The Tigers have added a few modestly priced veteran free agents to a team that lost 114 games and easily finished last in the majors a season ago. At this point, Detroit’s not expecting any more acquisitions before the season, general manager Al Avila suggested Thursday (via Cody Stavenhagen of The Athletic).
I would say so,” Avila said when asked if Detroit’s Wednesday signing of outfielder Cameron Maybin would be its last notable pickup.
The Tigers have looked like speculative fits for outfielder Yasiel Puig, who’s still without a job, but it officially appears he’ll have to look elsewhere. Avila already shot down a potential Puig signing weeks ago. Now, between the reunion with the ex-Tiger Maybin and Avila’s comments, they can probably be scratched off Puig’s list of possible employers. They’re instead counting on Maybin, whom they reeled in for $1.5MM, to enjoy a second straight successful campaign and perhaps take on an everyday role, as Stavenhagen writes (subscription link).
The 32-year-old Maybin has bounced around since the Tigers took him 10th overall in the 2005 draft, enduring his share of ups and downs along the way. He had to settle for minor league deals with the Giants and Indians before last season, but an April trade to the Yankees may have revived his career. Maybin was an unsung hero on an injury-riddled New York club, as a more fly ball-oriented approach helped him to a .285/.364/.494 with 11 home runs in 269 plate appearances.
Maybin became the fifth veteran to join the Tigers on a one-year contract since last season ended. The club previously signed first baseman C.J. Cron, second baseman Jonathan Schoop, catcher Austin Romine and right-hander Ivan Nova. There may not be a world-beater in the bunch, but those stopgaps should at least make Detroit more competitive this season. And the team does have a few talented starters (some of whom aren’t yet in the majors but could be soon) who could combine to give the club a decent rotation. Matt Boyd, Spencer Turnbull and Daniel Norris are on hand at the MLB level; Michael Fulmer should make it back from Tommy John surgery in the summer; Nova’s an acceptable back-end innings-eater; and Casey Mize and Matt Manning are two of the top prospects in the game. With all of that said, the Tigers should be a tougher out in 2020.
A couple minor moves, both of which come courtesy of Roster Roundup:
The Yankeessigned right-hander Kevin Gadea to a minor league contract earlier this week. The 25-year-old Gadea pitched at the low levels of the minors with the Mariners from 2013-16, during which he recorded a 2.64 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 225 1/3 innings. The Rays then took Gadea in the Rule 5 Draft in advance of the 2017 season, but he hasn’t pitched competitively since then because of elbow issues. After a long layoff, he’ll try to get his pro career back on track with a new organization.
The Dodgers have added righty Kieran Lovegrove on a minors pact. The flamethrower from South Africa was a third-round pick of the Indians in 2012 who has since spent time with the Orioles and Giants. Lovegrove and the Giants had high hopes for one another when the team signed him in November 2018, but the union didn’t yield positive results. He ended up enduring a difficult season between the Giants’ Double-A club and the O’s High-A affiliate, thanks largely to control problems. Lovegrove posted ERAs in the 9.00 range with those clubs and combined for 24 walks (with 18 strikeouts) in just 26 innings.
8:50pm: Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger underwent surgery on Thursday, Jeff Passan of ESPN reports. It’s the second procedure Haniger has undergone since he had core surgery three weeks ago. It’s unclear when he’ll be able to come back, but there will be a significant delay to the start of his season, according to Passan.
Haniger was already set to miss a major chunk of time after his previous surgery. As of Jan. 23, he was supposed to sit out six to eight weeks, which would’ve kept him out for at least the beginning of the season. Last week, though, general manager Jerry Dipoto didn’t seem sure when the Mariners would get Haniger back, saying, We have no expectation on his timeline until we actually see him live [at Spring Training].”
Dipoto didn’t rule out an early season return or a mid-year debut for Haniger, and now uncertainty continues to abound in his case. It’s awful news for Haniger, who already missed 99 games in 2019, as well as a Mariners team that will have to continue trudging on without arguably its best player.
While the 29-year-old Haniger wasn’t as productive in 2019 as he was during the previous two seasons, in which he posted star-caliber offensive production, he still put up above-average numbers at the plate. His batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage experienced precipitous drops, but Haniger’s .220/.314/.463 line in 283 plate appearances was nonetheless 6 percent better than the MLB mean, per FanGraphs’ wRC+ metric.
Had he gone through a healthy offseason, Haniger – who has three years of team control left – could have served as an appealing trade chip for the Mariners. That’s obviously not going to happen in the near future, though, and it’s now up in the air whether he’ll have much of a chance to rebuild his value before this July’s trade deadline.
Rep 1 Baseball has agreed to acquire Peter E. Greenberg and Associates, making it one of the largest agencies in the game. It now has over 60 major league clients on its roster and more than 150 in the minors.
It’s been an active past year on the contract front for several of the aforementioned players. Encarnacion signed a one-year, $12MM deal with the White Sox this offseason. He’s now teammates with Jimenez, whom the White Sox last March inked to a then-record contract for a player with no MLB service time (six years, $43MM). The Yankees’ Severino (four years, $40MM) and the Braves’ Acuna (eight years, $100MM) also joined in on the 2019 extension bonanza. Devers, who had a star-caliber 2019 with the Red Sox, could be next, but the 22-year-old still has one more season left before he’s eligible for arbitration.
It was on this date two years ago that one of the most expensive signings in Cubs history became official. The club added former Rangers and Dodgers right-hander Yu Darvish on a six-year, $126MM guarantee. The deal gave Darvish the right to opt out after last season, which would’ve meant walking away from $81MM in favor of a free-agency mystery box, but he chose to stay in Chicago, citing a comfort with the city and the organization.
For the Cubs, the Darvish pickup came after they bowed out in the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers in the prior fall. Darvish was an instrumental part of the Dodgers’ victory, as he fired 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball in their Game 3 win. The hope for the Cubs was that Darvish would upgrade a rotation that was good, not great, in 2017. As a bonus, they took Darvish away from a rival, with which he was terrific after it acquired him from Texas at that summer’s trade deadline.
Darvish joined the Cubs as a 32-year-old who was eminently successful after coming over from Japan. From 2012-17, a 131-start, 832 1/3-inning run, he posted a 3.42 ERA/3.30 with a jaw-dropping 11.04 K/9 against 3.32 BB/9. There were injuries along the way, though. Darvish underwent Tommy John surgery before the 2016 campaign and missed that entire season. That was sandwiched between two years in which he combined to amass just 244 2/3 frames.
To his credit, Darvish rebounded to throw 186 2/3 effective innings in his season divided between the Rangers and Dodgers. As a result, there was quite a bit of buzz surrounding him as he headed into free agency. MLBTR ranked him as the No. 1 free agent available and predicted a six-year, $160MM payday. But that offseason moved at a more glacial pace than anticipated, and there was less money thrown around than expected. Even Darvish wasn’t immune to it. Several teams (the Rangers, Dodgers, Twins, Brewers and Yankees among them) showed interest in Darvish, but he ultimately chose to go to the Windy City.
Unfortunately for Chicago and Darvish, the first year of their union was an utter letdown. Darvish was on the injured list multiple times – including for triceps and elbow problems – totaled a mere 40 innings and didn’t pitch past May 20. To make matters worse, when Darvish was able to take the mound, he mustered a career-low 4.95 ERA/4.86 FIP with a personal-high 4.73 BB/9. While Darvish did fan a little over 11 hitters per nine, that couldn’t have been much of consolation to the Cubs, who signed him with the belief he’d deliver more than just strikeouts.
On the heels of a rough first season with the Cubs, there probably wasn’t much optimistic with regards to Darvish entering last year. And several weeks through 2019, it looked as if the downward spiral was continuing. Darvish owned a 5.01 ERA as late as July 3, but the light bulb went back on in a big way after that. He finished the season on a rampage from that point, collecting an incredible 124 strikeouts against seven walks in 88 1/3 combined innings in July, August and September. He ended the year with a respectable 3.98 ERA/4.18 FIP with 11.54 K/9 against 2.82 over a healthy amount of starts (31) and innings (178 2/3).
As great as Darvish was in the second half of 2019, his overall performance as a Cub still probably hasn’t been what the team had in mind. Indeed, when assessing president of baseball operations Theo Epstein’s highest-profile signings earlier this week, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes gave the Darvish deal a mediocre ’C’ grade. But if his recent dominance is any indication, the 33-year-old Darvish may be able to help the Cubs rebound from their postseason-less 2019 this year. If he keeps it going (not a sure thing at his age), that grade should go up.
Additional help may not be imminent, as GM Jon Daniels told Wilson and other reporters “theres nothing that is front-burner right now that Im expecting to come to a head this spring. There will be a lot of conversations, Im sure.” This doesn’t close the door on a new acquisition, of course, even if that new player may be more of a part-timer than a star (such as Kris Bryant, who has also been widely linked to the Rangers on the rumor mill.) The versatile Santana is the answer in center field for the time being, though “we have to decide how were going to go about it,” Daniels said. “I think Danny comes in with the expectation hell get the bulk of the playing time out there, but we also like him in that versatile role. Theres a little bit of give there. We have to make a call.”
More from around the AL West…
Taijuan Walker is back with the Mariners after signing a one-year deal with the club worth $2MM in guaranteed money, rejoining the team that originally drafted him in 2010 and, after four MLB seasons, dealt him to the Diamondbacks in the 2016-17 offseason. Looking back on his initial stint with the M’s, “I had a lot of stuff to learn,” Walker told the Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish and other media. “I dont think I did very good job here of doing what I need to do become the best pitcher I could be. I definitely slacked off and just didnt put the work in.” The trade inspired Walker to work harder in Arizona, plus he was further motivated by “good vets that kept on me just having Zack Greinke over there, a bunch of guys who were really hungry and ready to work.” It could be said that Walker’s injury problems have also aided in the maturity process, as the right-hander has tossed only 14 innings totals over the 2018-19 seasons due to both Tommy John surgery and shoulder issues. The need to re-acclimate himself to pitching played a role in Walker’s decision to sign with Seattle, since “Im comfortable here. I haven’t pitched in two years, so I wanted somewhere where I can come in and kind of take my time. I dont have to rush.” Another positive factor was the Mariners’ hire of Kyle Torgerson as head athletic trainer, as Torgerson previously worked for the Diamondbacks and is already familiar with Walker. “Im comfortable with him. He knows my body. He knows what I have to do to stay healthy,” Walker said.
The arbitration hearing between Aledmys Diaz and the Astros is scheduled for February 17, The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan tweets. This is Diaz’s first of three trips through the arb process, and the utilityman submitted a $2.6MM figure while the team countered with $2MM. Acquired from the Blue Jays for Trent Thornton last winter, Diaz hit well (.271/.356/.467 with nine homers) in his first year in Houston but was limited to 247 plate appearances and 69 games, largely due to a hamstring injury that sidelined him for almost two months. Diaz is one of two Astros players who didn’t reach an agreement with the club prior to the filing deadline, though the Astros sidestepped a hearing with George Springer by agreeing to a one-year, $21MM deal with the star outfielder last month.
The Athletics brought a catcher to their Major League spring camp, though it was non-roster invite and former Oakland Double-A backstop Collin Theroux rather than one of the well-known veterans the club reportedly has under consideration. “It probably looks like we go forward with the group we have right now,” manager Bob Melvin told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser and other reporters, with Theroux joining Austin Allen, Jonah Heim, Carlos Perez, Ronnie Freeman, and presumptive starter Sean Murphy at Spring Training. There isn’t much collective MLB experience in this group, which is why the A’s have looked into the likes of Russell Martin as a seasoned backup (and mentor) to Murphy, who the A’s see as their catcher of the future.
Thursday looks like yet another tough day for the Astros in an offseason packed with them. The club sent a few representatives out to discuss its sign-stealing scandal that many believe has tarnished its laundry list of accomplishments from recent years. The news conference wasn’t well-received, as multiple players and owner Jim Crane only offered perfunctory apologies for the team’s wrongdoing. What’s more, Crane called on manager Dusty Baker to ask for forgiveness on the club’s behalf. The problem? Baker had nothing to do with the Astros’ misdeeds. He only just joined the Astros as their skipper Jan. 29, a couple weeks after the team bid adieu to suspended predecessor A.J. Hinch.
Among their possible crimes, Astros hitters may have worn electronic buzzers under their jerseys last season in order to help identify which pitches were coming. Major League Baseball investigated the matter, but it didn’t find any evidence supporting those accusations. Questions about it have persisted, though. Crane said Thursday, I truly believe there were no buzzers ever.” Prominent members of the roster agree, for what it’s worth, as Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle relays.
Second baseman Jose Altuve’s walk-off home run against the Yankees in Game 6 of last year’s American League Championship Series sent the Astros to the World Series. Altuve wouldn’t let his teammates rip off his jersey as he approached home plate to celebrate, but he quickly went into the locker room to change his shirt after that. Some may regard that as damning evidence that he was wearing a device at the time, though the former AL MVP vehemently denied those claims Thursday.
It was a fake Twitter account that started everything, Altuve said. It makes me upset that a fake Twitter account had that much credibility. Like I said, I feel bad for 2017 but I can say something that I didnt do was the buzzer thing. No one on this team wore a buzzer.
The “fake Twitter account,” now deactivated, belonged to someone claiming to be the niece of former Astro Carlos Beltran – one of the central figures in the team’s 2017 sign-stealing scheme. The Beltran family denied that was the case when the story came out last month, however.
Thats a lie. Nobody wore buzzers. Nobody wore devices, insisted Correa, who added the “story should be killed already.”
Both Springer and Reddick said that was “absolutely not” the case, while Reddick offered, no, not to my knowledge.
Considering the events of the past few weeks, you’d be within your rights to have a hard time believing what the Astros are saying. But even if the team didn’t wear buzzers, it’s obvious at this point there were other violations in recent years. Hence, the mess the Astros find themselves in now.
TODAY: Casting further cold water on the Bryant/Arenado rumors, a source tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that this speculation could be “media noise” from the Cubs themselves, trying to spur on better offers from other teams (i.e. the Phillies, Nationals, Braves) that could have interest in Bryant.
FEBRUARY 12: When Major League Basbeall’s offseason started, the Cubs looked like one of the sport’s most intriguing teams. After collapsing last season and finishing with 84 wins, there was an expectation the Cubs’ roster would undergo a drastic makeover. That hasn’t happened at all, though, and the Cubs have largely been quiet this winter. They’ve made no earth-shattering acquisitions (apologies to Steven Souza Jr., Jason Kipnis and Jeremy Jeffress) or roster-altering trades, though they have lost a few notable players – including Nicholas Castellanos and Cole Hamels – since the winter began.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein addressed the Cubs’ offseason Tuesday, saying (via Jordan Bastian of MLB.com), “I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been as much turnover as we expected.” Epstein noted, though, that the Cubs aren’t going to make changes for the sake of it, and he still has high expectations for the team as it’s currently constructed.
Chicago does indeed have quite a bit of talent still on hand, and third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant may be atop the list. The former NL MVP continues to be the subject of trade rumors, however, and dealing him and his $18.6MM salary would enable the Cubs’ maligned ownership to get under the $208MM luxury-tax threshold in 2020. As things stand, the Cubs are projected for a tax payroll just south of $214MM, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource and FanGraphs.
If the Cubs are more worried about competing than ducking the tax, the 28-year-old Bryant could remain an important cog in helping them rebound in 2020. However, multiple teams have shown interest in acquiring him. The Rangers, Rockies, Nationals and Phillies have discussed Bryant with the Cubs recently, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com.
Aside from the Rockies, who have the disgruntled Nolan Arenado at third base, those teams could use upgrades at the hot corner. There has been talk of an Arenado-Bryant swap, but that has always seemed far-fetched, and there aren’t indications that Bryant will wind up with anyone else imminently. The Cubs could instead choose to keep Bryant, attempt to push for a playoff spot this season and see where they stand around the July trade deadline. Considering that Epstein still believes in the talent the club still has, Chicago may well go that way.
Talks between the Dodgers and Red Sox about Betts began to develop in late December, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times and other reporters, though Los Angeles first looked into acquiring Betts prior to last July’s trade deadline. A late surge for the Sox (who had an 8-3 run during an 11-game between July 17 and 27) convinced them to keep Betts and make a push for the postseason. Pondering about what a deadline Sox/Dodgers trade would’ve looked like is an interesting what-if, especially since Friedman would’ve been negotiating with a different person — Dave Dombrowski was still Boston’s president of baseball operations at the time, before being replaced by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom (who used to work with Friedman in the Rays’ front office).
Unsurprisingly, the Dodgers don’t see Betts as just a one-year rental, as team president Stan Kasten told The Athletic’s Andy McCullough that pursuing a long-term extension with the outfielder was “certainly was part of our thinking [with the trade] that thats what we would like the outcome to be.” Friedman concurred, saying “from our standpoint, I think hes going to fall in love with the city, the fan support, the teammates, the facilities. And were just trying to do everything we can to continue that and have our own guys want to stay.” Keeping Betts would require a financial commitment that would far surpass anything Friedman has made since he joined the organization in 2015, though surely the baseball ops head and Dodgers ownership are aware of what it will cost the team to lock Betts up — in all likelihood a $400MM+ deal. However, as McCullough notes, the Dodgers have seemingly laid the groundwork for big future expenditures with less than $45MM in guaranteed payroll commitments on the books following the 2021 season. It remains a question as to whether Betts would be open to an extension, of course, given how he has so steadfastly expressed his desire to test the open market as a free agent. Future contracts weren’t on Betts’ mind as he spoke with reporters, saying “Im still trying to find a house and all those types of things. Im not even really thinking about that. Im just focused on staying with 2020 and going from there.”
As to Betts’ projected replacement in the Red Sox outfield, Alex Verdugo might not be ready for Boston’s Opening Day lineup, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reports. Back and oblique problems sent Verdugo to the injured list on August 6 of last season, and he only appeared in one minor league game after that placement. Speier writes that Verdugo’s back is still bothering him, though the Sox don’t see the injury as a long-term problem. If Verdugo does miss time at the start of the season, it could be for precautionary reasons, as “a small number of games missed early in the year is better than a substantial stretch on the sideline if he is rushed into the lineup.“
Joe Maddon is pleased to be returning to the Angels organization as the team’s new manager, the veteran skipper tells ESPN.com’s Alden Gonzalez. Rumors about Maddon taking over the managerial post swirled for much of last season, and the Angels ended up being the only team Maddon officially interviewed with, after a dinner with owner Arte Moreno, team president John Carpino and GM Billy Eppler. “I just thought it would’ve been disingenuous to accept interviews with anyone else if I truly wanted to be here. And then, after it was all set and done, it couldn’t have been more obvious it was the right thing to do for me,” Maddon said.
Maddon also touched on his departure from Chicago, telling Gonzalez that he decided during the 2019 season that he was ready to move on from the team. There was heavy speculation that the Cubs were planning a managerial change when no extension talks were held with Maddon prior to his last year under contract, and Maddon said some “philosophical differences” emerged following what was perceived as a disappointing 2018 season. The front office “wanted to control more of what was occurring in just about everything,” Maddon said, as “when I started there — ’15, ’16, ’17 — it was pretty much my methods. And then all of a sudden, after ’18 going into ’19, they wanted to change everything.”
Interestingly, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein provided something of a counterpoint to Maddon’s statement, telling The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma that he didn’t feel any “philosophical differences” existed with Maddon. Epstein didn’t entirely deny that the front office played a larger role in 2019, as while he didn’t see the extra attention as overly controlling, he felt he had to address what he saw as a “growing organizational complacency” in the clubhouse. “I think his [Maddon’s] approach was more that things will work themselves out. These are great players, let them play and these things will work out,” Epstein said. “From my perspective, there was a little bit more cause for concern. It wasnt an everyday thing that I would try to step in and offer feedback, help and remind about expectations.”
Some more out of Anaheim…
Right-hander Justin Anderson will be out for four-to-six weeks and will begin the season on the injured list, Maddon told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger and other reporters. Anderson suffered a Grade 2 strain in his left oblique while playing catch on Tuesday. The 27-year-old is entering his third season in Los Angeles and looking to improve on an injury-hampered 2019 that saw Anderson post a 5.55 ERA over 47 relief innings, while battling a trapezoid issue.
Maddon also provided an update (to the Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya and other reporters) on right-hander Felix Pena, who is expected to be ready for Opening Day. Pena tore his right ACL last August and had a projected recovery time of six-to-nine months, though it seems as if Pena is progressing well and won’t require the long end of that projection. Pena has a 4.38 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and 3.00 K/BB rate over 189 innings since the Angels acquired him in a deal with the Cubs during the 2017-18 offseason, with Pena starting 24 of his 41 games as a semi-regular rotation fill-in for the Halos’ many pitching injuries. Most notably, Pena tossed the final seven innings of the Angels’ combined no-hitter on July 12, entering the game as the bulk pitcher after opener Taylor Cole.
Angels pitching prospect Jose Soriano will miss the entire 2020 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo reports (Twitter link). At the end of last season, MLB Pipeline ranked the right-hander as the ninth-best minor leaguer in the Angels’ farm system, praising Soriano’s “electric fastball” that sits in the 97-98mph range and a breaking ball that “trends towards being a plus pitch.” The 21-year-old Soriano is coming off a solid season spent mostly at A-ball Burlington, posting a 2.55 ERA, 9.7 K/9, and 1.75 K/BB rate over 77 2/3 innings (starting 15 of 17 games).