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The Dodgers weren’t the only NL West team looking at Cuban right-hander Pablo Millan Fernandez, as MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports that the Giants and Padres also had interest. The Rangers and Red Sox, two of the more aggressive teams on the international signing front in recent years, were also interested in Fernandez, who agreed to an $8MM bonus with Los Angeles yesterday. Here’s some more from around the NL West…
- Madison Bumgarner has no plans to approach the Giants about re-negotiating his contract and said he has no regrets over signing his five-year extension, the World Series MVP tells Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. In April 2012, Bumgarner signed a deal that, at the time, paid him the highest average annual value of any contract given to a player between 1-2 years of service time. The five-year, $35MM deal includes a $12MM vesting option for 2018 and a $12MM team option for 2019. While those options could increase to $16MM based on Cy Young finishes, Bumgarner’s contract has obviously been a major bargain for the Giants.
- The Brewers were one of a few teams interested in trading for Dodgers infielder Alex Guerrero, though nobody was interested in paying Guerrero the $14MM he’s owed through 2017, ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon reports. Some teams were staying away from a trade and instead hoping L.A. would just release the Cuban prospect in the wake of his tough 2014 campaign. A good Spring Training, however, has earned Guerrero a spot on the Opening Day roster and kept him in the Dodgers’ future plans.
- The Dodgers won’t be considering extensions for Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick or Juan Uribe until at least partway through the season, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes. All three veteran infielders are entering their walk years, but L.A. can afford to wait given the presence of Guerrero and Corey Seager, not to mention the possible signing of Hector Olivera. For his part, Uribe says he wants to stay with the Dodgers beyond 2015.
- Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart told reporters (including MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert) and The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro) that Dioner Navarro‘s $5MM salary is too much to fit into his team’s payroll. The Snakes have been linked to the Blue Jays catcher for much of the offseason and they’re reportedly still scouting him, though Stewart said there isn’t any substance to those rumors.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Alexander Guerrero | Arizona Diamondbacks | Boston Red Sox | Dioner Navarro | Howie Kendrick | Jimmy Rollins | Juan Uribe | Los Angeles Dodgers | Madison Bumgarner | Milwaukee Brewers | Pablo Fernandez | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays
The dark side of Venezuelan baseball players reaping the riches of their profession is their family members, who decline to move permanently to the United States and remain in Venezuela, become targets of kidnappers. Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News chronicles the kidnapping attempt made on the brother of Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus last year. Fortunately, Andrus provided his brother’s family with armed bodyguards and they thwarted the attempt after being fired upon and struck in their bulletproof vests. “This happens with everybody who has family there,” said Andrus. “It’s easy for them to kidnap people and ask for money. And everybody knows how much money the players make. They can Google it. It’s just not safe. You have to take steps. It was pretty shocking, for sure.”
In other news and notes from baseball’s West divisions:
- The Diamondbacks will not alleviate their outfield surplus by trading Mark Trumbo, reports CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. “We are not moving Trumbo,” GM Dave Stewart said. “Trumbo is a proven bat. Tough to move him for an unknown.” Stewart went even further with the New York Post’s Joel Sherman (Twitter link) telling the scribe he will not trade any of his outfielders because he values the depth.
- The Rockies are to be commended for releasing Jhoulys Chacin because a team must change direction if a player isn’t performing and the right-hander wasn’t, tweets Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.
- The Angels enter 2015 with the most financial flexibility they have had in four years, but will wait until mid-season to decide if or how to spend that payroll, according to MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. The Angels’ most likely area of need is second base with Gonzalez naming the Phillies‘ Chase Utley, the Reds‘ Brandon Phillips, the Diamondbacks‘ Aaron Hill, and the Mets‘ Daniel Murphy as possible targets.
- The Dodgers‘ pitching depth is sorely being tested in the wake of the team shutting down Hyun-jin Ryu with shoulder inflammation, notes MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick.
- Andre Ethier tells Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com he isn’t monitoring trade rumors online or with his agent and he isn’t counting the number of scouts in attendance at the Dodgers‘ Spring Training games. Ethier has said he is open to a trade and the club is reportedly willing to eat as much as half of the $56MM remaining on the outfielder’s contract to facilitate a swap, but have yet to find any takers.
- Carlos Quentin asked to see some reps at first base in an attempt to earn more at-bats with the Padres, which could also make him more attractive to other teams, writes MLB.com’s Corey Brock.
- Peter Gammons of DailyGammons.com opines some have been cynical of San Diego’s offseason overhaul, but a healthy and productive Matt Kemp can become the poster person of this new age for the Padres.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Aaron Hill | Andre Ethier | Arizona Diamondbacks | Brandon Phillips | Carlos Quentin | Chase Utley | Cincinnati Reds | Colorado Rockies | Daniel Murphy | Elvis Andrus | Jhoulys Chacin | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Mark Trumbo | Matt Kemp | New York Mets | Philadelphia Phillies | San Diego Padres | Texas Rangers
Matthew Marrota of Baseball Essential conducted an interesting interview with big league great Vladimir Guerrero and his prospect son, Vlad Jr. If you don’t believe Marrota’s description of the younger Guerrero as being the spitting image of his father in virtually all respects, the video included in the post ought to convince you. The one difference, according to Vlad Sr.? “He has more power, a lot,” says Guerrero. “I was very thin. Other than that we are the same player. We both played like men since we were very young.”
- Ben Badler of Baseball America tweets that he continues to hear positive reviews on infielder Hector Olivera from scouts. The latest word, per Badler, is that the Dodgers and Padres are the most likely teams to add the veteran Cuban free agent.
- Diamondbacks righty Daniel Hudson says his arm feels good after throwing two clean frames today, as MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports. Hudson remains on track to contribute at the big league level this year after coming back from a second Tommy John surgery, though it remains to be seen whether he’ll work from the rotation or the pen.
- The Tigers have not made any attempt to work out a longer-term arrangement with reliever Joakim Soria, Tony Paul of the Detroit Free Press tweets. As he notes, that is not really surprising: Soria struggled upon being dealt to Detroit at the deadline last year, and Paul says there is “some skepticism” within the organization as to how he’ll perform this year. Assuming that nothing changes between now and the fall, the 30-year-old righty will hit the open market.
Cuban infielder Hector Olivera is “likely” to sign by the end of this week, agent Greg Genske tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Olivera is still looking for a team to promise him a sixth year, the report indicates.
The Braves have reportedly put in an offer of four years and $40MM that is said to be “behind the pack,” per Heyman’s source. Multiple other clubs have reportedly shown a willingness to guarantee five years, possibly over $50MM, though Heyman says that the precise value (and source) of the other bids are not known.
Among the other clubs that have shown interest, of course, are the Dodgers, Padres, and Giants. Heyman says it is unclear at this point how involved the Marlins and Athletics are, though recent reports indicated that Miami still has interest at seven years and $50MM, perhaps representing a lower AAV than Olivera prefers.
Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was in attendance as the team his son coaches at the University of Wisconsin-Stout took on a Twins rookie team Tuesday, would be thrilled to manage again, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes. “Oh, no. I’ve got a lot left in me in baseball,” says Gardenhire, shown in a photo wearing a T-shirt and smoking a cigar. “If somebody is looking for a manager and I’m a fit, great. I would love to manage again.” After the Twins fired him following last season following the team’s fourth straight season of 92-plus losses, Gardenhire lived for a month in an RV parked near his daughter’s house in Oklahoma while he waited for his first grandchild to be born. Gardenhire turned down a front-office job with the Twins, but says he’s still willing to help his former organization, perhaps with occasional scouting tasks. Here’s more from around the game.
- MLBPA head Tony Clark says it’s “unfortunate” that teams delay promotion of top prospects for service-time reasons, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports. “We don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest, and we don’t think it’s in the industry’s best interest, to not have the best players on the field all the time,” says Clark. This has become, of course, a point of discussion every year. This season, top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant has been the focus of the issue. The Cubs are likely to send him to the minors to start the season even though he’s leading MLB in Spring Training homers with six.
- One Padres move that didn’t attract much attention in a high-profile winter was their signing of former Diamondbacks, Astros and Tigers closer Jose Valverde to a minor-league deal. Valverde has performed well in camp, however, and now appears to have a good shot to make the team, Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com writes. “I feel like I’m 21 because I’m throwing 98 [mph],” says Valverde. “I’m surprised because I haven’t walked anybody yet.” Bloom suggests Valverde could even be the Padres’ closer. That would be an upset if it came to pass, since Joaquin Benoit performed well in that role last year after the team traded Huston Street.
The Red Sox are one of the most oft-discussed teams in Spring Training, with a logjam of outfield options and a persistent stream of rumors linking to pitching upgrades. Here’s a look at the latest talk surrounding the team…
- Rival evaluators are beginning to raise red flags about Boston’s rotation, writes ESPN’s Buster Olney, in today’s Insider-only blog post. Clay Buchholz‘s velocity is down from earlier this spring, while Justin Masterson and Wade Miley have looked underwhelming in recent starts. As Olney points out, the Boston rotation has little track record of logging innings as well. Joe Kelly has never topped 124 1/3 innings, Rick Porcello hit 200 innings for the first time in 2014, Buchholz has never reached that mark and Masterson’s been limited by injuries over the past two seasons.
- Kelly left yesterday’s start with tightness in his right biceps, but he’ll throw today and won’t require an MRI on his arm, tweets Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. As Olney notes in the above piece, the Sox do have nice depth with Eduardo Rodriguez, Matt Barnes and Brian Johnson, among others, but the fact that they don’t have to add Kelly to a growing list of Spring Training casualties among pitchers is nonetheless a positive outcome for the Sox.
- Will Middlebrooks explained to Richard Justice of MLB.com how hard it was to see the Red Sox sign Pablo Sandoval, then spend a month in limbo before being dealt to the Padres. Middlebrooks had nothing but glowing things to say about his time in Boston and the organization, and he said he ultimately understands the move from Boston’s end. “It stung a little bit, just because I cared so much about being a part of that team,” said Middlebrooks. “I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t bother me. But at the same time, I like to think I have an idea of the business of baseball. You have a guy that keeps getting hurt, and they’re an organization that wants to win now. I understand that.” Middlebrooks called the trade to San Diego a “great opportunity” and ultimately expressed excitement to be healthy and have a chance to be a big part of the new-look Padres.
- Josh Norris of Baseball America writes that new Red Sox top prospect Yoan Moncada looked sharp in infield drills with the club and provides video of the infielder in action in a Red Sox uniform.
Spring Training will always involve unfortunate news of injuries, but it also represents an opportunity for players making a comeback — whether from injury or otherwise — to reestablish themselves. In addition to restoring their own career trajectories (Scott Kazmir, anyone?), such players can deliver immense value to the teams that give them another chance.
Let’s take a look at a few situations from around the league, focusing on pitchers:
- When lefty Clayton Richard signed a minor league deal with the Pirates, everyone’s first thoughts went to the hurlers whose careers have recently been revived in Pittsburgh. (A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, and Edinson Volquez being the prime examples.) As Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports, that is essentially what Richard was thinking about, too. “I was able to talk to [Volquez] a little bit and see what he thought of the organization,” said Richard. “It was positive. Just in talking with [GM] Neal [Huntington], [manager] Clint [Hurdle], and [pitching coach] Ray [Searage], I got a good feel of what they are all about. it made sense for me that this was the place.” The non-roster invitee is said to be hitting the gun in the low-nineties, where he previously has worked, and says he is “loosening up my entire body through my delivery” after having seen his motion limited in the past by shoulder troubles.
- After good vibes at the opening of Red Sox camp, Justin Masterson had a less-than-promising outing yesterday, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. A scout called Masterson’s work “awful,” while manager John Farrell said the righty “started to flash some better stuff into the fourth inning” but lacked “late action” on his pitches from “inconsistencies and when the velocity drops.” That group of issues — i.e., mechanical struggles and waning fastball velocity — were perhaps the two most-cited underlying difficulties that led Masterson to fall from his early perch near the top of this year’s free agent class to a one-year, $9.5MM deal with Boston. Of course, there is still plenty of time for Masterson to rebound this season.
- Brandon Morrow of the Padres also signed a make-good, one-year deal but was guaranteed much less than Masterson. But he is off to a strong opening to his year, having posted nine innings with one earned run and seven strikeouts against two free passes thus far. In post-game comments today to his counterpart, Cubs skipper Joe Maddon said that Morrow showed “real stuff” in his four scoreless frames, as MLB.com’s Alyson Footer tweets. It seems at this point that the fifth starter’s role is Morrow’s to lose.
- Royals reliever Luke Hochevar made his way back to competitive action today, throwing a clean inning, as Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports (Twitter links). Working his way back from Tommy John surgery, Hochevar nevertheless landed a $10MM guarantee (over two years) to return to Kansas City. He was throwing in the 92 to 93 mph range in his work today, but despite that successful first appearance still seems likely to start the regular season on the DL.
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.
Since arriving from the Athletics organization in a seemingly minor trade following the 2012 season, starting pitcher Tyson Ross has blossomed in San Diego. He followed a strong 2013 with a terrific 2014 campaign in which he posted a 2.81 ERA, 9.0 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9, with his only obvious blemish coming when he missed his last start due to a slight forearm strain. Ross looks like a starting pitcher the Padres can build around, and at least for now, the Padres seem to agree, declining to trade Ross and Andrew Cashner even though new GM A.J. Preller used the trade market to transform much of the rest of the team this winter.
Ross posted a 1.88 ERA in the pitcher’s haven of PETCO Park and a 3.79 ERA elsewhere in 2014, but he seems like the sort of pitcher who should be able to succeed in any home ballpark. His strikeout and walk totals are strong, and his 56.2 ground ball percentage over the past two seasons is outstanding, ranking third among pitchers who have thrown at least 300 innings in that time. He also has a mid-90s fastball, although he’s relied on that less in recent years, turning instead to a sinker and a ridiculous slider that help generate all those ground balls. If anything, his exceptional ground ball abilities are somewhat wasted in the dead air of PETCO Park.
The Padres control Ross’ rights through the 2017 season, and already the Wasserman Media Group client has established a fairly high salary baseline as a Super Two player. Ross and the Padres settled for $5.25MM this winter for 2015, his second year of arbitration eligibility. That could put him on pace to make about $25MM from 2015 through 2017, depending on how he performs in the next two seasons.
There haven’t been many recent extensions for pitchers with arbitration situations similar to Ross’. Perhaps the one that comes closest is that of Gio Gonzalez, who signed a five-year, $42MM deal with a team option and a player/vesting option three years ago. At the time of that deal, Gonzalez, also a Super Two player, was heading into his first season of arbitration eligibility, with MLBTR projecting a $4.2MM salary for that year. Ross is one year closer to free agency than Gonzalez was, and salaries have escalated throughout the game since then, so the Padres would likely have to pay more heavily than the Nationals. But a deal for Ross in the $55MM-$60MM range with a structure similar to the Gonzalez contract would seem fair. The end result might look something like Matt Harrison‘s current five-year, $55MM deal with the Rangers, which includes one club option.
If Ross has interest in a long-term contract, the circumstances would seem favorable for the Padres to sign him. San Diego has a lucrative new TV deal, and the Padres’ new ownership and seems intent on spending. And while the team has a fairly strong rotation now, they might not have one forever. Ian Kennedy is eligible for free agency after the season, and Cashner after 2016. Even with young or relatively young arms like Odrisamer Despaigne, Robbie Erlin, Matt Wisler and Casey Kelly in the system, signing at least one of Kennedy, Cashner or Ross would seem prudent — the pitcher who remains with the Padres long-term could join James Shields as a veteran rotation anchor.
Of course, with Preller, one never knows. It wasn’t he who traded for Ross, and he hasn’t yet shown strong attachments to players he didn’t acquire. (And he already traded Tyson’s brother Joe to the Nationals in the Wil Myers deal.) Preller could have his mind on something else entirely, particularly given the strong group of starting pitchers available on the free-agent market next winter. There are reasons to be somewhat cautious of Ross, too — he pitched about 60 more innings in 2014 than he did the previous year, and he has unusual mechanics and relies heavily on his slider. All those factors could make him an injury risk. But there’s little else to dislike about him, and if the Padres are comfortable with his health, perhaps the two sides can strike a deal at some point.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Yesterday, we learned agent Greg Genske of The Legacy Agency believes his client, Hector Olivera, will sign soon with several multi-year proposals under consideration. The Dodgers, Braves, Padres, Marlins, A’s and Giants have been the teams most linked to Olivera.
Here’s the latest on the Cuban free agent:
- The Marlins are willing to offer Olivera a seven-year contract in the $50MM range, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. The Marlins reportedly pulled a seven-year, $53MM offer because the Dodgers had made a $77MM proposal. According to Frisaro, the Marlins believe the amount of the Dodgers’ offer is not accurate.
- The A’s were not one of the teams making an offer to Olivera this weekend, but are monitoring his market, reports the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser.
- The Braves are considering increasing their bid for Olivera slightly, but it still won’t approach $50MM, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman notes the Braves, whose comfort level with Olivera is reportedly in the $30-40MM range, is counting on non-monetary incentives to help their bid like having a pair of Cuban natives on their staff, manager Fredi Gonzalez and bench coach Carlos Tosca. Heyman writes the Dodgers and Padres are seen as the favorites to land Olivera, but the Dodgers may have renewed questions about Olivera’s elbow after their request for a second MRI was rebuffed and there are concerns about whether the Padres have enough payroll space.