- Blue Jays Sign Dayan Viciedo
- White Sox Great Minnie Minoso Passes Away
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Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reported yesterday that the Mariners were interested in a minor league deal with the Legacy Agency client and viewed him as a potential left-handed relief option. As I noted at the time, Saunders has been quietly excellent against lefties over the past two seasons, even if his overall numbers are undeniably troublesome. Though Saunders pitched to a 5.26 ERA over 183 innings with the 2013 Mariners and a 6.70 ERA in 43 innings for the Rangers and Orioles last year, he’s held opposing left-handed hitters to a paltry .230/.270/.308 batting line in that time.
The Mariners have a definite hole in the bullpen with the departure of Joe Beimel, who worked to a 2.20 ERA in 45 innings (56 appearances) as a lefty specialist last year. GM Jack Zduriencik recently told reporters that he spoke to Beimel’s camp and the two sides simply weren’t able to come to an agreement. That’s hardly surprising, given the fact that Dutton tweeted last night that Beimel is looking for a multi-year deal coming off his solid season.
In his 10-year big league career, Saunders has worked almost exclusively as a starter. However, he’s also held lefties to a .241/.288/.329 batting line. If he does make the Mariners’ bullpen and enjoy a solid season as a left-handed relief option, he could enjoy a career renaissance similar to that of Oliver Perez, who, interestingly enough, also established himself as a reliever in Seattle.
As Johns notes, Saunders could be competing with Lucas Luetge, Mike Kickham, Rule 5 pick David Rollins and non-roster invitee Rafael Perez for a spot as a second lefty in the bullpen. Charlie Furbush will be the team’s top left-handed option once again in 2015.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy underwent a medical procedure to insert two stents into his heart and is now resting comfortably in a Scottsdale hospital, according to a team press release. “Following his physical yesterday, the Giants medical staff was monitoring Bruce Bochy’s heart after he experienced some discomfort,” according to the statement. The skipper is scheduled to be released on Friday and he’s already sent texts to CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly and Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (both Twitter links) saying that he’ll be back in camp in a couple of days. We at all MLBTR wish Bochy all the best in his recovery.
Here’s some news from around baseball…
- The Blue Jays aren’t actively discussing a Dioner Navarro trade with any other teams, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi reports (via Twitter). Earlier this week, I examined Navarro as a trade candidate since Russell Martin has taken over the starting catcher’s job in Toronto.
- A rival executive believes the Yankees are the top contender to sign Yoan Moncada, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports in a roundup of the Moncada market. The Yankees aren’t keen, however, on paying a bonus in the $40-$50MM range, which is what some sources say Moncada will probably receive.
- With Jurickson Profar likely to miss another full season due to shoulder injuries, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News wonders if this could spell the end of Profar’s time with the Rangers. It’s hard to believe Texas would consider non-tendering a former top-ranked prospect Profar when he’s eligible for arbitration next winter, yet Grant is right in noting that the Rangers might just move on with Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor in the middle infield.
- Left-hander Joe Beimel is reportedly hoping to land a multi-year contract, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune tweets. Beimel reportedly had three teams interested in him in late January, though one of those clubs (the Mariners) looks to be out of the running. Though Beimel had a solid season with the M’s in 2014, it’s hard to see him landing more than a one-year deal at this stage of the offseason given his age (he turns 38 in April) and injury history (missing all of 2012 due to Tommy John surgery).
- Also from Dutton, the arbitration hearing between the Mariners and Tom Wilhelmsen will take place on Friday. The reliever is one of just three remaining players with outstanding arb cases, as per the MLBTR Arbitration Tracker. Wilhelmsen is looking for $2.2MM for his 2015 contract while Seattle has countered with a $1.4MM offer.
The Mariners are showing interest in a reunion with left-hander Joe Saunders, if he is willing to accept a bullpen role, reports Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Seattle would be interested in using Saunders in a relief capacity rather than as rotation depth, Dutton adds.
Saunders, 33, struggled to a 5.26 ERA with the 2013 Mariners, although he did soak up 183 innings for the team that season. Those struggles continued with the Rangers and Orioles in 2014, when Saunders posted an alarming 6.70 ERA in 43 innings of work.
However, for all of those struggles, Saunders has been quietly excellent against left-handed hitters. Over 2013-14 — the two worst seasons of Saunders’ 10-year big league career, lefties have produced a middling .230/.270/.308 batting line. Those marks are a slight improvement over his also-strong career numbers against lefties — a .241/.288/.329 batting line.
Charlie Furbush figures to be Seattle’s primary left-handed option in the bullpen, but the team is still on the lookout to replace the innings given to the club by Joe Beimel in 2014. Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik told 710 ESPN earlier this week that the team tried to strike up a new deal with Beimel, who posted a 2.20 ERA in 45 innings as a lefty specialist last year, but no agreement could be reached. If Saunders is amenable to a minor league deal and a bullpen role as a means of revitalizing his career, he could be a reasonable option to replace some of the strong work that Beimel did last year.
Yoan Moncada, Hector Olivera and Yadier Alvarez represent the top three names on the Cuban market right now, with Andy Ibanez ranking as perhaps the fourth-most intriguing option from the island. Both Moncada and Ibanez are eligible to sign at any time, while Olivera is still awaiting MLB’s clearance. Alvarez is the furthest from signing, as he’s yet to establish residency in another country, which must be completed before he can begin the process of getting cleared.
There’s been a quite a bit written on each of these four of late, so we’ll look at each on a case-by-case basis within this post. All information is courtesy of this excellent and comprehensive piece from MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez unless otherwise noted.
Moncada has yet to receive a formal offer, Sanchez writes, but he’s worked out privately for the Cubs, D-backs, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Rangers, Rays, Tigers and Brewers, and there could be other private workouts to come. Some scouts are a bit skeptical of Moncada’s ability to hit from the right side of the plate, but the belief is that he won’t require a lengthy stint in the minors before being ready for the big leagues.
Sanchez notes that any team that signs Moncada would have until July 15 to pay the overage tax on what will be a historic bonus, and that bonus can be paid out in installments over the next three years. So, while shelling out the tax due to the league in one lump sum may be onerous for smaller-market clubs like the Padres, the timeline on that payment is at least pushed back a ways.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently spoke to multiple executives regarding Moncada’s potential bonus, and while one estimated that the bonus alone could reach $50MM, others have expressed some skepticism at the numbers that have been thrown around. Rosenthal spoke to execs that are clearly on both ends of the Moncada spectrum, as one estimated a $30MM maximum bonus, with something in the range of $20MM being more likely. Of course, that would still shatter the current record, held by Yoan Lopez ($8.25MM).
Digging further into the Moncada market, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune spoke with Moncada’s agent, David Hastings, who iterated once again that he hopes to have Moncada in camp for Spring Training. Said Hastings of that goal: “Certainly that’s not all within our power, as we have to wait for teams to make a commitment, and we have to choose the team we think best suits my player. But hopefully we’re down to the final stages of the process and we can begin the contract phase.” Hastings added that he wants to give as many as teams as possible the opportunity to bid on his client, so the volume of private workouts Moncada has attended isn’t exactly surprising. Lin characterizes the Padres as a potentially “unlikely, if not improbable destination” for Moncada. The Dodgers and Yankees remain the favorites, per Sanchez.
The 29-year-old Olivera, who turns 30 in April, is said to be seeking a five- or six-year pact along the lines of the contracts signed by Yasmany Tomas (six years, $68.5MM with a year-four opt-out) and Rusney Castillo (seven years, $72.5MM), Sanchez writes. (Remember that Oliver’s age and professional experience make him exempt from international spending limitations.) A recent report by Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs depicts that as highly unlikely; McDaniel noted that concerns over Olivera’s age and a blood clot disorder (thrombosis) may limit his contract to three years, or potentially four, if multiple clubs become aggressive. He did concede that something around $10MM annually could be possible.
Sanchez writes that the 6’2″ Olivera is in the best shape of his career and has “wowed” in open showcases and private workouts, leading many to believe he could hit 15 to 20 homers annually.
Were Olivera younger, I’d be more inclined to believe that he could command something in the vicinity of the Tomas and Castillo deals, but I personally can’t envision that for a player of his age. Tomas will be younger than Olivera is right now when his six-year contract expires, and Castillo’s deal runs through just his age-32 season. A six-year pact for Olivera would carry through his age-35 campaign, so despite having seemingly impressive power for a second baseman (he can also play third), those goals seem far-fetched.
Lin notes that the Padres also have some interest in Olivera and may turn their sights his way if they’re unable to land Moncada. Padres pro scouting director/senior adviser Logan White attended Olivera’s final showcase in the Dominican Republic last week, per Lin.
Though Olivera isn’t yet cleared to sign, Sanchez hears that he could sign within 24 hours of being declared a free agent. The Mariners, Braves and Dodgers are the most likely landing spots for Olivera, per Sanchez, who also lists the Yankees and Padres as interested clubs. Clearly, Seattle is an odd fit, given the presence of Robinson Cano and the recently extended Kyle Seager. Perhaps, however, the Mariners would have interest in using Olivera in a corner outfield spot or in some form of super utility capacity.
One high-ranking NL official told Sanchez that Alvarez was the best 18-year-old pitcher he’s ever seen following a showcase in which he touched 98 mph on the radar gun and also showed a plus slider and above-average changeup. Scouts to whom Sanchez has spoke believe he could eventually become a No. 2 starter. One international scouting director also told Sanchez that given Alvarez’s age and lower asking price, he prefers the right-hander to Moncada.
The Dodgers, D-Backs, Rockies, Nationals, Blue Jays, Padres, A’s, Cardinals, Twins and Brewers are all interested, per Sanchez, with the D-Backs and Nationals as the likeliest destinations at the moment. However, Alvarez is still early on in the process, so those seem the most likely to change of any of Sanchez’s likely destinations.
Ibanez, 21, has drawn comps to Omar Infante, Howie Kendrick, Miguel Cairo and Placido Polanco from scouts, Sanchez writes, although he’s probably a couple of years away from contributing in the Majors. As other reports have indicated, Ibanez’s tools don’t blow scouts away, but he does have Major League potential. Sanchez lists the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, D-Backs, Brewers, Mariners, and Padres as interested parties, with the Yankees, Dodgers and Padres as the likeliest landing spots.
Commisoner Rob Manfred tops the 50 most fascinating figures in baseball, according to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. Manfred has been pro-active during the first month of his tenure, Sherman opines, by already engaging the MLBPA over issues such as keeping the batter in the box between pitches and being ready to ignite play quicker after half-inning breaks while continuing the pitch clock experiment in the minors with an impetus to have them in MLB by next season. Rounding out Sherman’s top five are: Alex Rodriguez, Matt Harvey, Giancarlo Stanton, and Joe Maddon.
Here’s the latest news and notes from the American League:
- If the Red Sox are to trade for an ace starting pitcher, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald opines Jordan Zimmermann is a better fit than Cole Hamels. Silverman also believes the Red Sox will be better off by parting ways with Edward Mujica and Allen Craig since both are expensive and superfluous.
- The Tigers will receive a medical update on Miguel Cabrera‘s right foot on Tuesday, writes Mlive.com’s James Schmehl.
- Chris Capuano is the favorite to claim the final spot in the Yankees‘ starting rotation, notes Chad Jennings of LoHud.com. The Yankees will also stretch out relievers Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers during Spring Training.
- Reports out of Venezuela (and relayed by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune and MLB.com’s Greg Johns) have Mariners prospect Victor Sanchez suffering a double skull fracture after being struck by a boat while swimming in Carúpano, Venezuela. The 20-year-old right-hander, ranked as the Mariners’ 11th-best prospect by MLB.com, is reportedly in intensive care with his condition listed as serious but stable. Sanchez, who received a $2.5MM bonus when he was signed out of Venezuela in 2011, threw a no-hitter for Class A Clinton in 2013 and last year posted a line of 4.19 ERA, 7.0 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9 in 23 starts covering 124 2/3 innings for Double-A Jackson as the second-youngest player in the Southern League.
Happy birthday to A’s right-hander Tyler Clippard, who turns 30 years old today. The newly-acquired bullpen arm received a pretty nice gift earlier this week when he and the Athletics avoided going an arbitration hearing by agreeing to an $8.3MM contract for 2015. Here’s some more from around the AL West…
- The Angels are “not aggressive” in their pursuit of any available Cuban players in the Dominican Republic, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets, though the club has had scouts watching. The Halos have already made one major international acquisition this offseason, signing Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin to an $8MM bonus. Baldoquin’s deal already put the Angels over their signing pool threshold for this international signing period, though I’d argue that since the team is already being penalized for that overage (limited to only $300K signings for each of the next two int’l signing periods), Anaheim might as well make a push to add more international talent before their penalty kicks in on July 2.
- Rickie Weeks could end up playing all over the diamond in a depth role for the Mariners, GM Jack Zduriencik told reporters (including Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune), including both corner infield and outfield positions. Weeks has never played anywhere in the field besides second base over his 11-year career, but said as his free agent market developed, “teams were thinking about me playing other positions, and I just opened up to it, really.”
- Astros owner Jim Crane’s recent divorce settlement won’t have any impact on the club’s payroll or operations, team attorney Giles Kibbe told Evan Drellich and David Barron of the Houston Chronicle. “During our purchase of the Astros, MLB requested that the documents include certain language that would address these types of issues,” Kibbe said. The league’s approach stems from how Frank McCourt’s 2011 divorce proceedings affected the Dodgers, an MLB official confirmed to Drellich and Barron, though Crane’s situation is far different than McCourt’s.
The Blue Jays and Indians appear not to be involved with any of the three best remaining relievers — righties Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Joba Chamberlain — according to ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider link). Other theoretically plausible landing spots seem fairly dried up as well, he notes in assessing the most likely remaining suitors.
Here are a few more pitching notes:
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik says that the club spoke with lefty reliever Joe Beimel but that a deal could not be reached, Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN tweets. Beimel had a nice rebound campaign last year in Seattle, and is one of the few southpaws left on the market.
- The Mets will not be dealing away any pitchers unless circumstances change, Marc Carig of Newsday reports (Twitter links). Dillon Gee generated the most discussion, but New York never found an offer it liked and its prospective trade partners went with other options.
- We checked in earlier this evening on K-Rod and lefty Phil Coke, each of whom has received some interest from the Marlins. Within that post, we noted a report from Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter) indicating that Coke still has hope of landing a big league pact.
- Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays is likely not going anywhere any time soon, but I can’t help but link to this interesting piece from Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs, who explains that Stroman’s arsenal of pitches looks like it was assembled from amongst the best offerings of some of the very best arms in the game.
Olmos, 24, was claimed off waivers by Seattle from the Marlins earlier in the offseason. His miniscule MLB sample does not tell us much, but does indicate that he has a 95+mph fastball. He has struggled to limit the free passes, though is coming off his lowest-ever walk rate over a full season (3.5 per nine in 77 2/3 innings in the upper minors last year).
Here are today’s minor transactions from around the league…
- The Mariners announced the signing of lefty Rafael Perez to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invitation. Perez posted a 3.64 ERA, 2.29 K/BB rate and 7.3 K/9 over 329 relief innings with the Indians from 2006-12, but he hasn’t since pitched off a big league mound. The southpaw has pitched in the minors for the Red Sox, Twins, Pirates and Rangers over the last two seasons.
- The Brewers have signed right-hander Josh Roenicke to a minor league deal, per the club’s transactions page (a Spring Training invite is not mentioned, seemingly indicating that he will head to minor league camp). The 32-year-old Roenicke — the nephew of Brewers manager Ron Roenicke — spent the 2014 season with the Triple-A affiliates for the Nationals and Rockies, pitching to a combined 6.04 ERA with 4.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 89 1/3 innings (15 starts, 14 relief appearances). The former Reds prospect brings plenty of big league experience to the table in Milwaukee, as he has 220 1/3 career innings in the Majors. He most recently pitched to a 4.35 ERA in 62 innings with the Twins.
- Right-hander Fernando Cabrera has agreed to a minor league deal with the Giants, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The 33-year-old Cabrera hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2010 and hasn’t logged significant MLB innings since 2008, but he has an excellent track record at Triple-A, where he has compiled a 3.00 ERA with 10.0 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 467 2/3 innings in parts of 10 seasons. Cabrera was considered to be one of the Indians’ best prospects in the early 2000s, but he wasn’t able to fully tap into his potential.
FEB. 12: Weeks can also earn up to $2MM worth of incentives on his deal with Seattle, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter).
FEB. 11: The Mariners and second baseman Rickie Weeks are in agreement on a one-year, $2MM Major League deal, pending a physical, reports Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio (Twitter links). Weeks is represented by the Legacy Agency.
As Bowden explains, Seattle will look to use Weeks to spell Robinson Cano at second base and will also deploy him in the corner outfield at times. That role would seem to make some sense, as left fielder Dustin Ackley batted a woeful .212/.255/.298 against left-handed pitching in 2014 and is a career .236/.295/.342 hitter against southpaws. Weeks, as I explained earlier this week in examining teams with which he could potentially fit, has handled lefties with aplomb throughout his career. He batted .256/.361/.504 and swatted seven homers against lefties in 2014 and has hit .261/.385/.448 against them in his career. I speculated within that piece that a team could deploy him in the corner outfield as well as the infield, though the Mariners didn’t strike me as an obvious fit given Cano’s presence.
However, Seattle has a notoriously left-leaning lineup, with only catcher Mike Zunino, DH Nelson Cruz and center fielder Austin Jackson projecting as right-handed regulars. Justin Ruggiano, acquired from the Cubs this offseason, figures to platoon with Seth Smith in right field, and Weeks will give manager Lloyd McClendon another right-handed bat, allowing him to slot in at least five righties on days when a left-handed pitcher takes the hill for Seattle opponents.
While some might find the fit curious, if not downright surprising, it’s not a complete shock to see the Mariners show interest, as GM Jack Zduriencik was the Brewers’ director of scouting when Weeks was selected with the second overall pick in 2003. Weeks established himself as Milwaukee’s everyday second baseman last decade and enjoyed three excellent seasons from 2009-11 in which he batted .269/.357/.472, even belting 29 homers in 2010. His production took a step back in 2012 and cratered in 2013, but he rebounded to an extent last year when he served primarily as a platoon partner for Scooter Gennett.
Some of Weeks’ 2013 struggles can be attributed to a drastic dip in BABIP, but his strikeout rate has climbed upward a bit, and while he’s maintained a solid homer-to-flyball ratio, his overall amount of fly-balls has trended downward in a significant fashion. Weeks has become more of a ground-ball hitter, putting the ball on the ground more than 56 percent of the time in 2014, including a sky-high rate of 63.4 percent against right-handed pitching. If he can begin elevating the ball once again, he has a chance to restore some of his previous pop against righties, though the move to the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field in Seattle won’t help him achieve that goal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.