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With a solo shot off of Chris Tillman during tonight’s 4-3 Yankees win over the Orioles, Alex Rodriguez officially passed Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time home run list. Rodriguez’s 661 career homers put him behind only Babe Ruth (714), Henry Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762) in the record books. While A-Rod’s feat is certainly noteworthy in its own right, his homers have drawn even more attention due to the controversy around the so-called “milestone” bonuses in his contract that the Yankees are refusing to pay. Here’s some more news from around the league…
- Cuban right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez is now eligible to sign with teams during the 2015-16 international signing period, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports. Gutierrez has received residency in Mexico and registered with MLB, though since he still needs to be officially declared a free agent by the league, he may not be able to sign immediately when the signing period opens on July 2. Gutierrez will be subject to the international bonus pool limits, so teams that are facing $300K signing caps in the upcoming signing period (the Angels, Diamondbacks, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees) won’t be able to afford the promising youngster.
- Angels GM Jerry Dipoto was hoping to keep Drew Butera after the catcher was designated for assignment, but as Dipoto told reporters (including MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez), “it became fairly clear that he was going to get claimed on waivers, so putting together a trade made the most sense.” Butera was dealt to the Royals for infielder Ryan Jackson earlier today.
- On the Royals side of that trade, GM Dayton Moore told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan) that Butera won’t supplant Erik Kratz as the primary backup catcher. “We’re just trying to get through this period of time,” Moore said, in reference to Kratz’s stint on the DL with an injured foot. Since Butera is out of options, I’d guess he could be on the move again once Kratz is healthy.
- Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to reporters before a recent Rangers/Astros game about a number of baseball topics, including the possibility of a shorter schedule. The Associated Press has a partial recap of Manfred’s comments.
- One topic that isn’t a major priority for the league office is adjusting the designated-for-assignment period. As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweets, Manfred said “that rule actually has functioned fairly effectively over a period of time.” Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal and MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth both recently explored how some players, like Alex Hassan, can have their careers essentially put on hold due to constantly being in “DFA limbo.”
- In his latest Insider-only post, ESPN’s Buster Olney cites the Athletics‘ Scott Kazmir and the Reds‘ Mike Leake as potential trade candidates if their teams continue to struggle. Both hurlers are scheduled for free agency this winter. Olney speculates that the Dodgers could be interested in either pitcher to bolster their rotation, while Kazmir could also be a fit with the Red Sox or Astros.
- While the Marlins bullpen hasn’t pitched very well this year, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro doesn’t think the club needs to turn to Edward Mujica, who was designated for assignment by the Red Sox earlier today. Mujica pitched well for the Marlins in 2011-12 but as Frisaro notes, he’s struggled this year and Miami doesn’t really have any roster space for him.
Full Story | 88 Comments | Categories: 2015-16 International Prospects | Alex Rodriguez | Boston Red Sox | Cincinnati Reds | Drew Butera | Edward Mujica | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Miami Marlins | Mike Leake | Oakland Athletics | Rob Manfred | Scott Kazmir | Vladimir Gutierrez
The Twins have optioned Aaron Hicks to Triple-A Rochester, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes. Heading into Spring Training, Hicks had seemed to be the likely choice for the Twins’ starting center field job. He has struggled this March, however, putting up a .206/.300/.324 line that’s very consistent with his career .201/.293/.313 performance. The demotion is another setback for the former first-round pick, who is still struggling to establish himself at age 25. It appears the team will go with Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson in center field. Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred praised the Pirates while visiting with the Bucs and Twins Friday, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. “I think the Pirates have tremendously benefited by (owner) Bob Nutting’s presence and leadership,” Manfred said. “For those of you who know the history, you’re not going to be surprised to hear me say I am a huge Frank Coonelly fan. I think he’s done a fantastic job as president of the Pirates, including his selection of (general manager) Neal (Huntington).” Coonelly worked in the commissioner’s office before becoming the Pirates’ president. Manfred added that his controversial comments about banning defensive shifts were only an idea, and that the league isn’t likely to make changes in that area, particularly given the feedback he’s gotten about it.
- Ryan Madson‘s opt-out with the Royals is May 1, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. The 34-year-old Madson, who’s had a mess of injuries and hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2011, is attempting a comeback with Kansas City. He’s gotten decent results so far, striking out four batters and walking none in seven spring innings. The Royals have another month to evaluate him, however, which makes sense — one imagines he’ll still need time to prepare to pitch in meaningful games, given all the time off he’s had.
Giants reliever Sergio Romo left no doubts about how glad he is to be back with San Francisco, as Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com reports (Twitter links). “It was like, we can get this done in five minutes, for real,” Romo said of his free agent stance towards the Giants. “Call me up.” Though other clubs offered him a chance to return to a closing role, Romo says he “just didn’t want to go anywhere.”
Here’s more from the game’s western divisions:
- Rangers lefty Matt Harrison feels increasingly confident in his ability to make it back to the big leagues, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan writes. Now working his way up to a full-size mound, Harrison still faces a difficult road in his return from spinal fusion surgery. “I don’t think about [retirement] anymore,” Harrison said. “It would definitely be hard to do without giving it another shot. The more I learn and the more I understand the rehab, I feel good about the possibility of getting back to a five-day rehab.” Obviously, any future contribution from Harrison — who is owed owed $41MM between now and 2017 (including a buyout on an option for 2018) — would be welcome news for a Texas club that has been beset by a variety of pitching injuries in recent years.
- New commissioner Rob Manfred says a new ballpark for the Athletics is a priority, as the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). While Major League Baseball will remain involved, Manfred said that he is not sure how much influence it can have on the process and said he prefers the team to work with Oakland on a solution.
- Padres owner Ron Fowler vetoed a June 2013 proposal from the team’s baseball executives to make a bid to acquire Cliff Lee, Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Then just ten months into his chairmanship, and overseeing a front office led by then-GM Josh Byrnes, Fowler decided the move did not make sense given the team’s overall situation and Lee’s expense. San Diego had been hovering at .500 at the time, but quickly fell back and out of contention that year, and obviously the move could have had significant long-term repercussions as things turned out.
Commisoner Rob Manfred tops the 50 most fascinating figures in baseball, according to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. Manfred has been pro-active during the first month of his tenure, Sherman opines, by already engaging the MLBPA over issues such as keeping the batter in the box between pitches and being ready to ignite play quicker after half-inning breaks while continuing the pitch clock experiment in the minors with an impetus to have them in MLB by next season. Rounding out Sherman’s top five are: Alex Rodriguez, Matt Harvey, Giancarlo Stanton, and Joe Maddon.
Here’s the latest news and notes from the American League:
- If the Red Sox are to trade for an ace starting pitcher, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald opines Jordan Zimmermann is a better fit than Cole Hamels. Silverman also believes the Red Sox will be better off by parting ways with Edward Mujica and Allen Craig since both are expensive and superfluous.
- The Tigers will receive a medical update on Miguel Cabrera‘s right foot on Tuesday, writes Mlive.com’s James Schmehl.
- Chris Capuano is the favorite to claim the final spot in the Yankees‘ starting rotation, notes Chad Jennings of LoHud.com. The Yankees will also stretch out relievers Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers during Spring Training.
- Reports out of Venezuela (and relayed by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune and MLB.com’s Greg Johns) have Mariners prospect Victor Sanchez suffering a double skull fracture after being struck by a boat while swimming in Carúpano, Venezuela. The 20-year-old right-hander, ranked as the Mariners’ 11th-best prospect by MLB.com, is reportedly in intensive care with his condition listed as serious but stable. Sanchez, who received a $2.5MM bonus when he was signed out of Venezuela in 2011, threw a no-hitter for Class A Clinton in 2013 and last year posted a line of 4.19 ERA, 7.0 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9 in 23 starts covering 124 2/3 innings for Double-A Jackson as the second-youngest player in the Southern League.
Entering 2015, the Royals possess baseball’s best defense, writes Anthony Castrovince of Sports On Earth. With stalwarts like Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, and Alcides Escobar, the club can count on preventing dozens of runs next season. On the bench lurks speedy defensive whiz Jarrod Dyson to help track down fly balls. Rounding out Castrovince’s top five defenses are the Orioles, Reds, Yankees, and Cardinals.
- Baseball is fighting for relevance, writes Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic. While football can claim a larger fandom than baseball, it’s not the job of Commissioner Rob Manfred to reverse that trend. Instead, the league needs to improve its relevance with youth. A lot of attention has fixated on minor tweaks to the game like a faster pace of play. Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall has some more novel ideas for improving the fan experience. He suggests letting the home team take batting practice second to improve player-fan interactions. He also proposes using pre-game fielding practice as a stage for displays of athleticism.
- The Red Sox have a revamped lineup, new rotation, deeper bullpen, and a $200MM payroll, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. The rotation is viewed as a weakness because nobody stands out as a potential ace. However, manager John Farrell believes the current unit will be sufficient. The lineup should provide plenty of fire power and the defense can also help to bail out the rotation. If the rotation is revealed to be a weakness, the club has plenty of prospects to acquire reinforcements.
- The Astros are looking to win in the present season for the first time in the Jeff Luhnow era, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The club is setting a target for a .500 finish, which does appear to be a viable goal. With several 2014 breakouts and more impactful prospects on the way, Houston appears to be turning the corner on their rebuild. Luhnow points to building chemistry as one important piece of the puzzle. Several roster decisions will be made this spring, most notably in the outfield where Robbie Grossman and Alex Presley will be fighting for jobs.
Today is Rob Manfred’s first official day as Commissioner of Baseball. Manfred penned an open letter to the game’s fans explaining his mission: “To honor the game’s history while welcoming new people to our great sport — people who will one day pass their love of baseball down through the generations. That is what our parents and grandparents did for us, and it is what we are doing for our own children.” Manfred listed his priorities as making baseball “more accessible to those in underserved areas” and “to continue to modernize the game without interfering with its history and traditions.”
Here are the reactions from around baseball as the transition from Selig to Manfred is now complete:
- Manfred made news on his first day saying, in an interview with ESPN’s Karl Ravech, he would be open to the idea of eliminating defensive shifts as a means to injecting additional offense into the game.
- In an interview with ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, Manfred outlined five objectives of his tenure: youth outreach, embrace technology, quicken the pace of play, strengthen player relations, and creating a more unified business operation.
- Manfred also told Crasnick he recognizes the reinstatement of Pete Rose is an issue, but “I’m just not at a point in time where I can say anything intelligent about it.“
- In a separate article, Crasnick opines Manfred’s influence and achievements vastly outweigh his low profile and he is ready to make some baseball history of his own.
- Manfred understands the special relationship between our culture and the National Pastime, writes Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports.
- Brown’s colleague, Jeff Passan, notes how the now former Commisioner Bud Selig overcame early missteps and forged an enduring legacy.
- CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman calls Selig basball’s great reformer and has led the game to unprecedented heights.
- Paul White and Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today examines the accomplishments under Selig and the challenges which await Manfred.
- Selig told the Associated Press his dream for the game is to have an international flavor, including MLB franchises in other countries.
Rob Manfred was officially given a five-year term as the successor to commissioner Bud Selig today, Selig himself announced today (Associated Press link). Manfred was selected as the next MLB commissioner earlier this year, beating out runner-up candidate Tom Werner, though previous reports indicated that his initial term would be only three years.
Per the AP, Selig said that Manfred’s term was approved “unanimously, quietly and quickly” in a meeting today, which is “the way it should be,” he added. Among the tasks Manfred will face in the early stages of his term are improving the pace of play, assessing baseball’s instant replay system following its first year of implementation and addressing the stadium issues of both the A’s and Rays.
Manfred served as Major League Baseball’s vice president of labor relations before being named the league’s chief operating officer in 2013. The Harvard Law graduate was known to be Selig’s preferred successor prior to his election in August. Manfred has served as the head of labor negotiations for 19 years since the strike of 1994, and he was a key component in implementing baseball’s current drug testing system as well as negotiating the most recent collective bargaining agreement.
Rob Manfred will make a fine commissioner, notes Peter Gammons of Gammonsdaily.com. Among the many reasons are his familiarity with the issues of the game. Those include upcoming PED news, growing dissent between small and large market clubs, and the upcoming legal battle between the Orioles and Nationals over MASN revenues. Gammons concludes that the game would benefit most if the owners put some effort into helping Manfred settle into the job.
- The Marlins have a seriously bad reputation when it comes to dealing away their stars in fire sales. According to Gammons, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria knows that a big brand can go a long way to improving attendance. With Lebron James back in Cleveland, Giancarlo Stanton is the top name in Miami sports. This is the reason why the Marlins have rebuffed all offers for Stanton.
- The Rockies are on the hook for a combined $167MM between Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. This trade deadline included rumors that the club would consider dealing one or both of their stars, but their season ending injuries will probably prevent any offseason deals. Gammons notes that the rarefied air in Colorado can make recovery difficult.
- One talent evaluator compares Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a center field capable Ron Gant. The Yankees are among the biggest players for Castillo, but they have to contend with a hefty luxury tax penalty. Because Alex Rodriguez will be back on the books, the Yankees will pay a tax in the range of 40% to 50% if they add Castillo. As Gammons notes, a $50MM contract would come with a $20MM to $25MM tax.
- The league is concerned about two things related to Cuban imports. The defection process is morally troubling, as it supports human trafficking. The other issue is the diet of Cuban players. The stress fractures that have sidelined Jorge Soler and Jose Iglesias could be related to calcium deficiency. According to one insider, his team will be monitoring the “bone structure and diet” of their Cuban acquisitions.
After going through a number of difficult times with MLB, Rob Manfred is more than ready to take over as commissioner, writes Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer. Manfred started working for MLB as an outside counsel in 1994, so he definitely knows what a crisis situation is all about. More from around baseball..
- In a radio interview last week, Matt Harvey reiterated that he is eager to get back to action for the Mets and said he is throwing in the mid-90s in his sessions. Later, manager Terry Collins got in touch with the star hurler. “And I explained to him, I understand that,” Collins said of Harvey’s desire to get back to pitching, according to Newsday’s Marc Carig. “But the process is right now, you’ve got to understand it’s the big picture, and the big picture is 2015. So back off.”
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post explores why the Mets and Cubs, who seem perfectly suited to swing a trade (pitching for a shortstop), have yet to take the leap. A NL executive tells Sherman the Mets “don’t make a lot of trades and that is because they really don’t like to give up what they perceive as their big talent, unless they can convince you to give them $2 for their 35 cents.“
- White Sox manager Robin Ventura told reporters, including MLB.com’s Scott Merkin, he will consider promoting Carlos Rodon (the third overall selection in this year’s draft) when the rosters expand in September. “If he’s doing well enough to come up here, yeah,” Ventura said. “If he’s available and he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go. I would like to see it but he’s got to be ready to go.” Rodon, who is not on the White Sox’s 40-man roster, was promoted to Triple-A yesterday.
- Dodgers GM Ned Colletti told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter) if the club can “find a reliever that can help us late in the games we will consider it.”
- The Astros have decisions to make on a pair of injured right-handed relievers, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Matt Albers (out since April with shoulder tendinitis) has a 2015 club option and Jesse Crain (who has been sidelined since undergoing surgery for biceps tendinitis last October) signed a one-year deal in January and Astros GM Jeff Luhnow would like to see them pitch this season before deciding their fates. “It would be nice to have those two guys in the bullpen in September to help us win some games.” said Luhnow. “I’m sure they want to do that as well so they can establish something going into next year.”
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
- Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria thinks incoming commissioner Rob Manfred will be an independent decision-maker and won’t just follow in Bud Selig’s footsteps. In particular, Manfred could help hasten the pace of games and make other improvements to help appeal to younger fans. Manfred could also tackle the issue of competitive balance and could make changes to the draft.
- Morosi notes that David Price‘s home debut with the Tigers tonight will also mark the first time he’s ever squared off against Felix Hernandez.
- Cuban free agent 2B/OF Rusney Castillo could get a contract in the range of six years and $50MM, with the Phillies, Cubs, Tigers, Yankees and Red Sox as the main bidders. If a team signs him before the end of August, he’ll be eligible to play in the postseason. (Here’s the latest on Castillo.)