 MLB innings in 76 starts and over 300 relief appearances. Though he had only a 4.64 ERA last year with the Cubs, Villanueva’s peripherals earned him strong marks from ERA estimators.
- The Indians have informed righty Anthony Swarzak that he will make the pen, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune tweets. Though it does not appear he has been officially added to the 40-man, that will need to occur. The 29-year-old has a 4.48 career ERA in 439 2/3 frames at the major league level, most of them coming from the pen. Swarzak will take home a $900K salary and can earn up to $350K in incentives.
- Similarly, the Cubs have told southpaw Phil Coke that he will be on the club, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Coke had exercised his opt-out clause on Friday when he was not added to the 40-man at that time, says Rosenthal. Now, it appears he will receive the $2.25MM (and up to $900K in bonuses) that his deal allows; indeed, the team has now announced that his contract was selected.
The Twins have outrighted right-hander Stephen Pryor to Triple-A Rochester, tweets Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Twins’ 40-man roster now stands at 38, which, Miller notes, will allow the team to add a pair of non-roster invitees, presumably reliever Blaine Boyer and outfielder Shane Robinson.
The Twins acquired the 25-year-old from the Mariners last July in exchange for Kendrys Morales. Pryor, who underwent surgery to repair his latissimus dorsi muscle in 2013, excelled at Triple-A for the Twins after the trade recording a 0.89 ERA and 9.7 K/9 in 14 relief appearances covering 20 1/3 innings, but demonstrated a lack of command as evidenced by his 7.1 BB/9 rate.