Per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Twins have agreed to a one-year deal with Martin Perez. The deal reportedly includes a club option for 2020.
More to come.
Per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Twins have agreed to a one-year deal with Martin Perez. The deal reportedly includes a club option for 2020.
More to come.
Jan. 19, 2:31pm: Per Heyman, the Reds would prefer not to include Stephenson in a deal for Gray, and talks now “center around” second-base prospect Shed Long. Stephenson, 22, was the 11th overall selection in the 2015 draft, and has steadily progressed through the Cincinnati farm. In last month’s update, FanGraphs projects the 6’4 righty as an average regular, lauding his double-plus arm and 60 grade raw power. Long also projects as a regular, though perhaps not at second, where he has “below average hands” and “clunky footwork,” per FanGraphs.
Jan. 19, 9:02am: Expect Gray to be moved sometime this weekend, per Fancred’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). The Reds and Yankees are inching closer to a deal, with two prospects and a draft pick the expected return for Gray. Long and Stephenson (currently the #6 and #7 prospects in the Reds system per MLB.com) are the prospects most likely to be headed to New York. It’s not a done deal, however, as the Giants, Brewers, and Braves are still part of the conversation.
Jan. 18, 4:55pm: There are other teams still involved, per Andy Martino of SNY.tv (Twitter link), including at least the Padres and Giants. There have been some discussions of three-team arrangements, Martino also notes.
Jan. 18, 2:33pm: The Reds are “making progress” in their talks with the Yankees regarding veteran righty Sonny Gray, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). It emerged yesterday that the Yanks were nearing a deal involving the starter, though multiple organizations were still said to be involved in talks.
It seems fair now to assume that the Cincinnati club is emerging as a favorite, though it’s certainly too soon to rule out alternatives. The Reds have already added a pair of starters via trade in Tanner Roark and Alex Wood. Like those hurlers, Gray is entering his final season of arbitration eligibility. He’ll earn $7.5MM after agreeing to terms with the Yankees, making him a bit less costly than the other two pitchers.
The potential return remains to be seen, and obviously hasn’t quite been nailed down. Jon Heyman of Fancred reports (Twitter links) that the organizations are still discussing different prospects — Shed Long and Tyler Stephenson among them — while a draft pick could also be part of the return. (That would have to be the Reds’ 2019 competitive balance pick, which is a valuable sandwich-round selection.)
If they can wrap up an agreement, the Reds would certainly present quite a different rotation than the ones they have trotted out in recent years. Roark, Wood, and (hypothetically) Gray all have their warts, but each has found plenty of success in the majors. It’s notable, of course, that none of those players comes with future control rights. The same is also true of recently acquired outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. The Reds evidently prefer one-year commitments at this time, allowing them the chance to reevaluate their future needs after the conclusion of the 2019 season.
The latest from the National League . . .
The Padres have done a tremendous job in recent years growing the top farm system in the game, but the organization underwent a financial reshaping that was just as important to long-term stability, per Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Mired in the debt inherited from previous owner John Moores, Executive Chairman Ron Fowler led the charge in two important ways: refinancing the debt (thereby lowering interest rates and freeing up money to funnel into baseball ops), and opening the organization’s spending ledger to the public – an uncommon degree of transparency for an MLB club. Acee’s entire article is well worth a read as it paints a fairly complete picture of San Diego’s battle to build a winning franchise that is also fiscally sustainable. Essentially, the Padres followed the structural rebuilding approach popularized by Theo Epstein in Chicago: improve fan experience with additions/renovations to the ballpark while pouring roster resources into the acquisition and development of amateur and international talent. Epstein’s focus on improving the ballpark itself was a strategy he employed in Boston with Fenway Park, and again with Wrigley Field in Chicago. Speaking of…
Cody Allen will be closing games for the Los Angeles Angels next season, but the long-time fixture of the Cleveland bullpen may still add some value to the Indians’ 2019 bullpen: as a scout. It was Allen who first brought Jon Edwards to the attention of the Cleveland front office after working out at the same facility as the right-hander, per the Athletic’s Zack Meisel. Edwards, 30, made 9 appearances for the Indians last season after making his way back to the game, missing all of 2017 and almost leaving baseball altogether. Now Edwards is one of the arms that manager Tito Francona will turn to as the Indians’ bullpen tries to make up for the loss of both Allen and Andrew Miller in free agency.
The glass half-full approach might look at the 2.9 WAR totaled by the Indians bullpen in 2018 and say there’s not all that much room to make up. Still, the bullpen unit earned 6.9 WAR in 2017 after fueling the Indians’ World Series run in 2016, and they’ve helped spark an evolution of the bullpen league-wide. It’s an uncertain unit this time around, with Edwards, Adam Cimber, Nick Goody, Dan Otero, Neil Ramirez and Tyler Olson the most established arms set to pitch in front of closer Brad Hand. Former starters Danny Salazar and Cody Anderson may get the Collin McHugh treatment if they can get healthy this season and contribute as McHugh did for the Astros last year. Salazar is a particularly interesting wrinkle as his career 10.51 K/9 could move even higher in shorter stints out of the pen. He was a top-3 pitcher in their rotation before getting injured. Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber may have usurped his spot in the rotation, but Salazar has the opportunity to be an impact arm where Cleveland needs the help most.
Newly-acquired youngsters Jefry Rodriguez and Chih-Wei Hu have added to the organization’s overall depth, and they’ll compete with veteran castoffs like James Hoyt, Justin Grimm, and A.J. Cole to claim the open spots in Cleveland’s pen. It’s a long season, and just as often as a veteran bullpener falls apart, a new stud develops out of nowhere. There’s a case to be made that the Indians collection of arms is more than enough to put together a dominant bullpen, it’s just unclear which 7-10 names are most likely to be a part of it. The Indians may feel that the risk of paying significant money to tired, veteran arms isn’t any more risky than relying on a large group of high-end hopefuls to develop confidence and dependability in the nine months from when pitchers and catchers report in February to the playoffs in October. There’s high-end potential in the names above, and they have another reason to be optimistic as well: top prospect Triston McKenzie has risen steadily through the system, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the 21-year-old could be ready for an Adam Wainwright/David Price style call up if he continues to succeed in Triple A.
Francona may cull together a functional group from the arms already in-house, but no matter how you slice it, it’s a far cry from the back-end dependability the AL Central champs have leaned on throughout this current run atop the division. There are other issues at hand for the Indians as well, who are facing a significant amount of roster churn. There’s a leadership void to fill around Francisco Lindor, and it’s unclear at this time who will step up, per Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes. Lindor certainly has the talent to be “the guy” in the clubhouse, but it’s tough for the best on-field producer to also shoulder the load of managing the clubhouse as a lone sheriff. Allen has been a big-time leader in the bullpen, and Rajai Davis a vocal veteran leader who will no longer be with the club as well. They may have more of a fight on their hands for the AL Central crown too, as the Twins added a ton of right-handed power as they look to rebound, and the White Sox rebuild is nearing a crescendo.
Even if they capture their fourth straight division title, the Indians will have a tough time surviving the playoff gauntlet in a top-heavy American League if they don’t get some reliability and shutdown firepower from their bullpen. The Yankees have not been shy about investing heavily in their bullpen for a couple of seasons, and the rest of the league is starting to follow suit, but as of right now, the Indians, as well as some other contenders like the Red Sox and Cubs, are holding steady with the arms they’ve got in-house. In the past it’s been unwise to invest in the bullpen, an area of notoriously fickle year-to-year performance, but the tide has turned and the Indians run the risk of seeming painfully out-of-step. The rotation remains stacked, but given that it only took one year, $8.5MM for LA to lock down Allen, it’s fair to wonder if the Indians are playing a little too fast and loose with their bullpen.
How do you feel about the current state of the Indians pen? (Link for app users).
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein held an interesting chat today with Waddle and Silvy of ESPN Chicago (audio link). He likened his desire to acquire a premium free agent to a second helping of dessert — of course, he wants it, but he just can’t have it — and says the organization still believes it can find improvement from its current roster. Epstein insists there’s positive energy within the friendly confines; despite the lack of roster activity, he says, the offseason has otherwise been a proactive one in which the entire organization has focused on hitting the ground running from the start of the present season. At the tail end of the talk, the veteran baseball executive also gives a detailed account of the organization’s stance on embattled shortstop Addison Russell. It’s well worth a listen, regardless of one’s general viewpoint on that subject.
Elsewhere in the division…
At one point, the former sixth-overall draft pick looked to be among the game’s better young pitchers — a quality rotation piece who could handle a big innings load, even if not an ace. But his career spun out in surprisingly quick and conclusive fashion, and he was never able to get it going again.
Upon breaking into the majors in 2009, Romero turned in a string of productive seasons, improving his bottom-line results as he went. He inked a $30.1MM extension in the midst of the 2010 campaign, a significant contract that nevertheless seemed destined to be a good one for the organization after the ensuing campaign.
Romero’s third season in the majors was his best — a 225-inning, 2.92 ERA gem in 2011. He earned an All-Star nod and placed tenth in the American League Cy Young voting. Though he was not then and never would be much of a strikeout pitcher, Romero induced loads of grounders (54.7%) and certainly seemed capable of continuing to deliver strong results for years to come.
Unfortunately, disaster struck in 2012. Romero pitched a full season, but that may not have been wise. As he discussed with Vice Sports more recently, he was battling through pain over the course of that season. Romero ended the year with a 5.77 ERA, an ugly combination of 6.2 K/9 and 5.2 BB/9, and lingering health issues — he ultimately required surgery for matching torn quad tendons — that he never fully recovered from.
As it turned out, Romero would only throw 7 1/3 MLB frames after the end of his age-27 season. The Blue Jays ended up cutting their losses and absorbing the remainder of the money they owed Romero. He ended up landing with the Giants in an effort to find himself, but never managed to gain traction during his three years with the organization. A brief run in the Mexican League also fizzled out.
As the above-linked piece documents, Romero had tried more recently to get on track by engaging a few trusted advisers and trying to get his flow back. Obviously, that attempt did not enable the southpaw to make it back to the major league hill, but it certainly can’t be said that he fell short for a lack of trying. MLBTR wishes Romero the best in his future undertakings.
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…
9:25pm: Machado has held an in-person meeting with one of the mystery clubs “in recent days,” Martino tweets. The report also indicates that Machado is expected to choose the biggest contract offer he’s presented, with other factors evidently taking a back seat.
8:03pm: The presence or absence of so-called “mystery teams” — unidentified but active pursuers of a given player — has long been a subplot of the market for Manny Machado this winter. With the Phillies, White Sox, and (to a lesser extent) Yankees known to be involved in the hunt, the question is whether other organizations would quietly help drive the bidding.
Now, on the heels of some suggestive comments from Machado’s father (via Dominican journalist Hector Gomez, on Twitter), there’s clear reporting indicating that is the case. Jon Heyman of Fancred tweets that not only is there a mystery team chasing Machado, but that it’s presently the high bidder. Andy Martino of SNY.tv adds on Twitter that there are actually two such clubs in the mix.
While this news is certainly vague in one sense, in that it doesn’t indicate what teams are now involved, it certainly is being presented as being firmly rooted in reality. Some may be skeptical, but it has always made sense for certain clubs to prefer to make their pursuit a quiet one. And the truly hard-to-fathom aspect of the market to date has been the lack of more teams publicly chasing one of the game’s best players, who’s hitting the market at just 26 years of age.
Last we checked in on Machado, a few days back, his agent Dan Lozano was forced to publicly comment on reports of a middling offer from the White Sox. Indeed, the level of money that had been suggested — seven years, $175MM — hardly seems to match Machado’s value when considering his established track record, age, and past open-market contracts. In any event, it seems at a minimum that those numbers may not have represented a full picture of the level of the Chicago organization’s interest.
The latest news puts a much better spin on the outlook for Machado. If there are indeed a pair of mystery teams, in addition to the three known to have interest, then that leaves quite a few more landing spots for Lozano to explore — and, presumably, a fair bit more leverage to work with in trying to move Machado’s earning level northward.
Reds right-hander Michael Lorenzen is working out extensively as an outfielder this offseason in hopes of finding his way into an expanded, hybrid role in 2019, writes Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The organization appears to be open to the possibility of utilizing Lorenzen on the grass, though it’s as yet unclear how likely it is that he’ll ultimately do so in the regular season.
Lorenzen, 27, pitched to a 3.11 ERA with 6.0 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 0.67 HR/9 and a 50.2 percent ground-ball rate in 81 innings of relief last season. Lorenzen also emerged as a legitimate offensive weapon off the bench. A two-way star at Cal State Fullerton where he pitched and played center field, Lorenzen went 9-for-31 and belted four homers as a pinch-hitter for Cincinnati last season. That strong showing included an incredible run where he hit three pinch homers in a week’s time (video link), capped off by a grand slam.
First and foremost, Lorenzen is an important set-up/swingman option for a Cincinnati club that’s hoping to make strides in the season to come. He has his hands full already. Despite missing nearly two months to open the 2018 season, he ended up throwing 81 innings in 45 appearances, including three starts at the tail end of the season.
If Shohei Ohtani can do handle two-way duties, then perhaps Lorenzen should be given a shot. Stepping into the outfield defensively, though, would definitely represent a significant additional burden and avenue for risk. Ohtani did play the field in Japan, but was only utilized as a DH upon coming to the majors. That option isn’t available to the Reds, so they’ll need to put Lorenzen in the field at times if they want him to accrue any significant number of plate appearances.
Ultimately, it’s not clear whether it will prove all that useful for the Reds to utilize Lorenzen as a part-time outfielder. Beyond concerns with the possible impact on his pitching, the club is already fairly deep in outfield options (Jesse Winker, Scott Schebler, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Phil Ervin). And there’s good reason to be skeptical of how Lorenzen will fare if exposed to MLB pitching more regularly, though he has certainly shown enough to make it tantalizing to see more. It’s anyone’s guess how he’ll look defensively, though Lorenzen certainly seems athletic enough to handle himself just fine.
It may be that the most sensible outcome, at least early on, would be to take advantage of the flexibility on a limited basis. There are all kinds of interesting game-situation strategies that new skipper David Bell might contemplate. If nothing else, Lorenzen could still see scattered pinch-hitting opportunities as he did last year. If it proves necessary, or Lorenzen proves worthy, then perhaps a few starts would even be appropriate.
One thing that seems clear is that Lorenzen himself is on board with the possibility of a new job description. He spoke about his preparation in a recent appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link, with audio), voicing not only a willingness but an eagerness and desire for more time at the plate in 2019. Lorenzen joked that he’s “begged” the Reds for an expanded role and sounds energized by the possibility of getting some chances at the plate and in the field next season.