MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark doesn't expect the Collective Bargaining Agreement to be reopened before its 2016 expiration to address issues with the qualifying offer system, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. "It’s very difficult to open up a CBA," said Clark. "Suffice it to say, if there are issues during the course of any agreement, we continue to have discussions that may not require the CBA be to opened up, making sure that whatever the concerns are, whatever the issues are, and if they can be discussed in some more formal fashion, so be it, but more often than not, come 2016 when we have an opportunity to sit down is when we’ll do so." Last night, Aaron Steen asked MLBTR readers about the qualifying offer and nearly 47% want to tweak the QO while 25% want to eliminate it entirely.
In National League news and notes on Oscar Sunday:
- With the ink barely dry on Homer Bailey's six-year, $105MM contract extension, the Reds will be in the same situation with starters Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Johnny Cueto next year. Owner Bob Castellini told the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay the team wants to retain all three. "We’re going to try to sign all these guys," Castellini said. "Whether we can or not, I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball."
- Castellini also told Fay he is not pleased with the media's coverage of the Reds' offseason because it has had an adverse affect on the team's revenues. "That season-ticket number is the most important number we can generate," said Castellini. "We knew we wanted to sign Homer. We knew we were going to make some other commitments. It’s not that we didn’t look. It gets written in such a way – 'Well, the Reds aren’t doing anything' – that really does affect people buying season tickets." Castellini provided Fay with details of the club's revenue generated through ticket sales, sponsorships, and the national TV contract adding neither he nor any of the other principal owners or investors have ever taken money out of the franchise.
- Last month, the Braves gave Jason Heyward a two-year, $13.3MM contract. In two years, the perfect storm of baseball's economics, Heyward's age, and actions taken by the Braves will set the 24-year-old up for a huge payday on a likely barren free agent market, according to Mike Petriello of ESPN.com in an Insider-only piece (subscription required).
- With mixed reviews to date, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez made his Spring Training debut yesterday. Phillies GM Ruban Amaro Jr. was upbeat about what he saw, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. "He probably threw better with his stuff as far as his velocity and breaking ball since he's been in camp," Amaro said. "I was encouraged that his stuff was better than it had been in his sides. And hopefully it will continue to progress in a positive way." Pitching coach Bob McClure added (as quoted by Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Inquirer), "I saw a very competitive (guy), and that is what I was really hoping for. And he might be one of those guys that’s not the best practice player, but you put him in a game and he competes." Reports surfaced last week Gonzalez could open the season in the minors.
- Solid pitching will be key to any improvement the Rockies hope to make this season. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick focuses on young starters Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler while the Denver Post's Troy E. Renck examines the Rockies' adherence to pitch counts to protect their starting rotation and the corresponding reliance on their bullpen, which could be called upon to record 10 or 11 outs every game.
On this date in 2005, wearing their regular-season home uniforms instead of the traditional batting-practice spring training jerseys, the Nationals in their first game ever beat the Mets in the exhibition opener at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida, 5-3. The first and last games the Expos played, before moving from Montreal to Washington to become the Nats, were also against Mets. This week's look around the baseball blogosphere..
- Lasorda's Lair spoke with Dodgers GM Ned Colletti.
- Blue Jays Plus wonders if Maicer Izturis can bounce back in 2014.
- Inside The Zona talks Gerardo Parra's new batting stance.
- The Beanball discusses Brett Gardner's new deal.
- Hidden Vigorish says the Bucs' starting pitching depth will be tested.
- Outside Pitch sizes up the Astros' closer options.
- Camden Depot runs down Nelson Cruz's red flags.
- The Shea Faithful wonders if clubs have changed the way they evaluate outfielders.
- Baseball News Source looks at five pitchers who are bounceback candidates.
- Reviewing The Brew has five thoughts as we head into March.
- MLB Reports looks into which managers are on the hot seat in 2014.
- Rays Colored Glasses examines the trade that almost was.
- i70 Baseball says Billy Butler is the key in KC.
- Blogging Mets backs the Kiner's Korner movement.
If you have a suggestion for this feature, Zach can be reached at ZachBBWI@gmail.com.
Ichiro Suzuki is entering the last year of his contract with the Yankees and, though he turns 41 years old in October, the outfielder tells ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews that he plans to play "not just a few" but "many" seasons past the 2014 campaign. “Retirement from baseball is something I haven’t even thought about....For me, I feel there’s no reason for me to retire right now," Suzuki said.
Suzuki has hit just .273/.305/.356 in 1939 PA over the last three seasons, missing only 13 games during that stretch though he is no longer producing like an everyday player. His playing time will be drastically reduced this season given that the Yankees have Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano slated for the regular outfield and DH positions, respectively.
While Suzuki says “there’s no reason for me not to play every day" and is physically preparing himself for a full 162 games, he admits that "when I first signed here I knew what I was getting into. I knew every year there would be changes and things would happen that maybe we can’t control."
“I don’t know how I’m going to feel once the season starts. I don’t know what it’s going to be like. But right now, it doesn’t change the way I prepare myself throughout the spring."
Despite his decline at the plate, Suzuki still brings a lot of value as a backup, if not as a starter. He has provided excellent right field defense (UZR/150 scores of +16 and +17.8 in 2012 and 2013, respectively) as a Yankee and is still a stolen base threat, not to mention his durability. Suzuki is 258 hits away from the 3000-hit plateau and only 236 hits away from a symbolic tie with Pete Rose's record 4256 hits (though, of course, 1278 of Suzuki's hits came in Japan).
If David Price isn't traded, "almost every baseball person one talks to mentions the Rays as the team to beat in the American League," Peter Gammons writes in his latest piece for his Gammons Daily website. Price has stayed in the fold despite multiple trade rumors this winter, with the Rays instead adding roster depth instead of moving another cornerstone player for prospects. The depth and continuity carrying over from 2013 is a big factor for Evan Longoria, who notes that "for the first time since I’ve been here, we have almost everyone back. We have a team that is going to play together two years in a row.”
Here's some more from around the AL East...
- The Rays' "laid back environment" was a key reason why Mark Lowe chose to sign a minor league deal with the club, MLB.com's Bill Chastain reports. Lowe notes that his choice came down to the Rays and Indians this winter, as those were the two clubs who "pushed the hardest" for his services. Tampa manager Joe Maddon said that the Rays originally tried to sign Lowe during the 2012-13 offseason.
- Jhonny Peralta said the Yankees offered him a three-year contract and the opportunity to play third base, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (Twitter links). The Yankees were Peralta's preferred Big Apple team since the Mets only offered him a two-year deal that Peralta described as "not really good." Of course, Peralta overcame the stigma of his 50-game PED suspension last season to sign a four-year, $53MM contract with the Cardinals as their everyday shortstop.
- Mike Napoli rejected a qualifying offer from the Red Sox last fall and the slugger felt the draft pick compensation limited his free agent options, Napoli tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. “It’s tough because it’s kind of holding you back,” Napoli said. “You get (to free agency) and it should be all the teams that want you. The way it is now, if a team doesn’t want to give up a pick, they’re not going to be interested.” It ended up being something of a moot point for Napoli, as he openly wanted to return to Boston and re-signed for a two-year, $32MM deal.
- There isn't any new news about David Ortiz's contract talks with the Red Sox, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. The two sides apparently haven't had any further negotiations since their initial meetings two weeks ago. (Cafardo shared some more items about the AL East in his regular Sunday column, as reported earlier.)
- Quintin Berry talks to WEEI.com's Rob Bradford about why he signed with the Orioles and how he appreciated his time with the Red Sox last season, though the Sox didn't push too hard to re-sign him. “Supposedly [they tried] a little bit, but I know they had a couple of things in mind they wanted to do, some guys they wanted to try and give experience to,” Berry said. “So I just wanted to test the market and see what else I could do." Berry signed a minor league deal with the O's in January.
A number of notable clubs entered Spring Training looking for clear answers at second base, and other teams could face looming questions at the position. Here's a roundup of items about the keystone...
- Multiple talent evaluators tell ESPN's Jim Bowden that Alexander Guerrero needs a lot of time at Triple-A in order to both learn second base and simply to regain his form after not playing last season. In the Insider-only piece, Bowden looks at internal and external second base answers the Dodgers could explore to solidify themselves at the position.
- Early word on Guerrero hasn't been too positive, as one evaluator tells ESPN's Buster Olney (another Insider-only piece) that the Dodgers "could get him through outright waivers right now if they need a roster spot." Olney speculates that the Nationals could generate some interest in Danny Espinosa given the number of teams (including the Dodgers and Yankees) looking for second base help, though Washington wouldn't want to accept a sell-low offer for Espinosa given his poor 2013 season.
- The Royals are lacking in middle infield depth behind Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar, as Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star notes may not have the 25-man roster space for a backup infielder. Since Ned Yost plans to carry 12 pitchers, that leaves only four bench spots for Justin Maxwell, Jarrod Dyson, Danny Valencia and the backup catcher. Christian Colon, Pedro Ciriaco and Johnny Giavotella are currently fighting for a roster spot in camp and the team will have Valencia and Mike Moustakas work out at second in case they need to be emergency options. “It’s not ideal not to have a backup middle infielder on the team,” GM Dayton Moore said. “However, I do anticipate Infante and Escobar in the lineup most days.”
- Marco Scutaro is only beginning to take grounders and has yet to swing a bat, CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly reports. The veteran infielder is purposely taking a slow start to Spring Training in order to keep himself healthy and free of hip problems, and Giants GM Brian Sabean admits that the team probably should've shut Scutaro down last year when he was battling multiple nagging injuries. Despite Scutaro's issues, Sabean is confident he'll be ready for Opening Day though he only said "we'll see" when asked if he was comfortable with the team's second base depth.
The Indians have acquired infielder Justin Sellers from the Dodgers in exchange for cash considerations, the club announced. In a corresponding move to create a 40-man roster spot for Sellers, the Tribe has designated first baseman David Cooper for assignment.
Sellers was himself designated for assignment by L.A. last week and the move to Cleveland frees him from DFA Limbo. Sellers was originally a sixth-round draft pick for the Athletics in 2005 and he has 266 Major League PA under his belt as a Dodger from 2011-13. The 28-year-old has a career .199/.278/.301 slash line in the bigs, though he has much more impressive numbers over his last four minor league seasons.
Sellers has experience at second and third but has primarily been a shortstop for much of his professional career. He gives the Tribe more middle infield depth, as he'll be in the mix with Mike Aviles and Elliot Johnson as the primary infield backup to Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera.
Cleveland signed Cooper to a Major League deal in December, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports (via Twitter) that the Tribe will keep Cooper as a non-roster player in camp if he clears waivers. Cooper last played in the Majors in 2012 as a member of the Blue Jays as he struggled with a possible career-ending back injury before undergoing surgery and recovering enough to play 13 minor league games for the Indians last season. The left-handed hitting first baseman was Toronto's first round pick (17th overall) in 2008 and he has a .301/.376/.470 line over 2298 career PA in the minors, plus a .750 OPS in 226 Major League PA.
As expected, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker both won't be ready for Opening Day, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon told reporters (including MLB.com's Greg Johns) yesterday. Iwakuma is dealing with a strained tendon on his right middle finger and will be sidelined until mid-to-late April, while Walker has been shut down for a week with shoulder inflammation. With Seattle's rotation thinned, it will only increase speculation that the M's could increase their interest in Ervin Santana. Here's some more from the M's...
- While the Mariners could still use a pitcher and a right-handed bat, two sources tell CBS Sports' Jon Heyman that the team has "little or no loot left to spend," which GM Jack Zudriencik wouldn't confirm. A lack of payroll space could explain why the Mariners haven't extended offers to Santana or Kendrys Morales, and didn't make an offer to Nelson Cruz (before he signed with the Orioles) despite interest in all three players.
- Missing Iwakuma and Walker early in the season could particularly hurt the Mariners since they play the A's 10 times before May 7. "If Walker and Iwakuma miss the month of April, with our schedule that month it could get ugly," a Mariners source tells Heyman. Robinson Cano and at least one other M's player expressed the opinion that Santana would be a great fit, while Cano would also like to see the switch-hitting Morales brought back. "I'm not going to lie. We need an extra bat, especially a right-handed bat," Cano said. "We have many left-handed hitters. We need at least one more righty. You don't want to face a lefty pitcher with a lineup of seven left-handed hitters."
- The Mariners have sent scouts to watch young Rays pitchers, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The two clubs recently came close on a trade that would've sent Nick Franklin to Tampa, though Topkin believes that the M's can find a better fit elsewhere for the young infielder.
- Danny Hultzen will miss the entire 2014 season as he recovers from major left shoulder surgery, but the highly-regarded prospect tells Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times that he's optimistic about his recovery and resuming his pro career.
Veteran right-hander Guillermo Mota has retired, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports (Twitter link). Mota signed a minor league deal with the Royals in January but, according to McCullough, wanted to spend more time with his family and left the club's Spring Training camp on Friday.
Mota, 40, originally signed with the Mets in 1990 as an infielder and ended up spending 14 Major League seasons on the mound with the Expos, Dodgers (in two different stints), Marlins, Indians, Mets, Brewers and Giants. That last stop in San Francisco earned Mota his first two World Series rings as part of the Giants' 2010 and 2012 championship teams. The righty was also suspended twice for PED violations, serving a 50-game suspension in 2007 and then 100 games in 2012.
Over 856 2/3 Major League relief innings, Mota posted a 3.94 ERA with a 7.3 K/9 and 2.10 K/BB rate and held right-handed batters to just a .683 OPS. According to Baseball Reference, Mota earned just over $18.2MM in his career.
The Brewers and Pirates have scouts watching the Red Sox, with a specific focus on Mike Carp, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes in his weekly Sunday column. While it's still unknown whether Carp can handle an everyday job, he wouldn't have to fill that role in Pittsburgh, as the Bucs have been looking for a left-handed hitting platoon partner for first baseman Gaby Sanchez. Carp has received a lot of trade buzz this offseason though Boston was known to be asking for a lot in return.
Here's some more from Cafardo's latest piece...
- Sam and Seth Levinson of the ACES agency "are gaining the reputation of persuading clients to take under-market-value contracts if they’re happy where they are," which is why there is a feeling amongst general managers that Jon Lester, an ACES client, will sign an extension with the Red Sox. “If you’re a team with a big-ticket guy out there, they are the agents you want to be dealing with right now,” said one National League GM. “The teams love it. You can get something done with them." This past summer, ACES client Dustin Pedroia signed an eight-year, $110MM extension with the Red Sox that was perceived as a team-friendly deal (especially given what Robinson Cano was able to find on the open market this offseason), though it's worth noting that the Levinsons kept Pedroia fully informed of his market value and the second baseman just really wanted to stay in Boston. Lester, for his part, has also said he'd be willing to take a discount to remain with the Sox.
- Cafardo speaks to Orioles manager Buck Showalter about the team's recent signings of Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez and how the club weighed the value of the draft picks they'd have to surrender to sign the qualifying offer-rejecting free agents. Also, Showalter doesn't think money will be an obstacle in retaining key players over the long term. “I feel confident with Peter [Angelos] that when we come to him and say this is someone we want to hold on to, he’s going to find a way to do it,” said Showalter. “I don’t think our guys want to go anywhere."
- Baltimore's hiring of Dave Wallace as pitching coach "may be the best acquisition we’ve made this offseason," Showalter said. “He’s really simplified things for us. Sometimes we’re so mechanics-driven in this business.”
- "Don't believe" the Blue Jays when they say they aren't interested in Ervin Santana, Cafardo writes. He also thinks the Orioles could still have an eye on Santana even after the Jimenez signing.
- Oliver Perez seemed to be close to a new contract two weeks ago when he was weighing offers from four teams, but "nothing has transpired" since then, Cafardo writes. He opines that the Nationals and Yankees are teams who could use Perez's lefty presence in their bullpens.
Between Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, Super Bowl champ Russell Wilson and former NBA star Tracy McGrady, MLB has an excellent opportunity to generate more interest in baseball among young African-Americans, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Winston closes for Florida State University's baseball team, while Wilson will be in Rangers camp this week after being picked in the Rule Five draft in December. McGrady, of course, is trying to catch on with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters as a pitcher. MLB should handle the situation differently than it did Michael Jordan's foray into professional baseball two decades ago, which was viewed with hostility by many in the game at the time, Sherman says. Here are more late-night links from around the majors:
- The Pirates' ability to "fix" Edinson Volquez is likely to have a big impact on their playoff hopes, David Golebiewski of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says.
- Braves outfielder B.J. Upton sought help from no one during his lost 2013 season, The Associated Press reports.
- Despite 2014 being a must-win season for Angels GM Jerry Dipoto, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes that the executive didn't set out this offseason to acquire veterans who could provide a short-term band-aid for the club. "That's not in my DNA," he said. "The best representation of the job you do over time is what you leave behind." Dipoto also feels that the club has "a lot of veteran players in that 29 to 31 zone. That is when you win."
- Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria are competing for the Rangers' closer job, but the former hasn't impressed early in camp, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. "Feliz was not sharp in his intrasquad game and I’m told his mechanics are still kind of out of whack," Grant notes.