Talks between the Phillies and Brewers concerning closer Jonathan Papelbon are “on life support,” reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Haudricourt reported earlier today that “there was no traction” between the two sides. GM Doug Melvin echoed that sentiment, saying there was no momentum. It is thought that Papelbon’s $13MM option for 2016 is holding up an agreement. Since Papelbon has a limited no trade clause that includes the Brewers, he may ask for the option to be guaranteed before accepting a trade. The ball may be in Philadelphia’s court to find a financial solution to the situation.
- Brandon Beachy has “zeroed in on a new team,” tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN. Beachy and the unknown team are currently working on contractual details. Wolfson adds that the team is not the Twins. Beachy was non-tendered by the Braves earlier in the offseason after undergoing his second Tommy John procedure. If he avoids setbacks, he may return to action mid-season. It’s easy to compare Beachy’s situation with fellow former Brave Kris Medlen, who signed a two-year, $8.5MM deal with an option. Like Beachy, Medlen is also recovering from his second Tommy John surgery.
- Cuban infielder Hector Olivera held a public workout in the Dominican Republic last week and over 200 scouts attended, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The Giants, Padres, Rangers, Braves, and Yankees are showing the strongest interest in Olivera.
Here are the latest players to avoid arbitration:
- The Tigers and reliever Al Alburquerque have agreed to a one-year, $1.725MM deal, reports Mike Perchick of WAPT Sports. Additionally, Alburquerque will earn $12.5K if he makes 75 appearances, per CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman (via Twitter). The Tigers filed at $1.375MM while Alburquerque asked for $2.05MM. The reported deal is just north of the $1.712MM midpoint. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected a $1.7MM payout. A Super Two player, this was Alburquerque’s second spin through arbitration. The 28-year-old is club controlled for two more seasons after posting a 2.51 ERA, 9.89 K/9, and 3.30 BB/9 in 57.1 innings in 2014.
- Lefty reliever Brian Duensing and the Twins have agreed to terms for one year and $2.7MM, Phil Ervin of FOX Sports North tweets. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected that Duensing would make $2.5MM in his last year of arbitration eligibility. Via MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, Duensing’s camp proposed a $3.1MM salary and the Twins countered with $2.4MM, so $2.7MM is near the midpoint but a bit closer to the Twins’ side. Duensing is the last of the Twins’ six arbitration-eligible players to agree to terms. He posted a 3.31 ERA with 5.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 54 1/3 innings last season.
It’s still unclear where James Shields will wind up, and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tracks Shields’ hard-to-read market, guessing at nine potential destinations for the free agent righty. Topping the list is the Cardinals, who showed some interest in Jon Lester and Max Scherzer and likely have room for Shields in their budget. Still, much about the Shields market remains uncertain, without much reported action from traditionally heavy-spending teams, leaving teams like the Marlins, Astros and Padres near the top of Heyman’s list of possible destinations. Here’s more from around baseball.
- New Red Sox staring pitcher Rick Porcello is not yet ready to discuss an extension, Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com writes. “I just got here and met the guys last night so I think it’s premature for that,” says Porcello. “I’m just trying to settle in and fit in with everybody, get to know the staff and the guys.” Mastrodonato notes that the Red Sox would also probably like to get to know Porcello a bit better before signing him long-term. With a year remaining before free agency and youth on his side, the 26-year-old Porcello stands to cash in if he has a 2015 season similar to his 2014, when he had a 3.43 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and a stingy 1.8 BB/9 in 204 2/3 innings.
- GM Terry Ryan says that although the Twins aren’t planning to have top prospect Byron Buxton break camp with the team, Buxton could make his big-league debut at some point during the season, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets. Buxton only recently turned 21, has only a few plate appearances in the high minors, and missed most of the 2014 season with a wrist injury, so such an aggressive promotion schedule would be unusual for most players, particularly given the Twins’ typically cautious approach. Buxton has exceptional tools, however, and MLB.com currently rates him the top overall prospect in the game, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the Majors at some point this season.
Infielder Brandon Hicks has been assigned to Triple-A Sacramento, according to the Pacific Coast League transactions page, so it seems the Giants have re-signed him to a minor-league deal. Hicks is represented by Relativity Baseball.
Hicks, 29, collected a career-high 242 big-league plate appearances last season and hit .162/.280/.319 while playing mostly second base. The Giants ultimately replaced him with Joe Panik and outrighted Hicks to Triple-A in July. He became a free agent after the season. Hicks has logged significant Triple-A time in each of the past five seasons, and he hit .244/.350/.506 in his last stint with Sacramento in 2012, when it was an Athletics affiliate. He’ll likely provide infield depth for the Giants in 2015.
Here are today’s minor moves from around baseball:
- The Red Sox have signed catcher Humberto Quintero to a minor-league deal, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy writes. Quintero spent last season in the Mariners system, batting .290/.311/.425 for Triple-A Tacoma and picking up a few plate appearances at the big-league level to appear in the Majors for the 12th straight season. The 35-year-old has a long history as a big-league backup, although it might be tough for him to find playing time in Boston, with Christian Vazquez, Ryan Hanigan and Blake Swihart all on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster.
- The Giants have signed 1B/OF John Bowker, Eddy writes. The 31-year-old Bowker spent most of the past three seasons in Japan, hitting .248/.291/.411 in 230 plate appearances with Rakuten in 2014. Bowker was the Giants’ third-round pick in 2004, and he played parts of three seasons in San Francisco before being traded to the Pirates and then the Phillies.
The Marlins‘ offseason moves position them for a “measured buildup,” Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Mat Latos has just one year of control remaining, while Martin Prado and Michael Morse have two. And even the post-opt-out portion of Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract is structured so that the Marlins will be able to afford it once they renegotiate their TV deal. This isn’t like the 2011-2012 offseason, when the Marlins signed Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to long-term deals, only to trade all three. For that reason, Rosenthal writes, the Marlins are unlikely to sign James Shields to a big contract, even though they’ve been connected to him lately. Here’s more from throughout the big leagues.
- After Ichiro Suzuki plays his first game with the Marlins, the Reds will be the last team that hasn’t had a Japanese-born player, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. The Reds did express interest in Nori Aoki this offseason, but they don’t have a strong presence in Japan (although Rosecrans notes that the Reds aren’t the only team that doesn’t). “We do have some people who do cross checking. We don’t have a scout in Japan,” said GM Walt Jocketty. “It’s too costly.”
- The White Sox signed closer David Robertson for four years and $46MM, but GM Rick Hahn says they weren’t the highest bidder for his services, CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes tweets. It’s unclear who the top bidder might have been, although the Blue Jays and Astros were connected to Robertson this offseason.
- GM Jon Daniels said today at Rangers Fan Fest that the team is unlikely to trade for Josh Hamilton, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest tweets. The Rangers reportedly discussed a Hamilton deal with the Angels earlier this offseason, although those talks were not in-depth. Also, free agent lefty reliever Neal Cotts is not likely to re-sign with the Rangers, Andro tweets.
Here’s the latest from Detroit, where TigerFest takes place today:
- David Price reiterated that he would “absolutely” consider a long-term deal with the Tigers, MLive.com’s James Schmehl tweets. Price said earlier this week that he would be “all ears” regarding a possible extension. He will make $19.75MM in his last season of arbitration eligibility in 2015, then can test the free agent market next winter.
- GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers were not one of the final bidders for new Nationals signee Max Scherzer, MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets. “If there was a mystery club involved, and I’m not sure there was, it was not us,” Dombrowski says.
- Dombrowski says the Tigers tried to re-sign utilityman Don Kelly, Beck tweets. Kelly signed a minor-league deal with the Marlins instead, however, because he felt he had a better chance of making the big-league team there. Again via Beck, Dombrowski says that with Kelly gone, infielders Hernan Perez and Andrew Romine will compete for the super-utility job. They’ll work on playing the outfield this spring.
The Blue Jays have been graceless in their attempt to replace president Paul Beeston, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun writes. Elliott’s timeline of events begins in early November, when Rogers Communications chairman Ed Rogers contacted the White Sox seeking permission to hire Ken Williams for Beeston’s job, not realizing that Beeston and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf were best friends. Later, Reinsdorf told Williams the Blue Jays were interested in him, and Williams said he already knew, indicating that there had been tampering, according to Elliott. Here’s more on the Blue Jays’ search for a new president.
- Rogers has left behind a “trail of stink-bombs” in attempting to replace Beeston, writes John Lott of the National Post. The Blue Jays could have improved the situation by issuing a joint statement from Beeston and the team indicating his agreement to retire. The Orioles reportedly want more than just first-round pick Jeff Hoffman in return for allowing Dan Duquette to take the Blue Jays job. Hoffman might be too much to give up, Lott writes, but the Blue Jays should have to give up a good young player, or perhaps two.
- If Duquette does leave for the Blue Jays, the Orioles will be fine, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko writes. With Duquette gone, manager Buck Showalter could play a greater role in personnel decisions. Meanwhile, the rest of the Orioles’ front office (including Brady Anderson, Tripp Norton, Gary Rajsich, Brian Graham and John Stockstill) are capable as well, Kubatko argues.
The Astros nearly signed Ryan Vogelsong, but after Vogelsong took his physical with the Astros, he went another direction and re-signed with the Giants. Vogelsong later said he “really wasn’t comfortable with what was going on” with the Astros, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle notes. Vogelsong’s agent, Dave Meier, later said Vogelsong simply meant he wasn’t comfortable with the fact that negotiations were falling apart. Vogelsong also later added that his wife wanted to stay in San Francisco. As Drellich notes, though, Vogelsong’s phrasing was odd, and it’s unclear exactly why the two parties weren’t able to agree on a deal. “[E]verything that’s happened to me this offseason — and one of these days I’ll tell you guys all about it, when we’re all sitting around having a couple beers 10 years from now when I’m done playing — and you’ll go, ‘There’s no way that happened,’ and I’ll say ‘Yup,’ and you’ll understand what I’m talking about,” Vogelsong says. Here’s more from the West divisions.
- The Mariners could still re-sign outfielder Franklin Gutierrez to a minor-league deal, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. “He wants to give it a shot,” says assistant general manager Jeff Kingston. “Full disclosure, there are some veteran non-roster players we’re still talking to, and we probably will add a few more here before the start of camp.” The 31-year-old Gutierrez hit .248/.273/.503 in 2013, hitting a remarkable ten home runs in 151 plate appearances, but he missed the 2014 season with gastrointestinal issues.
- Athletics closer Sean Doolittle has a slight rotator cuff tear in his throwing shoulder, MLB.com’s Jane Lee notes. He is not expected to be ready to pitch to start the season (Twitter links). Doolittle dominated for the A’s in 2014, posting a 2.73 ERA with a ridiculous 12.8 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9 in 62 2/3 innings. The newly acquired Tyler Clippard, who had 32 saves with the Nationals in 2012, could perhaps get save opportunities for however long Doolittle is out.
Here’s a look back at this week at MLBTR.
Signed / Agreed To Terms
Designated For Assignment
Key Minor League Signings
Talks between the Brewers and Phillies on closer Jonathan Papelbon do not appear to be gaining momentum, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter links). There was “no traction today” and there remains “no reason to believe” that a deal is close, says Haudricourt. The Papelbon situation comes down to money, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who says that the veteran righty “almost certainly” would require Milwaukee to guarantee his 2016 option as a condition of waiving his no-trade rights against the club. Echoing that focus on the bottom line, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes that the the cost may be large but the Phillies need to pay what’s necessary to move on from Papelbon.
Here’s more from the east coast:
- As regards the Phillies‘ most significant trade piece, Cole Hamels, Rosenthal suggests that there is at least some line of thinking in the organization that Hamels and Cliff Lee could front an imposing rotation if a significant free agent arm were added next winter. (Links to Twitter.) That is not to say that a Hamels trade is no longer a possibility, as Rosenthal adds that the club is looking for one MLB-ready, impact prospect to go with further-off talent in a swap.
- The Orioles would seem unwilling to let executive vice president Dan Duquette leave for the Blue Jays in exchange for first-round draft pick Jeff Hoffman alone, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. That does seem to suggest, as Connolly writes, that Baltimore still has a high price tag on Duquette, though the scribe adds that he senses an increased likelihood that a deal gets worked out.
- All this intra-AL East intrigue has left us with plenty to think about, and there are plenty of worthwhile pieces breaking down the situation. Among them: Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star argues that the Blue Jays have bungled the pursuit of a new president and should stop chasing Duquette. And if you are wondering how to go about calculating a reasonable return for an executive, have a look at this piece from last September, in which Jeff Long of Baseball Prospectus attempts to value front office figures in terms of top prospects.
Hall of Fame infielder Ernie Banks has passed away at age 83, as has been widely reported. “Mr. Cub” suited up for 19 campaigns in his career, never calling a park other than Wrigley Field home.
That intense identification with one of the game’s iconic teams, along with Banks’ renowned honor and affability, are what make him one of the true legends of the sport. Banks may have best encapsulated his own spirit with his famous tribute to the pure joy of playing baseball: “Let’s play two!”
Needless to say, Banks was also a supremely talented ballplayer. He started his big league career in 1953 with a cup of coffee at age 22, established himself as a fixture the following year, and did not stop until age 40. Along the way, he won two MVP awards and appeared 11 times in the All-Star game.
From 1954 through 1961, Banks manned short for the Cubbies, missing little more than a handful of games and averaging nearly seven wins above replacement annually. His peak came in 1958-59, when he hit 92 total home runs, slashed .308/.370/.605, and took home those two most valuable player nods despite playing for losing ballclubs. Though he ceded some bottom-line value when he shifted to first beginning in 1962, Banks remained one of the game’s most-feared power hitters for much of the next decade.
Banks’s statue already stands outside of Wrigley Field, depicting a simple, straightforward batting stance that does not conjur the power and grace sought after in most effigies. You have to look a bit closer to understand why this particular likeness was chosen: Banks is forever smiling.
Multiple reports have indicated that there’s “zero” chance the Marlins will sign James Shields, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that there are some within the front office that are trying to sell owner Jeffrey Loria on making the financial investment necessary to add Shields to the rotation (the linked piece is an updated version of Rosenthal’s column from last night). As Rosenthal points out, GM D an Jennings drafted Shields when he worked for the Rays in 2000, and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez worked with Shields as a minor leaguer in the Rays system, so he does have fans in the organization. Rosenthal adds that the departure of Mat Latos next season should seemingly increase Shields’ appeal to Miami, and I’d add that parting with their top MLB-ready pitching prospect, Andrew Heaney, could factor into that thinking as well. Then again, next offseason’s crop of free agent starters features many enticing options — most of whom will be younger than Shields is now — and MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets that a Shields signing remains a longshot.
Here’s more on the Marlins…
- In a lengthy but well-crafted and insightful piece, Grantland’s Jonah Keri examines the Marlins’ origins and the distrust among fans that has spawned from a number of fire sales. Keri spoke to team president David Samson, who noted that the initial fire sale following the team’s World Series win in 1997 was a catalyst for many of the team’s struggles in subsequent years. “That led to a lot of hurt, frustrated fans,” Samson said. “So [the team] never got that bounce, that sustained success that should come with winning a World Series.” As Keri notes, however, then-owner Wayne Huizenga had stated after spending exorbitantly the previous offseason that he would blow the team up regardless of success if local government didn’t approve a new stadium. That proved to be exactly the case, and Huizenga stayed true to his word. Keri examines the subsequent sell-offs from the Marlins and how each has contributed, in a way, to positioning the club for sustained success now.
- Samson also expressed some frustration to Keri regarding the fact that teams like the Athletics are lauded in the media for selling high on players and re-tooling their roster, while the perception surrounding the Marlins’ most recent retooling was largely negative. Samson and Loria hope that the results of the last sell-off can help convince fans that sometimes such tactics are a necessary evil in an effort to build sustained success. “We want to make them recognize that it’s not doom and gloom,” Samson explained to Keri. “We want to make people understand that we’re a normal team. We’ll have good years and bad years, but in the end, they’re just years. We’ll break your heart sometimes, but also make you jump for joy other times. That’s what being a sports fan is.”
- The Marlins added Ichiro Suzuki earlier today on a one-year, $2MM contract to serve as their fourth outfielder, and Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that Jennings has been pursuing Ichiro for about a month. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets that while the deal is just a one-year pact without an option, the team wants to keep the door open for Ichiro to return in 2016 as he chases his 3,000th hit.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- Righty Jair Jurrjens has agreed to return to the Rockies on a minor league deal with a big league camp invite, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reports. The 28-year-old righty has never regained the form he showed early in his career with the Braves. Last year, he was hit hard in two big league starts and worked to a 4.54 ERA over 81 1/3 Triple-A frames with the Reds and Rockies organizations.
- The Orioles sent cash to the Braves in exchange for lefty Daniel Rodriguez. Baltimore had tried to nab Rodriguez out of Mexico several years ago, says Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). The 30-year-old came to Atlanta from Saltillo before the 2012 campaign and went straight to Triple-A Gwinnett, where he has generally struggled while working as a starter. The team is likely interested in taking a look at Rodriguez out of the pen, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets.
- The Rangers have signed righty Ross Ohlendorf to a minor league deal that includes a spring invite, the club announced. Ohlendorf had a quality 60 1/3 inning run with the Nationals in 2013, working to a 3.28 ERA with 6.7 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9. That earned him a $1.25MM arbitration deal, but injury derailed his entire 2014 campaign.
- Two former Rangers ballplayers are among the recent moves reported by Baseball America’s Matt Eddy (links to Twitter). The Dodgers have signed righty Ben Rowen, a 26-year-old righty who cracked the Rangers’ pen last year and who has had solid results in the upper minors. And the White Sox signed center fielder Engel Beltre, a defense-first player who has struggled to produce offensively and missed most of last year with a fractured tibia.
- Also via Eddy, the Braves have inked former Angels reliever David Carpenter — not to be confused with the other right-handed reliever by the same team that Atlanta just traded. Carpenter has struggled in limited MLB exposure, but last year put up a 2.17 ERA over 62 1/3 innings, with 8.3 K/9 against 6.4 BB/9, despite pitching in the notoriously hitter-friendly PCL.
The Athletics have avoided arbitration with lefty Fernando Abad, MLBTR has learned. He will earn $1,087,500 for the coming season, his first of arbitration eligibility, and can also achieve award bonuses in the deal. Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com tweeted previously that his understanding was that Abad had a deal in place with Oakland.
Abad, 29, had filed at $1.225MM with the A’s countering at $850K, meaning that he bested the midpoint by about $50K. The contract value also represents a bump up over the MLBTR/Matt Swartz projection of a $900K payday. Abad is represented by Praver/Shapiro Sports Management.
Abad followed up on a strong 2013 campaign with an even better effort last year, posting a career-low 1.57 ERA over a career-high 57 1/3 frames. The Dominican native backed his run prevention with 8.0 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9. While a .211 BABIP and 88.6% strand rate undoubtedly contributed to his miserly earned run totals, ERA estimators viewed Abad as a solidly above-average performer.
As one might expect, Abad was especially excellent against same-handed hitters, striking out 35% of opposing lefties. While his swing-and-miss numbers weren’t as impressive against right-handers, Abad did hold them to a .157/.217/.257 line that was even more anemic than lefties managed against him.
Oakland added the southpaw last year when he lost his 40-man spot with the Nationals in advance of the Rule 5 draft. With left-handed closer Sean Doolittle slated to miss the beginning of the season with rotator cuff issues, Abad’s importance to the Athletics’ pen is certainly heightened.