It's still relatively early on in Spring Training, but the White Sox have already begun getting calls on outfielders Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The two are battling for the everyday job in left field, as it 2013 trade acquisitions Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia are likely to man center field and right field, respectively.
De Aza is the more established player of the two but also comes with less team control. Set to turn 30 in early April, De Aza has batted .279/.343/.420 in 357 games with the White Sox since being claimed off waivers from the Marlins in 2009. The lefty swinger belted a career-high 17 homers last season and has stolen 46 bases over the past two seasons. Ultimate Zone Rating pegs him as an average defender in the outfield, though Defensive Runs Saved feels he's somewhat below average. He has extensive experience in center field and also played 426 innings in left field for the Sox last season. De Aza is under team control for two more seasons and will earn $4.25MM in 2014.
Viciedo is the younger and more powerful of the two, but comes with question marks about his defense and on-base skills. Viciedo, who turns 25 on Monday, mashed 25 homers in his first full season with the Sox in 2012, posting a .255/.300/.444 triple-slash line. However, he wasn't able to match that power level in 2013, as he hit just 14 homers with a .265/.304/.426 slash line. UZR/150 pegs him at -5.5 over his career in left field, while DRS has him at -3. Both metrics agree that his glove worsened in 2013. As a Super Two player, he'll earn $2.8MM in 2014 and is controllable through the 2017 season.
De Aza would seem to be a natural fit with the Tigers, who recently learned that they'll be without Andy Dirks for roughly three months due to back surgery. His left-handed bat would pair well with Rajai Davis to form a left field platoon, which was supposed to be the role filled by Dirks. With an extra year of team control, he could potentially fill Torii Hunter's spot in 2015 if Hunter signs elsewhere and the Tigers don't find a suitable replacement on the free agent or trade market. Of course, this is all purely speculation on my part, and the White Sox and Tigers may prefer not to swing a trade within their own division. Other teams that could use an upgrade in the outfield include the Orioles, Mariners and Pirates, to name a few.
While Jeff Samardzija has been a chief subject of trade rumors this offseason, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told Jim Bowden and Casey Stern of MLB Network Radio on SiriuxXM (via Bowden's Twitter feed) that his preference would be to sign the right-hander to a long-term extension. Samardzija said the same during an appearance on the broadcast (audio link here), as "I've always stated this is where I wanna be...this organization stuck by me and has given me the opportunity to be a starter." Despite the rumors, there has "obviously been a mutual interest between the two parties, for sure...[which] kinda makes everything else just talking, which is what you want it to be."
Here's some more news from around the game...
- Johan Santana never considered retirement in the wake of his latest shoulder surgery, as the veteran southpaw told reporters (including MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli) that he didn't want to let his health dictate the end of his career. "I don't want to go out in the game like that. I want to go out of the game on my own terms, knowing this is going to be my last game, knowing this is going to be my last year," Santana said. The two-time Cy Young Award winner said he has "nothing to lose, [and] a lot to gain" from his incentive-heavy minor league deal with the Orioles.
- Jon Lester's cancer diagnosis in 2006 played a big part in his acceptance of his original multiyear deal with the Red Sox, WEEI.com's Rob Bradford reports. That contract will expire this offseason, and while Lester has no new news on the status of extension talks, he is hopeful a new deal will be settled soon.
- The Dodgers' surplus of pitching could force the team to make a tough cut in the form of right-hander Seth Rosin, ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon writes. Rosin has pitched well thus far in Spring Training but L.A. might not have space for him on the roster, a situation that Saxon says could backfire like the team's cut of Kevin Gregg last spring. Rosin was selected off the Phillies' roster by the Mets in last December's Rule 5 draft and was then traded to the Dodgers, who now must keep Rosin on their Major League roster all season or else offer him back to Philadelphia for $25K.
- In a subscription-only piece for Baseball America, Matt Eddy and J.J. Cooper look at some of the offseason's key minor league free agent signings and some of the overall trends of this winter's minor league deals.
- Jim Leyland is happy in his position as special assistant to Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski and has no interest in returning to the Pirates organization, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. “I really don't want to come back to the organization,” Leyland said. “Not because I don't love it, but (because) they've set their tempo now and they have their own people in place. They don't need somebody like me hanging around and, really, I don't need to do that....I'll retire a Tiger.”
The Mariners sent a scout to watch David Phelps' recent Spring Training outing, George A. King III of the New York Post reports, while the White Sox and Brewers also had scouts on hand to watch the Yankees' catchers. King previously reported last week that the White Sox had their eyes on the Yankees' catching surplus and that the Yankees were scouting Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks.
With the Yankees known to be looking for infielders, King speculates that Nick Franklin could be a target for the club, especially since Seattle is known to be exploring trades for the young second baseman. The M's are looknig to upgrade their pitching depth thanks to injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, though as King notes, it would take more than just Phelps to acquire Franklin.
It would be somewhat surprising to see the Yankees move Phelps given the club's lack of starting pitching depth. Phelps is competing with Michael Pineda and Adam Warren to be New York's fifth starter, and since Pineda hasn't pitched in a Major League game since 2011 and Warren has only three career starts over his two MLB seasons, the Yankees would have to be confident in both pitchers' development to send Phelps elsewhere. Phelps' advanced metrics (3.81 FIP, 4.03 xFIP, 3.91 SIERA) indicate that he pitched much better last season than his 4.98 ERA over 86 2/3 IP would indicate.
The Yankees have Francisco Cervelli, J.R. Murphy and Austin Romine competing to be Brian McCann's backup, and all could fit into reserve roles in Chicago or Milwaukee. The Sox could offer more regular time, as their catching mix of Josh Phegley, Tyler Flowers, Hector Gimenez and Rule 5 Draft pick Adrian Nieto isn't at all settled.
With Jonathan Lucroy firmly locked into the starting job in Milwaukee, the Brewers are only looking for a backup. If Weeks is a target, it's only a matter of how much of his $11MM salary the Crew will agree to absorb (King also suggests Aramis Ramirez as a trade possibility, but I doubt the Brewers would think to trade him unless they struggle during the season and fall out of the race).
The Mets made Daniel Murphy available this past offseason but put a high price on the second baseman's services, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports, including asking the Orioles for top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy. Murphy has been working hard this spring to increase his value to the Mets, focusing on making more contact at the plate and reaching base more often (Murphy only had a .319 OBP last season). "On-base and slugging, this is what teams want," Murphy said. "This is what drives the offensive market now. They want you to be able to get on base, and when you do get base hits, they want them to be doubles. So I think that our game is heading in that direction. I think (the Mets are) probably a little bit farther, maybe out in front a little bit of the curve."
Here's some more from the Amazins' camp...
- "I'm not a mercenary," David Wright tells Bob Klapsich of the Bergen Record, as the Mets third baseman insisted that he has no regrets over staying with the team through their ongoing rebuilding process. "If my goal was to win right this second, then obviously, I would've been a free agent," Wright said. "To me, it was important to show loyalty to the Mets. I grew up rooting for them, they drafted me when I was 18, they're the only team I've ever played for." Klapisch, however, opines that the Mets haven't shown that same loyalty to Wright by not spending more to make the team competitive.
- The Mets' rebuild could be spurred by making trades rather than free agent signings, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that if the Mets are willing to expand their payroll, they have the minor league depth to acquire expensive star players from teams who are themselves looking to rebuild or unload salaries.
- After eight seasons in the minors, 31-year-old Anthony Seratelli is still looking for his first taste of the majors, and now the New Jersey native has a chance close to home after he signed a minor league deal with the Mets earlier this offseason. MLB.com's Anthony DiComo profiles Seratelli's career, his video-editing talents and how he is inspired to keep playing by the tragic losses of his father and grandmother.
“If my goal was to win right this second, then obviously, I would’ve been a free agent,” Wright said. “To me, it was more important to show loyalty to the Mets. I grew up rooting for them, they drafted me when I was 18, they’re the only team I’ve ever played for.” - See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/sports/Klapisch_Mets_rebirth_vital_for_David_Wright.html?c=y&page=1#sthash.2fJKHX8T.dpu
Justin Masterson is only looking for a three- or four-year extension from the Indians, a short-term arrangement that speaks to comfort in Cleveland both on and off the field, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian writes. While Masterson said that contract talks are "a challenging situation, especially for me. [I'm] not doing this because we need to get the most money ever. We also think about others who may come behind us. There are a lot of different factors you try to work in. Are we being true to our value or are we skewing it?" Also, by staying with the Tribe, Masterson noted that he could further enhance the Indians' growing reputation as an attractive destination for people to play.
Here's some more from around the AL Central...
- A short-term deal may also have a strategic element to it, as MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince notes that a three-year deal would cover Masterson past the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. It's widely expected that the qualifying offer system will be modified (or even scrapped) in a new CBA, so Masterson could take the security of a short-term deal now and avoid having his market diminished as a free agent next winter if he has qualifying offer draft compensation attached to his services.
- Also from Castrovince, Masterson's love of playing for Terry Francona "is the only reason these extension conversations have had any traction."
- Twins assistant GM Rob Antony discussed his club's pursuit of Johan Santana with Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Minnesota only viewed Santana as a starting pitcher and would've been comfortable giving him a May 31 opt-out, Antony said, but the Twins simply weren't willing to sign Santana at the price he received from the Orioles. Santana will earn $3MM in base salary if he makes the Baltimore roster, plus potentially millions more in incentives.
- While Antony admitted that injuries could change the Twins' feelings about further additions, "right now I think what we’ve got in camp is what we’re working on.”
- Three months without the injured Andy Dirks as part of their left field platoon won't do much harm to the Tigers' playoff chances, Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan writes. While Detroit is likely to replace Dirks with internal players, Sullivan notes that a more intriguing move would be to acquire an everyday outfielder who could then take over for Torii Hunter in 2015 and beyond.
- Jim Thome admits that he would "have to take that call" if another team contacted him about returning to the field, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports. Thome was hired as a special assistant to White Sox GM Rick Hahn last summer, though he never officially retired. While he would "always listen" about another playing opportunity, Thome enjoys his current position and has spoken of wanting to become a manager in the future.
The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options. That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so. I've included players on multiyear deals. This list was compiled through MLBTR's sources. Today, we'll take a look at the NL Central.
Francisco is competing with Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay for the Brewers' first base job. It's hard to imagine a scenario where all three make the team, wrote Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last week. Reynolds and Overbay signed minor league deals, but it seems likely at least one of them will make the team. When Reynolds signed in January, it was said the Brewers told him he'll almost certainly make the team, so Overbay might have to beat out Francisco, who has the advantage of already being on the 40-man roster.
Back in February, Curt Hogg of Disciples of Uecker dissected the Brewers' reserve infielder situation, explaining that while they may need to carry seven infielders, Bianchi still seems needed as the only one capable of backing up Jean Segura at shortstop.
McDonald is competing with Chris Rusin for the Cubs' fifth starter job, at least until Jake Arrieta's shoulder is deemed ready. Meanwhile, Cabrera is battling for the final bullpen spot with about a half-dozen others.
The Bucs' seven primary relievers last year were Jason Grilli, Melancon, Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, Gomez, Mazzaro, and Morris, and indeed, that was their bullpen for the NLDS. It would be difficult for Oliver to break into that group, but surely the Pirates don't want to lose the hard-throwing Pimentel. Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects thinks they'll find a place for him. Some kind of trade makes sense to clear the logjam, barring injury.
Reds: Alfredo Simon
Simon is in good standing as a member of the Reds' pen.
One of the most fascinating ballplayers of his generation, Rick Ankiel, has officially retired, Cardinals broadcaster Dan McLaughlin announced on the air today (story via MLB.com's AJ Cassavell). Ankiel is hoping to stay in the game by catching on in a front office.
Ankiel is a 34-year-old, power-hitting, free-agent outfielder who was cut loose by two different clubs last year. That seemed an unlikely ending when he cracked the league at age 19 as a big-armed pitcher, announcing himself with a 3.27 ERA in 33 innings for the Cardinals. He followed that up with an outstanding rookie year, throwing 175 innings of 3.50 ERA ball, notching 10.0 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9.
Then, of course, came Ankiel's sudden and stunning meltdown on the mound during the 2000 postseason. He never recovered to regain his former promise, and seemed destined to fade into obscurity.
Things took a second, almost equally startling turn when Ankiel re-emerged as an outfielder. Returning to the bigs in August of 2007, Ankiel swatted a home run in his debut and never looked back. He ultimately logged 2,019 plate appearances, notching 74 home runs and compiling a .242/.304/.427 line. And, of course, he put his powerful arm to good use, unleashing a number of memorable throws that cut down baserunners looking to stretch an extra base.
Though he was reportedly still interested in playing as recently as February, Ankiel had not received any interest at that point. He apparently decided to hang up his spikes now, rather than waiting for another opportunity.
After his time in St. Louis, Ankiel roamed the outfield for several clubs, starting with the Royals and Braves. He played for two seasons with the Nationals before finishing his career in 2013 with the Astros and Mets. Ankiel's overall stat line does not stand out, at least until one notices that it encapsulates two separate careers. Ultimately, his remarkable story, hard-nosed play, and incredible arm ensure that he'll long be remembered as a ballplayer.
One would be hard-pressed to offer a better description of this year's Diamondbacks offseason than that written at the same time last year by MLBTR's Steve Adams: "The Diamondbacks made a number of moves that raised eyebrows and invited skepticism this offseason, and they'll have to improve on last year's .500 record to silence those naysayers."
Major League Signings
- Acquired RHP Justin Choate and OF Todd Glaesmann from the Rays in exchange for RHP Heath Bell (to Rays) and LHP David Holmberg (to Reds).
- Acquired OF Mark Trumbo and RHP A.J. Schugel from the Angels and OF Brandon Jacobs from the White Sox in exchange for LHP Tyler Skaggs (to Angels) and OF Adam Eaton (to White Sox).
- Acquired RHP Addison Reed from the White Sox in exchange for 3B Matt Davidson.
- Claimed Alex Sanabia, Matt Tuiasosopo, Santos Rodriguez, Marcos Mateo (Rule 5)
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Orioles manager Buck Showalter wouldn't rule out the possibility of his team adding Ervin Santana to the fold when asked by Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Said Showalter: "I wouldn't say that and be completely sure that it's true." Kubatko has garnered that the Orioles were comfortable going into the three-year, $30MM range but weren't interested at Santana's asking price of four years, $50MM. More on the Orioles, who officially signed a different Santana (Johan) yesterday...
- Executive vice president Dan Duquette wouldn't commit to whether or not Johan Santana will be used as a starter or reliever if he's able to eventually take the mound, tweets Kubatko. Santana's contract contains incentives for games started, though reports yesterday indicated that they viewed him as a relief option as well. Duquette says Santana's ultimate role will be determined once the team sees how his velocity progresses. The two-time Cy Young winner topped out at 81 mph in his most recent workout, but he's very early in his throwing program at this point.
- The offer Jarrod Saltalamacchia received from the Red Sox this offseason was the lowest of the six or seven offers presented to him, the catcher told reporters, including the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo (Twitter link). The Boston Herald's Scott Lauber tweets that despite signing for a much lower average annual value, Saltalamacchia said he wouldn't have accepted a qualifying offer from the Red Sox, as he preferred multiyear security. The Globe's Matt Pepin has full quotes from Saltalamacchia, who said Boston's best offer was for two years, but "not a straight two-year deal," adding that there "were other things involved."
- Jon Lester told reporters, including WEEI.com's Rob Bradford, that there have been no recent developments in his contract talks with the Red Sox. Lester, who has made his desire to stay in Boston well known, said he prefer to let agents Seth and Sam Levinson of ACES and GM Ben Cherington worry about those matters.
- Andrew Astleford of FOX Sports Florida spoke with Rays non-roster invitee Erik Bedard about how he is adjusting to the new clubhouse and what it's like to come into camp looking for a job each year. Bedard says he didn't think back to his days with the Orioles when he faced them in his first Spring Training outing, because he doesn't know many of the players or coaches anymore. "Every team turns around every year. It's never the same. Nobody keeps the same guys anymore. They'll switch, trade, get released. Back in the day, everybody stayed."