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- With all the exciting young hitters the Cubs are adding, Chicago could be an attractive destination for free agent pitchers, and it’s possible the Cubs could add one big-name pitcher this winter (possibly Jon Lester, who knows Theo Epstein well from Boston) and then another the following year (possibly David Price or a return of Jeff Samardzija).
- The Asdrubal Cabrera trade has worked out well for both sides. The Nationals have gotten a good second baseman, and the Indians have gotten strong shortstop defense from Cabrera’s replacement Jose Ramirez, and they’ve also added Zach Walters‘ power bat.
- If the Angels decline to acquire a starting pitcher because of luxury tax concerns, that would appear to be mostly a “philosophical decision” rather than a financial one. As a first-time offender, the Angels’ actual tax penalties would be minimal, at just 17.5% of the overage. Rosenthal notes, however, that one potential problem the Angels have with some of their potential trade targets (including Bartolo Colon, A.J. Burnett and Scott Feldman) is that they’re all guaranteed salary for 2015.
- One reason the Yankees acquired lefty Josh Outman was that they didn’t want to push top 2014 draft pick Jacob Lindgren to the big leagues, particularly given Lindgren’s workload between college and the pros this season and the fact that he’s not yet on their 40-man roster. As we noted earlier today, Lindgren has dominated in the minors since signing.
Bartolo Colon is on revocable waivers, and while he could be of interest to a contending team in need of pitching such as the Dodgers or Angels, Marc Carig of Newsday hears that the Mets will not simply let Colon go to a claiming club in order to shed the remainder of his salary (Twitter links). The Mets feel that they can hang onto Colon and find a good trade for him in the offseason, when the remaining commitment will be just one year at $11MM.
Elsewhere in baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo runs down the Mets‘ options with Colon and lists some potential destinations, speculating that the A’s and Pirates could be under-the-radar fits. While he ultimately deems the A’s a long shot (noting that they would only place a claim to block the Angels), he does remind that the Bucs were interested in Jon Lester prior to the July 31 deadline, and the Pirates did successfully complete a waiver trade with the Mets in 2013 (Marlon Byrd and John Buck for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black).
- Nationals trade acquisition Jose Lobaton hasn’t hit much this season, but the catcher has provided plenty of defensive value and credits one of his former teammates, James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. Lobaton says that the years he spent learning about pitch framing from Jose Molina have made perhaps the biggest impact on his game. Lobaton ranks 35th out of 91 catchers in total extra strikes added via framing, according to Baseball Prospectus. (Unsurprisingly, his former teammate Molina ranks first.)
- Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel provides a brief scouting report on new Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo. As McDaniel notes, while Castillo added a significant amount of muscle since defecting, the extra muscle hasn’t caused his 70-grade speed to diminish. The key to Castillo’s future will be his hit and power tools. While they project to be average (think .260-.270 average and 15-20 homers), they’re volatile enough that either could swing to above-average or below-average in short order.
- Despite repeated stories that the Marlins will not trade Giancarlo Stanton, his name has appeared in trade speculation, but Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald thinks the Red Sox should have their eyes on another NL East corner outfielder. Jason Heyward, one of the only core players on the Braves not to receive a long-term deal that extended the team’s control this offseason, would look very good in a Red Sox uniform, Lauber opines. Lauber suggests that the BoSox should look to trade a package of three young players to the Braves to land Heyward and extend him so that his prime years come with Boston. Heyward’s left-handed bat would help balance the lineup, and his elite defense is a good fit for Fenway Park’s tricky right field, he adds.
The Reds had yet to place any of their starting pitchers on waivers as of Saturday morning, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports in his weekly “Full Count” video. As Rosenthal notes, their waiver status may be a moot point, as each would likely be claimed and subsequently pulled back. More highlights regarding the Reds and the rest of the league below…
- The real drama surrounding the Reds‘ rotation could come this offseason, as Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon will all be entering their final year of team control. The Reds will have to decide which, if any, they want to sign to a long-term deal, and Rosenthal notes that they will likely trade “at least” one. Latos is perhaps the likeliest candidate to be dealt, according to Rosenthal, who notes that both Latos and Cueto would command more than Homer Bailey‘s six-year, $105MM contract.
- Rusney Castillo‘s six-year, $72.5MM contract with the Red Sox might not stand as the largest deal for a Cuban free agent very long. Yasmani Tomas is expected to be cleared as a free agent this offseason, and his huge raw power will be highly appealing, even if he is limited to left field, defensively speaking. As Rosenthal points out, Tomas is four years younger than Castillo and is against a crop of weak free agent bats. One executive that spoke with Rosenthal said the only flaw he sees in Castillo is his propensity to swing and miss.
- Rosenthal points back to a report of his prior to the trade deadline in which he had learned that the Nationals were looking for a young shortstop on the trade market. He’s now learned that Didi Gregorius of the Diamondbacks was one of their targets. Washington had planned on playing Gregorius at second base in the near-term and moving him back over to shortstop if Ian Desmond could not be retained. Of course, the club still wants to extend Desmond, who is a free agent following the 2015 season.
We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here.
- Former Rangers outfield prospect Jamie Jarmon will attend the University of Delaware to play football, writes Gerry Fraley of SportsDayDFW. Jarmon retired from baseball in July after failing to hit over .200 at any level. Jarmon was selected with the 83rd pick of the 2012 draft as compensation for the loss of C.J. Wilson.
- The Marlins have signed pitcher Jon Link to a minor league contract, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish. Link, 30, made nine relief appearances for the Dodgers in 2010, but has not pitched in the majors since. He posted a 4.15 ERA with 4.15 K/9 and 4.15 BB/9 in his 8.2 innings of work.
- The Blue Jays have announced that they’ve selected the contract of righty Sergio Santos. They’ll make a corresponding move tomorrow. The Jays outrighted Santos last month after he struggled through 19 2/3 innings with the big club. He pitched well for Triple-A Buffalo, striking out 16 batters and walking six in 10 2/3 innings.
- The Yankees have released righty Jim Miller, Chad Jennings of Lohud Yankees Blog tweets. Miller pitched in two games for the Yankees earlier this season, but spent most of the year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he posted a 3.30 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 57 1/3 innings. The Yankees outrighted him last month.
- The Nationals have selected outfielder Nate Schierholtz‘s contract today, as James Wagner of the Washington Post originally tweeted. Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington tweets that Michael Taylor has been optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. Nate McLouth has been placed on the 60-day DL to clear space for Schierholtz on the 40-man roster. The Nats signed Schierholtz to a minor league deal earlier this week after the Cubs released him. After a productive season in Chicago in 2013, he was a disappointment in 2014, hitting .192/.240/.300 in 341 plate appearances. The Nationals will hope he’ll provide them with left-handed hitting off the bench.
GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers don’t expect to be able to find improvements from outside the organization to improve their offense down the stretch, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports. “[T]he reality, is I don’t know where you’re going to find a bat to help your lineup. Runs are tough right now. It’s hard to find hitters right now.” Trades in August are difficult to complete due to waiver rules, and it doesn’t sound like the Tigers will be making any. Dombrowski also confirmed that Andy Dirks‘ hamstring injury will keep him out the rest of the season. Here’s more from around baseball.
- The Royals feel they need a pinch-runner, so outfielder Terrance Gore is likely to be promoted to the big leagues once rosters expand in September, even though he’s not on their 40-man roster, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. The 23-year-old is hitting just .225/.292/.262 in 305 plate appearances this year, most of them spent with Class A+ Wilmington. He does, however, have 44 stolen bases and has only been caught seven times.
- Top Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris is another potential callup, MLB.com’s Jamie Ross writes. “You could see him. No guarantees, but you might,” says Jays manager John Gibbons. The 21-year-old has zoomed through three levels this year, most recently striking out a ridiculous 32 batters in 16 2/3 innings with Triple-A Buffalo.
- Both the Nationals and Indians are happy so far with their deadline swap of Zach Walters and Asdrubal Cabrera, Bill Ladson and Daniel Popper of MLB.com report. Cabrera has played strong defense at second base in Washington, while Walters is off to a strong start in 35 plate appearances with Cleveland, hitting .212 with a .257 OBP, but with a terrific .576 slugging percentage even before homering tonight.
MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki runs down a number of decisions with which the Phillies are faced in the coming offseason and examines some of the perceived problems on the roster. Sources have indicated to Zolecki that despite manager Ryne Sandberg’s desire to play Darin Ruf more often at first base, the Phils feel they need to let Ryan Howard play if they have any hope of moving him to an AL club this winter. Zolecki adds that while Sandberg would like to learn more about Ruf via extra playing time, the organization feels it knows that Ruf is a platoon player — a view shared by other clubs as well.
Here’s more from the NL East…
- Despite the common belief that the Mets should move Bartolo Colon this offseason, Ben Berkon of SNY.tv’s MetsBlog opines that the pitching-rich Mets should at least consider the possibility of moving a different starter such as Jon Niese. While Colon could potentially net some minor league pieces to help out in 2017-18, flipping Niese and his desirable contract (but oft-questionable health status) could bring the Mets more immediate help. Berkon speculates that Niese — perhaps paired with prospects Noah Syndergaard, Kevin Plawecki and/or Rafael Montero — could allow the Mets to land an impact bat that the Mets have been lacking despite strong seasons from Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda.
- The acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera has helped the Nationals not only on the field but in the clubhouse as well, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. Manager Matt Williams offered nothing but praise for Cabrera’s professionalism, and shortstop Ian Desmond said he strives to live up to the clubhouse reputation and league-wide repsect that Cabrera has built.
- Between top prospects Christian Bethancourt and Jose Peraza, only Bethancourt should expect a September callup, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Peraza has very little experience above Class A to this point, whereas Bethancourt impressed the Braves in his handling of the pitching staff in a brief two-week audition this summer. Bowman feels that the Braves’ comfort level with Bethancourt’s glove increases reason to believe that Evan Gattis should be traded to an AL club this winter. That seems like a leap in my eyes, given Bethancourt’s modest production at Triple-A and struggles against MLB pitching. Of course, Bethancourt, 22, is quite young to have played a full season at Triple-A as well, making his pedestrian numbers more understandable.
Indians pitcher Scott Atchison, 38, has himself a new deal which gave manager Terry Francona a meatball of a joke setup. “What’d they give him?” Francona asked reporters, including Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. “A year, an option, and an AARP card?” More from around baseball..
- MLBTR (Twitter link) has learned that Clay Rapada will take 2-3 weeks to let his injured ankle heal before pursuing his next contract. The left-hander struggled with the Orioles‘ Triple-A affiliate in large part due to that bad ankle. Rapada had a 5.63 ERA in 38 1/3 Triple-A innings this season, a far cry from the 2.82 ERA he posted in 2012 for the Yankees.
- The Diamondbacks‘ record $115MM payroll isn’t a one-time thing, but rather a sign of what’s to come, president/CEO Derrick Hall tells Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona. “It is safe to say it will be $100MM-plus,” Hall said of the payroll for next year. “We definitely want to be close to where we were. Will we get to $115MM? I don’t know. But I don’t know if that is necessary.”
- The Nationals announced that outfielder Nate McLouth will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair the labrum in his right shoulder and will miss the remainder of the season. McLouth, 33 in October, signed a two-year, $10.75MM deal with the Nats in December that contains a club option for a third season valued at $6.5MM.
- A.J. Burnett was on the hill tonight for the Phillies and even though he lost, he’s got a reason to smile. As Todd Zolecki of MLB.com (on Twitter) notes, tonight was his 27th start of the season, which bumped his player option from $8.5MM to $10MM. With 30 total starts, he can bump that number to $11.75MM. If he reaches 32 starts, that number goes to $12.75MM.
AUGUST 18: The presiding judge has awarded MASN a preliminary injunction that will prevent the Nationals from acting to enforce the arbitration award for the time being, according to a tweet from James Wagner of the Washington Post. The immediate effect is that Washington will not be able to demand the increased rights fees while the litigation plays out.
More broadly, the order would appear to be a promising development for the Orioles’ side of the dispute, indicating that the court could be inclined to allow the case challenging the arbitration award to move forward. (See the last paragraph of this post for further explanation.) But even that still must be briefed and argued before the sides engage in any discovery or reach the merits of the immediate dispute — which is, itself, a step removed from the ultimate question of the rights fee amount.
JULY 29: The Orioles and Nationals have a long-running dispute over the distribution of broadcast fees from the jointly-owned Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. (Wendy Thurm of Fangraphs detailed the background of the dispute here; James Wagner of the Washington Post did the same here.) The sides have been unable to agree to terms on the broadcast fees to be paid to the Nationals, who own a minority share in MASN. According to a report from The Hollywood Reporter, that the disagreement has escalated to the point that it is now in open court.
While the fact that the parties have now filed competing complaints in New York is noteworthy, the real news probably consists in the precursor to those actions. An arbitration hearing occurred in April, with Mets COO Jeff Wilpon, Pirates president Frank Coonelly, and Rays owner Stuart Sternberg composing the panel. The decision was made on June 30, according to THR, with the result landing in the Nationals’ favor. (Details are not known, but the Nationals were said to be seeking somewhere in the realm of $100MM to $120MM annually.)
In a letter, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig issued warnings to the teams’ owners (Peter Angelos of the Orioles and Ted Lerner of the Nationals) to avoid litigation, saying he would impose “the strongest sanctions available” if that occurred. He had strong words for both men, saying that neither “has approached this negotiation with the best interest of the game at heart” and charging the pair with an “unfathomable inability to agree on a fair division of [the rights fee's] value.”
The legal battle began (or, really, continued) thereafter. Orioles representatives claimed that the arbitral proceeding lacked in procedural fairness. The club has also claimed that MLB was not disinterested because it stood to recoup a cash stipend paid to the club. As Jonah Keri of Grantland reported, a payment was made to help account for the Washington franchise’s lagging revenue as the dispute carried on. According to the Orioles letter cited in the THR piece, at least one $25MM payment was made by MLB to the Nationals.
Attorneys for the Nationals, meanwhile, countered that MASN (which, remember, is majority-owned by the Orioles) was required to begin paying the newly-escalated rights fee, per the arbitration award. The Nationals presented the network with formal notice of defaults, and later petitioned the MLB Commissioner’s Office to confirm and enforce the panel’s decision. (It appears from the report that no action was taken on that request.)
At this point, MASN initiated a legal proceeding in New York state court seeking to modify or vacate the arbitration award, which is the common cause of action in such circumstances. On July 24, the Nationals responded and apparently filed their own petition (presumably, including a counterclaim to enforce the arbitration award).
MLB issued the following comment: “Although certain legal maneuvering has taken place, Commissioner Selig remains hopeful that the parties can reach an agreement in an amicable manner.” As Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets, the Nationals declined comment, the Orioles said that “contracts are meant to be honored,” and MASN declared that there would be “no impact on the telecast of games.”
The actual legal dispute will of course be governed by standard arbitration law (albeit with all the wrinkles of baseball’s unique circumstances). Arbitration awards are routinely upheld by courts except in limited circumstances such as procedural unfairness, and parties seeking to overturn awards face an uphill battle to plead and prove a claim. Barring settlement, it is likely that the parties to this dispute (as any other) will exchange legal briefs regarding whether a court should hear the complaint at all, with the Nationals arguing that the award should be upheld even if everything alleged by the opposition were to be proved. If the dispute is allowed to proceed (if, in other words, it survives a motion to dismiss), then MLB would be faced with the prospect of an open court battle. That would risk the public disclosure of court filings and, potentially, sensitive documents and depositions.
The Nationals have inked outfielder Nate Schierholtz to a minor league deal, the club announced on Twitter. The left-handed-swinging 30-year-old was recently released by the Cubs, who will owe him the remainder of his $5MM salary — less whatever he earns in Washington (presumably, at the league-minimum rate).
Schierholtz has had a tough year thus far, posting a meager .192/.240/.300 line with six home runs over 341 plate appearances. But he entered the offseason coming off a string of solid production: his cumulative line over 2011-13 (1,134 plate appearances) stands at a fairly robust .261/.314/.442. He has posted large splits historically, with a lifetime .722 OPS against righties but a .650 mark against same-handed pitchers. Though his batting average and on-base numbers have been similar, much of his pop has come with the platoon advantage.
The move makes sense for a Nationals club that has dealt with some injuries to its outfielding corps. In particular, left-handed-hitting fourth outfielder Nate McLouth has struggled to work his way back from a right shoulder injury, and had largely been ineffective (.173/.280/.237) before going down. The team’s top young call-up options (including Michael Taylor, Steven Souza, Tyler Moore, Eury Perez, and Jeff Kobernus) are all right-handed bats, creating a solid opportunity for the veteran Schierholtz in D.C.
Somewhat ironically, the move comes approximately a year to the day that the Nats added another lefty bat who had spent his season with Chicago. In 2013, the club acquired David DeJesus through a waiver claim, only to flip him days later to the Rays through another August waiver deal. (Earlier that summer, those clubs matched up in another deal for an outfielder, with Scott Hairston heading to D.C.) Of course, the circumstances are quite different: last year at this time, a disappointing Nationals team was sitting at the extreme periphery of the postseason hunt, while the club now owns a six-game lead in the NL East.
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.