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Torii Hunter Rumors
Though the Royals are coming off their best season in nearly three decades, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that the team will soon need to turn its focus to some difficult offseason decisions. Industry expectations, according to Martino, are that the Royals will at least listen to trade offers for its more expensive players — including Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas — if other teams come calling this winter. Gordon’s case is the most pressing, as he’s only controlled through 2015 at $12.5MM before he has a $12.5MM player option. Gordon has publicly stated that he plans to exercise that option, though it’d be a surprise, to say the least, considering he could be in line for a much more sizable long-term commitment next offseason if he turns it down. Martino also notes that the Royals will have interest in re-signing Nori Aoki this offseason. From my vantage point, the team needn’t feel pressure to move any of the three previously mentioned players, though I’ll cover that at greater length in the upcoming Royals Offseason Outlook.
For the time being, here’s more on the AL Champs and the rest of their division…
- The Royals are expected to decline their $12.5MM option on designated hitter Billy Butler in favor of a $1MM buyout, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The move isn’t exactly unexpected after the down season he had at the plate. However, Heyman adds that the team may look to pursue Torii Hunter, as they did seven years ago, in the event that Aoki signs elsewhere as a free agent. The Kansas City Star’s Andy McCullough also hears that Butler’s option is likely to be declined.
- The Twins‘ front office flew out to Torey Lovullo’s home in California to conduct their second interview with him on Monday this week, tweets Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com, but there’s still been no decision reached as to who will be the team’s next manager. Lovullo and Paul Molitor are believed to be the favorites.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski spoke candidly to reporters, including Matthew Mowery of the Oakland Press, about the team’s lack of financial flexibility this offseason. Said Dombrowski: “We have the most generous owner in baseball you could possibly have in sports. But we’re in a situation where $200 million payrolls aren’t what is common here. … It’s a situation where we’re really in a spot that if you’re going to have four starters being paid and you’re going to have a couple superstars in the middle of your lineup, that means there’s not as much availability to do some other things. And you have to determine what you’re going to do.”
In his latest mailbag piece, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com looks at various facets of the Indians roster. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t predict any sweeping changes for the Cleveland roster. Here’s more from Bastian and around the AL.
- The Indians bullpen seems set behind closer Cody Allen. The club may wish to bring in a few depth pieces to supplement the middle and long relief components. Nick Hagadone, who is out of options, is a likely candidate as the second lefty. Similarly, the rotation will probably to be filled internally. Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin can provide above average depth for a rotation fronted by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and T.J. House.
- Had the Indians possessed a better defense, they might have reached the postseason instead of the Royals. However, the club may have solved its woes in-season by promoting Jose Ramirez and moving Carlos Santana to first base. If third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall continues to struggle defensively, Bastian mentions prospect Giovanny Urshela as an alternative.
- Torii Hunter is leaning towards playing in 2015 and would like to return to the Tigers, reports Chris Iott of MLive.com. Hunter labels himself as one of the most consistent hitters in the game. That’s not a bad characterization. Over the past nine seasons, he’s ranged from 13 to 31 percent above average per an advanced stat called wRC+. If you prefer traditional stats, he has always contributed in batting average, power, and run production. The 39-year-old’s defense has declined in recent years. Hunter is prioritizing a World Series championship, however he is unsure if he can accept a reduced role.
- The Orioles have a tough decision regarding Chris Davis, writes Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore. Davis may cost upwards of $12MM in his final year of arbitration according to Dubroff, but the Orioles may not want to pay so much for his no-average, all power profile. They do have an internal alternative in Steve Pearce, but he could be needed in the outfield with Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz potentially departing via free agency. There is seemingly no pathway to return value for Davis short of tendering him and hoping for the best.
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski addressed a number of points with the media yesterday, and Jason Beck of MLB.com provides a transcript of his comments. Here are the key takeaways:
- Dombrowski listed the team’s top three priorities. First among them is deciding on an approach in center, which he said could either mean finding a platoon partner for the right-handed hitting Rajai Davis or going with a new, full-time option. Second: improving the bullpen, with some new arms potentially coming from within. And finally, the team wants to add another left-handed bat in some capacity. The GM rejected the notion that the club’s contention window is closing, saying he has confidence in its veteran core.
- Explaining that he is more concerned about Alex Avila‘s concussion issues on a human level than in terms of planning, Dombrowski said that he is confident in the team’s situation behind the plate. He expects Avila to be able to man the position next year, but also likes prospect James McCann as a long-term piece.
- Dombrowski said that he does not know whether Torii Hunter will retire. If he elects to play, the club values his clubhouse presence immensely but has yet to make any decisions as to whether it would pursue him in free agency. Dombrowski also discussed prospect Steven Moya, who could be a long-term replacement for Hunter. “I don’t know if he’s going to be ready or not,” Dombrowski said of Moya. “You can hope and he may be ready, but I’m not really sure. His performance in the Arizona Fall League, then going to winter ball will be important for him.”
- Soon-to-be free agent starter Max Scherzer appears set to test the market, and Dombrowski did nothing to curb the idea that he could be headed for a new team. “Well, we had thorough conversations before the season, and I don’t know that it’s all dictated by us at this point,” said Dombrowski. “I think we made ourselves pretty well known at the time where we stood. … I think we probably made more of an effort to sign Max earlier in the year. So I don’t think your odds improve [from] what they were earlier. Why would they improve if we have one-on-one ability to speak with you, compared to having 29 other clubs speak with you? Only time will tell.”
- In terms of a possible replacement in the rotation, Dombrowski said the team has internal options and may not feel the need to add an arm via free agency. “I think we have some young pitchers we feel pretty comfortable with at this point,” said Dombrowski, “… but I feel comfortable staying internal with the four guys we would have at that point. But again, we haven’t made that decision.”
- The prognosis on shortstop Jose Iglesias is positive, says Dombrowski. Though he will allow manager Brad Ausmus a chance to evaluate him in the spring, the GM says that he expects Iglesias to take the everyday job “if he returns to the form of the past.” On the other hand, Dombrowski said the team needs to be prepared if Iglesias is not at full strength.
- Detroit’s closer situation will probably not undergo changes over the offseason, said Dombrowski. Joe Nathan will likely have the ninth inning job going into the year, but will need to “perform up to the capabilities required” to keep it. Elsewhere in the relief corps, young power reliever Bruce Rondon, who underwent Tommy John surgery, is expected to be ready for the year, says Dombrowski.
It was 100 years ago today that the Boston Braves finished off their sweep of the heavily-favored Philadelphia A’s to win the 1914 World Series. The “Miracle Braves” were in last place on July 18 and didn’t even hit the .500 mark until August 1, yet they rocketed to the NL pennant with a 61-16 record over their final 77 games. The Braves’ championship was even more stunning since they hadn’t even had a winning season since 1902. Let’s see, a team with a lack of recent success going on an incredible late-season run….a century after the Miracle Braves, could the Miracle Royals be next?
Here’s some news from around baseball…
- “If the Tigers want me back, we will work that out hopefully. Other than that, I’m still thinking about my situation,” Torii Hunter wrote in a text message to MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Hunter hinted at retirement following the Tigers’ elimination in the ALDS, and it seems that he might more inclined to hang up his cleats if he can’t return to Detroit in 2015.
- If the Pirates can’t re-sign Russell Martin, backup Chris Stewart wouldn’t be a bad option to take over the regular catching job next season, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review opines. Stewart can serve as a bridge to the Bucs’ young catching prospects, and while the 32-year-old isn’t much of a hitter, he is an excellent defensive catcher and pitch-framer. Since the Pirates would have to choose between a lot of flawed catching options on the open market, Sawchik reasons that the team could stick with a known commodity at a low cost.
- Athletics hitting coach Chili Davis is a contender to be the team’s new bench coach, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. With the Yankees, Red Sox and possibly the Cubs all interested in Davis as a hitting coach, the A’s could offer him a promotion to stay in the fold. The rest of the A’s coaching staff and (as Slusser previously reported) Cardinals bench coach Mike Aldrete are also candidates for the bench coach job, while Kirk Gibson and Ron Washington are unlikely to be considered since recently-fired managers usually aren’t so quick to accept bench coach gigs.
- On paper, the Nationals don’t have any great need for any bullpen additions this offseason, yet CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman wouldn’t be surprised to see the club add another notable relief arm.
- Six pitchers seem like candidates to receive qualifying offers this offseason, Fangraphs’ Mike Petriello writes. Max Scherzer and James Shields are locks to receive and reject the one-year, $15.3MM offers, while Petriello thinks Francisco Liriano and Hiroki Kuroda will also reject the QO — Liriano in favor of a multiyear deal and Kuroda since he could retire, pitch in Japan or re-sign with the Yankees for slightly more than the qualifying offer (as he did last year). Petriello also tentatively thinks Ervin Santana could reject a QO from the Braves while David Robertson could actually accept the qualifying offer, since his market could be hurt by draft pick compensation.
- The Yankees will address the closer’s job, the rotation, third base and shortstop as their main offseason focuses, George A. King III of the New York Post writes. King notes that the Yankees like Alcides Escobar, though he obviously isn’t a trade candidate this offseason since he’s such a key part of the Royals’ success.
8:45pm: Hunter says he plans to keep playing and would like to return to the Tigers, tweets MLive.com’s James Schmehl.
7:59pm: In the aftermath of the Tigers’ ouster from the playoffs at the hands of the Orioles Sunday, veteran outfielder Torii Hunter said he was strongly considering retiring, according to MLive.com’s Chris Iott (via Twitter). “It’s 100 percent serious, bro. I have been thinking about it a long time,” Hunter said, via a tweet from the New York Post’s Joel Sherman.
The 39-year-old Hunter is at the end of his two-year, $26MM deal, so he’ll be a free agent after the season. He said in April that he we would be physically able to play for two or three more seasons. “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,” he said at the time.
The longtime Twins and Angels outfielder had a strong season in 2012, batting .313/.365/.451 in his last season in Anaheim, but he’s faded a bit since then. He’s still a well above average hitter, with a line of .286/.319/.446 this season, but his once-brilliant defense has faded to the point that he’s now marginal even in right field.
Hunter won nine straight Gold Gloves between 2001 and 2009. He’s also made five All-Star appearances and has two Silver Slugger awards. He has a career line of .279/.334/.465 with 331 home runs in 18 big-league seasons.
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.