Veteran right-hander Chad Bettis is retiring from baseball, Nick Groke of The Athletic tweets. The 31-year-old Bettis was on a minor league contract with the Yankees, who signed him in February.
“Today I am walking away from the game with my head held high, knowing that I pushed my body as far as it could go physically,” Bettis told Groke.
Bettis entered pro baseball as a 2010 second-round pick of the Rockies, with whom he topped out as Baseball America’s 86th-ranked prospect in 2012. He made his major league debut with Colorado a year later and went on to enjoy multiple solid seasons with the club, despite having to call hitter-friendly Coors Field home. Bettis peaked from 2015-16, a 301-inning stretch in which he recorded a 4.57 ERA/4.11 FIP with 7.06 K/9, 3.02 BB/9, a 50.5 percent groundball rate and 4.5 fWAR.
Unfortunately, Bettis’ effectiveness declined after those two seasons, thanks in part to serious health problems. Bettis underwent surgery for testicular cancer before the 2017 campaign, though he did make his return to the majors later that year and appear with the Rockies in each of the two ensuing seasons. But a hip impingement slowed Bettis last season, after which the Rockies outrighted him.
Bettis’ career, all of which was spent with the Rockies, concludes with 600 2/3 innings of 5.12 ERA/4.59 FIP ball. MLBTR wishes him the best in retirement.
Had the regular season started when it was supposed to in late March, the Yankees would have had to go without the face of their franchise, right fielder Aaron Judge, for a lengthy period of time. A right rib fracture and a punctured lung slowed Judge during the first version of spring training this year, but the slugger now has a chance to be in the Yankees’ season-opening lineup in a month, Erik Boland of Newsday reports.
Judge, whose injury problems first cropped up in February, has finally returned to hitting off a tee, per Boland. While that doesn’t mean he’ll be ready for Game 1 of the Yankees’ season, it’s still a a positive development for the club, which would have opened a normal season without three of its best outfield options in Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks. Each player was shelved with injuries during the spring, though we now know Hicks expects to return from his October 2019 Tommy John procedure once the season starts.
Like Hicks, Stanton – who dealt with a calf strain during the spring – is a near certainty right now to be part of New York’s opener, according to Boland. Injuries have been a major problem dating back to last season for Stanton, whose second year as a Yankee consisted of a mere 18 games.
There has been some question as to whether the second version of spring training will include any games, but that’s no longer the case. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that Major League Baseball has told teams they’ll allow them to schedule up to three exhibition contests apiece before the regular season starts July 23-24. The best case is to have exhibition opponents located in close proximity to one another. However, if a team isn’t near any potential opponents, it can schedule a game(s) versus the first club it will play in the regular season in the days leading up to their opener, according to Rosenthal.
- Jayson Stark of The Athletic passes along some more information on the 2020 campaign (Twitter links: 1, 2). For one, once a team removes a player from its 60-man player pool, the club won’t be able to bring him back. However, a player will still be able to go back and forth between the major league roster and the taxi squad if a team keeps him in its 60-man group. Also, opposing scouts will not be allowed to attend taxi squad workouts or intrasquad games, relays Stark, who adds that it’s up in the air whether MLB will permit in-person scouting at all this year – including during the playoffs.
- It’s already known that one Diamondbacks player has recently tested positive for the coronavirus. He’s not the only member of the organization to do so, though, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes that several of the organization’s minor leaguers and one minor league coach have tested positive over the past week. All of the positives came out of the club’s spring training facility in Salt River, Ariz., but each of those individuals were and are asymptomatic.
- The coronavirus has also affected the Dodgers and Twins of late. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register and other reporters Thursday that members of the Dodgers organization have tested positive, but nobody had “symptoms that were problematic.” Meanwhile, Twins president of baseball ops said (via Phil Miller of the Star Tribune) that “a few” of their players and minor leaguers have tested positive in recent days, though none of those individuals were in Minneapolis or the team’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., at the time.
The Mets have signed first-round pick Pete Crow-Armstrong, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com tweets. He’ll earn the full slot value of his selection, No. 19, with a $3,359,000 bonus.
The 18-year-old Crow-Armstrong, an outfielder from Los Angeles, committed to Ohio State prior to the draft. He entered the proceedings as a top 25 prospect according to Keith Law of The Athletic (No. 10), Baseball America (No. 17), ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel (No. 18), MLB.com (No. 20) and FanGraphs (No. 25). Law, the biggest fan of Crow-Armstrong among the bunch, praised his all-around game, especially his defense in center field, writing, “The defensive and positional value give him a higher floor than most teenagers in the class have, and the possibility for a 60 bat with 50 power gives him a star ceiling.”
The Crow-Armstrong deal leaves the Mets with just one unsigned draft pick, second-rounder J.T. Ginn, whose selection (No. 52) comes with a recommended value of $1,403,000. The Mets still have about $2.6MM left in their draft pool, per Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, so it seems they’re in good position to sign Ginn.
The Mariners have agreed to terms with No. 6 overall pick Emerson Hancock, reports Jim Callis of MLB.com (via Twitter). The University of Georgia righty will receive a $5.7MM signing bonus that closely aligns with his $5,742,900 slot value.
Regarded by many as the best right-handed pitcher in this year’s draft, the 6’4″, 213-pound Hancock has dominated SEC opposition since the beginning of his sophomore year with the Bulldogs in 2019. Dating back to last season, Hancock has pitched to a 2.31 ERA with averages of 10.3 strikeouts and 1.6 walks per nine innings pitched — including a gaudy 34-to-3 K/BB ratio in 24 innings prior to this year’s shutdown.
Hancock, 21, landed between fourth and seventh in this year’s class on the rankings of Baseball America, MLB.com, ESPN, FanGraphs and The Athletic. His obviously strong control of the strike zone is complemented by a fastball in the 93-97 mph range — Callis notes it can top out at 99 mph — and a changeup that he seldom used in college ball despite the fact that scouts consider it a potentially plus offering. Reviews on his slider are a bit more mixed, though most reports have it as an above-average offering as well.
The Mariners have drafted a college player with their first-round pick in each season under GM Jerry Dipoto, including three straight college right-handers. Hancock joins George Kirby and Logan Gilbert as another high-end, first-round arm to add to a growing stable of impressive pitching prospects in the Seattle system. Given his lofty draft status, Hancock could emerge as the best of the bunch, joining rotation hopefuls Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn as potentially controllable long-term cogs on the starting staff.
Both Baseball America (No. 56) and FanGraphs (No. 78) already rank Hancock within MLB’s 100 best prospects; Baseball America lists him third in the organization behind only Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic — and places him just two spots ahead of presumptive 2020 first baseman Evan White on the aforementioned top 100 list.
The Cubs announced Thursday that they’ve signed three of their five picks from the 2020 amateur draft: left-hander Burl Carraway (second-round), left-hander Luke Little (fourth) and right-hander Koen Moreno (fifth). Chicago announced early this week that it had signed first-rounder Ed Howard, leaving only third-round pick Jordan Nwogu unsigned. Carraway received a $1.05MM bonus that checked in south of his No. 51 slot’s $1.44MM value, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Little’s $492,700 bonus matches his slot value, and Moreno’s $900K bonus is nearly triple his $367,900 slot value.
FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen ranked Carraway 44th in this year’s draft class, touting the Dallas Baptist lefty’s power fastball/curveball combo. Carraway pitched just 9 1/3 innings before the season shut down this year, but he’s tallied 51 frames dating back to Opening Day 2019 and racked up 89 strikeouts with a 2.47 ERA along the way. He’s considered by virtually all scouting reports to be a pure reliever. Control (or lack thereof) is the biggest knock on the 6’0″, 173-pound Carraway — a concern that is evidenced by his 28 walks, a hit batter and 10 wild pitches since the beginning of the 2019 season. That red flag notwithstanding, he was a Top 100 draft prospect not only at FanGraphs but at MLB.com (49), ESPN (53), Baseball America (72) and The Athletic (90).
At 6’8″ and 250 pounds, the left-handed Little doesn’t really live up to his name, but he boasts an upper-90s heater that can surpass 100 mph. Like Carraway, he’s a left-handed reliever with some control issues but a promising arsenal of raw pitches. Signed out of San Jacinto Junior College in Texas, Little had been committed to South Carolina but will instead turn pro. Baseball America (121), FanGraphs (149) and MLB.com (166) all had him in the draft’s top 200 talents. In 44 1/3 innings of JuCo ball, he punched out 86 hitters but also issued an alarming 39 walks.
Moreno, the long high school draftee of today’s bunch, is a 6’2″, 170-pound righty with a four-pitch mix, including an 88-92 mph fastball and a changeup that both FanGraphs and BA tab as his best secondary pitch. BA listed him 128th, calling him a “projection arm in the true sense of the definition” thanks to room to fill out his frame, raw athleticism and natural spin on a pair of breaking pitches that still need refinement. He’d been committed to East Carolina but will join the Cubs on an over-slot deal.
The Tigers announced Thursday that they’ve granted right-hander Alex Wilson his release. He’d been in Spring Training as a non-roster invitee to camp prior to the league’s shutdown.
Wilson, 33, had a successful stint with the Tigers from 2015-18 when he racked up 264 2/3 innings of relief and pitched to a 3.20 ERA/3.87 FIP with 5.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 46.4 percent ground-ball rate. He opened the 2019 season with the Brewers and struggled greatly, though, allowing more than a run per inning in 11 1/3 frames before being cut loose.
Back in May, Wilson spoke to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News about the uncertainty he was feeling as a veteran non-roster player in limbo. Wilson, who was working on reinventing himself as a side-armer, said at the the time he hoped expanded rosters and the organization’s familiarity with him would position him well for a bullpen job. Today’s announcement makes clear that the rebuilding Tigers didn’t feel that to be the case. With myriad younger options available, the Tigers could simply use expanded rosters as a means of evaluating less-experienced options who could be part of the club’s long-term outlook.
While MLB’s transactions freeze won’t lift until tomorrow, it’s worth clarifying that said freeze only applies to the Major League roster. We’ve seen teams throughout the game cut a number of minor leaguers and non-roster invitees over the past month, and Wilson becomes the latest in that long line of names.
However, by granting Wilson his release now, the Tigers will give him a bit of extra time to gauge interest from other clubs in hopes of finding a new club with which he can spend a rebooted Spring Training. Teams are required to submit to the league a 60-name list of players who can participate in their restarted training camps by Sunday, although those lists aren’t concrete and are subject to change pending transactions.
The Mariners are planning to begin the season with a six-man rotation in place, general manager Jerry Dipoto told reporters yesterday (Twitter link via Greg Johns of MLB.com). That tactic should allow the Seattle club the opportunity to manage the innings of younger arms on a per-game basis while also maximizing their opportunity to evaluate some up-and-coming arms who could factor into the long-term outlook.
Recently extendedsouthpawMarco Gonzales seems likely to get the Opening Day nod as the Mariners’ most established starter, and the team will hope for better results from 29-year-old lefty Yusei Kikuchi in the second season of his uniquely structured free-agent deal. Kikuchi, who had established himself as one of Nippon Professional Baseball’s premier arms prior to 2019, is locked in at $43MM from 2019-21. After the contract’s third year, Seattle can pick up a four-year, $66MM “option.” If the club declines to do so, Kikuchi can instead exercise a $13MM player option. In essence, he’s guaranteed $56MM over four years, while the M’s have the opportunity to lock him up at what would be a total of seven years and $109MM if he takes his game to a new level between now and the completion of the 2021 campaign.
Beyond that pair of lefties, Seattle will get longer looks at southpaw Justus Sheffield and righty Justin Dunn — two key trade acquisitions that came over in the 2018-19 offseason. Sheffield, a former first-rounder and longtime top prospect, was the headline piece of the trade that sent James Paxton to the Yankees. Dunn came to the Mariners alongside vaunted outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic and righty reliever Gerson Bautista in the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz blockbuster.
The Mariners also rolled the dice on a pair of low-cost free agents this winter, nabbing former division rival Kendall Graveman and former Mariner Taijuan Walker on one-year pacts. Both have seen their careers slowed by 2018 Tommy John surgery. Graveman, who had his procedure in late July that year, didn’t make it back to the big leagues in 2019. Walker’s surgery was in April 2018, but a strained shoulder capsule limited him to one inning in 2019, which came in the final game of the season.
As one would expect from a rebuilding club, the Mariners have plenty of other young options to dream on, though the organization’s very best pitching prospects are likely a bit too far down the pipeline to factor into the 2020 season. The Mariners have selected a college right-hander with their top pick in each of the past three drafts — Logan Gilbert, George Kirby and now Emerson Hancock — and while that trio is unlikely to pitch in the Majors this year (Gilbert being the lone plausible exception), Dipoto did suggest that they and other top prospects could be on the taxi squad primarily for developmental purposes (link via Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times). Working out with other taxi squad members would give that promising group critical developmental reps in a year where no formal minor league season is expected to be played.
After months of expectations that the shortened 2020 season would usher in an expanded playoff format, the inability of MLB and the MLBPA to come together on an agreement instead maintained the 10-team postseason status quo. The March agreement under which commissioner Rob Manfred implemented a 60-game season stipulated that playoffs could not be expanded unless negotiated with the Players Association. Expanded postseason play (and revenue) was the union’s main piece of leverage in talks, but when no agreement was reached, the playoff structure went unchanged.
Might the two sides still look to work out an agreement, though? Asked by Ronald Blum of the Associated Press, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark wouldn’t rule it out. The lines of communication between the league and the union “remain open,” Clark explained. “I would simply say that if theres interest to discuss something, Ill be available to discuss it,” Clark added.
Major League Baseball, per Blum, could yet make another attempt to negotiate an expanded postseason format. The main sticking point for the union had been length of schedule and prorated play. With a 60-game season now set and prorated play in place, the union would likely look to other concessions. Previous proposals exchanged between the two sides had temporary elimination of the qualifying offer system in place, for instance, although it’s easy to imagine teams forgoing QOs for all but the market’s most elite free agents this winter thanks to revenue losses.
There’s a wide range of other possibilities for the union to pursue. An expanded share of postseason revenue — players are currently only owed a share of gate revenue — future QO concessions, increased forgiveness of the $170MM advance payout of salaries from the March agreement and any number of other topics could be put on the table. With the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire in Dec. 2021, the union could even proactively look to some broader issues that figure to prove critical in what will surely be a contentious negotiation next year.
Players have agreed to begin reporting to summer training camp by July 1, so it seems unlikely that this will be a drawn-out process. Clark and Manfred weren’t able to agree on much of anything over more than a month of contentious negotiations, which doesn’t exactly bode well for a swift accord in this case. That said, Manfred spoke to Blum of a need for both the league and players to have “less-charged” conversations. “We owe it to our fans to be better than weve been the last three months,” said the commissioner.
If the MLBPA is still amenable to postseason alterations, it stands to reason that ownership would have interest in one final attempt at the dramatic revenue increase that would accompany a larger postseason field.
Angels manager Joe Maddon gave some good news on right-hander/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani yesterday, telling reporters that the two-way star will be utilized similarly to how he would in a normal 162-game season (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger). That will line Ohtani up to pitch once per week as part of what Maddon expects to be a six-man Angels rotation.
The delayed start to the season looks to have given Ohtani ample time to fully recover from both his 2018 Tommy John procedure and last September’s left knee surgery. The Halos can now deploy him as their primary DH on days when he doesn’t pitch — and enjoy the benefit of a bat that has produced a career .286/.352/.531 slash — and consider him the highest-upside pitcher in their rotation.
We haven’t seen Ohtani on a big league mound since Sept. 2, 2018, but in that rookie year he worked to a 3.31 ERA with averages of 11 strikeouts, 3.8 walks and 1.05 home runs allowed per nine innings pitched. He’s still only totaled 51 2/3 frames as a pitcher in the Majors, but there’s plenty of reason to be bullish on the 25-year-old’s future in the rotation.
Maddon also said he’s “very” hopeful that fellow right-handers Griffin Canning and Felix Pena will be ready for the new Opening Day (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya). Canning has been progressing through a throwing program after receiving an ominous elbow diagnosis back in Spring Training (“chronic changes” to the UCL and acute joint irritation). He was cleared of any tearing in his problematic ligament, though, and has had no setbacks since receivingan injection.
Pena, meanwhile, tore his ACL while covering first base last August. He underwent surgery that came with a recovery timetable of up to nine months, and it seems he’s progressed through that rehabilitation process without much issue. While he was questionable for the original opener, the 30-year-old swingman should be a solid multi-inning piece for the Angels now that he’s healthy and could even start some games. He’s made 24 starts in the past two seasons and pitched seven hitless innings of relief against the Mariners in last year’s memorable and emotional combined no-hitter.
Ohtani and Canning will be joined southpaw Andrew Heaney and newcomers Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy in a revamped Halos rotation. Pena could be in the mix for the sixth spot to which Maddon alluded, although there will likely be several names in that competition. Matt Andriese, Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barria, Jose Suarez, Dillon Peters and old friend/non-roster invitee JC Ramirez could all be considered. And regardless of who is tabbed to round out the unit come July 23-24, the Angels’ overwhelming rash of injuries in recent years serves as a reminder that depth is key and a rotation outlook can change in a hurry as health troubles arise.