- Of course, small market clubs will always need to be more creative than their larger-budget brethren, and August Fagerstrom of Fangraphs explores one key method that most employ: taking advantage of platoons. Fagerstrom looks at projected platoons around the league to identify the combinations with the most promise. Three teams have reasonable expectations of 3+ WAR platoons, should they decide to use them: the Mets (Neil Walker and Wilmer Flores), Red Sox (Jackie Bradley Jr. and Chris Young), and Cardinals (Kolten Wong and Jedd Gyorko). Of course, none of those teams are light spenders, but there are numerous other examples throughout the post, including the possible combination that the Rays just set up with Corey Dickerson and Steve Pearce.
The Yankees don’t appear to have any inclination to go hunting for a big league replacement for injured first baseman Greg Bird, as Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweets. “[Dustin] Ackley is the backup first baseman on the big-league level and we’ll explore replacing Bird for Scranton,” said Cashman. Needless to say, that quote doesn’t appear to put New York in the running for any of the better remaining free agent options.
Here are a few more stray notes from around the game:
- While the Cardinals have pursued outfield moves this winter, that doesn’t mean the team isn’t excited about its current group, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch writes. The lack of a major addition certainly opens the door to a full opportunity to younger options — Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, in particular. “You look at his progression through the Minor Leagues, and it was a perfect trend,” said GM John Mozeliak of Piscotty. “It was always getting better. There is a level of confidence that he’s the right guy to make the bet on.”
- The Fangraphs team has a few interesting looks at the recent five-player trade between the Brewers and Diamondbacks. Jeff Sullivan suggests that righty Chase Anderson delivers some sneaky value upside to Milwaukee. And Dave Cameron argues that Arizona might not have chosen the wisest route to upgrading its middle infield.
- The MLB.com prospect team rates the best tools among prospects. It’s no surprise that many of the leaderboards are dominated by the game’s very best overall young talents, but there are a few (somewhat) less-prominent players that took home top honors, too. Among them: Yankees shortstop Jorge Mateo (best speed) and righty Dillon Tate of the Rangers (top slider).
Here’s the latest from around the NL Central…
- The Reds’ rebuild has unsurprisingly been a big subject among fans during the team’s winter caravan tour, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon writes. In response to one fan question during a Q & A session, president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty said the decisions to trade Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier were made since neither player was likely to re-sign a long-term deal to remain in Cincinnati. “We felt they were at the peak of their value for what we’d get in return. These were not easy decisions,” Jocketty said. In another response, Jocketty said that the team was able to accomplish “most of” its offseason goals, as the team’s lack of success in finding trade partners for Brandon Phillips or Jay Bruce is “not necessarily” an impediment to their rebuilding plans.
- Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is entering the last year of his contract and wants to remain with the club, he tells Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Searage is universally regarded as one of baseball’s best pitching coaches, as his track record with veteran reclamation projects has been a major part of the Pirates’ recent success and also played a part in their offseason strategy. As Cook notes, the “Ray will make him better” mantra undoubtedly informed the Bucs’ acquisitions of Jon Niese, Ryan Vogelsong, Juan Nicasio, Neftali Feliz and Kyle Lobstein.
- Josh Bell is the Pirates’ long-term answer at first base and he could begin to help at the position as soon as the 2016 season, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Bell still has some questions to answer (namely about his defense, ability to hit left-handed pitching and whether he can consistently generate power) but he carries a lot of potential to solidify what has been a revolving door position for the Pirates. As Sawchik notes, 44 different players have played at least one game at first for Pittsburgh since 2004.
- Stephen Piscotty has big shoes to fill in taking over from Jason Heyward as the Cardinals’ everyday right fielder, but as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch writes, the Cards are confident Piscotty can continue his development from highly-touted prospect to star rookie to Major League regular.
- In other NL Central news from the last 24 hours, the Brewers swung a big five-player trade with the Diamondbacks that sent Jean Segura to Arizona and brought Aaron Hill and Chase Anderson to Milwaukee…there haven’t been any new Brandon Phillips trade talks, so it looks like Phillips will begin the season with the Reds…we collected some Brewers notes containing comments from Mark Attanasio, Matt Garza and Ryan Braun.
The Cardinals will increasingly need to consider a long-term replacement for Yadier Molina, to say nothing of preparing for a season in which he’ll be looking to return from two thumb surgeries, as Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Frederickson spoke with two potential future options behind the dish, Michael Ohlman and Carson Kelly. He adds that St. Louis GM John Mozeliak is still looking to add another veteran option to the mix this spring for depth purposes. While the Cards remain confident that Yadi will be ready to go for 2016, he’s still sporting protection for his thumb at present. Of course, the club still seems committed to relying on Molina — along with new backup Brayan Pena — for the bulk of its backstop duties this year.
Here’s more from the game’s central divisions:
- MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch provides some notable Cardinals pen updates in a reader mailbag post. Reliever Jordan Walden is expected to go through a normal spring ramp-up, though she says there’s still uncertainty in his shoulder. The organization does not appear to have any immediate interest in extension talks with closer Trevor Rosenthal, Langosch adds, though there’s little urgency since he only just reached arbitration.
- Reds backstop Devin Mesoraco says that he’s feeling well and looking forward to a return after undergoing hip surgery last summer, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. “I’m good. I’m anxious to get back out on the field here,” Mesoraco said. “It’s been a long haul with rehabbing and working out. Everything is feeling the way that it should, the way that we planned.”
- There’s no shortage of left field options for the Reds as camp approaches, Sheldon writes, listing Yorman Rodriguez, Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler, Jake Cave, and Kyle Waldrop. “Those are the guys,” said GM Dick Williams. “Some of those guys can play multiple positions. There are guys that can play multiple outfield spots. [Juan] Duran will be in camp, and [Tyler] Holt. [Jesse] Winker, Waldrop and some of the younger guys, too.”
- The Twins never had serious conversations with third baseman Trevor Plouffe about a long-term deal while negotiating his arb salary this year, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets. Of course, there’s plenty of time to chat this spring if there’s interest, but it’s not clear that Minnesota would or should pursue a lengthy pact with the 29-year-old, who remains under team control for one more year via arbitration.
- Meanwhile, the Twins are not interested in southpaw reliever Eric O’Flaherty, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports on Twitter. O’Flaherty was said to be showcasing for scouts yesterday, but it seems that Minnesota won’t be one of the clubs taking a closer look.
- The Cardinals aren’t exactly certain of when Yadier Molina will be healthy enough to make his 2016 debut, writes Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which creates opportunities for internal options like Michael Ohlman and Carson Kelly to make the roster as a backup to offseason signee Brayan Pena. Non-roster invites such as veteran Eric Fryer also could find themselves with a greater opportunity to see some Major League time due to the uncertainty. However, even though Ohlman has only been with the Cardinals organization for a little less than a year, he outlined Molina’s importance to the roster when speaking to Frederickson. “He controls the clubhouse,” said Ohlman. “It’s his team.” Molina underwent thumb surgery back in October and had to undergo a second operation in December after the first one did not fully correct the ligament issue.
Major league baseball will work with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in its investigation of PED allegations arising from a recent Al Jazeera report, ESPN.com’s T.J. Quinn reports. Several players were implicated in that report, including Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals and Ryan Howard of the Phillies. “We’ve had discussions with USADA and are hopeful that together we can make progress in this investigation,” said the league’s chief legal officer, Dan Halem. As Quinn explains, it’s an unprecedented level of interaction between the league and the agency. The NFL, on the other hand, won’t be participating in the arrangement.
Here are some more notes of general interest from around the game:
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports argues that commissioner Rob Manfred must not show any favoritism towards the Cardinals and owner Bill DeWitt in assessing whether and how to issue penalties arising from the improper accessing of the Astros’ computer systems by former Cards scouting director Chris Correa. (For the latest information on that, read here and here.) Manfred and DeWitt enjoy a good relationship, as the commissioner himself made clear in comments to Rosenthal. But the top league official also left no room for interpretation as to his intentions, telling FOX Sports: “I think what the owners expect me to do — regardless of what my relationship [with an owner] may or may not be personally — is do the right thing by the institution. That’s what I intend to do when I have all the facts about the Houston-St. Louis thing.”
- There’s been some debate recently about the subject of “tanking,” and both Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and Buster Olney of ESPN.com weighed in on it yesterday. Cameron argues that there aren’t strong enough incentives for MLB teams to lose on purpose in pursuit of better positions for amateur talent. Olney counters that some talent evaluators in the game see a real and growing problem. Manfred’s own recent take on the matter is well worth consideration as well.
- ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden takes a crack (Insider link) at valuing some possible extensions of top young players around the game. He has Bryce Harper at just over $400MM, which is also the rough price range that MLBTR’s Steve Adams and MLBTR’s readers have previously landed at. It’s an interesting thought experiment, and is well worth a read. I would take some issue, however, with the spread between his $100MM+ valuations on players like Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor and his approximately seven-year, $70MM estimates for the two Red Sox players on the list, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts.
- Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper offers an interesting and sometimes sobering look at some of the very best prospects that never made it to the major leagues.
The Cardinals announced on Friday that they have signed outfielder Carlos Peguero to a minor league contract (via MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch, on Twitter). The Proformance client will receive an invitation to Major League Spring Training.
Peguero, 29 next month, split the 2015 season between the Rangers and Red Sox organizations, seeing action in 30 games with Texas. Peguero batted just .186 in his 84 plate appearances with the Rangers, but he also posted a .310 on-base percentage and slugged .414 thanks to the fact that eight of his 13 hits went for extra bases (four doubles, four homers). Peguero is a legitimate power threat, as evidenced by his career .276/.345/.528 batting line at Triple-A. He belted 30 homers in the minors as recently as 2014 and hit a combined 25 between the Majors and Triple-A last season. Making consistent contact, however, is an issue for Peguero, who has punched out in 39.5 percent of his Major League plate appearances and has a 31.7 percent strikeout rate in parts of five Triple-A seasons.
- Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal tells Ben Frederickson and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that there have been no talks of a long-term deal with the team at this point. “As far as contractual, multi-year type things, I guess we haven’t had any talks,” said Rosenthal. “I don’t know what they’re thinking, what we’re thinking. I don’t know how any of that looks because I haven’t gone through it. Going through the arbitration process was pretty good. Smooth. I’m happy with how it ended up.” That’s a perhaps unsurprising revelation, as Rosenthal is represented by Scott Boras, whose clients rarely take contract extensions prior to hitting the open market. Beyond that, Rosenthal is already earning significant money in arbitration, having agreed to a $5.6MM salary for the 2016 season last week.
As the United States celebrates one of its greatest heroes, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s worth remembering that his cause, and even his own story, have many links with baseball. The wonderful Negro League Museum, which captures a uniquely compelling and important segment of American and baseball history, provides some incredible photos to drive this point home today (Twitter links). MLB.com’s Mike Bertha explores those connections in honor of King. And as Examiner.com reminds us, you’ll want to revisit this Time story featuring a King anecdote from legendary Dodgers hurler Don Newcombe.
The threads of history extend everywhere, of course; as Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explores, Pirates reliever Tony Watson’s great uncle, Tom Offenburger, served as an aide to King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. On this somber but grateful day, here are some notes from the game’s central divisions:
- A pre-season trade of Brewers backstop Jonathan Lucroy appears to be increasingly unlikely, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel suggests (Twitter links). Milwaukee has put a justifiably steep price tag on the veteran, says Haudricourt, and it seems that “has scared off suitors.” Of course, it’s probably fair to add that the situation still warrants attention this spring. A strong Cactus League showing from Lucroy and/or a key injury for a contender could quickly shift the balance of considerations.
- There’s no getting around the fact that some of the Cardinals’ most important players are getting up in years, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, but that aging core still has plenty of confidence entering 2016. “Nobody likes being called old, right?” said veteran right-hander Adam Wainwright. “But I think they’re right, for the most part. We are aging. We’re just becoming more wise. Somebody has to get old. If we’re still playing and older it means we still have some ability.” As Wainwright and owner Bill DeWitt Jr. rightly point out, too, it isn’t as if the organization lacks for any talented, younger players on its major league roster. Still, St. Louis remains one of the more interesting clubs to watch as it tries to defend its N.L. Central crown against two strong challengers in the Pirates and Cubs.
- Indians lefty Brady Aiken is excited to be back on the bump, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. The high-ceiling youngster, who famously failed to sign with the Astros as the top overall pick before landing in Cleveland after being taken 17th overall last year, is still on a Tommy John rehab program but threw his first pitches from the mound last week. Both team and player have positive vibes from his first months in the organization, per the report, but the 19-year-old obviously has a long way to go both to regain his full physical health and then to start the grinding climb toward the majors.
There’s “more momentum” growing towards the designated hitter rule being adopted by the National League, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak tells reporters, including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The issue has been more heavily discussed in front offices and ownership levels within “the past year…I’m not suggesting you’re going to see a change but I definitely think the momentum (has changed),” Mozeliak said, noting that he doubts the DH would be implemented by 2017 in concert with the new collective bargaining agreement. ESPN’s Buster Olney also explores the issue in his latest subscription-only column, noting that adding the DH to the NL could increase offense and cut down on pitcher injuries. While there are some pros, however, Olney personally hates the idea of losing the extra layer of strategy and roster management that comes with having a pitcher in the lineup. Here’s some more from around baseball…
- Also from Olney’s column, he gives his take on the Chris Davis and Ian Kennedy signings. He calls the Davis contract a “win-win” for both the slugger and the Orioles, as Davis still found a huge guarantee and the O’s got a much-needed big bat. As for Kennedy, the signing makes sense for several reasons for K.C., including that the Royals moved to add attainable pitching now since next year’s free agent pitching crop is so thin.
- Brandon Moss and Matt Adams both have something to prove after down years in 2015, as Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at how the two Cardinals sluggers are looking to rebound and bring some much-needed pop to the Cards’ lineup. There was some thought that Moss could even be non-tendered given his poor season and big arbitration price tag (he and the Cards avoided arb with a one-year, $8.25MM deal) but Mozeliak tells Hummel that the team feels confident that Moss will be healthier now that he’s more recovered from hip surgery.
- The Blue Jays have eight players who will be free agents after the 2016 season, including such major names as Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Cecil, Drew Storen and R.A. Dickey. Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star opines that the club needs to re-sign at least some of these players (and/or Josh Donaldson) to extensions to demonstrate that ownership is committed to winning and to win back fans disappointed by the Jays’ offseason moves. The extra revenue generated by Toronto’s playoff run hasn’t been reflected by any raise in payroll, leading Griffin to wonder if the divide between ex-GM Alex Anthopoulos and the Rogers Communications ownership group perhaps stemmed from Anthopoulos’ desire to go for it in 2016 while Rogers was “more fixated on the [U.S./Canadian dollar] exchange rate and the bottom line.”
- In a recent appearance on the MLB Network, Baseball America’s Ben Badler (video link available) discusses the Cuban market, including the most recent high-profile signings, some big new talents like Randy Arozarena and Lazaro Armenteros and the current state of Cuban baseball.
- Several young stars are cited by Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper as he proposes five trades that could solve needs for the involved teams and create playing time for some blocked prospects. The two most eye-popping of Cooper’s suggestions are trades that would see the Mets deal Steven Matz and Luis Carpio to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada, and an all-NL Central trade that would see the Pirates send outfielders Austin Meadows and Willy Garcia to the Reds for lefty Cody Reed.