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Stephen Drew Rumors
With Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales still unsigned with less than a month to go before the amateur draft, it is looking increasingly plausible that the pair will wait to shed their accompanying draft pick compensation before finding a new club. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter, teams will be able to ink either of the two free agents without giving up a pick as soon as the first day of the draft is completed on June 5. Of course, that is also the point at which their former clubs — the Red Sox and Mariners, respectively — would no longer stand to gain a compensatory choice should they sign elsewhere after declining qualifying offers.
Here’s more from around the league …
- Reds third baseman Chris Nelson will not exercise the opt-out clause in his contract that came due today, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 28-year-old will continue on with Triple-A Louisville for the time being, though his deal includes another opt-out date a month from now.
- A rival talent evaluator tells ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider link) that the Cardinals‘ decision on the promotion of star prospect Oscar Taveras is complicated by the team’s defensive issues. In that source’s estimation, Taveras is better suited to the corner outfield than center. The team’s best method of creating space, he opines, would be to deal first baseman Matt Adams and put Allen Craig back in the infield. As Olney notes, Adams would figure to draw plenty of trade interest given his solid bat (career .803 OPS) and lengthy team control (through 2018).
- 17-year-old high-school hurler Jacob Bukauskas, a potential first-round choice in the upcoming draft, has notified scouts that he plans to attend the University of North Carolina, according to John Manuel of Baseball America. The hard-throwing righty had pitched himself into consideration for selection in the late first or early second round, though some scouts believe he may not be able to stick as a starter. As Manuel notes, the Stone Bridge High School product will not be eligible for the draft again until 2017 if he matriculates at UNC.
Matt Cain has been placed on the 15-day DL in order to recover from a cut on his right index finger that already cost him one start earlier this week. While making a sandwich in the Giants’ clubhouse last Tuesday, Cain dropped a knife and tried to catch it in mid-air, cutting his finger in the process. While the injury isn’t serious and Cain could return to the rotation as early as Saturday, the Giants ace may have earned himself a mention in future lists of oddball MLB injuries.
Here are a few notes from around the baseball world…
- The Rangers have done the best job of signing international prospects since 2006, as ranked by Baseball America’s Ben Badler. Not only has Texas signed 14 international players (the second-most of any team in that span), but several of them are making waves in the minors and the likes of Martin Perez, Leonys Martin and Jurickson Profar have contributed to the Major League club. The Royals, Pirates, Twins and Red Sox round out the rest of the top five in Badler’s rankings.
- Former first overall draft pick Matt Bush is halfway through a 51-month prison sentence and he talks to FOX Sports’ Gabe Kapler about his regrets and his battles with alcoholism.
- Scott Boras’ inability to adapt to the new qualifying offer system in free agency is why clients Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew are still waiting for new contracts, Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel opines. While Boras has pulled impressive deals seeming out of nowhere for many clients in the past, McDaniel argues that teams have more information now and are less apt to give up a draft pick or commit major dollars to “second tier free agents.”
- Fangraphs’ David Laurila catches up with right-hander Mike Ekstrom about playing in Italy and his Baseball Round The World website, which chronicles the experiences of Ekstrom and other players who continue their careers in far-flung locales. Ekstrom pitched 61 Major League innings with the Padres, Rays and Rockies from 2008-12 and spent last season at the Triple-A level in the Athletics’ and Angels’ systems.
Kevin Towers of the Diamondbacks isn’t sure whether he’ll still have his job when his team turns its fortunes around, Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com writes. “When you spend $110 million and you’re 9-22 at the end of April, I wouldn’t be happy, either,” says Towers. “I’m also disappointed, but I still believe in the core group. I think they will get better. Will I be around to see it? I don’t know.” Towers also says the team’s poor start must have managing partner Ken Kendrick wondering if the Diamondbacks have the right GM and manager in place. Here’s more from around the big leagues.
- The Angels have promoted first baseman C.J. Cron, who is in their lineup tonight as their DH, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook 2014 rated Cron the Angels’ second-best prospect. The 2011 first-round pick got off to a great start this season for Triple-A Salt Lake, hitting .319/.369/.602 in his first 122 plate appearances there.
- The Braves feel like they’re getting a good deal in third baseman Chris Johnson‘s recent three-year extension, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes. “He was looking for stability and we were looking to have a solid player at a tough position to man,” says GM Frank Wren. “When this contract is over, he’s 32. We all feel like that is when they’re in their prime. So it was another example of tying up a player long term, but not extending beyond their prime.” Johnson will earn $4.75MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility this season, and the $23MM deal buys out Johnson’s last two years of arbitration eligibility, plus one year of free agency, with a reasonable option for a second.
- The Tigers aren’t yet sure what they’ll do to address their shortstop position, reports MLB.com’s Jason Beck. “We really haven’t approached those specific topics yet,” says GM Dave Dombrowski. Beck suggests that reinforces the perception that it’s unlikely the Tigers will sign free agent Stephen Drew before the draft in early June.
More than 20 teams were on hand for Joel Hanrahan‘s April showcase and the former closer reportedly dazzled everyone in attendance. Ostensibly, Hanrahan had a number of opportunities to pick from and earlier today he came to terms on a deal with the Tigers. The 32-year-old came out strong and hit 93 mph on the gun, which is extremely impressive considering that he’s just under one year removed from Tommy John Surgery. On today’s conference call I asked Hanrahan if he was surprised by his fast turnaround.
“No, not really,” the confident veteran said. “I put in the hard work while everyone else was playing this summer. I was going to rehab five times a week at 8:00 in the morning. That was my season. I’ve still got a bit of work to do here. Hopefully when they put a hitter in the box and I get some adrenaline going, the velocity will be there. I’ve always been a velocity type guy with a bit of the breaking ball.”
While Hanrahan is a very notable addition and one that could help fortify a Tigers bullpen that struggled in 2013, there is another notable name that the club has been linked to heavily over the past few months in Stephen Drew. When asked if there could be addition room for another major league free agent this season, Dombrowski said such a move wasn’t in the works but didn’t exactly shut the door.
“Our owner has always been generous but we’re not in a spot to do that necessarily. We’ve made some moves with our club through trades, Andrew Romine has done a good job for us at shortstop, that was one area of need we had…” the GM said. “The area we wanted to address most was our bullpen if we had the opportunity to.”
As for Hanrahan, both the pitcher and Dombrowski emphasized that there will be no clear timetable for his Tigers major league debut. Hanrahan wouldn’t guarantee that he’ll be on the mound for Detroit in the next 30 days and the GM said his minor league warmup will be “sort of a Spring Training,” so it sounds like there’s little, if any, pressure on the reliever to rush himself back. Hanrahan is extremely eager to getting back to what he does best but won’t take any chances to expedite the process.
Though they’ve had some issues on the left side of their infield, the Red Sox have yet to waver from their commitment to using Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks as their primary shortstop and third baseman, writes WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Specifically, Bradford writes that the team has had zero discussions with Stephen Drew and agent Scott Boras since the season kicked off. Drew remains perhaps the most prominent free agent available and could be waiting until after the June draft when teams will no longer need to forfeit a draft pick to sign him. Here’s more on the AL East…
- A roster shakeup is coming for the Orioles, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, who notes that both Manny Machado and Troy Patton will be joining the club soon as they return from knee surgery and a 25-game suspension for Adderall usage, respectively.
- From that same piece, Connolly notes that Steve Pearce‘s release waivers expire tomorrow, and it’s possible for the team to re-sign him and put him on the 25-man roster in place of the injured Chris Davis. Normally, a team that re-signs a released player must wait 30 days to place him back on the active roster, but Connolly spoke with one industry source who said there is a rules scenario that would allow Baltimore to work around that restriction.
- Over the weekend, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet wondered if the Blue Jays‘ need for an eight-man bullpen could make Juan Francisco a roster casualty when Adam Lind returns from the disabled list. With both Brandon Morrow and Dustin McGowan averaging fewer than five innings per start, the team is being forced to carry two long relievers — Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond. Francisco has impressed in his brief eight-game sample thus far, but as a left-handed power bat with serious platoon issues, he could be seen as redundant when Lind is healthy.
Daisuke Matsuzaka picked up his first Major League save last night, though it probably isn’t going to be the start of a new career path for the veteran right-hander. Matsuzaka only got the call since Kyle Farnsworth had pitched in three of the Mets’ previous four games and was being rested, and as Fangraphs’ Paul Swydan points out, Dice-K doesn’t fit the traditional closer profile. Anything is possible given the Mets’ unsettled closing situation, however, so be sure to keep following @CloserNews, MLBTR’s sister Twitter feed, for the very latest on ninth-inning personnel changes.
Here’s some news from Citi Field…
- The Mets still haven’t decided whether or not to pursue free agent reliever Joel Hanrahan, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. The team has been weighing its options for several days now since watching Hanrahan throw at a showcase last week. Almost 20 teams watched Hanrahan throw, so the Mets may face competition if they do decide to make the righty an offer, though an evaluator tells Martino that Hanrahan is still roughly a month away from being able to contribute.
- Also from Martino, there still isn’t anything brewing between the Mets and Stephen Drew, as “there is no momentum” between the two sides.
- Matthew Cerrone of Metsblog.com agrees that a Drew signing looks like a major longshot, and the Mets are more likely to promote Wilmer Flores from Triple-A than acquire a shortstop like Drew or the Mariners’ Nick Franklin.
- If the Mets do deal for a shortstop, Cerrone believes the Diamondbacks are New York’s best option as a trade partner. The two clubs at least discussed a trade during Spring Training and scouted each other’s prospects. According to Cerrone, the D’Backs liked right-hander Rafael Montero and catchers Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, though Plawecki alone wouldn’t have been enough to secure a deal. All three are ranked amongst the Mets’ top prospects by Baseball America, though Montero and d’Arnaud in particular would take major offers for the Mets to consider a trade.
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson are both vulnerable if the team doesn't improve, Rosenthal says. Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick says he wants the team to rely more on data, and that isn't Towers' forte. (Kendrick says, in fact, that one reason the Diamondbacks haven't employed as many defensive shifts as other teams is that they haven't studied them as much.) Still, Kendrick is backing both Towers and Gibson right now, despite the D-Backs' 5-14 start.
- When the Braves lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to Tommy John surgery, they acted decisively, Rosenthal says. They quickly signed Ervin Santana, and their scouting team identified Aaron Harang, who was released by the Indians, as another good target. Both pitchers have been terrific so far in the young season.
- Stephen Drew is still the most logical choice at shortstop for the Tigers, Rosenthal says. Drew, of course, remains in qualifying-offer limbo, and the Tigers will need to wait until June if they want to avoid giving up a draft pick to sign him.
Over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron provides an interesting look at team age, weighted for anticipated playing time. The unsurprising result is that the oldest current MLB roster belongs to the Yankees. With the Red Sox and Blue Jays also falling in the top five, and the Rays landing in the top half with what Cameron calls a "sneaky old" roster, the American League East would appear to be the most veteran-laden division in the game.
- The loss of pitchers Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, and Jeremy Hellickson has exposed the fact that the Rays are thin on pitching depth in their system, says Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com (Twitter links). Gammons notes that, despite having five of the first 79 picks in the 2010 draft and a whopping ten of the first 60 choices in 2011, the only major leaguer to have emerged from those additions is infielder Derek Dietrich (who, of course, has since been dealt for fellow infielder Yunel Escobar).
- Looking at the bigger picture for the Rays, the club is still looking for a location to target for a new ballpark, as the Associated Press (via ESPN.com) reports. One possibility is to land in the city after which the club is named. "Tampa is obviously very, very attractive on the list," said club owner Stuart Sternberg, "and we expect to at some point, hopefully sooner, look there as well as some other parts of the region." The organization still needs to undertake "a full-out exploration" of possible sites in the area, including Tampa and St. Petersburg, Sternberg said. Tampa's current lease — at the St. Petersburg-located Tropicana Field — has often been noted as a significant hindrance for the team's spending capacity, and runs through the 2027 season.
- Injuries to the middle infield have not changed the Yankees' stance on Stephen Drew, according to principal owner Hal Steinbrenner. As MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom reports, Steinbrenner said that he is "pretty content with [the Yankees'] infield right now," especially given the early returns on some of the club's lower-profile offseason additions. "I'm happy with a couple of our Minor League free-agent signings — [Yangervis Solarte] and [Dean Anna]. Jeter has been healthy. So far, I'm pretty content with where we are, but I will always analyze options." (Anna was actually acquired via trade, though certainly he was the same type of addition.)
- The Yankees are also enjoying the excellent early showing from Michael Pineda, who was picked up in a rare swap of highly touted young talent. (Jesus Montero, of course, went to Seattle in that deal.) Continuing a strong Spring Training run, in 12 innings over two starts, Pineda has allowed just two earned runs and has struck out 12 batters while walking only two. As Tony Blengino of Fangraphs writes, a full return to form for Pineda would be "basically unprecedented in baseball history," with the one notable exception of another outstanding young pitcher who returned from an early-career shoulder injury to post a Hall-of-Fame career: Jim Palmer.
- Red Sox hurler Jon Lester projects to be worthy of a six-year, $145MM deal in free agency, according to ESPN.com's Dan Szymborski. Other than sticking in Boston, Lester could draw interest from teams like the Cubs, Mariners, Giants, and Tigers, in Szymborski's estimation.
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal has a new, lengthy notes column in which he begins by examining the early scrutiny of MLB's new instant replay system. He points to a pair of blatantly missed calls on Saturday in which conclusive evidence was seen on TV broadcasts of the games but apparently not by the umpires at MLB's Replay Operations Center in New York. An MLB spokesperson confirmed to Rosenthal that one of those calls was blown and added that the system would continue to work on improvement. Rosenthal reminds that John Schuerholz, one of the architects of the system, said it would be a three-year roll out. However, he adds that MLB can't expect any patience from fans, players or managers when home viewers are able to make better judgments than the umpires at the Relay Operations Center.
Here are some more highlights from his article, which also contains notes on Jose Abreu, struggling offenses around the league and the Dodgers' interleague schedule…
- Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson is the early front-runner for "first manager to get fired" due to the team's 4-11 start, but Rosenthal wonders what more Gibson can do with the pitching talent (or lack thereof) he has been given. GM Kevin Towers thinned out the rotation depth by trading Tyler Skaggs and David Holmberg this offseason, and the loss of Patrick Corbin compounded those moves. Rosenthal wonders how long the Snakes can wait before recalling Archie Bradley.
- One executive said to Rosenthal that any American League team with a need in the infield will have added incentive to work out a deal with Stephen Drew in order to prevent the Tigers from signing him. The AL Central powerhouse is currently going with Alex Gonzalez at short, and the results have been less than stellar.
- Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda told Rosenthal (through his interpreter) that he's never considered retirement as heavily as he did this offseason. The most difficult factor for Kuroda wasn't the separation from his L.A.-based family — they come live with him in the summer when his daughters are out of school — but rather that he simply loves and misses Japan. Kuroda again left open the possibility of finishing his career back in Japan.
- Both the Angels and Twins have a need in the outfield with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham on the disabled list, and both teams were interested in the recently DFA'ed Sam Fuld this offseason before he signed with the Athletics. Rosenthal reports that the A's will gauge trade possibilities for Fuld and wonders if the Halos and Twins could have interest.
- After signing a minor league deal in the 2012-13 offseason, Blue Jays right-hander Neil Wagner earned the pro-rated portion that deal's $525K salary while in the Majors last season. However, Toronto's pre-arbitration pay scale called for just a $506,250 salary in 2014, as it is based on service time rather than performance. Agent Jim Munsey and Wagner refused the deal, giving Toronto the freedom to renew Wagner's contract at $500K if they wished, which the team did. Said Munsey of the ordeal: "It's, obviously, disappointing that they cut Neil's pay after such a good season last year. And when we didn't agree to the pay cut, they cut it further in renewing him. Hard to cheer for that. … The rules allow the Jays to reduce his pay. They also allow us to talk about that at arbitration." MLBTR's Zach Links recently looked at teams' calculation of pre-arbitration salaries.
- Though the Rays' rotation has been ravaged by injuries to Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb, the team is planning on using internal options rather than pursuing outside help.
Scott Boras, the agent for unsigned free agents Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales, claims his clients have been "damaged" by comments from the anonymous executives quoted in a recent ESPN story, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Boras' remarks come two days after the MLBPA requested the Commissioner's Office to investigate those comments made to ESPN's Buster Olney, which appeared in a column he penned Wednesday.
"It's a clear violation of the CBA," Boras told Heyman. "As many as five executives continue to use ESPN as a conduit to violate the collective bargaining agreement. Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew were damaged by these comments."
Boras also warns, "The integrity of the game is challenged when players of this stature have yet to have a negotiation due to the system," adding there needs to be a "remedy" for the pair, which could take the form of monetary damages or relief from a future qualifying offer. Boras points out not only does the CBA disallow negative comments from MLB team officials, which could depress player markets, but also provides for the possibility of monetary damages in such circumstances. Boras says the issue is about the "conduct" of the executives, not the timing suggesting a grievance procedure needs to be implemented where all concerned parties are placed under oath.
MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred disagrees with Boras' assertion the market for Drew and Morales has been damaged by the comments. "It is ludicrous, absurd, that one [Internet] report somehow alters the market for players who have been out there for months," Manfred told Heyman.