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It’s been a whirlwind week on the Hector Olivera front, as the 29-year-old Cuban infielder switched agents earlier this week and is said to be weighing offers of four to six years in length, with the ultimate price tag expected to land around $50MM as recently as last night. Per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez — who discussed Olivera and other Cuban players with Jeff Todd on the MLBTR Podcast last month — Olivera has received strong interest from the Dodgers, Braves, A’s, Marlins, Padres and Giants. To this point, the Braves have made an offer and are reportedly interested in the $30-40MM range, while the Padres are said to be considering an offer worth upwards of $50MM. Olivera has already conducted physicals for the Braves, Dodgers and Padres, and possibly other clubs as well. Let’s take a quick look at how he’d fit on each of the reportedly interested clubs…
- Dodgers — The Dodgers have Howie Kendrick and Juan Uribe at second and third base, respectively, which are Olivera’s two best positions. Uribe is a free agent next winter and could shift into a super utility role, as he has plenty of experience at shortstop and second base in the Majors as well. However, much of his value has come from his suddenly excellent work at third base over the past two seasons, and the Dodgers may have to use Alex Guerrero in a super utility role due to his contract, which allows him to refuse an assignment to the Minors.
- Braves — Olivera could step directly into Atlanta’s lineup at second base, as he’d be an upgrade with the bat over likely starter Alberto Callaspo and potential utility player Jace Peterson. Braves fans will point out that Jose Peraza is believed to be the long-term answer at second, but he’s at least a year away, and Olivera could always unseat Chris Johnson at third base; Johnson posted just a .292 OBP with little power last year and is not well-regarded defensively.
- Athletics — The A’s will likely use Ben Zobrist at second and Brett Lawrie at third this year, though Zobrist could be used in the outfield, presumably left field, if Olivera were signed. Zobrist is only controlled through this season, so Olivera makes sense as a long-term option for the A’s at second base.
- Marlins — The Marlins’ infield situation is crowded, and there’s no spot opening up for the next two years, barring a trade. Still, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reported last night that Miami is comfortable in the $50MM range with Olivera and believes he could handle all four infield spots. Per Frisaro, the Fish would like to rest Mike Morse one or two days per week and also would like to spell Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop from time to time.
- Padres — Olivera would likely start over one of Jedd Gyorko or Will Middlebrooks at second or third base. It’s possible that Middlebrooks could eventually wind up playing first base, depending on how well Yonder Alonso hits this season. The two could at least platoon, one would imagine, allowing Gyorko and Olivera to handle second and third (each player can handle both positions).
- Giants — Joe Panik looks to be their second baseman this season, but much of Panik’s 2014 success was driven by a .343 BABIP that may be too high to repeat, and he doesn’t offer much in terms of power or speed. Even if the Giants feel Panik is the long-term answer at second, they could shift him to a bench role this year and slide Olivera over to third next year after Casey McGehee becomes a free agent.
It’s possible that another club will enter the mix unexpectedly, as Olivera’s agency shift has reportedly expanded the level of interest. (His previous agents had been touting a $70MM goal.) However, at this point, these appear to be the six top landing spots, which seems like plenty of fuel to conduct a poll.
Cuban infielder Hector Olivera is weighing offers that range from four to six years in length and could come to terms with a team this week, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Sanchez’s sources indicate that the Dodgers, Braves, Marlins, Padres, A’s and Giants have all shown a strong interest in Olivera, who will turn 30 early next month.
Olivera’s market has been anything but typical, as while scouts believe he’s Major League ready and could hit 15-20 homers with strong OBP marks right out of the gate, he also comes with myriad health issues and underwent a late change of representation, switching to the Legacy Agency’s Greg Genske earlier this week. Olivera has a blood disorder that at one time caused clotting in his biceps but is said to be cleared up now, and a report last week indicated that he may have damage to his ulnar collateral ligament as well. Olivera maintains that he is completely healthy, and multiple teams, including the Braves, Dodgers and Padres, have already conducted physicals.
Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro hears that Olivera’s price tag is expected to land in the $50MM range, and the Marlins are comfortable making an offer in that vicinity (though he does not specify the number of years, and clearly, $50MM over four years would be drastically different than $50MM over six). As for where he would play in Miami, Frisaro notes that the Marlins believe Olivera could handle all four infield positions, and the team would like to get Mike Morse a day or two off per week. They’d also like to keep Adeiny Hechavarria fresher at shortstop by resting him periodically.
Reports last night indicated that the Padres were weighing an offer that was worth “upwards of $50MM,” though no length of contract was specified. The Braves also reportedly have an offer on the table to Olivera, and their comfort zone is reportedly in the $30-40MM range.
While early word on Yasmany Tomas‘ work at third base was positive, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports now hears from scouts that Tomas isn’t cutting it at the hot corner (Twitter links). The result, then, could end up a significant outfield logjam featuring Tomas, A.J. Pollock, Mark Trumbo, David Peralta, Cody Ross and Ender Inciarte. Scouts feel that Tomas’ arm is accurate at third base, Passan adds, but are concerned with his lack of lateral quickness and athleticism. Manager Chip Hale told reporters, including MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert (Twitter links), that Tomas “needs to be better,” but he believes part of the problem is a lack of focus on Tomas’ behalf. It should be noted that the opinion of rival scouts doesn’t mean the D-Backs won’t use Tomas at third; most scouts think there’s no chance that powerful prospect Peter O’Brien can remain at catcher, but the D-Backs believe he can stick at the position so strongly that they forwent adding other catching options outside of Gerald Laird and Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez this offseason.
Here’s more from the NL West…
- The D-Backs announced today that Hernandez was removed from today’s Spring Training game due to soreness in his left wrist (Twitter link). While the team labeled the move precautionary, a significant injury to Hernandez would thin out the team’s paper-thin catching situation even more and could lead to Hernandez being returned to the Rays.
- Giants right-hander Jake Peavy received interest from at least six other teams before signing his deal to return to San Francisco, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Rangers, Brewers, Twins, Royals, Marlins and Braves all had interest in the 34-year-old veteran, per Heyman, but the bond formed over a World Series victory was too strong to sign elsewhere, Peavy said: “When you’re World Series teammates, it takes you to another level relationship-wise.” The Giants engaged Peavy after missing out on Jon Lester and being spurned by James Shields in December, at a time when Peavy was giving consideration to both Miami and Atlanta.
- Pablo Sandoval recently said that he felt the Giants disrespected him and agent Gustavo Vasquez when negotiating an extension last spring, but Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that the team offered a four-year extension with a vesting option worth just under $85MM in Spring Training 2014. Assuming the $85MM figure includes the vesting option, that’s $10MM and one year less than Sandoval was guaranteed on his five-year, $95MM deal with the Red Sox. It’s possible, however, that Sandoval was turned off by the Giants’ initial conversation-starter, which was said last April to be a three-year, $40MM offer. Evans adds that the Giants’ first offseason offer to Sandoval came the day after the World Series parade, though he didn’t disclose any details on that offer.
- Heyman also tweets that the Dodgers‘ new front office has been highly impressed by manager Don Mattingly thus far in Spring Training. Mattingly is under contract through the 2016 season, but it’s not uncharacteristic for new-look front offices to bring in a hand-picked manager, regardless of the contractual status of the incumbent.
- For those who didn’t see, earlier tonight it was reported that the Padres are considering making an offer worth “upwards of $50MM” to Cuban second baseman/third baseman Hector Olivera.
11:15am: While the Yankees did indeed ask about Heyward, along with many other teams, the White Sox and Giants were actually the teams that came closest to landing him before St. Louis pulled the trigger, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).
That is not necessarily surprising, in the sense that both clubs were obviously in need of corner outfield help. The former ultimately signed Melky Cabrera and the latter added Nori Aoki. While Chicago ought to be set for the foreseeable future in that position, assuming that Avisail Garcia can fix his hold on one corner, San Francisco could be on the market (though it holds a club option over Aoki).
8:11am: The Yankees engaged the Braves this offseason in trade talks regarding outfielder Jason Heyward, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. Atlanta ultimately dealt Heyward to the Cardinals, of course.
While the report does not indicate how serious the interest was or whether any actual offers were submitted, it does suggest that the Yankees are a plausible suitor when Heyward hits free agency. The team already has Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Carlos Beltran under contract for 2016, and prospects like Aaron Judge coming up behind them. But New York had a plan to shift Beltran to a DH role if it acquired Heyward, per Martino, and could certainly chart such a course next season.
The other salient takeaway — the item is otherwise largely of historical interest — is that there is increasing evidence that the Yankees are now targeting a certain type of player (young, defensively valuable) that does not quite align with the club’s offseason acquisitions of yore. Indeed, Martino notes that the team also asked the Braves about Andrelton Simmons, although it is far from clear that Atlanta ever engaged on him. New York ultimately traded instead for another fielding-first infielder in Didi Gregorius.
Current Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart is a good friend of Kevin Towers, the man he replaced in that role. As Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes, Stewart really did want Towers to stay on as a special assistant, and Towers truly felt he owed it to his replacement to go against his wishes so as to avoid any difficulties down the line. It’s a fascinating story, all the more so since Stewart is currently rooming with Towers at the latter’s Arizona home during Spring Training.
- The Padres, like the Braves, are not expected to spend up to the $70MM level that Hector Olivera is said to be seeking, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. San Diego is a great fit, as Rosenthal notes, but that is quite a price tag to tack on after an offseason of additions.
- Brandon Morrow is hoping to break the Padres rotation and reestablish his career trajectory, as ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick writes. Morrow, who has battled numerous and varied injuries in his career, is battling with Odrisamer Despaigne for the fifth starter’s spot.
- Padres backstop Tim Federowicz has suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his knee, MLB.com’s Corey Brock tweets. Surgery appears to be all but a foregone conclusion, which could sideline Federowicz for some time. Veteran Wil Nieves probably has the inside track to step into the backup role behind Derek Norris, though one wonders whether top prospect Austin Hedges could eventually get a look.
- Newly-minted Dodgers righty Brandon McCarthy says that he believes in his ability to provide value over the life of his four-year, $48MM deal, as Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. “I would kind of hope my 30s are where my career really begins,” says McCarthy. “As dumb as that sounds. I’ve spent a long time figuring [things] out — health being the biggest thing — and transforming as a pitcher.” President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman cited McCarthy’s inning load last year and “changes in his workout regiment” — along with his quality offerings from the mound — as reasons for optimism. A training program in his Dallas neighborhood improved McCarthy’s overall strength, aiding his return to form.
- Pablo Sandoval says that he “knew early in Spring Training last year I was going to leave” the Giants, as Scott Miller of Bleacher Report writes. The one-time San Francisco favorite did not mince words, accusing GM Brian Sabean of not respecting his representatives in discussions at that time. “The Giants made a good offer [in free agency],” said Sandoval, “but I didn’t want to take it. I got five years from Boston. I left money on the table in San Francisco. It’s not about money. It’s about how you treat the player.”
Shortstop Trea Turner, the reported player to be named later in the Wil Myers deal, will be headed to the Nationals organization in June, but for right now, he’s enjoying his time in Padres big-league camp, MLB.com’s Corey Brock writes. “It’s been great. It’s been everything I’ve hoped for and more,” says Turner, who adds that he’s liked working with Padres third base coach Glenn Hoffman. Turner’s situation is unusual, though it sounds like he and the Padres are making the best of it. The team can’t simply trade the 2014 first-rounder now because they’re not allowed to deal him until a year after he signed his first pro contract. At the same time, it’s widely known that he’s in the trade and will be with the Nationals in June. Here’s more from the National League.
- Free-agent-to-be Jason Heyward doesn’t know what his future holds, but he’s happy to have a new start with the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I spent five years at this level with one organization and I still don’t know if I’ve seen the best of myself,” Heyward says. “I do feel that this is the best thing that could have happened to me as far as playing this game, getting a new start somewhere else. Absolutely.” Heyward adds that money will be part of the equation in his search for a new team, but that it will be secondary. “Who is going to provide that environment on a daily basis that says you have a great opportunity to be great for as long as you can play? That’s the biggest thing for me,” he says.
- The Pirates signed reliever John Holdzkom out of independent ball last season with the idea that he would be an extra arm for Double-A who might turn out to be something more, Bucs special assistant Jim Benedict tells ESPN 970’s David Todd in an interview Todd transcribed for Bucs Dugout (a website for which I also write, in the interest of full disclosure). Benedict saw Holdzkom pitch last summer at Triple-A Indianapolis. “I remember telling Clint (Hurdle) like a lot of other guys, ‘There’s a guy down there that can help us. He’s downhill, he’s 98 and it cuts. And I know that’s hard to hit, so let’s keep our eyes on this one,‘” Benedict says. “And all of a sudden he’s on the Pirates pitching meaningful games.” Holdzkom, who began the season pitching for independent teams in San Angelo and Amarillo, wound up striking out 14 batters in nine innings down the stretch with the Pirates.
- Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is out six to eight weeks with a fractured forearm, but assistant GM Bobby Evans says that injury is short-term enough that the Giants will simply replace him internally, MLB Network Radio tweets.
Aceves, 32, posted a 6.52 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 19 1/3 innings with the Yankees last season and allowed an extreme number of fly balls in the process, and he’s generally struggled since a strong 2011 campaign as a swingman in Boston. He did, however, pitch fairly well in 28 1/3 innings with the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year. His ability to start or pitch in multiple-inning stints could prove useful, although perhaps only in an emergency for the time being.
Hector Olivera‘s newly-reported free agency could make for an interesting weekend. While we await further word on his market, let’s have a look at a few stray links to round out the evening:
- The Giants do not appear to have interest in pursuing a trade for Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig to fill in for the injured Hunter Pence, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. While that could change if the asking price is “oddly low,” per Heyman, San Francisco is not inclined to make a move of that magnitude with Pence expected to return around the first of May. While a prior report had suggested the possibility of a Craig acquisition, the team would have no apparent role for him upon Pence’s return.
- Alex Speier of the Boston Globe takes a close look at the evolving ownership and leadership situation with the Red Sox — and, in particular, Fenway Sports Group part-owner and president Michael Gordon. Though some speculated that Gordon was attempting to build his influence over the ballclub as he gained control of the second-largest stake of the FSG umbrella entity, Speier explains that the notion of a power struggle in Boston is just not true.
- Displaced Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is enjoying his “respite” from the decisionmaking seat, as Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times writes in a fascinating look at the former top baseball man in Los Angeles. Now working as a senior advisor to club president Stan Kasten — who actually extended his contract through 2016 — Colletti says that he is enjoying a more grass-roots role than he could ever have hoped to play in the GM position. At the same time, he indicated that he does not intend to slowly ease out of the game. “The song isn’t over,” says Colletti. “It is just a pause.”
- Addressing the facially odd decision of lefty Phil Coke to take a minor league deal with the Cubs rather than a reported MLB deal elsewhere, CJ Nitkowski of FOX Sports says it is all about opportunity. Nitkowski says that he, too, made the decision to take a better opportunity on a non-guaranteed deal, though in his case it did not work out as hoped.
Hunter Pence will be out six to eight weeks after a Corey Black fastball broke his arm in yesterday’s Cactus League contest against the Cubs. However, the Giants are expected to look at their in-house options to replace Pence while he is on the shelf, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio. That’s not necessarily a huge surprise, considering the fact that six to eight weeks could mean that Pence will miss only a few weeks of in-season action. ESPN’s Buster Olney wondered (on Twitter) last night if the Giants might use Buster Posey at first base more, with Brandon Belt sliding into the outfield, given the team’s need for power.
More notes from around the Senior Circuit…
- The Marlins missed out on James Shields and Francisco Rodriguez late in the offseason, but the money that would have been allocated to that pair of arms could be reinvested in trade acquisitions midseason, writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. President of baseball operations Michael Hill says that owner Jeffrey Loria has made it “abundantly clear” that he will provide the Marlins’ front office with the resources necessary to make trades, should an area of need arise.
- Frisaro also reports that despite the fact that the Marlins were clearly in the market for a bullpen upgrade (as evidenced by their pursuit of K-Rod), they don’t have interest in free agent right-hander Rafael Soriano.
- Yasmany Tomas has looked comfortable in early auditions at third base, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. He hasn’t been perfect, particularly with his throws, but if Tomas can iron out the kinks at the hot corner, it would keep the D-Backs‘ outfield logjam from getting out of hand. As it stands, Arizona has David Peralta, A.J. Pollock, Cody Ross, Ender Inciarte and Mark Trumbo all vying for time, and adding Tomas to that mix would further complicate matters. Regardless, it’s possible, in my eyes, that we see Arizona move one of its outfield options later this spring, although Peralta and Inciarte do have minor league options remaining.
- Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris has some brief video of another highly regarded Cuban inked by the D-Backs this offseason: Yoan Lopez. Sarris captures just a couple of pitches, but his colleague, Kiley McDaniel, provides a more complete breakdown of Lopez in a brief scouting report. Per McDaniel, Lopez has good arm speed on a 92 to 95 mph fastball to go along with an above-average slider and an average changeup. However, the 21-year-old also has some control issues and is likely headed to the minors to begin his career here.
Ryan Vogelsong seemed to be on the verge of signing with the Astros before he eventually rejoined the Giants, and the righty hinted that there was something unusual about how negotiations broke down with Houston. According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the issue was that after agreeing to sign Vogelsong to a one-year, $4MM deal, the Astros wanted to pay Vogelsong less after viewing the results of his physical. Both Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and Vogelsong’s agent Dave Meier declined to comment to Heyman about the situation.
Here’s some more from around the baseball world…
- The Royals are focused on winning now, which could change their handling of prospects Brandon Finnegan and Christian Colon, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan writes. There is “a pretty healthy discussion going on within the Royals’ organization” about Finnegan, who could be a key left-handed bullpen weapon for K.C. this season, though such usage could also hurt his development as a future starter. A similar argument could be made about Colon and whether he’d be better served playing every day at Triple-A or coming off the Royals’ bench as a utilityman.
- Though he has a 2016 option that vests if he pitches 200 innings, Cliff Lee is entering his last guaranteed year under contract. The Phillies southpaw told reporters (including David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News) that he’s hasn’t thought about what lies beyond the coming season. “We’ll see what it brings,” Lee said. “I definitely do not want to go out the way things happened last year, I don’t want that to be the way I finish my career, but at the same time I’m not going to sit there and try to fight that to get it done. I want to go out there and have fun and feel good and make it be a positive thing instead of it be a battle physically.”
- Erasmo Ramirez is facing a roster crunch, as the out-of-options righty doesn’t appear to have a clear path to either a rotation or bullpen role with the Mariners, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. The M’s don’t want to lose Ramirez but Dutton hears from multiple rival officials that Seattle stands little chance of sneaking Ramirez through waivers and down to the minors. The Mariners also don’t stand to get much of a return in a possible trade, as one rival exec rhetorically asks, “How much are you going to give up for a guy who is likely to be on waivers in a few weeks?”
- The Giants will certainly monitor the market for right-handed hitting outfield bats in the wake of Hunter Pence‘s injury, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi writes, though the club won’t jump to make a move.
- Using 2014 attendance figures and Forbes’ evaluations of franchise values, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards calculates each team’s “expected payroll” to see how clubs spend in relation to their markets. The Tigers outspend their market by the most while the Yankees rank last, though Edwards explains that ranking is slightly misleading since luxury tax payments aren’t factored into the equation.
- Besides division rivals or intra-market rivals, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron (writing for FOX Sports) looks at other pairs of teams that rarely seem to make trades with each other.
- Injuries to several relievers could result in one or two young arms getting a shot in the Diamondbacks‘ Opening Day bullpen, Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic writes.