- White Sox Claim Kyle Drabek
- Brady Aiken Undergoes Tommy John Surgery
- Chris Tillman, Orioles Begin Extension Discussions
- Tigers, David Price Open Exploratory Discussions
- Dodgers To Sign Hector Olivera
- Twins Extend Brian Dozier
- White Sox Extend Adam Eaton
- Rangers Release Joe Beimel
- Nationals Release Heath Bell
- Dodgers To Sign Cuban Pitcher Pablo Millan Fernandez
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Oakland Athletics Rumors
Padres GM A.J. Preller says that the team does not view outfielder Justin Upton as a mere rental player, as MLB.com’s Barry Bloom reports. “We made a big trade for him, and when you do something like that, you always hope you can work something out long term and do something together,” said Preller of Upton. “… That’s why we acquired him. You always want guys like that on your team.” While Preller has already made quite an impression in his first offseason at the helm in San Diego, an extension or free agent signing of Upton would be grander and more committing than any of his other moves. The 27-year-old sits atop the free agent power rankings of MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes, owing in large part to his youth and power output. For now, Preller says the team is focused on letting Upton get comfortable with the organization in the hopes that he will “see the long-term fit.” Upton, meanwhile, says it is too soon to discuss the possibility of a new deal with the Padres. “”I’ve only been here for a month,” he said. “I don’t even want to talk about that.”
Here’s more out of the western divisions:
- The Athletics have optioned righty Ryan Cook to Triple-A, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports. Cook has struggled this spring, but has a well-established track record at the big league level and owns a 2.77 ERA over nearly 200 frames over the last four seasons. It is worth noting that Cook has more at stake than his immediate roster spot: he entered the year with three years and 36 days of service, meaning that a lengthy minor league stint could delay his free agency by a year.
- Giants GM Brian Sabean addressed the team’s outfield situation today, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Angel Pagan‘s back troubles are not cause for the team to go searching for another outfielder, he said, noting also that Hunter Pence is only out for a small portion of the season.
- The Diamondbacks, in many respects, “appear to see things differently than the rest of the league,” Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. That applies to the team’s overall approach to blending statistics and scouting and its assessment of the defensive capabilities of several of its young players, among other things. Cameron cautions not to write off the team’s ultimate ability to compete based on a process that he believes is flawed, citing the Orioles’ somewhat surprising run of success, though he also makes clear that he does not see a promising method being applied in Arizona.
- The first trade of Preller’s stint with the Padres was not nearly as heralded as his later swaps, as MLB.com’s Corey Brock writes. Lefty Kyle Bartsch was, in fact, the first name added to San Diego’s slate of players under the Preller regime, representing the return on outfielder Reymond Fuentes. The 2013 seventh-round pick probably fit expectations for the new San Diego front office better than the later, splashier additions. “With Fuentes, he was someone who was coming off our roster, so you look for smaller deals and value-type pieces and in Kyle we found someone with three pitches, had success [in the pros], had success in college,” Preller said. “He’s a lefty and that’s always a good thing. That’s an area he fit for us.”
- Olivera’s new agent, Greg Genske, says he thinks he and his client will reach a deal with his new team “soon.” (Last Wednesday, Genske told Heyman that Olivera would likely sign by the end of what is now last week, so negotiations have already gone on longer than anticipated.)
- It’s possible there could be a bidding war between the Dodgers and Padres. Those two teams appear to be leading the bidding, although other teams (including the Braves, Athletics and Giants) remain interested. (The Marlins are reportedly out of the bidding.)
- Olivera is reportedly throwing well, perhaps easing concerns over a report that he could have UCL damage.
- Olivera will likely agree to a deal by Wednesday, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman tweets.
Now with the Angels, infielder Johnny Giavotella is hoping for another chance in the Majors, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes. Giavotella collected 465 plate appearances in parts of four seasons with the Royals, but never quite caught on, hitting .238/.277/.334 in the process before joining the Angels in a minor trade this winter. “In my opinion, Triple-A to the big leagues is the biggest jump, and there is an adjustment period to be had,” Giavotella says. “I never feel like I got that adjustment period to fail and make that adjustment.” Giavotella, who is out of options, is competing with Josh Rutledge, Grant Green and Taylor Featherston for the Angels’ second base job, which opened when the team traded Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers. Here’s more from the American League.
- Barry Zito now looks like a legitimate long relief option for the Athletics, Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com writes. “You take a year off … It’s pretty impressive what he’s doing,” says A’s manager Bob Melvin. After a year away from the game following an ugly 2013 season with the Giants, Zito signed a minor-league deal with the Athletics hoping to reestablish himself. He’s still hopeful he can make the team as a starter, although Stiglich suggests the bullpen is more likely.
- Another minor-league signee, Ryan Madson, has impressed the Royals in camp, writes Doug Miller of MLB.com. “To come in, you look at it as a flyer, and then you watch and he’s got his fastball back up to 91, 92, he’s always had that devastating change. He’s a pretty interesting guy,” says manager Ned Yost. Miller notes that Madson, who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2011, likely won’t make the Royals out of camp, but he could be a name to watch after he’s spent some time at Triple-A Omaha.
The Dodgers have announced that they’ve shut down Hyun-jin Ryu with shoulder inflammation. He will be shut down for the next three days while the Dodgers determine the right course of action. Ryu had experienced shoulder tightness in his last start, during which his velocity was down. Ryu had similar shoulder issues last September, although he returned to pitch in the playoffs. There’s no indication yet that his current issues are serious, and Ryu (via a tweet from J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group) believes the injury should not keep him from being ready for the start of the season. The Dodgers could consider having him begin the season on the disabled list, however, as the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin tweets. The Dodgers don’t require a fifth starter until April 14. Here’s more from the West divisions.
- Yasmany Tomas chose the Diamondbacks over other teams in part because he liked their front office, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. The Giants were the runners-up in the bidding for Tomas, writes Piecoro. “At the end of the day, he said, ‘I really like those people,'” says agent Jay Alou of Diamondbacks execs Tony La Russa, Dave Stewart, De Jon Watson and Junior Noboa. “These are baseball people. They get it. I think Yasmany appreciates that.” After committing $68.5MM for Tomas, the Diamondbacks now appear to be quietly considering having Tomas start the season in the minors, although they offer guarded praise for his abilities. “I really believe that a number of us in the organization believe that he could hit,” says La Russa. “If we were short and he had to play, at the end of the year he would survive.”
- The Athletics‘ seemingly incongruous addition of Billy Butler in the offseason actually makes sense, Tony Blengino of FanGraphs writes. While Butler’s 2014 season wasn’t a good one, his underlying numbers suggest a player whose ability is closer to his .289/.374/.412 2013 season. Blengino suggests Butler has a decent chance of being as good as or better than Nelson Cruz next year, although the two players’ offensive profiles are quite different.
- The Rangers‘ prospects give the team a bright future, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. The team still has Jorge Alfaro, Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez, Keone Kela and to power-hitting prospect Joey Gallo in big-league camp. “I think they are still getting something out of being here,” says GM Jon Daniels. “Some of these guys are not very far away at all.” Relief prospect Kela has wowed scouts with his stuff, Grant says — Kela can throw 100 MPH and now also has a quality breaking ball.
Cuban infielder Hector Olivera is “likely” to sign by the end of this week, agent Greg Genske tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Olivera is still looking for a team to promise him a sixth year, the report indicates.
The Braves have reportedly put in an offer of four years and $40MM that is said to be “behind the pack,” per Heyman’s source. Multiple other clubs have reportedly shown a willingness to guarantee five years, possibly over $50MM, though Heyman says that the precise value (and source) of the other bids are not known.
Among the other clubs that have shown interest, of course, are the Dodgers, Padres, and Giants. Heyman says it is unclear at this point how involved the Marlins and Athletics are, though recent reports indicated that Miami still has interest at seven years and $50MM, perhaps representing a lower AAV than Olivera prefers.
Josh Hamilton‘s recovery from shoulder surgery has lowered the urgency felt by commissioner Rob Manfred to reach a quick decision on a potential suspension, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times. “Because Josh isn’t in a position where he’s going to be on the field, it has made the timing a little more relaxed,” Manfred told reporters. Manfred and the MLBPA have debated how many times it should be ruled that Hamilton has violated the Joint Drug Agreement, and at this point, the commissioner said that Hamilton’s fate is in his hands. “I’m the decision-maker on this one,” he said.
More from Hamilton’s team and division…
- Within that same piece, DiGiovanna writes that both Matt Joyce and C.J. Cron have expressed desires to be more than platoon players. While that could be possible with Hamilton through at least May, DiGiovanna notes that Collin Cowgill will likely get some starts in left versus tough lefties, which will likely cost Joyce some at-bats. Manager Mike Scioscia said that the team “definitely” want Cowgill and Cron in the lineup against lefties. The situation figures to intensify by the time Hamilton is back, though at least at that point, the Halos will have had more time to make some determinations.
- Angels closer Huston Street won’t be speaking with the media any more about his extension talks until the deal is complete or almost complete (if one is agreed to at all), writes Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Street is seeking a four-year deal worth between $36MM and $46MM, beginning this year and running through the 2018 season. To this point he’s been very open with the media, but it sounds like there won’t be any further updates until something more final can be revealed.
- MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan tweets that the release of Michael Kirkman by the Rangers was the biggest surprise in camp so far, but the team wanted to give him the opportunity to hook on with another club. Kirkman still has three weeks to land somewhere and impress enough to position himself for a bullpen spot.
- A’s manager Bob Melvin didn’t know anything about right-hander Kendall Graveman when he was acquired in the Josh Donaldson trade, writes Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com, but the skipper went right to work on researching his new rotation candidate. Now, Melvin knows plenty about Graveman and offered strong praise for the righty, who, as Bloom notes, is making a strong case to make the Oakland rotation out of camp.
Giants reliever Sergio Romo left no doubts about how glad he is to be back with San Francisco, as Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com reports (Twitter links). “It was like, we can get this done in five minutes, for real,” Romo said of his free agent stance towards the Giants. “Call me up.” Though other clubs offered him a chance to return to a closing role, Romo says he “just didn’t want to go anywhere.”
Here’s more from the game’s western divisions:
- Rangers lefty Matt Harrison feels increasingly confident in his ability to make it back to the big leagues, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan writes. Now working his way up to a full-size mound, Harrison still faces a difficult road in his return from spinal fusion surgery. “I don’t think about [retirement] anymore,” Harrison said. “It would definitely be hard to do without giving it another shot. The more I learn and the more I understand the rehab, I feel good about the possibility of getting back to a five-day rehab.” Obviously, any future contribution from Harrison — who is owed owed $41MM between now and 2017 (including a buyout on an option for 2018) — would be welcome news for a Texas club that has been beset by a variety of pitching injuries in recent years.
- New commissioner Rob Manfred says a new ballpark for the Athletics is a priority, as the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). While Major League Baseball will remain involved, Manfred said that he is not sure how much influence it can have on the process and said he prefers the team to work with Oakland on a solution.
- Padres owner Ron Fowler vetoed a June 2013 proposal from the team’s baseball executives to make a bid to acquire Cliff Lee, Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Then just ten months into his chairmanship, and overseeing a front office led by then-GM Josh Byrnes, Fowler decided the move did not make sense given the team’s overall situation and Lee’s expense. San Diego had been hovering at .500 at the time, but quickly fell back and out of contention that year, and obviously the move could have had significant long-term repercussions as things turned out.
Yesterday, we learned agent Greg Genske of The Legacy Agency believes his client, Hector Olivera, will sign soon with several multi-year proposals under consideration. The Dodgers, Braves, Padres, Marlins, A’s and Giants have been the teams most linked to Olivera.
Here’s the latest on the Cuban free agent:
- The Marlins are willing to offer Olivera a seven-year contract in the $50MM range, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. The Marlins reportedly pulled a seven-year, $53MM offer because the Dodgers had made a $77MM proposal. According to Frisaro, the Marlins believe the amount of the Dodgers’ offer is not accurate.
- The A’s were not one of the teams making an offer to Olivera this weekend, but are monitoring his market, reports the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser.
- The Braves are considering increasing their bid for Olivera slightly, but it still won’t approach $50MM, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman notes the Braves, whose comfort level with Olivera is reportedly in the $30-40MM range, is counting on non-monetary incentives to help their bid like having a pair of Cuban natives on their staff, manager Fredi Gonzalez and bench coach Carlos Tosca. Heyman writes the Dodgers and Padres are seen as the favorites to land Olivera, but the Dodgers may have renewed questions about Olivera’s elbow after their request for a second MRI was rebuffed and there are concerns about whether the Padres have enough payroll space.
Jeff Francoeur believes his easygoing personality has helped keep his career going, Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes in a profile of the well-traveled outfielder. Last season, Francoeur’s teammates with Triple-A El Paso in the Padres’ system played an elaborate practical joke on Francoeur, then videotaped his reaction when he found out he’d been had. A Triple-A team ordinarily might not feel comfortable playing a trick on an accomplished big-league veteran, but Francoeur’s teammates knew he would take it well. Francoeur hit .289/.320/.450 in 487 plate appearances in El Paso and played ten games with the Padres. Now he’s in camp with the Phillies, trying to make it back to the big leagues with the seventh team of his career. Here are more notes from the National League.
- Cubs shortstop Addison Russell was surprised by the blockbuster Jeff Samardzija trade that sent him from Oakland to Chicago last summer, MLB.com’s Jane Lee writes. “I was a little shocked, and more confused than anything,” says Russell, who adds that he soon began to see a positive side of the trade. “The Cubs wanted me, and they got me. I look at it as a new opportunity.” Lee notes that Russell probably would have had a more straightforward path to the big leagues if he were still with the Athletics. He’s talented enough, though, that that might not matter — if he continues hitting this season, the Cubs will surely find a place for him.
- Former big-league pitcher and outfielder Rick Ankiel is trying to help Nationals players as the teams new life skills coordinator, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I’m really just a resource for these guys or somebody to lean on for whatever they may need — whether it’s something off the field or something on the field,” Ankiel says. “I’ve been through it. I’ve got a lot of tools and mechanisms to pass down to these guys.” Ankiel, who signed out of high school and has no college experience, emphasizes that he’s not a doctor, just a former player who’s had an unusual and varied big-league life. The 35-year-old, of course, flamed out as a pitcher after finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2000 before following a long road back through the minors and then re-emerging as a hitter in 2007. He last appeared in the big leagues in 2013.
Cubs prospect Addison Russell tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Jane Lee, that he “was a little shocked” and “confused” when he learned he had been traded by the Athletics last summer. “I was kind of flying through the farm system and playing well at each level and looked forward to playing with the A’s for several more years,” Russell said. “The trade just really surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it. It definitely would’ve been cool to play at the big league level with the team that drafted me.”
Here are a few more notes from the National League:
- Diamondbacks righty Daniel Hudson still does not know what his role will be going forward, as Zach Buchanan and Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic report. Hudson is coming off of two consecutive Tommy John surgeries and rehab stints, and the team is still evaluating whether he will be able to continue ramping up his workload to open the year as a starter.
- The Diamondbacks “have no urgency to go out and get anybody” at catcher, GM Dave Stewart says (quote via the above-cited piece). Arizona is still confident in its depth options and “encouraged by the improvement” shown by prospect Peter O’Brien.
- It appears that the Rockies will have some tough decisions to make in rounding out their bench. GM Jeff Bridich said today that the club intends to carry thirteen arms, “maybe more often than not,” as Matt Eddy of Baseball America tweets. Rolling with a baker’s dozen on the hill likely means that the club will need to part with an outfield option, as Charlie Culberson, Brandon Barnes, and Drew Stubbs will presumably be allocated only two bench spots (with the other two going to Daniel Descalso and whichever catcher is off that day). As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported earlier today, none of that trio is out of options, though Stubbs is a 5+ service time player so is not a candidate to be sent down. One player who does lack options, however, is backstop Michael McKenry, who would seemingly be on the outside looking in with just four position-player reserves — despite the fact that the team gave him just over $1MM to avoid arbitration.