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The Mariners sent a scout to watch David Phelps' recent Spring Training outing, George A. King III of the New York Post reports, while the White Sox and Brewers also had scouts on hand to watch the Yankees' catchers. King previously reported last week that the White Sox had their eyes on the Yankees' catching surplus and that the Yankees were scouting Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks.
With the Yankees known to be looking for infielders, King speculates that Nick Franklin could be a target for the club, especially since Seattle is known to be exploring trades for the young second baseman. The M's are looknig to upgrade their pitching depth thanks to injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, though as King notes, it would take more than just Phelps to acquire Franklin.
It would be somewhat surprising to see the Yankees move Phelps given the club's lack of starting pitching depth. Phelps is competing with Michael Pineda and Adam Warren to be New York's fifth starter, and since Pineda hasn't pitched in a Major League game since 2011 and Warren has only three career starts over his two MLB seasons, the Yankees would have to be confident in both pitchers' development to send Phelps elsewhere. Phelps' advanced metrics (3.81 FIP, 4.03 xFIP, 3.91 SIERA) indicate that he pitched much better last season than his 4.98 ERA over 86 2/3 IP would indicate.
The Yankees have Francisco Cervelli, J.R. Murphy and Austin Romine competing to be Brian McCann's backup, and all could fit into reserve roles in Chicago or Milwaukee. The Sox could offer more regular time, as their catching mix of Josh Phegley, Tyler Flowers, Hector Gimenez and Rule 5 Draft pick Adrian Nieto isn't at all settled.
With Jonathan Lucroy firmly locked into the starting job in Milwaukee, the Brewers are only looking for a backup. If Weeks is a target, it's only a matter of how much of his $11MM salary the Crew will agree to absorb (King also suggests Aramis Ramirez as a trade possibility, but I doubt the Brewers would think to trade him unless they struggle during the season and fall out of the race).
We already know that the 2013-14 free agent market has featured incredible spending levels, but what does that mean for how teams value a win (above replacement)? Dave Cameron of Fangraphs breaks down the cost of a projected win for each player that signed a major league deal. The results show that teams have spent at levels that, depending upon what discount rate and precise methodology is employed, value an expected win at between $5MM and $7MM. In a follow-up piece, Cameron observes that, at least for players who are expected to be regular contributors, the spending shows a non-linear escalation of the price of a win (i.e., teams are paying a premium to lock up high-WAR players). Then again, says Cameron, one team — the Yankees — bid on all and signed most of the top (3+-win) players who were on the market, which could have skewed the results. Be sure to read both pieces for all the details on this fascinating topic.
Here are more notes from around the league:
- The Yankees' rash of spending may have pushed him to the periphery of the team's roster, but Ichiro Suzuki is not changing his approach, writes Dave D'Alessandro of the Newark Star-Ledger. "Whatever my role is here — whether I'm a starter or not — my preparation never changes," said Ichiro. "Every day I'm going to do the exact same thing regardless of what my role will be. … If I was the type of player who changes the way I prepare myself, I wouldn't be the player I have been."
- Outfielder Andy Dirks of the Tigers will undergo back surgery and is expected to be out of action for three months, reports the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter). Dirks had been expected to be the left-handed-hitting side of a left field platoon with Rajai Davis. GM Dave Dombrowski indicated that the club hopes to rely on its internal options — including Davis, the switch-hitting Steve Lombardozzi, and left-handed swinging Don Kelly — to fill the void, James Schmehl of MLive.com reports. "We think we have some good candidates," said Dombrowski, "but we'll just have to wait and see. I don't want to proclaim that to be 100 percent, but we do have some people that we feel have the chance to play a bigger role for us."
- After coming over as the key piece in the Mark Trumbo deal, 22-year-old lefty Tyler Skaggs is a key to a high-priced Angels club, writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. "He's very important to our season, very important to our future," said GM Jerry Dipoto. "Tyler, being that he's the youngest and least-experienced of our starters, it's an important spring for him to take that next step and establish himself at the major league level."
New Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler offered up some surprisingly candid remarks surrounding his old team, the Rangers, in an interview with Robert Sanchez of ESPN the Magazine. Kinsler touched on the fact that he wasn't happy to be asked to move off second base, didn't approve of how Michael Young was treated by the organization and ultimately called general manager Jon Daniels a "sleazeball." Kinsler, who told Sanchez he hoped the Rangers go 0-162 in 2014, tells the Detroit Free Press (All Twitter links) that he's not pleased with the way the story turned out: "I’m not happy about it. The story was written for drama and taken a little out of context. But it is what it is." Asked about the 0-162 comment, Kinsler told the Free Press: "It’s a matter of telling a joke, to be honest with you." The three-time All-Star said he's not planning to reach out to Daniels about the "sleazeball" comment, but stressed that it, too, was taken out of context.
Here's a bit more on Kinsler and some other AL West-related news items…
- Kinsler's former teammates Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre aren't bothered by the comments and don't have any ill will toward Kinsler, writes Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. Beltre told Fraley, "It doesn't bother me. He's still my friend." Andrus had a similar take, stating, "He's my buddy. … He's still my friend. I don't take anything from that." Manager Ron Washington told Fraley he's not affected by Kinsler's opinions.
- MLB.com's Doug Miller looks back on what seemed to be a win-win trade in January 2012, noting that neither the Mariners nor Yankees have gotten much value out of the Michael Pineda/Jesus Montero trade. Miller spoke with both players and their respective managers about the chances that each has to make an impact with their clubs this season.
- Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez tells Tom D'Angelo of the Palm Beach Post that he doesn't have hard feelings toward the Marlins for trading him and doesn't feel that the team gave up on him. "They thought that trade was in the best interest, decided to give me up, it’s worked out for me." Dominguez says that "everyone" knew his glove was ahead of his bat at the time of the deal, but he's starting to get his confidence back at the plate. The 24-year-old slashed .241/.286/.403 with 21 homers for the Astros last season.
- Bob Dutton of Tacoma News Tribune writes that Mariners top prospect is scheduled to begin playing catch on Thursday and is on a three-week program to build up arm strength. Barring setbacks, he could be able to join Seattle's rotation in mid-April.
Two years after their trade with the Mariners, the Yankees may finally emerge as the winners in their trade for Michael Pineda, David Waldstein of the New York Times writes. Jesus Montero's stock has fallen sharply in Seattle thanks to his poor hitting and conditioning, and now Pineda, who missed the entire 2012 season with shoulder trouble, has a chance to win a job in the Yankees' rotation. Pineda, who pitched sparingly in the minors last year, says he's finally healthy. "I want to be on the Yankees right away," he says. "I don’t want to go to Triple-A. But I don’t have control over the situation." Here are more notes from around baseball.
- Jon Lester is heading into his last year before free agency, and it seems likely that he and the Red Sox will agree to terms on an extension before that happens. In a podcast, Tim Britton and Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal try to determine what a Lester extension might look like, and they arrive somewhere in the neighborhood of five years and $110MM guaranteed, perhaps with an option of some kind. The Red Sox likely will not want to guarantee more than five years for Lester, they suggest, and his recent workload (he threw 248 innings last year, including the postseason) could be a factor. Lester is already locked into a $13MM salary for 2014, so a five-year, $110MM extension would effectively add four years and $97MM.
- It's unclear how many innings the Rangers will get from their starting pitchers, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. Derek Holland is injured, Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison have back issues, Alexi Ogando hasn't proven he's durable, and Martin Perez is only 22. The Rangers could try to compensate by getting more innings out of their relievers. They could also try to make up for Holland's absence by signing Joe Saunders, who recently worked out for them. Tommy Hanson, Colby Lewis, Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Michael Kirkman could also be candidates to start.
- Vanderbilt pitcher Tyler Beede now looks like a clear top-five draft pick, ESPN's Keith Law writes (Insider-only). Law notes that on Friday night, Beede demonstrated good stuff and solid command, with 92-95 MPH velocity and a strong changeup. Law writes that teams should consider taking Beede beginning with the No. 3 overall pick, with only NC State's Carlos Rodon and high school arm Tyler Kolek obviously representing better picks at this point.
- A.J. Burnett, who made his 2014 spring debut on Sunday, helps clarify the Phillies' rotation, Matt Gelb of the Inquirer writes. As Ryan Lawrence of the Daily News noted earlier today, the back of the Phillies' rotation is uncertain — Cole Hamels, Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin are all dealing with injuries, and it's not clear what they have in Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Burnett gives the Phillies a reliable option to add to Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick.
Ichiro Suzuki is entering the last year of his contract with the Yankees and, though he turns 41 years old in October, the outfielder tells ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews that he plans to play "not just a few" but "many" seasons past the 2014 campaign. “Retirement from baseball is something I haven’t even thought about….For me, I feel there’s no reason for me to retire right now," Suzuki said.
Suzuki has hit just .273/.305/.356 in 1939 PA over the last three seasons, missing only 13 games during that stretch though he is no longer producing like an everyday player. His playing time will be drastically reduced this season given that the Yankees have Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano slated for the regular outfield and DH positions, respectively.
While Suzuki says “there’s no reason for me not to play every day" and is physically preparing himself for a full 162 games, he admits that "when I first signed here I knew what I was getting into. I knew every year there would be changes and things would happen that maybe we can’t control."
“I don’t know how I’m going to feel once the season starts. I don’t know what it’s going to be like. But right now, it doesn’t change the way I prepare myself throughout the spring."
Despite his decline at the plate, Suzuki still brings a lot of value as a backup, if not as a starter. He has provided excellent right field defense (UZR/150 scores of +16 and +17.8 in 2012 and 2013, respectively) as a Yankee and is still a stolen base threat, not to mention his durability. Suzuki is 258 hits away from the 3000-hit plateau and only 236 hits away from a symbolic tie with Pete Rose's record 4256 hits (though, of course, 1278 of Suzuki's hits came in Japan).
If David Price isn't traded, "almost every baseball person one talks to mentions the Rays as the team to beat in the American League," Peter Gammons writes in his latest piece for his Gammons Daily website. Price has stayed in the fold despite multiple trade rumors this winter, with the Rays instead adding roster depth instead of moving another cornerstone player for prospects. The depth and continuity carrying over from 2013 is a big factor for Evan Longoria, who notes that "for the first time since I’ve been here, we have almost everyone back. We have a team that is going to play together two years in a row.”
Here's some more from around the AL East…
- The Rays' "laid back environment" was a key reason why Mark Lowe chose to sign a minor league deal with the club, MLB.com's Bill Chastain reports. Lowe notes that his choice came down to the Rays and Indians this winter, as those were the two clubs who "pushed the hardest" for his services. Tampa manager Joe Maddon said that the Rays originally tried to sign Lowe during the 2012-13 offseason.
- Jhonny Peralta said the Yankees offered him a three-year contract and the opportunity to play third base, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (Twitter links). The Yankees were Peralta's preferred Big Apple team since the Mets only offered him a two-year deal that Peralta described as "not really good." Of course, Peralta overcame the stigma of his 50-game PED suspension last season to sign a four-year, $53MM contract with the Cardinals as their everyday shortstop.
- Mike Napoli rejected a qualifying offer from the Red Sox last fall and the slugger felt the draft pick compensation limited his free agent options, Napoli tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. “It’s tough because it’s kind of holding you back,” Napoli said. “You get (to free agency) and it should be all the teams that want you. The way it is now, if a team doesn’t want to give up a pick, they’re not going to be interested.” It ended up being something of a moot point for Napoli, as he openly wanted to return to Boston and re-signed for a two-year, $32MM deal.
- There isn't any new news about David Ortiz's contract talks with the Red Sox, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. The two sides apparently haven't had any further negotiations since their initial meetings two weeks ago. (Cafardo shared some more items about the AL East in his regular Sunday column, as reported earlier.)
- Quintin Berry talks to WEEI.com's Rob Bradford about why he signed with the Orioles and how he appreciated his time with the Red Sox last season, though the Sox didn't push too hard to re-sign him. “Supposedly [they tried] a little bit, but I know they had a couple of things in mind they wanted to do, some guys they wanted to try and give experience to,” Berry said. “So I just wanted to test the market and see what else I could do." Berry signed a minor league deal with the O's in January.
The Braves top a ranking of baseball's best bullpens over at MLB.com's Outside Pitch blog. Craig Kimbrel is a big part of that choice, but the presence of Luis Avilan, Jordan Walden and David Carpenter also make the Atlanta relief corps one of MLB's deepest, according to Outside Pitch's Shawn Ferris. Completing the list are the Red Sox, Cardinals, Pirates and Reds. Here's more from around baseball's Eastern divisions:
- Braves second base prospect Tommy La Stella has been turning heads early in camp, Carroll Rogers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes, though the club still plans on starting the season with veteran Dan Uggla at the keystone.
- Nelson Cruz had a successful debut for the Orioles in a matchup with the Blue Jays, walking twice and scoring from first on a Chris Davis double (via Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com). "It doesn’t feel like butterflies or anything," Cruz said. "I feel normal, I guess, as soon as I come out to the field."
- Yankees hurler CC Sabathia wasn't concerned after his fastball topped out at 88 MPH in his first Spring Training outing, Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News reports. “My fastball is what it is. If it gets better, it will. If it’s not, it won’t,” Sabathia commented. McCarron writes that the concerns are likely to persist if the lefty's heater doesn't tick up, noting that Sabathia lost a significant amount of weight this offseason.
It's been a slow day throughout baseball, but there's been at least one very interesting development. At the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston today, MLB Advanced Media presented a new plan to measure new aspects of each play and connect various pieces of data to find out why each play turned out the way it did. For example, on a ball hit to the outfield, MLBAM will track not only the trajectory of the ball, but also the timing of the outfielder's first step and the efficiency of his route. The technology will also allow teams to connect hitting, pitching, baserunning and fielding data.
Details of the system have appeared on Twitter throughout the day, but MLB.com's Mark Newman explains the system more thoroughly in a long-form article. (When you click on the article, be sure to check out the video showing an example of the data the system will track.) The system appears likely to impact analysis of all aspects of the game, but it will most obviously impact analysis of fielding. "Just on the field, with the coaching staff and the manager — when you start to look at positioning, and you start to see the exit velocity of the ball coming off the bat, and is he late or is he ahead of a lot of pitches, and then you move your infielders and outfielders accordingly," MLB.com's Jim Duquette says. The data appears likely to have a significant impact on player valuation throughout the game. The data will be collected at Brewers, Twins and Mets home games in 2014, and then the system will launch in all other ballparks in 2015. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- Masahiro Tanaka made his spring debut with the Yankees today, pitching two scoreless innings and allowing two hits against the Phillies. Even Tanaka's first spring appearance was a major news event, given that Tanaka was the Yankees' highest-profile signing in an offseason filled with high-profile Yankees signings. Three Japanese television channels broadcast the game, which also included Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki. David Waldstein of the New York Times notes that Tanaka's fastball came in at 94 MPH.
- The White Sox have signed 24 pre-arbitration eligible players to one-year deals, Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets. Starting pitcher Jose Quintana, who posted a 3.51 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 200 innings in 2013, received a $50K raise to $550K, and reliever Nate Jones got a $37K raise to $545K.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson recently told the club's executives and baseball personnel that he believes the team can win 90 games in 2014, reports John Harper of the New York Daily News. Alderson neither denied nor confirmed the report, but his comments implied he had set an ambitious target for the organization. "All I'll say is we have higher expectations than we've had in the past," said the GM. "Because I think it has to be a mind-set. Part of creating a winning environment is setting ambitious goals and working toward them. But it has to be systematic and it can’t be totally unrealistic. I don’t think it is in this case.”
Here are a few more notes from the game's eastern divisions to start the day:
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman says that the last thing he's concerned about is the health of the team's star shortstop and first baseman, reports the New York Post's George A. King III. "I am more focused on the bullpen, the rotation and how that will shake out and the infield that is not Mark Teixeira or Derek Jeter," he said. We heard yesterday that the Yankees are still keeping an eye on possible additions to the club's infield mix.
- Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich says that the silver lining of the club losing its top draft choices is that his scouts will be able to drill down harder on the players who are likely to be available to them further down in the order, reports Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com. "I think we will try to identify all the players we think will be gone," Rajsich said. "We will focus on second and third-round guys and try to sign an undervalued player there.
Every area scout will still scout the top guys in their area, but they will not spend a lot of time on the ones they think are definitely first-round guys. I would say we may be able to eliminate as many as 45 or 50 players." At present, the O's will first select a player with the 90th overall choice.
- The Red Sox have quickly amassed a nice array of young arms in the upper minors, writes Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. And while most of those arms do not figure to break camp with the big club, GM Ben Cherington said that they will nevertheless be a valuable resource in 2014. “That young group, no matter what, is going to be relied upon in some way at some point during the year,” Cherington said. “You can never have enough.”
Earlier today, it was reported that the Yankees will be monitoring the market for infielders in Spring Training but aren't looking to spend any significant cash in order to upgrade their infield. Here are some more items pertaining to New York's teams…
- Despite the Yankees' 85-77 record, GM Brian Cashman approached the winter as if his club had only achieved its Pythagorean record of 79-83. “Our team over-performed last year,” Cashman told reporters, including Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. “It’s a credit to everybody involved in that process. But the record didn’t reflect the talent. And so when you take a sledgehammer to the roster like we did this winter and spend the money we did, it’s more reflective of recognizing. Of not being fooled.”
the Bombers’ best insurance policythe Bombers’ best insurance policy
- Stephen Drew is "the Bombers' best insurance policy" given the Yankees' thin infield situation, The Record's Bob Klapsich writes. While the Yankees are concerned about Drew's medicals and seemingly have no payroll space left, Klapisch notes that the club is already putting a lot of hope in an infield with major injury risks (i.e. Derek Jeter, Brian Roberts, Mark Teixeira). "Basically, we have to keep everyone from breaking down," a Yankees official tells Klapisch.
- According to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com, Mets GM Sandy Alderson acknowledged that his team appears to be a logical landing spot for Drew, but the team has made its own cost-benefit evaluation and acted accordingly to this point. Alderson opined the Drew and agent Scott Boras "are reviewing the situation and perhaps looking at a strategy that prolongs this situation into the regular season or even into June."
- Mets lefty Jon Niese was shut down due to a dead arm and is heading back to New York for an MRI, according to MLB.com's Anthony DiComo (on Twitter). Manager Terry Collins told reporters, including the Daily News' Kristie Ackert, that the MRI is a precaution at this time.
- In a video blog at ESPN.com, Jim Bowden addresses rumors surrounding Troy Tulowitzki and the Yankees, noting that the Rockies star won't be traded to New York to replace Jeter no matter how much talk of the possibility surfaces. Bowden says that Rockies president Dan O'Dowd has told him repeatedly that Tulo won't be traded.
- The Mets will scout Nick Franklin throughout Spring Training and pay special attention to his defense, a team source tells John Harper of the Daily News (Twitter link). The club likes Franklin's pop but isn't sure about his glove at short, the source said. Reports earlier this week connected the Mets to Franklin.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post