Rick Ankiel Rumors

NL Notes: Francoeur, Russell, Ankiel

Jeff Francoeur believes his easygoing personality has helped keep his career going, Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes in a profile of the well-traveled outfielder. Last season, Francoeur’s teammates with Triple-A El Paso in the Padres’ system played an elaborate practical joke on Francoeur, then videotaped his reaction when he found out he’d been had. A Triple-A team ordinarily might not feel comfortable playing a trick on an accomplished big-league veteran, but Francoeur’s teammates knew he would take it well. Francoeur hit .289/.320/.450 in 487 plate appearances in El Paso and played ten games with the Padres. Now he’s in camp with the Phillies, trying to make it back to the big leagues with the seventh team of his career. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • Cubs shortstop Addison Russell was surprised by the blockbuster Jeff Samardzija trade that sent him from Oakland to Chicago last summer, MLB.com’s Jane Lee writes. “I was a little shocked, and more confused than anything,” says Russell, who adds that he soon began to see a positive side of the trade. “The Cubs wanted me, and they got me. I look at it as a new opportunity.” Lee notes that Russell probably would have had a more straightforward path to the big leagues if he were still with the Athletics. He’s talented enough, though, that that might not matter — if he continues hitting this season, the Cubs will surely find a place for him.
  • Former big-league pitcher and outfielder Rick Ankiel is trying to help Nationals players as the teams new life skills coordinator, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I’m really just a resource for these guys or somebody to lean on for whatever they may need — whether it’s something off the field or something on the field,” Ankiel says. “I’ve been through it. I’ve got a lot of tools and mechanisms to pass down to these guys.” Ankiel, who signed out of high school and has no college experience, emphasizes that he’s not a doctor,  just a former player who’s had an unusual and varied big-league life. The 35-year-old, of course, flamed out as a pitcher after finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2000 before following a long road back through the minors and then re-emerging as a hitter in 2007. He last appeared in the big leagues in 2013.

Rick Ankiel To Retire

One of the most fascinating ballplayers of his generation, Rick Ankiel, has officially retired, Cardinals broadcaster Dan McLaughlin announced on the air today (story via MLB.com's AJ Cassavell). Ankiel is hoping to stay in the game by catching on in a front office.

Ankiel is a 34-year-old, power-hitting, free-agent outfielder who was cut loose by two different clubs last year. That seemed an unlikely ending when he cracked the league at age 19 as a big-armed pitcher, announcing himself with a 3.27 ERA in 33 innings for the Cardinals. He followed that up with an outstanding rookie year, throwing 175 innings of 3.50 ERA ball, notching 10.0 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9.

Then, of course, came Ankiel's sudden and stunning meltdown on the mound during the 2000 postseason. He never recovered to regain his former promise, and seemed destined to fade into obscurity.

Things took a second, almost equally startling turn when Ankiel re-emerged as an outfielder. Returning to the bigs in August of 2007, Ankiel swatted a home run in his debut and never looked back. He ultimately logged 2,019 plate appearances, notching 74 home runs and compiling a .242/.304/.427 line. And, of course, he put his powerful arm to good use, unleashing a number of memorable throws that cut down baserunners looking to stretch an extra base.

Though he was reportedly still interested in playing as recently as February, Ankiel had not received any interest at that point. He apparently decided to hang up his spikes now, rather than waiting for another opportunity.

After his time in St. Louis, Ankiel roamed the outfield for several clubs, starting with the Royals and Braves. He played for two seasons with the Nationals before finishing his career in 2013 with the Astros and Mets. Ankiel's overall stat line does not stand out, at least until one notices that it encapsulates two separate careers. Ultimately, his remarkable story, hard-nosed play, and incredible arm ensure that he'll long be remembered as a ballplayer.

Free Agent Notes: Arroyo, Madson, Santana, Lyon, Ankiel

Here's the latest on free agent situations around the league:

  • Bronson Arroyo's decision came down to the Diamondbacks and the Orioles, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick tweets, with Arroyo's preference to stay in the National League playing a role in his decision to sign with Arizona. Baltimore's best offer was "competitive" with the two-year, $23.5MM guarantee that Arroyo landed, tweets Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun.
  • Reliever Ryan Madson hit 93 mph on the radar gun during an audition today in front of 15 clubs, reports Crasnick (via Twitter). Multiple teams have expressed interest in the one-time relief ace, who is working back after missing each of the last two seasons due to elbow issues. Madson's former club, the Phillies, are one of the teams that planned to watch Madson, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reported earlier today.
  • Another rehabbing pitcher, former ace Johan Santana, tweeted today that he started throwing off of a mound this week. Last we heard, Twins GM Terry Ryan suggested that Santana probably would not be ready to throw competitive pitches until the summer.
  • Multiple teams have shown interest in free agent reliever Brandon Lyon, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 34-year-old threw 34 1/3 innings of 4.98 ERA ball for the Mets last year, but advanced metrics (3.98 FIP, 4.48 xFIP, 4.38 SIERA) put a somewhat more positive spin on things.
  • Free agent outfielder Rick Ankiel told SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (hat tip to Cotillo, on Twitter) that he is still open to playing. But having yet to hear from clubs with interest, Ankiel says he is "in a holding pattern."

Rick Ankiel Elects Free Agency

Outfielder Rick Ankiel has elected free agency from the Mets, according to the MLB.com transactions page.  The Mets designated the 33-year-old for assignment on Saturday to clear roster space for fellow outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

Ankiel was hitting .194/.254/.387 for the Mets but wasn't used a whole lot in the last week of his tenure in Nw York.  The converted pitcher has hit .241/.302/.423 in 2,111 plate appearances for the Cardinals, Royals, Braves, Nationals, Astros, and Mets.

Mets To Designate Rick Ankiel For Assignment

The Mets will designate outfielder Rick Ankiel for assignment before the team's Sunday game, David Lennon of Newsday reports (on Twitter). The move will clear roster space for fellow outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who is hitting .232/.339/.486 with ten home runs for Triple-A Las Vegas.

Ankiel, 33, is hitting .194/.254/.387 for the Mets, who have used him sparingly in the past week. New York signed him after the Astros released him last month. Ankiel has hit .241/.302/.423 in 2,111 plate appearances in a strange, winding career with the Cardinals, Royals, Braves and Nationals in addition to the Astros and Mets.

Mets To Sign Rick Ankiel

The Mets have agreed to sign free agent outfielder Rick Ankiel, according to ESPN New York's Adam Rubin (on Twitter). Ankiel, who is represented by the Boras Corporation, will receive a Major League contract, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). AnkielAccording to Rubin, Ankiel is in the Mets' starting lineup tonight and will play center field, while Andrew Brown has been optioned to Triple-A to clear a spot on the 25-man roster (Twitter links). Right-hander Jenrry Mejia has been transferred to the 60-day disabled list to clear a 40-man roster spot for Ankiel.

The 33-year-old Ankiel was released by the Astros last week — a move which Carlos Pena said "crushed" the team's clubhouse. The veteran pitcher-turned-outfielder was the personification of an "all or nothing" approach this season, as he hit just .194/.231/.484 with five homers and 35 strikeouts in just 65 plate appearances for Houston.

Ankiel is a career .243/.304/.424 hitter in 2044 plate appearances between the Cardinals, Nationals, Royals, Braves and Astros. Mets outfielders this season are hitting just .223/.302/.392 as a whole. Their .694 OPS ranks 25th in baseball, and collectively they've been exactly a replacement level unit, per Fangraphs (0.0 WAR).

Heyman was also the first to report that the two sides were discussing a deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mets Interested In Rick Ankiel

The Mets are discussing a possible deal with free agent outfielder Rick Ankiel, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. It isn't known at this time if there are other teams in the mix, according to Heyman.

Ankiel, 33, was released by the Astros last week — a move which Carlos Pena said "crushed" the team's clubhouse. The veteran pitcher-turned-outfielder was the personification of an "all or nothing" approach this season, as he hit just .194/.231/.484 with five homers and 35 strikeouts in just 65 plate appearances for Houston.

Ankiel is a career .243/.304/.424 hitter in 2044 plate appearances between the Cardinals, Nationals, Royals, Braves and Astros. Mets outfielders this season are hitting just .223/.302/.392 as a whole. Their .694 OPS ranks 25th in baseball, and collectively they've been exactly a replacement level unit, per Fangraphs (0.0 WAR).

This post was originally published on May 13, 2013.

Astros Release Rick Ankiel

The Astros released outfielder Rick Ankiel, tweets Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle.  The team had designated him for assignment Monday.

Ankiel, 33, had an all-or-nothing approach this year that led to five home runs and 35 strikeouts in 65 plate appearances.  A former second-round pick of the Cardinals, Ankiel finished second in the 2000 Rookie of the Year voting as a pitcher but later reinvented himself as a slugging outfielder in 2007.  A left-handed hitter, he has a career slugging percentage of .445 against righties.

We're still awaiting word on outfielder Fernando Martinez, who was designated by the Astros at the same time as Ankiel.

AL West Notes: Rangers, Lohse, Ankiel, Norberto

The Rangers took plenty of flak this offseason for missing out on all of their big targets — namely Zack Greinke and Justin Upton. However, USA Today's Bob Nightengale notes that the team is currently tied for the best record in the American League and also has the AL's best pitching staff despite a host of injuries. Nightengale tells pitching coach Mike Maddux to "take a bow" and praises the organization's recent emphasis on pitching. Here's more from the AL West…

  • A deal between the Rangers and another heavily rumored target — Kyle Lohse — was never particularly close, GM Jon Daniels tells Sahadev Sharma of ESPN Dallas. Daniels said the Rangers were very interested in seeing if MLB would allow a one-time sign-and-trade exception for Lohse in order to keep their draft pick, but the situation never reached that point because agent Scott Boras found a market for Lohse. The Rangers never made Lohse an offer.
  • The decision to designate Rick Ankiel for assignment "crushed" the Astros' clubhouse, Carlos Pena told Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. Pena says that every player on the team loved Ankiel, a testament that Brandon Barnes echoed to Smith. Smith notes that Pena is now alone in his role as elder statesman of a young, inexperienced team.
  • Jordan Norberto told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he understands why he was released by the Athletics earlier today. He knows the A's are in a tough spot due to injuries and a full roster, but said he loves the organization and fans and would like to re-sign there. Slusser cautions that there will be plenty of interest in Norberto from other teams, and she even adds that she's already been contacted by an AL scout asking how Norberto's rehab is progressing. Norberto has begun throwing after being shut down for a month.

Luhnow Discusses Astros’ Moves

With an 8-24 record so far this season, the Astros have played down to the incredibly low expectations of most preseason prognosticators, matching the 120-loss pace of the 1962 Mets.  They made a series of moves yesterday, designating outfielders Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez for assignment and calling up Trevor Crowe and Jimmy Paredes.  The latest on the team:

  • "The reality is the team is not where we wanted to be at this point and we feel like outfield is one of our weakest positions, and we wanted to give some guys who are having some success at Triple-A a chance to continue that up here," GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters including MLB.com's Brian McTaggart yesterday.
  • The 2010 Diamondbacks own the team strikeout record with 1,529, but the Astros are on pace for 1,635 this year.  Curbing whiffs is one reason for the team's recent moves, as Luhnow explained, "The profile of our team being a feast-or-famine type team, we felt we needed different types of players, and with Robbie Grossman there now and Paredes coming, hopefully the numbers in Triple-A are a reflection of the success [Paredes] can have up here. It will change the mix a little bit."
  • Ankiel would probably be released if he refuses a minor league assignment, notes McTaggart.
  • "We believe Humber is a Major League pitcher and can add value to our team. For now, no decision has been made about any different roles on the pitching side at this point," Luhnow said in regard to righty Philip Humber.  The 30-year-old has a 7.03 ERA in 135 2/3 innings for the White Sox and Astros since the start of the 2012 season.
  • With a collective 6.53 ERA, the Astros' rotation is the worst in baseball by almost a full run.  Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wonders if the Astros could possibly make that rotation even worse by trading Bud Norris or Lucas Harrell.  "Trading them in the middle of the season would only lead to further chaos," writes Rosenthal.  So far Luhnow has been fearless in his teardown efforts; we'll see if the possibility of a 40-win type season would compel him to hang on to Norris or Harrell.