6:46pm: The Royals are "moving forward" without Santana even if he is available on a one-year pact, GM Dayton Moore tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter). "The candidates for our rotation are in-house," said Moore.
6:29pm: Free agent starter Ervin Santana has switched gears and is now looking for a one-year deal, reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (links to Twitter). Santana wants to get signed and into camp as soon as possible, and does not intend to wait to ink a deal until after Opening Day.
Of course, if Santana signs a one-year deal before Opening Day, he could still be made a qualifying offer again next year. That type of scenario was said to be out of the question by Santana's agent, but we learned last night and this morning that Santana's team of representatives was undergoing some changes. It would appear that a change of strategic direction has resulted.
With the new focus on achieving a pillow contract, Santana hopes to land on a team with a strong offense, says Rosenthal. The Blue Jays and Orioles are two teams that could meet that requirement and have had interest, Rosenthal adds. It is not clear whether there is anything connecting those teams specifically to Santana since his shift of plans.
Neither is it clear whether other clubs remain in the mix, or whether Santana's market could expand. Earlier today, there were conflicting reports as to whether the Phillies had (Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, via Twitter) or had not (Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, via Twitter) inquired about the righty's services. Of course, in theory, many other clubs could potentially have renewed interest in Santana under these changed circumstances.
With Matt Carpenter and the Cardinals are reportedly closing in on a six-year extension that will be worth $50-55MM, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the long road Carpenter has taken to get to this point. Carpenter had to settle for a $1,000 signing bonus as a fifth-year senior out of Texas Christian University and didn't establish himself as a big league regular until age-27. Goold spoke to manager Mike Matheny and several Cardinals players about Carpenter's perseverance and leadership. Said Matheny: "One of those great stories — a guy who didn’t necessarily have the golden road paved for him. He came in here and worked his butt off."
Here's more on the Cardinals and the NL Central...
- Matheny also told Goold that Cardinals non-roster invitee Pat Neshek's chances of making the club are largely tied to his ability to retire left-handed hitters. Neshek did just that in his most recent appearance, but lefties have been a problem for the sidearmer over the past two seasons. Matheny doesn't want two specialists in his bullpen, and he already has lefty specialist Randy Choate as a fixture in the relief corps.
- MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince looks at the turbulent last year for Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, who has found himself at the center of controversy and trade speculation. Castrovince notes that it was Phillips' brash attitude that got him traded from Cleveland to Cincinnati, and some of that has been on display in recent months. Phillips laughed off the notion that he's declined, citing his RBI total and Gold Glove Award, but did say that the offseason trade rumors hurt him to an extent. "This offseason, I really found out that baseball is a business," he told Castrovince. "...Did it [hurt]? Yeah, it [hurt]. I did as much as I can for this organization when it comes to social media or caravans or Reds Fest. I did it all because I wanted to do it. Not because they asked me to do it; because I wanted to do it."
- Emilio Bonifacio and Jose Veras have a presence among the Cubs' young Latin American prospects, right-hander Carlos Villanueva tells MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. Villanueva says that prospects such as Arismendy Alcantara and Jeudy Valdez idolized Bonifacio as they grew up watching him play in the Dominican Winter Leagues. Bonifacio tells Muskat he tries to laugh and share his energy with everyone to keep the clubhouse positive.
FRIDAY: Saunders can earn up to $3.65MM if he makes the club and hits all of the incentives in his contract, according to the Associated Press. Just $250K of Saunders' $500K base salary is guaranteed.
If Saunders makes the roster, his salary will jump to $1.5MM, as previously reported by Heyman. He also receives a $500K bonus for 90 days on the active roster. Saunders will receive an additional $150K for reaching each of 130, 140, 150, 160, 170 and 180 innings. He'll earn $250K for reaching each of 190, 200 and 210 innings. He can also earn between $25K and $100K for various awards bonuses.
WEDNESDAY, 10:00am: Saunders is guaranteed just $500K but will earn $1.5MM, plus incentives, if he makes the Major League roster, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter).
9:34am: The Rangers announced today that they have signed left-hander Joe Saunders to a one-year, Major League contract. Financial terms remain in unknown, though reports have indicated that it is a non-guaranteed deal, suggesting that it could be in the mold of Tommy Hanson's one-year, split Major League contract with Texas that pays him a separate salary in the minors should he not make the big league club.
Saunders, 32, promises to add depth to the back of a Texas rotation mix that has increasingly looked in need of it. Derek Holland is going to miss the entire first half, Matt Harrison is still working back from surgery (and had a more recent injury scare), and other options come with a variety of uncertainties.
Working for the Mariners last year, Saunders struggled to a 5.26 ERA in 183 innings. That was the worst full-season mark of his career, however, as the southpaw had thrown at least 174 2/3 innings and posted between a 3.41 and 4.60 ERA over his previous five seasons.
Advanced metrics thought his 2013 season was better than the resuls, as he posted a 4.72 FIP, 4.23 xFIP, and 4.42 SIERA. However, those numbers remain underwhelming, and a look at advanced stats also tends to place a negative spin on some of Saunders' more productive previous years. Indeed, he has never finished a year below the 4.00 line by any of those measures.
The signing was first reported by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first tweeted that it was a MLB deal, with Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeting that it was of the non-guaranteed variety.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Padres announced, on Twitter, that they have claimed outfielder Alex Castellanos off waivers from the Rangers. Left-hander Cory Luebke has been transferred to the 60-day disabled list in order to clear a 40-man roster spot.
The Rangers designated the 27-year-old Castellanos for assignment earlier in the week in order to clear a spot on their 40-man roster for Joe Saunders. San Diego is Castellanos' fourth organization since the end of last season. Initially dealt from the Dodgers to the Red Sox for Jeremy Hazelbaker, he was next claimed off waivers by the Rangers when Boston signed Mike Napoli.
Though he's moved around quite a bit this offseason, Castellanos has an outstanding minor league track record. The Florida native is a career .291/.382/.525 hitter with 36 homers and 35 stolen bases in 848 Triple-A plate appearances. However, he's managed just a .171/.186/.390 batting line in an admittedly small sample size of 43 big league plate appearances.
FRIDAY: Royals manager Ned Yost told reporters, including Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star, that Hochevar will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the season (Twitter link).
General manager Dayton Moore also spoke to reporters and said the Royals hope to retain Hochevar beyond 2014 (per 610 Sports Radio's Josh Vernier on Twitter): "We wouldn't rule Luke out for the future... We'll hopefully be able to keep him in the organization going forward."
Vernier also quotes Hochevar, who is understandably distressed: "I feel terrible... The toughest part about it is we're primed to win... You want to be a part of that dog pile in September."
WEDNESDAY: The Royals got bad news today when they learned that they will be without right-hander Luke Hochevar until at least late May or early June due to a sprained ulnar collateral ligament, manager Ned Yost tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Hochevar also has a strain in the musculature surrounding the ligament. He will be shut down entirely for two to three weeks (All links to Twitter).
Yost described a May/June return as a "best-case scenario," indicating that even after being shut down, Hochevar will face at least two months of rehab. As is the case with most UCL injuries, the scare of Tommy John surgery is present.
After struggling for years as a starter, Hochevar enjoyed a dominant season out of the bullpen in 2013. The former No. 1 overall pick pitched to a 1.92 ERA with 10.5 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 35 percent ground-ball rate in 70 1/3 innings of work. The move to the 'pen caused his fastball velocity to jump three miles per hour to 95.5 mph. Hochevar also scrapped his slider and focused primarily on using his fastball and cutter with an occasional sinker and curve mixed in, per Fangraphs' PITCHf/x data.
The timing for the injury could hardly be worse for Hochevar, who agreed to a one-year, $5.21MM contract in his final season of team control before free agency next offseason. Another dominant year in the bullpen could've positioned him for a similar salary over multiple seasons, though as Bob Dutton reported back in December, Yost had mentioned giving Hochevar and Wade Davis one more crack at the rotation (indeed, Hochevar's contract contains $400K of incentives based on games started and games finished).
As McCullough notes, if he's able to return, Hochevar will do so as a reliever. However, even if rest and rehab proves to be successful, teams could be still wary of Hochevar's elbow, driving down his potential earnings. And, because he has just one excellent season under his belt, the injury prevents him from another 20 to 30 innings of proving that he can sustain that performance.
With Hochevar's status now up in the air, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy and perhaps Davis could see their chances at a rotation spot improve. Top prospect Kyle Zimmer could enter the mix early in the year as well, though his 2013 season was cut short by a shoulder injury, and the Royals are being cautious with him thus far.
12:47pm: The Royals informed Penny that there wasn't a good chance of him making the roster, and the two sides agreed to part ways so that Penny could seek out a better opportunity, according to MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo (Twitter links).
Kansas City did add Bruce Chen roughly two weeks after agreeing to a minor league deal with Penny, which likely diminished his chances at making the club.
Penny was signed back in January and stood to earn a $1MM base salary with another $1.5MM available via incentives if he made the team. However, the right-hander was hit hard in a pair of Spring Training appearances, yielding seven runs on 13 hits (two homers) and a walk with just one strikeout in four innings of work.
The former National League All-Star hasn't appeared in the Majors since a 28-inning stint with the Giants in 2012, and he's posted just a 5.41 ERA over his past 209 2/3 big league innings. He has a 4.26 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 1899 career innings at the Major League level between the Marlins, Dodgers, Giants, Tigers, Red Sox and Cardinals.
12:38pm: Royals general manager Dayton Moore told reporters, including Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star, that he spoke with Alou today regarding Santana and said that there's still no fit with his club (Twitter link). However, Moore did tell the group that Alou is still representing Santana.
8:01am: Reports last night indicated that Ervin Santana has parted ways with agent Bean Stringfellow, however agent Jay Alou of Proformance (Stringfellow's agency) tweeted that Santana is "still represented by the same person that he fist signed with 15 years ago." This morning, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal calls Santana's representation is "unsettled," adding that a split between the agents is possible, and the players union is involved in the situation (Twitter links). As Rosenthal adds in a third tweet, Alou is referring to himself in the above quote, which doesn't necessarily mean that Stringfellow is still in the picture.
Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes tweeted last night that Santana had fired Stringfellow and was contemplating negotiating his own deal. ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted shortly after that should Santana go that route, he needs to understand that teams are still very leery of his medical reports and concerned about his elbow. Olney points out that teams are nervous due to the fact that Santana threw more sliders than any pitcher in baseball last year.
Santana, however, pitched through a UCL injury for years without requiring Tommy John surgery, and this past October, esteemed surgeon doctor James Andrews stated, "[Santana] doesn’t need any further treatment for his right elbow partial UCL tear, as on (the) MRI today it appears that it has completely healed." (As reported by Rosenthal.) That, of course, doesn't mean that every team doctor will agree with the assessment, but Andrews' opinion would be considered among the most highly regarded in the industry.
Many have been quick to call Justin Masterson's reported three-year extension proposal to the Indians a bargain, but Dave Cameron of Fangraphs takes a step back and wonders how benevolent Masterson is really being. Cameron admits that he, too, initially considered a three-year, $45MM or four-year, $60MM deal to be a huge value, but he looks at the cognitive bias of "anchoring," in which we subconsciously turn an initial price for one item into an anchor price for others. Cameron argues that rather than comparing Masterson to the statistically similar Homer Bailey, who signed away five free agent years for $95MM, we should look at Masterson's expected value over the next three to four years. Doing so presents the case that Masterson's offer is fair, but hardly a tremendous discount for Cleveland. He adds that the Indians aren't a club that can afford to pay market value for too many wins, so it may not be as much of a no-brainer as many initially believed.
More from the AL Central...
- While he's yet to determine if the Twins have placed a call, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN knows that White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza has quite a few fans in Minnesota's front office (Twitter link). De Aza would seem a peculiar fit for the Twins in my opinion, given the fact that he has just two years of team control and Minnesota has a number of young outfielders and outfield prospects.
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that while he didn't look like a catcher trying to play third base in practice, that's exactly how Carlos Santana has looked thus far in Cactus League games. Hoynes describes his play as "stiff and uncomfortable," though he notes that Santana has had few chances to this point and could improve by playing consecutive games at the position. For the time being, it appears to be good news for Lonnie Chisenhall, as if Santana doesn't man third, he would DH and serve as a backup at first, catcher and occasionally third.
- Left-hander Blaine Hardy has gone from being released by the Royals last year to a minor league flier for the Tigers to a leading candidate to join Detroit's bullpen this season, writes James Schmel of MLive.com. Hardy posted a 1.67 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 between Double-A and Triple-A last season, serving as both a starter and reliever. He's allowed one hit in five innings this spring, catching the eye of manager Brad Ausmus and establishing himself as one of the top candidates to fill a long reliever role at the big league level.
Dr. Frank Jobe, the man who performed the first -- or, perhaps more accurately, the -- Tommy John surgery, has passed away at the age of 88. As MLB.com's Ken Gurnick writes, the longtime Dodgers medical director was instrumental in pioneering that now-commonplace, immensely impactful procedure: "it was Jobe who invented it, performed it, refined it and taught it to hundreds of training orthopedic surgeons." Needless to say, Jobe's contributions to the game will continue to have impact for generations to come, and MLBTR joins the rest of the baseball world in saluting him in passing. If you're interested in learning more about his remarkable life, see this excellent bio piece from MLB.com's Doug Miller.
More from the NL West:
- Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin suffered an arm issue of his own, rupturing his left biceps tendon, but will not need surgery at this point, MLB.com's Corey Brock reports. GM Josh Byrnes said he feared the worst -- a season-ending injury -- but that after consulting the medical staff "the strong consensus was no surgery." Though a timeline has not yet been set, Maybin could return within four to six weeks. San Diego should have plenty of depth to cover in Maybin's absence, though the club will certainly hope for a positive resolution of this latest setback for the 26-year-old, who signed a five-year, $25MM deal before the 2012 season.
- Meanwhile, the Padres have let third baseman Chase Headley know that they fully intend to make him a qualifying offer at the end of the year, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com via Twitter. While this does not come as a surprise, it indicates that San Diego -- like the Indians with Justin Masterson -- views the QO as a card to be played in extension talks.
- Former Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt will work out with the club for a ten-day stretch as he seeks another shot at a MLB job, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post. The club previously declined to exercise its half of a mutual option on the 38-year-old after he underwent -- you guessed it -- Tommy John surgery late last year. It is surely worth it for Colorado to take a look, as Betancourt has largely been an outstanding reliever since breaking into the bigs at the late age of 28 back in 2003.