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Scouts have identified Cardinals left-hander Sam Freeman and Nationals left-hander Xavier Cedeno as logical trade candidates for the Mets, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com writes. Both relievers are out of options and unlikely to make their clubs’ Opening Day rosters, though Rubin stresses that the Mets’ level of interest in either player is unknown. The Mets could be on the lookout for a lefty reliever in the wake of Josh Edgin‘s decision to undergo Tommy John surgery. Here’s more on the Mets and other news out of the NL East..
- The Mets don’t see Phil Coke as someone who can help them, Marc Carig of Newsday tweets. That has been their internal evaluation for some time and that has not changed in the wake of Edgin’s injury. Coke signed a minor league deal with the Cubs earlier this month and apparently chose that opportunity over at least one MLB offer.
- Veteran Wandy Rodriguez has pitched effectively enough to position himself for one of the two vacant spots in the Braves‘ rotation, but the team will still have to decide whether its worth taking a $2MM gamble on a pitcher who has made just 18 starts over the last two years, Mark Bowman of MLB.com writes. The left-hander inked a minor league deal with Atlanta after failing a physical with the Phillies.
- The Mets have four lefty options in camp in Sean Gilmartin, Dario Alvarez, Jack Leathersich and Scott Rice, but none have shined thus far, as Matt Ehalt of The Bergen Record writes.
- Meanwhile, the Mets will be keeping their fingers crossed when it comes to starter Zack Wheeler as they’re sending his MRI results to team medical director Dr. David Altchek, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com tweets. The Mets, meanwhile, are still saying they’re not concerned about Wheeler’s long-term situation.
- The Giants have signed hard-throwing right-hander Edgmer Escalona to a minor league pact, Eddy reports. Though Escalona didn’t appear in the Majors least year, the Orioles thought enough of his arm to give him a Major League deal in the offseason. Escalona, 28, has a career 4.50 ERA in exactly 100 innings in the Majors, but he posted a 5.80 ERA from 2012-13 with Colorado. Though he averages just under 94 mph on his heater, he’s only whiffed 6.4 hitters per nine innings in the Majors.
- The Athletics released corner infielder Miles Head after a pair of injury-plagued seasons in which he batted just .233/.292/.352 at Double-A. Head was one of the prospects sent to the A’s from the Red Sox in the Josh Reddick–Andrew Bailey swap prior to the 2012 season and has previously ranked among the organization’s 10 best prospects.
- Right-hander Robby Rowland has signed a minor league deal with the Cardinals, per Eddy. Formerly a third-round pick of the D-Backs (2010), Rowland has yet to pitch at a level higher than Class-A Advanced. He has a lifetime 5.28 ERA in the minors with 5.6 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. Rowland turned 23 in December.
- The Astros have signed righty Robert Stock, says Eddy. Stock is a converted catcher who was drafted in the second round by the Cardinals in 2009 when Houston GM Jeff Luhnow was still their scouting director. Stock is clearly still a work in progress on the mound, as he’s walked 6.9 hitters per nine innings at two different Class-A levels.
Forty-seven-year-old prospect Will Ferrell showed his versatility by playing all 10 positions for 10 different clubs during a whirlwind single-day tour of several Arizona Spring Training camps, an event was dedicated to raise funds for the Stand Up To Cancer and Cancer For College charities. Ferrell’s day included two at-bats (both strikeouts), a helicopter landing in center field, serving as the Cubs’ third base coach and actually recording an out during his 1/3 inning of work on the mound. Ferrell was in such demand that he even switched teams within games, so it’s probably just a matter of time before the phenom inks a nine-figure contract.
Here’s some slightly more serious news from around the game…
- Six of seven general managers polled by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman don’t see Jason Heyward landing a contract in the $200MM range next winter, though one of the naysaying GMs was open to the possibility if Heyward had a huge season. Heyward brings youth (he turns 26 in August) and elite defense into his walk year, though it seems like he’d need a big power season to make $200MM a realistic possibility. Most of the GMs and assistant GMs Heyman spoke to thought Shin-Soo Choo (seven years/$130MM) or Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years/$153MM) could be good comparables for Heyward’s next deal, though one GM noted that Heyward’s price could be elevated by the general lack of strong position player talent in next year’s free agent market. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently placed Heyward second in his 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings, behind only Justin Upton.
- If Heyward’s price tag does approach $200MM, it will probably mean the Cardinals won’t re-sign him, some of the GMs noted to Heyman. The Cards seem to have a player contract “limit of around $120 million,” as that was their outlay for Matt Holliday and around what they were willing to pay Jon Lester and Max Scherzer this winter.
- A’s outfielder Sam Fuld discusses how he deals with the pressure of constantly fighting for spots on Major League rosters in an interview with Nico of the Athletics Nation blog.
- In his latest piece for Gammons Daily, Peter Gammons cites the Dodgers as the “clear winner” of the 2014-15 offseason, praising Andrew Friedman for adding a great deal of flexibility and depth to the club’s roster while also bringing several good baseball minds into the front office.
Max Scherzer knows exactly what David Price is experiencing as the left-hander enters his last year under contract, and Scherzer told reporters (including James Schmehl of Mlive.com) that facing free agency inevitably adds another element to a pitcher’s season. “You only get one shot at this, to sign a big deal,” Scherzer said. “He’s going to be in a position to do it, whether he does it now or in the offseason. That’s his choice. But you have to do it right. That’s something you have to be comfortable with.” Scherzer said that he blocked out the pressure by simply focusing on winning games, advice that Price seems to be following. “I’ve gone year-to-year for the last four years now, so every year is a contract year,” Price said. “It doesn’t matter. It’s not what I’m focused on. It’s not what I’m worried about….I just need to go out there, have fun and play baseball.”
Here are more notes from various rotations around the game…
- The Cardinals have a nice problem with Marco Gonzales, Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia all looking good in Spring Training, and Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch doesn’t see any reason why the team shouldn’t keep this rotation surplus in place. Some could argue that the Cards could trade one of these excess starters, yet Miklasz notes that the club will inevitably need starting depth beyond the five in the rotation.
- Beyond Cole Hamels, there aren’t many top-flight pitchers available on the trade market for teams looking to fill rotation holes, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only piece. Olney cites the Padres as a team who might have enough depth to trade some pitching now, while the Rays could conceivably explore dealing Alex Cobb or Drew Smyly in the coming months if they decide they can’t contend this season.
- Also from Olney, he wonders (based only on his own speculation) if the Orioles and Dodgers could fit as trade partners in a bad-contract deal of Ubaldo Jimenez for Andre Ethier. It’s not a bad idea, though the trade probably works better for L.A. than it does for Baltimore since losing Jimenez (even considering his 2014 struggles) would leave the O’s a bit thin on rotation depth.
Nationals lefty Matt Thornton has exceedingly rare velocity for his age, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post writes. Now 38, Thornton joins former closer Billy Wagner as the only 35-and-up southpaws to sustain a 95+ mph average fastball over an entire season. Thornton’s method of maintaining his velo is rooted in a somewhat non-traditional workout program and commitment to an early but gradual build-up each offseason. The Nats have benefited thus far from picking up the veteran on a waiver claim last August, thus taking on his $3.5MM salary this year, and he is arguably the club’s top left-handed pen arm heading into 2015.
More from around the National League:
- The new Dodgers front office is finding its hands tied somewhat in putting together a final roster, as Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register writes. While the organization likely would prefer to open the year with recent acquisitions Chris Heisey and Enrique Hernandez on the bench, the contracts of Andre Ethier and Alex Guerrero make that difficult. Both Heisey and Hernandez have options, creating some flexibility, and will presumably start out at Triple-A unless the team swings a trade.
- Eric Young Jr. is the early leader for the Braves center field job out of camp, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Manager Fredi Gonzalez says that the club feels comfortable with Young’s ability to play the position defensively in spite of his limited experience.
- Reliever Pat Neshek says he was somewhat disappointed, but understanding, of the Cardinals‘ decision not to pursue him after his breakout year with the club, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Neshek ultimately landed with the Astros for two years and $12.5MM. In discussions during last season, GM John Mozeliak told Neshek that he held a “lottery ticket” and that the team would not be able to compete with the offers Neshek would receive on the open market. “In one sense it was kind of disappointing,” said Neshek, “but he knew it. He saw better. He could do something cheaper and try to get better. I see where they’re coming from. It was a good run. It worked out for everybody.”
11:15am: While the Yankees did indeed ask about Heyward, along with many other teams, the White Sox and Giants were actually the teams that came closest to landing him before St. Louis pulled the trigger, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).
That is not necessarily surprising, in the sense that both clubs were obviously in need of corner outfield help. The former ultimately signed Melky Cabrera and the latter added Nori Aoki. While Chicago ought to be set for the foreseeable future in that position, assuming that Avisail Garcia can fix his hold on one corner, San Francisco could be on the market (though it holds a club option over Aoki).
8:11am: The Yankees engaged the Braves this offseason in trade talks regarding outfielder Jason Heyward, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. Atlanta ultimately dealt Heyward to the Cardinals, of course.
While the report does not indicate how serious the interest was or whether any actual offers were submitted, it does suggest that the Yankees are a plausible suitor when Heyward hits free agency. The team already has Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Carlos Beltran under contract for 2016, and prospects like Aaron Judge coming up behind them. But New York had a plan to shift Beltran to a DH role if it acquired Heyward, per Martino, and could certainly chart such a course next season.
The other salient takeaway — the item is otherwise largely of historical interest — is that there is increasing evidence that the Yankees are now targeting a certain type of player (young, defensively valuable) that does not quite align with the club’s offseason acquisitions of yore. Indeed, Martino notes that the team also asked the Braves about Andrelton Simmons, although it is far from clear that Atlanta ever engaged on him. New York ultimately traded instead for another fielding-first infielder in Didi Gregorius.
Shortstop Trea Turner, the reported player to be named later in the Wil Myers deal, will be headed to the Nationals organization in June, but for right now, he’s enjoying his time in Padres big-league camp, MLB.com’s Corey Brock writes. “It’s been great. It’s been everything I’ve hoped for and more,” says Turner, who adds that he’s liked working with Padres third base coach Glenn Hoffman. Turner’s situation is unusual, though it sounds like he and the Padres are making the best of it. The team can’t simply trade the 2014 first-rounder now because they’re not allowed to deal him until a year after he signed his first pro contract. At the same time, it’s widely known that he’s in the trade and will be with the Nationals in June. Here’s more from the National League.
- Free-agent-to-be Jason Heyward doesn’t know what his future holds, but he’s happy to have a new start with the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I spent five years at this level with one organization and I still don’t know if I’ve seen the best of myself,” Heyward says. “I do feel that this is the best thing that could have happened to me as far as playing this game, getting a new start somewhere else. Absolutely.” Heyward adds that money will be part of the equation in his search for a new team, but that it will be secondary. “Who is going to provide that environment on a daily basis that says you have a great opportunity to be great for as long as you can play? That’s the biggest thing for me,” he says.
- The Pirates signed reliever John Holdzkom out of independent ball last season with the idea that he would be an extra arm for Double-A who might turn out to be something more, Bucs special assistant Jim Benedict tells ESPN 970’s David Todd in an interview Todd transcribed for Bucs Dugout (a website for which I also write, in the interest of full disclosure). Benedict saw Holdzkom pitch last summer at Triple-A Indianapolis. “I remember telling Clint (Hurdle) like a lot of other guys, ‘There’s a guy down there that can help us. He’s downhill, he’s 98 and it cuts. And I know that’s hard to hit, so let’s keep our eyes on this one,‘” Benedict says. “And all of a sudden he’s on the Pirates pitching meaningful games.” Holdzkom, who began the season pitching for independent teams in San Angelo and Amarillo, wound up striking out 14 batters in nine innings down the stretch with the Pirates.
- Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is out six to eight weeks with a fractured forearm, but assistant GM Bobby Evans says that injury is short-term enough that the Giants will simply replace him internally, MLB Network Radio tweets.
Catcher Eli Whiteside has opted to accept a coaching job with the Giants rather than taking one of several offers he had to continue playing, MLB.com’s Chris Haft reports. The veteran played in parts of six MLB seasons, including a three-year run in which he was a significant contributor for San Francisco. He will retire after getting one last short run in the bigs last year with the Cubs.
More from the NL West:
- Padres righty Josh Johnson has progressed to the point that he’ll throw to a catcher on flat ground, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. With his training program currently on track, Johnson is scheduled to throw a pen session for the first time by mid-March with a target of game action by June, if all goes according to plan. Johnson’s deal with San Diego promises him only $1MM but can increase all the way to $7.25MM if he maxes out his incentives.
- Fellow two-time TJ patient Cory Luebke is also hoping to return strong for the Padres, as MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports. The story details some of the ups and downs that Luebke has had in dealing with his two procedures. As with Johnson, 2015 is something of a make-good season for the lefty: his early-career extension is up after the season, when San Diego will have to decide whether to exercise a $7.5MM option or pay a $1.75MM buyout.
- The Rockies pursued utilityman Daniel Descalso not only because he would offer a versatile bench option, but because of his big-game experience, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. Skipper Walt Weiss explained that the former Cardinals infielder brought an underappreciated element to the squad. “All of that factored in quite a bit,” said Weiss. “I think we sometimes underestimate the value of that — guys that have played in big games, pennant races, and have won a World Series. Those types of players are valuable, and that’s a big reason why we brought Danny in here.”
- Alex Guerrero‘s contract and the Dodgers roster situation makes for quite a puzzle, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. On the one hand, Guerrero can refuse an optional assignment and has said he will do just that. On the other, if he is traded he will earn the right to opt out of his deal after the season. Cameron posits that the club could send Guerrero out in exchange for some savings on his 2015 tab, agreeing to remain responsible for post-2015 responsibilities while hoping he will opt out. The Angels, Blue Jays, Rockies, and Rangers all look like reasonable landing spots, in Cameron’s estimation.
The White Sox announced today that they have promoted Jeremy Haber, who was previously assistant to general manager Rick Hahn and will now bear the title of assistant GM. The 31-year-old Haber led negotiations on the team’s five-year, $21MM extension with Jose Quintana last offseason, says Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter), and he also leads salary arbitration negotiations. CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes profiled Haber last offseason, noting an impressive educational background but little experience in the baseball world. Haber has a B.A. in political science from Brown as well as an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Haber was initially hired as an intern with the Red Sox after a series of blind emails to teams in search of a front office opportunity, and he’s since helped in the White Sox’ hiring of hitting coach Todd Steverson in addition to making player acquisition recommendations for Hahn and the rest of the Chicago front office.
More from the American League:
- Huston Street tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register that he and Angels GM Jerry Dipoto have begun swapping text messages to figure out a time when they can have more serious extension discussions in the near future. Street, who acts as his own agent, has said he wants to get a new contract worked out in Spring Training and made no attempt to hide the fact that he’s eyeing something between the four-year, $36MM deal inked by Andrew Miller and the four-year, $46MM contract signed by David Robertson. He did say he envisions a new contract overriding his current one-year deal, so he’s essentially looking for three new years.
- Ryan Ludwick told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com that multiple teams for which he had played in the past expressed interest in bringing him back this offseason, though he declined to specify which teams. The Rangers are clearly one, as the now-36-year-old signed a minor league pact to return to Texas, where he made his big league debut 13 years ago. “It’s cool knowing that teams are willing to take you on,” Ludwick said Sunday. “I guess that means I’m somewhat of a decent guy.” The Rangers will hope that in addition to being a “somewhat decent guy,” Ludwick will bring the offense he showed as recently as 2012, when he hit .275/.346/.531 with 26 homers in just 472 plate appearances for the Reds. He’s also played for the Cardinals, Indians, Padres and Pirates.
- Replacing Nelson Cruz‘s production will not be straightforward but may yet be possible for the Orioles, as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com writes. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette explains that the current roster not only has power across the board but does so with generally well-rounded players. And, as he notes, the team will never “grab a lot of headlines in the offseason,” as would have been needed to bring Cruz back or replace him with a single player. “We pick up players year round,” said Duquette. “We don’t do it all in the offseason.”
Adam Wainwright returned to the mound today and threw a 30- to 40-pitch bullpen session without issue, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Wainwright gave Cardinals fans a bit of a scare last week when he had to return to St. Louis to see a specialist for pain in his abdomen, but he was diagnosed with a strain and merely prescribed some rest. Manager Mike Matheny said his ace will first have to face hitters in a live batting practice session before getting into a game, but he didn’t give reporters a timeline on that next step.
More from the NL Central…
- Matt Holliday said to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports today that he hopes the Cardinals will eventually pick up his 2017 option (Twitter link). Holliday says he’s not concerned with the financial component of the $17MM option, but rather that he likes playing in St. Louis and hopes to remain as long as he can. In reply, Goold tweeted to Heyman that team president Bill DeWitt Jr. has told the Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz that the current intention is indeed to exercise the option. Of course, plenty could change that line of thinking over the next two seasons, especially considering the fact that Holliday is already 35.
- Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review opines that new addition Jung-ho Kang is more likely to eventually cut into the playing time of Jordy Mercer or Josh Harrison than Neil Walker in the short-term. He also tackles recent reports that the Pirates are open to an extension with Andrew McCutchen at a premium price, wondering if such a move would be wise for the Bucs four years in advance of the end of a contract that already runs through McCutchen’s age-31 season. As Sawchik notes, paying for a player’s decline phase rarely proves to be a sound decision for any team, and the team could have younger assets like Gerrit Cole or Gregory Polanco on which to use that hefty sum as they enter their arbitration years.
- Mike Leake tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he’s happy to have survived the Reds‘ offseason with the team, as he and fellow right-handers Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon entered the offseason fully aware that they could be traded. (Latos and Simon, of course, were indeed traded.) Leake hasn’t been approached by the Reds about an extension yet and isn’t expecting them to do so, although he’d like to see them at least try to work out a long-term deal. The 27-year-old former No. 8 overall pick can become a free agent at season’s end and has enjoyed a pair of productive seasons in 2013-14, posting a 3.54 ERA in 406 2/3 innings.