Raisel Iglesias Rumors

NL Central Notes: Iglesias, Cubs, Tabata

Raisel Iglesias is about to debut in the Reds rotation, a process that began when Reds scout Mark Snipp watched Iglesias pitch in Mexico, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports. Iglesias was taller than the Reds had heard he was, and had a good curveball and slider. The Reds were willing to commit $27MM to Iglesias because they viewed him as a starter, while other teams figured he would be a reliever. That marked the Reds’ second high-profile signing of a Cuban pitcher in recent years, the other being Aroldis Chapman. “In both cases, we probably went further (financially) than we thought we would go,” says GM Walt Jocketty. “But we have absolutely zero regrets.” Here’s more from the NL Central.

  • Even if your team is rebuilding, it’s important to have the right veterans, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein tells MLB Network Radio (via the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich, who connects the Cubs’ efforts to rebuild to those of the Astros). “When you have a young team, we were the youngest team in baseball last year, and probably will be again this year, it can get really rudderless and lost in a hurry if you don’t have the right veterans around,” says Epstein. “[P]eople … mock that sometimes because it’s hard to quantify but it’s real.” Last year’s Cubs team prominently featured thirty-something players like John Baker, Nate Schierholtz, Justin Ruggiano and Edwin Jackson even though most of the season focused on trades of veterans and the development of young players.
  • Outfielder Jose Tabata wouldn’t mind if the Pirates traded him, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. “I want to be in the big leagues, whether it’s here or somewhere else,” says Tabata. “If somebody else gives me an opportunity and the Pirates trade me, that’s OK. I want to stay here, but we’ll see what happens.” In 2011, the Pirates signed Tabata to a long-term deal that has not worked out, and the two years and $8.75MM remaining on that deal will likely be an impediment to any trade, especially since Tabata hit a mere .282/.314/.333 in 186 plate appearances last year and is no longer even on the Pirates’ 40-man roster.

Central Notes: Lucroy Injury, Iglesias, Twins, Shields

The Brewers announced today that a mild right hamstring strain will cost All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy four to six weeks of action in Spring Training. Obviously, that news brings into question whether or not Lucroy can be ready for Opening Day with the Brewers. As Adam McCalvy of MLB.com writes, however, Lucroy recently had a platelet-rich plasma injection in his hamstring to speed the recovery process and believes he will be ready come Opening Day. The team does have a serviceable backup in Martin Maldonado, should Lucroy’s recovery take longer than expected, but even missing a few weeks of Lucroy’s bat and elite glove could be a significant detriment in what figures to be a highly competitive NL Central Division. (For more on Lucroy’s defense, check out this excellent article by Rob Arthur of Baseball Prospectus detailing the effect of pitch-framing not only on called strikes but on expanding a hitter’s swing profile.)

Here are a few more notes from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Cuban right-hander Raisel Iglesias, signed by the Reds to a seven-year, $27MM contract last summer, has a legitimate chance to end up in Cincinnati’s rotation, writes John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer in looking at 10 pertinent questions facing the Reds as Spring Training approaches. Scouts in the Arizona Fall League and manager Bryan Price all raved to Fay about Iglesias’ AFL performance. “Four pitches with command — that spells out starting pitcher, especially when it’s plus-stuff across the board,” Price said. “He was 93-97, so the velocity is there. The action on his fastball is there, much better changeup than I anticipated seeing and two quality breaking balls and a good feel.” If Iglesias can indeed crack the rotation, that could be a significant boost to a team that saw both Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon depart via trade this winter.
  • Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN writes that he has been asked by Twins fans, and wondered himself, why Minnesota didn’t go on a Padres-like tear to restructure their roster into a win-now club. While Mackey concedes that Minnesota’s deep farm system makes it possible to have done something similar, he points out that the Padres had a lower payroll to start with than the Twins and even after their flurry of moves are now on par with Minnesota. Additionally, San Diego’s method comes with plenty of risk, as Justin Upton looks to be a one-year rental, and the team has taken the risk that Matt Kemp‘s arthritic hips will hold up, and James Shields‘ productivity will continue through age 36. Mackey looks at recent winter remakes by the 2008 Tigers and Mariners, the 2012 Marlins and 2013 Blue Jays and notes that none have been successful (though Detroit eventually emerged as a perennial contender). Ultimately, he concludes, his preference is for a long-term, sustainable run at success with a deep farm system, such as the one currently possessed by the Twins.
  • Twins VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff and several scouts were on hand today to watch Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez in the Dominican Republic, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Just 18 years old, Alvarez was clocked between 93 and 97 mph and received positive words from Fangraphs prospect/scouting guru Kiley McDaniel earlier today.
  • Though the Royals will miss Shields’ arm in their rotation, he gave them exactly what they needed at a time they needed it the most, writes MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Shields helped instill a winning culture in the Royals’ clubhouse, bringing a “swagger and a level of confidence that we didn’t have before,” GM Dayton Moore explained to Flanagan. Shields created a belief among his teammates that they could win on any given night and orchestrated elaborate victory celebrations. Not only that, but he became a role model for young arms such as Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura“He was a tremendous help to me,” Duffy told Flanagan. “You learn so much just talking to him.” In addition to those intangible benefits, of course, the Royals got two years of excellent production and the No. 33 pick in the 2015 draft.

Quick Hits: Reaction Time, Schafer, Morse, Iglesias

Several MLB clubs have dabbled with neurological training in a bid to improve their hitters’ pitch recognition, as Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal writes. The Red Sox, Cubs, and Rays have already initiated programs, but more could be on the way. As Boston GM Ben Cherington explains, the purpose of taking this approach is to help young batters develop a stronger mental connection between seeing a pitch and deciding whether or not to swing. Quick reactions — physical and mental — are all the more important given rising fastball velocities around the league. One mark of that: at least 52 minor league hurlers have been clocked at or above 100 mph this year, according to the count of Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper.

Here are a few notes of interest from around the league:

  • Twins center fielder Jordan Schafer has had an up and down time since becoming a professional, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes. Most recently, he was claimed by Minnesota over the summer after he failed to live up to a solid 2013 campaign with the Braves. The speedy 28-year-old has put up excellent numbers in his new home: a .298/.365/.386 slash with 15 stolen bases over 131 plate appearances. He will be eligible for arbitration for the second time after the year.
  • As the Giants welcome back Michael Morse from injury, other developments could limit his playing time over the last few weeks of the regular season and the playoffs to come, as Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com reports. With Brandon Belt returning to the fold and Gregor Blanco having performed well in Morse’s stead, a regular spot may no longer be available. Though Morse rebounded from a mid-year swoon with a strong August, his defensive shortcomings have become more of an issue, according to Baggarly. Morse remains a difficult player to peg as a pending free agent: the 32-year-old has a productive .280/.338/.477 line with 16 home runs over 480 plate appearances, but defensive metrics paint a rough image of his contribution in the field.
  • The Reds are still contemplating whether Cuban free agent signee Raisel Iglesias will take the mound competitively over the winter in Puerto Rico, reports MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Iglesias, a 24-year-old righty, has been working on strength and conditioning since inking a seven-year, $27MM deal with Cincinnati, and only just began long-tossing. He is under reserve with the Santurce Cangrejeros, and would throw for that club if he does play winter ball.

Reds Designate Ryan LaMarre To Clear Space For Raisel Iglesias

The Reds have designated outfielder Ryan LaMarre for assignment, according to a tweet from assistant director of media relations Jamie Ramsey. With the move, Cincinnati has cleared a 40-man spot for recently-signed Cuban hurler Raisel Iglesias, who will be introduced today after receiving his visa over the weekend, as C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (Twitter links).

LaMarre, 25, has missed much of the year due to injury after starting the year at Triple-A. Last year, over 529 plate appearances, mostly at the Double-A level, he put up a .245/.327/.368 slash with 10 home runs and 23 stolen bases (against 13 times caught stealing). The center fielder, a second round pick in 2010, was not ranked among the Reds’ top thirty prospects entering the year by Baseball America.

Meanwhile, Iglesias — who signed a seven-year, $27MM pact in late June — seems close to officially being added to the team’s 40-man roster. The righty is said to be capable of moving quickly to a big league bullpen, though the Reds reportedly intend to develop him as a starter. It remains to be seen at what level and in what role the club will initially deploy the 24-year-old.

Reds Sign Raisel Iglesias To Seven-Year Deal

The Reds announced that they have signed Cuban right-hander Raisel Iglesias to a seven-year contract. The deal will guarantee Iglesias $27MM (including a signing bonus in the range of $5MM to $6MM) once he obtains a work visa. It also allows him to opt into arbitration if he becomes eligible. While the deal is for seven years, Iglesias’ free agency will not be delayed, as one of those years includes the 2014 season, during which he will not accrue a full year of service time anyway.

Iglesias, who is represented by Bart Hernandez and Praver Shapiro Sports Management, was said last week to be nearing a deal with the Reds. At the time, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports relayed a report from Cuban baseball expert Peter Bjarkman, who has seen the 24-year-old Iglesias pitch extensively and thinks he could be in the Majors after just a month or so in the minor leagues (Twitter links).

Iglesias’ name has been on the rumor circuit for months following his defection from Cuba last November (after one previous failed attempt). Ben Badler of Baseball America provides a scouting report on the 5’11, 165 lb righty, noting that he pitched at 88-92 mph in the 2013 World Baseball Classic but had pitched more in the 92-95 mph range in previous international tournaments. Iglesias also features a sweeping breaking ball in the 76-81 mph range, per Badler.

The 24-year-old Iglesias’ stats are available over at ObstructedView.com, which shows that in his past 82 2/3 innings in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, he posted a 3.05 ERA with a 74-to-30 K/BB ratio (five of those walks were intentional). His new contract means that he will be controlled through the 2020 season.

Most evaluators peg Iglesias as a quick-to-the-Majors bullpen arm, but the report of MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon notes that the Reds believe he is capable of starting. According to a tweet from MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, Iglesias has added a changeup and otherwise tightened up his offerings. Cincinnati held a similar belief about fellow Cuban signee Aroldis Chapman before eventually settling Chapman into the closer’s role, where he has become arguably the best reliever in baseball. The club has also used several valuable draft picks on college relievers with the intention of trying them as starters, such as Tony Cingrani, Michael Lorenzen, and Nick Howard.

Depending on the annual salary structure and his ultimate usage, the ability to go to arbitration could convey a good bit of upside to Iglesias. Certainly, he would have greater earning capacity if he is used a starter or closer. Sheldon tweets that Iglesias will take the 40-man roster spot of Roger Bernadina, who was designated for assignment earlier this week.

MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon and colleague Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter) reported the financial details of the deal. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted that that Iglesias could opt into arbitration. 

Latest On Reds, Raisel Iglesias

4:12pm: A team source tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (via Twitter) that a deal is “not close.”

3:42pm: The Reds and Cuban right-hander Raisel Iglesias are nearing a deal, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. As Morosi notes, Max Wildstein was the first to say that the two sides were closing in on an agreement earlier this week (Twitter link).

Morosi spoke with Cuban baseball expert Peter Bjarkman, who has seen the 24-year-old Iglesias pitch extensively and thinks he could be in the Majors after just a month or so in the minor leagues, making it conceivable that if the deal is finalized, he’ll pitch for Cincinnati this season (Twitter links).

As Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote last fall upon Iglesias original attempt to defect — he was detained once prior to successfully defecting to Mexico — Iglesias threw 88 to 92 mph at last year’s World Baseball Classic but has been considerably more impressive in the past, flashing 92 to 95 mph velocity and a sweeping breaking ball that sat between 76 and 81 mph. Badler did note on more than one occasion that Iglesias would likely need to begin his career in the minor leagues rather than jumping directly to the Majors.

Iglesias’ stats are available over at ObstructedView.com, which shows that in his past 82 2/3 innings, he’s posted a 3.05 ERA with a 74-to-30 K/BB ratio (five of those walks were intentional). The Reds could use bullpen help, as they rank 22nd in the Majors with a 3.97 ERA from their relief corps and announced today that Sean Marshall will undergo shoulder surgery.

NL Notes: Iglesias, Mills, Martin, Young, Billingsley

Here’s the latest out of the National League …

  • The Reds are interested in Cuban free agent pitcher Raisel Iglesias, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America (via Twitter). A team official told Badler that a deal was not in place at this time, however. Badler recently reported that the righty was granted an extended signing window by MLB, and will be free to sign through July 1 without being subject to international spending limitations.
  • Brewers righty Brad Mills has an opt-out provision in his minor league deal that was triggered on Sunday, but can only be exercised if he has an offer from a team that would put him on its 25-man roster, reports Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Mills, 29, has impressed at Triple-A, with a 1.56 ERA and 9.2 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 through 75 innings (including 12 starts). As Rosiak notes, however, Milwaukee seems relatively uninterested in using him at the big league level at present.
  • If the Pirates decide to open extension talks with catcher Russell Martin, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review estimates that it could take a three-year, $39MM offer to make a deal. Martin, who signed a two-year, $17MM pact to come to Pittsburgh, has posted a strong .275/.409/.400 line this year, which is the best pace he’s carried since his excellent 2006-08 seasons with the Dodgers. In the intervening five years, Martin has averaged a .234/.332/.370 triple-slash, though he has consistently earned stellar defensive ratings. After Martin, pickings are fairly slim on next year’s free agent market for backstops, with players like Kurt Suzuki, A.J. Pierzynski, Geovany Soto, and Nick Hundley leading the way.
  • The Mets have no intention of releasing struggling outfielder Chris Young, reports Adam Rubin of ESPN.com. Young has posted a meager .196/.283/.313 line in 185 plate appearances since joining the club on a one-year, $7.25MM pact. While the team would like to be able to deal him, presumably eating some salary to make that happen, a team official tells Rubin that New York does not expect to find much of a market for his services.
  • As expected, Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley will undergo season-ending surgery on his right elbow, reports Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com. It seems all but certain that the club will opt to pay Billingsley a $3MM buyout rather than picking up his $14MM option for 2015. The veteran hurler tells Saxon that the rehab is expected to be “about six months,” and that surgery offered him the “best chance to pitch next year.”

Quick Hits: Rodon, Iglesias, Yankees, Tigers

Five clubs now have new top prospects heading out of the amateur draft, writes ESPN.com’s Keith Law (Insider link). He lists the White Sox (Carlos Rodon), Angels (Sean Newcomb), Mariners (Alex Jackson), Tigers (Derek Hill), and Mets (Michael Conforto) as teams with a new man on top of their respective totem poles. Of course, none of these players have been reported to have signed with their new clubs.

Here’s more on Rodon as well as some other notes from around the game:

  • The White Sox appear to have saved $385.6K with their round two-through-ten amateur draft signings, tweets Jim Callis of MLB.com. That would free the club to commit up to $6,107,100 to Rodon, the third overall selection of the draft, without incurring any penalties.
  • Cuban prospect Raisel Iglesias, a right-handed pitcher, has been granted an extended signing window, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. By operation of several rules, Iglesias would have been required to sign by June 15 to avoid being subject to the next year’s July 2 bonus pools. Instead, he and three other, lesser-regarded Cubans (Jozzen CuestaEduardo Rives, and Orestes Solano) will now be permitted until July 1 of this year to sign without being subject to changes in the international signing system. Last we heard, Iglesias (whose first name has been spelled in various ways in different reports) was set to put on a showcase in Haiti, where he has established residency. He is said to be capable of potentially joining a major league bullpen as soon as this year.
  • In other international news, the Yankees have agreed to substantial bonuses with several top July 2 players, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily NewsDermis Garcia ($3.6MM bonus), Nelson Gomez ($2.8MM), and Christopher Torres ($2.6MM) are all said to be headed to the Yankees. Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com previously reported that the trio, among others, was set to sign with New York, though the indication at the time was that Garcia would land $3MM while Torres would get just $1MM.
  • The Tigers could end up regretting their move to lock up Justin Verlander two years before his original extension was set to expire, Ben Lindbergh writes for FOX Sports. Though Verlander bounced back from struggles last year, Lindbergh explains that a variety of indicators suggest that the 31-year-old may no longer be the elite arm that he once was.
  • In an interesting discussion of pitching risk regarding another key Tigers hurler, Max ScherzerDave Cameron of Fangraphs writes that the ace is showing the possible value of utilizing private insurance rather than opting for the two extremes of signing an extension or bearing the risk of reaching (and landing a big contract in) free agency. Cameron concludes that policies like Scherzer’s “are almost certainly cheaper [for the player] than taking the kinds of long-term deals that MLB teams have been offering of late.” You’ll want to give the fascinating piece a full read.

Quick Hits: Wrigley, Blue Jays, Arenado, Iglesias, Opt-Outs

In case you missed it, the Cubs‘ efforts to renovate Wrigley Field have run into some snags that have stirred up controversy in Chicago. That project has frequently been cited by the team as a key factor in future payroll expansion. Club executive Crane Kenney discussed the latest in an interview with David Kaplan on The Game 87.7 FM (audio link). Kaplan also released a copy of the agreement with the neighboring rooftop owners that is at the center of the dispute (on CSNChicago.com). Today, first baseman Anthony Rizzo expressed frustration over the delays, saying that players had been told to expect significant clubhouse renovations, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Here’s the latest from around the league to finish up the night …

  • With the Blue Jays seemingly more interested in adding a short-term rental arm than a player who comes with more control (and a higher price), Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says that James Shields of the Royals could be a possible target for Toronto. Heyman says that the Jays hope to avoid “gutting” the team’s prospect pool in adding a pitcher, and like that Shields has proven himself in the AL East. Of course, unless Kansas City is well out of the race by the time the trade deadline comes around, Shields may not even be available. And even if he is shopped, he would draw lots of interest from other contenders and should command a substantial prospect haul himself. Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos said earlier today that he is confident the club can take on salary to add an impact pitcher; in discussing that news, MLBTR’s Steve Adams listed several possible free agents-to-be that could become available and attractive to the Jays.
  • Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado will not require surgery on his broken left middle finger, reports Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. That is good news for a suddenly-reeling Colorado club, though Arenado still figures to miss at least six more weeks. It will be interesting to see whether an anticipated mid-to-late July return for Arenado could help encourage the Rockies to buy at the trade deadline, if they can stay afloat in the meantime.
  • The Reds were among the many clubs on hand to watch Cuban righty Raciel Iglesias throw today in Haiti, tweets C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The Cinci pen has struggled to the league’s third-worst ERA through the first third of the season. Iglesias is said to have the potential to be a legitimate big league relief contributor right away.
  • One aspect of the Mariners‘ decision to purchase the contract of outfielder Endy Chavez today was his June 1 opt-out date, tweets Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. The 36-year-old was carrying a .272/.346/.289 triple-slash in 134 plate appearances at Triple-A.
  • Other opt-out situations around the league are coming to a decision point. In addition to attempting to address the clause of rehabbing starter Johan Santana, the Orioles are waiting to find out whether reliever Luis Ayala will opt out of his deal tomorrow, with the expectation that he will, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (Twitter links). The veteran righty has allowed three earned runs (with five strikeouts against two walks) in 5 1/3 innings at Double-A thus far in 2014.
  • Meanwhile, Brewers lefty Brad Mills has been excellent at Triple-A and is nearing a June 15 opt-out date, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 29-year-old has a 1.74 ERA in 57 innings (including nine starts), with 9.0 K/9 against just 1.9 BB/9.

AL Central Notes: Hughes, Iglesias, Coke, Sveum

Twins right-hander Phil Hughes chatted with Brandon Warne of the St. Paul Pioneer Press about his turnaround this season and his decision to return to the curveball he had abandoned in favor of a slider. As Warne notes, Hughes is using a three-pitch mix — four-seamer, cutter and curveball — to great effect, having compiled a 3.23 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 0.9 BB/9 en route to 1.9 fWAR through his first 61 1/3 innings as a Twin. Hughes, who has faced 175 batters since his issuing his last walk, credits improved mechanics and an emphasis on throwing strikes for his turnaround. He’ll return to Yankee Stadium for the first time this weekend, which he says he’s looking forward to. “I think human nature is you’re going to get a little more amped up for something like that,” Hughes tells Warne. “It’ll be fun.”

Here’s more on the Twins and the rest of the AL Central…

  • The Twins will be present at today’s Raciel Iglesias showcase in Haiti, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (Twitter link). However, it might not be worth reading too much into that, as Sanchez also notes that the Twins “see everyone.” The New York Post’s Joel Sherman noted last night that some teams feel Iglesias can help a big league bullpen this season.
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski tells Steve Kaminski of MLive.com that fans tend to “jump on situations and focus on individuals” when a team is struggling, and he doesn’t think that Phil Coke is the team’s problem at this point. Dombrowski said he feels that Coke has thrown the ball better of late, which is true to an extent, but he does still own a 5.91 ERA in the month of May (albeit, an improvement from his 8.10 mark in April). Dombrowski feels that the team’s pitching staff is well-equipped to recover from its recent rough patch.
  • New Royals hitting coach Dale Sveum feels that the team is swinging at too many pitches down in the zone rather than waiting to pounce on pitches that are left up, he tells MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel. Sveum offered high praise for the man he replaced, Pedro Grifol, and talked about the difficulty of the role of hitting coach: “You’re dealing with the to do of any manager, of any coach, of any position. The hitting coach — anybody will also say — is the most difficult. Unfortunately, it’s the most transitional, too.”