- The Twins weren’t necessarily surprised by Torii Hunter’s retirement in October, Antony says. That Hunter made his decision early in the offseason allowed the Twins time to plan, and helped them enter the bidding for KBO slugger Byung Ho Park. Later, Antony adds that the Twins had been aware of Park since he was in high school, and they were interested in signing him even then.
- The Twins struggled offensively at the catcher position in 2015, and especially didn’t do well from the backup catcher spot. That deficiency led them to acquire John Ryan Murphy (who they got from the Yankees for Aaron Hicks). Murphy, Antony feels, can be a long-term answer as a starting catcher. That trade took place in November, and Antony says that the Twins wanted to make the deal quickly because many teams were looking for catching and the Twins wanted to get a player who might be around for several years. For that reason, they felt that the trade market was a better avenue to pursue than the free agent market.
- The Twins considered blowing past their international bonus pool in recent years but did not do so because of the way the market for international amateur talent unfolded. “[W]hat ended up happening was a few teams – basically we had about six, seven players that we were prepared to just go get and spend millions of dollars on – well, some teams that lost out on guys they were after went after some of those same players and basically doubled what we were prepared to do,” Antony says.
- The Twins have not discussed the possibility of eating a portion of the $25MM remaining on Ricky Nolasco’s contract in a potential trade, despite how poorly the first two years of his contract have gone. Nolasco’s role on this year’s team is unclear, but Antony emphasizes that the Twins plan to use him and still view him as a potentially helpful pitcher.
Star Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista is looking for a contract that will keep him in Toronto into his forties at a $30MM+ AAV, says Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter links), but the 35-year-old is perhaps more willing to negotiate than some of his prior comments would suggest. Previous reports of Bautista’s contract requests have reflected just that kind of asking price while sometimes portraying his stance as being more firm. Jays GM Ross Atkins made clear recently that talks have been amicable, and Heyman adds that Bautista does hope to continue on in Toronto, so it appears there is still some hope that the sides can come together on a new contract for the pending free agent.
Here’s more from the American League:
- Twins righty Ricky Nolasco believes he should remain in the club’s rotation, agent Matt Sosnick tells Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter link). Referencing last year’s disappointing, injury-filled campaign, Sosnick suggests that his client “deserves to show the Twins what he looks like without trying to pitch through pain.” If Nolasco is pushed to the pen, says Sosnick, he’d approach the front office to “directly address his feelings of disappointment” and “ask the team about his other options.”
- The initial returns on Ian Desmond in left field appear to be positive for the Rangers, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. He also notes that the Giants had some interest in Desmond earlier in the winter as a super-utility option that would primarily play in the corner outfield, while the Orioles were involved later.
- Mariners lefty Danny Hultzen has suffered a setback in his bid to get back on the bump in a relief role, Shannon Drayer of Seattle’s 710AM ESPN was among those to report on Twitter. He’ll seemingly rest a while as he deals with shoulder stiffness, which hopefully will clear up on its own. It has been a long and difficult road for the 26-year-old, who has dealt with a series of arm issues since he was chosen second overall in the 2011 draft.
- Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon touched 100 mph yesterday and continues to show good form in camp, as Aaron McMann of MLive.com reports. After a disappointing end to the 2015 season, in which he was asked to leave the organization due to his lack of effort, Rondon has drawn positive reviews so far this spring. “He’s been good,” said skipper Brad Ausmus. “He’s done his work, he’s taken his non-pitching fundamentals seriously. He’s put in the effort and he’s looked strong so far on the mound.”
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says his team’s deal with Ben Zobrist and its trade of Starlin Castro to the Yankees were a matched pair, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago writes. “This was a multiple-bank shot,” says Epstein. “We needed all the components of both deals to line up. That included the medicals and timing to sync up. We were not counting any chickens before they had hatched.” The pair of moves, in which the Cubs essentially used the money they would have had to pay Castro to fund most of Zobrist’s contract, will not limit the team’s options as its offseason continues to unfold, Epstein says. “Really, all the moves we were pursuing previously are still potentially alive for us,” Epstein said. “We don’t have to act out of need or desperation now. We now can be pretty selective.” Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- The Rangers have had recent trade talks with the Indians, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan tweets. The Rangers are looking for a catcher, Sullivan notes, and the Indians’ Roberto Perez would make sense for them — he’s a good defender with a bit of hitting ability.
- Ricky Nolasco’s contract with the Twins allows him to block trades to three teams each year, and Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN tweets that those three teams are the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays. As Wolfson suggests, that might not matter much right now — Nolasco has two years and $25MM remaining on his contract, and it doesn’t appear likely the Twins could trade him after two ineffective seasons, except perhaps in a swap of bad contracts.
- The Reds have promoted Nick Krall and Sam Grossman to assistant GM, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Krall had been the Reds’ senior director of baseball operations, and Grossman their senior director of baseball analytics. The team recently promoted assistant GM Dick Williams to GM.
The Twins are seeking trade partners for righty Ricky Nolasco, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports on Twitter. Minnesota is “trying” to move what it can of Nolasco’s $25MM salary over the next two seasons, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press tweets.
Needless to say, finding a taker for Nolasco will require some creativity. He missed much of last season after undergoing ankle surgery, and owns an ugly 5.64 ERA over his 196 1/3 innings for Minnesota.
Soon to turn 33, Nolasco has performed better in the estimation of advanced metrics, which have generally valued him as around a 4.00 earned run-equivalent performer since he signed on with the Twins. And his average fastball velocity has held at just over 90 mph. Nolasco has been hurt by a high .359 BABIP and low 66.7% strand rate over the last two seasons.
It’s not hard to imagine other teams having interest in taking a shot at a rebound, then, particularly since Nolasco showed enough to warrant a four-year, $49MM commitment in the first place. The Padres represent at least a hypothetical match, per Cotillo. But it seems clear that he’s not worth the remainder of his contract, so the Twins would surely need either to take another bad contract in return or eat money in any trade scenario.
The Twins have announced that they’ve reinstated starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco from the 60-day DL and cleared space for him on their 40-man roster by placing lefty Logan Darnell (pneumonia) on the 60-day DL. Nolasco has not pitched since May, having missed most of the season with a right ankle impingement. He had surgery on his ankle in July to remove a bone fragment. Nolasco won’t return to his usual starting role — instead, he’ll pitch in relief for the remainder of the season, as MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger reports. His return gives him the opportunity to end a second straight disappointing year on a positive note. He’s almost halfway through his four-year, $49MM deal with the Twins (which includes a club option for 2018), and he’s now posted ERAs of 5.38 in 2014 and 5.51 in 32 2/3 innings this year.
- The Red Sox’ new front office alignment — featuring Frank Wren as senior VP of baseball ops and reporting to president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski — can work, opines Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Bradley notes that Wren had a tendency to be impulsive, but Dombrowski will rein in his reactionary impulses. Additionally, Bradley believes that Wren has a knack for scrounging for relievers and bench pieces, which can be of benefit to Boston. While he acknowledges that his defending of Wren is unpopular among Braves faithful (the Dan Uggla and Melvin Upton Jr. contracts still sting), Bradley adds that Wren never lost 90 games in a season with the Braves, who actually led the National League in victories from 2010-14 with Wren serving as GM.
- Dombrowski says that he would love to add Jerry Dipoto to the Red Sox front office in a full-time capacity, but he’s presently waiting for the jobs for which Dipoto has applied to be resolved, tweets Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. Dipoto, who is currently an adviser with the Red Sox, is known to have interviewed for the Mariners’ GM vacancy and was reported to be one of two finalists earlier today.
- The Mariners aren’t completely ruling out the possibility that Taijuan Walker could make another start, but his season is likely over, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. Walker isn’t hurt, but the Mariners want to be careful about his workload — he’s pitched 169 2/3 innings with the M’s this season after only pitching 129 innings total split between the Majors, the minors and the Arizona Fall League last year. “Ensuring that he’s healthy and goes into next season feeling good about what he’s accomplished this year, that outweighed everything else,” says manager Lloyd McClendon. If Walker’s season is over, it was a solid first full year in the big leagues for the former top prospect — he posted a 4.56 ERA, 8.3 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 overall, but rebounded from a bumpy April and May to post a 3.26 ERA, 8.4 K/9 and just 1.2 BB/9 in his last 20 starts.
The Yankees are still looking at the market for starters, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post, but “feel doubtful” of getting anything done on that front. New York feels comfortable with its internal options to fill in for the just-DL’ed Michael Pineda, he adds. That may be true, of course, but we had heard of interest in a rotation addition prior to Pineda’s injury, so it seems unwise to count New York out of the market until the final bell has sounded.
More pitching notes:
- The Twins and Padres have had some trade discussions, and the concept of offloading the remaining two years of Ricky Nolasco’s contract has been floated in those discussions, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. As Wolfson notes, Jeremy Nygaard of TwinsDaily.com first suggested the notion. Nolasco does have a three-team no-trade clause but it does not include San Diego, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press notes on Twitter.
- The Twins are looking at set-up options that include Joaquin Benoit of the Padres and several Rays pitchers, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Minnesota has long been said to be pursuing pen arms, and it would be surprising if the team doesn’t make an addition today. We’ve already heard of recent interest in Tampa Bay’s relief arms from the Astros.
- Julio Teheran may have been available at one point, at a high price, but the Braves now seem more or less unwilling to move him, Heyman tweets. Atlanta just sent young starter Alex Wood to the Dodgers, of course, which could have impacted their willingness to part with another controllable arm (particularly since he’s scuffled this year).
- The Giants believe they can hold onto the just-acquired Mike Leake beyond this year, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com tweets. San Francisco has had no trouble reaching late-season extensions in recent years, or with re-signing its own free agents off the open market, so it certainly bears watching.
The White Sox haven’t made any determinations on which direction they’ll take as the trade deadline nears, GM Rick Hahn told reporters, including the Chicago Tribune’s Colleen Kane. As Kane notes, the South Siders closed out the first half on a 9-3 run, giving the club a bit more optimism about its chances. “Certainly if I did it from an emotional or fan standpoint, we want to be aggressive we want to add,” said Hahn prior to yesterday’s double-header versus the Royals (the two sides came away from the twin bill with an even split). “However, it’s part of the responsibility of this position to be objective and look at the long-term benefit of the club and do what makes the most sense objectively given the situation that we’ve played ourselves in.” Jeff Samardzija’s name, at present, is the most commonly mentioned as a possible trade chip for Chicago.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- Indians left-hander Nick Hagadone suffered what appears to be a serious elbow injury when pitching in a rehab assignment for Class-A Mahoning Valley this week, writes Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel. Hagadone, who was rehabbing from a minor back injury that landed him on the DL, had Tommy John surgery in 2008. “It looks like he did it again,” Cleveland skipper Terry Francona told Meisel. “…This isn’t something that’s [just] a week with no throwing.” Hagadone will seek a second opinion on his elbow before any determination is made, though the present outlook certainly appears to be grim.
- Twins general manager Terry Ryan expressed disappointment that the team wasn’t able to reach an agreement with second-round pick Kyle Cody, who will return to Kentucky for his senior season, writes MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. There’s been some speculation that health concerns impacted the negotiation, but Ryan said otherwise: “That wasn’t the most important thing. We just couldn’t come to a conclusion, is all. He’s healthy. It’s not a factor.”
- Also from Bollinger, Twins right-hander Ricky Nolasco underwent his ankle surgery as planned on Monday during the All-Star break. Nolasco has a bone fragment removed from his right ankle and will be fitted with a walking boot. The team won’t know until the boot is removed whether or not Nolasco will be able to pitch again in 2015, and Bollinger characterized that evaluation as “weeks away.” Whether he pitches again this season or not, 2015 will mark a second straight disappointing season for Nolasco, who signed a four-year, $49MM contract with Minnesota prior to the 2014 season.
Twins GM Terry Ryan announced today that starter Ricky Nolasco will undergo surgery on his right ankle, as MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger was among those to report. Nolasco has missed the last five weeks with an ankle impingement, and had been attempting to avoid a procedure.
While Nolasco’s timeline remains unclear, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that a six-to-eight week absence seems to be the best-case scenario. It’s not clear whether that estimate would include the necessary rehab period, but regardless, it seems that Nolasco won’t have much of an impact until the tail end of the year — if at all.
That’s obviously disappointing news for a Minnesota club that was expecting to get steady, if unspectacular, production out of Nolasco when they signed him to a four-year, $49MM deal before the 2014 campaign. Now 32, Nolasco has contributed 191 2/3 innings of 5.40 ERA pitching to the organization.
The Twins have lagged a bit over the last several weeks since peaking at 11 games over .500, but are very much still in the postseason picture as the trade deadline nears. Particularly with Nolasco down, the rotation contains some questions. Mike Pelfrey has faded of late, while hurlers such as Kyle Gibson and Tommy Milone have outperformed their peripherals by notable margins.
While there surely is some impetus for an addition, the club did just plug Ervin Santana back into the staff. The veteran returned from his PED suspension yesterday and turned in quite a strong outing.
In an effort to salvage some production from what would otherwise be a season lost to hip surgery, the Reds will try to work out injured catcher Devin Mesoraco in the outfield, reports C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Manager Bryan Price said that the move is not a permanent one, and he’s been assured that the risks of delaying what appears to be inevitable surgery to relieve an impingement in Mesoraco’s hip are not significant. According to Price, doctors have said the Mesoraco can undergo the surgery this offseason and still expect to be ready for Opening Day 2016. “He’s on board,” said Price of Mesoraco. “He’s a huge part of it and I do believe that he’s seen a guy in New York as well that did a followup on his MRI results and test results. So we’re trying to make sure all the bases are covered that if we’re going to do something like this, that we’re doing it with enough time to make sure he’s ready to go on Opening Day 2016 behind the plate.” Price added that Mesoraco will not return to the club as only a pinch-hitter, so if he’s unable to work in the outfield, the timetable for surgery could be accelerated.
Here’s more from baseball’s Central divisions…
- Minor surgery on the ailing right ankle of Twins right-hander Ricky Nolasco cannot be ruled out, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Nolasco underwent three-plus days of “aggressive” treatment on the injured joint, but Thursday’s bullpen session had to be cut short after eight to 10 pitches. Nolasco, who has been placed on the disabled list, told reporters: “It was still killing me. I can’t risk throwing with no lower body. I just got my elbow right for the first time in a long time. I can’t go out there and risk blowing that out or something.” Clearly, the four-year, $49MM contract given to Nolasco has not paid dividends for the Twins so far, but his work after apparently getting his elbow on track was encouraging. In 29 2/3 innings between his DL stints, Nolasco pitched to a 4.25 ERA with a 26-to-6 K/BB ratio. His ERA likely would’ve been lower had he not been plagued by a bloated .385 BABIP in that time.
- The Indians have four of the rarest and most valuable commodities in baseball, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. In Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer, Cleveland has four young, controllable, hard-throwing strikeout pitchers that can be built around for the foreseeable future. Passan’s article is a fascinating piece that examines Cleveland’s use of weighted-ball programs throughout the organization as one of multiple different ways to develop pitching. Bauer spoke to Passan about how exciting it is to be with an organization that is dedicated to and open-minded about finding new ways to develop pitching. “They actually believe you can develop players and that they don’t just develop by pitching in games and getting more reps,” said Bauer. “You can actually increase the development process. They’re always open and looking for new strategies, differing technologies, instead of shunning new ideas because that’s not how they did it 20 years ago.”
- Ryan Braun is away from the Brewers to undergo a second cryotherapy session on his right thumb, writes Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Braun first experimented with this treatment, which uses a needle to introduce sub-zero temperatures to a troublesome nerve in the digit, last October, and he feels it helps get his hand back to 100 percent, per manager Craig Counsell. “And if we can keep him at close to 100 percent then we get the great Ryan Braun for 150 games,” said Counsell. “It apparently has a shelf life, I guess you could say, and we’re kind of getting up on that shelf life.” Brewers head athletic trainer Dan Wright says that the procedure will be effective for three to four months, but Braun may have to continue to go in for these sessions for the rest of his career, so long as it remains effective. Braun is expected to rejoin the team during its weekend series with the Twins.
Following yesterday’s MRI, the Twins will place right-hander Ricky Nolasco on the disabled list and recall prospect Trevor May to join the rotation, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. After signing a four-year, $49MM contract in the 2013-14 offseason, Nolasco’s first season was marred by an elbow injury that limited his time on the field and led to an ERA well north of 5.00. He improved upon returning from the DL, so both he and the team hoped to leave last season’s struggles in the past. Unfortunately, his elbow flared up again in an ugly first start, leading to the forthcoming decision to officially place him back on the DL. May, ranked as one of Minnesota’s best prospects by Baseball America (No. 9), MLB.com (No. 11) and Fangraphs (No. 9), notched an excellent 2.85 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 98 Triple-A innings last year. He was hit hard in his first taste of MLB action, registering a ghastly 7.88 ERA, but a sky-high .377 BABIP contributed heavily to those troubles. One would think that this could be an opportunity for May to seize a rotation spot for the long run if he performs well out of the gate.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- The Indians announced today that they’ve purchased the contract of first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands, optioned Austin Adams to the Minors and transferred Josh Tomlin to the 60-day DL. The addition of Sands may not be a long-term maneuver, however, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets that Sands will serve as outfield insurance while Michael Brantley deals with a back issue. (Brantley is in the lineup for today’s home opener, though.)
- In a Royals mailbag, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star notes that while the team’s bullpen is excellent, its composition isn’t exactly ideal. The only Royals relievers with options remaining are Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera. The Royals lack the flexibility to option a lesser reliever to the Minors without first exposing them to waivers, thereby eliminating the possibility of making roster moves to bring in a fresh arm when necessary. McCullough opines, though, that a trade won’t be necessary upon Luke Hochevar’s activation from the disabled list. McCullough also handicaps future rotation options and discusses Mike Moustakas’ outlook in the piece.
- Joakim Soria is better equipped to be the Tigers’ closer than Joe Nathan, writes MLive.com’s James Schmehl, and while Soria will indeed own the ninth inning while Nathan is on the disabled list, that transition in no way fixes the Detroit ’pen, he opines. The Tigers lack a reliable option to step into the eighth inning on a consistent basis, and the move of Soria to the ninth inning only further exemplifies what a thin relief corps Detroit has on its hands. Manager Brad Ausmus called the bullpen “a little bit of a concern” but said he only expects Nathan to be sidelined for a few weeks. All this said, I doubt there’d be much surprise around the game if the Tigers were yet again seeking bullpen help on the trade market this season.