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- The Pirates‘ Andrew McCutchen is the best bargain in baseball, opines Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Cook notes McCutchen is the 158th-highest-paid player this season and 77 players have richer contracts than the six-year, $51.5MM extension (plus a $14.75MM club option for 2018) he signed in March 2012. The 27-year-old is following up his 2013 MVP season with a slash of .313/.423/.527 with 11 home runs and a league-leading 52 walks.
- The Brewers are legitimate contenders, writes MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby, and their confidence was bolstered by the offseason free agent signing of Matt Garza. “When we signed Garza, I think that’s when we started to feel something could happen,” Jonathan Lucroy told Ringolsby. Added Ryan Braun, “It showed the front office and ownership felt we were a good team.“
- An under-the-radar free agent signing has also paid huge dividends for the Brewers, reports Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Brewers inked Zach Duke inked to a minor league deal in January and the left-hander has been well worth the investment posting a 1.57 ERA, a K/BB ratio of 7.8 (39/5), and a 53% groundball rate.
- The Cardinals‘ priorities as the Trade Deadline approaches, according to the St. Louis Post-Disptach’s Joe Strauss, include finding an offensive upgrade at second base (or third base, if Matt Carpenter is moved to second), a bench bat, and determining whether Pat Neshek can be a reliable 8th inning option.
- Earlier today, the Cubs added Tsuyoshi Wada to their 40-man roster and promptly optioned him to Triple-A. Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald tweets Wada could slide into the Cubs’ rotation, if a starter is dealt between now and the Trade Deadline.
Between now and Opening Day, several minor league signees will win jobs with their clubs and earn 40-man roster spots. Here are today's additions:
- The Brewers have announced Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay made their Opening Day roster as a first base platoon. Both signed minor league deals within a three-day span in late-January. Reynolds will earn $2MM plus incentives while Overbay, in his second tour of duty with Milwaukee, will bank $1.5MM plus incentives. Reynolds leads the team in RBI's this spring while Overbay, mired in an 3-for-30 slump (all three hits coming after news of his promotion broke) is valued for his defense. Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the Brewers still have yet to make an official announcement regarding the status of Juan Francisco, who lost out to the veteran duo and cleared out his locker yesterday. The Brewers now have a full 40-man roster, but a spot could be cleared pending the outcome of Francisco's situation.
- With Craig Gentry being placed on the disabled list by the A's, Sam Fuld is expected to make the club as the fourth outfielder, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser. Fuld, whose minor league contract signed in February contained opt-out dates of this week and June 1, will earn $800K plus incentives. The A's will have to clear a 40-man roster spot before adding Fuld.
- The Cardinals have outrighted right-hander Angel Castro off their 40-man roster to create room for fellow right-hander Pat Neshek, tweets Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Neshek will earn $1MM from the deal he signed last month. Castro signed a Major League pact with the Cardinals last December after spending 2013 with the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate posting a 3.48 ERA, 7.0 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9 in 19 starts and six relief appearances. Castro was one of several players mentioned by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes in his examination of the trend in signing six-year minor league free agents, with little to no MLB experience, to Major League contracts.
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.
The Reds announced today that right-hander Mat Latos had minor surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. He's scheduled to return to his regular throwing program in 10 days (Twitter links). MLB.com's Mark Sheldon writes that Latos injured the knee a couple of days ago when he slipped while playing long-toss. Latos also had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow back in October, Sheldon adds. Though the club does not seem overly concerned, it remains uncertain whether or not Latos will be ready for Opening Day. Here's more from the NL Central…
- Fellow Reds hurler Homer Bailey says that he is still in extension talks with the club, the Cincinnati Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans reports. Even with an arbitration hearing scheduled for February 20th, Bailey said that the sides "haven't really talked one-year that much, it's been primarily multi-year." It was recently reported that, though talks continued, Bailey and the Reds remain far apart.
- For another extension candidate, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, the reported gap in negotiations may be generating some friction, as Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. "The emotional attachment I have to this organization, a lot of times you just give the benefit of the doubt," said Samardzija. But, he added: "The more this process goes along, the more I realize it is a business and that only goes so far."
- Samardzija painted a picture of a negotiation process in which both parties fully understood the others' position, but are seemingly unwilling to give in. "If there wasn't a gap, we would have signed," said Samardzija. "But both sides are justified. It's not like anyone is asking for some outlandish concept. I understand where they're coming from, and they understand where we're coming from. That's really all there is to say."
- Meanwhile, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says that the team kept some of its off-season powder dry, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports. "In the two previous off-seasons, we've spent every dollar available to us," said Epstein, "and this is the first winter where we ended up keeping some in reserve to be used on players [that are] hopefully prime-age, impact-type players down the road. It gives us a bit of a leg up as we look toward next winter or an in-season move that might make the present and the future better." Epstein went on to discuss how those funds could be put to use. "Rather than just spend the money to spend it," said Epstein," if we can book that and have it available to us to sign that international free agent who comes along in the summer or to acquire a player in a trade who carries significant salary but fits for the long term, or to just start out next off-season knowing we can be a little more aggressive on the guys we really want early because the money will be available to us, that made more sense than spending the money now just to spend it."
- The Pirates have heard some complaints about their failure to spend significant money this off-season, but the club seems unconcerned, reports MLB.com's Tom Singer. "Payroll does not equal playoff," quipped GM Neal Huntington. Having decided against making any big splashes, the Bucs will look to replicate last year's success by once more getting contributions from homegrown talent. "We are really excited by where we can get to with some of the younger players we'll see in this camp," said Huntington. "The challenge is knowing when they will be ready, because when they get here, they will have to help." Manager Clint Hurdle said that the organization "will always rely heavily on developing our own talent," placing Pittsburgh among half of the league in that respect. "You have to anticipate change and get ready for change," said Hurdle. "We have created a culture of opportunity and manning up."
- Right-hander Pat Neshek had multiple offers this offseason but chose to sign with the Cardinals because of the chance it presented him to get to a World Series, he told MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. Neshek said that he is open to pitching for Triple-A and waiting for a spot to open up: "If I have to go down to Memphis, that's fine. There would be no problems from me. From my past experiences, if you do well, you're going to get an opportunity. It might not be right away."
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
FRIDAY: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Neshek will earn $1MM if he makes the big league club (Twitter link).
THURSDAY: The Cardinals have agreed to a minor league deal with right-handed reliever Pat Neshek, reports Keith Olbermann of ESPN.com (via Twitter) (hat tip to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). The 33-year-old gets a Spring Training invitation.
Neshek threw 40 1/3 innings last year for the Athletics, posting a 3.35 ERA. He elected free agency after the season, after accepting an outright assignment earlier in the year. The side-armer has been devastating against righties over his career, facing 555 batters and limiting them to a .181/.257/.315 mark. Opposite-handed hitters, however, have fared much better: in 326 plate appearances, lefties have put up a .237/.328/.432 mark against Neshek.
The market for relievers will start to move in the next month or so as teams look to round out their bullpens with one-year deals. Some reporting on the topic today from MLBTR:
- Teams are planning to watch free agent righty Carlos Marmol, who is currently pitching for Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter League playoffs. Marmol has discussed a Major League deal with three teams, MLBTR has learned, and there's a good chance he signs this month. The 31-year-old posted a 4.41 ERA, 10.8 K/9, 7.3 BB/9, 1.29 HR/9, and 37.6% groundball rate in 49 innings for the Cubs and Dodgers in 2013. Marmol began 2013 as the Cubs' closer but was designated for assignment in June and eventually traded along with the club's fourth international bonus slot to the Dodgers for Matt Guerrier. He wound up making two appearances in the NLCS for the Dodgers after appearing in 21 games for them in the regular season.
- Though nothing is imminent for another former Cubs closer, Kyle Farnsworth, MLBTR's Zach Links hears six to eight clubs have varying degrees of interest. Farnsworth, 38 in April, posted a 4.70 ERA, 6.6 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 1.17 HR/9, and 45.5% groundball rate in 38 1/3 innings for the Rays and Pirates in 2013. Released by the Rays in August, he pitched well in his month with Pittsburgh. He averaged 95.5 miles per hour on his fastball in September, according to Brooks Baseball.
- Free agent relievers Brandon Lyon and Pat Neshek are also looking for big league deals, adds Links. They're joined by Luis Ayala, who we reported earlier today has drawn interest from the Tigers, Indians, and Orioles among other teams.
Here are today's outright assignments and minor moves from around the league…
- Outfielder Aaron Cunningham has agreed to a minor league deal with the Cubs, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reported yesterday (on Twitter). A former top prospect, Cunningham has batted just .219/.280/.347 in 501 Major League plate appearances between the A's, Padres and Indians. He spent the 2013 season with the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate, slashing .247/.337/.401 in 115 games.
- The Rockies have signed right-hander Greg Burke to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. The 31-year-old Burke hurled 31 2/3 innings for the Mets in 2013. His 5.68 ERA doesn't look very pretty, but Burke whiffed eight hitters per nine innings and averaged 4.3 walks per nine. His 3.93 FIP and 3.95 xFIP give plenty of reason for optimism.
- Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker passes along a Sanspo article reporting that the Hanshin Tigers have an agreement in place to acquire Mauro Gomez (Twitter link). Gomez, 29, spent most of the season in the Blue Jays system but was claimed off waivers by the Nationals on Sept. 5. The powerful righty swatted 29 home runs for Triple-A Buffalo this season and slashed .249/.332/.521 in 453 plate appearances.
- Athletics right-hander Pat Neshek has elected free agency, per the A's Transactions page. Neshek, 33, has played an important role in Oakland's bullpen over the past two seasons, totaling 60 innings of 2.70 ERA ball with 6.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. The side-armer has faced 555 right-handed hitters in his career, holding them to a paltry .181/.257/.315 batting line. As shown in our A's Arbitration Eligibles post, Neshek is just short of six full years of service time and would have qualified for arbitration one more time this winter, projecting to earn $1.2MM, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
- The Braves have outrighted second baseman Philip Gosselin to Triple-A Gwinnett, according to the team's Transactions page. The 25-year-old Gosselin made his MLB debut this year, collecting a pair of singles and a walk in seven plate appearances. In 469 minor league plate appearnces split between Double-A and Triple-A, Gosselin batted .254/.299/.318.
Here are today's minor moves from around the league…
- Right-hander Pat Neshek has cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Sacramento from the Athletics, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter). Neshek, who was designated for assignment on Monday, has a 3.58 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 37 2/3 innings this season. He does come with significant platoon splits, however.
- The Twins unconditionally released Triple-A right-hander Tim Wood, according to Twins director of communications Dustin Morse (on Twitter). Wood, 30, was dominant enough with the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in 2012 that Minnesota inked him to a one-year, $675K Major League deal despite the fact that he didn't throw a pitch in the Majors last year. He pitched to a 2.19 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 70 1/3 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis last year, but injuries limited him to nine appearances between High-A Fort Myers and Triple-A Rochester prior to his release this season. He allowed nine runs in 9 1/3 innings between those two levels.
- The Twins also released right-hander Luis Perdomo from Rochester, according to the International League transactions page. The 29-year-old posted a 5.95 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 6.0 BB/9 in 65 innings at the Triple-A level this season.
- Edinson Volquez, Edgmer Escalona Aaron Harang, Russ Canzler and Jason Kubel are each currently in DFA limbo, and you can track their statuses using MLBTR's new DFA Tracker.
The Athletics announced on Twitter that they have designated right-hander Pat Neshek for assignment. In related moves, Josh Reddick was placed on the disabled list, and right-hander Evan Scribner and first baseman Daric Barton were recalled from Triple-A Sacramento.
Neshek possesses some of the better-looking stats you'll see out of a DFA'ed reliever, as he's posted a 3.58 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 37 2/3 innings for the A's this season. Stats like FIP (4.57), xFIP (4.66) and SIERA (4.18) all feel that his ERA is a bit of a mirage, however. He's also struggled greatly as of late (six earned runs in his past three innings) and comes with significant platoon splits, as left-handed batters have produced a .327/.379/.577 batting line against the former sixth-round pick.
THURSDAY: Neshek's contract is worth $975K, reports MLB.com's Jane Lee (Twitter link).
WEDNESDAY: The A's announced that they avoided arbitration with right-hander Pat Neshek. The sides agreed to a one-year contract. The terms of Neshek's deal aren't yet known, be he had a projected salary of $900K according to MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.