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Three clubs in the league’s western division may have the greatest trade deadline regrets, in the opinion of MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince (writing for Sports On Earth). The Athletics have seen their fortunes fade since dealing away Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester, though of course Lester has been outstanding. The Mariners‘ three key additions — Austin Jackson, Kendrys Morales, and Chris Denorfia — have generally failed to hit. And the Dodgers passed on a chance to add an impact starter.
- Of course, it is eminently arguable that the Athletics‘ underperformance since the deadline is really not a reflection on Cespedes-Lester swap at all, as Tony Blengino of Fangraphs explains. The team has failed to score runs, to be sure, but that is due in large part to the production fall-offs from key first-half contributors like Brandon Moss, Derek Norris, and John Jaso (the latter, in large part, due to injury).
- The one-year extensions signed before the season by Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson and then-GM Kevin Towers contain rollover clauses that provide for automatic re-extensions if they are not dismissed by a certain date, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. (Such an anti-lame duck provision is also a feature of the Blue Jays’ contract with manager John Gibbons.) Player support for Gibson is “all but gone,” sources tell Rosenthal, but he could still be retained by chief baseball officer Tony La Russa.
- Meanwhile, Rosenthal joins others in reporting that Dave Stewart is the leading candidate to take over as GM. Stewart says he is “very interested” in the position, and his hiring would make it likely that Towers stays on in a senior scouting role, according to Rosenthal.
- Of course, the status of Stewart’s agency business (Sports Management Partners) would be up in the air if he takes the job. Rosenthal reports that some key clients such as Matt Kemp of the Dodgers have said they would stay on with SMP if the agency continues without Stewart.
- The Angels‘ run to the AL West crown represents a remarkable turnaround for GM Jerry Dipoto, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes. One year after most of his moves backfired, Dipoto has pulled off a series of largely successful trades and signings that helped fuel the team’s success. Most remarkably, perhaps, the team has received solid production from a variety of arms that have generally outperformed expectations.
- Another remarkable turnaround in Halos land is the working relationship between Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia, as Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register writes. Last August, it was even reported that things had deteriorated to the point that one or the other would have to go, though Scioscia shot down the suggestion at the time. Now, Dipoto credits Scioscia with doing an “unbelievable job” at making adjustments and acting on new information — as reflected in the team’s lineup construction and use of defensive shifts.
Left-hander Yasmany Hernandez has left Cuba for an undisclosed third country with the goal of signing a MLB contract, per Diario De Cuba (h/t Baseball America’s Ben Badler). Badler provides a scouting report on the 23-year-old, who led Serie Nacional with a 1.66 ERA this past season. Hernandez will be exempt from international bonus restrictions after pitching five seasons in Serie Nacional, but Badler doesn’t expect teams to show as much interest in Hernandez as fellow Cubans have drawn. Here are more notes from around the game.
- Badler also recently appeared on the Providence Journal’s Super Two podcast with Tim Britton and Brian MacPherson, where he discussed new Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo. Badler says teams are becoming increasingly receptive to spending big money on Cuban players thanks to the successes of players like Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig, adding that the added power Castillo demonstrated since leaving Cuba increased his value on the market.
- Free-agent-to-be Russell Martin would be a great fit for the Cubs, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Signing Martin would involve making a significant financial commitment and giving up on Welington Castillo as a starting catcher, but Martin could help mold the Cubs’ young pitching and provide a strong example for the rest of its young roster.
- The Mariners will not retain national cross-checker Butch Baccala, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports. Baccala is the scout who sent Jesus Montero ice cream during a minor league game while Montero was rehabbing, seemingly as an insult regarding Montero’s weight. Montero threw the ice cream at Baccala and was suspended.
- The Pirates had a quiet trade deadline, but they’ve had a strong second half anyway, MLB.com’s Tom Singer writes. In particular, they didn’t complete a trade for a starting pitcher and didn’t improve what appeared to be a weak bullpen. Since then, though, their bullpen has quietly become a strength, thanks in part to the emergence of John Holdzkom, and their offense has papered over any rotation issues. “You’ll get second-guessed no matter what you do,” says Bucs manager Clint Hurdle. “That’s just the nature of the world. So you gotta do what you feel in your gut is right.”
- The Rays are ready to see what they’ve got in Nick Franklin, who they’re promoting Monday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. The Rays, of course, acquired Franklin from the Mariners in the three-team deal in which they sent David Price to Detroit. Since the trade, Franklin has hit .210/.288/.290 in 113 plate appearances for Triple-A Durham, although his track record indicates he’s capable of hitting better.
- Padres assistant director of scouting operations Don Welke, who arrived recently from the Rangers organization along with new GM A.J. Preller, is enjoying his first month with San Diego, Corey Brock of MLB.com writes. Welke and other members of the Padres’ front office are currently in Arizona, where they’re watching Padres prospects play in the instructional league.
In an excellent piece at Fangraphs, August Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics‘ acquisition of Adam Dunn as the final piece of GM Billy Beane’s playoff roster. Fagerstrom notes that if the A’s play in a Wild Card game — which is very likely — they’ll likely face either Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Max Scherzer or David Price. Five of the six are right-handed, making Dunn a formidable weapon in such a matchup. Beyond that, Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics’ bench versus a right-handed pitcher and versus a left-handed pitcher, noting that each group is composed of entirely different players (with the exception of Sam Fuld). However, each group will also feature two catchers that can hit reasonably well, an infielder that can play all four infield positions, and a pair of elite defensive outfielders. The balance of the roster is truly impressive, and Fagerstrom’s piece highlights the roster construction particularly well.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- In a lengthy piece for ESPN The Magazine, Tim Keown spoke with Beane at length about his team’s bold moves this season and the competition they’re facing in their quest for the World Series. Beane referred to division rival Mike Trout as “the best player who has ever walked on the planet” and said he doesn’t care for the narrative that the A’s are “all in” this season: “Just assume that every move we make in the front office means we’re all-in. We can’t afford a five-year plan, so every move means we’re trying to win every game we possibly can. All-in — I never liked that term. For one thing, I don’t have that many chips to throw into the middle of the table.” Keown also spoke with Jon Lester about his trade from the Red Sox to Oakland, and his piece also contains quotes from assistant GM Farhan Zaidi and Jeff Samardzija. The entire article is well worth the read not only for A’s fans, but for baseball fans in general.
- Angels infielder John McDonald tells Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com that he may end up retiring following the 2014 season. McDonald says he’s more than aware of his dwindling playing time — he’s received just 81 PA despite appearing in 81 games this season — and knows the market for 40-year-old infielders isn’t great. “I got more out of my career than I ever thought was possible,” said McDonald. “I didn’t think I’d get a day in the big leagues, let alone parts of 16 years.” For the time being, he’s trying not to even think about the offseason, however, as it’s “just too much fun” to go to the stadium every day in the midst of a pennant race.
- In a second Fangraphs piece pertaining to the AL West, Tony Blengino (former special assistant to the GM with the Mariners) looks at Dustin Ackley‘s batted ball data in an attempt to determine whether or not his second-half resurgence is legitimate. As Blengino notes, Ackley’s production has soared on pulled fly-balls, and his line-drive production has trended upward as well. The trade off has been some loss of authority on ground-balls, but as he notes, hitters will gladly make that swap. Blengino concludes that Ackley may never become a star, as his previously excellent walk rate now looks more pedestrian, but he’s capable of hitting .275-.280 with a .310-.310 OBP and a slugging percentage around .425 with solid-or-better defense in left field — an asset that seemed unlikely just a few months ago.
- Also of interest, Blengino discusses how those with the benefit of hindsight may wonder why Trout didn’t go at the top of the draft class when Ackley was selected, but most clubs felt he was too raw to select near the top of the draft despite being an obvious talent. The Mariners had Stephen Strasburg atop their board and Ackley second, and current Reds righty Mike Leake was “likely” their backup plan should anything go wrong with Ackley, whom he says was “considered a pretty obvious second selection back in 2009.”
Coffey, who turns 34 next week, signed a minor league deal with the Mariners earlier this summer after missing the 2013 campaign following his second Tommy John surgery. Somewhat curiously, he didn’t crack Seattle’s big league roster despite fairly dominant numbers in the minors; the veteran righty pitched to a 1.93 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 37 1/3 at Triple-A Tacoma.
Coffey has a lifetime 4.10 ERA as a big leaguer, and that mark is accompanied by 6.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a solid 51.9 percent ground-ball rate. Among contending clubs, the Tigers have had the most glaring bullpen issues this season, although the Pirates, Dodgers and Yankees have all hunted for relief help at times. The Brewers, too, were in the market for relief upgrades, although they may feel set in that department following their acquisition of Jonathan Broxton on Aug. 31.
Of course, the Mariners themselves are contenders, but the club apparently feels content with its bullpen depth. Fernando Rodney has been excellent as the team’s ninth-inning man after signing a two-year, $14MM deal this offseason. Meanwhile, Danny Farquhar, Dominic Leone, Tom Wilhelmsen, Joe Beimel and Yoervis Medina all have ERAs south of 2.50 in at least 40 innings of work.
The Mariners have placed first baseman Jesus Montero on the suspended list for the remainder of the 2014 season, the team announced. The move comes as no surprise given that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik recently said that Montero wouldn’t play again this year in order to focus on off-the-field issues. Montero’s suspension and Willie Bloomquist being moved to the 60-day DL creates two spots on the team’s 40-man roster that have been filled by catcher Humberto Quintero and right-hander Carson Smith, who had their contracts selected in corresponding moves.
It was only a few years ago that Montero was considered one of the very best prospects in all of baseball, yet his star has almost completely dimmed after three tumultuous years in Seattle. Montero has hit only .251/.291/.378 with 19 homers over 680 PA as a Mariner while battling injuries, weight issues and a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis case. Just last Thursday, Montero got into a heated altercation with a Mariners scout that apparently stemmed from the crosschecker sending an ice cream sandwich to the dugout as a taunt about Montero’s weight.
Montero was hitting well (an .839 OPS in 409 PA) at Triple-A this season and it seems far too early to write off his career given that he’s just 24 years old. It remains to be seen, however, whether he’ll get another chance with the Mariners organization following this latest incident.
The balance of power in the AL West has swung heavily in the Angels’ direction after the Halos completed a four-game sweep of the Athletics on Sunday. Los Angeles now own both baseball’s best record (83-53) and a five-game lead over the struggling A’s, who are looking for answers after an 12-17 August. Oakland is still on track to reach the postseason, as they hold a four-game lead in the AL wild card race.
Here’s the latest from around the AL West…
- The A’s will cover $1MM of the roughly $2.3MM remaining on Adam Dunn‘s 2014 salary, and ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that Oakland’s willingness to take on this much of Dunn’s salary was part of the reason why the A’s were able to acquire the slugger. The Giants, Dodgers and at least one other team were also reportedly talking to the White Sox about a Dunn trade.
- Astros manager Bo Porter tells Fangraphs’ David Laurila that his relationship with Houston’s front office “is what he expected coming in,” which seems to counter recent rumors of tension between Porter and GM Jeff Luhnow. “My staff and I take all the information from our baseball ops and use it to the best of our ability. Every last component of that is needed to be successful,” Porter said.
- Also from Laurila’s piece, 37-year-old lefty Joe Beimel not only has no plans to retire, his 12-year career might only be half-over. “I plan on pitching until I’m at least 50….I don’t see any reason I can’t do what Jamie Moyer did,” Beimel said. “He was starting games at 49 years old and getting guys out with 80 mph. I’m not down that low yet and I figure if he could go six, seven innings, I could at least come in and get one or two guys out.” After missing 2012 and 2013 due to Tommy John surgery, Beimel is enjoying a nice comeback year out of the Mariners‘ bullpen. The veteran southpaw has a 2.03 ERA, 5.2 K/9 and 1.92 K/BB ratio in 40 innings, and he’s held left-handed batters to only a .480 OPS.
Jesus Montero was at the center of a bizarre situation on Thursday night, as MILB.com’s Tyler Maun reports. While on a rehab assignment at Seattle’s short-season class A affiliate, Montero reportedly had to be restrained from going after a Mariners crosschecker with a bat after the scout reportedly sent an ice cream sandwich to the dugout. Butch Baccala, the crosschecker in question, tells Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times that the incident is “not what is being portrayed,” though he didn’t want to comment further until speaking with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.
- There is discord between Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports, and things may have gotten bad enough that “it’s difficult to imagine the Astros starting the 2015 season with the same management team.” Porter feels he doesn’t have enough input in the team’s plans and Luhnow too often second-guesses his in-game decisions, plus there were some hard feelings over Mark Appel‘s bullpen session at Minute Maid Park last month.
- Yadier Molina‘s return shouldn’t end A.J. Pierzynski‘s stint with the Cardinals, FOX Sports Midwest’s Stan McNeal writes. Molina will need to be eased into his usual workload behind the plate, and with rosters expanding, the Cards will have room for three catchers (Tony Cruz being the third). Pierzynski has also been a fit in the Cardinals’ clubhouse following the drama that marked his exit from Boston.
- The Braves were the other finalist for right-hander Brandon Poulson, Baseball America’s Bob Padecky reports. Poulson ended up signing a $250K bonus with the Twins, capping off a fairly incredible route to pro baseball for the 6’7″ fireballer.
- Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred figures to differ from Bud Selig in several areas, and ESPN’s Jayson Stark outlines some of the areas that Manfred will focus on when he officially takes over the job.
The Mets have placed Daniel Murphy on the disabled list and will recall Double-A second baseman Dilson Herrera to fill his roster spot. The 20-year-old Herrera was the second player acquired from the Pirates (along with Vic Black) in last year’s Marlon Byrd/John Buck trade. In 274 plate appearances with Binghamton this season, he slashed a healthy .333/.401/.544 with nine homers and nine steals. Herrera’s overall numbers this season are quite strong, and his continued development has led some, including ESPN’s Keith Law, to consider him among the game’s Top 100 prospects.
Here are some more links from around the league…
- The Orioles have continued to be active on the waiver wire despite the fact that they’ve yet to make an August acquisition, executive vice president Dan Duquette tells Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. The O’s have been on the hunt for a left-handed hitting infielder but have come up empty in their search, Connolly writes.
- While the Mariners very much want to make the playoffs, team president Kevin Mather tells Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune that the M’s weren’t “going to sell [their] souls for a one-game Wild Card opportunity” by mortgaging the future at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Mather characterizes the acquisitions of Kendrys Morales, Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia as “strategic” but “not crazy.” The team held onto top prospects Taijuan Walker and D.J. Peterson as well as young lefty James Paxton.
- Cubs president Theo Epstein told reporters, including ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers, that the team will have the financial wherewithal to add to the payroll in the coming years due to its young core. Epstein said he never looks at one offseason and decides that he has to get something done that year, but he expects to add impact starting pitching from outside the organization in the next 18 to 24 months.
- Victor Martinez would like to play for “a few more years” but thinks he’ll be out of the league by the age of 40, he tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Morosi spoke to Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who offered lofty praise for his DH, calling him the most prepared and focused hitter he has ever encountered. Morosi looks at the weak DH situations that many teams around the league have and wonders if the 35-year-old Martinez can fetch something in the neighborhood of Carlos Beltran‘s three-year, $45MM contract from last offseason.
The Mariners have agreed to sign Dominican shortstop prospect Christopher Torres with a $375K bonus, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter links). Torres was rated the 18th-best overall international prospect available on this year’s July 2 market by MLB.com.
While Torres’s bonus is nothing to sneeze at, it falls well shy of the $2.1MM that he was reportedly promised by the Yankees before the club backed out of its commitment. New York is said to have been hit with a $20K fine over the situation.
As Ben Badler of Baseball America explained in reporting the dispute, Torres was left in a particularly difficult spot since other clubs had already promised their international pool space to other players. Torres’s trainer also told Badler that the player had previously been offered $1.6MM by Seattle before reaching terms with the Yankees. You’ll want to give Badler’s entire piece a read to understand the ordeal.
According to MLB.com, Torres brings a switch-hitting bat whose hit tool is better from the left side but delivers more power from the right. Defense and speed are his calling cards at present, though he has a large enough frame that he has some projection at the plate.
Wade LeBlanc struggled in his lone start for the Angels and found himself designated for assignment the next day, but manager Mike Scioscia explained to reporters, including MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez, that the poor outing wasn’t necessarily the cause of the DFA. “This isn’t a reactionary move to a bad outing from last night to say that we’re looking past Wade LeBlanc,” said Scioscia. “Right now, in the short term, we have to because we really don’t have many options for these next couple days, and you need a fresh arm out there.” The Halos are on the hunt for additional starting depth in the final days of August, but it remains to be seen whether GM Jerry Dipoto and his staff can add yet another arm from outside the organization.
Here’s more on the Angels and the AL West…
- Angels owner Arte Moreno is remaining adamant that his team will not cross the $189MM luxury tax threshold next year, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears from rival clubs. The Halos already have $140MM worth of luxury tax commitments on the books, and adding an arm like Bartolo Colon would add $10MM more to that commitment (luxury tax is calculated based on the average annual value of a player’s contract). That makes both Scott Feldman and A.J. Burnett difficult fits as well.
- Mariners president Kevin Mather told reporters, including MLB.com’s Greg Johns, that extension negotiations with GM Jack Zduriencik didn’t take long. “The question really was, ‘Do you like it here? Are we treating you OK? Are you enjoying your job?'” Mather explained. “[Zduriencik] said, ‘I love it here, my family loves it here.’ I said, ‘Well then let’s stay. Let’s stay.’ Big smile on his face. I said, ‘I guess that’s a yes.'” For his part, Zduriencik expressed his happiness with the extension and with where his organization stands. He did, however, indicate that he’s not about to become complacent: “You’re never satisfied. If I had Mays and Mantle, I’d still be looking for more. That’s just the nature of what you do. But I think we’re on our way to being what we want to become and that’s a world champion.”
- Robinson Chirinos has impressed the Rangers in his first season of semi-regular playing time and figures to play a “significant” role with the 2015 club, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. While the club hasn’t decided how big a role he will play, minor league catching instructor Hector Ortiz tells Grant that he initially thought Chirinos was a backup type of catcher, but he know thinks there’s more ability in the tank. Chirinos says the team has said they want to see what he can do on an everyday basis over the season’s final weeks, so it certainly seems possible that this is an audition of sorts. The 30-year-old has batted .231/.282/.408 with 11 homers in 288 PAs. He’s also thrown out 38 percent of base stealers.