- Padres skipper Andy Green has suggested that the main factor in determining whether lefty Matt Strahm will be in the rotation or bullpen will simply be whether he’s able to get stretched out this spring, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. Strahm tossed 40 pitches in today’s three-inning spring outing, Acee notes, which could bode well for the southpaw’s chances given that there are still three weeks of camp remaining. Strahm, 27, was primarily a reliever in San Diego last season but has started at the minor league level in the past — primarily with the Royals. While Strahm shined as a bullpen option in San Diego last season, it’s understandable that the Friars would want to see if they could potentially coax more innings out of the intriguing southpaw.
As a consensus top three farmhand in baseball, shortstop prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. may be able to help the Padres from the outset of the season, but he’s no lock to make the team. After all, by keeping the 20-year-old in the minors until at least mid-April, the Padres would gain an extra year of control over him. Nevertheless, the Padres’ highest-profile player, Manny Machado, is hopeful Tatis will join him on Opening Day to comprise the left side of their infield, per Dennis Lin of The Athletic (subscription required). “If he’s in there, we’re going to be a dangerous team, and I think we’re all rooting for him to break camp with us,” said Machado, an experienced shortstop who’s set to hold down third base for the Padres after signing a 10-year, $300MM contract with them last month. Meanwhile, manager Andy Green isn’t ruling out Tatis for the Padres’ season-opening roster, but he cautioned: “In (Tatis’) case, he’s a couple months above Double-A ball. He’s had two incredibly slow Aprils that unbelievable seasons followed. “So, there’s some context there that we’re going to factor into the equation that other people probably aren’t.”
We’ll use this post to track the minor moves of the day…
- The Pirates are bringing fleet-footed infielder Alfredo Reyes to big league camp as a non-roster invitee, per the Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel (via Twitter). Reyes, 25, spent a majority of last season split between High-A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona, earning a six-game stint with the Pirates Triple-A club in Indianapolis. All told, Reyes hit .286/.386/.356 across the three levels, though most of that damage was done during the 61-game stint in High-A where he slashed .310/.424/.386. The speedy utility player managed to steal 35 bases in 39 attempts, an 89.7% success rate. Defensively, Reyes appeared at every position on the diamond except pitcher and catcher.
- Per Matt Eddy of Baseball America, the Padres have signed lefty reliever Paco Rodriguez to a minor-league deal. Rodriguez, 27, jumped almost directly to the bigs after being selected in the 2nd round of the 2012 amateur draft by the Dodgers. In four seasons with LA, Rodriguez performed admirably – albeit in limited, LOOGY-exclusive role – twirling 85 1/3 innings of 9.6 K/9, 2.53 ERA-ball. Paco was shipped at the 2015 trade deadline to Atlanta, where rehab from a variety of injuries eventually culminated in a late-season Tommy John. He spent much of last season with Minnesota’s AA affiliate, notching a 4.26 ERA in 25 IP.
Padres left-hander Jose Castillo will be sidelined for an estimated six-to-eight weeks to recover from a flexor strain in his throwing arm, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. Castillo began feeling forearm tightness last week, which caused San Diego to shut down his bullpens and then ultimately place him on the 60-day injured list today. Needless to say, any type of forearm injury is cause for concern, though the team is still “confident” that Tommy John surgery won’t be required. The 23-year-old Castillo made his MLB debut last season and immediately delivered results, posting a 3.29 ERA, 4.33 K/BB rate, and a whopping 12.2 K/9 over 38 1/3 innings out of San Diego’s bullpen. With Castillo on the IL, the Padres’ top left-handed options consist of Matt Strahm and the recently-signed Aaron Loup, with former big leaguers Eric Stout, Kyle McGrath, and Brad Wieck also available in the upper minors.
The Padres have inked reliever Adam Warren, per a club announcement. It’s a one-year deal with a club option. Warren, a client of Full Circle Sports Management, is promised $2.5MM on the contract, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter links). That includes a $2MM salary for 2019 and a $500K buyout on a $2.5MM option.
Southpaw Jose Castillo was placed on the 60-day injured list to create roster space. He is dealing with a flexor strain that is obviously considered a fairly significant malady.
Outside of a forgettable 2016 run with the Cubs, Warren has steadily produced good results at the MLB level. All said, he has thrown 463 2/3 innings of 3.42 ERA pitching. Warren carries only 7.8 K/9 in the aggregate, but he had boosted his strikeout numbers over the past two years — at least, that is, until he was dealt to the Mariners in the middle of the 2018 season. Warren racked up 11.1 strikeouts per nine in his first thirty frames of the year but dropped back to 6.2 K/9 down the stretch in Seattle.
Warren projects as another solid arm within a Padres bullpen that was already one of the team’s strengths in 2018. Led by Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen, San Diego’s relief corps has added a pair of notable veterans in the last two weeks, between Aaron Loup and now the Warren signing. Warren has pitched as a multi-inning reliever in the past, and perhaps could even be deployed as an “opener” should San Diego choose to adopt that strategy.
- The Padres have a deal in place with righty Chris Rowley, according to Robert Murray of The Athletic (Twitter link). Other terms of the pact aren’t known. Rowley, 28, has throw 19 1/3 MLB innings over the past two seasons, coughing up 17 earned runs with both 11 walks and strikeouts. He has been more effective in the upper minors, though. Last year at Triple-A, the West Point product worked to a 3.34 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 142 2/3 innings. Rowley has to this point spent most of his career with the Blue Jays, though he was claimed and later outrighted last year by the Rangers.
Padres GM A.J. Preller has a lot riding on his hand-picked roster, particularly with the team now having made a huge commitment to Manny Machado, and he laid out his belief in the club not long after announcing the Machado deal. As Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, the top San Diego baseball decisionmaker turned in a fiery locker-room speech that seems to have made quite an impression on the players. It was a rare address for Preller, who sent the message that this group was compiled with winning intentions. There’s no shortage of interesting storylines to watch in San Diego — Machado’s impact, remaining roster needs, camp battles, prospect timelines — some of which may well carry into the regular season.
More from out west …
- It’d be a convenient narrative to see the Dodgers’ late-breaking pursuit of Bryce Harper as something of a response to their division rivals to the south, but there’s really no reason to believe that’s much of a factor. Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times examines what might actually be driving the Los Angeles powerhouse, suggesting that the foray into the superstar’s market may just be an attempt to see if Harper “is open to striking a deal on their terms — and their terms only.” Hernandez argues that the Dodgers should be willing “to create exceptions to their analytically dictated rules” in situations like these, but casts ample doubt as to whether the organization will in fact do so.
- Elsewhere in the greater Los Angeles region, the city of Long Beach, California appears to be making a play to woo the Angels, according to a report from Jason Ruiz of the Long Beach Post. Details are scant at the moment, but it seems the pitch involves a waterfront ballpark lot. Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia acknowledged having “approached the Angels” to open a dialogue on a possible move. Long Beach has a history with the Halos, including some serious dalliances in the past. For the time being, the club is still under contract to remain in Anaheim through at least 2020. Long-term talks to stay in Angels Stadium are ongoing, with some recent warming of relations but plenty of uncertainty overall.
- While a spring outing won’t be mistaken for the real thing, it was nevertheless fascinating to observe how MLB newcomer Yusei Kikuchi fared in his first game appearance in Mariners duds. As Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports, the initial showing was fairly impressive. Kikuchi managed to induce a ghastly swinging strikeout from none other than Joey Votto, who afterward praised the “potential” (and relative rarity) of Kikuchi’s “very good” and “very surprising” curve. Seattle manager Scott Servais felt his new workhorse “was outstanding for the first time out there.” The M’s committed at least four years and $56MM to Kikuchi, a significant outlay for a club that spent the winter focusing on the near-future (2020 and beyond) rather than the immediate future (the coming season). His ability to translate his success in Japan’s top league to the majors will factor heavily into the Seattle organization’s ability to rebound quickly into full competitiveness.
- Manny Machado’s ten-year, $300MM contract cracked a new spending threshold for the Padres, though as the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Bryce Miller writes, such an acquisition opens up new revenues pathways to account for that expenditure. Machado’s signing has already seen a $1MM boost in ticket sales, according to club chairman Ron Fowler, plus TV and radio ratings are expected to be on the rise. Being featured on national ESPN/FOX games, as well, provides a wider marketing opportunity for the Padres, as well as just gaining more general exposure to the broader public. Of course, the opportunity to create revenue is “all a product of winning,” Padres president of business operations Erik Greupner reminds. “With a player like Manny, there’s immediately a buzz and return on the business side. What’s more important for the long-term is what this translates to on the field.”
The Padres stole headlines this week when they signed one of the game’s elite players, third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado, to a 10-year, $300MM guarantee. But it appears the Machado pickup will be the Padres’ lone massive splash in free agency this year.
While San Diego has at least considered pursuing free-agent superstar Bryce Harper, the team’s talks with agent Scott Boras have focused more on still-unemployed left-hander Dallas Keuchel than Harper, Ken Rosenthal and Dennis Lin of The Athletic report. Keuchel would be a noteworthy addition in his own right, but the chances of the pitcher-needy Padres signing him aren’t great, according to Rosenthal and Lin, who note it’s a “longshot.” That jibes with a report from Jon Heyman of MLB Network, who tweeted Saturday that the Padres “don’t see a fit” for Keuchel.
If the Padres aren’t going to seriously pursue Harper, who may join Machado in collecting a $300MM-plus guarantee, it seems to make it all the more likely he’ll head to Philadelphia. The Phillies – who just had at least their second in-person meeting with Harper – have been seen as the favorites to sign him throughout the offseason, for one. Moreover, it doesn’t appear there are other teams champing at the bit to meet the six-time All-Star’s asking price.
The Nationals, Harper’s only team to date, may have “moved on”; the White Sox, despite their clear weaknesses in the outfield, reportedly aren’t going to bid on Harper; and the Giants, despite their own outfield issues, don’t seem willing to give the former NL MVP a long-term contract. Barring a change of heart from one of those clubs or the emergence of an aggressive mystery team(s), then, Harper to the Phillies still appears to be the most probable conclusion to this protracted derby.
Unlike Harper, the 31-year-old Keuchel has hardly dominated headlines since last season ended. Even though Keuchel’s a onetime AL Cy Young winner with an excellent track record, there is nothing to suggest anyone has pursued him with much gusto in recent months. Of course, he and Boras may not have helped the hurler’s cause with an exorbitant early winter asking price – reportedly six to seven years and between $25MM and $30MM. Since the offseason began, Keuchel’s next contract has always seemed a solid bet to fall well short of that price in terms of both length and dollars.
In the end, it’s possible Keuchel will head back to Houston, where he has spent his entire professional career since it selected him in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. Not only could the Astros use another proven starter, but owner Jim Crane suggested this week that the team hasn’t closed the door on re-signing Keuchel.
Now that Manny Machado’s 10-year, $300MM deal with the Padres has been announced, Bryce Harper and agent Scott Boras have a definitive bar to attempt to clear as they seek a record-setting contract of their own. Yesterday’s slate of rumors on Harper had a series of updates on how the Phillies, Nats, White Sox and Giants view the former NL MVP now that Machado is off the board. Here’s a look at the latest chatter on “Harper’s Bazaar” as the long, drawn-out saga inches toward a resolution…
- MLB.com’s Jon Morosi joined Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area for Pavlovic’s latest Giants Insider podcast (audio link; Harper talk beginning around 12:45), wherein Morosi called an 11-year contract for Harper “very possible.” As others have done before him, Morosi suggested that Harper is expected to receive a larger contract than the one Machado received in San Diego.
- Coming away from their pursuit of Machado empty-handed has “heightened” the Phillies’ pursuit of Harper, writes Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Breen writes that the organization is confident it’ll be able to sign the six-time All-Star, adding that the Phils “will be much more reluctant to walk away this time.” General manager Matt Klentak spoke candidly this week about the fact that Machado’s price point simply got to a point that exceeded the team’s valuation of Machado. It’s not clear whether the organization will take a similarly practical approach to Harper in the end, but Breen notes that the front office and ownership are keenly aware of how the public would perceive a scenario in which the Phillies fail to sign either Harper or Machado.
- Padres ownership will meet tomorrow to determine if it is feasible to make a run at signing Harper in addition to signing Machado, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. As one would expect, Heyman notes that such a scenario is not at all considered likely, but it seems that the organization’s partners will at least perform due diligence and see if such a strategy can be pieced together. Heyman further tweets that for the Nationals, the ultimate call on Harper will come down to Ted Lerner (despite the fact that in 2018, Lerner ceded control of the organization to his son, Mark). The elder Lerner’s relationship with Boras is well-documented, though virtually every report out of D.C. over the past several weeks has suggested that the Nationals won’t be a top bidder for Harper.
- Bruce Levine of 670 The Score / CBS Chicago reports that the White Sox will not bid on Harper, echoing similar sentiments reported by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale yesterday. Levine notes that the organization is quite high on some of its outfield prospects, noting that the ChiSox could make a short-term pickup in the outfield to help bridge the gap to that young talent.