Texas Rangers Rumors
TODAY: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com provides a list of the other clubs who sent representatives to watch Santana: the Phillies, Blue Jays, Pirates, and Rangers. Scouts in attendance told Heyman that Santana still needs to build his arm strength back up, but looked to be in great shape and threw as expected given his point on the recovery curve.
YESTERDAY, 5:40pm: The Orioles were among the teams to see Santana, tweets Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun. The club could be interested in bringing him in on a minor league deal, says Encina.
3:26pm: Throwing in Fort Myers today, rehabbing starter Johan Santana showed his current form to seven teams, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. Santana mostly threw in the high-70s, topping out at just 81 mph, though he did flash his usually phenomenal change.
Though those numbers sound less than promising, the workout comes very early on in the process for Santana to regain strength on the mound following a second shoulder surgery, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Indeed, a mid-season return has always been the early target for Santana. Agent Peter Greenberg said there is no "firm date," with Santana committed to "tak[ing] it conservatively this time" and "not rushing things."
Per the above two reports, both the Yankees and Twins were among the teams with scouts in attendance.
Ervin Santana isn't lowering his asking price as Opening Day inches closer, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Executives from teams with interest in the right-hander tell Heyman that despite the onset of Spring Training, Santana is still seeking something in the range of $50MM over four years -- the same contract signed by Ubaldo Jimenez with the Orioles and Matt Garza with the Brewers, and $1MM more than Ricky Nolasco got from the Twins.
Heyman adds that Santana has been seeking four years "for a while now," and that won't change no based on the calendar or fellow draft-pick free agent Nelson Cruz settling for a surprising one-year, $8MM deal. According to Heyman, the Orioles, Mariners, Rangers and Rockies are looking at Santana right now, and the Blue Jays are believed by some to still be a possibility.
Colorado's interest in Santana could be tied to the fate of right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who underwent an MRI due to shoulder pain. Fresh off a 3.47 ERA in 197 1/3 innings for the Rockies last season, the 26-year-old entered Spring Training as a lock for the club's rotation. However, the team announced today (on Twitter) that Chacin has a strained right shoulder with inflammation and will not be able to throw for at least a week.
It's logical to assume that a serious setback for Chacin would heighten Colorado's interest, but Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes that even with the somewhat negative news from today's MRI, the team isn't interested in Santana at four years and $50MM. Renck has written previously that the club is turned off by Santana's history of fly balls and homer problems, though it's worth noting that Santana's fly-ball rate has drastically declined over the past three seasons as his ground-ball rate has risen.
Heyman closes by saying that Santana is said to be willing to wait for the right deal to present itself and could consider waiting until after the June Draft to sign, which would rid him of the draft pick compensation attached to his name. Earlier today, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes looked at which pick each of the 30 teams would have to surrender to sign Santana (or Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales). While not all of those teams are logical fits at this time, it takes just one major injury for a new suitor to emerge.
FEB. 24: It's good news for the Rangers, as Harrison's MRI came back clean, tweets Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. Though Harrison will not be ready by Opening Day, he is expected to re-start his throwing program in just two days.
FEB. 20: After missing most of last season due to a series of surgeries -- two relating to a herniated disk in his back along with a procedure on his non-throwing shoulder -- southpaw Matt Harrison entered camp hopeful of regaining his form as one of the Rangers' top starters. But after experiencing lower back stiffness, Harrison is now set for an MRI and examination by his spine surgeon, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
Harrison will not participate in baseball activities until his appointment on Monday, at the earliest. The news was met with a blend of concern and cautious optimism. "With everything he went through last year, there is a level of concern," said GM Jon Daniels. "Hopefully, it's just some irritation from getting going. ... He did a lot this winter without having any issues." Harrison, too, acknowledged "some concern" but said he "hope[s] that it's not a serious issue."
The 28-year-old inked a five-year, $55MM extension in January of last year, but has not yet had much of a chance to make good on it. Fortunately for the club, an insurance policy is reportedly in place that should ease the burden of his absence on the pocketbook.
But with sights set on a World Series run, cost savings will not ameliorate the impact on the field of any missed time. The Rangers are already dealing with an injury to another key starter, Derek Holland. It is far from clear, of course, whether Harrison's injury -- even if it is serious -- would precipitate a new addition. But as ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick wrote recently, the club already faced questions at the back of the rotation, where several candidates are vying for spots. Yu Darvish, Martin Perez, and Alexi Ogando figure to be good bets to occupy a regular turn, but several players of less-certain capabilities line up behind them. The team recently signed Tommy Hanson, adding him to a mix that potentially includes Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers, Nick Tepesch, Michael Kirkman, and Colby Lewis.
The Orioles continued what has been an incredibly busy seven-day span by announcing the signing of slugger Nelson Cruz to a one-year deal. Cruz's contract contains a base salary of $8MM, plus $750K in incentives -- a disappointing outcome for a player who declined a $14.1MM qualifying offer from the Rangers and at one point reportedly sought a four-year, $75MM deal. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets that Cruz rejected two- and three-year offers this offseason, although the timeline of those offers is unclear. Cruz is represented by the Wasserman Media Group.
Cruz, 33, hit .266/.327/.506 in 456 plate appearances in 2013. A 50-game suspension for his connection to the Biogenesis scandal shortened his season. As MLBTR's Steve Adams noted in profiling Cruz in early November, however, that didn't stop Rangers manager Ron Washington from offering praise for Cruz as a teammate and a clubhouse presence.
The Rangers will now receive what is currently the No. 30 overall pick in the 2014 draft as a result of Cruz signing elsewhere. The Orioles, meanwhile, will sacrifice the No. 55 pick. Losing the No. 17 pick when they struck a deal with Ubaldo Jimenez likely made it easier for the Orioles to sign Cruz, since they would no longer have to give up a first-round draft choice in order to do so. In addition to Cruz and Jimenez, the Orioles have also signed Korean righty Suk-min Yoon to a three-year deal in the past week.
The Cruz deal is another win-now move for the Orioles, who are trying to build on an 85-win 2013 season and string together more wins before the potential departures of Chris Davis and Matt Wieters following the 2015 season. Cruz will serve as the Orioles' primary designated hitter, and he will also likely occasionally see time in the outfield. The transition to Camden Yards and the other hitter-friendly parks of the AL East should be a good move for Cruz, whose drastic home/road splits have drawn some criticism this offseason.
Of the remaining free agents, Cruz's pact with the Orioles most obviously affects Kendrys Morales. The Orioles reportedly had interest in Morales, so now the already-small number of interested bidders for Morales appears to be even smaller. Also, Cruz signing for one year and $8MM will likely make it even more difficult for Morales, a similar player, to get a sizeable deal.
The size of the deal will also likely increase skepticism throughout baseball about the qualifying offer process. That Cruz received so little was surely due in part to the fact that he had draft-pick forfeiture attached, and one year and $8MM is by far the smallest contract to which a qualifying offer player has agreed.
Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Rangers have given a one-year contract extension to manager Ron Washington, tweets Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Washington is now under contract through the 2015 season. In a team release announcing the extension, president of baseball operations and general manager Jon Daniels said the following:
"Ron Washington leads our club with a vast knowledge and passion for the game. Under Wash’s guidance and tutelage, the Rangers have enjoyed their greatest successes in franchise history. I look forward to working with him to build on that success in 2014 and beyond."
Washington is entering his eighth season as the Rangers' skipper. The former big league infielder has led the club to five straight winning seasons, the past four of which have been 90-win seasons or better. Washington's Rangers appeared in the World Series in 2010 and in 2011, though they fell just shy of baseball's ultimate prize in each instance.
The Rangers are the only team that Washington has managed at the Major League level, and he's compiled a 611-524 record in his time at the helm. As a player, Washington batted .261/.292/.368 in 1689 career plate appearances over parts of 10 seasons -- most of which came with the Twins in the early- to mid-80s.
The Brewers shipped out reliever John Axford to the Cardinals at last year's trade deadline, bringing back young righty Michael Blazek. Milwaukee has been impressed with the 25-year-old, with manager Ron Roenicke saying he profiles as a late-inning arm, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentine. Meanwhile, after being non-tendered by the Cards and signed by the Indians, Axford hopes to continue learning from his brief stint in St. Louis. As MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports, his former club informed him that he'd been tipping pitches, and Axford hopes that correction -- along with regained velocity -- will allow him to return to his peak form.
Here are more stray notes from around the game ...
- Another trade deadline mover, Mike Olt of the Cubs, has shown substantial improvement in the eyesight issues that plagued him last year with the Rangers, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times. Though his prospect stock has fallen in the meantime, all that matters to Olt is maintaining his health. "As long as I'm healthy," he said, "I know that I can do what I was capable of."
- Reliever Jason Frasor explained that he elected to re-sign with the Rangers for the simple reason that he likes playing for the club, reports Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. "Free agency isn't that great for middle relievers," he said. "I never wanted to be the kind of guy that bounced around from team to team as middle relievers often do with one-year deals. I found a place I really, really liked. ... I think I was the first [free agent] to sign [this offseason]. I just didn't feel it was worth it to try to scrape out maybe a little better contract ... ."
- One free agent who faces a much more open-ended market is former ace Johan Santana. As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports, Santana has fielded interest from at least three American League clubs. The 34-year-old is hoping to be ready to take the mound in a big league game in June.
- The Rays' roster battle features several situations where options will play a role, reports Bill Chastain of MLB.com. Among the players who must make the active roster or face a DFA are Chris Archer, Josh Lueke, Jake McGee, Cesar Ramos, Brandon Guyer, and Matt Joyce.
Now that it's clear Nelson Cruz won't be back, it's unclear who the Rangers will use as their designated hitter against lefties, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. The Rangers still had interest in Cruz, Grant writes, noting that, in addition to the qualifying offer, they made at least one offer that exceeded the $8MM Cruz ended up taking from the Orioles. That leaves them with a variety of options to play DH against lefties, but none manager Ron Washington likes very much: Mitch Moreland is a lefty, Michael Choice doesn't have enough experience for Washington's taste, and Washington would prefer to keep the Rangers' spare catcher (Geovany Soto or J.P. Arencibia, depending on who isn't starting) available on the bench.
- With Cruz off the market, Grant, in a separate article, believes now is the time for the Rangers to extend manager Ron Washington. Grant also opines players tagged with qualifying offers are going to think more seriously about accepting them in light of Cruz's surprisingly small contract.
- Yankees manager Joe Girardi thinks new minor-league signee Andrew Bailey can help them in the late innings, but probably not until September, Jack Curry of the YES Network tweets. The former Athletics and Red Sox closer had labrum surgery last July.
- The Red Sox will try Mike Carp out at a new position this spring, Alex Speier of WEEI.com tweets. While Spring Training experiments like these aren't uncommon and often have little long-term impact, a bit of added versatility might change Carp's outlook with the Red Sox, particularly if he can play third, where the Red Sox are less settled than they are elsewhere. Carp hit .296/.362/.523 in 243 plate appearances last season, but the Red Sox already have plenty of talent at first base, left field and DH, which has led to speculation that Carp could be a trade candidate.
- Scott Boras blames the Blue Jays' lack of activity in the free agent market on its ownership, Rogers Communications, reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. "There is no one who has the asset base of Rogers," said Boras. "They’re a car with a huge engine that is impeded by a big corporate stop sign . . . a successful and committed ownership that needs to give their baseball people financial flexibility." GM Alex Anthopoulos denied Boras' assertion telling Rosenthal, "Our ownership has been outstanding and given us all the resources we need." The Blue Jays' payroll is expected to exceed $130MM this season.
- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon told reporters, including Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune, Justin Smoak will be the team's first baseman as long he performs. This means McClendon expects new acquistions Logan Morrison and Corey Hart to man the corner outfield spots and DH.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow acknowledged internal discussions about a contract extension for catcher Jason Castro have taken place, reports the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich. No offer, however, has been discussed with Castro.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus are the only two position players remaining on the Rangers roster who played in the 2010 World Series against the Giants, the Associated Press writes. "You realize sometimes how crazy baseball is and how everything can change in a couple of years," Andrus said. "It's crazy. That's why you have to enjoy every second, every moment of this. Because you never know what's going to happen in the future." Here's more from around baseball.
- The Pirates are still in search of a first baseman, writes Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Of course, the Bucs have been linked to Justin Smoak, Adam Lind, Ike Davis, Moreland, and others this offseason.
- The Rockies have nixed their plan to move Carlos Gonzalez to center field, writes MLB.com's Thomas Harding. Colorado told Gonzalez he'd move to center after they traded their former center fielder, Dexter Fowler, to the Astros in November. However, the arrival of Drew Stubbs means that CarGo can stay put.
- Giants manager Bruce Bochy doesn't seem too concerned about Barry Bonds' presence being a distraction for the club during spring training, writes Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers has fortified his lineup with power this offseason and improved the bullpen and now he wants to see results, writes Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic.
- Astros catcher Jason Castro never let trade speculation get to him, even when it really heated up over the offseason, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.
Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times writes that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik says he has "zero expectations" for former top prospect Jesus Montero, who arrived to Spring Training 40 pounds over the team's target weight for him. The Mariners assign each player such a figure prior to each offseason, but sources tell Divish that Montero has yet to meet one since joining the club in a 2012 trade. "After winter ball, all I did was eat," Montero admitted. It's another hurdle the DH will have to conquer after a 2013 season marred by injury and a Biogenesis-related suspension. Here's more out of the AL West:
- The Mariners' interest in Kendrys Morales may depend on the ability of Corey Hart to stick in the outfield, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. Hart has logged time in the outfield in the early days of Spring Training, and if he can handle a job there, it could open up the DH spot for Morales.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News hears that the Rangers aren't pursuing Ervin Santana (Twitter link). A recent report named Texas as one of three clubs with strong interest in the hurler.
- Sam Fuld may face long odds to make the Athletics' roster out of Spring Training, as the team already has four outfielders and probably won't carry another, reports MLB.com's Jane Lee. Fuld agreed to a minor league deal with the A's early this month.
- The Angels may rely heavily on their bullpen in 2014, as they enter the season with major question marks behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson in the rotation, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes.
While Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos says he's "comfortable" with his club's current rotation candidates, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal is skeptical. If so, Anthopoulos' thinking has evolved significantly since September, Rosenthal writes, when he identified the Jays' rotation as the team's "most glaring hole" and "most glaring area we need to address." Anthopoulos reportedly considered trades for David Price, Derek Holland and Brett Anderson, and expressed interest in free agents Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bronson Arroyo and A.J. Burnett. However, a deal never materialized, and the Jays' AL East competitors have upgraded in the meantime. Here's more out of the division:
- Within the same column, Rosenthal cites the Mariners and Rangers as potential suitors for Santana, who could also avoid the draft pick compensation issue by waiting until after the June draft to sign. According to a Rosenthal tweet, Santana prefers that option to settling for a contract in the range of Nelson Cruz's one-year, $8MM deal with the Orioles.
- MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince writes that by not adding a major rotation piece, the Jays are betting on better luck with injuries and the development of young players. A rotation upgrade "does not appear to be on the horizon," according to Castrovince. Earlier this week, Anthopoulos told reporters that the club would like to sign a starter, but won't do so "at all costs."
- Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts says he's well aware of rumors that Stephen Drew could return to the club, Mike Petraglia of WEEI.com reports. "You hear it every day, especially you media guys talk about it a lot," the infielder commented. Bogaerts figures to grab the Sox's starting shortstop job if Drew doesn't return.