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Mitch Moreland Rumors
After debating his alternatives for a little more than a week, Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery on his left ankle next Monday, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports. The Rangers expect Moreland to be healthy for Opening Day 2015.
The 28-year-old Moreland batted just .246/.297/.347 in 184 plate appearances for Texas this season despite being heavily platooned in an attempt to minimize his long-standing struggles against left-handed pitching.
General manager Jon Daniels shed some light on Moreland’s struggles in talking with Sullivan, noting that the recent ankle injury isn’t the only ailment Moreland has dealt with this season: “He has also had lower back stuff that we really didn’t talk about that he played through,” Daniels said. “In talking to him, this might put an end to the issues he has had to fight through.”
Moreland is earning $2.65MM this season as a first-time arbitration eligible player. Despite his lackluster performance and limited playing time, Moreland will likely be in line for a small raise in arbitration this coming offseason, which could make him a non-tender candidate in the offseason (as Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News noted earlier in the week).
The injury is hardly anything new for the Rangers, who have already lost Prince Fielder, Matt Harrison, Martin Perez and likely Jurickson Profar for the 2014 season. Additionally, Derek Holland has yet to throw a pitch in 2014, and Geovany Soto is not yet recovered from knee surgery he underwent in Spring Training. Texas has also lost several bullpen and bench pieces to injury.
ESPN Dallas writer and reporter Richard Durrett, whose work was often referenced in MLBTR’s pages, passed away suddenly today. In one of his final pieces, Durrett wrote an excellent assessment of Alex Rios and his value to the Rangers as a trade candidate or member of next year’s club. As we commend his work one last time, MLBTR offers its deepest condolences to Durrett’s young family, friends, and colleagues in the press box.
Here is the latest news out of the American League:
- Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland is “leaning toward” season-ending ankle surgery, GM Jon Daniels tells Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. Moreland had struggled thus far in 2014, but his absence will still tell for a Texas club that has had more than its fair share of injuries. As Fraley notes, the 28-year-old could be a non-tender candidate.
- The Mariners are in position to begin full-on negotiations with first-round (sixth overall) selection Alex Jackson, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. As Dutton explains, both sides have strong incentives to get a deal done. Jackson’s spot in the draft comes with a $3,575,900 slot allocation, but at present Seattle can dedicate as much as $3,882,900 to the high schooler before incurring penalties, Dutton notes.
- Despite their obvious need for outfield help, the Red Sox appear to have little interest in the recently-released Jason Kubel, reports Sean McAdam of Comcast SportsNet New England (via Twitter). Kubel, 32, scuffled to a .224/.313/.295 line in 176 plate appearances in his return to the Twins.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos took on a range of topics in a press appearance today, and MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm has a transcript. Addressing the team’s still-unsigned first-round choices (injured righty Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost), Anthopoulos said that he “feel[s] very confident that [deals] will get done.”
- Turning to the upcoming trade deadline, Anthopoulos said that talks are still in a preliminary stage, with teams “calling to see what everyone’s needs are.” Strongly implying that Toronto expects to be a buyer, as one would expect, Anthopoulos continued: “I think the stage that everyone is at is, where do we have fits, what teams do we line up with and then the next step is, teams are out seeing our affiliates, or are going to see our affiliates.”
- Toronto is not necessarily just focused on adding a starter, Anthopoulos said. “[W]e’ve talked about every spot,” he said. “I was just on the phone with someone that, if they have a player available [and] we have a good player at that spot but that player’s an upgrade, we’d look to do it.” At this point, said the GM, “we’re just basically canvassing the clubs to see who’s available. In some of the conversations, players we didn’t think were available are, and we’ll see where the dialogue goes.”
- All that being said, the Blue Jays still seem likely to pursue rotation help. Indeed, the club sent a scout to watch Cubs‘ righties Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija in their most recent starts, reports Bob Elliott of the Canadian Baseball Network. On the other side of the coin, scouts from the Cubs and Rays were present to watch last Thursday’s outing for Jays’ minor league lefty Daniel Norris, along with the rest of the Class-A Dunedin squad.
The Yankees‘ offense may be struggling, but former catcher Jorge Posada says that he wouldn’t be much help if he suddenly came out of retirement. “I can’t play that game anymore,” Posada told Mitch Abramson of the Daily News at last night’s Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez fight at Madison Square Garden. “It’s too fast. They’re throwing too hard. I’m happy. I think my decision was great. I couldn’t play that game anymore. It’s a tough sport.” More from around baseball:
- Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle wonders if the A’s might look to add more punch at second base. Eric Sogard, Nick Punto, and Alberto Callaspo haven’t been doing much offensively so far, but a premium second baseman would require a substantial return. The A’s won’t part with Addison Russell and minor league right-hander Raul Alcantara is hurt.
- The Rangers have lost their second first baseman to the disabled list with the news Mitch Moreland will undergo left ankle reconstruction and is expected to miss three months. In the wake of Kendrys Morales‘ signing with the Twins, ESPNDallas.com’s Richard Durrett examines the Rangers’ in-house options to replace Moreland.
- Paul Konerko was caught off-guard when he was traded by the Dodgers on the Fourth of July 16 years ago, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. “I was surprised not because I got traded, but because of the timing of the trade,” said Konerko, who was dealt to the Reds for closer Jeff Shaw. “I don’t think it really mattered what they got at that point. It didn’t seem like they were going to win.” The Dodgers, who finished third in 1998, were 12 1/2 games out of first place and eight games behind in the Wild Card race at the time of the deal. The Reds flipped Konerko to the White Sox seven months later for outfielder Mike Cameron and the rest is history for the South Siders.
- ESPN’s Keith Law breaks down the draft for each American League club (through Round Ten) in an Insider-only piece (subscription required).
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
The Rangers have avoided arbitration with first baseman Mitch Moreland by agreeing upon a $2.65MM salary for 2014, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The deal also allows him to earn $25K bonuses upon reaching 470 and 525 plate appearances, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
The 28-year-old, who figures to see plenty of time at designated hitter in the coming season, was unable to repeat his 2012 numbers upon taking over the team's primary first base job last year. Moreland slashed .232/.299/.437 in 518 plate appearances last year, including 23 home runs. The Rangers acquired Prince Fielder over the off-season, and he is expected to see most of the time at first.
Moreland, who is represented by BBI Sports Group, will earn close to the $2.638MM midpoint between his and the teams' respective filing figures. As always, power pays in arbitration, and Moreland's attractive long ball totals no doubt aided his cause. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected a very accurate $2.7MM salary for Moreland, who will go through arbitration twice more before qualifying for free agency in 2017.
Mariners righty Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to be out for four-to-six weeks with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand (Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune has the details on the injury). While the injury doesn't appear to be too serious, one wonders if it could spur the M's to bolster their rotation with a free agent starter, as the club was already rumored to be asking about Ervin Santana earlier this week.
- The Astros' increase in spending this offseason had nothing to do with a statement from MLBPA head Tony Clark that the team was being monitored for its low payroll, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. The additions of Scott Feldman, Dexter Fowler, Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and others will boost Houston's payroll to over $40MM in 2014 (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts), not counting several players making the league minimum. Owner Jim Crane noted that the Astros were willing to spend even more this winter but did not succeed in signing Masahiro Tanaka or Jose Dariel Abreu.
- Speaking with reporters (including MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan) today, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said that he has kept in touch with Nelson Cruz's representatives but he doesn't think a reunion will happen. "We check in periodically, but nothing has changed," Daniels said. "My expectation is he will sign elsewhere." Cruz has been heavily linked to the Mariners within the last week, and Texas only seems interested in re-signing Cruz if his market completely dries up.
- The Rangers' arbitration case with Mitch Moreland is a week away and Daniels said the two sides are "so close, I would like to think we would avoid it. But until you have a deal, you have to be prepared for anything." Moreland asked for a $3.25MM contract for 2014 while the Rangers countered with a $2.025MM offer.
- While the Rangers have been looking for a right-handed bat, Daniels said "We're not talking to anybody" on the free agent market. The GM hinted that Texas would turn to internal options like Michael Choice as candidates to provide a right-handed hitting balance to Moreland.
- Darren Oliver will work with the Rangers as a special assistant and will spend a week with the club during Spring Training, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Oliver retired following his 20th Major League season and is now enjoying his first (mostly) free spring in over two and a half decades. Oliver also shared a few opinions about what his former team, the Blue Jays, needs to do to improve in 2014.
- The Angels made a number of low-cost moves this offseason, a tactic MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince believes is a nod towards saving money to lock Mike Trout up to a long-term extension. Trout's future price tag is the biggest question facing the Angels franchise and "the most captivating contractual conundrum in the game today." We heard earlier today that Trout and the Angels would discuss a multiyear deal this spring.
Here are a few notes from Rangers Fan Fest, which is taking place today in Arlington.
- The Rangers aren't likely to sign Michael Young, GM Jon Daniels says (via ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett on Twitter). Instead, the Rangers will turn to internal options to find another bench infielder to pair with Adam Rosales.
- The Rangers are looking for pitching depth, Durrett writes. "I mean guys that can help our big-league club," GM Jon Daniels says. "We would have been looking for that this time of year anyways before Derek (Holland) got hurt but that changes things a little bit."
- Daniels also notes that he thinks the free-agent market is "coming out of a dead period" with recent signings of Grant Balfour, Eric O'Flaherty and Grady Sizemore.
- Mitch Moreland will be the Rangers' main designated hitter, Durrett tweets. The team will also occasionally start other players at the position. Moreland has been mentioned this offseason as a potential trade target for teams like the Brewers and Pirates who are in need of a first baseman, but the Rangers have also reportedly told Brewers GM Doug Melvin that they won't deal Moreland. Given that they have him penciled in at a starting position, that makes sense.
MLB was ready to pass expanded replay and eliminate home plate collisions at last month's Winter Meetings. However, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, the main hurdle is union approval. In an email to FOX Sports, MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark wrote the union's executive board discussed both issues "at length" during its December meeting, but "a consensus on both matters was not reached." Clark added "what has been contemplated exceeds what was agreed to" in regards to instant replay and "as it relates to home plate collisions, there are several points of view to explore with the players and we continue to do so." In today's news and notes from the American League:
- The Yankees will not make a final decision about how to handle the possibility of Alex Rodriguez reporting to Spring Training until speaking with the comissioner's office, reports ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand. One baseball official told Marchand the Yankees could send Rodriguez to their minor league camp and even go as far as instructing coaches not to hit him grounders or throw him batting practice.
- The only reason for Rodriguez to attend Spring Training is to give the media even more A-Rod headlines next month, opines Jayson Stark of ESPN. Several industry sources familiar with baseball's Basic Agreement and Joint Drug Agreement tell Stark neither agreement explicitly gives a player suspended for the season the right to attend Spring Training with one official calling the wording "intentionally vague."
- The Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League have released a statement on their Facebook page saying they will not sign A-Rod and doing so "would be a hurtful precedent." However, the San Rafael Pacifics of the independent Pacific Association are open to the possibility, tweets the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea, who first wrote about the team's interest last August. In the article, Shea notes the Pacific Association does not adhere to MLB suspensions and has no mandatory drug testing.
- Mitch Moreland told reporters, including Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com, he still isn't sure whether he will playing for the Rangers or elsewhere in 2014. "They’ve definitely made a lot of moves and have been very active this offseason," Moreland said. "From what I know right now, I’m still here and still a Texas Ranger and happy to be here and looking forward to the season." Earlier today, we learned Texas has been unwilling to discuss Moreland in trade talks. If that remains the case, Moreland says he has been told his role will be changing and he will use Spring Training to prepare himself to play first base, the outfield, and DH.
- The Twins are still showing no interest in exploring multi-year pacts with any of their three arbitration eligible players, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a total of $4.8MM for the trio of Trevor Plouffe, Brian Duensing, and Anthony Swarzak. In a separate tweet, Berardino reports an arbitration hearing will probably not be needed for Swarzak because the salary gap should be pretty narrow. The filing deadline is Tuesday.
- After sitting out 2013, Chone Figgins wants to play this season and will work out for teams in Tampa this week, tweets ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. After a .298/.395/.393 line with the Angels in 2009, Figgins signed a four-year, $36MM deal with the Mariners and proceeded to struggle in Seattle with a .227/.302/.283 slash over the life of the contract.
The trade of Norichika Aoki to the Royals for southpaw Will Smith was "was coaxed primarily by Aoki's agent to assure more playing time," Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Khris Davis' impressive rookie season put him in line for a starting job in 2014, and with Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez locked into the other two starting outfield spots, Aoki was looking at a reduced role with the Brewers next season.
Here's some more Brewers news from Haudricourt's chat with Brewers GM Doug Melvin…
- Melvin reiterated his stance that the Brewers' lack of major offseason moves is due to the belief that the team will improve simply with the continued development of young players and the returns of suspended or injured stars like Braun or Aramis Ramirez.
- The Brewers pursued James Loney, who instead re-signed with the Rays for a three-year, $21MM contract. "We knew if he had the same deal he was probably going to go back to Tampa," Melvin said. Indeed, Loney said that he chose the Rays' contract over similar offers from not just the Brewers, but also the Pirates and Astros.
- Melvin cited some interest in Justin Morneau, who signed with the Rockies last month, but the GM sounded as if he wasn't particularly enamored with the free agent options at first base. "The list wasn't very good. It's one of those years where the position we needed, there were fewer opportunities to get someone," Melvin said.
- In also noting that the trade market for first baseman was thin, Melvin acknowledged he had at least had discussions with the Rangers and Mariners. "There just aren't available guys. Texas, at this point, is not willing to talk about [Mitch] Moreland. Seattle is not interested in moving their guys. So, there aren't a lot of choices."
- The Brewers didn't have much available payroll space this offseason but extra money would've been there if the situation warranted. "We haven't increased it that much, but if the right player was there I would go to (team owner) Mark (Attanasio) and say it's the right player," Melvin said. "When it comes to payroll, we're always guarded to make sure that we don't put ourselves in a hole or a bind that we can't get out of two years from now or three years from now. Our payroll will be in a much better position next year in that regard." The Brewers have only $39.1MM committed for 2015 as Ramirez, Yovani Gallardo and Tom Gorzelanny all come off the books next winter, plus Rickie Weeks seems unlikely to receive the 600 PA he needs this season to trigger his $11.5MM vesting option for 2015.
In his latest column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe revealed that he is part of a BBWAA committee that will explore the Hall of Fame voting process and discuss what changes (if any) need to be made. Some of the issues likely to be addressed by the committee is whether to allow voters to name more than 10 players on their ballots, whether or not long-time broadcasters or statistical analysis-centric writers should be given a say in HOF voting.
Here's the latest hot stove news from Cafardo…
- Two new teams have joined the hunt for Bronson Arroyo. At least one of his suitors is moving closer to giving Arroyo the third contract year he's looking for, though that third year could come in the form of a vesting option. Cafardo isn't sure if the Twins were that mystery team, though they've been interested in Arroyo all winter. He also cites the Yankees and Phillies as interested parties, as those two clubs join the likes of the Orioles, Mets and Pirates as those linked to the veteran righty this winter. Cafardo reported last month that Arroyo has received two-year contract offers from four different teams.
- Free agent Lyle Overbay is an option for both the Astros and Brewers at first base. Milwaukee is also still considering signing Michael Young for first, or trading for Mitch Moreland of the Rangers.
- Agent Scott Boras says “there are five or six teams who I have actively talked to concerning Stephen [Drew],” including the Red Sox. As you might expect, Boras denied that Drew's market is in any way limited, noting that Drew doesn't have a new contract yet since "free agency is a long process. It just doesn’t end at Christmas. It’s a January, February, and even a March process."
- Boras "has a tremendous stake in the Red Sox’ present and future," Cafardo writes, noting that the agent represents not just Drew, but also top youngsters Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley and Deven Marrero.
- "The silence on [Kendrys] Morales is deafening," as teams are reluctant to give up a first round draft pick as compensation for the slugger. At least one team said they're leery about spending significant money for a DH, though Boras, Morales' agent, counters by noting the impact that David Ortiz has had on the Red Sox and also noting that his client can play first base.
- Johnny Damon has stayed in shape and would be willing to resume his career. The 40-year-old hinted at retirement if he couldn't find a contract last offseason and indeed Damon ended up sitting out the 2013. Damon is also a Boras client, and the agent tells Cafardo that Damon has yet to contact him about officially retiring.
- Manny Ramirez wants to continue his career, his hitting coach David Segui predicts, though Segui hasn't spoken to Ramirez in over two months. “Manny will always be able to hit,” Segui said. “He loves to play, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s still looking for something.” Ramirez's agent, Barry Praver, said in November that his client looking for a return to the Majors. Ramirez, 41, last played with the bigs with the Rays in 2011 before being suspended for PED use. Over the last two years, Ramirez spent some time with the Athletics' and Rangers' Triple-A affiliates and also played in Taiwan.
- A National League GM predicts that one of Masahiro Tanaka's many suitors will "come in and blow everyone away. There’s going to be a dance where everyone is in the same boat and then there will be a team that breaks the bank for him.”
The Jose Veras signing makes sense for the Cubs since he comes at an affordable rate, has experience, and can groom the younger guys like Pedro Strop, opines Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com (via Twitter). Earlier tonight, the Cubs agreed to sign Veras to a one-year, $4MM deal with a $5.5MM club option for 2015. Here's more out of the AL and NL Central..
- Before agreeing to his deal with the Cubs, Veras tells Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (on Twitter) that he also had an offer from the Mariners. The Rockies and Astros were also among the clubs with reported interest.
- Even after the Mike Pelfrey agreement, the Twins are maintaining dialogue with Johan Santana's representatives, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter). For his part, Santana is very open to a return.
- Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel checked in with Brewers GM Doug Melvin and it doesn't sound like the club is closing in on a first base solution. "It's pretty quiet," said Melvin. "We know all the names. It's a small group. Nothing changes from one day to the next. Ike Davis is the one player people talk about. Other than that, there's not much available." Haudricourt also asked Melvin about Rangers' first baseman Mitch Moreland, but Melvin says that at last check, Texas said they won't move him.
- With multiple question marks, David Schoenfield of ESPN.com feels that the Pirates are likely to regress in 2014.