Newsstand Rumors

Adam Wainwright Could Be Out For Season

11:41am: Cards GM John Mozeliak told KMOX Sports (on Twitter) that he “would imagine” that the injury is season-ending, but the team will wait for official word on Monday.

9:58am: The Cardinals confirmed (on Twitter) that Wainwright suffered an Achilles injury.

9:00am: Wainwright will see a doctor on Monday and receive a prognosis then, Jon Heyman of tweets.

8:30am: The expectation is that Adam Wainwright is done for the season after suffering an Achilles injury last night, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter).  The Cardinals pitcher has yet to undergo an MRI, however.

Wainwright suffered his injury in the fifth inning of Saturday night’s game against the Brewers as he was running out a pop-up.  Wainwright, who has pitched four scoreless innings, was running to first when he came up lame after hurting his left ankle, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes.  The veteran left the park in a walking boot and was stunned by the freak injury.

I’ve never had anything down there to compare it to.  I’m thinking what in the heck just hit me. I thought the catcher’s mask must have hit me. Or the bat must have hit me. It was crazy,” said Wainwright. “I wasn’t even going that hard. I just popped it up. I saw that it was in play so I started to run and my foot just shut down on me. It’s in the back of my ankle. Everything right now is all speculation. I’ve not got my hopes up or down.”

Wainwright was doubly disappointed because, as he told reporters, he felt the best he had all year heading into Saturday night.  If Wainwright is in fact done for the year, it’ll be the second time in his career that he has suffered a lost season.  The 33-year-old (34 in August) missed the entire 2011 season thanks to Tommy John surgery.

Through four starts this season, the three-time All-Star has posted a 1.44 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9.  For his career, Wainwright has pitched to a 2.98 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.

Rangers, Angels Reach Agreement On Hamilton Deal

SATURDAY 4:54pm: The Angels and Rangers have agreed to the deal, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweets. The deal still needs to be approved by the MLBPA and by MLB, however. There are no specific indications that will be a problem, but approval might not be as automatic, particularly in the union’s case, since Hamilton has reportedly agreed to forgo salary in the trade.

12:46pm: Hamilton would receive a significant buyout if he were to excercise his opt-out, Rosenthal tweets. That makes sense — if not for a buyout, there would be few scenarios in which it would make sense for Hamilton to opt out of the $30MM he’s set to make in 2017.

12:02pm: The Rangers will take on less than $7MM of Hamilton’s contract, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, meanwhile, writes that the Rangers will pay $2MM-$3MM. Hamilton will eat about $6MM of the contract himself, according to Grant, since he can make up at least some of the difference due to the fact that Texas does not have a state income tax. That means the Angels could still save $8MM-$13MM. Hamilton will also receive an opt-out clause after 2016.

FRIDAY 7:15pm: The talks are still “complex” and “volatile” and remain incomplete, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). If the deal is completed, the Rangers will take on less than $15MM and will not send any players to their division rivals.

Multiple reports indicate that the lack of state income tax in Texas is playing a role, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeting that Hamilton will cede some pay to make the deal work. Hamilton’s gains through tax avoidance would, presumably, even things out (to some extent, at least) on his end.

If the proposed transaction is indeed one in which the Rangers would assume some of the contract without sending anything in return, and in which Hamilton would give up some guaranteed money, it is not hard to see the complexities. Both the league and union would surely want to take a close look at a deal of that nature.

6:16pm: The Rangers will pick up about $15MM of Hamilton’s salary, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets. Los Angeles will pay the remainder of the $83MM that he is owed.

6:10pm: The deal “has been agreed to” though there remain several “ancillary” matters to be addressed, Jon Heyman of tweets.

5:31pm: The Rangers are nearing a trade to acquire Josh Hamilton, T.R. Sullivan of reports on Twitter. There is still “legal work” remaining before the deal can be finalized, but Sullivan says an announcement could come Monday.

The details of the arrangement remain unknown, but Shin-Soo Choo is not involved in the prospective trade, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Choo had at least appeared to be a plausible piece to be included in a deal given his huge salary and rather pronounced struggles.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes that Texas would either need to have virtually all of Hamilton’s salary covered — or, would add him if and when he negotiates a release. Indeed, per another Shaikin tweet, some cash savings for the Angels may the only substantial element in the deal.

Hamilton, 33, has disappointed in Los Angeles since inking a five-year, $125MM contract before the 2013 season. He has slashed .255/.316/.426 in a Halos cap, a useful enough line but hardly enough to justify his contract. Injuries dogged Hamilton last year, who is still working back from offseason shoulder surgery.

Of course, Hamilton earned that sizeable contract with his play in Texas, where he produced at a .305/.363/.549 clip for five seasons while swatting 142 long balls. Though he did not end his stint with the team on the best off terms, Hamilton will forever be associated with the Rangers — the place where he became a star.

Blue Jays Release Ricky Romero

The Blue Jays have released lefty Ricky Romero, Shi Davidi of tweets. Romero will make $7.5MM in the last year of a $30.1MM contract he signed in late 2010. He will receive a $600K buyout for 2016.

Romero, the sixth overall pick in the 2005 draft, was once a promising young starter. His best year was 2011, when he posted a 2.92 ERA, 7.1 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 225 innings and finished tenth in AL Cy Young balloting. The following season, though, was a huge step backward — he had a 5.77 ERA and led the league in walks, then had elbow surgery after the season.

After that, Romero never returned to form. He spent much of 2013 in the minors, and the Jays outrighted him in June and then again in October. A knee injury ended his 2014 season after nine minor-league starts, and he had not yet pitched in 2015. According to Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star (via Twitter), Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos says that since Romero was in the last year of his deal and was not close to being able to help, there was no reason for the team to keep him.

Ben Zobrist To Have Knee Surgery

Athletics utilityman Ben Zobrist confirms that he will have arthroscopic knee surgery, which likely means he will be out four to six weeks, Joe Stiglich of Comcast SportsNet California writes (via Twitter). That Zobrist would have surgery seemed increasingly likely earlier today, when the A’s placed him on the disabled list and promoted infielder Max Muncy to take his place on the active roster.

Via the Bay Area News Group’s John Hickey (on Twitter), Zobrist says he’s hopeful he can return by the start of June, giving the A’s four more months of regular-season baseball with him before he becomes a free agent. But the injury limits the amount of time the Athletics have to recoup the investment they made this offseason when they sent top prospect Daniel Robertson (along with big-leaguer John Jaso and another prospect, Boog Powell) to Tampa Bay for Zobrist and Yunel Escobar. Zobrist had been very durable before this season, having played 146 or more games in every year since 2009.

Joe Nathan Out For Year With Torn UCL & Tendon

10:38am: Nathan doesn’t appear to be considering retirement at this time, telling reporters (including Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press) that “I am preparing myself to be a major league player again.  That is my goal.”

9:02am: Tigers righty Joe Nathan has torn the ulnar collateral ligament as well as a tendon in his right elbow, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. He will undergo surgery and miss the rest of the season, the team announced.

Nathan, 40, opened the year as Detroit’s closer despite a challenging 2014 season in which he posted a 4.81 ERA. He struck out just 8.4 batters per nine while walking 4.5 per nine, both of which were the worst marks of his career since he moved to the pen.

That was obviously not the output that the Tigers hoped for when they promised Nathan $20MM over two years through free agency. The club does hold a $10MM option for next season, but seems highly likely to instead pay a $1MM buyout at this juncture.

Nathan will undergo Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career, this time with the added complication of the tendon damage to account for. While it may be an uphill road at his age, that news seemingly indicates that there is at least some possibility that Nathan will attempt to resume his career.

Detroit probably did not expect Nathan to resume his once-dominant form in the closer’s role this year, but surely hoped he would at least be a valuable contributor and presence in the pen. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained in his review of the club’s offseason, the relief corps was a major question mark entering the year for the Tigers, and the team is certainly shaping up as a future acquirer of bullpen arms in the season’s early going.

Mariners To Sign Carlos Quentin

7:12pm: Quentin can opt out on May 12 if he has not been called up, Jon Heyman of tweets.

6:43pm: The Mariners have agreed to a minor league deal with outfielder Carlos Quentin, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. Quentin was released by the Braves recently, shortly after he was acquired as part of the Craig Kimbrel deal — with his large salary functioning to offset salary.

Seattle added Quentin in order to bolster its right-handed power, says Dutton. The veteran big leaguer will head to Triple-A, but may have a chance to move onto the big league roster in short order. He may see time at first base in a platoon alongside Logan Morrison.

The Mariners run no risk in taking on Quentin, whose substantial payroll hit will be charged to the Padres. And there is reason to think that he is worth a flier, given the long run of success that led San Diego to give him a three-year, $27MM deal in the first place.

Between the time that he established himself as a regular in 2008 and the end of 2013, Quentin slashed .260/.356/.503 (good for a 129 OPS+) and swatted 136 home runs. Of course, he only managed half seasons in the last two years of that stretch and was again bothered by injuries last year, when he saw just 155 plate appearances and put up a meager .177/.284/.315 line.

2016 MLB Free Agent Power Rankings

Most teams are about 9% through their season at this point, and it’s time for our first midseason update of the 2016 MLB Free Agent Power Rankings.  These players project to reach free agency after this season.

As a reminder, these rankings represent the earning power in terms of total contract size, assuming everyone reaches the open market and goes to the highest bidder.  Here’s MLBTR’s full list of 2015-16 free agents.

1.  Justin Upton.  Upton, 27, is off to a fine start for the second place Padres.  Not coincidentally, the Friars are averaging more than 5.3 runs per game in the early going, tops in the National League.  Nothing seems to be cooking on the extension front, and a free agent contract worth $250MM or more could be in play this winter.

2.  David Price.  Price jumps up a spot after allowing just one earned run in his first 22 1/3 innings.  Before that, some low-level extension discussions with the Tigers occurred in late March.  Price is willing to continue talking contract into the season and seems to have a number in mind that could result in a fairly quick deal if the Tigers reach it.  Logically, that number figures to be in the $200MM range.

3.  Johnny Cueto.  Cueto moves up a spot as well after a trio of seven-inning outings.  As he moves further from his 2013 shoulder strain, Cueto moves closer to Price in earning power.  His Reds are hanging in with a .500 record, though a midseason trade at least seems viable.  A deadline deal would make Cueto ineligible for a qualifying offer, though at ace prices the loss of a draft pick is a secondary concern for suitors.

4.  Jason Heyward.  It’s not fair to bump Heyward down two spots because of 53 lousy plate appearances, but I feel that if the season ended today, Price and Cueto would earn bigger contracts.  Batting second in the order for the Cardinals, Heyward is at .192/.208/.327 on the young season.

5.  Ian Desmond.  On the plus side, Desmond has cut his strikeout rate considerably in his first 14 games, an 18% rate that would represent a full-season career best.  On the other hand, Desmond has made eight errors in his first 125 1/3 innings in the field.  Surely that pace will lessen, but he still has a good shot at 30 on the season.  Even with today’s advanced fielding metrics, 30 errors could be hard for a team owner to ignore if Desmond’s price tag exceeds $150MM.

6.  Jordan Zimmermann.  Zimmermann’s early numbers are off after an April 13th Fenway Park drubbing, and his velocity is down a few ticks from April of last year.  Still, every pitcher is allowed the occasional clunker, and Zimmermann has about 29 starts left to go.

7.  Alex Gordon.  Royals manager Ned Yost intends to exercise extra caution with Gordon in at least the season’s first month due to his December wrist surgery.  11 games don’t tell us much, but it will be worth monitoring whether the wrist saps Gordon’s power at all this year.

8.  Yoenis Cespedes.  Cespedes is off to a strong start, and seems capable of piling up a huge RBI total batting fifth or sixth in the Tigers’ potent lineup.  He is ineligible for a qualifying offer and won’t turn 30 until October, and seems a candidate to move several more spots up this list.

9.  Zack Greinke.  Greinke has three quality starts in three tries this year, and not much has changed with his status.  I still expect him to opt out of his remaining three years and $71MM after the season.

10.  Jeff Samardzija.  Samardzija’s White Sox debut in Kansas City was a forgettable outing, but he has now turned in consecutive gems.  He and Greinke have each fallen a spot only because of Cespedes’ earning power.

In news that was music to the ears of Samardzija, Greinke, Zimmermann, and others, the Red Sox signed Rick Porcello to a four-year, $82.5MM extension earlier this month.  The contract covers his age 27-30 seasons.  Though part of the calculus is Porcello’s youth and the deal being shortened to four years, if he’s worth $20.625MM per season, that bodes well for next winter’s crop of free agent hurlers.

Cueto leads all 2016 free agents with 0.8 wins above replacement early on, though the Dodgers’ Howie Kendrick and the Yankees’ Chris Young have matched him.  Young’s rate stats this year will be skewed, however, if he continues getting more than 40% of his plate appearances against southpaws.


Jeff Beliveau To Undergo Surgery For Torn Labrum

Rays reliever Jeff Beliveau will undergo surgery Thursday to repair a torn left shoulder labrum, the club announced. Beliveau has already been transferred to the 60-day DL, and will obviously miss significant time.

As Jay Jaffe wrote for Baseball Prospectus back in 2012, surgical repairs of torn labrums have had their share of success stories. But recovery is far from a sure thing, and the details — for example, whether there is also rotator cuff damage — matter quite a bit.

Beliveau, 28, had seemed poised to play an important role in the Tampa bullpen this season after a surprising 2014 campaign in which he posted a 2.63 ERA over 24 frames, backed by 10.5 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 and a 2.47 FIP. He was off to a rough start this year, however, having allowed seven baserunners and four earned runs in just 2 2/3 innings. Though he has never been a hard thrower, Beliveau was down two ticks on his fastball.

The loss of Beliveau leaves the club somewhat lacking in terms of experienced left-handed relievers. C.J. Riefenhauser is the only southpaw on the active roster at present, though players like Everett Teaford, Jordan Norberto, Enny Romero, and Grayson Garvin all represent depth options in the upper minors.

D-Backs Sign Kevin Frandsen To Minor League Deal

The Diamondbacks have signed infielder Kevin Frandsen to a Minor League contract and assigned him to Triple-A Reno, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (via Twitter). Frandsen is a client of All Bases Covered Sports Management.

Frandsen, 32, spent the 2014 season serving as a utility infield option for the Nationals. In 236 plate appearances with Washington, he batted .259/.299/.309 and appeared at second base, third base, first base and in left field. The Nats tendered a contract to Frandsen this offseason and agreed to a $1MM salary, but the team released him late in Spring Training.

Frandsen can serve as a depth option for the D-Backs, as he has experience at all four infield positions as well as both corner outfield spots. With Jake Lamb set to miss a few weeks due to a stress reaction in his foot, it’s possible that Frandsen could find his way onto the big league roster in the near future.

Cubs Promote Addison Russell

The Cubs have announced that top infield prospect Addison Russell has been promoted to the Majors.  To create roster space for the 21-year-old, Arismendy Alcantara has been optioned to Triple-A and Mike Olt has been transferred to the 60-day DL in corresponding moves.  Russell, usually a shortstop, will play second base, where the Cubs have struggled this season.

USATSI_8461249_154513410_lowresRussell was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Athletics. He hit a combined .295/.350/.508 at the Class A+ and Double-A levels in 2014, spending part of the year in the Athletics’ system before they shipped him to Chicago as the key to the Cubs’ side of the Jeff Samardzija trade. He had been hitting .297/.308/.432 for Triple-A Iowa in a 39 plate appearances this season. Baseball Prospectus ranked Russell the No. 2 prospect in the game heading into the 2015 season, while Baseball America ranked him No. 3. placed him at No. 5, praising his offensive game and noting that he’s received comparisons to Barry Larkin and Miguel Tejada.

The Cubs, of course, also recently promoted another top prospect, Kris Bryant, to play third base. The timing of Bryant’s promotion caused controversy due to the perception that the Cubs delayed his arrival so that they could control him for another season. Russell’s promotion could conceivably attract similar criticism, although he has less experience at Triple-A than Bryant and has not been nearly as dominant at that level. If anything, the Cubs could easily have postponed Russell’s promotion until June, which would have prevented him from being a Super Two player. If he sticks in the big leagues now, he will likely receive that designation, becoming arbitration-eligible for the first of four times starting in 2018 before becoming eligible for free agency following the 2021 season.

Nonetheless, Russell gives the Cubs yet another top young talent to go along with Bryant, Jorge Soler, and young veterans Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. The Cubs’ future has looked very bright for quite some time, and now, with a team loaded with excellent young players and off to a strong 7-5 start, that future seems to be coming quickly.

Russell’s promotion was first reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.