- MLBPA Issues Statement On Bryant, Prospect Promotions
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New York Mets Rumors
The Mets weren’t a particularly strong team even before losing Zack Wheeler to a torn UCL, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. Losing Wheeler hurt, but the Mets do at least have plenty of rotation depth with which to replace him. Their bullpen is a weakness, and only Juan Lagares stands out for them defensively. “I don’t subscribe to the notion that we’re going to have a lousy defense. I don’t believe that’s the case,” says GM Sandy Alderson. “But at the same time, I don’t assume, nor do I think, all of our success is predicated on being outstanding defensively.” Here’s more from the East divisions.
- The Blue Jays need a closer, but they aren’t a great match for Jonathan Papelbon and the Phillies, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes (Insider-only). Papelbon’s contract (including his 2016 option, which will vest at 48 games finished) is too expensive and complex for such a deal to make sense. Also, Papelbon has hidden value to the Phillies, in that using him at closer rather than Ken Giles will limit the amount of money Giles will make in arbitration once he becomes eligible.
- Phillies reliever Mario Hollands has elbow discomfort and will have an MRI today, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Hollands says the pain feels about how it felt when he had a flexor strain late last season. When healthy, the lefty posted a 4.40 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in his rookie year in 2014. He might have joined fellow lefty Jake Diekman in the Phillies’ bullpen. An injury to Hollands might further encourage the Phillies to keep Rule 5 pick Andy Oliver, a lefty who has performed well in Spring Training.
FRIDAY: Wheeler will have Tommy John surgery on Tuesday or Wednesday, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin tweets. The surgery will be performed by Mets team doctor David Altchek.
MONDAY 10:26am: Alderson told reporters, including Marc Carig of Newsday, that the team’s belief is that Wheeler has suffered a full tear of the ligament (Twitter link). If that’s the case, it would only solidify the likelihood that he will undergo Tommy John surgery.
9:07am: An MRI taken on his right elbow revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament for Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler, the team announced this morning. It seems almost inevitable then, that Wheeler is headed for Tommy John surgery, although he will first receive a second opinion, according to the team.
Losing Wheeler for the season would be a significant blow to a Mets team that many, including myself, have expected to contend for a Wild Card berth into the playoffs. The Mets projected to have a rotation of Wheeler, a healthy Matt Harvey, 2014 Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon. However, with Wheeler likely shelved, it’ll be Dillon Gee sliding from the bullpen back into the starting rotation. The Mets have to be glad that they hung onto Gee, who was mentioned in trade rumors all offseason but never dealt.
Alderson’s acquisition of Wheeler — then a highly touted prospect with the Giants — in exchange for a half season of Carlos Beltran, has been hailed as one of the GM’s best moves, and with good reason. Wheeler surfaced with the Mets as a 23-year-old in 2013 and turned in 100 solid innings, and he reached 185 1/3 innings last year. Over his two seasons in Queens, Wheeler has worked to a 3.50 ERA with 8.5 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 50 percent ground-ball rate. Armed with a 95mph fastball and a pair of above-average breaking pitches, there was an expectation that Wheeler could take a step forward in 2015, creating a formidable trio atop the Mets’ rotation, alongside Harvey and deGrom.
From a service time standpoint, Wheeler will gain a full year of big league service on the 60-day DL, if he is to miss the entire year, but he should fall shy of Super Two distinction, as he’ll have two years, 98 days of service entering the 2016 season. The Mets control him through the 2019 season, but that does little to soften the blow of his absence from the rotation this coming season.
Top prospect Noah Syndergaard, who has seen his own name surface in trade rumors over the past year, figures to be even more untouchable now, as the likelihood that he pitches in the Mets’ rotation at some point in 2015 has now increased.
Reds GM Walt Jocketty said today that the club has “had some discussions” on an extension with representatives of ace Johnny Cueto in an interview on MLB Network Radio (audio link). Noting that pitching salaries continue to rise, Jocketty said that he could not give “any odds” on how likely a new deal was, though he noted that the team is “still trying” and indicated that both sides hope to continue their relationship. Cueto, of course, is set to hit the free agent market after the season.
Here’s more from the National League:
- Giants skipper Bruce Bochy says he is “a little concerned” about the injury status of center fielder Angel Pagan, Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com tweets. “I think we need to be [concerned],” said Bochy. “I think we need to be. he had back surgery, now he’s hit a bump in the road.” With Hunter Pence already set to miss a good bit of time to start the year, any time missed from Pagan would stretch the club’s outfield depth. That could increase the urgency to make an addition, though a recent report suggests that the team has not been actively searching for another outfielder.
- Mets manager Terry Collins had some less-than-promising things to say about the state of the club’s bullpen, as Marc Carig of Newsday reports (links to Twitter). The most prominent issue, of course, is the question of matching up against opposing lefties now that Josh Edgin is out for the year. Collins also mentioned concern with Vic Black‘s ability to return from shoulder issues in time for Opening Day, though Black himself evidently does not see it as quite so large an issue. “We’ve been … telling everybody that we didn’t have to rebuild our bullpen,” said Collins. “Right now, we’re in the process of rebuilding it.” In spite of those comments, it would be surprising to see the club do anything to add a new arm other than searching for additional left-handed help.
- Top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant has handled the simmering controversy over his promotion timeline quite professionally, by all appearances. While praising the organization, and his agent, Bryant does say that he feels he’s received “mixed messages,” as Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “I’m hearing from my teammates that they want me up and I’m doing well and everybody’s telling me I’m progressing well,” said Bryant. He continued to note that he “took … to heart” the team’s message to players that roster spots could be earned in the spring.
- Of course, the underlying service time rules at play are the larger issue in the Bryant matter, and it is rather difficult to dream up alternative systems that would really change the analysis for teams in a mutually agreeable way. ESPN.com’s Keith Law weighs in (subscription required) to offer a unique solution: when a team puts a true rookie on the active roster to start the year, and the player then reaches exactly six years of service, that player gets a special one-year form of free agency in which any team may make a single-season offer but his current team gets the choice to match the high bid. Law posits that this approach would encourage teams to go ahead and add their best prospects to the roster, comforted by the knowledge that they can still maximize team control — even if it ultimately comes at a (potentially much) higher cost in the final season. That proposal would obviously create quite an interesting new wrinkle in the market.
Sandy Alderson’s new biography (Baseball Maverick: How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball and Revived the Mets, by Steve Kettmann) contains several interesting background tidbits about many of Alderson’s major transactions as the Mets general manager. ESPN’s Adam Rubin runs down some of the highlights, including some alternate trades for Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey, extension talks with Jose Reyes and even a flirtation with Robinson Cano last winter. The book also includes comments from Alderson about the Mets payroll situation, which led to Alderson clarifying his position last week. Here’s some more from the Amazins…
- Perhaps the most timely revelation from the book was that last August, Alderson told Kettmann that Terry Collins’ chances of returning as the Mets’ manager in 2015 stood at roughly 51 percent and “Frankly, for me, that percentage has been eroding.” Alderson was upset that the Mets’ patience at the plate seemed to be dropping, but a meeting with the club’s hitters apparently saved Collins from being fired. Collins is entering the last year of his contract and he’s been rumored to be on the hot seat unless the Mets take a step forward to contention.
- While Zack Wheeler was indeed pitching through pain last season, it was due to a torn tendon in his right elbow, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports. Nothing was thought to be wrong with Wheeler’s UCL until last week’s examination revealed that the right-hander had suffered a tear and would need to undergo Tommy John surgery.
- B.B. Abbott, Wheeler’s agent, told reporters (including Dan Martin of the New York Post) that he has “zero issues whatsoever with how the Mets handled Zack last year or in the offseason.“
- The Mets are only one of several teams interested in Orioles southpaw Brian Matusz, a scout tells Adam Rubin (Twitter link). As teams make roster cuts over the next two weeks, however, “there should be plenty of lefties that shake loose of lesser ilk.” Needless to say, these other left-handed relief options would presumably also come at a much lower price tag than Matusz’s $3.2MM salary.
- The scout also suggests that Marlins left-hander Andrew McKirahan is better than any of the Mets’ internal lefty relievers and would be a good addition to the team if Miami cuts him. McKirahan was selected by the Fish in last December’s Rule 5 draft and must spend the entire season on the Marlins’ 25-man roster or else be offered back to the Cubs.
The Rays have announced that starting pitcher Alex Cobb‘s MRI has revealed that he has tendinitis in his right forearm. He will not be able to start Opening Day. Cobb’s injury is just the latest in a long string for the Rays rotation, which is also currently without Drew Smyly (shoulder), Alex Colome (pneumonia) and, of course Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery). Even before Cobb’s injury, the Rays had planned to consider minor moves to upgrade their starting pitching depth. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington isn’t concerned about being fired if his expensive signing of Yoan Moncada doesn’t work out, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe writes. “We understand that not everything we do is going to work out,” says Cherington. “But we feel good about the process and why we’re doing it.” As Abraham notes, the signing of the 19-year-old Moncada comes with plenty of upside, but it’s risky, too — the Red Sox have already made a series of high-profile investments (though not as high-profile or nearly as expensive as Moncada) in international players who haven’t worked out, like Jose Vinicio, Adalberto Ibarra, Juan Carlos Linares, Tzu-Wei Lin and Dalier Hinojosa.
- The Mets didn’t anticipate Zack Wheeler‘s elbow issues would be so severe, so that wasn’t why they held onto Dillon Gee, Andy Martino of New York Daily News writes. They did, however, keep Noah Syndergaard in part because of general worries about the health of their starting pitchers, including not only Wheeler (who also had elbow discomfort last year) but also Bartolo Colon and Matt Harvey. Martino also explains why they didn’t trade Wheeler before the news that he would have to have Tommy John surgery, even though they were aware of his prior elbow trouble — they still like his upside and he’ll still be under team control when he returns.
Here’s the latest from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:
- The Orioles are open to trading Brian Matusz, but the Mets, who just lost fellow lefty Josh Edgin to injury, might not be interested. Rosenthal writes that Matusz’s $3.2MM salary and additional year of arbitration eligibility might be an issue to potential trade partners. That might say more about those teams’ situations than it says about Matusz, however — the Orioles are only on the hook for that money because they chose to tender Matusz this winter, then settled with him. And, of course, the team that controls Matusz would be able to non-tender him next offseason if it wanted. $3.2MM isn’t a bargain for Matusz, but it’s reasonable. Nonetheless, Rosenthal indicates that the Orioles are willing to include cash in a Matusz trade. Matusz has been a reliable member of the Orioles’ bullpen the last two seasons, posting a 3.48 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 51 2/3 innings in 2014.
- With Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez in the big leagues and Francisco Lindor and fellow shortstop Erik Gonzalez on the way, the Indians could soon have a wealth of middle-infield talent from which to trade, Rosenthal writes. They could, at some point, trade a young middle infielder (more likely Ramirez or Gonzalez than Kipnis or Lindor, presumably) for a young pitcher.
- White Sox pitcher Brad Penny nearly signed with the team last year, but chose the Marlins instead. This offseason, he picked Chicago because of a connection to White Sox assistant GM Buddy Bell that dates back to 1999, when Bell managed Penny in the Pan Am Games.
Cubs righty Jacob Turner will likely not return to action for another spring game, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports, but medical review after he experienced elbow discomfort revealed no ligament damage. “I’m just going to see how it feels,” said Turner. “The plan is four to six weeks of not throwing, and then go off how I feel.” Given his lack of options, I would expect the club to bring him along quite slowly — possibly utilizing a 60-day DL stay to free a roster spot.
Meanwhile, here are some roster situations percolating elsewhere in the National League:
- We noted earlier today that Tony Cingrani is destined for the Reds pen. John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer discusses the implications of that move for the team’s rotation battle. Another candidate — David Holmberg — was bumped down to minor league camp, leaving the relatively inexperienced Raisel Iglesias and Anthony DeSclafani to fight veteran non-roster invitees Jason Marquis and Paul Maholm for two permanent spots (and a temporary substitute for Homer Bailey to start the year). Skipper Bryan Price explained that considerations of control will come into play: “The thing is, we’ve got veteran guys like Marquis and Maholm and we don’t want to use them one start,” Price said. “If they’re going to be on our team, the hope is they’re on our team for the entire season if not longer. That’s how we have to look at it. You can back-and-forth a young guy. He can start a game or two, go down the minor leagues or go into the bullpen and help as a long guy. Marquis and Maholm are looking more like long-term, start-to-finish options for us.”
- The Diamondbacks will be fascinating to watch this year, albeit not necessarily in terms of the on-field product, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. As he notes, the team’s newly-installed front office leaders seem to have different ideas than many of their counterparts in the industry. While the organization is saddled with some less-than-ideal contracts, and seems higher on several players than others, it nevertheless has no shortage of young talent, trade chips, and roster options. That should make Arizona an active player in the transactional game over the course of the season.
- Meanwhile, it is time for the Mets to press forward with delivering a winning team, even with Zack Wheeler likely lost to Tommy John surgery, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post writes. In the immediate term, there have been conflicting signals on how the club will fill in for Wheeler, with skipper Terry Collins saying Dillon Gee will move back to the rotation, GM Sandy Alderson declining to provide such a clear answer, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reporting that prospect Rafael Montero could have a chance at breaking camp. In the aggregate, there is enough depth and talent to make up for losing Wheeler, says Davidoff, removing his injury as an excuse if a legitimate contender does not emerge. For his part, Sherman wonders whether the club has staked too much of its future on the health and development of young arms, though it seems worth echoing Davidoff’s point here: the sheer number and upside of the alternatives in camp give New York ample options.
ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider link) lists five spring transactions that ought to occur. Among them are trades involving two veteran Phillies players — Chase Utley and Jonathan Papelbon. While Papelbon has been discussed quite frequently this offseason, as has fellow hurler Cole Hamels, Utley has scarcely seen his name come up in rumors (and is only just returning to action after suffering a sprained ankle). Bowden also advocates an early-career extension for Christian Yelich of the Marlins
Here’s more from the NL East:
- Injured Mets starter Zack Wheeler dealt with rather significant elbow pain last year, as GM Sandy Alderson has indicated and Andy Martino of the New York Daily News further reports. Per Martino, the team maintains publicly and privately that Wheeler’s UCL never was a matter of concern for the team, but he details some of the developments last year that raised red flags about the young righty’s health. Of course, as Martino is right to explain, there are not only many unknown details but also plenty of medical uncertainties in the world of pitching elbows.
- The Braves are prepared to announce a deal with Comcast involving the team’s new ballpark and mixed-use development, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. It appears that the cable company will occupy office space and provide technology services for the controversial new facility.
- Of course, that stadium opening is still years away, and the Braves are still working to resolve numerous roster matters before the start of the upcoming season. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman updates the situation in camp, writing that Jace Peterson appears to have the inside track on a 25-man spot, if not the starting gig at second base. The team has numerous infield and outfield slots still up for grabs.
- The Phillies have insurance on Cliff Lee‘s contract and will have a chance to recover an unknown sum for the time he is expected to miss, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. That will not match the return the team had hoped to be able to achieve if a healthy Lee had turned into an attractive mid-season trade chip, of course. As part of his rest and rehab plan, Lee will not even throw a ball for several months. While the decision not to undergo surgery was announced a mutual one between team and player, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News tweets that all doctors consulted recommended surgery and that it was Lee’s decision not to pursue that option.
- As Lee faces the possibility of retirement, former teammate Roy Halladay says he is interested in pursuing sports psychology as a second act, as Zolecki reports.
2:42pm: Matusz isn’t the only trade option on the Mets’ radar, tweets Newsday’s Marc Carig, but the team does think that Matusz is someone who could help them.
8:50am: With lefty Josh Edgin slated to miss the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery, the Mets have been scouting Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz, according to Dan Martin and Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. The Mets have four internal options to replace Edgin in Scott Rice, Dario Alvarez, Jack Leathersich and Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin (selected from the Twins), but the team is “open to alternatives,” per the report. As the Post duo notes, none of the internal candidates have been particularly impressive thus far in Spring Training.
The 28-year-old Matusz has found a role as a lefty reliever with the Orioles after not panning out as a starter. Baltimore selected him fourth overall in the 2008 draft, but he’s posted a 5.51 ERA in 364 1/3 innings as a starter as opposed to a 3.26 mark out of the bullpen. Over the past two seasons, Matusz has been exceptional against 224 same-handed hitters, holding them to a .192/.251/.314 batting line.
Controllable through the 2016 season, Matusz is earning a not-insignificant $3.2MM after avoiding arbitration for the third time this winter. As a Super Two player, he is eligible for arbitration one more time before reaching free agency. Some have questioned exactly how much financial freedom GM Sandy Alderson truly has. If he is more limited than he has let on to the public, adding Matusz’s salary might be difficult without sending some salary back to the Orioles in the deal.
While some may speculate that Dillon Gee and his $5.3MM salary could be moved elsewhere, the Mets reportedly aren’t likely to trade him for a left-handed reliever, and Gee’s importance to the club has increased now that Zack Wheeler likely needs Tommy John surgery.
Whether or not the Orioles would even trade Matusz is, of course, unclear at this point. The team has a left-handed closer in Zach Britton and other internal lefty options on the 40-man roster, including Wesley Wright, T.J. McFarland and Tim Berry. However, Berry has no big league experience, while Wright and McFarland haven’t been as effective against lefties as Matusz over the past two seasons.