After Major League Baseball and the MLBPA couldn’t agree to a season length during their long-running, contentious negotiations, MLB decided to impose a 60-game schedule last week. In an ideal world for the players, they’d have gotten at least 80-some games (they proposed 89 on June 9), but commissioner Rob Manfred told Dan Patrick of Fox Sports Radio on Wednesday that the league never intended to play more than 60 games this season as a result of the “unpredictable” and “unmanageable” coronavirus pandemic, per Bradford William Davis of the New York Daily News.
“The reality is we weren’t going to play more than 60 games no matter how the negotiations with the players went,” said Manfred.
Manfred’s revelation surely won’t go over well with the Tony Clark-led union, which accused the league of negotiating in bad faith throughout the sides’ stalemate (MLB did the same to the MLBPA during the process). The union could file a grievance in response to Manfred’s comments, as its March agreement with the league said MLB would have to make a real effort to play as many games as possible this year. It’s unclear whether that will happen. Regardless, the commissioner’s statement could also further rile up the union enough for the two parties to have more difficulty coming to a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement when the current pact expires after the 2021 season.
Manfred went on to admit to Patrick that negotiations on a 2020 season produced “a sub-optimal result” (via R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports). And interestingly, Manfred added that “fans won’t get an expanded postseason.” Last week, Clark seemed willing to discuss a playoff pool consisting of more than 10 teams, but it appears Manfred has closed the book on that possibility.
Former Marlins closer AJ Ramos hasn’t pitched since 2018 due to ongoing shoulder troubles, but the 2016 All-Star is eyeing a comeback bid in the 2020 season. Ramos recently tweeted a video of himself pitching in a game setting (with velocity and spin-rate data courtesy of Cressey Sports Performance in Florida) and included the hashtag “#Comebackszn”. The 33-year-old right-hander also detailed his comeback efforts in an interview with KAMC News in Lubbock, Tex. a couple weeks back (Twitter link, with video).
“I know that I have a lot left in me,” said Ramos. “This is what I love to do. It’s like I have a new motivation. Before, I was motivated to show everybody that I was good enough. Now, I’m motivated just to play — to have the max amount of fun doing it. If there’s a season [in 2020], I’ll be ready for it.”
Ramos was sidelined for the 2019 campaign after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum, per the KAMC segment. But radar gun readings in the video tweeted by Ramos register his fastball in the 93-95 mph range and feature him throwing all of his offspeed offering as well. On the surface, it appears as though the right-hander is at least close to full strength.
If that’s indeed the case, Ramos becomes an intriguing buy-low option for virtually any club in the league. While it’s obviously been quite some time since we’ve seen Ramos at one percent, he was quietly one of the game’s more effective ninth-inning options for an extended period. In parts of six seasons with the Marlins from 2012-17, Ramos racked up 327 1/3 innings of 2.78 ERA ball with 92 saves, 10.4 K/9, 4.8 BB/9, 0.49 HR/9 and a 40 percent ground-ball rate.
There’s no telling whether Ramos can once again regain that All-Star form. However, given that he’d likely command on a non-guaranteed deal after more than two years away from a big league mound — his last pitch came on May 26, 2018 — there’s no real risk to rolling the dice and seeing if Ramos can revive his career now that his shoulder has healed up.
The Athletics on Wednesday announced the addition of six players to their 60-man player pool: infielders Eric Campbell and Robert Puason, right-handers Wandisson Charles and Miguel Romero, and outfielders Luis Barrera and Brayan Buelvas will all join the group. Campbell will head to Oakland to join the team’s big leaguers, while the other five will head to the Athletics’ alternate training site.
Campbell, 33, is the lone member of the bunch with Major League experience. From 2014-16, Campbell was an up-and-down utility option for the Mets, appearing at all four infield spots and both corner outfield positions while hitting .221/.312/.311 in 505 plate appearances. Campbell spent the 2017 season in Japan and has been with the Triple-A clubs for the Marlins and Athletics organizations. In all, he’s seen action in parts of six Triple-A campaigns and batted a combined .310/.417/.480 in 1880 plate appearances.
Among the prospects, Puason is the most well-regarded of the bunch. The 17-year-old signed with the A’s as the headliner of their July 2 class of international prospects a year ago, inking a hearty bonus of nearly $5MM. A switch-hitting, 6’3″ shortstop with plus speed, a strong throwing arm and projectable hitting tools, Puason is a long ways from the Majors and surely won’t be considered for a role with Oakland’s big league club in 2020. He’s yet to even suit up for a game with the Oakland’s affiliate in the Dominican Summer League, but the A’s clearly want to ensure that his first full season in the organization affords him some game reps — even if only in simulated games — and some time with the coaching and player development staff.
Barrera, though, is a much more near-term option for the A’s. The 24-year-old hit .321/.365/.513 in 54 Double-A games last year and ranks ninth among Oakland farmhands at MLB.com. He split the 2019 season between center field and right field and is on the Athletics’ 40-man roster, so it’s highly feasible that he could get the opportunity to debut in the event of some injuries on the Major League club.
Click here to read a transcript of tonight’s live chat with Connor Byrne of MLBTR.
We’ll round up most of today’s draft signings in this post…
- The D-backs agreed to an $800K signing bonus with third-rounder Liam Norris, per MLB.com’s Jim Callis. That checks in north of the $658K slot value associated with Norris’ No. 90 overall selection. A high school southpaw out of North Carolina, Norris had been committed to the University of North Carolina but will instead turn pro. Baseball America ranked Norris 143rd in the class, noting that his stuff ticked up early in the 2020 season after fading late in the 2019 campaign. His fastball velocity and curve both impressed scouts, but the season stoppage didn’t allow them the opportunity to see whether the 6’4″, 215-pound lefty could maintain those gains over a full season. Callis and the team at MLB.com ranked Norris 122nd in the draft, also praising his fastball/curveball combo but expressing command concerns.
- The Twinshave formally signed fifth-rounder Kala’i Rosario, tweets Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com. Darren Wolfson of SKOR North Radio and 5 Eyewitness News tweets that Rosario received a $270K bonus, which lands shy of his $330K slot value. An outfielder from Hawaii, Rosario was ranked No. 88 on Baseball America’s Top 500 list. BA touts his plus-plus raw power, noting that some scouts even grade it at an 80. Despite his huge power, he’s not a major strikeout risk at the moment and can hit the ball the other way. At 6’1″ and 205 pounds already, most expect Rosario to move from center field to left field at some point. Between Rosario and first-round pick Aaron Sabato, the Twins added some considerable right-handed pop to their minor league ranks. With today’s agreement, the Twins have agreed to terms with their entire draft class.
The Cardinals have added third base prospect Elehuris Montero to their 60-man player pool for Summer Camp, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak tells reporters (Twitter link via Mark Saxon of The Athletic). He’ll head to their camp at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, bringing their current player total to 45.
Montero, 21, was one of the Cardinals’ very best prospects and landed on Baseball America’s Top 100 list heading into the 2019 season. He’d torn through Class-A in 2018, raking at a .322/.381/.529 batting line (157 wRC+) at just 19 years old. His stock, however, took a tumble in 2019 when he looked overmatched against Double-A opposition, hitting just .188/.235/.317 in 59 games. Montero was nearly four years younger than the average competition he was facing in the Texas League, though, so the downturn in production isn’t as concerning as it might’ve been for an older player.
The lost minor league season won’t do any favors to young players like Montero — those in need of a rebound after a poor season. But by placing him in the 60-man player pool, the Cards will at least be able to give him some developmental reps along with big leaguers and other well-regarded prospects. Montero was added to the team’s 40-man roster this past offseason, though it still seems unlikely that he’d be called to the Majors anytime soon after such pronounced struggles in Double-A a year ago.
Cardinals closer Jordan Hicks will open the 2020 season on the injured list, manager Mike Shildt told reporters Wednesday (Twitter link via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). The flamethrowing 23-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery last June and is still in the final stages of his rehab process.
Back in May, Hicks had progressed to the point where he was able to throw multiple 20-pitch bullpen sessions. About six weeks have elapsed since that time, but it doesn’t seem that Hicks is yet at the point where he can immediately contribute. The club does expect him to factor into the bullpen before too long, though no clear timetable was provided.
Hicks turned in a sharp rookie season back in 2018, tossing 77 2/3 innings of 3.59 ERA ball — albeit with a more troubling 5.2 BB/9 mark and 13.3 percent overall walk rate. He looked to be taking his game to another level in 2019, though. Prior to going on the injured list, Hicks pitched 28 2/3 frames with across-the-board improvements in ERA (3.59 to 3.14), FIP (3.74 to 3.21), K/9 (8.1 to 9.7), K% (20.6 percent to 28.2 percent), BB% (13.3 percent to 10.0 percent) and ground-ball rate (60.7 percent to 67.2 percent). Those results and a fastball thataveraged101.6 mph in his brief career to date certainly paint the picture of a potentially dominant reliever.
With Hicks on the shelf to begin the year, the Cards should have plenty of alternatives — headlined by 2019 breakout setup man Giovanny Gallegos and veteran southpaw Andrew Miller. Gallegos, acquired in the 2018 Luke Voit trade with the Yankees, has helped to balance the scales on what initially looked like an inordinately lopsided deal. But while Voit came roaring out of the gates in the Bronx, Gallegos slowly and steadily increased his role in the St. Louis bullpen and wound up with downright dominant results in 2019: 74 innings, 2.31 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 11.3 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, one save, 19 holds. He’s controlled for another five seasons, so it seems the Cards may have unearthed a key long-term bullpen piece.
As for the 35-year-old Miller, the 2019 season wasn’t his strongest. Like many pitchers, Miller saw his home-run rates skyrocket last year as hitters piled up big flies at record rates amid revelations about alterations to the ball’s composition. Miller’s 4.45 ERA and 5.19 FIP were his highest marks since breaking out as a high-end reliever, but he still averaged 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
The Rockies have wrapped up their draft business by agreeing to terms with catcherDrew Romo, perMLB.com’s Jim Callis (via Twitter). He’ll receive a bonus for the precise$2,095,800 slot value of the 35th overall pick.
Romo will bypass a commitment to Louisiana State University to go pro with the Rox. He’s seen as a defensively proficient switch-hitting backstop, which is certainly a nice starting point for a player hoping to maximize his opportunities to reach the majors.
The question remains whether Romo will really ever emerge as a compelling player on offense. Baseball America cites “swing-and-miss concerns” and indicates that the upside is limited. Per BA, Romo “has a good understanding of the strike zone and could provide enough offense with his plate discipline and ambush power.”
Though high school catchers constitute a generally disfavored class of players, Romo’s serious defensive chops were sufficient to push him into the top forty players chosen. That’s at the top of the range at which prospect watchers graded him, but all agreed he was at least a second-round talent.
Following yesterday’s decision of Minor League Baseball to cancel the 2020 season, the affiliated Mexican League has followed suit. In an official announcement, the 16-team circuit says it will not attempt to launch play this year.
While it’s obviously disappointing to see Mexico’s top league on ice, the announcement makes clear the decision was made for good reason. Health and safety priorities rendered a campaign untenable, the league says.
No doubt this decision was driven in large by an anticipated inability to generate significant revenue without regular paid attendance. Expanding the income possibilities through television and other media initiatives rates as a priority for the league, the announcement goes on to specify.
Despite the bad news, the Mexican League sounded a rather upbeat tone. Players and umpires will receive financial support, though to what extent isn’t specified. And the league says it’ll use the time off to work on various changes to secure the long-term viability of the business.
The Giants have agreed to a $3.8MM bonus with first-round selectionPatrick Bailey, according to MLB.com’s Jim Callis (via Twitter). He was selected 13th overall, a position that came with a$4,197,300 slot allocation.
This represents the first big draft strike for the San Francisco organization, which has quite a bit of signing left to do. The savings on this selection will presumably be rolled over to later-drafted players.
Bailey, a backstop out of N.C. State, will slot in behind recent top selection Joey Bart in the long-term catching pipeline. If and when the club ends up with some tough decisions to make involving those two players and long-time star receiver Buster Posey, it’d surely consider it a good problem to have.
Entering the draft, all major pundits graded Bailey as one of the twenty best players available. ESPN.com and Fangraphs each rated him within the top dozen. The switch-hitter isn’t exactly hyped for his endless ceiling, but prospect watchers seem to agree he has solid all-around skills and real potential to become a regular backstop at the game’s highest level.