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- Mark Ellis To Retire
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Nick Hundley Rumors
JANUARY 5: The Rockies have announced the signing. Hundley will receive $6.25MM in the deal, per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter), with $3.1MM coming this year and $3.15MM due for 2016.
DECEMBER 31: The Rockies have agreed to terms with catcher Nick Hundley on a two-year deal worth a bit over $6MM, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun writes. The deal is pending a physical. Hundley is an Athletes First client.
The Orioles also offered Hundley a two-year deal but did not offer as much money and could not promise as much playing time, Connolly tweets. Hundley hit .243/.273/.358 in 218 plate appearances in 2014, joining the Orioles in May after Baltimore acquired him from the Padres for Troy Patton, hoping to find catching help in the absence of the injured Matt Wieters. Wieters should be healthy for 2015, however, and the Orioles already had four other catchers on their 40-man roster (Steve Clevenger, Caleb Joseph, Michael Ohlman and the newly acquired Ryan Lavarnway).
Hundley will now join Wilin Rosario and Michael McKenry on the Rockies’ depth chart, although Rosario has been the subject of trade rumors this offseason and could ultimately be headed to the AL, where he can play DH. Hundley’s deal looks to be the biggest one for the Rockies so far this offseason — the only other player they’ve signed to a Major League deal so far is Daniel Descalso, who got two years and $3.6MM.
Hundley is generally regarded as reliable defensively. Historically, he hasn’t rated as a good framer, although he posted slightly above average framing numbers in 2014. The 31-year-old hit well early in his career, peaking with a stellar .288/.347/.477 season in PETCO Park in 2011. Since then, though, his offense has declined, perhaps beginning with a 2012 knee injury. He hasn’t posted an OPS above .679 in any of the last three seasons, and he eventually lost playing time as Yasmani Grandal and Rene Rivera emerged in San Diego. Of course, after years spent in PETCO, Coors Field could help boost Hundley’s offensive numbers.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Grant Brisbee of SB Nation lists 13 of the biggest holes facing MLB clubs. Since the article was published, the Reds added a left fielder and the Phillies became even weaker. My favorite is Diamondbacks catcher. Currently, that’s Tuffy Gosewisch with Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez serving as the backup. Despite learning earlier tonight that the Orioles are seeking to add more catching depth, they do have five on the active roster. I’d be willing to bet somebody like Steve Clevenger, Ryan Lavarnway, or a cast-off from another organization will filter into Phoenix before the end of spring training.
- Personal connections between players and evaluators can affect transactions, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Knowing an individual can create a comfort level because so much of baseball is based on character and competitive drive. One NL scout said: “If you just look around, there’s normally a connection there with somebody who is acquiring, they know the guy and sometimes it helps the trade develop.” The article is chock full of good quotes and observations on the topic. The opening is especially pertinent to fans of the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Padres.
- The Seth Smith trade worked out nicely for San Diego, writes Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. They get out from under $12MM owed to Smith while acquisition Brandon Maurer remains club controlled for five seasons. The Friars may give Maurer a chance to start, but he could also be groomed for late inning relief.
- The Padres have overhauled their roster, but there’s still no clear leadoff hitter, writes Corey Brock of MLB.com. It’s possible that could be the next target for GM A.J. Preller. Internal candidates like Will Venable and Yangervis Solarte were discussed for the role prior to the flurry of trades. Both appear to be backups now. Catcher Derek Norris has the on base percentage for the job, if not the classic speed associated with batting first.
- As the Rockies enter the new year, the attention is on newly signed catcher Nick Hundley, writes Thomas Harding of MLB.com. It’s presumed that the move will make it easier to send bat-first catcher Wilin Rosario to the American League. While the Rockies claim they need to be blown away for Rosario, this type of move often presages a transaction.
Orioles executive Dan Duquette is a great fit to replace Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston, but if the Jays want him, they should be willing to pay a significant price, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes (subscription required). The right executive can make a huge difference for a franchise, but Duquette is under contract with the Orioles through 2018, so if the Blue Jays want him, the Orioles should ask for top young players (as in one or more of Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris, Jeff Hoffman, Max Pentecost or Richard Urena) in return. Here’s more from the AL East.
- The Orioles had hoped they could re-sign catcher Nick Hundley, but it appears he has found a two-year offer with another team, so he likely won’t be returning, MASNsports’ Roch Kubatko tweets. Hundley, 31, posted a .243/.273/.358 line in 233 plate appearances with the Padres and Orioles last season, but he has a solid defensive reputation. The O’s declined their $5MM option on Hundley in October.
- After trading Wil Myers to San Diego, the Rays remain optimistic about contending in 2015, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. “While there’s been a lot of change, the talent level at the major-league level remains very high, and we should be a formidable club,” says president of baseball operations Matt Silverman. Silverman adds that although the Rays could continue making moves (Topkin mentions the possibility of a Ben Zobrist trade), they’re not likely to make “seismic changes.”
The Braves have already received attractive trade proposals for outfielder Justin Upton, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. With several free agents off the board, a deal could come together soon, per Sherman, possibly during the upcoming Winter Meetings. The team’s addition of free agent Nick Markakis would appear to increase the odds of the club dealing Upton and/or Evan Gattis, though its final course remains unclear.
More from the National League:
- The Braves, Cubs, and Padres are among the teams pursuing free agent catcher David Ross, along with the incumbent Red Sox, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 37-year-old Ross rates among the game’s most respected veterans.
- The Rockies have expressed interest in free agent backstop Nick Hundley, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. Were the team to add Hundley or another option, it would likely deal Wilin Rosario, Crasnick adds.
- Though John Lackey is under contract at league minimum for 2015, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak will meet with his representatives at the upcoming Winter Meetings to discuss “possibly reworking” that deal, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports on Twitter. It is not entirely clear what manner of modification could be contemplated, though one would expect that St. Louis would only be interested in a proposal that added a reasonably priced season or two to the 36-year-old’s deal.
- The Cardinals have promoted Chris Correa to become the club’s new scouting director, Langosch reports. The club had an opening arise recently when Dan Kantrovitz left to become an assistant GM with the Athletics.
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).
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.
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.
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.”
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.