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Travis D’Arnaud Rumors
Happy birthday to Noah Syndergaard, who turns 22 years old today. Syndergaard likely won’t be celebrating with a Major League debut, however, as the right-hander is already close to his innings limit for the year. Here’s the latest from the Mets…
- Zack Wheeler doesn’t want to be traded, telling Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that “I was part of the rebuilding process and I want to see it through.’’ While the Mets would undoubtedly need a huge return to trade the 24-year-old righty, it has been speculated that the Mets could deal from their pitching depth to acquire a top-tier shortstop or outfielder in the offseason.
- Travis d’Arnaud‘s concussion history has Mets upper management at least exploring a shift from catcher to left field, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. Terry Collins said the issue had been discussed, though not at length or in any serious depth, so if a position switch did happen, it wouldn’t be anytime soon.
- A d’Arnaud position switch is also discussed by Metsblog.com’s Matthew Cerrone. Beyond just d’Arnaud’s health, a move from behind the plate could be inevitable since the Mets are “in LOVE” (capitalization added by Cerrone) with catching prospect Kevin Plawecki. Cerrone isn’t sure if d’Arnaud’s bat would play quite as well in left as it does at catcher, so he suggests that d’Arnaud could also possibly become a trade candidate this winter.
- That said, Newsday’s Marc Carig (via Twitter) hears from a team source that the Mets “have little to no interest in trading d’Arnaud.”
- While many of the Mets’ younger players have performed quite well this season, the team has underachieved due to David Wright‘s off-year and GM Sandy Alderson’s misses in the free agent hitters’ market, John Harper of the New York Daily News opines. Curtis Granderson has only a .688 OPS and is still owed $47MM from 2015-17, while Chris Young has already been released.
Despite reports that Terry Collins is likely to reprise his role as Mets manager in 2015, Joel Sherman of the New York Post gets the sense that a change of skipper is a definite possibility in Queens. Sherman writes that the final six weeks are critical to determining whether or not Collins will return. He explains that the Mets’ upper management believe that plate discipline and power are the key to scoring runs, but the Mets rank 26th in walks in the second half and dead last in the Majors in walks this month. Those trends will have to change, writes Sherman, in order for Collins to remain. As it stands, there is a slight lean toward bringing Collins back, he states, but Sherman feels that Collins needs to demonstrate to his bosses that he is able to consistently emphasize the organizational philosophy.
More from the NL East…
- The Mets face several questions around the diamond, but one area that previously looked like a question mark has been resolved, MLB.com’s Tim Healy writes. Travis d’Arnaud‘s play since returning from Triple-A has been more than enough to solidify him at the position going forward, and Collins offered high praise for the 25-year-old backstop, stating that over the course of a full season, the numbers will dictate that d’Arnaud “is the real deal.” Collins adds that the Mets have gone from batting d’Arnaud eighth and regularly pinch-hitting for him to making him their everyday five-hole hitter, and they’re comfortable with him in that role.
- Nationals second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera is happy in his new setting, but he tells MLB.com’s Bill Ladson that his preference in the long run is to play shortstop. Says Cabrera: “…I just have to see after the season and wait. I like to play short. That’s the position I like to play more. I’m just going to see who wants me to play short, who wants me to play second, and figure it out from there.”
- It’s safe to say that the Marlins‘ Rafael Furcal experiment didn’t work out. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that the veteran infielder, signed this offseason to a one-year deal that guaranteed him $3MM, will undergo hamstring surgery and miss the remainder of the season. The 36-year-old appeared in just nine games for the Fish and batted a paltry .171/.216/.229 in 37 plate appearances.
Rockies prospect Daniel Winkler is headed for an MRI after injuring his elbow, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. Winkler left the Double-A Tulsa Drillers’ game against the Springfield Cardinals in the fourth inning Saturday. Winkler isn’t as well known as Rockies prospects like Jon Gray and Eddie Butler, but he has performed brilliantly this season, posting a 1.41 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 70 innings. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- The Mariners will likely need to make a 40-man roster move Monday, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune tweets. Minor-league first baseman Ji-Man Choi is expected to return from a 50-game PED suspension, and he’ll need to take an active spot on the 40-man once again. Choi, 23, was off to a great start for Triple-A Tacoma, hitting .394/.500/.545 in 40 plate appearances there. He hit .295/.394/.535 in 499 plate appearances at three levels in 2013.
- The case of Travis d’Arnaud proves the difficulty involved in predicting which prospects will succeed, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. The Mets optioned d’Arnaud to Triple-A Las Vegas this weekend after he hit .180/.271/.273 in 145 plate appearances so far this season. Nonetheless, many Mets officials remain upbeat about the former top prospect’s future. “He’s so athletic,” says one. “I think he will be a frontline guy, a pretty good everyday player who will hit some home runs. Is he Buster Posey? I don’t know. But do I think he can be in the big leagues on an everyday basis for eight, ten years? Absolutely.”
Daisuke Matsuzaka picked up his first Major League save last night, though it probably isn’t going to be the start of a new career path for the veteran right-hander. Matsuzaka only got the call since Kyle Farnsworth had pitched in three of the Mets’ previous four games and was being rested, and as Fangraphs’ Paul Swydan points out, Dice-K doesn’t fit the traditional closer profile. Anything is possible given the Mets’ unsettled closing situation, however, so be sure to keep following @CloserNews, MLBTR’s sister Twitter feed, for the very latest on ninth-inning personnel changes.
Here’s some news from Citi Field…
- The Mets still haven’t decided whether or not to pursue free agent reliever Joel Hanrahan, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. The team has been weighing its options for several days now since watching Hanrahan throw at a showcase last week. Almost 20 teams watched Hanrahan throw, so the Mets may face competition if they do decide to make the righty an offer, though an evaluator tells Martino that Hanrahan is still roughly a month away from being able to contribute.
- Also from Martino, there still isn’t anything brewing between the Mets and Stephen Drew, as “there is no momentum” between the two sides.
- Matthew Cerrone of Metsblog.com agrees that a Drew signing looks like a major longshot, and the Mets are more likely to promote Wilmer Flores from Triple-A than acquire a shortstop like Drew or the Mariners’ Nick Franklin.
- If the Mets do deal for a shortstop, Cerrone believes the Diamondbacks are New York’s best option as a trade partner. The two clubs at least discussed a trade during Spring Training and scouted each other’s prospects. According to Cerrone, the D’Backs liked right-hander Rafael Montero and catchers Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, though Plawecki alone wouldn’t have been enough to secure a deal. All three are ranked amongst the Mets’ top prospects by Baseball America, though Montero and d’Arnaud in particular would take major offers for the Mets to consider a trade.
The Diamondbacks have a good deal of depth at shortstop, as they feel that both Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings are capable Major League shortstops. In addition, three more names on Baseball America's list of Top 30 Diamonsbacks prospects — Nick Ahmed, Sergio Alcantara and Jose Munoz — are shortstops. This has led to some speculation that the Diamondbacks could trade a shortstop in order to address other needs in the organization, and Marc Carig of Newsday now reports (via Twitter) that the Diamondbacks have targeted young catchers in discussing shortstop trades with the Mets.
However, Carig adds that the Mets aren't a good fit for a trade with the D-Backs. Arizona is said to be seeking a Travis d'Arnaud type of talent in exchange for one of their shortstops and doesn't deem fellow catcher Kevin Plawecki a good enough return. As such, the Mets and D-Backs haven't had recent trade discussions about Arizona's shorstops (Twitter links).
For some context, Plawecki ranked fifth on BA's Top 30 Mets prospects heading into the 2014 season. BA calls him a safe bet to bat around .280 and hit somewhere in the range of a dozen homers at his peak level, and his bat is good enough to profile as a starting catcher, according to their scouting report. He has an average arm and is solid when it comes to blocking pitches, per BA.
The Diamondbacks currently have Miguel Montero installed as their everyday catcher, but the 30-year-old's offense slipped in 2013. After batting .283/.361/.457 from 2009-12, Montero slashed just .230/.318/.344 in 475 plate appearances last season. The decline was rapid and clearly unexpected, as it came in the first season of a five-year, $60MM extension that Montero inked in May 2012. He's set to earn $10MM this coming season, $12MM in 2015 and $14MM in 2016-17.
32-year-old righty Rich Harden is not retiring, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Though he has not played professionally since 2011, and had a comeback bid with the Twins fall apart last year due to multiple, ongoing injury issues, Harden will apparently give it another go. Harden has been brilliant at times in his career, and owns a lifetime 3.76 ERA over 928 1/3 innings (including 9.2 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9).
Here are a few more notes to round out the evening:
- One factor in Bronson Arroyo's decision to sign with the Diamondbacks rather than the Orioles, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, was the fact that Baltimore had scrapped deals with Grant Balfour and Tyler Colvin over concerns with their physicals. The O's offer was on par with that of the D-Backs: it was for slightly less guaranteed money, but carried a greater third-year option value. While Connolly writes that other factors — including a preference for the NL West — certainly played a role, he says that the risk of a deal falling apart at this stage of the off-season weighed substantially in Arroyo's decision-making process.
- The Marlins have made clear that they hope to extend star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, but MLB.com's Joe Frisaro reports that Stanton still wants to see what the organization does moving forward. "I want some team security as well," Stanton said. "I'm very pleased with how things panned out for me. But I would like to see it grow. I have my security, somewhat now. I'd like to see a team full of that, which we are going in the right direction." The 24-year-old slugger inicated that he does not expect to engage in talks until after the coming season. "In order for the team to have security," he said. "that doesn't happen in two seconds. That happens over a season or over two seasons. You show me that, and we can get something going."
- A major factor in the rebuilding process of another NL East club — the Mets — is the development of young catcher Travis d'Arnaud. Though he struggled at the plate in limited action last year, the backstop comes with an excellent pedigree with the bat. Promisingly, moreover, he also showed signs of adding value in another area, writes Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com: in his short season of work at the MLB level, d'Arnaud flashed outstanding pitch-framing ability.
The Mets are in the market for offense this winter, so much so that they may not even spend much time considering the free agent market for pitchers. Asked whether the team's preference was to target upside or a stable veteran presence to eat some innings and mentor the Mets' young arms, special assistant J.P. Ricciardi told MLBTR:
“I think the one thing in our favor right now is our pitching in our organization is getting closer to being big-league ready, so that makes us say that we might have some in-house options. So maybe we wouldn't even be as inclined to go out and look at that market. It's kind of a work in progress to see what is available, but I think one of the securities we have is that at least we have some guys coming through the system that can get to the big leagues a little quicker. I don't know if we'd be as willing to jump on something like that right now.”
Instead, it appears that the Mets will focus their efforts on improving the team's offense. “We have a lot of holes in our lineup,” Ricciardi acknowledged, declining to target a specific area of focus. Ricciardi stated that the Mets are committed to Travis d'Arnaud at catcher though he was less committal when discussing Juan Lagares in center field: “I'd say right now, he's probably the guy that we'd say: 'He can play center field.' I think a lot depends on what we're able to bring around him.”
In terms of outfielders, the market is rife with power bats that could improve the Mets' lineup. Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson and Nelson Cruz could all provide a boost to the club's outfield group, though each would require a draft pick to sign. The Mets are open to forfeiting their second-round pick for “the right player,” though as Ricciardi put it, the team isn't “jumping up and down to give up any picks because we're still trying to build.” Should the Mets surrender a pick, one will likely be their limit. Ricciardi dismissed the possibility of the Mets being as aggressive as the Indians were last season in forfeiting a second-round pick in order to sign both Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher:
“I don't know if we'll be that involved with those type of guys. Like I said, it has to be the right guy for us to even do one, so I can't really sit here and tell you that we're probably thinking about doing two.”
I asked Ricciardi specifically about the organization's top pitching prospect, Noah Syndergaard, and his chances to make the Majors next season despite being just 20 years old: “I don't know. I think a lot's going to depend on how he handles Triple-A. I think we'll use that as a barometer. I don't think – and I can't speak for Sandy – but I don't think we're going to let anyone's youth get in the way. If he's ready to pitch in the big leagues, he's ready.”
Ricciardi also praised the arms of Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom, as well as the team's core of young relief pitchers in reiterating that the offense will be this winter's primary focus. Asked if he had a preference toward right- or left-handed batters or corner outfielders versus shortstops, Ricciardi simply replied, “I would say 'bats.' We need to improve our offense.”
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez currently faces a 211-game suspension stemming from his role in the Biogenesis scandal, but his suspension might have been far shorter, perhaps as few as 50 games, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. "At different points, it could have been way, way less than where it is now," a source tells Rosenthal. Rodriguez has appealed his suspension. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- The Mets have decided Travis d'Arnaud's promotion won't be temporary, Rosenthal tweets. The Mets promoted d'Arnaud after starting catcher John Buck went on paternity leave. Now, Rosenthal writes, the Mets plan to keep d'Arnaud on their roster and give him "significant playing time." That would suggest that Buck is likely to play much less. D'Arnaud, 24, has hit .286/.420/.514 across three minor-league levels in 2013 after having missed much of the season with a foot injury.
- The Rangers are looking for a pitcher to start on Tuesday, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes. Texas has a need in its rotation after Alexi Ogando received an anti-inflammatory injection on Saturday. The Rangers will have Matt Garza pitch on Monday, a day earlier than expected. Josh Lindblom, who has made five starts for the Rangers this year, started Sunday night for Triple-A Round Rock, so he isn't a candidate to pitch Tuesday. The Rangers could promote the recently-acquired Travis Blackley, but Fraley raises the possibility that they could deal for a starter like Dan Haren or Erik Bedard, both of whom have passed through waivers.
- The Indians are not interested in former Phillies outfielder Delmon Young, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer tweets. Hoynes also notes that the Indians have put in waiver claims on "several players," although they have not been able to trade for any.
- The Twins aren't likely to trade Justin Morneau to the Red Sox, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Morneau cleared waivers on Wednesday, and Sox first baseman Mike Napoli is currently nursing a sore foot. It's not yet clear that Napoli's injury is severe, however, and it's questionable whether Morneau would be an upgrade over options like Daniel Nava and Mike Carp.
7:58pm: D'Arnaud will be activated for tomorrow's game, Terry Collins told reporters (including Mike Puma of the New York Post).
7:18pm: D'Arnaud has been activated for tonight's Mets/Padres game, Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters (including Adam Rubin of ESPN New York). The team is still deciding whether to rush d'Arnaud to San Diego and have him arrive mid-game, or simply have him wait until tomorrow (according to Mike Puma of the New York Post). Buck is being placed on the paternity list as his wife went into labor earlier today.
AUGUST 9: The Mets are likely to promote top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports (on Twitter). D'Arnaud would fill in for current starting catcher John Buck, who will soon go on paternity leave. Asked about the possibility of a d'Arnaud promotion, Mets GM Sandy Alderson recently said, "Right now, there isn't a real good reason not to," according to Newsday's Marc Carig (on Twitter).
D'Arnaud, who has missed most of the season with a foot injury, had been on a rehab assignment in Double-A Binghamton, but the team recently promoted him to Triple-A Las Vegas, the same city where he hit .333/.380/.595 last season, when Las Vegas was a Jays affiliate. The Mets are beginning a road trip to Arizona, Los Angeles and San Diego, which means that, with the promotion to the Pacific Coast League, d'Arnaud will be nearby whenever he's needed.
D'Arnaud was originally drafted by the Phillies, who shipped him to Toronto when they traded for Roy Halladay. The catcher was then one of the Mets' key acquisitions in the R.A. Dickey trade. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo ranks d'Arnaud the No. 22 prospect in baseball. Before the season, d'Arnaud was ranked No. 14 by ESPN's Keith Law and No. 23 by Baseball America. BA's 2013 Prospect Handbook ranked him the No. 1 prospect in the Blue Jays system, noting that he makes "consistent hard contact" and that he has improved behind the plate as he's developed.
If d'Arnaud were to stick in the big leagues, he would surely miss the cutoff for Super Two eligibility. That would mean he would be eligible for arbitration after 2016, and free agency after 2019.
Catching depth throughout baseball is thin. When I rolled out my Top 100 Prospects list at FanGraphs in March, I had only four catchers included in that ranking: Travis d'Arnaud of the Mets, Mike Zunino of the Mariners, Austin Hedges of the Padres, and Gary Sanchez of the Yankees. Baseball America's list featured the same four backstops. Baseball Prospectus also had that same quartet, followed by two more names in Jorge Alfaro of the Rangers and Christian Bethancourt of the Braves.
As witnessed by the lists, it's an accomplishment for any organization to have one good catching prospect in a minor league system, let alone two. The New York Yankees organization is enviable in that regard. Sanchez, 20, has been a mainstay on the top prospects lists since he signed out of Venezuela in 2009 as a 16-year-old amateur free agent. He showed up as high as 42nd overall on the three lists mentioned above, and no lower than 57th. The offensive-minded catcher has impressive offensive skills, including plus raw power. His ascent through the Yankees system can be best described as slow and steady.
Signed the same year as Sanchez, J.R. Murphy was selected out of the high school ranks in the second round of the amateur draft and he's just beginning to receive the attention he deserves. A front office contact who is familiar with the catching prospect told MLBTR that Murphy "was signed as a player [people] thought would hit and might be able to catch."
The 22-year-old prospect has flashed offensive potential in the past with good control of the strike zone, gap power and the ability to hit for a respectable average — but inconsistency has been his downfall at the plate. So far this year, the Florida native is hitting .308 with 12 extra base hits, as well as 16 walks and 17 strikeouts in 28 games.
During the early stages of his pro career, Murphy struggled with receiving the ball and throwing out runners, while also dabbling with the idea of playing third base. He turned the corner in his development behind the plate in 2012 with his success rate at gunning down base runners jumping to more than 30 percent for the first time. So far in 2013, he's just shy of throwing out 50 percent of baserunners while playing at Double-A, one step ahead of his fellow catching prospect.
The talent evaluator who spoke with MLBTR said the Yankees organization thinks very highly of Murphy. "Due to his diligence, ability and the focused hard work of our coaches, he has become a defensive plus. He is on track to become a quality major league catcher," he said. "He receives the ball well and is an above-average thrower. He has the intelligence and game awareness to manage a game at the major league level."
Currently in his fifth pro season, Murphy will need to be added to the 40-man roster by the November deadline to be protected from the annual Rule 5 draft. If added, he'll be granted three option years that will allow him to be shuttled between the majors and the minors during that time frame.
The 10th overall selection in the 2008 amateur draft, Jason Castro's career development has been slowed by trips to the disabled list. In fact, he lost the entire 2011 season to a serious knee injury. Perhaps hampered by the lost playing time, the Astros' starting catcher's offense has not developed as hoped. Still just 25, the Stanford alum has time to jump-start his bat, but Houston has accumulated some solid catching depth in the past year.
Acquired last year from Toronto in a 10-player deal that sent J.A. Happ and two other pitchers to Toronto, catching prospect Carlos Perez has enjoyed the change of scenery. After spending five years in Rookie ball and Low-A ball with the conservative Blue Jays player development program, the Astros loosened the reins on the young player and he responded favorably. In less than a year, the 22-year-old Venezuela native reached Triple-A and is hitting above .300 while playing steady defense. Houston will almost certainly want to protect him prior to this year's Rule 5 draft at the Baseball Winter Meetings.
Tyler Heineman flew under the radar a bit as an eighth round draft pick out of the University of California, Los Angeles in 2012. Since signing, though, he's done nothing but hit. The switch-hitter posted a .352 batting average with 26 walks and 12 strikeouts in 55 games during his short-season debut last year. Jumped all the way to High-A to open 2013, Heineman has hit .329 with just eight strikeouts in 23 games.
Not flashy and with below-average power, the catching prospect shares a similar profile to that of seven-year big leaguer Ryan Hanigan of the Reds. The big challenge for the backstop is to continue polishing his defensive skills to meet the high standards set at the big league level. Time is on Heineman's side as he doesn't have to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2015 season, which would then buy him three option years.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays opened the 2012 season with the most impressive collection of catching depth in baseball with J.P. Arencibia at the major league level and a plethora of impressive prospects including d'Arnaud, Yan Gomes, Perez, A.J. Jimenez, and Santiago Nessy. Since midway through the 2012 season, Toronto has traded away d'Arnaud (Mets), Gomes (Indians) and Perez (Astros) in an effort to improve the pitching depth at the big league level.
The two remaining catchers have the talent to be considered among the club's Top 10 best prospects. Unfortunately, both have also been bitten by the injury bug. Jimenez blew out his elbow during the 2012 season and underwent Tommy John surgery. The club has been cautious with him in 2013 and he's already missed a little time after experiencing soreness in his surgically-repaired elbow. Nessy received his first full-season assignment in 2013 and was off to a respectable start before suffering a concussion while trying to breakup a double play at second base. He has plus raw power and has made huge strides on the defensive side of his game.
Prospect Tidbits: Seattle's Zunino was considered the cream-of-the-crop when it came to eligible catching prospects in the 2012 amateur draft. Fast forward to 2013 and the University of Florida alum has already reached Triple-A. Two other highly-drafted catchers from 2012 are making names for themselves with solid play so far this season.
Perhaps the hottest hitter in the South Atlantic League, the Mets' Kevin Plawecki (drafted 35th overall) is currently hitting .374 through 35 games in Low-A ball. He's also flashed power with 25 of his 49 hits going for extra bases. If he keeps up this pace, a promotion to High-A or Double-A should be in the cards. Rockies catching prospect Tom Murphy (third round) has appeared in only 24 games thanks to a brief visit to the disabled list, but he's hitting .357 with 17 of his 30 hits going for extra bases. Like Plawecki, Murphy is probably too advanced at the plate for Low-A ball.
Another 2012 draft pick, Josh Elander, attracted attention as a second- or third-round talent as a college catcher but questions surrounding his ability to stick behind the dish caused him to slide to the sixth round where he was nabbed by the Atlanta Braves. After catching briefly in 2012, the prospect was moved out from behind the plate and has played 31 games in left field in 2013. The move has certainly agreed with his offense, as he's hitting .314 with an above-average power output.