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- Right-Hander Norge Ruiz Leaves Cuba, Will Seek Deal With MLB Club
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Raul Ibanez Rumors
Raul Ibanez has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Rays managerial opening, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. That leaves Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash and Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu as the two remaining finalists. The Rays are expected to make their decision no earlier than Friday. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com also tweets that a decision “will come tomorrow or soon thereafter.”
The 42-year-old Ibanez was one of three finalists for the Rays position. He cited a “desire to spend more time with [his] family” as the reason for the withdrawal. That probably also signals a plan to retire. He spent parts of 19 seasons in the majors, although he struggled throughout the 2014 campaign.
The Rays have whittled their list of managerial candidates down to three and will select either Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu, Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash or Raul Ibanez to serve as their next skipper, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter). Earlier today, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman reported that the Rays would narrow the field to three candidates at some point today.
Wakamatsu has served as a big league manager before, managing the Mariners from 2009-10. He’s oft-cited as a candidate to receive another crack at managing a team and has drawn interest from multiple clubs in managerial searches since his dismissal from Seattle.
Cash, 37 in December, had an eight-year career as a catcher with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, Astros and Rays. He was under strong consideration in the recent managerial searches for the Rangers and Astros as well.
Ibanez, 42, was a surprise entrant on the Rays’ initial list of 10, considering the fact that he was active on a Major League roster through season’s end. The 19-year veteran is a career .272/.335/.465 hitter with 305 homers and is known to be a positive influence in the clubhouse. Though his playing career continued through 2014, he’s only nine years younger than Wakamatsu and is actually nearly six years older than Cash.
That these are the finalists means the Rays had to make the tough decision not to advance bench coach Dave Martinez, their top internal candidate, into the final round. Martinez has long drawn praise around the game and interviewed for several other managerial positions but come up short each time. In a press release confirming the finalists, president of baseball operations Matt Silverman made the following statement: “The decision on Dave Martinez was especially difficult. He’s played a key role in our organization’s evolution, and he’s done all he can to put himself in position to be a manager. In the end, we determined that our clubhouse would best benefit from a new voice that will add to our already strong and cohesive culture.”
Topkin tweets that each of the finalists will be brought in for an interview the week of Dec. 1, so there will be no manager in place by Thanksgiving, but that should give the team time to make a decision prior to the Winter Meetings, which run from Dec. 7-11 in San Diego this year.
Rebuilding is no longer a word the White Sox want to be associated with, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports. “We sit here on the one hand realizing that we have the prime of Chris Sale‘s career ahead of us, the prime of Jose Abreu‘s career ahead of us and wanting to make sure we’re in a position to capitalize and win within that window,” Hahn said. “We want to win, we want to win again quickly and we want to win again repeatedly in the coming years. … We still have work to do to continue that process.” At the same time, Hahn emphasized today that the team has to avoid the “dangerous allure to wanting to make a splash,” as Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports in the course of an interesting look at the team’s options.
Here’s the latest from the AL Central after a busy news day:
- The White Sox are currently focused on acquiring a right-handed starter, bullpen additions, and a left-handed hitter, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. While the club has in the past looked into dealing for backstops such as Jason Castro of the Astros and Yasmani Grandal of the Padres, that does not appear to be the priority at present, per Rosenthal. Nevertheless, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com indicates on Twitter that the team does have present interest in Castro.
- Hahn said today that Chicago is interested in multiple relief acquisitions, as MLB.com’s Phil Rogers reports. “We don’t feel the need to go out and get a so-called proven closer,” said Hahn. “We certainly want to have multiple upgrades, and if some of those upgrades give us viable back-end options, that’s great.”
- Word is that the Royals will meet with the representatives of lefty Brett Anderson this week, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter. GM Dayton Moore declined to confirm or deny that or any other meetings. I picked Anderson to go to Kansas City in the MLBTR free agent prediction contest, and think he makes sense for a club that has some added cash to spend on an upside play.
- The Royals have told Raul Ibanez that they would be interested in employing him in a non-playing capacity, tweets McCullough. Ibanez, of course, is in the hunt for the Rays’ open managerial position, and perhaps it is still to early to rule out a return to an active roster as well.
- Victor Martinez is at the top of the Tigers‘ list of priorities, writes Paul Hagen of MLB.com, as GM Dave Dombrowski made clear that the team will make every effort to re-sign the DH. The team is still interested in outgoing free agents Max Scherzer and Joba Chamberlain, per Dombrowski, but he said the club is sitting back while both assess their markets.
The Yankees have spoken with veteran Royals outfielder Raul Ibanez about their hitting coach position, George A. King III of the New York Post writes. Since Ibanez was still technically a Royal during the team’s World Series run (although he was not on their active roster), the Yankees waited until late this week to contact him. The 42-year-old Ibanez has an excellent clubhouse reputation, although, obviously, he has never been a professional hitting coach. The Yankees have interviewed Chili Davis (who ended up in Boston) and Dave Magadan (who returned to the Rangers). Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- The Phillies‘ pair of deals involving current Giants star Hunter Pence turned out horribly, Ryan Lawrence of the Daily News writes. Jarred Cosart is already contributing in the big leagues, and Jon Singleton and Domingo Santana, who joined Cosart in heading to Houston when the Phillies acquired Pence, are both promising. Meanwhile, little remains of the Phillies’ haul when they sent Pence to San Francisco — catcher Tommy Joseph has struggled to stay healthy, while pitcher Seth Rosin, who will be 26 next week, was demoted to Double-A at one point this summer.
- The Marlins appear likely to exercise their option on catcher Jeff Mathis, writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. The 31-year-old Mathis has never hit well (he batted just .200/.263/.274 last season), but he’s competent defensively and he’s cheap, at just $1.5MM for 2015. If the Marlins do in fact pick up his option, he’ll spend another season as Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s backup.
The Royals have signed Raul Ibanez to a Major League contract, the team announced. The 42-year-old was released by the Angels last week after signing a one-year, $2.75MM deal with the Halos in the offseason. Ibanez is represented by ACES.
Ibanez didn’t produce much in Anaheim, hitting only .157/.258/.265 with three homers over 190 PA this season. He projects as a bench bat and occasional designated hitter for the Royals, likely spelling regular DH Billy Butler every once in a while against a right-handed starter. Ibanez, while a below-average defensive outfielder, could also see a bit of time in the outfield since the Royals just designated Justin Maxwell for assignment.
While it’s unclear if Ibanez has anything left at the plate, it’s a fairly low-risk signing for the Royals considering Ibanez’s track record, clubhouse presence and the fact that he’s signing for a minimum salary. This is Ibanez’s second stint with Kansas City, as he originally played for the Royals from 2001-03.
Top Astros prospect Carlos Correa awaits medical evaluation in Houston after an ankle injury Saturday, as Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle notes. “I hit an RBI triple and then my spike got stuck at the bag,” Correa explains. GM Jeff Luhnow says Correa is expected to miss time due to the injury, although it’s not yet clear how much. Correa, the top pick in the 2012 draft, was hitting .325/.416/.510 for Class A+ Lancaster, and the Chronicle guesses he might have been in line for promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi. In any case, losing him to a serious injury would be a significant blow to the Astros, even with their strong farm system. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- Raul Ibanez is not a good fit for the Mariners, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune tweets. Ibanez hit 29 homers for the Mariners in 2013, but the Angels released him yesterday after he hit a mere .157/.258/.265 in 190 plate appearances for them.
- Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins is 41, but he has no plans to stop playing, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. “If I stay healthy, I can pitch forever,” says Hawkins. “That’s my thought process. I have been blessed with a right arm that has definitely defeated all of the odds.” The Rockies signed Hawkins last winter to a deal that pays him $2.25MM in 2014, with a $2.25MM option and a $250K buyout for 2015. Hawkins’ 2.77 ERA suggests the Rockies will pick up that very cheap option, although Hawkins’ peripherals have been underwhelming, with 3.8 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 26 innings so far.
The Angels have announced that they’ve released Raul Ibanez. Ibanez collected 190 plate appearances with the Angels this season and hit .157/.258/.265. The Angels have endured criticism recently for playing Ibanez at designated hitter ahead of the much younger C.J. Cron.
The Angels signed Ibanez to a big-league deal in December, paying him $2.75MM plus bonuses based on playing time. Ibanez was effective offensively for the Mariners last season, hitting .242/.306/.487 with 29 homers in 596 plate appearances, but he never got untracked with the Angels, and he has been a consistently weak defender and baserunner for years, so he doesn’t add value if he’s not hitting. Ibanez, 42, has played in parts of 19 seasons with the Mariners, Royals, Phillies, Yankees and Angels.
Rangers left-hander Martin Perez underwent his Tommy John surgery earlier today, and everything “went as expected,” writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The surgery was performed by Dr. Keith Meister, who performs most of the club’s surgeries. As the Rangers look to deal with that blow to their rotation, here’s more from baseball’s Western divisions…
- For the time being, Padres ace Andrew Cashner has avoided joining Perez on the list of series elbow injuries. Cashner underwent an MRI today, and while that test has conditioned the public to fear the worst, GM Josh Byrnes issued the following statement via press release: “After performing an MRI today on Andrew’s right elbow, our doctors have indicated to me that he has elbow soreness and irritation. Based on our doctors’ recommendation we will be proceeding with rest and rehabilitation for his recovery.”
- Though the Angels will soon need to make roster moves to get Kole Calhoun, David Freese and Dane De La Rosa back on the active roster, releasing struggling DH Raul Ibanez isn’t likely, reports MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. General manager Jerry Dipoto wouldn’t say Ibanez will not be released, Gonzalez writes, but he expressed that the team will remain patient and voiced confidence in the aging slugger: “Raul has a track record. He has done this before. He has gone through cold spells, and he has gotten hot. There’s nobody here who believes Raul has had his last good days in the big leagues.”
- Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall “can hardly stop pinching [himself]” after the team’s hiring of Tony La Russa as its new chief baseball officer, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. La Russa drew interest from multiple clubs for an executive role and turned down at least one offer, feeling that he wasn’t needed with that team, Heyman adds. He also writes that manager Kirk Gibson has close to a clean slate following the La Russa hire, and that La Russa will give Gibson and GM Kevin Towers until at least season’s end to help get the Snakes back on track.
Here are some stray notes from around the game to finish up the evening:
- 35-year-old former big leaguer Juan Rincon, who has not thrown in the bigs since 2010, is looking to mount a comeback, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Rincon, a righty who owns a 4.03 ERA in 507 MLB innings, has thrown for several clubs already, says Heyman.
- Meanwhile, another veteran — 33-year-old right-hander Todd Coffey — is set to put on a showcase tomorrow, Heyman tweets. Heyman says that the eight-year veteran, whose career ERA stands at 4.10, has amped his fastball up into the 92mph to 94mph range as he looks to return after sitting out all of 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
- Besting both of the aforementioned players in both age and MLB service is Angels outfielder Raul Ibanez, who is now in his 19th big league campaign at age 41. But with a disappointing .139/.248/.267 slash through 117 plate appearances, Ibanez could be in danger of losing his roster spot, writes Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. With rookie C.J. Cron off to an outlandish 1.128 OPS start (albeit in only 29 plate appearances), and having shown the ability to hit righties at the Triple-A level, Ibanez could prove superfluous. On the other hand, manager Mike Scioscia appeared to downplay that possibility. “I don’t know that it’s going to be C.J. versus Raul,” he said. “We’ll find at-bats for guys who are swinging the bat well.”
- While hard-throwing young arms are the story of this year’s amateur draft, none has more power than Texas prep righty Tyler Kolek, writes Baseball America’s John Manuel. The mountainous Kolek has consistently hit triple-digits on the radar gun, leading scouts to tell Manuel that he throws harder than any high school pitcher in the draft era. Of course, that kind of radar reading comes with risks, as all observers of the game are aware. Fellow BA writer J.J. Cooper breaks down the rise of power arms in the high school ranks, discussing the risks — and, of course, the immense upside — that come with top-end speed at a young age.
JANUARY 15: Ibanez will make about $250K for every 50th plate appearance, and would max out his $2.25MM incentive plan by making 400 trips to the plate, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
DECEMBER 27: The Angels lost a good deal of pop from their lineup when they traded Mark Trumbo to the Diamondbacks, and they're hoping that Raul Ibanez can replace some of those lost round-trippers. The Halos officially announced that they've signed Ibanez to a one-year deal today. The ACES client reportedly receives a $2.75MM guarantee with incentives that can take the deal as high as $5MM.
The 41-year-old Ibanez turned back the clock with a surprising 29-homer campaign with the Mariners last year. Ibanez slashed .242/.306/.487 and hit lefties equally as well as he hit right-handed pitching. However, the Mariners gave Ibanez a surprising 832 innings in the outfield, where his glove was poor enough for Fangraphs to grade him as a replacement-level player and Baseball-Reference to peg him at a mere 0.4 WAR despite his power.
In that sense, Anaheim is a logical fit, as they don't need to play Ibanez in the outfield given the presence of Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun and J.B. Shuck. Ibanez figures to receive the lion's share of at-bats as the Halos' DH. Though Albert Pujols occupied the position a good deal last year, Anaheim will bank on his health in 2014 and beyond as he returns to his role as an everyday first baseman. Ibanez isn't the only new face in the Angels' lineup either, as GM Jerry Dipoto acquired David Freese from the Cardinals this offseason in a trade that sent Peter Bourjos to St. Louis.
As Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register points out (on Twitter), this move places the Angels within roughly $15MM of the $189MM luxury tax threshold, but that doesn't figure to stop the team from pursuing Matt Garza or Masahiro Tanaka (in the event that he is posted).
Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish first reported that the two sides were close (on Twitter), and Fletcher first tweeted the one-year, $2.75MM guarantee. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported the agreement and the incentives (Twitter links).