Philadelphia Phillies Rumors
Jonah Keri of Grantland lists out the National League non-roster invitees who could have the greatest impact. In addition to a series of highly-touted prospects with a chance to break out this year, Keri says to keep an eye on Roger Bernadina (Reds), Mark Reynolds (Brewers), Bobby Abreu (Phillies), and Jamey Carroll (Nationals). Here's more from the National League:
- Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals is set to receive a second opinion on his ailing left shoulder after undergoing an MRI on Monday, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Though declining further comment, GM John Mozeliak said that the preliminary review by the Cards' team doctor showed that "early indications have been encouraging." Nevertheless, any visit to Dr. James Andrews causes alarm bells to go off, and that is particularly so in the case of the 27-year-old Garcia, who missed most of last year due to a labrum tear.
- Reliever Clay Hensley, 34, is looking to make an improbable comeback with the Nationals after a series of injuries derailed his career, reports MASNsports.com's Dan Kolko. Though he could barely crack 80 mph just half a year ago, a weighted ball program commended to him by former big leaguer Tom House has allowed Hensley to regain the low-90s heat that he carried earlier in his career. Of course, Hensley faces quite another uphill battle in gaining a place in a Nats bullpen that has several arms competing for few openings.
- Much has been written about the Phillies' controversial involvement with the collegiate career of former draft choice Ben Wetzler, but Tony Blengino of Fangraphs provides an excellent new perspective on the issue. The former scout explains that the role of the scout is to eliminate as many variable as possible, making things as black and white as possible. But uncertainty will never be removed from the equation entirely, and Blengino opines that players should be permitted to utilize an agent/advisor without fear of repercussions.
- Justin Turner, who was designated for assignment by the Mets this offseason before landing with the Dodgers, talked about the shock of the DFA with Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Turner says he has nothing but fond memories of New York, though he was particularly stunned to hear that the team had concerns with his level of hustle.
MLBPA chief Tony Clark addressed today the situation of Ben Wetzler, the Phillies' draft choice who was recently suspended by the NCAA for having an agent present while he negotiated with the club, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. "What we're doing in the short-term is trying to make sure we understand exactly what happened and what led to what happened with that young man in college," said Clark. "Rest assured it's a concern, it's something that we're paying attention to, but outside what's been bantered about through the media, we don't know much else at this point." For their part, the Phillies have yet to offer any comment other than acknowledging that they "did participate in the NCAA investigation." One agent tells Nicholson-Smith that, if the team did report Wetzler's use of an agent, "it was extremely short-sighted and impulsive on the part of the team."
Here are a few more links to round out the evening:
- The Rockies have recently made contact with free agent starter Ervin Santana, reports CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman. The team's interest may be dependent upon the status of Jhoulys Chacin, whose shoulder issues are still being assessed. A Rockies official denied interest in Santana, however, reports MLB.com's Thomas Harding.
- Though the Dodgers needed a roster spot to make room for new signee Erisbel Arruebarrena, the club elected to designate Justin Sellers for assignment rather than putting Chad Billingsley on the 60-day DL, writes Chris Gabel for MLB.com. That constitutes something of a vote of confidence in Billingsley's ability to return from Tommy John rehab in a relatively short time frame. The 29-year-old is entering the final year of a three-year, $35MM pact, with the club holding a $14MM option ($3MM buyout) on his 2015 season.
- While Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada has reportedly shed some pounds, the club is nevertheless reportedly less than happy with his athletic form, reports Kevin Kernan of the New York Post. If that translates to an underwhelming start to camp, Kernan implies, there could be increasing impetus to sign Stephen Drew. "I would not be surprised if we signed Drew," an official said, "but at the same time, I don't expect it to happen."
- Across town, the Yankees are keeping tabs on reliever Joel Hanrahan after inking another rehabbing former closer in Andrew Bailey, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. As Martino explains, interest in arms like Bailey and Hanrahan shows that the club has some concern with its pen depth.
- The Twins are a very unlikely landing spot for Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Diaz is looking to land a deal like the five-year, $25MM contract given Arruebarrena, says Wolfson, but Minnesota does not believe he is as good as his countrymate.
Mike Puma of the New York Post wrote last night that Ike Davis concealed an oblique injury for much of the season prior to Aug. 31, when it worsened and sidelined him for the remainder of the year. Davis took exception to the story and addressed Puma and other reporters today, writes ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin. He quotes the first baseman: "You made it look like an excuse. It’s an excuse. It shouldn’t have been a story anyway. ... I sucked last year because I sucked. It’s not because I had an injury. You always have injuries. And now it just looks bad."
More from the NL East...
- Mets COO Jeff Wilpon has indicated that the team is likely to pick up GM Sandy Alderson's option for the 2015 season, writes Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. Alderson's contract expires after the season, and while some have mentioned his name as a possible replacement for retiring commissioner Bud Selig, David Wright thinks Alderson wants to stay with the Mets and complete the rebuild he's begun since taking over as GM. Said Wright: "Everybody is kind of concerned with how they are remembered. ... he wants to be remembered for taking an organization that was struggling and slowly building it up with the system with some good trades and free-agent signings."
- David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution examines the psychology behind long-term deals for young players, noting that some believe extensions can relieve pressure, while others feel the extensions provide extra pressure, as players feel they must live up to that contract. O'Brien spoke with each of the five players the Braves have signed to multi-year deals in the past three weeks and got their takes on their new contracts.
- Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond spoke with Mark Zuckerman of NatsInsider.com and reflected on the decade he's spent with the organization. Desmond is appreciative of GM Mike Rizzo for declining trade offers when he was struggling and also appreciative of managers Davey Johnson and Jim Riggleman for playing him through those struggles.
- Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will make his debut for the Phillies on Thursday this week, giving the club a chance to evaluate the pitcher they signed for $12MM last August, writes CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury. Salisbury writes that Gonzalez has merely looked "so-so" to this point and could end up in the minors to open the season if he doesn't win the fifth starter's job.
Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown writes that the Phillies-Ben Wetzler saga is a reminder that the current system, in which NCAA rules permit players to retain "advisors" but not agents who personally negotiate with MLB clubs, is broken. Commenting for the article, Scott Boras noted that "anyone in America can have an attorney –- a representative –- for a complicated negotiation, except an athlete who signed a letter of intent to an NCAA institution." It's time for a change in the rules, Boras argues, as "teams annually solicit and participate in a process where they're knowingly violating NCAA rules and jeopardizing the student-athlete eligibility." Here's more from around the NL East:
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. addressed the incident in comments today, telling The Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb and other reporters that he isn't worried about how it will impact the club's reputation. "I think people know we do things professionally and the way we go about our business," he said. "So I think our reputation is very good." Amaro didn't address his role in the process beyond saying that he was "aware" Wetzler was being reported.
- Bobby Abreu's strong performance in Venezuelan winter ball set him up for a tryout with the Phillies, reports Gelb. Abreu is almost guaranteed to make the club's roster as a bench bat if he perfomes adequately in Spring Training.
- Mets ace Matt Harvey threw for the first time since Tommy John surgery today, MLB.com's Marty Noble writes. The Mets would prefer to keep the story of Harvey's progress quiet, however.
Ben Wetzler, the fifth-round pick of the Phillies who elected to return to Oregon State rather than sign with the club, has been suspended for 11 games (one-fifth of his senior season). According to the NCAA press release announcing the suspension, the "student-athlete" Wetzler violated the NCAA's rules when he "sought help from an agent who attended meetings where Wetzler negotiated contract terms with the team." A report yesterday indicated that the Phillies reported Wetzler to the NCAA after he failed to sign with the club, even though Wetzler utilized an advisor (so far as has been reported) in the same manner as virtually all players weighing their first baseball contract against a college education. Oregon State official Steve Clark said today that "it is our understanding the Phillies reported it," tweets Aaron Fitt of Baseball America. The initial reaction around the game has suggested that the Phillies may face blowback from agents as they work to sign amateur talent in the future.
In other news out of Philadelphia ...
- Initial reviews on Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez have been middling, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Though the Cuban hurler ultimately signed for just three years and $12MM, he had originally agreed to a $48MM guarantee before the deal was reduced when issues arose with his physical. Salisbury writes that the team has not been impressed with Gonzalez, who has shown underwhelming stuff and "spotty" control. (David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News had more details on Gonzalez's struggles.) When asked for his reaction, manager Ryne Sandberg said that Gonzalez was "still a litle bit of a mystery" and explained that the club would be "using a lot of patience with him."
- Among the players garnering more favorable reviews to date is top third base prospect Maikel Franco, reports Salisbury. Sandberg offered glowing praise for his bat, and said that the 21-year-old looked strong in the field early on as well. Though Salisbury says that it remains unlikel that Franco breaks camp with the big club, Sandberg maintains that he will not hand the job to Cody Asche, who saw his first 50 MLB games last seasons.
- Reliever Mike Adams, who is set to earn a $7MM salary this season, has finally progressed to throwing on flat ground after undergoing shoulder surgery last summer. As Paul Hagen of MLB.com reports, the 35-year-old is expected to throw off of the mound on Thursday. With uncertainty still lingering over the bullpen, the club is surely hopeful that Adams can regain his form as a dependable, sometimes-dominant setup man.
Jimmy Rollins spoke with MLB.com's Todd Zolecki regarding the team's struggles last season and noted that 2013 was just one year, and he is looking forward to a new chapter. Rollins spoke about trade rumors that surrounded his name last summer, noting that he had no plans to waive his 10-and-5 rights if asked. Rollins, who is just 60 hits shy of becoming the franchise leader, said he doesn't plan on ever playing for another club: "I don't plan on putting on a different uniform," he said. More links pertaining to the Phillies and the NL East...
- Until the Phillies share their side of the Ben Wetzler controversy, the team will simply look vindictive, opines David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer. He adds that the Phillies clearly thought they'd be able to sign Wetzler, who instead returned to Oregon State for his senior season and is now unable to play after the Phillies notified the NCAA that they feel he violated the "no agent" rule. Murphy goes into detail on how the vast majority of draft prospects circumvent this rule.
- The only rationale that Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan can see for the Phillies' decisions regarding Wetzler and Jason Monda (who also declined to sign but has already been cleared by the NCAA) was to send a message to future draftees: "Sign or face, at the very least, an extended, attention-grabbing inconvenience." Like Murphy (and many baseball fans), Sullivan hopes to hear the Phillies' side of the story and their explanation behind making what he calls an "unambiguously bad decision" that seemingly benefited no one.
- Greg Stoda of the Palm Beach Post writes that Giancarlo Stanton is ok with the fact that the Marlins don't want to have extension talks until after the season. Stanton said that Freddie Freeman's recent eight-year, $135MM extension with the Braves won't be on his mind this season, though he did tip his hand a little in stating, "The contract would be similar, I guess."
- Mets ace Matt Harvey tells Adam Rubin of ESPN New York that he's been cleared to begin tossing a baseball in the next couple of days. Rubin writes that Harvey is not yet resigned to missing the entire 2014 season, but the Mets have stated in the past that Harvey will not pitch in 2014. "I'd always love to pitch and get back out there, but I don't make those decisions," said Harvey.
- Newsday's Marc Carig writes that despite his elite defense in center field, Juan Lagares isn't a lock to be an everyday player for the Mets in 2014. Carig talked with an official from another club whose background is in analytics, with that official noting that a key factor in defensive metrics is a need to factor in regression due to the volatile year-to-year nature of defensive numbers.
THURSDAY, 8:58pm: Add the A's to the list of teams with interest in Diaz, per the latest from Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Slusser writes that Oakland had interest in Diaz last year and has maintained that interest, with one official telling her, "We've gathered all the information we can."
The A's don't plan on holding a tryout for Diaz, as the Cardinals did.
Slusser points out that the need for Oakland may not be as strong as it is for other clubs due to the fact that top prospect Addison Russell is a shortstop by trade, and current big league shortstop Jed Lowrie is one of the team's better hitters. Of course, Lowrie is eligible for free agency at season's end.
1:32pm: The Blue Jays worked out Diaz last week, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, though he notes that there was no indication that the sides were approaching a deal.
Though they may appear at first glance to be a potential landing spot, the Mets are not in on Diaz, reports MLB.com's Anthony DiComo via Twitter.
12:32pm: Diaz and fellow Cuban Odrisamer Despaigne (a right-handed pitcher) continue to make their way around Florida for various showcases, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. (They had previously appeared in Arizona for teams that hold their springs there.) The pair is expected to appear in front of the Yankees today, says Sanchez.
8:57am: Other teams participating in talks with Diaz include the Giants, Blue Jays, Yankees, Braves, Phillies, and Mariners, Strauss reports in a follow-up piece.
Torres indicated that his client would focus his decision on maximizing dollars and opportunity. "We know he's going to be in the major leagues," said Torres. "It's only a matter of time. His preference is shortstop, but he's played second and third and I'm sure would be comfortable playing whatever position is necessary."
WEDNESDAY: After a private workout in front of top Cardinals brass today, Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz is expected to receive an offer from St. Louis within 24 hours, reports Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Diaz, who is represented by Jaime Torres, has drawn wide interest around the league, but Strauss says that the Cardinals are believed to be among the four clubs that have shown the most interest.
Echoing an earlier report from MLBDailyDish.com's Chris Cotillo (via Twitter) that a signing could come in two or three days, Torres told Strauss that his client is "prepared to move very quickly" in reaching agreement. Diaz is eligible to receive formal offers starting today. Though he is awaiting authorization to play in full-squad spring outings, Diaz has been cleared to play in B games.
The 23-year-old worked out only at short for the Cards, though he has performed on both sides of the bag in front of other clubs. "He's a player we've had interest in for awhile and the next natural step in the process was to put him in front of our people in this setting," said GM John Mozeliak. Of course, the club has already made two significant additions to its infield, signing Jhonny Peralta and Mark Ellis to join a middle-infield mix that already included Kolten Wong and Pete Kozma.
Baseball America's Aaron Fitt is reporting that the Phillies notified the NCAA that a pair of their 2013 draftees -- fifth-rounder Ben Wetzler and sixth-rounder Jason Monda -- were both in violation of the "no agent" rule after both players elected to return to their respective colleges for their senior seasons.
As Fitt notes, that rule is widely -- near universally, in fact -- disregarded among draft prospects. He points back to a BA story from 2008 in which one AL scouting director stated: "Every single player that we deal with—I don’t care what round you’re talking about—has representation, has an agent."
Monda has since been cleared to play for Washington State this season, but Wetzler's investigation is ongoing, leaving Oregon State without its left-handed ace, according to Fitt. He goes on to note that just because these accusations are in place doesn't mean that Wetzler and Monda actually violated the rules, adding that an NCAA ruling is expected by the end of the week.
Fitt was able to reach Phillies scouting director Marti Wolever, who declined comment. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reached Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr., who also declined to comment and referred further inquiries to Wolever (Twitter link).
This story is of particular note given the fact that agents who are advising draft prospects are unhappy and could withhold information from the Phillies as the draft approaches. In a followup tweet to his story, Fitt quotes an unnamed agent who told him, "As of today, Phillies are out. Phillies are not getting into any more of our households. We're shutting down all communications." He also tweets that multiple agents have said there will be repercussions for the Phillies.
Scout.com's Kiley McDaniel and ESPN's Keith Law have heard the same today from their own conversations with agents (Twitter links). Law goes on to speculate (via Twitter) that the Phillies may not receive information about the signability of some prospects, their questionnaire responses or the results of their psych tests.
NCAA rules state that players aren't able to have agents heading into the draft, but nearly all draft prospects circumvent that rule by enlisting an "advisor" -- an agent who assists in the negotiation of the contract without a signed agreement of representation from that prospect. Once the player has signed with the team, the advisor becomes his agent and receives a cut of the contract agreed upon between player and team.
Advisors aren't supposed to deal directly with the club -- a technicality that gained attention back in 2009 in regards to lefty Andy Oliver. As the New York Times' Katie Thomas reported at the time, Oliver sued the NCAA upon being declared ineligible to play after it was learned that he had an agent present in his negotiations with the Twins. Oliver was eventually awarded $750K. Fitt spoke with multiple lawyers at the time of that trial, with one professor of sports law telling him: "The MLBPA, not the NCAA, is the proper entity to be regulating the player-agent relationship."
Here's the latest from the City Of Brotherly Love...
- Jimmy Rollins left little room that he would waive his 10-5 rights and allow a trade, the veteran shortstop tells CSNPhilly.com's Marshall Harris (passed on by CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury). “I’m not planning on waiving my no-trade clause. My plan is to bring a championship back here, to be honest. So until something else happens and the situation presents itself where it may help the team -- then I’ll think about it. But until then there’s nothing to think about.”
- Phillies president and CEO David Montgomery discussed the A.J. Burnett signing, the club's offseason moves, the new TV contract, and other topics in an interview with MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.
- Oregon State left-hander Ben Wetzler was indefinitely suspended by the NCAA for inappropriate contact with a financial advisor after he was drafted in the fifth round by the Phillies last June, and Baseball America's Aaron Fitt reports (all Twitter links) that it was the Phils themselves who turned Wetzler in to the NCAA. The club also tried to report sixth-round pick Jason Monda, but Monda was cleared by the NCAA to continue playing for Washington State. Wetzler and Monda, both college juniors, turned to school rather than sign with the Phillies, and Fitt notes that it is "a significant departure from [the] industry norm" for teams to report on their unsigned players.
- In reaction to Fitt's report, Scout.com's Kiley McDaniel says the Phillies "destroyed all trust" between teams and agents in the draft process and Baseball America's Jim Callis feels this "should be" cause for non-senior college players and agents to be careful about dealing with Philadelphia (both links to Twitter).
In a must-read piece for ESPN The Magazine, Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus provides a riveting look into the Angels' efforts to turn around the organization's languishing farm system. Focusing on the philosophies of assistant GM (and former big leaguer) Scott Servais, Miller explores how the Halos hope to emulate the shockingly simple methods of the Cardinals while infusing deep, data-driven analysis into their player-development efforts.
Here are more links from around the game to finish the day:
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson hopes to stay in his role for two or three more years, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post. The 66-year-old, who took the helm in October of 2010, is currently under contract for the following season with a club option for 2015.
- New Dodgers TV network SportsNet LA has yet to reach agreement with many local pay-TV distributors, reports Joe Flint of the Los Angeles Times, which means that a majority of Los Angeles viewers would be without Dodgers games if the season started today. Though the network expressed confidence that deals will be in place by the onset of the 2014 campaign, Flint explains that negotiations promise to be tense.
- In an interesting profile of Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that little notice was given to the fact that Ruiz has been cleared by MLB to use Adderall in the coming season. That is the very substance for which Ruiz was suspended at the start of last season. Brookover paints a picture of a genuinely passionate backstop who is ready to earn his new three-year, $26MM contract.
- A major factor in the White Sox' rebuilding plans is number-two starter Jose Quintana. As MLB.com's Scott Merkin writes, the work of scouts Daraka Shaheed and Joe Siers was responsible for bringing Quintana into the Chicago organization as a minor league free agent from the Yankees, and for setting him on the trajectory to serve as a starter. The 25-year-old, who notched a 3.51 ERA in an even 200 innings last year, is likely to become arbitration-eligible next season as a Super Two. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently looked at the excellent work of Shaheed and Siers in examining the increasing number of Major League deals for minor league free agents.
- Busy as the Sox were this off-season, no single addition carries as much risk (and, perhaps, upside) as 27-year-old first baseman Jose Abreu. As Merkin reports, the big Cuban -- who inked a six-year, $68MM deal in late October -- has drawn rave early reviews for his professionalism both at the plate and in terms of effort.