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Here are the day’s minor moves:
- Continuing their trend of adding veteran arms on minor league deals, the Braves have added right-hander Todd Coffey on such a pact and invited him to Spring Training, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Coffey missed the 2013 season after undergoing his second career Tommy John surgery and spent much of the 2014 campaign with the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate, where he posted an excellent 1.93 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 37 1/3 innings of work. From 2009-12 with the Brewers, Nationals and Dodgers, Coffey notched a 3.76 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 225 innings. The Braves have also added Jose Veras, Matt Capps, Chien-ming Wang, Wandy Rodriguez and Donnie Veal on minor league deals this winter.
- The Blue Jays announced that first baseman/outfielder Chris Colabello has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A (h/t: Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet). The 31-year-old Colabello found himself designated for assignment to make room for waiver claim Jayson Aquino. The longtime indy ball star has been a nice story since signing with the Twins as a 28-year-old and rising through their ranks to the MLB level.
- The Indians have signed former Phillies utility man Michael Martinez to a minor league deal and invited him to Spring Training, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (on Twitter). The 32-year-old switch-hitter brings plenty of defensive versatility to the table, though he’s just a .181/.231/.251 hitter in 440 big league plate appearances.
- The Marlins have inked infielder David Adams to a minor league deal that does not include an invitation to big league camp, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports (Twitter links). Now 27, Adams slashed a meager .193/.252/.286 in 152 trips to the plate with the Yankees in 2013. He has performed much better in the upper minors, slashing .255/.349/.397 in 333 plate appearances at Triple-A and putting up a .290/367/.443 line in 899 Double-A turns at bat.
- Another utility infielder, Chris Dominguez, has agreed to a minor league pact with the Reds, the club tweeted. Dominguez, who was recently designated and released by the Giants, will participate in MLB camp. The 28-year-old saw his first action in the bigs last year, a quick stop with San Francisco, but has spent most of his time over the last two seasons at Triple-A. In 1,203 total PCL plate appearances, Dominguez owns a solid .278/.312/.446 slash with 39 home runs.
- Lefty Cesar Jimenez has cleared waivers and accepted a Triple-A assignment, the Phillies announced. Despite a strong 2014 and deal to avoid arbitration, Jimenez was designated and then outrighted recently.
4:25pm: Whatever Detroit has done internally, it has not yet chatted with Toronto about a deal involving Navarro, Sportsnet broadcaster Mike Wilner tweets.
3:04pm: Following the news that Victor Martinez has a torn medial meniscus and will undergo surgery tomorrow that makes him highly unlikely to be ready for Opening Day, Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair reports that the Tigers have had internal discussions about pursuing a trade for Dioner Navarro. According to Blair, Toronto won’t move Navarro without receiving pitching in return.
The fit is at least somewhat curious, as Martinez wasn’t expected to catch much anyhow — perhaps only in interleague series that take place in NL parks, manager Brad Ausmus told the Detroit Free Press in late January. Beyond that, Detroit and Toronto share perhaps the same Achilles Heel in the form of relief pitching. The Blue Jays have been eyeing bullpen help for the better part of a month, and the Tigers’ shaky bullpen was their downfall in last year’s ALDS. It seems unlikely that Detroit would willingly deplete its bullpen depth in order to facilitate a trade. Then again, the Blue Jays could theoretically move Navarro for minor league pitching and use the $5MM savings to increase their pursuit of a free agent such as Francisco Rodriguez or a trade target like Jonathan Papelbon, though that’s one hundred percent speculative.
Navarro, who turns 31 today, enjoyed a solid season at the plate in his first year with the Blue Jays, hitting .274/.317/.395 with 12 homers. He’s been an oft-mentioned trade candidate this winter following Toronto’s signing of Russell Martin to a five-year deal, but recent indications have been that he will open the season with Toronto. Navarro will earn $5MM in the second season of a two-year, $8MM contract in 2015.
The James Shields saga has finally drawn to a close, with the right-hander agreeing to a four-year deal to pitch near his southern California home as a member of the vastly reshaped Padres. Shields will reportedly take home $75MM, and his contract also contains a club option. Shields rumors have dominated the past week, with multiple teams rumored to be involved. Here are some reactions from around the baseball world as well as some details on other offers that Shields had available…
- Shields did not take the best offer that was presented to him, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney (Twitter link). One team made the right-hander a four-year, $80MM contract offer. Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune backs that up (also on Twitter) by noting that the Padres’ offer was “one of the highest,” adding that he had heard Shields was willing to take a small discount to pitch in San Diego.
- That team wasn’t the Cubs, who topped out at three years and a vesting option, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). Chicago wasn’t willing to guarantee Shields a contract in the mid-$70MM range after spending $175MM on Jon Lester and Jason Hammel already this offseason.
- The Marlins also offered Shields a three-year pact and a vesting option, Heyman tweets.
- The Marlins realized they had to bow out on Saturday afternoon once the bidding exceeded $70MM, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (Twitter links). Miami was concerned not only with blowing up its future payroll but also with forfeiting the No. 12 pick in the draft — the top unprotected pick this year. The Padres, of course surrendered the very next pick in the draft, as they’d been slotted 13th overall. Frisaro adds that Shields monitored the Marlins all winter and was impressed by their direction, but the Padres simply made a stronger offer.
- Olney gets a different sense of the Marlins’ level of involvement, as he tweets that some are of the belief that the Marlins actually made the highest offer to Shields.
- The Cubs‘ guarantee was around $60MM, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. Sherman adds that Shields’ camp pursued the Dodgers far more than the team pursued him, and the Blue Jays hadn’t spoken to Shields in about two weeks when he agreed to terms.
- Also from Sherman’s piece, he opines that while Shields is unquestionably a financial risk — the Friars will be paying him and Kemp roughly $36MM per year beginning in 2016 (the $18MM received from the Dodgers offsets much of the 2015 cost) — he was too good of a deal to pass up. Shields was still cheaper, financially speaking, than Cole Hamels, and he also didn’t cost the prospects Hamels would have required. He also provides leadership and protects them somewhat when Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner hit the open market. And, with Kennedy, Carlos Quentin, Justin Upton, Will Venable, Joaquin Benoit, Cory Luebke, Shawn Kelley, Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson all potentially off the books next winter, the team has some financial flexibility.
- Fangraphs’ Mike Petriello writes that while the addition of Shields is an unequivocal boost to the Padres’ postseason hopes, their downfall very well could be a patchwork group of infielders. The Padres’ infield projects at just 5.6 WAR, based on the Steamer projection system, and Petriello looks at the past five seasons’ worth of data to see the correlation between infield WAR and overall wins by a team. Unsurprisingly, the outlook is bleak, with only the 2012 Orioles and A’s receiving a lower WAR contribution and still reaching the playoffs. Of course, as Petriello notes, there’s reason to be optimistic for a rebound from Jedd Gyorko, and there’s still some upside in Yonder Alonso and Will Middlebrooks. The shortstop tandem of Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes is likely to be a black hole offensively, however.
- Peter Gammons is a bit skeptical of the Padres’ win-now tactics (Twitter links). As Gammons points out, while the team has created some buzz and bolstered its 2015 hopes, by 2017 they’ll have a 32-year-old Matt Kemp and 36-year-old Shields earning significant salaries, and they’ve either traded away their recent first-round picks or watched them flame out. The Padres have just two of their first rounders from 2009-14 still in the system in Hunter Renfroe and Cory Spangenberg, and they now don’t have a first-rounder in 2015. Trea Turner and Joe Ross were in the Wil Myers trade, Max Fried was used in the Justin Upton trade, Karsten Whitson didn’t sign (Spangenberg was selected as compensation the following year) and Donavan Tate was out of baseball last season. The team does still have some supplemental first-rounders in the system, while seventh-rounder Matt Wisler and second-rounder Austin Hedges have become Top 100 prospects.
- Shields provides the Padres with some surprisingly much-needed innings, write Mark Simon and Justin Havens of ESPN. Though the Friars are typically thought of as having a strong pitching staff, their rotation has ranked 22nd or 23rd in innings in each of the past three seasons.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman feels that the potential is there for a big year, but he’s not guaranteeing the AL East title or anything of that sort, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. “We have a lot of talent,” he said. “Like other teams, we have some ifs. If we get good comebacks and our rotation stays healthy, if our team stays healthy, we’re a good team.” Additions like Andrew Miller will be counted on for production, but the Bombers will really hope for some vintage performances from guys like Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and embattled third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Here’s more from today’s column..
- The Phillies continue to insist on Blake Swihart in any deal for Cole Hamels and there’s been no movement to ask instead for Christian Vazquez. The Red Sox, meanwhile, refuse to part with their top young catcher. Cafardo suggests the Phillies could have a better chance of working out a deal with the Padres as they are more open to moving catching prospect Austin Hedges.
- There are no substantive talks between the Mets and Everth Cabrera‘s camp at the moment as they seem committed to Wilmer Flores. It was reported earlier this winter that the Mets had interest in the former Padres shortstop. A major league source with knowledge of Cabrera’s situation indicated to Cafardo that he has made great strides personally.
- Cafardo writes that the Blue Jays remain interested in Phillies reliever Jonathan Papelbon. A report from earlier this month characterized the Blue Jays as a “major long shot” to land the closer due to financial reasons.
- General Managers around the league can’t stop raving about 19-year-old Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. “He could be the next Robinson Cano/Chase Utley, but more Cano. That’s the kind of potential bat we’re talking about,” one National League talent evaluator said. An NL GM told Cafardo that Moncada “may be better than [Yasiel] Puig or [Jose] Abreu or [Yoenis] Cespedes or [Jorge] Soler.” Meanwhile, one GM tells Cafardo that the middle infielder would still require some minor league seasoning before breaking into the majors.
- There’s a good amount of interest in Brandon Beachy for when he’s finally ready to sign. The 28-year-old owns a lifetime 3.23 ERA over 46 big league starts, with a 3.34 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, and 3.39 SIERA.
Through the Joe Maddon era, the Rays were known for employing different lineups and looks every day. Expect more stability in the day-to-day lineup under new manager Kevin Cash, writes Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Maddon averaged 137 lineups per season over his five year tenure. Cash hopes to set a couple basic lineups based on opposing pitcher handedness. His key players should have an idea of where they’ll hit, which Cash believes is better for the players. Here’s more from the AL East.
- The Orioles have 11 players who could be eligible for free agency next fall, reports Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore. Dubroff examines the likelihood of each player returning beyond 2015. Steve Pearce may be the best fit on a short-term extension. Others like Matt Wieters, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, and Chris Davis may play their way out of town. In the case of Davis, another rough season could open a buy low opportunity. He’s set to earn $12MM next season.
- The Blue Jays upgraded the roster without addressing their deficiencies, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith for USA Today. Despite notable additions of Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, the bullpen, second base, and center field remain as potential problems. The outfield is probably the best off, with prospect Dalton Pompey expected to fill the void. The bullpen could be addressed internally, but there are also several decent relievers on the free agent market. Second base looks dicey. Devon Travis may eventually fit, but Maicer Izturis and Ryan Goins will have to hold the fort in the meantime.
Let’s round up the day’s minor moves:
- Rockies lefty Yohan Flande has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, the club announced. Flande lost his roster spot to make space for the signing of Kyle Kendrick, but could be one of the first men up if a big league rotation spot opens.
- The Rockies have also added outfielder/first baseman Josh Vitters and right fielder Jeremy Barfield on minor league deals, Matt Eddy of Baseball America reports on Twitter. Still just 25, Vitters came into the league as the third overall pick in the 2007 draft, but struggled mightily in a brief MLB stint and had a rough go last year at Triple-A as he suddenly experienced a huge increase in his strikeout rates. Barfield, the 26-year-old son of longtime big leaguer Jesse, had always been an outfielder but began working as a left-handed reliever last year in the A’s system. He racked up 10.6 K/9 but allowing nearly seven free passes per nine at High-A while also slashing .261/.387/.394 in 173 Double-A plate appearances.
- Another player looking to move to the mound is former first baseman Jeff Malm, who signed a minor league pact with the Angels, according to reports from Eddy (via Twitter) and MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter link). The left-handed former Rays prospect failed to crack the .700 OPS mark in his last two campaigns and will hope for a new start as a pitcher.
- Lefty Luis Perez is headed to the Blue Jays on a minor league pact, Eddy tweets. Perez missed all of 2014 with injury, but does have 112 big league innings under his belt from the 2011-13 campaigns, all with Toronto. He owns a 4.50 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 over his MLB time.
The Blue Jays and Danny Valencia had an arbitration hearing yesterday, according to the Associated Press, and the team announced this morning that the arbitrator ruled in favor of Valencia. The 30-year-old Valencia had filed for a salary of $1.675MM, while the team countered at $1.2MM, as can be seen in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker. The MVP Sports client will now earn that $1.675MM figure in 2015.
As Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet notes, on Twitter, this marks the first time since 1997 that the Blue Jays have gone to an arbitration hearing rather than settling a case in advance (Toronto last went to trial with right-handed pitcher Bill Risley). They’ll likely have a second trial in the near future with offseason acquisition Josh Donaldson as well, given Toronto’s stance as a “file and trial” team in recent years. (That is, a team that does not negotiate arbitration contracts beyond the date that figures are to be exchanged.)
Valencia batted .258/.296/.371 with four home runs last season in 86 games/284 plate appearances between the Royals and Blue Jays. While he’s never replicated his outstanding .311/.351/.448 rookie season with the Twins (he finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in that 2010 season), he’s carved out a niche as a weapon against left-handed pitching. Valencia hit .321/.371/.464 against southpaws last season and is a lifetime .327/.368/.502 hitter when holding the platoon advantage.
News broke earlier today that Victor Martinez will undergo knee surgery on Tuesday, and until the veteran slugger’s procedure is complete, the Tigers have no choice but to play the waiting game. “I don’t know what I need to fill [on the roster],” GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jason Beck). “We’re going to have to wait to do all of that until Tuesday.” If the best-case scenario of a four-to-six week absence is met, Detroit can rely on short-term fill-ins to take Martinez’s place. Mlive.com’s James Schmehl lists several internal options within the organization, and he also opines that free agents Dayan Viciedo and Chris Colabello could also fit as temporary replacements or bench depth.
Here’s some more from around the junior circuit…
- Wade Miley‘s three-year extension with the Red Sox has some positive luxury tax implications for the team, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. By locking Miley up now, he’ll likely cost Boston less against the tax than he would’ve had he gone year-to-year in arbitration. These savings could help the Sox get under the $189MM luxury tax threshold next winter or in 2017.
- In an interview on the MLB Network’s “Hot Stove” show (hat tip to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger), Torii Hunter said he wasn’t yet sure if 2015 will be his last season. “I don’t know. Right now, I’m just taking it one year at a time,” Hunter said. The 18-year veteran reportedly turned down some two-year offers before signing a one-year deal with the Twins in December.
- Mariners president Kevin Mather and GM Jack Zduriencik both attended a private workout for Cuban players Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez, though Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times “wouldn’t overthink” why the two front office figures were present. As Divish notes, Mather and Zduriencik were already in the Dominican Republic for organizational meetings, so while it’s usually rare to see upper management at workouts, it makes sense that the two would check in on the workout during their visit.
- The Blue Jays‘ focus on developing young starting pitching is the backbone of Alex Anthopoulos’ plan to make the club into a consistent contender, Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi writes. The Jays have built a very solid offensive core, but if the young arms fail to deliver, the team’s plans over the next few seasons become very uncertain.
- Astros owner Jim Crane likes his team’s offseason moves and tells MLB.com’s Richard Dean that GM Jeff Luhnow has more possible acquisitions in the works. “Jeff’s still working on a few — we’re looking for a couple more players [to see] if we can make a couple more key additions,” Crane said. “But we like the moves we’ve made, and I think the team’s going to be very exciting this year — a lot more competitive.”
The Blue Jays held a “State Of The Franchise” event for season ticket-holders at the Rogers Centre on Thursday, with president Paul Beeston, manager John Gibbons and GM Alex Anthopoulos in attendance to discuss the club’s offseason and future plans. As you would expect, most of the hot stove-related news came from Anthopoulos, and here’s the roundup of his comments from Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi (links are to Davidi’s Twitter feed).
- The Jays are still concentrating their efforts on bullpen help, though Anthopoulos said they’re looking for depth and not specifically a closer. “We’re not overly concerned about the ninth inning, because we do think there are some guys that can get those last three outs,” Anthopoulos said, referring to Aaron Sanchez and Brett Cecil. “We are concerned about the general depth — just having enough guys to lead into the ninth.” Toronto has been linked to such notable relief names as Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano and Phil Coke in recent weeks, though of that group, Coke is the only one who wouldn’t expect to close.
- While the club is still looking for relievers, Anthopoulos said the Jays could also save their payroll space to make additions at the end of Spring Training or during the season.
- The Jays are likely set at second base, Anthopoulos said. Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins, Steve Tolleson and Munenori Kawasaki are the internal options at the keystone, with newly-acquired prospect Devon Travis still probably a year away.
- With Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion both entering their last seasons under contract, Anthopoulos said he expects “that at some point we’ll sit down with them and try to work something out” in regards to extensions. The Jays hold club options ($14MM for Bautista, $10MM for Encarnacion) on the two sluggers for 2016 that look like no-brainers to be exercised, so the club has plenty of time to negotiate.
- The Mariners claimed J.A. Happ off waivers from the Blue Jays last August, Anthopoulos said. The two sides couldn’t agree to a trade at the time and Happ finished the season in Toronto, though they did discuss Michael Saunders during negotiations. The M’s and Jays finally worked out a Saunders-for-Happ trade in December.
The market for James Shields is picking up steam, to say the least, with multiple reports indicating that he could decide upon a team before this weekend comes to a close. As of yesterday, the Marlins were still said to be in talks for Shields, with the Cubs “kicking the tires.” The Padres were indirectly connected to Shields, as reports had them seeking a top-end starter, though Shields was not mentioned by name.
Here are today’s Shields-related items…
- “The Padres…have to be considered favorites for” Shields, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. The fact that Shields lives in San Diego could indeed give the Padres the edge, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes.
- While the Padres are indeed “among the favorites” for Shields, Heyman reports that “a few other teams, including at least one surprise” are in contact with Shields’ camp. A person connected to the Cubs tells Heyman that Chicago could get involved in Shields’ market if his price falls significantly; the Cubs’ interest in Shields was first reported yesterday.
- The Blue Jays are “kicking the tires” on Shields, which is a surprise to Heyman given their payroll limitations. This isn’t the first time Toronto has been linked to Shields, though it remains to be seen if the Jays can create the financial space to sign Shields even at a lowered price tag.
- The Dodgers are currently focused on international stars Yoan Moncada and Hector Olivera and not Shields, tweets Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons. Many have speculated that the Dodgers could make a play based not only on their deep pockets but on the presence of former Rays GM Andrew Friedman atop the new L.A. baseball operations department.
- Multiple sources have told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald that they do not expect the Marlins to sign Shields. One source characterized the chances as “zero percent.” For what it’s worth, others have also reported the chances as “zero,” only to have rumors of talks between the two sides resurface. Ultimately, however, it seems that the Fish are long shots. Shields’ reported desire to play for a team on the West Coast and the Marlins’ limited payroll are both detrimental factors.
- Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has been told by sources in recent weeks that the Cardinals “are not a team with interest.” As Goold outlines, the Cardinals may be wary not only of forfeiting a draft pick but of forfeiting the portion of their draft bonus pool that would go along with it. Based on last year’s slot figures, signing Shields would cost St. Louis 28.3 percent of its bonus pool.