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Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Cardinals have outrighted right-hander Keith Butler off the team’s 40-man roster, according to the MLB.com transactions page. St. Louis has also released center fielder Shane Robinson. The 25-year-old Butler has yet to establish himself in the bigs, but has been quite good in the upper minors. Robinson, 30, has seen his role reduced and was no longer a valuable piece for a Cardinals club that just picked up Jason Heyward.
- The Nationals have released catcher Jhonatan Solano, also per MLB.com. Solano, the older brother of Marlins second baseman Donovan Solano, has seen minimal big league time over the past two years and did not have a clear role in the organization moving forward.
- The Indians announced that they’ve re-signed right-handers Shaun Marcum and Dustin Molleken to minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training. Marcum, 33 next month, was of course a fixture in the Blue Jays and Brewers rotations from 2007-12, though he dealt with his share of injuries in that time. Still, he posted a 3.67 ERA in 830 1/3 innings in that span before thoracic outlet syndrome in 2013 required surgery and has kept him on the shelf since. He did make it back to a minor league mound with Cleveland last season, posting a 2.35 ERA in 15 1/3 Triple-A innings in August.
- Molleken, 30, made 54 relief appearances for Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate last season and posted big strikeout numbers but also struggled with his command, to an extent. In 74 1/3 innings, he pitched to a 4.84 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9.
- The Pirates have signed a familiar name to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training in the form of Brad Lincoln, per the club’s transactions page. Lincoln was selected fourth overall by the Bucs in 2006. He struggled through the early portion of his career but got off to a good start as a reliever in 2012 and was flipped to the Blue Jays for the man who was drafted 10 picks after him in ’06 — Travis Snider. Toronto would eventually deal Lincoln to the Phillies for Erik Kratz and Rob Rasmussen. Lincoln struggled with Philly but had success in Pittsburgh and Toronto, posting a 3.76 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 119 2/3 innings from 2012-13.
- The Pirates also announced a host of other signings, including righties Collin Balester, Blake Wood, and Deolis Guerra, lefty Jeremy Bleich, and shortstop Gustavo Nunez.
- The Twins have re-signed infielder/outfielder Eric Farris to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training, reports 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson (on Twitter). The 28-year-old hit .280/.316/.356 with Minnesota’s Triple-A affiliate last season, playing primarily center field.
The Tigers' best way to address their shortstop issue is to try an internal option, like Danny Worth, then reevaluate the matter if Worth struggles, MLive.com's James Schmehl writes. At that point, if Stephen Drew is still a free agent, the Tigers could call agent Scott Boras. Schmehl also doesn't think the Tigers should pay a high price for the Diamondbacks' Chris Owings when the injured Jose Iglesias remains their shortstop of the future. Drew was the top option in an MLBTR readers poll earlier today, as over 37% of voters felt that the Tigers will ultimately just sign the veteran shortstop to replace Iglesias.
Here are more notes from around the AL Central…
- The Phillies and Cubs were among the many teams who had scouts watching the Tigers' minor leaguers in action on Wednesday, MLB.com's Jason Beck reports. Earlier today, we heard that the Tigers were scouting Darwin Barney and Nate Schierholtz of the Cubs to address their holes at short and left field, respectively.
- Shaun Marcum would like to stay in the Indians organization even if he doesn't make their rotation, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets. Marcum can opt out of his deal if he does not make the team out of spring training. Marcum was supposed to compete for the Indians' fifth starter job, but he has fallen behind as he has continued to recover from thoracic outlet syndrome and is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season.
- The Pirates have reportedly been shopping outfielder Jose Tabata, but the Twins are probably not among the interested teams, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets.
- The Twins' final roster decisions are being complicated by both a number of out-of-options players and the fact that several players competing for jobs simply haven't performed well at Spring Training, MLB.com's Andrew Simon reports. "Nobody's really stepped up to try to earn the spots, and that's a bad feeling when you're looking at giving spots away," Twins assistant GM Mark Antony told reporters, including Simon.
MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth also contributed to this post
6:31pm: The deal allows Marcum to opt out if he does not make the team out of spring training, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets. If he makes the team, he would receive a $1M salary with $3MM in incentives.
Marcum, 32, signed a one-year deal with the Mets last offseason. The oft-injured righty began the 2013 campaign on the disabled list due to a pinched nerve in his neck but made his season debut in late April. His season would be cut short, however, when it was learned that he would require surgery on his right shoulder as a result of thoracic outlet syndrome.
Marcum ultimately posted a 5.29 ERA with 6.9 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 34.9 percent ground-ball rate in 78 1/3 innings in his lone season with the Mets. That ERA was likely inflated, to some extent, by his .322 BABIP (compared to his career mark of .275) and an abnormally low 61.9 percent strand rate — trends that are reflected in his 3.64 FIP.
Cleveland projects to have Justin Masterson, Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister in its rotation, so Marcum will presumably compete for the fifth spot in the rotation come Spring Training. Despite last season's struggles, Marcum owns a 3.88 career ERA in 995 big league innings, so he brings some upside to Cleveland.
The Tigers have discussed trading Austin Jackson to the Yankees in exchange for Brett Gardner, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports. Both players have been above-average fielders in center over their careers and have comparable career batting lines, though Gardner is a better base-stealer and Jackson has more doubles pop. Jackson turns 27 in February, is projected to earn $5.3MM in his second year of arbitration eligibility and he'll hit free agency after the 2015 season; the 30-year-old Gardner is projected to earn $4MM and he'll be a free agent next winter. I'm not sure this deal makes sense for the Tigers unless they don't think they can sign Jackson (a Scott Boras client) to an extension, or if they aren't interested in extending Jackson. From the Yankees' side, they like Gardner enough that they probably wouldn't move him for a very similar player, albeit a younger one.
Here are some more items from all five AL Central franchises…
- The Twins have increased the value of their two-year offer to Mike Pelfrey from $10MM to $12MM, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The Rangers and Giants have also shown interest in Pelfrey, Neal reports.
- Also from Neal, the stumbling block between Matt Garza and the Twins seems to be Garza's demands for a four- or five-year contract, as Minnesota isn't willing to make that long a commitment due to injury concerns. That said, Neal isn't counting the Twins out of the Garza race yet as he hears the team is still in the hunt (Twitter links). You can read more about the Twins' hunt for pitching here.
- The Royals could continue to shop Billy Butler since "Before too long, the DH spot has to be a rotating position for us. It really does," a club official tells Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. For one, the Royals may use Salvador Perez at DH to keep his bat in the lineup when he isn't catching, plus added DH days would help keep Perez healthy. Even if Butler isn't dealt this offseason, Dutton doesn't believe the Royals will sign him to an extension once his current deal is up. It was reported earlier today that Butler's name had come up in trade talks with the Blue Jays.
- The Royals, Indians and Rangers are among the teams interested in Shaun Marcum, ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets. Marcum underwent surgery to correct his thoracic outlet syndrome in July and his agent updated MLBTR's Tim Dierkes on the recovery process last month.
- The White Sox are looking to cut their payroll from just under $119MM in 2013 to between $89MM-$99MM range for 2014, ESPN Chicago's Doug Padilla writes, with the $99MM figure being the likelier of the two. Despite the cuts on the Major League side, GM Rick Hahn said the club will reinvest the saved money into extra spending on the draft and international signings.
- In other AL Central news from earlier today, the Tigers reached an agreement with Joba Chamberlain and the Indians were battling with the Padres over Joaquin Benoit.
Shaun Marcum's Mets career came to a close in July of this year, when he had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). Marcum's recovery is progressing well, agent Rex Gary tells MLBTR, and he'll be on his normal offseason throwing program in the coming months. The righty, 32 in December, is expected to be ready for spring training.
TOS is a condition caused when the blood vessels or nerves between the collarbone and first rib become compressed. In Marcum's case, numbness and coldness in his pitching hand was affecting his ability to grip the baseball, Mets assistant GM John Ricco told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.
Limited to 124 innings in 2012 due to an elbow injury, Marcum signed a one-year deal with the Mets for $4MM guaranteed in January of this year. He tossed 78 1/3 innings for the Mets in 2013, posting a 5.29 ERA.
Marcum, 31, pitched to a 5.29 ERA in 78 1/3 innings with 6.9 K/9, 2.4 K/9 and a 34.9 percent ground-ball rate for the Mets. He signed a one-year, $4MM contract with the Mets this offseason that contained an additional $4MM worth of incentives. Though his ERA was unsightly, Marcum's 3.63 FIP suggests that he pitched more effectively than his ERA suggested.
Injuries have long plagued Marcum, who has topped 200 innings just once in his career. When he's on the field, however, he's typically been very effective. In 995 career innings, Marcum has a 3.88 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 despite featuring a fastball that has averaged less than 88 mph dating back to 2007. Marcum underwent surgery on July 15 that likely ended his season.
Free agent and former Giants closer Brian Wilson has been training in Hawaii and could pitch for scouts near the beginning of August, ESPN's Buster Olney tweets. Wilson had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and has not pitched since last April. Here are more notes from around the National League.
- Giants outfielder Hunter Pence told Jim Bowden on Sirius XM MLB Network Radio (via Twitter) that while the club hasn't made him an offer in the last two months, he enjoys playing in San Francisco and would like to stay there. Pence avoided arbitration with the Giants prior to this season by agreeing to a one-year, $13.8MM deal and will be eligible for free agency for the first time this winter.
- Cubs outfielder David DeJesus' recent injury means he's unlikely to be headed out of Chicago by the trading deadline, and he's just fine with that, the Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer reports. "I love Chicago. I love playing here," says DeJesus. "[I]f I can be a part of the team chancing over and bringing the winning feeling to Chicago … We’ve been playing some good baseball the last month. I want to be a part of it."
- Mets offseason acquisition Shaun Marcum will be shut down for the season due to an issue with his pitching hand, according to a report from Ed Coleman of WFAN that has been confirmed by Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com (on Twitter). Even though the signing didn't pay off for the Mets, Rubin recently explained that incentives in the deal would have cost the club even more if he continued to pitch.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Earlier today it was reported that the MLBPA has officially certified Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports to represent players. Roc Nation Sports, of course, will handle Robinson Cano's contract discussions with the Yankees (and other clubs if he reaches free agency). Here's the latest out of the Big Apple…
- Right-hander Chris Bootcheck has been placed on waivers after being designated for assignment by the Yankees on Tuesday, MLBTR's Chris Cotillo has learned. The waivers expire at 1 PM EST on Friday, at which point Bootcheck will learn if he has been claimed by a team or has cleared. If he clears waivers, he will likely be outrighted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he has posted a 5-2 record and 3.32 ERA in 11 starts on the season.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that Jay-Z's certification allows him to be in the room during negotiations, but little else will change. CAA's Brodie Van Wagenen will still run point on all of the negotiations.
- Removing Shaun Marcum from the rotation would actually save the Mets money instead of costing them money, writes ESPN's Adam Rubin. While some feel that his $4MM base salary is a reason to keep him in the rotation, Rubin provides a breakdown of Marcum's incentives in showing that the more Marcum pitches, the more costly he becomes.
- Danny Knobler of CBS Sports spoke with a pair of scouts who watched Matt Harvey on Tuesday, and both said they would take Harvey over Stephen Strasburg, with one scout saying it's "not even close." Knobler's scouts weren't as optimistic about Zack Wheeler, with one saying that he should still be in Triple-A and another calling him a middle-of-the-rotation arm, likening him to Edwin Jackson.
Let's start the last weekend in April with some notes from the National League:
- As expected, offseason acquisition Shaun Marcum has been activated to make his first start for the Mets today, the team announced via Twitter. In a corresponding move, the team optioned 26-year-old lefty Josh Edgin to the minors, where he will try to sort out his poor start to the year. The Mets hope that Marcum, who came to New York on a one-year, $4MM deal, can stabilize the back of the team's rotation. While Matt Harvey has been lights out and Jon Niese has been solid, the remaining Mets starters have combined to allow well over five earned runs per nine innings.
- Even with the mixed results from the team's starting staff, the Mets have gotten off to a fairly promising start. Meanwhile, the Nationals and Phillies have failed to live up to expectations in the early going. While acknowledging it is a long shot, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post looks at what it would take for the Mets to seize any opening should the Nats and Phils continue to underperform. Many variables would have to break right for the Mets, says Davidoff. The club must hold things together and hope that Travis d'Arnaud and Zack Wheeler arrive mid-summer, ready to contribute. (Of course, the d'Arnaud side of this already looks unlikely given his approximately two-month injury timetable.) If that happens, the Mets will face a test of their asserted willingness to take on salary — and/or even deal young talent — to make a run at a postseason appearance.
- In the midst of what MLBTR's Mark Polishuk calls a make or break year, Giants starter Tim Lincecum has put together two consecutive quality starts. As Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com writes, last night Lincecum struck out nine Padres over seven innings, allowing just two runs. Lincecum, who currently stands ninth in Tim Dierkes's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, had struggled mightily in his first three outings. While he still ranks among baseball's worst in BB/9 (5.16), Lincecum has raised his strikeout rate to 9.71 K/9.
- The Cardinals are not currently looking outside the organization to supplement their bullpen, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. While the club waits to learn the fate of injured closer Jason Motte, it has been rewarded for handing larger roles to Edward Mujica and Joe Kelly. GM John Mozeliak says that, while he is open to looking at the trade market, "that would not be in the near future."
- Morosi also addressed the subject of Braves outfielder Justin Upton, wondering why exactly the Diamondbacks decided to trade him. While Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick publicly called Upton "an enigma," and manager Kirk Gibson purportedly did not see eye-to-eye with the young slugger, Morosi says there was no single moment that apparently caused a rift. In case you missed it, Upton is off to something of a solid start for his new ballclub.
Outfielder Ryan Ludwick injured his right shoulder in the Reds' season opener and will need surgery. The Reds could promote Derrick Robinson or Denis Phipps to take Ludwick's place on the roster, Jon Fay of Cincinnati.com writes. Chris Heisey will take the bulk of Ludwick's playing time in left, so that makes an option like prospect Donald Lutz somewhat unlikely, since the Reds might prefer that he play every day. The Reds appear to have enough depth to avoid pursuing an option from outside the organization. Ludwick re-signed with the Reds for two years and $15MM in December. Here are more notes from around the National League.
- Pitcher Shaun Marcum is on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis, and the Mets will need to add another starting pitcher, ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin contends (on Twitter). Chris Young, who pitched 115 innings for the Mets in 2012, is a free agent after being released by the Nationals, but the Mets did not appear interested (Twitter link) in Young several days ago, and as yet there have been no indications that Marcum's injury changes their stance.
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers guarantees his team will win at least 90 games, Dan Bickley of AZCentral.com reports. "In 2011, I put down 85 and we won 94. Last year, I had 89 (wins) and we won 81," Towers says. "But I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve got a pretty good idea. I guarantee it’s going to start with a nine." The Diamondbacks are coming off an offseason filled with what Bickley calls "debatable, combustible maneuvers," including the trades of Justin Upton and Trevor Bauer.