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We’re under two weeks away from the first round of the 2014 amateur draft, which kicks off on June 5. Here’s a collection of draft-related info…
- “No one knows what the Astros are going to do with the first pick,” an executive from a team with a top-six draft pick tells Peter Gammons. Another rival executive feels Houston may not take Carlos Rodon first since “many of the Astros people believe that picking a pitcher at the top is a gamble because of the historical predictability of pitchers.” (Though of course, the ‘Stros took Mark Appel last year). The exec feels the Astros are “looking…closely” at high school outfielder Alex Jackson, and if Houston passes on Jackson, the Marlins also like him a lot as the potential second overall pick. Miami is favored to draft a hitter due to the number of pitching prospects in their system but “they love [Tyler] Kolek and it would be hard to pass on Rodon,” Gammons writes.
- Also from Gammons’ wide-ranging column, he polls executives about which teams had the best drafts of the last decade, and also muses about there would be much more casual fan interest in the draft if picks could be traded.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington feels that a deep selection of talent is available, write Charlie Wilmoth and David Manel of Bucs Dugout. Huntington also addresses the pressure to select local players and how the Bucs are adjusting to picking near the end of the first round rather than with an early selection.
- If Rodon does go first overall, it doesn’t seem like the Astros would give him a record bonus simply because of how the draft’s rules have changed, Baseball America’s John Manuel writes. Scott Boras (Rodon’s adviser) argues that MLB should alter the draft format since the current rules hurt teams at the Major League level; the agent suggests such changes as not subjecting first-round contracts to the salary allotment cap or not taking away a team’s first round pick for signing free agents.
Matt Cain has been placed on the 15-day DL in order to recover from a cut on his right index finger that already cost him one start earlier this week. While making a sandwich in the Giants’ clubhouse last Tuesday, Cain dropped a knife and tried to catch it in mid-air, cutting his finger in the process. While the injury isn’t serious and Cain could return to the rotation as early as Saturday, the Giants ace may have earned himself a mention in future lists of oddball MLB injuries.
Here are a few notes from around the baseball world…
- The Rangers have done the best job of signing international prospects since 2006, as ranked by Baseball America’s Ben Badler. Not only has Texas signed 14 international players (the second-most of any team in that span), but several of them are making waves in the minors and the likes of Martin Perez, Leonys Martin and Jurickson Profar have contributed to the Major League club. The Royals, Pirates, Twins and Red Sox round out the rest of the top five in Badler’s rankings.
- Former first overall draft pick Matt Bush is halfway through a 51-month prison sentence and he talks to FOX Sports’ Gabe Kapler about his regrets and his battles with alcoholism.
- Scott Boras’ inability to adapt to the new qualifying offer system in free agency is why clients Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew are still waiting for new contracts, Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel opines. While Boras has pulled impressive deals seeming out of nowhere for many clients in the past, McDaniel argues that teams have more information now and are less apt to give up a draft pick or commit major dollars to “second tier free agents.”
- Fangraphs’ David Laurila catches up with right-hander Mike Ekstrom about playing in Italy and his Baseball Round The World website, which chronicles the experiences of Ekstrom and other players who continue their careers in far-flung locales. Ekstrom pitched 61 Major League innings with the Padres, Rays and Rockies from 2008-12 and spent last season at the Triple-A level in the Athletics’ and Angels’ systems.
The Boras Corporation — the powerful agency led by Scott Boras — has lost a grievance action that it brought against recent Yankees signee Carlos Beltran, report Bob Nightengale and Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today. Boras had sought $1.3MM in damages from Beltran for leaving his agency in October of 2011, prior to inking a two-year, $26MM contract with the Cardinals.
The ruling by arbitrator Shyam Das held that Boras could not enforce the following provision in his contract with Beltran:
"You understand and agree that we invest substantial resources, time and effort in preparation for free-agent contract negotiations and salary arbitration hearings. Therefore, you agree that if you terminate our agency authorization during or after a championship season, and before the following championship season you sign a free-agent or arbitration-eligible contract (whether single- or multi-year), you agree to pay us 5% of the entire contract regardless of who negotiates it on your behalf."
This provision had been part of Boras's contracts for fifteen years, with many other player reps utilizing some form of it as well. The agreement of which this clause was a part must be re-executed annually, leading Boras to argue that Beltran had prematurely terminated the agreement. But Das effectively read it out of the contract, deciding that it was not "permissible under governing MLBPA regulations" and holding that Beltran's termination of the agreement foreclosed any obligations to pay Boras a cut of any future earnings.
Of course, the broader importance of the ruling is what it means for player-agent relationships going forward. Without the implicit threat of the provision's enforcement, there is somewhat less disincentive to look for a new agent in the middle of a representation term. Boras warned of dire consequences:
"It basically makes the agent an at-will employee. Is this what you want? You should be responsible for the work you do. We need accountability on both sides. … The understanding of this rule is that it now promotes the vast majority of agents to take any deal they can get. The agents' conduct will be affected. This rule gives owners a lot more power. This is not in the best interest of major-league baseball players."
Meanwhile, for Beltran, the case was also about principle. He said:
"I felt like I had to win because he was basically suing me because I left him and he was trying to collect money without having done anything for me. It's not the money. It's the intention. Scott Boras had to do something that wasn't right. If I haven't done anything for you, haven't negotiated your contract, how could I sue you and try to collect money because you left me and because you hired another agent? That didn't make any sense to me.''
In addition to the broader impact, the ruling seems to have implications for already-framed disputes. Boras has an action pending against Edwin Jackson, who left Boras Corp. before landing his $52MM deal with the Cubs. And Robinson Cano famously bolted for upstart agency Roc Nation in advance of signing a monster $240MM contract, though no action has been initiated in that situation. "I never worried about it,'' said Jackson. "Come on, you can't have it both ways. You can't take away guys from another agency, but when your guys leave, sue them."
In his latest column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe revealed that he is part of a BBWAA committee that will explore the Hall of Fame voting process and discuss what changes (if any) need to be made. Some of the issues likely to be addressed by the committee is whether to allow voters to name more than 10 players on their ballots, whether or not long-time broadcasters or statistical analysis-centric writers should be given a say in HOF voting.
Here's the latest hot stove news from Cafardo…
- Two new teams have joined the hunt for Bronson Arroyo. At least one of his suitors is moving closer to giving Arroyo the third contract year he's looking for, though that third year could come in the form of a vesting option. Cafardo isn't sure if the Twins were that mystery team, though they've been interested in Arroyo all winter. He also cites the Yankees and Phillies as interested parties, as those two clubs join the likes of the Orioles, Mets and Pirates as those linked to the veteran righty this winter. Cafardo reported last month that Arroyo has received two-year contract offers from four different teams.
- Free agent Lyle Overbay is an option for both the Astros and Brewers at first base. Milwaukee is also still considering signing Michael Young for first, or trading for Mitch Moreland of the Rangers.
- Agent Scott Boras says “there are five or six teams who I have actively talked to concerning Stephen [Drew],” including the Red Sox. As you might expect, Boras denied that Drew's market is in any way limited, noting that Drew doesn't have a new contract yet since "free agency is a long process. It just doesn’t end at Christmas. It’s a January, February, and even a March process."
- Boras "has a tremendous stake in the Red Sox’ present and future," Cafardo writes, noting that the agent represents not just Drew, but also top youngsters Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley and Deven Marrero.
- "The silence on [Kendrys] Morales is deafening," as teams are reluctant to give up a first round draft pick as compensation for the slugger. At least one team said they're leery about spending significant money for a DH, though Boras, Morales' agent, counters by noting the impact that David Ortiz has had on the Red Sox and also noting that his client can play first base.
- Johnny Damon has stayed in shape and would be willing to resume his career. The 40-year-old hinted at retirement if he couldn't find a contract last offseason and indeed Damon ended up sitting out the 2013. Damon is also a Boras client, and the agent tells Cafardo that Damon has yet to contact him about officially retiring.
- Manny Ramirez wants to continue his career, his hitting coach David Segui predicts, though Segui hasn't spoken to Ramirez in over two months. “Manny will always be able to hit,” Segui said. “He loves to play, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s still looking for something.” Ramirez's agent, Barry Praver, said in November that his client looking for a return to the Majors. Ramirez, 41, last played with the bigs with the Rays in 2011 before being suspended for PED use. Over the last two years, Ramirez spent some time with the Athletics' and Rangers' Triple-A affiliates and also played in Taiwan.
- A National League GM predicts that one of Masahiro Tanaka's many suitors will "come in and blow everyone away. There’s going to be a dance where everyone is in the same boat and then there will be a team that breaks the bank for him.”
In an interview with Peter Gammons, Scott Boras expressed his confidence that Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales will find good contracts with teams that will put more value on their contributions than the value of (possibly second- or third-round) draft picks. With that said, Boras also believes the free agent system needs to be changed to give players more freedom and to encourage teams to spend. “We should be doing everything possible to try to get smaller market teams the necessary veteran leadership to contend,” Boras said. His suggestions include banning qualifying offers for players over 30 years old, and a monetary compensation system for teams who lose free agents under age-30 that the clubs can re-invest in signings or draft spending.
Here's some more from around the baseball world…
- An executive on a team that explored signing Stephen Drew told Andy Martino of the New York Daily News yesterday that Drew's medicals were raising some concerns. Another source tells WEEI.com's Rob Bradford today (Twitter link) that Drew is "perfectly healthy. No physical issues."
- The Red Sox are looking to add outfield depth, Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com reports, and Scott Podsednik is one name on Boston's current long list of external candidates. Ryan Gleichowski, Podsednik's agent, recently told Mastrodonato that Podsednik was in shape and eager to continue his career after sitting out the 2013 season. We also recently heard that the Sox have some interest in Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia.
- The Red Sox will have an estimated $96MM coming off the books following the 2014 seasons, WEEI.com's Alex Speier writes, leaving the team with lots of flexibility to re-sign David Ortiz and/or Jon Lester, as well as explore new player acquisitions.
- The Orioles seem to be using a "stars and scrubs" strategy in building their team, Fangraphs' Dave Cameron writes, and the tactic doesn't seem to be working given the clear holes on the roster and their relatively limited payroll space.
- Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal reports (subscription required) that Dan Lozano's MVP Sports Group has hired former Dodgers director of Asian operations Acey Kohrogi to serve as the firm's head of Asian operations. Kohrogi spent 18 years with the Dodgers and helped them attract the likes of Hideo Nomo, Takashi Saito, Hiroki Kuroda, Chan Ho Park and Hong-Chih Kuo to the Major Leagues.
- The Phillies' new 25-year, $2.5 billion TV contract will theoretically pay them an average of $100MM per year, though David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News crunches the numbers to explain how that $100MM average will actually work out to a much smaller annual payout. MLBTR's Jeff Todd also recently examined the Phillies' TV deal and noted that the contract could just help the team continue its high-spending ways, rather than allow them to raise payroll even more.
- The Giants' bullpen and the Blue Jays' second base platoon project as the worst positions on contending teams, according to Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan. The Giants' pen projects as below-replacement level as a group thanks to several pitchers that could be declining, while the Jays' Maicer Izturis/Ryan Goins platoon stands out as a weak spot. The Dodgers' second base spot also technically makes Sullivan's list, though he says that's only due to a lack of information about the newly-signed Alexander Guerrero.
Agent Scott Boras joined ESPN's Keith Law on his latest Behind the Dish podcast. A few highlights:
- Jacoby Ellsbury has "illustrated that he's a highly durable athlete," according to Boras. The agent explained that people running into Ellsbury, which caused his two major injuries, has nothing to do with his durability. Ellsbury is "a game-changer for a lot of franchises," as the importance of leadoff hitters has increased as power has declined. Boras says a player of Ellsbury's caliber is typically locked up by his team and does not reach free agency. I projected a seven-year, $150MM contract for Ellsbury in my recent free agent profile.
- Shin-Soo Choo is a "premium defensive outfielder at the corners," says Boras, which is further proven by him being able to handle center field for a season with the Reds.
- Seven or eight teams could "change the dynamic of the production of their infield" with shortstop Stephen Drew, in the opinion of Boras.
- Kendrys Morales' metrics at first base are above average, Boras told Law, adding, "He clearly is a good first baseman." Boras feels that pundits don't appreciate the rarity of a switch-hitter with a middle of the order bat, in this case. Morales is "the only other one really than Cano who you can say has the ability to be a run producer in the middle of the lineup" in this free agent market, says Boras, an assessment with which the agents for Brian McCann, Mike Napoli, Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson, and Nelson Cruz might disagree.
There appears to be mutual interest between the Red Sox and Jacoby Ellsbury in a new contract this winter, though the Red Sox may balk at re-signing the center fielder if the bidding goes far past the $100MM mark, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports. Boston's return to prominence this season has been built around signing "mid-range" free agents like Shane Victorino or Mike Napoli and the team may wish to continue this strategy rather than splurge on a major free agent contract. Sources connected to the team tell Heyman they "aren't necessarily optimistic" that the Sox will be keen on handing Ellsbury a Carl Crawford-esque deal.
Crawford's contract (a seven-year, $142MM pact in December 2010) was cited by Scott Boras, Ellsbury's agent, as perhaps not being large enough for his client since Ellsbury plays center field, has experience hitting leadoff and also has had success playing in Boston. Boras, as you might expect, used a colorful metaphor to describe his feelings about Ellsbury as a franchise cornerstone and about the "mid-range" free agent signing strategy.
“Free agency is like the Navy. You can have a number of mid-range missiles, but they only work as long as you have the aircraft carrier to put them on.”
I used the Crawford deal as a comparison myself when I examined Ellsbury as a possible extension candidate back in March 2012. At the time Ellsbury was coming off the best season of his career — a .321/.376/.552 slash line, 32 homers, 39 steals, 119 runs scored and a league-leading 364 total bases. Since then, Ellsbury has hit .287/.340/.403 with just 12 homers over 941 PA, though his 2012 season was limited to only 74 games due to injury.
My proposal at the time was a seven-year, $133MM deal between Ellsbury and the Red Sox that would have covered Ellsbury's 2013 season and his first six free agent years. Ellsbury hasn't kept up the power since then and he turns 30 years old next week. As we saw with Michael Bourn (another Boras client) last offseason, teams are hesitant to give major deals to speed-centric players entering their thirties.
Some executives tell Heyman that Ellsbury could be in line for a five-year/$75MM deal like B.J. Upton while others think the Boston outfielder will indeed crack the $100MM mark. My guess is that Ellsbury seems like a lock for a $100MM+ contract on the open market this offseason due to both his talents and because this winter's free agent outfielder market is rather slim. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has had Ellsbury rated no lower than third throughout his 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings since the season began, and Ellsbury has claimed the No. 2 position (behind only Robinson Cano) for the last two months.
Red Sox owner John Henry reportedly "very much likes Ellsbury," though the team kept Jackie Bradley Jr. at the trade deadline as insurance should Ellsbury left in free agency There should be strong interest in Ellsbury on the open market; Fangraphs' Paul Swydan recently noted that up to 12 teams could vie for Ellsbury's services.
Angels owner Arte Moreno is already in the process of evaluating the 2013 season and how to get the team back on track in 2014, as he explained in an interview with Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com. Moreno said that the jobs of manager Mike Scioscia and general manager Jerry Dipoto would be evaluated as part of an organization-wide review that includes himself — "I have to look in the mirror and say, 'Am I making the right call?'" Moreno said. The owner also discussed roster moves that backfired, stadium talks with the city of Anaheim, how the Dodgers' success impacts the Angels and several other topics.
Here are more items as we wrap up a busy Monday in baseball…
- Albert Pujols will be shut down for the rest of the season, the Angels confirmed today. The slugger suffered a partial tear of the plantar facia of his left foot and hasn't played since July 26. Pujols was bothered by foot injuries for much of the year and hit .258/.330/.437 with 17 homers in 443 PA, the worst season of his 13-year career.
- Miguel Tejada was also facing a suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal before accepting his 105-game suspension for amphetamine use, ESPN's Pedro Gomez reports. Major League Baseball gave Tejada the choice of accepting his 105-game ban or facing further punishment for his Biogenesis ties. Gomez notes that Tejada "insists he does not plan to retire" though given Tejada's suspension, age (39) and decline in production, it's tough to see a team signing him this winter. After not playing in the majors in 2012, Tejada hit .288/.317/.378 over 167 PA in a reserve role with the Royals this year.
- Joaquin Benoit in a much better contractual position as he approaches free agency this winter than he was in the 2009-10 offseason. MLB.com's Zack Meisel talks to Benoit about how he considered retirement due to shoulder injuries that caused him to miss the entire 2009 season, but rebounded to become one of the game's better relievers and now the Tigers closer.
- Scott Boras and Jay Z have a fundamental disagreement about the role of an agent, Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal explains. "It is at once a clash of egos and ideas. At issue: To what extent are established agents like Boras missing out on marketing and endorsement opportunities for their clients? And to what extent should a baseball player even care?" Costa writes. Robinson Cano, the top free agent of the coming offseason, made waves when he left Boras in April and hired CAA and Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports to handle his representation.
As the baseball world gathers at Citi Field for the All-Star break, the Orioles are looking to bring the Midsummer Classic back to Baltimore in 2016, Childs Walker of the Baltimore Sun reports. It would be the first time the O's have hosted the All-Star Game since 1993, and a 2016 hosting date would also mark the team's 25th season at Camden Yards.
Here's the latest from Charm City…
- Scott Boras told reporters (including Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun) that he hasn't had any conversations with Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette about contract extensions for Chris Davis or Matt Wieters. “Dan and I talk all the time, but it’s the kind of thing where the focus is on the play and not really their contracts now," Boras said. Both players have two years of arbitration eligibility remaining before they're eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. There was talk of a Wieters extension last offseason but the team now believes Wieters will test the open market in 2015. Davis is sure to receive a huge arbitration raise on his current $3.3MM salary, and it will be very interesting to see how any extension talks develop given Boras' involvement and Davis' sudden emergence as an elite slugger.
- The Orioles have been quiet on the international signing front since July 2, but Dan Duquette tells MASNsports.com's Steve Melewski that the team is actively working to identify and access international talent. "We're working all the markets. Teams have different strategies to acquire talent. Our strategy is to sign good players and look for value in the market and that is what our scouts are doing," Duquette said. "We are active on the international markets. We will be out executing our international recruiting strategy for the whole [2013-14] season." You can check out all of MLBTR's coverage of the 2013-14 international signing period here.
Here's tonight's look around baseball..
- A source tells MLB Network's Peter Gammons (Twitter link) that Gene Orza may rejoin the MLB Players Association. Orza retired as the organization's chief operating officer before the 2011 season. In a Thursday article, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that Donald Fehr, the predecessor to current MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner, could also return to the association,.
- Orioles Vice President Dan Duquette says his club wants to see how its newly revamped rotation, which features recent acquisition Scott Feldman and a now-healthy Wei-Yin Chen, performs before it considers adding another starting pitcher via trade. Duquette also discussed the possibility of trading prospects for big leaguers in an article by Steve Melewski of MASNSports.com. "I wouldn't handicap our opportunities to make additional deals," Duquette said. "We're going to be active in the market to try and help our team so we can go back to the playoffs and have another crack at it."
- Jim Callis of Baseball America (via Twitter) notes that the top four MLB draft bonuses of all time went to players advised by Scott Boras: Gerrit Cole ($8MM), Stephen Strasburg ($7.5MM), Bubba Starling ($7.5MM) and Kris Bryant ($6.7MM).
- Leaks of names associated with the Biogenesis scandal are a violation of baseball's collective bargaining agreement, Scott Boras says in an article by Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com. "I don't know where [the leaks] are coming from," Boras said. "There are only a very small group of parties that have access to this information. Whenever these things happen, whoever is doing it, is not serving the game well." MLB Players Association executive director Michael Weiner has also criticized the leaks in recent days, saying they "threaten to harm the integrity of the Joint Drug Agreement and call into question the required level of confidentiality needed to operate a successful prevention program."
- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire doesn't intend to resign, despite the team's recent poor play, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune reports. In comments earlier this month, Twins GM Terry Ryan accepted some of the blame for the Twins' losing ways. "I put this roster together. I've told Gardy to do the best he can. I understand that I don't have a perfect roster here," Ryan acknowledged.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call with reporters that the team remains active in trade discussions after shipping reliever Matt Thornton off to Boston. "We're going to keep talking and see where it leads over the coming weeks," Hahn is quoted as saying in a tweet from the South Siders' official feed.