Newsstand Rumors

Orioles Agree To Deal With Ariel Miranda

The Orioles have agreed to a deal with Cuban lefty Ariel Miranda, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets. It will be a minor-league contract, according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (also on Twitter). The deal will is contingent upon a physical.

The 25-year-old Miranda pitched for seven seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, most recently posting a 3.24 ERA, 9.3 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 13 starts with Mayabeque and Isla de la Juventud in 2013. Due to Miranda’s age and experience, his signing will not be subject to rules regarding international bonus pools. He is listed at 6-foot-3 and 168 pounds. Beyond that, there isn’t much information available in English about Miranda, although Sanchez listed him as a free agent to watch in February. Miranda had reportedly established residency in Haiti and was training in the Dominican Republic, according to Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald. Ebro also notes that Miranda is represented by Praver Shapiro.


Right-Hander Norge Ruiz Leaves Cuba, Will Seek Deal With MLB Club

Cuban right-hander Norge Ruiz has left the island and will seek a contract with a Major League club, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). The 21-year-old Ruiz is one of the top prospects in Cuba, so interest in him would figure to be substantial.

Baseball America’s Ben Badler ranked Ruiz as the No. 8 prospect in Cuba (subscription-only scouting report is highly recommended) less than one month ago, with all seven of the players ranked ahead of him being position players. Ruiz’s age will make him subject to international bonus pools, but as Badler notes in a second piece, he’ll be eligible to sign in the 2015-16 signing period once he establishes residency and applies for free agency with MLB.

That he’s apparently ticketed to sign in the upcoming signing period as opposed to the current period will remove several clubs from the mix. The Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, D-Backs and Angels have all exceeded their 2014-15 bonus pools by more than 15 percent, meaning none of those teams will be able to sign an international amateur for more than $300K. Given Ruiz’s prospect status, that limitation will assuredly preclude any of the aforementioned clubs from signing him.

In the scouting report referenced above, Badler notes that Ruiz was the 2012-13 Serie Nacional Rookie of the Year in Cuba and writes that he “stands out in a country thin on Major League pitching prospects.” Per Badler, he features a fastball that sits in the low 90s and touches 94 mph, which is complemented by a slider, changeup and splitter. At his best, Ruiz misses bats effectively and keeps the ball on the ground, as evidenced by a 62 percent ground-ball rate in 2014-15, according to Badler. He adds that Ruiz is a very good athlete and has feel for pitching beyond his years, giving him the potential to be a mid-rotation starter in the Majors.

While it’s early to know which teams will pursue Ruiz, it’s believed that the Dodgers are planning to go well over their pool and may already have a significant deal in place with Yadier Alvarez. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them add Ruiz as well. The Blue Jays (Vlad Guerrero Jr.), Twins (Wander Javier) and Phillies (Jhailyn Ortiz) may all have deals that would put them at or over their international budgets in place, according to Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, though each of those clubs would have the ability to acquire enough international bonus money in trades to avoid incurring maximum penalties. (Teams can only acquire up to 50 percent of their originally allotted bonus pool via trade.) Additionally, the Cubs and Rangers will be able to spend aggressively again in the upcoming period and showed a strong willingness to do so in the 2013-14 period.


Smyly Will Not Have Surgery, Is Confident He Can Pitch In 2015

Rays left-hander Drew Smyly tells reporters, including Matt Stein of Sports Talk Florida, that he will not undergo surgery on his left shoulder, as had previously been reported to be likely. Instead, Smyly will undergo an eight-week rehab program that doctors feel will allow him to pitch again this season.

Smyly’s rehab program would have the lefty — acquired as one of the key pieces in last July’s three-team David Price/Austin Jackson blockbuster — playing catch again within a week or two, Stein writes. Doctors have told Smyly that the tear he has in his labrum is not significant and were nothing but positive about the results of his MRI. Surgery “isn’t even an option” at this time, per Stein.

That, of course, doesn’t preclude surgery entirely; as Stein notes, the end result of the injury could be that Smyly is forced to go under the knife. Smyly pointed to former college teammate (and current Dodgers right-hander) Mike Bolsinger as a reason to be optimistic. Bolsinger had a similar situation in his right shoulder in college but rehabbed the slight tear, Smyly says, and never wound up undergoing surgery to repair the issue. Smyly feels that it’s possible for him to return to the Rays in July or August. “I’m hopeful and confident that I’ll pitch again this year,” he said.

If Smyly is to avoid surgery altogether, it could be a major boon to the Rays’ playoff chances. The team currently sits with a 22-19 record — tied with the Yankees for the AL East lead. (They’re also leading the A’s 1-0 as of this writing.) If Smyly can return, he would join a rotation that has lost Alex Cobb but hopes to be bolstered by a returning Matt Moore next month. Chris Archer has taken a step forward in 2015, pitching like a No. 1 starter, while Jake Odorizzi has been excellent and Nathan Karns has come around after a slow start. A rotation of Archer, Odorizzi, Moore, Smyly and Karns would look formidable down the stretch, health permitting, and it could allow Alex Colome to shift to the bullpen, where his 94 mph fastball could play up even further.



Hyun-jin Ryu Undergoes Season-Ending Shoulder Surgery

Dodgers left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu underwent shoulder surgery today that revealed damage in his labrum, manager Don Mattingly told reporters, including J.P. Hoornstra of the L.A. News Group (Twitter link). The labral repair surgery will end Ryu’s 2015 season without throwing a pitch, though Mattingly told reporters that the team’s expectation is that Ryu will be ready to pitch in Spring Training 2016.

The 28-year-old Ryu is earning $4MM in 2015 — the third season of a six-year, $36MM contract signed in the 2012-13 offseason. He’ll join right-hander Brandon McCarthy on the shelf for the duration of the season, leaving the Dodgers with just 60 percent of their projected rotation available for the rest of the year on May 21.

Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Brett Anderson will front the rotation moving forward, but Anderson’s injury history is among the lengthiest of any active pitcher in the league, so the Dodgers have to be at least somewhat concerned with their rotation depth moving forward. To this point, both Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias have pitched well as substitutes, but neither has any sort of track record in the Major Leagues.

Ryu projected as the Dodgers’ No. 3 starter this season after adjusting from the Korea Baseball Organization to Major League Baseball quite well from 2013-14. In those two seasons, Ryu worked to a combined 3.17 ERA with 7.7 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 49.2 percent ground-ball rate. However, he failed to reach 200 frames in either of those campaigns, and he bothered by shoulder troubles in 2014, spending time on the 15-day DL early in the season and seeing his season end on Sept. 12 due to shoulder fatigue.

The Dodgers have a rich farm system that should afford them the ability to trade for rotation help if they see fit. Given the fact that the only starters who are guaranteed to return in 2016 are Kershaw, Ryu and McCarthy — Anderson is on a one-year deal, whereas Greinke has the ability to opt out of his contract’s remaining three years after the season — Los Angeles could is a speculative fit not only for rental pitchers such as Scott Kazmir, but for longer-term assets like Cole Hamels (if, of course, it is determined that trades are the best route).

The Dodgers have steadfastly refused to include Corey Seager, Julio Urias or breakout rookie Joc Pederson in trades to this point, and I’d imagine that will continue to be the case as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. Nonetheless, the team has enough depth in the farm system that it will have a number of realistic targets to explore if president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, GM Farhan Zaidi and VP Josh Byrnes elect to engage other clubs in trade talks.


2016 MLB Free Agent Power Rankings

We’re a quarter of the way through the 2015 MLB season, and there’s been significant movement in free agent stocks.  It’s time for a new installment of the 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings.

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

1.  Justin Upton.  San Diego agrees with Upton, who is on pace for 40 home runs this season.  He could surpass his career high of 31 right around his 28th birthday, which is in late August.  Oddly, the Padres left fielder has done all his damage so far at Petco Park.  Upton will be 3-4 years younger than Robinson Cano and Albert Pujols were when they reached free agency, and he has a chance to top their $240MM contracts.

2.  David Price.  Price’s ERA at last check-in was 0.40, so it had nowhere to go but up.  He’s now at a more mortal 3.40, 22nd among American League qualifiers.  It’s probably just an eight-start blip on the radar, but Price’s strikeout and groundball rates are down this year and he’s allowed more than a hit per inning.

3.  Johnny Cueto.  Is Cueto a better pitcher than Price right now?  I’m considering the possibility more seriously.  Cueto, who is six months younger than Price, leads all of baseball with 7.23 innings per start.  Last year, only Price bettered Cueto’s regular season total of 243 2/3 frames.  Cueto is more than a workhorse, though, as he has a 3.03 ERA on the season.  He stands a decent chance of being traded by the Reds this summer, making him ineligible for a qualifying offer.

4.  Jason Heyward.  Heyward is settling in with the Cardinals, batting .273/.343/.398 since we last checked in.  That’s in line with his last couple of seasons, but another 10-15 home run campaign isn’t going to get him a monster contract.  Just 26 in August, Heyward’s youth and defensive value should still result in a deal worth well over $100MM.

5.  Jordan Zimmermann.  Zimmermann has shined in the five starts since our last update, bringing his ERA down to 3.66.  His skills in this quarter season have faded considerably from last year, though, as his 15.2% strikeout rate would represent a career worst.  Again: it’s just eight starts.  But a good $50MM hangs in the balance for Zimmermann.

6.  Alex Gordon.  Gordon had December wrist surgery, but his power production seems fine this year.  He’s slugging .472 since we last checked in.  Gordon has been hit by a pitch an AL-best nine times, pushing his OBP up to .378.  Whatever age-based gap there might be between Gordon and Heyward, Gordon is closing it with a five-plus wins above replacement pace.

7.  Zack Greinke.  Greinke jumps up two spots this month, as he’s third in the game with a 1.52 ERA.  A third consecutive sub-3.00 ERA season should help his earning power, though he owes much of his success this year to an unsustainable .217 batting average on balls in play.  It’s a fantastic start to the season regardless.  Zimmermann has two and a half years of age on Greinke, but Greinke is the better pitcher right now.

8.  Ian Desmond.  There’s been nothing redeeming about Desmond’s contract year, which has been replacement level so far.  This was a guy in the running for the best shortstop in baseball from 2012-14, but in 2015 his numbers are way down.  He’s been hitting like Jean Segura, and he’s on pace for baseball’s first 40-error season since Jose Offerman in 1992.  Desmond will still do fine financially, as he faces little competition on the shortstop market.

9.  Yoenis Cespedes.  Cespedes’ biggest problem has been readily apparent in 2015, as his 3.1% walk rate is tenth-worst among qualified hitters.  That has contributed to a .290 OBP.  I think Cespedes’ power still makes him a top-75 hitter in MLB, but he hasn’t been in the last calendar year.

10.  Jeff Samardzija.  Little has gone right in Samardzija’s eight starts for the White Sox.  He’s whiffed only 17% of batters, and his groundball rate has taken a tumble.  His skills back up a 4.00+ ERA.  The 30-year-old righty is as good a bet as anyone on this list to be traded this summer.  If Samardzija continues to struggle, he could be out of the top ten next month.

Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler is pushing for a spot on this list, with a .269/.352/.428 line and improved defense.  He doesn’t turn 30 until March, but has to be penalized for an injury history that hasn’t allowed him to play in 120+ games since 2012.  Howie Kendrick, Denard Span, Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus, and ageless hurlers Aaron Harang and A.J. Burnett are among the other free agents off to strong starts.


Hyun-jin Ryu To Undergo Shoulder Surgery

MAY 20: The Dodgers announced that Ryu will have an arthroscopic procedure tomorrow, to be performed by team surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

MAY 19, 11:45pm: Ryu has elected to undergo shoulder surgery, reports Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles. According to Saxon’s source, an MRI on Ryu’s shoulder didn’t reveal a tear or any obvious structural damage, so the surgery would be exploratory in nature — an attempt to determine the cause of the inflammation that has prevented him from pitching in 2015. Nevertheless, an operation of that nature would cast significant doubt on Ryu’s ability to pitch for the Dodgers this season and, as Saxon notes, could send the team into a full-scale search for starting pitching upgrades.

11:40am: A “shoulder cleanup” is likely, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.

10:58am: Dodgers lefty Hyun-jin Ryu is weighing the possibility of a surgical option to solve his shoulder problems, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports on Twitter. While Passan notes that a report out of Ryu’s native Korea suggests surgery will take place this week, his sources say that a decision has yet to be made.

This development is the latest sign of trouble for Ryu, who has struggled to regain velocity as his shoulder has continued to prove problematic. Ryu has yet to pitch this year, and recent reports indicated that he did not even have a timetable to re-start a throwing program.

The 28-year-old experienced arm issues last year, but has been excellent when healthy. All said, he’s provided Los Angeles with 344 innings of 3.17 ERA pitching, with 7.7 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9, over the last two seasons.

The Dodgers signed Ryu for six years and $36MM out of Korea in the winter of 2012 after paying a $25.7MM posting fee. That contract has long looked like a steal, but will cost the team more in the coming seasons, as Ryu is owed $7MM annually from 2016-18. (Of course, that’s a relatively meager sum for the large-budget Dodgers.)

Of more immediate concern to Los Angeles, the prospect of an even longer absence from Ryu brings the team’s starting depth into further question. Major free agent addition Brandon McCarthy is already going to miss this year and much of next after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and the team is currently trotting out Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias as its fourth and fifth starters. While those pitchers have (somewhat surprisingly) provided excellent results to date, it would not be surprising to see the Dodgers play a significant role on the summer trade market.


Mariners Acquire Welington Castillo From Cubs For Yoervis Medina

The Mariners have agreed to acquire catcher Welington Castillo from the Cubs in exchange for right-handed reliever Yoervis Medina, the clubs announced. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported the deal on Twitter.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago CubsCastillo, who only recently turned 28, has long seemed one of the more likely players in the game to be dealt — as I explained in breaking him down as a trade candidate back in March. Over the offseason, the Cubs dealt for Miguel Montero and signed David Ross to back him up, leaving Castillo without an obvious role.

Indeed, Castillo has only appeared behind the plate in nine games thus far, though he’s managed to see 47 plate appearances due to pinch-hitting duties. Regardless of his role, Castillo has struggled this year, slashing just .163/.234/.349. Of course, a .172 BABIP surely is not helping. And while Castillo carries a hefty 14.3% infield fly rate, he is also credited with more hard-hit balls than he has historically produced.

As always, there’s a deeper track record to consider. All said, Castillo has been an approximately league-average hitter over his career, which is certainly useful for a backstop. And he has at times shown something more, putting up a composite .271/.345/.404 line across the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

The real questions with Castillo seem to be on the other side of the ledger, though that is not entirely borne out by the numbers. He has never rated very highly in the pitch-framing department, but receives strong marks for his arm and pitch-blocking.

He is far from a perfect player, of course, which is presumably why the Cubs sought out replacements. But there is a lot to like about Castillo, who is playing on a $2.1MM salary this year and can be controlled for two more seasons through arbitration.

From the Mariners perspective, this deal provides the club with a long-term partner for incumbent Mike Zunino, who figures to lose some playing time after a rather active start to the year. Seattle has received scant production from its backstops: Zunino himself owns a meager .179/.241/.348 slash, though he has hit five long balls, while Jesus Sucre has just one hit in 16 turns at bat.

On the Cubs side of the ledger, Medina seemingly represents a buy-low arm of the sort that the team has targeted in recent years with some frequency. Though the 26-year-old has struggled with just 6.8 K/9 against 5.3 BB/9 this year — the walks are nothing new, though he had struck out better than nine hitters per nine innings in prior years — he still owns a 3.00 ERA in his 12 innings of work. And Medina has compiled 125 innings of 2.81 ERA pitching over the prior two seasons.

Medina has exhibited some rather significant velocity loss this year, dropping from last year’s 94-95 mph range down to 92.4 mph with both his four-seamer and two-seamer thus far in 2015. In addition to a quality sinker, which he went away from this year, Medina also features a rather promising curveball. That offspeed offering rated as one of the best in the game back in 2013 and continues to generate positive (albeit less excellent) results, at least by measure of Pitch F/X pitch value.

Chicago can and will stash Medina in Triple-A while attempting to work on his control issues and waiting for a need to arise. With two years of MLB service entering the season, Medina had figured to quality for arbitration next year, but that could well be in doubt at this point (though he’ll also have a chance at Super Two status if he doesn’t reach three years of service). All said, then, Chicago will control Medina for at least three and potentially four seasons after this one.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Bruce Chen Announces Retirement

Lefty Bruce Chen has announced on Twitter that he will retire from professional baseball. Chen, 37, was designated for assignment by the Indians on Saturday.

Chen struggled through 6 1/3 innings in two starts this year for Cleveland, permitting nine earned runs. He struck out four and walked one batter, but gave up 17 total hits — including three long balls.

Of course, Chen has long provided plenty of innings and flexibility to 11 total MLB clubs. The wily southpaw never relied much on velocity, working in the mid-80s in recent seasons. But that didn’t stop him from compiling over 1,500 innings in the majors.

All said, the Panamanian native compiled a 4.62 ERA with 6.7 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 over 17 big league campaigns. Chen broke into the big leagues with the Braves at age 21. Atlanta signed him as an amateur way back in 1993.

Chen is, perhaps, most associated with the Royals, with whom he spent six seasons. His time in K.C. represented something of a late-career renaissance, as he compiled 5.6 rWAR in that span (in spite of a rough final campaign).

The Orioles arguably enjoyed Chen’s most productive overall campaign in 2005, when he racked up a career-high 197 1/3 frames while working to a 3.83 ERA. He ultimately spent three years with Baltimore, with his 343 2/3 innings with the O’s representing the second-most he logged with any single team.

Be sure to give a read to Chen’s Twitter timeline to read through his classy tip of the cap to the fans and teams he played for. MLBTR joins those around the game congratulating Chen on his career and wishing him luck in his future endeavors.


Red Sox Outright Allen Craig

The Red Sox announced this afternoon that first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, meaning that he is no longer on the club’s 40-man roster.

That Craig cleared waivers unclaimed isn’t necessarily a surprise, given the lack of production he’s experienced in the past two seasons and the significant amount of money that remains on his contract. Had any team claimed the 30-year-old Craig on waivers, they would have been required to assume the remaining $25.2MM that he is owed through the end of the 2017 season. The outright does put an exclamation point on what has been an exceptionally sudden fall for Craig, who as recently as 2013 was one of the Cardinals’ most productive bats.

Craig suffered a lisfranc fracture in his foot at the end of the 2013 season and was never himself in 2014 before reaggravating his left foot following a trade to Boston. (Craig, along with Joe Kelly, joined the Sox in exchange for John Lackey.) Over his past 564 Major League plate appearances, Craig is hitting just .207/.275/.302. The Sox had already optioned him to Triple-A earlier this month, but the outright removes him from the 40-man roster, which is now at 37.

Craig, technically, has the right to refuse his outright assignment, but doing so would mean forfeiting the money remaining on his contract, so he’ll remain with Triple-A Pawtucket in hopes of rediscovering his stroke. Boston’s offense has struggled of late and has been anemic all season long when facing left-handed pitching, so a productive Craig would go a long ways toward boosting the team’s overall outlook. In 25 plate appearances at Pawtucket thus far, Craig is hitting .261/.320/.391 with three doubles.


Marlins Name GM Dan Jennings Manager

After the decision to fire manager Mike Redmond last night, the Marlins have officially announced that general manager Dan Jennings will succeed Redmond as the team’s new manager. Advance scout and former Mariners first base coach/bench coach Mike Goff will be the club’s new bench coach, while VP/assistant GM Mike Berger will assume Jennings’ former front office roles.

The decision was announced at an 11am ET press conference today in which Jennings, president of baseball operation Michael Hill and team president David Samson addressed the media. Owner Jeffrey Loria was not present for the press conference. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald has a plethora of quotes from Jennings, Hill and Samson alike.

According to Hill, Jennings “is our manager for the remainder of the season. As we do with everything, we re-evaluate at the end of the season.” For the time being, the GM role with the Marlins will be considered vacant, but Jennings could return to that position at season’s end, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets. Hill will head the baseball operations department, Jackson notes, and Samson acknowledged at the presser that Jennings is actually under contract through the 2018 season. Previously, Jennings was only known to be under contract through the 2015 campaign.

Samson said that the idea of Jennings taking the managerial reins was first generated on a conference call and then presented to Loria, who was amenable to the idea. Said Jennings of the hire, “It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to lead this team that I had a hand in putting together.” Jennings was, however, quick to recognize that he would need some help from someone with more experience. “I said the only way I would consider it is if Mike Goff was removed from advanced scouting position and moved to bench coach,” said Jennings. Goff has also served as a manager in the minor league systems of the Reds and Giants.

There’s little precedent for such a move, although the Brewers just made at least a somewhat similar move by shifting Craig Counsell from special assistant to GM Doug Melvin to the role of manager. The D-Backs took a comparable course in 2009 when the moved A.J. Hinch from the front office — he was the team’s director of player development — to the managerial role after dismissing Bob Melvin. Going further back, in 1989 the Indians named John Hart manager for a brief 19-game stretch to close out the season before transitioning him to president of baseball operations the following year.

The move to hire Jennings continues a recent trend of managerial hires despite zero prior experience, but those hires have all been of former players. In addition to Counsell, the Rays’ Kevin Cash, the Twins’ Paul Molitor, the White Sox’ Robin Ventura, the Tigers’ Brad Ausmus and the Cardinals’ Mike Matheny are just a few examples of current managers whose first experience in the role is coming at the big league level. Those managers, however, had at least spent significant time in the dugout as players and, in many cases, as coaches of varying capacity as well.

Jennings has no dugout experience, so while he is a respected baseball mind throughout the industry, he’s certainly stepping into uncharted territory here. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal speculates that Jennings is taking the job at least somewhat out of a sense of obligation. Loria trusts Jennings a great deal and gave him an eight-year contract with the club’s front office following the 2007 season, Rosenthal notes, creating a strong sense of loyalty to Loria in Jennings.

The Marlins are currently still paying Jennings’ GM predecessor, Larry Beinfest, and they’ll also pay Redmond through the 2017 season and pay former manager Ozzie Guillen through the end of the current season. As such, the move from GM to manager for Jennings will prevent the team from taking on a financial commitment to a third manager, though it’s not directly clear how large a role that factor played in the decision.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported the decision (Twitter link) after suggesting it as a possibility on Sunday evening. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale first reported that Goff would be the bench coach and Berger would assume Jennings’ previous front office roles (Twitter links).