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Oscar Taveras Rumors
Baseball America's Matt Eddy's latest piece is a fascinating look back at the history of platoon usage in Major League Baseball and the increasing role of specialized relievers in Major League bullpens. Last season, more pure left-handed relievers (i.e. lefties who made zero starts) appeared in a season than any year in Major League history. Eddy's piece is rife with tables and charts to provide the breakdown on the numbers behind left-on-left matchups as opposed to right-on-right matchups (not surprisingly, the former leans more heavily in the pitcher's favor) and is well worth the read. Here are some more links from around the league for some late-night Thursday reading…
- The Cardinals optioned top prospect Oscar Taveras to Triple-A today, putting an early end to a Spring Training that didn't allow him to fully showcase his talents, writes MLB.com's Jen Langosch. Taveras received just six plate appearances in a pair of games after sitting out the first week due to what Langosch calls "hesitancy to fully trust his surgically repaired right ankle." He also left his second and final Spring Training game with a minor hamstring injury.
- Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley is well ahead of schedule in his rehab from Tommy John surgery and could be ready to pitch in the Majors as soon as late April, reports ESPNLosAngeles.com's Mark Saxon. Billingsley will face live hitters next week and begin a minor league rehab assignment on April 3. Billingsley's return further crowds the competition for the team's fifth starter. Josh Beckett or Paul Maholm figures to occupy that role to open the season.
- Right-hander Todd Coffey has drawn interest from as many as nine to 10 teams and expects to sign right around Opening Day, according to MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). Coffey is currently throwing 91 to 92 mph in bullpen sessions, he adds. Coffey last pitched in the Majors for the Dodgers in 2012.
- Cotillo also tweets that free agent catcher Kelly Shoppach is looking to play in 2014 "if the right situation/opportunity presents itself." The 33-year-old isn't close to a deal at this time. He slashed just .199/.288/.339 in 127 PAs between the Mariners and Indians last season.
- Lastly, Cotillo tweets that former AL Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa, now 34, is seeking a minor league deal to return to affiliated baseball. Berroa spent 2012 playing independent ball and was in the Mexican League last season, where he slashed .293/.362/.462 in 460 trips to the plate.
One of the keys to success for last year's Pirates ballclub was its ability both to generate ground balls and convert them into outs. It all started with a pitching staff that had far and away the highest ground-ball rate (52.5%) in the big leagues. Featuring prominently in the repertoire of several Bucs hurlers, of course, was the sinker. As Tim Williams of PiratesProspects.com found when he investigated, those sinkers come in many different varieties. He provides a fascinating breakdown of the pitch from the perspective of Pirates players and coaches (including many staff members and catcher Russell Martin). Here's more from the National League:
- With just two weeks left in camp and top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras still working his way back, there is now little chance that he'll come north with the Cardinals for Opening Day, writes Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Of course, that was the likely outcome from the get-go, as St. Louis has a keen interest in delaying his service clock to gain another season of control and minimize the likelihood of a Super Two qualification.
- The Phillies outrighted righty Michael Stutes off of the club's 40-man roster to begin making room for non-roster invites, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Struggling to regain velocity after a series of shoulder issues, Stutes had to clear waivers to be stashed in the minors.
- Though it may yet be a longshot, the Mets have begun working out Wilmer Flores at short, reports Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. With continuing uncertainty as to whether Ruben Tejada can be relied on as an everyday option, DiComo says the team is "overturning every stone on their 40-man roster" to find a solution. Of course, that does not mean that Flores is a serious possibility to man the job for the coming season, but he could be a more attractive big league piece if he could spend some time at short.
- As I recently noted in the club's offseason review, the Diamondbacks have not conclusively addressed their backup catching situation. They are among the teams taking a hard look at Francisco Cervelli of the Yankees, reports George A. King III of the New York Post.
New Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta disclosed at a fundraising event on Saturday that he was targeted by several clubs this offseason who were interested in him as a shortstop, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. However, St. Louis offered the opportunity to play for an annual contender, Peralta said at the team's Winter Warm-Up event. Here's more from the NL Central:
- Top Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras says he expects to be fully healthy when he reports early for Spring Training next month, MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch reports. The outfielder, who underwent an ankle procedure to repair torn ligaments and remove loose cartilage, will be in the mix for an Opening Day roster spot.
- Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times hears from multiple sources that the Cubs are a "long shot" to land Masahiro Tanaka (Twitter link). The Cubs were one of many clubs to have made a formal offer to the Japanese star, according to a Nikkan Sports report.
- Speaking at the Cubs Convention today, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said the team erred in promoting Brett Jackson to the majors in 2012, commenting that the outfielder may have required more minor league seasoning (via MLB.com's Carrie Muskat). Jackson struggled to a .175/.303/.342 line in 142 plate appearances, and returned to the minors in 2013 to hit just .210/.296/.330. Epstein explained that then-manager Dale Sveum wanted to work on developing Jackson's swing.
- Count Cubs manager Rick Renteria among those excited about the team's stable of prospects. Muskat reports that Renteria called Epstein to express his excitement about the Cubs' young players while interviewing for two other manager openings this offseason, leading to his hiring for the Cubs' job.
4:29pm: Cubs top prospect Javier Baez has also changed agencies and is now represented by KPS Sports, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter). MLBTR's Tim Dierkes tweeted last week that Baez had joined a small, lesser-known agency without a great deal of experience. He appears to be the most noteworthy player signed with KPS. Baez was formerly represented by B.B. Abbott of Jet Sports Management.
On their midseason Top 50 lists, Baez ranked as the game's No. 9 prospect according to MLB.com, No. 10 according to BA and No. 27 according to Keith Law. The 20-year-old shortstop batted .282/.341/.578 with a highly impressive 37 homers between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee this season.
8:31am: Miguel Sano and Oscar Taveras are consensus top five prospects in the game, and each has recently changed representation. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Sano's agent, Rob Plummer, has been hired by SFX after parting ways with the Beverly Hills Sports Council, and Sano has stuck with his longtime agent. Taveras, meanwhile, is back with former agent Melvin Roman of MDR Sports Management (Twitter links).
Taveras has now changed agencies a remarkable four times since January and, strangely, is back with Roman for the third time in 2013 alone. Taveras left MDR for Plummer back in January but switched back less than a month later. He remained with MDR through mid-August when he joined Greg Genske's Legacy Agency. The Cardinals outfielder ranked second on the Midseason Top 50 Prospect lists of Baseball America, ESPN's Keith Law (Insider subscription req'd) and MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo despite an injury-shortened season. The 21-year-old Taveras hit a solid .306/.361/.462 with five homers in 46 games for Triple-A Memphis but missed most of the season due to ankle surgery.
The 20-year-old Sano mashed his way to a No. 3 ranking on the Midseason Top 50 Prospect lists of Baseball America and MLB.com and a No. 4 ranking on the same list from Law. The powerful Twins prospect batted .280/.382/.610 with a combined 35 homers between High-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain.
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Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras has left MDR Sports and signed with Greg Genske of The Legacy Agency, according to Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal (subscription required). This marks the third agency change for Taveras in 2013. He left MDR for Rob Plummer in January but switched back less than a month later.
Taveras, 21, hit .306/.361/.462 with five homers in 46 games for Triple-A Memphis in what proved to be an injury-riddled 2013 that will culminate in season-ending ankle surgery this week (as previously reported by MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch). He currently ranks as the No. 2 prospect in baseball according to ESPN's Keith Law, Baseball America and MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.
Taveras is the second player that Genske has brought to TLA in recent weeks; Tommy Hanson also signed with Genske earlier in the month. TLA also represents high-profile names like Carl Crawford, CC Sabathia, Aaron Hill and Johan Santana.
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The Cardinals' selection of Albert Pujols (13th round, 1999) is the best draft pick in MLB history, says Dan Szymborski of ESPN (Insider-only). Szymborski uses a non-linear model to assess the WAR value of each draft pick, then compares actual picks to their expected value over nine years to create a list of the top 100 picks in draft history. Szymborski notes that the fact that Pujols was so good from the very beginning of his career made him particularly valuable as a draft pick, since the Cards didn't have to wait for a few years after his debut for him to become a superstar. Here are more notes on the Redbirds.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak isn't certain how long Michael Wacha, who will make his big-league debut on Thursday, will be with the team, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (on Sulia). Also, Mozeliak wants to make sure the Cardinals protect Wacha's health. "We are going to be very cognizant of pitch counts and innings," Mozeliak says. "When we think about total innings we want to make sure we’re careful of his usage. If there are times when we can protect him, we will do so." Wacha, 21, has thrown 52 2/3 innings in nine minor-league starts so far this year.
- Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals tops Keith Law of ESPN's new list of baseball's top 25 prospects (Insider-only). Wacha is also present at No. 24, and Law notes that Wacha's breaking ball has improved. Jurickson Profar of the Rangers' recent promotion removed him from the list. The Twins, with Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, are the only team with two players in the top ten; the Pirates, with Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco, are the only team with three players in the top 25. Be sure to check out the full list.
The Cardinals entered play Monday with the worst bullpen ERA in baseball following the early injury to closer Jason Motte. Here's more regarding the Redbirds…
- Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweeted yesterday that he's hearing rumblings of an April/May trade for the Cardinals that may have some legs. Strauss appeared with Tim McKernan on AM 590 radio this morning to discuss the St. Louis bullpen in greater depth, and added that more details regarding the potential trade could come to life in the coming weeks.
- Strauss' colleague Bernie Miklasz writes that GM John Mozeliak has resolved disastrous bullpen situations before and may be forced to do so again in 2013. In addition to a trade, he lists flipping the roles of Joe Kelly and Mitchell Boggs or moving Lance Lynn to the 'pen and recalling a starter from the minors.
- More from the Post-Dispatch, as Derrick Goold discusses the Jurickson Profar-for-Oscar Taveras swap that many pundits have suggested. Goold writes that neither GM could afford to be the one who ended up losing in that trade. One AL official told Goold, "Then you’re the new [Lou] Brock-for-[Ernie] Broglio guy.” Goold also adds one NL official's opinion that he "wouldn't trade Taveras for two Profars."
The Rangers and Cardinals have not discussed the possibility of trading top shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar for top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. A trade of the two teams' No. 1 prospects would make a great deal of sense in terms of those teams' needs, but it would be tough to pull off. "The Cardinals need a shortstop. The Rangers need an outfielder. The answer is there for both for years to come," one American League official tells Goold. "You just can’t do it. You can’t be the guy who is wrong if one works out and becomes a star as expected and the other doesn’t. Then you’re the new Brock-for-Broglio guy."
Nonetheless, it's a tantalizing trade idea. Deals centered around two highly-touted youngsters happen very rarely, but they're exciting when they do. The Rays' trade of Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie to Minnesota for Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett and Eduardo Morlan is one of the few recent examples. In any case, it doesn't sound like the Profar-for-Taveras deal is in the offing. "[T]he reality is we have just gotten to the point we wanted with our farm system — with more elite talent back and set to contribute to the major-league club," says Cardinals GM John Mozeliak. "I’m not in the mood to start breaking it up."
Should this deal happen, though? In Profar, the Cardinals would get a long-term answer at shortstop, where they're currently starting Pete Kozma. Meanwhile, the Rangers would acquire a premium hitting prospect at a position that isn't shortstop, where they have Elvis Andrus signed to a long-term deal.
Profar and Taveras are too valuable for positional need to be the most important variable when considering a trade. After all, an injury easily could clear a spot for either player in his current organization, and positional logjams tend to resolve themselves over time. The Cardinals could deal an outfielder, or lose one to injury. The Rangers could eventually move Ian Kinsler to first. Before trading Profar or Taveras, you would need to be confident the other was the better player. Taveras has had the better hitting numbers, but Profar is younger and plays the tougher defensive position. Scouts love both of them, comparing Profar to Barry Larkin and Taveras to Vladimir Guerrero.
Let's consider the deal from the Rangers' perspective. If you were Rangers GM Jon Daniels, would you trade Profar for Oscar Taveras?
The Yankees turned the first 4-6-5-6-5-3-4 triple play in Major League history tonight in the eighth inning of their 5-2 win over the Orioles. Manny Machado was the unlucky Oriole who put the ball into play and he represented the third out while he was caught between first and second base.
Here are some news items from around the majors as we head into the weekend…
- Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski has spoken to an opposing GM about a closer within the last week, Dombrowski told Jim Bowden during an interview on MLB Network Radio (Twitter link).
- The Mets haven't had any internal discussions about offering Matt Harvey an extension, Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal reports, and likely won't do so until after the season at the earliest. Costa hears from a team of business students who project a four- or five-year deal worth $30-$35MM following the 2014 season as a fair possible extension for Harvey, though Costa wonders if Harvey (and agent Scott Boras) would agree to such a contract.
- Jason Isringhausen hasn't officially retired since he is open to pitching again in the right situation, but the veteran reliever tells FOX Sports Midwest's Ben Frederickson that "as of last year, I left on my terms. So, if it never happens again, I'm perfectly happy."
- Now that teams can trade from their pools of international bonus money, Baseball America's Ben Badler looks at which clubs might look to acquire or sell some of their funds this summer.
- In an ESPN Insider piece (subscription required), Jim Bowden discusses why he thinks a Jurickson Profar-for-Oscar Taveras deal would work for both the Rangers and Cardinals. Such a swap would be what Bowden calls a "challenge" trade that can shape a franchise, akin to the one he made as Reds GM in 1992 when he dealt Paul O'Neill to the Yankees for Roberto Kelly. Of course, as Bowden notes, that deal backfired badly for him: "True, that O’Neill-for-Kelly deal will haunt me to my grave, but it was the gutsiest trade I’ve ever made."
- A Profar-for-Taveras deal wouldn't make sense for the Rangers at this time, ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett opines. Rather than deal for another prospect, Durrett argues Texas could move Profar as part of a package for a proven Major League star like David Price or Giancarlo Stanton. Or, the Rangers could simply keep Profar for themselves and instead move Ian Kinsler to first base or the outfield to make room.
Earlier today, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs explored a hypothetical swap of super-prospects: Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar and Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras. Even if one were to prefer the upside of Taveras to the floor of Profar, Cameron says, the present value of Profar to the middle-infield-hungry Cards tilts clearly in favor of such a deal for St. Louis. For the Rangers, though, Taveras is not quite as clean a fit, as the club would presumably need to move Nelson Cruz to first. And giving up Profar now could hurt the team's chances of landing another hypothetical trade target: Giancarlo Stanton. If Texas asked for the Cardinals to kick in something more to sweeten the deal, however, it would begin to look less attractive to St. Louis. Thus, while St. Louis GM John Mozeliak says he'd have to consider such a deal (Twitter link), Cameron concludes that it is unlikely to materialize.
- MLBTR has learned of some additional provisions contained in Elvis Andrus's recent extension, each of which would figure in if the Rangers ever looked to trade the shortstop. In addition to a limited no-trade clause, Andrus would obtain full no-trade protection for the balance of the contract if he is traded at any point. Further, the previously reported vesting club option for 2023 would instead become a player option if Andrus is with a different team when the contract expires in 2022 (assuming, of course, that the deal has not already terminated via one of its opt-out clauses.) The potential club option and player option both vest upon the same 2021-22 plate appearance thresholds.
- The Astros, firmly in rebuilding mode, may well have the right baseball operations leadership to make it successful. Houston GM Jeff Luhnow, the Cardinals' scouting director from 2005-11, is credited with drafting more 2013 Opening Day major leaguers (21) than any other scouting director. Baseball America's Conor Glassey broke down Luhnow's many successes, which make up a sizeable portion of St. Louis's current (and likely future) roster.