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Jason Heyward got off to a slow start with the Cardinals but he posted a .960 OPS and five home runs over 100 plate appearances from May 27 to June 27. As Heyward tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the improvement came in no small part due to intensive work on his swing, and it seems like things are finally clicking for the right fielder. If Heyward can keep this hot hitting going throughout the season, it will send his free agent value soaring; MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes has speculated that if Heyward could land a $200MM contract if he delivers a big season and proves he can be a consistent force at the plate. Here’s some more from around baseball as we head into the new week…
- The Brewers haven’t told inquiring clubs that they’re not trading Jean Segura, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, but the team would clearly want a lot in return for the shortstop. Haudricourt ranks Milwaukee’s roster in terms of likely trade targets, and the only seeming untouchables being Jonathan Lucroy and young arms like Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers, Jimmy Nelson and others.
- Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle believes that the Giants‘ top priorities heading into trade season are fixing the bench, improving the outfield if Hunter Pence and Nori Aoki have longer-term injuries, and addressing the rotation. He adds that while it seems like San Francisco needs to dabble in the market for a front of the rotation starter, it might be too tall of an order. Over the weekend, Giants GM Bobby Evans acknowledged that it could be hard to pull off a deal for a high-end starter given the team’s glut of pitchers with limited trade value.
- Phillies prospect Tommy Joseph is being shifted from catcher to first base, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reports. Multiple concussions and a wrist injury limited Joseph to just 63 total games in 2013-14, and after suffering another concussion this season, the decision was made to end Joseph’s catching career for the sake of his health. The Giants drafted Joseph in the second round of the 2009 draft and he came to Philadelphia as part of the Hunter Pence trade package.
- The Padres may “take a more measured approach” to their spending when the July 2 international market opens, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. The Padres are already scouting the 2016-17 international class and may be looking to spend more heavily next year when several big-market teams will be under bonus penalties and out of the market for the top prospects.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe pit Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts against Tigers shorstop Jose Iglesias. Of course, Boston once had both, but Iglesias was shipped out in 2013 in a three-team deal that brought Jake Peavy to Fenway. Bogaerts offers more potential as a hitter, but Iglesias clearly has the superior glove. That difference in the field never made Bogaerts doubt himself, however.
“No, that’s just a guy who’s really gifted beyond anyone else,” Bogaerts said. “I just paid attention to trying to get better. I never compared myself to him because you can’t compare anyone to him. He’s a great defensive player and flashy.”
More from today’s column..
- The same teams that are pursuing Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz are going after White Sox hurler Jeff Samardzija. That list of teams includes the Royals, Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays, Yankees, Cardinals, Orioles, Angels, and Dodgers, according to Cafardo. Late last week, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the Astros are also interested in Samardzija. Meanwhile, at this time, the Red Sox reportedly are not interested in moving Buchholz.
- The Astros are a team to watch in July as they could get very aggressive in their pursuit of a starter. Cafardo hears that the Astros have been evaluating Reds pitchers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake quite a bit. Cole Hamels obviously stands as one of the biggest prizes out there, but Cafardo feels he likely wouldn’t sign off on a trade to Houston. Over the weekend, Hamels indicated that he would be “open-minded” to being traded to any team.
- Giants GM Bobby Evans told Cafardo that his club is out of the starting pitching market for now thanks to the upcoming returns of Matt Cain and Jake Peavy.
- The Phillies would like to sell off their pieces little by little rather than make a ton of deals right at the deadline. However, Cafardo hears that teams aren’t coming to the table with actual offers yet, leaving the Phillies frustrated.
- Baseball execs who spoke with Cafardo say the Mets are still the best match for Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. A package for Tulo could start with left-hander Steven Matz, who makes his big league debut today.
- Even at his advanced age, one NL evaluator feels that Phillies veteran Carlos Ruiz is still “a better option than “more than 50 percent of the catchers in the league.”
- Some teams are concerned with Hamels’ poor performance in interleague play while others see it just as a fluky thing. Hamels has a career 4.73 ERA across 31 interleague starts.
Full Story | 20 Comments | Categories: Baltimore Orioles | Bobby Evans | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Ruiz | Chicago White Sox | Cincinnati Reds | Clay Buchholz | Cole Hamels | Colorado Rockies | Detroit Tigers | Houston Astros | Jake Peavy | Jeff Samardzija | Johnny Cueto | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Matt Cain | Mike Leake | Minnesota Twins | New York Mets | New York Yankees | Philadelphia Phillies | San Francisco Giants | St. Louis Cardinals | Steven Matz | Toronto Blue Jays | Troy Tulowitzki
Giancarlo Stanton‘s injury is a loss for baseball as a whole, and the first domino likely to fall as a result is that the Marlins will become sellers, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The team should trade free-agents-to-be Dan Haren and Mat Latos. Infielder Martin Prado is also worth watching if he can prove his shoulder is healthy by the deadline, and he might make sense for the Mets, since he can play multiple positions and provide an insurance policy at third base. Prado’s versatility could make him an attractive target for many other teams as well, Sherman suggests. Here’s more from the National League.
- Dee Gordon has blossomed with the Marlins, but the seeds of his growth this season had already been planted before his 2014 season with the Dodgers, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register writes. “I was terrible for two years. No one has to provide any fire for me. The chip on my shoulder is self-inflicted,” he says. After struggling in 2012 and 2013, Gordon seemed to hit his stride last season, but this year, he’s been outright brilliant, currently leading the NL in batting average (.356) and hits (110). Dodgers manager Don Mattingly says he thinks Gordon might have been somewhat motivated by the Dodgers trading him to Miami last winter, but that doesn’t bother Mattingly. “He doesn’t seem vengeful or anything,” says Mattingly. “I hope when he plays San Francisco or Colorado or Arizona or San Diego that he’s really motivated to show us.”
- More than four months after the FBI seized computers from the Cardinals while investigating their hacking scandal, the team is still waiting for the fallout, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. At this point, there’s no indication that owner Bill DeWitt, GM John Mozeliak, or any other top brass were involved. “I’m not beating myself up, because I feel I haven’t done anything wrong,” says Mozeliak. “I beat myself up because I feel the organization has taken a black eye and I feel bad for that. And I feel bad because the (front-office) team we’ve assembled might be broken up.” Commissioner Rob Manfred could punish the Cardinals with fines, suspensions or lost draft picks, Strauss writes, although there’s little to no chance the team would be denied postseason eligibility.
Yesterday, we noted (via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) that the Cardinals have signed third baseman and second-round pick Bryce Denton. Today, MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets that Denton will receive $1.2MM, significantly above the $935,400 pool value for the No. 66 pick. Denton had been committed to Vanderbilt.
ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Denton the No. 67 prospect in the draft, while MLB.com rated him 74th. Baseball America ranked him 95th, noting that he has good raw power and bat speed but could eventually move to one of the corner outfield positions.
Via MLB.com’s Signing and Bonus Tracker, Denton is the fourth over-slot signing the Cardinals have made in the first ten rounds, also reaching for Comp Round A pick Jake Woodford, supplemental pick Jordan Hicks and eighth-rounder Ian Oxnevad. Cardinals top pick Nick Plummer‘s bonus fell right in line with MLB’s recommendations, with the Cards instead finding dollars for their over-slot signings in part by drafting three college seniors elsewhere in the top ten rounds.
Let’s wrap up some notable recent draft signings to close out the day. Slot values, as always, are courtesy of Baseball America.
- We already noted that Rockies second-rounder Peter Lambert had signed, and now Jim Callis of MLB.com tweets that he’ll earn $1,495,000 to forego his commitment to UCLA. That’s just shy of a full $100K above the slot value for the 44th choice. A projectable right-hander, Lambert was rated a top-fifty draft-eligible player by both Baseball America and MLB.com.
- The Astros have agreed to terms with second-round choice and 46th overall pick Thomas Eshelman, Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston reports on Twitter. The Cal State-Fullerton righty says he’ll formally sign next week. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs had Eshelman as the 54th player on his pre-draft board, while others were somewhat less optimistic. Baseball America rated him 126th, explaining that Eshelman has exceptional command but lacks outstanding pure stuff.
- The Astros have also announced the signing of TCU righty Riley Ferrell, as Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle first reported on Twitter. He’ll get a $1MM bonus from the club, per Jim Callis of MLB.com (via Twitter). MLB.com liked him as the 45th-best draft prospect, noting that the TCU closer has a big fastball-slider combination that could make him a big league contributor from the pen in short order.
- The Cardinals are in agreement with second-round pick Bryce Denton, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Denton had been committed to Vanderbilt, but is just a physical away from becoming a professional. ESPN.com’s Keith Law rated Denton 68th coming into the draft, noting that he has enhanced his outlook with improved strength and conditioning. Law says that the Tennessee high schooler is likely to play in the corner outfield as a pro, and could ultimately possess both a high-contact and powerful bat if he develops.
- Rays third-round second baseman Brandon Lowe has agreed to terms on an unspecified bonus, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune reports on Twitter. Lowe was taken 87th overall, which came with a $676,900 slot value. The University of Maryland product ranked as high as 92nd in pre-draft rankings, with that tab coming from Law, who profiles him as a very good hitter with below-average power and solid-but-not-spectacular overall defensive ability.
- The Nationals have agreed to a $500K bonus with 13th-round pick Max Schrock, Callis tweets, That’s the highest bonus yet given to a post-tenth-round selection, Callis adds. As I noted recently, Washington had freed a significant amount of cash with its previously reported signings, and $400K of that will go to add the South Carolina second baseman, who Baseball America rated 282nd overall based on his strong bat.
Giants GM Bobby Evans has succeeded with subtly bold action, as Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News writes in an interesting feature on the recently promoted executive. If you’re interested in learning how exactly one can make it to the top echelons of baseball decisionmaking without a professional playing career or other “in” to get you there, this is essential reading. Now 46, Evans got his start with an internship, worked in the commissioner’s office, and then jumped on an opportunity to join the San Francisco organization as a minor league administrative assistant. “He was very eager, obviously an intelligent kid, he had the intern experience in Boston and the commissioner’s office, and quite frankly, he was single and wide-eyed and willing to put the hours in,” said former Giants GM and current executive VP of operations Brian Sabean of Evans’s start with the club. “That’s half the battle. You have to be willing to punch the clock, and put up with the demands.” 21 years and a lot of hard work later, Evans was given the general manager’s chair as Sabean moved to a more senior post.
Here’s more from the National League:
- As it investigates Cardinals employees’ improper access of the Astros‘ computer system, the FBI is still working to determine precisely which personnel were responsible for the breach, Michael Schmidt of the New York Times reports. Per the report, the focus is on “a small group of Cardinals employees who specialize in statistical analysis and computer programming and had access to a computer in a residence” in Jupiter, Florida last spring. Given the potential criminal ramifications, several individuals under investigation have obtained representation, which necessarily constrains the fact-finding process. It appears that the intrusion came from a commonly-used computer, as the report indicates that a significant part of the puzzle involves the questions of when and for how long various Cardinals employees were utilizing a single machine around the time that the Astros’ databases were accessed.
- Though a lawsuit against the Cardinals by the Astros is not likely given the league rules barring such an action, and fines are capped at $2MM, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes that the Cards could still face significant financial exposure. Namely, commissioner Rob Manfred could function as an arbitrator to award damages should Houston seek to prove that it suffered harm due to the actions of the St. Louis employees (and the public exposure of the information).
- The Mets shortstop saga may have a new chapter, as the team appears likely to move Wilmer Flores to second base when Daniel Murphy is activated from the DL, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports. In that scenario, Murphy would play third (in place of David Wright), while Ruben Tejada would slide in at short for at least some time with Dilson Herrera moving to the bench. Hypothetically, of course, the club could seek an outside addition to take over for Flores while keeping his bat in the lineup at second. But it’s far from clear whether that is a realistic or wise option for the New York front office, particularly with the team sliding of late.
- Chase Utley‘s DL stint for a nagging ankle injury came as something of a surprise to Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports. “In my communication with Chase throughout the season about playing he’s always been up and willing to go and no real reports of anything holding him back, so I was a little bit surprised by it in some regards,” Sandberg said. The skipper’s reaction is at least potentially notable because of the delicate situation that seems to be playing itself out in Philly. Sandberg had increasingly turned to Cesar Hernandez at second, but it has remained unclear what strategic direction the organization was taking with Utley, one of the faces of the team’s last great run. The veteran is already halfway (249/500 plate appearances) to triggering a $15MM vesting clause for next year. Given his recent injury history and marked production downturn this year, it would obviously behoove the club to avoid that obligation, but doing so will likely require some deft handling.
In his latest notes column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal begins with an interesting note on the Nationals. Despite a substantial payroll and a heavy offseason investment in Max Scherzer, Nats ownership is reluctant to add payroll during the season. Rosenthal notes that, in hindsight, we saw an indication of this last July when Cleveland paid all of the $3.3MM remaining on Asdrubal Cabrera‘s salary after the Nats acquired him. (Of course, the Nats were also willing to take on all of Matt Thornton‘s salary via waiver claim.)
Because of this, Rosenthal wonders if the Nats will consider trading Ian Desmond this summer to clear room for a different acquisition. Given Desmond’s struggles, the team could be better off with Danny Espinosa, Yunel Escobar and Anthony Rendon seeing regular time in the infield. Earlier in the week, I speculated on a possible Desmond trade after it was reported that the Nats were interesred in the D-Backs’ middle infielders, but Rosenthal notes that it could also allow them more flexibility to pursue Aroldis Chapman, Ben Zobrist or even a reunion with Tyler Clippard. Of course, Desmond’s offensive and defensive woes diminish his trade value, as well.
A few more highlights from Rosenthal’s column…
- Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart tells Rosenthal that he usually doesn’t pay attention to media criticism, but he’s aware of the near-universal criticism of the D-Backs for their trade of Touki Toussaint (in which the team essentially sold its 2014 first-round pick to Atlanta). Rosenthal quotes Stewart: “The truth is we did not know what Touki’s value would be if we shopped him. There is a lot of speculation on that. People are assuming it would have been better, but we don’t know. There was an opportunity to make a deal that gave us more flexibility today as well as next year. We took that opportunity. It’s tough to say we could have gotten more. He was drafted at No. 16, given ($2.7) million. In my opinion, that’s his value.” Stewart continues to say that Toussaint has not thrown 96 mph with the D-Backs, despite some scouting reports and that there’s “some inflation of what people think Touki is.” Stewart adds that the D-Backs think Toussaint will be a Major League pitcher but not for another five to six years.
- A brief interjection from me to offer my take on those comments: It’s odd to hear a GM openly devalue a player in this fashion, even after trading him away. Beyond that, however, it’s puzzling to hear Stewart equate Toussaint’s value with the clearly arbitrary number assigned to last year’s draft slot value. Having shown a willingness to spend $16MM+ on a pitching prospect (Yoan Lopez) this offseason, Stewart is undoubtedly cognizant of the fact that Toussaint would have fetched far, far more than $2.7MM in a theoretical free agent setting. Additionally, if they truly do feel that Toussaint will pitch in the Major Leagues, that makes the trade all the more puzzling to me, as my best explanation to this point had been that they simply didn’t believe in his future all that strongly.
- Back to Rosenthal’s piece, which has several more quotes from Stewart, including the GM’s own admission of surprise to his team’s current standing in the NL West. The D-Backs were built with an eye on the longer-term picture than 2015, says Stewart, and they’ll need to assess how to respond at the deadline. To this point, the D-Backs have received inquiries on their starting pitching, but not on their middle infield. Stewart flatly says “…we’re not moving [Nick] Ahmed,” and calls a trade of Chris Owings “very unlikely.” Interestingly, that does seem to indicate that the new GM values Ahmed over Owings.
- The Astros remain interested in Jeff Samardzija, and as Rosenthal notes, a move away from what has been a brutal White Sox defense would likely help Samardzija quite a bit. Samardzija’s .338 BABIP has helped contribute to a significant discrepancy between his 4.53 ERA and 3.67 FIP. Of course, Chicago’s porous defense doesn’t necessarily explain Samardzija’s diminished strikeout rate and struggles to strand runners in 2015. The Astros, Rosenthal says, are eyeing Samardzija and other pitchers, but the White Sox are not yet ready to sell.
- The Brewers aren’t receiving very strong interest in Francisco Rodriguez, likely in part due to his backloaded contract, Rosenthal hears. K-Rod is still owed $1.95MM in 2015, plus $9.5MM in 2016 between his salary and the buyout on a $6MM club option for the 2017 season. Lefty Neal Cotts, however, figures to be in demand and may even be of interest to his former club, the Rangers, Rosenthal writes. Cotts’s 4.30 ERA isn’t anything to write home about, but he’s held lefties to a .546 OPS.
- The Cardinals might not be as urgent to add a starter as many had previously expected. The club feels that Michael Wacha can top 200 innings, and Carlos Martinez can deliver about 170. A bigger need might be a left-handed-hitting complement for Mark Reynolds at first base, and Rosenthal suggests Adam LaRoche as a speculative fit to improve the team on both sides of the ball.
Full Story | 20 Comments | Categories: Adam LaRoche | Anthony Rendon | Arizona Diamondbacks | Aroldis Chapman | Ben Zobrist | Chicago White Sox | Chris Owings | Cincinnati Reds | Francisco Rodriguez | Houston Astros | Ian Desmond | Jeff Samardzija | Mark Reynolds | Milwaukee Brewers | Neal Cotts | Nick Ahmed | Oakland Athletics | St. Louis Cardinals | Texas Rangers | Touki Toussaint | Tyler Clippard | Washington Nationals | Yunel Escobar
The Cardinals are under investigation for allegedly hacking into the Astros’ Ground Control database. Details are now emerging about the incident, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. One expert termed the hacking as “unauthorized intrusion” rather than a sophisticated attack. The legal definition of hack does include unauthorized intrusion, but no advanced techniques were used to access the Astros database.
It’s thought that one of Jeff Luhnow, Sig Mejdal, or Mike Elias did not properly update their passwords after moving from the Cardinals to the Astros. The access occurred as a result of password guessing, says Drellich. “Possibly with well-educated guesses.”
As you might have intuited, the security for the Ground Control database was below industry standards. Anybody could access the log-in page via groundcontrol.astros.com and a password. This is referred to as single-factor authentication. Houston has since moved the database to a virtual private network (VPN). It reportedly now has two-factor authentication which is more secure.
At least one of the three breaches was done by somebody using Tor, an “anonymity network” meant to hide the activities and location of its users. While the article doesn’t mention it, there is a freely available browser-based front end to access the Tor network.
In other news, the Cardinals brand has been “tarnished” by the scandal, but economic damage should be minimal according to the Associated Press. Primary revenue streams like fan attendance and television network payments will be unaffected by the crime. Sponsors have not backed away from the Cardinals according to a spokesman for FOX Sports Midwest.
Taking the other perspective, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch elaborated on the Cardinals back story. Luhnow was hired by Cardinals chairman Bill Dewitt Jr. in 2003 to bring St. Louis into the sabermetric revolution. Luhnow was in large part responsible for building the group that is now under investigation. The team’s analytical efforts yielded excellent results like the selection of first baseman Matt Adams in the 23rd round. The article provides many other great anecdotes about St Louis’ move into the information age.
Here’s a look at today’s significant draft signings:
- The Cardinals have signed eighth-rounder Ian Oxnevad for $500K, well above his pick value of $167,400, Teddy Cahill of Baseball America tweets. Cahill describes the lefty Oxnevad as one of the Northwest’s best high school pitchers. He was committed to Oregon State. Via MLB.com’s Signing and Bonus Tracker, the Cardinals saved a bit of money against their pool by signing several picks from the fourth through ninth rounds for significantly less than their pick values. Oxnevad is represented by Tripper Johnson of Sosnick Cobbe Karon.
The Cardinals are currently under federal investigation for allegedly gaining illegal access into the Astros’ internal computer network, and Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports the latest wrinkle in the scandal. In addition to the previously known security breaches in 2014 and 2013, Drellich now has learned that the Cardinals accessed the Astros’ network as early as 2012, bringing light to a third and previously unreported breach.
Previous reports have indicated that the Cardinals employees in question gained access to Houston’s Ground Control system by utilizing a master list of passwords from when Jeff Luhnow and other execs were still with St. Louis, fueling speculation that Luhnow had neglected to update old passwords. The Houston GM told Ben Reiter of SI.com that any such speculation was “absolutely false,” continuing to add:
“I absolutely know about password hygiene and best practices. I’m certainly aware of how important passwords are, as well as of the importance of keeping them updated. A lot of my job in baseball, as it was in high tech, is to make sure that intellectual property is protected. I take that seriously and hold myself and those who work for me to a very high standard.”
In speaking to Reiter, Luhnow also addressed the supposed concern from Cardinals employees that he may have taken some proprietary information from St. Louis to Houston, denying that any such action took place and adding that he never received any sort of inquiry from the Cardinals on the matter. Luhnow says that his departure from the Cardinals was amicable, adding that many of his former colleagues were invited to and in attendance for his 2012 wedding.
Drellich has previously reported that the list of suspected Cardinals employees has been narrowed to four or five, and it seems at this point that the highest-ranking members of the Cardinals’ front office weren’t involved. Attorney Jim Martin, whose firm was retained by the Cardinals in February to perform an organizational review upon learning of the investigation, expressed confidence to the Associated Press that GM John Mozeliak and chairman/CEO Bill DeWitt, Jr. had no knowledge of the events. “With what we have done so far, I am 100 percent confident that this does not touch upper management,” said Martin.
Via Robert Patrick of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, DeWitt himself addressed the media yesterday and said that he was “shocked” and “in disbelief” when he learned of the allegations. “There was zero knowledge until the FBI launched their investigation and we became aware of it,” said DeWitt.
The Chronicle reported earlier in the week that the investigation was in its latter stages, and Drellich explained in a followup piece last night that it would be the commissioner’s office — not a civil suit — that would determine the punishment for the Cardinals and award potential damages to the Astros. As Drellich explains, Major League clubs cannot file civil suits against one another, despite the fact that a former Department of Justice attorney who specialized intellectual property and commercial litigation told him the Astros “could have a case for theft of trade secrets.” The Cardinals cannot be fined more than $2MM as an organization, and DeWitt and other employees cannot be fined more than $500K. However, the commissioner’s office can punish the Cardinals by way of both the Rule 4 Draft (the yearly amateur draft in June) and the Rule 5 Draft, in addition to “other unspecified actions as the commissioner sees fit.”