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Major league baseball has made strides in increasing racial diversity but has yet to increase its hiring of females in the sport's upper echelons, reports Ronald Blum of the Associated Press. Changes in the number of African-American and Latino players since last year reportedly fell within the range of regular fluctuation. Elsewhere around baseball:
- If you were wondering how bad your team's injury woes are compared against the rest of the league, be sure to check out the New York Times' Money on the Bench feature. With a daily wasted dollar total that is updated as you read, the site also includes a helpful graphic that shows which players have accounted for the largest hit. Currently leading the way are the Yankees, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Mets, and Cardinals. Alex Rodriguez and Johan Santana have been the biggest drags on their teams' payrolls.
- Every year, several players that look to be on the decline will manage to turn things around. Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca details this year's turnaround specialists. Chase Utley, Scott Kazmir, and Nate McLouth are among the rebounding players who will be looking to take their early success into next year's free agent market.
- Earlier today, Tim Dierkes asked MLBTR readers to weigh in on which players would receive qualifying offers after this season. The current results have produced some clear favorites, with more than 50% of respondents identifying Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, and Curtis Granderson as likely to receive an offer. The only other player to receive a greater-than 35% response rate is Hunter Pence, at 46.0%. Hanging around the 30% mark are players like Chase Utley, Matt Garza, Brian McCann, Tim Lincecum, Hiroki Kuroda, Mike Napoli, and Nelson Cruz.
The White Sox are back at home after a 3-7 road trip, and they were 7-9 overall heading into an afternoon matchup against the Twins. But GM Rick Hahn says he isn't concerned about his team's slow start, MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports. "With just about 10 percent of the season played, I don't think you can draw any grand conclusions about where things sit right now," Hahn said. And with so small a sample, Hahn isn't about to start making big moves. "It certainly is a temptation to explore other options, but it's way too soon to avert from the plan except when forced to due to injury," he says. Here are more notes from the American League.
- The Angels' lack of pitching talent could cost GM Jerry Dipoto, manager Mike Scioscia, and pitching coach Mike Butcher their jobs, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times argues. The Angels are currently 6-10, and their starting rotation has a 5.62 ERA. But DiGiovanna says owner Arte Moreno might ultimately be most responsible for the Angels' current roster construction, as Moreno's "infatuation with marquee names" led the team to sign hitters Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to enormous contracts. Instead of signing Hamilton, the Angels could have tried to retain Zack Greinke, who ended up heading north to the Dodgers. Among Dipoto, Scioscia and Butcher, Butcher's seat is the hottest, DiGiovanna says. Firing Scioscia seems much less likely, due to Scioscia's enormous $50MM contract.
- Scott Kazmir will make his Indians debut tonight, and it will be his first big-league appearance in over two years, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes. After being released by the Angels in May 2011, Kazmir pitched for the independent-league Sugar Land Skeeters in 2012. He won a spot in the Indians' rotation out of camp, but his 2013 debut was delayed by a rib cage injury.
The changing nature of free agency has been a hot topic of late, as MLBTR noted earlier today. A series of high-profile extensions this spring have reinforced an apparent new trend towards teams retaining their best young players with long-term deals. As Larry Stone of the Seattle Times posits, this trend also increases the importance of scouting and developing young players, with MLB's recent spending limits potentially leveling the playing field between large and small-market clubs.
- Alex Rodriguez's record-breaking 2007 contract extension with the Yankees was re-visited in a piece on Saturday from David Waldstein of the New York Times. Waldstein reports on the events that ensued after Rodriguez exercised the opt-out clause in his contract, with the announcement infamously coming in the midst of what turned out to be the final game of the World Series. After receiving counsel from people ranging from Mariano Rivera to Warren Buffett, Rodriguez apologized to Hal and Hank Steinbrenner to pave the way to a new deal with the Yanks. The unprecedented contract included a $265MM salary guarantee over ten seasons, a $10MM signing bonus, and career home run milestone payments of up to $30MM. With Rodriguez now suffering from some combination of ineffectiveness, injury, and intrigue, Waldstein writes, New York may be exploring a variety of ways to get out from under the deal.
- An opt-out clause could play a big role in another potential ten-year commitment: the recently-inked eight-year, $120MM extension between Elvis Andrus and the Rangers. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports explains, the deal's opt-out clause is likely to turn the Andrus extension into a four-year, $60MM deal. While this seems to be a big concession by Texas, Rosenthal says it was necessary to lock up four of the Scott Boras client's free agent years. The club will pursue insurance to protect itself in the event that Andrus does not exercise the opt-out clause due to injury. The deal also gives the Rangers plenty of flexibility to take advantage of super-prospect Jurickson Profar, either in their lineup (at second base) or via trade.
- While still not conforming his new deal, Andrus commented today on his relationship with Boras, as reported by T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Discussing his agent's penchant for testing the market, Andrus said: "We're the boss. I know everybody thinks that about Scott but it's different if you're the one in that position. He works for us. I know he tries to get the best deal that he can but it comes down to my choice and what's better for me and my family."
- Scott Kazmir appears close to coming all the way back to the big leagues after being activated by the Indians, writes Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer. In a corresponding move, the club optioned left-hander Nick Hagadone to Triple-A. Kazmir, who will now receive a $1MM base salary after initially signing a minor league deal, may still have to wait to actually make an appearance after straining his ab. As the Indians noted on Twitter, today's transaction allows the club to back-date a Kazmir DL stint if he is not ready to go.
- The Red Sox are signing infielder Brandon Snyder to a minor league deal, as first reported by Chris Cotillo (Twitter link). Alex Speier of WEEI.com confirmed (via Twitter) that Snyder, who was recently released by the Rangers, has signed with Boston and is headed to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Each year teams parlay minor league signings into big rewards at the Major League level. In recent years, players like Ryan Vogelsong, Jared Burton and some guy named R.A. Dickey have been brought in on minor league deals and wound up signing extensions with their teams due to strong performance. Here's a look at some of the non-roster invitees from this offseason who have recently secured jobs with their teams:
- Scott Kazmir has won the job as the Indians' fifth starter, Nick Camino of WTAM 1100 tweets. Kazmir's velocity has reported returned and he posted a strong Spring Training (13-to-1 K/BB ratio and a 3.46 ERA in 13 innings).
- Ryan Raburn has won a spot on the Indians, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Twitter link). Raburn has hit .359/.479/.795 with four homers in 48 plate appearances this Spring.
- Erik Bedard is expected to make the Astros' rotation, GM Jeff Luhnow told Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). The Canadian has turned in six scoreless innings in official starts, with nine strikeouts and two walks.
- Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez seems to have forced his way onto the Twins' 25-man roster, per MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger (on Twitter). Ramirez, who played in the minors for the Twins last season, hit .425/.465/.600 in 43 trips to the plate.
- On Monday, it was announced that Rick Ankiel, Kameron Loe, Jason Giambi and LaTroy Hawkins (all Article XX(B) free agents) made their respective rosters. Today, we learned that Jonathan Sanchez and Brandon Inge have roster spots with the Pirates.
Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan had dinner with principal owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson Friday night to discuss his future role with the franchise. Simpson called the meeting "productive" while Ryan remained silent until today when he released a statement through the team. "Over the last week, Ray Davis, Bob Simpson, and I have been in discussion and met in-person. The conversations have been productive, and we have discussed my role as CEO of the organization. We agreed these discussions will continue as we go forward. I am very proud of what the Rangers have accomplished over the last several years, and I believe our preparations for upcoming season are what is important." Sources have told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Ryan could leave after he fulfills his two remaining team obligations: in San Antonio for the Rangers' two exhibition games there March 29-30 and in Houston during the Rangers' season-opening series against the Astros. In other news and notes from the American League:
- Rick Porcello became the first Tiger pitcher to pitch five innings this spring, allowing no runs on three hits while striking out four. George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press tweets Porcello was happy to discuss his outing, but refused to comment on the many trade rumors surrounding him.
- J.A. Happ, also a subject of trade rumors, is frustrated by his role with the Blue Jays and sees himself as a Major League starting pitcher, according to MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm (Twitter links). Happ, as quoted by Chisholm on Twitter, realizes he is auditioning for other teams, "I know there are other people in the stands as well so I'm trying to just keep my routine and we'll see what happens."
- Indians manager Terry Francona has named Zach McAllister as the team's fourth starter, the Associated Press reports (via the Boston Herald). If the Indians choose to start Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Corey Kluber in the minors, the leading veteran candidates for the final spot are Scott Kazmir and Daisuke Matsuzaka, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer who would put his money on Kazmir.
Here's the latest from around the AL Central…
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski admitted to reporters (including Lynn Henning of the Detroit News) that teams had been calling him about the Tigers' starting pitching depth. The Rangers reportedly asked about Rick Porcello earlier this week and several teams have shown interest in the right-hander throughout the offseason.
- Dombrowski and Jim Leyland revealed no new details about the Tigers' closer situation other than saying that rookie Bruce Rondon is still very much a candidate for the job despite struggling in four Spring Training outings.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn discussed Chris Sale's extension with reporters (including MLB.com's Scott Merkin) and likes that the team was able to lock up a potential ace at what could end up being a bargain price. "Obviously this past offseason was a pretty robust one in terms of where the compensation was going. So being able to lock something down before there was further escalation in Chris' market had a lot of appeal to us," Hahn said.
- Scott Kazmir can opt out of his minor league deal with the Indians if he isn't on their Major League roster by April 2, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (via Twitter). Daisuke Matsuzaka, another Tribe minor league signing, also has an opt-out date "about the same time."
- Unless Justin Morneau improves on his 2012 numbers, Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities feels the Twins will struggle to get "anything significant" for the slugger in a possible trade, and could have to settle for a trade package similar to what they received for Francisco Liriano last summer. Morneau hit .267/.333/.440 with 19 home runs in 570 PA in 2012 and is entering his last season under contract with Minnesota. Mackey also discusses the Twins payroll, various roster decisions and other topics during this chat with fans.
Some late-night links pertaining to baseball's two Central divisions…
- Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal is going to visit Dr. James Andrews to have his problematic elbow re-evaluated, writes Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. However, GM John Mozeliak isn't second-guessing the decision not to operate on Furcal following the 2012 season.
- Hummel's colleague, Derrick Goold, writes that while the Cardinals had interest in Stephen Drew this offseason, Drew's decision came down to the Athletics or Red Sox because Furcal's presence didn't allow the Cards to guarantee Drew playing time.
- MLB.com's Adam McCalvy profiles Bobby Crosby and his decision to make an attempt at a Major League comeback with the Brewers. Crosby was persuaded to pursue a comeback by his father, former Major Leaguer Ed Crosby. McCalvy notes that Crosby's agent, Paul Cohen, has orchestrated successful comebacks for clients Gape Kapler, Jim Edmonds and Troy Percival in the past.
- Another comeback story — Scott Kazmir — is taking things slowly with the Indians, writes MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. Kazmir will work on his breaking pitches in a minor league "B" game Wednesday as he builds confidence in the pitches in a low-pressure setting. Kazmir has fired four scoreless frames with four punchouts for the Tribe thus far.
After Brian Sabean traded Matt Williams to the Indians for a package that included eventual San Francisco cornerstone Jeff Kent, the public reaction against the newly minted Giants general manager was so strong that he felt compelled to declare: “I’m not an idiot.” Sixteen years later, with two World Championships under Sabean’s belt, MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby writes that he “has proven that, emphatically.” Sabean still abides by the credo he adopted while working for George Steinbrenner: “keep your head down and do your job.” Here are some notes on teams hoping to dethrone Mr. Sabean’s Giants in 2013:
- Having agreed yesterday to a minor league contract with the Pirates, 41-year-old reliever Jose Contreras reported to camp quickly with plans to take it slow, says Tom Singer of MLB.com. Still recovering from Tommy John surgery, and having just returned from his first visit to his native Cuba since defecting over a decade ago, Contreras said that the Pirates instructed him “to take my time and recover at my own rate.” Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington, for whom the signing was a “low-risk” gambit to bolster the club’s bullpen, stated that Contreras would “rehab throughout Spring Training” and that the team would “be patient with him and get him back as quickly as his body allows.”
- The Indians have set up a three-way competition for the last spot in the team’s starting rotation, according to Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer. Scott Kazmir and Carlos Carrasco, both of whom are attempting comebacks, will compete with recently-acquired prospect Trevor Bauer. All three pitchers appeared in today’s Cactus League game. While MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk maintains that Kyle Lohse could fit nicely in the Tribe's rotation, the team seems likely to utilize one of the options it already has on hand.
- With Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis likely out for more than six weeks with a fractured collarbone, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro discusses the club’s search for a new second backstop behind presumed starter Rob Brantly. In addition to considering internal options like Kyle Skipworth, “the club is combing through other rosters, exploring possible trade options and trying to figure out which teams have a surplus.”
- Other than Sabean, only one current GM has overseen multiple championship clubs: the Yankees’ Brian Cashman. Cashman revealed today that, contrary to his previously stated belief, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli is in fact out of options, writes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. MLBTR has labeled Cervelli as out of options from the start; check out our full list of players here. Of the three primary catchers competing to break camp with the Yankees, then, only Austin Romine can still be optioned. (Chris Stewart, like Cervelli, has had his options exhausted.) When asked to comment on the catching situation, Cashman wryly reported: “We’ve got two guys out of options and one guy with an option. I think the two guys are winning.”
- Of more immediate concern to Cashman and the Yankees, of course, is the injury to outfielder Curtis Granderson. In addition to the analysis of MLBTR's Tim Dierkes, other commentators have begun to weigh in. Bill Madden of The New York Daily News explores the options for replacing Granderson and worries that the club could face a power shortage. MLB.com’s Richard Justice opines that Cashman should stick to his winning strategy of “being smart and efficient” and “not overreacting to every crisis.” For FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi, on the other hand, the injury “exposed the Yankees’ flawed roster construction” and leaves the club’s 2013 postseason prospects in doubt.
A rebuilt Indians club should add to the mix of what was a competitive AL Central Division race during the 2012 season. While the Royals and Twins aren't expected to be much of a factor in 2013, the Indians, Tigers and White Sox may find themselves fighting for a playoff spot well into September. Let's catch up on the latest news and headlines from around the division.
- Scott Kazmir told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com that he had a variety of offers to choose from but chose to sign with the Indians mostly due to the presence of manager Terry Francona (via Twitter). The 29-year-old lefty signed a minor league deal with Cleveland in December and will be given an opportunity to crack the squad's starting rotation.
- The Twins remain uninterested in signing free agent Freddy Sanchez, who has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons, writes Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter). Sanchez, 35, last appeared in over 100 games during the 2010 season with the Giants where he posted a batting line of .292/.342/.397.
- The Tigers remain in need of a right-hander off the bench and will look to find the right piece internally before exploring the free-agent market, says Jason Beck of MLB.com. According to GM Dave Dombrowski, Danny Worth and Jeff Kobernus will receive heavy consideration for the open spot on the roster.
Economist Andrew Zimbalist says Terry Francona's portrayal of the Red Sox ownership group in his new book gives an unfair representation of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino's level of investment in the team, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.com. “I think they’re all really smart. And I think they all really do love baseball, and I think they understand the intricacies of baseball,” said Zimbalist. “John Henry is a stats guy. John Henry brought Bill James to Boston — along with some other very good sabermetricians, by the way."
Here's the latest stories and headlines making news out of the AL and NL East Divisions…
- Former Mets prospect Scott Kazmir will attempt to make a return to the big leagues this season and believes he can regain the form that made him an All-Star with the Rays, writes Mark Hale of the New York Post.“If his velocity’s back and his confidence is back,” Kazmir’s former pitching coach with the Angels, Mike Butcher, said, “this guy still could be an impact in the major leagues.”
- Daisuke Matsuzaka remains on the Mets' radar as he could be an option for either the starting rotation or in the bullpen, write Matthew Cerrone and Michael Baron of MetsBlog.com. Matsuzaka, 32, just completed a six-year, $52MM contract with the Red Sox.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman celebrates 15 years in his current post with New York today, writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. The hiring of the former Catholic University second baseman in 1998 marked owner George Steinbrenner's 14th general manager in 25 years.