Transactions Rumors

Cubs To Hire Joe Maddon As Manager

The Cubs will hire Joe Maddon as their new manager, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Earlier today, Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Maddon and the Cubs had been negotiating. Rick Renteria, who had been serving as manager, has two years remaining on the three-year pact he signed with Chicago just last offseason.

Joe Maddon

Maddon’s agent, Alan Nero, has told reporters, including Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com (Twitter link) that the two sides are in negotiation, but he is still talking with other clubs. However, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that he, too, has been able to confirm through a source that an agreement is in place.

It’s very possible that both the Cubs and Nero are simply attempting to downplay the report because of its timing. Major League Baseball tends to frown upon major news announcements during the World Series, and Maddon joining the Cubs would be a major storyline to break just hours before Game 7 of the World Series between the Giants and Royals commences. Nonetheless, it does indeed appear that an agreement has been reached for Maddon to supplant Renteria as manager.

Maddon shocked the baseball world by opting out of his contract with the Rays last Thursday, just weeks after expressing a desire to remain with Tampa long-term. However, Maddon told reporters that he was unaware of a clause in his contract that provided him a two-week opt-out window should former GM Andrew Friedman ever leave the organization. (Friedman, of course, recently left the Rays to become the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations.)

Shortly after his decision to opt out, Maddon explained that he felt this was his last chance to gauge his true value around the game by testing the open market. Reports have indicated that he was seeking something in the vicinity of a five-year, $25MM contract. It’s also worth noting that other reports have indicated that the Rays may look into the possibility of tampering, should Maddon end up with the Cubs quickly after opting out. Sherman tweets that he suspects they will do just that in the coming weeks.

Maddon has developed a reputation as one of the most-respected, if not the most-respected manager in Major League Baseball. As manager of the Rays, he compiled a 754-705 record, leading the Rays to six consecutive winning seasons from 2008-13. Within that run, Maddon was at the helm for the first postseason appearance and first American League pennant in Rays franchise history. He’s drawn praise for his ability to connect with players and also his advanced thinking and willingness to embrace new techniques. Maddon’s Rays were early adopters of mass defensive shifting, and he’s done well in rotating versatile players that are capable of fielding multiple positions. He was twice named American League Manager of the Year, first in 2008 and again in 2011.

Many have noted that Maddon could be seen as a “next-level” manager for a club that is on the brink of contention, and the Cubs fit that bill. The team has deep pockets and one of the game’s brightest farm systems, with many prospects at or near the Major League level. Maddon will be tasked with not only leading a core of Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, Jake Arrieta and others back to the playoffs, but with crafting that group into a perennial contender.

He should have help from the front office as well, as president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer are said to be willing to spend heavily this offseason to supplement their young core. The Cubs have already been tied to elite starting pitchers, including Jon Lester and James Shields.

The move comes as a blow to Renteria, who is seen as a solid baseball man and by all accounts was well-respected and performed well in his first season as a Major League manager. Both Rizzo and Castro, who struggled in 2013, rebounded in 2014 under Renteria. It seems likely that Renteria will again find a managerial opportunity in the near future, but he may have to wait until next year, as only two openings currently exist: the Twins and the Rays. Minnesota is said to be nearing completion of its managerial search, while the Rays, obviously, have only just begun their own.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Outrighted: Kalish, Valaika, Vitters, Meek

Here are the day’s outright assignments:

  • The Cubs have made a series of roster trims, according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). Outfielder Ryan Kalish and infielders Chris Valaika and Josh Vitters have each been outrighted, according to Gonzales. Righty James McDonald has elected free agency as well.
  • The Orioles have outrighted righty Evan Meek to Triple-A, the club announced. Meek will have the right to elect free agency, as he has previously been outrighted (including once earlier this year). Meek, 31, threw to a 5.79 ERA over 23 1/3 innings at the MLB level, all in relief. He struck out 6.2 and walked 4.2 batters per nine over that stretch. Meek has had better stretches in the majors, however, and even made an All-Star appearance with the Pirates back in 2010. Over 41 2/3 Triple-A frames this year, Meek worked to a 1.94 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against just 0.9 BB/9.

Reds To Exercise Club Option On Cueto, Buy Out Hannahan And Ludwick

2:21pm: The Reds have also declined Ludwick’s $9MM option, instead paying him a $4.5MM buyout, Cotillo tweets. The 36-year-old’s down 2014 season made that salary excessive, though the steep buyout tag and Cincinnati’s outfield needs made it a closer call than it might have seemed at first glance.

1:45pm: The Reds have kicked off their offseason with two unsurprising moves, deciding to exercise a $10MM club option over starter Johnny Cueto and decline a $4MM option for utilityman Jack Hannahan, according to Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (Twitter links). Cincinnati will pay Hannahan a $2MM buyout rather than taking him back for 2015.

Both moves were widely expected. Cueto, 28, put up a Cy Young-worthy campaign (243 2/3 innings with a 2.25 ERA) and is an unquestioned bargain at that rate. The only question seems to be whether the club will take a crack at working out another extension or, if that is not an option, will listen to trade offers.

Meanwhile, the 34-year-old Hannahan did not play to expectations with the Reds and saw only 50 plate appearances last year. Across 212 trips to the plate over the previous two seasons, Hannahan slashed an anemic .209/.294/.278.

Cincinnati still has a slightly more difficult decision to make on Ryan Ludwick, whose club option — like Hannahan’s — comes with a buyout that reaches 50% of its value. In his case, the club can either pick him up at $9MM or buy him out for $4.5MM.



Minor Moves: Reds, Mortensen, Green

Here are the latest minor moves from around the league…

  • The Reds have outrighted corner infielder Neftali Soto, per the MLB.com transactions page. Soto, 25, has had two brief big league stints but has spent most of his time since 2011 at the Triple-A level. The third-round pick out of Puerto Rico owns a .270/.323/.410 slash over 1,328 plate appearances at that level.
  • In his latest Minor League Transactions roundup, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reports that the Reds have outrighted Trevor Bell to Triple-A Louisville, and the right-hander rejected the assignment in favor of free agency. The 28-year-old Bell allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning at the Major League level this season and has a 5.57 ERA in 116 1/3 big league innings between the Reds and Angels. Bell has a lifetime 4.93 ERA in 199 Triple-A frames.
  • Perhaps of greater note to Reds fans is that Eddy also notes the signing of Australian catcher Jake Turnbull. As Steve Butler of the West Australian reports, Turnbull, 16, signed for a six-figure bonus and fielded offers from six MLB clubs before signing with Cincinnati. He will play in a pair of Australian leagues this winter, including the professional Australian Baseball League, where he’ll join the Perth Heat — the reigning league champions. Turnbull will then head to the U.S. to begin his pro career next spring.
  • Among the other notable names mentioned by Eddy is right-hander Clayton Mortensen, who re-signed with the Royals after posting a 4.74 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 76 innings with Triple-A Omaha this season.
  • MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports (via Twitter) that the Brewers will re-sign Taylor Green to a minor league deal. Green, 27, has been with the Brewers since the 2005 draft but hasn’t reached the Majors since receiving a look in 2011-12. He batted .207/.266/.343 in 154 plate appearances with the big league club and owns a career .299/.371/.485 batting line at the Triple-A level.

Nationals Outright Ross Ohlendorf, Who Elects Free Agency

The Nationals have outrighted right-hander Ross Ohlendorf, the club announced. Ohlendorf has elected free agency.

Today’s move was precipitated by Ohlendorf’s activation from the 60-day DL, where he had resided all year. An early-year back strain ultimately sidelined Ohlendorf for much of the year (including time missed after a re-aggravation), though he did throw 15 minor league rehab innings.

Ohlendorf was a pleasant surprise last year for the Nationals, throwing 60 1/3 frames of 3.28 ERA ball after signing a minor league deal. That included seven starts and nine relief appearances, over which he struck out 6.7 and walked 2.1 per nine.

After that solid effort, Ohlendorf was retained on a $1.25MM arbitration deal (including $3MM in incentives). If he can show that he can maintain the velocity increase that fueled his success last year, it stands to reason that Ohlendorf will receive plenty of interest from teams looking for someone to compete in camp on a minor league deal.


Blue Jays Claim Justin Smoak

The Mariners announced that the Blue Jays have claimed first baseman Justin Smoak off waivers.

The waiver claim brings to an end what has to be characterized as a disappointing tenure in Seattle for Smoak, who four years ago was the centerpiece of a trade package that sent ace Cliff Lee from the M’s to the Rangers. Smoak, who turns 28 years old in December, showed flashes of promise in his time with Seattle, but he was unable to consistently string together stretches of productivity and never showed the power that Seattle hoped to be acquiring in that deal. In 1943 plate appearances with the Mariners, Smoak batted .226/.308/.384 with 66 homers.

Smoak avoided arbitration with the Mariners last season by agreeing to a one-year, $2.6375MM deal that contained a $3.65MM club option with a $150K buyout. Should that option be declined, Smoak will be eligible for arbitration. It seems likely then, that Toronto will decline the switch-hitting Smoak’s option and work out a smaller payday for his second trip through the arb process. The Blue Jays can control Smoak through the 2016 season if he turns it around following a change of scenery.

The somewhat surprising transaction further calls into question the future of Adam Lind with the Blue Jays. Toronto is reportedly receiving trade interest in Lind, whose club option for the 2015 season is valued at $7.5MM. Toronto now has another option to pair with Edwin Encarnacion in the first base/DH mix should the team move on from Lind. While Smoak clearly comes with less offensive certainty than Lind, he’ll come at less than half the price of Lind, giving the Blue Jays further resources for the offseason and arguably greater upside at the dish in 2015.


Outrighted: Ryan Brasier, Tony Campana, B.J. Rosenberg

Here are today’s minor moves and outrights from around the league…

  • The Angels have outrighted righty Ryan Brasier and outfielder Tony Campana off the 40-man roster, tweets Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. Brasier, 27, threw nine innings of relief for the Halos last year but has worked above the 4 earned-per-nine level at Triple-A over the last two seasons and missed all of 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The 28-year-old Campana, who joined the Angels on a mid-season waiver claim from the Diamondbacks, owns a .249/.296/.288 slash over 477 plate appearances in parts of four seasons at the MLB level.
  • The Phillies announced that right-hander B.J. Rosenberg has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The 29-year-old Rosenberg has 56 2/3 innings of big league experience, but he’s struggled to a 5.72 ERA in the Majors. At the Triple-A level, however, Rosenberg owns a much more palatable 3.87 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 148 2/3 innings. He’s worked almost exclusively out of the bullpen since being selected in the 13th round of the 2008 draft; in 257 games between the Majors and Minors, he’s made 224 relief appearances against just 33 starts. Philadelphia’s 40-man roster is now down to 38.

Brewers Claim Luis Jimenez From Angels

The Brewers have claimed corner infielder Luis Jimenez off waivers from the Angels, Los Angeles announced via Twitter. Jimenez, 26, had been with the Halos organization since signing as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic back in 2005.

Jimenez has seen scant big league playing time, and owns a .234/.268/.291 slash with no home runs or steals over 151 plate appearances in 2013-14. He has, however, established himself in the upper minors. Since reaching Triple-A in 2012, Jimenez has slashed a healthy .295/.327/.485 while hitting between 16 and 20 long balls and swiping double-digit bases each year.


Athletics To Sign Brad Mills

The Athletics have reached an agreement with left-hander Brad Mills on a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training, reports Baseball America’s Matt Eddy in his latest Minor League Transactions roundup. MLBTR’s Zach Links hears that Mills drew interest from a number of clubs, but chose the A’s because he felt it presented him with a strong opportunity to make the big league club again (Twitter links).

Mills, 30 in March, split the season between the Brewers, A’s and Blue Jays organizations, seeing Major League time with the latter two. Much was made of the trade that sent Mills from Milwaukee to Oakland for all of $1, but the procedural move proved to have little impact. Mills was knocked around for nine runs (eight earned) in 16 1/3 innings for Oakland, surrendering 19 hits with a 14-to-7 K/BB ratio. Oakland designated the southpaw for assignment, and he was claimed by the Blue Jays.

With Toronto, Mills yielded 13 runs in 4 1/3 innings and found himself designated for assignment once again, this time clearing outright waivers. He elected free agency following the season.

Mills was outstanding at Triple-A this season — a large reason for the bewilderment of Brewers fans following the initial trade. In 107 1/3 minor league innings, Mills pitched to a pristine 2.01 ERA with 8.6 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9. He will provide the A’s with some rotation depth which is much needed, as Jon Lester and Jason Hammel are free agents, while A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker are both recovering from Tommy John surgery.


Left-hander Kwang-Hyun Kim To Be Posted

SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization have announced that they will post left-hander Kwang-Hyun Kim this offseason, according to a report from the Yonhap news agency (tip of the cap to Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net for passing the news along).  Kim initially expressed interest in pitching in North America prior to the 2014 season, and he now has the necessary seven seasons of KBO service time to qualify for posting.

Kim, 26, posted a 3.42 ERA over 28 starts this season, finishing in the top five in ERA, wins and strikeouts amongst the league’s pitchers.  It was a rebound year for Kim, who went through some injury issues from 2011-13 following an impressive start to his KBO career, as he was named the league’s MVP in 2008.  The southpaw pitched for South Korea in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and fared poorly, allowing nine runs in only 3 1/3 innings of work.  Kurtz has compiled a YouTube playlist of some Kim highlights for a better look at the lefty’s pitching style.