Washington Nationals Rumors
Jose Canseco will be joining the Fort Worth Cats of the independent United League, the team announced. Canseco will serve as a player-coach during the team's opening home stand against the Edinburg Roadrunners, managed by Jose's twin brother Ozzie. This isn't Canseco's first go-around in an independent league, as the 48-year-old has appeared for clubs in several circuits since completing a 17-year big league career. Here is tonight's look around the rest of the baseball world..
- Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune and other reporters discussed the state of the White Sox with GM Rick Hahn. "We're not going to change that path and will focus on this season until it's readily apparent that we have to change our focus," said Hahn, regarding the decision to buy or sell as the season progresses. The White Sox are currently 20-23, good for fourth in the AL Central.
- While the Reds have looked to add some balance to their lefty-heavy lineup, the market is not to their liking, reports Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. "There is really nobody out there that would make much of a difference. We’re just biding our time to see what happens," said General Manager Walt Jocketty.
- In his latest mailbag, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe was asked about potential trade targets for the Red Sox, including a possible closer upgrade. While the ninth inning is a concern, the club will fully want to test out Andrew Bailey before making a major trade for established reliever. Cafardo has heard baseball people speculate that the club could be interested in reacquiring Jonathan Papelbon, but they'll focus on what they already have first.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is still optimistic about the club's offense, but acknowledges some concerns in an interview with Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. When asked about possible moves to remedy under-performance and injury, Amaro said the team has looked to improve but cited a lack of activity around the league, "I don’t think a lot of teams feel like they know what they have yet, so you’re not seeing anything more than waiver-wire claims."
Here's a look at the latest out of the National League East..
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that Cliff Lee's professional, unemotional view on trades has served him well. The 34-year-old left-hander could be a popular trade target if the Philles end up as sellers at the deadline, but that apparently doesn't bother Lee. "Normally, if you're traded you go from a team that's not in a good situation to a team that's winning,'' the veteran said.
- The Nationals will have some interesting roster decisions to make regarding their infield, suggests Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal argues that because of last winter's two-year deal for Adam LaRoche, the club will have difficulty in finding a spot for top prospect Anthony Rendon, with his natural position taken by Ryan Zimmerman. Rendon, who has played at second base of late, has a bat that "should make him an impact big leaguer" according to Baseball America.
- The Mets have discussed demoting Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, and Jordany Valdespin, according to Andy Martino of NYDailyNews.com. Though there is nothing to suggest that the club would demote the struggling trio all in one fell swoop, Martino argues that the Mets need to make just such a move in order to best move forward.
Max Fogle contributed to this post.
In an April 29th poll of over 28,000 MLBTR readers, 3.25% voted for the Nationals' Mike Rizzo as the best GM in baseball. That placed Rizzo 13th overall; only Billy Beane received more than 9% of the vote. A few days prior, the Nationals had exercised Rizzo's 2014 club option. On the face of it, that move was seen as a show of support from ownership for the GM, as they were not obligated to make a decision until after the season. At the time, it was reported that the two sides were working on an extension beyond 2014, and also noted that the Nats still retain a 2015 club option.
Upon deeper examination from Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, exercising Rizzo's club option may not have been a generous move by the team. The move "may have created a potential fissure between ownership and its general manager," writes Kilgore. Since Rizzo signed on in 2010 with no experience as a full-time GM, his contract was quite team-friendly, putting him in the bottom third in salary for his position and allowing for the pair of club options. As we've seen with players with less than a year's service time, such as Matt Moore and Salvador Perez, the team has all the leverage at that point.
Nationals owner Mark Lerner seemed to admit Saturday that extension talks with Rizzo have not yet taken place, despite earlier statements to the contrary. Lerner still expressed optimism for a deal, while Rizzo told Kilgore, "I’d like to be here for the long term. I hope the Lerner family feels the same way."
Here's your rundown of minor moves for Friday...
- Astros right-hander Philip Humber has accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A Oklahoma City, reports Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (via Twitter). Today was the deadline for Humber to decide to report to Triple-A or elect free agency after being outrighted off the 40-man roster earlier this week.
- The Nationals have acquired minor league catcher Brian Jeroloman from the Pirates, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter). The 28-year-old was hitting .222/.481/.278 thanks to his nine walks in 29 plate appearances for Triple-A Indianapolis. Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington adds that the Nats gave up cash for Jeroloman because they needed catching depth with Jhonatan Solano back in the Majors and Wilson Ramos on the DL (Twitter links). Jeroloman is a career .235/.349/.305 hitter in 122 Triple-A games.
- Right-hander Blaine Boyer exercised the out clause in his minor league deal with the Royals and became a free agent, tweets Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. Boyer hasn't pitched in the bigs since 2011. He has a 4.81 ERA in 234 career innings after being selected by the Braves in the third round in 2000. Boyer posted a 3.00 ERA, 10.8 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 15 innings for the Royals' Triple-A affiliate, though he allowed four unearned runs as well and served up three homers.
Jordan Zimmermann's name has popped up in extension rumors as of late, following a quote from Nationals GM Mike Rizzo stating that he had talked to Zimmernann's agents at SFX about a long-term deal. Zimmermann now tells ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (all Twitter links) that as far as he knows, there are no ongoing negotiations. Rizzo approached Zimmermann's camp, but the talks weren't very in-depth, according to the right-hander. Crasnick adds that Rizzo left the door open in regards to extensions for Zimmermann and Ian Desmond in an interview last week.
Rizzo's comment echoes a sentiment that we heard this offseason: the club would like to retain both Zimmermann and Desmond on long-term contracts. For the time-being, Zimmermann and Desmond are earning $5.35MM and $3.8MM, respectively, after avoiding arbitration and agreeing to one-year deals this offseason.
As MLBTR's Extension Tracker shows, Rizzo is no stranger to negotiating extensions with his stars, having previously hammered out two long-term deals for Ryan Zimmerman as well as a six-year contract for Gio Gonzalez. Rizzo has also worked out a handful of two-year deals for Craig Stammen, Michael Morse and Sean Burnett. I profiled Zimmermann as an extension candidate last week, noting that a five-year, $65MM contract would make sense for both sides, though there's a case for discussions to approach the $80MM range.
Roy Halladay's season (and Phillies tenure) could be ended by his upcoming shoulder surgery, and the veteran right-hander took it upon himself to apologize to Phillie fans before Friday's game. "You feel an obligation to the organization, to your teammates, to the fans to try to go out and pitch. Especially on a competitive team that sells out. For me, that was a big factor," Halladay told reporters (including Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer). Halladay hopes to return to the mound in three months though it remains to been how the 36-year-old will respond to the surgery.
Here's the latest from around the division...
- The Marlins' policy against no-trade clauses isn't an insurmountable obstacle to the team's business, opines agent Scott Boras. "I think the no trade policy does affect franchise players. But the number of franchise players in free agency are pretty rare," Boras told reporters (including Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald). "The Marlins in my mind you've got a number of players who like the geographical dynamic of what Miami offers. You've got a footprint now. It's not a wish and a hope."
- The Marlins' injury problems have forced the team to promote prospects like Jose Fernandez, Derek Dietrich and Marcell Ozuna to the Major Leagues earlier than expected, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro writes. "I don't know if it messes up the plan," president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "You've got to do what you've got to do....Right now, we're so buckled by the amount of injuries to key players. I don't know if we've taken a step back to say, 'OK, is this going to mess up the master plan?' We're trying to make sure Red [manager Mike Redmond] has 25 guys every day, which has been tough."
- Edwin Jackson picked up his first win of the season in the Cubs' 8-2 victory over the Nationals today. Jackson told James Wagner of the Washington Post that he was interested in returning to the Nats last year but the team passed on negotiations after he turned down their one-year qualifying offer. Jackson ended up finding long-term security in the form of a four-year, $52MM deal with the Cubs.
- With Brian McCann back from the DL and Evan Gattis hitting well, the Braves could look to trade catcher Gerald Laird, speculates MLB.com's Mark Bowman. Since this could be McCann's last season in Atlanta, however, Bowman thinks the Braves will keep Laird as a veteran mentor to Gattis in 2014.
- Some other items about the Phillies, Nationals and Mets were covered earlier today by MLBTR's Jeff Todd in an edition of National League Notes.
In case there are still any questions whether the Nationals' Bryce Harper can continue to adjust to big league pitching as it attempts to adjust to him, this story from Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post may put them to rest. Harper recalls that he began developing a flexible approach at the plate when, as a seven year-old playing in an under-10 tournament, the opposition decided it was too dangerous to give him an inside fastball. Kilgore goes on to explain in detail the development of Harper's swing, and why it is so effective at such a young age. Here are some notes from the Nats and a few of their National League competitors:
- While Nationals starter Dan Haren seems to be turning his season around, Carlos Marmol of the Cubs continues to struggle. As Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes, the Cubs not only missed out on adding a starter to bolster their rotation, but could have flipped Haren for a nice haul at the trade deadline. Of course, the Cubs were apparently close to acquiring Haren before the Angels declined his option and made him a free agent.
- The Phillies should try to trade first baseman Ryan Howard, says David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Looking at the team's free agent options next year, Murphy says there is not much promise for the Phils to improve unless it sheds one of its nine players that stand to make a combined $115MM next season. While acknowledging the limits of Howard's trade value, Murphy posits that the club should agree to eat much of his salary and attempt to obtain a young infielder.This may not be the most promising proposal, however, as Howard's injury history and mediocre start to 2013 (.262/.299/.476 over 137 plate appearances) keep his value down even before looking at his contract.
- Meanwhile, Murphy's Inquirer colleague Bob Vetrone laments that two former Phillies are having an impact elsewhere. Both Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence were traded mid-season last year after the Phillies fell out of contention, and both are off to productive starts this season. Meanwhile, the Phils' outfielders have been among the worst in baseball. On the other hand, those deals brought much needed youth into the Phillies' organization, including two prospects (Tommy Joseph and Ethan Martin) ranked by some in the club's top 15.
- The Mets could make sense as a destination for Shin-Soo Choo when the outfielder reaches free agency this offseason, explains John Harper of the New York Daily News. Choo is currently sitting at third on MLBTR's Tim Dierkes's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings after his hot start for the Reds. According to one big league executive, Choo fits the profile that Mets GM Sandy Alderson will be looking for as a high on-base outfielder with some pop. Certainly, an outfield upgrade is in order for the Mets, as the combined production from Mets outfielders currently rates right alongside that of the Phillies.
One scout is hoping to bring baseball to Africa, reports Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. White Sox scout John Tumminia has worked to provide baseball supplies to impoverished children around the world, and Kenya is this year's target. Commissioner Bud Selig has raised baseball's profile internationally in recent years with events like the World Baseball Classic and increasing amounts of players from South America and Europe. Also, this year the MLB will host camps in African nations of Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa, tweets Diamondbacks European scout Rene Saggiadi. Here tonight's look around the rest of the baaseball world...
- Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray has climbed all the way to the top of Baseball America's (subscription required) draft prospect rankings. Some see parallels between Gray's steady rise in the scouting world, to that of Stephen Strasburg in the 2009 draft. Boras Corporation advisees take the next two spots, with Stanford right-hander Mark Appel and San Diego third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant ranking No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.
- Dan Haren empathizes with the Angels and their 12-22 start, reports Bill Ladson of MLB.com. Haren signed with the Nationals after the Angels declined a club option for the right-hander last winter following an up-and-down year in 2012. Haren understands what if feels like to endure a rough stretch to the season, but added "If they would have kept the team together and rolled it over into this year, I guarantee that team would have played really good baseball."
- Former Major Leaguer Akinori Otsuka is attempting a comeback, tweets Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker. The 41-year-old right-hander intends to pitch for the Grand Serows team of the Japanese independent BC League. Otsuka's last pitched appeared in the majors in 2007 with the Rangers. The former set-up man pitched to a 2.44 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 over his four big league seasons.
Max Fogle contributed to this post.
With less than one month until the 2013 Amateur Draft, Conor Glassey of Baseball America spoke with Astros scouting director Mike Elias about the team's No. 1 overall selection and approach to the draft. Glassey's piece is a terrific, in-depth look at the amount of Astros personnel that is involved in the decision as well as GM Jeff Luhnow's role in scouting potential No. 1 picks. Elias says the Astros are still choosing from a pool of about seven players but won't prematurely count anyone out or make any rushed rankings. Here's more from Glassey and others on the upcoming draft...
- Glassey speculates that the seven players up for debate among Astros brass are Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray, Clint Frazier, Austin Meadows, Kris Bryant, Sean Manaea and Colin Moran. There aren't many surprises in that group, as those names are commonly regarded among the best talent available in the draft.
- Also within Glassey's piece, he notes that the overall strength of this year's draft class on the 20-80 scale would probably be a 45. An NL scouting director told him that success in this year's draft will be about finding an undervalued niche within that underwhelming crop of players.
- More from Glassey, who adds that college talent, in particular, is weak in this draft. The first round could feature as few as six college pitchers, and there's no consensus top college shortstop. The first college shortstop might not come off the board until the third round. Zack Cozart (No. 79 overall in 2007) currently represents the latest instance of the first four-year college shortstop coming off the board in any draft.
- Baseball America's Jim Callis reports that Ryan Boldt, a high school outfielder from Red Wing, Minn., will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a slight tear in his meniscus. Boldt was a potential first-round pick, and Callis feels that even with the injury he will still go "pretty high" because he was so good last summer (Twitter links).
- ESPN's Keith Law feels that Boldt's injury could drop him out of the first round and may ultimately lead Boldt to honor his commitment to Nebraska rather than sign out of high school (Twitter link). Law ranked Boldt as the 13th best prospect (Insider required) in this year's class in mid-April.
- Logan Shore, a high school right-hander who is also from Minnesota, hit 91 mph in the seventh inning of his start yesterday, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Wolfson reports that the Twins, White Sox, Mets, Nationals, Blue Jays, A's and Reds have shown the most interest in Shore, who Law listed as the draft's No. 39 prospect in his Top 50 rankings.
On Monday, it was reported that Nationals GM Mike Rizzo has approached Jordan Zimmermann's representatives at SFX about a potential contract extension. While we heard in the offseason that both sides were interested in such a deal, this is the first indication that the two sides have begun talks.
Zimmermann entered the season with three years, 154 days of Major League service time and is controlled through the 2015 season. A Super Two player, the 26-year-old avoided arbitration for the second time this offseason by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $5.35MM.
A look at MLBTR's Extension Tracker shows that few Super Two starters with three-plus years of service time have signed extensions, and none are particularly good comparables. Expanding the search to include non-Super-Two starters with three to five years of service gives a few more examples. Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez signed five-year extensions worth roughly $80MM that included their final two years of arbitration. Dan Haren, Josh Johnson and Zack Greinke all signed four-year extensions in the neighborhood of $40MM that did the same.
In terms of overall value it seems the Greinke, Haren and Johnson extensions are too light. Zimmermann will likely earn more than $8MM via arbitration in 2014 and should see that salary climb well above $10MM in his final arb year. He doesn't have the track record that Hernandez and Verlander had at the time of their extensions, making $80MM seem rich.
Matt Harrison's five-year, $55MM contract could serve as a framework, but Zimmermann has considerably better numbers at this stage of his career than Harrison possessed when he signed his extension. Harrison's contract seems to be the floor for Zimmermann. Something in the range of $60-65MM over five years seems like a more reasonable target. Such a deal could pay Zimmermann $8MM in 2014, $12MM in 2015 and $14-15MM per free agent season.
Keep in mind, also, that the extensions for Verlander and Hernandez occured prior to the wave of new TV contracts that have left teams with far deeper pockets. Those contracts were also signed under the old CBA, when more players were hitting free agency. Today's game sees more and more good players sign extensions before hitting the open market, which is part of the reason that Zimmermann's case is unprecedented to some extent. Given the influx of cash in the game and the increasing imperative for teams to lock up home-grown talent, the $75-80MM range reached by Verlander and Hernandez in 2010 is probably no longer out of the question.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.