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Archives for January 2017
The Rays have at least opened a dialogue with the Rangers about infielder Jurickson Profar, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. It seems that the discussions are just preliminary at this point, but it does seem there’s a rather intriguing possible match on paper. Tampa Bay is in need of a second baseman after trading Logan Forsythe (and might also like the idea of having another player capable of playing short). For Texas, Profar is something of an underutilized asset; the Rays possess a variety of pitchers that might be of greater function. Of course, lining up on value and finding common ground isn’t as simple as finding mutual interest; it remains to be seen whether these talks will gain traction.
- Veteran second baseman Chase Utley has received “multiple offers” and appears to be nearing a decision, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). We haven’t heard much at all of late as to what teams might be in pursuit — beyond the incumbent Dodgers, at least, though they don’t seem like much of a fit at this point. Still, it’s not surprising to hear of rather robust interest in Utley, who is a highly respected talent and still managed to hit at just below the league-average rate (.252/.319/.396) in near-regular duty last year. He is especially useful against right-handed pitching, and might suit a variety of organizations depending upon how much playing time he is seeking.
- Though the Braves remain interested in bringing back veteran outfielder Jeff Francoeur, per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, the club is only willing to offer a minor-league deal to do so. Francoeur is still hoping to find a guaranteed contract, though Bowman notes that he has yet to receive such an offer. The 32-year-old spent much of the 2016 season in Atlanta, where he also once starred as a rookie. Over 331 total plate appearances, including a late-season run with the Marlins, he hit just .254/.297/.378.
- Righty Justin Masterson is planning to build up for a late-February showcase, per Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer (via Twitter). The 31-year-old last put together a successful MLB campaign back in 2013, with shoulder and knee injuries playing a big role in the 5.79 ERA he has posted ever since (over 188 innings in the 2014-15 seasons). Masterson did pitch last year, throwing 59 1/3 minor-league innings in the Pirates organization, but managed only a 4.85 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9.
The Indians have agreed to a minor-league deal with catcher Adam Moore, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). He can earn at a $570K annual rate when he’s in the majors and receives an invitation to MLB camp this spring.
Moore, who’ll turn 33 in May, has been with the Cleveland organization for the past two years and will return for a third. His role, by now, is a familiar one for the veteran: he’ll likely see part-time duty at Triple-A unless and until there’s a need for a reliable backstop at the major-league level.
Rather remarkably, Moore has appeared at the MLB level in each of the last eight seasons, but has exceeded a dozen total plate appearances just twice. In his first trip to the bigs, back in 2009, he took 24 trips to the dish for the Mariners. And he received heavy part-time use the following year, appearing in sixty games. Since, he has picked up the bat in the big leagues just fifty times over six campaigns.
Moore was once a well-regarded prospect, but didn’t hit much in his one true look at the majors and hasn’t received much of a chance since. Still, he has carved out a nice niche for himself. And he has shown some hitting ability in the minors: in nearly 2,000 plate appearances over parts of seven seasons at Triple-A, he owns a solid .275/.334/.421 batting line.
The Twins have been said to be on the hunt for bullpen help in recent days, and La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that right-hander Joe Blanton and left-hander Boone Logan are both on the the team’s radar. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, meanwhile, tweets that Minnesota has had some talks with Jerry Blevins’ camp as well. While any of the three veterans would serve as an upgrade to a Twins relief corps that is rife with question marks, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press hears that the Twins aren’t likely to sign a reliever to a multi-year deal. If that’s the case, it may be difficult for the team to reel in any of the three listed targets from Neal and Wolfson. FOX’s Ken Rosenthal recently reported that both Logan and Blevins could very well land two-year deals worth $12MM+, and Blanton remains a candidate for a multi-year deal as well. Berardino does note that the Twins are intrigued by lefty Craig Breslow’s recent workout and new arm slot.
- While there’s been mutual interest reported between the Twins and former cornerstone Justin Morneau, Neal reports within his column that talks between Minnesota and Morneau’s camp weren’t especially productive, and the sides each came away feeling like there’s no current fit on the roster for the 35-year-old former MVP. Neal also suggests that while there’s been some interest in Mike Napoli, the bullpen might be a bigger priority right now. Berardino’s above-linked column, meanwhile, notes that Napoli is expected to sign elsewhere.
- Right-hander Trevor May has spent much of the past two seasons pitching in relief (including all of his injury-shortened 2016 campaign), but the new Twins front office would like to see the once-well-regarded pitching prospect move back to the rotation in 2017, writes Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. May says he feels “normal” again after dealing with significant back issues in 2016, and believes that “pitching with a set routine” on regular rest will help him keep it that way. “I’m not saying I have to have an amazing spring, by any means,” May said of earning a spot in the MLB rotation, “but I have to show I’m ready to go. I have a starter’s mind-set that I can throw all my pitches right away. … If the health is there, I feel like I can slide in there.”
- Berardino also provides details on the minor-league deal between the organization and veteran righty Ryan Vogelsong. He’ll earn at a $1MM base rate in the majors. And the 39-year-old could take home up to $2.5MM if he earns and keeps a rotation spot for most of the year (30 starts), or as much as $1MM if he’s a stalwart in the pen (55 appearances, available in $200K increments). Though Vogelsong can opt out just before the start of the season, he won’t have any later opt-out opportunities if he ends up opening the year in the minors.
The Braves continued their pattern of adding veterans on one-year commitments Monday, announcing the signing of Kurt Suzuki to a one-year contract. The MVP Sports client will reportedly receive a $1.5MM guarantee and can earn up to $2.5MM worth of incentives based primarily on games started. The Braves had an open 40-man roster spot, so no corresponding move is necessary to accommodate the signing. Atlanta’s 40-man roster is now full.
Suzuki, 33, hit .258/.301/.403 with eight homers over 373 plate appearances for the Twins last season. That somewhat modest output that still represented a big improvement from a dire 2015 season for the veteran catcher, though it fell short of Suzuki’s strong 2014 campaign (.288/.343/.383 in 503 PA) that earned him an All-Star berth.
[Related: Updated Atlanta Braves Depth Chart]
In Atlanta, Suzuki joins Tyler Flowers as the Braves’ top catching options. A traditional platoon isn’t an option since both are right-handed hitters, though Flowers is likely to get the bulk of starts behind the plate given his superior pitch-framing abilities. Both Baseball Prospectus and StatCorner ranked Flowers as one of the game’s best framers last season, while Suzuki was ranked near the back of the pack. (Suzuki’s defensive issues reportedly played a part in a relative lack of trade interest in his services last summer.)
The Braves have been looking for catching help for much of the offseason, heavily pursuing Jason Castro and also being linked in rumors to the likes of Welington Castillo, Nick Hundley, Brian McCann and Matt Wieters. Suzuki represents something of a fallback option to those higher-profile names, and with Atlanta now ostensibly set behind the plate, it further limits the market for the still-unsigned Wieters and Hundley.
Rosenthal notes that with Suzuki now in the mix for the Braves, backup Anthony Recker could receive some trade interest from other teams. Atlanta has also added Blake Lalli and David Freitas as minor league depth this winter, and already acquired and then traded away veteran Tuffy Gosewisch.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
3:15pm: Norris would earn $1.75MM with the Halos were he to make the Major League roster, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (Twitter links). The deal contains incentives that can push the total value of the contract north of $3MM.
12:40pm: The Angels and right-hander Bud Norris have agreed to a minor league contract, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). The Wasserman client will compete for a rotation gig in Spring Training, Passan adds.
[Related: Updated Los Angeles Angels Depth Chart]
Norris, 31, pitched to a 5.10 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 47.6 percent ground-ball rate through 113 innings between the Braves and Dodgers this past season. Initially signed to a $2.5MM deal by Atlanta in the offseason, Norris suffered through a dreadful April and quickly lost his spot in the Braves’ rotation. However, his time in the bullpen clearly helped him to right the ship, as he pitched to a pristine 2.08 ERA with a 43-to-17 K/BB ratio over his next 47 2/3 innings (which included five starts in a reclaimed rotation role). Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan broke down Norris’ run of success in late June, noting that a newly implemented cutter had dramatically improved his performance against lefties. That success proved to be short-lived, however, as Norris struggled to a 6.54 ERA with the Dodgers.
From 2011-14, Norris was a solid mid-rotation arm for the Astros and Royals, pitching to a 4.06 ERA and averaging 30 starts/174 innings per season. The past two seasons, though, have largely been a struggle outside of the previously mentioned two-month run of excellence in Atlanta.
Norris will compete for an opportunity to line up behind presumptive rotation locks Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Ricky Nolasco and Tyler Skaggs (assuming he is healthy). Current candidates for the fifth slot include right-hander Jesse Chavez, who signed an early $5.75MM deal with the Halos back in November, in addition to lefty Nate Smith and right-handers Alex Meyer and Daniel Wright. Non-roster southpaws Manny Banuelos and John Lamb could eventually get consideration as well, health permitting.
The Indians announced that they’ve acquired right-hander Carlos Frias from the Dodgers in exchange for cash and designated infielder/outfielder Richie Shaffer for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.
[Related: Updated Cleveland Indians Depth Chart]
The 27-year-old Frias spent the bulk of the 2016 season with Los Angeles’ Triple-A affiliate after logging significant innings for the Dodgers in 2015, when he posted a 4.06 ERA in 77 2/3 innings. Frias exhibited a strong ground-ball rate with the 2015 Dodgers (55.1 percent) but averaged just five strikeouts per nine innings pitched against three walks over that same span. Metrics such as FIP, xFIP and SIERA all pegged him for an ERA closer to the mid-4.00s due to his pedestrian walk rate and lack of missed bats.
Frias did start 13 games for the Dodgers that season, though, so he’ll give the Indians some depth either in the rotation or in the bullpen. And he has a minor league option remaining as well, so Cleveland can send him to the minors at the end of Spring Training even if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster.
The 25-year-old Shaffer was recently claimed off waivers from the Reds, with minor league slugger Jesus Aguilar losing his roster spot in Cleveland to facilitate that claim. A former first-round pick, Shaffer spent parts of the past two seasons with the Rays (who drafted him 25th overall in 2012) but posted a lackluster .213/.310/.410 in 142 Major League plate appearances. In 188 Triple-A games (788 plate appearances), however, Shaffer has batted .243/.338/.445 with 30 home runs.
Shaffer has experience at both infield corners and both outfield corners, though the bulk of his work in the minors has come at third base. Like Frias, Shaffer can still be optioned to the minors without first being exposed to outright waivers, so he could latch on with his sixth organization of the winter. The Indians, though, had one of the lowest waiver priorities in the league and were still able to claim him just four days ago, so perhaps they’ll be able to slip him through waivers and retain him without dedicating a 40-man roster spot.
The Rays announced that they’ve released outfielder Jason Coats to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Colby Rasmus, whose one-year deal with the team is now official. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that the decision stems from the fact that Coats tore his UCL later the same day that he was claimed off waivers from the White Sox. He’ll require Tommy John surgery to repair the issue and presumably miss the 2017 season.
The 27-year-old Coats made his Major League debut with the ChiSox in 2016, batting .200/.298/.340 in a tiny sample of 58 plate appearances. However, he also posted a monster year in Triple-A Charlotte, where he batted .330/.394/.519 with 10 homers, 22 doubles and a pair of triples in just 332 plate appearances. That breakout makes his injury quite untimely, as Coats could’ve conceivably gotten a look in the Majors as a reserve in 2016 even after the addition of Rasmus. Tampa Bay already traded Mikie Mahtook to the Tigers this month, while other outfield options such as Taylor Motter and Richie Shaffer were sent to Seattle earlier in the winter. The Rays have also acquired Mallex Smith in addition to Rasmus, but Coats, who has 350+ innings at all three outfield positions in the minors, certainly could’ve at the very least challenged for a role at some point in 2017.
A busy offseason for the Rays continued on Monday, as the team formally announced that it has signed free-agent outfielder Colby Rasmus to a one-year contract. The Excel Sports client will reportedly receive a $5MM guarantee on a contract that can reach $7MM in total if the built-in incentives are maxed out.
Rasmus, 30, hit just .206/.286/.355 last year for the Astros after accepting a qualifying offer following the 2015 season. He’s coming off of surgeries for a cyst in his ear as well as hip and core muscle ailments — which might help explain his fall-off. Certainly, a .257 BABIP might also have been to blame.
Houston extended the QO after Rasmus turned in an excellent year on a make-good contract. In 2015, he put up a .238/.314/.475 slash and 25 long balls over 485 plate appearances. That was the third-straight season in which Rasmus had hit at an above-average rate, and he averaged 22 dingers annually over that three-year run.
While the Rays will no doubt hope for a return to form at the plate, there’s also potentially some value to be found in Rasmus’s glove and legs. He has at times drawn strong defensive reviews, especially last year, and has typically drawn well-above-average grades on the basepaths despite the fact that he doesn’t often attempt to steal.
[RELATED: Updated Rays Depth Chart]
For Tampa Bay, Heyman notes, Rasmus will represent a power lefty bat capable of slotting in at DH, left field, and even center field on occasion. Rasmus has long carried rather hefty platoon splits, so he’s likely best suited for part-time duty. The Rays could utilize him in some form of rotation with players such as the right-handed hitting Steven Souza and Mikie Mahtook, lefties Corey Dickerson and Brad Miller, and the switch-hitting Nick Franklin. Though the regular center fielder, Kevin Kiermaier, is also a southpaw swinger, Rasmus has spent much of his career playing up the middle.
The Rays have also been connected, at least loosely, to a variety of right-handed hitters, including veteran slugger Jose Bautista. It isn’t known at this point whether adding Rasmus will preclude the club from pursuing one of the various first base/DH types still floating around on the market, but it’s certainly possible to imagine multiple acquisitions if the price is right. Tampa Bay is also still reportedly engaged with other organizations about their surplus of capable rotation arms.
The market was somewhat slow to develop for Rasmus, who never drew strong links to other organizations after Houston replaced him early on by signing Josh Reddick. With Rasmus now off the board, the top left-handed-hitting outfielders still available on the open market are Michael Saunders and Brandon Moss, each of whom ranked among MLBTR’s top 50 free agents. (Rasmus drew honorable mention consideration on that list.)
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports first reported the connection between the sides (via Twitter), with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports calling a deal close on Twitter. Heyman first reported the agreement (via Twitter). Joel Sherman of the New York Post and Heyman added financial details (Twitter links)
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Major League Baseball has concluded its investigation into the Cardinals’ illegal accessing of the Astros’ proprietary database, ruling that St. Louis will have to send two draft picks to the Astros and pay a $2MM fine to the Astros as punishment, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred announced on Monday. The Cardinals will lose their top two picks, Nos. 56 and 75 overall, as punishment. Manfred also announced that former Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa, who was fired and sentenced to prison time for accessing the Astros’ database, has been placed on the “permanently ineligible” list, thus banning him from baseball.
The Cardinals had already forfeited their top pick in the 2017 draft in order to sign Dexter Fowler to a five-year contract, and they’ll now be left without any selections in the top two rounds of the draft as a result of commissioner Manfred’s ruling. (The second pick they’re forfeiting is a Competitive Balance, Round B selection.) In addition to losing those two draft picks, the Cardinals will also lost the bonus slots that are associated with those selections.
Via the announcement on the matter, the league’s investigation “did not establish that any Cardinals’ employee other than Mr. Correa (who was the only individual charged by the federal government) was responsible for the intrusions into the Astros’ electronic systems.” As such, there are no penalties to further Cardinals employees (either current or former). Manfred continues to state that he holds the Cardinals organization “vicariously liable for [Correa’s] misconduct,” adding that the Astros “suffered material harm as a result of Mr. Correa’s conduct.” Beyond the loss of proprietary knowledge that Manfred terms “not amenable to precise quantification,” he adds that the Astros “suffered substantial negative publicity and had to endure the time, expense and distraction of both a lengthy government investigation and an MLB investigation.”
Over the weekend, David Barron and Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reported that documents which were recently unsealed by a federal judge had expedited the investigation and brought the commissioner’s office to the verge of a conclusion. Per the Chronicle duo, Correa accessed the Astros’ “Ground Control” database on 48 instances over a span of two and a half years and also accessed Houston GM Jeff Luhnow’s trade notes on 14 occasions. Beyond that, assistant U.S. attorney Michael Chu believes Correa to have been the responsible party for leaking 10 months’ worth of private trade notes to Deadspin — all of which became available for public consumption back in 2013.
The penalty is certainly not inconsequential for the Cardinals, but it’s already drawn mixed reviews and assuredly will continue to do so. Ben Badler of Baseball America, for instance, tweets that the league stripped the Red Sox of five prospects and imposed a two-year ban on Boston’s ability to sign international prospects last year due to their efforts to circumvent international signing restrictions by signing multiple players in package deals. Meanwhile, the Cardinals will not forfeit so much as a top 50 overall pick in the upcoming 2017 draft.
Nonetheless, the Cardinals will feel the punishment in this summer’s draft. St. Louis already had he second-lowest overall draft bonus pool, checking in at $3,925,500 this year, as Baseball America’s Hudson Belinsky recently reported. Now, they’ll lose pick No. 56 ($1,122,400) and No. 75 ($730,800), thereby dropping their overall pool to $2,072,300 — far and away the lowest in the league. (Cleveland’s $3,646,100 pool is the next-lowest, for context.)
And the Astros, meanwhile, stand to benefit from today’s ruling as well. Houston had a $6,755,100 bonus pool that will now rise to $8,608,300 (also via Belinsky’s figures). That’s certainly a far cry from the 2014 draft, when Houston had two of the top five picks (and three of the top 37) and a whopping $13,362,200 pool. But, the bump to just over $8.6MM does give the Astros the 11th-largest pool in the 2017 amateur draft — a notable bump up from their previous standing of 18th.