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The Giants, unsurprisingly, plan to make third baseman Pablo Sandoval a qualifying offer after the season, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Heyman notes that the two sides have not engaged in any extension discussions since the spring, which would seem to indicate that a late-breaking deal is rather unlikely — particularly since both team and player are rather occupied at the moment. All said, it seems that Sandoval will test the market, where he will be among the most hotly-pursued free agents.
As the rest of the division looks to emulate San Francisco’s success, here are some non-player moves of note from the NL West:
- In yet another round of important front office additions, the Diamondbacks have announced the hiring of former Nationals assistant GM Bryan Minniti to the AGM post. Also joining the mix in Arizona is Mike Russell, formerly a scout with the Tigers, who has been named Special Assistant to the Senior VP of Baseball Operations and Coordinator of Professional Scouting.
- The Padres announced today that they have hired Sam Geaney away from the Athletics to serve as San Diego’s new director of player development. According to the press release, Geaney, who had been serving as Oakland’s coordinator of international scouting, will be “responsible for managing all of the organization’s player development efforts, including working with roving coordinators as well as managers and coaches at each of the club’s affiliates.” Geaney graduated from the University of California Cal Berkeley in 2007 and had been with the A’s since joining the organization as an intern in 2006.
- The Rockies have fired pitching coach Jim Wright and bullpen coach Bo McLaughlin, the team announced today. Colorado will immediately begin a search to fill both positions, the team added. As the Denver Post’s Nick Groke writes, Wright has been pitching coach for three seasons and was initially a co-pitching coach with McLaughlin before the latter assumed the role of bullpen coach in 2013. The Rockies’ 4.83 team ERA over the past three seasons is the worst in baseball, as is their collective 4.33 FIP.
Here’s the latest from the NL West.
- Rumors that the Dodgers are interested in Josh Byrnes for a front office role are gaining steam, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. The former Diamondbacks and Padres GM was seen taking in an AFL game with Dodgers president Stan Kasten and special adviser Pat Corrales. Interestingly, Los Angeles has openings at GM and farm director – both positions that fit Byrnes’ resume. He began his front office career as a scout in the Indians organization, eventually moving up to scouting director before leaving with Dan O’Dowd for an assistant GM post in Colorado. If Byrnes does latch on with the Dodgers, it will be his fourth NL West organization.
- New Diamondbacks catching prospect Peter O’Brien is known for his power but comes with questions about his defense, reports Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic. When the Diamondbacks acquired O’Brien from the Yankees for Martin Prado, they knew he might not stick behind the dish. For what it’s worth, O’Brien says all the right things about his dedication to catching. Arizona farm director Mike Bell also sounds positive, saying “he just needs to catch more.” Including the AFL, O’Brien has blasted 37 home runs in 444 plate appearances across four levels this season.
- Giants swingman Yusmeiro Petit journeyed an unlikely road from the majors to Mexico and back again, reports the Associated Press in The New York Times. The right-hander reinvented himself in Mexico and Venezuela during the 2011 campaign. Ultimately, Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens and minor league instructor Jose Alguacil rediscovered Petit and recommended him to the organization. The rest, as they say, is history. Petit has contributed to two critical postseason wins as part of an excellent October.
Here are a few stray notes from around the game …
- As I recently explored in my breakdown of the Braves‘ offseason-to-come, Atlanta faces some decisions in the outfield. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution goes into more detail on the situations of the disappointing B.J. Upton and corner outfielders Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, both of whom will become free agents at season’s end. The Braves “seem prepared” to take a bath on the elder Upton’s long-term deal to move him off the roster, according to O’Brien, and if the can manage it would probably utilize Heyward or a stop-gap in center. Dealing one of the other two players while trying to extend the other has long been discussed as a plausible option, and O’Brien indicates that it is a realistic option to slide Evan Gattis into a corner role to fill any resulting void.
- As far as extensions go, O’Brien says the Braves talked with Heyward’s representatives about a deal last winter. The team was interested in something that would have fallen well shy of Freddie Freeman‘s $135MM pact, says O’Brien, and Heyward’s asking price was well out of Atlanta’s comfort zone. His number has, in all likelihood, only gone up in the meantime, as Heyward just turned 25 and continues to rack up production — even though he has not returned to the offensive power ceiling he showed earlier in his career.
- The Royals passed on a chance to sign Sergio Romo for a meager $1K bonus before the Giants eventually took a chance on the reliever, ESPN.com’s Keith Law tweets. While Kansas City certainly cannot be faulted for leaving the then-unheralded Romo behind, it surely would have been nice to have added him from the team’s perspective.
- On the other hand, the Royals were willing to pay righty Tim Hudson, who said that K.C. made him a “very good offer” of two years this past offseason, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports on Twitter. Like Romo, the veteran ended up with the Giants — in his case, by choice — and will square off against the Royals in the World Series.
Here are the latest minor league transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post. All moves reported by Baseball America’s Matt Eddy unless cited otherwise.
- Jesus Guzman elected free agency rather than accept a Triple-A assignment from the Astros, Union Radio’s Pascual Artiles reports (Twitter link). Houston outrighted Guzman off its 40-man roster earlier this month. Guzman was acquired from the Padres last December and hit .188/.272/.248 in 184 plate appearances in 2014.
- Second baseman Tony Abreu has elected to become a free agent, leaving the Giants organization. Abreu has been with the Giants for the last two seasons, appearing in three games with the team in 2014 and 53 in 2013. Abreu has 615 PA to his name since debuting in the majors in 2007, posting a career .254/.283/.373 line for the Giants, Royals, Diamondbacks and Dodgers.
- Second baseman Cord Phelps has elected free agency. Phelps played for the Orioles in 2014, appearing in three Major League games and hitting .259/.361/.388 over 403 PA at Triple-A Norfolk.
- The Dodgers re-signed left-hander Robert Carson. The southpaw posted a 5.74 ERA over 62 2/3 IP in the minors with the Angels and Dodgers in 2014, getting released by L.A.’s red team in May and signing with L.A.’s blue team a week later. Carson threw 33 innings for the Mets in 2012-13, posting a 6.82 ERA in his brief time in the Show.
- Left-hander Pedro Hernandez has elected to become a free agent, leaving the Rockies. Hernandez posted a 6.42 ERA in 88 1/3 IP for Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2014, and made one start for the Rockies in July. The southpaw has a career 7.33 ERA over 66 1/3 IP with the Rockies, Twins and White Sox since 2012.
- The Rockies released and then re-signed right-hander Simon Castro, according to the club’s official transactions page. He first signed with Colorado in April but didn’t pitch at all in 2014 due to injury. Castro was ranked as the game’s 58th-best prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2011 season while in the Padres farm system, and was dealt to the White Sox as part of the Carlos Quentin trade package in the 2011-12 offseason. His Major League experience consists of 6 2/3 IP with Chicago in 2013.
- Left-hander Cesar Cabral, most recently of the Yankees organization, has elected to become a free agent, Examiner.com’s Dan Pfeiffer reports (Twitter link). Cabral appeared in four games for the Yankees in 2014, totaling one inning pitched and allowing three earned runs. His Major League resume also includes 3 2/3 IP for New York in 2013. The southpaw has a 4.01 ERA, 2.58 K/BB rate and 420 strikeouts over 422 1/3 career minor league innings.
Two-time NPB MVP Alex Ramirez has retired, Jun Hongo of the Wall Street Journal Japan reports. The 40-year-old Ramirez played briefly for the Indians and Pirates between 1998 and 2000, but it wasn’t until he headed to Yakult for the 2001 season that his career really got going. He hit 29 homers that year and quickly emerged as one of the most feared sluggers in Japan, hitting 40 or more home runs three times in his career. Ramirez finished his NPB career in 2013 with 380 homers for Yakult, Yomiuri and Yokohama, then played and coached last season with the independent Gunma Diamond Pegasus club. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- Athletics hitting coach Chili Davis has left the team to become the new hitting coach of the Red Sox, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com tweets. Davis hit 350 home runs in a 19-year career with the Giants, Angels, Twins, Royals and Yankees, then worked in the Dodgers and Red Sox systems before signing on with the Athletics prior to the 2012 season. In his previous stint with the Red Sox, Davis served as the hitting coach at Triple-A Pawtucket. The Red Sox will begin interviewing candidates for their assistant hitting coach position this week, Bradford and Alex Speier report.
- With Davis out, the Athletics are now looking for a hitting coach, and one candidate is Angels assistant hitting coach Dave Hansen, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. The Angels could also promote Hansen to replace Don Baylor, who missed much of last season with a freak leg injury. Hansen, known as a pinch-hitter throughout much of his career, played 15 seasons with the Dodgers, Cubs, Padres and Mariners. The Athletics could also consider Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan, Slusser tweets.
- If the A’s do have interest in Magadan, the won’t be the only ones. Davis had previously been a top candidate for the open Yankees hitting coach job, and the Yankees could now turn to Magadan, who interviewed Wednesday, George A. King III and John DeMarzo of the New York Post report. The former infielder played 16 seasons with the Mets, Marlins, Mariners, Astros, Cubs, Athletics and Padres.
- Barry Zito‘s seven-year contract with the Giants didn’t turn out so well, but he did help them land Tim Hudson, Ryan Hood of MLB.com writes. When both pitchers were free agents last winter, Hudson called his former Athletics teammate to see what he thought of playing in San Francisco. “I said it’s a first-rate organization, from the top down,” says Zito, who assured Hudson that Giants fans had changed since the two pitchers had played together in Oakland. “Giants fans had a little more of a rep of just coming out for baseball games and not really having a die-hard presence and creating an intimidating atmosphere. It was very light. I told him 2010 changed everything.” Hudson posted a 3.57 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 189 1/3 innings for the Giants this season. Zito, meanwhile, says he determined in August 2013 that he would “take some time away from the game and focus on family.” He did not pitch this season.
With Derek Jeter‘s retirement and the Giants playing in their third World Series in five years, Buster Posey should be the next face of baseball. That’s the theme of separate articles by ESPN’s Jayson Stark and the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. Starks believes Posey is comparable to Jeter in making his team a perennial World Series contender with an understated, but intently competitive manner, the flowing awards and accolades, and his ability to move merchandise. Sherman theorizes Posey hasn’t already assumed Jeter’s mantle because of the position he plays, the market in which he plays, and a lack of a seminal playoff moment.
Here’s more news and notes from the National League:
- It will be tough for other teams to copy “the Giants Way” because the Giants themselves can’t explain their success, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. “That’s a tough question to answer,” General Manager Brian Sabean said. “Things develop over time.” Time has been on the Giants’ side, notes Shaikin, as Sabean is the longest-tenured GM in baseball and his top lieutenants (Dick Tidrow and Bobby Evans, who told Shaikin he has never been interviewed for a GM opening) have been with the organization for two decades.
- Earlier today, MLBTR’s Zach Links predicted Nationals infielder Asdrubal Cabrera will land a three-year, $27MM contract in free agency. CSNWashington’s Mark Zuckerman posits Cabrera’s best days are possibly behind him, so the Nationals’ interest will be based on whether there are better options available either via free agency or on the trade market.
- The Phillies should have at least $20MM in payroll space this offseason which should be enough for a major signing or a few mid-level signings, provided they are committed to winning in 2015, according to CSNPhilly.com’s Corey Seidman. A.J. Burnett declining his $12.75 option and dealing Antonio Bastardo and/or Domonic Brown could increase that amount, Seidman adds.
- Braves President John Schuerholz indicated to Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter) the club’s first choice to be their full-time GM is John Hart; however, he will not force the timeline.
- The first home run of the Dominican Winter League was hit by the Padres‘ Yasmani Grandal. Now a full season away from his 50-game suspension for an elevated testosterone level and knee surgery and possessing excellent plate discipline (13.1% walk rate in 2014), Grandal can become a breakout offensive force for the Padres in 2015, opines the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Dennis Lin.
- The Dodgers are in good hands with Andrew Friedman aboard, writes Peter Gammons for Gammons Daily.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: A.J. Burnett | Andrew Friedman | Antonio Bastardo | Asdrubal Cabrera | Atlanta Braves | Brian Sabean | Buster Posey | Domonic Brown | John Schuerholz | Los Angeles Dodgers | Philadelphia Phillies | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Washington Nationals | Yasmani Grandal
If the Royals win the World Series it would be difficult to imagine GM Dayton Moore leaving for the Braves‘ vacancy. However, those who know Moore well say that he felt comfortable in Atlanta, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. On top of that, the Braves would offer Moore a bigger budget to work with. More from today’s column..
- Word is spreading that the Red Sox could make Yoenis Cespedes available. The slugger will make $10.2MM in the final year of his deal and his desire not to play right field or work on his defense could spell the end of his time in Boston. A Cespedes deal would allow the Sox to make room for Mookie Betts or add a left-handed hitter.
- The Giants are a team to watch when Nick Markakis hits the open market as expected. Even though they’re enjoying Travis Ishikawa‘s work, they are unlikely to commit to him as an everyday left fielder. The Mets could also be in the mix.
- One agent believes Jake Peavy has turned his next contract from a one-year, $7MM deal into a three-year, $36MM deal based on his second half with the Giants. Cafardo notes that the Giants won’t re-sign Ryan Vogelsong and with little help coming from Triple-A, they’ll likely have to bite on a Peavy deal.
- There have been preliminary talks between the Red Sox and Koji Uehara about staying in Boston,but the sides aren’t close to a deal.
Michael Morse has provided notice that he is still a force at the plate, but his defensive limitations remain a major factor in his market. He made good on the one-year, $6MM deal he signed with the Giants, but what kind of contract will he achieve in his second successive turn at free agency?
You could probably write this section fairly in just one word: bat. Over 482 plate appearances with the Giants, Morse put up a strong .279/.336/.475 slash with 16 home runs. That line does not quite reach the monster figures he tallied in 2011 with the Nationals — .303/.360/.550 with 31 long balls – but nevertheless indicates that his down season in 2013 can be chalked up in large part to a nagging wrist injury that required offseason surgery.
Notably, the right-handed-hitting Morse is productive against both righties (121 career wRC+) and lefties (121 career wRC+). Though he may never again be a truly elite power hitter, he has bumped his ISO back to just under the .200 level and could well improve on his career-low 15.1% HR/FB rate with a move to a ballpark that better suits his notable pop to the opposite field gap.
In truth, there is not much to dislike about Morse’s bat. Detractors could point to a slightly rising strikeout rate, but there is no spike that is way out of line with his career numbers. And Morse has had plenty of success with the same general mix of Ks and free passes. Likewise, his numbers in 2014 should arguably be downgraded due to the fact that he carried a sizeable .348 BABIP. (Notably, Morse’s rough 2013 season was driven in part by a .254 average on pitches he put in play.) But despite his lack of speed, Morse has put up three seasons of .330-or-better BABIP figures because, well, he hits the ball really hard. With all of his batted ball, pitch recognition, and contact numbers lining up cleanly with his career norms, Morse seems a good bet to continue to produce at a solidly above-average rate with the bat.
All said, Morse would be quite valuable even in a pure DH role, especially since he does not need a left-handed-hitting platoon mate. But that may still sell short his value somewhat. While Morse is widely acknowledged to be a very poor defensive outfielder (more on that below), he has somewhat surprisingly seen relatively little action at first in his career. Over 1,259 2/3 career innings at that spot, he has rated out as a slightly below-average defender. While that may not seem at first glance to be much of a feather in his cap, that decent performance in sporadic playing time provides hope that Morse could be a more reliable option if he were to open the spring with a first baseman’s mitt and use it steadily over a season. And it bears recalling that Morse started out his career as a shortstop, and even saw 450 big league innings there in his rookie season with the Mariners. Though he’ll never be graceful, it seems plausible to think that Morse could take on a full-time job at first.
A hot start, mid-season swoon, and late-year rally is generally not the worst way to hit your walk year. But for Morse, that year all but ended when August flipped to September. Sidelined with a strained oblique, Morse saw just two plate appearances in the season’s final month. And as of this writing, Morse has taken just four trips to the dish during the Giants’ postseason run, though the most recent produced a memorable home run.
That slightly unfortunate, essentially minor injury could probably be forgotten in large part were it not for Morse’s lengthy docket of maladies. The towering slugger has missed significant time over each of the last three seasons – to say nothing of several earlier DL stints – for various aches, pains, and strains. In the aggregate, since that 2011 full-season breakout, Morse has averaged 107 games and 416 plate appearances a year. In particular, acquiring teams that intend to utilize him in the outfield will need to account for the distinct possibility that a full year of production may not result.
Of course, whether to use Morse as a regular outfield option at all is open to question. Among players with at least 1,000 innings in the outfield over the last three years, Morse ranks fifth from the bottom in total negative defensive value by measure of both UZR and Defensive Runs Saved. And the eye test tends to support these findings.
Baserunning, likewise, is a clear negative for Morse, who was one of the league’s worst runners this year and probably will be for the rest of his career. He will turn 33 just before the start of the 2015 campaign, though that is still a fair sight younger than several other first base/DH options set to hit the market.
Morse, who was married in 2012, currently lives within walking distance of AT&T Park, according to this profile from Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle. He grew up in Florida, ultimately being drafted by the White Sox out of high school, but also spent time in Jamaica as a child.
Bearing a nom de guerre of “the Beast,” Morse is one of the most colorful players in the game. Whether performing his “Samurai Cobra Snake” routine before entering the box, spinning “Take On Me” before his third plate appearance of a game, or re-enacting a ghost swing before trotting out a grand slam after a review, Morse is undeniably an entertaining presence at the ballpark.
While the Giants signed him as an outfielder, Morse’s time there in a regular capacity probably should and will come to an end. Though National League teams in need of a first baseman could make a slight roll of the dice on Morse’s defense, the most obvious landing spot remains with an American League club. Lacking platoon splits, he would be an attractive option to share time at first with a more platoon-oriented hitter while taking the rest of his hacks from the DH spot.
Clubs like the Rangers, Mariners, and White Sox seem to be possibilities, and the Royals may be in the market for a Billy Butler replacement. Were Victor Martinez to find a new team, it is possible to imagine the Tigers giving Morse a look to share first base and DH duties with Miguel Cabrera. And several N.L. teams – the Padres, Brewers, Marlins, and possibly the Pirates come to mind – could see merit in installing Morse at first. Should consideration be given to using him in the outfield, it is conceivable that the Giants, Reds, and Mets could get involved. Depending on how the Phillies proceed with their situations at first, third, and the corner outfield, Morse could theoretically land there as well.
As for comps, recent contracts given to Marlon Byrd (2/$16MM), Adam LaRoche (2/$25MM plus loss of a draft pick), and perhaps Mike Napoli (2/$32MM plus sacrifice of potential draft compensation) seem the most relevant points of reference. Byrd’s age and near-past disappearance from relevance certainly had a major impact on his market, though he is a more able defender than Morse. And Napoli’s strong work at the plate and in the field, combined with an age, seem to make his number out of reach. As for LaRoche, it is hard to ignore the fact that he was coming off of a 33-home run year and was generally well-regarded as a defensive first baseman (whatever the metrics may say).
Ultimately, even without the qualifying offer penalty, Morse seems likely to land shy of LaRoche’s deal. That is especially so given the fact that he faces relatively steep competition from bat-first players such as LaRoche (now again a likely free agent), Michael Cuddyer, Billy Butler, and (on the high side) Nelson Cruz and Victor Martinez.
Morse’s representatives at ACES will probably ask for three years, but there is sufficient market competition that I see a shorter pact as the likelier outcome. Though a qualifying offer is unlikely to weigh down his value, Morse has his limitations as a player. Ultimately, I predict that he will land a two-year, $22MM contract.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Over at The Hardball Times, Jon Roegele breaks down some interesting data on Tommy John surgeries. The number of UCL replacements was a big story this year, of course. Roegele’s research suggests that, while the overall rate of return for pitchers who have undergone the procedure has not improved much since it was invented, the recovery time has been shortened significantly.
Here’s the latest from out west:
- Referring to a report that Mariners ownership had killed a deal that would have brought in free agent Nelson Cruz, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that Seattle’s ownership had in fact determined before the offseason that it would not sign any players linked to PED use. The details of the situation remain hazy, but Heyman indicates that Cruz’s Biogenesis-related suspension was the root of the decision.
- The Rangers are looking for a manager in the mold of Terry Francona and Clint Hurdle, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Indeed, every one of the five external candidates under consideration have links to one of those two skippers, as does candidate and interim manager Tim Bogar. Texas is expected to whittle its search down to three finalists in the coming week, says Grant.
- Giants starter Jake Peavy thought at one point that he would be traded to the team he is now facing in the NLCS, the Cardinals, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The veteran righty could still end up in St. Louis next year, as Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com reports. Peavy speaks very highly of the club and city, and could make some sense for the Cards if the team decides another established arm is needed for 2015.
One of Jeff Bridich’s proudest accomplishments likely didn’t come up when he was bumped from senior directior of player development to GM of the Rockies. As a junior at Harvard, Bridich hit a two-run homer over Fenway’s Green Monster against UMass. Even though the Crimson ultimately lost 13-12, it remains a cherished family memory for Bridich, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. “Hitting a homer at Fenway was cool, but it’s more special because my dad did the same thing when he played for Harvard,” Bridich said. “He hit his to almost the same spot. Of course, my father did it with a wood bat, so that’s a little bit more impressive.” Here’s more out of the NL West..
- If the Dodgers move on from General Manager Ned Colletti, their top target appears to be Rays GM Andrew Friedman, according to Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times. A lot of great things happened under Colletti’s watch, including Clayton Kershaw becoming a Cy Young Award winner and Dee Gordon becoming an All-Star, but the new Dodgers owners view him as someone who gave away too much money to older players and built a shoddy bullpen.
- While toiling away in Triple-A last season, Giants first baseman Travis Ishikawa spent just two weeks with his family between February 1 and September 1. With little hope of getting back to the bigs, he nearly gave up on baseball to spend more time with his family back home, writes Alex Pavlovic of The Mercury News. “I thought about retiring. I was trying to figure out something else where I could be home and make money…Thank God I stuck with it,” the Giants’ unlikely hero said.
- Bridich understands the value of catching and Saunders wonders if that could affect his offseason plans. Russell Martin would be a tremendous get for the Rockies, but he’ll be a very hot commodity after the season he had in Pittsburgh. While the Rockies have Wilin Rosario and Michael McKenry behind the plate, there are limitations to what they can do.