Wladimir Balentien Rumors
This Sunday is Mariano Rivera Day at Yankee Stadium -- a day set aside to commemorate the Hall of Fame career of the greatest closer in baseball history. However, as the New York Post's Ken Davidoff writes, Rivera came close to never saving a game in Yankee pinstripes. Prior to the 1996 season, the Yankees debated flipping Rivera to the Mariners in exchange for offensively challenged shortstop Felix Fermin because they weren't sure a hot prospect by the name of Derek Jeter was ready. Several members of the Yankees staff, including then-assistant-GM Brian Cashman and then-manager Joe Torre talked president George Steinbrenner out of the deal. Jeter went on to win the AL Rookie of the Year award, while Rivera finished third in the Cy Young voting with 107 2/3 innings of dominant relief work. Here's more from around the league...
- Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick will be shut down after getting a second opinion on his injured right shoulder, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. Though the move could be purely precautionary, Kendrick had expected to return to the rotation. As Zolecki notes, any concern over Kendrick's shoulder could play a role in the team's decision whether to offer him salary arbitration. The 29-year-old is set to reach his fourth and final season of arbitration eligibility, and will be due a raise on the $4.5MM he earned last year. He has struggled to a 4.70 ERA in 182 innings on the season, his worst campaign since 2010. Advanced metrics see things somewhat differently, though they do not necessarily make him look much more appealing in broader terms: Kendrick's 4.01 FIP and 4.15 xFIP are actually the second-best tallies of his career. By measure of SIERA, the hurler has never posted a sub-4.00 season.
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says that phenom Archie Bradley will not reach the bigs this year, reports Steve Gilbert of MLB.com. "To add him to the roster in the winter when roster spots are very valuable to us -- and the team being pretty much out of contention -- didn't make a lot of sense," said Towers. The 21-year-old starter will, however, get a chance to earn a spot in the club's 2014 rotation in spring training, according to the Snakes' GM.
- Wladimir Balentien's historic season in Japan has led to speculation that he might be a big league target in spite of his long-term deal with the Yakult Swallows. For his part, however, Balentien insists he has had no thoughts of a move, per a Nikkan Sports report (link in Japanese) transmitted via Twitter by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker. "No. I'm surprised that's come up," said Balentien in reference to the rumors."I'm with the Swallows for four years."
- Marty Brennaman, the Reds' radio voice since 1974, has just inked a new three-year deal at age 71, reports Nick Hurm of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Brennaman received the Ford C. Frick Award over thirteen years back, and partnered with fellow legend Joe Nuxhall for over thirty seasons.
Wladimir Balentien smashed his 56th home run for the Yakult Swallows on Sunday to break Sadaharu Oh's Japanese single-season record and some within the Giants organization have wondered if they could find a way to acquire him, writes Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. There's one problem, however - Balentien signed a three-year deal with the Swallows before this season, which means he will not be a free agent until the end of 2015. “He wants to come back. That’s what he told me two or three weeks ago. His dream is to come back and play in the major leagues," said Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens. “We’ve talked about him, but nobody knows how to go about it, to get out of the contract." While the idea has been batted around, Schulman cautions that the conversations have been theoretical and have not involved GM Brian Sabean. Here's more out of the NL West..
- The Dodgers have scouted Japanese right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, a source tells Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Earlier today we learned that the rival Angels are also looking at the Rakuten Golden Eagles standout.
- Diamondbacks left-hander Matt Reynolds learned that he'll require Tommy John surgery after his MRI was reviewed, according to Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona (via Twitter). The 28-year-old, who posted a 1.98 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 30 relief outings this season, will probably go under the knife with Dr. James Andrews next week.
- Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) runs down the players that have exceeded his expectations this season, highlighted by the MVP-caliber play of Diamondbacks standout Paul Goldschmidt.
Wladimir Balentien's journey to becoming Japan's single-season home run record holder took a number of twists and turns through the Mariners and Reds organizations, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick writes. Balentien, now with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, has 57 homers this year, topping Tuffy Rhodes, Alex Cabrera and Sadaharu Oh. Before that, though, he made his way through the Mariners' system, then went to the Reds in a minor trade after former Seattle GM Bill Bavasi took a job there. He played part of two years in the Reds organization and failed to find a lasting spot on their big-league roster. "For me, he was just one of those guys who ran out of time," says Bavasi. "It's not like there were two clubs that passed on him and he went over there and played great. There were 30 clubs that passed on him, and he went over there and found his niche. It's kind of remarkable what he's done." Here are more notes from around baseball.
- The Marlins have been scouting Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, reports Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Frisaro also notes that the Marlins are scouting "a couple" of young Cuban pitchers at an MLB showcase in the Dominican Republic. Abreu is expected to command an enormous contract, so it would be surprising if the Marlins ended up being serious contenders for his services. Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets that, while the Marlins are interested in Abreu, they probably won't be able to or willing to spend the money necessary to sign him.
- The Yankees' outlook for 2014 is bleak, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda, Mariano Rivera, Curtis Granderson and Andy Pettitte will all be free agents. While some of them might be back, many Yankees who are already under control for 2014 are signed to ugly contracts. Sherman points out that the Yankees have also seen few positive developments from their young players this season, and that 2013 hasn't seen the debut of a single blue-chip prospect.
For some fascinating reading this Saturday morning, check out Jonah Keri of Grantland's in-depth base-stealing discussion with Coco Crisp. I found the portion involving southpaw tells to be particularly interesting (look for the clip of Crisp stealing off of Brian Matus). Back to the transactional side of the game, here are a few assorted links:
- Former Mariners and Reds outfielder Wladimir Balentien has turned into a star in Japan, where he is currently sitting three long balls back of the single-season record of 55 first reached by the legendary Sadaharu Oh back in 1964. With a slugging percentage north of .800, the 29-year-old might have drawn big league interest. Balentien, however, is in the first year of a three-year, $7.5MM deal with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows that does not contain an opt-out clause, according to a recent report from Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca.
- High-priced Mets reliever Frank Francisco is moving through the minor leagues on a rehab assignment, but may nevertheless be released upon his activation, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Rather than attempting to salvage some value from Francisco's cringe-worthy two-year, $12MM contract, the Mets -- who obviously will not secure a post-season berth regardless -- seem determined not to allow Francisco to put on a free agency showcase in a Mets uniform.
- Addressing a reader question, MLB.com's Scott Merkin took a look at the futures of shortstop Alexei Ramirez and outfielder Alejandro De Aza with the club. Merkin says that Ramirez -- whose contract includes $19.5MM for the next two years and a $10MM ($1MM buyout) club option for 2016 -- would bring a "solid return" in a trade but figures to stick in Chicago. With his home run tallies dwindling to a trickle, Ramirez's deal does not seem to be any kind of bargain, though perhaps positional scarcity around the league increases its value.
- As for De Aza, Merkin argues that poor baserunning and defense make him more likely to find himself out of the team's plans, especially as he is set to earn a raise on his $2.075MM salary as he enters his second year of arbitration eligibility. While De Aza looks at first glance to be a solid regular at low cost, there seems to be an interesting split on the value of his contribution this year. Fangraphs credits De Aza with 2.2 WAR on the season, while Baseball-Reference pegs him at just .1 WAR based on an exceedingly poor defensive rating. In 2011 and 2012, both sites viewed him as an approximately 2.5 win player. Whatever his actual value, the Sox would presumably be able to get a reasonable return if they made De Aza available via trade.
- The Angels are working towards a long-term deal with the city of Anaheim, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. The current proposal would allow the team to drop the appendage "of Anaheim" from its name, and and would see the Angels pay to renovate Angels Stadium in exchange for beneficial land lease and development rights surrounding the ballpark.
The Yakult Swallows of Japan's Central League have signed three prominent players to multi-year contracts, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has learned. Outfielder Wladimir Balentien obtains a three-year, $7.5MM contract for the 2014-16 seasons. Outfielder Lastings Milledge obtains a three-year, $4.4MM contract on a deal that includes a mutual option for 2016. Lastly, closer Tony Barnette obtains a two-year, $3.2MM contract.
Balentien, 28, will earn $950K in 2013 because an option in his previous contract vested. The Octagon client hit 31 home runs and posted a .272/.386/.572 batting line in 422 plate appearances this past season. Balentien, a three-year veteran of the big leagues, last appeared at the MLB level in 2009.
Milledge, a former first round pick and top prospect on this side of the Pacific, produced at the plate in Japan this past season. The 27-year-old posted a .300/.379/.485 batting line and added 21 home runs in 546 plate appearances.
Barnette saved 33 games for the Yakult Swallows in 2012. The 29-year-old right-hander posted a 1.82 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 54 1/3 innings.
Collecting the day's minor league signings...
- Outfielder Wladimir Balentien is joining the Yakult Swallows in Japan, according to this report passed along on Twitter by NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman. The 26-year-old hit .282/.337/.536 with 25 home runs in 452 Triple-A plate appearances for the Reds' affiliate.
- The Twins signed 32-year-old outfielder/first baseman Jeff Bailey, reports Seth Stohs. Bailey hit .289/.387/.462 with 12 home runs in 564 Triple-A plate appearances for the Diamondbacks' affiliate.
- The Twins also signed infielder Chase Lambin, tweets Baseball America's Matt Eddy. The 31-year-old hit .252/.327/.414 with 15 homers in 548 plate appearances for the National's Triple-A affiliate in 2011. He has never played in the the big league, but did spend 2009 in Japan.
- MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports that Micah Hoffpauir has signed a one-year deal with the Nippon Ham fighters. The 30-year-old hit .251/.312/.421 in 394 plate appearances with the Cubs over the last three seasons.
- The Mariners have signed right-hander Justin Miller according to Eddy (via Twitter). In 24.1 innings with the Dodgers last year, the 33-year-old pitched to a 4.44 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. The Mariners are his ninth organization.
- Seattle also signed shortstop Sean Kazmar, tweets Eddy. He hit .275/.326/.381 for San Diego's Triple-A affiliate this year, and saw some big league action with them back in 2008.
- The Rays signed righty reliever Cory Wade, says Eddy (via Twitter). The 27-year-old had a 2.27 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 71.1 innings for the Dodgers in 2008, but he missed most of 2009 and all of 2010 after having shoulder surgery.
- Eddy tweets that the Athletics have signed outfielder Jai Miller. They lost him on a waiver claim to Kansas City back in April. The 25-year-old hit .252/.326/.490 in Triple-A last year, then .236/.300/.345 in 60 plate appearances with the Royals.
- The White Sox signed third baseman Dallas McPherson, tweets Baseball America's Matt Eddy. The 30-year-old hit .267/.339/.541 with 22 home runs in 354 plate appearances for Oakland's Triple-A affiliate this year. He hasn't spent significant time in the bigs since '06.
- The Phillies signed lefty reliever Dan Meyer, reports Bill Evans of the Gloucester County Times (hat tip to Matt Gelb). The 29-year-old signed with his hometown team after drawing interest from the Giants, Astros, Pirates, Padres, and Twins. Meyer, a big part of the Tim Hudson trade six years ago, had a strong '09 but was designated for assignment by the Marlins twice this year. He posted a 3.38 ERA, 6.1 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, and 0.9 HR/9 in 40 Triple-A innings in 2010.
Links from Spanish-language news sources, highlighted by a rumor-packed tweet from un hombre de Bristol (links in Spanish).
- Enrique Rojas at ESPN Deportes says the A's are working hard to sign yet another third baseman. Only this time, it's Adrian Beltre, who reportedly turned down a three-year, $24MM offer from the team last winter.
- In the same tweet, Rojas says the Dodgers are interested in Edgar Renteria and his willingness to play second base, notes that there is a "good market" for Miguel Tejada, and revives an old rumor with a question: "Vic-Mart with the Rays?"
- According to Jorge Ebro at El Nuevo Herald, 17-year old Cuban centerfielder Yasiel Balaguer has defected to Nicaragua with hopes of signing with a Major League team. Ebro cites reports saying Balaguer's big draws are his explosive speed and throwing arm, though he has shown some offensive power as well in the Cuban National Series.
- Former Mariner and Red Wladimir Balentien has told his usual Venezuelan Winter League team, the Leones de Caracas, that he can't play this winter because he has signed with a team in Japan, reports Cesar Augusto Marquez at Lider en Deportes. Marquez doesn't say which team Balentien has joined.
John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets the results of Aaron Miles and Wladimir Balentien being designated for assignment by the Reds. Both players cleared waivers. Miles was released, while Balentien was outrighted to Triple A.
Miles joins the free agent ranks; he'll likely be signed for $400K with the Reds paying the remaining $2.3MM on his contract. The 33-year-old infielder hit .185/.224/.242 in 170 plate appearances for the Cubs last year, battling shoulder and elbow injuries. He was acquired twice during the offseason - by the A's to help facilitate their acquisition of Jake Fox, and by the Reds as a way of dumping the inferior contract of Willy Taveras.
Balentien, a 25-year-old outfielder, hit .234/.305/.385 in 295 plate appearances for the Mariners and Reds last year. He's flashed big power at various minor league stops and was a well-regarded prospect as recently as 2008.
The Reds have designated Aaron Miles and Wladimir Balentien for assignment, according to C. Trent Rosecrans of CNati.com (Twitter link). We heard on the weekend that the Reds were likely to designate the pair for assignment to create roster space if GM Walt Jocketty didn't find a trade partner.
The Mariners designated Balentien for assignment last summer, before the Reds acquired the outfielder leading up to the trade deadline. The Reds would acquire Miles six months later for Adam Rosales and Willy Taveras in a bad contract swap.
Miles hit .185/.224/.242 in 170 plate appearances for the Cubs last year and followed that up with a .152/.222/.212 performance this spring. It's hard to imagine any team claiming him. Balentien hit a more robust .327/.353/.571 this spring; in 295 plate appearances last year, he hit .234/.305/.385.
A few Reds-related items to round up:
- The team has released Kip Wells, according to the club's official Twitter page. They had signed the veteran right-hander to a minor league deal earlier in the winter.
- Aroldis Chapman is among the players listed in the same tweet that will head to the Reds' Triple A affiliate in Louisville.
- Mike Leake, Cincinnati's first round pick in last year's draft, has earned a spot in the rotation as the team's fifth starter, according to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. Sheldon points out that Leake will be the first drafted pitcher to skip the Minor Leagues entirely since Darren Dreifort, and ESPN.com's Rob Neyer adds that no starting pitcher has pulled off the feat since Jim Abbott in 1989.
- John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that Wladimir Balentien and Aaron Miles remain on the roster for now, but will not be on the team. GM Walt Jocketty says that the club will try to trade them in the next few days, if possible. Fay adds in a tweet that the pair will be designated for assignment on Sunday.