Click here to read a transcript of today’s chat with host Jeff Todd.
Archives for March 2016
With Opening Day fast approaching, and a variety of deadlines hitting clubs around the league, we’re seeing plenty of final roster and initial playing time decisions being made. While many don’t necessarily implicate control rights or other contractual matters, some are particularly noteworthy….
- Robbie Grossman will remain with the Indians and go to Triple-A, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports (Twitter link). The team informed Grossman a few days ago that he didn’t make the team, and Grossman’s minor league deal allowed him to opt out and become a free agent if he wasn’t on the roster. Grossman played just 24 games with Houston last season and was released in November as the Astros decided to go with other outfield options.
- Left-hander Cory Luebke has made the Pirates’ bullpen, Bucs GM Neal Huntington told reporters (including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Luebke hasn’t thrown a big league pitch since 2012 due to two Tommy John surgeries and other injuries, though he impressed many as a non-roster invitee in Pittsburgh’s camp. Luebke had the option of opting out of his minor league contract if he wasn’t placed on the Opening Day roster. With Matt Joyce also making the team, Brink notes in another tweet that the Pirates will have to make at least two 40-man roster moves to create spaces for both Joyce and Luebke.
Right-hander Carlos Torres has opted out of his minor league deal with the Braves and is now a free agent, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Earlier today, MLBTR’s Zach Links reported (Twitter links) that Torres’ representatives were already talking to other teams about a new opportunity for the veteran reliever after Atlanta didn’t put Torres on the Opening Day roster.
Torres was a big part of the Mets’ bullpen from 2013-15, posting a 3.59 ERA, 8.2 K/9 and 3.0 K/BB rate over 241 innings, mostly working as a reliever but also making 10 starts amidst his 165 games with New York. Torres was waived in January and signed on with Atlanta in February.
The 33-year-old received a fair amount of reported interest on the open market, choosing the Braves deal over offers from the Dodgers and Yankees. This is just my speculation, but the Yankees might have room for a bullpen addition in the wake of injuries to Andrew Miller and right-handed swingman Bryan Mitchell. The Dodgers could also be a fit given their own pitching issues, though the injury bug has taken more bites from the L.A. rotation rather than the bullpen.
Here’s the latest from around the NL East…
- Carlos Torres has an opt-out clause in his minor league deal with the Braves, MLBTR’s Zach Links reports (Twitter links), and Torres’ representatives are now talking with other teams after Atlanta didn’t put the righty on the Opening Day roster. Torres posted a 3.59 ERA, 8.18 K/9 and 3.00 K/BB rate over 241 innings for the Mets in 2013-15, with all but 10 of his 165 appearances coming out of the bullpen. He was outrighted off New York’s 40-man roster in January.
- Wilson Ramos hopes to remain with the Nationals beyond this season, the catcher tells James Wagner of the Washington Post. Ramos underwent Lazik surgery and adopted a new offseason training regiment to get in better shape, and the results have paid off thus far in the form of strong Spring Training numbers. The catcher is looking to rebound from a down year in 2015, both to “be well prepared for the market” as a free agent and to prove himself to the Nats as deserving of a new deal. “I hope they give me a chance to stay longer and I hope I can have a good year to prove that I can be here longer,” Ramos said. There is a fair amount of quality catching available in next winter’s free agent market, though a big season would nicely position Ramos within an overall thin class of players.
- Left-handers Craig Breslow and Chris Narveson both have opt-out clauses today in their minor league deals with the Marlins, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports. Breslow seems likely to make the roster, so with Mike Dunn established as the other lefty in the bullpen, Narveson could be the odd man out. Narveson posted a 4.45 ERA, 9.5 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 with Miami last season but was punished by the long ball, allowing seven homers in just 30 1/3 innings. The veteran southpaw re-signed with Miami after being outrighted in October. Frisaro wrote more earlier this week about Narveson’s quest to make the Marlins.
- Former Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd and an American League scout break down the Marlins roster for Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Both O’Dowd and the scout like Marcell Ozuna and Adam Conley this season, though the Marlins’ bullpen is a problem area.
- In other NL East news from this morning, John Schuerholz is stepping down as the Braves’ president to take a new role as the club’s vice chairman.
TODAY: Kim is “resisting” a minor league demotion, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets.
MARCH 29, 8:55pm: Orioles GM Dan Duquette acknowledged on Tuesday that the team is planning to chat with Kim about going down to the minors, as Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun tweets. A return to South Korea is not in play right now, according to the GM, but he’s also not likely to make the team (Twitter link via Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com). “I think in these cases, the transition takes some time and I believe he wants to give it some more time,” Duquette said (Twitter link via Encina).
Meanwhile, manager Buck Showalter says the O’s have twice talked to Kim about playing in Triple-A, Rich Dubroff of CSNMidAtlantic.com tweets.
2:52pm: Hyun Soo Kim likely won’t make the Orioles’ Opening Day roster, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Kim has been notably absent from the Baltimore lineup over the last several spring games, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com noted earlier today on Twitter.
Kim has expressed his desire to continue his career in North America, Kubatko has also reported. The Korean outfielder would need to consent to being assigned to the minors, and Rosenthal notes he’s believed to be willing to do so. It’s not clear whether Baltimore would attempt to option Kim or instead expose him to waivers to remove him from the 40-man, but he’ll have some say in the matter given the contract clause.
The Orioles brass has been sending signals that it hasn’t seen what it hoped for out of Kim when he was brought over from the KBO on a two-year, $7MM deal. That contract seemed like a nice risk for a player that looked to have a chance at being a steady on-base threat, and it does have rather limited downside. But the O’s aren’t exactly overflowing with exciting options for the corner outfield, and it would be nice to have a higher-OBP presence in a lineup full of high-K sluggers.
There’s plenty of time for Kim to turn things around, but he may need to acclimate in the minors. Spring stats are of limited value, but they carry increased importance when trying to assess a player who has yet to perform in the majors, and Kim’s don’t inspire confidence. He’s carrying an anemic .182/.229/.182 batting line with just one walk and no extra base hits over 44 plate appearances in camp.
Arias had appeared in parts of eight MLB seasons since 2006, with the majority of his action coming in the form of 321 games played with the Giants from 2012-14. Arias played primarily at third base in San Francisco but also saw significant time at second and short. While he didn’t hit much (a .644 OPS in 784 PA) during that stint, Arias was a valuable utility piece for the Giants and he earned two World Series rings along the way. He only appeared in 40 games for the club in 2015 and was outrighted off the 40-man roster in August.
The Diamondbacks’ crowded infield situation made it difficult for Arias to find a job. Jean Segura, Chris Owings and Jake Lamb are slated to start with Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury and Phil Gosselin all in the mix for backup roles, leaving Arias with no room.
Ryan Powell’s pro baseball career consisted of four seasons in independent leagues before becoming a scout in 2013, and his mother Wendy never got to see her son play his final game. With Wendy now suffering from brain cancer, the Orioles arranged for Powell (the club’s head of independent scouting) to play an inning during the team’s intrasquad game on Tuesday with both his parents in attendance. MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli has the full story, which includes information on how you can donate to various cancer charities by bidding on one of Powell’s specialty bats, autographed by several MLB players. Here’s more from Baltimore…
- While the Orioles may still add a left-handed hitting outfielder and a lefty reliever, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko doesn’t expect the club to bring back former Orioles Travis Snider or Wesley Wright. Snider and Wright are both free agents after being recently cut by the Royals and Diamondbacks, respectively.
- The release of Miguel Gonzalez wasn’t a popular move within the Orioles clubhouse, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes, as Gonzalez was extremely well-liked by his teammates. There was “a lot of anger” about the move both yesterday and today, Ghiroli tweets, and “guys are upset, shocked by the whole thing.” The transaction has logic from a business perspective, as Gonzalez hasn’t pitched well and the O’s could recoup around $4MM of Gonzalez’s $5.1MM salary by releasing him now (or they could get the entire salary off the books if the righty is claimed by another team). Gonzalez also had a minor league option remaining, however, so Baltimore’s decision to release him instead of sending him to Triple-A “has to scare practically every player in that clubhouse,” as Encina writes.
- The Orioles have had their share of messy situations this spring, Encina noted in another article, including the fact that $7MM investment Hyun Soo Kim likely won’t make the Opening Day roster. Kim’s contract stipulates that he can’t be optioned to the minors, and while the Orioles got out of a similar situation with another Korean player in Suk Min Yoon two years ago, that move was helped by Yoon being able to find a higher salary with a Korea Baseball Organization team. According to Encina, the O’s are having a tough time finding a KBO club willing to top Kim’s $7MM salary over the next two seasons. Between Kim, Yoon and the Orioles’ controversial signing of pitcher Seong-min Kim a few years ago, Encina wonders if the team is hurting its chances of signing future Korean talent.
Yankees right-hander Bryan Mitchell will miss three months due to a fractured toe, Jack Curry of the YES Network reports (Twitter link). Surgery may be necessary, though that won’t be decided until Mitchell visits a specialist, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (via Twitter). In addition, Mitchell also has Grade 3 turf toe.
Mitchell suffered the injury while covering first in yesterday’s Spring Training camp against the Braves. In that very same game, incredibly, Andrew Miller also suffered a chip fracture in his right wrist, leaving the Yankees potentially down two key relievers in a matter of innings.
Miller has said he plans to pitch through the injury to his non-throwing hand, though Mitchell unfortunately had no recourse. The Yankees were building around a potentially superb bullpen this season led by the Aroldis Chapman/Miller/Dellin Betances trio, though Chapman is suspended for the first 30 games, Miller is dealing with his wrist problem and now Mitchell is also hitting the DL.
The 24-year-old Mitchell was expected to take on a greater role with the Yankees this season, stepping into the swingman job left open after Adam Warren was dealt to the Cubs in the Starlin Castro trade. With so many injury questions within the Yankees’ rotation, Mitchell was tabbed as a key depth piece who could step up as a starter if necessary. With Mitchell out of action, it could open the door for Anthony Swarzak or rookies Luis Cessa or Johnny Barbato to join Ivan Nova as New York’s primary rotation depth option.
The righty looked impressive in 14 2/3 spring innings, allowing just one earned run and one walk while recording 11 strikeouts. Mitchell posted a 5.31 ERA, 8.0 K/9 and 1.89 K/BB rate over 40 2/3 innings from 2014-15, with 20 of his 23 appearances in the bigs coming out of the New York bullpen. He possesses a big fastball, averaging 96.1 mph on the pitch last season.
Red Sox manager John Farrell informed media members today that Travis Shaw has won the starting third base job. The move relegates Pablo Sandoval, still owed $75MM on his contract through the 2019 season, to a bench role.
While the Sox have openly stated all spring that roster spots will be determined by performance, it’s still eye-opening to see Sandoval go from vaunted offseason signing to backup in the span of just one year. Sandoval struggled badly in his first season in Boston, hitting just .245/.292/.366 over 505 plate appearances and posting terrible defensive numbers (-21.9 UZR/150, minus-11 Defensive Runs Saved) at the hot corner.
Farrell noted (hat tip to Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald) that Shaw’s defense clinched the decision, which makes sense given that both players hit well during Spring Training — Shaw has an .898 OPS over 58 spring PA, while Sandoval has an .848 OPS over 39 PA. Sandoval also missed some dealing with a bad back, which looks like it cost him valuable playing time.
Though Sandoval was recently scouted by the Padres, there hasn’t been much trade chatter about the veteran third baseman, which isn’t exactly surprising given his big contract and poor season. The Panda is just one of multiple payroll albatrosses on Boston’s payroll; between Sandoval, Rusney Castillo and Allen Craig, the Red Sox have almost $38MM tied up in players who aren’t expected to be everyday players (or, in Craig’s case, even in the majors). That’s not counting Hanley Ramirez, who also heavily underachieved in his first year in Boston and is owed $66MM through 2018 with another $22MM available in a vesting option for 2019. If the Red Sox were to trade Sandoval or any of these players, they would very likely have to eat more of the salary owed or take on another bad contract to facilitate a deal.
Shaw, meanwhile, is under team control through the 2021 season and has made a semi-out of nowhere ascent to a Major League starting lineup. A ninth-round draft pick in 2011, Shaw was a decently well-regarded prospect (Baseball America ranked him as the 19th best prospect in the Red Sox system prior to 2015, and 26th prior to 2014) who made a large impression in his rookie season, hitting .270/.327/.487 over his first 248 PA in the bigs. Shaw is a first baseman by trade but has appeared in 104 games at third in the minors and eight games at the position last season with the Sox.
Longtime Braves executive John Schuerholz will step down from his role as the club’s president into the newly-created role of Vice Chairman, as announced per a Braves media release. Executive vice presidents Mike Plant and Derek Schiller, both with the team since 2003, will step in under the new titles of president of development (Plant) and president of business (Schiller).
Stepping down as president allows the 75-year-old Schuerholz to escape some of the day-to-day business associated with the job, though he tells MLB.com’s Mark Bowman that he’ll certainly continue to be involved with the Braves.
“There is so much joy to me to be a part of this great game,” Schuerholz said. “I love it. It’s not a chore for me to come into the office. It’s not a chore for me to go to my work. But I keep being reminded by my lovely wife that I’m doing too much of that grinding and working on holidays and so on and so forth. That’s how I am. It’s not work for me.”
As he enters his 51st season working in pro baseball, Schuerholz has had one of the most decorated careers of any executive in the game. After breaking into the business working for his hometown Orioles, he joined the expansion Royals’ front office in 1969 and assumed many roles over the next 21 years with the team, including serving as general manager from 1981-1990 (a stint that included a World Series title in 1985). He took over as the Braves’ GM in October 1990 and the club proceeded to go on a historic run of success.
In Schuerholz’s stint as GM from 1991-2007, the Braves won an incredible 14 straight NL East titles, a streak interrupted only by the 1994 strike season. The highlight of that run was the 1995 World Series championship, making Schuerholz part of the very short list of executives to build World Series winners with two different franchises. Schuerholz stepped away from GM duties after the 2007 season to become Atlanta’s club president.