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We looked yesterday at the latest on the slowly-moving Yoan Moncada signing eligibility process. Today, there’s an update to that story as well as some more interesting info on the always-intriguing Cuban market:
- It is Major League Baseball, not the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), that is currently holding up Moncada’s freedom to sign, reports Baseball America’s Ben Badler. Though MLB has already declared him a free agent, and Moncada has met the standards for a “general license” that would leave him free to sign (“unblocked”) in OFAC’s eyes, the league is not permitting Moncada (and others) to reach eligibility based on that general license. Instead, per Badler, MLB has required players since Yasiel Puig to apply for and receive a “specific license,” creating up to a six-month delay. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez adds (via Twitter) that OFAC changed its rules four years ago, with the additional step (presumably, the specific license) being added at some intervening point.
- As Badler explains, if the process drags on long enough, it could create some intrigue, as teams like the Yankees and Red Sox will face a two-year international signing ban (for all but sub-$300K bonus amounts) beginning on June 15 of this year.
- Fellow second basemen Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez, among other players, are awaiting their specific licenses, like Moncada, Badler notes.
- Olivera, of course, is more of a plug-and-play option than the other, young Cuban middle infielders. Baseball America passes on some video of Olivera, who cuts rather an imposing figure for a second baseman. Badler wrote up Olivera’s efforts yesterday, noting that the Padres, Giants, Athletics, and Braves had significant presences in the stands.
Former Red Sox starter Bill Monbouquette passed away Sunday at age 78. The Massachusetts native tossed nearly 2,000 MLB frames, most of them with Boston, and notched a no-hitter in 1962. He was a three-time American League All-Star. MLBTR extends its sympathies to his family and friends.
Here are some recent notes from the AL East:
- We’ve already heard it suggested that the Yankees could seek to invalidate Alex Rodriguez‘s home run milestone bonus clause, and ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Marchand now reports that the team is indeed attempting to craft a legal strategy to that end. If you are interested in thinking about what kinds of arguments the club might come up with, I addressed this very question in a series of posts last year regarding legal theories and remedies that teams could conceivably pursue against players suspended for PED use. The third part, in particular, covered A-Rod’s situation, while Part II (and, to a lesser extent, Part I) include useful background information.
- The Blue Jays and Orioles now seem destined to return to the status quo in their front offices, at least for the coming season, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says that both sides made missteps in the recent run of Dan Duquette-to-Toronto rumors.
- For his part, once-and-still Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston says that he is glad to still be with the team and that it is time to move on, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. Beeston added that he believes the ownership group would approve additional payroll if the club’s baseball leadership requests it.
- As for the Orioles, it is time for Duquette and the organization to begin the process of re-establishing trust and normalcy, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. The sides were never close to agreeing on compensation, Connolly adds, and Baltimore is still keeping open the possibility of filing tampering charges against Toronto.
The international market provides opportunities to make (mostly) open-market purchases of the rights to the types of players who rarely can be acquired in that manner. Recent years have brought early-prime starters (Masahiro Tanaka, Hyun-jin Ryu), still-youthful sluggers (Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes), and high-upside talents (Yasiel Puig, Jorge Soler). Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada certainly fits into that last category, rating as the type of player who would be chosen at or near the top of an amateur draft. In that regard, his ultimate payday (bonus plus ~100% penalty) will provide some fascinating insight into team valuations. But, of course, we are still waiting for the United States Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) to establish Moncada’s eligibility to sign. Here’s the latest:
- The precise hold-up in Moncada’s seemingly overdue OFAC application is not clear, writes Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs. Moncada’s agent indicated that he has not heard from OFAC since President Obama announced changes in the US diplomatic stance toward Cuba, seemingly indicating that higher-level activity is playing a role in Moncada’s situation. As McDaniel explains, MLB is working with the government to determine how to apply new unblocking policies. For what it’s worth, as MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez notes on Twitter, a similar policy appears to have been in place several years back, when Cespedes was preparing to enter the market.
- One entirely hypothetical reason for the delay with regard to Moncada, apart from the broader diplomatic considerations, is the fact that he was allowed to leave the island legally. Per McDaniel, concern that money could flow from Moncada back to the Cuban government is a possible, but by no means substantiated, factor distinguishing his situation.
- Of note, fellow top young middle infielder Andy Ibanez is also rumored to have left the island with the blessing of the government. There are rumblings that he could be unblocked soon, however, McDaniel notes.
- As for another largely-uncertain bit of information, McDaniel adds that the latest chatter has Moncada going for about a $80MM total investment (based on a $40MM bonus).
- Moncada worked out for the Dodgers this morning, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports on Twitter. Los Angeles has given public indication of its interest, and if impressed with its private look will certainly have to be counted among the most capable suitors. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Don Mattingly were both on hand, Sanchez reports on Twitter.
- The other teams to have held private workouts are the Brewers, Rangers, Giants, Yankees, Red Sox, and Padres, Sanchez tweets.
The Orioles‘ reported asking price of right-hander Jeff Hoffman (and others) from the Blue Jays in exchange for executive vice president/GM Dan Duquette seemingly ended those negotiations, but Jeff Blair of Sportsnet reports that the Orioles weren’t the only club to try to acquire Hoffman from Toronto this winter. According to Blair, the Braves also asked the Blue Jays for Hoffman when the two sides discussed a trade involving Justin Upton. Toronto’s answer, Blair says, was an emphatic “no.” Coincidentally, the Braves wound up acquiring another high-upside, former first-round pitcher that’s recovering from Tommy John — Max Fried — as the centerpiece in their trade of Upton to San Diego. Meanwhile, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Blair that Hoffman, who was selected ninth overall in 2014 despite his surgery, is expected to get stretched back out in April, with an eye on activating him with a minor league club in May.
A few more notes pertaining to the game’s Eastern divisions before the northeast portion of the country is buried in snow…
- The Phillies never presented the Brewers with a firm financial offer in their trade talks regarding Jonathan Papelbon, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Those talks appear to be largely dead at this point, and the Phillies may end up hanging on to Papelbon to begin the season, based on Rosenthal’s writings. He adds that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. isn’t under pressure from ownership to move Papelbon and will only trade him if the move is to the team’s benefit.
- The acquisition of Alejandro De Aza last summer could end up being a key factor in the Orioles‘ 2015 season, as the former White Sox outfielder now looks to be a big piece of the roster, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. With Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis gone and no external replacements brought in, De Aza figures to be the team’s primary left fielder and leadoff hitter. Though that may seem an underwhelming option to some, Kubatko points out that De Aza’s career OBP mark (.330) would be a nice boost over last season’s team OBP of .311.
- Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel takes a look at the Yankees‘ new glut of international prospects in his ranking of the team’s minor leaguers, with colleague Dave Cameron noting in an introduction that the team’s philosophical shift could pay off in spades a few years down the line. While the Yankees have always been known for spending significantly on free agency, they instead opted to go on a spending spree and blow past their allotted international bonus pool this year while exercising what some consider to be surprising restraint in terms of big league free agents.
Mets majority owner Fred Wilpon is the new chairman of MLB’s finance committee, a move that was met with raised eyebrows given that he was a victim of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. However, that’s not a concern to commissioner Rob Manfred, as Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. “I understand the whole Madoff thing,” Manfred said, “but before and since, Fred Wilpon was an extraordinarily successful businessman. The committee — the finance and compensation committee — really deals with two issues, principally: executive compensation, which he’s more than capable of dealing with, and a central office budget. Obviously, to be a successful businessman, you have to know how to budget.” More from the AL and NL East..
- The Rays are still likely to add a middle infielder and outfielder David DeJesus is still likely to be traded, but one or both pursuits could carry into spring training, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. DeJesus is owed $5MM this year with a $1MM buyout on a 2016 option, which makes him a reasonably priced target but also does not leave him with a ton of trade value.
- Alex Rodriguez offered to meet face-to-face with Yankees executives to apologize for his role in the Biogenesis scandal and clear the air before players report to Tampa next month, according to Teri Thompson, Bill Madden, and Michael O’Keeffe of the Daily News. However, the Yanks declined the invitation, which seems to indicate that the team is not ready to forgive and forget. Sources tell the Daily News trio that the next battle will be over the performance clauses in A-Rod’s deal which call for him to earn $6MM each time he ties a career home run milestone. Rodriguez needs just six more to tie Willie Mays’ 660 homers and earn a $6MM bonus.
- Some people have expressed concern about the Mets‘ shortstop position after the team was unable to find an upgrade this winter. However, Wilmer Flores insists that he’s ready and capable of filling the role. “I’m not going to say I don’t hear things,” Flores said, according to Marc Carig of Newsday. “But I try not to because I know what I can do, man. Honestly, I know what I can do.”
Jim Bowden of ESPN (Insider required) speculates the best fits for the current top 10 free agents. At the head of the list is James Shields who Bowden thinks fits with an AL team. Specifically mentioned are the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, and Rangers. However, now that his price tag may have dropped below five years and $110MM, other teams could get involved too. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also explored nine potential suitors for Shields and turned up plenty of NL contenders like the Cardinals and Padres.
- The Yankees franchise has benefited from the longevity of players like Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Derek Jeter, writes Chad Jennings of LoHud.com. Now, the key for the franchise is the longevity of players like Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and CC Sabathia. I would also add Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann to the list as there is reason to worry about how both players will age.
- Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig is healthy and ready to contribute, but he’ll face a difficult path to playing time, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. The Sox have Napoli at first base and a jam packed outfield mix with Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, and Jackie Bradley Jr. jockeying for playing time. Manager John Farrell suggested training at third base to Craig, but even then he’d be competing with Pablo Sandoval, Brock Holt, and Ramirez. Craig is likely to become trade bait during spring training, once he proves he’s healthy once again.
Talks between the Phillies and Brewers concerning closer Jonathan Papelbon are “on life support,” reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Haudricourt reported earlier today that “there was no traction” between the two sides. GM Doug Melvin echoed that sentiment, saying there was no momentum. It is thought that Papelbon’s $13MM option for 2016 is holding up an agreement. Since Papelbon has a limited no trade clause that includes the Brewers, he may ask for the option to be guaranteed before accepting a trade. The ball may be in Philadelphia’s court to find a financial solution to the situation.
- Brandon Beachy has “zeroed in on a new team,” tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN. Beachy and the unknown team are currently working on contractual details. Wolfson adds that the team is not the Twins. Beachy was non-tendered by the Braves earlier in the offseason after undergoing his second Tommy John procedure. If he avoids setbacks, he may return to action mid-season. It’s easy to compare Beachy’s situation with fellow former Brave Kris Medlen, who signed a two-year, $8.5MM deal with an option. Like Beachy, Medlen is also recovering from his second Tommy John surgery.
- Cuban infielder Hector Olivera held a public workout in the Dominican Republic last week and over 200 scouts attended, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The Giants, Padres, Rangers, Braves, and Yankees are showing the strongest interest in Olivera.
The Braves announced that they have claimed outfielder Eury Perez off waivers from the Yankees. The speedy Perez was designated for assignment by the Yankees in order to clear a spot on the roster for Stephen Drew.
The Yankees claimed Perez off waivers from the Nationals in late September, and the 24-year-old went 2-for-10 with a pair of singles in a brief cameo with the Bombers late in the season. Perez has just 23 big league plate appearances and a .174/.174/.174 batting line to show for it, but he possesses a well-regarded glove and blistering speed in center field. In 844 PAs at the Triple-A level, he’s a career .310/.354/.411 hitter with eight homers and 63 steals (in 79 attempts). Perez will provide the Braves with some outfield depth and a center field alternative should B.J. Upton‘s prolonged struggles continue in 2015.
Here are today’s minor moves from around baseball, with the newest transactions at the top of the post…
- The Mariners signed infielder Shawn O’Malley to a minor league deal and invited the 27-year-old to Spring Training, the team announced. O’Malley made his Major League debut last season, appearing in 11 games with the Angels. A fifth-round pick by the Rays in the 2006 draft, O’Malley has a .258/.351/.338 slash line over 2985 minor league plate appearances.
- The Phillies signed shortstop Tyler Greene to a minor league deal, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports (via Twitter). Greene, drafted 30th overall by the Cardinals in 2005, posted a .645 OPS over 746 PA with the Cards, Astros and White Sox from 2009-13, and he spent last season at the Triple-A level in the Braves’ and Padres’ systems.
- The White Sox signed right-handers Jairo Asencio and J.D. Martin to minor league deals and invited them to Spring Training, the team announced. Both righties spent last season pitching in the Korean Baseball Organization. Asencio posted a 5.34 ERA over 55 2/3 IP with four teams from 2009-13. Martin, drafted 35th overall by the Indians in the 2001 draft, last pitched in the majors in 2010.
- The Yankees signed catcher Eddy Rodriguez to a minor league deal, as per the team’s MLB.com transactions page. Rodriguez has a .235/.286/.386 slash line over 2271 minor league PA, mostly in San Diego’s system, as well as a two-game cup of coffee with the Padres in 2012.
With Max Scherzer off the market following a historic seven-year agreement with the Nationals, all eyes will be on top remaining free agent James Shields and agent Page Odle leading up to Spring Training. ESPN’s Jayson Stark has spoken to a number of industry sources for his most recent look at Shields’ market, and he lists various reasons that the industry doesn’t expect Shields to end up with the Marlins, D-Backs, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Royals, Tigers, Rangers, Astros, Cardinals and Brewers (the Padres, at least, are listed as “possible, but not likely”).
Of particular note from Stark is that the D-Backs are actively trying to trim their payroll, rather than add salary; the Cubs are likely to look for another big-name starter, but not until next offseason; and the chances of the Marlins signing Shields are precisely “zero,” the latter of which meshes with a recent report from Grantland’s Jonah Keri.
Nonetheless, one executive to whom Stark spoke said he sees jumping back into the mix for Shields. However, one of the reasons, per that exec, is that teams believe Shields will have to settle for less than the $110MM that he reportedly was offered earlier this month and are revisiting the situation with the assumption that the price has dropped. Said Stark’s source, “But the problem is, now everyone is bottom-feeding. And when you’re someone like him, that’s the last thing you want, is a lot of teams bottom-feeding on you in late January.”
Regardless of the imperfect fits that litter the market for Shields, most executives tell Stark they can’t see Shields signing for anything less than $80MM over a four-year term, and nearly everyone to whom he spoke thinks that Shields could sign at virtually any time.
One club that won’t be signing Shields is the Giants, it seems, based on comments made by GM Brian Sabean earlier today on KNBR radio. As KNBR scribe Dieter Kurtenbach writes, Sabean plainly stated that while his club has wiggle room to add another piece, “it’s not going to be a high ticket item.” Sabean explained that while the team made a run at a pair of “high ticket” items in the form of Pablo Sandoval and Jon Lester, the team made the decision to spread the money throughout the roster. As such, the club acquired Casey McGehee and Nori Aoki to fill respective holes at third base and in left field, and Jake Peavy was re-signed to add some stability to the rotation. (Of interest to Astros fans may be Sabean’s statement of the fact that he believes Ryan Vogelsong is “going elsewhere as we speak,” as Vogelsong is said to be nearing a deal with Houston.)
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