Quick Hits: Rodon, Soriano, Abreu, Brewers

In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Keith Law blasted the North Carolina State coaching staff's decision to let Carlos Rodon throw 134 pitches in a start on Friday night. Rodon is expected to be one of the top picks in June's amateur draft, yet Law felt the southpaw's promising future was being risked by a coaching staff desperate to reach the NCAA tournament.

Here's some news from around the Majors...

  • If Alfonso Soriano doesn't retire at season's end, he'd like to play through 2016, preferably as a member of the Yankees, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (Insider-only link). If he has a tough season this year, however, Soriano will retire. The veteran outfielder is in last year of his contract and has previously discussed retiring after 2014, as Soriano's health will also factor into his decision.
  • Bobby Abreu is hitting .500 in Triple-A and is "the best hitter Las Vegas has got by far," a talent evaluator tells Mike Puma of the New York Post. Since Abreu can opt out of his minor league deal on April 30, the Mets will have to make a decision soon, and they could free up a roster spot by moving one of Ike Davis or Lucas Duda.
  • The Brewers have a dozen players making the Major League minimum salary (or slightly above), and this influx of cheap, young talent helps the smaller-market club afford the six $10MM+ salaries on the payroll, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes.
  • Scheduling and tougher PED testing/penalities are two factors for increased injuries this season, according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman.  Travel during both the regular season and Spring Training has become more arduous at a time when players' bodies might not be recovering as quickly due to a lack of performance enhancers.
  • Baseball America's Matt Eddy recaps the week's minor league transactions. 

Edward Creech contributed to this post.



Boras: Drew/Morales "Damaged" By Comments In ESPN Story

Scott Boras, the agent for unsigned free agents Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales, claims his clients have been "damaged" by comments from the anonymous executives quoted in a recent ESPN story, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Boras' remarks come two days after the MLBPA requested the Commissioner's Office to investigate those comments made to ESPN's Buster Olney, which appeared in a column he penned Wednesday.

"It's a clear violation of the CBA," Boras told Heyman. "As many as five executives continue to use ESPN as a conduit to violate the collective bargaining agreement. Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew were damaged by these comments.

Boras also warns, "The integrity of the game is challenged when players of this stature have yet to have a negotiation due to the system," adding there needs to be a "remedy" for the pair, which could take the form of monetary damages or relief from a future qualifying offer. Boras points out not only does the CBA disallow negative comments from MLB team officials, which could depress player markets, but also provides for the possibility of monetary damages in such circumstances. Boras says the issue is about the "conduct" of the executives, not the timing suggesting a grievance procedure needs to be implemented where all concerned parties are placed under oath.

MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred disagrees with Boras' assertion the market for Drew and Morales has been damaged by the comments. "It is ludicrous, absurd, that one [Internet] report somehow alters the market for players who have been out there for months," Manfred told Heyman.



NL West Notes: Francoeur, D'Backs, Sandoval, Hedges

Rookies are usually the easiest targets for clubhouse pranks, yet veteran Jeff Francoeur was the victim of a month-long running gag from his teammates on the Padres' Triple-A affiliate.  Padres farmhand Cody Decker created a short YouTube video chronicling the prank, and it's definitely good for a few chuckles.  Here's some news from around the majors...

  • The Diamondbacks' slow start has made them "candidates for early change" in the view of executives from around the league, ESPN's Buster Olney tweets.  Manager Kirk Gibson and GM Kevin Towers both signed extensions in February that kept both men from being lame ducks in 2014, though there was speculation that this was a make-or-break year for the two men following consecutive .500 seasons for the Snakes.
  • Pablo Sandoval is off to a slow start in his contract year, and given how much speculation has already swirled about Sandoval's contract talks with the Giants, manager Bruce Bochy hopes that his third baseman is keeping his focus.  "He's the only one who can answer that I guess, if it's on his mind," Bochy tells MLB.com's Alex Espinoza.  "The one thing you don't want Pablo to do is to get away from playing the game the way he normally plays it -- with a lot of passion and enthusiasm. Thinking about the contract, it can be a distraction. He assured me it's not."
  • Padres catching prospect Austin Hedges continued to impress scouts during Spring Training, Tom Krasovic writes for Baseball America.  While the catcher still has a bit of work to do with the bat, a scout tells Krasovic that “Hedges probably could have caught in the big leagues two years ago. He is so advanced from a receiving and throwing standpoint. He was a treat to watch. Barring injury, he is going to be a big leaguer for a long time."  Hedges is one of the game's consensus top prospects (ranked 24th by MLB.com, 27th by Baseball America and 33rd by ESPN's Keith Law in their preseason lists) and he'll start the season at Double-A.






AL Central Notes: Benoit, Chisenhall, Fuld

It was on this day in 2009 that Mark Fidrych died at age 54 as the result of a freak truck repair accident.  Fidrych burst onto the scene as a Tigers rookie in 1976, posting a 2.34 ERA over 250 1/3 innings, starting the All-Star Game for the American League and capturing the AL Rookie Of The Year Award in the process.  His pitching aside, "The Bird" was even better known for his unique personality and quirky mound habits (such as talking to the ball or personally smoothing out cleat marks on the mound), as well as appearing on perhaps the greatest cover in Sports Illustrated history.  Though Fidrych's career was short, baseball fans will never forget one of the game's great characters.  The MLBTR staff extends our condolences to Fidrych's family and friends on this anniversary of his passing.

Here's the latest from around the AL Central...

  • Joaquin Benoit and Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski both had nothing but good things to say about the veteran reliever's tenure in Motown, but the Tigers didn't make Benoit a contract offer last winter.  Dombrowski tells John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press that “When it came down to it, we had Joe Nathan over Joaquin as a closer, and that’s the direction we decided to pursue.  We kept a pulse of his free-agent situation all winter long. But it just looked like he was going to (cost) a little more than we wanted to pay for a set-up guy."  Benoit ended up signing a two-year, $15.5MM deal with the Padres.
  • Lonnie Chisenhall is hitting well but could be the victim of a roster crunch, so a reader asked Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (as part of a mailbag piece) if the Indians could possibly deal the third baseman.  Hoynes believes it's generally too early for teams to be exploring the trade market, barring an injury, and Chisenhall is still an unproven commodity at the Major League level.  Since Chisenhall is 25 years old and only a couple of years removed from being regarded as the Tribe's top prospect, I'd think Cleveland would need a big return to consider moving Chisenhall, even though Carlos Santana has seemingly taken over at third base.
  • Sam Fuld could be an interesting pickup for the Twins, 1500ESPN.com's Derek Wetmore opines, as he would add depth to a Minnesota team that is thin on outfield options.  The Athletics designated Fuld for assignment yesterday.



AL East Notes: Red Sox, Lester, Hanrahan, Rays

The possibility exists that at some point this season, the Red Sox could field a lineup, along with a good chunk of their rotation and bullpen, that is comprised almost exclusively of players and pitchers who have played only for Boston, writes Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald.  Thanks to the club's emphasis on homegrown talent, injuries/days off for David Ortiz, A.J. Pierzynski, David Ross, and Mike Napoli could make this idea a reality sometime this summer.  Here's more out of the AL East..

  • Two winters ago, the Red Sox were able to find success by overpaying free agents on an average annual basis while avoiding long-term deals, but they're mistaken if they think they can do the same with Jon Lester, writes Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com.  Boston reportedly offered the standout pitcher a four-year, $70MM contract extension before the start of the season.
  • Rob Bradford of WEEI.com agrees that the Red Sox are making a mistake in their handling of the contract talks with Lester, as the southpaw has no real reason to take such a relatively below-market extension.  Such a deal would also likely not sit well with the MLBPA, which Lester recognizes.  "I don't want to be the guy where you sign a deal and then a guy like [Felix Doubront] comes up and says (sarcastically), 'Thanks Jon for helping me out.' That's the tough part," Lester said.  "You've got to balance what makes you happy and still have to take into account where the Players' Association is, you have to take into account the market and what's fair, and then you do what makes you happyIf you're a little bit below market value and it makes you happy, who cares? If you're astronomically below market value, then that's where you need to look at it."
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe believes that the Yankees are the best bet to sign free agent reliever Joel Hanrahan.  The former Pirates closer is set to audition for teams on Thursday in Tampa, Florida.  The Mets, Angels, Rangers, Rockies, Royals, Athletics, Red Sox, and Rays are also said to be among the teams with interest in the 32-year-old.
  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times looks at the Rays and their ability to keep their young players under team control.  Of course, those type of deals aren't offered to all good young players, and not all accept it, not wanting to trade off larger future earnings for security.  Right-hander Alex Cobb and outfielders Desmond Jennings and Wil Myers are among the young notables who don't have long-term pacts.



Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Yankees, Buehrle, D'Backs

On this date in 2008, construction workers at the new Yankee Stadium site dug up a Red Sox jersey buried in concrete. The tattered David Ortiz jersey, which was later auctioned off to raise money for the Jimmy Fund, was buried by a Bronx construction worker, a Red Sox fan, who had hoped to put a hex on the Bombers.  Here's this week's look around the baseball blogosphere..

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Zach can be reached at ZachBBWI@gmail.com.  



NL Central Notes: Cubs, Pirates

Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Gordon Wittenmyer opines that the Cardinals should be the model for the Cubs as they work to establish a player development pipeline. The reigning NL champs haven't drafted in the single digits in 16 years, but have continued to find major league contributors in later rounds, including 2013 All-Star Allen Craig. "Anybody can pick out a No. 1 selection and think that’s a great deal," former Cubs GM Dallas Green commented. "But you make 30 or 40 selections [in a draft], and three or four of those guys have gotta play." Here are two more NL Central links:

  • Cubs scouts and crosscheckers convened last week to discuss the team's strategy for this year's draft, but the front office isn't ready to narrow its draft board down to a final 25 players, according to GM Jed Hoyer (via a report from MLB.com's Carrie Muskat). Club executives have reportedly been in attendance at recent starts by high school right-hander Tyler Kolek, who has shot up draft prospect lists this spring.
  • Bob Cohn of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review profiled Pirates prospect Stetson Allie, who was drafted as a pitcher but is now a first baseman. In just 26 2/3 innings across low- and high-A, Allie compiled a 7.76 ERA and walked 37 batters. He dominated low-A in 2013 as an infielder, however, hitting .324/.414/.607.



Minor Moves: Clement, Hensley, Threets

We'll round up tonight's minor moves here:

  • Jeff Clement has retired, The Des Moines Register reports. Originally drafted third overall in 2005 by the Mariners, Clement never caught on in the majors, and ends his career with a .218/.277/.371 Major League line. His last big league appearance came in 2012 with the Pirates. Now a father of four, the 30-year-old tells The Register that he plans to return to school.
  • The Orioles have signed Steven Hensley, who was released by the Rockies in March, Baseball America's Matt Eddy reports. The 27-year-old has never appeared in the majors. He worked almost entirely out of the bullpen for upper-level affiliates of the Rockies and Mariners last season, compiling a 4.24 ERA.
  • The Dodgers have signed lefty Erick Threets, who was pitching for the independent Long Island Ducks, according to Eddy. Last we heard, Threets was looking for a job in Asia.
  • The Marlins have inked infielder Rich Poythress, who was released by the Mariners in March, per Eddy. Poythress, who has yet to reach the majors, was sent to Double-A.
  • The A's have signed second baseman Colin Walsh, who was let go by the Cardinals last month, Eddy reports. The 24-year-old reached Double-A for the Cardinals last season.
  • Dontrelle Willis was added to the active roster of the Fresno Grizzlies, the Giants' Triple-A club, according to a tweet from the team. D-Train struggled in 21 innings with the Angels' Triple-A affiliate in 2013, posting a 6.43 ERA. 
  • The Nationals have selected the contract of starter Blake Treinen, the International League transactions page shows. Treinen was pitching at Triple-A, and has never appeared in the majors. The right-hander came over in last winter's three-team trade with the Mariners and A's. He's been used almost exclusively as a starter in recent years in the minors, where he owns a 3.73 ERA. Baseball America ranked him as the Nats' 23rd-best prospect this year, but wrote that most evaluators expect him to end up in middle relief.
  • The Nats have inked right-hander Paolo Espino, formerly of the Cubs organization, according to Eddy. The right-hander, who works as a swingman, has yet to reach the majors but has significant Triple-A experience.



Quick Hits: Pineda, A's, Sandoval

MLB officials plan to discuss the Michael Pineda pine tar incident with the Yankees, though a suspension isn't expected, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com reports. Pineda had what Kuty describes as a brown, oily substance on his hand during Thursday's start against the Red Sox, but league spokesman spokesman Pat Courtney notes that the right-hander was never seen applying a foreign substance, and the Red Sox never raised the issue. A couple more Major League notes on a slow night at MLBTR:

  • The rotating cast for the closer's job in Oakland has continued despite the club's acquisition of Jim Johnson this offseason, writes MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby. The A's have had eight different pitchers lead the team in saves over the past 13 seasons. Manager Bob Melvin says he "can definitely see" Johnson regaining the role, however.
  • Giants manager Bruce Bochy says Pablo Sandoval has assured him that his contract situation hasn't been a distraction in the season's early going, according to a report from Alex Espinoza of MLB.com. Sandoval is hitting just .143/.265/.238 thus far. He's scheduled to become a free agent after the season, but extension talks with the Giants have reportedly been shut down.



AL Notes: Indians, Fuld, Lester

Dr. James Andrews tells MLB Network Radio (via MetsBlog) that a number of factors have contributed to an increase in Tommy John surgeries throughout baseball. One issue is that high school pitchers are throwing too hard, and their ligaments aren't maturing quickly enough to keep up with their velocity. Year-round baseball is another issue, as is throwing breaking balls at a young age. High school pitchers who throw harder than 80-85 MPH also run the risk of having arm issues. Here are a few notes from around the American League.




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