Texas Rangers Rumors
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.
At least three teams -- the Orioles, Rangers and an NL West club -- have strong interest in Ervin Santana, ESPN Deportes' Enrique Rojas tweets. Rojas also notes that the Blue Jays could still be a possibility (although a recent report indicated the Blue Jays would not sign a free-agent starting pitcher). The identity of the NL West team is unclear, although the Rockies have been connected to Santana.
The Orioles have interest despite their recent signing of Ubaldo Jimenez. Santana would still upgrade their rotation, and with their first-round draft pick no longer a factor, there is less disincentive for them to sign a free agent like Santana who has a qualifying offer attached. The Orioles would only have to give up the No. 90 overall pick -- their third-rounder -- to sign Santana. The Rangers would have to sacrifice the No. 30 overall pick they are about to receive as compensation for Nelson Cruz signing with Baltimore.
Here are today's minor moves from around baseball.
- The Tigers have signed righty reliever Kevin Whelan, Baseball America's Matt Eddy tweets. Whelan, 30, pitched last season for the Reds' Triple-A affiliate in Louisville, posting a 4.97 ERA with 13.0 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9. He briefly appeared in the Majors with the Yankees in 2011.
- The Rangers have re-signed starter Scott Richmond, Eddy tweets. Richmond posted a 5.91 ERA with 4.5 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 20 starts with Triple-A Round Rock last season. He pitched in parts of four seasons with the Blue Jays, the last of those coming in 2012.
- The Royals have signed pitchers Mitch Stetter and Hassan Pena, along with outfielder Devon Torrence, notes Eddy. Stetter last appeared in the big leagues with the Brewers in 2011. Pena, a former Nationals farmhand, pitched in Mexico last year. Torrence is a former NFL cornerback who also once played in the Astros organization.
The Rangers didn't really expect to re-sign Nelson Cruz this winter, yet did their due diligence by keeping in touch with Cruz's agent Adam Katz, GM Jon Daniels told MLB.com's Lyle Spencer. "We've touched base every week or so," Daniels said. "Nellie's highly regarded here. We have a good relationship with Adam. We made our moves and kind of expected [Cruz] to sign elsewhere. But we'll see where it goes. It's a unique situation for him as a free agent. When we made our decision to sign [Shin-Soo] Choo, it was with the understanding that [Cruz's] best opportunity would be to sign elsewhere. I don't know what's going on with other teams and Nellie."
Here's some more from around the AL West...
- The Rangers' view on re-signing Cruz is "unchanged," FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets, in that the team would only bring him back at a lower price and if he can't find any other suitors.
- Nick Franklin was almost traded to the Diamondbacks last offseason and had been the subject of trade rumors this winter as well since the Mariners' acquisition of Robinson Cano. Despite all of the speculation, Franklin tells Larry Stone of the Seattle Times that he's just focusing on the upcoming season. “I mean, as far as I know, I’ve been traded 20 times, and I’m still here," Franklin said. “It doesn’t really bother me at all. All I can do is control what I can and go out and play the game.”
- A 10-year, $300MM contract for Mike Trout has often been cited as a possible extension for the young superstar, though MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez opines that Trout's representatives might take a lesser deal given that Trout still has four years until free agency and his stock could drop in the interim. Also, a shorter deal would set Trout up for another massive contract later in his career. Gonzalez suggests a seven-year, $200MM extension could work. In my opinion, while the $200MM mark is a major threshold for any player, I'd guess the Angels would happily lock Trout up at that price.
- Athletics manager Bob Melvin told reporters, including Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, that there is very little chance top prospect Addison Russell begins the season on the Major League roster. The A's are already set at shortstop wth Jed Lowrie (with Nick Punto and Eric Sogard as backup options), and as Slusser notes, there is little reason to start Russell's service time clock at this point in his young career.
In the wake of reports that the Angels made a four-year, $52MM offer to Matt Garza in December and pulled it before he could respond, Garza himself confirmed to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy that the Halos did make (and quickly pull) an offer. Garza says that he was on vacation with his wife, celebrating their anniversary: "I was on vacation with my wife and I didn’t want to be disturbed, and it was like, ‘Here it is, we’ll pull it in a certain amount of hours.’ I didn’t have a chance to respond, so I just said, ‘Whatever. It is what it is.'" Garza wound up receiving a slightly smaller guarantee from the Brewers ($50MM), though his deal could be worth as much as $67MM if his fifth-year option triggers and he maxes out his contract's incentives. Garza told McCalvy that upon meeting Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, he felt the club genuinely wanted to sign him, and that was a big factor in his decision.
Here's more from the AL West...
- Don't rule out a return to the Mariners for Kendrys Morales, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo hears that the Pirates aren't willing to forfeit the draft pick they would need to sign Morales. He also hears that Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette can't get the financial go-ahead from owner Peter Angelos to meet Morales' asking price.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News wonders if it would be the best fit for all parties if Nelson Cruz returned to the Rangers on a one-year deal. Grant speculates on some contract specifics that could allow Cruz to earn more than the $14.1MM qualifying offer he rejected, and wonders it the two sides could agree in advance not to go the qualifying offer route next offseason.
- Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis knows the timing of the flexor tendon injury that has shelved him for the last season-and-a-half was horrible (he was three months from free agency), but the 35-year-old is keeping his head up, writes ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett. Rather than lament his misfortune, Lewis instead said that he prefers to count his blessings: "Baseball has given me the opportunity to play and make good money and do it as long as I have."
- Athletics lefty Tommy Milone might appear to be behind Scott Kazmir, Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin on the depth chart, but he's been assured by manager Bob Melvin that he's in the running for a rotation spot, tweets John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group. The A's currently have six starters for five rotation spots, but there's been little talk of them trading an arm.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.