The Red Sox will pay a small MLB-mandated fine after the team fielded a lineup of minor leaguers for a game against the Marlins earlier this week, Alex Speier of WEEI.com reports, citing Major League sources. As we noted earlier tonight, the incident appears to have fostered some amount of bad blood between the two clubs. Under MLB rules, teams must feature four players who either served as regulars during the preceding season or who have a legitimate chance at doing so during the upcoming season. More Saturday night MLB links:
- Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino, tradtionally a switch-hitter, may abandon swinging from the left side altogether after finding success in the second half last season as a predominantly right-handed batter (via Maureen Mullen of MLB.com).
- The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Travis Sawchik examined the Pirates' strategy in recent drafts, noting the team's heavy focus on prep arms. From 2009-11, 17 of the club's first 30 selections were high school pitchers. Assistant GM Greg Smith, who headed the Pirates' drafts in those seasons, said the club aims to find pitchers in the Stephen Strasburg mold before they blossom into top draft picks.
- Billy Beane's latest strategy for building a winner involves targeting players with flexible skillsets, Peter Gammons writes for his Gammons Daily website. Gammons notes that the Athletics' targeting of players such as outfielder Billy Burns, who has one homer in three minor league seasons, appears perplexing. However, Burns' speed, ability to switch-hit and career .420 minor league OBP make him a fit for the A's.
The latest out of baseball's Western divisions:
- The Giants and Pablo Sandoval had yet to talk extensions as of Friday, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets. When we last checked in, the club was considering the issue but felt it had the whole of the 2014 season to put together a deal, should it decide to go that route. Sandoval is scheduled to become a free agent after this year.
- Mike Bauman interviewed Rangers GM Jon Daniels in an article for MLB.com. Daniels says that after having traded away a number of young players in recent years, the club decided this winter that it would place more emphasis on developing its own players into big leaguers. Texas lost its first-round draft choice after signing Shin-Soo Choo, but gained a compensatory pick after Nelson Cruz signed with the Orioles.
- Sam Fuld has a real shot at making the Athletics' Opening Day roster, Jane Lee of MLB.com reports, having impressed early in camp while Craig Gentry has nursed a back strain. Importantly, Fuld's minor league deal includes two opt-out dates that will allow him to part ways with Oakland if he's not on the Major League roster. The first comes at the end of the month.
Red Sox owner John Henry returned fire in his club's ongoing dispute with the Marlins, tweeting, "They should apologize for their regular season lineup." For the uninitiated, at a matchup earlier this week between the two teams, the Red Sox angered the Marlins by running out a lineup of minor leaguers instead of their typical starting nine. The Marlins had hiked ticket prices with the expectation that fans would be watching the Sox's World Series-winning squad. You can check out a writeup of the spat by USA Today's Nick Schwartz here. On to more East links:
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson maintains that it's unlikely Matt Harvey will pitch in the Majors in 2014 (via ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin). The issue surfaced again earlier today when Harvey tweeted "2014 Harvey day will happen" from his personal account. The tweet was later deleted. "I can't control what he tweets or says by other means," Alderson commented. "But if that's how he feels, that's his perspective and we'll see where it goes."
- Adding Ervin Santana would lift the Blue Jays' playoff chances into the realm of "conceivable," writes FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, noting that many of the club's major pieces remain in place after a lost 2013 season. "It's not the same players: We're missing Josh Johnson, who was supposed to be a big key to our rotation," outfielder Jose Bautista told Morosi. "That's why it's so important that we add (Santana)."
- Tyler Kepner caught up with Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey, profiling him for The New York Times. Dickey personally responds to letters he receives from struggling fans, Kepner writes. "They’re just wanting someone to listen, that’s really it," the ace says. Dickey discussed his experiences as a sexual abuse victim in his 2012 memoir.
6:26pm: Santana continues to consider offers from the Orioles and the Jays, ESPN's Enrique Rojas tweets, noting that two other clubs had expressed interest this afternoon (Spanish link).
4:08pm: FOX Sports' Jon Morosi tweets that a source tells him that Santana could wait "days" before signing. 4:00 has come and gone, and there's no news about his decision.
12:08pm: Rojas writes (Spanish-language) that Santana is deciding between the Jays, who have offered $14MM, and the Orioles, who have offered $13MM plus incentives.
11:43am: Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes tweets that Santana will sign with the Jays for $14MM by 4:00pm if he does not receive a better offer by then.
11:40am: The deal is not yet done, but Santana and the Jays are discussing one, the New York Post's Joel Sherman tweets.
11:18am: The Blue Jays have agreed to terms with Ervin Santana on a one-year, $14MM deal, Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes tweets. Earlier in the day, Soldevila had reported that Santana would sign with an AL club for $14MM. Santana has until recently been represented by Proformance, although there have been recent reports about the possibility of Santana ending his relationship with that agency.
Santana pitched 211 innings with the Royals in 2013, posting a 3.24 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. After the season, he rejected a $14.1MM qualifying offer, hoping to strike it big on the free agent market. Obviously, that didn't happen, as the issue of draft pick forfeiture supressed the market for Santana and several other players. The Blue Jays have two first-round picks, at No. 9 and No. 11, and both are protected. So they'll have to give up the No. 50 overall pick for signing Santana.
Santana's one-year deal gives him the opportunity to hit the free agent market again next offseason, when he will turn 32. If he performs well, however, he may still have to deal with the qualifying offer issue. Santana ranked sixth on MLBTR's list of the top 2013-14 free agents. Ubaldo Jimenez, who ranked 11th and also rejected a qualifying offer, received four years and $50MM from the Orioles, and Santana reportedly sought a similar contract. ESPN's Buster Olney recently tweeted that teams were concerned about the health of Santana's elbow.
Assuming Santana remains healthy, however, $14MM plus the No. 50 overall draft pick seems like a very reasonable price for the Blue Jays to pay a young-ish, solidly-above-average starting pitcher who topped 200 innings last year. Santana will provide a significant boost to a Jays rotation that was unsettled after R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Mark Buehrle.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for Alex Castellanos of the Padres, MLB.com's Corey Brock writes. In late October, the Dodgers traded Castellanos to the Red Sox. Two months later, the Rangers claimed him off waivers. Then, the Rangers designated him for assignment in order to make room for Joe Saunders, and the Padres claimed him. "Don't take any pictures with any jerseys on," Castellanos said when asked the offseason had taught him. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- A year after joining the Royals as part of the James Shields / Wil Myers trade, Wade Davis is now a reliever, writes Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The move is a response to the Royals' loss of Luke Hochevar to Tommy John surgery. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Davis isn't thrilled about the move. "What are you going to do? Say no?" he says. Davis struggled as a starter last season, though, posting a 5.67 ERA in 24 starts, and he's gotten good results as a reliever in the past. The decision could impact Davis' future earnings -- if the Royals don't pick up his $7MM option for 2015, he can become a free agent after the season.
- 2011 Astros third-round draft pick Jack Armstrong Jr. is switching from pitching to first base, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports. The Astros paid Armstrong a $750K bonus, but he has not pitched competitively since being drafted, dealing with elbow and shoulder injuries along the way. Now, at 24, he'll try to make the big leagues as a hitter. "The moment I got cleared in September, I started swinging immediately. It's been a good five or six months of hard work," says Armstrong. "It's good I was a two-way guy in college so I was always swinging." Armstrong is the son of former big-league starting pitcher Jack Armstrong.
Diamondbacks pitcher Brad Ziegler, a member of the players' association's executive subcommittee, says that Major League Baseball and the players' union are unlikely to address the qualifying offer issue before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2016 season, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports. "The CBA won't be reopened," says Ziegler. "There's no way it's a big enough deal to do that right now. I haven't heard any rumblings that's even realistic."
Nelson Cruz, Ervin Santana, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew have all struggled to find markets after declining qualifying offers this offseason. Cruz signed a one-year deal with Baltimore that guarantees just $8MM, and Santana appears set to sign a one-year deal in the $14MM range with either Toronto or Baltimore. Morales and Drew remain unsigned well into spring training, and there's little indication that either of them will sign soon.
MLBPA head Tony Clark has also expressed concern about the qualifying offer, but like Ziegler, he suggested that the CBA would not be reopened. "There's certain criteria that's going to have to be met for a CBA to be opened up (before then) and I'm not sure that's happened," Clark told the Associated Press in February.
Jose Bautista and Ervin Santana have left the Proformance Agency, FOX Sports' Jon Morosi tweets. Both players had been represented by Proformance's Jay Alou, but Alou resigned from the agency, and Alou will continue to represent both players.
Earlier this week, Santana's agency situation had appeared murky, amidst reports that he was considering leaving Proformance. The news that Alou is leaving Proformance and that Santana and Bautista are following him makes those reports a bit clearer. Alou had tweeted that Santana would continue to represented by "the same person that he first signed with 15 years ago," presumably referring to himself. Santana, of course, is still a free agent, although he appears close to picking between the Blue Jays and Orioles on one-year deals.
The Angels have outrighted catcher John Hester and lefty Robert Carson, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweets. The moves create two openings on the Angels' 40-man roster, which DiGiovanna points out will likely be needed for non-roster invitees who make the Angels' roster out of camp.
Hester, 30, has a career .216/.294/.351 line in 232 career big-league plate appearances. He appeared in just one game with the Angels in 2013, spending most of the season at Triple-A Salt Lake. Carson, 25, pitched 19 2/3 innings out of the Mets' bullpen in 2013, posting an 8.24 ERA with 3.7 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. He fared better in 44 1/3 innings at Triple-A Las Vegas, with a 4.06 ERA there. The Angels claimed him from the Mets in October.
11:04am: The Rockies will not sign Santana, Troy Renck of the Denver Post tweets.
10:53am: The Blue Jays are "optimistic" about landing Santana, although they have not yet reached an agreement with him, FOX Sports' Jon Morosi tweets.
9:08am: The Blue Jays are willing to offer a deal in the $14MM range with no incentives, Heyman writes. The Orioles may be a bit behind the Blue Jays. The Rockies, meanwhile, may be out of the bidding, as Heyman tweets.
8:47am: Santana is currently negotiating a deal near one year and $14MM with the Blue Jays, Orioles and one National League team, possibly the Rockies, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. Of those teams, the Jays and Orioles are the most likely to get Santana, who could pick a new team "in the next day or two."
8:05am: Ervin Santana will sign a one-year, $14MM contract with an AL club, Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes tweets. That team is not the Orioles, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. The Royals have also recently indicated that they are no longer pursuing Santana.
Last night, it was reported that Santana had begun looking for a one-year deal, amidst further reports about changes in his representation. AL clubs recently connected to Santana have included the Mariners, Rangers and Blue Jays.
$14MM would, of course, be very similar to the $14.1MM qualifying offer Santana rejected from the Royals. A $14MM deal would be a very disappointing result for a 31-year-old pitcher coming off a 3.24 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 2/2 BB.9 in 211 innings. But Nelson Cruz's deal with the Orioles demonstrates what a severe effect the qualifying offer has had in depressing the salaries of certain free agents.
The Cardinals have signed Matt Carpenter to a six-year, $52MM extension, locking up their star infielder through his age-33 season. The contract breakdown is as follows: Carpenter will receive a $1.5MM signing bonus, $1MM in 2014, and then salaries of $3.5MM, $6.25MM, $9.75MM, $13.5MM and $14.5MM. In 2020, the Cardinals will have an $18.5MM option on his services, with a $2MM buyout. The Cardinals announced the signing at a 10:00am press conference. Carpenter is represented by SSG Baseball.
Earlier this week, it emerged that Carpenter and the Cardinals were close to an extension that could be worth $50MM-$55MM. Carpenter does not become arbitration-eligible until next offseason and is not eligible for free agency after 2017. Carpenter got a late start on his MLB career, not emerging as a semi-regular player until 2012, when he was 26. That means that, even without an extension, he wouldn't be eligible for free agency until shortly before his 32nd birthday. For the Cardinals, signing Carpenter to an extension now may allow them to control Carpenter for two seasons beyond that, while keeping his arbitration-year salaries manageable. For Carpenter, an extension guarantees him at least one big payday.
Carpenter is coming off a banner season in which he hit .318/.392/.481 and posted 7.0 WAR as the Cardinals' regular second baseman. Carpenter also finished fourth in NL MVP voting, and FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal notes that Carpenter's contract comes in a bit above that of the $51.5MM extension first-place finisher Andrew McCutchen signed prior to the 2012 season, when he too had between two and three years of service time. Carpenter's extension also comes one year to the day after the Cardinals signed Allen Craig for five years and $31MM; Craig also had between two and three years' service at the time of his deal.
Carpenter will shift to third for the coming season as the Cardinals make way for Kolten Wong at second. The Cardinals traded David Freese to the Angels this offseason in a bid to upgrade their defense, clearing a spot at the hot corner for Carpenter.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch originally tweeted that Carpenter and the Cardinals had agreed to a deal. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported that the deal was for $52MM. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports was the first to tweet the year-to-year breakdown of the contract.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.