The Rangers have settled on their roster mix to begin the season. Righties Ian Gibaut and Edinson Volquez have made the team along with outfielder Rob Refsnyder. All will be selected to the 40-man roster.
Players who are at high risk of contracting the coronavirus have the right to opt out of participating this season, but they’d still receive full pay and service time. Athletics reliever Jake Diekman, who has ulcerative colitis and who had his colon removed in 2017, is one of those players. Diekman, however, informed Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he has no interest in opting out of the campaign – at least, not yet. “I’ve never thought once about opting out,” said the southpaw, though he added: “Say two or three guys on the team get it, we’ve all been around each other. I don’t know if I’d opt out in the middle of the season, but it definitely worries you.” Slusser also spoke with A’s utility player Chad Pinder, whose wife is expecting a baby in September, about the season. Pinder said, in part: “We have to do it right — or it just might not work. But there is a risk to this.”
- An unnamed player on the Diamondbacks tested positive for the coronavirus in Arizona within the last month, general manager Mike Hazen said Wednesday (via Bob Nightengale of USA Today). That player was not using their facility, though, Hazen added. It’s unclear how his recovery has gone.
- The Mariners have “had a few players test positive” for the virus, general manager Jerry Dipoto said Wednesday (via Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times). Fortunately, Dipoto went on to reveal that “they’re asymptomatic, and they feel great.”
- More on the Mariners, who are uncertain whether outfielder Mitch Haniger will be ready for the resumption of spring training, according to GM Jerry Dipoto (via Divish). The past year has been an injury-filled nightmare for Haniger, who only played in 63 games in 2019 and then underwent two offseason surgeries – one a core procedure, the other a dissectomy. In better news for the Mariners, reliever Austin Adams – who underwent surgery on a torn ACL last fall – is set for camp. The 29-year-old Adams may have broken out for the Mariners last season with 32 innings of 3.94 ERA ball and a whopping 14.91 K/9.
- Giants corner infielder Pablo Sandoval and lefties Tony Watson and Tyler Anderson will all be good to go for camp’s return, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets (1, 2). Catcher Aramis Garcia could be ready to come back in mid- to late August, meanwhile, and reliever Reyes Moronta may be set by then or in September. Sandoval had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last September; Watson dealt with shoulder issues before spring training shut down; Anderson underwent a procedure on his left knee last summer; Garcia’s still recovering from February hip surgery; and Moronta’s on the mend from the right shoulder surgery he had in September.
- Rangers left-hander Joely Rodriguez is back to throwing after suffering a lat strain in April, but he won’t be ready for the start of the season, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Rodriguez should return at some point during the campaign, though. Texas lured Rodriguez back to the majors on a a two-year, $5.5MM contract in free agency after the former Phillie thrived in Japan from 2018-19.
DECEMBER 16: Texas has announced the signing.
DECEMBER 9: The Rangers have agreed to a two-year, $5.5MM contract with left-hander Joely Rodriguez, pending a physical, Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports. He’s represented by Daniel Szew of L.A. Sports Management.
The pact comes with a club option for a third year, per Jeff Passan of ESPN, and MLBTR’s Steve Adams further reports that the contract would be worth $8MM if the option is exercised. Rodriguez spent most of the previous two years, including all of last season, in Japan as a member of the Chunichi Dragons.
This move represents something of a homecoming for the 28-year-old Rodriguez, a reliever who pitched with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in 2017. However, Rodriguez didn’t take a major league mound as a Ranger during his prior stint with the club. To this point, all of his MLB experience has come as part of the Phillies, with whom he combined for 36 2/3 innings from 2016-17. Rodriguez struggled to prevent runs over that short span, evidenced by a 5.40 ERA, and posted a dismal K/BB ratio of 1.32 with 6.14 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9. He did, however, induce groundballs at a strong 58.3 percent clip.
Rodriguez hasn’t thrived in the majors thus far, and the same applies to his time in Triple-A. At the minors’ top level, he owns a 5.38 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 across 164 innings. To Rodriguez’s credit, though, he starred in Japan. Over 87 2/3 frames as a Dragon, Rodriguez put up a stingy 1.85 ERA and logged 10.6 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. He parlayed that success into an unexpected payday in the majors, where he’ll return to join a Rangers team that has been aggressive on the pitching market this winter. They previously added starters Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles on contracts worth a combined $44MM.
As was the case with their rotation, the Rangers entered the offseason with bullpen issues, as their relief corps finished 2019 with mediocre marks. Going forward, it seems likely they’ll count on Rodriguez as one of their late-game bridges, though it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll be able to carry the excellence he displayed in Japan to Texas.
We’ll check in on some news coming out Arlington over the past 24 hours.
- Globe Life Field, the new ballpark slated to open in 2020, caught fire yesterday afternoon (reported with video by Anthony Andro). Fortunately, no one was injured, relays Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, who notes that the blaze was quickly contained by the Arlington Fire Department. A team spokesperson confirmed to Wilson that work will continue on the facility while an investigation into the fire’s cause is underway. Globe Life Field is slated to host its first exhibition game March 23. Texas’ regular-season home opener is March 31. Whether the incident will delay completion of the facility is not yet clear.
- Texas put forth a six-year, $192MM offer to Anthony Rendon, which fell well shy of the seven-year, $245MM bid that wooed him to Anaheim. That figure, though, may not have been as high as Texas was willing to go for the superstar third baseman. The club viewed their $192MM proposal as a “starting point,” per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, but Rendon’s camp seemingly never reengaged with them before he signed with the Angels. Whether and to what extent the Rangers would have gone further is unclear.
- Having missed out on Rendon and seemingly not in play for Josh Donaldson, the Rangers may now pivot to the trade market to address holes on the roster, Grant further reports. Among those drawing interest from other teams are catching prospect Sam Huff and reliever Emmanuel Clase, in addition to the previously-reported José LeClerc.
- Rendon pursuit notwithstanding, the Rangers didn’t come away from San Diego empty-handed. One executive tells the Athletic’s Peter Gammons (via Twitter) that Texas’ signing of left-handed reliever Joely Rodríguez to a two-year, $5MM deal was “the most underrated move of the Winter Meetings.” Rodríguez hasn’t had much success in affiliated ball, but he thrived in Japan, working to a 1.85 ERA with a 103:28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 87.2 innings in NPB. Interestingly, Gammons notes that Rodríguez is now reportedly sporting a 97-99 MPH fastball. In his most recent MLB action, he averaged just 94.07 MPH on his four-seamer, per Brooks Baseball.
It’s always fun to keep an eye on familiar players who’ve taken their talents across the pond. Now that the 2019 season is in the books, it seemed an opportune time to check in. Numerous former big leaguers and others of note are playing abroad, many of them thriving in Asia’s top leagues.
We’ve seen foreign stints help spur big league revivals from quite a few players. Eric Thames, Miles Mikolas, and Chris Martin are among those that played significant roles in the 2019 MLB campaign. Whether any of the players covered below will do so remains to be seen, but there’s certainly a path.
We started by looking at position players and pitchers in South Korea’s Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) before turning to the hitters of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). Remember, teams in these leagues face limits on the number of non-native players they can carry on a roster. That creates a lot of pressure to secure big production from those roster spots, which often spurs mid-season change.
Here’s a 2019 wrap on the NPB’s hurlers from abroad …
- The Saitama Seibu Lions slugged their way to the best record in the Japan Pacific League, but they got some of their best innings from imported pitchers. Former Dodgers and Athletics righty Zach Neal turned in 100 1/3 innings of 2.87 ERA ball after spending some time with their minor league affiliate early on. He could be eyeing a return to the Majors, though a 4.6 K/9 rate in Japan is a red flag even if it’s accompanied by a pristine 1.3 BB/9 mark. Righties Kyle Martin and Deunte Heath, who had quite brief stints with the Red Sox and White Sox, respectively, helped the Lions as well. Martin notched a 3.67 ERA in 41 2/3 innings (albeit with 28 walks), while Heath chipped in 31 1/3 innings of 3.73 ERA ball and averaged 9.8 K/9 against 4.0 BB/9.
- Mariners fans surely remember Cuban-born lefty Ariel Miranda, who started 40 games for them from 2016-18. Now 30, Miranda tossed 86 innings for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and notched a respectable 4.19 ERA in a hitter-friendly league, though he carried an unsightly 58-to-48 K/BB ratio. Dutch righty Rick van den Hurk hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2012, having carved out a career between the KBO and NPB. He only pitched 17 2/3 innings for the Hawks this season but turned in a 3.12 ERA and a terrific 22-to-2 K/BB ratio. Given his track record there — 3.50 ERA in nearly 500 NPB innings — the 34-year-old could be in Japan to stay. The Hawks also enjoyed 57 2/3 innings of 3.90 ERA ball from Japanese-born southpaw Tsuyoshi Wada, who was with the Cubs from 2014-15 before returning to Japan. At 38 years of age, he’s still chugging along.
- Former Twins righty Alan Busenitz and former Indians righty Frank Herrmann formed a dominant setup combo for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. Busenitz chipped in 51 frames with a 1.94 ERA with 7.9 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9. Herrmann’s 3.04 ERA and 49-to-16 K/BB ratio in 47 2/3 innings hardly went unnoticed, either. Herrmann will turn 36 early next season, but Busenitz is still just 29.
- The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters didn’t benefit much from former big leaguers, as right-hander Johnny Barbato struggled through 32 innings. Avid Indians fans may remember right-hander Toru Murata, who pitched 3 1/3 innings for the Tribe in ’15 after spending several years in their minor league system. He chipped in 34 innings with a 3.18 ERA but walked nearly as many hitters (21) as he struck out (22). Former Cubs righty Justin Hancock tossed seven innings but was hit hard. Padres diehards may remember minor league righty Bryan Rodriguez, who tossed 91 1/3 innings of 3.25 ERA ball for the Fighters.
- Left-hander Andrew Albers, formerly of the Twins and Mariners, was dominant for the Orix Buffaloes in 2018 but took a step back with a 5.83 ERA in in 63 1/3 innings. The Buffaloes, however, received a seventh strong season from perhaps forgotten Cardinals righty Brandon Dickson, who posted a 3.03 ERA in 35 2/3 frames and has racked up 856 innings of 3.32 ERA ball since first signing with the Buffaloes back in 2013. Orix also picked up former Pirates prospect Tyler Eppler prior to the 2019 season, and after spending some time with the Buffaloes’ minor league club, he emerged with a 4.02 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 31 1/3 innings.
- The 2019 Yomiuri Giants received innings from four former big league pitchers: Taylor Jungmann, Rubby De La Rosa, Scott Mathieson and Ryan Cook. Jungmann struggled to an ERA just over 6.00 in 44 1/3 innings, while De La Rosa fared best (2.25 ERA in 25 innings). Mathieson, now 35, was limited to 22 2/3 innings of 4.37 ERA ball but has been a consistently impressive presence in the Giants’ bullpen since 2012 (2.46 ERA, 54 saves in 431 frames). Cook tallied just 15 innings and surrendered eight runs.
- Lefty Edwin Escobar’s biggest claim to fame in affiliated stateside ball might’ve been being included in a trade for Jake Peavy, but the 27-year-old has become a force in Japan. In his third season overseas, he turned in 75 1/3 innings of 2.51 ERA ball with 10.5 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 for the second-place Yokohama DeNa BayStars. Former Cubs righty Spencer Patton took a step back after a dominant 2018 with the BayStars, tossing 36 2/3 innings but posting a 5.15 ERA. He did rack up 45 punchouts in that time. And former Nats lefty Sammy Solis made a brief 2019 cameo with the Yokohama club as well, tossing 4 1/3 innings with one run allowed.
- Right-hander Randy Messenger, of mid-2000s Marlins/Giants/Mariners fame, has become one of NPB’s best starters but struggled a bit in his age-37 season (4.67 ERA in 79 innings). But with more than 1600 innings of 3.13 ERA ball in a decade’s worth of time in Japan, he’s left a legacy with the Hanshin Tigers and been compensated handsomely for his efforts. The Tigers also received 103 2/3 innings of 4.69 ERA ball from righty Onelki Garcia, who tossed a combined 7 1/3 innings between the Dodgers and Royals in MLB. Hanshin was also a who’s-who of former Cubs, with righties Pierce Johnson, Kyuji Fujikawa and Rafael Dolis logging significant time. Johnson was brilliant, notching an immaculate 1.38 EA with 14.0 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9 in 58 2/3 frames. Fujikawa (1.77 ERA) and Dolis (2.11 ERA) split closing duties and combined for 35 saves in 111 1/3 innings (both split almost evenly).
- Former big league righties Casey Lawrence (Mariners) and Johnny Hellweg (Brewers) made extremely fleeting appearances with the Hiroshima Carp, who boasted perhaps the most impactful foreign pitcher in the league: lefty Kris Johnson. The former Twins/Pirates hurler has been flat-out dominant in five seasons with the Carp, totaling 756 1/3 innings with a 2.54 ERA, 7.0 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 since making the jump. He’ll turn 35 next week, but it’s perhaps worth noting that the former Sawamura Award winner’s record contract is expiring.
- Remember situational lefty Enny Romero? He’s not only starting games for the Chunichi Dragons, he’s doing so fairly well. In 116 frames this year, he posted a 4.26 ERA with 8.1 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9. Fellow southpaw Joely Rodriguez, who spent parts of two seasons with the Phillies, overwhelmed NPB hitters with a 1.64 ERA, 11.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 55 2/3 frames out of the Dragons’ pen. Even Daisuke Matsuzaka — yes, that Daisuke Matsuzaka — tossed 5 1/3 innings with the Dragons at the age of 39, but he didn’t fare well. To this point, however, he’s announced no plans to retire.
- Lastly, the Yakult Swallows had five former big leaguers suit up for them: righty David Buchanan, right-hander Scott McGough, southpaw David Huff, righty Ryota Igarashi (blast from the past!) and right-hander Albert Suarez. Buchanan paced the group at 99 2/3 innings, though his 4.79 ERA wasn’t much to behold. McGough notched 11 saves and a 3.15 ERA, however, while Huff continued his strong overseas career with a 3.97 ERA. Igarashi is still going strong with a 2.98 ERA at age 40, and Suarez yielded just three runs in 17 2/3 innings.
The latest from around the American League on players facing cuts, or earning Opening Day roster spots…
- The Orioles all but finalized their 25-man roster today, re-assigning left-handers Joely Rodriguez and Josh Edgin to Triple-A while sending Luis Sardinas, Alex Presley, and Cedric Mullins to minor league camp. (Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun was one of several reporters with the details.) While not officially announced, it seems as though Rule 5 draft pick Nestor Cortes Jr. has made the team based on these moves. Rodriguez’s minor league deal with the O’s contains an opt-out clause sometime this summer, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports, and Rodriguez may have already attracted some attention after an impressive performance in camp. Rodriguez has an 0.87 ERA over 10 1/3 Spring Training innings, with just one walk against six strikeouts.
- It “seems likely” that veteran righty Blaine Boyer will make the Royals roster, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets. Boyer signed a minor league deal with K.C. in February in the wake of a 2017 that saw him post a 4.35 ERA, 2.36 K/BB rate and 7.2 K/9 over 41 1/3 innings out of the Red Sox bullpen. In making the Royals’ Major League roster, Flanagan reports that Boyer will earn $1MM in salary, plus another $250K available in incentives.
- The Rays have informed southpaw Jonny Venters that he won’t make the team, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports (Twitter link). Venters has already said he’ll accept a Triple-A assignment and is likely to remain in the organization unless another team offers him a job in their big league bullpen. That scenario seems improbable, however, as Venters hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 due to three Tommy John surgeries, though he hasn’t yet given up his hopes for what would be an incredible comeback.
The Orioles have announced a slew of minor-league signings, among them right-hander Jhan Marinez, southpaw Joely Rodriguez and infielder Ruben Tejada. Baltimore also announced the previously reported additions of infielder Luis Sardinas and lefties Josh Edgin and Ryan O’Rourke, with 14 total additions being made official.
Right-hander Jeff Ferrell was the only of the remaining players to sign who has reached the majors. Also joining the Baltimore organization on minors deals are righty Ralston Cash, catchers Armando Araiza and Yojhan Quevedo, and infielders Angelo Mora, Garabez Rosa, Ryan Ripken and Erick Salcedo. Araiza, Rosa, Ripken and Salcedo were all in the Orioles organization in 2017 as well.
With these additions, the O’s are likely hoping to spur some competition in camp at the fringes of the active roster. Marinez, 29, pitched to a 3.70 ERA in 58 1/3 MLB innings in 2017 with three organizations and could certainly be a middle relief option. Rodriguez struggled to a 6.33 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 5.0 BB/9 in 27 innings on the season with the Phillies, but he could join Edgin and O’Rourke in pushing the O’s existing southpaws.
Meanwhile, it seems that Tejada and Sardinas could duke it out in Spring Training for a utility job. Both spent time in the Orioles organization last year. Tejada received a run at short before the team added Tim Beckham, but managed only a .230/.293/.283 slash. The 24-year-old Sardinas hit .319/.348/.419 over 331 plate appearances at Triple-A Norfolk after he was cut loose by the Padres.
The Rangers have announced a series of moves today as the month of September begins. Texas designated righty Jhan Marinez and lefty Joely Rodriguez to open two 40-man roster spots. Texas has also designated lefty Dario Alvarez, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan tweets.
Those three hurlers are a few of the many that have cycled through the Texas pen this year, as the organization has scrambled to make up for injured and/or ineffective pitching. Marinez has produced mostly solid results in time with three organizations this year, though clearly teams view him as a fill-in asset. Rodriguez has allowed exactly 19 earned runs in 27 frames at both the MLB and Triple-A levels this year. And Alvarez actually managed to carry a 2.76 ERA over 16 1/3 MLB innings this year, but he was averaging 7.7 B/9 to go with 9.4 K/9.
Leading the team’s September call-up list is lefty Jake Diekman, whose absence to date was one of the drivers of the bullpen churn. Diekman had missed the entire season after undergoing surgery just before camp to address inflammatory bowel disease. (You can and should read more about his journey here.) The Rangers can control the southpaw for one more season via arbitration; in all likelihood, he won’t command much of a raise on his current $2.55MM salary since he doesn’t have much time to accrue innings.
The Rangers have acquired lefty Joely Rodriguez from the Phillies, per announcements from the organizations. Cash or a player to be named later will go back in return for Rodriguez, who was designated for assignment last week.
Rodriguez, 25, will head to Triple-A on optional assignment with his new organization. He’ll provide a depth option for a Texas club that has received strong contributions from southpaw Alex Claudio but may at some point see fit to add another lefty option to the pen.
After showing well in his first dozen major league games last year, Rodriguez opened the current season in the Phillies’ pen. But he struggled to a 6.33 ERA in 27 frames, coughing up 37 base hits while carrying a subpar 18:15 K/BB ratio. That said, Rodriguez has shown the capability to generate big groundball rates with his power sinker.
Originally acquired from the Pirates in the Antonio Bastardo trade, Rodriguez made his big league debut last season and pitched 27 innings out of the Phillies’ bullpen this year, posting a 6.33 ERA and barely more strikeouts (18) than walks (15). The lefty also allowed four homers in his brief time on the hill this season.
Ranked by Baseball America as the 23rd-best prospect in Philadelphia’s system prior to the season, Rodriguez is the curious combination of a hard-thrower who doesn’t generate many strikeouts. The 2017 Baseball Prospect Handbook describes Rodriguez as the owner of a 94-96 mph fastball that “can touch 98 with sink to help him get grounders.” These groundball tendencies have been on display even in his brief big league tenure, as Rodriguez has a 58.5% grounder rate over his 36 career innings. Over 647 1/3 frames in the minors, Rodriguez has a 4.24 ERA, 1.91 K/BB rate and just a 5.6 K/9.
Adam Morgan is the only left-handed remaining in the Phillies’ bullpen, so Triple-A southpaws Cesar Ramos and Hoby Milner stand out as the most obvious candidates to be called up as Rodriguez’s replacement on the 25-man roster. Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets that the new player will likely not be on the 40-man roster (Ramos and Milner both fit this bill) and the Phillies won’t name the new player until Thursday.