Yoenis Cespedes has led a very interesting career since signing with the A’s out of Cuba eight years ago. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd chronicles the excitement and the boars in today’s video.
The Rays have acquired infield prospect Esteban Quiroz from the Padres, Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen reports (Twitter link). Quiroz represents the player to be named later in the December trade that saw Tommy Pham and two-way prospect Jake Cronenworth go to San Diego, while the Rays received Hunter Renfroe and infield prospect Xavier Edwards.
The 28-year-old Quiroz is a longtime veteran of the Mexican League, only joining a big league organization after signing a minors deal with the Red Sox in the 2017-18 offseason. A year later, Quiroz was swapped to the Padres in exchange for Colten Brewer, and is now on the move again to Tampa. All the while, Quiroz has done nothing but hit since joining the affiliated ranks, with a .274/.390/.541 slash line and 26 home runs over 499 combined plate appearances at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in the Boston and San Diego farm systems.
Quiroz obviously has a significant age and experience advantage over virtually all of his minor league counterparts, plus his Triple-A performance in 2019 (a .923 OPS in 366 PA) has the twin caveats of coming in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, and during the unprecedented offensive explosion that was the 2019 Triple-A season. That being said, Quiroz also had a strong track record at the plate before reaching the minors, hitting .293/.402/.451 over 1573 career plate appearances in the Mexican League. Quiroz only had 38 homers in those 1573 PA, so while it’s probably fair to say that his power game was aided by the Triple-A ball, his on-base skills and overall approach at the plate seems to be translating well.
As a left-handed hitter who seems just about big league-ready, Quiroz is another intriguing addition to the Rays’ depth chart. Brandon Lowe and Joey Wendle, two other lefty bats, are seemingly ahead of Quiroz in terms of second base duty, though all three players have enough multi-positional flexibility that the Rays (who mix and match their lineups as much as any club in baseball) can conceivably find at-bats for any of them. Quiroz has mostly played second base over the last two seasons, though he has played shortstop and third base during his time in the Mexican League.
Looking at the five-player deal as a whole, the Rays dealt away the more accomplished MLB performer in Pham, though Pham is also older, more expensive, and perhaps a bit less defensively adept than Renfroe. While Cronenworth is a solid prospect in his own right, Edwards and Quiroz represents a nice return for Tampa Bay, as the Rays get a near-term option in Quiroz and more of a longer-term player in Edwards.
The Nationals optioned six players to their Triple-A and Double-A affiliates, as per a team announcement. Right-hander Erick Fedde and catcher Tres Barrera are heading to Triple-A Fresno, while outfielder Andrew Stevenson, infielder Adrian Sanchez, and right-handers Kyle Finnegan and James Bourque are all going to Double-A.
Finnegan is the only member of the group who hasn’t seen any Major League action, with Barrera (two games) and Bourque (one game) each getting a cup of coffee in the bigs last season while Fedde, Sanchez, and Stevenson have all been somewhat regular members of Washington’s roster.
Fedde is perhaps the most prominent name in the group, owing to his status as the 18th overall pick of the 2014 draft. His pro career got off to a delayed start due to the Tommy John surgery he underwent just a month before that draft, and despite some solid numbers in the minors, Fedde has yet to break out after pitching in parts of the last three seasons. Over 143 2/3 career MLB innings, Fedde has a 5.39 ERA, 1.62 K/BB rate, and a 6.4 K/9. That latter statistic is largely fueled by a 4.73 K/9 over 78 innings in 2019, as Fedde missed very few bats but still managed a 4.50 ERA due to an impressive 51% grounder rate. Fedde has consistently posted high grounder rates both in the majors and minors, though he has also run into problems with the long ball against big league hitters, with a career 20.9% homer/fly ball rate.
The Nationals went into Spring Training with Fedde, Joe Ross, and Austin Voth all competing for the fifth starter role, though Fedde was facing something of an uphill battle since he was the only one of the trio who still had a minor league option remaining. Fedde did at least help his cause with some good spring numbers, posting a 2.45 ERA and seven strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings of work.
It seems very likely Fedde will still play a notable role in the Nationals’ 2020 title defense season, as the shortened schedule will require every team to deploy a number of pitchers to keep everyone fresh. The same will also be true on the position player side, so Stevenson and Sanchez (and quite possibly Bourque, Barrera, and Finnegan) are likely to factor into Washington’s plans.
Pannone has become a familiar face in Toronto over the last two seasons, tossing 116 innings of 5.43 ERA ball with a 2.13 K/BB rate and 7.6 K/9. The lefty has started 13 of his 49 career Major League games, though since Pannone has had much more success as a reliever (3.40 ERA in 55 2/3 relief innings, as opposed to a 7.31 ERA over 60 1/3 frames as a starter), he was being considered as a candidate for a bullpen role in 2020.
The Jays are a bit thin on left-handed relief options, as aside from Pannone, non-roster invitees like Marc Rzepczynski, Brian Moran, Kirby Snead, and Travis Bergen comprise the club’s top southpaw relievers. Though we’re so far in advance of an Opening Day (that might still not even happen) that it’s hard to make clear projections, Pannone’s option could hint that the Blue Jays are going to select at least one of those non-guaranteed contracts.
Waguespack made his MLB debut last season, starting 13 of 16 games and posting a 4.38 ERA, 2.17 K/BB rate, and 7.3 K/9 over 78 innings. Though ERA predictors and Statcast metrics weren’t impressed with Waguespack’s output, his 4.38 ERA still represented a decent on-field result for a pitching-starved Blue Jays team. Toronto made a point of adding pitching over the winter, meaning that younger arms like Waguespack and Pannone (who ranked fifth and sixth in the Jays’ innings list in 2019) will no longer be relied on to such a heavy extent this season.
Espinal is best known to Jays fans as the prospect acquired from the Red Sox in the June 2018 trade that sent Steve Pearce to Boston. Espinal’s first full season in Toronto’s farm system was a successful one, as he hit .287/.347/.393 over 521 combined plate appearances at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. MLB Pipeline ranks Espinal as the 22nd-best Jays minor leaguer, describing him as a potential utility infield candidate based on glovework alone, with an offensive profile includes “good bat speed” and strong baserunning.
This will mark the final option year for the 29-year-old Sewald, who has been up and down between the Mets and their top minor league affiliate for much of the past three seasons. The 2012 tenth-round pick made 57 appearances and racked up 65 1/3 innings out of the ’pen in his debut effort back in 2017. His time in the big leagues since that time has been more sparse. He spent just 19 2/3 frames with the Mets this past season. To date, Sewald has posted a 5.16 ERA in 141 1/3 innings — an ugly number despite strong marks of 9.5 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. Fielding-independent metrics are more bullish on him, in part because of his abnormally low strand rate (64.3 percent). Given Sewald’s prior MLB experience, he’ll likely be called upon again in 2020 as injuries arise.
Zamora, 26, has only pitched 17 2/3 innings in the Majors, but he’s managed 24 punchouts against six unintentional walks in that tiny sample (a 31.1 percent overall strikeout rate). A rare 40th-rounder who’s made it to the big leagues, Zamora has steadily posted quality ERA, strikeout and walk marks throughout his minor league tenure and should continue to receive opportunities to establish himself in the big league bullpen.
The Mets brought Brad Brach back for the 2020 season and also inked Dellin Betances, adding that pair of righties to the existing core of Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson and Robert Gsellman. That limited the chances of either Sewald or Zamora earning Opening Day roster spots, although if the league does begin with expanded rosters this summer when teams ramp up (as has been rumored), it’s possible that either could again be considered for a bullpen spot.
The lack of baseball on what should be Opening Day is palpable, almost tangible. Regional sports networks around the country are airing classic games for fans to re-live. Reporters are taking to social media to share their favorite Opening Day photos — can I interest you in a 1980s Ken Rosenthal, Tim Kurkjian and Richard Justice throwback? — as well as stories and memories from covering season openers. Jameson Taillon, Marcus Stroman and dozens of other players are also sharing past Opening Day moments and reaching out to fans at a time when we all pine for normalcy. #OpeningDayAtHome is trending on Twitter.
“Even though we are apart, we can come together,” says Mike Trout at the end of a poignant video package produced by Major League Baseball. It’s a sentiment that’s not only being articulated by the game’s best player in that clip but one that’s been embodied by players and teams throughout the game. As the COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted our daily routines, fundamentally changed the manner in which we socialize and brought to light the myriad elements of our lives that are far too easily taken for granted, the baseball community has endeavored to lend a helping hand in countless ways.
The California Strong Foundation, founded by Christian Yelich, Mike Moustakas, Ryan Braun and Rams quarterback Jared Goff, announced that it will be donating 100,000 meals to Feeding America. Jason Heyward donated $200,000 to a pair of Chicago-based charities, while teammate Anthony Rizzo’s foundation has expanded its Hope44 Meals initiative to provide hot meals for patients and staff at Chicago hospitals (fans can contribute donations as well).Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler is matching every dollar donated to Three Square Food Bank’s Coronavirus Emergency Fund, focusing on providing meals to children, seniors, veterans and furloughed workers. Freddie Freeman has contributed $125,000 to a trio of Atlanta charities.
Over in Pittsburgh, Pirates players took it upon themselves to support the local restaurant scene and support the city’s healthcare workers when buying 400 pizzas from local restaurants to feed the staff at Allegheny General Hospital.“We arent able to be up in Pittsburgh, but we wanted to let hospital workers on the front lines and local businesses that mean so much to our home city know that were thinking of them,”Taillon told Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.“It was a no brainer from the players side.”
Recently retired players are stepping up, too. CC Sabathia’s charity is partnering with FreshDirect to donate boxes of food to children at the Boys & Girls Club in the Bronx.Dan Haren is auctioning off his collection of 300 bobbleheads and including a personalized note and anecdote pertaining to each player’s bobblehead; proceeds are being donated to the Childrens Action Alliance in Phoenix and to the Hollywood Food Coalition in Los Angeles — two charities to which Haren himself has already made sizable contributions in the wake of the pandemic. The Diamondbacks, White Sox, Athletics and others have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars each to various community initiatives.
The ways in which baseball has reached out to the community are too plentiful to list. (By all means, though, share additional acts of goodwill in the comments and on social media.) We all badly miss the crack of the bat, the pop of a fastball hitting the catcher’s mitt and the inherent drama of a pitcher protecting a one-run lead in the ninth inning. But at a time when it’s so easy to lament what we’re missing, we at MLBTR thought it pertinent to shine a light on the many, many ways that this game we all love and cherish can still make us feel good.
Baseball will be back — whether it’s this summer, this autumn or even sometime in 2021. But the manner in which the athletes and teams that we love to follow, cheer and jeer are stepping up around the country and the globe serve to remind that the sport has evolved into more than a simple game. It’s a community and a collective agent of positive change that can inspire others and make a difference even when games aren’t being played. Stay safe, baseball fans.
The White Sox have optioned right-hander Michael Kopech to Triple-A Charlotte, the team announced. Whenever the season gets underway, he’ll open on the minor league side of things.
That’s long seemed like a formality. The 23-year-old Kopech is one of baseball’s premier pitching prospects but underwent Tommy John surgery late in 2018, shortly after making his big league debut. He returned to game activity during Cactus League play prior to MLB’s shutdown but worked just one inning. It was an impressive frame, as Kopech topped 100 mph regularly with his heater and set down all three hitters he faced — one via strikeout.
The White Sox will surely want to proceed slowly with Kopech as they build him back up to a starter’s workload. The rebuilt South Siders are aiming for a return to competitiveness in the AL Central beginning in 2020 — as evidenced by their winter additions of Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion and Gio Gonzalez — but Kopech’s health is of greater importance on a long-term scale.
The 2020 rotation will be comprised primarily of Keuchel, Gonzalez, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and a combination of Carlos Rodon (also rehabbing from Tommy John) and Reynaldo Lopez. But it’s hard for Sox fans not to dream on an eventual rotation that includes healthy versions of Giolito, Kopech and Cease leading what could be one of the game’s more talented collections of arms. Of course, that assumes both Cease and Kopech make good on their lofty prospect rankings, and as highlighted by Lopez’s own struggles to date, there are no such guarantees. Still, it’s only logical to see Kopech head to Charlotte for a bit as he ramps back up in a more controlled setting.
Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have reached an agreement on the framework of a delayed and shortened 2020 amateur draft, ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel reports (Twitter thread). The notable changes would include pushing the draft back from early June to sometime in July, cutting the event to anywhere from five to ten rounds and partially deferring the payment of signing bonuses into the 2022 season.
Obviously, lopping off 75 percent of the rounds would lead to a vast number of undrafted amateurs — high school, junior college and four-year university students alike. McDaniel notes that there’s been discussion of a maximum bonus for undrafted players, though the $10,000 figure that’s been floated would likely bring about a dramatic uptick in the number of prep prospects opting to attend college and in the number of college juniors returning for a senior season.
The ramifications of such changes are numerous. The 2021 draft class would be immeasurably deeper, and the influx of high-quality college freshmen will in some ways flood college programs — perhaps leading to an increase of players selected out of the Division-II ranks of the NCAA. Many college seniors only sign for $10K as it is, so the financial component of those limited bonuses might not have a substantial impact, but it’ll nevertheless be atypical to see those players effectively create a secondary pool of free agents. As for high school prospects and college juniors who’d typically sign after the 10th round — those players regularly receive $100K bonuses, so the proposed $10K limit would have a far greater impact on their decisions.
Changes to the draft have seemed inevitable for some time now. The event was moved to Omaha in hopes that it would coincide with the College World Series, but the COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out the College World Series and the college and high school baseball seasons across North America. Prospects who command six- and seven-figure bonuses won’t played in front of scouts in months by the time the draft rolls around, and owners have expressed hesitance about paying out the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of combined signing bonuses at a time when the revenue streams of their respective clubs have effectively dried up.
The draft is one of many, many elements being negotiated between the league and the union, with other key points of interest including player salaries, service time, a delayed/altered schedule and the likely expansion of rosters as teams hopefully resume play at some point later this year. Of course, MLB and the MLBPA are also discussing the manner in which they’d be forced to proceed in the event that the 2020 season has to be canceled entirely. The two sides have been exchanging proposals for weeks, and all indications have been that they’re working toward an agreement but still hammering out the specifics of the arrangement.
We dont really know whether or to what extent extension talks will continue during the coronavirus hiatus. Butas I wrote recently, it seems reasonable to think theyll be explored. Some may already have advanced nearly to completion before the global pandemic intervened.
While we may have to wait to learn who the targets are and see what deals get done, theres a silver lining: more time for rampant speculation! Okay, were not going to speculate here; rather, well tick through some interesting possibilities on paper. Remember, weve seen an increasing prevalence of deals with less-experienced players (even some without any MLB service) and with new player types (early-career relievers and utilitymen).
In the present MLB environment, value is king and the old forms are fading. Weve already checked in on theNL East,NL Central, NL West, and AL East. Here are some possible extension candidates from the AL West …
It seems the Halos have some level of interest in trying to keep peerless defensive shortstop Andrelton Simmons from reaching the open market. He’d be quite an interesting player to value after a down, injury-filled year. If he can continue producing otherworldly defensive work in 2020 while returning to league-average hitting, he’d be a fascinating player to watch in free agency.
There are a few other guys nearing free agency that could be considered.Tommy La Stella had a breakout in an injury-shortened 2019 season. He’s already 31 and there’ll be questions about sustainability. But perhaps the sides could share the risk and upside with a relatively modest accord. Reliever Hansel Robles and starter Andrew Heaney are both two years from free agency, though there’s no particular reason to rush into a commitment in either case.
Things get quite a bit more interesting when you look at players much further from the open market. Shohei Ohtani put a ton of faith in himself when he came to the majors for a pittance of a bonus. His two-way ability and near-limitless upside on the mound make him a highly intriguing extension candidate, though sorting out a fair value won’t be straightforward. There’s a clear map for a deal for elite outfield prospect Jo Adell, if both sides are interested, as the White Sox have reached successive pre-debut pacts with Eloy Jimenez ($43MM) and Luis Robert ($50MM). Beyond Ohtani and Adell, the Angels could consider much more modest pacts with utilityman David Fletcher and/or relieverTy Buttrey.
There’s an abundance of star power to contemplate for a Houston organization in turmoil. Most pressing: outfielder George Springer, who’s entering his final year of arbitration. This is the final window to get a deal done; whether that’s a realistic possibility isn’t known. Not far behind him is shortstopCarlos Correa, who is two years from the open market. His huge ceiling and more modest recent play make this a suboptimal time to work out a deal, unless both sides are in the mood for compromise.
The ’Stros have a pair of slugging young left-handed hitters that could conceivably be candidates for aggressive early extensions. Yordan Alvarez burst onto the scene last year, but he has had a balky knee this spring and is mostly viewed as a DH. Meanwhile,Kyle Tucker is a surefire big leaguer with star upside, but he’s rather less established. On the pitching side, the Astros could potentially chase value by holding talks withJose Urquidy, Josh James, or even Bryan Abreu.It may be early in all of those cases, but this organization did reach a then-unprecedented deal with Jon Singleton.
The Oakland org has a bunch of candidates that leap off of the page in just about every service class. After a monster 2019 season, shortstopMarcus Semien is slated to reach free agency at the end of 2020. It would probably take a franchise-record deal to keep him from testing the market. Perhaps there’s more room to work out a palatable price tag with reliever Liam Hendriks, who has emerged as one of the game’s most effective relievers since being designated for assignment and then called back up late in the 2018 season. Outfielder Mark Canha had his own recent breakout; perhaps he’s also a candidate with two years left until free agency.
What the A’s really hoped for was a pair of long-term pacts with corner infieldersMatt Chapman and Matt Olson. But both were not wooed by prior efforts and they’re both now within a season of arbitration. There is certainly still a window, but the Oakland organization will really have to open the wallet. Striking major pacts with either or both (not to mention Semien) would mark a big vote of confidence in the team’s plans for a new ballpark.
Further down the line in terms of service class are a host of intriguing candidates. OutfielderRamon Laureano, catcher Sean Murphy, and prized southpaws Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk all carry eyebrow-raising talent. They’re also already controlled for quite some time. But this may be the optimal point for the A’s to achieve big value with a few of those players.
Having already inked lefty Marco Gonzales and pre-MLB first baseman Evan White, the M’s have already accounted for their most obvious candidates. And the best of the rest aren’t likely in consideration this winter. Mitch Haniger still needs to get back to full health; top prospectsJarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez are probably a bit too green for even an aggressive deal.
But there are a few more to consider.Shed Long and J.P. Crawford each had solid showings last year and could make sense at the right price. Perhaps the Mariners could even consider less-experienced outfieldersKyle Lewis and Jake Fraley, though that’d make for a surprise in either case. It’s frankly difficult even to suggest another candidate; relieverAustin Adamscould’ve been of some interest but he’s rehabbing a major knee injury.
You could make a case for a few guys here. Young slugger Willie Calhoun might be a worthwhile target after a strong 2019 showing, though it took the club some time to find him a spot in the majors and he’s now nursing a broken jaw. Veteran starters Mike Minor and Lance Lynn are nearing free agency, with the former entering his walk year, though the Texas org already took on some pitching risk this winter and may not want to over-extend itself with older hurlers.
Really, the Texas extension situation is all about one man: slugging outfielder/first basemanJoey Gallo. The game’s preeminent three-true-outcomes batter, Gallo is in his first of three arbitration-eligible campaigns, so he has entered the big earning stage of his career but hasn’t yet been paid huge money. He was limited by injury (oblique, hamate)in 2019 but put up monster numbers when available, with 22 long balls and a .253/.389/.598 slash over 297 plate appearances. It’s easy to forget that Gallo is a valuable outfield defender and baserunner, making him one of the higher-ceiling all-around players in the game.
With the disappointing news of Noah Syndergaard’s Tommy John surgery, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd traces his tumultuous career arc. Check out today’s video here.