Newsstand Rumors

Denard Span To Undergo Season-Ending Hip Surgery

AUG. 28: Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports (on Twitter) that Span is set to undergo season-ending hip surgery next Tuesday. The issue is in his hip labrum, manager Matt Williams tells reporters including Mark Zuckerman of Comcast SportsNet (Twitter link).

AUG. 27: Nationals center fielder Denard Span is headed back to the disabled list with inflammation in his left hip, and as Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington writes, this most recent injury may very well bring his season to a close.

This will be Span’s third and seemingly final trip to the disabled list in 2015 — an unfortunate series of events for any player, but particularly for Span, who is eligible for free agency for the first time at season’s end. If his season is indeed done, injuries will have limited the 31-year-old to just 61 games. Of course, his production in those 61 games has been excellent; Span has totaled a .301/.365/.431 batting line with five homers and 11 stolen bases.

Defensive metrics were down on Span in 2015, though injuries may have played a part in his deteriorated rankings, as Span does come with a reputation as a plus defender in center field. After beginning the season on the disabled list due to offseason core muscle surgery, Span again landed on the disabled list in early July due to back spasms. He returned from the DL just three days ago, but his stay on the active roster will be a brief one. As Zuckerman writes, the string of injuries were very likely related to one another.

Manager Matt Williams told Zuckerman and other reporters that while it’s not clear if Span will return in 2015, he would “imagine it’s going to be very tough for him to get back.” The loss of Span, of course, further dampens the playoff hopes of what has been a disappointing Nationals club in 2015. Though Washington emerged victorious tonight, so too did the division-leading Mets. Picked by most (myself included) to win the division, the Nationals instead trail the Mets by 6.5 games and are an even more distant nine games back in the NL Wild Card race.

Compounding matters for the Nationals is the fact that rookie outfielder Michael Taylor — Span’s likely replacement — left tonight’s game with a knee injury suffered when crashing into the outfield wall. It’s not known how long Taylor will be sidelined, but Zuckerman notes that center fielder Matt den Dekker, who would’ve been a September call-up anyhow, will presumably be called up as a corresponding move to replace Span.


Mariners Fire GM Jack Zduriencik

The Mariners announced today that general manager Jack Zduriencik has been relieved of his duties, effective immediately. Assistant GM Jeff Kingston will assume Zduriencik’s responsibilities on an interim basis through season’s end, according to the team. In a press release announcing the front office shakeup, Mariners president Kevin Mather offered the following statement:

Jack Zduriencik

“We have reached the point when change of leadership of our baseball operations is needed for the Seattle Mariners to reach our goal of winning championships. We are very disappointed with the results this season, and are not satisfied with the current operation. The search for a permanent general manager will begin immediately, and while there is no deadline, we expect to have a new GM in place as soon as practical. We have great respect for Jack and his work ethic. He was an excellent representative of the Mariners both within the game of baseball and in the community. On behalf of the entire organization, I wish him and (his wife) Debbie all the best, and thank him for all his efforts.”

Zduriencik came to the Mariners with a scouting background from his time with the Brewers, but Seattle hasn’t drafted well under his watch. The Mariners twice had the No. 2 overall pick under Zduriencik, but neither player selected — Dustin Ackley (2009) or Danny Hultzen (2011) — has contributed much, if anything, to the Mariners’ success. Seattle selection of Mike Zunino with the No. 3 overall pick in 2012 may yet prove to be a successful move, but Zunino was rushed to the Majors and has batted just .193/.252/.353 as a big leaguer. Of course, the selection of Kyle Seager in the third round back in 2009 will go down as one of the best picks made that year. James Paxton and Taijuan Walker may yet prove to be prudent selections, though both have battled health issues, and neither has established himself relative to his lofty prospect status just yet.

Building a productive lineup in an environment that naturally suppresses offense has long been an issue for the Mariners, and Zduriencik was unable to solve the problem either. His offseason signing of Nelson Cruz has helped guide the Mariners to their best offensive output in Zduriencik’s seven-year tenure as GM (at least in terms of park-adjusted metrics like wRC+ and OPS+), but the Mariners still rank 24th in runs scored this season. Under Zduriencik, Seattle has never ranked better than 19th in the Majors in runs scored (the only time they ranked better than the bottom third of the league), and they’ve twice scored the fewest runs in all of Major League Baseball.

The decision to sign Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240MM was made with an eye on winning immediately, and while the Mariners came very close in 2014, they’re nowhere near contention in 2015. That contract will likely hinder the organization for years to come, even if Cano can continue his second-half rebound and perform well over the next couple of seasons, and the opportunity to capitalize on his prime seasons will wane with each non-contending year.

Zduriencik, of course, did have his successes as a general manager. Under his watch, the team signed ace Felix Hernandez to a seven-year, $175MM contract that included five years and $135.5MM of new money. That contract runs through the 2019 season and includes a conditional $1MM club option that comes into play in the event that King Felix ever spends more than 130 consecutive days on the disabled list due to elbow surgery. To this point, Hernandez has made good on his end of the deal, which will conclude after his age-33 season. Zduriencik also made one of the most shrewd pitching acquisitions in recent history when he landed righty Hisashi Iwakuma on a one-year, $1.5MM contract prior to the 2012 season. Iwakuma proved to be an excellent buy, and the two-year, $14MM extension (which included a $7MM club option for the current season) yielded one of the highest returns on investment in recent memory.

On the trade front, Zduriencik notably oversaw the acquisition of Cliff Lee from the Phillies — a move in which he acquired one of baseball’s best arms but gave up virtually nothing in the way of future value. However, Zduriencik also failed to recoup much value when eventually dealing Lee away to the division-rival Rangers, as centerpiece Justin Smoak had a middling career with Seattle. Smoak was one of several high-profile hitting prospects that didn’t pan out with the Mariners; Jesus Montero stands out as another much-ballyhooed prospect that has not developed as hoped, and Zduriencik parted with Michael Pineda in order to bring him to the Pacific Northwest. Acquisitions of Austin Jackson and Mark Trumbo, more recently, have failed to yield dividends.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


MLB Wins Collusion Case Versus Barry Bonds

Arbitrator Fredric Horowitz has ruled in favor of Major League Baseball over Barry Bonds in the case of Bonds’ allegations of collusion against him following the 2007 season, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports.

Word of Bonds’ plans to pursue legal action first broke back in May, and Heyman reported at the time that Bonds had waited until the resolution of successfully-challenged felony charges (obstruction of justice) before attempting to take action against the league. Heyman now writes that Bonds worked with MLBPA lawyers in an effort to use circumstantial evidence to prove that teams conspired against him to keep him out of the game following what was a brilliant 2007 season.

Though he played much of that 2007 campaign at the age of 42 and would’ve been 43 heading into the 2008 season, Bonds put together a .276/.480/.565 batting line with 28 homers. That sky-high .480 OBP unsurprisingly led the league — the sixth time he had led the league in that category in a span of seven seasons. Nevertheless, Bonds’ then-agent Jeff Borris said early in the 2008 season that he did not receive a single offer — even one at the league minimum — for his client. Bonds even went so far as to publicly offer to play for the league minimum midway through that offseason, Heyman notes, but no offers emerged.

Heyman writes that “there was no smoking gun” in Bonds’ case, and Horowitz did not find Bonds’ side to be compelling enough to rule in his favor. Indeed, it’d be difficult to necessarily prove that there was definitive conspiracy against Bonds in spite of the fact that it was surprising at the time that no team — even an AL team with a need at DH — was willing to take on Bonds’ baggage and defensive limitations in exchange for the upside of one of the most potent bats in the game’s history.



Cubs Acquire Fernando Rodney, Designate Brian Schlitter

The Mariners announced that they’ve traded right-hander Fernando Rodney to the Cubs in exchange for cash considerations (Twitter link). Lefty Zac Rosscup has been optioned to Triple-A, while righty Brian Schlitter has been designated for assignment, according to an announcement from the Cubs, which states that either a player to be named later or cash will head to Seattle in the deal.

Fernando Rodney

Signed to a two-year, $14MM contract prior to the 2014 season, Rodney served as the Mariners’ closer all last season and for parts of the 2015 campaign as well. However, while he worked to a strong 2.85 ERA with 10.3 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a 48.6 percent ground-ball rate in 2014, Rodney imploded in 2015, totaling a 5.68 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 4.4 BB/9 and a career-worst 1.4 HR/9 rate. Those struggles ultimately led to the 38-year-old being designated for assignment over the weekend. Rodney is owed about $1.49MM through season’s end as part of that $14MM pact.

His 2015 struggles notwithstanding, Rodney enjoyed a late career resurgence from 2012-14, posting a 2.21 ERA in 207 2/3 innings. The Cubs will hope they can bring out some of that form to help what has been an up and down season for the team’s relief corps. The team is currently without Jason Motte, Neil Ramirez and Rafael Soriano, each of whom is on the disabled list, so Rodney will provide manager Joe Maddon with another veteran relief arm. Maddon, for that matter, is quite familiar with Rodney, having managed him in 2012-13 when Rodney posted a record-setting 0.60 ERA in 74 2/3 innings. While Rodney’s velocity isn’t as strong as the 96.3 mph he averaged over the course of those two seasons, he’s still averaged a very healthy 94.8 mph on his heater this season. Because he’s been acquired prior to Sept. 1, Rodney will be eligible for the Cubs’ postseason roster.

Schiltter, 29, has been up and down with the Cubs over the past six seasons after debuting as a 24-year-old back in 2010. The former 16th-round pick didn’t appear in the Majors from 2011-13 but resurfaced to deliver 56 1/3 innings of 4.15 ERA ball with 5.0 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. He’s totaled only 7 1/3 innings with the Chicago ‘pen in 2015, though, allowing six runs on 12 hits and a pair of walks with four strikeouts. Schlitter does have an outstanding 1.09 ERA in 41 1/3 Triple-A innings this season, though that seemingly pristine mark comes with just 7.0 K/9 against a troubling 5.0 BB/9.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Chris Perez Retires

Right-hander Chris Perez has retired, as the International League transactions page first reflected and as the Orioles have confirmed to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). Baltimore had inked Perez while he was in the midst of a 50-game suspension for recreational drug use.

Perez is only 30 years old, though he’s seen action in seven MLB campaigns and thrown 379 1/3 career innings from the pen. He compiled a 3.51 ERA in that span, averaging 8.6 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9 while racking up 133 total saves.

Things haven’t been very smooth for Perez in recent years, on or off the field. Cleveland released him after a mediocre 2013 season (and otherwise would have non-tendered him), and he continued to put up marginal results after signing an incentive-laden free agent contract with the Dodgers.

Perez was twice hit with bans relating to a drug of abuse, and failed to reach the majors this season after signing a minor league pact with the Brewers. He opted out of that deal earlier in the year, but has not made any appearances since.

Of course, Perez did have some quality moments in his career. He’d been a regular contributor previously, but 2010 marked the emergence of the then-24-year-old as a late-inning arm. Including that campaign and the two that followed, he put up 180 1/3 frames of 2.84 ERA pitching while serving as the Indians’ closer — the role for which he’ll be best remembered.


Hanley Ramirez To Play First Base For Red Sox In 2016

Hanley Ramirez‘s days as a left fielder — or even an infielder who plays on the left side of the diamond — look to be coming to a close, as he told the Boston media today that he will transition to first base for the 2016 season (via the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman, on Twitter). Ramirez, in fact, said he may play there a bit before the end of the current season. He worked out at the position today and said he’s looking forward to the transition.

While position changes aren’t exactly the normal sort of thing we cover at MLBTR, Ramirez’s new defensive home will have a significant impact on the Red Sox’ roster construction. For one thing, it allows the team to move forward with a future outfield alignment of Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo. It also lessens the likelihood of the Sox searching for a first baseman this winter, which many had previously believed to be one of the team’s greatest needs behind improving the pitching staff (both in the rotation and in the bullpen).

The move does seem to further diminish the chances that the Red Sox will receive some positive value out of Allen Craig, whom the team acquired in the July 2014 trade that sent John Lackey to the Cardinals. Craig was outrighted off the 40-man roster earlier this season and went unclaimed due to his recent struggles and relatively sizable contract. Since heading to Pawtucket, he’s shown strong on-base skills but little in the way of power, slashing .272/.369/.341 with three homers. Boston still owes him $21MM through the end of the 2017 season.

Also impacted by the switch will be rookie first baseman Travis Shaw, who is currently hitting .329/.376/.600 with six homers in 93 plate appearances. Those numbers don’t line up with the 25-year-old’s minor league track record, but his excellent numbers to date did seem to have him in line to be a candidate for regular duty at first base next season in the absence of a move to solidify first base. Shaw played quite a bit of third base in the minors this season, so he could still be a 25-man roster candidate next Spring in a bench capacity at the very least.

Boston will hope that moving Ramirez from the outfield to first base restores some of the lost production in his bat. The 31-year-old is hitting just .254/.296/.435 on the season, and that overall line conceals how great his struggles have been for much of the year. Ramirez got off to a blistering start, batting .293/.341/.659 with 10 homers in the month of April. Since that time, he’s batted a paltry .244/.284/.376 with nine homers in 82 games. Additionally, he’s been arguably baseball’s worst defender. No qualified fielder at any position has posted a mark worse than Ramirez’s -19 Defensive Runs Saved, and his -16.7 Ultimate Zone Rating is also the worst in baseball (narrowly edging out teammate Pablo Sandoval‘s -16.1).

One can still imagine, of course, scenarios in which new Boston president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski attempts to unload the remaining $68.25MM on Ramirez’s four-year, $88MM contract this winter. Although in order to do so, he’d almost certainly have to take on another undesirable contract, as there figure to be few takers for a player that’s been below replacement level in 2015 and is owed $22.75MM annually through the 2018 season.


Austin Jackson Clears Waivers, Generating Interest

Mariners outfielder Austin Jackson has cleared revocable trade waivers, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. The free-agent-to-be has been discussed recently in trade talks, per the report.

Jackson, 28, has had something of an up-and-down season but has generally disappointed since coming to Seattle last summer in the three-team David Price deal. (The Mariners shipped Nick Franklin to the Rays to add Jackson from the Tigers.) All told, he’s slashed .259/.302/.365 on the year while adding seven home runs. Though Jackson has swiped 15 bags, he’s been caught on nine attempts.

With free agency looming, Jackson’s value is well down off its peak. Between 2010 and 2013, he compiled a cumulative .278/.344/.416 batting line while often tallying double-digit home runs and steals. With good defensive ratings in center field, he racked up an average of 4.7 rWAR in that span.

With that solid base of stats to work from, Jackson cost the M’s $7.7MM this year via arbitration. About $1.725MM of that still remains to be paid, but apparently no teams were interested in paying the full amount.

The right-handed hitter continues to put up roughly equivalent numbers against right-handed and left-handed pitching, so he’s not a clear platoon player, though he could certainly make sense for a contender as a fourth outfielder. Jackson is one of several outfielders who have now been reported to have cleared trade waivers. Click here for the full list of reportedly clearing players.


Sabathia Possibly Done For Season; Yankees Re-Sign Capuano

The Yankees will place left-hander CC Sabathia on the disabled list due to a right knee injury, and manager Joe Girardi told reporters, including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (Twitter link) that “it’s a possibility” that Sabathia will not pitch again in 2015. As a result of the injury, the Yankees have re-signed Chris Capuano, who had briefly elected free agency, according to a team announcement.

The 35-year-old Sabathia exited yesterday’s contest due to knee pain after just 2 2/3 innings. If his season is indeed finished, he will end the year with a 5.27 ERA with 7.4 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 in 138 1/3 innings. It would also mark the second straight year in which a right knee injury ended Sabathia’s season early. He has one more guaranteed season remaining on his contract and will earn $25MM in 2016, but his 2017 vesting option for the same amount will become guaranteed if Sabathia’s left shoulder remains healthy in 2016. The only ways for the option not to vest are if Sabathia ends the season on the DL due to a shoulder injury, if he spends 45 or more days on the DL due to a shoulder injury or if he makes six or more relief appearances due to a shoulder injury.

For the Yankees, it further depletes the team’s rotation depth, although as Jack Curry of the YES Network noted earlier today (on Twitter) that Michael Pineda threw a bullpen session today and is slated to return to the rotation on Wednesday vs. Houston. Pineda, then, would join Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova, Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Severino in the rotation, with Capuano (and perhaps eventually Bryan Mitchell) serving as depth options.

Capuano, who turned 37 earlier this week, has pitched 33 innings for the Yankees in 2015 but struggled to a 6.55 ERA. He’s averaged 8.5 K/9 but also yielded 4.4 BB/9, hit three batters and served up five homers. Capuano has, somewhat incredibly, been designated for assignment and outrighted three times in the past month. As the Yankees announced, he technically rejected his most recent outright in order to sign a new Major League contract and expedite his return to the big league roster.


Astros, Dallas Keuchel Have Discussed Long-Term Deal

Dallas Keuchel will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and is under team control through at least the 2018 season, but the lefty tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that his agent, Darek Braunecker of Frontline Athlete Management, has discussed a multi-year deal with Houston. For his part, Keuchel is very open to remaining in Houston long-term. As he tells Drellich:

“[Houston] is all I’ve known, and it’s where I want to be. I know we’re in a great position for the next probably five, 10 years… it’s all about winning. Me personally, it’s not about the dollar amount. … With that being said, it’s got to be something that’s fair and that’s right for both parties. I’m not trying to break the bank. I’m just out here to have fun and pitch and do the best I can.”

The 27-year-old Keuchel had a breakout season in 2014 and has emerged as one of the American League’s top pitchers with an elite 2015 season that features a 2.37 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 63.1 percent ground-ball rate in 178 2/3 innings. As Drellich notes, comparable pitchers (at least, in terms of service time) such as Wade Miley and Lance Lynn signed away their three arbitration seasons last winter for $19.25MM and $22MM, respectively. Keuchel, however, has a much stronger two-year platform heading into arbitration and could surpass both of those figures for his arb years.

It stands to reason that the Astros would want to secure at least one, if not two or three free agent years for Keuchel, which, in my mind, would need to be valued in the $15-17MM range. However, from the player’s point of view, signing away precious free agent years isn’t as desirable, even if it’s for a relatively sizable sum. Keuchel’s best chance at a $100MM+ contract would be to hit the open market heading into his age-31 season, as he’s currently projected to do. He also has a strong arb case this winter based on his excellent 2014-15 work, so he can reasonably bank on a pair of life-changing paydays in the next two offseasons even if his 2016 campaign doesn’t go as well as 2014-15. Keuchel’s comments about not breaking the bank do offer some hope, however, that he could look to set some kind of precedent for extensions for players with three to four years of service time, as opposed to maximizing his arb salaries and signing a nine-figure contract in the 2018-19 offseason.

There’s also some logic behind the scenario in which Keuchel signs a three-year deal that locks in only his arb seasons. Keuchel would secure his first fortune and still be positioned to hit the free agent heading into his age-31 season. The Astros, in turn, would gain cost certainty over a pitcher whose arb prices could escalate at an abnormally high rate due to his status as one of the American League’s best arms and a potential Cy Young candidate.

Drellich also spoke to right-hander Collin McHugh, who said that he, too, is interested in signing a long-term deal with Houston, although no talks have taken place between the Astros and McHugh’s agents at Moye Sports Associates. McHugh, however, has one less year of service time and won’t be arbitration eligible until next winter. McHugh, another somewhat surprising breakout pitcher in the Astros’ rotation, has pitched to a 3.36 ERA with 8.2 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 in 313 2/3 innings since being claimed off waivers in the 2013-14 offseason.

Also of note, Drellich reports that the Astros plan to make a run at re-signing Houston native and July trade acquisition Scott Kazmir this winter, though there have unsurprisingly been no talks at this point, as Kazmir is intent on testing the market.


(Re)Introducing The MLBTR Mailbag

It’s been a good seven years since MLBTR’s Mailbag series ran with regularity, but as we near the end of the 2015 season and gear up for an offseason that features one of the stronger free agent crops in recent memory, we’re once again dusting off the series.

Readers can submit questions on any MLBTR-relevant topic — trades, free agency, extensions, arbitration, etc. — to mlbtrmailbag@gmail.com, and every Monday we will collect a handful of responses and offer our take. While Tim Dierkes and I briefly entertained the notion of answering the most recent questions at the top of that inbox, which included queries on Joe Crede and Akinori Otsuka, among others, we decided it best to start from a clean slate.

Depending on response volume, we’ll run the first edition either later today or next week, and every Monday going forward from that point on.