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We’ve already had one batch of AL Central news items earlier today, but here are a few more from around the division…
- It seems “certain” that the Tigers will extend a qualifying offer to Victor Martinez this winter, MLive.com’s Chris Iott writes as part of a reader mailbag. Though Martinez turns 36 in December, he’s still swinging a live bat, bringing an .859 OPS over 99 PA into today’s action. This is just my speculation, but given Martinez’s age and defensive limitations, I wonder if he could actually accept the one-year qualifying offer (which should be worth roughly $15MM) to stay in a familiar situation in Detroit rather than risk facing a Kendrys Morales -esque extended wait in free agency.
- Torii Hunter did a bit of recruiting to bring Joel Hanrahan to the Tigers, both players tell MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Hunter and Hanrahan are both represented by agent Larry Reynolds and work out together during the offseason.
- Kyle Zimmer, the fifth pick of the 2012 draft, skipped Spring Training and will see his first game action this coming week, Jim Callis writes for MLB.com. While Zimmer is presently healthy, he had a bout of late-season biceps tendinitis and said his arm still didn’t feel when throwing in December. As such, the Royals are taking it very easy with their star prospect and plan to cap him around 148 innings, though they could call on him for a pennant race. “If he pitches like we expect him to, we’ll have a fresh Kyle Zimmer in September,” Royals assistant GM J.J. Picollo said. “He’s as important as anybody in the organization for this year and the future, and this just made more sense.”
- In other prospect-workload news, Twins assistant GM Rob Antony hinted to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that Alex Meyer could see roughly a 30-percent increase in his innings from 2013. “I think 30 percent is pretty much the standard,” Antony said. “It’s kind of the guideline you work under. You monitor it….We just want him to stay healthy throughout the year and continue to progress.” This projects to around 156 IP for Meyer in 2014, and since he’s pitched so well in five Triple-A starts, the big righty could be a late-season callup. Antony didn’t address that possibility other than to say “The intensity is a lot different (in the minors).”
In his latest Notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports begins by examining the managerial change for the Nationals. As Rosenthal points out, the change from the laid-back Davey Johnson to the intense Matt Williams hasn’t prevented sloppy play. A source tells Rosenthal that Williams called a team meeting to call out how sloppy they’d been and how they needed to hustle down the line. Rosenthal also points out Washington’s poor defense — something that wouldn’t be expected under Williams. Here are some more highlights from Rosenthal’s latest piece…
- The Mets‘ bullpen woes under Sandy Alderson can’t be blamed on payroll constraints, writes Rosenthal. He looks at the success the A’s, Royals and Giants have had in building a relief corps on the cheap before looking at Alderson’s misses on Frank Francisco, D.J. Carrasco, Ramon Ramirez and Brandon Lyon. Though they did well in landing Carlos Torres and Scott Rice, the team’s financial state isn’t an excuse for its poor relief work, he concludes.
- Rosenthal also looks at the Tigers‘ puzzling Alex Gonzalez situation. Detroit gave up infielder Steve Lombardozzi (who was part of the return for Doug Fister) and spent $1.1MM for nine games of Gonzalez before cutting him loose. Asked by Rosenthal about the possibility of Stephen Drew, GM Dave Dombrowski replied: “I’m sure people will focus on that, but we’re going to look internally at our situation first and foremost.” The Tigers would likely only want Drew on a one-year deal, as Jose Iglesias will be healthy in 2015.
- Torii Hunter tells Rosenthal that he’s physically capable of playing another two or three years, but it’s going to be a matter of whether or not he wants to do so. Hunter certainly didn’t hint that retirement was on his mind, though: “I’m a man. A man is supposed to work. This is the only thing I know, the only thing I’m supposed to do.”
- One executive told Rosenthal that the increase in extensions for younger players is due to the lack of overall talent in today’s game. With so few impact performers, teams are more compelled than ever to lock them up through their prime. As an example, that executive pointed to this year’s draft class, noting that NC State shortstop Trea Turner might be the only college shortstop selected in the Top 250.
Torii Hunter of the Tigers says he could continue playing after his contract expires following the 2014 season, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets. "I can see myself paying beyond 2014," says Hunter. "I'm slim, trim and ready to go." The Tigers signed Hunter to a two-year, $26MM deal last offseason, a year after Hunter told the press he might retire following the 2012 season. Hunter hit .304/.334/.465 as the Tigers' right fielder in 2013. Here's more from around the American League.
- Pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez will likely void his 2014 option to stay with the Indians, and will instead try the free-agent market, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. Jimenez posted a 3.30 ERA with 9.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 182 2/3 innings for Cleveland this year. Jimenez agreed to team options for his 2013 and 2014 seasons when he signed a long-term deal with the Rockies before the 2009 season, but he received the right to void the $8MM 2014 option when Colorado shipped him to the Indians.
- Unless there are trades, the Athletics roster isn't likely to undergo dramatic changes this offseason, reports John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. None of Oakland's key position players are set to depart, and they have plenty of starting pitching, even if Bartolo Colon leaves via free agency.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman would prefer to have Alex Rodriguez play in 2014, even if that means the Yankees have to pay his salary, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. If Rodriguez's 2014 suspension is upheld, that would take the Yankees off the hook for the $25MM they owe him in 2014. "I think if people think there’s some sort of benefit by losing that talent, I mean, you can’t replace it," Cashman says. "It’s not like, ‘All right, well, Alex is gone.’ If he winds up getting suspended and it’s upheld, how do you replace that? It’s not easy."
With the ALCS set to get underway today, here are a few notes on the American League finalists for the World Series:
- Two key current Tigers — Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter — could well have ended up with the Red Sox instead, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Both players said that family considerations drove their decisions to head to Detroit. For the catcher-turned-DH Martinez, that meant getting an additional year that the BoSox were not willing to offer.
- An extension for Hunter is not out of the question, tweets Jason Beck of MLB.com, now that Avisail Garcia has been dealt away. Hunter has one year and $14MM left on the pact he inked last off-season with the Tigers. The 38-year-old client of Reynolds Sports Management enjoyed another strong season, though his 114 OPS+ and 2.1 bWAR fell well shy of last year's 129 OPS+ and 5.8 bWAR tally. From my perspective, there would seem to be little reason for urgency in reaching a new deal, as the team may do well to see how Hunter performs next year before committing to him into his forties.
- Tigers president/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski built the team aggressively and with the World Series plainly in mind, writes MLB.com's Richard Justice. Though he values prospects, says Justice, Dombrowski also knows how to utilize them as organizational currency.
- Meanwhile, the Red Sox are led by a GM, Ben Cherington, who is just one of several to have been groomed at nearby Amherst College, write Michael McDonald and Erik Matuszewski of Bloomberg.com. Neal Huntington of the Pirates and Dan Duquette of the Orioles also have roots at Amherst, and the school's role as a breeding ground could be on the rise.
On this day in 2007, the Twins signed Liam Hendriks as an amateur free agent out of Australia. Hendriks, 24, has struggled in the Majors to date but owns a solid minor league track record. He has twice cracked Baseball America's list of Top 10 Twins prospects and boasts a 2.95 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 155 2/3 Triple-A innings. He'll fight for a rotation spot with the Twins this Spring. Here are some links pertaining to baseball's two Central divisions…
- New Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter told ESPN's Jayson Stark that his comments about the Angels and owner Arte Moreno following the Josh Hamilton signing were a "joke that went bad." At the time, Hunter tweeted that Moreno must have had "some money under a mattress," as he'd been told the team couldn't afford him. Hunter praised the Angels' organization and said he's enjoying his time with the Tigers so far.
- The Indians could look to trade outfielder Ezequiel Carrera near the end of Spring Training, writes MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. Carrera is out of options, and the Tribe has no doubt that they would lose the 25-year-old if they placed him on waivers in an attempt to send him to Triple-A.
- Former AL MVP Justin Morneau couldn't have picked a better time to get healthy, writes Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN. The 31-year-old Twins slugger is set to hit free agency following the season and could find himself a midseason trade candidate, extension candidate, or the recipient of a qualifying offer with a strong, healthy season.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports wonders if Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras could be the next 20-year-old to take the Majors by storm. Taveras, however, doesn't have a clear path to the Majors given the presence of Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran.
Vernon Wells will be 35 years old when his $126MM contract expires following the 2014 season, at which point he expects to retire. The outfielder told Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com that his playing career will end after two more years.
Wells told Gonzalez that he intends to spend more time with his kids once he retires. Yet the three-time All-Star still expects to be involved in baseball. Wells hopes to own an MLB team at some point, and he plans to work with former teammate Torii Hunter. They plan on starting with a minor league team and progressing from there.
"It's definitely something we're interested in doing once we're both done playing," Wells told Gonzalez. "It's fun, man. Instead of playing fantasy GM, you're actually putting together your own team and learning what it takes to pretty much make money in an organization, especially in the minor leagues.”
Wells will earn $42MM between now and the end of the 2014 season, by which point he'll have earned more than $130MM during his playing career. Hunter will have earned $160MM at the MLB level by the time his two-year deal with the Tigers expires.
The Yankees aren’t expected to trade for Wells, even after losing Curtis Granderson for the beginning of the regular season. Wells posted a .230/.279/.403 batting line with 11 home runs in 262 plate appearances for the Angels in 2012.
As February gets underway, Michael Bourn still stands as the best available free agent on the open market. Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (on Twitter) opines that the Mets, Mariners, and Rays are the teams that make the most sense for the center fielder. As for the best starter left on the free agent pile, Bowden sees the Red Sox, Rangers, Angels, Brewers, and Orioles as the best fits for Kyle Lohse. Here's more from around baseball..
- Don't look for the Marlins to make any major moves the remainder of the offseason, says Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (via Twitter). The team will enter spring training with the roster it currently has in place.
- Regardless of whether or not Scott Rolen joins the Reds, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that the club is facing a serious roster crunch. It seems that the veteran wants to play in 2013 but money will be a determining factor in his decision. Recently, the Dodgers reached out to Rolen to express interest.
- The Orioles expect to announce the signing of veteran left-handerMark Hendrickson to a minor league contract with a spring training invite early next week, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. The O's also hope to announce their deal with Jair Jurrjens and remain interested in bringing Joe Saunders back despite the depth that they've added.
- Torii Hunter says that enjoyed his time with the Angels, but he also felt misled when the club told him they didn't have enough money to keep him before signing Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125MM deal, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. The veteran hooked on with the Tigers this winter in pursuit of a World Series ring.
- The Tigers had a tough time trying to find organizational depth this winter as many players figured that their path to the majors would be blocked, writes George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press. Regardless, assistant General Manager Al Avila says that the club is done signing minor league players and is ready for spring training.
Daniel Seco contributed to this post.
The Dodgers have dominated the headlines in Hollywood for most of the winter but the Angels stole the spotlight today by reaching agreement with Josh Hamilton on a five-year, $125MM contract. Here are a few items about both Los Angeles franchises…
- Hamilton's agents approached the Dodgers and the team did background work on the outfielder, but the Dodgers never seriously considered signing him, reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. The Dodgers simply didn't have room in the outfield with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford all locked up to major long-term contracts.
- Don Mattingly and Mike Scioscia will both be under tremendous pressure to manage their respective teams to postseason success in 2013, writes Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. Scioscia is under contract through 2018 but the Angels haven't made the postseason in three years and the skipper seemed to be on the hot seat last year during the team's slow start. As for Mattingly, he is entering the final year of his three-year contract. Hernandez also addresses a number of other questions about both teams as part of his Q&A piece, including if the Angels signed Hamilton as a response to the Dodgers' high-profile moves.
- The Angels are interested in Jonathon Niese and share an interest in R.A. Dickey with the Rangers, reports Matthew Cerrone of Metsblog.com. Cerrone believes the Blue Jays also have their eye on both Mets pitchers, with Niese as their first choice.
- There are still some outstanding questions about the Dodgers' financial situation and the status of their rumored multi-billion dollar TV deal with FOX, writes ESPN's Darren Rovell.
- Earlier today we explored the reaction to the Hamilton signing and its impact around the league.
We've already looked at how the Angels' five-year, $125MM agreement with Josh Hamilton has impacted players and teams around baseball, but now let's look at some analysis of the signing itself, including items about how the deal came together for the Angels and how the Rangers missed out on re-signing their slugger…
- An American League executive called the move "last-second knee-jerk stupidity" on the part of the Angels, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (Twitter links). However, an NL executive called it a "brilliant move" since the Angels obtained the best player available and added balance to a largely right-handed lineup.
- Former Angels outfielder Torii Hunter had some sharp words regarding his free agent talks with the Angels and owner Arte Moreno (Twitter links). “I was told money was tight but I guess the Arte had money hidden under a Mattress,” Hunter wrote. “Business is business but don't lie.” Hunter clarified in a follow-up tweet that he’s “not upset.”
- One American League executive told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark that the Rangers made the "fatal mistake" of believing no team would go beyond four years for Hamilton. Also from Stark, Moreno's tactic of making take it-or-leave it offers prevented Hamilton from going back to the Rangers to give them a chance to top Anaheim's offer (Twitter links)
- Though Rangers GM Jon Daniels will face public criticism for letting Hamilton get away to a division rival, Daniels is being "privately lauded" by other general managers for parting ways with Hamilton, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.
- Also from Olney (Twitter link), "Hamilton's medical records have been a concern for other teams."
- Yahoo Sports' Kevin Kaduk runs down the winners and losers of the Hamilton signing.
- The signing looks like "an impulse buy" for Moreno and the Halos, as the team reportedly didn't even discuss signing Hamilton during the Winter Meetings, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal's colleague Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Angels did meet with Hamilton during the Winter Meetings, though it was kept quiet enough that some within the organization didn't even know the meeting took place (Twitter links).
- The Angels know they'll have to trade from their position player depth, but aren't close to any deals yet, Yahoo's Tim Brown reports (on Twitter).
- The Rangers are "really shaken" by losing Hamilton, especially after being unable to sign Zack Greinke or work out trades for Justin Upton or James Shields, writes CBS Sports' Danny Knobler (via Twitter). "Fair to say they don't love any [other] options out there," Knobler adds.
- The Hamilton signing elevates the Angels/Rangers rivalry to an even higher level, writes Yahoo's Jeff Passan.
- My take: I'm not crazy about the signing since the Angels' lineup (and particularly their outfield) wasn't an area of concern, and $125MM is a lot of money to commit to a player with as many red flags as Hamilton. That said, I can understand why they made the move. Money seems to be no object to the Angels, so if they can win a World Series over the next few seasons, the team won't care if Hamilton (or Albert Pujols, for that matter) is a payroll albatross by 2016-17. It also doesn't hurt that the Angels dealt a serious blow to a division rival by keeping Hamilton away from the Rangers. I'd suggest that the Angels hang onto their outfield depth until at least the trade deadline — given Hamilton and Kendrys Morales' injury histories, it makes sense to have a capable outfielder like Peter Bourjos, who brings much more off the bench than Vernon Wells.
MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith contributed to this post
Here are some details on three recently-signed contracts…
- Ryan Madson's one-year contract with Angels will pay him $500k each for 45, 90, 135, and 180 days on the roster as long as he is not on the DL with a right arm injury, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. He will also receive $250K each for 35, 40, 45, and 50 games finished.
- Torii Hunter's two-year, $26MM contract with the Tigers is slightly backloaded, reports MLB.com's Jason Beck. He'll earn $12MM in 2013 and $14MM in 2014, plus $100K bonuses for each All-Star selection, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, LCS MVP, and World Series MVP he wins.
- Evan Longoria's salary for 2013 has been reduced from $6MM to $2MM as part of his new contract with the Rays, reports Marc Topkin of The Tampa Bay Times. The remaining $4MM was converted into a signing bonus. Topkin also has information on the deferments and escalator clauses in the deal.
- The players' union values Longoria's new contract with the Rays at ten years and $131MM according to Rosenthal (on Twitter). The present day value ($136.6MM) has been reduced due to deferred money.