Nick Hundley Rumors

West Notes: Kapler, Gasparino, Tomas, Rangers, Angels

The Dodgers‘ front office shakeup isn’t over yet. As Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles reported first, the Dodgers announced that they have hired Gabe Kapler as their farm director and Padres scouting director Billy Gasparino as their new director of amateur scouting (All Twitter links). Additionally, the team will hire Red Sox special assignment scout Galen Carr, per Saxon, though his role in the Dodgers’ front office is yet unreported. The Dodgers, of course, have already poached Andrew Friedman from the Rays (president of baseball ops) and Farhan Zaidi from the A’s (GM) in addition to hiring former Padres/D’Backs GM Josh Byrnes as their new senior VP of baseball ops. The new-look group is made up of some of the most respected executives from around the game.

Here’s more from the game’s Western divisions…

  • On a conference call with Padres season-ticket holders last night, general manager A.J. Preller spoke candidly about the team’s interest in Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas (Twitter link): “We’ve had the chance to see Yasmany Tomas and we’re in the process of determining his value for the Padres. We’re in the game.” San Diego has been said to be one of the front-runners for Tomas, and he’d certainly provide the team with some much-needed offense if he lives up to the hype surrounding him.
  • The Rangers will be on the lookout for a backup catcher to pair with Robinson Chirinos this offseason, writes MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. Sullivan looks at the crop of free agents and notes that A.J. Pierzynski, Gerald Laird and J.P. Arencibia have all played with the Rangers in the past, but he wonders if the team will spend a bit more money on a name like Nick Hundley rather than bringing in familiar faces.
  • The Angels announced today that they have promoted Mike LaCassa to assistant director of player development and promoted Jonathan Strangio to manager of Major League Operations (Twitter link).

AL East Notes: Maddon, O’s, Headley, BoSox

Alan Nero, Joe Maddon’s agent, discussed how his client left the Rays for the Cubs in an interview with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette (audio link) on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM.  Nero negotiated with the Rays for five or six days before Maddon opted out of his contract, a decision Maddon reached since Tampa didn’t want to make him one of baseball’s five highest-paid managers.  Maddon was willing to take below-market value to stay but the Rays’ offer was “so far from reality that it just didn’t make sense” for Maddon to accept, according to Nero.  Theo Epstein wouldn’t speak to Maddon until he had written proof of the opt-out and permission from the Commissioner’s office, and Nero considers it “a bit insulting” that the Rays would suspect tampering took place.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Rival teams could be interested in the Orioles‘ catching depth, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko opines.  Despite the presence of Caleb Joseph, Steve Clevenger and a number of young backstops in the minors, the team is still interested in bringing back veteran Nick Hundley.  Kubatko speculates that Chris Tillman‘s improved performance with Hundley behind the plate could be a factor in why Hundley could return.
  • Mutual interest exists between the Yankees and Chase Headley, though Alex Rodriguez‘s presence and Pablo Sandoval‘s price tag remain obstacles to a signing, George A. King III of the New York Post writes.  Sandoval’s next deal will set the bar for free agent third basemen, with Headley possibly poised to benefit as arguably the second-best 3B on the open market this winter.
  • For the record, King doesn’t think the Yankees are exploring signing Sandoval, though “it is hard to ignore what the Giants third baseman has done in the postseason.”
  • The Red Sox have been hesitant to sign hugely expensive contracts in recent years and, of course, spending is no guarantee of success.  With so many offseason needs, however, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal thinks the team may be more open to one or more big contracts.

Rays and Orioles Notes: Maddon, Zobrist, Markakis, Hundley

Now that former Rays skipper Joe Maddon has signed with the Cubs, the Rays find themselves at a philosophical crossroads, writes Buster Olney of ESPN (Insider only). The Rays must decide whether to pursue tampering charges against the Cubs. Per Olney, the Rays thought they were close to signing Maddon to a multi-year extension before he ultimately opted out of his contract. The timing seems suspicious, but it may be difficult to prove tampering.

The Rays have two options. They can either ignore the whiff of wrong doing or pursue an investigation. Major League Baseball has the authority to demand phone and email records from all 30 clubs, so a basic investigation is possible. Other small market teams, tired of being bullied by the big spenders, would ostensibly support an investigation. If tampering is proven, the Cubs could be forced to relinquish a player in return for Maddon. Historically, such returns have been middling. Randy Winn was traded for Lou Piniella, reliever Chris Carpenter was dealt for Theo Epstein, and the pair of Jhan Marinez and Ozzie Martinez were sent to the White Sox for Ozzie Guillen.

  • Despite turmoil atop the Rays organization, Ben Zobrist is excited to have his $7.5MM club option exercised, writes Marc Tomkin of the Tampa Bay Times. He expressed faith in GM Matt Silverman along with lieutenants Chaim Bloom and Erik Neander. Zobrist is set to become the first player in Rays franchise history to begin a 10th season with the club.
  • The Orioles declined a $17.5MM option for Nick Markakis a few days ago, but they’re still striving to re-sign him, reports Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. One person who expects Markakis to return is manager Buck Showalter. The Orioles can negotiate exclusively with Markakis through Monday night. They also need to decide on a potential qualifying offer, which could depend on the character of their negotiations. After considering his $2MM buyout, the $15.3MM qualifying offer is just a $200K savings over the club option. If the club is confident Markakis will pursue a multi-year deal elsewhere, they may be more inclined to make the offer.
  • Baltimore officially declined Nick Hundley‘s 2015 option via Twitter. The club is potentially interested in re-signing Hundley at a rate below his $5MM option, tweets Roch Kobatko of MASNsports.com. The 40 man roster now stands at 31 players according to Kubatko (also Twitter). We first learned the Orioles planned to decline the option last Thursday.


Orioles Exercise Options On Chen, O’Day; Decline Options On Markakis, Hundley

The Orioles announced that they have exercised their club options on left-hander Wei-Yin Chen ($4.75MM) and right-hander Darren O’Day ($4.25MM). Additionally, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that the team has declined its half of Nick Markakis‘ $17.5MM mutual option (in favor of a $2MM buyout) and declined Nick Hundley‘s $5MM option.

The decision to pick up the options on Chen and O’Day was an easy one, as both appear to be bargain rates relative to the level of production of each pitcher. Chen, a 29-year-old left-hander signed out of Taiwan, has been solid in three seasons for the Orioles and enjoyed his best year in 2014. In 185 2/3 innings in the Baltimore rotation, he pitched to a 3.54 ERA with 6.6 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and a 41 percent ground-ball rate. In three years with the O’s, he’s totaled a 3.86 ERA in 515 1/3 innings while playing on a three-year, $11.388MM contract.

O’Day, who turned 32 last week, has been an integral part of the Orioles’ bullpen over the past three seasons but turned in his best work this year. Though he has a 2.05 ERA over 197 2/3 total innings in Baltimore, he pitched to a 1.70 mark this year to go along with 9.6 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and a 44.6 percent ground-ball rate.

Markakis has been with the Orioles since being selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft. In nine seasons with Baltimore, he’s posted a cumulative line of .290/.358/.435. This past season, he posted a .276/.342/.386 line with 14 homers and a total of 2.5 fWAR/2.1 rWAR — a solid rebound campaign as he hits the open market for the first time. First, however, the O’s will have to decide whether or not to make him a $15.3MM qualifying offer. (I recently profiled Markakis and pegged him for a four-year deal without a QO and three years if he gets one.)

Hundley, 31, was acquired in exchange for lefty Troy Patton after Matt Wieters went down for the season due to Tommy John surgery. In 50 games and 174 plate appearances with the O’s, the former Padre batted .233/.273/.352 with five homers. He caught 19 percent of opposing base-stealers and graded out as a slightly above-average pitch-framer, per Baseball Prospectus.


Showalter On The Troy Patton / Nick Hundley Deal

Earlier today, the Orioles sent lefty reliever Troy Patton to the Padres for catcher Nick Hundley and cash. Orioles manager Buck Showalter says Matt Wieters‘ health was the driving force behind the deal, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. The team is still waiting to determine whether Wieters will need season-ending elbow surgery.

We still hope Matt doesn’t need anything,” Showalter says, but adds that the team needs brace itself for the worst. “You’ve always got to prepare for what-if.”

With Wieters on the disabled list, the Orioles had been using Steve Clevenger and 27-year-old rookie Caleb Joseph behind the plate. “We think Caleb and Steve have done a capable job. We like Brian Ward down below. He’s having a good year. And [prospect Michael] Ohlman is learning his trade,” Showalter says. “But [the Padres] had a surplus there.”

The Padres had three catchers in Yasmani Grandal, Rene Rivera and Hundley, plus a catching prospect at Double-A in Austin Hedges, so they had plenty of depth from which to deal. Patton gives them another bullpen lefty to pair with Alex Torres.

Showalter says he’s sad to see Patton go. “Troy did a lot of good things for us here. It’s kind of tough parting with someone you’ve been around that long. A good teammate, good friend to a lot of guys, but there’s a need that, him being wanted somewhere, could potentially serve.”


NL West Notes: Trumbo, Hundley, Guerrero

Hall of Famer and longtime Padres stalwart Tony Gwynn is taking a leave of absence from his position as head coach of San Diego State’s baseball program, the AP reports (via the New York Times). The 53-year-old, who has battled mouth cancer in recent years, is said to be recovering from undisclosed health issues. Needless to say, MLBTR extends its best wishes to the all-time great and his family.

Here’s more from the NL West:

  • The Diamondbacks announced today that outfielder Mark Trumbo underwent an MRI that showed an apparent stress fracture in his left foot. He is set to seek a second opinion. As Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic notes on Twitter, Trumbo said a previous stress fracture in his other foot required 5 1/2 months to heal, though he noted that this one was not as bad. The 28-year-old, the team’s key offseason acquisition, is leading the league with seven home runs, though he has just a .264 OBP. There is currently no timetable for Trumbo to return.
  • With yesterday’s news that the Padres are talking with multiple other teams about a trade of catcher Nick Hundley, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune names some theoretical landing spots. He mentions four clubs that have had significant injuries — the Rangers, Yankees, Dodgers, and Nationals — though it’s not clear that any of those organizations would look to add Hundley. Several other teams have received scant production from their backup options, including the division-rival Diamondbacks (Tuffy Gosewisch) and Giants (Hector Sanchez). (Of course, Sanchez just hit two resounding home runs today for San Francisco.) The Royals could conceivably be interested in upgrading Brett Hayes, though he has seen only one plate appearance with Salvador Perez playing just about every day. Likewise, the White Sox could make sense, though they have Josh Phegley in the minors and would have to part with Rule 5 pick Adrian Nieto if he lost his active roster spot. Of course, all of these clubs are merely hypothetical possibilities, as no reports have emerged about specific teams in discussions.
  • The Dodgers‘ biggest offseason splash was the signing of infielder Alex Guerrero, who proved unable to crack the big league lineup out of the spring. But Guerrero, who signed for four years and $28MM out of Cuba, is off to a big start at Triple-A. Through 37 plate appearances, he has hit a robust .467/.568/.900 with two home runs and five walks against just one strikeout. Nevertheless, manager Don Mattingly says that the club wants him to spend time learning to play second, as MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reported yesterday“This kind of stuff doesn’t happen overnight,” said Mattingly. “Eight games, you’re not going to see much difference in that amount of time.” Of course, Dee Gordon has been outstanding in the season’s early going — he is slashing .369/.408/.492 with a league-leading 12 steals — and figures to have earned a good deal of leash at the keystone.
  • In other news today from the division, injured Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is now set to begin a rehab assignment, as Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Padres starter Josh Johnson is headed in the other direction, as he will be out for the season after it was decided that he will undergo Tommy John surgery. The question now becomes whether the team will pick up its $4MM option for 2015, though that may be a difficult cost to take on given that Johnson has already had one TJ procedure and would presumably not be ready until some time in the middle of next season. Meanwhile, we heard that the Diamondbacks could be getting closer to a shake-up involving GM Kevin Towers and/or manager Kirk Gibson. Arizona did show some life in a late comeback today against the Cubs.

Padres In Active Trade Talks Involving Nick Hundley

The Padres are engaged in active trade discussions regarding catcher Nick Hundley, reports Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Hundley, 30, has seen only limited action this year.

Hundley is in the final year of his three-year, $9MM extension, which comes with a $5MM club option for 2015 (no buyout). He has lost playing time to both 25-year-old Yasmani Grandal and journeyman Rene Rivera. With the club facing a looming active roster crunch, it appears that it is testing the market for a player who once was the team’s primary backstop.

Hundley’s best year came in 2011, when he posted a .288/.347/.477 line with 9 home runs in 308 plate appearances. He signed his extension before the following season, but has compiled only a .211/.267/.348 line since. He is, however, off to a solid start in just 21 plate appearances in 2014, with a .333/.333/.619 line.

Several teams could conceivably be interested in adding Hundley, who makes a relatively modest $4MM this year. The fact that he has a risk-free option for next year is also attractive, as it conveys upside if he turns things around. Of course, his recent track record is such that San Diego could need to contribute cash in a trade, if they hope to receive much value in return, as Lin notes.


AL East Notes: Soriano, Cashman, Red Sox

With the Red Sox losing the division lead for the first time in two months, here's the latest from a hotly contested American League East …

  • The deal that brought Alfonso Soriano back to the Yankees was consummated over the objections of GM Brian Cashman, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. "I would say we are in a desperate time," said Cashman. "Ownership wants to go for it. I didn't want to give up a young arm." The club dealt young righty Corey Black (and took on salary) to add the 37-year-old Soriano. MLBTR's Steve Adams rounded up the reactions to the deal yesterday. 
  • Cashman's latest overruling continues a trend, Sherman further reports in the same piece. Most recently, Cashman reportedly preferred signing catcher Russell Martin and outfielder Nate Schierholtz this last offseason. Instead, ownership pushed a two-year, $13MM deal with Ichiro Suzuki. While the Yanks could have Martin and Schierholtz playing right now on one-year deals, says Sherman, the team instead has an aging Ichiro-Soriano combination set to earn $11.5MM next season.
  • The Red Sox must add talent, writes Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, or risk dropping back in a tight AL East race. Silverman opines that the club should call up top prospect Xander Bogaerts to provide much-needed pop from the left side of the infield. Meanwhile, with Clay Buchholz still not on a clear timetable and with Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez choosing the Phillies over the Sox, Silverman says that Boston should also make a deal for a starter.
  • Should Boston make a move to bolster its rotation, one player who could be dealt is third baseman Will Middlebrooks. WEEI.com's Rob Bradford reports that Middlebrooks, who is trying to work his way back to the form he showed in his 2012 rookie campaign, has heard the rumors for the first time in his recollection. "I'm just trying to keep my nose out of it," Middlebrooks said. The 24-year-old indicated that he remains content in the Red Sox organization in spite of his struggles this year: "I have a good opportunity here. I don't need to get traded to have a good opportunity."
  • Looking at Boston's recent history, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal suggests that the team could look to pick up a somewhat under-the-radar player that can contribute not just this season, but in the future. MacPherson notes that the Sox added catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2010), shortstop Mike Aviles (2011), and reliever Craig Breslow (2012) when the price proved right and the deal met the club's multi-year needs. This season, with Saltalamacchia nearing free agency and backup David Ross injured, the team could look to deal for a backstop with future control even as it gives playing time to prospect Ryan Lavarnway. MacPherson suggests the Padres' Nick Hundley as a possibility, while noting that San Diego could be hesitant to move him.

Quick Hits: Forbes, Padres, Felix, Athletics

Forbes Magazine calculates the Yankees (unsurprisingly) as the most valuable franchise in baseball, worth an estimated $1.85 billion.  The second-place team on the list are (somewhat surprisingly) the Dodgers at $1.4 billion, up nearly 75% in value from last year as Forbes predicts the team's forthcoming sale and new TV contract will return it to top-tier status.  The Forbes list also reveals which teams lost value from last year and which didn't turn a profit in 2011, as well as looking at how cable TV deals are changing the economics of the game.

Some other news from around the majors…

  • Yasmani Grandal is happy that Padres teammate and fellow catcher Nick Hundley received a contract extension but isn't worried that Hundley's deal impacts his own future with the club, reports Dan Hayes of the North County Times.  "It doesn't matter if somebody got a deal or not. You never know what could happen," Grandal said.  "They could get traded or you could get traded. I'm not only playing for one organization. I'm playing for the 29 others that are out there. That's one way I see it, and if it's not meant to be it's not meant to be. If I don't make it to the big leagues with this club I can make it with any other team."
  • Hundley's reasonable contract could make him a strong trade candidate, opines Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, who the Padres could deal this summer if Grandal has a strong first half at Triple-A.
  • Felix Hernandez says he is asked about his future with the Mariners in almost every interview, reports Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, and joked he might hang a banner reading "I'm not going anywhere" over his locker.
  • The Athletics are thus far very pleased with the four prospects (Tom Milone, Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole and Derek Norris) they received from the Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez trade, reports Jeff Fletcher for the Washington Times.
  • Matthew Eddy of Baseball America recaps the week's minor league transactions.
  • Vernon Wells thinks the Blue Jays could make "exceptions" to their policy of not offering contracts longer than five years, reports Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.  Ironically, Wells' seven-year, $126MM deal with Toronto in 2006 is no doubt a major reason why the current Jays management team has adopted this policy.
  • Some newly-hired bench bosses make FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal's annual list of managers on the hot seat, including Ozzie Guillen and Bobby Valentine.

Padres Extend Nick Hundley

The Padres and catcher Nick Hundley agreed to terms on a three-year extension, the team announced. The deal covers the 2012-14 seasons and includes a club option for 2015. Athletes First represents Hundley, who drew praise from his new GM.

“Nick has developed into one of our club’s core players,” Josh Byrnes said. “He impacts the game on both offense and defense and has evolved into a leader on the field and in the clubhouse.”

Nick Hundley - Padres

Hundley had agreed to a one-year, $2MM salary via arbitration this offseason and was on track for free agency following the 2014 season. This means San Diego extends its control of Hundley by up to one season with today's agreement. Hundley will earn $2MM in 2012, $3MM in 2013 and $4MM in 2014, MLB.com's Corey Brock reports (Twitter links). The club option is worth $5MM and doesn't include a buyout, so it's a three-year, $9MM deal. 

Hundley has a .255/.314/.420 career line in four MLB seasons, including a .288/.347/.477 line last year. 72% of stolen base attempts against the 28-year-old have been successful to this point in his career. 

As Mike Axisa pointed out when talks heated up over the weekend, catchers such as Kurt Suzuki (four years, $16.25MM), Yadier Molina (four years, $15.5MM), Carlos Ruiz (three years, $8.85MM) and Chris Iannetta (three years, $8.3MM) signed extensions when they had between three and four years of service time. Iannetta and Ruiz were likely comparables for Hundley's deal.

Corey Brock of MLB.com first reported the deal. Photo courtesy Icon SMI.