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- Morneau Claimed By Brewers, Pulled Back By Rockies
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In a guest piece on the blog of ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider link), Athletics closer Sean Doolittle offers a look inside some of the less conventional advanced metrics employed by Oakland’s front office. In particular, a unique twist on BABIP (batting average relative to Bip Roberts) seems to have played an important role in the organization’s oft-noted ability to outperform its payroll. (Obviously, the piece is in jest, but it’s a fun read from a player who has had quite an interesting career path.)
Here’s more from the game’s western divisions:
- The Rockies will soon learn more about the injury situations of their two stars, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, as Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports, as both men are set to visit specialists today. Tulowitzki, battling a strained left hip flexor, may have a hip labrum his issue. If that is the case, there are non-surgical options that might allow him to return to action this year. Meanwhile, Gonzalez is struggling with chronic tendinitis in his left knee. He, too, could conceivably play again in 2014, though some treatments would keep him out until the spring. Needless to say, the lingering (and, potentially, expanding) injury concerns with both players not only create yet more questions about Colorado’s ability to put together a contending roster next year, but could further dampen the possibility of either player being dealt over the offseason.
- When the Padres hired A.J. Preller to take over as GM, they agreed with the Rangers not to hire away any Texas front office staffers over the next two year, Scott Miller of Bleacher Report tweets. Presumably, the Rangers were able to extract this promise in exchange for allowing San Diego to interview and hire away Preller himself before his own contract was up.
- More on Preller: Miller applauds the Friars for taking a chance on a bold candidate. And on his blog, Jamey Newberg provides some interesting thoughts on Preller, who he calls a “scout’s scout who prefers doing his work behind the scenes.”
- Though Alex Rios of the Rangers appears to have avoided a significant injury, his continued absence from the lineup means that he is increasingly unlikely to be dealt, writes ESPNDallas.com’s Calvin Watkins. Not only do the Royals now appear to be an unlikely suitor, says Watkins, but other possible landing spots could disappear as the month goes on and playoff races clarify.
The 30-year-old Francoeur recently joined the Friars’ big league club after spending much of the season with Triple-A El Paso, but he collected just a pair of hits and three walks in 28 trips to the plate. Frenchy hasn’t produced in the Majors since a surprising 20-20 campaign for the Royals back in 2011 — an effort that was impressive enough to net him a two-year. $13.5MM deal to remain in Kansas City.
That contract proved to be a misstep for Kansas City GM Dayton Moore, however, as Francoeur has batted just .226/.269/.346 since that time and was designated for assignment midway through the contract’s second season. The former top prospect and Rookie of the Year candidate did enjoy a nice season with El Paso this year, as he batted a healthy .294/.325/.465 with 15 homers in 416 plate appearances.
Liriano, 23, is batting a robust .291/.362/.473 with 14 homers and 20 steals between Double-A and Triple-A this season. He ranked sixth on MLB.com’s midseason list of the Top 20 Padres prospects. MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo noted that Liriano has plenty of raw power and above-average speed, but he’ll need to refine his approach at the plate because of his propensity to swing and miss. His bat profiles well at any outfield position, according to the MLB.com duo.
The Tigers have “kicked around” the idea of trading for a hitter to bolster the back end of their lineup, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports in his latest Full Count video. Finding a quality bat will be more difficult in the August waiver period, of course, and there also isn’t any position that Detroit would clearly be looking to upgrade. Rosenthal says the team is “pretty much set in the outfield,” though I’d argue that adding another outfielder to complement or even replace J.D. Martinez or Rajai Davis (both of whom were originally acquired to be part-timers) would help the Tigers down the stretch.
Here’s some more from Rosenthal’s video and a separate piece that examines which managers and general managers could be on the hot seat…
- Some of Jon Lester‘s former teammates believe the southpaw will sign with the Cubs this offseason. Lester, of course, has ties to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, and the Cubs’ recent waiver claim of Cole Hamels indicates that the team is prepared to spend big money on a top-tier starting pitcher.
- Had the Padres hired Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler, the return of Kevin Towers to the San Diego organization “would’ve been almost automatic.” (The two worked together in New York.) Between Tony La Russa’s hiring in Arizona and the firing of Josh Byrnes in San Diego, rumors have swirled for weeks that Towers would find himself back with the Friars given his friendship with Padres president/CEO Mike Dee. As Rosenthal notes, Towers could still return under new GM A.J. Preller, though rival executives are split as to whether Towers’ presence would be a positive or a negative for Preller as a first-time general manager.
- Bud Black “would be out of work for about five minutes” if Preller decided to make a managerial change. Mike Dee recently told Rosenthal that Preller would decide on Black’s future with the Padres, though the fact that Black’s removal was “never seriously considered” by upper management would seem to bode well for the long-time skipper.
- While Reds GM Walt Jocketty is in the final year of his contract, “there is no indication that Jocketty wants to leave, or that owner Bob Castellini wants him out.” Rosenthal speculates that a reunion between Jocketty and La Russa in Arizona could be a possibility, though Jocketty might prefer to stay with the contending Reds rather than face a rebuilding job with the D’Backs.
- Ruben Amaro’s future as the Phillies‘ GM has been in question given the team’s struggles, which could also mean that manager Ryne Sandberg’s continued employment could also be up in the air. The Hall-of-Famer has “at times looks overmatched, struggling in his communications with veterans and with his in-game management,” Rosenthal writes, though he points out that Sandberg hasn’t been given much to work with on the roster. Sandberg is under contract through the end of the 2016 season.
- Could Jeff Luhnow’s job actually be in jeopardy? Rosenthal isn’t sure, though he notes that “internal tension seems unavoidable” in Houston. The Astros have seen little improvement on the field this season and Luhnow’s front office was widely criticized for its handling of the Brady Aiken negotiations.
- Mike Maddux’s Rangers contract is up at the end of the season, and while extension talks probably won’t take place until then, both Maddux and the team seem eager to see the long-time pitching coach remain in Texas.
The Padres will promote top outfield prospect Rymer Liriano on Monday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Liriano hasn’t made many lists of top prospects throughout the game, but Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook 2014 named him the Padres’ sixth-best prospect heading into the season, praising his five-tool potential, even after he missed the 2013 campaign due to Tommy John surgery. Since then, the 23-year-old has attracted attention with a solid performance at Double-A San Antonio and a ridiculous outburst in a small sample with Triple-A El Paso, in which he’s hit .467/.536/.683 in his first 69 plate appearances. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- The Rangers will not promote top prospect Joey Gallo this season, ESPN’s Jim Bowden tweets. The 20-year-old is hitting .255/.347/.568 for Double-A Frisco after putting up even more ridiculous numbers earlier this season at Class A+ Myrtle Beach, and he wowed fans at this year’s Futures Game. But it sounds like we’ll have to wait until 2015 before we see him hit home runs in Arlington. He’s struck out more than three times for every walk so far at Double-A, and he has no Triple-A experience, so there could be merit to allowing him to spend at least a couple more months in the minors.
- The Rockies should make seven moves to vault themselves into contention in 2015, ESPN Insider’s Jim Bowden writes. FanGraphs’ Paul Swydan recently wrote an article with a similar theme, but very different suggestions, and it’s interesting to compare the two pieces. Some of Bowden’s suggestions (like trading Kyle Parker and DJ LeMahieu to Minnesota for Brian Dozier, or dealing Brett Anderson and prospect Raimel Tapia to the Red Sox for Mookie Betts) seem a bit far-fetched, but they’re good springboards for discussion, and figuring out how to fix a 45-71 team in short order isn’t an easy exercise.
The Padres have dominated recent news with their hiring of new GM A.J. Preller. One of the main tasks set before Preller is to turn the current roster into a contender. The Padres have never won the World Series, and it will be Preller’s job to guide them through October. His first assignment – evaluate the club’s current assets and identify potential August trades.
A few players stand out as potential trade assets. They are unlikely to contribute to the next great Padres roster. As such, it might be best to get something back for them while it’s possible. As the club learned with Chase Headley, baseball assets can spoil unexpectedly.
Two players stand out as particularly valuable, although both are controllable through 2015. Ian Kennedy has recovered his career in San Diego, with a 3.51 ERA, 9.53 K/9, and 3.08 BB/9 through 146 and one-third innings. He has one more year of arbitration, and he’s likely to earn around $10MM. As such, he represents a substantial but potentially valuable financial investment. His struggles in Arizona and New York may give contenders pause before they buy his 2014 numbers.
The other top asset is closer Joaquin Benoit. He was a much rumored July trade candidate along with former closer Huston Street. Most clubs preferred him as a setup man despite closer quality numbers. His contract might explain why. Benoit is owed $8MM next season with a $8MM option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed with 55 games finished in 2015. The details of his contract could help him to pass through revocable waivers.
Even if both players are claimed, the Padres may have the opportunity to swing a trade with the claiming team. Other Padres like Will Venable could hit the market too, although they’re unlikely to return anything noteworthy.
For a more complete explanation of how revocable trade waivers and August trades work, check out MLBTR’s August Trades primer. You can also check out MLBTR’s list of players that have cleared revocable waivers to see who is eligible to be traded to any team.
Newly hired Padres GM A.J. Preller spoke about a variety of topics during his Wednesday introductory press conference. Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego provides the abridged version including why Preller was interested in the job, the challenge of wooing hitters to Petco Park, and his top priorities (answer: getting to know his employees).
- Also from Lin’s piece, Preller commented on working with a small budget. The Rangers may be a big budget team now, but that’s a recent development. Preller was a part of the Rangers front office when they reached the World Series on a $55MM payroll in 2010, so he’s familiar with building on the cheap. Interestingly for Padres fans, Preller expressed an expectation that ownership would expand the budget when the team was a major player or two away from getting “over the top.”
- With his impending free agency, Pablo Sandoval presents the Giants with a dilemma, writes Drew Fairservice of Fangraphs. On the surface, it’s easy to dismiss the nearly 28-year-old Kung Fu Panda as an inconsistent free-swinger. However, he consistently ranks among the top defensive third basemen and has settled in as a steady 120 wRC+ hitter (20 percent above league average). The Giants have a track record of loyalty to their free agents, so it will be interesting to see if they allow Sandoval to test the waters.
We read many reports about who was being considered and moved forward in the Padres‘ search for a new general manager, but MLB.com’s Corey Brock provides some more details on what was happening behind the scenes. Give his piece a read to see what led San Diego to choose A.J. Preller to take the helms of the club’s baseball decisionmaking. In other executive chatter, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic profiles Diamondbacks scouting director Ray Montgomery, who was one of the candidates for the game’s latest GM opening.
Here’s more from the National League:
- Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd has apparently been pulled back from revocable waivers after being claimed by an as-yet-unidentified team, as he played tonight for Philadelphia. Reports suggested Byrd was claimed on or before Wednesday, and the 48.5 hour window to complete a transaction (or withdraw the claimed player) would have expired by now.
- The Cubs, meanwhile, were unable to work out a deal for Phillies starter Cole Hamels, who was also withdrawn from waivers by Philadelphia. But, as Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes, the move to claim Hamels showed a new willingness to spend that could tell in the coming months. And missing on the veteran lefty did not stop the club from adding an arm, with Jacob Turner coming in from Miami in exchange for a pair of relievers who have yet to advance past High-A and are both his elder. President Theo Epstein’s comments indicated what many expected he was thinking: “We’ve had some success with talented pitchers who were going through tough periods. Getting them here, let them re-set a little. … We’re hopeful that will happen with Jacob. … Between now and next spring training there are things we can work on.”
- Dodgers starter Josh Beckett could be out for the year, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, though manager Don Mattingly expressed optimism that the righty would make his way back. Either way, his uncertain contribution going forward would appear to support GM Ned Colletti’s statement from earlier today that the team was still looking to add an arm.
- The Rockies are awaiting word on the severity of a back injury to oft-DL’ed starter Brett Anderson, reports Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Colorado is worried that Anderson will be out the rest of the year. Though he’s been out with a variety of other issues in the past, the back problem is a new one. The 26-year-old lefty has been effective when healthy, but his 2.91 ERA this year has come over just 43 1/3 innings. The Rockies face a tough call on whether to exercise a $12MM option for Anderson for 2015.
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Onto tonight’s links from around the league!
- New Padres GM A.J. Preller is impressed with the rotation that he’s inheriting in his new post, writes MLB.com’s Corey Brock. Preller’s new team boasts a rotation fronted by Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross and Jesse Hahn, and Brock wonders if the team will make a second run at extending Cashner with a new GM in place. Of his new club, Preller said to Padres fans: “I want Padres fans to understand that it’s not going to be smooth sailing from Day 1, But I can promise you we’re going to have the hungriest, hard-working group of employees in the game.”
- A theoretical return to the Red Sox for Jon Lester could follow the same path as Mike Lowell‘s return following the 2007 season, writes WEEI’s Rob Bradford. Lowell spoke with Bradford at length about his decision to reject a four-year, $48MM offer from the Phillies in favor of a three-year, $38MM offer to return to Boston. Lowell feels that Lester might not feel the need to take something like $150MM over seven years, but he adds that the Red Sox can’t simply offer a four-year deal if the rest of the market is willing to offer five or more years.
- Uncertainty surrounding Josh Beckett‘s health for the remainder of the season and an unwillingness to part with their top three prospects led to the Dodgers‘ acquisition of Roberto Hernandez earlier today, writes Tim Brow n of Yahoo Sports. Brown feels the decision to hang onto Corey Seager, Joc Pederson and Julio Urias was defensible and notes that a team source told him that Beckett could need season-ending surgery.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki that the team felt it made sense to flip Hernandez, as they had no plans to make a qualifying offer following the season (Twitter link). While that’s hardly a surprise, the philosophy behind the move could be applied to other current Phillies such as Kyle Kendrick, although that’s just my own speculation.
- Cubs prospects Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara both offer high praise for Triple-A player/coach Manny Ramirez and the help they received on their swing mechanics from the former MVP candidate, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. “He helped my approach to right-center, [following] his routine every day, going to the cage, the way he works,” said Baez. “He’s always got a bat in his hand doing something, either swinging the bat or just hitting in the cage. He talked to a lot of the guys. A lot of people learned from him.” In his most recent chat with readers, ESPN’s Keith Law wrote that he was a believer in Ramirez’s positive influence on Baez.
Padres president Mike Dee recently spoke to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal about the team’s future with new GM A.J. Preller. Here are the highlights:
- The Padres “never seriously considered” firing manager Bud Black despite the team’s struggles this season and the dismissal of GM Josh Byrnes, Dee says. He does note that it remains to be seen whether Preller will want Black to continue, but he expresses confidence in Black as a manager and he notes that Preller was open-minded during the interview process about keeping Black.
- Dee says he doesn’t have any directive in place that instructs Preller to make August trades. “That’s going to be up to him,” Dee says, noting that the Padres have both Ian Kennedy and Joaquin Benoit are under control for 2015. “It would have to be tremendous value,” says Dee.
- Preller does not view 2015 as a rebuilding year, Dee says. “A.J. is not looking at this like 2015 is a white-towel year while we restock the reservoir with talent,” says Dee. “He said very clearly yesterday (at his news conference) and he said to us privately, ‘As long as you have the quality of pitching that we have, you have a chance to win every night.’”
After rebuilding the Red Sox in time for their 2013 championship season, GM Ben Cherington has to remake the team yet again, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. One item on Cherington’s plate as the Red Sox finish their season is sorting through a number of young players, particularly in the rotation. “Right now we’re going to use the next several weeks to find out about the guys we have,” says Cherington. “We have 8-10 young starting pitchers who are here, at Triple A, and Double A. … In the offseason I’m sure we’ll look at starting pitching alternatives, whether it’s free agents or trades, and see what’s available to us. But we need guys in the organization to step up.” With the trades of Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy, the Red Sox’ rotation now includes less experienced players in Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa and Joe Kelly. The Red Sox also have a high waiver priority due to their record, which makes them a team to watch as August progresses. Here are more notes from around the AL East.
- Allen Craig, who was acquired in the Lackey deal, has already landed on the disabled list with an ankle injury, but the Red Sox are not worried about him in the long term, Alex Speier of WEEI.com writes. “There’s no concern about whether he’s going to be OK to play and feel good and be completely healthy,” says Cherington. “It’s just a question of making sure that we’re not putting him in a position where he’s compromised and maybe is at risk of doing something else by making up for what’s going on in his foot.”
- The Orioles will not pursue Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes. They’ve scouted him and they like his talent, but they think he’ll be too expensive to sign.
- The list of potential Yankees September call-ups includes 2014 second-round pick Jacob Lindgren, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com writes. The reliever dominated the low minors, striking out 17 batters in 7 1/3 innings at Class A+ Tampa, and he’s currently with Double-A Trenton.
- Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler isn’t bitter about missing out on the Padres GM job, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News writes. The job ultimately went to A.J. Preller of the Rangers. “Oddly, I’m not upset,” says Eppler. “Maybe if I did something and had a misstep, I would be disappointed in myself. I think the baseball gods didn’t feel like it was my time to leave the Yankees.”