Mitch Moreland Rumors

Trade Notes: A’s, Gallardo, Reds, Jays, Padres, Victorino

The sense among the industry is that the Athletics are now “open for business,” tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. The A’s, Olney notes, have pieces that figure to draw widespread interest, including free-agents-to-be Scott Kazmir and Ben Zobrist. I’d add that Tyler Clippard is another impending free agent, and right-hander Jesse Chavez is a relatively short-term asset that’s broken out over the past 18 months as well. (Chavez is controlled through 2016.) Josh Reddick has drawn inquiry from the division-rival Angels, although reports at the time indicated that Oakland had no interest in moving its right fielder.

We’re nine days from the trade deadline, so trade action should escalate rapidly in the coming week. Here’s more from around the league…

  • FOX’s Ken Rosenthal wrote last night that the Rangers aren’t motivated to trade Mitch Moreland, and ESPN’s Jayson Stark hears the same thing (Twitter link). According to Stark, the only player that the Rangers are strongly marketing is right-hander Yovani Gallardo — another player who is eligible for free agency at season’s end. Gallardo is having a nice rebound season in his first year with Texas, and Moreland’s strong season has gone somewhat unheralded; the 29-year-old is batting .287/.333/.529 with 16 homers. He’s still struggling against lefties, though a bit less so than in previous years.
  • Via MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon (Twitter link), Reds general manager Walt Jocketty has spoken with a number of clubs about trades but has yet to receive what the Cincinnati front office considers to be a compelling offer. Said the veteran GM: “We’ve been talking with a lot of different people but we haven’t been receiving offers that have us wanting to commit.”
  • Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets that the Blue Jays and Padres have had recent discussions about pitchers — both relievers and starters. San Diego starters Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, James Shields and Ian Kennedy have all seen their names surface on the rumor mill of late, though it would seem that Shields, at least, is too expensive for Toronto from a financial standpoint. Joaquin Benoit stands out, to me, as the most obvious trade candidate for the Padres in the bullpen.
  • Though the Mets are in need of outfield help, a source tells Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter link) that the Red SoxShane Victorino is of no interest to them. That’s not exactly shocking to hear, given Victorino’s $13MM salary and meager .247/.333/.306 batting line in 2015.

Quick Hits: Anderson, Vargas, Moreland

There were two potentially significant injuries tonight for teams already expected to be active in the market for starting pitching at the trade deadline. Here’s the latest at the end of a busy day of news and rumors:

  • Dodgers lefty Brett Anderson left his start with what the team described as irritation in his left Achilles tendon area, as Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports in a series of tweets (1, 2, 3, 4). Anderson said he hopes it’s not a significant injury, while manager Don Mattingly indicated it was too soon to tell whether a DL stint would be required. MRI testing tomorrow should offer additional clarity. Needless to say, any absence from Anderson would exacerbate an already difficult situation in the back of the Los Angeles rotation. GM Farhan Zaidi acknowledged as much, as Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles tweets“I don’t know that we could ratchet up our search for starting pitching any more,” said Zaidi, “but this emphasizes the need to add.”
  • Meanwhile, fresh off a rehab stint, Royals starter Jason Vargas was forced out after experiencing left medial elbow pain, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter. He, too, will need an MRI to assess his condition. Kansas City had just demoted Opening Day starter Yordano Ventura, who could be recalled if Vargas hits the DL. But the team was already said to be looking to add to its stockpile of starters, so any uncertainty regarding Vargas could increase the team’s needs over the next ten days.
  • In what may be a thin market for bats, the Rangers have received plenty of calls on first baseman Mitch Moreland, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Moreland has enjoyed a breakout campaign, but Texas is fading and is over-loaded with left-handed bats going forward. With another year of control remaining (after playing this year at only $2.95MM), Moreland could be a solid first base/DH addition for a team that could reap more value from him than can the Rangers. But Texas “would likely want at least a young starting pitcher” in return, says Rosenthal, and it appears more likely at this point that he’ll be retained.

AL Notes: Hamilton, Ventura, Graham, Texas, Hassan

The Angels signing of Josh Hamilton has set the franchise back in ways other than financial, opines Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. During the 2012 offseason, the Angels decided to invest their payroll in Hamilton rather than make a serious bid to retain Zack Greinke. The five-year, $125MM contract forced GM Jerry DiPoto to cut corners when building his pitching staff for the 2013 sesaon and eventually he had to deal bats like Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick to acquire young arms (Hector Santiago, Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney) over the next two offseasons. Shaikin posits the Angels’ lineup is a Mike Trout injury away from being devasted.

Elsewhere in the American League:

  • With public criticism mounting against White Sox manager Robin Ventura, first baseman Jose Abreu came to the defense of his skipper, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune tweets. “If the people want someone to blame, it’s the players, not Robin,” Abreu said.
  • Twins Rule 5 pick J.R. Graham is here to stay, manager Paul Molitor tells reporters, including Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press (on Twitter). “He’s going to be here all year,” the manager said. Graham threw two scoreless innings to close out the Twins’ 13-3 beating of the White Sox this afternoon.
  • The Rangers will have a logjam at first base once Mitch Moreland recovers from his elbow surgery, but they won’t be able to move some of the surplus to the outfield because of the injury history of Moreland and Kyle Blanks, reports Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News. Moreland says there was only one bone chip (a little bigger than the size of a watermelon seed) that needed to be removed from his elbow, tweets FOXSportsSouthwest.com’s Anthony Andro.
  • Indications are the continuing waiver wire saga of outfielder Alex Hassan (who has been claimed five times over the past seven months after being picked up by the A’s yesterday) will prompt the MLBPA to make this an issue during the next round of collective bargaining, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. The concern is the procedural movement hampers a prospect’s development, a sentiment echoed by Hassan. “You’re just behind,” Hassan said. “Do I prefer to be claimed by another team and have to break my lease and have to move my family and have to go find another apartment and take another short-term lease and get settled — and have to perform right away, knowing you’re the last guy on the 40-man roster? Or would it be better to stay where you are and get some stability and hopefully play well enough to where you might earn your way back up there? I don’t know the answer to that.


Injury Notes: Bradley, Moreland, Ottavino, Montero

The D-Backs announced today that they’ve placed right-hander Archie Bradley on the 15-day DL with a sinus fracture that was sustained in a frightening scene during last night’s game. Bradley was struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of Carlos Gonzalez, though he was eventually able to leave the field under his own power. The situation could have been much worse, considering the reported 115 mph exit velocity on the Gonzalez line-drive; indeed, Steve Gilbert of MLB.com writes that the D-Backs’ promising young righty should be able to return right after his DL stint. To this point in the season, Bradley had been a bright spot for the Snakes, working to a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings.

A few more injury-related notes worth keeping an eye on…

  • Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland underwent surgery today to remove bone chips from his elbow and will be out for at least two to three weeks, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. This is already the second time that the issue has plagued Moreland this season, though the first occurrence was treated with anti-inflammatory medication and rest. However, the problem flared back up after Moreland made a diving play in the field, and he’s undergoing to procedure to prevent the elbow from “locking up” again.
  • Rockies closer Adam Ottavino told MLB.com’s Barry Bloom that he’s worried about the arm injury that landed him on the disabled list. Originally placed on the DL with triceps inflammation, further tests have revealed that the source of Ottavino’s discomfort is closer to his elbow. Ottavino will see team doctor Thomas Noonan when the team returns to Denver on Monday.
  • Mets right-hander Rafael Montero will have an MRI performed after reporting right shoulder discomfort following his most recent start, writes MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. Montero was optioned to Triple-A following the outing, but as DiComo notes, the option would be rescinded if it’s determined that Montero is injured and would require a DL stint. The Mets have already lost Zack Wheeler for the season, and though Montero isn’t currently being counted on to contribute to the Major League rotation, an injury would thin their pitching depth and perhaps reduce the chances of a potential Dillon Gee trade down the line.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

Earlier today, the Twins avoided arbitration with Jordan Schafer by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.55MM. We’ll keep track of the remainder of today’s smaller moves to avoid arb here in this post (with all projections courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)…

  • First baseman Mitch Moreland has reached agreement on a one-year deal to avoid arbitration with the Rangers, the club announced in a press release. Moreland will earn $2.95MM with the chance at $25K in bonuses, Jeff Wilson of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram reports on Twitter. Moreland filed at $3.35MM and the team countered at $2.75MM, with the 29-year-old landing just below the midpoint but just above his $2.8MM projection. After struggling to a .246/.297/.347 slash in just 184 plate appearances and missing significant time to ankle surgery, Moreland and his employer will hope for better things in 2015.
  • The Astros and shortstop Marwin Gonzalez have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal that will pay the Octagon client a salary of $1.0625MM, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Gonzalez, who filed for $1.4MM and received a $900K counter-offer from the team, settled for somewhat less than the $1.15MM midpoint between the figures, though he did still top his $1MM projection by about $60K. The former Rule 5 pick enjoyed his best season as a big leaguer in 2014, batting .277/.327/.400 with six homers, although defensive metrics were split on his work at short. Ultimate Zone Rating pegged him at four runs below average, while Defensive Runs Saved thought he was four runs above average. With Gonzalez’s case settled, the Astros are done with their arbitration class this offseason.
  • The A’s have avoided arbitration with infielder Eric Sogard by agreeing to a one-year, $1.075MM contract, tweets Heyman. Sogard filed at $1.425MM, while the A’s countered at $900K, as can be seen  Sogard, 28, batted .223/.298/.268 with a homer and 11 steals in 329 plate appearances last season. Known more for his glove than his bat, Sogard played his usual brand of excellent second base defense for 721 innings, and he also filled in at shortstop a bit, chipping in 108 innings there. The Octagon client will receive $75K more than his $1MM projected salary. Oakland still has some work to do in arbitration, as the team has yet to reach an agreement with right-handers Tyler Clippard and Jarrod Parker as well as lefty Fernando Abad.

Note that you can monitor the arb situations of each team/player using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker.


Arbitration Notes: Ogando, Moreland, Russell, Parra, Descalso

Tomorrow night (11pm CT) is the deadline for teams to tender or non-tender contracts to their arbitration eligible players. MLBTR has previously identified a list of non-tender candidates as well as provided projected salaries for each arbitration eligible player of the offseason (courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz). In addition to those resources, you can follow along and keep track of players using our 2015 Non-Tender Tracker. We’ll cover some more of the specifics on non-tendering and arbitration tomorrow (though those who are new to the concept can check out last year’s post on explaining non-tenders), and already took a look at some notes earlier today.

Here’s the latest on the upcoming decisions:

  • Righty Alexi Ogando and first baseman Mitch Moreland are expected to be tendered contracts tomorrow, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Both players have some upside that Texas is surely loath to give up on, though each brings some uncertainty with their projected $2.6MM and $2.8MM arb costs (respectively).
  • As things stand, the Braves‘ only certain tenders are slated for Mike Minor and David Carpenter, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. The team is still unsure exactly how it will proceed with respect to rehabbing starters Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy as well as pen lefty James Russell. The southpaw, who was added at the trade deadline, projects to earn a fairly meager $2.4MM and seems a decent value at that price tag.
  • Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash indicated that the team intends to tender Gerardo Parra a contract rather than cutting him loose, according to MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Parra’s hefty $6.4MM projection is quite a sum for a fourth outfielder, though Ash noted that he has received plenty of playing time as a part-time starter and frequent reserve. And, of course, a trade could still be made.
  • It seems likely that the Cardinals will non-tender utilityman Daniel Descalso, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch writes. Descalso carries a $1.4MM projected salary but saw a reduced role last year and the organization has added several apparent pieces that would seem to be viable replacements.

Non-Tender Candidate: Mitch Moreland

Most Rangers players struggled or were injured in Texas’ disastrous 2014 season, and first baseman Mitch Moreland was no exception. The lefty hit .246/.297/.347 in 184 plate appearances through early June, then had ankle surgery and missed the rest of the year. Now, he’s heading into his second season of arbitration eligibility with a projected $2.8MM salary on the horizon.

USATSI_7950726_154513410_lowresMoreland is now 29 and is on the fringes, at best, as a starting first baseman. Since a partial season as a rookie in 2010, he hasn’t posted an OPS+ above 106 or an OBP above .321, and as a slightly above average defensive first baseman or below average corner outfielder, he doesn’t provide much value with the glove. Even before his injury, he might have been an acceptable choice as a starter only for a team like Texas that had plenty of stars elsewhere in its lineup.

One of those stars is Prince Fielder, who should return from his own injury to take over first base in Texas next year. There’s also limited room for Moreland in the outfield — Shin-Soo Choo will be in right, Jake Smolinski hit well down the stretch last season and could get playing time in left, and Moreland has played only sparingly in the outfield since 2011 anyway. That leaves DH, where the Rangers can be flexible in finding an alternative to Moreland. They’re likely to pursue a DH upgrade this offseason, possibly on the trade market. Another possibility for the Rangers might be to acquire Justin Upton and bump Smolinski to DH.

Moreland posted a wRC+ of 76 last season; every AL team but two (the Indians and Mariners) got better production from their designated hitters. Of course, Moreland’s ankle might partially explain his struggles, and some rebound is likely. Steamer projects Moreland will post a wRC+ of 99 in 2015, which would be more palatable, but still isn’t a figure to which a team should aspire at DH, even at a relatively low price.

If the Rangers don’t acquire outfield or DH help this offseason, however, or if they don’t acquire a left-handed hitter for one of those positions, perhaps they could consider re-signing Moreland at a reduced rate, whether or not they non-tender him first. Smolinski’s breakout in a month’s worth of games in his MLB debut was unsustainable, and entrusting him with an entire starting job, whether that’s DH or left field, without a viable backup plan seems too ambitious. 24-year-old Ryan Rua offers a potentially decent alternative, but like Smolinski, he’s right-handed. Then there’s Michael Choice, who’s also a righty and had a disastrous rookie season.

Giving a fair amount of playing time to some combination of Smolinski, Rua and Choice seems like a good idea for the Rangers, but having reinforcements at DH and in the outfield seems like a good idea as well. Moreland had a poor season in 2014, but he’s experienced and left-handed, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him return to the Rangers in 2015 one way or another. A tender is therefore a possibility.

The Rangers’ decision needs to be made in early December, however, and given Moreland’s struggles last season, the Rangers might feel it’s unnecessary to commit nearly $3MM without first exploring other possibilities. A trade before that seems unlikely, since Moreland isn’t an obvious upgrade for many teams at first or DH. Perhaps if he becomes a free agent, a team like the Yankees might be a fit — Moreland could pick up at bats against righties while occasionally playing first base, DH and right field. The Rangers could also wait until later in the offseason to decide what to do with Moreland, to ensure that Fielder is fully ready and to see if an injury in another organization might create a better market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Mitch Moreland, Michael Saunders Change Agencies

Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland has changed agencies and is now represented by Bob Garber of RMG Baseball, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports (on Twitter). Additionally, Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders has joined Meister Sports Management, according to a tweet from agent Brandon Meister.

Moreland, 29, is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he batted .246/.297/.347 with a pair of homers in 184 plate appearances. Moreland underwent season-ending ankle surgery in June, adding his name to a long list of Rangers players that sustained a season-ending injury this year. Formerly represented by BBI Sports Group, he’s a career .252/.316/.430 hitter that has fared considerably better against righties (.777 OPS) than righties (.636 OPS) in his career. Moreland earned $2.65MM last offseason in his first bout with arbitration and will be eligible twice more before he can become a free agent.

Saunders, who turned 28 on Wednesday, has seen his name pop up in trade rumors recently, in part due to some comments made by Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon. Former agent Michael McCann expressed displeasure on his client’s behalf, feeling that the comments called into question Saunders’ work ethic and offseason preparation. Though the Mariners have tried to smooth things over, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported that he was likely to be shopped at the GM Meetings last week. Saunders has battled injuries but posted a nice .248/.320/.423 while playing in the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field over the past three seasons. He, too, is arbitration eligible twice more before reaching free agency.

Moreland will join the agency of former Astros ace Roy Oswalt, who has since signed on to work alongside Garber at RMG (as Buster Olney reported at the time of Oswalt’s official retirement). RMG also represents C.J. Wilson, J.D. Martinez and Tyler Chatwood, among others. Saunders, meanwhile, will join an agency that represents big leaguers Sergio Romo, Pat Neshek, Ben Revere and Casey McGehee, among others.

Both changes are reflected in MLBTR’s Agency Database, which contains info on more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players. If you notice any errors or omissions within the database, please let us know via email: mlbtrdatabase@gmail.com.


Mitch Moreland Scheduled For Season-Ending Surgery

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.

Yesterday, the team signed veteran slugger Carlos Pena to a minor league deal in an effort to replenish some first base depth.


AL Notes: Durrett, Rios, Moreland, Jackson, Kubel, Jays

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.