- Rays left-hander Blake Snell recently became the Boras Corporation’s newest client, which agent Scott Boras calls “a great opportunity for us,” the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin writes. “We consider him an elite performer who is still at the beginning of his career,” Boras said, noting that his agency’s “resources” in both on-field preparation and off-the-field endeavors make for “a great combination” with Snell. The southpaw’s contract runs through the 2023 season, and while there isn’t any immediate opening for the Boras Corporation to receive a commission on a future deal, Boras repeatedly dismissed the suggestion that his change in representation could be a step towards finding a new team. “The main idea right now is that we’re going to work with the team to provide every resource and to make [Snell] a better Ray,” Boras said.
The Rays have released “20 or so” minor league players from their system, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The full list of names has yet to be announced, though two non-roster invitees to Tampa’s Spring Training camp have been cut. Topkin reports that right-hander Brooks Pounders was one of the releases, and righty Deck McGuire tweeted earlier this week that he had also been released. Pounders and McGuire both inked minors contracts with the Rays back in February.
Pounders has the more recent experience on a Major League diamond, tossing 7 1/3 relief innings for the Mets in 2019 but spending much of the season at the Triple-A level (for the Mets’ and Indians’ affiliates). Originally a second-round pick for the Pirates in the 2009 draft, Pounders has bounced around to seven different organizations over his pro career, accumulating 45 2/3 frames at the MLB level with the Mets, Rockies, Angels, and Royals over the last four seasons. While he owns an impressive 9.3 K/9 and 3.92 K/BB rate against big league hitters, Pounders has a career 8.47 ERA, largely due to an ungainly 2.8 HR/9.
McGuire also has a journeyman’s resume, being part of eight different MLB organizations over his career as well as pitching with the Korean Baseball Organization’s Samsung Lions in 2019. McGuire posted a 5.05 ERA over 112 1/3 innings with the Lions, which is close to his 5.23 ERA over career 51 2/3 Major League innings (with the Reds, Blue Jays, and Angels in 2017-18). McGuire was selected 11th overall by Toronto in the 2010 draft, though he has yet to find much consistency even at the minor league level, with a 4.31 ERA, 2.33 K/BB rate, and 7.7 K/9 over 1079 2/3 IP.
The two pitchers were competing for jobs in Tampa Bay’s 2020 bullpen, and for what it’s worth, Pounders had tossed four scoreless innings of spring action prior to the coronavirus shutdown. While the Rays join several other teams in making mass releases to clear room on minor league rosters, Tampa is also one of the teams who has publicly committed to paying its remaining minor leaguers their $400 weekly stipend at least through the end of June. At that point, Topkin writes that “Rays officials will re-evaluate the plan…based on several factors, such as whether big-leaguers are playing and the potential to stage some form of late-summer minor-league camp or development program.”
Last week, I looked at Cole Sulser’s prospects of making an impact in the Baltimore Orioles bullpen. Sulser found his way to Baltimore via Tampa Bay after being included in a three-way swap of more prominent players. Today, let’s take a look at those players.
To review: in December of 2018, the Indians, Mariners, and Rays engaged in a three-way deal that shuffled around their first basemen. In this rare three-way challenge trade, each team came away with (at least one) major-league first baseman. The Rays got Yandy Diaz, the Mariners Edwin Encarnacion, while the Indians snagged a pair of first basemen in the deal: Jake Bauers and Carlos Santana.
There were auxiliary pieces that fit less cleanly into our first basemen carousel. The Rays picked up Sulser from Cleveland, while Tampa also sent $5MM to the Mariners. Seattle paid that money forward, sending a total of $6MM to the Indians. Coming back to Seattle was the Indians’ Round B selection in the draft. The Mariners ended up selecting right-handed pitcher Isaiah Campbell out of Arkansas with the #76 pick in the draft. Those pieces aside, let’s check in on how each team is feeling about their end of this whirlwind deal one season after the fact.
This move – and much of their offseason last winter – was largely about shuffling money around – but not wholly so. The Indians took back Santana, who had only recently been sent to Seattle after playing one season in Philadelphia. Santana made $20.3MM in 2019, but his contract was offset by sending out Encarnacion, who was owed $21.7MM in 2019 with a $5MM buyout for 2020. The difference in their salaries, plus the money acquired from Seattle netted the Indians close to $7.5MM in 2019, though they took on more long-term money in Santana.
On the field, this deal basically amounts to two exchanges for the Indians: Santana over Encarnacion in terms of big-money players, and Bauers over Diaz for cost-controlled assets. As for the first exchange, the Indians have to count this as a win. After one so-so year with the Phillies, Santana returned to form in a big way with the Indians. All aspects of Santana’s game came together in 2019. He hit .281/.397/.515 on the year with 34 home runs and 110 RBIs. He turned in his typically strong BB-K numbers, posting identical walk and strikeout rates of 15.7% (slight improvements on his career norms in both departments). His isolated power (.234 ISO) was the second-highest mark of his career, while the .397 OBP was a new career-high for a full season. Santana’s season totaled 4.6rWAR/4.4 fWAR, good for 135 wRC+, and he’ll be back in their lineup for 2020.
Bauers, on the other hand, is a work in progress. He brings an added level of versatility, appearing in 31 games at first and 53 games in left, but he’ll need to improve at the plate to put that value to work. Bauers hit just .226/.312/.371 across 423 plate appearances in his first season with the Indians. His walk rate dropped to 10.6% and with a power mark of just .145 ISO. That’s not enough pop from a first baseman/left fielder. He finished with below-average marks of 78 wRC+ and -0.4 fWAR. Still, all hope is not lost for Bauers. A career-low .290 BABIP might point to some positive regression in the future, and he doesn’t even turn 25-years-old until October.
The Mariners’ biggest get here was the draft pick. GM Jerry Dipoto continued his rebuild, and ultimately, the swap of sluggers was an avenue to add another draft pick. After taking on Santana a week prior, the Mariners shed long-term money by swapping in Encarnacion, whom they eventually flipped to the Yankees.
While with the Mariners, Encarnacion was about as good as expected, slashing .241/.356/.531 with 21 home runs in 65 games. With the rebuild in full swing, EE was never expected to spend a full season in Seattle. Given his start to the year, the Mariners’ return for the DH was a little underwhelming, but the market for teams in need of a designated hitter was limited. Still, Trader Jerry added right-hander Juan Then from the Yankees. Fangraphs ranks Then as the Mariners’ #13-ranked prospect after finishing the season in A-ball. Campbell, selected with the acquired draft choice, comes in at #16.
The Yankees and Mariners essentially split the remaining money owed Encarnacion at the time, so the M’s did see some financial benefit as well. It’s often difficult to track the wheeling and dealing done by Dipoto, but we can give it a go here. To do so, we have to go back to the deal that sent Santana from the Phillies to Seattle. Dipoto sent Jean Segura, Juan Nicasio, and James Pazos to Philly for Santana and J.P. Crawford. In sum, he started with Segura, Nicasio, and Pazos, and the Mariners ended up with Crawford, Then, and Campbell, along with some financial saving both in the short-and-long-term.
It was surprising to see the Rays move Jake Bauers at the time of this deal, but they’re no stranger to dealing from a young core. The Rays picked up Sulser and Diaz for Bauers in this trade, while also sending $5MM to the Mariners. Considering Sulser was eventually lost on waivers to the Orioles (though he did give them 7 scoreless innings in 2019), the move essentially amounts to the Rays paying $5MM to swap in Diaz for Bauers. At the time of the deal, Bauers was seen as an up-and-comer, while Diaz was a little-known 27-year-old utility player with little-to-no boom in his boomstick. As has often been the case of late with Rays’ trades, at a cursory glance, the Rays were trading away controllable youth for a role player.
But where the Rays are concerned, it’s often worth delving a little further. Diaz quickly became known for his above-average exit velocities. And while Diaz was a little older and without the prospect pedigree of Bauers, he came with similar team control, more versatility given his ability to line up at the hot corner, and his biceps have a cult following all their own.
Injuries unfortunately limited Diaz’s production in 2019, but when he was on the field, he was dynamite. While posting a line of .267/.340/.476 across 79 games, Diaz was coming into his own as a hitter with a 116 wRC+. Diaz’s minor league career to this point was a testament to his ability to get on base, limit strikeouts, and make hard contact, but a groundball-heavy approach limited his power.
But it was a different story in Tampa. Diaz produced a career-best .208 ISO to go with a 91.7 mph exit velocity that put him in the top 8% of the league, per Statcast. His hard-hit percentage continues to be well above average, and a small improvement in launch angle and a large jump in barrels led to Diaz smashing 14 home runs in 79 games after hitting just 1 in 88 big league games with the Indians.
Not only that, but Diaz returned from the injured list in time for the playoffs, leading off the wild card game with a solo shot off Sean Manaea. Diaz went deep his second time up as well, at which point the Rays had more than enough to get past the A’s. It was a monster performance from Diaz in the biggest game of the year up to that point. (Things didn’t go quite so well for Diaz in Houston, as he went 0 for 9 with four strikeouts in the ALDS.) The Rays have to feel pretty good about where they stand with Diaz moving forward, as he should continue to be a cheap source of offense for the next couple of seasons.
For that matter, all three teams have to feel pretty good about this deal, as they each accomplished their goal. If Bauers has a better showing in 2020 and the Mariners’ prospects come to fruition, there will ultimately be very little not to like about this three-way deal. Include the Orioles for nabbing Sulser and the Yankees for getting a half a season of Encarnacion, and it could be argued that five teams actually came away winners from this three-way swap of first baseman.
The manner in which teams are — or, in some cases, aren’t — continuing to pay their minor league players has drawn increased attention as the end of the month draws near. Major League teams agreed back in March to pay minor league players $400 per week through the end of May, but most minor league players now face ongoing financial uncertainty. The Dodgers have already committed to continue that $400 weekly stipend through the end of June, but veteran left-hander David Price is stepping up to add a helping hand, pledging $1,000 to each non-40-man Dodgers minor leaguer, according to a report from Francys Romero (Twitter link). That includes more than 220 minor leaguers, per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. It’s a similar gesture to the one Shin-Shoo Choo made with the Rangers back in April.
Of course, the very fact that veterans such as Choo and Price even feel it necessary to step up to help out minor leaguers speaks to the manner in which minor league players are under-compensated. While some clubs — the Marlins and Padres — are reportedly set to pay out that $400 weekly stipend through the end of the minor league season, the Athletics are cutting off the stipend at month’s end. Others have extended the stipend through June but have not committed further.
Here’s how a few other clubs are handling the matter…
- The Mets, Rays, Brewers, Cardinals, Giants and Indians are all extending the $400 weekly stipend through the month of June, per reports from MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (tweet), the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak (tweet), the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area (tweet) and Kyle Glaser of Baseball America (tweet). “This money right now, especially for guys who aren’t as well off, this is a huge deal,” Rays minor league catcher Chris Betts tells Topkin. “…I’m beyond excited about it, and I’m honestly just more stoked and proud that the organization I play for took this route more than anything.”
- The Athletics have, unsurprisingly, drawn a wide array of harsh criticism for their wide-ranging furlough and the full cutoff of minor league payment, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Slusser notes that owner John Fisher repeatedly used the word “family” in his letter to fans explaining the cutbacks, but many impacted by the cuts don’t feel the effects of that word. “It’s very hard to preach family and then not act like it when times are difficult,” Class-A pitcher Aiden McIntyre tells Slusser. Triple-A outfielder Jason Krizan added: “…[I]t hurts to see the Marlins continue to pay their players when they made the least in baseball last year,” though he noted he’d rather remain an Athletic and receive benefits than otherwise. Other players, past and present, voiced similar criticisms to Slusser, as did a big league agent and an executive with another club. Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein writes that termination of the stipend saves the Athletics an approximate $1.3MM.
Rays left-hander Blake Snell has changed representation and is now a client of the Boras Corporation, Ken Rosenthal and Josh Tolentino of The Athletic report (subscription link). MLBTR has made note of Snell’s agency change in our database.
Snell’s switch to the game’s highest-profile agent comes long before he’ll be eligible to reach the open market. Coming off an AL Cy Young-winning season in 2018, he and his former agency, Apex Sports, scored a five-year, $50MM extension from the Rays in March 2019. That deal made for a record for players with fewer than three years’ service time in both length and total value. As a result of the pact, the 27-year-old Snell is slated to remain in Tampa Bay through the 2023 campaign.
As noted Monday here at MLBTR, Snell – the 52nd pick in the 2011 draft – has been quite effective for the Rays since he made his major league debut in 2016. However, aside from his 180 2/3-inning showing two years ago, he hasn’t eaten a great deal of frames in any season. Snell has averaged a bit over five innings per start in 97 outings, but the hard thrower has put up a sterling 3.24 ERA/3.42 FIP with 10.41 K/9 and 3.81 BB/9 along the way.
Former major league outfielder Brad Hawpe was a more-than-respectable offensive player during his peak with the Rockies. While Hawpe had difficulty early on from his debut in 2004 through the next season, he combined to slash .288/.384/.518 (124 wRC+) with 99 home runs in 2,338 plate appearances from 2006-09. The last of those four years, an All-Star campaign for Hawpe, went down as his final truly effective effort as a hitter. After Hawpe got off a .255/.343/.432 start (94 wRC+) with only seven homers in 2010, the team released him late that August.
Hawpe, then 31 years old, drew a vast amount of interest when he reached free agency amid a pennant race. He ultimately signed a minor league contract with the Rays, who at the time were in a hotly contested fight for AL East supremacy with the Yankees and Red Sox. The Rays did end up with 96 victories and a division crown that season before falling in the ALDS, but their regular-season sucess wasn’t Hawpe’s doing. He debuted with Tampa Bay on Sept. 1 and went on to hit .179/.304/.333 with two homers in 39 at-bats in its uniform.
Hawpe didn’t participate in the Rays’ postseason series, and shortly after its conclusion, he rejected their arbitration offer in order to revisit the open market. Because he was a Type B free agent under MLB’s old system, the Rays were entitled to a compensatory draft pick for losing Hawpe. And they did watch him exit when he took San Diego’s $2MM guarantee in January 2011. Hawpe didn’t produce as a Padre or as a member of the Angels, with whom his career concluded in 2013, but the Rays have benefited immensely from his short-term run with them and stand to continue gaining from it over the long haul.
In essence, the Rays traded one month of Hawpe – who cost them very little money – for the 52nd selection in the draft. The Rays used that choice on a then-Washington state high school left-hander named Blake Snell. The year Tampa Bay drafted him, Baseball America wrote in his scouting report, “Because of his signability, his velocity and how well he has performed in front of crosscheckers, Snell could get popped as high as the supplemental first round, though on pure talent he would probably go a few rounds later.”
The gamble has worked out for the Rays, with whom Snell has been elite at times dating back to his first season in 2016. He spun 89 innings of 3.54 ERA ball then, and though Snell struggled enough the next season to earn a short-term demotion to the minors, he returned to MLB to finish with a decent 4.04 ERA in 129 1/3 frames. But it was 2018 when Snell truly took off; owing in part to a jump in velocity, he pitched to a 1.89 ERA with 11.01 K/9 and 3.19 BB/9 across 180 2/3 innings en route to AL Cy Young honors.
With injuries troubling him, Snell was unable to reign atop the AL again last year, when his ERA ballooned to 4.29 in 107 innings. However, that’s not to say he totally fell off the map. You’d be hard-pressed to find a team that wouldn’t sign up for the 3.32 FIP and 12.36 K/9 against 3.36 BB/9 he posted last season.
The Rays already extended Snell on a five-year, $50MM guarantee deal before the prior campaign, keeping a high-end starter under control through 2023. To think, it all started with the minor addition of Hawpe a decade ago. Not bad.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Since he made his major league debut in 2015, Trea Turner has established himself as one of the reigning World Series champion Nationals’ most valuable players. A second baseman and then a center fielder at the beginning of his career, Turner took over as the Nationals’ shortstop in 2017 and now has a stranglehold on the position.
Dating back to his first full season in 2018, Turner has accounted for 8.3 fWAR and hit .283/.348/.451 (110 wRC+) with 38 home runs and 78 stolen bases – the second-highest total in MLB – across 1,309 plate appearances. And the 26-year-old Turner figures to contribute similar or better production in Washington for at least the next couple seasons, as he’s only now about to enter his first of three arbitration-eligible campaigns.
With Turner having already given the Nationals quite a bit of surplus value, it’s worth revisiting how he joined the team in the first place. To say the least, it was unusual transaction that led him to D.C. Turner was a 20th-round pick of the Pirates in 2011, but he elected to pass on signing with the Bucs in order to play at North Carolina State. That proved to be a wise decision by Turner, who increased his stock so much as a college player that the Padres took him 13th overall in 2014. Little did Turner or the Padres know then that he’d never play a real game in their uniform, nor was either side aware their relationship would end in such unconventional fashion.
While Turner continued to succeed as a young pro with the Pads, ranking as Baseball America’s 65th-best prospect prior to 2015, the club parted with him that year. Actually, though, San Diego agreed to trade Turner in December 2014 in a three-team blockbuster that also involved the Rays and Nats and. The Padres received outfielder Wil Myers, pitchers Gerardo Reyes and Jose Castillo, and catcher Ryan Hanigan. The Rays acquired first baseman Jake Bauers, righty Burch Smith, outfielder Steven Souza Jr., catcher Rene Rivera and lefty Travis Ott. The Nationals picked up righty Joe Ross and a player to be named later. Ross showed flashes at the beginning of his Nats tenure, but injuries have helped knock him off course in recent years. On the other hand, the PTBNL, Turner, has been a gem.
Although the Padres and Rays had a handshake agreement in regards to Turner, they weren’t allowed to make it official for a while because of previous MLB rules. The league formerly had a system in place that barred teams from trading anyone who wasn’t a year removed from being drafted. So, because Turner didn’t meet that requirement, he had to spend several more months with the Padres, even though he knew he wasn’t really a member of the team. Turner’s agent, Jeff Berry, suggested he’d fight the setup. In the end, however, Turner didn’t officially change hands until June 2015 – one month after the league instituted new rules to stop something similar from taking place.
To the Padres’ credit, they treated Turner well during his waning months with the club. Turner had to go to Padres spring training and play in the minors as part of the franchise as he waited for the finalization of the trade, and he complimented the team on multiple occasions during that period.
Unfortunately for San Diego, it hasn’t gotten nearly enough out of this trade in hindsight. Turner, after all, has clearly become the top player in this massive swap. Myers had an All-Star season in 2016, which persuaded the Padres to hand him a six-year, $83MM extension, but he has fallen off since then and is now someone they’d like to remove from their books. Reyes had a rough go in his MLB debut last season (7.62 ERA), though he did amass 38 strikeouts in 26 innings. Castillo performed well as a rookie two years ago, but injuries wrecked his 2019. Unlike those three, Hanigan never even played for the Padres, who quickly flipped him to the Red Sox for third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Although Middlebrooks did pile up 270 PA as a Padre in 2015, he was just a .212/.241/.361 hitter then.
It’s fair to say this deal will not go down as a shining moment for Padres general manager A.J. Preller. Conversely, it’s one of the many feathers in the cap of GM Mike Rizzo and the Nationals, for whom a one-time player to be named later helped to a championship several months back.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
It’s been nearly 20 months since Denard Span suited up in a big league game, and the former Twins, Nationals, Giants, Rays and Mariners outfielder suggests in an interview with Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he may not do so again. Span reveals that he received offers in the 2018-19 offseason, although they clearly weren’t compelling enough to leave his young family. Span adds that he worked out this winter with an eye toward a 2020 return and received “two or three” minor league offers — but they came from clubs without much of a path to the Majors even in the event that he played well in Triple-A.
“I haven’t announced it, officially, but maybe this is it,” Span said when asked about retirement. “…I still would have the ability to help a team. But 36-year-old outfielders who haven’t played in two years … not happening. I’m very satisfied pouring my life into our family, to Anne, a wonderful person, and our two boys.”
If this is indeed it for the amiable Span, it’s been quite a strong career. A first-round pick out of high school by the Twins back in 2002, Span took nearly six years to ascend to the big leagues, but he made an immediate impact upon arrival. Twenty-four years old at the time, Span finished sixth in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2008 and hit .294/.387/.432 (122 OPS+ and wRC+ alike) through 487 plate appearances, helping push the Twins to a dramatic Game 163 showdown with the White Sox. Minnesota fell in a crushing 1-0 loss to the South Siders, but Span had announced his presence in the big leagues and would never look back.
Over the next four seasons, Span was the consummate leadoff man in Minnesota, hitting a combined .283/.351/.381 with a nine percent walk rate and just an 11.5 percent strikeout rate. In addition to a knack for working counts and putting the ball in play, Span showed off well above-average baserunning skills and the ability to play plus defense wherever he was slotted into the outfield (center field, more often than not). Heading into the 2010 campaign, Span signed a five-year, $16.5MM contract extension that contained an option for an additional $9MM.
Span provided excellent value over the course of that contract, but he only spent half of it in a Twins uniform. As the Twins fell from their status as a perennial AL Central contender and moved into a rebuild, Span had two guaranteed years and the club option remaining on that highly appealing deal. Minnesota flipped him to the Nationals in a straight-up swap for then-vaunted pitching prospect Alex Meyer — a deal that proved regrettable for Minnesota after repeated shoulder injuries torpedoed Meyer’s career.
The Nats had no complaints, though, and that may have been the case even if Meyer had eventually developed into a quality big leaguer. Span hit .292/.345/.404 in three seasons with Washington, continuing to add value on the bases and in the field along the way. By the time he reached free agency, Span was solidified enough to command a three-year, $31MM contract from the Giants. Even as his glovework deteriorated — San Francisco didn’t help matters by continuing to play him in center for lack of a better option — Span remained solid at the plate. However, he played out the final year of that deal between his hometown Rays and the Mariners after the Giants sent him to Tampa Bay in the Evan Longoria trade.
All told, Span has logged 11 seasons in the Major Leagues and batted a combined .281/.347/.398 with 71 home runs, 265 doubles, 72 triples, 185 stolen bases (in 244 tries — 76 percent), 773 runs scored and 490 RBIs. He was never an All-Star despite a strong career that checked in at 28 wins above replacement per both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference — a likely result of the understated manner in which he brought value to his teams (on-base percentage, baserunning, defense).
Clubs clearly saw the value in Span, though, as he was a regular from the moment he debuted up through the end of the 2018 season, and he inked a pair of multi-year deals that helped propel his career earnings north of $58MM (including his draft bonus). Best wishes to Span moving forward, whatever the future holds.
After undergoing back surgery in early February, Yankees southpaw James Paxton was given a timeline of three-to-four months before he could return to the field. As we approach the end of that estimated recovery period, Paxton described his back as “a non-issue” in an interview Friday on the YES Network (hat tip to ESPN.com). “I feel totally healthy, so I’ll be ready to go as soon as the season comes about….I think I’m back to full strength,” Paxton said, noting that he has already thrown an estimated 12-14 bullpen sessions.
If there is any silver lining for the Yankees in this league-wide shutdown, the lack of game action has allowed several injured Yankees to recover without missing any time. As such, should the 2020 season begin in early July as rumored, New York could have Paxton, Giancarlo Stanton, and possibly Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks all available for the roster. It will be a particularly important season for Paxton, who is scheduled to hit free agency this winter and projects to be one of the top starters available on the open market. While the back surgery only adds to Paxton’s not-insubstantial injury history, a big performance in whatever consists of a 2020 season would certainly help Paxton’s case at a healthy multi-year contract in the offseason.
More from the AL East…
- Rays players will begin limited workouts at Tropicana Field on Monday, and the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin details how the club will take a very measured approach to restarting its preseason preparations. “There’s a lot more downside to moving too fast than too slow,” GM Erik Neander said. “Our priority remains the health and safety of our players, staff and their families. We will learn a lot through this initial, conservative step, and that will serve us well as we continue to ramp up.” Only small groupings of players will be allowed to work out or use the field at any given time, rather than the entire roster; the Rays will take some time before deciding whether to bring Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and Ji-Man Choi back to North America.
- The Orioles inked Jose Iglesias to a one-year deal last winter with the expectation that the veteran could help both on the field and in the clubhouse. Third base coach and infield instructor Jose Flores tells Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com that Iglesias already started to develop a mentor/student relationship with young shortstop Richie Martin. “Josie shares a lot of his ideas, we share with Richie, and he seems to take all that into play,” Flores said. “And I think Richie has actually become a better infielder just by having Josie working out with him during the course of Spring Training.”
- It remains to be seen if Martin will make Baltimore’s MLB roster if/when the season gets underway, as while the former Rule 5 pick definitely wasn’t ready for big league competition last year, Martin won’t be able to get any further minor league seasoning if there isn’t any official minor league ball in 2020. Therefore, Martin could wind up on the “taxi squad” rumored to be planned in support of teams’ Major League rosters, or an expanded 30-man roster could provide room for Martin to land more playing time with the Orioles. Flores noted that Martin had been playing some second base during spring camp in order to help boost his versatility and chances of making the club as a backup infielder. For what it’s worth, Martin had also been hitting well before Spring Training was shut down, with an .869 OPS over 30 plate appearances.
It’s make-or-break time for MLB and the MLBPA on forging a path to baseball in 2020. With some significant negotiations looming this week, ESPN’s Jeff Passan runs through some of the biggest questions facing the league. The battle between players and owners is rife with potential roadblocks, and it’s not just the conditions of 2020 that are at stake. With the CBA renegotiation still in the (what-now-feels-like distant) future, both sides are aware of the impact any concession can make to the bigger picture. The way this week’s negotiations are handled could reveal the potential the two sides have of forging an effective working relationship moving forward. One would think now would be an ideal time for opposing sides to come together, and yet it’s just not as simple as that when billions of dollars are at stake. There are countless people and opinions to take into account on both sides of the aisle. While we await a loaded week of negotiations, let’s check in on how teams are handling their non-player-and-coach employees…
- Teams are taking a variety of approaches when it comes to their employees in the wake of COVID-19, but the Angels have come under fire for taking a more drastic approach than most, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. The Angels will be furloughing employees from nearly every department, including, in the words of Rosenthal, “weakening its amateur scouting department heading into the draft.” The optics aren’t great here for the large-market Angels, especially when clubs like the Brewers, Giants, and Phillies have made commitments to retaining their staff at least through October. The Blue Jays also recently made the decision to keep employees’ on their full-time salaries through October 1, tweets John Lott, a frequent contributor to The Athletic. The Brewers have been the most aggressively pro-employee, per Rosenthal, committing to keeping their staff on through the entirety of the baseball season. The pro-employee approach is laudable, though not necessarily all that shocking coming out of Milwaukee. The Brewers have increasingly stepped into the spotlight in recent years as a progressive organization, from the supportive atmosphere provided players to making special efforts to get Milwaukee residents in to see games to their very team-building approach. The Angels, meanwhile, might find tough sledding ahead when it comes to signing undrafted amateur players. Without their typical scouting infrastructure in place, those relationships will be harder to build in an open market, and it’s possible the decisions being made by ownership today will have far-reaching consequences for the organization’s future.
- The Rays, meanwhile, are readying to return to the field. Camp will re-open on Monday for a small collection of 15 to 20 players, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Those players involved will still be keeping a separation of six feet from other players, and workouts will be limited. Still, it’s a positive sign to see players start to congregate again around a playing field. It’s also, no doubt, a risky proposition, but so long as safety precautions are followed and we don’t see a breakout of cases among these players, these workouts could be a harbinger of more baseball to come.
- Baseball is back already in some places of the world, of course. The KBO is about 17 games into their 2020 season, and they’re about to get a lot more popular. A new deal was announced for ESPN to become the English-language home of KBO games set to broadcast around the world, per ESPN’s Santa Brito. Play-by-play announcers will continue to provide commentary while social distancing. ESPN will soon be broadcasting KBO games “throughout Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean (including the Dominican Republic), Europe, Middle East, Africa, and parts of Asia.”