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Here are a few notes from around the National League:
- When the Diamondbacks shipped young outfielder Justin Upton to the Braves, the biggest major league piece they got back was utilityman extraordinaire Martin Prado. Now, with the two clubs in the midst of their first series of the year, Prado has reflected on the deal. As MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports, Prado says he is happy for his former club: “The thing that makes me feel real good is that you know that you got traded and the [Braves] now look better. I’m happy because all of my ex-teammates can see that they gave up something, but actually got a better team. That’s what [Braves general manager Frank Wren] was looking for. He made a good move.” Having spent his entire career in the Atlanta organization, Prado explained that the shock of the trade took more than a month to wear off.
- While Prado has hit below his career norms to start the year, one of the players he was traded for — third baseman Chris Johnson — is off to a stellar beginning of the season for Atlanta. As David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets, Johnson says he is excited to be squaring off against his former club: "Any time you get traded, you want to come back to the place you got traded from and show them what they're missing." Johnson, along with platoon partner Juan Francisco, effectively took over for Prado as the replacement for the retired Chipper Jones. Now, Johnson is off to a career-best slash line of .324/.355/.486 over his first 110 plate appearances.
- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly may be the obvious choice to take the fall for his club's rough start, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says there is little to be gained from such a move at this time. For one thing, says Rosenthal, there is no obvious replacement who could get more production from the team. And with several major players seemingly likely to return soon from injury, Mattingly should get a while longer to try and manufacture a turnaround.
- No doubt Mattingly's job security will depend in part on the form of top offseason acquisition Zack Greinke after he recovers from a broken collarbone. Mattingly says that Greinke will return to the mound tomorrow night against the Nationals, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports on Twitter.
- Meanwhile, Los Angeles is continuing to undertake a major change in how it draws players into the organization, tweets Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Shaikin says that the Dodgers have signed 46 amateur ballplayers from Latin America since the new ownership group took over last year. The previous ownership group had "all but killed" the club's Latin America presence, says Shaikin.
When the Dodgers spent $147MM on Zack Greinke this offseason, they were expecting 33 starts per season of an ace-caliber pitcher. Instead, Greinke will now find himself on the shelf for a significant portion of time following a brawl in the Dodgers-Padres game that broke out after he hit Carlos Quentin in the shoulder with a pitch.
Two things are clear here. The move has serious financial and roster implications for the Dodgers, and Quentin is a lock to be suspended. What does that mean, specifically, for the involved parties? It depends on how long Greinke is out for, first of all, which has yet to be announced. ESPN's Jayson Stark notes that recent history shows this type of injury has a recovery time of anywhere from one to three months (All Twitter links). Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis broke his collarbone in late February and is hoping to return in early May. Clint Barmes broke his collarbone in 2005 and was on the shelf for three months. The only pitcher Stark could find who suffered the injury was Chris Bosio, who missed a month.
Greinke is earning $17MM in the 2013 season, which is 182 calendar days long. Assuming a timetable of 30 to 90 days (roughly one to three months), the Dodgers figure to be out somewhere between $2.8MM and $8.4MM of this year's investment in Greinke. That's a sizeable chunk of salary, although they could have an insurance policy on the contract that will cover a portion of the injury.
This also means that the Dodgers' former surplus of starting pitching has likely been sorted out for the time being. With Aaron Harang now in Seattle, the Dodgers can place one of Ted Lilly or Chris Capuano in the rotation, with the other serving as a long reliever. It seems likely that it will be Lilly who is placed in the rotation; MLB.com's Ken Gurnick recently noted that he's been building up arm strength to throw 90+ pitches again and the Dodgers are concerned about how frequent warm-ups would affect his "delicate shoulder." Capuano, meanwhile, has already been in the 'pen for the early portion of the season. Both hurlers figure to be firmly off the trade market now.
As far as Quentin goes, the left fielder signed a three-year, $27MM extension with the Padres last year and is slated to make $9.5MM this season. In other words, Quentin is paid just over $52,000 per day during the season. So multiply that number by the amount of days in his eventual unpaid suspension, and it becomes a costly confrontation for him on a personal level as well.
Matt Kemp and Jerry Hairston Jr. also played roles in the altercation. Kemp was particularly vocal during the fray and eventually pursued Quentin after the game, leading to a confrontation that is chronicled here by Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times. Hairston charged toward the Padres' dugout after the field had been cleared, later explaining to reporters that an undisclosed Padres player was mocking Greinke's injury. It's unclear at this time if there will be any punishment handed out for Kemp and Hairston, but presumably they're in line for fines as opposed to suspensions.
Cesar Carrillo, a right-handed pitcher in the Tigers system, became the first player listed in the Biogenesis documents to be suspended, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (twitter link). As FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal and others have noted, MLB has "greater jurisdiction over minor leaguers like Carrillo than major leaguers who are protected by the players' union." Here are some other notes from around the majors:
- Mariano Rivera's retirement plans have fellow Yankee stalwart Andy Pettitte wondering how and when to end his own "long, strange journey," as Daniel Barbarisi of The Wall Street Journal describes it. Pettitte sees some merit to ending his career around the same time as those of his long-time teammates, but does not want to "stop playing until I know that I'm done."
- Outfielder David Murphy is still waiting to work out a long-term extension with the Rangers after discussing that possibility with the club earlier in the offseason, writes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. While Murphy reiterated that he wants to remain a Ranger and has no hard feelings for the lack of progress towards a deal, he added that free agency is a "privilege" and that "waiting another year is not going to kill me."
- While the Cubs "feel the presence of teams watching Alfonso Soriano," nevertheless "no substantive talks have taken place yet," tweets Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. Cafardo mentions the Phillies and Yankees as teams that are "on [the] radar" for a possible Soriano deal.
- With Zack Greinke still dealing with elbow issues, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly indicated that the right-handed starter is facing an ever-narrowing window to be ready for the start of the regular season, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. As has previously been noted, Greinke's timeline could impact the availability of the Dodgers' excess starting pitching options, such as Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang.
Earlier today we heard that the Padres haven't settled on a long-term strategy for third baseman Chase Headley. They'll hold onto him for now, but could trade or extend him later in 2013. Here are more notes from the Padres' division…
- Danny Knobler of CBS Sports reports that the Dodgers' pursuit of trades for Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez began as early as last April. The new ownership looked ahead to the free agent market for first basemen and shortstops and knew the upgrades they sought wouldn't be available.
- Yorvit Torrealba could force the Rockies into a decision regarding their catching situation, writes MLB.com's Thomas Harding. The team loves his veteran leadership and handling of young pitchers, and could look to trade Ramon Hernandez before the end of Spring Training.
- The Rockies are scouting out of options pitchers who could appear on waivers later on this month, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports. The Rockies' rotation features lots of uncertainty and some optimism at this stage, Renck writes. Here's MLBTR's list of out of options players.
- Buster Posey and the Giants are not close on an extension, but if it happens, the best comparable for a deal would be Joey Votto's 12-year pact and not a three-year one, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com.
- Prized offseason acquisition Zack Greinke left his Dodgers teammates this morning to have his right elbow examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, but the club insists that it's strictly a precautionary move, writes Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. The Dodgers are reportedly prepared to sit on their pitching surplus for now in part because of minor health issues that Greinke and Chad Billingsley are dealing with.
Zach Links and Steve Adams contributed to this post.
Zack Greinke made quite a few headlines this offseason by becoming the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in Major League history (Felix Hernandez has since topped him). The former No. 6 overall selection in the draft signed a six-year, $147MM with the Dodgers.
Greinke has long been a high-profile arm, thanks largely to his 2009 American League Cy Young Award. His 9.3 wins above replacement (Fangraphs version) that season were the most by any pitcher since Randy Johnson's 2004 season.
So it's no wonder that Greinke had a long list of suitors when it became evident that the Royals were going to trade him. Nor is it surprising that Greinke commanded a young shortstop, a young center fielder and a pair of right-handers that had both been first-round picks.
On December 19, 2010, the Royals traded Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to the Brewers in exchange for shortstop Alcides Escobar (24 years old at the time), center fielder Lorenzo Cain (24), right-hander Jake Odorizzi (20) and right-hander Jeremy Jeffress (23). Each player in the deal had recently ranked in Milwaukee's Top 10 prospects, according to Baseball America. Let's take a look at each on an individual basis…
The Major League Side
- Zack Greinke: Greinke joined Shaun Marcum as one of two offseason acquisitions for the Brewers that offseason, as the team clearly had an "all-in" mentality entering the final season of Prince Fielder's contract. He broke a rib that offseason playing basketball, limiting him to 171 2/3 innings, but he pitched to a 3.83 ERA with an NL-best 10.5 K/9 when healthy. The Brewers ultimately finished with a 96-66 record, netting them an NL Central Division title. Greinke got his only taste of postseason baseball that year but allowed an unsightly 12 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings. The Brewers lost in the NLCS to the Cardinals, who would go on to win the World Series. Greinke hurled 123 more innings for the Brew Crew in 2012, pitching to a 3.44 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 before being traded to the Angels. GM Doug Melvin landed Jean Segura, John Hellweg and Ariel Pena in that deal, but that's a whole different post.
- Yuniesky Betancourt: Betancourt hit a paltry .252/.271/.381 with the Brewers but still totaled 584 plate appearances in spite of that sub-par production. His defense was also well below-average, and the result was a mere 0.4 wins above replacement, per Fangraphs. Betancourt did manage to swat 13 homers that season — the second-highest mark of his career — but his lack of plate discipline and poor glove mitigated most of that value. He would go on to re-sign with the Royals as a free agent the following offseason and is now in the Phillies organization as a non-roster invitee.
- Alcides Escobar: Milwaukee's No. 3 prospect at the time of the trade (per BA) Escobar has blossomed into the Royals' everyday shortstop, posting fWAR marks of 2.2 and 2.6 in his first two seasons with Kansas City. He doesn't walk often (4.2 percent), but he's posted a respectable .274/.311/.368 triple slash line with Kansas City. That includes significant improvement from 2011-12, as his OPS+ jumped from 74 to 98 between the two years. He's developed into an elite base-stealer, collecting 61 swipes in 75 tries (81.3 percent). In 2012, he went 35-for-40 (87.5 percent). The Fielding Bible evaluates Escobar's defense at +12 runs during his time with Kansas City, while Ultimate Zone Rating feels he's been closer to average. Still just 26 years old, Escobar has room for growth.
- Lorenzo Cain: Cain's arrival as Kansas City's everyday center fielder was delayed by the acquisition of Melky Cabrera. Groin and thigh strains have cost Cain 98 games between his two seasons with the Royals, but he looks poised to take the reins as the team's everyday center fielder in 2013. It's a small sample, but Cain has a .266/.315/.410 batting line in 267 plate appearances with the Royals. His seven homers and ten steals translate to a 162-game average of 17 homers and 25 steals — a well-above average combination of power and speed for a center fielder. In 726 1/3 career innings in center, UZR/150 rates him at 14.4 runs above average, and The Fielding Bible agrees at +15 runs. He's excelled in the Minors for the Royals and is in the midst of an impressive Spring Training showing, but he'll already be 27 on April 13. Kansas City needs to let Cain play in order to determine if they have a long-term piece this season.
The Prospect Side
- Jake Odorizzi: Odorizzi made his big league debut for Kansas City in 2012, but totaled only 7 1/3 innings. Those will likely be the only innings he ever throws for the Royals, as GM Dayton Moore included the now-22-year-old in the James Shields trade. Odorizzi is BA's No. 92 prospect in all of baseball, and he ranks 45th on MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo's version of the same list. BA ranks him fifth among Rays prospects, praising his four average pitches (fastball, slider, curve, change-up) but noting that he lacks a true out pitch. Both BA and Mayo agree that Odorizzi has a chance to become a reliable No. 3 starter, but his ceiling is limited by average offerings across the board.
- Jeremy Jeffress: Jeffress' star has fallen considerably since he ranked as BA's No. 100 prospect prior to the 2009 season. Now 25 years of age, the Royals traded him to the Blue Jays for cash considerations this past November. Jeffress pitched 82 innings for Kansas City's Triple-A affiliate and maintained his strong strikeout rate (9.3 K/9) but walked too many (4.7 BB/9) and allowed nearly a hit per inning as well. He received a pair of call-ups to the big league club but walked 24 batters in 26 2/3 innings. He has the potential to be a power arm late in games, but he'll now look to fulfill that upside elsewhere.
In the end, the Brewers got an ace-caliber pitcher and an NLCS berth in exchange for the four prospects they dealt. Greinke managed to net them a trio of prospects including a new, promising shortstop to replace Escobar. Kansas City turned Greinke into an everyday shortstop, a promising center fielder and a pitching prospect that helped them acquire a new ace-caliber pitcher (Shields). However, the Royals are better positioned to compete with this top-of-the-rotation arm than they were the last time they had one.
Both teams fell a bit short of their best case scenarios (Milwaukee didn't win a World Series, and Kansas City cut ties with Jeffress for next to nothing), but this is a trade that definitely reaped benefits for each side.
Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Zack Greinke signed a contract that made him — at the time — the highest-paid right-handed pitcher ever this offseason (Felix Hernandez has since topped him). The money, Greinke told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports quite candidly, was the biggest factor in his decision to sign with the Dodgers. However, multiple sources indicated to Heyman that Greinke gave the Rangers an opportunity to top the Dodgers' final offer before agreeing to his six-year, $147MM contract. Greinke made an offer to the Rangers, but Texas elected to counter-offer rather than accept it.
According to Heyman, the Rangers and Dodgers were in a "near-dead heat" on the main terms of the contract, but the Rangers wouldn't budge on giving Greinke an opt-out clause after three seasons. Beyond that, Greinke told Heyman that he vastly prefers National League baseball to the American League version:
"It's boring watching American League games to me,'' Greinke said. “With the Angels we had (Mike) Trout, (Albert) Pujols, (Mark) Trumbo, (Kendrys) Morales and (Torii) Hunter, but it wasn't as much fun as watching Milwaukee's team. There's much more strategy."
Heyman also writes that Greinke met with Dodgers officials himself before completing his deal with the team. The former No. 6 overall pick in the draft has long been fascinated by free agency. He turned down a trade to the Nationals that would have come with a $100MM extension a little more than two years ago in part because he didn't think the Nationals were ready to win, but also because he was too fascinated by free agency:
“I wanted to see it. If it was going to be only one year for $1 million, I wanted to see for myself,'' he said.
As MLBTR's Transaction Tracker shows, Greinke's $147MM contract is the third-largest contract ever signed by a pitcher, with only Hernandez and CC Sabathia ranking ahead of him (he topped Cole Hamels by $3MM). Candidates to displace Greinke from the Top 3 in the next couple of years include Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander. However, with three dominant seasons, Greinke could enter free agency again as a 32-year-old and position himself for another hefty contract that would extend into his late 30s.
The two teams representing the Greater Los Angeles area appear to be on collision course for a World Series matchup given the depth of their respective rosters. From the Dodgers adding arguably one of the most dominant pitchers in the game (Zack Greinke) to the Angels bolstering their already powerful lineup with the bat of Josh Hamilton, both teams have their eyes set on October. Here's the latest from around Tinseltown.
- Omar Vizquel finds himself at a Spring Training camp for the 25th year in a row, but this time he'll be the one leading instruction as he transitions from player to coach, writes Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. The potential future Hall of Famer begins the journey from coach to manager as the Angels' roving infield instructor.
- Ryan Theriot's possible return to the Giants remains unlikely given the veteran's desire for increased playing time, specifically, as a starter, says Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Gate (via Twitter). Theriot, 33, posted a .270/.316/.321 batting line in 104 games with the Giants in 2012.
- Zack Greinke spoke with reporters on Friday about dealing with anxiety issues that nearly derailed his career back when he was a rookie in 2006, writes Bill Plunkett of The Orange County Register. "I haven't really had a problem with any of it since 2007," Greinke said. "I don't really think about it ever anymore. It was just [taking] the medicine. It really was."
Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke is a “baseball junkie,” writes FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, who notes that Greinke participated in scouting trips with the Brewers’ front office while he pitched for Milwaukee. Greinke wanted the Brewers to pick infielder Corey Seager, but Greinke’s current team, the Dodgers, took Seager before the Brewers had a chance to select him. Here are more notes from the Dodgers and Angels:
- Greinke doesn’t mind making less money than Felix Hernandez, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports. The Mariners right-hander recently signed a seven-year, $175MM extension, topping Greinke’s six-year, $147MM deal with the Dodgers. Hernandez is “a better pitcher than I am,” Greinke says.
- ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden predicts that the Dodgers will extend manager Don Mattingly’s contract during Spring Training. Bowden suggests that Davey Johnson’s impending retirement, which will create what would appear to be a desirable managerial opening with the Nationals, could help convince the Dodgers to extend Mattingly, preventing him from leaving.
- New Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton describes hitting in the Los Angeles lineup, alongside Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, as “appealing,” the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reports (on Twitter).
- Pujols, meanwhile, says that “We look good on paper, but we still have to go out there and perform,” MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes (on Twitter).
The Diamondbacks could be on the verge of completing a three-team deal with the Indians and Reds, but that's not all that's happening in the National League West..
- If the deal sending Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds goes through, it'll be much less likely that the Rockies will trade Dexter Fowler this winter, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com tweets. Their best remaining chance for a trade partner for Fowler would be the Mariners if they strike out on Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn.
- In the wake of the Zack Greinke signing, the Dodgers could wind up making Clayton Kershaw baseball's first $30MM-a-year pitcher, writes Dylan Hernandez of Los Angeles Times. However, the Dodgers are unlikely to offer him no-trade protection. Of course, they could get creative like they did in the case of Greinke. If the former Angel is traded, he can opt-out of his contract at the end of that season.
- At today's introductory press conference, Greinke explained that he kept in touch with the Angels throughout the offseason but the two sides never got to talking about contract details, tweets Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com.
- General Manager Ned Colletti said the Dodgers are probably done spending, more or less, according to Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
- Colletti also said that there was a 24-hour lull in the talks with Greinke, which made the club nervous for a short time, tweets Scott Miller of CBSSports.com.
- Greinke said that the Angels' number one selling point was the chance to play alongside Mike Trout for the next six years, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
- The Rockies have made it clear since the end of the season that they are not shopping Michael Cuddyer, but they have to listen as they look to acquire more pitching, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post. The Phillies and Yankees could both use a corner outfielder and Renck says the situation is worth monitoring.
The defending World Series champions play in the NL West, but the Giants are not the ones making the biggest headlines. Here’s the latest from the division, starting in Los Angeles…
- Barring something unexpected, the Dodgers are finished in the starting pitching market according to Olney (on Twitter).
- Zack Greinke signed for $147MM over six years, and he could earn even more money by opting out three seasons from now, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports explains. The Dodgers awarded Greinke the opt-out as a compromise, as the right-hander initially sought a seven-year deal with a no-trade clause, Rosenthal reports.
- One evaluator told ESPN.com's Buster Olney that the Giants are still a better team than the Dodgers despite Los Angeles' aggressive spending. The Dodgers have questions on the left side of the infield and might be vulnerable against left-handed pitching, Olney writes.
- The Dodgers have discussed Kevin Youkilis and Anibal Sanchez, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reports. Sanchez may be more of a longshot given the Dodgers' internal rotation options. The team appears to have interest in dealing Aaron Harang, but Chris Capuano has drawn more trade interest, Knobler reports.
- The Dodgers have talked to the Pirates about Capuano, ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports (on Twitter).
- Rosenthal wonders if the Padres could be a fit for Edwin Jackson, but concludes that San Diego probably won’t sign the free agent right-hander if he’s positioned to command a four or five-year deal (Twitter links). Padres executives Josh Byrnes and A.J. Hinch previously worked with Jackson in Arizona.