- Out Of Options 2014
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The Mets announced today that they’ve selected the contract of Bobby Abreu, who will join the club as a bench bat and part-time outfielder. New York signed the former Phillies/Yankees slugger to a minor league deal after Philadelphia released him near the end of Spring Training. Abreu slashed .395/.489/.579 with a homer, four doubles and a 7-to-5 K:BB ratio for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate prior to his promotion. Here’s more on the Amazins…
- ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin writes that following the departure of Ike Davis in a trade to the Pirates, the Mets’ payroll now sits at an estimated $86.1MM. Rubin’s estimate is based on his discussions with a team official that estimate $4-4.5MM for paying players that are replacing those who are injured (e.g. Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Juan Lagares are both collecting an MLB paycheck at the moment). In a separate piece, Rubin also looks at the rarity of mid-April trades for the Mets and runs own the history of such transactions.
- With Davis out the door, Newsday’s David Lennon opines that Lucas Duda needs to become the cleanup hitter the Mets are looking for instead of being sheltered lower in the lineup. Curtis Granderson, signed for four years and $60MM to fill a run-producing role, was frank with Lennon in stating, “I haven’t given [the fans] much to cheer about.”
- Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that the Mets have not yet decided whether or not they will make a contract offer to free agent closer Joel Hanrahan (Twitter link). Hanrahan reportedly looked very impressive in a showcase last week, and the Mets were one of about 20 teams that had scouts on hand to watch him throw.
In his latest Notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports begins by examining the managerial change for the Nationals. As Rosenthal points out, the change from the laid-back Davey Johnson to the intense Matt Williams hasn’t prevented sloppy play. A source tells Rosenthal that Williams called a team meeting to call out how sloppy they’d been and how they needed to hustle down the line. Rosenthal also points out Washington’s poor defense — something that wouldn’t be expected under Williams. Here are some more highlights from Rosenthal’s latest piece…
- The Mets‘ bullpen woes under Sandy Alderson can’t be blamed on payroll constraints, writes Rosenthal. He looks at the success the A’s, Royals and Giants have had in building a relief corps on the cheap before looking at Alderson’s misses on Frank Francisco, D.J. Carrasco, Ramon Ramirez and Brandon Lyon. Though they did well in landing Carlos Torres and Scott Rice, the team’s financial state isn’t an excuse for its poor relief work, he concludes.
- Rosenthal also looks at the Tigers‘ puzzling Alex Gonzalez situation. Detroit gave up infielder Steve Lombardozzi (who was part of the return for Doug Fister) and spent $1.1MM for nine games of Gonzalez before cutting him loose. Asked by Rosenthal about the possibility of Stephen Drew, GM Dave Dombrowski replied: “I’m sure people will focus on that, but we’re going to look internally at our situation first and foremost.” The Tigers would likely only want Drew on a one-year deal, as Jose Iglesias will be healthy in 2015.
- Torii Hunter tells Rosenthal that he’s physically capable of playing another two or three years, but it’s going to be a matter of whether or not he wants to do so. Hunter certainly didn’t hint that retirement was on his mind, though: “I’m a man. A man is supposed to work. This is the only thing I know, the only thing I’m supposed to do.”
- One executive told Rosenthal that the increase in extensions for younger players is due to the lack of overall talent in today’s game. With so few impact performers, teams are more compelled than ever to lock them up through their prime. As an example, that executive pointed to this year’s draft class, noting that NC State shortstop Trea Turner might be the only college shortstop selected in the Top 250.
The seven-year, $140MM offer that the Yankees offered Shin-Soo Choo was only on the table for less than a day. As MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince notes, New York offered Choo the contract and then pulled it back almost as quickly in order to instead sign Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45MM deal. "In my opinion, it takes some time to make a decision, maybe at least a couple days," Choo said. "You want to learn a city and a team. They gave me 21 hours." The Yankees' withdrawal could've been due to Beltran simply accepting his offer first, or perhaps because Scott Boras (Choo's agent), reportedly asked the Yankees to match the $153MM the Bombers gave to Jacoby Ellsbury. Choo didn't end up doing too badly for himself at any rate, signing a seven-year, $130MM deal with the Rangers.
Here's some news from around the baseball world…
- CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman lists 14 players who could traded during Spring Training. Most of these names have popped up on the pages of MLBTR over the last few weeks, though one new name is Marlins right-hander Jacob Turner. Heyman says there's "not a great chance" Miami would deal Turner but since the Marlins have a lot of good young pitchers, "folks on other teams speculate this could be the one arm the Marlins might move in that right deal" for offensive help.
- Ike Davis' calf injury has not only set back the Mets' first base competition, but it has also ruined any possible chance of a trade showcase for Davis during Spring Training, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. The Brewers, Pirates and Orioles have all been connected to Davis in trade rumors during the offseason but obviously no move will be made any time soon, as Davis is currently in a walking boot and recently had an MRI on his right calf.
- Speaking of the Pirates' first base search, the team could end up finding its left-handed platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez already on the roster in the form of Andrew Lambo, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. While maturity issues and a 50-game suspension reportedly relating to marijuana use have set back Lambo's career, he is still only 25 and has posted some strong power numbers in the minors.
- "I just don't see what we have to lose," Indians manager Terry Francona says about Carlos Santana's attempted conversion to third base. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal recaps the reasons behind Santana's surprising decision to try the hot corner and how it could be a boon for the Tribe if Santana could handle the position.
- Nate Schierholtz wants to remain with the Cubs but is cognizant of the fact that could be traded, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports. The veteran outfielder said he hasn't spoken to Cubs management about staying beyond his current one-year contract. Recent rumors put Schierholtz on the trading block thanks to Ryan Kalish's progress, not to mention the fact that Kalish is playing on a minor league deal while Schierholtz is owed $5MM this season.
Ruben Tejada is penciled in as the Mets' Opening Day shortstop, yet rumors continue to persist that the Mets are looking to upgrade the position. The latest…
- The Mets are keeping an eye on the Diamondbacks' shortstop competition and a source tells John Harper of the New York Daily News that the Mets "could jump in" to obtain Didi Gregorius or Chris Owings before Opening Day. When last we heard of the Mets/D'Backs shortstop talks, New York catching prospect Kevin Plawecki wasn't considered enough for either Gregorius or Owings, and Harper believes the Mets would have to move Plawecki and a minor league pitcher to make a deal work.
- Also from Harper, the Mets are still scouting Nick Franklin, and trying to decide if he can handle the shortstop job on a regular basis. Ninety of Franklin's 92 starts for the Mariners last season came as a second baseman, and while Franklin played more short than second in the minors, Seattle considered Brad Miller to be a better option than Franklin at shortstop.
- Stephen Drew, of course, remains available as a free agent, though GM Sandy Alderson again told reporters (including ESPN New York's Adam Rubin) that Drew's continued availability and the Braves' signing of Ervin Santana hasn't changed his club's stance. “I’m not interpreting it in terms of ‘our situation,’” Alderson said. “I don’t know that we have a situation here.” Alderson doesn't think Drew will hold out until June to escape the draft pick compensation hanging over his head, though the Mets GM believes Drew could wait to sign after Opening Day to ensure he wouldn't receive another qualifying offer next winter.
- Though Tejada hasn't gotten off to a good start in Grapefruit League action, Alderson said “it won’t be a judgment based on one game or two games or three games. We’ve got a lot of spring training left. In the meantime, we’ll continue to look at our other options.”
One of the keys to success for last year's Pirates ballclub was its ability both to generate ground balls and convert them into outs. It all started with a pitching staff that had far and away the highest ground-ball rate (52.5%) in the big leagues. Featuring prominently in the repertoire of several Bucs hurlers, of course, was the sinker. As Tim Williams of PiratesProspects.com found when he investigated, those sinkers come in many different varieties. He provides a fascinating breakdown of the pitch from the perspective of Pirates players and coaches (including many staff members and catcher Russell Martin). Here's more from the National League:
- With just two weeks left in camp and top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras still working his way back, there is now little chance that he'll come north with the Cardinals for Opening Day, writes Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Of course, that was the likely outcome from the get-go, as St. Louis has a keen interest in delaying his service clock to gain another season of control and minimize the likelihood of a Super Two qualification.
- The Phillies outrighted righty Michael Stutes off of the club's 40-man roster to begin making room for non-roster invites, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Struggling to regain velocity after a series of shoulder issues, Stutes had to clear waivers to be stashed in the minors.
- Though it may yet be a longshot, the Mets have begun working out Wilmer Flores at short, reports Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. With continuing uncertainty as to whether Ruben Tejada can be relied on as an everyday option, DiComo says the team is "overturning every stone on their 40-man roster" to find a solution. Of course, that does not mean that Flores is a serious possibility to man the job for the coming season, but he could be a more attractive big league piece if he could spend some time at short.
- As I recently noted in the club's offseason review, the Diamondbacks have not conclusively addressed their backup catching situation. They are among the teams taking a hard look at Francisco Cervelli of the Yankees, reports George A. King III of the New York Post.
As the Braves await the results of today's MRI on Kris Medlen's right forearm, many have speculated that the team could turn to Ervin Santana in the event that Medlen is out for a significant period of time. However, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution writes that he doesn't expect Atlanta to make a panicked move in the event of a serious injury to Medlen. If Medlen is on the DL, O'Brien expects Atlanta to open the season with Julio Teheran, Brandon Beachy, Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia and David Hale, with Mike Minor stepping into one spot once he's ready to go in mid-April, and Gavin Floyd eventually taking another. He adds that Josh Beckett's name "does nothing" for any member of the Braves organization to whom O'Brien has mentioned it. Here's more on their rotation and the NL East…
- As if Medlen's injury wasn't enough, Beachy left his start for the Braves today due to tightness in his right biceps, writes O'Brien. Beachy described the injury as "dull tightness" and has experienced it in his other two Spring Training starts. However, it got better as he threw harder in his last start, and today he says it worsened. Braves doctors told Beachy before the game that it was ok to try to pitch through the tightness. He wouldn't commit to being ready for Opening Day when asked by O'Brien, but said he thought the tightness was normal following a pair of surgeries. Following the rough start, Beachy told FOX Sports' Jon Morosi that he tried to throw harder again today but wasn't able to increase his velocity (Twitter link).
- ESPN's Buster Olney covers the Braves' rotation in the intro to his daily blog post (ESPN Insider required and recommended). Olney spoke to one evaluator who said, "It's just impossible to see Atlanta taking on significant money, and they seem to be reluctant to give up any prospects of value…" suggesting that a major acquisition isn't likely. That evaluator wondered if they might be interested in out-of-options hurlers like Zach Britton (Orioles), Vance Worley (Twins), Sam Deduno (Twins) or Franklin Morales (Rockies) should they pursue outside help.
- The Mariners are again doubling down on the number of scouts they have at today's Mets game, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Rubin adds that Seattle's scouts have "been religiously attending Mets games." New York has been said to have interest in displaced Seattle infielder Nick Franklin, so Mariners scouts could be trying to determine a fair asking price.
- Jeff Manship has impressed the Phillies thus far in Spring Training, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia was the only club to call Manship prior to his agreement to a minor league deal in early September, the right-hander told Gelb. Manship says he's enjoying the competition this spring and is excited to have a shot at earning a rotation spot for the first time in his five trips through a big league camp. Manship has allowed one run with six punchouts and one walk through seven Spring Training innings to date.
Red Sox owner John Henry returned fire in his club's ongoing dispute with the Marlins, tweeting, "They should apologize for their regular season lineup." For the uninitiated, at a matchup earlier this week between the two teams, the Red Sox angered the Marlins by running out a lineup of minor leaguers instead of their typical starting nine. The Marlins had hiked ticket prices with the expectation that fans would be watching the Sox's World Series-winning squad. You can check out a writeup of the spat by USA Today's Nick Schwartz here. On to more East links:
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson maintains that it's unlikely Matt Harvey will pitch in the Majors in 2014 (via ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin). The issue surfaced again earlier today when Harvey tweeted "2014 Harvey day will happen" from his personal account. The tweet was later deleted. "I can't control what he tweets or says by other means," Alderson commented. "But if that's how he feels, that's his perspective and we'll see where it goes."
- Adding Ervin Santana would lift the Blue Jays' playoff chances into the realm of "conceivable," writes FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, noting that many of the club's major pieces remain in place after a lost 2013 season. "It's not the same players: We're missing Josh Johnson, who was supposed to be a big key to our rotation," outfielder Jose Bautista told Morosi. "That's why it's so important that we add (Santana)."
- Tyler Kepner caught up with Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey, profiling him for The New York Times. Dickey personally responds to letters he receives from struggling fans, Kepner writes. "They’re just wanting someone to listen, that’s really it," the ace says. Dickey discussed his experiences as a sexual abuse victim in his 2012 memoir.
The Mets made Daniel Murphy available this past offseason but put a high price on the second baseman's services, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports, including asking the Orioles for top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy. Murphy has been working hard this spring to increase his value to the Mets, focusing on making more contact at the plate and reaching base more often (Murphy only had a .319 OBP last season). "On-base and slugging, this is what teams want," Murphy said. "This is what drives the offensive market now. They want you to be able to get on base, and when you do get base hits, they want them to be doubles. So I think that our game is heading in that direction. I think (the Mets are) probably a little bit farther, maybe out in front a little bit of the curve."
Here's some more from the Amazins' camp…
- "I'm not a mercenary," David Wright tells Bob Klapsich of the Bergen Record, as the Mets third baseman insisted that he has no regrets over staying with the team through their ongoing rebuilding process. "If my goal was to win right this second, then obviously, I would've been a free agent," Wright said. "To me, it was important to show loyalty to the Mets. I grew up rooting for them, they drafted me when I was 18, they're the only team I've ever played for." Klapisch, however, opines that the Mets haven't shown that same loyalty to Wright by not spending more to make the team competitive.
- The Mets' rebuild could be spurred by making trades rather than free agent signings, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that if the Mets are willing to expand their payroll, they have the minor league depth to acquire expensive star players from teams who are themselves looking to rebuild or unload salaries.
- After eight seasons in the minors, 31-year-old Anthony Seratelli is still looking for his first taste of the majors, and now the New Jersey native has a chance close to home after he signed a minor league deal with the Mets earlier this offseason. MLB.com's Anthony DiComo profiles Seratelli's career, his video-editing talents and how he is inspired to keep playing by the tragic losses of his father and grandmother.
“If my goal was to win right this second, then obviously, I would’ve been a free agent,” Wright said. “To me, it was more important to show loyalty to the Mets. I grew up rooting for them, they drafted me when I was 18, they’re the only team I’ve ever played for.” – See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/sports/Klapisch_Mets_rebirth_vital_for_David_Wright.html?c=y&page=1#sthash.2fJKHX8T.dpu
Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post examines the coming payroll crunch that will soon face the Nationals. While the division-rival Braves have locked up their young core on multi-year extensions that have delayed their free agency, only Ryan Zimmerman is in that situation in Washington. As Kilgore notes, Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Doug Fister and Ross Detwiler are all free agents after the 2015 season, and extending any of those players becomes more difficult in light of the fact that they approach free agency at the same time that Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos and Stephen Strasburg become more expensive via arbitration. Kilgore wonders if recent talk of a Mike Trout extension could lead to optimism about a Harper extension as well, but also notes the difference between agents; Craig Landis is likely more open to a long-term deal for Trout than Scott Boras would be for Harper. Here's more regarding the Nats and the NL East…
- In a piece for the Washington Times, Mark Zuckerman looks at the Nationals' options for their No. 5 starter in Spring Training. While Ross Detwiler, Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark all have their merits, Zuckerman notes the strengths of each at adapting to different roles. He writes that the easiest decision is Detwiler in the rotation, Roark in the bullpen and Jordan at Triple-A, but stresses that GM Mike Rizzo and manager Matt Williams need to make the decision with the team's long-term interests in mind.
- MLBPA executive director Tony Clark wouldn't bite when asked if the Mets' payroll was drawing attention from the union, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Clark said that the MLBPA pays attention to payrolls "in general" and called the Mets a "marquee franchise" but wouldn't elaborate. Clark said he isn't aware of any payroll constraints on the Mets, who will have a roughly $87MM payroll that represents a slight decline from last year's mark.
- Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia News writes that while Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez's Spring Training debut didn't go particularly well this weekend, Phillies coaches and executives took away some positives from the outing. Gonzalez allowed a run on two hits and four walks with two strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings and is fighting with Roberto Hernandez for the fifth rotation spot. Pitching coach Bob McClure and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. offered some praise, especially since Gonzalez has scarcely pitched over the past two years due to injury and suspension. Lawrence writes that Roberto Hernandez is still the favorite for the fifth starter role.