New York Mets Rumors
There's been lots of speculation over Terry Collins' job security as he is in the final year of his contract, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson says that he'll "absolutely" remain as manager for at least the remainder of the season, writes Mike Puma of the New York Post. "He came into the season without a contract for next year and may not have one for next year through this season," Alderson said. "But as I've told him and said before: This isn't just about wins and losses, it's about how we approach the game and fully taking into account what he has to work with." Here's more from the AL and NL East..
- In his latest mailbag, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star notes that while Josh Johnson could get back to his old form once he returns from injury and boost his trade value, the fact that he was the Blue Jays' initial target in trade talk with the Marlins could mean that the club isn't going to go for a quick trade if things aren't going well. Johnson is making $13.75MM in his walk year, which may give him extra motivation once he takes the hill again.
- The newest member of the Yankees, Chris Nelson, is excited about his new opportunity in the Bronx, writes MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. The Bombers acquired Nelson for cash or a player to be named later earlier this week.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos says that everything is alright in the clubhouse, but Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com sees signs of fraying within the new-look team.
Earlier today, Marc Hulet took a look at the prospects involved in this offseason's Blue Jays/Marlins and Blue Jays/Mets blockbuster trades. If that's not enough Mets coverage for you, here's more on the Amazins for your Thursday afternoon...
- Matt Meyers of ESPNNewYork.com wonders if the Mets might come to regret their refusal to include Zack Wheeler in a Justin Upton trade this winter. Wheeler could obviously develop into a serious talent, but Meyers notes that Upton is already a team-controlled, established star at a position of great need for the Mets.
- The Mets have issues, but manager Terry Collins isn't one of them, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The soon-to-be 64-year-old is in the final year of his deal and there has been speculation that he may not be back in 2014.
- Heyman also writes that playing for the Mets is a dream come true for John Buck, who has surprisingly been the best player involved in this offseason's blockbuster Blue Jays trades. Buck grew up in Utah aspiring to one day play for a New York team and has now improbably reached that goal. Even more unlikely, he has done so alongside one of his youth-league teammates -- Brandon Lyon.
The Prospect Rumor Roundup returns for a second week with a look back at the biggest trade of the offseason...
With Toronto almost 10 games out of first place at the beginning of May, and with the bandwagon already set ablaze by fickle fans, it's safe to say that this is not the type of start to the year that the Blue Jays front office was expecting. The organization orchestrated two key trades during the 2012-13 offseason, which brought a number of high-profile veterans north of the border, including R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Emilio Bonifacio. A month into the season, those five players have accumulated a combined 0.3 fWAR (Wins Above Replacement).
With arguably a top five minor league system prior to the deals, Toronto mortgaged a good deal of its future for a chance to win now. While the veterans are struggling, the majority of the prospects -- no longer under the Jays' control -- are thriving in their new digs.
Catcher Travis d'Arnaud reportedly came close to winning a big league roster spot out of spring training with the Mets. He was assigned to Triple-A where six of his nine hits went for extra bases. He also added 12 walks before going down with a broken foot. He'll miss about eight weeks, but veteran catcher John Buck is holding down the fort in the Majors. D'Arnaud was added to the 40-man roster in November 2011 and is currently in his second of three option years, so he'll have to establish himself in the Majors by the end of the 2014 season to avoid being sent through waivers to be demoted to the minors.
One of three top young arms in Toronto's system prior to being dealt to the Mets, Noah Syndergaard has a 3.24 ERA in five High-A ball starts. He's been even better than it appears, though, as he allowed seven of his nine earned runs on the year in just one start. Jonathan Raymond of MiLB.com recently spoke to the prospect's A-ball pitching coach to learn more about his approach. The Texas native is eligible for the Rule 5 draft in 2014 so he'll have to be added to the 40-man roster after next season to avoid being snatched away from the Mets.
Outfielder Wuilmer Becerra suffered a scary injury last year in rookie ball when he was hit in the face during an at-bat, ending his season after just 11 games. The 18-year-old was originally signed out of Venezuela for $1.3MM and was considered one of the top Latin amateur free agents in 2011. He's currently playing in extended spring training and should be assigned to a short-season club in June.
Adeiny Hechavarria was signed out of Cuba by the Jays and has taken over the starting shortstop gig in Miami, although he's currently on the disabled list. His offense hasn't kicked in yet but he's playing steady ball in the field and is known for being a plus defender capable of providing a ton of value with his glove alone. Hechavarria's traditional three option years expired at the end of 2012 but he was granted a rare fourth option year for the 2013 season, so he can be sent down to the minors this year -- if need be -- without being exposed to waivers.
Like Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino was a member of Toronto's top pitching trio. The Florida native has enjoyed his time in the Miami Marlins organization despite an inconsistent year to date and has a 3.60 ERA in five starts in the High-A Florida State League. Nicolino's adjustment to his hometown organization was recently outlined by Guy Curtright at MiLB.com. He doesn't have to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2014 season. I recently spoke with Marlins Director of Player Development Brian Chattin, who said the organization was happy with all the players they acquired. "Nicolino has shown an above-average changeup and a mature approach to his development," he added.
An injury to outfielder Jake Marisnick kept him on the sidelines until this past weekend. After spending 55 games at the Double-A level in 2013, he got his feet wet back in High-A ball before moving back to Double-A. He has plus defensive skills but a front office contact within the Jays organization told me during the offseason -- shortly before the big trade -- that he's still getting used to some adjustments made to his batting stance and swing mechanics. Chattin told MLBTR, "[Jake has] excellent makeup, he's a well-above-average athlete, impressive defender in center field and has the tools to be an impact major leaguer." Marisnick will have to be added to the 40-man roster this coming November to shield him from the Rule 5 draft.
The lesser known name of the group of prospects sent to Miami, Anthony DeSclafani arguably has had the most success of the four players. The University of Florida alum has a 0.44 ERA with 16 strikeouts and three walks in 20.2 innings pitched. A reliever with inconsistent results in college, the organization is trying to stretch him out as a starter in pro ball. "Anthony has thrown strikes and lived at the bottom of the zone in each of his starts," Chattin told MLBTR. "We are allowing him to use his curveball in addition to his slider/fastball/changeup combination. He has confidence in his curveball and is using it well as a complement to the rest of his arsenal." Like Nicolino, DeSclafani has to be added to the 40-man roster after the 2014 season.
Prospect Tidbits: With the recent success of 2012 National League Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey, the knuckleball is enjoying renewed popularity. Orioles minor leaguer Eddie Gamboa is attempting to become the next successful big league knuckleballer. Benjamin Hill of MLB.com explained that the pitching prospect received some guidance from Hall of Famer Phil Niekro during spring training. Gamboa said that he's currently throwing his new pitch about 50 percent of the time in game situations, much to his surprise. Said Gamboa:
"I always put up okay numbers, enough to keep getting a job again but not enough to get a promotion... My game was stuck... The knuckleball was always something that I had practiced just in case, but I didn't think that just in case was going to be this year."
A talented two-way player in high school, Stetson Allie signed with the Pirates for a $2.25MM bonus in 2010 and began his career on the mound. When he was unable to harness his control (29 walks in 26 innings in 2011), the organization took a huge gamble by shifting the strong-armed prospect to first base. It took a year of struggling to find his footing but Allie is finally tapping into his plus raw power and has eight home runs in 24 A-ball games. Mike Newman of FanGraphs.com recently watched the Pirates prospect play and he also spoke with Allie, as well as Pittsburgh's assistant general manager Kyle Stark.
Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner feels that the January 2012 trade that sent him to San Diego (with Kyung-Min Na) for Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates was good for him and for Rizzo, Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. "I think it was a trade that certainly worked out well for both players involved," Cashner says. "The pitcher got to move to a pitcher’s ballpark. The hitter got to move to a hitter’s ballpark."
Rizzo, meanwhile, feels there wasn't a place for him in San Diego. "As soon as they traded for Yonder Alonso, I don’t think I was in the Padres’ plans," he says. "I can understand it. Yonder was probably better suited to Petco Park than I was." Rizzo had a strong season with the Cubs in 2012, while Cashner has struck out 19 batters in his first 19 1/3 innings in 2013 while showing off mid-90s velocity. Here are more notes from around the National League.
- The Phillies face "major questions," Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci writes. Pitchers Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay will cost the team $64.5MM in 2013, but it's questionable whether the rest of the roster can support them, Verducci argues. Big expenditures on those three pitchers, plus star veterans Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, meant the Phillies had to build a cheap outfield, says Verducci. The biggest problem in the outfield so far this season, however, is that Domonic Brown and Ben Revere have struggled. Those players aren't highly-paid, but they also aren't on the roster merely because they're cheap. Revere posted 3.1 wins above replacement in 2012, and Brown was a highly-regarded prospect. "We have a lot of guys in the outfield who have never done it over a full season and are starting to get older, as far as being considered young players," a Phillies employee says.
- Jim Thome, who played for the Phillies and Orioles in 2012, is hoping to return to baseball later this season, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. "He still thinks he can play," says Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "He misses the game. Baseball is his identity. That’s all he’s done for 20-some years or so. He's kind of having a hard time adjusting."
- Before a strong start today against Reno, top Mets prospect Zack Wheeler was struggling to adjust at Triple-A Las Vegas, John Harper of the New York Daily News writes. Mets fans are waiting for Wheeler to join the big-league rotation. "Obviously I want to be up there, but you can’t think about it because it will distract you, take your mind off what you’re trying to do down here," Wheeler says. Wheeler currently has a 4.80 ERA. Las Vegas is one of the toughest places to pitch in the minor leagues, however, and the fact that he's allowed a few too many runs there might not mean Wheeler isn't ready for the Majors, especially with 10.8 K/9 so far this year.
As we close in on the month of May, let's check in on the players who have vesting options for the 2014 season...
- Kurt Suzuki, Nationals: $9.25MM option vests with 113 starts in 2013. Prior to Opening Day, the Nats announced that Suzuki would be in a timeshare with Wilson Ramos behind the plate. However, Ramos' hamstring has led to Suzuki starting 16 of the club's 23 games so far in 2013. Ramos is scheduled to rejoin the club on Monday, but if he suffers another setback, Suzuki could have a realistic shot at triggering his '14 option.
- Jamey Carroll, Twins: $2MM option vests with 401 plate appearances. Carroll has surpassed that mark in each of the last three seasons with 500+ plate appearances in each of the last two years, but he has just 18 PAs as April comes to a close.
- Wilson Betemit, Orioles: $3.2MM option vests with 324 plate appearances (combined 700 between 2012 and 2013). Betemit suffered a PCL tear during the last week of Spring Training, keeping him out of action until at least mid-May. When he returns, he figures to see less action than he did last year thanks to Manny Machado.
- Lance Berkman, Rangers: $13MM option vests with 550 plate appearances. So far, Berkman has 19 games under his belt with 80 plate appearances. He'll be within reach as long as he stays healthy. In 2011, his last full season, Berkman racked up 587 PAs for the Cardinals.
- Roy Halladay, Phillies: $20MM option vests with 259 innings pitched (combined 415 innings pitched between '12 and '13). So far, Halladay has logged 28 and 1/3 innings through five April starts but the 259 mark remains a longshot. However, it's worth nothing that Halladay has come close to that figure twice in the last six years (2008, 246 IP; 2010, 250.2 IP) and surpassed it once in his career (2003, 266 IP).
- Brett Myers, Indians: $8MM option vests with 200 innings pitched in 2013 and a passed physical after the season. Myers is expected to miss most of May due to tendinitis and a mild ligament sprain in his right elbow. So far, the right-hander has 21 and 1/3 innings to his credit in 2013.
- Barry Zito, Giants: $18MM option vests with 200 innings pitched. Zito has 23 and 2/3 innings so far through the month of April and will make his fifth start of the year tonight against the Padres.
- Johan Santana, Mets: His $25MM option could have vested with 215 innings pitched or winning the 2013 Cy Young Award, but he won't have a chance at that thanks to a season-ending tear in his pitching shoulder.
It's also worth noting that Francisco Liriano has a $8MM club option for 2014 with the Pirates, but it can vest at any of three levels, $5MM, $6MM, or $8MM, based on the number of days he is not on the DL this year with a recurrence of his right arm injury. It's not known how many days the hurler must steer clear of right arm trouble in order to trigger each level of his option, however. Liriano has yet to take the hill in 2013, but he is expected to make his big league debut on May 10th vs. the Mets.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has posted his latest edition of Full Count (video link) and we've got the highlights..
- If the White Sox fall out of contention, they could be an interesting seller at the deadline. Paul Konerko, Gavin Floyd, Matt Thornton, and Jesse Crain are among their attractive potential free agents. Meanwhile, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy are signed only through next season. However, their pitching means that they should be in the mix for at least the second wild card spot. According to one team's internal calculations, their staff is currently the most productive in baseball.
- The Rangers could face a problem if they try to put a deal together for Giancarlo Stanton or David Price. Texas is thin on high-end pitching in the upper levels farm system, which will hurt them, particularly if they go after Price.
- Mets skipper Terry Collins is in the final year of his deal and one team official says he'll likely be judged on how much the team's young talent improves. So far, so good as Daniel Murphy, Jordany Valdespin, Lucas Duda, and of course Matt Harvey are among the homegrown Mets off to decent starts. Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis, on the other hand, appear to be question marks. In any case, Collins' status likely won't be decided until the end of the season.
- There was a lot of talk about Dan Haren's hip after the Cubs backed out of trading for him last November, but the pitcher has heard the talk and thinks its overblown. He says that his hip is the same as it was when he was in Oakland and says that it hasn't gotten any better or worse since then. He also noted that he has missed only three starts in ten seasons and doesn't plan to miss any in 2013.
Let's start the last weekend in April with some notes from the National League:
- As expected, offseason acquisition Shaun Marcum has been activated to make his first start for the Mets today, the team announced via Twitter. In a corresponding move, the team optioned 26-year-old lefty Josh Edgin to the minors, where he will try to sort out his poor start to the year. The Mets hope that Marcum, who came to New York on a one-year, $4MM deal, can stabilize the back of the team's rotation. While Matt Harvey has been lights out and Jon Niese has been solid, the remaining Mets starters have combined to allow well over five earned runs per nine innings.
- Even with the mixed results from the team's starting staff, the Mets have gotten off to a fairly promising start. Meanwhile, the Nationals and Phillies have failed to live up to expectations in the early going. While acknowledging it is a long shot, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post looks at what it would take for the Mets to seize any opening should the Nats and Phils continue to underperform. Many variables would have to break right for the Mets, says Davidoff. The club must hold things together and hope that Travis d'Arnaud and Zack Wheeler arrive mid-summer, ready to contribute. (Of course, the d'Arnaud side of this already looks unlikely given his approximately two-month injury timetable.) If that happens, the Mets will face a test of their asserted willingness to take on salary -- and/or even deal young talent -- to make a run at a postseason appearance.
- In the midst of what MLBTR's Mark Polishuk calls a make or break year, Giants starter Tim Lincecum has put together two consecutive quality starts. As Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com writes, last night Lincecum struck out nine Padres over seven innings, allowing just two runs. Lincecum, who currently stands ninth in Tim Dierkes's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, had struggled mightily in his first three outings. While he still ranks among baseball's worst in BB/9 (5.16), Lincecum has raised his strikeout rate to 9.71 K/9.
- The Cardinals are not currently looking outside the organization to supplement their bullpen, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. While the club waits to learn the fate of injured closer Jason Motte, it has been rewarded for handing larger roles to Edward Mujica and Joe Kelly. GM John Mozeliak says that, while he is open to looking at the trade market, "that would not be in the near future."
- Morosi also addressed the subject of Braves outfielder Justin Upton, wondering why exactly the Diamondbacks decided to trade him. While Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick publicly called Upton "an enigma," and manager Kirk Gibson purportedly did not see eye-to-eye with the young slugger, Morosi says there was no single moment that apparently caused a rift. In case you missed it, Upton is off to something of a solid start for his new ballclub.
5:58pm: A National League source told Buster Olney of ESPN.com (on Twitter) that the Mets didn't make an offer to Valverde either.
4:31pm: WFAN's Sweeny Murti tweets that Yankees GM Brian Cashman denied the claims made by Valverde. Cashman said that not only did the Yankees not make an offer, they didn't even have discussions with Valverde and Boras.
3:55pm: Jose Valverde is back in a familiar role as the Tigers' closer, but he could've been in a very different situation had wanted to this offseason. The 35-year-old told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports today that the Yankees and Mets both offered him a Major League contract this offseason (Twitter link).
Neither the Mets or Yankees wound up adding much in the way of bullpen help on Major League deals. The Mets reportedly had interest in Brian Wilson at various points throughout the winter. Ultimately, they elected to sign Brandon Lyon and add Scott Atchison and LaTroy Hawkins on minor league commitments. The Yankees, meanwhile, re-signed Mariano Rivera and swung a deal with the Mariners to land right-hander Shawn Kelley.
Valverde signed a minor league contract with the Tigers in early April which was re-worked into a Major League deal yesterday. The Scott Boras client clearly would not have been a candidate to close for the Yankees with Rivera in the fold, though it seems possible that he could've gotten some save opportunities for the Mets.
Your daily rundown of minor transactions from around the league...
- The Mets have signed right-hander D.J. Mitchell, tweets ESPN's Adam Rubin. Mitchell was designated for assignment by the Mariners earlier in the month and elected free agency after clearing waivers. The 25-year-old has a 3.72 ERA in 317 1/3 Triple-A innings and was one of the pitchers Seattle received from the Yankees in last year's Ichiro Suzuki trade.
- The Dodgers signed right-hander Anthony Ortega to a minor league contract to fill Stephen Fife's spot in Triple-A, tweets MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. The 27-year-old Venezuelan was originally signed by the Angels and made three rough starts for the Halos in 2009. He has a 4.41 career ERA in six minor league seasons to go along with a 6.4 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9.
The Mets have designated Aaron Laffey for assignment, according to Marc Carig of Newsday (on Twitter). The left-hander saw less than an inning of work against the Nationals last night as he allowed a walk and a double to set up a three-run homer from Adam LaRoche.
Laffey, 28, signed a minor league deal with the Mets in December. The veteran pitched to a 4.56 ERA with 4.3 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 16 starts and six relief appearances for the Blue Jays last season. He also made eleven starts for Triple-A Las Vegas, posting a 4.52 ERA with 5.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9.