APRIL 14: Moore will undergo Tommy John surgery, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The young hurler said that he decided to have the procedure after experiencing discomfort while throwing this afternoon. "What was coming out, it's a shame to be have to be shut down right now but it just wasn't comfortable," Moore said. "Being stuck in the position I am right now, where it's not exactly comfortable but it's not exactly completely broke, it's kind of one of those things where you know it's going to get worse."
APRIL 10: Moore, the team, and the doctors they've consulted are still assessing the injury and the options, according to the updated report from Topkin. "What [executive VP Andrew Friedman] wanted to do was discuss it in more depth [today] based on the results as we get them," Maddon said. "We need to get all the facts and see how we want to proceed with this, see if surgery is necessary, if it's not necessary, we're still waiting to find out."
A contrast-aided MRI conducted yesterday is expected to help provide answers. One question, according to Topkin, is whether all or part of the damage was pre-existing, which will require comparison to past scans. "I don't think it's fully torn from what I understand," said Maddon, "but I don't know that. The test with the dye would probably be more conclusive."
APRIL 9: Rays manager Joe Maddon said that it is "not a slam dunk surgery right now" after Moore's tests and consultations today, tweets Topkin. Discussions about how to proceed will continue tomorrow.
APRIL 8: The injury that drove Rays starter Matt Moore from his start yesterday involves his UCL, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links). Moore, 24, will see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion, as was reported earlier today.
UCL tears are commonly associated with the Tommy John procedure, of course, as that is the surgical option in the event of a tear. As Passan notes, pitchers can occastionally attempt to rehab and pitch through a tear if it is minor enough, though in that situation any delay would push back the timetable in the event that surgery is ultimately necessary.
The club had sounded optimistic earlier this morning, but the outlook apparently took a downturn as the day went along, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweeted earlier this evening. Moore, one of the most promising young arms in the game, is in the midst of a five-year, $14MM extension that also includes three option years covering the 2017-19 seasons. Though Tampa has options to fill in for him in the near term -- including Nate Karns and Erik Bedard -- the team is already dealing with the loss of Jeremy Hellickson for the early part of the season and the suspension of prospect Alex Colome.
For some players, just getting the chance to play is the biggest hurdle. That certainly holds true for Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, whose journey out of Cuba and into Major League Baseball is perhaps more astounding than anyone realized. Jesse Katz of Los Angeles Magazine provides a narrative of Puig's unbelievable tale.
Here are a few notes from around the game:
- The Yankees come in at a surprising second in the early-season defensive shift count, writes ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required). As Olney notes, that kind of decision requires organizational commitment on every level, and two offseason infield acquisitions -- Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts -- played an important part in the first discussions involving players.
- Red Sox players view hurler Jon Lester as worthy of the kind of huge payday that the club's front office seems somewhat unwilling to give him, Olney adds. The view from the clubhouse is obviously not likely to drive a decision, but Olney notes that players are keeping a keen eye on how the team's ace is treated.
- For Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, the big issue facing the club is health, George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press reports. He said that the team's bullpen depth at the minor league level is a strength, that the righty-heavy lineup was driven by having good options that happen to hit from that side of the plate, and that he was comfortable with the team's shortstop options -- especially with Eugenio Suarez and Hernan Perez available in the minors.
- The MLB blackout policy is harmful to the game's long-term development, opines Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Passan traces the league's determined fight to maintain territorial blackouts and its connection to the local TV money that has had such a substantial impact on the MLB player market.
Needless to say, the season has gotten of to a rough start in terms of injury news. Offering some hope, perhaps, Baseball America's J.J. Cooper writes (answering a reader question) that two-time Tommy John patients have a better track record of recovery than is perhaps commonly thought. Here's the latest on a few situations around the league that have (or could have had) hot stove implications:
- Rockies starter Brett Anderson is expected to be out for a lengthy stretch with a broken index finger, as he will need four to six weeks to recover before rehabbing, according to Thomas Harding of MLB.com (via Twitter). The 26-year-old, who has had more than his share of injury troubles in recent campaigns, will undergo surgery to have pins inserted in the finger, according to Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post (via Twitter). Anderson was a major offseason acquisition for the Rockies, coming over in exchange for one-time top prospect Drew Pomeranz, who has been working out of the pen for the Athletics this year. Fortunately for Colorado, the team appears to have enough in-house options to cover in the meantime.
- Rays starter Matt Moore played catch today as he and the team assess whether the young lefty can avoid Tommy John surgery, according to a report from Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. "Actually [trainer Ron Porterfield] said he threw okay," said manager Joe Maddon, "but I'm waiting to hear back from him what the final analysis is. Nothing yet. [Porterfield] said he turned it loose a little bit too, so we'll see. That was probably a good test for him. The word pain was not used. [Porterfield] told me he actually threw the ball pretty good."
- For the Phillies, starter A.J. Burnett intends to pitch through a hernia, and the team will finally welcome back reliever Mike Adams from the DL in the coming days, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. Adams was a major free agent addition last year, but threw only 25 innings of 3.96 ERA ball last year before going down to a labrum and rotator cuff tear. Adams' contract contains a $6MM club option for 2015 that would vest if he throws 60 innings this year, but that provision will be voided if he is not available on Opening Day next year because of the shoulder issues (since they arose before the end of the 2014 season).
- With the Yankees dealing with multiple injuries and uncertainty in the infield, the obvious question is whether the team will revisit the possibility of signing Stephen Drew. John Harper of the New York Daily News argues that the team should do just that, noting that Drew can upgrade up the middle this year while providing value in any future years he signs on for. But Wallace Mathews of ESPNNewYork.com reports cites a source who says that there is "no way" the team will sign Drew or fellow free agent Kendrys Morales.
- Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia got good news today, as he learned that his left wrist issues do not appear to be serious, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reported on Twitter. As fellow Herald reporter Scott Lauber reported later this afternoon, an MRI showed no structural damage that would warrant concern. The team has confirmed the reports while adding that closer Koji Uehara has no structural damage in his shoulder, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal tweets.
5:03pm: MLB.com's Corey Brock explains the reasoning behind announcing the contract as a six-year deal despite only adding five new years (Twitter link). Though Gyorko's 2014 salary remains unchanged, there is language in the deal which adds both insurance and benefits to Gyorko's 2014 contract.
3:48pm: The Padres have locked up one of their infielders for years to come, but it isn't the one whose extension status has grabbed the most headlines over the past couple of years; San Diego announced today a six-year extension for second baseman Jedd Gyorko that will keep the ACES client in San Diego through the 2019 season and contains a club option for the 2020 season.
Gyorko's deal appears to be a six-year extension in name only, as the reported breakdown of his contract doesn't include a change to his previously agreed upon 2014 salary. He will earn $2MM in 2015, $4MM in 2016, $6MM in 2017, $9MM in 2018 and $13MM in 2019 before the Padres have the option of retaining him for $13MM for 2020 or paying him a $1MM buyout. Gyorko's deal also reportedly contains escalators that pertain to the option year, meaning the value of that option could rise over the course of the deal.
"We are happy to sign Jedd and secure the rights to two free agent years," said general manager Josh Byrnes in the press release issued to announce the deal. "Jedd is a homegrown player in his fifth season with the Padres organization and has been a consistent performer every step of the way. He has shown us a real commitment to this organization and to the city of San Diego."
Gyorko, 25, had a solid rookie season in which he batted .249/.301/.444 with 23 homers in 525 plate appearances. That effort, which was more impressive than it would appear at first glance due to his pitcher-friendly home stadium, was enough to earn him a sixth-place finish in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
A natural third baseman, Gyorko has moved over to second base in San Diego due to the presence of Chase Headley at the hot corner for the Friars. Advanced defensive metrics both felt that he did an admirable job there, with The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved pegging him at -1 runs, while Ultimate Zone Rating estimated that he saved 1.8 runs per 150 games. That defensive flexibility is crucial for the Padres, who could lose Headley to free agency at season's end. Should that happen, Byrnes will have the freedom to pursue both second base and third base options to fill the void, knowing that Gyorko can handle whichever position is not filled by a potential new addition.
The Padres already controlled Gyorko through the 2018 season via the arbitration process, so the Padres have effectively secured an additional two years of control over Gyorko (though only one is guaranteed). His contract is the largest signed by a second baseman with between one and two years of service time, though not the largest deal ever for a player in that service class. Andrelton Simmons, Ryan Braun and Anthony Rizzo have topped that figure. Regardless, that is an impressive group of peers for the slugging infielder to join.
Byrnes isn't shy about pursuing extensions for his young players, though a few of them have gone awry due to injuries in recent years. As can be seen via MLBTR's Extension Tracker, the Padres have recently extended Cameron Maybin (five years, $25MM), Cory Luebke (four years, $12MM), Carlos Quentin (three years, $30MM), Nick Hundley (three years, $9MM), Huston Street (two years, $14MM), Will Venable (two years, $8.5MM) and Chris Denorfia (two years, $4.25MM).
ESPN's Buster Olney was the first to report the deal (via Twitter), with ESPN's Keith Law adding (via Twitter) that it was a six-year deal with a seventh-year option. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports added that the deal ran 2015-19 with a club option, and Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reported the $35MM guarantee and $13MM option value (Twitter links). ESPN's Jayson Stark tweeted about the escalators, with Cotillo adding that they applied only to the option year. Jeff Passan of Yahoo sports reported the year-to-year breakdown (via Twitter).
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The Blue Jays have announced that infielder Maicer Izturis' MRI revealed a "complete tear" of the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) in his left knee that will require surgery to repair. Izturis wil seek a second opinion before scheduling the surgery, which typically has a recovery time of four to six months, per the Jays' release.
Izturis, 33, got off to a respectable start this season, batting .286/.324/.314 in his first 38 plate appearances. However, as the National Post's John Lott tweets, the veteran infielder felt two "pops" in his leg after slipping down the dugout steps in Baltimore this weekend.
Izturis is in the second season of a three-year, $10MM contract signed with the Jays prior to the 2013 campaign. He struggled in his first year with Toronto, batting .236/.288/.310 despite owning a vastly superior .274/.336/.381 triple-slash line in the four-year span that preceded his free agency. The loss of Izturis further exposes the Jays' need for infield help, as Ryan Goins has little offensive upside, Jose Reyes is on the disabled list and Brett Lawrie has struggled at the plate in the early-going.
The White Sox have signed right-hander Frank Francisco and assigned him to the Triple-A Charlotte Knights, according to the Knights' official Twitter account. Francisco is a client of Praver/Shapiro.
The 34-year-old Francisco spent the past two seasons with the Mets after signing a two-year, $12MM contract that proved to be a regrettable move for New York. Over the life of the deal, Francisco pitched just 48 2/3 innings of 5.36 ERA ball, averaging 9.8 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9. He missed nearly all of the 2013 season with elbow issues.
The White Sox will hope that Francisco can get back to the form he showed with the Rangers and Blue Jays from 2009-11 when he posted a 3.71 ERA 10.0 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and a 36 percent ground-ball rate that led to a 3.41 FIP and 3.32 xFIP. During that time, opponents batted just .236/.299/.382 against Francisco, who racked up 44 saves between the two teams.
Chicago manager Robin Ventura named Matt Lindstrom his closer to open the season, much to the surprise of many pundits that had pegged Nate Jones as Addison Reed's replacement. However, Jones is on the disabled list now, and Lindstrom hasn't inspired much confidence with his new role, so the added bullpen depth makes sense for GM Rick Hahn.
Though Major League Baseball can accurately claim that the total allotment for international bonus pools has risen this season, the overall amount that clubs can spend on international talent has actually decreased, explains Baseball America's Ben Badler in his latest piece. While the bonus pool itself has risen, MLB has eliminated the six exemptions per team that allow a club to sign a player for up to $50K without that money counting against its bonus pool. By doing so, MLB eliminates a possible total of $9MM that can be spent on international talent. That's more than enough to offset the 1.2 percent rise from $78,226,600 in 2013 to $79,194,000 in 2014 that Badler reports in his article.
In the previous spending period, teams were able to sign an unlimited amount of players for $7500 or less in addition to their six exemptions of $50K or less. Badler points out that the $7500 figure will increase slightly to $10K for the coming signing period, but that marginal increase hardly accounts for the elimination of $50K exemptions.
The penalties for exceeding bonus pools will remain unchanged and will continue to pale in comparison to the penalties set for exceeding the limitations in the June amateur draft. Because of that, we're likely to see more teams take the route that the Rangers and Cubs took in the 2013-14 period and blow past international spending limits with little regard. The Yankees are one club that will reportedly do just that in the 2014-15 signing period.
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal has a new, lengthy notes column in which he begins by examining the early scrutiny of MLB's new instant replay system. He points to a pair of blatantly missed calls on Saturday in which conclusive evidence was seen on TV broadcasts of the games but apparently not by the umpires at MLB's Replay Operations Center in New York. An MLB spokesperson confirmed to Rosenthal that one of those calls was blown and added that the system would continue to work on improvement. Rosenthal reminds that John Schuerholz, one of the architects of the system, said it would be a three-year roll out. However, he adds that MLB can't expect any patience from fans, players or managers when home viewers are able to make better judgments than the umpires at the Relay Operations Center.
Here are some more highlights from his article, which also contains notes on Jose Abreu, struggling offenses around the league and the Dodgers' interleague schedule...
- Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson is the early front-runner for "first manager to get fired" due to the team's 4-11 start, but Rosenthal wonders what more Gibson can do with the pitching talent (or lack thereof) he has been given. GM Kevin Towers thinned out the rotation depth by trading Tyler Skaggs and David Holmberg this offseason, and the loss of Patrick Corbin compounded those moves. Rosenthal wonders how long the Snakes can wait before recalling Archie Bradley.
- One executive said to Rosenthal that any American League team with a need in the infield will have added incentive to work out a deal with Stephen Drew in order to prevent the Tigers from signing him. The AL Central powerhouse is currently going with Alex Gonzalez at short, and the results have been less than stellar.
- Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda told Rosenthal (through his interpreter) that he's never considered retirement as heavily as he did this offseason. The most difficult factor for Kuroda wasn't the separation from his L.A.-based family -- they come live with him in the summer when his daughters are out of school -- but rather that he simply loves and misses Japan. Kuroda again left open the possibility of finishing his career back in Japan.
- Both the Angels and Twins have a need in the outfield with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham on the disabled list, and both teams were interested in the recently DFA'ed Sam Fuld this offseason before he signed with the Athletics. Rosenthal reports that the A's will gauge trade possibilities for Fuld and wonders if the Halos and Twins could have interest.
- After signing a minor league deal in the 2012-13 offseason, Blue Jays right-hander Neil Wagner earned the pro-rated portion that deal's $525K salary while in the Majors last season. However, Toronto's pre-arbitration pay scale called for just a $506,250 salary in 2014, as it is based on service time rather than performance. Agent Jim Munsey and Wagner refused the deal, giving Toronto the freedom to renew Wagner's contract at $500K if they wished, which the team did. Said Munsey of the ordeal: "It's, obviously, disappointing that they cut Neil's pay after such a good season last year. And when we didn't agree to the pay cut, they cut it further in renewing him. Hard to cheer for that. ... The rules allow the Jays to reduce his pay. They also allow us to talk about that at arbitration." MLBTR's Zach Links recently looked at teams' calculation of pre-arbitration salaries.
- Though the Rays' rotation has been ravaged by injuries to Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb, the team is planning on using internal options rather than pursuing outside help.
"Sometimes you have to look underneath the surface and I tend to agree it has a lot to do with youth sports and travel teams and multiple travel teams and kids pitching to win when they're really young and throwing too many pitches. I think the more recent epidemic curiously might be tied to what they're doing before they even get here professionally."
Of course, Moore's injury is not the only injury facing the Rays' rotation, either. Jeremy Hellickson opened the season on the disabled list, and Alex Cobb is now out as long as six weeks after being placed on the DL with an oblique strain yesterday, writes Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. Here's more from the AL East...
- The Mariners' decision to designate Shawn Kelley for assignment last Spring Training rather than pay him $935K has proven to be the Yankees' gain, writes John Harper of the New York Daily News. Kelley was a vital part of the bullpen in 2013 and has stepped up for the injured David Robertson in 2014 thus far. Kelley's strong 2013 season is part of the reason that the Yanks didn't add a right-handed setup arm this offseason, writes Harper, as they believed the two-time Tommy John victim to be capable of handling the role of Robertson's primary setup man.
- Harper also looks at the predictably injury-riddled Yankees infield and opines that it's time for the team to call Scott Boras to get a deal done with Stephen Drew. As Harper points out, the Yankees ran out an infield of Kelly Johnson, Dean Anna, Yangervis Solarte and Carlos Beltran last night, and patchwork mixes like that simply won't cut it. He suggests a two-year deal for Drew, to play second base and provide insurance for Jeter this season before taking the reins at shortstop in 2015.
- While much is made of Jon Lester's coming free agency by the Boston media, the Boston Herald's John Tomase writes that Jonny Gomes is also in the final year of his deal, and he spoke with the part-time Red Sox outfielder about that scenario. Gomes admits that it's difficult to play in a walk year due to the results-oriented nature of the game, adding that he knows being a good clubhouse presence won't necessarily get him a job next year. Tomase writes that ideally, Gomes' preference is to stay in Boston.
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier writes that Red Sox manager John Farrell isn't exactly thrilled with the early returns on baseball's instant replay system. "It's hard to have any faith in the system," said Farrell after being on the losing end of a pair of challenges this weekend. Saturday's call, in particular, looked to provide conclusive evidence in Boston's favor, but the umpires didn't agree. Said Farrell: "As much as they’re trying to help the human element inside this system, it seems like it’s added the human element at a different level."
In May 2013, Pedro Alvarez's agent, Scott Boras, declared that he and his client would be "open" to the possibility of a long-term contract with the Pirates. Since then, and particularly since the Bucs inked Starling Marte to a long-term deal last month, the Pittsburgh media has chattered about the Pirates' chances of signing Alvarez.
That Boras was open to an Alvarez extension wasn't that surprising. Boras' antipathy to pre-free agent deals, or perhaps the impact of his antipathy to pre-free agent deals upon actual negotiations, is sometimes overstated -- a number of Boras clients, including Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Gomez, Carlos Pena, Elvis Andrus, Jered Weaver and Ryan Madson, have signed them. (Besides, Alvarez was hitting just .200/.257/.406 at the time of Boras' comments.)
Nonetheless, that Boras is Alvarez's agent is still an issue. Alvarez himself would probably have to be strongly in favor of a deal for Boras to sign off on it. The squabbles between Boras and the Pirates after the Bucs drafted Alvarez in 2008 might be anecdotal evidence that neither Boras nor Alvarez will cede much ground on an extension (although 2008 was also long enough ago that it might not matter). And Boras recently criticized "donut contracts" for pre-free agency players that feature options at the end. It probably would not be easy at all for the Pirates to work out a long-term deal for Alvarez.
Alvarez is set to make $4.25MM this year, his first year of arbitration eligibility, and to become eligible for free agency following the 2016 season. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer Travis Sawchik has frequently compared Alvarez's career to that of Chris Davis, and if Alvarez's age-27 season were to go as well as Davis' did, Alvarez would get enormous raises in his last two arbitration seasons -- Davis, for example, got a raise from $3.3MM to $10.35MM after hitting 53 home runs last year. Still, a 50-homer season isn't likely for Alvarez, and arbitration salaries are broadly predictable, so let's guess that Alvarez will make about $22-25MM from 2014 through 2016 if the Pirates don't sign him long-term. (A $22MM-$25MM projection suggests he will still get fairly steep raises, given that power tends to be rewarded in arbitration.)
A long-term deal for Alvarez would likely start there. Where it would end up is another matter, and Freddie Freeman's enormous eight-year, $135MM contract with the Braves would be a very tough precedent for the Pirates to get around, given that both Freeman and Alvarez are both corner sluggers with between three and four years of service time. The Pirates might argue that Freeman is two-and-a-half years younger than Alvarez, and has a much better track record hitting for average. But even if we lop the last two years off Freeman's contract to address the age difference, we're left with six years and $91MM, which would be a lot for the Pirates to pay Alvarez, given that his next three seasons will be relatively cheap. Dropping that $91MM total somewhat to reflect Freeman's broader base of offensive skills would only help so much.
And even that might concede too much for Boras' taste. While Freeman is a better player than Alvarez, Boras might not see it that way, perhaps arguing that Alvarez's superior power ought to make him every bit as valuable to the Pirates as Freeman was for the Braves.
At this point, we're left with the question of just what a pre-free agency extension for Alvarez would be for. Alvarez is already 27, and the Pirates control him through his age-29 season. The only point in signing Alvarez long-term would be to control seasons beyond that, and Alvarez and Boras would surely want to be paid quite well to give up those seasons.
The problem is that it's not clear how valuable Alvarez will be in his thirties. His raw power is outstanding, on par with Davis', but only so much of Alvarez's raw power is usable, because of his struggles with strikeouts (he whiffed at least 180 times in both 2012 and 2013) and hitting for average. The track records of sluggers with serious strikeout issues are spotty -- Mark Reynolds, for example, was productive while striking out prodigiously in his mid-twenties, but he hasn't had a truly strong offensive season since age 27. Ryan Howard's career and contract provide more cautionary tales. Alvarez's low averages (he's only hit above .244 once in his career) are already a concern. His plate appearances so far in 2014 have looked much better than in years past, so perhaps there's a faint possibility that Alvarez can master his strikeout issues. Unless he can prove himself over a longer time frame, however, it makes little sense to bet on that.
Then there are Alvarez's other skills. He's become an average third baseman and baserunner, but it's questionable whether he'll be able to maintain his current defensive and baserunning abilities as he heads into his thirties, given his bulky physique and lack of raw speed.
Given the likelihood that Alvarez won't age well, then, the Pirates' best course of action may simply be to enjoy the three years of him they have left. Signing a big, strikeout-prone slugger into his thirties doesn't make sense, even accounting for the slim possibility that he'll break out and become the next Chris Davis. Long-term contracts are calculated risks, and other things being equal, it's better to take the risk on a younger, more athletic player like Marte.
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