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The Angels employ a young quartet of analysts in their baseball operations department, and the four young executives took some time to talk about the work they do with the Orange County Register’s Pedro Moura. Jeremy Zoll, Jonathan Strangio, Nate Horowitz and Mike LaCassa (whose ages range from 24 to 28) discuss their efforts, which include seeing if trends translate from college to minor league ball and grouping players by swing path and testing splits for trends. Manager Mike Scioscia spoke with Moura as well regarding the team’s increased usage of information: “As we’ve organized and analyzed numbers better, it’s helped us, primarily on the defensive front. It’s also helped with some lineup issues or determinations. I think our decisiveness was noticeable last year.” GM Jerry Dipoto said that each of Zoll, Strangio, Horowitz and LaCassa is future GM material and offered high praise for his young lieutenants.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- New Rangers special assistant Michael Young sat down with Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News to discuss his new role with the team. Among the topics they discussed were Young’s involvement in the hiring of manager Jeff Banister — Young particularly praised Banister’s communication prowess — and the problems with the 2014 club. Young said that in addition to injuries, the Rangers lacked leadership with their best players out, which sometimes led to a poor collective approach to the daily grind of a 162-game season.
- In a piece for Baseball America, the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Jeff Wilson writes that Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields Jr. will be given an opportunity to make the Rangers‘ Opening Day roster as a backup center field option. GM Jon Daniels tells Wilson that he likes “the combination of now and the future” with DeShields, whom he can envision getting some time in left field in addition to backing up Leonys Martin. DeShields’ work ethic has been questioned in the past, but Wilson writes that the Rangers feel the environment fostered by Banister will help turn that around.
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told reporters today, including the Tacoma News Tribune’s Bob Dutton, that he isn’t concerned about adding a backup first baseman to serve as a safety net in the event that Logan Morrison is again injured in 2015. “We’re going to work real hard with Jesus Montero in spring training,” Zduriencik said. “We’ve talked about the strides he’s made this winter. We’ll see if he’s a player or not. That’s going to be up to him, and we’ll see what happens.” Dutton also mentions Brad Miller as a backup possibility at first, although Zduriencik didn’t list Miller specifically.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.
- The Rangers have signed first baseman Mike McDade to a minor-league deal, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes. McDade, 25, hit .242/.298/.349 at Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo in the Blue Jays system last season. He was drafted and developed by the Blue Jays, but also played in the White Sox and Indians systems before rejoining the Toronto organization.
Here’s the latest from Joel Sherman of the New York Post:
- The Blue Jays, Athletics, Cubs, White Sox and Angels are interested in Stephen Drew to play second base but don’t want to pay his $9MM-$10MM asking price, Sherman writes. There’s concern that Drew’s poor 2014 season marks the beginning of a serious decline. “Fine, you want to say June and July [last year] were spring training for him, well, how about August or September? There was never a time in which he looked like a major league hitter,” says one executive. The Yankees could have interest in him, but want to commit to Didi Gregorius at shortstop and could have concern Drew would provide an easy distraction from those plans, even if he’s signed as a second baseman. Earlier this month, we guessed Drew would get a one-year, $7MM deal.
- The Royals signed Alex Rios this offseason even though Rios rejected a trade to Kansas City last summer, Sherman says. The Rangers tried to trade Rios to the Royals, but Rios requested that Kansas City exercise his 2015 option as a condition of the deal. The Royals said no, so Rios used his no-trade clause to stop the trade. Rios thus spent the entire season with the Rangers, refusing a chance to join a team in the midst of a playoff race.
- There have already been rumors of the Padres trading Wil Myers to Philadelphia in a Cole Hamels deal, and Sherman writes that San Diego would, in fact, consider dealing Myers, who they might feel isn’t good enough defensively to handle center field.
Christmas Eve is generally a pretty quiet time for transactions, though Erin Hinch might disagree. The wife of Astros manager A.J. Hinch related an anecdote to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle about how her husband (at the time working in the Diamondbacks front office) took time out of a Christmas Eve church service in 2005 to get Eric Byrnes to agree to a contract with the D’Backs.
We at MLBTR wish all of our readers a very happy holidays, and here are a few more news items as stocking stuffers…
- According to figures from the MLB Players Association, the average salary for a 2014 Major League player was just under $3.819MM, Ronald Blum of the Associated Press reports. This represents a 12.78% jump from the 2013 average salary, an increase that Blum attributes to growing revenues from national and local TV deals. The Commissioner’s Office, which uses slightly different calculation methods, said the average salary was just over $3.726MM.
- It’s still difficult to predict where Max Scherzer will pitch in 2015 given the right-hander’s salary demands and the seeming lack of obvious suitors, The New York Post’s Ken Davidoff writes. Two American League officials give their predictions about Scherzer’s landing spot, with one official picking the Angels while the other thinks the Nationals will sign Scherzer and trade Jordan Zimmermann. Davidoff’s own “best guesses” include the Tigers, Cardinals or Cubs.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and president Paul Beeston talk to Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi about how the team’s blockbuster acquisition of Josh Donaldson from the A’s evolved from discussion to reality.
- While the Twins have made several roster upgrades this winter, they have yet to address their team defense, Fangraphs’ Mike Petriello notes. Minnesota was ranked by several metrics as one of the league’s worst defensive teams in 2014, finishing near the bottom of the list in such categories as Defensive Runs Saved and UZR/150.
- The Rangers are bound to improve on their dismal 2014 record simply by avoiding the incredible number of injuries that plagued the team, yet Fangraphs’ Drew Fairservice (writing for FOX Sports) notes that even a healthier group of Rangers doesn’t project to be a winning team. Given the young talent in the farm system, Fairservice opines that Texas might be better served by using 2015 as an evaluation year to answer some roster questions and then aim to return to contention in 2016.
- With the Rays seemingly entering a rebuild phase, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi speculates that Ben Zobrist will draw a lot of trade buzz before Opening Day. Zobrist’s ability to play several positions means that there would be no shortage of suitors if the Rays indeed made him available; Morosi lists eleven teams that could fit as trade partners.
Here’s a roundup of some recent minor league transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post. All moves are from Matt Eddy of Baseball America, unless credited otherwise.
- The Reds have signed southpaw Jose Mijares and right-hander Michael Bowden to minor league deals. Mijares posted strong numbers (3.23 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 2.22 K/BB rate) over 259 relief innings with the Twins, Royals and Giants from 2008-13 but didn’t pitch in 2014 after he opted out of his minor league deal with the Red Sox last March. Bowden was drafted 47th overall by the Red Sox in the 2005 draft and was considered a top prospect during his stint in Boston’s minor league system. He couldn’t manage that same success in the majors, posting a 4.51 ERA over 133 2/3 innings with the Red Sox and Cubs from 2008-13. Bowden pitched in Japan in 2014.
- The Diamondbacks signed left-hander Dan Runzler to a minor league contract. Runzler posted a 3.86 ERA, 9.7 K/9 and 5.5 BB/9 over 72 1/3 IP with San Francisco from 2009-12 and was released by the Giants’ Triple-A team last July so he could pitch in Japan with the Orix Buffaloes.
- The Marlins inked outfielder Vinny Rottino to a minor league deal. Rottino, 34, is returning to North American baseball for the first time since 2012 after playing in Korea and Japan over the last two seasons. This is Rottino’s second stint in Miami, as he played for the Marlins, Mets, Indians and Brewers while collecting 110 career Major League plate appearances.
- The Rangers signed infielder Tommy Field to a minor league contract. Field received 81 plate appearances with the Rockies and Angels from 2011-13 and he spent last season at the Triple-A level in the Angels and Pirates organizations.
- The Royals outrighted outfielder Moises Sierra and right-hander Casey Coleman to Triple-A, the team announced via Twitter. The two players were both designated for assignment last week to create roster spots for the recently-signed Kendrys Morales and Yohan Pino, respectively.
- The Blue Jays announced the signing of left-hander Andrew Albers to a minor league deal that includes a Spring Training invite. Albers posted a 5.89 ERA over 28 starts for Hanwha of the (very hitter-friendly) Korean Baseball Organization in 2014. His Major League experience consists of a 4.05 ERA, 3.8 K/9 and 3.57 K/BB rate over 60 innings with the Twins in 2013.
The Blue Jays announced that they have claimed left-hander Scott Barnes off waivers from the Rangers and right-hander Preston Guilmet from the Pirates. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo first tweeted that Guilmet had been claimed by Toronto earlier this afternoon.
Barnes, 27, joins his fourth organization of the offseason with this move. Originally with Cleveland, he’s been acquired by the Orioles and claimed off waivers by the Rangers as well, making him perhaps the most well-traveled player of the offseason. Barnes has a 5.20 ERA in a small sample size of 27 2/3 big league innings, but he has a nice track record and Triple-A and pitched well there in 2014. Last season, he notched a 3.69 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 while holding opposing lefties to a .191/.296/.255 batting line.
Guilmet, also 27, pitched 10 1/3 innings out of the Orioles’ bullpen in 2014, allowing six runs on eight hits with 12 strikeouts against two walks. The former ninth-round pick has a nice track record at Triple-A and notched a 3.91 ERA there in 2014 with an impressive 10.1 K/9 against just 1.9 BB/9.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.
- The Pirates have released pitcher Josh Lindblom, per the MLB.com transactions page. The Bucs claimed Lindblom earlier this month, then designated him days later. He’ll reportedly head to the Lotte Giants in Korea. Lindblom posted a 5.79 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in the rotation of the Athletics’ Triple-A Sacramento affiliate in 2014.
- The Rangers have released pitcher Ben Rowen after designating him for assignment last week, according to the MLB.com transactions page. The 26-year-old Rowen posted a 3.45 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 47 innings of relief for Triple-A Round Rock in 2014, also appearing in eight big-league games. The Dallas Morning News’ Gerry Fraley explains that the Rangers were forced to place Rowen on release waivers, rather than outright waivers, due to an obscure rule that came into play due to an injury Rowen suffered early in the season and his time in the big leagues later on. The Rangers could re-sign him if he clears release waivers.
- The Nationals have signed 1B/OF Mark Minicozzi to a minor-league deal, tweets CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly, noting that Minicozzi announced the news on his Facebook page. The 31-year-old independent league veteran posted an impressive .298/.400/.470 line at Triple-A Fresno in the Giants’ system in 2014, but he’s never played in the Majors.
The Rangers are one of several teams to have expressed interest in talented but injured former Braves pitcher Brandon Beachy, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes. “Several teams are still reviewing his medicals,” agent Robert Martin says of Beachy, who is nine months removed from his second Tommy John surgery. “I do not think a decision is imminent, but he does have multiple offers.” Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- The Padres are “no longer boring” after all the work A.J. Preller has done to remake them, Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown writes. After Preller’s trades to acquire Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Will Middlebrooks and Derek Norris, it’s possible that Jedd Gyorko could be the only position player who started for the club on Opening Day last season who will start again next year.
- All the Padres’ moves have come at a price, and MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo ranks the prospects San Diego has dealt to other clubs. Injured lefty Max Fried (who headed to Atlanta in the Upton deal) tops the list, followed by shortstop Trea Turner (who’s set to go to the Nationals as the player to be named in the Myers trade).
- The Dodgers have officially passed the Yankees for baseball’s highest payroll, writes MLB.com’s Paul Hagen. The Dodgers’ 2014 payroll was a record at over $257MM, and the team’s luxury tax figure of $26.6MM was also a record.
Here’s the latest from around the AL West…
- Brandon Beachy‘s agent, Robert Martin, tells Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News that the Rangers are one of multiple clubs who have shown interest in his client. After missing all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery, Beachy was non-tendered by Atlanta and is now an intriguing buy-low option that would fit the Rangers’ offseason plan to upgrade their rotation at a relatively low cost. “Several teams are still reviewing his medicals. I do not think a decision is imminent, but he does have multiple offers,” Martin said.
- The Athletics have never previously shown any interest in Asdrubal Cabrera, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter links), and thus she would be “pretty surprised” to see the A’s pursue the veteran infielder this offseason.
- The reviews of the Derek Norris trade are starting to file in, and ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider link) calls it a win for both the Athletics and Padres, though “the A’s probably get more value in the end.” Fangraphs’ Paul Swydan also likes the trade for Oakland, saying that the A’s added to their pitching depth without necessarily losing anything at catcher.
- In a radio interview with Dave Mahler of Sportsradio KJR (hat tip to Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times for the partial transcript), Mariners president Kevin Mather discussed his club’s payroll increase for 2015, hinted that contract length may have been a reason why the M’s didn’t sign Melky Cabrera and said the team didn’t make an official offer to Nelson Cruz in the 2013-14 offseason.
The Angels have discussed potential trades involving Josh Hamilton with the Rangers and Padres this offseason, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports. That might not mean much right now — MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets that the conversation between the Angels and Rangers lasted two minutes, and today’s Wil Myers deal would seem to rule out the possibility of a trade sending Hamilton to San Diego. Rosenthal himself describes recent Hamilton trade talks as merely “exploratory,” and quotes Angels GM Jerry Dipoto asserting his faith in Hamilton. “We do believe in Josh,” says Dipoto. “We’ve seen him hit balls that humans shouldn’t hit. What he does, 99 percent of the players can’t do.” There’s also, obviously, the problem of Hamilton’s trade value being down significantly right now after a mediocre 2014 season. But the possibility of the Angels trading Hamilton (who has a full no-trade clause and is owed $83MM over the next three years) could be worth keeping an eye on in the coming years. Here are more notes from the American League.
- The White Sox are “comfortable” with Melky Cabrera‘s past troubles with PEDs, J.J. Stankevitz of CSNChicago.com writes. “Obviously we’re aware of what happened in the past and no one condones what he did,” says GM Rick Hahn. “But we are talking about an instance where there was a mistake he made and took ownership for and showed honest remorse.” Another PED suspension would cost the White Sox an entire year of Cabrera’s three-year deal, but the White Sox are confident that Cabrera’s PED issues are in the past.
- GM Alex Anthopoulos confirms that the Blue Jays have interest in Japanese infielder Takashi Toritani, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. “We’ve scouted him quite a bit,” Anthopoulos said to Jeff Blair on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. “We have some scouts that like him and he’s someone that we’ve certainly talked about internally. Beyond that I probably wouldn’t get into anything else, but certainly a guy like that would fit.” The 33-year-old Toritani, who hit .303/.406/.415 for Hanshin in 2014, could be an option at second base for the Jays.