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Rafael Montero Rumors
The Braves are expected to make a qualifying offer to Ervin Santana, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In the event that Santana leaves, the team may pursue a top-of-the-rotation type of arm, O’Brien writes, but their lack of financial flexibility would make the trade market a more likely avenue than free agency. O’Brien adds that he finds it unlikely that Santana would accept the QO — a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree. He also notes that should the club lose Santana, it might be more motivated to try to retain Aaron Harang, even though he is in line for a sizable raise from the $2MM he earned in 2014 (including incentives). MLBTR’s Zach Links recently profiled Harang, pegging him for a two-year, $14MM contract. Santana was also profiled by MLBTR, with Tim Dierkes projecting a four-year pact worth $56MM.
Elsewhere in baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- The Red Sox are prioritizing Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley as the look toward the offseason, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The team may also look at Aramis Ramirez, though he’s not believed to be as coveted as Sandoval or Headley and is said to prefer a return to Milwaukee, per Heyman, who adds that the Yankees would like to re-sign Headley. Red Sox third basemen combined to hit just .245/.305/.351 in 2014.
- Red Sox people strongly denied a previous report that Yoenis Cespedes is hated by the team’s coaching staff, Heyman writes in a second piece. One source called the report “totally untrue,” and manager John Farrell added on MLB Network Radio that the notion was “completely unfounded,” Heyman adds. He goes on to write that a trade of Cespedes is unlikely (though not impossible), given Boston’s overall need for power.
- The Phillies announced today that their entire coaching staff has agreed to return to the club for the 2015 season.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post looks at the second round of changes coming to the dimensions of Citi Field and writes that the new dimensions may give some type of hint as to which players are most likely to be traded by the Mets this offseason. The Mets are planning to make Citi Field more homer-friendly and build the pitching staff around arms that emphasize strikeouts and ground-balls. Names like Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler fit that description, but Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee and, to a lesser extent, Rafael Montero are all more prone to fly-balls, making them more likely to be dealt.
For the Mets and for other teams throughout baseball, undergoing a rebuilding process provides no guarantee that process will actually work for a sustained period of time, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Sherman argues that the Pirates prove that point — they had been rebuilding for years before they finally reached the playoffs last season, but this season they’re struggling yet again. (Even the Pirates’ playoff year depended heavily on outside additions A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Russell Martin, Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon.) Highly-touted young players like Pedro Alvarez don’t always gradually improve as projected, just as Ike Davis (now a Pirate) did not gradually improve with the Mets. Still others, like Matt Harvey, undergo significant injuries. Sherman argues that building the core of a team through one’s farm system is not without risk. Here are more notes from the National League.
- The Las Vegas 51s have announced that the Mets have optioned top prospect Rafael Montero back to them. Montero made four starts for the Mets, posting a 5.40 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 5.0 BB/9 in 20 innings. The move clears space for the Mets to promote fellow pitcher Buddy Carlyle. The Mets will replace Montero in their rotation with Daisuke Matsuzaka, as Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets.
- Pablo Sandoval “belongs in San Francisco,” and the Giants ought to work out a new deal with him before he’s eligible for free agency this fall, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins writes. Not only is Sandoval a popular player, Jenkins argues, but his positive outlook helps in the Giants’ clubhouse. Also, the Giants’ relative lack of organizational concern about plate discipline makes the team a good fit for the free-swinging Sandoval. Jenkins thinks the Giants might be able to get a five-year deal with Sandoval done before the All-Star break.
Mets co-owner Saul Katz has indicated interest in selling his share of the club, which is held in partnership with team chairman and CEO Fred Wilpon, reports Michael Schmidt of the New York Times. According to the report, while Katz is concerned with jeopardizing Wilpon’s control over the team, he is nevertheless wary of continuing to pump cash into the organization. For his part, Katz denied that he had such an intention through a statement released to the press. Sources told Schmidt that the team is expected to continue losing money this year and suggested that payroll is not likely to “jump substantially” in the near future.
Here’s more from New York and the rest of the National League:
- As suspected, the Mets will call up prospect Jacob deGrom to take a bullpen slot, tweets Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. The move is part of a series of maneuvers through which the team has begun shifting future assets onto its big league roster, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Baseball America ranked deGrom tenth among the team’s prospects coming into the year, noting that he could eventually develop into a mid-rotation starter.
- Perhaps the more important Mets promotion was that of fellow young hurler Rafael Montero, who will step into the team’s rotation. As Ben Badler of Baseball America notes on Twitter, Montero was inked for a mere $80K just three years ago after the club saw him impress in a Dominican Prospect League outing.
- The Phillies bench is in a state of flux amidst serious struggles, writes MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. Infielder Jayson Nix was just outrighted, while recently demoted utilityman Freddy Galvis fractured his clavicle upon his return to the minors. Meanwhile, John Mayberry Jr. and Tony Gwynn Jr. are struggling as reserve outfielders, and the team currently has just one utility infielder on its roster in Reid Brignac. While a recovering Darin Ruf could see another shot at the bigs, as could infielder/outfielder Cesar Hernandez, top prospect Maikel Franco is likely not going to be called up for a bench role. Philadelphia is still just four games back in a densely-packed NL East, and it will be fascinating (as always) to see how GM Ruben Amaro Jr. attacks the trade market this summer if the team stays within striking distance.
- While the Padres have seemingly been snakebitten in the early-career extensions they have entered, GM Josh Byrnes remains committed to his thought process, writes Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “When they don’t work out, they are not killers, but they hurt,” said Byrnes. “We need our dollars to hit their targets, but I think the concept is still good. … The whole model for 20 years is the club is giving some security and taking some risk and sometimes it doesn’t work out.” Of course, the team most recently moved to lock up young infielder Jedd Gyorko to a $35MM pact.
MONDAY: The Mets have officially announced that Montero will be promoted and start on Wednesday in place of Mejia, who will be shifted to the bullpen. Montero would accrue 138 days of Major League service time this season, were he to stick in the Majors, making Super Two status very likely.
Of Montero, GM Sandy Alderson said to reporters (Twitter links to Newsday’s Marc Carig), “We think he’s ready now,” and “We understand it’s a debut on a big stage.” He will slot into what has been a solid Mets rotation behind Zack Wheeler, Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. Additionally, as the Record’s Matt Ehalt tweets, Jacob deGrom has been pulled from his upcoming Triple-A start and will be on standby for the next few days should the team need additional bullpen depth.
For Mejia, the move to the bullpen could prove to be highly beneficial. He’s held opponents to a sparkling .193/.258/.246 batting line when facing them the first time in a game this season. That line, however, jumps to .245/.365/.415 when facing an opponent for the second time and a whopping .405/.500/.595 when facing opponents for a third time. That trend has been the case throughout his young career to this point, but it won’t be much of a concern in the bullpen.
SATURDAY: The Mets could have top prospect Rafael Montero start on Wednesday, tweets ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin, citing Danny Knobler, also of ESPN New York. Jenrry Mejia, Wednesday’s scheduled starter, has struggled so far this season, and Montero pitched on Friday for Triple-A Las Vegas and therefore would be ready to start on Wednesday.
ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider-only) ranks Montero as the No. 60 prospect in baseball. Baseball America lists Montero at No. 68, and MLB.com ranks him No. 78, praising his low-90s fastball and good command. Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook 2014 lists Montero as the Mets’ third-best prospect (behind Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud), noting that he could become a good mid-rotation starter. Montero currently has a 3.67 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 41 2/3 innings for Las Vegas, which is known as a tough environment for pitchers.
If Montero is promoted and sticks with the team, he would likely be eligible for arbitration as a Super Two player following the 2016 season. He would become eligible for free agency after the 2020 season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Steve Adams contributed to this post.
We learned recently that the Pirates had offered a seven-year contract extension to outfield prospect Gregory Polanco, who has of course yet to take the major league field. The extension tender was particularly interesting because of the contrast between Polanco’s situation and that of players like the Astros‘ George Springer, whose similar extension offer came from a non-contender (and who has since been promoted), and Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals, who does not have an obvious spot at the MLB level. Those looking for more thoughts on this situation have a few pieces to check out. In a piece for Grantland, Ben Lindbergh breaks down the overall promotion picture, explaining that several organizations employ quite a different philosophy than strict service time controllers like the Bucs and Rays — and noting that there are very real risks to holding down talent. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says that the Pirates are now in a tough spot, given their desire to save money but equally obvious team need for Polanco. Meanwhile, over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron writes that the discount demanded by the team on Polanco’s reasonably anticipated earnings was just too great, and opines that Pittsburgh should be willing to up its guarantee by $10MM to $15MM.
Here’s more from the National League:
- It is virtually certain that outrighted veteran Xavier Nady will decline his assignment and become a free agent, reports MLB.com’s Corey Brock (via Twitter). The 35-year-old veteran stands at a .135/.238/.405 triple-slash in 42 plate appearances on the season. He did put up a quality .296/.360/.456 line in 495 trips to the plate at the Triple-A level last year.
- The Mets have a detailed plan in the works regarding highly-rated pitching prospect Rafael Montero, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. With an innings limit in play, New York hopes to work Montero as a reliever (first at Triple-A, then in the bigs) before sending him back to the minors to stretch back out and join the MLB rotation later on in the season.
- The first three picks of the amateur draft appear fairly set (at least at this point), which could make the Cubs (who hold the fourth overall choice) the first true wild card. With Tommy John victim Jeff Hoffman now likely out of play, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune says that possibilities include prep arm Kyle Freeland, TCU lefty Brandon Finnegan, or high school catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson.
Gavin Floyd made his Braves debut last night and halted the team’s seven-game losing streak with seven brilliant innings, allowing just a run on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts against the Cardinals. That victory gave Atlanta a half-game lead over the Nationals in a surprisingly competitive NL East. Only 2.5 games separate the Braves from the last-place Phillies in the standings. Here’s the latest from one of baseball’s most competitive divisions…
- The New York Post’s Ken Davidoff writes that for all of the successes that Sandy Alderson has had since taking over as GM of the Mets in 2011 — including the trades of Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey — his inability to craft a serviceable bullpen tarnishes his reputation. As Davidoff points out, 19 different pitchers have earned a save for the Mets since 2011. He goes on to opine that if the Mets were ever to aggressively pursue veteran relief help on the trade market, this is the year to do it.
- The Mets are discussing when to promote prospects Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom, assistant GM John Ricco told WOR 710 AM (via Metsblog’s Matthew Cerrone). Ricco said he and VP Paul DePodesta are in agreement that they want to wait until the pitchers have nothing left to prove in the minors. Said Ricco: “…rushing one of those guys and putting on pressure and creating a situation where they’re the savior is not something we’re looking to do.”
- Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com examines Cole Hamels‘ performance since signing his six-year, $144MM extension with the Phillies and comes to the conclusion that Hamels hasn’t lived up to the expectations set forth by that deal yet. Hamels has the 44th-best ERA (3.56) since the time his extension was signed, despite being the game’s sixth-highest paid pitcher, he adds. Seidman notes that it’s understandable for the Phillies to have paid Hamels so much, given his status as one of their best homegrown talents ever, but he wonders if the team should have traded him then attempted to re-sign him the following winter.
- Following up on his colleague Adam Kilgore’s examination of Ross Detwiler‘s curious usage last night, James Wagner of the Washington Post spoke with manager Matt Williams yesterday about the left-hander’s usage. “We’d like to get him in there more. We’ll make plans to do that. [Monday] is an example of we gotta hold him, hold him because we didn’t know how it was going to go today. Turned out that Blake [Treinen] pitched well and we had to get him an inning today and it just didn’t work out. He’ll get back in there.” Wagner also looks at how Treinen has been handled curiously in the minor leagues; Treinen had pitched just one inning in a week’s time prior to Monday’s start.
Daisuke Matsuzaka picked up his first Major League save last night, though it probably isn’t going to be the start of a new career path for the veteran right-hander. Matsuzaka only got the call since Kyle Farnsworth had pitched in three of the Mets’ previous four games and was being rested, and as Fangraphs’ Paul Swydan points out, Dice-K doesn’t fit the traditional closer profile. Anything is possible given the Mets’ unsettled closing situation, however, so be sure to keep following @CloserNews, MLBTR’s sister Twitter feed, for the very latest on ninth-inning personnel changes.
Here’s some news from Citi Field…
- The Mets still haven’t decided whether or not to pursue free agent reliever Joel Hanrahan, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. The team has been weighing its options for several days now since watching Hanrahan throw at a showcase last week. Almost 20 teams watched Hanrahan throw, so the Mets may face competition if they do decide to make the righty an offer, though an evaluator tells Martino that Hanrahan is still roughly a month away from being able to contribute.
- Also from Martino, there still isn’t anything brewing between the Mets and Stephen Drew, as “there is no momentum” between the two sides.
- Matthew Cerrone of Metsblog.com agrees that a Drew signing looks like a major longshot, and the Mets are more likely to promote Wilmer Flores from Triple-A than acquire a shortstop like Drew or the Mariners’ Nick Franklin.
- If the Mets do deal for a shortstop, Cerrone believes the Diamondbacks are New York’s best option as a trade partner. The two clubs at least discussed a trade during Spring Training and scouted each other’s prospects. According to Cerrone, the D’Backs liked right-hander Rafael Montero and catchers Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, though Plawecki alone wouldn’t have been enough to secure a deal. All three are ranked amongst the Mets’ top prospects by Baseball America, though Montero and d’Arnaud in particular would take major offers for the Mets to consider a trade.
Top Mets prospect Rafael Montero and Twins youngsters Oswaldo Arcia and Josmil Pinto have joined the Legacy Agency, according to Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal (subscription required). For Montero and Arcia, this marks a return to TLA after being gone for one year and for nine months, respectively.
Montero, who turned 23 in October, split the 2013 campaign between the Mets' Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, compiling an impressive 2.78 ERA and 4.29 K/BB ratio (150 strikeouts, 35 walks) in 155 1/3 innings of work. Both Baseball America and MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo agree that the right-hander is the No. 3 prospect in the Mets' minor league system, trailing only the highly touted Noah Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud. Mayo also lists Montero as the No. 97 overall prospect in the game.
A consensus Top 100 prospect heading into the 2013 season, Arcia debuted in Minnesota as a 21-year-old this year and became the youngest player to hit a home run while donning a Twins uniform since Joe Mauer in 2004. Arcia was a bit overmatched by Major League pitching but held his own, slashing .251/.304/.430 with 14 home runs in 378 plate appearances. He also saw 155 plate appearances in Triple-A, illustrating that he has little to prove at that level by hitting .313/.426/.594 with 10 homers in 38 games.
Pinto, 25 in March, burst onto the scene in 2013 with a .309/.400/.482 batting line and 15 homers between Double-A and Triple-A this season. With the news that Mauer is shifting to first base full-time, Pinto suddenly appears to be the heir-apparent behind the plate in Minnesota. He made his big league debut as a September call-up and turned plenty of heads in a small sample size of 83 plate appearances by slashing .342/.398/.556 with four homers and five doubles. He ranks fifth among Twins prospects, per Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus.
The Legacy Agency has numerous high-profile Major League clients (e.g. CC Sabathia, Carl Crawford, Aaron Hill, Edwin Jackson) but also boasts some high-profile prospects. In addition to Montero, Arcia and Pinto, TLA also represents George Springer, Taylor Guerrieri and Jenrry Mejia, as can be seen in MLBTR's Agency Database, whiche contains info on 2,000+ Major League and Minor League players. If you see any omissions or errors within the database, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.