Texas Rangers Rumors

Pitching Notes: Johnson, Wieland, Hanson

The Padres will shut starting pitcher Josh Johnson down for 10 days to two weeks with a strained flexor, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. Johnson will be out for at least four weeks. It must be a frustrating injury for Johnson, who only started 16 games last season. While the injury doesn't appear to threaten a huge portion of the season, the Padres can feel grateful for an option they built into Johnson's contract -- if Johnson starts fewer than seven games this season, the Padres get a $4MM option on his services for 2015. Here are more notes on pitchers.

  • Another Padres pitcher, Joe Wieland, will have minor surgery to address irritation in his elbow, tweets MLB.com's Corey Brock. He is expected to be back by the All-Star Break. Wieland spent last season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
  • The Rangers are facing a decision on Tommy Hanson, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan writes. Hanson has a split contract that calls for him to receive $2MM guaranteed in the Majors and less than that in the minors. If the Rangers don't option him by Wednesday, they'll be on the hook for the entire $2MM, but if they do option him, he can opt out and become a free agent. The Rangers are trying to figure out what to do in their rotation after Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and Tanner Scheppers.

West Notes: Dodgers, Mariners, Rangers

One doesn't always associate the Dodgers with bargain signings, but agents tell Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca that the Dodgers' acquisitions of Dan Haren and Paul Maholm are among the most team-friendly of the offseason. L.A. got Haren, who wanted to return to the West Coast, for one year and $10MM, and Maholm on an incentive-based deal. Agents also name the Ervin Santana, Nelson Cruz and A.J. Burnett deals as good ones for teams. Here are more notes from around the West divisions.

  • The Mariners are still open to adding a starting pitcher, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets. "Our ears are still open," says GM Jack Zduriencik. "We’ll see what happens." Injuries have left the Mariners' rotation uncertain after Felix Hernandez.
  • Zduriencik says the Mariners' attention to detail helped them woo Robinson CanoMLB.com's Barry M. Bloom writes. "Jay-Z came, Robinson Cano came. There were probably eight of them that rolled into Seattle. ... It was Jay-Z's birthday the day before. We had a birthday cake for him. We sang Happy Birthday," Zduriencik says. "We made a great presentation. It was amazing how the whole process came along so quickly."
  • The Rangers had already discussed the idea of trading Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder before the Tigers proposed it, ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett reports. The day before Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski called to propose the deal, Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller had discussed it in a meeting of the Rangers' baseball execs. Durrett's piece is one of two parts about the Rangers' offseason additions of Fielder and Shin-Soo ChooHere's part two, which details a meeting the Rangers had with Choo before they signed him.

Out Of Options Players: AL West

The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options.  That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so.  I've included players on multiyear deals.  This list was compiled through MLBTR's sources.  Our series concludes with the AL West.

Angels: Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen, Andrew Romine

Frieri is the team's closer, and Jepsen has a spot in the pen as well.  About a week ago, Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times noted that Angels manager Mike Scioscia said the team could open the season with an eight-man bullpen. DiGiovanna further explained, "Carrying an extra reliever and a five-man rotation would limit the Angels to a three-man bench consisting of a backup catcher, utility infielder and outfielder."

Romine is battling non-roster invitee John McDonald for that utility infielder job, though as MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez noted earlier this month, Grant Green appears to have joined the mix.

Astros: Chris Carter, Lucas Harrell, Raul Valdes

Carter will serve as the team's designated hitter.  Harrell is looking to reclaim a spot in the Astros' rotation, which is something of an open competition behind Scott Feldman.  Valdes, a lefty reliever, is the oldest player in Astros camp at age 36, according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.  He's competing for a lefty relief spot with Darin Downs and Kevin Chapman, wrote Drellich a week ago.

Athletics: Daric Barton, Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Fernando Abad, Jesse Chavez, Chris Gimenez, Michael Taylor

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about Taylor on Monday and Tuesday, noting that a scout told her a change of scenery might do some good for the 28-year-old outfielder.  Slusser says non-roster invitee Sam Fuld is ahead of Taylor to potentially fill in for Craig Gentry if Gentry needs to start the season on the DL.  Slusser wrote Monday that Barton will need at least a few more days to recover from a hamstring strain.  Barton doesn't fit well at first base in a potential platoon with Moss, wrote John Hickey of the Mercury News in February, so it could be difficult for him to find a roster spot.  Moss seems assured of semi-regular first base duty after hitting 51 home runs for the A's over the past two years.  Donaldson is the team's starting third baseman after a breakout 2013.

Gimenez is seemingly fourth on the A's depth chart at catcher, so he has an uphill battle for a roster spot out of camp.

MLB.com's Chris Gabel wrote about Abad yesterday, noting that he's competing with Drew Pomeranz and Joe Savery to become the second lefty in Oakland's bullpen.  Though Abad has surrendered a few runs in his six innings of spring work to date, Gabel quotes A's manager Bob Melvin as praising the 28-year-old, leading the writer to speculate that "he might already have secured a spot in the A's bullpen."  Last week, MLB.com's Jane Lee wrote that Chavez "appears to be a lock" for the team's pen. 

Mariners: Hector Noesi

The Mariners have an open rotation competition after Felix Hernandez in the wake of injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, wrote MLB.com's John Schlegel on Tuesday.  James Paxton, Scott Baker, and Erasmo Ramirez might be the favorites, though, meaning Noesi is really competing for one spot.  Noesi could instead be a long reliever out of the bullpen, Bob Dutton of the News Tribune suggested a week ago.

Rangers: Engel Beltre, Pedro Figueroa, Adam Rosales, Michael Kirkman

In a roster projection from Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News today, he included both Beltre and Michael Choice, noting that the team doesn't want to lose Beltre.  Keeping both Beltre and Choice might mean sending catcher Robinson Chirinos to Triple-A despite an impressive spring.  Grant sees Rosales as the team's best backup infield option over Brent Lillibridge and Kevin Kouzmanoff, because Rosales can play second base, shortstop, and third base.

Kirkman is part of Grant's projected seven-man bullpen, while Figueroa is not.  As a lefty who throws 95 miles per hour, Figueroa was intriguing enough to the Rangers for the club to claim him off waivers from the Rays in late January.  It seems the Rangers will be forced to choose one of the two, barring a trade or injury.

Quick Hits: Choo, Turner, Mets, Lambo, Santana

The seven-year, $140MM offer that the Yankees offered Shin-Soo Choo was only on the table for less than a day.  As MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince notes, New York offered Choo the contract and then pulled it back almost as quickly in order to instead sign Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45MM deal.  "In my opinion, it takes some time to make a decision, maybe at least a couple days," Choo said. "You want to learn a city and a team. They gave me 21 hours."  The Yankees' withdrawal could've been due to Beltran simply accepting his offer first, or perhaps because Scott Boras (Choo's agent), reportedly asked the Yankees to match the $153MM the Bombers gave to Jacoby Ellsbury.  Choo didn't end up doing too badly for himself at any rate, signing a seven-year, $130MM deal with the Rangers.

Here's some news from around the baseball world...

  • CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman lists 14 players who could traded during Spring Training.  Most of these names have popped up on the pages of MLBTR over the last few weeks, though one new name is Marlins right-hander Jacob Turner.  Heyman says there's "not a great chance" Miami would deal Turner but since the Marlins have a lot of good young pitchers, "folks on other teams speculate this could be the one arm the Marlins might move in that right deal" for offensive help.
  • Ike Davis' calf injury has not only set back the Mets' first base competition, but it has also ruined any possible chance of a trade showcase for Davis during Spring Training, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes.  The Brewers, Pirates and Orioles have all been connected to Davis in trade rumors during the offseason but obviously no move will be made any time soon, as Davis is currently in a walking boot and recently had an MRI on his right calf.
  • Speaking of the Pirates' first base search, the team could end up finding its left-handed platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez already on the roster in the form of Andrew Lambo, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes.  While maturity issues and a 50-game suspension reportedly relating to marijuana use have set back Lambo's career, he is still only 25 and has posted some strong power numbers in the minors.
  • "I just don't see what we have to lose," Indians manager Terry Francona says about Carlos Santana's attempted conversion to third base.  FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal recaps the reasons behind Santana's surprising decision to try the hot corner and how it could be a boon for the Tribe if Santana could handle the position.
  • Nate Schierholtz wants to remain with the Cubs but is cognizant of the fact that could be traded, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports.  The veteran outfielder said he hasn't spoken to Cubs management about staying beyond his current one-year contract.  Recent rumors put Schierholtz on the trading block thanks to Ryan Kalish's progress, not to mention the fact that Kalish is playing on a minor league deal while Schierholtz is owed $5MM this season.

AL Notes: Santana, O's, Porcello, Masterson, Rangers

Big-league ballplayers make plenty of money, but that doesn't mean free agency isn't stressful. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal takes a fascinating look at free agency as seen through the eyes of Red Sox players. Chris Capuano reports that, whenever he's a free agent, he sends his agent a list of teams in order of preference, but then has to wait to see if there's mutual interest. He also notes that, typically, playing for a winner becomes more and more important to a player the older he gets. David Ross says that, before the 2009 season, he signed to be a backup with the Braves rather than a starter with the Astros because the Braves offered a two-year deal.

Here are more notes from around the American League:

  • Conflicting reports yesterday regarding Ervin Santana has everyone confused. "I really don’t know what’s real and what’s not real in that case," Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette told reporters, including Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
  • The biggest culprit for Santana's situation is the right-hander's own camp, which dramatically overestimated his market and then was slow to change gears, ESPN's Buster Olney writes (Insider subscription required). Olney suggests that, if Santana's demands had been more realistic, he could have at least wound up with a contract similar to Matt Garza's or Ricky Nolasco's, rather than the one-year deal he now appears likely to receive.
  • Back to the Orioles, Duquette still has the financial flexibility to improve the roster, but is confident in the pitching they currently have in camp, according to MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. "We have some more resources that we can invest in our team, and we'll take a look at each case as it comes up," Duquette said. "We do have a little more pitching depth with our starting pitching going into the season, and some of the young pitchers we have high hopes for are continuing to develop their skills."
  • GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers won't be trading any starting pitchers, including Rick Porcello, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. Earlier today, the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo reported that the Tigers would field offers for Porcello.
  • Starting pitcher Justin Masterson, who is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season, has surprisingly suggested to the Indians that he might be willing to sign a shorter-term extension, perhaps three years, but the Indians have not yet responded with an offer, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets.
  • The Rangers are trying to develop a long-term answer at catcher, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Texas hasn't had stability at catcher since Ivan Rodriguez left over a decade ago. "It’s a topic of conversation, absolutely," says GM Jon Daniels. "We’ve had some guys come over here as big-time catching prospects, but we haven’t developed our own long-term championship-caliber starter." The Rangers have beefed up their coaching staff in an attempt to help their catchers develop. The Rangers' best hope of becoming a homegrown regular catcher is, of course, top prospect Jorge Alfaro, who played most of the 2013 season with Class A Hickory.

Edward Creech contributed to this post.

West Notes: Giants, Rangers, A's

 The latest out of baseball's Western divisions:

  • The Giants and Pablo Sandoval had yet to talk extensions as of Friday, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets. When we last checked in, the club was considering the issue but felt it had the whole of the 2014 season to put together a deal, should it decide to go that route. Sandoval is scheduled to become a free agent after this year.
  • Mike Bauman interviewed Rangers GM Jon Daniels in an article for MLB.com. Daniels says that after having traded away a number of young players in recent years, the club decided this winter that it would place more emphasis on developing its own players into big leaguers. Texas lost its first-round draft choice after signing Shin-Soo Choo, but gained a compensatory pick after Nelson Cruz signed with the Orioles.
  • Sam Fuld has a real shot at making the Athletics' Opening Day roster, Jane Lee of MLB.com reports, having impressed early in camp while Craig Gentry has nursed a back strain. Importantly, Fuld's minor league deal includes two opt-out dates that will allow him to part ways with Oakland if he's not on the Major League roster. The first comes at the end of the month.

Rangers Sign Joe Saunders

FRIDAY: Saunders can earn up to $3.65MM if he makes the club and hits all of the incentives in his contract, according to the Associated Press. Just $250K of Saunders' $500K base salary is guaranteed.

If Saunders makes the roster, his salary will jump to $1.5MM, as previously reported by Heyman. He also receives a $500K bonus for 90 days on the active roster. Saunders will receive an additional $150K for reaching each of 130, 140, 150, 160, 170 and 180 innings. He'll earn $250K for reaching each of 190, 200 and 210 innings. He can also earn between $25K and $100K for various awards bonuses.

WEDNESDAY, 10:00am: Saunders is guaranteed just $500K but will earn $1.5MM, plus incentives, if he makes the Major League roster, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter).

9:34am: The Rangers announced today that they have signed left-hander Joe Saunders to a one-year, Major League contract. Financial terms remain in unknown, though reports have indicated that it is a non-guaranteed deal, suggesting that it could be in the mold of Tommy Hanson's one-year, split Major League contract with Texas that pays him a separate salary in the minors should he not make the big league club.

Saunders, 32, promises to add depth to the back of a Texas rotation mix that has increasingly looked in need of it. Derek Holland is going to miss the entire first half, Matt Harrison is still working back from surgery (and had a more recent injury scare), and other options come with a variety of uncertainties. 

Working for the Mariners last year, Saunders struggled to a 5.26 ERA in 183 innings. That was the worst full-season mark of his career, however, as the southpaw had thrown at least 174 2/3 innings and posted between a 3.41 and 4.60 ERA over his previous five seasons.

Advanced metrics thought his 2013 season was better than the resuls, as he posted a 4.72 FIP, 4.23 xFIP, and 4.42 SIERA. However, those numbers remain underwhelming, and a look at advanced stats also tends to place a negative spin on some of Saunders' more productive previous years. Indeed, he has never finished a year below the 4.00 line by any of those measures.

The signing was first reported by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first tweeted that it was a MLB deal, with Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeting that it was of the non-guaranteed variety.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.

Padres Claim Alex Castellanos

The Padres announced, on Twitter, that they have claimed outfielder Alex Castellanos off waivers from the Rangers. Left-hander Cory Luebke has been transferred to the 60-day disabled list in order to clear a 40-man roster spot.

The Rangers designated the 27-year-old Castellanos for assignment earlier in the week in order to clear a spot on their 40-man roster for Joe Saunders. San Diego is Castellanos' fourth organization since the end of last season. Initially dealt from the Dodgers to the Red Sox for Jeremy Hazelbaker, he was next claimed off waivers by the Rangers when Boston signed Mike Napoli.

Though he's moved around quite a bit this offseason, Castellanos has an outstanding minor league track record. The Florida native is a career .291/.382/.525 hitter with 36 homers and 35 stolen bases in 848 Triple-A plate appearances. However, he's managed just a .171/.186/.390 batting line in an admittedly small sample size of 43 big league plate appearances.

Ervin Santana Rumors: Thursday

Let's take a look at the latest on the best arm left on the market, starter Ervin Santana.

  • Seemingly contradicting Alou, Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes.com reports (Twitter links) that Santana has fired Stringfellow. Santana does not have plans to hire a replacement, and could negotiate his own deal, according to Soldevila.
  • Another of Santana's reps at Proformance, Jay Alou, tweets that there has been "no change" in Santana's representation. "Ervin Santana is still represented by the same person that he first signed with 15 years ago," wrote Alou.

Earlier Updates

  • Santana is now considering a change of representation, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Santana is currently represented by Proformance. We heard from Proformance managing director Bean Stringfellow recently, as he spoke in strong terms about his determination to land Santana a contract befitting his talent, and said they had discussed the possibility of waiting to sign until after the June amateur draft (to shed the draft pick compensation tied to Santana).
  • The Blue Jays are still unlikely even to make Santana an offer, reports Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. Though GM Alex Anthopoulos said that he has still had some contact with the representatives of some free agents, he added that "I don't think we have anything active."
  • Updating the market situation of Santana, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes that teams still in touch with Santana include the MarinersOriolesRockiesRangers, and aforementioned Blue Jays. Stringfellow weighed in to say that Santana was dealing well with the wait. "He's concentrating on his workout," he said. "Obviously, he'd rather be in camp, as he's always in camp at this time. But he understands the process, and the business aspect of it. He's doing well."
  • Though the Orioles would have no problem sacrificing a third-round pick to add Santana, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, the team has not engaged in "real dialogue" over the past few days. As with the team's previous signing of compensation free agents, Baltimore is looking to achieve value in any deal.

Rangers Designate Alex Castellanos For Assignment

The Rangers have designated outfielder Alex Castellanos for assignment in order to clear a 40-man roster spot for Joe Saunders, tweets Rangers executive VP of communications John Blake.

The Rangers claimed the 27-year-old Castellanos off waivers from the Red Sox back in December. Originally a 10th-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2008 draft, Castellanos was shipped to the Dodgers in the 2011 Rafael Furcal trade before being traded to the Red Sox this offseason. However, Boston designated him for assignment upon signing Mike Napoli, leading to his claim by the Rangers.

Though he's moved around quite a bit this offseason, Castellanos has an outstanding minor league track record. The Florida native is a career .291/.382/.525 hitter with 36 homers and 35 stolen bases in 848 Triple-A plate appearances. However, he's managed just a .171/.186/.390 batting line in an admittedly small sample size of 43 big league plate appearances.

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