- Zack Greinke has been dealing with a lack of velocity and a minor groin injury this spring, but after a 40-pitch bullpen session today, the Diamondbacks ace is hopeful of being ready for the start of the season, he told MLB.com’s Owen Perkins and other reporters. “If I felt this good every day for the rest of my career, it would be amazing,” Greinke said. “I’ll definitely be making the next outing. I felt healthy and the pitches were pretty good. Hopefully that continues. It should; it was a good day.” Greinke left a start last Wednesday after just one inning due to mild groin tightness, and though he already seems to be feeling better, manager Torey Lovullo said the club will continue to monitor Greinke’s progress. The setbacks have cost Greinke the Opening Day assignment, though he could pitch as soon as Arizona’s third game of the season.
- With several outfielders seemingly ahead of Trayce Thompson on the Dodgers depth chart, the club is expected to explore trading the out-of-options Thompson, Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times writes. Thompson has shown some promise over three MLB seasons but he hasn’t been the same since suffering back injuries midway through the 2016 season. Thompson appeared in just 27 games for the Dodgers last season, contributing a meager .483 OPS in 55 plate appearances. Yasiel Puig and Chris Taylor are slated for starting duty in right and center field, respectively, with Thompson, Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez, Andrew Toles, and top prospect Alex Verdugo all competing for left field or backup duty. If a trade partner can’t be found, the Dodgers will risk losing Thompson for nothing, as he would have to pass through waivers before the Dodgers could send him to the minors.
- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed his rotation to reporters (including Bill Shaikin) today, with Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, and Hyun-jin Ryu lined up as the Los Angeles starting five. Beyond those five, however, are some question marks, as Roberts admitted “We don’t have the starting pitching depth that we’ve had in past years.” That depth allowed the Dodgers to reach the World Series despite DL stints for every member of their pitching staff, and now since Yu Darvish and Brandon McCarthy have both moved on to other teams, L.A. now has Ross Stripling, Brock Stewart, and Walker Buehler as the top depth options. Tom Koehler was signed over the offseason to bring a veteran arm into the mix, though Koehler is sidelined indefinitely due to a mild AC strain.
- A year after a surprising position switch, Chris Shaw is hoping to eventually crack the majors as a left fielder, Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group writes. The Giants already had Brandon Belt at first base, so with Shaw’s natural position blocked, the club began to deploy Shaw in left field as a way of finding a place in the lineup for his intriguing power bat. Shaw was San Francisco’s first-round pick (31st overall) in the 2015 draft and is ranked as the second-best prospect in the team’s farm system by both MLB.com and Baseball America, making him a key part of the Giants’ future. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Shaw make his Major League debut sometime in 2018, with a potential starting job awaiting him in 2019 if Hunter Pence isn’t re-signed.
While there’s nothing in the way of details, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com dangles an intriguing nugget of information on Twitter: the Dodgers and White Sox, he says, are “working on a trade.” Beyond observing the obvious — the former is a clear contender and the latter still in a rebuilding stance — it’s hard to say just what might be afoot. While most of Chicago’s most obvious trade assets have already been moved over the past year or so, the team still possesses a few veteran hitters and some interesting young arms that might theoretically be of interest to Los Angeles. And it’s anyone’s guess just what player(s) might have capture the attention of the always-creative Dodgers front office. Anyhow, for now, we’ll take Crasnick’s advice and “stay tuned” for more details to emerge.
A few more notes on the trade market…
- The Giants and Pirates have had recent discussions about a trade involving Andrew McCutchen, though the two sides aren’t close to a deal, reports MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. The Pirates would want the Giants to include one of the organization’s best prospects — either Heliot Ramos, Chris Shaw or Tyler Beede — in any deal for McCutchen, and San Francisco brass is reluctant to part with additional top talent in an already-thin farm system after giving up Christian Arroyo in the Evan Longoria blockbuster. The 31-year-old McCutchen will earn $14.5MM this season before becoming a free agent next winter. While he had a significant rebound at the plate in 2017 (.279/.363/.486, 28 homers), he also turned in poor defensive metrics in center field for a fourth consecutive season. Upgrading the outfield defense has been a stated priority for the Giants.
- The Indians are “open” to moving right-hander Danny Salazar, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic in his latest notes column (subscription required and strongly recommended). Salazar, 28 next week, has missed time in each of the past two seasons owing to shoulder and elbow injuries. When healthy, the flamethrowing righty has shown the ability to overpower hitters, as evidenced by a career 10.5 K/9 mark and 12.6 percent swinging-strike rate. Salazar, who has two years of club control remaining, comes with a projected arbitration salary of $5.2MM for the 2018 campaign (via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz) and would be arb-eligible once more next winter. Cleveland doesn’t sound to be shopping him by any means, but the Tribe does have some enviable pitching depth and could stomach the loss if a Salazar trade helped the MLB roster in other ways.
- One name not currently being discussed on the trade market is Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, Morosi tweets. Toronto isn’t in any active talks regarding Donaldson, which lines up with numerous reports (and comments from GM Ross Atkins) that have indicated the Jays’ desire to field a competitive club in 2018. It stands to reason that an unexpected king’s ransom could change that thinking, especially if it included MLB-ready pieces, but at present it seems more likely that the Jays head into the 2018 season with the former AL MVP in the middle of their order.
The Nationals are checking over the market for starters, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (subscription required). While the team’s potential targets aren’t yet clear, Rosenthal does list two interesting options, both of whom were among the names we floated as hypothetical candidates in our review of the Nats’ offseason outlook. Gerrit Cole of the Pirates could be a name to watch on the trade market, says Rosenthal. And the Nationals are “kicking around” a pursuit of free agent Jake Arrieta, per the report. Certainly, the club’s numerous dealings with Scott Boras make that possible match one to keep an eye on. It’s certainly still possible the Nationals will go in any number of different directions in filling out their rotation, though the report does suggest the team shouldn’t be ruled out for a significant addition.
Here’s more from the National League:
- Billy Hamilton is generating the most interest of any potential Reds trade pieces, Rosenthal also reports. Hamilton, obviously, is a limited offensive player due to a lack of power and on-base skills, but his baserunning and defensive skills are among the game’s elite. If the Reds do ultimately find an offer to their liking for Hamilton — he’s arb-eligible for two more years and projected to earn $5MM next season by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz — Rosenthal writes that they’d likely sign a short-term stopgap in center field rather than play a corner option out of position.
- Both the Giants and Cardinals are now out of the running to land Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins, but their pursuits still carry some information worthy of note. In the case of San Francisco, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter links) that many of the players rumored to have been in the teams’ agreed-upon trade package were not, in fact, slated to be moved. None of Joe Panik, Tyler Beede, Chris Shaw, Heliot Ramos, and Christian Arroyo would have been dealt, per the report. Meanwhile, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets that the Cards would have absorbed about $250MM of the $295MM still owed to Stanton.
- Brewers GM David Stearns chatted with the team’s beat writers, including Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, in advance of the Winter Meetings. Regarding the team’s rotation needs, Stearns says that the organization’s “market and history” under his stewardship are “a better indicator of the types of moves we’re seeking than some of the external speculation.” That seemingly hints that the organization won’t be chasing high-end free agents, though perhaps some of the top pitchers could still be considered in the right circumstances. He noted that lefty Josh Hader could yet end up “in a multi-inning relief role, similar to last year, or a more conventional starter role.” While the team wants to ensure Hader is able to “accumulate innings,” its winter moves could dictate his precise usage. Generally, Stearns said the club has many talks at various stages of development, though nothing that is nearing completion as of this particular moment.
Another day, another slew of rumors pertaining to the game’s top slugger. Reports over the weekend indicated that the Cardinals have submitted a formal offer to the Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton, but that doesn’t mean that there’s any indication a trade involving Stanton is any closer. Here’s the latest on the 2017 home run king…
- Craig Mish of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM tweets that the Marlins and Giants have discussed second baseman Joe Panik, right-handed pitching prospect Tyler Beede and outfield prospect Chris Shaw. The Giants have also discussed the possibility of taking Dee Gordon back in the deal, which would make some sense with Panik possibly being of interest to Miami. It’s worth noting that Mish doesn’t specifically state that the two sides have talked about a Panik/Beede/Shaw for Stanton and Gordon package. To the contrary, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets that he hears that is not the framework of a deal being discussed (nor is it close, according to Schulman). It seems, then, that the two sides are likely discussing multiple scenarios and those names have been involved (likely with others) in various permutations. The Giants reportedly made some type of trade proposal on Friday.
- Mish also tweets that the Cardinals are willing to part with hard-throwing right-handed pitching prospect Sandy Alcantara, who was included in the aforementioned formal offer to Miami. Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com rank Alcantara ninth among Cardinals farmhands, noting he sits at 96 mph with a fastball that scrapes triple digits and also has the potential for a pair of average or better secondary offerings. Baseball America rated Alcantara fourth among Cardinals farmhands just two weeks ago (subscription required & recommended for their full scouting report).
- Meanwhile, Schulman tweets that the Marlins haven’t reached the point where they’re asking interested teams for their best and final offers for Stanton, thus indicating that an actual trade involving Stanton is not especially close at this time.
The Giants have promoted 2015 first-round pick Chris Shaw from Double-A to Triple-A, and as Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area writes, the former first baseman will continue his work in left field following the latest promotion. Giants GM Bobby Evans spoke to reporters about Shaw’s impressive run in Double-A (.301/.390/.511, six homers, 10 doubles) and stated that Shaw was simply “ready for the next challenge.” Pavlovic notes that although Shaw is the more highly regarded prospect, fellow minor league outfielder Austin Slater is probably ahead of him in the pecking order when it comes to a potential MLB promotion. Shaw doesn’t need to be added to the 40-man roster this year in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft, but Slater, who is hitting .313/.376/.435 in 40 Triple-A games, does. As for Shaw’s ability to handle the outfield despite his considerable 6’4″, 235-pound frame, Evans noted that Shaw played nearly 100 games in the outfield in college and added that the team wants to see if he can get comfortable in left field. That, of course, is perhaps the Giants’ greatest position of need at the Major League level, and Shaw is blocked at first base by Brandon Belt.
More on the Giants…
- Right-hander Johnny Cueto was hit hard again in yesterday’s start, and he revealed after the game that he’s been pitching through a pair of blisters on his right hand, writes MLB.com’s Chris Haft. Cueto has one blister on his index finger and another on his middle finger, though he wouldn’t point to that issue as the source of his 2017 struggles. “I’m getting hit,” Cueto said bluntly, noting that the blisters are “not an excuse.” To this point there’s been no talk of a quick stint on the 10-day DL for Cueto to allow his fingers to heal up, though other pitchers around the league (e.g. Rich Hill, Aaron Sanchez) have required multiple absences due to blister troubles.
- Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News writes that the Giants are giving Kelby Tomlinson continued work in center field with their Triple-A affiliate as hope that he can emerge as a center field alternative on the big league roster. Presently, Gorkys Hernandez and Justin Ruggiano are the team’s only other options beyond starter Denard Span, but neither has provided much in the way of offense. Ruggiano has displayed some pop but is hitting .244/.273/.415, while Hernandez has posted a woeful .160/.248/.213 batting line through 106 plate appearances.
- Baggarly also notes that Korean star Jae-gyun Hwang is hitting fairly well in Triple-A and is likely to receive a call-up before the July 1 opt-out provision in his contract. Both Evans and manager Bruce Bochy have suggested that they hope to see what they have in Hwang eventually, per Baggarly. Hwang has hit for a respectable average and displayed some power thus far while seeing time at both infield corners and in left field. However, his 32-to-5 K/BB ratio suggests that his approach still needs some refinement. Through 168 plate appearances, he’s hitting .280/.298/.435 with three homers, 12 doubles and a pair of triples.
The Giants have agreed to significant bonuses with a pair of their top picks, reports MLB.com’s Jim Callis (Twitter links). First-round pick Chris Shaw will sign for a $1.4MM bonus that is $485K shy of his No. 31 slot’s $1.885MM value. Nearly all of that savings will be used on third-round pick Jalen Miller, who receives a $1.1MM bonus despite the assigned slot value of $598K for the No. 95 pick.
Miller, a prep shortstop out of Georgia, was actually consistently ranked higher than Shaw heading into the draft. Miller was listed as the No. 35 prospect in the draft according to Baseball America. Callis an Jonathan Mayo ranked him 41st at MLB.com, while Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel had him 43rd, and ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Miller 60th. Shaw, a first baseman/corner outfielder out of Boston College, ranked 45th, 46th, 55th and 62nd, respectively, on those same lists.
Scouts are split on whether or not Miller will remain at shortstop or slide to the other side of the bag and play second base as a pro. BA notes that scouts like his plus speed and soft hands, but his arm strength and infield actions could ultimately land him at second. He’s said by BA to have a knack for making contact but only average power potential. McDaniel feels there’s double-digit homer potential in there, and MLB.com favorably comps him to Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips due to his frame and 15-homer upside in the middle infield. ESPN feels he has a chance to stick at short and should be given the opportunity to prove that he can handle the position in pro ball.
Shaw’s power is his calling card, but the 6’3″, 245-pound left-handed hitter broke his hamate bone in April this year and didn’t show the same power upon his return. That creates some uncertainty surrounding his draft stock, but it also is likely the reason that the Giants were able to get an under-slot deal for him at 31. BA notes that last summer in the Cape Cod League, Shaw’s homers became legendary, including some 450-foot tape-measure shots to center field. McDaniel placed a 60 grade on his raw power, and MLB.com gave his power an even more enthusiastic 65 grade on the 20-80 scale.