Tampa Bay Rays Rumors
Epifanio "Epi" Guerrero, one of the key figures in the history of Dominican baseball, passed today at age 71. Guerrero signed a number of notable international talents (including Cesar Cedeno, Carlos Delgado and Tony Fernandez) while working in the Astros, Yankees, Blue Jays and Brewers organizations as a scout and coach during a career that began in 1965. Guerrero was one of the first scouts to be involved in the development of the academy system that gave countless young Dominican prospects chances at a professional career. We here at MLBTR extend our condolences to Guerrero's friends and family on his passing.
Here are some news items from around the baseball world...
- While it has been assumed that the Cardinals will part ways with Carlos Beltran after this season, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks both Beltran and the Cardinals could benefit from Beltran re-signing a short-term contract, provided the veteran was willing to take a hometown discount. While Miklasz has a point that Beltran is a surer thing to produce for a contender than youngsters like Oscar Taveras or Matt Adams, I would be surprised if Beltran returned to St. Louis in 2014. If the Cards were confident enough in their young talent to let Albert Pujols and Kyle Lohse go, they'll do with the same with Beltran.
- The Diamondbacks may not need to make any major moves before the trade deadline, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. The Snakes have depth at several positions and further reinforcements are coming as some injured players return from the disabled list. The only possible area of need could be at closer given J.J. Putz's elbow problems but GM Kevin Towers is "100% confident" that Putz will recover.
- The Mariners talked with Jesus Montero about a long-term contract before he was linked to the Biogenesis scandal, but nothing came of those conversations, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets. Earlier today, the M's demoted the 23-year-old to Triple-A.
- If MLB announces that an international draft will take place in 2014, Baseball America's Ben Badler notes that teams like the Rangers, Yankees, Cardinals or Reds (who are likely to pick near the end of that draft's first round) could be wise to exceed the spending cap on international prospects this year. Such teams would lose their 2014 or '15 international draft first-rounder for going over the cap, but it could be worth it to get a jump on the non-American/Canadian talent market.
- MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo profiles some of the top corner infielders in the upcoming amateur draft, a list led by University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant.
- ESPN's Keith Law discusses draft prospects, minor leaguers and other moves from around the game in a live chat with fans.
- Andrew Cashner is making great strides as a starting pitcher for the Padres, MLB.com's Corey Brock writes. Cashner has a 2.80 ERA in six starts for the Friars in 2013 after being limited to mostly bullpen work over his first three seasons due to injuries and concerns about his arm strength. If Cashner develops into a solid starter, it will obviously give the Padres a much greater return on the Anthony Rizzo trade from January 2012.
- The Rays' pitching depth is the envy of baseball, MLB.com's Bill Chastain writes, and that depth at the Major League level gives all their minor league arms time to properly develop into the club's next generation of rotation stalwarts.
MLBTR's Zach Links contributed to this post
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly offered up some brutally honest and scathing remarks for his players and the team's upper management prior to Wednesday's game, and Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times has a recap. Mattingly benched $85MM right fielder Andre Ethier in favor of rookie Scott Van Slyke, commenting that to use his “most competitive lineup” and one that would “fight the hardest.” Mattingly wouldn't confirm whether or not he still viewed Ethier as an everyday player. He also noted that the front office tried to buy an All-Star team, stating: “All grit and no talent isn’t going to make you successful. But all talent and no grit is not going to get you there, either.” Here's more out of baseball's Western divisions...
- One rival general manager told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that it seems like Mattingly is trying to get himself fired.
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes that Ethier is now "eminently available" and suggests some speculative trades. Cameron proposes a swap of Ethier and Jeff Francoeur, with the Dodgers picking up the tab (Twitter link) on Ethier's final two seasons. Doing so would save the Dodgers up to $40MM, allow them to call up Yasiel Puig and give Kansas City an upgrade over Francoeur. He also suggests a swap with Franklin Gutierrez of the Mariners or dumping Ethier on the Rangers.
- Jordan Norberto's preference is still to re-sign with the Athletics after being released earlier in the month, according to John Shea and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Norberto was cut loose due to an elbow strain, and he's throwing again as he rehabs from the injury. The Cubs, Royals and Rays are all interested in Norberto, but he told Shea and Slusser: "I've never felt anything for a team before like I do about the A's - the teammates, the pitching coach, the manager, the fans."
- The Mariners need better than what Aaron Harang is giving them every five days, writes Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, who suggests that it's time to designate Harang for assignment and give Jeremy Bonderman a try. Bonderman has a 3.79 ERA in nine Triple-A starts.
- The Mariners are better than their record indicates, writes Rosenthal, but a number of their key offensive pieces are free agents. Rosenthal feels that the Mariners and GM Jack Zduriencik are at a crossroads, but an improved record could make Seattle a desirable destination for Northwest natives Jacoby Ellsbury and Tim Lincecum.
Over the last ten games, the Rays share a league-best 8-2 mark. Here are a few notes on the team as it looks to carry that momentum and regain its footing in a challenging AL East:
- The triceps strain that sent ace David Price to the DL could have major short and long-term implications for the Rays, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Of course, with Price now battling an injury after already struggling on the mound to start the season, the team is holding its breath that it will have its top pitcher in good form for a postseason run. But even more troubling, the injury could have a huge impact on the Rays' long-term plans. Topkin explains that Tampa Bay likely cannot afford to extend Price after giving a major contract to Evan Longoria. Instead, as with Matt Garza and James Shields, an eventual trade of Price seems likely. Not only will the injury likely foreclose a trade deadline deal this season (however unlikely that was to begin with), but could significantly downgrade Price's trade value next offseason. As Topkin notes, even if Price returns strong, this blip on the radar could suppress the willingness of trade partners to offer the truly monumental prospect haul that Price was expected to garner.
- As expected, Jake Odorizzi will take Price's spot in the rotation for the time being, reports Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com. Odorizzi, of course, was acquired by the Rays -- along with the even higher-regarded Wil Myers and two other prospects -- in exchange for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. With Shields off to a fine start for the Royals, Odorizzi's ascension to the bigs will allow the Rays to begin adding production to their side of the ledger.
- Meanwhile, the Rays' success remains predicated, as ever, on executive vice president Andrew Friedman's uncanny ability to reclaim and restore veteran ballplayers. In particular, the club has stayed above .500, in spite of the surprising struggles of its pitching staff, by hitting above expectations. (The team is tied for third in all of baseball for team batting wins above replacement.) As Topkin writes, a major piece of the Rays' sudden offensive prowess is the much-maligned James Loney. Making only $2MM on a one-year deal, Loney is raking in Tampa, hitting .359/.415/.523 in his first 143 plate appearances. Since he showed the promise of this kind of production as a 23-year-old in 2007, the now-29-year-old has largely disappointed. Nevertheless, Tampa Bay banked on Loney's long-observed skill, and he has finally come through.
- Topkin goes on to list and describe several other successful Friedman reclamation projects, including relievers Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, and Fernando Rodney, as well as infielders Jeff Keppinger and Carlos Pena. Of course, the Rays are hoping that Rodney can turn around his poor start and at least approach his incredible 2012 season.
- Another player that could be added to that list is Kelly Johnson, 31, who has played all over the diamond this year for the Rays while posting a .273/.348/.496 line in 138 plate appearances. This level may be surprising given Johnson's mediocre 2011-12 seasons, but as the Rays were no doubt aware, Johnson has at least three seasons under his belt (2007, 2008, 2010) as a productive big league hitter. With the team on the hook for only a modest one-year, $2.45MM investment, a veteran gamble has once again paid big dividends to Tampa Bay.
- According to Fangraphs' WAR measurements, Loney and Johnson have been the 42nd and 62nd most valuable hitters (respectively) in baseball this year. With Loney's relative youth and Johnson's ability to play second base, continued production from these players could make them very interesting free agent cases in 2014.
We will start the weekend off with a few notes from around baseball:
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets that the Pirates and Twins may have interest in infielder Reid Brignac. The Rockies recently designated Brignac for assignment to clear room for DJ LeMahieu. The 27-year-old Brignac had slashed .250/.294/.375 over 53 plate appearances in his first season in Colorado. He owns a career line of .228/.270/.321 in 719 plate appearances for the Rays and Rockies.
- ESPN's Jim Bowden (subscription required) suggests some key adjustments for the Mariners, who he believes can compete this season. Bowden argues that the Mariners could improve their disappointing offense by trading from their pitching depth, as well as by promoting top prospects Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino.
- Highly-rated prospect Jake Odorizzi could throw his first pitch for the Rays as soon as Monday, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, as he appears first in line to fill in for injured starter David Price. If he is called up, Odorizzi would become the first of the four prospects acquired in the James Shields trade to see action for the big club. Baseball America rated Odorizzi as the Rays' fifth-best prospect going into the season, and he has been solid at Triple-A so far, posting a 3.83 ERA over 44 2/3 innings to go with 9.5 K/9 and 3 BB/9.
The Rays have signed Cory Wade to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Durham, according to Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune (on Twitter). Wade is represented by Casey Close of Excel Sports Management.
Wade, who turns 30 at the end of the month, spent the 2011-12 seasons pitching out of the Yankees' bullpen. He posted a 4.23 ERA, 7.8 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in that time, but the two seasons were wildly different. In 39 2/3 innings for the Bombers in 2011, Wade posted a pristine 2.04 ERA. That number rose by more than four runs in 2012 as he finished with a 6.46 ERA in an even 39 innings.
Originally drafted by the Dodgers in 2004, Wade has a 3.65 ERA, 6.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 39.5 percent ground-ball rate in 177 2/3 innings between Los Angeles and New York.
As the season is now over one-fifth of the way through, the likely trade deadline buyers and sellers are becoming more clear. Likewise, analysis is beginning to increase of the development of the market. Let's take a quick look around some recent commentary:
- The starting pitching trade market promises to be deep, but will likely lack impact, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman analalyzes the potentially available starters by likelihood of a trade. His top three are Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins, Bud Norris of the Astros, and Scott Feldman of the Cubs. Other notable arms include Josh Johnson of the Blue Jays (sixth on Heyman's list), Cliff Lee of the Phillies (twelfth), David Price of the Rays (thirteenth), Jake Peavy of the White Sox (fourteenth), R.A. Dickey of the Blue Jays (fifteenth), and Edwin Jackson of the Cubs (twentieth).
- Some possible trade targets may have the right to decline a trade, of course. Wendy Thurm of Fangraphs breaks down the no-trade clauses that may come into play as the trade market heats up. Cliff Lee and Chase Utley of the Phillies each could be moved despite their twenty-one-team list of teams to which they can decline a trade. Likewise, Jimmy Rollins (full no-trade) and Jonathan Papelbon (twelve-team no-trade) could be possible targets. Howie Kendrick could be the member of the Angels most likely to be dealt, in spite of a floating, limited no-trade clause that allows him to decline trades to twelve teams this year. Finally, Thurm notes that the Twins' Joe Mauer is perhaps the most attractive and most expensive potential trade target (however unlikely) who enjoys full no-trade protection.
- Of course, MLBTR has been providing its own original commentary on the upcoming trade market. For instance, have a look at the list of relief trade candidates and trade targets with team control.
Fausto Carmona was a revelation in 2007 with the Indians, his first season as a starter in the Majors. He tied for tenth in the AL with 215 regular season innings, tacking on another 15 in the postseason. He finished second in all of baseball with a 64.3% groundball rate, allowing only 16 home runs on the season en route to a 3.06 ERA. The campaign earned Carmona a fourth-place Cy Young finish, and the Indians locked up the supposed 24-year-old to a four-year deal with three club options in April the following year.
A hip strain cut Carmona's 2008 season short, and in June of the following year a 7.42 ERA across a dozen starts earned him a demotion to the rookie-level Arizona Summer League - a drastic move. Carmona had replaced Cliff Lee to earn a rotation spot in '07, and when Lee was traded in July of '09, a spot opened for him again. He was a little better to close out the year, and furthered his comeback in 2010 with 210 1/3 innings of 3.77 ball and his first All-Star nod. Carmona even became the Indians' Opening Day starter in 2011. His ERA was higher in '11, but Carmona was pretty much the same pitcher he had been in '10. It was enough to get his $7MM club option picked up for 2012.
Then came surprising news in January 2012: Carmona's real name was Roberto Hernandez Heredia, and he was arrested in the Dominican Republic for using a false identity. He was found to be three years older than originally believed. Charges were dropped, and Hernandez's name, age, and contract were changed. He rejoined the Indians to make three starts in August before an ankle sprain ended his season. Though Hernandez's option price had been reduced from $9MM to $6MM, the Indians still chose to move on last October.
Enter the Rays, always open to a project, whether in terms of a performance issue, an off-the-field issue, or both. They signed Hernandez to a one-year, $3.25MM deal with another $1.25MM in incentives. The Rays were not able to obtain a club option, a wise choice by agent Charisse Espinosa-Dash of Draft Pix Sports. As explained by Bradley Woodrum of FanGraphs, Hernandez has tweaked his repertoire with the Rays. We're only six starts in, but Hernandez has whiffed more than a batter per inning, a rate to which he's never come close in the Majors. He's still getting groundballs, too. A 9.0 K/9 and 50% groundball rate is a rare combination, as a qualified starter hasn't managed the feat since Jon Lester and Francisco Liriano in 2010. This year, Yu Darvish, A.J. Burnett, Jeff Samardzija, C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson, and Hernandez have done it in the early going.
Hernandez's ERA sits at an unimpressive 4.66, because 23.1% of his flyballs have left the yard - the worst rate in baseball. That home run per flyball rate figures to come down significantly moving forward, and the ERA estimator SIERA suggests Hernandez should be well below 4.00 from here on out if he maintains his skills. If Hernandez can post a sub-4.00 ERA and pitch close to 200 innings with 175 strikeouts or so, he should be quite popular in a free agent market light on above-average, healthy starting pitchers. The false identity issue may suppress interest, as well as the question of whether Hernandez can maintain success away from the Rays (assuming he does pitch well for the remainder of the season). A multiyear deal should still be in order, with two years and $16MM a possible floor. We'll be following Hernandez closely to see if his volatile stock continues to rise.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
You can't begin a month much better than Jake Odorizzi did during his start on May 5th against the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox. The young pitching prospect combined with three relievers to no-hit Boston's minor league affiliate. Odorizzi worked seven innings while walking four batters and striking out three. He was removed from the game early due to workload limitations. Relievers Frank De Los Santos, Kirby Yates and Jeff Beliveau preserved the no-no.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times spoke with Odorizzi, who said he had all his weapons working during the game. "Everything was going my way. The defense was good behind me. It seemed everything was hit right at someone. Just kind of one of those days where everything goes your way." He has now held opponents scoreless in each of his last two starts (12 innings).
Although it's easy to get excited about Odorizzi's quick start to the season, the hype comes with caveats. The young hurler has always been an extreme flyball pitcher and his groundball rate is well below average on the year at slightly more than 22%.
Odorizzi's pitching repertoire includes solid stuff but he lacks "plus stuff." He has average control and above-average command of his offerings: an 87-92 mph fastball, slider, curveball and change-up. In pre-season top prospects lists, Keith Law of ESPN (68th), Baseball America (92nd), and MLB.com (42nd) all ranked Odorizzi amongst the top 100 in the game. Baseball America's scouting report referred to the hurler's ceiling as that of a No. 3 or 4 starter.
Originally selected 32nd overall by the Milwaukee Brewers during that 2008 amateur draft, the Illinois native has been traded twice in his young career. He was sent to the Kansas City Royals in December 2010 during the Zack Greinke deal. Almost exactly two years later, Odorizzi was flipped to Tampa Bay in the James Shields/Wade Davis swap. If Tampa Bay -- specifically its pitching staff with the fifth worst ERA in baseball -- continues to struggle into the second half of 2013, the pitching prospect could become a big-league option later in the year.
Prospect Tidbits: Selected 46th overall in the 2012 amateur draft, Colorado Rockies pitching prospect Eddie Butler is off to a hot start to his career. Beginning the 2013 season in A ball, he's allowed just 18 hits in 41 innings of work. If the Radford University alum continues to pitch like this he could make quick work of the minor leagues.....The Miami Marlins brought in a lot of minor league talent during last November's shocking trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. Despite that, prospects originally drafted by the club continue to see their values soar. Outfielder Christian Yelich went 5-for-6 with two triples and a home run on May 8th. As MiLB.com's Ashley Marshall tells us, the performance also caught the attention of his manager. "It was one of the most impressive displays of a young hitter I have ever seen," Andy Barkett said. It raised Yelich's average to .343 on the year.....Baltimore's Dylan Bundy reached the big leagues in his first full pro season in 2012 but his development in '13 was halted by an injury. The bad news gives his Oklahoma high school opponent and friend Archie Bradley a chance to close the gap between the two a little bit. After five dominating starts in the potent California League (43 strikeouts, 1.26 ERA in 28 2/3 innings), the Arizona Diamondbacks promoted the pitching prospect to Double-A and he's struck out 11 batters with a 1.13 ERA in eight innings over two starts.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tells Andrew Kahn that his favorite scoop was his early reporting on the Angels' discussions with Albert Pujols. A tip of the cap to Metsblog for the link to the Rosenthal interview. Michael Baron discussed (and generally concurred with) Rosenthal's opinion that the Mets will not be contenders until at least 2015, in spite of the team's promising young arms. Here are a few more notes from around baseball:
- Reid Brignac says he is grateful to the Rays organization for sending him to the Rockies before spring training, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The infielder says that he "could see the signs right in front of me" that he was a longshot to make the Tampa Bay roster. With a full spring to prove himself, Brignac managed to make an infield-heavy Rockies opening day roster. While Brignac has only seen 42 plate appearances, and has slugged just .324 in his limited opportunities, he has been able to get on base at a .325 clip.
- Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart has been optioned to Triple-A, making his demotion official. Toni Ginnetti of the Chicago Sun-TImes quotes Cubs manager Dale Sveum as saying that Stewart is in the minors "as a triple A player now," with Cody Ransom and Luis Valbuena being the Cubbies' third base options. Stewart struggled mightily at the top level of the minors while rehabilitating a strained quad. Still just 28, Stewart has failed to return to the level he reached during his promising 2009-10 seasons, when he showed 20-home run power at a young age. Meanwhile, the Cubs still have little to show for their investment in the former first-round pick, who barely cleared the Mendoza line last year. In addition to paying Stewart over $4MM over the last two seasons (after non-tendering but re-signing him this offseason), the Cubs gave the Rockies Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu to acquire him.
- The notion that Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol can build up any trade value is preposterous, tweets David Kaplan of CSN Chicago. Marmol was yanked in the eighth inning today after allowing two walks and hitting a batter, which led to two runs to break open a tie ballgame. After today's implosion, Marmol has more walks than strikeouts after throwing 11 2/3 innings.
Tonight's outright assignments..
- The Rays announced that Shelley Duncan has accepted an outright assignment Triple-A Durham. Tampa Bay designated the DH/first baseman for assignment earlier this week to make room on the roster for Luke Scott. The 33-year-old hit just .182/.297/.309 in 64 plate appearances this season.