- Mariners Prospect Victor Sanchez Dies
- Mets, Lucas Duda Discussing Extension
- Nate Schierholtz Opts Out Of Deal With Rangers
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- Angels Release Matt Lindstrom
- Twins’ Lewis Thorpe To Have Tommy John Surgery
- White Sox Claim Kyle Drabek
- Brady Aiken Undergoes Tommy John Surgery
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- Rangers Release Juan Carlos Oviedo
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Ryan Madson Rumors
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.
If all the high-profile moves the White Sox have made this offseason don’t work out, the organization plans to be “nimble” in trying to contend in 2016 and beyond, GM Rick Hahn tells MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “Knock on wood, given the young players that we have in the organization now and the ones we have coming and players under control for the next several years, I don’t think that what happens in ’15 is going to cause us to take a significant step backwards in terms of that plan,” says Hahn. “It just may have us reallocate assets to future seasons so that we can get back on track quickly.” That might suggest that the White Sox could trade someone like Jeff Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency after 2015, if the team doesn’t contend this summer. That stands to reason, of course, although it’s somewhat rare to hear a GM describe contingency plans in a year in which his team is expected to contend. Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- Twins infielder Brian Dozier‘s new extension contains a few potential bonuses, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Dozier can make $100K for winning and MVP or World Series MVP award, plus $25K for Gold Gloves or All-Star appearances.
- The Cubs haven’t yet decided whether Javier Baez will make the team out of camp, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com writes. “You put your present and future hat on. In the present tense, there has to be some adjustments made at the plate; future tense, I can see all those things coming together,” says manager Joe Maddon. Baez hit nine homers in 229 big-league plate appearances last year, but struck out in 41% of his plate appearances. As Tim Dierkes noted in today’s Offseason In Review post on the Cubs, Baez is part of a hazy middle infield picture in Chicago.
- Royals reliever Ryan Madson says he has an opt-out at the end of Spring Training, but he hasn’t thought about exercising it, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Madson, who has not appeared in the big leagues since 2011, is simply enjoying getting back to pitching after years of injury troubles.
Now with the Angels, infielder Johnny Giavotella is hoping for another chance in the Majors, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes. Giavotella collected 465 plate appearances in parts of four seasons with the Royals, but never quite caught on, hitting .238/.277/.334 in the process before joining the Angels in a minor trade this winter. “In my opinion, Triple-A to the big leagues is the biggest jump, and there is an adjustment period to be had,” Giavotella says. “I never feel like I got that adjustment period to fail and make that adjustment.” Giavotella, who is out of options, is competing with Josh Rutledge, Grant Green and Taylor Featherston for the Angels’ second base job, which opened when the team traded Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers. Here’s more from the American League.
- Barry Zito now looks like a legitimate long relief option for the Athletics, Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com writes. “You take a year off … It’s pretty impressive what he’s doing,” says A’s manager Bob Melvin. After a year away from the game following an ugly 2013 season with the Giants, Zito signed a minor-league deal with the Athletics hoping to reestablish himself. He’s still hopeful he can make the team as a starter, although Stiglich suggests the bullpen is more likely.
- Another minor-league signee, Ryan Madson, has impressed the Royals in camp, writes Doug Miller of MLB.com. “To come in, you look at it as a flyer, and then you watch and he’s got his fastball back up to 91, 92, he’s always had that devastating change. He’s a pretty interesting guy,” says manager Ned Yost. Miller notes that Madson, who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2011, likely won’t make the Royals out of camp, but he could be a name to watch after he’s spent some time at Triple-A Omaha.
Ryan Madson, who’s in Royals camp and who faced live batters for the first time in a year and a half on Sunday, encountered plenty of obstacles as he battled back from Tommy John surgery, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes. Madson, who last pitched in the big leagues in 2011, ultimately spent the 2014 season out of baseball. But he got the urge to come back after Royals special assistant Jim Fregosi, Jr. enlisted him to help instruct a Southern California high school pitcher. Madson does not have any limitations in camp this spring, although it’s unclear whether he’ll be available to join the Royals’ bullpen once the season starts. Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- Cubs pitcher Travis Wood hasn’t been given a heads-up from the team on the likelihood of a trade, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets. “If I get traded, I get traded. It’s part of the business,” Wood said. At present, Wood figures to battle for the fifth spot in the rotation alongside Tsuyoshi Wada and Felix Doubront. Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks, of course, make up the Cubs’ front four.
- The Cubs trading Welington Castillo is not a foregone conclusion, as President Theo Epstein says the team is considering keeping three catchers, tweets Bruce Levine of 670theScore.com.
- Yadier Molina has lost 15-20 pounds this offseason after injuries limited the Cardinals catcher to 110 games and forced him to miss the final three games of the NLCS, reports Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Molina has three years and an option remaining on his contract and expects to play beyond its length. “Oh, my God. I’m 32 years old. I’ll play as long as my body lets me. Who knows? Maybe I’ll catch 10 more years. You don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows.“
- In a separate article, Hummel details how Cardinals reliever Randy Choate has expressed his frustration to manager Mike Matheny about being used for complete innings (and being exposed to right-handed hitters) rather than in his specialty of lefty-on-lefty situations. Matheny says the confines of a 25-man roster prevents using a player in such a limited way. “You can’t completely cater to one guy if it’s going to beat up two other guys where they can’t do their job. How does that work?“
- Cardinals infielder Pete Kozma, who is fighting for a roster spot and is out of options, is increasing his versatility by donning the tools of ignorance with hopes of serving as the team’s emergency catcher, according to MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch.
JAN. 5: Madson will earn $850K if he makes the big league club and has the opportunity to earn up to $150K via incentives, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Madson, 34, hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2011 because of elbow issues. In that season, Madson established himself as one of the game’s most promising closers, pitching to a 2.37 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 48.8% ground ball rate in 60 2/3 innings for the Phillies. When a reported four-year, $44MM deal fell through between the two sides, he joined up with the Reds on a much smaller contract, but he never made it to the mound.
Even with his injury woes, teams were still anxious to sign Madson, a reliever boasted a half-decade of strong late inning work. The Halos gave Madson a deal worth $3.5MM in guaranteed money prior to the 2013 season, but he was only able to make one brief Advanced-A appearance all year long. After that, the All Bases Covered client sat out 2014.
The right-hander pitched to a 2.89 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 329 2/3 innings from 2007-2011. In parts of nine seasons with the Phillies from 2003-11, the veteran posted a 3.59 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 47.7% ground ball rate.
Last week, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that several Blue Jays players were willing to defer their salary in order to help the team bring Ervin Santana on board, and it was later reported by Sportsnet's Shi Davidi that the group of Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey were the five who were willing to do so. Last night, Rosenthal added to the story, reporting that Santana was so close to heading to Toronto that the MLBPA had already approved the deferrals. Rosenthal again speculates on the possibility of Rogers Communications imposing a payroll limit on the 2014 Blue Jays, which would help explain their quiet offseason (which was previously examined by our own Mark Polishuk). Elsewhere in the AL East…
- The Boston Herald's Gerry Callahan opines that while Jon Lester is clearly the No. 1 starter for the Red Sox, he's not elite and isn't worth the money he could make on the open market. Callahan writes that another team will "get stupid" with Lester, offering him something in excess of $130-140MM, and if talks get to that point, then Boston would be wise to emulate the A's or Rays instead of the Dodgers or Yankees, and let their high-priced star walk.
- In a second column from Rosenthal, he looks at a number of topics that also pertain largely to the AL East, beginning firstly noting that we shouldn't expect to see the Yankees pursue any outside help after injuries to Mark Teixeira or David Robertson. The Yankees feel that both injuries will be short-lived, and therefore aren't looking strongly at Ryan Madson and/or Joel Hanrahan, nor are they considering trades for first basemen.
- Also of interest to Yankees fans will be Rosenthal's look at the rise of Yangervis Solarte — a minor league signing who has experience an unlikely rise to prominence in the Majors. Solarte's agents, Chris Leible and Peter Greenberg of the Legacy Agency, recall that their initial representation of Solarte was merely a favor to his uncle, Roger Cedeno. At one point this offseason, the Yankees dropped out of the bidding for Solarte, who was highly sought after. However, he was recommended by three different scouts, and Leible encouraged him by advising that his best ticket to the Majors was in a utility role.
- Rosenthal also looks at the long road back to the Majors for Evan Meek, who signed a minor league deal with the Orioles this offseason only after calling his former Pirates manager (and current O's bench coach) John Russell and asking for a look. He ultimately auditioned for seven or eight clubs, but chose to go to Baltimore.
- Lastly, Rosenthal notes that the extension for Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar was "almost certainly" his own call rather than that of his agents at Miami Sports Management. He writes that Escobar seems to prefer even minor levels of security and would rather have his new guarantee than risk waiting until free agency to sign, even if the outcome could have been something along the lines of Omar Infante's four-year deal with the Royals this offseason.
While much has been made of CC Sabathia's decline over the past year, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News writes that it doesn't matter if Sabathia is a true "ace" anymore. Feinsand points to promising starts from Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda in opining that the Yankees can be just fine with Sabathia as a contributor who takes the ball every fifth day. He adds that Sabathia's second start would be perceived a lot differently were it not for one seeing-eye single as well.
Here are some more links pertaining to the game's Eastern divisions…
- MLB.com's Anthony DiComo tweets that he doesn't get the sense that the Mets are all that interested in Joel Hanrahan, Ryan Madson or any other free agent closers (e.g. Kevin Gregg). Likewise, Matt Ehalt of the North Jersey Record hears from a source that the Mets' plan is to look at internal options for help at this time (Twitter link).
- Cork Gaines of Rays Index examines the Rays' roster and points out that it's not going to change dramatically over the next few years. While there's a strong likelihood of a David Price trade next offseason, much of the team is controlled through at least the 2016 season. Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce are exceptions to that rule, but each is controllable through 2015. It's unlikely, Gaines writes, that the Rays will feel pressured to make any big additions next winter, with the possible exception of the bullpen.
- Both Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi head to Kansas City to square off against the team that traded them, MLB.com's Dick Kaegel points out. Kaegel, who feels the trade has worked for both clubs despite Shields' impending free agency, spoke with Odorizzi, calls the opportunity to return to Kansas City alongside Myers "special" and says he's looking forward to the experience.
- In the wake of today's agreement between the Red Sox and Ryan Roberts, ESPN's Buster Olney recalls that multiple scouts told him during Spring Training that the Sox would need to add a third baseman if they weren't planning on promoting Garin Cecchini (Twitter link). Boston added Roberts today after Will Middlebrooks hit the disabled list.
Perhaps notable among this year's wave of stories on early-spring physiques, a trimmer Pablo Sandoval has reported to Giants Spring Training, writes Chris Haft of MLB.com. Sandoval is aware that many will credit the weight loss to his impending free agency, but says he was motivated by his teammates and the desire to win a championship. Haft notes that Giants GM Brian Sabean indicated during the Winter Meetings this year that he'd consider a multiyear deal for Sandoval if he reported to camp in shape. More late-night links from around the majors:
- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez says he plans to offer encouragement to Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, who both struggled mightily in 2013 (via MLB.com's Mark Bowman). "I'm going into the season, right now, thinking Danny is going to play second base," Gonzalez said.
- New Dodgers infielder Alexander Guerrero's transition from shortstop to second base "has not come easily," Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports. Guerrero's struggles at the position reportedly motivated the Dodgers' signings of Chone Figgins and Justin Turner.
- The Orioles will announce their deal with Suk-Min Yoon on Sunday, and both sides expect a press conference on Monday, Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com writes.
- A deal between the Tigers and free agent reliever Ryan Madson is unlikely, according to MLB.com's Jason Beck. Detroit had a scout in attendance at Madson's recent workout, but the team's interest is likely "limited to due diligence." While GM Dave Dombrowski has hinted at the possibility of adding another reliever, the Tigers prefer a minor league deal, Beck says.
As camps open around the game, let's take a look at a few notable free agents who remain unsigned:
- Though long-time shortstop Derek Jeter is now set to retire after the year, and the club faces questions around the infield, the Yankees are still not interested in adding Stephen Drew, reports Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com. Marchand notes that the club could have its eye on a bigger fish as an eventual replacement for Jeter, suggesting the possibility of looking at next year's free agent market or trying to trade for a big-contract star like Troy Tulowitzki or Jose Reyes. But the availability of those options remains unclear, especially given that the Yanks possess a farm that most regard as below average. And while 2015 currently promises a nice crop of free agent shortstops — headlined, at present, by Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, and Asdrubal Cabrera — it is far from certain that all of those players will reach the open market.
- Echoing Marchand on the Yankees' interest, ESPN.com's Buster Olney told WEEI's Mut & Merloni (via WEEI.com's Jerry Spar) that Drew's market looks poor. The Pirates make sense in theory, says Olney, but the club seems very unlikely to give up its first-round pick to land him. Olney opines that the shortstop's best bet, at this point, could be to wait and see if a contender loses an infielder to injury. Though he agrees that Drew faces difficult market, Jonathan Bernhardt of Sports on Earth argues that Drew and agent Scott Boras should instead act quickly to speed up negotiations and get the best deal possible.
- Of course, one obvious landing spot all along has been the Red Sox, who could use Drew to bolster the left side of the infield without giving up a pick (other than the one they stand to gain should he sign elsewhere). As WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports, however, Boston has settled into the position that it would be interested in a one-year arrangement. That could take the form of a straightforward one-year deal, or could be structured with a low-value player option for a second season (like Adrian Beltre's 2010 deal) that would spread the contract's luxury tax impact.
- The Twins, who have been mentioned as a dark horse suitor for both Drew and outfielder Nelson Cruz, likely have sufficient payroll space to make an addition, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. But the team is not willing to meet the demands currently being floated on those players, and has not been in recent contact on either.
- Bean Stringfellow, the agent for starter Ervin Santana, rejected an apparent rumor that the Blue Jays had offered his client a three-year, $27MM deal, reports John Lott of the National Post. Stringfellow also dismissed the rumor that he had earlier demanded five years and $112MM for Santana. Though some clubs may hope to wait out the market for prices to fall, Stringfellow says he is not concerned by that possibility. "The calendar doesn't really affect us in that regard," he said. "The teams need the pitching by Opening Day. That's when the bell rings. I think a lot of clubs might think that as [Opening Day] gets closer, the price comes down. I would simply say to that, 'You're not filling your need for pitching, so I don't know why our value is any less when your need is still as great as what it was.'"
- Though Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos declined to comment on any offers to Santana, he said that the club would remain true to its internal valuations of free agents. "We just haven't been able to line up on value, on years and dollars," Anthopoulos added with regard to the team's possible targets.
- Another team that is reportedly dabbling in the starting pitching market is the Mariners. The club is not just looking at top options like Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (via Twitter), but is casting a "wide net" in its search for an arm.
- Free agent reliever Ryan Madson is looking for a major league deal, sources tell MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that he received good reports from Madson's recent throwing session, but did not leave the impression that Philadelphia was the likely landing spot. "Our reports were good when we saw him," said Amaro, "so he's going to sign somewhere." As Zolecki notes, Philly may be unwilling to give out a major league deal, especially given Madson's injury history and the recent signing of A.J. Burnett.
The Brewers will have a record payroll in 2014, COO Rick Schlesinger tells MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. "No matter how you measure it, and there are a lot of different ways to measure it, I can tell you that it's going to be north of $100 million," Schlesinger said. The COO went on to add:
"The way I look at it, you look at the growth of the industry in general, and how we're doing in revenues locally, and it makes sense. … The fans over the year have supported us, the national television dollars are increasing, the health of the game from a revenue perspective has never been greater, so it's only natural and fitting that we use those monies to invest in our product."
Here some more Brewer-centric notes for your Thursday afternoon…
- General manager Doug Melvin told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that reports of the team's record $3.2MM agreement with Dominican prospect Yirver Gilbert Lara are premature. Haudricourt acknowledges that Melvin could simply be denying the agreement because MLB prohibits formal agreements until July 2 (teams frequently have pre-arranged deals in place), but Melvin also flatly denied reports that Lara was traveling to the U.S. for a physical. "There's nothing to that," the GM said.
- MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports that the Brewers were among the teams to watch Ryan Madson's most recent throwing session. Melvin characterized the Brewers' presence as a matter of due diligence, noting that he hasn't contacted Madson's agent since the showcase. He did, however, say that it sounds like Madson threw fairly well.
- More from Haudricourt, who hosted a lengthy chat with readers of the Journal-Sentinel today. Among the topics discussed are the Brewers' bench and glut of first base options — Haudricourt cannot see Mark Reynolds, Lyle Overbay and Juan Francisco all making the club — as well as Milwaukee's farm system, manager Ron Roenicke's job security and Tyler Thornburg's role in the wake of the Matt Garza signing.