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Pablo Sandoval Rumors
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.
If you missed the recent SABR Analytics Conference, you are in luck, as Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus provides an excellent breakdown of the main topics of conversation. Among other things, the conference touched upon injury analytics, team chemistry, tracking technology, and front office personnel trends. Here are a few links from around the game to round out the evening:
- The Giants have yet to begin discussing a contract extension with third baseman Pablo Sandoval, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). With less than two weeks remaining before Opening Day, the sides will have to move quickly if there is any interest in making a run at a new contract before the start of the season. Sandoval is set to become one of the best available free agents following the 2014 season.
- Rays pitcher Erik Bedard says he will exercise his March 23rd opt-out clause if he does not make the Opening Day roster, tweets Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. Though Bedard has been knocked around somewhat in his 11 1/3 spring innings, he says he would look to find a rotation opening elsewhere.
- Twins assistant GM Rob Antony said today that the front office has been fielding calls about possible trades as rosters begin to take shape, tweets Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Antony indicated that out-of-options players are the key topic. As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently reported, the Twins have eight out-of-options players of their own, several of whom are still battling for roles. Presumably, the team could also be a landing spot for the out-of-options players from other clubs.
- Free agent Micah Owings is looking for a job as a pitcher, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDIsh.com. After transitioning to the field just last year, the 31-year-old will hold a showcase later this week as he returns to the bump.
The latest out of baseball's Western divisions:
- The Giants and Pablo Sandoval had yet to talk extensions as of Friday, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets. When we last checked in, the club was considering the issue but felt it had the whole of the 2014 season to put together a deal, should it decide to go that route. Sandoval is scheduled to become a free agent after this year.
- Mike Bauman interviewed Rangers GM Jon Daniels in an article for MLB.com. Daniels says that after having traded away a number of young players in recent years, the club decided this winter that it would place more emphasis on developing its own players into big leaguers. Texas lost its first-round draft choice after signing Shin-Soo Choo, but gained a compensatory pick after Nelson Cruz signed with the Orioles.
- Sam Fuld has a real shot at making the Athletics' Opening Day roster, Jane Lee of MLB.com reports, having impressed early in camp while Craig Gentry has nursed a back strain. Importantly, Fuld's minor league deal includes two opt-out dates that will allow him to part ways with Oakland if he's not on the Major League roster. The first comes at the end of the month.
Giants president and CEO Larry Baer spoke to reporters (including Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle) today at the team's Spring Training camp in Scottsdale and discussed a number of topics, including…
- The Dodgers have drastically outspent the Giants over the last couple of seasons but, while Baer says his team's payroll will remain competitive, he is comfortable with the Giants' strategy of building through the draft and making big signings only when necessary. "We’re fine with not matching them dollar for dollar because when it comes down to it, it’s an art, not a science, and it comes down to judgments," Baer said. "Drafting Cain, Lincecum, Posey, Bumgarner, etc…Those were judgment calls, not money calls."
- The Giants have yet to begin talks with Pablo Sandoval about a multiyear extension. A deal could still happen before Opening Day, Baer said, though the team feels it has the entire season to work out a deal if it decides Sandoval is worth keeping in the fold. This is Sandoval's last year under contract with San Francisco and today MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby looked at how the Giants' uncertainty over Sandoval's conditioning and consistency at the plate are the main hurdles to a new contract.
- Baer said that the Giants could be open to temporarily sharing AT&T Park with the Athletics if the A's are getting a new ballpark built in Oakland. Of course, Baer stressed that the Giants were more than happy about the A's getting a new stadium "in their territory," as the two franchises are in a dispute over territorial rights to the San Jose area, where the A's want to relocate.
Homer Bailey and the Reds were said earlier today to be close to a new deal, but nothing had materialized as of this evening. In the latest update, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports that details are still being worked out. GM Walt Jocketty echoed his star hurler's comments, saying that progress had been made. "There are still some outstanding issues," said Jocketty. "Hopefully they get resolved in the next 24 hours or else people are going to have to suit it up and go east." Jocketty was referring, of course, to donning not baseball uniforms but rather the business attire necessary for an arbitration hearing. "It's a lot of little things," Jocketty continued. "The structure of the contract, how it's paid and things like that."
Here's a look at some other potential extension situations shaping up around baseball …
- Though the threat of an arbitration hearing has been avoided between Justin Masterson and the Indians, those parties could be operating on something of a deadline of their own. Masterson, a comparable pitcher to Bailey in many ways, is also entering his final season of arb-eligibility before hitting the open market. Though Masterson has said he'd be willing to continue discussions into the season, club GM Chris Antonetti says that he would rather keep talks to the spring, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.
- Another power pitcher, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, currently stands to qualify for free agency after 2015. As ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers reported today, team president Theo Epstein still hopes a deal can be worked out. On the other hand, his comments echoed some of the sentiment recently expressed by Samardzija, who indicated that the sides had reached something of a stalemate in negotiations. "Sometimes there is going to be a natural gap where a player values himself for what he can do and the team has to factor in a little bit more what he has done," Epstein explained. "It doesn't mean we're tremendously far apart, but if you are apart you kind of table it for another day and we'll see what happens."
- The Brewers previously explored extension talks with young shortstop Jean Segura, but those discussions did not lead anywhere. The club remains interested, but as MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports, nothing has occurred in the interim. "We're always open to [extension talks]," said GM Doug Melvin. "We've locked up some, some we didn't. We didn't get Prince [Fielder]. We offered him a deal earlier on to buy into free agency, but it just depends what players want. Not a lot of them want long-term deals that will take away free agency, and we like to get deals that have at least a year of free agency if we can."
- Another promising young shortstop, the Braves' Andrelton Simmons, has watched as three youthful teammates inked long-term deals in recent deays. As David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes (link behind paywall), Simmons is keeping his eye on the field but would be interested in a new contract. "I'm just focused on playing," said Simmons. "If it happens, great. I love Atlanta. So hopefully something gets done. But you never know." As O'Brien points out, uncertainty remains in Simmons' arbitration value. Not only does it remain unclear whether he will qualify as a Super Two (he has 1.125 years of service time), but his immense defensive value may not translate into commensurate arbitration earnings. Of course, another defense-first shortstop — Elvis Andrus of the Rangers — was able to ink a shorter-term, early-career deal (at three years of service) and then land another, much greater extension just a year later.
- The Giants have at least two worthy extension candidates. The first and more pressing, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, is entering his final season before hitting the open market at age 28. But the sides are currently not engaged in talks, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Cotillo notes that today's physical could have a bearing on how things play out. Sandoval, who at times has seen his conditioning questioned, has made some waves by slimming down entering camp this year.
- A different sort of urgency is shaping up with regard to Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who is scheduled for an arbitration hearing bright and early tomorrow. As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, though discussions are presently focused on Belt's 2014 salary (the sides stand far apart at $3.6MM and $2.05MM), GM Brian Sabean says he remains interested in exploring a longer-term deal. "We like the player," said Sabean. "We think he's one of the up-and-coming players in the National League and we want to hold onto him. But first things first." What Sabean seems to mean is that Belt's future earning capacity through arbitration is very much tied to the divergent filing figures submitted by each side.
- Indeed, Belt would stand at the same starting point as fellow Super Two first baseman Eric Hosmer (who agreed to a $3.6MM price with the Royals) if he wins his hearing. That would set both players on a potentially higher arbitration trajectory than that of another young first bagger, Atlanta's Freddie Freeman, who just inked a monster extension to avoid arbitration in his first of just three seasons of eligibility. Freeman had filed at $5.75MM, with the Braves countering at $4.5MM; both Belt and Hosmer could easily land in that realm with another big year. As I recently explained in discussing the impact of the Freeman deal, Belt and Hosmer could potentially look to Freeman's eight-year, $135MM contract as a target — though it remains to be seen, of course, whether their employers would go to that level.
Perhaps notable among this year's wave of stories on early-spring physiques, a trimmer Pablo Sandoval has reported to Giants Spring Training, writes Chris Haft of MLB.com. Sandoval is aware that many will credit the weight loss to his impending free agency, but says he was motivated by his teammates and the desire to win a championship. Haft notes that Giants GM Brian Sabean indicated during the Winter Meetings this year that he'd consider a multiyear deal for Sandoval if he reported to camp in shape. More late-night links from around the majors:
- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez says he plans to offer encouragement to Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, who both struggled mightily in 2013 (via MLB.com's Mark Bowman). "I'm going into the season, right now, thinking Danny is going to play second base," Gonzalez said.
- New Dodgers infielder Alexander Guerrero's transition from shortstop to second base "has not come easily," Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports. Guerrero's struggles at the position reportedly motivated the Dodgers' signings of Chone Figgins and Justin Turner.
- The Orioles will announce their deal with Suk-Min Yoon on Sunday, and both sides expect a press conference on Monday, Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com writes.
- A deal between the Tigers and free agent reliever Ryan Madson is unlikely, according to MLB.com's Jason Beck. Detroit had a scout in attendance at Madson's recent workout, but the team's interest is likely "limited to due diligence." While GM Dave Dombrowski has hinted at the possibility of adding another reliever, the Tigers prefer a minor league deal, Beck says.
Gustavo Vasquez, agent for Pablo Sandoval, Salvador Perez, Luis Avilan, and others, left Morgan Advisory Group last year to form his own agency, MLBTR has learned. Vasquez's new agency, SPS Sports Group, also represents Jeanmar Gomez, Miguel Socolovich, Edwin Escobar, Armando Galarraga, Victor Garate, Mauricio Robles, Adys Portillo, and Gorkys Hernandez.
Sandoval, 27, spent some time on the DL in June for a foot strain, but still managed his highest games played total since 2010 by appearing in 141 contests. Sandoval hit .278/.341/.417 with 14 home runs in 584 plate appearances on the season, with the lowest isolated power mark of his career. Having signed an extension in January 2012 covering only his arbitration years, Sandoval is in position to reach free agency after 2014 as a 28-year-old. With a healthy campaign and offensive production closer to his career marks, Kung Fu Panda would be well positioned on the open market, though it's certainly possible the Giants will retain him.
For the latest on player representation, be sure to check MLBTR's agency database.