Click here to read a transcript of today’s live chat with MLBTR’s Jeff Todd.
Over at Fangraphs, David Laurila provides an interesting look at the concept of African-American ballplayers serving as role models. Angels prospect Jo Adell has expressed an inclination to be just that; Laurila asked a variety of professionals what advice they have for the recent draftee. The post is well worth a full read.
Here’s more from the American League:
- It’s not clear whether Zach Britton will pitch again for the Orioles this year. He’ll sit for at least three to five days after receiving an injection in his balky knee, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com was among those to tweet. With the O’s all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason race, there’s little reason to push a pitcher who has struggled all year long to gain traction. Instead, it seems likely the club will allow Britton to begin the healing process in hopes of a healthier and more productive 2018 season.
- While the Orioles can control lefty Wade Miley through a club option, and certainly need arms in the rotation, Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com writes that it’s time to bid adieu. The 30-year-old has struggled for the bulk of the season, making the $12MM price tag seem steep. Instead, Connolly urges, the O’s ought to pay him a $500K buyout and go looking for alternatives.
- As the Athletics sort through their young position-player options, Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area writes, the club could consider giving Franklin Barreto some time in center field. Oakland seems to have a rather wide-open situation up the middle in the outfield grass. In the infield, though, there are several options at second base — including veteran Jed Lowrie, assuming he isn’t traded (and that his option is picked up, as appears likely). Stiglich runs through some other options; while there are a few internal players that may warrant consideration, it’s also conceivable that the team could use the opening to try an outside acquisition. (As I noted recently, Oakland could have a chance to take advantage of some outfield gluts in other organizations.) Regardless, as regards the 21-year-old Barreto, the key consideration is likely whether the team feels he’s best served taking on major league pitching or going back to Triple-A to iron out his strikeout issues.
- The Twins have been making some scouting and development changes, as do many teams this time of year. International scouting coordinator Howard Norsetter was fired, La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reports. Norsetter had run the team’s efforts to find amateur talent abroad, excepting Latin America. The club also added a new part-time scout in Japan, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.
- Royals righty Peter Moylan tells Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star that he hopes to return to the organization next year. As Dodd explains, Moylan has been quite dominant against opposing right-handed hitters. He still generates tons of groundballs and throws his sidearm sinker at the same velocity. Given the seeming comfort level between player and team, and K.C.’s need for affordable roster pieces with a challenging offseason coming, a reunion wouldn’t be terribly surprising.
It has long been wondered just how long the Orioles would manage to keep their best player, superstar third baseman Manny Machado. As the team begins looking ahead to the offseason, his long-term status in Baltimore remains an open question. What’s clear, though, according to a report from Jon Heyman of Fan Rag, is that the O’s won’t look to deal Machado in advance of the 2018 season.
That’s not all that surprising to hear at this point, as all signs from Baltimore have been that the organization will try to regroup and contend next year. But it’s nevertheless notable, as it would appear to take Machado out of serious trade consideration and also position the Orioles as a team that will look to add veteran talent over the offseason.
The Orioles will face quite a few roster questions. In particular, a dreadful performance from the bulk of the rotation will leave the club scrambling to fill a few openings. Doing so in a financially feasible way looks like quite the challenge.
While the organization has only $64MM or so in dedicated payroll for the coming season, that doesn’t include the massive arbitration outlay — Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, Zach Britton, and Brad Brach will be expensive — that will surely push the club past $100MM. That probably leaves room to add some salary for starters, but the team will surely be wary of commitments that extend past 2018. Machado, Britton, Brach, and Adam Jones will be free agents and the O’s have already committed quite a lot of cash to underperforming sluggers Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis.
So, could the club look to keep its core intact for a longer stretch by pursuing a new deal with Machado? Per Heyman, it’s not yet clear whether the Orioles will make such an attempt in earnest. The sides were fairly close in prior extension talks, though clearly the situation is quite a bit different now. Machado, who only just turned 25, is one of the game’s very best players and will be just one year away from a potential open-market bonanza. From an outside perspective, it remains difficult to imagine a deal coming together.
Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang discussed his attempt to return to the majors with Jee-ho Yoo of Yonhap (here and here). Kang derailed his career when he drove under the influence of alcohol in his native Korea — the third time he has been arrested for a DUI — with a subsequent conviction leaving him unable to obtain a visa to work in the United States. Now, as he prepares to play in the Dominican Winter League, Kang says he hopes “to become a better person and a better player.” Whether or not he’ll be able to return to action in the majors — in 2018 or beyond — will ultimately depend upon the U.S. government.
- In a piece that’s not altogether unrelated to Kang’s situation, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette analyzes the thin margin of error the Pirates front office has to work with in light of the team’s still-limited payroll. GM Neal Huntington notes the need to find “significant value outside of the free-agent market” as well as the imperative to “get more than just a dollar-for-dollar value” in free agency. The piece highlights the challenges facing the just-extended executive as he seeks to position the Bucs for contention once again.
- Needless to say, the Cubs have seen some ups and downs from their rotation this year. Now, it’s key lefty Jon Lester who is struggling to find answers, as Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com writes. The battle-tested veteran has not been very effective since returning from the DL at the start of September; things came to a head last night, as he allowed seven earned runs on eight hits and three hits without recording a strikeout. Lester declined to blame any physical limitations and says he’s “not worried about” the middling results, noting that he simply needs to make adjustments as he has over the course of his successful career.
- The Cubs will hope that Jake Arrieta is sharper when he makes his own return from the DL. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the veteran righty, who went on the shelf right as Lester came back, feels his arm strength may actually have improved after getting some rest due to a hamstring injury. Arrieta is scheduled for two more regular-season outings, though Chicago will wait to make any final calls on the last few games of the year.
- Shortstop Aledmys Diaz is back with the Cardinals after an extended run at Triple-A, but as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, his role with the organization — now and in the future — is quite uncertain. Diaz has moved around the infield a bit at Triple-A, perhaps creating some new versatility, though he continued to struggle at the plate. With Paul DeJong now seemingly ensconced at short, Diaz will need to carve out a new role or wait for an opportunity to open with the Cards or, perhaps, some other organization.
The Giants have seemingly signaled their intentions to partake in the Shohei Otani sweepstakes. As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, GM Bobby Evans and AGM Jeremy Shelley each went to watch the 23-year-old Japanese star. While the Giants, like several other teams, would be limited to offering only a miserly $300K bonus to Otani, the organization does have a winning history and the city of San Francisco on offer. In any event, to the extent Otani does consider earnings, he’ll likely be more motivated by his second contract than his first — with increasing speculation focusing on the possibility that teams will discuss early-career extension scenarios in wooing the two-way player.
More from San Francisco:
- President of baseball operations Brian Sabean tells the Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins that he began having some concerns with the team’s 2017 outlook in Spring Training. Needless to say, it became apparent rather early on in the season that things weren’t headed in a positive direction. Now, says the veteran executive, the club needs to “put a fresh look on things.” Among the needs: “to get younger, more athletic, and improve our defense.” That will be easier said than done, but Sabean says the organization will “have to be very open-minded and aggressive on the trade front” and will “have to be creative, and in some cases, bold.”
- Turning this general approach into specific moves figures to be the real challenge, of course. As Jenkins explains, the club has a variety of difficult player/contract situations on the roster. Interestingly, he reports that skipper Bruce Bochy “would welcome a new look” at first base. While Brandon Belt has never been a major source of home runs and has been limited by unfortunate concussion problems, he has also been a steadily productive batter — posting a 128 wRC+ in over three thousand career plate appearances. Indeed, just last winter the club awarded him with an extension that Jenkins now labels as “burdensome.” Attempting to upgrade, though, may well cost yet more and the likelihood of even achieving improved production seems rather dubious.
- If the Giants really decided they needed to move Belt, he’d draw plenty of interest due to his well-rounded offensive profile, though surely other organizations would be wary of the health concerns. Though he did just go on the 60-day DL — effectively ending his season — Belt was able to do some running on the field yesterday. He tells Janie McCauley of the Associated Press (Twitter link) that he has finally “turned a corner” and “just started feeling good,” which is certainly good to hear given the nature of his injury. Hopefully, Belt will be able to recover fully over the offseason.
- Sabean also chatted about some other topics of interest with Jenkins. He had kind words for Evans, calling him “driven and patient” while also acknowledging that his successor has overseen a difficult turn in the team’s competitiveness. And the veteran exec also touched upon the always interesting matter of weighing statistical analysis and scouting, crediting the importance of numbers while also offering a colorful explication of his belief in the importance of performing in key situations.
Despite the increasingly worrying health issues and pitching struggles of former Mets ace Matt Harvey, the club isn’t ready to give up on his talent. As GM Sandy Alderson tells Mike Puma of the New York Post, “it’s high unlikely that we’re not going to bring [Harvey] back next year.”
Harvey is still just 28 years old and isn’t far removed from being one of the game’s most dominant starters. If there was concern when he limped to a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts last year, though, it’s all the more pressing now that he has surrendered 6.59 earned per nine through the same number of outings in the current season.
The enigmatic righty has averaged less than five frames per start while managing only 6.6 K/9 against an uncharacteristic 4.5 BB/9. He has seen his velocity waver over the course of the season (with an average that’s down one mph from last year and two mph from the prior season). And his swinging-strike rate has plummeted to 7.5% and yet more arm problems have arisen during the year.
Despite all that, New York evidently sees value in tendering Harvey a contract in his final year of arbitration eligibility. And that’s really not surprising. Harvey will get at least a marginal raise on this year’s $5.125MM arb salary, but the bill will remain well within range of the one-year guarantees that other interesting bounceback type pitchers command in free agency.
While there’s some risk in paying Harvey, notes Puma, there’s probably even greater risk to the front office if it lets him find his form elsewhere. And it isn’t as if the team can’t use the possible innings that Harvey will be expected to provide; talent and uncertainty abound in the rest of the staff, too.
For now, Alderson says, the club will “keep running him out there and see what happens.” It seems that’ll be the approach in 2018 as well — so long as the Mets don’t find a surprise trade and Harvey shows enough promise in camp that he isn’t cut loose to avoid fully guaranteeing his arb payout.
The Rays have outrighted infielder Danny Espinosa, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). His 40-man roster spot will go to lefty Xavier Cedeno, who is set to be activated from the 60-day DL.
Espinosa, 30, saw limited action in Tampa Bay late in the season after a brief stop with the Mariners. He spent the first half of the year receiving regular time with the Angels — who acquired him from the Nationals over the offseason — but never came around at the plate. All told, the eight-year MLB veteran has stumbled to a .173/.245/.278 batting line this year.
The switch-hitting Espinosa has never consistently produced at the plate, though he delivers a good bit of home run power for a middle infielder and has posted several seasons of near-average hitting despite his swing-and-miss proclivities. He’s a gifted up-the-middle defender and good baserunner, though, so he doesn’t have to hit all that much to be useful.
Clearly, though, the offensive struggles this year were so significant that it was hard for Espinosa to hold down a roster spot. It’s perhaps still conceivable he could land a guaranteed deal for 2018, though odds are he’ll have to settle for a minor-league deal and a chance to earn a job with an infield-needy team in camp.
Even after locking up righty Marco Estrada to a one-year extension, the Blue Jays are planning to pursue starters over the offseason, GM Ross Atkins tells Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter). Toronto aims to line up eight or nine hurlers capable of taking the ball in the majors, Atkins says.
If it wasn’t clear already that the Jays won’t be entering a rebuilding phase, the move yesterday to re-up Estrada for $13MM seemingly decides the matter. Toronto already has about $90MM committed after that contract hit the books, and will zoom quickly past $100MM as it settles out some significant arbitration cases — including Josh Donaldson, Marcus Stroman, Kevin Pillar, and Roberto Osuna.
Given the array of commitments, it makes sense that the Jays won’t stop with the return of Estrada. Four rotation jobs are locked up already, presuming health, with Estrada re-joining Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and J.A. Happ. Beyond that, though, there are some questions.
Joe Biagini failed to run with his rotation opportunity this year but remains an option. Toronto has received good innings of from summer acquisition Tom Koehler in a relief role, but he’d be a risky tender given his $5.75MM salary this year and struggles from the Marlins’ rotation. Brett Anderson has had some quality outings down the stretch, though he’ll be a free agent (and was bombed tonight). As Steve Adams noted in discussing the Sanchez signing, youngster Ryan Borucki has flown up the system this year, though it might be optimistic to expect him to take a job out of camp.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of hurler the Jays end up pursuing. The club could compete the job between in-house options and some non-guaranteed or cheaper veterans. Alternatively, it might promise the fifth slot as a means of drawing in a preferred player. If there’s more willingness to spend, perhaps Toronto could go somewhat bigger for a mid-range starter, as it did in its most recent contracts with Estrada and Happ.
The Padres have announced an extension with lefty Clayton Richard, who had been slated to return to free agency. It’s a two-year deal with a $6MM guarantee and “minor” incentives, MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell reports on Twitter.
Since signing a one-year, $1.75MM deal over the winter, the 34-year-old Richard has operated as a full-time starter for the first time since 2012. While he carries only a 4.82 ERA, some underlying metrics suggest he has deserved better. Richard has recorded 6.6 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 to go with a stellar 59.1% groundball rate. He has likely been at least a bit unfortunate to surrender a .348 batting average on balls put in play against him. And while Richard has been hurt by the long ball — he’s coughing up dingers on 19.7% of the flyballs hit against him — he has typically fared much better in that regard.
It’s uncertain whether Richard can sustain his promising showing, but he seems like a pretty reasonable pitcher to take a slight risk on. Richard’s two-seamer has averaged 90.7 mph, not far off his career average. And he has maintained last year’s surge in swinging-strike rate despite becoming a full-time starter; his 8.3% mark sits well above his 7.2% career level. Richard was quite productive while working mostly as a reliever in 2016 and certainly has shown an ability to succeed as a starter in the past; he posted sub-4.00 earned run averages for the Pads in that role in the 2010-12 seasons. Of course, Richard also has a history of shoulder problems that required surgical treatment.
For the Pads, locking up Richard now accounts for another rotation spot heading into the 2018 season. Youngsters Luis Perdomo and Dinelson Lamet seem quite likely to remain in the MLB staff and Travis Wood could still be an option despite his struggles. But with Jhoulys Chacin heading back to free agency, the Pads were looking at filling at least two openings.
Even with today’s move, the team could still add two rotation pieces over the offseason. Last year’s pursuit of budget-friendly veterans could be reprised; really, the Friars did quite well with Richard, Chacin, and Trevor Cahill, even if Jered Weaver proved to be a miss.
Whether or not it’ll make sense for the Padres to keep Richard in the rotation throughout the life of the deal will have to be seen. But he could have plenty of function regardless. The veteran southpaw could always slide back into a long relief or situational lefty role if others ultimately prove to be better starting options.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The shoulder procedure performed today on Brewers righty Jimmy Nelson ended up being somewhat more extensive than had been hoped. While there was optimism that surgeons would not find a need to repair Nelson’s labrum, they did end up needing to do some tissue work, GM David Stearns told reporters including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy (via Twitter).
As a result, it is now expected that Nelson will miss “a chunk” of the 2018 season, per Stearns. Just how long the key righty will be sidelined isn’t yet known and will surely depend upon his rehab progress. Regardless, Milwaukee will need to plan on alternatives to fill the rotation to start the year.
Losing Nelson for any chunk of time constitutes a blow for the Brewers, putting a damper on an otherwise exciting season. The club has plenty of intriguing young pitchers, and could still decide to retain Matt Garza for depth, but Nelson had emerged as a force and can’t realistically be replaced. It’s possible that the Brewers will still mostly look to internal options to fill out the staff early next season, though it’s also conceivable that the injury could spur Stearns to look into ways to bolster the rotation over the offseason.
Unfortunately, the news also clouds Nelson’s long-term outlook. Labrum tears are among the most worrying injuries that a pitcher can suffer, as we discussed recently with regard to Angels right-hander Alex Meyer — who is expected to miss a full year of action. There is perhaps some added optimism here, McCalvy notes on Twitter, because the injury occurred to a different area of the labrum than is typically the case for tears caused by throwing.
Despite the unfortunate news, Nelson should take home a significant first-time arbitration salary after topping 170 innings in each of the past three seasons — and carrying a 3.49 ERA with 199 strikeouts in 2017. Of course, time missed in the season to come will reduce his ability to earn in the future, though at this point the focus will be on simply getting the 28-year-old back to full health.