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Pablo Sandoval Rumors
The Astros have sent 2013 top overall pick Mark Appel to extended spring training, Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle reports (Twitter links). The Astros say Appel isn’t injured, and they attribute his struggles to his adjustments to their tandem rotation system, but GM Jeff Luhnow calls Appel’s performance so far “a little unsettling.” Appel has posted a 6.23 ERA with 13 strikeouts and four walks so far with Class A+ Lancaster. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- Diamondbacks outfielder Mark Trumbo will be out six weeks with a fracture in his foot, Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona tweets. Trumbo’s absence is yet another blow for the Diamondbacks, who are off to a 7-18 start and will now be without one of their key offseason acquisitions (along with Bronson Arroyo and Addison Reed) for an extended period.
- It appears that the price for free-agent-to-be Pablo Sandoval may have increased, and the Giants perhaps should have considered signing him for something close to the five years and $90MM he was reportedly seeking before, Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles writes. Given the lack of good third base options available either internally or on the 2014-15 free-agent market, signing Sandoval to an extension seems to be the Giants’ best bet, Brisbee argues.
Though Pablo Sandoval and the Giants have tabled extension talks during the season, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the two sides at least got a bit closer together in terms of contract length during negotiations. The Giants initially pitched a “conversation-starting” three-year, $40MM extension and then expressed an openness to do a four-year deal with an option for a fifth year.
Sandoval and agent Gustavo Vasquez were known to be looking for “at least” a five-year, $90MM deal and Heyman hears that they’re actually aiming for a five-year contract in the $100MM range or more. As MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker indicates, only a few third baseman have found five-year/$100MM+ contracts in recent years and none of those big deals came on the free agent market. (Alex Rodriguez was a shortstop when he signed his initial free agent deal with Texas, and obviously that contract isn’t at all comparable to Sandoval’s situation.) The Giants have been proactive in signing their own stars to extensions, though as Heyman observes, the fact that they haven’t yet done so with Sandoval and are seemingly taking a harder line in negotiations is rather telling.
While a five-year, $100MM deal could be available to Sandoval on the open market given the relative lack of impact free agent bats next winter, a number of factors could cloud Sandoval’s case. He’ll obviously need to improve from his slow start to the 2014 campaign, his market could be dampened by a qualifying offer from the Giants and teams around the league (like the Giants themselves) have concerns about Sandoval’s conditioning. Heyman quotes both an NL scout and an NL executive praising Sandoval’s hitting ability but questioning his ability to stay in shape.
Vasquez implied to Heyman that he isn’t planning to reopen talks, as the Giants “know what they have [in Sandoval], I’m sure.” The agent also said that the Giants wanted to settle the extension “in a rush,” which would seem to counter the belief that the team was waiting to determine if Sandoval’s offseason weight loss would stick before deciding on whether to offer an extension.
Rookies are usually the easiest targets for clubhouse pranks, yet veteran Jeff Francoeur was the victim of a month-long running gag from his teammates on the Padres' Triple-A affiliate. Padres farmhand Cody Decker created a short YouTube video chronicling the prank, and it's definitely good for a few chuckles. Here's some news from around the majors…
- The Diamondbacks' slow start has made them "candidates for early change" in the view of executives from around the league, ESPN's Buster Olney tweets. Manager Kirk Gibson and GM Kevin Towers both signed extensions in February that kept both men from being lame ducks in 2014, though there was speculation that this was a make-or-break year for the two men following consecutive .500 seasons for the Snakes.
- Pablo Sandoval is off to a slow start in his contract year, and given how much speculation has already swirled about Sandoval's contract talks with the Giants, manager Bruce Bochy hopes that his third baseman is keeping his focus. "He's the only one who can answer that I guess, if it's on his mind," Bochy tells MLB.com's Alex Espinoza. "The one thing you don't want Pablo to do is to get away from playing the game the way he normally plays it — with a lot of passion and enthusiasm. Thinking about the contract, it can be a distraction. He assured me it's not."
- Padres catching prospect Austin Hedges continued to impress scouts during Spring Training, Tom Krasovic writes for Baseball America. While the catcher still has a bit of work to do with the bat, a scout tells Krasovic that “Hedges probably could have caught in the big leagues two years ago. He is so advanced from a receiving and throwing standpoint. He was a treat to watch. Barring injury, he is going to be a big leaguer for a long time." Hedges is one of the game's consensus top prospects (ranked 24th by MLB.com, 27th by Baseball America and 33rd by ESPN's Keith Law in their preseason lists) and he'll start the season at Double-A.
Here are a few tidbits from Ken Rosenthal's latest video from FOX Sports:
- There aren't many good third base options available this offseason (Chase Headley is available, and Aramis Ramirez has a mutual option), so retaining Pablo Sandoval makes sense for the Giants.
- Rosenthal wonders if the Pirates could sign either Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales after the draft in June, at which point they wouldn't have to worry about the draft-pick forfeiture attached to each of them. After a quiet offseason, the Pirates should have the financial wherewithal to pursue a bigger-name player. In a tiny sample size, Jordy Mercer has not hit well so far this year as the Pirates' starting shortstop. The team is currently platooning Travis Ishikawa and Gaby Sanchez at first base.
- Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel are off to good starts with the Cubs, who could trade either player by the end of July. The Cubs dealt Matt Garza and Scott Feldman in-season last year, and Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm the previous season.
- Tyler Thornburg is off to an excellent start out of the Brewers' bullpen, which makes clear why they were unwilling to trade him to the Mets this offseason.
- In a separate video, Rosenthal says that five teams bid upwards of $60MM for Jose Abreu: the White Sox, Astros, Rockies, Brewers and Red Sox. The Red Sox still wanted to keep Mike Napoli, however, which would have meant that Abreu might have started the season in the minors if he had signed with them. Abreu is currently hitting .273/.365/.659 in his first couple weeks with the White Sox.
The Giants and third baseman Pablo Sandoval have tabled extension talks after reaching an impasse, GM Brian Sabean told CSN Bay Area's Jim Kozimor on Yahoo Sportstalk Live, as Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area reports. Sandoval, 27, is represented by Gustavo Vasquez of SPS Sports Group.
We heard last night that the sides remained far apart in negotiations, though another recent report suggested that both sides were optimistic (albeit not close). Sandoval is said to be asking for a five-year deal along the lines of teammate Hunter Pence's $90MM contract. Looking ahead at the list of 2015 free agents, Sandoval is one of just a few players likely to hit the open market who may have a legitimate claim to that kind of contract. Though he has not matched his big 2011 campaign in the last two years, Sandoval has remained productive and is quite young for a player on the cusp of 6 years of MLB service.
Sabean indicated that he is "probably at the end of the rope" with regard to a new deal, with talks so "far apart … it makes no sense" to continue at the present. "We've given our best shot with good faith intended to try to get him signed and they've drawn a line in the sand that we're not going to beat nor should we meet," said Sabean. "Things have been tabled and we'll see what happens up the line, but we're not going to have ongoing talks from this time forward."
Though Sabean did not rule out the possibility of reopening thematter in the future, he did not indicate optimism. "Anything's possible," he said, "I just don't know how probable it is because right now Pablo is pretty much going to have to play to get to the [salary] number that they think he's going to be able to command on the open market. We disagree that he's going to get that number, per se, from the Giants on the open market."
Sabean added that he believed the lingering matter had been impacting Sandoval's performance in the early going, and that the club preferred to keep the focus on the present:
"At this point the organization has put its best foot forward and (Sandoval’s agents) have decided it’s not to their liking, and we understand that and that’s the reason it needs to be tabled. He needs to concentrate on baseball right now. I think he might be pressing a little bit because it’s in his head one way or the other. But now it’s definitely been shut down at least for the time being. I think he needs to get on with baseball."
For some late night reading, I recommend this piece from Eric Nusbaum for Sports Illustrated, which provides an interesting profile of Cuba's fledgling sabermetric community. Here are some notes from around the league to round out the day:
- Pablo Sandoval and the Giants remain far apart in their discussions on a possible extension for the pending free agent, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The third baseman is asking for a five-year contract to forego the right to hit the open market, where he would be one of the most attractive players available.
- The Rays' recent extension of shortstop Yunel Escobar looks to be a win for the team, writes Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs. Given Escobar's history of being traded and signed for values that seem to be beneath his skill set, Klaassen wonders whether Tampa's ability to incorporate players with a reputation for clubhouse problems was a factor in Escobar's decision to approach the team about a new deal.
- Two injury situations arose in tonight's Rays-Royals game that will be worth keeping an eye on in the coming days. First, Tampa starter Matt Moore left the game after experiencing elbow soreness in his pitching elbow. While initial reports have been positive, he will take an MRI tomorrow, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune tweets. Later, Kansas City second baseman Omar Infante was struck on the chin by a pitch from Heath Bell. He is being examined to determine if he suffered a break, and the team also is concerned that he may have had a concussion, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter). While it is still too early to speculate as to the impact of these up-in-the-air situations, any significant time missed by either player would obviously require some roster scrambling for their respective teams.
- Twins president Dave St. Peter confirmed today that the club was aggressive on the free agent market beyond the signings that it completed, reports Derek Wetmore of 1500ESPN.com. St. Peter said that the club made "significant offer[s]" to Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, A.J. Pierzynski, and Rajai Davis before those players signed elsewhere. "We offered more money to certain guys who chose to go elsewhere," said St. Peter. "It is what it is, but as the season progresses and we can do something that we think is a good baseball decision, the money will be there to allocate." Addressing the team's recent run of poor performance, St. Peter said it was not just about payroll. "At the end of the day, it's about making better baseball decisions," he said, "and obviously we haven't made enough good ones here over the last three or four years relative to certain trades and the way drafts have panned out."
On Sunday, Yu Darvish became the fastest starting pitcher ever to reach 500 strikeouts, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan notes. He struck out the first two batters he faced on Sunday, hitting 500 whiffs in just 401 2/3 innings. Kerry Wood previously had the record with 404 2/3, and behind him were Mark Prior with 421 2/3 and Stephen Strasburg in 426 1/3. Wood and Prior's struggles to stay healthy are an indication that 500 quick strikeouts provide no guarantee of future success, but Darvish's accomplishment is still an impressive one. Darvish finished fifth in the AL in strikeouts in his 2012 rookie season, and topped the league with 277 last year, the most of any pitcher in a single season since Randy Johnson had 290 in 2004. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Pablo Sandoval and the Giants continue to negotiate an extension, and they have recently exchanged figures, ESPN's Buster Olney tweets. The two sides are optimistic a deal can be struck, Olney notes, but they aren't yet close to one. Last week, it was reported that Sandoval had allowed his agent, Gustavo Vasquez, to continue negotiating a deal after the start of the season. At last check, the two sides were far apart, with Sandoval's camp wanting to use Hunter Pence's five-year, $90MM deal as the model for an extension for Sandoval, and the Giants offering three years and $40MM.
- The Rangers will soon need to decide what to do with Colby Lewis, who can opt out of his contract on Thursday, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. Lewis pitched five innings for Triple-A Round Rock on Sunday. Joe Saunders, meanwhile, took a line drive to the foot while starting for the big-league team on Friday. The Rangers have Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez and Robbie Ross scheduled to pitch in their upcoming series against the Red Sox. It's not clear who will pitch on Friday against the Astros.
- Three to five teams are interested in free agent starting pitcher Randy Wolf, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets. The Mariners released Wolf before the season amidst a dispute regarding a 45-day advance-consent release the team wanted Wolf to sign before adding him to its roster. Wolf missed the 2013 season after having Tommy John surgery.
Pablo Sandoval has given the go-ahead to his agent, Gustavo Vasquez, to continue negotiations with the Giants about a possible contract extension should the club be willing to resume talking, CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly reports. San Francisco GM Brian Sabean traditionally eschews in-season negotiations, Baggarly notes, "so this could be a scenario where both sides say the ball is in the other’s court."
There was a considerable gap in offers when the two sides last met, with Sandoval demanding at least a five-year, $90MM deal and the Giants counting with a three-year, $40MM offer. That difference wasn't able to be bridged before Opening Day and Sandoval's team was reportedly deciding between continuing talks or waiting until after the season. It's possible the new deadline could be midseason, as Vasquez previously told CSNBayArea.com that Sandoval would test free agency if he didn't receive an acceptable offer from the Giants by the All-Star Break.
The Giants are known to want assurances about Sandoval's health and conditioning before extending the third baseman, and Sandoval has done his part in the early going by arriving at Spring Training in excellent shape. If the slugger is keeping up his fitness after a couple of months, it stands to reason that Sabean could have enough information to re-open talks. The Giants are no strangers to late extensions — they extended Hunter Pence in the last days of the 2013 season and similarly locked up Tim Lincecum in October, a couple of weeks before the right-hander hit the open market — though they might not get that chance this time if Vasquez's midseason deadline is a firm one.
Clayton Kershaw has been scratched from the Dodgers' North American opener against the Padres on Sunday, the club announced. The left-hander is suffering from inflammation of the teres major muscle in his upper back and the Dodgers are understandably being very cautious with their ace, though Kershaw still intends to start the Dodgers' home opener against the Giants on April 4. Kershaw also told reporters (including MLB.com's Ken Gurnick) that he didn't believe his injury was caused either by his 102-pitch outing in the Dodgers' opener against the Diamondbacks or the long flights back and forth from Australia.
Here's some more from around the NL West…
- Chone Figgins is thankful to be back on a Major League roster after his struggles of the last few seasons, which included missing the entire 2013 campaign, the utilityman tells Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. Figgins signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers in January and while he hasn't hit much in Spring Training, his on-base ability and positional versatility were enough for him to win a bench job.
- Tony Sipp won't opt out of his contract with the Padres, MLBDailyDish.com's Chris Cotillo reports (via Twitter). Sipp was told earlier in the week that he wouldn't make San Diego's Opening Day roster and he could've opted out of his minor league deal today, but will instead report to Triple-A. The southpaw faces another opt-out date on June 1.
- At least two years and $50MM separate Pablo Sandoval and the Giants in extension talks, and the large gap is indicative of how wary the Giants are about committing a long-term deal to Sandoval, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Notable players like Curt Schilling, Carlos Lee and Delmon Young have signed contracts with weight clauses in the past, but the MLBPA "frowns on them, especially for marquee free agents." Shea lists the Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox as teams who could be looking for a third base upgrade next winter when Sandoval is a free agent, and Shea thinks Sandoval could find his price on the open market.
3:45pm: Vasquez tells CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly the Giants made a three-year offer in the $40MM range on Friday, which was rejected out of hand. Vasquez will remain in Arizona through the Giants' season-opening series against the Diamondbacks and is open to continuing negotiations, but he doubted anything will happen before Opening Day. "I don’t think in 24 hours they’ll jump from three years to five or six," Vasquez said. "But I know for sure that after the All-Star break, if nothing happens, then it’s on to free agency."
2:36pm: Pablo Sandoval's agent, Gustavo Vasquez, told the Giants on Saturday his client wants at least five years and no less than the $90MM the club gave Hunter Pence in his extension last September, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francico Chronicle. As a result, the Giants do not expect to come to terms on an extension before Opening Day. Schulman writes Sandoval's camp is still formulating a strategy as how to approach talks from here: negotiate in-season or opt for free agency, if they can’t strike a deal before Opening Day.
"I don’t know anything about it," Sandoval said about the extension discussions. "I’m focused on baseball. I leave all that to my agent."
President and CEO Larry Baer has indicated in the past there's the entire season to work out a deal with Sandoval. GM Brian Sabean had said he would be open to a contract extension based on what the 27-year-old looked like in Spring Training because of all the work he did over the winter to get into shape. Sandoval, who has battled weight and conditioning issues throughout his career, spent time on the disabled list last year for a foot strain, but still managed his highest games played total (141) since 2010. Kung Fu Panda hit .278/.341/.417 with 14 home runs in 584 plate appearances in 2013, but with the lowest isolated power mark of his career.