- Before he accepted the Padres’ one-year, $3MM offer on Saturday, righty Jered Weaver drew interest from other teams, including the Reds, reports FanRag’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). Weaver, a California native who spent the first 11 years of his career in Anaheim, could have signed for more money had he left his home state, per Heyman. In Cincinnati, the 34-year-old Weaver likely would have joined Anthony DeSclafani, Scott Feldman and Brandon Finnegan as locks for the rotation.
SUNDAY: The Padres have announced Weaver’s signing. To make room for Weaver, the club has placed righty Colin Rea on the 60-day disabled list. Rea underwent Tommy John surgery in November and won’t pitch this year.
SATURDAY: The Padres have agreed to terms veteran righty Jered Weaver to a one-year deal, Fan Rag’s Jon Heyman tweets. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale was the first to tweet a deal was close. Weaver will receive $3MM, as Heyman tweets and SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo confirms. Weaver can also receive a $250K assignment bonus. Weaver is a client of the Boras Corporation.
[Related: Updated San Diego Padres Depth Chart]
The Padres were repeatedly connected to Weaver this winter as the team aimed to remake its rotation. After parting ways with Andrew Cashner and James Shields in trades last season and then non-tendering Tyson Ross, the Padres’ starting pitching corps looked extremely thin. The team has since added veterans Jhoulys Chacin, Clayton Richard and Trevor Cahill to eat innings, and it appears Weaver will be another arm to add to that mix.
Weaver has pitched his entire career to this point a short drive up Interstate 5 in Anaheim, and his new deal with the Padres allows the Southern California native to stay in familiar environs. The 34-year-old has generally been a reliable workhorse throughout his career, but he’s undergone a long decline in the past several seasons that culminated in a very disappointing 2016 in which he posted a 5.06 ERA, 5.2 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 while averaging just 83 MPH with his fastball. ERA estimators suggested he was even worse than that 5.06 ERA suggested, with a 5.64 xFIP and 5.44 SIERA. His ground ball rate also continued to drop to just 28.8%, and he led the AL in home runs allowed, with 37. A big-league deal for him is a small coup for Boras at this point.
Even as Weaver’s velocity and strikeout rate have diminished in recent years, however, he still managed to pitch 178 innings last season, and his ability to take the ball has value. He could be an asset for a Padres staff that could struggle to get through games in 2017.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Plenty of players are still looking for opportunities as Spring Training gets underway in earnest. Among them is former White Sox lefty Scott Snodgress, who worked out for teams this week and will likely choose his landing spot tomorrow, per MLBTR’s Zach Links (via Twitter). Snodgress played indy ball last year after a rough 2015 season in the upper minors with the Angels.
Here are the latest minor moves from around the game, featuring a host of other southpaws:
- The White Sox have added lefty Tyler Matzek on a minors pact, per Matt Eddy of Baseball America (via Twitter). A 2009 first-rounder, Matzek worked through control problems and showed promise upon reaching the majors in 2014 with the Rockies. But his struggles with the strike zone returned with renewed vigor the next year, and Matzek was ultimately diagnosed with anxiety. Though he was able to make 33 minor-league appearances in 2016, he was outrighted off of Colorado’s 40-man and ended up issuing as many walks as strikeouts (11.1 per nine) on the year.
- Former first-round pick Chris Reed has decided to retire from the Marlins, Eddy tweets. Just 26 years of age, Reed worked to a 3.65 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 81 1/3 innings in the upper minors last year. That represented progress after he struggled badly with control in 2015, but it seems that Reed will move on to other pursuits. The Dodgers, who originally took him 16th overall in 2011, will still get something out of their investment, though, as the trade that sent Reed to Miami netted southpaw Grant Dayton.
- Outfielder Slade Heathcott has landed with the Giants on a minor-league deal that includes a camp invite, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). The 26-year-old, who was taken after Reed in the first round in 2009, has long been viewed as a talented player but hasn’t yet earned a full MLB opportunity. He showed well in his lone stint in the bigs, in 2015, but hit only .254/.359/.380 in his 247 Triple-A plate appearances last year.
- Lefty Hung-Chih Kuo is attempting a comeback with the Padres, as Bill Plunkett of the Orange County-Register reports on Twitter that he has struck a minor-league deal with San Diego. Now 35 years of age, the Taiwanese native provided the division-rival Dodgers with 292 1/3 innings of 3.73 ERA ball over 2005 through 2011. Kuo has been pitching in Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League for the past two campaigns.
FEB. 13: FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that Wood is expected to make a decision on his new team in the very near future — possibly as soon as today.
FEB. 12: The Cubs have made contract offers to Travis Wood, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links), though the Padres and two other teams are also still in the mix for the free agent lefty. The Yankees aren’t one of the other teams; New York reportedly checked in on Wood recently, though the Yankees weren’t considered to be top candidates for his services.
Wood’s market has begun to generate more buzz in recent days, though the veteran southpaw has seen his name pop up in rumors for much of the winter. Besides the Yankees, Padres and Cubs, the Marlins and Blue Jays were also linked to Wood at different times this offseason, and either of those clubs still makes sense as one or both of the mystery teams pursuing the left-hander (though Miami has made a number of other pitching additions).
Wood’s history as a starter has drawn interest from multiple teams looking at him as rotation help, with the Padres included in that list. The Cubs would be looking to use Wood as a swingman, while it isn’t known what role the other two suitors intend Wood to fill.
For the first five seasons of his big league career, Wood was a durable and mostly effective starter for the Reds and Cubs before transitioning into a relief role for Chicago during the 2015 season. He posted tremendous numbers as a reliever in 2015 and continued to get good results last year, posting a 2.95 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and 1.96 K/BB rate over 61 bullpen innings. Thanks to such factors as his low strikeout rate and a .215 BABIP, however, advanced metrics (4.54 FIP, 4.83 xFIP, 4.46 SIERA) painted a less-impressive picture of Wood’s season.
Looking at the Cubs’ left-handed options, Mike Montgomery and Brett Anderson are vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, with Brian Duensing and Rob Zastryzny in line for potential bullpen jobs with the loser of the fifth starter battle. The Cubs could feel more comfortable with a familiar face like Wood in a swingman or spot starter role rather than relying on several other more inexperienced depth options (Zastryzny, Eddie Butler, Alec Mills, Ryan Williams).
Cuban left-hander Osvaldo Hernandez has been declared a free agent and can now sign with any team, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (via Twitter). Several teams are already interested in the 18-year-old southpaw, including the Astros, Braves, Mets, Padres, Rangers, Reds and Red Sox.
Due to Hernandez’s young age, his signing is subject to international bonus pools. (As a reminder of how the international signing system has been altered by the new collective bargaining agreement, check out this refresher from Baseball America’s Ben Badler). One factor that hasn’t changed is that teams who exceeded their international spending limits in the last two July 2 classes are still serving their previously-mandated penalties, i.e. limited to spending no more than $300K on any pool-eligible player. By waiting until this July 2 to sign, Hernandez could open his market up to teams like the Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Angels, Rays, Yankees and Red Sox, as those six clubs would no longer be held to the $300K limit. Boston, it should be noted, can’t sign Hernandez at all until July 2 since the Sox were banned from signing any pool-eligible players whatsoever during this signing class.
With significant interest in Hernandez’s services already, however, the young southpaw may not feel the need to wait. Also, since the old CBA’s rules are still in effect until the 2017-18 international signing period begins, Hernandez probably stands a better chance of scoring a richer contract now than he will when the stricter pool rules are instituted after July 2. Of the teams connected to Hernandez already, the Braves, Astros, Reds and Padres have already surpassed their bonus pools for the 2016-17 international signing period, so they would be paying a 100 percent tax on Hernandez’s signing bonus if a deal was reached.
Hernandez didn’t appear on any of the top prospects lists from Baseball America, Fangraphs or MLB.com for the current international signing period, though BA’s list didn’t include players who weren’t already eligible to sign. The 18-year-old does already possess a fastball clocked between 92-94mph, according to Sanchez.
The Padres are still working to add another arm to their rotation mix, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Lefty Travis Wood has joined righty Jered Weaver among the arms under consideration, per the report.
San Diego has steadily rebuilt its rotation on the cheap this winter, signing Jhoulys Chacin, Clayton Richard, and Trevor Cahill to budget-friendly, one-year deals. Evidently, the club remains interested in bolstering its depth with a fourth signing.
In all likelihood, says Rosenthal, the club would add just one of those two pitchers. Another previously rumored potential match, former Friars star Jake Peavy, could still be a fit but appears to be less likely at this juncture.
While we’ve heard plenty about the interest in Weaver over recent months, Wood is a new addition to the Padres’ picture. Recent reports suggest that multiple organizations are pursuing him as a starter, and he ought to hold appeal to others as a reliever, so it stands to reason that he’ll command a fair bit more money than the other arms San Diego has gathered thus far.
Wood, who just turned 30, has succeeded most recently as a reliever, posting 61 innings of 2.95 ERA ball last year for the Cubs. That said, metrics felt he was somewhat fortunate to generate those results. He failed to follow up on a jump in his strikeout rate that came with his move to the bullpen in 2015, falling from 10.5 K/9 that year to 6.9 K/9 in 2016, and posted unremarkable walk (3.5 BB/9) and groundball (37.4%) rates while benefiting from a .215 batting average on balls put in play against him.
Still, the Padres are among the teams that obviously feel Wood can not only contribute as a reliever, but return to being a useful starter. He has ample experience working from the rotation, having carried a 4.19 ERA over 776 frames between 2010 and 2015. As MLBTR’s Connor Byrne recently noted in discussing the Yankees’ interest in the veteran lefty, Wood has long made his flyball-heavy approach work by generating a healthy number of harmless infield flies. In 2016, he racked up those easy outs on 17.8% of batted balls, one of the highest rates in the majors.
The Padres announced their list of non-roster invitees to Major League Spring Training today, and new among the mix is veteran outfielder Collin Cowgill, who has agreed to a minors pact with the team.
The 30-year-old Cowgill spent the 2016 season in the Indians organization, with most of his work coming in Triple-A. In addition to nine Major League games and 14 plate appearances, Cowgill logged 103 games and 407 plate appearances with Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate in Columbus, batting .234/.311/.320. A veteran of six Major League seasons, Cowgill is a career .234/.297/.329 hitter in 759 PAs between the Angels, A’s, Diamondbacks, Mets and Indians. While he doesn’t have a track record of producing at the plate, Cowgill has typically graded out as an above-average baserunner and corner outfielder. He’s also plenty capable of playing center field as well, though UZR and DRS rate his work there less favorably.
Cowgill enters a crowded outfield mix in Padres camp. Alex Dickerson, Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe and Travis Jankowski are all but assured to have roster spots and see considerable playing time during the regular season. Cowgill will battle with fellow non-roster invitees Rafael Ortega, Jabari Blash and Nick Buss for a reserve spot on the bench, though the Padres are already carrying multiple center-field capable outfielders in Margot and Jankowski. Beyond that, Christian Bethancourt will probably see occasional reps in the outfield, and infielder Cory Spangenberg has seen brief time in the outfield as well (in 2015).
Cruz, 30, spent the 2007-15 seasons in the Cardinals organization before playing the 2016 campaign in the Royals’ system. Though he totaled just five big league plate appearances with Kansas City, Cruz logged a solid .264/.347/.387 batting line in 92 Triple-A contests last season. Prior to that, he appeared in 259 games for the Cardinals from 2011-15 while serving as a backup to Yadier Molina, though he’s never provided much in the way of offense in the Majors. Across 638 big league plate appearances, Cruz is a .218/.260/.308 hitter, but it bears mention that he has a .732 OPS in the minors and a .724 OPS in parts of three Triple-A campaigns.
From a defensive standpoint, Cruz has halted 27 percent of stolen base attempts against him in the Majors, and his career 43 percent minor league mark in that regard is quite impressive. Though he once graded poorly in Baseball Prospectus’ pitch-framing metrics, he’s progressed to be a roughly average receiver, by that measure, in recent years.
Austin Hedges and Christian Bethancourt figure to be the primary backstops in San Diego this coming season, but with Bethancourt perhaps shifting into a hybrid catcher/outfielder/relief pitcher role, there could be some room to carry a third catcher on the roster, if Cruz proves worthy of a spot. Others that will be in the mix are Rule 5 pick Luis Torrens and non-roster invitees Hector Sanchez and Rocky Gale.
The Padres are in agreement on a minor league contract with veteran infielder Erick Aybar, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). The 33-year-old Roc Nation Sports client will compete with Luis Sardinas for the shortstop gig in San Diego.
Aybar opened the 2016 season with the Braves after being included alongside Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis in the Andrelton Simmons trade with the Angels, but he slumped terribly to open the season. A summer surge led to a trade to the Tigers, where he improved with the bat and slashed .250/.341/.350 in a small sample of 91 plate appearances. Overall, however, his .243/.303/.320 batting line left plenty to be desired and forced the longtime Angels infielder to settle for a non-guaranteed deal.
Last season marked the second straight down season for Aybar, but from 2011-14, he was a consistently, if unspectacular option at shortstop in Anaheim. In those four seasons, he batted a combined .279/.317/.399 with solid glovework, above-average baserunning and modest pop. The Padres will be hoping for a return to that form or for Sardinas to continue the production he demonstrated following a trade last August.
In a tiny sample of 120 plate appearances with the Padres, Sardinas hit .287/.353/.417 with a pair of homers, six doubles and a triple. He’s long been praised as an above-average defender at shortstop, too, so if he can continue to provide some semblance of offense, he could emerge as a long-term option for GM A.J. Preller and manager Andy Green. The addition of Aybar, though, suggests that the Padres won’t simply hand over the shortstop reins to the 23-year-old Sardinas. The Friars could continue to look for additional options at shortstop, though the free-agent market is lacking in that regard outside of former Padre Alexei Ramirez, whose time in San Diego did not go well. Spring Training, though, could lead to the emergence of alternatives on the waiver wire as well as out-of-options players who look unlikely to break camp with their clubs.
- The Padres’ six-year, $83MM extension with Wil Myers has drawn “a lot of industry criticism,” ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports (subscription required). Some evaluators felt San Diego overpaid for a player who has delivered only good-but-not great hitting numbers for a first baseman, plus Myers has had issues staying on the field; Myers played in just 147 games total in 2014-15 due to injury, though he did play in 157 games in 2016. Olney cites Myers’ good fielding and baserunning metrics as counterpoints to the critics, as well as the fact that the Padres may have felt the need to lock in a new franchise cornerstone as the club goes through a rebuilding process.