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The Angels are likely to trade Josh Hamilton before his contract expires, but not before letting him play out at least part of the 2015 season, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. Given Hamilton’s production (.263/.331/.414 last year) and contract, his value can’t slip much further, so the Angels might as well wait to see if they can recoup some of that value with a rebound season, Gonzalez suggests. And then, of course, there’s the fact that Hamilton has a full no-trade clause. The Angels reportedly discussed potential Hamilton deals with the Rangers and Padres this offseason, although those talks did not appear particularly likely to result in a trade. Here’s more from the West divisions.
- After reaching a deal with Nick Hundley last week, the Rockies could trade Wilin Rosario, or they could keep him and go with three catchers (Hundley, Rosario and Michael McKenry), MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes. Many teams have two catchers but are reluctant to use the backup to pinch-hit, so having three would allow the Rockies to use their spare catchers more liberally. Also, they could have Rosario pick up playing time at first base or in the outfield. Harding adds that the Rockies have “checked in with” Max Scherzer and James Shields this offseason, although, unsurprisingly, they’re not likely to sign either one, and they’ll likely acquire a veteran to eat innings instead.
- Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith should form a solid platoon for the Mariners, David Golebiewski writes for GammonsDaily.com. Neither one projects to be anything special if he plays every day, but Ruggiano has a .925 OPS against lefties in the last three seasons, while Smith has an .825 OPS against righties. Those are very strong numbers (even though we should probably expect regression for Ruggiano, and it’s impossible to completely hide any batter from same-handed pitching), and the Mariners should get effective production from right field while they wait for a long-term starter to come along.
We at MLBTR would like to extend our condolences to the friends and family of Bill Kearns, a veteran Mariners scout who passed away last night at age 94. Kearns was hired by the Mariners prior to their debut 1977 season and has been with the franchise for its entire history. A World War II veteran and former Brooklyn Dodgers minor leaguer, Kearns’ long career in baseball led him to scouting jobs with the Dodgers, White Sox and Royals before eventually joining the M’s. In a statement from the team, Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik said “Bill was a gentleman, in the finest sense, and represented his family and the Mariners in a first-class manner. And he was an excellent scout, a true ambassador of the Mariners and the game of baseball. Bill was one of the most positive people I have ever met. He will be missed.”
Here’s some more notes from around the league as 2015 is now upon us…
- Left-hander Luis Avilan‘s name had recently come up in trade talks, though now that the Braves have traded another southpaw in Chasen Shreve, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman wonders (Twitter link) if Atlanta could keep Avilan in the fold. Earlier today, the Braves sent Shreve and David Carpenter to the Yankees in exchange for Manny Banuelos.
- Zduriencik and Seth Smith discussed the recent trade that brought Smith to the Mariners in a conference call with reporters (including Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune). The extension that Smith signed with the Padres last summer was a factor in the trade, as Zduriencik noted that “one of the things we tried to stay away from was giving up talent for one-year returns…I think you’re getting a player who can be with you for at least the next three years.”
- With Craig Breslow‘s physical scheduled for Monday, the Red Sox will face a tough decision in opening up a spot for the reliever on their 40-man roster, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes. Dan Butler, Tommy Layne, Zeke Spruill and Drake Britton are potential candidates to lose their 40-man spots, with Bradford citing Britton as maybe the most vulnerable because he’s out of options. There’s also “a very real scenario” where Boston makes a trade to free up roster space.
- A number of recent Orioles news items and rumors are recapped by MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko, including the new information that the O’s would like to sign a right-handed reliever, possibly on a minor league deal.
- Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi recently said his team won’t be making any other major starting pitching signings, which worries Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times since he feels the rotation lacks depth beyond the top three of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu. On the other hand, Dilbeck wonders if Zaidi’s statement was tactical, similar to how the GM denied that Dee Gordon was being shopped just before Gordon was dealt to Miami.
- In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Tony Blengino describes Adam LaRoche signing with the White Sox as “a perfect marriage of club, player, ballpark and contract.” Using analyses of LaRoche’s swing and U.S. Cellular Field’s park factor, Blengino thinks the veteran first baseman could challenge for the AL homer crown if he stays healthy.
The Dodgers are about to sign Taiwanese righty Chin-hui Tsao, who hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2007 and hasn’t pitched professionally since 2009, when he was banned from Taiwan’s top league amidst allegations that he tried to help fix games. MLB has looked into Tsao’s case and allowed the Dodgers to pursue him, and that might be a mistake, Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown writes. Major League Baseball is typically very strict about the appearance of game-fixing (as Pete Rose’s situation suggests), and allowing Tsao to play, even on a minor-league deal, would set a strange precedent. Here are more notes from the NL West.
- Before today, there were already rumors about the possibility that the Rockies could trade Wilin Rosario, possibly to an American League team. After Colorado agreed to terms with fellow catcher Nick Hundley today, those rumors seemed ever more likely. But ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that the Rockies are telling interested parties that they will keep Rosario unless they’re blown away. Obviously, that could simply be a negotiating stance on the Rockies’ part. It seems unlikely that the Rockies would begin the season with Rosario, Hundley and Michael McKenry all on their active roster.
- Of all the extra outfielders in San Diego, it’s not surprising that the Padres traded Seth Smith first, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. Unlike some of San Diego’s other surplus outfielders, Smith had value in a trade (as the Padres’ acquisition of a power arm in Brandon Maurer suggests). Also, he was owed $13MM for the next two years despite having no clear role with the team.
- Smith doesn’t have a broad skill set, but given how good he is at hitting right-handed pitching, he’s an excellent fit for the Mariners, Paul Swydan of Fangraphs writes. And unlike many good hitters against righties, Smith plays outfield and isn’t incredibly costly.
- Still, the trade might not work out for Seattle, Christina Kahrl of ESPN.com writes. Smith is signed through 2016 (for $13MM, which isn’t prohibitive but also isn’t nothing for a part-time player) and might not hold up through age 33, while Maurer has plenty of upside and could benefit from joining up with PETCO Park and Bud Black. The Padres have gotten good value by acquiring pitchers like Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross in trades, and they might do so again with Maurer, meaning the Padres might be selling high and buying low.
- The Mariners don’t seem inclined to add another first baseman to back up Logan Morrison despite Morrison’s past injury issues, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. “We’re going to work real hard with Jesus Montero in spring training,” says GM Jack Zduriencik. “We’ve talked about the strides he’s made this winter. We’ll see if he’s a player or not.” Dutton adds that Brad Miller could be a factor at first if Chris Taylor wins the starting shortstop job.
The 32-year-old Smith (pictured) unquestionably had an excellent 2014 campaign, and his career year earned him a two-year $13MM extension in early July. He’s slated to earn $6MM in 2015, $6.75MM in 2016 and has a $7MM club option ($250K buyout) for the 2017 season. The Padres, at the time of the signing, assured Smith that he wouldn’t be traded after signing, but that assurance was made by different leadership; GM A.J. Preller was not in place yet at that time.
Preller has taken a dogged approach to acquiring talent via trades this offseason, successfully obtaining an entirely new outfield of Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp. Those three additions have left Smith without regular at-bats, and his inability to handle center field makes him a poor choice as a fourth outfielder. Thus, despite hitting a strong .266/.367/.440 with 12 homers, he found himself a frequently mentioned trade candidate. Smith’s strong production was the best of his career, especially considering that it came at Petco Park, but the new Padres front office may have been wary of his ability to repeat a career year.
In acquiring Smith, the Mariners have netted a platoon partner for fellow trade acquisition Justin Ruggiano. Smith’s platoon problems are well known; he’s a lifetime .205/.291/.314 hitter against fellow lefties, but he’s crushed right-handers to the tune of a .277/.358/.481 batting line. That will pair well with Ruggiano’s .288/.357/.569 triple slash against southpaws over the past three seasons.
Upon first glance Maurer’s stats aren’t particularly appealing, but the 24-year-old became a different pitcher upon moving to the bullpen midway through the season. Maurer’s heater averaged better than 95 mph as a reliever, and he posted a 2.17 ERA with a 38-to-5 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings out of the Seattle ‘pen in 2014.
The Padres’ pursuit of Maurer has been ongoing for about a year, tweets Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Some within the organization feel he could return to a starting role, though the Padres likely will rely on Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy atop their rotation, with a combination of Robbie Erlin, Odrisamer Despaigne, Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson (once his deal is finalized) fighting for the final two spots. San Diego will control Maurer through the 2019 season, and he won’t be eligible for arbitration for another two years.
Maurer is the second arm acquired by the Padres to deepen the bullpen this week, as the Friars struck a deal to acquire Shawn Kelley from the Yankees yesterday. Maurer and Kelley will give manager Bud Black a pair of strikeout arms to add to a bullpen that already featured Joaquin Benoit, Kevin Quackenbush, Nick Vincent, Dale Thayer and Alex Torres. That creates a deep and formidable bullpen, though we of course shouldn’t rule out that possibility that Preller will deal some of those arms in further trades. Benoit, in particular, seems like a possible trade candidate to me, given his $8MM salary and the presence of other closing options in the Padres’ bullpen.
Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN in Seattle was the first to report that a trade of Smith to the Mariners was close (Twitter link). USA Today’s Bob Nightengale first mentioned Maurer’s possible involvement in the deal (on Twitter). ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported that the swap was complete (on Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
4:30pm: Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune hears from officials with both clubs that a trade is indeed close, but the Mariners are pushing to include a reliever other than Maurer, for whom the Padres are strongly pushing in talks.
12:03pm: The Mariners are close to a trade for Padres outfielder Seth Smith, Shannon Drayer of 710AM ESPN in Seattle tweets. The Padres are trying to get righty Brandon Maurer for Smith, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets.
The Padres, of course, have a surplus of outfielders after their recent string of trades for Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers, and the Mariners lost out on Melky Cabrera and have been known to be looking for outfield help, so a trade involving Smith would appear to make sense for both sides. The lefty Smith would fit well in right field, where the Mariners can use a platoon partner for the newly acquired Justin Ruggiano.
Smith, 32, is coming off a strong season for San Diego in which he hit .266/.367/.440, and in July, the Padres’ previous management signed Smith to a two-year, $13MM extension with a club option for 2017. After that, though, Smith tailed off in the second half, and in any case, the Padres’ current glut of outfielders makes him an obvious trade candidate — Kemp, Upton and Myers are all arguably best best utilized in the corner outfield spots, and Smith has played exclusively corner outfield in the Majors since 2008.
Maurer, 24, had a 4.65 ERA in 2014, but with fairly good peripherals (7.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9) and a big fastball (averaging 94.4 MPH). Maurer also got much better results pitching in relief (9.2 K/9, 1.2 BB/9) than starting. If the trade is completed, he could compete for the Padres’ fifth starter job, but he might ultimately be best suited for relief. He also has fly ball tendencies, which could make him a good fit for PETCO Park.
Here’s the latest from the American League:
- The Mariners still have their eye on Padres outfielder Seth Smith, writes Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. However, it’s unclear if San Diego is eager to move Smith. Along with Will Venable, Smith is one of just two left-handed outfielders on San Diego’s 40-man roster. While the club is still expected to trade one of them, there remain several factors in play. Divish also hears that offers have been made by Seattle for Smith.
- After today’s trade of Shawn Kelley, the Yankees appear to have 11 candidates for two bullpen jobs, writes Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. Kuty assumes the club will attempt to identify a long reliever and a spring standout to fill the spots. Chase Whitley, Bryan Mitchell, and Manny Banuelos are the top candidates for to fill in as long reliever. Of those who may be given a chance to surprise in spring training, 2014 draft Jacob Lindgren is perhaps the most interesting. Across four levels, Lindgren struck out 48 batters in 25 innings last season. He’s yet to pitch above Double-A and isn’t on the 40-man roster, so he should still be viewed as a long shot.
- The A’s could be among the clubs interested in 30-year-old Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, opines John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group. Oakland has few internal options at second base beyond Eric Sogard. Meanwhile, Olivera hit .316/.412/.474 in the Serie Nacional last season. After returning from an injury that caused him to miss the previous season, Olivera spent the majority of his time at designated hitter. He has yet to establish residency in another country, making a spring training debut doubtful. Clubs expect Olivera to hold an open showcase once the residency issue is resolved.
The Mariners have unfinished business heading into the new year, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. They’ll need to find a platoon partner for righty Justin Ruggiano in right field, with Seth Smith of the Padres as one possibility. They could also move Brad Miller to the outfield if he loses the shortstop job to Chris Taylor. The M’s could also find a catcher in the Humberto Quintero mold to provide depth at Triple-A Tacoma. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Signing Robinson Cano to a $240MM contract last offseason helped the Mariners press the reset button, Dutton writes. Led by Cano and their pitching staff, the Mariners improved by 16 games in 2014, although they just missed the last AL Wild Card berth.
- The remainder of the offseason could feature plenty of trades for outfielders, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. The Phillies, Reds, Rays, Padres, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Indians and Angels could all have outfielders available, with about the same number of teams looming as potential buyers. Still, it might take time for the market to resolve itself — the key to the outfield market could be the rumors about the Padres trading a package centered around Wil Myers to the Phillies for Cole Hamels, and that might not be resolved until Max Scherzer and James Shields sign.
- Pirates reliever John Holdzkom has been released “five or six” times, he tells MLB.com’s Tom Singer. Some of those releases were no doubt even more depressing than such transactions usually might be. “I got released without the team even calling me. I looked on the Internet and saw my name next to ‘Transactions’ — five days before I was supposed to report,” says Holdzkom. “Yeah, that was bad.” And that team wasn’t even a Major League organization, but the independent Laredo Lemurs. Holdzkom emerged seemingly from out of nowhere to become a key part of the Pittsburgh bullpen down the stretch in 2014.
- The Indians‘ signings of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn haven’t worked out so far, at least not from a baseball perspective. But they were still the right moves, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. The signings prevented a big drop in the Indians’ season-ticket sales and helped them increase revenues while also helping make them more relevant. Bourn’s presence also allowed Michael Brantley to move to left field.
- Infielder Rafael Furcal has a torn hamstring and will miss Winter League playoffs in the Dominican, Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes.com tweets. Furcal had hamstring issues in the 2014 regular seasona and only made 37 plate appearances with the Marlins, so this latest injury could affect his attempt to come back next season.
The Orioles are still talking with the Padres about the possibility of dealing for a piece of San Diego’s overstocked outfield, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. Left-handed hitters Seth Smith and Will Venable are the two names that have drawn the most interest from Baltimore, Encina adds.
For their part, the Padres have asked about young arms Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy — a common target for teams eyeing the O’s system — but that appears to be a non-starter. Baltimore has already shown it will not rush to fill in for the losses of Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, and Encina notes that the Padres are not exactly flush with leverage given their readily apparent logjam.
Though both Smith and Venable are most useful against right-handed pitching, Encina says that the O’s are content to combine such a player with another bat in a platoon. The club has long been said to be interested in a reunion with Delmon Young, for instance, and he would presumably be a candidate for that sort of role. Of course, Baltimore recently tendered a contract to Alejandro De Aza and owns the rights to David Lough, and adding a new left-handed-hitting outfielder would almost certainly push one or both of those players off the roster.
After reaching agreement on their deal to acquire Wil Myers, the Padres are likely to keep trading, and Seth Smith is one player who might be moved, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. As Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan notes, the Padres have a huge number of outfielders, with Myers, Smith, Matt Kemp, Will Venable, Cameron Maybin, Abraham Almonte, Rymer Liriano and Carlos Quentin.
Assuming the Kemp trade goes through as planned (which doesn’t appear entirely certain at this point), Smith’s role with the Padres, in particular, would seem to be open to question. Smith and Myers are almost exclusively corner outfielders, and while Kemp is nominally a center fielder, he is very weak defensively there, so an outfield headlined by those three players would leave the Padres vulnerable. Smith, though, was one of the Padres’ few effective offensive players last season, hitting .266/.367/.440 in 521 plate appearances and earning a two-year extension in July. Following that extension, Smith faded in the second half, hitting .243/.340/.346 after batting .283/.387/.508 in the first.