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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.
Twins righty Blaine Boyer hung up his spikes after 2012, in spite of good health and a live arm, in large part to spend more time with his family, as he tells Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. But his clan has made it work since, aided by busy travel arrangements, and Boyer is in camp with Minnesota after a strong campaign last year with the Padres. His minor league deal with the Twins includes a late March out clause, Miller also reports.
Here are a few more notes from the AL Central:
- Tigers reliever Joel Hanrahan has seemingly stalled out in his comeback attempt, as Jason Beck of MLB.com reports. Since going in for a Tommy John procedure in the middle of the 2013 campaign, Hanrahan has been unable to get his elbow back into form. Soreness has kept him from moving onto the mound this spring, and he has already received at least one suggestion that he undergo a second TJ surgery. There appears to be at least some question at this point whether the 33-year-old will ever return to a big league pen, let alone contribute to the club in 2015.
- While Hanrahan tries to figure out his situation, fellow Tigers righty Joba Chamberlain discussed his recent free agent process with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. His son’s connection with Detroit proved a strong inducement for the righty, who said he left money on the table to return. Among the teams with interest in him were the Rangers, Dodgers, Royals, and Brewers, some of which were willing to pay him in the range of his $2.5MM salary from 2014.
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.”
Torii Hunter spoke with Bob Nightengale of USA Today about his return to the Twins and an interesting aspiration that he has in his post-playing days. The 39-year-old Hunter would eventually like to not only work in the Twins’ front office, but take the reins as general manager of the team. “I really want to get into that front office, make some changes, and build a team that I want to build,” Hunter explained. “I’d love to learn everything from [Twins GM Terry Ryan]. He’ll be a mentor. One day, that’s my goal, to be GM of the Twins.” Nightengale spoke with Ryan about the idea and writes that Hunter “will have a door waiting for him,” though Nightengale writes that Ryan also advised Hunter not to rush any decisions about retirement. Hunter said he’s considered hanging it up next winter, though he very much sounds like a good year at the plate would leave him open to a return in Minnesota. “…unless I hit .300, then I’m going nowhere,” said Hunter, who has batted .301 over the past three seasons. Hunter also has interest in working in TV, he said, and he spoke with Nightengale at length about his prayers for friend Josh Hamilton.
A bit more from Nightengale’s piece and the AL Central…
- Nightengale reports that the Rangers made Hunter a one-year, $8MM offer to play near his Dallas home, and the division-rival Royals offered Hunter one year and $8.5MM with a player option. Hunter, however, ultimately decided he wanted to return to Minnesota, and Nightengale adds that Billy Butler‘s three-year, $30MM contract with Oakland “raised the stakes” for Hunter (presumably implying that Butler’s deal caused Hunter to aim for a higher annual value). Hunter said a 90-minute phone call with Ryan, in which the GM explained that he wants Hunter in Minnesota “forever,” impacted him a great deal as well.
- Tigers right-hander Joel Hanrahan is traveling to Texas to see Dr. Keith Meister about persistent elbow problems that have slowed his comeback attempt, writes MLive.com’s Chris Iott. Hanrahan, who hasn’t thrown since Feb. 22, tells Iott that he’s past the point of frustration and wants to get answers as to why his elbow still is not working properly. Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press also spoke with Hanrahan, who told him that at times, it feels like bones in his arm are rubbing together, and at other times, like his biceps is being pinched (Twitter link). Hanrahan missed all of the 2014 season and most of the 2013 season recovering from Tommy John and flexor tendon surgery.
- Mike Aviles‘ outgoing personality and vocal leadership abilities factored into the Indians‘ decision to exercise his $3.5MM option this offseason, writes Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com. Manager Terry Francona told Meisel: “We told him that in our one-on-one. That’s part of his responsibility. We love what he does as a player, because he plays all over the place and he can play every position professionally. But when he’s not playing, he needs to be in a leadership role. We need that out of him. He understands that.”
Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:
- The Rockies have selected the contract of reliever John Axford and moved pitcher Tyler Chatwood to the 60-day disabled list, according to MLB.com’s transactions page. That the Rockies would add Axford isn’t surprising — when they signed Axford to a minor-league deal last month, MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted that it was likely Axford would make the team. Axford’s addition to the 40-man is significant, given that he’s set to make $2.6MM in the Majors, with the possibility of making up to $1.5MM more with incentives. Axford posted a 3.95 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9 in 54 2/3 innings with the Indians and Pirates last season, offering his usual blend of strikeout stuff and control troubles.
- The Rangers have signed right-hander Mark Rogers to a minor league contract, tweets EPSN’s Jerry Crasnick. Rogers, the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Brewers and a top 100 prospect by Baseball America in 2005 and 2006, has seen his career derailed by shoulder injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. The 29-year-old made two appearances last year for the Mariners‘ Triple-A affiliate before being released. He then hooked on with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League making 18 starts with a line of 4.17 ERA, 4.6 K/9, and 6.2 BB/9 in 86 1/3 innings. Rogers’ last MLB action came in 2012 with the Brewers.
Former Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins viewed the Dodgers as his number one choice for a new club, writes Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. But if a deal hadn’t been reached, Rollins would have considered a trade to the division rival Mets. Rollins said, “I considered the Mets to be No. 2. They have some arms over there.” Rollins clarified that he’s unsure if he would have ultimately accepted a trade to New York. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweets that the Mets inquired about Rollins in November but were told he would not accept a trade.
- The Phillies are working quickly to evaluate Rule 5 picks Odubel Herrera and Andy Oliver, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. Herrera will start in the outfield and Oliver will pitch an inning of relief as the Phillies take on the University of Tampa in an exhibition Sunday. Neither Herrera, who posted good on-base percentages in the Rangers system, nor Oliver, a hard-throwing but wild lefty from the Pirates organization, expected to wind up with the Phillies. “This is a good opportunity for me,” says Oliver. “I feel like I’m in a better place than where I came from.”
- In addition to Oliver, Phillippe Aumont and non-roster invitee Jeanmar Gomez could make the opening day bullpen due to transactional reasons, writes Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. The Phillies acquired Aumont in 2009 as part of the haul from the Mariners for Cliff Lee. He’s the lone remaining asset from that trade and is out of options. If he does not make the club, he’ll be subject to waivers. Gomez, 27, would have to earn a spot on the 40-man roster, but the club isn’t in a position to pass on viable major league pitchers. He has a 3.28 ERA in 78 appearances over the last two seasons, although his peripherals suggest we should expect something closer to a 4.00 ERA.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.
- The Rangers have signed righty Jesus Pirela, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy writes. The 25-year-old Pirela spent five seasons in the Phillies organization, then ultimately wound up pitching for Veracruz last season and becoming one of the best relievers in the Mexican League, posting a 1.51 ERA, 10.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 over 53 2/3 innings. Eddy notes that the Rangers scouted him in the Mexican Pacific Winter League this offseason.
The bonus pools for the 2015-16 international signing period have been determined, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports, providing the full list of dollar figures. While the Diamondbacks have the largest bonus pool (just under $5.394MM) of any team due to their league-worst record in 2014, Arizona is unable to sign any pool-eligible player in both the coming signing period and the 2016-17 period for more than $300K. The D’Backs, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Angels all face this penalty since they exceeded their 2013-14 spending limits, though as Badler notes, the five teams can trade the individual slot values that make up their new pools.
Here’s more about some of the game’s top international prospects…
- Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez held a showcase for scouts today, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter link). While past reports suggested Alvarez’s camp hoped to have the 18-year-old under contract to a team before the current int’l signing period ends, Sanchez reports that Alvarez isn’t eligible to sign until the 2015-16 international signing window opens on July 2.
- Sanchez adds (via another tweet) the Rangers to the long list of teams who have already been rumored to be interested in Alvarez, and he notes that more clubs are sure to join the list. The Rangers (and Cubs) were restricted from spending more than $250K on international prospects in 2014-15 due to overspending in the 2013-14 period, but they’ll again be able to spend more freely on July 2.
- The Angels are also interested in Alvarez, Ross Newhan of the NewhanOnBaseball blog tweets. If Alvarez isn’t able to sign until July 2, however, this will surely eliminate the Angels from contention since the righty will command a far higher bonus than $300K.
- The Twins had scouts present at today’s Alvarez showcase, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com
- Hector Olivera discusses his health history, his decision to leave Cuba, his transition to American baseball and more as part of a wide-ranging interview with Ben Badler of Baseball America (subscription required).
- Olivera missed over a full season of Cuban baseball while recovering from a blood clot in his left biceps, and when he returned, he spent most of his time at DH rather than second base. This has raised some concern with MLB scouts who wonder if Olivera is able to regularly play in the field, but as Olivera explained to Badler, his extended DH time wasn’t related to his blood issues. “The reason was we got disqualified early (from playoff contention). The manager and I talked about giving the younger kids a chance to play. So I asked him to just DH me and play the younger guys,” Olivera said.
- New Red Sox signee Yoan Moncada speaks to Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel (audio link), noting that his preference would be to play second base in the majors. “[My] baby is second base,” Moncada said via a translator, though he’ll play any position the Sox ask him to play. Of course, second base doesn’t seem like a likely option for Moncada in Boston given the presence of Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts blocking him at the position.
Despite all of their success, it’s not easy for the Giants to land free agents thanks to the tax rate in California, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News writes. The top income tax rate in California is 13.3%, which is more than double the top tax rate in all but a handful of states with major league teams. “It’s exponential when you get into the size of some of these numbers,” Sabean said. “It makes a difference.” The Giants have had to build differently and a little more creatively than others, sometimes with some key moves in the summer, but it has worked out pretty well for them. Here’s more from the West divisions..
- The Rangers‘ interest in lefty reliever Phil Coke has waned and the club doesn’t expect to sign the free agent reliever, a source tells Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram (via Twitter). The Rangers claimed a left-handed reliever earlier today when they plucked Edgar Olmos from the Mariners. The Tigers apparently haven’t expressed much interest in a reunion and another spot in their ‘pen was filled when they signed Joba Chamberlain.
- If shortstop prospect Ketel Marte plays well enough to reach the big leagues this year, the Mariners’ willingness to move Brad Miller or Chris Taylor will increase in the coming months, if not sooner, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. One Mariners official compared Marte, a switch hitter, to a younger version of Jose Reyes. He also has some second base experience, but he’s blocked there by Robinson Cano.
- All of the Angels‘ core relievers throw fastballs at an average speed of less than 92 mph, which means they’re basically ignoring baseball’s dogma about power arms in the bullpen, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. Recently, the Angels have placed more of a premium on strike-throwing ability than velocity.
- Trea Turner, who will be joining the Nationals as the player to be named later in the Wil Myers trade, is in camp with the Padres, Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego writes. Lin checks in on Turner’s unusual camp experience as he is still more than three months away from joining the Nats.
The Rangers and Padres were among teams to at least “kick the tires” on Phillies starter Cliff Lee earlier this winter, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Of course, the Padres have since signed James Shields to a four-year, $75MM deal, which probably means that they won’t be making a play for Lee or teammate Cole Hamels. The Rangers have also added to their pitching depth this offseason.
Meanwhile, Heyman believes that Lee would be a solid fit for the Red Sox as their own talks on Hamels seem to have stalled. Boston won’t part with either catching prospect Blake Swihart or second baseman/outfielder Mookie Betts to pry Hamels away, but a Lee deal could get done with lesser assets.
A deal for Lee could even include former fan favorite Shane Victorino as Heyman hears the Phillies wouldn’t mind a reunion. The Red Sox can certainly part with the Flyin’ Hawaiian given their crowded outfield, even though they’re pushing the idea that he’ll start Opening Day if he’s healthy.
While there haven’t been any known talks between the two teams regarding Lee, the BoSox do have an affinity for him and they’ve seemingly had interest since he joined Philly as a free agent.
“He’s hard not to like,” one Red Sox person told Heyman.
However, another Boston official characterized the Lee possibility to Heyman as a “long shot” since he still has to prove his health. On the other hand, it’s well known that Lee wants to play for a winner and his track record of pitching in the American League could appeal to the Red Sox.
Outside of the Red Sox, Heyman posits that the Cardinals are a team that would seem to fit since they weren’t all that aggressive in adding pitching and they’d be almost local for the Little Rock, Ark. resident.
Lee is owed $25MM for the coming season and can be controlled for another year through a $27.5MM option that comes with a hefty $12.5MM buyout. Prior to his 2014 elbow trouble, Lee boasted a streak of six straight seasons with 200+ innings. Over that stretch, he carried a 2.89 ERA with 8.1 K/9 against just 1.3 BB/9. The 36-year-old (37 in August) has a no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to twenty teams per year.