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While multiple reports yesterday raised the possibility of the Athletics trading Josh Donaldson this offseason, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) spoke with an A’s official who completely dismissed the notion, bluntly stating, “That would be stupid.” Of course, one such comment doesn’t completely rule out the possibility, but it does seem unlikely that the A’s are feeling too much pressure to move their All-Star third baseman, as he’s just hitting arbitration for the first time.
In other Oakland and AL West news…
- Athletics GM Billy Beane doesn’t regret pulling the trigger on the trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to Boston in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, he told reporters, including Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com. “Simply put, if we don’t have Jon Lester, I don’t think we make the playoffs,” Beane said. First baseman Brandon Moss also spoke, noting that he doesn’t think there was any way for the A’s to catch the Angels based on their torrid second-half run.
- The A’s could potentially have a strong pitching staff fronted by Sonny Gray, Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir in 2015, writes John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, but they’re left with question marks surrounding that strength. The team has no middle infield to speak of, and the free agent market doesn’t offer much in the way of impact options. Meanwhile, a large portion of the roster — including Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Brandon Moss, Stephen Vogt, John Jaso, Derek Norris, Craig Gentry and Sean Doolittle — is marred by injury concerns. Building a team that can contend in 2015 is a long shot, in Hickey’s estimation.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has some more details on Michael Young‘s upcoming role in the Rangers‘ front office. Young and the Rangers are finalizing a deal that will make him a special assistant to GM Jon Daniels — a role that the Rangers are also discussing with Darren Oliver. However, while many former players that land special assistant roles are loosely affiliated with the club and have a light workload, Grant reports that these roles would be far more significant. The Rangers feel they’ve lacked insight into the psychology of modern players when making recent decisions, and the presence of Young and Oliver could help to provide that insight. The roles will also involve field work and player evaluation at times.
- Rangers lefty Matt Harrison has pushed back the beginning of his offseason throwing sessions from November to January, reports Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com. Harrison called the move precautionary, noting somewhat ominously, “I got only one shot at this. I just have to make sure it’s right.” The talented southpaw, who is entering the third year of a five-year, $55MM extension, is attempting to work his way back from his third back surgery in a span of two years.
- Perhaps the Mariners‘ biggest weakness was the lack of a productive DH this season, writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. That flaw, he opines, should be remedied with a hard pursuit of Victor Martinez. Though he’s 36, will cost a draft pick and is sure to be expensive, Stone points out that the time for exhibiting patience is waning, as Felix Hernandez and especially Robinson Cano move closer to the end of their primes. He also points out that Martinez “reveres” manager Lloyd McClendon, who was his hitting coach with the Tigers prior to becoming Seattle’s manager.
The Rangers have designated righty Wilmer Font for assignment, according to executive VP of communications John Blake (via Twitter). The move makes room for the club’s claim of fellow right-hander Alfredo Figaro.
Font, 24, enjoyed a cup of coffee in both 2012 and 2013, but has no substantial MLB experience. After a strong minor league campaign last year, he was somewhat less successful in 2014. Over 31 innings at Double-A, he threw to a 3.48 ERA with 9.0 K/9 against 4.9 BB/9.
Surgery to remove bone spurs in Font’s pitching elbow reportedly put an early end to his season. That procedure was not expected to prevent him from being ready for the coming spring.
The Rangers have claimed righty Alfredo Figaro off waivers from the Brewers, Milwaukee announced via Twitter. The Brewers also outrighted catcher Matt Pagnozzi, per the release. With the moves, Milwaukee’s 40-man roster has two open spots.
Figaro, 30, threw 8 2/3 innings at the major league level for the Brewers this year, allowing seven earned runs while striking out eight and walking one. He saw much more extensive action last year, starting five games and making 25 relief appearances for Milwaukee. Over 74 total innings, Figaro registered a 4.14 ERA with 6.6 K/9 against 1.8 BB/9. The righty had previously seen minimal action with the Tigers, but spent the 2011-12 seasons playing in Japan. Figaro will be controllable at the league minimum next year.
Pagnozzi, the nephew of long-time big leaguer Tom, is a 31-year-old journeyman who has yet to see more than 44 plate appearances in a given season. He has, however, seen time in parts of five MLB seasons with five different clubs. Over his eight seasons at the Triple-A level, Pagnozzi owns a .228/.306/.341 slash.
Former Rangers cornerstone Michael Young has joined the team’s front office, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link), although Heyman does not include specifics on Young’s role with the club. While he was once speculated as a candidate to fill the team’s managerial vacancy, he’s now helping with the search, Heyman adds.
More from the AL West…
- Rival executives don’t expect Athletics GM Billy Beane to stand pat following the team’s late collapse and elimination in last night’s one-game playoff, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. One executive speculated that Jeff Samardzija could be an offseason trade candidate, while a second threw out the possibility of trading Josh Donaldson. While I can personally envision the Samardzija scenario — he’s a free agent after 2015 and could $10MM+ via arbitration — the Donaldson suggestion is tough to picture. As Rosenthal notes, he’s arb-eligible for the first time this offseason and controlled through 2018, so there’s no reason to think Oakland would feel pressure to trade him.
- Among the players whom the A’s could potentially lose to free agency is Jed Lowrie, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with Lowrie about the situation (All Twitter links). Slusser notes that Lowrie is one of the few players who was honest about his free agency by admitting that money will be a driving factor behind his decision. Lowrie adds that he’s looking for a good fit for him and his family, and he says he’s be willing to play second base on a full-time basis. Asked about the possibility of receiving a qualifying offer, Lowrie said he’d have to give consideration to accepting. A qualifying offer to Lowrie seems unlikely, in my view.
- MLB.com’s Richard Justice calls the Astros‘ hiring of A.J. Hinch a bold move and revisits former Diamondbacks/Padres GM Josh Byrnes’ decision to give Hinch his first managerial gig back in 2009. The move was controversial, to say the least, as Byrnes had to dismiss the popular Bob Melvin to bring the 34-year-old Hinch into the picture. Hinch had never coached or managed, but as Byrnes explains to Justice, Hinch brings a number of desirable qualities to the table.
- Justice’s colleague, Brian McTaggart, writes that Astros players appear to be on board with the move. Chad Qualls spoke highly of Hinch, who was his manager with the D’Backs in 2010, and Gregorio Petit called him “a real honest guy” after getting to know him a bit while in the Padres organization. Dallas Keuchel is excited after meeting Hinch and hinted that there were communication problems not only between previous manager Bo Porter and the front office, but also between Porter and the players. “I think we need to have better communication than we’ve had in the past couple of years,” said Keuchel.
With the regular season in the books, it’s worth assessing how things ultimately shook out from last winter’s Rule 5 draft. Only nine players were taken in this year’s draft. Here’s where things stand:
Remember, players are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they aren’t on the 40-man roster four or five years after signing, depending on the age at which they signed. If a team makes a selection, it pays the former team $50K and must keep that player on the Major League roster all season or offer him back to his original team for $25K. (Note that Rule 5 selections can change hands like any other player, with an acquiring team stepping into the shoes of the original selecting club. Click here for more details.)
- Patrick Schuster, LHP (taken first overall by the Astros from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. But not before a somewhat eventful tour. He was first dealt to the Padres, then placed on waivers and claimed by the Royals before finally being sent back. He never ended up throwing a big league inning, and ultimately struggled to 4.50 ERA in 18 frames at Triple-A once back with the D’backs.
- Adrian Nieto, C (taken third overall by the White Sox from the Nationals): Retained by Chicago. The switch-hitting, 24-year-old backstop hung on all year, posting a .236/.296/.340 line in his first 118 MLB plate appearances. He is now White Sox property.
- Kevin Munson, RHP (taken fourth overall by the Phillies from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. Munson never made it onto the active roster, and was sent back in mid-March. Though he never saw MLB action this year, he did post a rather dominant campaign at Triple-A: 2.60 ERA, 11.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9.
- Tommy Kahnle, RHP (taken eighth overall by the Rockies from the Yankees): Retained by Colorado. The 25-year-old was an oft-used bullpen piece for the Rockies, posting a 4.19 ERA in 68 2/3 frames with 8.3 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9. Colorado owns his rights moving forward.
- Brian Moran, LHP (taken ninth overall by the Blue Jays from the Mariners): Still in limbo after season-ending surgery. Moran was dealt by Toronto to the Angels on the day of the draft, and opened the season DL’ed on the active roster. But his left elbow ultimately required Tommy John surgery, meaning that he ended up on the 60-day DL. The Halos do not yet own Moran’s rights permanently: to keep him, the club will need to carry him on the active roster without a DL stay for at least 90 days.
- Seth Rosin, RHP (taken tenth overall by the Mets from the Phillies): Returned to Philadelphia. Dealt immediately after the draft to the Dodgers, Rosin was claimed by the Rangers late in the spring and made three appearances before his roster spot was needed and he was returned. Back at Triple-A with the Phillies, he worked to a 3.86 ERA over 58 1/3 rames.
- Wei-Chung Wang, LHP (taken eleventh overall by the Brewers from the Pirates): Retained by Milwaukee. It took some doing, but a contending Brewers club was able to hold onto Wang for the entirety of the season. Though he did miss 45 games with a DL stint, Wang ultimately made only 14 appearances for the club. The 22-year-old will presumably be stretched out as a starter again as he returns to his development track in the lower minors.
- Marcos Mateo, RHP (taken fifteenth overall by the Diamondbacks from the Cubs): Returned to Chicago. Mateo was the first player to be returned, heading back in mid-March. The 30-year-old threw to a 3.86 ERA in 37 1/3 innings upon his return to Triple-A with his original team.
- Michael Almanzar, 3B (taken sixteenth overall by the Orioles from the Red Sox): Returned to Boston … but ultimately traded back to Baltimore. Shelved with injury for much of the year, Almanzar was returned to the Red Sox in the middle of the summer after a rehab stint. But the O’s obviously wanted him back, and added him as part of the Kelly Johnson deal. Over 233 minor league plate appearances on the year, Almanzar posted a .245/.322/.389 slash.
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Here’s the latest from out west:
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik says that he expects to be aggressive in adding offense to the ballclub while also adding some rotation depth, as Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN reports. “Offense is something we think we need,” said GM Jack Zduriencik. “We will explore every opportunity out there. I think we will be reasonably aggressive to try to add an offensive piece or two and you never have enough pitching.”
- Zduriencik added that he believes he’ll have additional cash to work with. “I think the payroll is going to rise,” he said. “What the exact number is I don’t know yet because we haven’t had that meeting, but I am encouraged that number will increase.” Seattle entered the year with about $90MM on its books. Looking forward, the club has nearly $62MM committed next year before accounting for several costly arbitration bumps (especially for Austin Jackson and Kyle Seager).
- The Diamondbacks have started interviewing managerial candidates with in-house options, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Double-A skipper Andy Green had the first chance to make his pitch. Other D’backs staffers who will interiew are hitting coach Turner Ward and Triple-A manager Phil Nevin.
- Meanwhile, the Rangers have announced that they sat down with Mike Maddux and Steve Buechele today as part of their own managerial search, as expected. As with Arizona’s initial batch of candidates, Maddux and Buechele come from within the Texas ranks.
We noted earlier today that the Rangers would interview internal candidates Tim Bogar, Mike Maddux and Steve Buechele for their managerial opening. Here’s more end-of-season notes on the Rangers.
- It sounds like the Rangers might soon re-sign pitcher Colby Lewis — Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram tweets that GM Jon Daniels and Lewis’ agent Alan Nero have recently exchanged texts, and Wilson says that the two sides might come to “a quick resolution.” Lewis, 35, posted a 5.18 ERA, 7.0 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 170 1/3 innings this season after missing the entire 2013 season due to injury.
- The Rangers have done well under interim manager Tim Bogar, but that won’t have a significant impact on whether the Rangers hire him for the permanent manager position, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest writes. “JD and I have already talked about it,” says Bogar. “It didn’t matter if I went 0-22 or 22-0. It was a lot more about all the other intangibles that go along with this job.”
- Daniels says he does not expect the Rangers to be involved on key free agent pitchers like Jon Lester or James Shields, writes Andro. “I don’t expect a play at the top end of free agency this year for a variety of reasons,” says Daniels. “I also think there are going to be other ways to acquire quality innings in the rotation.”
- The Rangers could stick with Robinson Chirinos as their everyday catcher in 2015, says Andro. Sticking with Chirinos might make more sense for the Rangers than, say, signing Russell Martin would — Chirinos was effective in 2014, and top prospect Jorge Alfaro could be ready in 2016.
Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video on FOX Sports:
- The Rangers‘ strong finish might almost force them to hire interim manager Tim Bogar as the permanent replacement for Ron Washington, Rosenthal says. The Rangers have gone 13-7 since Bogar took over. Their late-season surge also means they won’t get the top overall draft pick next season.
- The Astros have talked to Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister about their managerial job, but Rosenthal says that most within the industry feel the job will go to former Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch or Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo.
- Many within the Brewers are frustrated with their team’s collapse, although Rosenthal notes that the feeling throughout baseball was that the Brewers overachieved throughout much of the early season anyway, and that GM Doug Melvin and manager Ron Roenicke should not be fired for the Brewers’ late-season troubles.
- The Rockies could make some sort of change in their front office, and the Dodgers could even make front office moves if the team struggles in the playoffs, Rosenthal reports. That would leave the Giants as the only NL West team not to make a significant front office change this offseason.
Athletics slugger Brandon Moss has been playing through a hip injury that will require surgery (possibly a microfracture procedure) in the offseason, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. An MRI revealed so much torn cartilage in Moss’ right hip that he’s struggling with bone-on-bone issues in the joint. Moss tells Slusser that he received a cortisone shot which should help him for the rest of the season and through the playoffs, but surgery is the only way to truly fix the issue. Though the injury has plagued him for much of the season, Moss said he didn’t blame his struggles on his hip.
More on those struggles and more from the AL West below…
- Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris had an excellent conversation with Moss about that slump in the A’s clubhouse recently (note that the conversation does feature some expletives). Moss says he places virtually no stock in batting average, as it is luck-driven and doesn’t adjust for defensive shifts. He spoke candidly about holes in his swing — pitches he knows he cannot reach and has to fight to lay off — as well as his batted ball profile, the reasoning behind his stance and the importance of prepping for his at-bats with video work. “…as a power hitter that doesn’t have a high average, I know I have to make my swings count,” said Moss, who also discussed how playing first base, the outfield and DH each affect his approach differently. Moss also touched on his time in previous organizations, noting that the Phillies didn’t feel he could consistently hit a Major League fastball — a notion at which he now laughs, as fastballs are far and away his best pitch.
- Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux is hopeful that he will receive an interview for the team’s managerial vacancy, and GM Jon Daniels expects to sit down with him at season’s end, writes MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. Even if Maddux isn’t hired (or even interviewed), he’s expected to return to the club as a pitching cocah in 2015, a club official tells Sullivan, and he’s “certain” to return if interim manager Tim Bogar gets the job. Maddux’s contract is up after the current season.
- Kendrys Morales has interest in bypassing free agency to sign a new deal with the Mariners, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. However, the caveat is that he’d like a multi-year deal, which would obviously give the team pause. Morales, who sat out through the June draft this season to avoid being stuck with another qualifying offer, has batted just .217/.266/.330 between Seattle and Minnesota. Some of those struggles, of course, are likely due to the long layoff between Major League appearances. Morales did enter 2014 as a lifetime .280/.333/.480 hitter, making the extreme drop-off in his production rather surprising. One rival exec whose team is in need of a run-producing bat expressed concern over a multi-year deal for Morales when asked by Dutton, though he did concede that there’s upside to the idea: “He’s a big risk. I doubt he gets more than two (years) after the year he’s had. But if he bounces back, a year from now we could all be talking about what a steal he was.”
Rangers middle infielder Jurickson Profar will (again) be shut down for a few months with the hope of bringing his shoulder issues to an end, writes Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. Despite already missing all of this season, Profar remains a question mark heading into the offseason, according to GM Jon Daniels. “Bottom line is we’ve gone down a similar path before and [there is] definitely a level of frustration that we haven’t been able to get better answers and to get him back to this point,” said Daniels. He went on to say that it was premature to discuss whether Profar would have a big league roster spot next year: “That’s getting way ahead of ourselves. I wouldn’t even venture a guess. … That’s probably two or three steps beyond where we are right now.”
Here’s more from the AL West:
- Former Rangers star Michael Young has bowed out of consideration for the team’s managerial opening, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. After speaking with Daniels about the position, Young said he was honored to be considered but preferred to spend more time with his family at this stage.
- Third baseman Kyle Seager has put together a complete season for the Mariners, writes MLB.com’s Greg Johns. Manager Lloyd McClendon rightly credits the 26-year-old with taking the next step after very good 2012-13 campaigns. Indeed, his power output — 25 home runs and a .192 ISO — both rate within the top thirty in the game. Eligible for arbitration for the first time after the season, Seager should be in line for a handsome payday and certainly seems to be an intriguing extension candidate.
- The Angels could give righty Cory Rasmus a chance to earn a rotation spot next year, writes MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. Rasmus, 26, had been shifted to the bullpen full-time in the minors after battling injury issues, but his multiple quality offerings hold the promise of success as a starter. (He actually has five starts on the year, but those came in “bullpen games;” Rasmus has not gone past 59 pitches in any of them.) One of the team’s pleasant surprises this year, Rasmus has thrown 53 innings of 2.38 ERA ball, notching 9.2 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9.