The Brewers are hoping that a pair of late free agent signings and the return of two key bats will help them improve upon their fourth-place finish in a stacked NL Central division.
Major League Signings
- Matt Garza, RHP: Four years, $50MM. Club/vesting option for 2018.
- Francisco Rodriguez, RHP: One year, $3.25MM.
- Total Spend: $53.25MM
Notable Minor League Signings
- Mark Reynolds ($2MM base if he makes team), Lyle Overbay ($1.5MM base if he makes team), Zach Duke, Pete Orr, Matt Pagnozzi, Irving Falu
Trades and Claims
- Acquired LHP Will Smith from the Royals in exchange for OF Norichika Aoki.
- Acquired LHP Luis Ortega from the Red Sox in exchange for RHP Burke Badenhop.
- Claimed IF Elian Herrera off waivers from the Dodgers.
- Claimed LHP Wei-Chung Wang from the Pirates in the Rule 5 Draft.
Though Milwaukee's starters finished the season well, the team's first-half struggles were pronounced. Even after the addition of Kyle Lohse -- who pitched well in his debut season with the team -- the Brewers' rotation combined for a 4.86 ERA prior to the All-Star break (third-worst in all of baseball). That mark dropped to a stellar 3.36 in the second half thanks to turnarounds from Yovani Gallardo, Wily Peralta and Marco Estrada.
However, Milwaukee lacked a clear fifth starter, as 12 different pitchers started games for the team in 2013. That's no longer an issue, as the addition of Garza not only improves the team's chances of sustaining its second-half surge, it gives manager Ron Roenicke no questions about which five pitchers will be taking the hill on a regular basis. Garza, Lohse, Gallardo, Estrada and Peralta form a solid quintet that could be one of the better rotations in the National League.
The Brewers also entered the offseason with a good deal of uncertainty in the bullpen, which made the decision to trade Badenhop for a low-level minor league arm a bit puzzling. Nonetheless, the additions of Smith and Rodriguez give Roenicke two arms to bolster his relief corps. Smith broke out in Kansas City last season, posting a strong 3.24 ERA with 11.6 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 33 2/3 innings (he was even better as a reliever, as he yielded four runs in four innings in his lone start of 2013). Smith held opposing lefties to a .557 OPS, and even righties managed just a .684 OPS against him. He could also be deployed as a starting pitcher should the club see some injuries in the rotation. Or, the club could prefer to Smith him in his best role to date and turn to Tyler Thornburg or Mike Fiers should a starter go down.
Rodriguez, the club's only other Major League signing besides Garza, signed his third separate one-year deal with the Brewers this offseason and provides a nice fallback option should Jim Henderson falter as the club's closer. K-Rod was outstanding for the Brewers in 24 2/3 innings before being traded to Baltimore for Nick Delmonico last year. Milwaukee now gets to keep Delmonico and deploy Rodriguez from its bullpen once again.
The biggest need for Milwaukee may simply have been to make sure the starters are able to take the field. Aramis Ramirez missed much of 2013 with injury, Ryan Braun was suspended for the season's second half and Corey Hart never played a game at first base after undergoing a pair of knee surgeries.
The club now is faced with questions surrounding those players. Will Ramirez, who turns 36 in June, be able to stay healthy? How will Braun respond to the media attention that he will undoubtedly receive all season and the negative reactions in visiting parks (and potentially his own home park as well)?
Perhaps the biggest question facing Milwaukee, though, is its first base situation. The Brewers were very interested in a reunion with Hart, but they neglected to match Seattle's price. The Mariners guaranteed Hart $6MM with the chance to earn up to $13MM total after incentives. Milwaukee's best offer to Hart, reportedly, allowed him to max out at $8MM. The Brewers were also connected to James Loney, though they balked at his asking price as well, and Loney returned to the Rays on a three-year, $21MM deal. Another possibility would have been Ike Davis, but GM Doug Melvin was unwilling to part with right-hander Tyler Thornburg to make a trade happen.
In the end, Reynolds was signed with the promise that he was a virtual lock to make the club out of Spring Training. The 30-year-old possesses light-tower power but also strikes out at a prolific rate and found himself released by the Indians last year. Reynolds got off to one of the hottest starts in recent memory but fell into what could be the worst slump of his career prior to being let go. He could platoon with Overbay or Juan Francisco, but each member of that trio comes with more red flags and question marks than guarantees.
The Brewers will soon learn if Khris Davis can be their everyday left fielder, or if that will be something they need to address in future offseasons. Davis posted a whopping .279/.353/.596 batting line with 11 homers in just 153 plate appearances last season, indicating that he has the potential to hit 25 or maybe even 30-plus homers in the Major Leagues. However, he's also never been too highly regarded as a prospect and comes with some defensive limitations. Already 26 years old, this will be somewhat of a make-or-break year for Davis.
Lastly, Jean Segura is penciled in as the everyday shortstop, but he will need to prove that he's capable of producing over a full season. The one-time Rookie of the Year candidate finished with strong overall numbers but batted a mere .241/.268/.315 in the season's second half.
Deal Of Note
Brewers GM Doug Melvin had drawn plenty of ire from fans and media alike for his lack of activity on the free agent market prior to signing Garza in late January. Milwaukee was the only club not to have signed a Major League free agent at that point, but Melvin's patience paid off, as he was able to get Garza for roughly the same price that netted the Twins Ricky Nolasco more than two months earlier.
There was some uncertainty regarding Garza's status, as after initial reports that the agreement was reached, pending a physical, the Brewers issued a statement to say that no deal was in place. While teams often refuse to comment on signings that are reported prior to completion of the physical, it's highly uncommon for a club to actually deny the deal and say the two sides are still in discussion.
Eventually, the deal was announced with a unique and complex fifth-year option that 1) was likely the cause for the delay and 2) demonstrates just how wary teams were of Garza's health issues. The Brewers have a very cheap $5MM option on Garza for the 2018 season that drops to just $1MM if he is on the DL for 130 days during any of the previous four seasons. However, it can vest at $13MM if he pitches 110 games over the first four years of the deal, is not on the disabled list at the end of the 2017 season and throws at least 115 innings in 2017. With $1MM available in incentives each season, Garza can earn up to $67MM over five years. His $50MM guarantee marks the largest free-agent expenditure in team history.
Melvin continued a trend we've seen from his team in recent years by waiting out the market in order to secure a couple of solid values on late-signing free agents. Milwaukee's rotation should be improved and will be a strength for this team. Full seasons of Ramirez and Braun will go a long way toward improving the offense, but the production of Davis and Segura loom as uncertainties. If even one of those two performs at a high level, it may be enough to overshadow what seems likely to be a first-base deficiency. Milwaukee plays in an exceptionally difficult division, with three teams coming off a season of 90 or more wins. Despite that, there's enough talent on the team to contend for a Wild Card spot if everything breaks their way.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Baseball prospect rankings are always fascinating, but often unsatisfying. Once all of the exciting projecting and future lineup construction has been completed, you are left to wait for the player to develop and reach the bigs. But youthful players more generally -- as distinguished from prospects -- can and often are a thing of the present. So, which teams have the best assemblage of young talent, prospects or otherwise? According to Jason Parks and the Baseball Prospectus staff, the Cardinals lead the way in a top five that belongs to the National League. The Pirates (#4) also land in that grouping, but the rest is occupied by National League East clubs: the Nationals (#2), Braves (#3), and Marlins (#5).
Here's more from the N.L. East:
- The Mets land at 12th on that list, led of course by a trio of young pitchers. One of those -- 21-year-old Mets hurler Noah Syndergaard -- has always wowed scouts with his stuff, but Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that he has increasingly revealed a competitive personality as he's come out of his shell in New York. Mets brass is reportedly excited not only about Syndergaard's MLB-ready fastball, but also his attitude toward the role of being a starter. Of course, he does not figure to be much of a factor on the big league level this year, though scouts tell Martino that he could retire MLB batters at his current stage of development.
- Speaking of prospects, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America compiled a list of the players who received some consideration for inclusion in the outlet's Top 100. The two most notable names, perhaps, were A.J. Cole and Brian Goodwin of the Nationals, who appeared somewhere on every writer's list of the top 150 prospects and peaked at 49th and 51st, respectively. It is worth checking through the names for "just-missed" prospects from other teams.
- Freddy Garcia of the Braves is at quite the opposite side of his career at age 37. As MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports, Garcia has started the spring with a strong case for a rotation or pen slot, having now kept opponents off the basepaths entirely in his first five innings. If he ends up not receiving a big league spot, however, Garcia says that he will retire rather than spending time in the minors waiting for another shot.
There are now three free agents remaining who are tied to draft-pick compensation. For two of them -- defense-first infielder Stephen Drew and defensively-limited slugger Kendrys Morales -- the situation appears simple. Their limitations prevent them from being the kind of premier players who drive their own market. And, at present, their skillsets do not have the multiple suitors (i.e., teams with both need for and motivation to spend on that player) necessary to create a small bidding war.
But that is not the situation of Ervin Santana, a starting pitcher who could, in theory, upgrade any rotation in baseball. (Indeed, he's been tied to a laundry list of clubs.) He has posted 200+ innings with a sub-4.00 ERA in three of the last four years. At age 31, Santana is not particularly young, but neither is he particularly old.
As the spring goes on, potential demand is likely only to rise as the inevitable arm injuries continue to occur. Santana is the only impact hurler left on the open market. Meanwhile, the most attractive trade targets increasingly seem likely to stay home for the time being.
In other words, Santana's market is still wide open; after all, the Brewers were a surprising, late-March landing spot for Kyle Lohse last year. In that respect, it is hardly shocking to hear that Santana has not dropped his demand, which reportedly stands in the range of four years and $50MM (the comp du jour for good-but-imperfect starters).
Though there is plenty of time for Santana to find a taker for his price tag, of course, he could ultimately reach a point at which waiting for a buyer means missing regular-season action. Agent Bean Stringfellow said recently that his team had discussed the possibility of waiting to sign until after the June amateur draft to shed the drag of compensation. "Ervin Santana is a front-line starting pitcher. He will be compensated as such," said Stringfellow. "Whatever it takes to make that happen, we will make it happen, simple as that." If it comes down to it, though, would Santana take what he can get, as did Lohse? Or would he really be willing to test the uncharted waters of a qualifying offer holdout?
So, the poll covers two questions: First, what kind of deal will Santana ultimately get? And second, when will he get it?
Click here for the results.
Let's take a look in at the American League West:
- After being acquired at the trade deadline last year for Michael Morse, outfielder Xavier Avery of the Mariners has the attention of new manager Lloyd McClendon, reports MLB.com's Greg Johns. The speedy 24-year-old is very much in contention to join Seattle's outfield mix, said McClendon, who gushed that Avery "has a couple tools that are game-changing."
- Another recently traded player, David Freese of the Angels, is all but assured a regular spot with his new club. As Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times recently reported, for Halos' GM Jerry Dipoto, getting Freese was in part about taking advantage of his former club's good work. "The Cardinals are in a pretty unique position of depth, like the Braves in the '90's," he explained. "That made Freese an expendable piece for them. Any time a player is traded, it doesn't mean it's a pending disaster for the other team." Dipoto said that the club is not expecting Freese to be "a gaudy, 30-home run third baseman," explaining that the team "understand[s] what we're getting."
- The most irreplaceable player in the game, without question, is Angels center fielder Mike Trout. In an ESPN Insider piece, Dave Cameron argues that Trout should decline to accept an extension of the type rumored (giving up three or four years of free agency with a total $140MM to $170MM guarantee). As Cameron argues, Trout has done enough already that he'll earn a huge arbitration salary even if he suffers unexpected performance decline or takes a serious injury. With his downside protected in all but the most dramatic of scenarios, and the Angels' roster profile not inspiring much future confidence, Cameron says that the rewards are worth the risk of Trout waiting to sign a new deal.
Here are Monday's minor moves from around the baseball world...
- The Orioles announced that they have re-signed left-hander Chris Jones to a minor league deal. Jones, 25, was designated for assignment and released last week in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Nelson Cruz. Jones has a career 3.42 ERA in the minors and limited opposing left-handed hitters to a .196/.291/.268 batting line in 128 plate appearances last season.
- Nippon Professional Baseball's Rakuten Golden Eagles have signed right-handers Loek Van Mil and Sergio Mitre, according to a report from Japanese media outlet Sanspo (Japanese link). While the Sanspo report indicates that each signed for $24K, MLBTR has learned that the $24K figure is what Van Mil will earn in the month of March. HIs total 2014 salary is $150K, and his deal contains performance bonuses. Presumably, the $24K is just one month of Mitre's salary as well, which would move him up a few brackets in the NPB payscale bracket that was recently laid out by NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman. Van Mil, a towering 7'1" righty from the Netherlands, was originally a Twins farmhand (Minnesota traded him to the Angels for Brian Fuentes in 2010). The 29-year-old has a career 3.01 ERA at Double-A but has thrown just 21 innings in Triple-A. Mitre hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2011 and has a 5.21 ERA in 454 2/3 Major League innings.
- As can be seen in MLBTR's DFA Tracker, David Cooper of the Indians is the only player currently in DFA limbo (the Rangers claimed Andy Parrino off waivers from the A's earlier today).
The Cubs added flippable veteran arms, assembled a center field platoon, and brought in a new backup catcher.
Major League Signings
- Jason Hammel, SP: one year, $6MM.
- Jose Veras, RP: one year, $4MM. $5.5MM club option for 2015 with a $150K buyout.
- Ryan Sweeney, OF: two years, $3.5MM. $2.5MM club option for 2016 with a $500K buyout.
- Wesley Wright, RP: one year, $1.425MM. Under team control for 2015 as an arbitration eligible player.
- James McDonald, SP: one year, $1MM. Under team control for 2015 as an arbitration eligible player.
- Total spend: $15.925MM.
Notable Minor League Signings
- Emilio Bonifacio, Chris Coghlan, Darnell McDonald, Ryan Roberts, Chris Valaika, Tsuyoshi Wada, Casper Wells, Tommy Hottovy, Jonathan Sanchez, John Baker, Eli Whiteside, Aaron Cunningham, Ryan Kalish, Mitch Maier, Lars Anderson
Trades and Claims
- Acquired C George Kottaras from Royals for cash.
- Acquired OF Justin Ruggiano from Marlins for OF Brian Bogusevic.
- Dioner Navarro, Brian Bogusevic, Dave Sappelt, Kevin Gregg, Scott Baker, Marcos Mateo, Daniel Bard, Brooks Raley
In an alternate universe, the Cubs' 2013-14 offseason could have been very exciting. They fired manager Dale Sveum in late September, and for about a week there was talk of a big-money run at Joe Girardi, who would have marked a return to the team's "name" managers. Instead, Girardi re-upped with the Yankees. The Cubs interviewed A.J. Hinch, Manny Acta, Dave Martinez, Eric Wedge, and Brad Ausmus for their managerial position but ended up hiring someone less famous than any of them in former big league infielder Rick Renteria. Renteria has no MLB managing experience, but did manage eight seasons in the Marlins' and Padres' farm systems before becoming a Padres bench coach. The Cubs would probably admit they missed the mark on Sveum, making Renteria the fourth Cubs manager in the last five years. He signed a three-year deal with two options, and hopefully the Cubs will be satisfied with his handling of young players and find managerial stability.
Having traded Matt Garza and Scott Feldman during the 2013 season, the Cubs were in need of veteran rotation depth for 2014. They decided not to revisit the Scott Baker idea, letting him walk as a free agent. Though last summer's Feldman trade netted a rotation candidate in the form of Arrieta, he encountered shoulder tightness in the offseason.
Cubs president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have been on the job for three offseasons now, and Hammel is their fourth potential sign-and-flip starting pitcher. The key return in the Paul Maholm deal, Arodys Vizcaino, is still trying to come back from the Tommy John procedure he had two full years ago. He could still become an impact reliever, according to Baseball America, which ranked him tenth among Cubs prospects. Feldman brought Arrieta and reliever Pedro Strop from the Orioles last summer, as well as international bonus pool slots 3 and 4. The Cubs ultimately went nearly 50% over their international bonus pool, so the slots acquired from Baltimore can be considered nothing more than $58K in overage tax savings.
Having gotten nothing in return for Baker, the Cubs spent close than $12MM in salary on the three flipped starters. Vizcaino, Arrieta, and Strop are all under team control through 2017, and if the Cubs walk away with multiple seasons of solid cheap relief work, the whole thing was worthwhile, if not spectacular.
When McDonald posted a 3.56 ERA in his first 331 innings with the Pirates, it looked as though they had found something in their 2010 trade with the Dodgers. The wheels fell off in July 2012, however, and he posted a 6.28 ERA in 104 2/3 frames thereafter, plus time spent in the minors on 2013. A shoulder injury surfaced in May last year, and by September, McDonald was a free agent. There's no telling whether the Cubs can get him back to usefulness, but they didn't risk much to try.
The Cubs stumbled into a reunion with Kevin Gregg last year, and although they didn't manage to flip the closer in a trade, he did provide a few months of stability at the back end of their bullpen. Veras, 33, was signed in December 2012 to be the Astros' closer and was quite good at the job in 43 innings. The Astros flipped Veras to the Tigers for a pair of far-off prospects in Danry Vasquez and David Paulino, and it stands to reason the Cubs will consider doing the same with Veras if he succeeds in the first half. Veras apparently wasn't the Cubs' first or only choice in right-handed relief this offseason, as reports linked them to Edward Mujica, John Axford, Joba Chamberlain, and Jesse Crain.
The Cubs signed Wesley Wright to an affordable deal to bolster their left-handed relief. In a world where Boone Logan, Javier Lopez, and J.P. Howell garner eight-figure commitments and even a 38-year-old Scott Downs costs $4MM, the $1.425MM commitment to Wright has a chance to return profit. The Cubs also took some long shots in this area, signing Jonathan Sanchez, Tsuyoshi Wada, and Tommy Hottovy to minor league deals.
Catcher Dioner Navarro wound up signing a two-year, $8MM free agent deal with Toronto on the strength of 266 strong plate appearances with the 2013 Cubs. With Welington Castillo's solid play, the Cubs had no need to pony up to retain Navarro, who they had signed as a backup for $1.75MM. I am curious as to whether the Cubs received any decent offers on Navarro during the summer, however. Regardless, they acquired three reasonable options to back up Castillo this year in Kottaras, Baker, and Whiteside, the last two on minor league deals. The Cubs reportedly had looked into a more established backup in Kurt Suzuki. However, the walk-happy Kottaras, a former Epstein acquisition for the Red Sox, will caddy for Castillo to start the season.
Junior Lake, 24 later this month, hit a respectable .284/.332/.428 in 254 plate appearances for the Cubs last year while learning to play left field. While the Cubs might be happy to see Lake establish himself as a second-division regular, their entire current outfield seems comprised of placeholders for Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, and perhaps Kris Bryant if he moves off third base. Schierholtz endured some trade talk but is back as the Cubs' right fielder against right-handed pitching for his walk year. Ryan Sweeney could take a similar platoon role as the team's primary center fielder, though in last year's limited sample the left-handed hitter handled same-side pitching well. Kudos to the Cubs for re-signing Sweeney for just $3.5MM plus a club option in October, before the market for good fourth outfielder types was established at two years and $10-12MM by Rajai Davis, David DeJesus, Nate McLouth, and David Murphy.
The Cubs reached out to Chris Young early in the offseason, but he ended up signing a one-year, $7.25MM deal with the Mets. Plan B for a right-handed hitting outfielder in Young's mold appears to have been Justin Ruggiano, who Hoyer described as "a better fit for our roster" than Bogusevic. Ruggiano, a power/speed guy, has hit .270/.347/.544 in 305 plate appearances against southpaws over the last three years and will likely spell Schierholtz and Sweeney.
The Cubs' biggest question mark is the future of 29-year-old righty Jeff Samardzija, their nominal ace. With two years of team control remaining, the Cubs have tried to extend him but have found a gap between the valuations of each side. Rather than further reset the extension market and give Samardzija a $100MM deal, the Cubs explored trades this offseason. The Diamondbacks, Nationals, Blue Jays, Orioles, Yankees, and Braves were among the reported suitors, but by the Winter Meetings the trade barometer had gone from likely to unlikely. On December 11th, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun wrote that the Cubs wanted Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, and a third player from the Blue Jays. Prospect gurus suggest Sanchez is around the 30th best prospect in the game, and Stroman around the 60th.
Though teams are rightfully veering well away from ERA in decision-making, Samardzija's marks of 4.34 last year and 5.47 in the season's final three months certainly don't help his trade value. Though a third of Samardzija's team control will have evaporated by the trade deadline and the pitcher finds an extension with a new team unlikely, the Cubs are gambling he can raise his stock with a big first half in 2014 (barring a surprise trade this month).
The Cubs wound up adding Hammel and McDonald, though they were thinking much bigger with a pursuit of the offseason's top prize, Masahiro Tanaka. The Japanese ace signed a seven-year, $155MM deal with the Yankees with an opt-out clause after the fourth year, and required a $20MM release fee as well. If speculation as to the Cubs' six-year, $120MM offer with no opt-out clause is accurate, then the Yankees were offering nearly 11% more in AAV, an extra year, and the extremely valuable opt-out. That suggests the Cubs were not close on Tanaka. Of the ten MLB contracts signed with true opt-out clauses, only Tanaka's allows for the player to join a new team before age 30. The Cubs will compete in 2015 if we're being optimistic. Burning his first year on a rebuilding season could be acceptable as part of a six-year deal, but potentially paying Tanaka $108MM for the next four years didn't work for this team. The Cubs had also been an early offseason speculative suitor for David Price, whose two-year window of control and huge prospect cost also fit poorly for the Cubs unless they had reason to expect a below-market extension.
The Cubs' bid for Tanaka and speculative connection to Price stems from the question of who their future mound ace will be when all of their hitting prospects reach the Majors, especially if Samardzija is not extended or does not take the next step. Slender but well-regarded prospect C.J. Edwards could become that ace, and maybe the Cubs will take a close-to-the-Majors pitcher with their fourth overall pick in the June draft. Though Bryant projects as a future All-Star, perhaps Jonathan Gray would have been a better pick for the Cubs with their #2 overall choice in the last draft. There's a good chance the Cubs' next ace pitcher will have to come from outside the organization.
The Cubs also face questions at every infield position. First baseman Anthony Rizzo is signed through 2019, but hasn't hit lefties in his big league career and batted .217/.325/.374 from June onward last season. 27-year-old power righty Andrew Cashner, who the Cubs sent to the Padres for Rizzo, has developed into a more valuable pitcher than anyone in the Cubs' current rotation. Second baseman Darwin Barney didn't hit enough in 2013 to justify regular playing time, and figures to be challenged by prospects this year. Shortstop Starlin Castro, signed through 2019, was surprisingly below replacement level last season. A lawsuit with a baseball school in the Dominican may have affected his play, but he'll be pushed by top prospect Javier Baez in 2014. The Cubs' ragtag group of third basemen showed surprising pop last year, and they have good organizational depth beyond stopgap veterans Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy.
Deal of Note
The Cubs made a run at Roberto Hernandez during the Winter Meetings, but wound up reaching an agreement with Hammel in late January. The 31-year-old Hammel had surprised with a strong partial season in 2012 with the Orioles, bumping his average fastball velocity to almost 94 miles per hour and posting career-best strikeout and groundball rates. Hammel earned the Orioles' Opening Day nod but came back to Earth in 2013, posting a 4.97 ERA and hitting the DL with inflammation around the ulnar nerve in his elbow. If both Hammel and Samardzija are dealt this summer, it will mark the third consecutive season of the Cubs trading 40% of their rotation.
After a new front office came in and on punted on their first two seasons, the Cubs have assembled the fourth-best farm system in baseball, according to ESPN's Keith Law as well as Baseball America. Ideally, 2014 will be the team's final consolidation year before contending. If you think about it, three concession seasons in a market of this size is remarkable, the Mets notwithstanding. After this year, Epstein will have only two years left on his contract and even the Cubs' fanbase will start getting antsy.
The Cubs certainly tried to make some big statements this offseason. Imagine how the conversation would have changed had they hired Girardi, extended Samardzija, and signed Tanaka. The big moves didn't materialize, leaving Epstein and company with money kept in reserve for the first time. In the bigger picture, the Cubs seem to be holding off on embracing their status as a large market team until their $500MM Wrigley Field renovation project begins, potentially after this season if the dispute with rooftop owners can be resolved. Brighter times are ahead, but until then the world's most patient fanbase continues to be tested.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
2:15pm: Derek Holland has been placed on the 60-day disabled list in order to clear a 40-man roster spot for Parrino, the Rangers announced via press release.
1:42pm: The Rangers have claimed infielder Andy Parrino off waivers from the Athletics, according to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter). Parrino was designated for assignment last week when the Athletics acquired Jake Elmore from the White Sox.
Parrino was acquired from the Padres along with Andrew Werner in what now looks to be a lopsided trade, as San Diego landed right-hander Tyson Ross in the deal. The 28-year-old Parrino is a career .186/.295/.242 in 229 big league plate appearances between the two teams at the Major League level. He's a career .270/.351/.389 hitter in 863 PAs at the Triple-A level and has experience at shortstop, second base, third base, left field and right field in the Majors.
MONDAY: Bello received a $400K signing bonus and an invite to big league Spring Training, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes (Twitter link).
SATURDAY: The Braves are completing a minor league deal with Cuban catcher Yenier Bello, an industry source tells Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The contract includes a signing bonus and a Spring Training invitation.
Bello has reportedly drawn interest from as many as 20 MLB clubs. Terms of the agreement aren't yet known, but the 29-year-old wasn't expected to command a contract in the same range as recent Cuban signees such as Jose Dariel Abreu and Yasiel Puig. Bello is older than 23 and has more than three years of pro experience, so he won't count against the Braves' international spending limit.
In Cuba's Serie Nacional in 2011, Bello hit .274 and slugged 13 homers over the season's 90-game schedule, so he's expected to bring some power to the backstop position. Sanchez writes that he's likely to begin the season in the minor leagues, however. Evan Gattis currently projects as the starting catcher for the Braves, who also have Gerald Laird under contract for 2014.
The Orioles are nearing a minor league deal with former AL Cy Young winner Johan Santana, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio tweeted earlier today that Santana was in Orioles camp and wondered if something might be cooking between Baltimore and the Peter Greenberg cilent. The Orioles view Santana as a potential lefty reliever, tweets MLB.com's Britt Ghiroli.
Santana, who turns 35 in 10 days, did not pitch in 2013 after undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder for the second time in three years. Santana's last work came in 2012, when he was excellent through the season's first half. That strong stretch was highlighted by the first no-hitter in Mets history on June 1, when Santana shut down a strong Cardinals lineup. However, Santana also walked five in the game and needed a whopping 134 pitches to complete the no-no -- 26 more than he'd thrown in any other start of the year. Santana posted an 8.27 ERA over his next 49 innings before being shut down for the season.
One of the best Rule 5 Draft selections in history, Santana broke out with the Twins in 2002, posting a 2.99 ERA in 108 innings. Over the next five seasons in Minnesota, Santana posted a 2.92 ERA and won a pair of AL Cy Young Awards before being traded to the Mets for a package of prospects highlighted by Carlos Gomez and former No. 3 overall draft pick Phil Humber. Santana signed a six-year, $137.5MM extension with the Mets and was solid when on the field but looks poor in hindsight due to his injury troubles.
MONDAY: Twins officials denied having interest in Saunders to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo (Twitter link).
SATURDAY: The Twins have added Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to a rotation that struggled in 2013, but they might not be done making moves, 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson writes. The team is interested in free-agent starter Joe Saunders if they can get him cheaply enough.
Saunders struggled in Seattle last season, posting a 5.26 ERA with 5.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 183 innings. As Wolfson points out, however, other indicators, such as his ground-ball rate, suggested Saunders was at least somewhat better than that ERA. He has also generally been very durable throughout his career, a quality that could be useful to the Twins, who had nine pitchers make at least eight starts last season. After a rough 2013 in which he made $6.5MM, Saunders will likely make less next year. Wolfson reports that the Twins made Saunders a one-year, $8MM offer last January, but he declined in favor of signing with the Mariners.