Texas Rangers Rumors

Minor Moves: Robinson, Knapp, Egan, Morillo, Garrison, Wrigley, Geer, Johnson

Here are some of today's notable minor moves — a rather interesting group on the whole — all courtesy of Baseball America's Matt Eddy unless otherwise noted:

  • Catcher Chris Robinson will retire, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 29-year-old, who was a 3rd round pick of the Tigers back in 2005, had a chance to see his first MLB action (and hit his first home run) last year with the Padres. At Triple-A with the Pads and Orioles, Robinson put up a .282/.307/.320 line in 255 plate appearances.
  • The Rangers have signed righty Jason Knapp to a minor league deal, tweets Eddy. As MLBTR's Steve Adams recently explained, Knapp is attempting a comeback after washing out of baseball following successive shoulder surgeries. The big hurler was once a top prospect, and headlined the deal that sent Cliff Lee from the Indians to the Phillies. Though he hasn't thrown a professional pitch since 2010, Knapp is just 23 years old and reportedly has managed to build his heater back up into the 90s.
  • Reliever Pat Egan has signed with the Reds, Eddy tweets. Though he has yet to crack the bigs at age 29, the towering righty has found success in recent seasons at the upper reaches of the minors. In 2013 with the Braves organization, Egan notched a 2.95 ERA in 73 1/3 innings (though he was better at Double-A than Triple-A). And in 2012, he was good for 67 innings of 1.61 ERA ball for the Orioles' top affiliates.
  • Reliever Juan Morillo has signed a minor league deal with the Orioles, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun recently reported. The 30-year-old fireballer struggled in four MLB cups of coffee, and washed out of American professional baseball after 2012 as his walk totals reached unsustainable levels. According to Encina, Morillo served as the closer for the Taiwanese EDA Rhinos, during which time his heater registered at a league-record 99.4 mph.
  • The Orioles have also signed lefty Steve Garrison and first baseman Henry Wrigley to minor league deals, tweets Eddy. Garrison, 27, has thrown in just one big league game, and worked 43 2/3 innings of 3.30 ball for the Diamondbacks' Double-A affiliate last year, his first as a reliever. In the process, he boasted significantly higher strikeout totals (10.1 K/9) than he carried as a starter. Wrigley, also 27, spent his entire career in the minors with the Rays before moving to the Rockies in 2013. Previously a solid (if strikeout-prone) hitter with 20-home run power, Wrigley struggled to a .188/.227/.348 line in 119 Double-A plate appearances last year.
  • Righty Josh Geer has re-signed with the Padres, Eddy tweets. Geer battled back from Stage III melanoma before the 2012 season. Now 30, the RIce University product saw time in the bigs over 2008-09 but has thrown in the upper minors since. Working mostly as a reliever for the first time last year, he threw 104 1/3 innings of 3.54 ERA baseball with 6.9 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9.
  • Longtime catcher Rob Johnson will attempt to move onto the mound with the Padres organization, Eddie notes in the same tweet. The 31-year-old saw MLB action behind the dish in every season between 2007-13, carrying a lifetime .200/.275/.295 line in the process. Though a surprising number of converted catchers have found success as pitchers, far fewer can say they appeared at both positions at the big league level.
  • One example that Johnson can hope to emulate is Chris Hatcher, who has seen MLB time as a catcher and pitcher. Hatcher was recently designated by the Marlins and remains in DFA limbo. As MLBTR's DFA Tracker shows, two others join Hatcher in waiting to learn their fates: Henry Rodriguez (Reds) and Jimmy Paredes (Marlins).

Rangers Avoid Arbitration With Mitch Moreland

The Rangers have avoided arbitration with first baseman Mitch Moreland by agreeing upon a $2.65MM salary for 2014, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The deal also allows him to earn $25K bonuses upon reaching 470 and 525 plate appearances, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

The 28-year-old, who figures to see plenty of time at designated hitter in the coming season, was unable to repeat his 2012 numbers upon taking over the team's primary first base job last year. Moreland slashed .232/.299/.437 in 518 plate appearances last year, including 23 home runs. The Rangers acquired Prince Fielder over the off-season, and he is expected to see most of the time at first.

Moreland, who is represented by BBI Sports Group, will earn close to the $2.638MM midpoint between his and the teams' respective filing figures. As always, power pays in arbitration, and Moreland's attractive long ball totals no doubt aided his cause. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected a very accurate $2.7MM salary for Moreland, who will go through arbitration twice more before qualifying for free agency in 2017.

Tommy Hanson, Jon Daniels On Deal

Earlier today, the Rangers officially announced their deal with pitcher Tommy Hanson.  The contract will reportedly give Hanson the ability to earn as much as $3.6MM if everything goes his way but also minimizes the Rangers' risk in the event that he doesn't break through to the big league roster or find success on the varsity squad.  Should things go well, Hanson is controllable through the 2015 season via arbitration.  On this afternoon's conference call, I asked the former top prospect about the interest he received from other clubs and what led him to ultimately choose the Rangers.

"There were quite a few [other teams with interest] but I left that to my agent," said the 6'6" hurler. "The Rangers have a great team and we thought that was going to be the best fit for me with being able to go in and make the rotation and be a part of the team, so ultimately we thought that was the best opportunity for me."

General Manager Jon Daniels was also on the line and I asked him if Hanson would be the final significant addition for him between now and Opening Day.

"As of right now it is.  We don't have any other offers out there and I think that there's no definite end to the offseason anymore. It's a 24/7/365 thing but we don't have anything else in the works right now at this point," said the GM.

Hanson has had to battle his way through injuries and issues with his mechanics in recent years, but the real adversity he has faced has come from his personal life.  The pitcher suffered the tragic loss of his younger step-brother early in the 2013 season, and as he told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, he had an understandably difficult time coping with it.  Hanson has had quite a bit to overcome, but both he and the Rangers are confident that he will recapture some of his past magic in 2014.

Rangers Sign Tommy Hanson

FRIDAY: The Rangers have officially announced Hanson's deal and placed lefty Joe Ortiz on the 60-day disabled list to clear a 40-man roster spot. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports (via Twitter) that Hanson can earn as little as $125K (if he is released) or as much as $3.6MM (if he maxes out his incentives).

TUESDAY, 9:56pm: Hanson does get a major league contract, but it is a split deal that will provide a separate minor league salary, explains Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (via Twitter). In other words, Hanson — who has an option remaining – does not get a $2MM guarantee but will be paid at that rate for such time as he is on the MLB roster.

8:41am: Hanson's deal with the Rangers is actually a Major League deal, not a minor league contract, tweets Heyman. Hanson will earn $2MM (plus incentives) and is likely to be the team's fifth starter.

MONDAY, 8:08pm: Hanson would earn $2MM if he makes the roster, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, and can also earn incentives.

10:25am: The Rangers have agreed to a minor league contract with right-hander Tommy Hanson, reports MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. Hanson is a client of the Legacy Agency's Greg Genske.

Hanson and the Rangers were said to be nearing an agreement late last week. Texas had its fair share of first-hand looks at Hanson in 2013, as the right-hander made three appearances (two starts) against the Rangers in his lone season as a member of the division-rival Angels. Anaheim acquired Hanson from the Braves last offseason in exchange for setup man Jordan Walden.

Three or four years ago, few would have believed Hanson to be available for such a low price. The 6'6" Oklahoma native was ranked the game's No. 4 prospect (by Baseball America) heading into the 2009 season, and in his first three big league seasons (2009-11), Hanson posted a sterling 3.28 ERA with 8.4 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 40.6 percent ground-ball rate. He looked to be well on his way to cementing himself as one of the game's best young pitchers, but that 2011 campaign was cut short by a shoulder injury.

Hanson would go on to suffer a concussion in a car accident the following spring, and he missed time with a back injury in 2012 as well. The result was a 4.48 ERA in 174 2/3 innings, but more troubling was his drop in velocity; Hanson's heater had fallen from an average of 92.7 mph in 2010 to just 89.7 mph in 2012. The Angels elected to gamble on his upside, acquiring him in exchange for an embattled right-hander of their own in Walden.

Things merely got worse for Hanson in the American League. In addition to his injury issues, Hanson suffered the tragic loss of his younger step-brother early in the 2013 season. He missed a full week on the bereavement list and then spent more time away from the game on the restricted list as he tried to cope with the shocking loss. As Hanson told the L.A. Times' Bill Shaikin:

"I was having mental issues with the death of my younger brother. I was just trying to get through it. I didn’t know how to handle it. That was the first time anything like that had ever happened to me. I didn’t know how to cope with it."

Hanson's struggles with the Angels culminated in a 5.42 ERA in 73 innings of work. The Halos non-tendered him in December rather than pay him a small raise in arbitration, and he'll now look to earn a spot in the Rangers' rotation in Spring Training. Texas could certainly use the depth with Matt Harrison coming off a season in which he threw just 10 2/3 innings and Derek Holland out until at least the All-Star break after undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee.

Because Hanson currently has just four years, 97 days of Major League service, the deal has added upside for the Rangers. Should he be able to rediscover his early-career magic in Arlington, the Rangers will control Hanson through 2015 season.

AL West Notes: Iwakuma, Astros, Cruz, Moreland

Mariners righty Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to be out for four-to-six weeks with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand (Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune has the details on the injury).  While the injury doesn't appear to be too serious, one wonders if it could spur the M's to bolster their rotation with a free agent starter, as the club was already rumored to be asking about Ervin Santana earlier this week.

  • The Astros' increase in spending this offseason had nothing to do with a statement from MLBPA head Tony Clark that the team was being monitored for its low payroll, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports.  The additions of Scott Feldman, Dexter Fowler, Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and others will boost Houston's payroll to over $40MM in 2014 (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts), not counting several players making the league minimum.  Owner Jim Crane noted that the Astros were willing to spend even more this winter but did not succeed in signing Masahiro Tanaka or Jose Dariel Abreu.
  • Speaking with reporters (including MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan) today, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said that he has kept in touch with Nelson Cruz's representatives but he doesn't think a reunion will happen.  "We check in periodically, but nothing has changed," Daniels said. "My expectation is he will sign elsewhere."  Cruz has been heavily linked to the Mariners within the last week, and Texas only seems interested in re-signing Cruz if his market completely dries up.
  • The Rangers' arbitration case with Mitch Moreland is a week away and Daniels said the two sides are "so close, I would like to think we would avoid it. But until you have a deal, you have to be prepared for anything."  Moreland asked for a $3.25MM contract for 2014 while the Rangers countered with a $2.025MM offer.
  • While the Rangers have been looking for a right-handed bat, Daniels said "We're not talking to anybody" on the free agent market.  The GM hinted that Texas would turn to internal options like Michael Choice as candidates to provide a right-handed hitting balance to Moreland.
  • Darren Oliver will work with the Rangers as a special assistant and will spend a week with the club during Spring Training, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith reports.  Oliver retired following his 20th Major League season and is now enjoying his first (mostly) free spring in over two and a half decades.  Oliver also shared a few opinions about what his former team, the Blue Jays, needs to do to improve in 2014.
  • The Angels made a number of low-cost moves this offseason, a tactic MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince believes is a nod towards saving money to lock Mike Trout up to a long-term extension.  Trout's future price tag is the biggest question facing the Angels franchise and "the most captivating contractual conundrum in the game today."  We heard earlier today that Trout and the Angels would discuss a multiyear deal this spring.

AL East Links: A-Rod, Jeter, Drew, Morales, Orioles

Perhaps the most intriguing "what if?" scenario in recent baseball history is what if Alex Rodriguez has joined the Red Sox (rather than the Yankees) prior to the 2004 season.  The Deal, the latest instalment of ESPN's "30 For 30 Shorts" series, explores the near-trade that would've sent Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Brandon McCarthy from the Rangers to the Red Sox in exchange for Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra and Jon Lester.  A-Rod even agreed to restructure his contract and take less money to make the deal work, though this was what eventually scuttled the trade, as the MLBPA wouldn't allow the agreement due to the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.  Only a few weeks later, Texas instead traded Rodriguez to the Yankees and the rest is history.

Here's the latest in a very newsworthy day from around the AL East… 

  • Derek Jeter's impending retirement underscores the Yankees' lack of shortstop depth, MLB.com's Bryan Hoch writes, as it seems that Jeter's eventual replacement isn't currently on New York's roster.  The Yankees could sign one of the quality shortstops available in next winter's free agent class, Hoch notes, or Stephen Drew exists as a current option that could be signed to play second or third for a year and then take over at short in 2015.
  • Scott Boras, Drew's agent, has recently been looking to get his client an opt-out clause after the first year of a new deal.  While some see Boras' demands as a longshot, Fangraphs' Mike Petriello notes that the opt-out could fit into the Yankees' plans, making Drew an even more obvious upgrade for the club's infield.
  • The Red Sox haven't offered Drew a contract for longer than one year, John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports (via Twitter).  Drew would like at least a one-year contract and an option, a source tells Tomase.
  • The Orioles continue to be in contact with Kendrys Morales' representatives and are still interested in the free agent slugger, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets.
  • It seems as if the Orioles prefer Ervin Santana to Ubaldo Jimenez, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun writes, as he has heard more tying the O's to the former free agent hurler than he has the latter.  "I know the Orioles have talked to his people, but I didn’t get a sense that he was atop their list," Connolly says.  There were whispers earlier this week that the O's were upping their pursuit of Santana or Jimenez.  In the same piece, Connolly answers a number of Orioles-related questions from fans on Twitter.

Rangers, Tommy Hanson Progressing Toward Deal

FRIDAY: The Rangers and Hanson are making progress on a deal, tweets Morosi.

THURSDAY: The Rangers are engaged in talks with free agent starter Tommy Hanson, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Morosi reported earlier today that Hanson had received multiple offers.

Hanson, 27, was non-tendered by the Angels just one year after being acquired from the Braves in exchange for Jordan Walden. The 6'6" righty has struggled over the last two years, posting a combined 4.76 ERA in 247 2/3 innings. But Hanson was quite productive over 2009-11, posting a 3.28 ERA in 460 1/3 innings. With just four years and 97 days of service time, any club signing Hanson would control him for at least one more season through arbitration.

Rangers Notes: Globe Life, Bard, Cubs, Bonuses

Here's the latest out of Arlington…

  • The Rangers officially announced their new stadium naming rights deal with Globe Life And Accident Insurance Company today, as Rangers Ballpark will now be known as Globe Life Park In Arlington.  Financial terms of the deal weren't announced, though it is a 10-year agreement the between the club and Globe Life.
  • Some fans may balk at the idea of a corporate name on the stadium, ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett writes, but the financial benefits of sponsorship can't be ignored.  Durrett also notes that the naming rights deal is the latest example of how the Rangers have one of baseball's "most financially stable teams."
  • Appearing on a podcast with WEEI's Rob Bradford (partial transcript provided by WEEI.com's Arjuna Ramgopal), Daniel Bard said that the Rangers showed interest in his services after the reliever's thoracic outlet syndrome surgery last month.  Before Bard underwent the procedure, he said that he had drawn interest from a few teams, including the Cubs.  Texas, however, "came in strong and made me feel really welcome and wanted. It just felt like a good fit," Bard said.
  • Fans and pundits have become accustomed to seeing salaries in terms of how they fit a club's payroll, but even modest bonuses by MLB standards are life-changing amounts of money — especially for young players from tough backgrounds in the Dominican Republic, as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes.  Wilson looks at how the Rangers' signings of such prospects as Jairo Beras and Michael De Leon helped those players bring their families out of poverty, while other prospects (Ronald Guzman and Nomar Mazara) came from middle-class backgrounds.

Rangers Claim Pedro Figueroa, Designate Chaz Roe

WEDNESDAY, February 5th: Roe has rejected an outright assignment and elected free agency, the club announced.

FRIDAY: Roe has cleared waivers and has eight days to decide whether to elect free agency or head to camp with the Rangers as a non-roster invite, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweeted last night that Roe was likely to elect free agency if he cleared waivers.

WEDNESDAY, January 29th: The Rangers have claimed southpaw Pedro Figueroa off of waivers from the Rays, the club announced via press release. Righty Chaz Roe was designated for assignment to clear roster space.

Figueroa, 28, had been in DFA limbo since being designated by the Rays to make room for the Grant Balfour signing. Obviously, Tampa ultimately placed him on release waivers — the second time Figueroa has changed hands by this method in the last month. Spending most of his time at Triple-A last year with Oakland, Figueroa threw to a 4.10 ERA and 7.4 K/9 against 5.0 BB/9 in 59 1/3 innings.

Roe, a 27-year-old reliever, came to Texas via waiver claim in early November. Pitching last year for the Diamondbacks, Roe threw 22 1/3 innings of 4.03 ERA ball, with 9.7 K/9 and 5.2 BB/9. Roe was originally the 32nd overall choice in the 2005 draft.

Quick Hits: Burres, CBA, Int’l, Rangers, Astros

Southpaw Brian Burres will take the hill this Thursday to audition for interested clubs, Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com reported yesterday (via Twitter). The 32-year-old spent parts of six seasons in the bigs, with about half of his appearances coming as a starter, but has not seen MLB action since 2011. After throwing for the Taiwanese Lamigo Monkeys last year, Burres will look to effect a comeback. 

Here are a few business notes from around the game:

  • The MLB and MLBPA are working through the annual review of the Joint Drug Agreement (JDA), tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Among other things, the sides are discussing increasing the penalties provided under the program. As I argued in November, creating a more effective set of incentives requires not an enhancement of the poorly functioning existing penalties, but a whole new approach altogether.
  • Matt Holliday spoke in favor of changes to the qualifying offer system in an appearance today on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link). Though he says that compensation to a player's former club is not problematic, requiring signing teams to give up a pick is "not fair" to players who turned down a QO. Holliday explains that teams are valuing draft picks higher as more and more players reach the bigs quickly, and argues that the system "needs to be amended as soon as possible." 
  • Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca explains the effects of the QO system, arguing that its compensatory purposes have turned into a punishment to free agents. Indeed, upper middle class free agents like Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales, and Nelson Cruz have found a market that consists of an unattractive set of potential buyers: teams that have no interest in them regardless; teams that might otherwise want them but will not give up a pick; teams that only want them at a cheap price, because they do not want to sacrifice a pick; and teams that strongly want them but can wait for prices to drop. 
  • International spending is on the rise despite the new bonus pool system, writes Baseball America's Ben Badler. In 2013, the total outlay jumped to $97MM from $84MM the year prior, though Badler says that levels could remain flat for 2014. 
  • The Rangers will hold a press conference tomorrow morning to announce a new naming rights deal for Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the team announced today. Details of the sponsorship agreement are not known, but clearly the park will see some modification to its current name.
  • A federal judge has issued an order placing the parent company of Comcast SportsNet Houston under federal bankruptcy protection, David Barron of the Houston Chronicle reports. The Astros had sought dismissal of the case. With the order, the team's TV network will continue to operate while the business partners seek to agree upon a reorganization plan and deliver the entity out of bankruptcy.