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- Dylan Bundy Shut Down Indefinitely
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Nick Markakis Rumors
We checked into the west earlier tonight; now, let’s look at the latest from the east:
- The Yankees are prepared to go to arbitration to avoid paying Alex Rodriguez any home run marketing bonuses, Bill Madden and Teri Thompson of the New York Daily News report. Rodriguez is seeing plenty of plate appearances, and it is probably only a matter of time before the issue is triggered. New York will simply not declare any triggering home runs as milestones (click here for an explanation of how the contract works), leaving it up to Rodriguez and the union whether to file a grievance.
- The Red Sox‘ prescient pursuit of Mookie Betts in the 2011 draft is at least partially attributable to the concept of neuroscouting, writes Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. To some extent, it seems, the club is still working to assess the merits of its neurological program, as well as to delineate between its scouting and development components. GM Ben Cherington explains the intuition that justifies the effort: “If you have that strength, then you might improve that. Hopefully we think we can improve it. But the player who starts with the advantage still probably has the advantage.”
- At the big league level, Cherington is trying to return the Red Sox to the depth it had in 2013, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports. Protecting against (or avoiding) injury and underperformance are key goals, of course, and depth — as well as the intelligent deployment of it — can help to maximize productivity.
- The Braves‘ offseason was dedicated rather clearly to shedding salary and adding young pitching, with the notable exception of the signing of Nick Markakis. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution looks at the reasoning, explaining that the team was motivated both by near-term and mid-term goals. At its most basic, there was simply a hole in right field that needed to be filled. But the organization also wanted to add a steady, veteran presence to the lineup and clubhouse over the next few years. “This guy’s a great leader and a great player,” said assistant GM John Coppolella. “We thought he fit us really well. We had a lot of inside information from Dave Trembley, who managed him when (Markakis) was a kid with the Orioles. … There isn’t anything wrong with this player, anything that he doesn’t do well. He’s a very good player who fits not only what we’re going through now as we try to remodel, but as we start getting to the playoffs and getting to the World Series, he will be a key part of that as well.”
Shortstop Trea Turner is technically still a member of the Padres, but it’s one of baseball’s worst-kept “secrets” that he’ll be headed to the Nationals in June as a player to be named later in the three-team Wil Myers trade once he’s a year removed from being drafted. Turner tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune that while he does find the situation to be a bit weird, he’s happy to have had a normal camp thus far. “A little bit. It’s been awesome, though, because a lot of my teammates don’t really care too much about it. They know the business side, and things like this can happen all the time, so I haven’t been treated differently than I thought I would.” Turner’s agent, Jeff Berry of CAA Sports, called the situation “unconscionable” at the time of the trade but released the following statement yesterday, per Lin: “Trea has put this matter behind him and is focusing on his development and being a productive member of the Padres organization.”
Some more notes pertaining to the NL East…
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki that his team was in contact with Yoan Moncada‘s agent, David Hastings, right up until the end when Moncada agreed to sign with the Red Sox this week. However, Amaro declined to get into specifics or even give a “yes” or “no” answer when asked by Zolecki if the Phillies submitted a formal offer for the highly touted 19-year-old.
- Ichiro Suzuki is appreciative of how accommodating the Marlins were during negotiations, and the positive feelings he got from the organization are a large reason that he signed there, writes Christina De Nicola of FOX Sports Florida. (For example, the Marlins have added facilities for Ichiro’s Pilates machine in their Spring Training and regular season homes, said Ichiro through a translator.) He’s also very accepting of his role as a fourth outfielder, which manager Mike Redmond said was a key component in the deal.
- New Braves right fielder Nick Markakis has been cleared for running and extensive workouts, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Markakis won’t be in the lineup for the early games in Spring Training and isn’t sure if he’ll be ready to compete come Opening Day, but he tells O’Brien that’s absolutely his goal. Manager Fredi Gonzalez tells O’Brien that he is optimistic that Markakis, who signed a four-year, $44MM contract this winter, will be ready for the opener come April 6.
Nick Markakis underwent fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck yesterday, but the Braves expect their new right fielder to be 100 percent by Opening Day, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. President of baseball operations John Hart spoke with surgeon Steve Wray, who performed the procedure, and came away with the impression that aside from some possible disruption of his pre-Spring Training routine, Markakis would be fine. He’s expected to be cleared for physical activity within a month’s time and to be fully agile in six weeks.
Some more notes from the Senior Circuit to kick off your Thursday morning…
- The Rockies are interested in right-hander Kyle Kendrick as a potential back-of-the-rotation option, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. The 30-year-old Kendrick pitched a career-high 199 innings last season, and Crasnick notes that his career 46.1 percent ground-ball rate is of interest to Colorado. That mark isn’t too far above the league average, but it’s an improvement over Franklin Morales and Christian Bergman, each of whom logged significant innings in Colorado’s rotation last year. Kendrick’s upside is limited, but he’d be a relatively low-cost option to soak up some innings in a shaky rotation.
- Wilmer Flores is still likely to open next season as the Mets‘ shortstop, writes Marc Carig of Newsday, but a source tells Carig that the team does have interest in Stephen Drew and Everth Cabrera on low-risk, one-year deals. Previous reports have indicated that the Mets weren’t interested in Cabrera. The team hasn’t ruled out bidding on Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang, but they’re likely to pass due to concerns over his defense. Those same concerns have halted their interest in Asdrubal Cabrera from progressing beyond internal discussions.
- In a video blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney opines that the Padres are in perfect position to try to squeeze some extra money out of the Dodgers in their deal for Matt Kemp. While the deal is expected to be completed, Olney notes that Kemp’s medicals are “ugly,” and the Dodgers need the trade more than the Padres do. The Dodgers are reportedly set to send $32MM to the Padres as it is.
- The Padres aren’t done making moves even after striking deals to acquire Kemp and Wil Myers, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. One possible minor addition, he reports, is veteran catcher David Ross, who is still “considering” the Padres.
New Braves outfielder Nick Markakis is leaning toward undergoing neck surgery to repair a bulging disc, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). The possibility of the surgery, which could come with a recovery time as long as 12 weeks, was known to the Braves before signing him, Rosenthal adds. The neck issue is believed by some to be one of the reasons that the Orioles were reluctant to go beyond three years for Markakis. Even with a 12-week recovery, Markakis would seemingly be ready to go for most of Spring Training. The Braves are confident that he’ll be ready for Opening Day, per Rosenthal.
Here are some more notes from around the Senior Circuit…
- An executive from a team with interest in trading for Matt Kemp tells ESPN’s Jayson Stark that he’s still unconvinced that the Dodgers will actually move Kemp (Twitter link). Stark’s source feels that Andre Ethier is “still the guy they want to move.” Earlier today, it was reported that Ethier has communicated to the Dodgers that he prefers to be a starter next season, even if it means with another club. Ethier took his loss of playing time in stride this past season and has drawn praise for handling it quite well.
- The Cubs are still looking for help behind the plate, president Theo Epstein told reporters, including ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers. On the one hand, Epstein praised incumbent Welington Castillo, noting that he does a “nice job” of many things and has a promising future. In particular, Epstein praised Castillo’s throwing and blocking, though he noted that framing and receiving are areas to improve. He also added that, “…catching is one of the few areas on the field where we can add some veteran leadership — in the near term, anyway — and not block a potential impact player.” The allusion to veteran leadership could imply a backup catcher, though Rogers also speculates on adding someone like Miguel Montero to platoon with Castillo and receive the lion’s share of playing time.
- In an excellent analysis for GammonsDaily.com, David Golebiewski examines whether or not trade candidates Evan Gattis (Braves) and Wilin Rosario (Rockies) should remain behind the plate or only be of interest to teams who can move them off the position. Golebiewski notes that Gattis is a perhaps surprisingly competent pitch-framer, though he struggles to block balls in the dirt and is below-average at catching base stealers. Rosario, on the other hand, averages -12 runs in pitch-framing and -5 runs in blocking per season. Golebiewski feels that Gattis can follow a career path similar to Mike Napoli, providing a few solid seasons behind the plate before his large 6’4″, 260-pound frame causes him to move for another pitcher. Regarding Rosario, he offers a much bleaker take: “No matter where he suits up in 2015, it’s time to hide his mask and chest plate.”
Orioles GM Dan Duquette talked shop with fans earlier tonight at a team function. After a week in which outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis signed with new teams, the focus is on the O’s next step. Although Baltimore will miss the pair of outfielders, they still have money to spend, tweets Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Here’s more from Duquette’s Q&A session.
- A deal with Markakis was “fairly close a couple times,” tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. However, concern over a herniated disc may have disrupted negotiations (tweet). Asked why a qualifying offer was made to Cruz and not Markakis, Duquette responded by saying Cruz’s production justified the offer, tweets Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com
- In a series of tweets from Encina (links to Twitter), Duquette is comfortable with internal outfield options like Alejandro De Aza, David Lough, and Steve Pearce. On the farm, Dariel Alvarez and Mike Yastrzemski could play a role next season, although both may benefit from additional seasoning. The club will focus on upgrading the outfield and bullpen.
- The Orioles and free agent Delmon Young have “dialogue going,” per Kubatko (tweet). The 29-year-old outfielder was effective for the O’s in a limited role last season. Among the highlights, he hit .302/.337/.442 in 255 regular season plate appearances and had a couple clutch hits during the postseason.
- On the subject of reliever Andrew Miller, 23 clubs showed interest, tweets Kubatko. Duquette stressed that the Baltimore market isn’t ideal for a highly paid reliever, which is why they are not among the finalists.
- Duquette mentioned that interviews for the club’s hitting coach job were ongoing, tweets Encina. Some have already been conducted while others will be held during the upcoming Winter Meetings. No word yet on specific candidates.
Athletics GM Billy Beane firmly rejected the recently-suggested idea that some kind of tension between he and Josh Donaldson played any role in the latter’s recent trade, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. “It is so absurd to respond further is to give it credibility,” said Beane. We’ll take a closer look at Oakland on today’s podcast, which features beat reporter Jane Lee of MLB.com.
Here’s more from the American League:
- The Athletics are “going to trade Brandon Moss,” an executive told ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark last night (Twitter link). We heard yesterday that the Indians were making a run at the slugger, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the pursuit continues today. Of course, as Lee reported last night (via Twitter), there are other teams looking into Moss.
- Lingering concerns over neck issues may have played a role in the Orioles‘ decision not to top the Braves’ offer to Nick Markakis, Rosenthal reports. Markakis has been quite durable over the last two seasons since being diagnosed with a “small disc herniation,” but of course he has also failed to deliver much pop in that time.
- Nevertheless, the Orioles did have the second-highest offer on the table to Markakis, per Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs (Twitter link). He hears that Baltimore offered four years and $40MM.
- The Tigers are receiving strong interest in David Price and Rick Porcello, Rosenthal reports (links to Twitter). What Detroit would ask for in return for these starters remains a mystery, Rosenthal adds. Of course, there are several other big-name, 5+ service time pitchers who could potentially be had, and Rosenthal notes that all are still “in play.” He adds that the primary appeal of such arms is their generally below-market salary and the achievement of a year of exclusive negotiating rights. Implicit, of course, is that teams are interested not only in a reasonable hope of achieving excess value on the contract, but also in doing so without exposure to the massive downside risk of a longer-term deal.
- The Twins will turn their attention to the pitching staff during the Winter Meetings, reports MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. When asked what the team’s priority is, GM Terry Ryan left little doubt how he feels: “Pitching is, and I don’t think there’s any question. We’ve had our struggles on the mound, so we’ll continue to look at pitching first.”
- Justin Smoak left money on the table to join the Blue Jays, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. Agent Dustin Bledsoe told Nicholson-Smith that his client wanted the chance at everyday playing time at first more than the possibility of increasing his guarantee next year.
The Braves have officially agreed to a four-year deal with free agent outfielder Nick Markakis, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported on Twitter. He will be guaranteed $44MM in the pact, per Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). Markakis is repped by Jamie Murphy of TWC Sports.
For Atlanta, the move marks yet another fascinating plot point in an offseason of change. After dealing homegrown star Jason Heyward, the club has now replaced him with another defense-first corner outfielder in Markakis. Of course, Markakis is older, but he is also much cheaper than Heyward figures to be when he eventually lands a big new contract off his own.
Markakis, who grew up in the Atlanta area, will bring a somewhat polarizing skillset to his new home. He has a high-OBP, low-power bat that generally make him a slightly above-average offensive player. Though he has been more than that in the past, his recent history and advanced age suggest that Markakis will probably not return to his days of hitting at 20% or even 30% above league average.
And while Markakis is considered an excellent defender by many, both UZR and Defensive Runs Saved have turned some skepticism towards that assessment in recent years. Those metrics have tended to value him more as an average performer in right, with a lack of range outweighing his excellent arm and steady glovework. That debate will continue in Atlanta, where Markakis will be looking to fill some awfully big shoes in right.
While the Markakis contract falls shy of the $48MM that MLBTR’s Steve Adams predicted he would receive, it is certainly right in the ballpark for a tough-to-peg player. It appeared that Markakis was set to return to Baltimore on a contract of this general magnitude before talks sputtered. Recent reports had suggested both that Markakis was looking at suitors other than the incumbent Orioles, and that talks had picked up with Atlanta.
Markakis ultimately lands just $14MM shy of the Nelson Cruz pact, a not-insignificant achievement for a right fielder who has not hit 20 home runs since 2008. Melky Cabrera stands as the obvious prize amongst remaining free agent outfielders. He and players like Colby Rasmus may benefit from the fact that Markakis went to a seemingly-unlikely suitor.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The negotiations between the Braves and outfielder Nick Markakis are intensifying, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. A contract could land in the realm of four years and $45MM, Olney suggests.
Atlanta’s interest in the long-time Orioles outfielder has seemingly ramped up quickly over the last few days. A team contingent including assistant GM John Coppolella and manager Fredi Gonzalez paid him a visit recently. Of course, other teams — including the Giants, Blue Jays, and O’s — are all said to be after Markakis as well.
The price tag that Olney suggests would land just shy of the prediction of MLBTR’s Steve Adams (4/$48MM). It is not yet clear what that kind of outlay on a 31-year-old veteran would mean for an organization that has been re-shaping its decision-making apparatus and roster in several ways this offseason.
9:00pm: Assistant GM John Coppolella was also on the trip, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on Twitter. The presence of Hart’s top lieutenant certainly lends even more credence to the idea that the pursuit is serious.
7:15pm: The Braves sent a group, led by manager Fredi Gonzalez, to meet with outfielder Nick Markakis yesterday in Maryland, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. While the meeting was more of an introductory opportunity than a negotiating session, it does seem to indicate that Atlanta is serious about pursuing Markakis.
Reports have been flying on Markakis since Connolly wrote yesterday that the long-time Oriole was set to explore the market more fully after talks had stalled with his former employer. Today, we learned that the Braves were joined (not necessarily exclusively) by the Blue Jays, Giants, and incumbent O’s in pursuit of Markakis.
Atlanta has an obvious need for a corner outfielder, and Markakis’s Georgia roots make him a natural target. Of course, it remains unclear whether the Braves’ new head baseball executive, John Hart, will really make a competitive run at an older player after dealing away Jason Heyward and seemingly marketing Justin Upton. While those two players are younger, of course, they are also pending free agents who always looked to be tough extension targets. On the other hand, Atlanta appears to have a good bit of work to do before it can again be considered a true contender, and the 31-year-old Markakis may make better sense for a team with more present-day production in its lineup.
Jake Peavy acknowledges that he had an up-and-down season and tells Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com that he feels he has a lot to prove in free agency. However, the 33-year-old righty tells Crasnick that he actually enjoys the skepticism surrounding him after his struggles in Boston and in the postseason with San Francisco. “I need to have people doubting me, because that’s when you dig deep and find out what you’re made of,” Peavy explains. Crasnick spoke to a number of scouts and executives that all feel Peavy is a perfectly capable fourth starter at this point in his career, even if he’s not capable of being the ace he once was. “He’s not a No. 1 or a 2 by any stretch,” a scout tells Crasnick. “But if you have a deep team and you can give him a [Tim] Hudson type of deal and plug him into the 4 or 5 spot, I think he’s worth that.” (Hudson signed for two years and $23MM.) Crasnick hears that the Marlins have already had discussions with Peavy’s camp this offseason. Crasnick’s article has several excellent quotes from scouts and execs on Peavy’s current free agent stock and abilities on the mound.
Here’s more from baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- John Harper of the New York Daily News still isn’t convinced that the Yankees won’t make a run at Max Scherzer, and he spoke with one executive (that he describes as “friendly” with GM Brian Cashman) who shares that view. The exec noted that while Cashman would love to build from within and hates the idea of surrendering a first-round pick, turning to Scherzer and Andrew Miller while letting David Robertson sign elsewhere would net the Yankees a fairly similar selection to their No. 19 overall pick. Harper also wonders if the leak of the Yankees’ interest in Miller was, to some extent, a deliberate tactic to put extra pressure on Robertson to re-sign.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the Yankees are currently more likely to sign Miller than Robertson, though he eventually notes that the Bombers haven’t ruled out signing both relievers to pair with the electric Dellin Betances as a dynamic bullpen trio. Heyman, too, notes that the Yankees likely see some merit in the idea of pursuing the slightly cheaper Miller while letting Robertson walk to earn a compensatory draft pick.
- Though much has been made about the Cubs, Rockies, D’Backs and Mariners as a potential trade partner to fill the Mets‘ hole at shortstop, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that the Red Sox are an interesting partner as well. Prospect Deven Marrero is said to be available in trades, Martino writes, and the Red Sox have a well-documented need for starting pitching, making the two sides a good fit on paper.
- The Orioles have lost Nelson Cruz to free agency and are facing the possibility of losing Nick Markakis as well, prompting Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports to list a short-term deal with Colby Rasmus as a possibility for the O’s should Markakis land elsewhere (Twitter link).