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Rickie Weeks Rumors
On this date 70 years ago, Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis (home to the National League’s Cardinals and the American League’s Browns) became the final MLB stadium to integrate seating for fans. Although there was no official team or municipal policy, African-Americans were restricted to the bleachers before finally being allowed to purchase grandstand tickets.
Here’s today’s news and notes from MLB’s Central divisions:
- Reds closer Aroldis Chapman is expected to rejoin the club this Friday, if his final two rehab appearances go well, reports MLB.com’s Andy Call. Chapman, who was struck by a line drive during a Spring Training game and needed a three-inch plate and 12 screws to stabilize the bones around his left eye, is scheduled to pitch in back-to-back Triple-A games beginning Tuesday.
- Last year, the Cardinals sent a highly-touted prospect (Michael Wacha) to the minors after a disappointing start only to become a key player for them late in the season, and they are hoping history repeats itself with Kolten Wong, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- The Brewers should consider all alternatives when it comes to Rickie Weeks because his offensive struggles and being limited to only playing second base puts pressure on the organization, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak in a recent reader’s chat.
- Both Chicago franchises, with the right returns in trades, could accelerate their rebuilding, opines Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Gonzales notes shedding Alexei Ramirez‘s salary would allow the White Sox to address other needs while the Cubs may deal Jason Hammel hoping for results similar to last summer’s flip of Scott Feldman.
11:43pm: The Rangers are scouting the Cubs, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reports, and perhaps not just because of Kottaras. The Cubs also have infielders Darwin Barney and Donnie Murphy. The Rangers like Barney better, Sullivan writes.
4:50pm: In the wake of Soto's injury, the Rangers are considering acquiring George Kottaras of the Cubs, Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com tweets. Kottaras currently projects to back up Welington Castillo in Chicago, but the Cubs are reportedly considering rostering John Baker instead. Kottaras, 30, hit .180/.349/.370 in 126 plate appearances for the Royals last year. In response to Soto's injury, the Rangers have already signed Chris Snyder to a minor-league deal.
The Rangers also looked at Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks today, Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel tweets. As Haudricourt notes, Weeks' $11MM salary could be an impediment to a trade. Weeks hit .209/.306/.357 in 399 plate appearances with the Brewers last year.
12:08pm: Texas has checked in with several clubs with catching depth, including the Yankees, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com. Though Francisco Cervelli may be available, Olney says that there does not appear to be a fit between those two clubs.
10:50am: The Rangers have had trade talks in a bid to add depth at catcher and/or second base, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. The expected starters at those two spots — catcher Geovany Soto and second baseman Jurickson Profar — are each expected to miss ten to twelve weeks to open the year.
While it would be pure speculation to guess at possible trade partners in this kind of scenario, we can look at the available free agent pool for other alternatives. With the list growing as final roster decisions are made, Texas could look to players like Tony Abreu, Ronny Cedeno, or Cesar Izturis for the middle infield. Meanwhile, available catching options include recently-released players like Ramon Hernandez, Chris Snyder, and Yorvit Torrealba.
Of course, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wrote yesterday, it could be that the greater concern is with the state of the rotation. That is all the more true now, with this morning's report (via Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News) that ace Yu Darvish will miss his Opening Day start and undergo an MRI to determine the cause of his stiff neck.
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.
The Yankees have questionable infield depth at best, with Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Eduardo Nunez all figuring to see significant playing time in 2014. As such, the team's scouts are placing a heavy emphasis on watching infielders when looking at other clubs in Spring Training, according to George A. King III of the New York Post. King writes that the Yankees could use their surplus of catching options to bolster the infield.
In addition to Brian McCann, who signed a five-year, $85MM contract with the Bombers this offseason, the Yankees have Francisco Cervelli (who is out of options), J.R. Murphy, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez on their 40-man roster. With the exception of Sanchez, each could be considered Major League ready. Cervelli, of course, has racked up 623 plate appearances with the Yanks over the past several seasons, while Romine had 168 big league PAs in 2013, and Murphy made his Major League debut as well.
It's natural to speculate on the possibility simply adding Stephen Drew, but as Newsday's David Lennon tweeted earlier today, the Yankees will only add to their infield if the addition doesn't come with significant financial impact. GM Brian Cashman told Lennon: "If we need to do improvements, it’s got to be cheap. We’ve spent our money."
Likewise, it's easy to speculate that the reportedly available Nick Franklin would fit with the Yankees, but Seattle likely feels they have their catcher of the future in 2012 No. 3 overall draft selection Mike Zunino. They're said to be interested in acquiring pitching in exchange for Franklin, should they end up dealing him.
King writes that the White Sox, Giants, Tigers, Astros and Twins all had scouts in attendance to watch Cervelli, Murphy and Sanchez in yesterday's exhibition game against Florida State. While that could just be routine and doesn't necessarily carry much weight, King does add that an industry source indicated that the White Sox are seeking catching upgrades. He also adds that the Yankees will monitor Rickie Weeks during Spring Training, who figures to be plenty available due to his $11MM salary and $11.5MM vesting option. It stands to reason that Milwaukee would need to eat a significant amount of salary in any deal to move Weeks, who batted just .209/.306/.357 last season.
We've already passed along several of Scott Boras' more newsworthy comments from Wednesday's scrum with reporters in Orlando, but one of the superagent's most notable barbs was reserved for the Cubs. Boras likened Chicago's rebuilding process to a lollipop that takes all day to dissolve, suggesting that a major-market team should be retooling more rapidly. Although team president Theo Epstein wasn't surprised by Boras' remarks, he declined to shoot back.
"We’re not going to get into a war of words with Scott other than to say the folks who work for the Cubs probably have a better understanding of our situation than he does," Epstein said, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Here's more from around the NL Central:
- Having talked to the agents for infielders like Mark Ellis and Ryan Roberts, the Cardinals are seeking a backup or a complement for Kolten Wong, but not necessarily competition, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- Most people who have spoken to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about Rickie Weeks believe the Brewers' best shot at moving the second baseman would come if he shows up to camp healthy and plays well (Twitter link).
- Following his retirement as a player, Chris Carpenter hopes to remain with the Cardinals and has an eye on a front office role, as Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch details.
The NL Central features a pair of matchups this afternoon each at a different end of the spectrum. The division-leading Cardinals are hosting the Pirates and lead Pittsburgh by one-half game while the Brewers and Cubs are at Wrigley Field battling to avoid the cellar. The Brewers sit in fourth place by only one game. In other news and notes from the NL Central:
- The first place Cardinals can thank their deep farm system (especially in terms of pitching reinforcements) for their place in the standings, but it has had a ripple effect throughout the entire system, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- Bernie Miklasz, Goold's colleague at the Post-Dispatch, agrees the Cardinals' young talent has been a tremendous resource; but, with Allen Craig nursing a sprained foot, the club will turn to a grizzled playoff veteran: David Freese.
- The Brewers have a glaring hole at first base with seven different players starting there this season, but Juan Francisco's audition to win the job for 2014 hasn't gone well, opines Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Since a two-home run, four-RBI game against the Rangers on August 14, Francisco has slumped with only seven hits in 44 at bats (.159), two RBIs, and 23 strikeouts.
- In an recent online chat, Rosiak explained trading either Yovani Gallardo or Kyle Lohse this offseason wouldn't make sense because it would create more holes in a rotation which already doesn't have enough proven arms.
- Within that same chat, Rosiak can envision the Brewers cutting ties with Rickie Weeks citing the recent examples of Bill Hall, Jeff Suppan, and Randy Wolf. Rosiak notes those three cases occurred in the final year of their contracts, which is what Weeks is entering in 2014.
- Right-hander Daniel Bard, claimed on waivers by the Cubs last Wednesday, threw his second bullpen session today, but there is still no timetable for him to see any game action, reports MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. "It’d be nice to see but it’s his timetable and we’ll evaluate and we’ll find out how he’s doing and how he’s feeling," said manager Dale Sveum. Bard is eligible for arbitration this winter.
- Earlier today, the Cubs designated infielder Cody Ransom for assignment to create roster space for right-hander Scott Baker, who is making his first MLB appearance in two years.
3:50pm: The Royals are one of 12 teams to which Kendrick can block a trade, notes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
3:07pm: The Royals have had discussions about second basemen Howie Kendrick of the Angels, Gordon Beckham of the White Sox, and Rickie Weeks of the Brewers, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. They also looked at the Phillies' Kevin Frandsen. However, Knobler says there is no indication the Royals are close to any deal.
The Royals have used Chris Getz, Elliot Johnson, Miguel Tejada, and Johnny Giavotella at second base this year, resulting in a .230/.279/.311 offensive line. They seek a second baseman they would control beyond 2013, says Knobler, and all of the players mentioned above are controlled through '15.
The Angels would need a front-line, Major League or MLB-ready starting pitcher for Kendrick or Erick Aybar, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times. As Knobler notes, Beckham presents the problem of playing within the Royals' division, while Weeks' salary is prohibitive compared to his production.
Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of the infamous Lee Elia tirade against the Wrigley Field faithful where he unleased 37 "bleeps" in 187 seconds. Elia would remain as manager of the Cubs for just four more months. John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle chronicles how times have changed for Major League managers. Four reporters were present for Elia's rant and only one had a microphone which captured the event for all posterity. Shea reminds us today there are interview rooms, social media, and live post-game press conferences shown on regional and national sports networks. As a result, Shea says managers have to be more articulate, polite, and thoughtful. Giants manager Bruce Bochy echoes that sentiment, "It's different when you just see pen and paper. When there's a camera there, you have to remind yourself." Elsewhere from the NL Central Division:
- Cubs manager Dale Sveum refuses to name a closer telling reporters, including the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan, "I'm not going to really mess with anything right now in our bullpen. It's about as good as it can be right now." The Cubs are 7-for-13 in save opportunites with three different relievers notching a save including Kevin Gregg, who leads the team with three despite being recalled only two weeks ago.
- Matt Garza, number seven on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Rankings, was scheduled to throw a bullpen session today and is on track to make three or four minor league rehab starts, reports David Furones of MLB.com.
- Speaking of Garza, Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald revisited the trade which brought the right-hander to Chicago and notes just one of the eight players invovled in the deal is currently playing in the Majors. Miles sees the trade as a wash, a viewpoint shared by MLBTR's Steve Adams who examined the Garza trade in a Transaction Retrospection last month.
- The Cardinals' imploding bullpen saw its ERA rise to 5.93 after surrendering six runs to the Pirates today. MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch tweets the status quo cannot continue, but the team does not have many in-house options. Langosch also tweeted injured closer Jason Motte played catch for the second consecutive day indicating his arm responded well to yesterday's session.
- For the second straight season, Rickie Weeks is off to a slow start offensively with only seven hits in his last 69 at-bats. Adam McCalvy of MLB.com speculates Weeks will have a long leash because no one in the front office wants to start the service clock of Scooter Gennett, the Brewers' sixth-best prospect according to MLB.com, just yet.
The Milwaukee Brewers experienced a roller coaster season in 2012 marked by injuries, blown saves, and being 12 games under .500 on August 20 before embarking on a 24-6 run that boosted them back into the Wild Card race until being eliminated on the final weekend of the season. Club officials say everyone feels better about the state of the franchise heading into the offseason. But, how will that shape the winter for the Brewers? Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel discussed that topic and other issues in a recent online chat with fans. Here are the highlights:
- GM Doug Melvin will be looking to add a veteran to the starting rotation and Haudricourt named Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, and Kyle Lohse as possibilities. A fan suggested Brandon McCarthy and Haudricourt acknowledged the Brewers will perform their due diligence, but any addition will only be made if the pitcher is affordable, the right fit, and wants to come to Milwaukee.
- Haudricourt anticipates the Brewers signing a free agent starting pitcher is a more likely scenario than trading for one because the club has some payroll flexibility and they've already traded away a lot of prospects for pitching in recent years.
- Don't look for the Brewers to deal Corey Hart or Rickie Weeks to create more payroll flexibility. Haudricourt would be surprised if Hart, entering the final year of his contract with a 2013 salary of $10 MM, is traded despite the presence of Southern League MVP Hunter Morris. Weeks, due a guaranteed $21MM over the next two seasons, should also be safe, Haudricourt theorized, because the Brewers have enough money coming off the books to not have to worry about his salary.
- Haudricourt expects the payroll be less in 2013 than the $100 million-plus of this year, a spending level that should put the franchise in the red for 2012.
- Expect Nyjer Morgan to be non-tendered. It was obvious, Haudricourt opined, that Morgan was being phased out and having made $2.3MM and eligible for arbitration again, he probably will be replaced by Logan Schafer, a less expensive option who is considered a better defender. Haudricourt did praise Morgan for conducting himself professionally and never popping off or openly complaining about his decrease in playing time.
- Haudricourt listed some minor league prospects who took a big step this year and that fans should keep an eye on next season, including the aforementioned Morris.
The Brewers avoided arbitration with Rickie Weeks, signing the second baseman to a four-year deal that includes an option for 2015. The AP (via The Boston Herald) reports that the first four years of the contract are worth $38.5MM. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Brewers can void the fifth year of the contract if Weeks is not an everyday player in 2013 and 2014 and Bob Nightengale of USA Today has the details (Twitter links). The deal could be worth up to $50MM, according to Rosenthal (links).
Weeks' deal eliminates the need for tomorrow's scheduled arbitration hearing. Weeks asked for $7.2MM in arbitration, while the Brewers countered with a $4.85MM submission, as our Arb Tracker shows.
Weeks, a former top prospect, broke out with his best season yet in 2010. The 28-year-old hit .269/.366/.464 with 29 homers and 32 doubles. He was able to avoid injuries, playing in as many as 130 games for the first time in his career.
Weeks' deal, which has been in the works throughout the offseason, prevents the second baseman from hitting free agency and buys out three free agent seasons. Next winter's crop of free agent second basemen got a little less interesting, now that Weeks has agreed to a deal with Milwaukee.
Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel first reported that the Brewers had a tentative agreement with Weeks.
The Brewers and Rickie Weeks are discussing an extension that would buy out at least two of the second baseman's free agent seasons, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The deal would be for three to five years and would eliminate the need for Thursday's scheduled arbitration hearing.
As MLBTR's Arb Tracker shows, Weeks is one of four arbitration eligible players who don't have contracts for 2011. Kelly Johnson, a top comparable for Weeks, settled for $5.85MM earlier today. That's below the midpoint for Weeks and the Brewers, but today's agreement doesn't necessarily hurt Weeks, who was working from a higher base salary ($2.75MM) than Johnson.
Next winter's crop of free agent second basemen will become a little less interesting if Weeks signs long-term. He is scheduled to hit free agency after the 2011 season. The Brewers picked up negotiations with Weeks last week after setting talks aside for a while.