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Will Middlebrooks Rumors
The Padres have optioned third baseman Will Middlebrooks to Triple-A, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports on Twitter. Outfielder Abraham Almonte has been brought up to take his spot on the roster.
It’s a disappointing, if unsurprising, move for the 26-year-old Middlebrooks. The former top prospect was acquired over the offseason from the Red Sox as something of a turnaround candidate, but has put together a sub-par .212/.241/.361 batting line in 270 plate appearances on the year. Though a .237 BABIP explains some of that, particularly given that Middlebrooks is making as much hard contact as he always has, he’s always carried a low average on balls in play in the majors (.276 career).
Throw in below-average defensive ratings, and Middlebrooks has once again sported a WAR mark well into the negative figures. While San Diego surely held out at least some hope that Middlebrooks would provide a long-term option at the hot corner, he’ll need to do some work in the upper minors to earn another shot at big league playing time. With his first crack at arbitration on the horizon, he could be a non-tender candidate at this point (though he is rather unlikely to command a huge salary).
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com provides some finer details on various recently-struck contracts from around the game (links to Twitter):
- Under his two-year deal, Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera can tack on an additional $250K to his 2016 salary based on games finished in 2015. That is not much, but does give at least some suggestion that he and the team have conceived of the possibility that he could end up in a closing role at some point.
- Of course, Herrera is not first or even second in the pecking order there. Royals pen mate Greg Holland will handle the ninth until further notice, and his one-year deal to avoid arbitration contains several bonus provisions, including a $100K bump for taking home another reliever of the year award.
- Todd Coffey‘s minor league deal with the Braves would pay him $800K annually for his time in the majors, if he can crack the roster. Coffey can also earn up to $200K through incentives.
- The Padres will pay pre-arbitration-eligible third baseman Will Middlebrooks rather well. He will make $540,500 over his time in the majors and $324,300 for whatever time he spends in the minors. Last year at this time, MLBTR’s Zach Links took an interesting look at how teams pay pre-arb players.
- Cherington says the Sox have been interested in Hanigan for over a year, so they jumped at the chance to acquire him as a backup and insurance policy for youngster Christian Vazquez. “If you look at all the criteria we look for in a catcher, Ryan checks all the boxes: very good defender and game-caller, well-respected, a tough at-bat, capable of playing a lot — that’s a nice bonus,” Cherington says.
- Cherington admits he sold low on Middlebrooks, who hit just .191/.256/.265 in 234 big-league plate appearances in 2014. “Obviously we’re not trading Will at a particularly high point right now,” says Cherington. “We still believe in him. The last few years haven’t gone well, but the talent is still in there.”
- The Red Sox aren’t currently actively looking for rotation help, Cherington says. Britton notes, though, that given the pitching the Red Sox have already acquired this offseason (Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson), it wouldn’t make sense for the Red Sox to declare dissatisfaction with their current rotation, whether or not they were still hunting for starters.
- Cherington says he’ll “keep an eye open” to potential bullpen upgrades.
9:47pm: The Red Sox have announced the one-for-one deal.
9:56am: The Padres and Red Sox are nearing a trade that would send catcher Ryan Hanigan from San Diego to Boston in exchange for third baseman Will Middlebrooks, reports Yahoo’s Jeff Passan (Twitter link).
The Padres have yet to so much as make their acquisition of Hanigan official, as the three-team deal that will net him and outfielder Wil Myers hasn’t been announced by the clubs. However, that hasn’t stopped them from shopping around one of their newest acquisitions and figuring out the framework for a deal that seemingly helps both parties involved.
Hanigan, 34, is an excellent defensive catcher coming off a season in which he batted just .218/.318/.324 in his first season with the Rays. He’s owed a total of $8MM over the next two seasons (including the $800K buyout on a $3.75MM club option for 2017) and could pair well behind the plate with Christian Vazquez in Boston.
The 26-year-old Middlebrooks was once one of the top prospects in the Red Sox organization, but he’s yet to replicate the .288/.325/.509 batting line he put together in his rookie season of 2012. Since that time, Middlebrooks has dealt with injuries and a rapidly rising strikeout rate, both of which have contributed to a paltry .213/.265/.364 batting line from 2013-14.
Despite those struggles, Middlebrooks still has upside, and he fills a need at third base for the Padres, who can now turn to Derek Norris and Tim Federowicz behind the plate in 2015. The Red Sox were unlikely to find significant playing time for Middlebrooks anyhow after signing both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez this offseason. While the return of a defensive-minded catcher is certainly less than Sox fans may have hoped for given past hype surrounding Middlebrooks, the swap does improve and deepen Boston’s roster for 2015.
San Diego can control Middlebrooks through the 2018 season, and he won’t be eligible for arbitration until next offseason.
Former Cardinals and Rangers reliever Kyle McClellan has officially announced his retirement. In a message on his Facebook page, McClellan explained that he was told that his shoulder simply hadn’t recovered well enough following surgery, so he decided to hang up his glove after six Major League seasons. McClellan posted a 3.79 ERA over 387 1/3 career innings from 2008-13, spending five seasons with St. Louis (winning a World Series ring in 2011) and one in Texas. We at MLBTR wish McClellan all the best in his retirement and congratulations on a nice career.
Here’s some news from around the baseball world…
- The Orioles have “limited” interest in Nori Aoki, a source tells MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. With the O’s linked to such bigger-name free agent and trade targets as Melky Cabrera, Justin Upton and Matt Kemp, it’s safe to presume that Aoki could be more of a backup plan for the Orioles if they can’t land any of those other outfielders.
- The Mariners‘ acquisition of J.A. Happ from the Blue Jays probably ends any chance of Chris Young returning to Seattle’s rotation, MLB.com’s Greg Johns writes as part of a reader mailbag.
- An increasing number of agents are privately saying that they would’ve advised David Robertson to accept the Yankees’ qualifying offer, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets. I can’t say I agree with the agents’ opinions, since it’s not like the draft pick compensation tied to Robertson via the QO has hurt his market; the closer has reportedly already received a three-year, $39MM offer and several executives think he’ll find a deal in the four-year, $50MM range.
- Florida high schooler Brendan Rodgers holds the #1 spot on MLB.com’s rankings of the top 50 2015 draft prospects, MLB.com’s Jim Callis writes. Rodgers, a shortstop, heads a class that still contains a lot of question marks, according to one AL scouting executive. “It’s just wide open right now, especially at the top. There are some nice players, but there’s a lot of gray area. There are just no elite guys who completely stand out. There’s not as much upside at the top as the past few drafts,” the executive said.
- Former big leaguer Rico Brogna is now working as the Angels‘ quality control coach, somewhat of a troubleshooting position he tells Fangraphs’ David Laurila combines both traditional scouting analysis with advanced metrics to give his team a complete overview of a player’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Will Middlebrooks doesn’t have an obvious role on the 2015 Red Sox roster, but the third baseman tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that he’s working to get healthy and wants to stay with the Sox. “I understand the moves they had to make,” Middlebrooks said. “For the organization we are, we have to win next year. Everyone knows that. They had to make some moves. I was hurt, been hurt a lot. You can’t rely on that.”
Here’s the latest from the game’s eastern divisions:
- The Marlins are interested in Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera, reports Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. Olivera recently defected with hopes of becoming an MLB free agent, and Miami is certainly one of several clubs that looks in need of an acquisition up the middle.
- Giancarlo Stanton‘s season-ending injury does not change the Marlins‘ plans to make a push at extending him this winter, the Associated Press reports (via the New York Times). “There’s no hesitancy, no reservation or doubt he’ll return and be even better,” said Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill. “We’re going to do everything in our power to keep him a fixture in our lineup for many years to come.”
- The Red Sox are not giving up on Will Middlebrooks in spite of building frustration, but president Larry Lucchino did make clear that the team is “looking for a left-handed hitting third baseman,” as he told WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan (via WEEI.com’s Andrew Battifarano). Though Lucchino said that prospect Garin Cecchini could be that player, he also emphasized that the team will not “make the same mistake that [we] made this year, which is to assume that so many of our young players are ready for prime time.”
- Two long-time Blue Jays — reliever Casey Janssen and DH Adam Lind — are approaching the possibility of finding new homes, as Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca writes. Janssen, a free agent, says he does not yet know whether Toronto will make him a competitive offer. If not, he says, he will “embrace a new city and try to bring a championship to wherever that next stop is.” Lind, on the other hand, is subject to a $7.5MM club option. Though expectations are that it will be exercised, Lind says he hopes the front office will give him a clear sense of its intentions before the season ends.
The Red Sox have accumulated a large number of outfielders and will be on the hunt for starting pitching this offseason, meaning the club could deal from its surplus to address its weak pitching. However, in a piece for FOX Sports, Dave Cameron writes that the Sox shouldn’t consider parting with Mookie Betts (who will frequently be asked for in trade scenarios), even if it means acquiring a front-line starter. Betts’ elite contact rate and low chase rate illustrate that he’s a player who knows his limitations (i.e. he won’t for huge power in the Majors), Cameron explains. He likens Betts to a number of players who fall into that same mold and ultimately concludes that Betts has the makings of a young Ben Zobrist — a strong all-around player with enough defensive versatility that he could be a regular without ever having a set position. Given the frequency with which pitchers are breaking down, betting on Betts’ athleticism and versatility might make more sense than trading him for an arm, in Cameron’s mind.
Here are some more Red Sox items…
- WEEI.com’s Alex Speier spoke with right-hander Burke Badenhop about his unlikely journey to free agency. Badenhop recalls at one point, shortly before he was drafted, weighing a job offer that would have paid him $45,000 a year against the possibility of pursuing his Major League dream. (He notes that he was never interested in pursuing a career as a minor leaguer — “I wanted to play Major League Baseball.”) Badenhop took a $1,000 bonus with the Tigers after a poor pre-draft workout and carved out a role in the Marlins’ bullpen after being sent to Miami in the Miguel Cabrera trade. Badenhop is realistic about his offseason value, noting that some teams may prefer to go with a minor leaguer in his middle-inning role, but he feels some find value in the certainty he could bring. “If you’re signing me to be the best reliever in your ‘pen, you’re probably maybe a little misguided,” he told Speier. “But you shouldn’t sign me to be the worst guy in your ‘pen, either. Somewhere in the middle. That’s where I want to be.”
- Manager John Farrell feels that Will Middlebrooks‘ struggles aren’t solely due to a nagging hand injury, writes Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com. “I don’t think he’s been limited any (more) than other players that deal with nagging ailments over the course of a full season,” said Farrell. McAdam writes that the Sox are frustrated with Middlebrooks’ unwillingness to commit to playing winter ball, and his spot on next year’s roster appears in jeopardy. In Thursday’s edition of his ESPN Insider-only blog, Buster Olney writes that it makes little sense for Middlebrooks to decline, as without a strong winter ball showing, he’d likely need a monster Spring Training to force his way onto the roster. Otherwise, he could be ticketed for a large portion of time with Triple-A Pawtucket next season.
- GM Ben Cherington spoke with Jen McCaffery of MassLive.com and noted that the Sox have received inquiries from multiple clubs about having their front office personnel and members of their coaching staff interview with other clubs. Cherington wouldn’t comment on specifics “out of respect for other teams,” but noted that he supported VP of player personnel Allard Baird as a candidate for the D’Backs GM opening: “They asked permission to talk to him and they talked to him. I would certainly support that because he’s an exceptional baseball executive and I’m sure they’ll have good choices but he would certainly be a good choice.”
The Red Sox are planning on having Will Middlebrooks play winter ball this offseason in an attempt to get him back on track, and they’re telling teams that they won’t simply give the soon-to-be 26-year-old away, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. Middlebrooks may seem a good buy-low candidate, as the former top prospect has followed a strong rookie campaign with a .213/.264/.375 line over a pair of injury-plagued seasons in 2013-14, but it sounds as if the Red Sox aren’t ready to give up on him.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington spoke with reporters before tonight’s game, and Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com has some highlights from the session. Cherington says that “barring something unforeseen,” Rusney Castillo will join the Major League club this month. He also said that the club will continue to have Mookie Betts focus on center field, noting that having three plus center fielders isn’t a bad thing if Castillo, Betts and Jackie Bradley all pan out. “We believe we’re better off having more than one major league center fielder,” said Cherington. “In the long run, in terms of long-term control, hopefully we have three at the upper levels.”
- While there’s been an unthinkable amount of ink dedicated to the Phillies’ Ryan Howard problem, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the Yankees have a similar issue on their hands with Mark Teixeira. Sherman reports that while the Phillies have aggressively shopped Howard, the Yankees haven’t even tried to move Teixeira, knowing that he would be nearly impossible to jettison due to his injuries, his no-trade protection and the $45MM he’s owed in 2015-16. Teixeira, who turns 35 next April, has batted just .213/.316/.404 in 493 plate appearances over the past two seasons.
- Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is interested in the Astros’ managerial opening, writes MLB.com’s Adam Berry. Martinez, who was on a short list of candidates for the last Astros managerial search, called the opening a “great opportunity” but made it clear that his current focus is on helping the Rays. “I interviewed for them a couple years ago, and they had good baseball people, very creative minds over there, and I kind of like that whole situation over there,” said Martinez. “Right now, my concern is being the bench coach for the Tampa Bay Rays and hopefully we win as many games as possible this month.” As Berry points out, Martinez is a good fit with the Astros after watching the way in which longtime Rays manager has Joe Maddon has built a rapport with an analytically inclined front office. Martinez noted that he got along well with Astros owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow in his previous interview, adding that he thinks Houston has a very bright future.
- Brandon Morrow wants to pitch in the rotation in 2015 and beyond, he tells MLB.com’s Gregor Chisolm. As Chisholm notes, Morrow may soon have the opportunity to dictate where that could happen, as his $10MM club option is likely to be declined by the Blue Jays after another injury-plagued season. Morrow doesn’t seem to fit into Toronto’s rotation moving forward, with R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris all at the Major League level.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington chatted with reporters just minutes ago and it’s no surprise to hear his admission that the club was not expecting Xander Bogaerts to struggle to this extent in 2014 (via Tim Britton of The Providence Journal on Twitter). Still just 21, Bogaerts has slashed .226/.293/.339 in 472 plate appearances this season. Earlier this week, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote that the struggles of Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have left many around the game wondering how good each player truly is. Here’s more out of Boston..
- Peter Gammons (Twitter links) cautions not to read much into waiver trade bites on Bogaerts, Clay Buchholz, Brock Holt, Joe Kelly, Yoenis Cespedes, Christian Vazquez, Burke Badenhop, Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara.
- Cherington said that he won’t be resistant to trade prospects this off-season, “for the right guy,” tweets Jason Mastrodonato of The Springfield Republican. He added that the club has never been opposed to dealing prospects, but such decisions are “contextual,” tweets Alex Speier of WEEI.com.
- The GM wouldn’t give much on the team’s interest in Rusney Castillo. “We are one of many teams interested. That’s all I’ll say,” the GM said, according to Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com (on Twitter).
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at some of the recently suggestions put forth by Red Sox chairman Tom Werner to help make the game more marketable to young people.
“Too many people are leaving games in the sixth and seventh innings because they can’t watch 3½-hour games, so they’re leaving the game at the point where the game should be getting exciting,” Werner said. “You wouldn’t make a 3½-hour movie. The NFL makes changes almost on an annual basis. They’re considering making the extra point from 35 yards rather than from the 8-yard line… I respect tradition, but I don’t revere it.”
Among Werner’s ideas: instituting a pitch clock, limiting the number of times a batter can step out of the box, and putting a cap on the number of catcher and pitching coach visits to the mound. More from today’s column..
- Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson could be on the hot seat and there has been a lot of speculation about Joe McEwing, a third base coach with the White Sox, or Mike Aldrete, the bench coach for the Cardinals. If Gibson is canned it would mark Tony La Russa‘s first big decision but GM Kevin Towers would also likely to have a say.
- In a chat with Cafardo, David Ross spoke glowingly of the amenities or “little things” that the Red Sox do for their players and Cafardo wonders if that could keep Jon Lester in Boston beyond this season. Lester’s family was always taken care of the team’s traveling secretary and while other teams can offer similar services, the consensus among players who have been multiple places is that Red Sox and Yankees are the teams that offer more to their players.
- Ross tells Cafardo that even though there have been no contract talks with the Red Sox yet, he would like to return. Boston would certainly love for him to keep working with Christian Vazquez, but Ross’s recent bout with plantar fasciitis has slowed him. Ross is finishing up a two-year, 6.2MM deal.
- Daniel Nava drew interest from the Tigers and had interest from the Royals before they traded for Josh Willingham, but he has yet to be put on waivers. It’s not a certainty that he’ll clear and but the Red Sox will likely put him on revocable waivers later in the month to see what type of interest he’ll get. The Sox’ outfield looks crowded next season with Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr., Shane Victorino, Yoenis Cespedes, Mookie Betts, and Brock Holt all in the mix so it makes sense to see what can be had for Nava.
- In a separate tweet, Cafardo reports Nava, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara, and Will Middlebrooks have been placed on revocable waivers.