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Pablo Sandoval Rumors
Despite what has been a wildly disappointing season to this point, the Red Sox aren’t likely to completely blow up their roster again, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports in his latest 10 Degrees column. For all of Boston’s 2015 woes, the team will still have Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts up the middle in 2015, and the departure of Mike Napoli via free agency could allow Hanley Ramirez to move over to first base with Rusney Castillo getting an everyday outfield role. Blake Swihart, too, has shown promise this month and gives the team another building block. Passan hears that the team has no designs on trying to dump either Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval to another club.
A few more notes from around the AL…
- Nick Castellanos isn’t hitting well in 2015, but manager Brad Ausmus tells MLB.com’s Jason Beck that the Tigers will remain patient with the young third baseman. The team has a plan on how to handle Castellanos’ struggles, and while Ausmus wouldn’t elaborate, there’s no talk of sending him to Triple-A or reducing his playing time dramatically. The 23-year-old Castellanos is hitting just .217/.267/.328 in 255 plate appearances this year.
- Angels right-hander Jered Weaver hit the DL last night due to hip inflammation, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times, and he’ll undergo an MRI to determine if there is anything more severe at play. Weaver said he’s felt a sharp pain in his hip on and off as of late, and DiGiovanna notes that there’s always some concern with this type of injury that the MRI will reveal a tear and necessitate surgery. The Halos did position themselves to be able to replace an injury to one of their starters this winter by acquiring Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano.
- Cody Anderson is the Indians‘ latest attempt to fix what has been a revolving door in the fifth spot of their rotation, writes Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com. The 24-year-old rookie made his big league debut Sunday and pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Rays, limiting Tampa to six hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Manager Terry Francona was impressed not only by the results and Anderson’s poise on the mound, but his ability to hold runners and field his position. “I’m sure there’s a lot of guys in player development today that are really proud,” said Francona. “And, they should be, because he did a hell of a job.” For the time being, it seems that Anderson will have the opportunity to lock down that rotation spot, and I’d imagine his ability (or inability) to do so could impact Cleveland’s plans come July.
Saturday afternoon, Nationals starter Max Scherzer no-hit the Pirates, losing a perfect game with two outs in the ninth when Jose Tabata leaned down to allow himself to get hit in the elbow — in a 6-0 game. The ending aside, it was a dominant performance by Scherzer, who is, improbably, having the best season of his career in the first year of his contract in Washington. 14 starts in, Scherzer has cut his walk rate in half compared to last season, during which he was already clearly an elite pitcher. After today’s ten-strikeout performance, he’s also whiffed 123 batters in 102 1/3 innings. Tabata’s HBP dashed Scherzer’s chances of a perfect game today, but if he keeps pitching this brilliantly, there might be more shots in his future. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- In 2012, the Red Sox made a franchise-changing trade, dealing Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Dodgers and freeing up salary in the process. That deal ended up helping them win the 2013 World Series. Now, the 2015 Red Sox look a little bit like the 2012 version, and Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, following up on a column by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, wonders whether they ought to consider dumping players yet again to give themselves more flexibility. Britton suggests, though, that it would be difficult to find a trade partner as perfect for their current situation as the Dodgers (who willingly took on heaps of money to get a good player in Gonzalez) were in 2012. Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, meanwhile, is withholding judgment on the new contracts of players like Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. “We’ve had plenty of examples of guys who five or 10 percent of the way through their contracts, there was an adjustment period and they didn’t take off quite yet and then in time they do,” said Cherington earlier this week. “I’m not going to make any judgments on any specific decision or player based on that short amount of time.” Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- Despite his unusual background, former GM Dan Jennings is settling in as the Marlins‘ new manager, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. When Jeffrey Loria broached the subject of Jennings taking the managerial job, Jennings had the same reaction as much of the rest of the industry: “Have you lost your mind?” After beginning Jennings’ tenure with five straight losses, the Marlins are 13-12. “It’s starting to normalize. The boys are playing well, and I’m proud of the way we’ve responded,” says Jennings. “I’m having a blast.”
- Acquiring high-upside talent in the draft can be difficult, so the Braves have tried to acquire talented, if tarnished, pitchers in trades, Ray Glier writes for Baseball America. Those include Manny Banuelos, Chris Withrow, Arodys Vizcaino, Max Fried and Tyrell Jenkins, all of whom have had significant injuries. The Braves’ top 2015 draft pick, Kolby Allard, likewise fell to them because of an injury. “Before you know it, the end of 2015 will be here and it will be 2016, and we will have a lot of fresh, healthy pitchers,” says GM John Hart. As Glier notes, sometimes injury recoveries don’t go smoothly. But Hart insists the Braves are being careful. “For every guy we have acquired I can honestly say we have another 10 to 12 we didn’t bite down on because we didn’t get good enough medical information that allowed us to pull the trigger,” Hart says.
David Ortiz has ten-and-five rights and says there’s “no chance” he’d approve a deal to another club, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. There hasn’t been any credible suggestion that Boston would look to move one of team’s best-known players, of course, but it sounds as if that has no chance of becoming a realistic possibility. “This is the team I’ll be with the rest off my career,” said Ortiz.
Here’s more on the Red Sox, who entered play today at ten games under .500:
- Starting pitching prospect Henry Owens has struggled mightily this year at Triple-A, as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes. His walks have skyrocketed even as his strikeout numbers have lagged. Of course, the big southpaw is still just 22, and Pawtucket pitching coach Bob Kipper says there’s still plenty of reason to believe that Owens can be a quality big league starter. That may well be true, but Boston probably hoped Owens would be ready to step in this year or next, and he has some work to do to get back on track.
- As the Red Sox front office gets ready to evaluate the summer trade market, the team could well face tough questions about whether contention is reasonably possible this season. As Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes, GM Ben Cherington did not directly answer the question whether the club could look to the future in structuring its moves. “Get better and be the best team we can be,” he said when asked whether the club would focus on current upgrades. “Not putting a date on it but just be the best team we can be. That’s what we would be geared toward. We haven’t considered anything other than that at this point.”
- Cherington said that he takes responsibility for the team’s sluggish performance to date, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. One key issue, of course, has been the poor overall work of major signings Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. “Look, we’ve had plenty of examples of guys who, 5 or 10 percent of the way through their contracts, there was an adjustment period and they didn’t take off quite yet and then in time it does,” Cherington said. “I’m not going to make any judgments on any specific decision or player based on that short amount of time. But I will certainly make judgments on myself for the overall performance and the team’s performance. That’s on me. If there’s any single person I’m focused on, it’s more my own decisions in total. If you want to talk about the total performance of the team, it’s got to be about me more than any individual out there.”
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports argues that Boston needs to do whatever it can — which would, surely, include eating quite a bit of money — to move both Ramirez and Sandoval. That seems a bit hasty, in spite of the obvious problems that have arisen, not least of which because the club would be selling quite low on both players. As John Tomase of WEEI.com writes, many of the team’s big contracts would be quite difficult to move without keeping a big piece of the salary obligations and/or including quality young talent to rid itself of those contracts. All said, from my view, the only course of action at this point is to wait and hope for better — though Cherington & Co. have shown plenty of willingness to jump on opportunities to get out from under bad contracts.
- Of course, the focus early on was on the team’s pitching, and while there have been some signs of improvement, all is not quite well on that front either. Justin Masterson has, of course, struggled after signing a one-year deal that he and the team hoped would coincide with a turnaround. Masterson is coming to the end of a rehab stint, and the team has given him the choice whether to accept a move to the bullpen or take another rehab start to allow more time for evaluation, Mastrodonato reports. That might not be a permanent move, skipper John Farrell emphasized. “If it were in the next 10 days and he was in the bullpen we feel like he’s built up enough pitches that if he didn’t start for five, six days, he could be inserted into the rotation if needed,” Farrell said. “Those are all things being discussed and factored.”
- In a longer-term matter, the Red Sox are increasingly considering whether it makes sense to shift good arms into bullpen roles earlier in their careers, Mastrodonato reports. “In the lower levels obviously we’re trying to get guys as many innings as possible and starting is the easiest way to do that, but there’s an exception,” explained Cherington. “And we’ve been a little more proactive recently at the upper levels of trying to identify guys we think might perform better in that role, move them into that role a tick quicker.” The Boston GM did make clear that starting pitching was the priority, but said that the organization wants to be realistic about how it can get assets onto its major league roster. Then, there are broader market considerations. “Part of it is you’re trying to get players ready for the big leagues,” said Cherington, “but part of it is an acknowledgement of the market. Free agency is treating non-closing major league relievers better than ever.”
Rays first baseman James Loney is headed to the DL for the next four to six weeks with a broken finger, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. While the 31-year-old has not exactly been tearing things up at the plate, he is a particularly difficult player for Tampa Bay to replace. As Topkin explains, the club’s 40-man roster does not admit of any ready options at Triple-A. That could lead the Rays to look outside the organization, he suggests, with players in DFA limbo (Casey McGehee, Travis Ishikawa), on the open market (Kila Ka’aihue), or possibly available via trade (Garrett Jones) seeming like potential options. Both McGehee and Ishikawa will, presumably, ultimately be exposed to waivers, though both come with significant salary commitments ($4.8MM and $1.1MM, respectively). The Giants could be motivated to strike a deal involving one of those players if Tampa is willing to take on some cash.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Blue Jays star Jose Bautista is still struggling to deal with painful shoulder inflammation, as Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star writes. Bautista says he appreciates the difficulties in lineup construction that the injury has caused, but made clear that he is doing all he can by taking on DH duties. The team’s upcoming interleague stretch and Bautista’s own pain levels were factors in the decision to treat him with a cortisone shot, per the report. It’s an interesting piece that delves into many of the day-to-day matters that have a significant impact on a player over the course of a season, but which often go underappreciated.
- Struggling badly hitting from the right side, Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval is seriously considering facing opposing southpaws from the left side of the box, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports. “There’s conversation at various points about that. He’s even initiated it at times,” said manager John Farrell. “But until that change is made, that’s something that certainly will include him in that process.” Certainly, it’s interesting to see player and club contemplating such a move just a few months into a five-year, $95MM contract.
- Joe Kelly and the rest of the Red Sox rotation have all been consistently inconsistent, as Britton writes. The up-and-down performances across the staff have put the club in a tough position, making it difficult to pull the trigger on a move to try another option. “There’s no decision here in this moment,” Farrell said of Kelly’s rotation status. “He’s shown us the ability to go out and work deep in a ballgame. There’s no denying the stuff. It’s a matter of consistent location with his fastball.”
- Top Orioles pitching prospect Dylan Bundy has been scratched from his start today after experiencing stiffness in his right shoulder, Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reports. While it’s far from clear that there is cause for alarm — the team says it hopes Bundy is simply suffering from tendinitis — Bundy has already been forced to rehab back from Tommy John surgery. Another highly-rated young arm, Hunter Harvey, has dealt with more obviously concerning injury issues. The club’s future hinges in no small part on the health and development of those two players, along with the equally-hyped Kevin Gausman.
While early word on Yasmany Tomas‘ work at third base was positive, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports now hears from scouts that Tomas isn’t cutting it at the hot corner (Twitter links). The result, then, could end up a significant outfield logjam featuring Tomas, A.J. Pollock, Mark Trumbo, David Peralta, Cody Ross and Ender Inciarte. Scouts feel that Tomas’ arm is accurate at third base, Passan adds, but are concerned with his lack of lateral quickness and athleticism. Manager Chip Hale told reporters, including MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert (Twitter links), that Tomas “needs to be better,” but he believes part of the problem is a lack of focus on Tomas’ behalf. It should be noted that the opinion of rival scouts doesn’t mean the D-Backs won’t use Tomas at third; most scouts think there’s no chance that powerful prospect Peter O’Brien can remain at catcher, but the D-Backs believe he can stick at the position so strongly that they forwent adding other catching options outside of Gerald Laird and Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez this offseason.
Here’s more from the NL West…
- The D-Backs announced today that Hernandez was removed from today’s Spring Training game due to soreness in his left wrist (Twitter link). While the team labeled the move precautionary, a significant injury to Hernandez would thin out the team’s paper-thin catching situation even more and could lead to Hernandez being returned to the Rays.
- Giants right-hander Jake Peavy received interest from at least six other teams before signing his deal to return to San Francisco, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Rangers, Brewers, Twins, Royals, Marlins and Braves all had interest in the 34-year-old veteran, per Heyman, but the bond formed over a World Series victory was too strong to sign elsewhere, Peavy said: “When you’re World Series teammates, it takes you to another level relationship-wise.” The Giants engaged Peavy after missing out on Jon Lester and being spurned by James Shields in December, at a time when Peavy was giving consideration to both Miami and Atlanta.
- Pablo Sandoval recently said that he felt the Giants disrespected him and agent Gustavo Vasquez when negotiating an extension last spring, but Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that the team offered a four-year extension with a vesting option worth just under $85MM in Spring Training 2014. Assuming the $85MM figure includes the vesting option, that’s $10MM and one year less than Sandoval was guaranteed on his five-year, $95MM deal with the Red Sox. It’s possible, however, that Sandoval was turned off by the Giants’ initial conversation-starter, which was said last April to be a three-year, $40MM offer. Evans adds that the Giants’ first offseason offer to Sandoval came the day after the World Series parade, though he didn’t disclose any details on that offer.
- Heyman also tweets that the Dodgers‘ new front office has been highly impressed by manager Don Mattingly thus far in Spring Training. Mattingly is under contract through the 2016 season, but it’s not uncharacteristic for new-look front offices to bring in a hand-picked manager, regardless of the contractual status of the incumbent.
- For those who didn’t see, earlier tonight it was reported that the Padres are considering making an offer worth “upwards of $50MM” to Cuban second baseman/third baseman Hector Olivera.
Current Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart is a good friend of Kevin Towers, the man he replaced in that role. As Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes, Stewart really did want Towers to stay on as a special assistant, and Towers truly felt he owed it to his replacement to go against his wishes so as to avoid any difficulties down the line. It’s a fascinating story, all the more so since Stewart is currently rooming with Towers at the latter’s Arizona home during Spring Training.
- The Padres, like the Braves, are not expected to spend up to the $70MM level that Hector Olivera is said to be seeking, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. San Diego is a great fit, as Rosenthal notes, but that is quite a price tag to tack on after an offseason of additions.
- Brandon Morrow is hoping to break the Padres rotation and reestablish his career trajectory, as ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick writes. Morrow, who has battled numerous and varied injuries in his career, is battling with Odrisamer Despaigne for the fifth starter’s spot.
- Padres backstop Tim Federowicz has suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his knee, MLB.com’s Corey Brock tweets. Surgery appears to be all but a foregone conclusion, which could sideline Federowicz for some time. Veteran Wil Nieves probably has the inside track to step into the backup role behind Derek Norris, though one wonders whether top prospect Austin Hedges could eventually get a look.
- Newly-minted Dodgers righty Brandon McCarthy says that he believes in his ability to provide value over the life of his four-year, $48MM deal, as Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. “I would kind of hope my 30s are where my career really begins,” says McCarthy. “As dumb as that sounds. I’ve spent a long time figuring [things] out — health being the biggest thing — and transforming as a pitcher.” President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman cited McCarthy’s inning load last year and “changes in his workout regiment” — along with his quality offerings from the mound — as reasons for optimism. A training program in his Dallas neighborhood improved McCarthy’s overall strength, aiding his return to form.
- Pablo Sandoval says that he “knew early in Spring Training last year I was going to leave” the Giants, as Scott Miller of Bleacher Report writes. The one-time San Francisco favorite did not mince words, accusing GM Brian Sabean of not respecting his representatives in discussions at that time. “The Giants made a good offer [in free agency],” said Sandoval, “but I didn’t want to take it. I got five years from Boston. I left money on the table in San Francisco. It’s not about money. It’s about how you treat the player.”
GM Brian Sabean says the Giants won’t have Buster Posey replace Pablo Sandoval at third base, and they continue to view him as a backstop, MLB.com’s Chris Haft writes. “He’s a franchise player, a franchise catcher,” Sabean says, adding that Sandoval, who recently signed with the Red Sox, was a key presence in the Giants’ clubhouse. “He brought a lot of energy. He loved playing the game. He’ll be missed on and off the field,” Sabean says. The Giants will continue to look for a third baseman and left fielder, but Sabean expects they might do so through trades and not through free agent signings. Here are more notes from the National League.
- Braves president of baseball operations John Hart told MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (via Twitter) that a few teams have shown interest in Justin Upton and Evan Gattis. Hart expects things to heat up once some key free agents sign.
- The Braves do not have any trade talks at a “serious stage,” tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. According to Hart, the club has spent more time talking with free agents, particularly second basemen and starting pitchers.
- We heard earlier tonight that the Mets and Rangers have engaged in trade talks. Texas is looking for starting pitching, which New York has in abundance. However, the Mets aren’t high on Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, reports Marc Carig of Newsday (via Twitter). Presumably, the Mets aren’t keen on the eight-years and $120MM owed to Andrus. Another shortstop option, prospect Luis Sardinas, looks more like a utility fielder to the Mets. They don’t think he’s a long term solution at shortstop.
- Thanks to Anthony Rendon‘s flexibility, the Nationals can look to acquire a second or third baseman to fill out their roster, writes Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider. The club has kept in touch with free agent Asdrubal Cabrera and is exploring the trade market. Danny Espinosa is the current in-house option at second base.
The Giants‘ pre-season efforts to extend Pablo Sandoval were more aggressive than had previously been known, according to a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Before the season, San Francisco offered Sandoval a deal that would have added four years and a vesting option on top of his 2014 arbitration salary, potentially reaching $91.5MM over that six-year span. (That figure includes the option; the report does not indicate the precise guaranteed figure.) While that falls shy of what Sandoval ultimately achieved, of course, it certainly sounds like a competitive offer for the context in which it was made.
More from the National League;
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says he was “not disappointed” to see Yasmany Tomas land with another club, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. Amaro did say that the Phils had “dialogue” yesterday with Tomas’s representatives, which would seem to indicate that the team had at least some involvement right down to the wire.
- Amaro went on to reject the concept that the team was focused on bolstering its lineup. “Who said we were looking for a power bat?” Amaro queried. “We have a long-term plan and the moves we make are based on that. We’re looking for pitching right now.”
- We’ve heard various reports of late suggesting that the Marlins are interested in adding a left-handed bat. One name to keep an eye on, per a report from Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, is Brandon Moss of the Athletics.
The Giants were the runners up in the pursuit of Yasmany Tomas, who earlier today reportedly agreed to terms with the Diamondbacks, according to a Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). For their $68.5MM, Arizona is getting a player with undeniable upside, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick writes after speaking with three scouting sources.
- The Padres are receiving a “ton of inquiries” on backstops Yasmani Grandal, Rene Rivera, and Austin Hedges, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Each member of that trio has his own particular appeal, along with factors that hold down their trade value.
- In other Padres news, Rosenthal notes (Twitter links) that he has received additional confirmation that San Diego had engaged with talks on Matt Kemp with the Dodgers. He hastens to add that these discussions were not “that recent” and that nothing is close to getting done, as the Friars continue to turn over a number of rocks in search of upgrades after missing on Pablo Sandoval and Tomas. Los Angeles would presumably have interested in arms and catching were talks to move forward.
- The Giants will indeed seek to apply the money they hoped to spend on Sandoval or Tomas toward another top-end free agent, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reported this morning (before the Tomas signing was reported). As reported yesterday, the club is opening a broad search for a way to bolster its roster, aided by a bloated purse from winning the team’s third World Series in five seasons.
11:29am: Third baseman Pablo Sandoval has officially signed with the Red Sox, kicking off a fascinating offseason for Boston. He’ll earn a guaranteed $95MM over five years, with a club option for a sixth season.
Sandoval will receive a $3MM bonus, then earn $17MM annually over 2015-17 before taking home an $18MM salary in both 2018 and 2019. The club option is for $17MM and comes with a $5MM buyout.
Sandoval’s addition immediately addresses Boston’s need for a third baseman in the wake of Will Middlebrooks‘ disappointing 2014 season, and the switch-hitting Sandoval also adds some balance to a predominantly right-handed hitting Red Sox batting order. While Sandoval never had much trouble hitting at AT&T Park (a career .853 OPS in San Francisco), it stands to reason that the move to hitter-friendly Fenway Park will only help his production.
With Sandoval in the fold and Hanley Ramirez reportedly also close to finalizing a deal, the Red Sox may have landed the two biggest infield bats on the free agency market. It remains to be seen how the Red Sox will deploy their talent given Xander Bogaerts‘ presence at shortstop, though Sandoval is the obvious choice at third base given that he has posted above-average UZR/150 numbers in three of the last four seasons.
The Red Sox were one of three reported finalists for Sandoval along with the Giants and Padres. (The Blue Jays and White Sox also showed some interest in Sandoval earlier this winter.) This interest didn’t result in Sandoval finding his desired six guaranteed years, though if the contract does pay him a $20MM average annual value, it will be the second-highest AAV ever given to a third baseman, topped only by Alex Rodriguez‘s deal with the Yankees. San Francisco assistant GM Bobby Evans tells Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter) that Sandoval informed him he was looking for a “new challenge,” and he apparently found that in Boston.
Sandoval, 28, had spent his entire seven-year Major League career with the Giants, becoming a fan favorite due to his “Kung Fu Panda” persona and his clutch bat. Sandoval owns a .344/.389/.545 slash line in 167 postseason plate appearances, most notably being named MVP of the 2012 World Series. Losing Sandoval is a big blow to the Giants, who may be looking to replace his production by signing Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas. Since Tomas could be deployed as a third baseman, he might end up as a direct replacement for Sandoval should he indeed wind up a Giant. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets that the Giants are interested in Tomas as a left fielder and would likely pursue Chase Headley to fill their third base vacancy if Sandoval went elsewhere.
The Giants offered Sandoval a five-year, $95MM contract and showed some willingness to go to $100MM if necessary, tweets Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com hears the same and adds that there was an understanding that the $95MM wasn’t necessarily a final offer.
San Francisco will now receive a bonus pick between the first and second rounds of the 2015 draft as compensation for Sandoval signing elsewhere, since he rejected the team’s one-year qualifying offer. Boston’s first round pick (7th overall) is protected, so the Sox will instead give up their second rounder as a result of the signing.
The contract breakdown comes from Alex Speier of WEEI.com, on Twitter. Heyman reported the final guaranteed figure, in a tweet. Manolo Hernandez Douen was first to report that the deal included a sixth-year option (via Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.