Inside Baseball from Jon Heyman brings you news, notes, rumors and more from all 30 MLB teams. For Heyman’s handicapping on where former Cubs starter and current free agent Jake Arrieta will end up, click here.
And now, around the majors…
- Diamondbacks people were thrilled to land slugging outfielder Steven Souza a day after J.D. Martinez opted to sign with the Red Sox for $110 million. The D-Backs never seemed overly optimistic they’d get it done with Martinez, and the belief is they offered fewer years with a high AAV and also opt outs (though the actual offer is unknown). They drove the three-way deal for Souza, according to reports. They sure liked Souza for $107 million less than Martinez got (of course that discrepancy is partly attributable to the fact Souza is a one-year deal) and see him as a worthy replacement.
- They seem to have lost faith in Yasmany Tomas, who got a $68.5 million, six-year deal after a wild bidding process. He has power, but he’s pretty stationary in the outfield (and unfortunately not so stationary with his car; he was caught going 100 mph in the Phoenix area recently).
- The Braves have talked about Mike Moustakas, but so far there’s no common ground.
- The Braves took a brief look at Lorenzo Cain before he went to the Brewers.
- Anthony Recker is at the free agent camp at Bradenton that writers and team executives aren’t allowed to see (a Royals exec was escorted away on Day 1). So is Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
- Brandon Phillips, who once complained about his $85 million deal with the Reds, may have to accept a minor-league deal if he wants to keep playing.
- The Orioles have signed Colby Rasmus and Alex Presley as outfield possibilities but still may consider another outfielder. There’s a connection to manager Buck Showalter; Rasmus is from Alabama, Showalter from the panhandle of Florida (Niceville).
- The Orioles like Alex Cobb if the price is right. He did well in the AL East, and they noticed that.
- Luke Scott is at the free agent camp at IMG in Bradenton. So is Alejandro De Aza. And Nolan Reimold. And Steve Clevenger. A lot of former Orioles, it seems.
Boston Red Sox
- The Red Sox did what they needed to do when they signed J.D. Martinez. The $110 million, five-year offer never changed, as they didn’t want to bid against themselves, but Martinez ended up getting the deal front-loaded ($50 million in the first two years and $72 million over the first three) and opt-outs at both those junctures.
- Hanley Ramirez only played 17 games at first base last year because of shoulder trouble, but they are hoping he will be the primary player at that position now. He could lose some at-bats, and potentially a fifth-year trigger based on plate appearances, but Ramirez is all about the team. “Win … that’s it. Nothing else matters,” Ramirez said. New manager Alex Cora said Ramirez will bat third (and he was given two lockers with his name on them in spring) so the signs are all positive they still expect a lot from Ramirez, anyway.
- Ramirez has gone on the Tom Brady diet, and says he feels great. He also looks great.
- Mitch Moreland also said the right things but he surely knows he will have the most to lose with the Martinez signing. That $13 million contract looks odd for Boston now. Was it to gain leverage? Uncertain. He does give them first base insurance, and can be a defensive replacement for Ramirez, who is a good athlete and has great hands but doesn’t have the nuances of the position mastered like Moreland. In any case, that contract looked high at the time (Yonder Alonso only got $3 million more at $16 million for two years), and it really looks high now that there are still comparable players in the market.
- Martinez received a limited no-trade clause, with a small number of teams to which he can veto a trade.
- Eduardo Nunez was happy to be back with the Red Sox, where he enjoyed playing. The Yankees and Mets were among other interested teams. He could be important due to the uncertainty surrounding Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia is aiming to be ready for opening day, but a few weeks later may be more realistic.
- Rusney Castillo is still in the Red Sox clubhouse, a reminder of $72 million that could have been better spent.
- Best wishes to great guy Craig Kimbrel, whose infant daughter needs a third heart operation. She is said to be doing better, but that is obviously very scary.
- Anthony Rizzo showed what an amazing young man he is again, by going down to his high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Fla., to give an emotional speech following the massacre of 17 beautiful people, include 14 kids, by a teenaged madman who shouldn’t have been allowed to have a gun.
- All teams will wear Stoneman Douglas hats pregame this weekend, with the option to wear them in-game. “It’s awesome,” Rizzo told Cubs writers.
- Cubs hitters say they will be ready for the Dodgers’ high-pitch strategy, writes Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.
Chicago White Sox
- Mike Moustakas could emerge as a possibility, Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported. The White Sox have as many prospects as any AL team but don’t have a big one at third base. While this would be a year before any expected push for a pennant, it may represent a nice opportunity for the ChiSox. The third base market hasn’t developed as expected, and Moustakas may not get what he originally sought. There are plenty of one-year opportunities for him, but a one-year deal would put him back on the market with Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado.
- Carlos Gonzalez is another possibility for the White Sox.
- Whatever happened to Brett Lawrie?
- C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic gets inside Tucker Barnhart’s brain.
- Jesse Winker is aiming to be in the outfield mix.
- Nick Senzel is a stud.
- There had been some talk of a five-year, $75 million deal with Carlos Santana before he went to the Phillies, but it isn’t certain the Indians would have done it.
- The Indians will wear a patch to honor longtime staffer Matt Pruzinsky, who passed away.
- Good to see Rajai Davis back where he belongs.
- The Rockies have remained in touch with former stars Carlos Gonzalez and Mark Reynolds as they try to navigate a tough market for hitters (and especially outfielders and corner players). So they remain possibilities for those two. The Rox could go with kids at those positions, but that may be a gamble for a team expecting to contend following their wild card year.
- Nolan Arenado said there have been no extension talks for him yet but he indicated he’d be open to listening. He is a free agent in two years.
- Ron Gardenhire is said to be making a great impression in Tigers camp.
- There’s been a lot of talk abut “tanking,” but no one should point the finger at the Tigers, who overspent for years in hopes of winning it all.
- There’s already said to be a “great vibe” in Astros camp. And why not? They have a lot to be proud of.
- Jonathan Lucroy, who lives in the Dallas area, would still make some sense for the Astros. Brian McCann should get a rest every once in awhile (though he might be a little less tired since his non-stop mound visits are being curtailed, as are everyone else’s). McCann is terrific, but Lucroy could fill in at catcher, play some first and DH some. There had been some early connection, but it couldn’t be determined where things stood now. There’s no evidence of much discussion with Lucroy, but McCann could probably use more rest. Gattis is really a DH (forcing them to carry a third catcher) and there are plans to use Yuli Gurriel in spots beyond first base so it would make sense.
- There’s been some contact with Carlos Gonzalez, so the Astros are a possibility.
- The 50-game drug suspension for top prospect Forrest Whitley is a major disappointment. Whitley is one of the very best pitching prospects in baseball, and is the guy everyone asks about. The Tigers sought him in a Justin Verlander deal, and they are far from alone.
Kansas City Royals
- Logan Morrison, a Kansas City native, would have interest in replacing Eric Hosmer as the Royals’ first baseman. As of a few days ago, Morrison had no standing offers. He had 38 home runs last season, the same as Mike Moustakas. Hunter Dozier remains the in-house candidate at first.
- The Royals’ offer to Hosmer was for $100 million over five years, not the $147 million as previously reported somewhere (that’s quite a big discrepancy), Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reported. K.C.’s bid actually was for a slightly higher AAV (average annual vale) at $20 million than he got in San Diego, but three fewer years. Hosmer’s five-year opt out in San Diego comes after $105 million in salary, and some who know how much he loves Kansas City don’t rule out a return at that time.
- It was the club-owning Glass family who approved a big offer to Hosmer, but who also limited the bid to five years.
- GM Dayton Moore didn’t completely close the door to a Moustakas reunion, though it doesn’t appear especially likely. One reason is that the Royals like Cheslor Cuthbert as a potential third baseman. One thing to keep in mind: They don’t really have an obvious first baseman to replace Hosmer, and Moustakas is said to be excellent at first (in practice at least).
Los Angeles Angels
- The Angels have lowered their outfield wall in right-center field from 18 feet to eight feet. A cynic might wonder whether that was done to aid Shohei Ohtani, a lefthanded hitter (but we aren’t that cynical here at FanRag). Can’t realy blame ‘em.
- Huston Street remains a free agent. He reps himself.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- GM Farhan Zaidi says they are “keeping an open dialogue” with superstar pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who has an opt out after the year. That can’t be a bad thing.
- Dave Roberts summed things up nicely. “A lot of good players,” tweeted Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times. We would agree.
- Alex Wood is pitching from the stretch this spring, McCullough notes, and plans to do so during the season. To which Dan Haren @ithrow88 tweeted, “I pitched a whole season out of the stretch actually, just not by choice.”
- Yasiel Puig still doesn’t appear to have an agent. Some agents won’t touch him, even though he is a talented player two years from free agency. It was quite the red flag that Wasserman dropped him. He must be as high maintenance as one would imagine, maybe more so.
- They are believed to have interest in Tim Lincecum after watching his showcase.
- That was quite a job by the Marlins killing the free-agent outfield market by trading three star outfielders (four if you count Dee Gordon, now an outfielder). That helped them get Cameron Maybin on a one-year deal at a low rate.
- The Maybin pickup, while nice, provides flashbacks to the ill-fated Miguel Cabrera trade, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reported.
- They still could use more outfield help after all their trades of outfielders.
- The Brewers upgraded their outfield, which didn’t look like it needed upgrading. But their rotation still looks short – way short compared to their rival Cubs.
- The Twins still have “some flexibility” to pursue a starting pitchers if they find a deal they like. And sources suggest that pitcher of interest could be Lance Lynn, who they seem to prefer among the remaining top free agent starters.
- Twins people didn’t suggest they saw the Odorizzi deal as anything like the ripoff it’s being portrayed as in the media, suggesting it hurt to give up middle-infield prospect Jermaine Palacios. They had been talking about Odorizzi since early in the winter, and originally the Rays wanted much more. It does seem odd they could only get a Class-A prospect for him, even if he is underrated one, as folks now say Palacios is. Whatever you say about it, the Twins are stacked on the middle infield. Polanco did a great job last year, and may be there awhile. Nick Gordon isn’t far away, and also at Class-A they have Royce Lewis, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft, and Wander Javier, who got a significant $4 million signing bonus.
- Twins people believe Gordon could slide over to second base and replace Brian Dozier, who they seem to expect lose as a free agent after next year.
- There is no extension talk ongoing with Dozier, who’s one of the better second basemen in baseball. The Twins plan to extend him the qualifying offer, which might be their only chance to keep him (and that would only be if Dozier had an off year).
- Jose Berrios is a coming star, and Molitor would love him to start Game 2, but Molitor is sympathetic to Berrios’ desire to start one of the games in Puerto Rico, where he is a hero, and they need any bit of positive news they can get, so it’s possible he could push Berrios back to Game 3 to make that happen; it’s also possible Molitor could tweak some things, because he’d really prefer that Berrios pitch Game 2 so he can start the Twins’ home opener, too.
- The Twins, who had Jaime Garcia for six days last year, looked into a return before he went to Toronto.
- Matt Belisle, who did a nice job as the team’s closer last year, surprisingly still doesn’t have a job in his tough market. He was a great clubhouse presence, and the Twins might not mind bringing him back, though in another role.
- Big addition to the P.R. office/press box: a new espresso machine. Yes, this is a first-class organization.
New York Mets
- While some thought Sandy Alderson was just trying to earn brownie points with his bosses when he opined that he believed Tim Tebow would reach the majors, that really isn’t the case. The Mets actually do expect him to be a major leaguer – and others do, too, not because he is an overwhelming baseball talent or is of an age that works in his favor (he’s already 29), but because he is determined, will work for it, and mostly because the bar is a bit lower for him. Since he brings potentially positive clubhouse effect (that could cut both ways, as some more talented players and other veterans might not love something other than a meritocracy or need determining MLB spots), potentially positive press (that may cut both ways, too, as some cynics in the media may abhor the idea) and extra fan appeal (that does not cut both ways, as Tebow obviously has gigantic appeal). As we reported in this space last week, the plan is to promote Tebow to start the year at Double-A Binghamton provided he has a reasonable spring, and that certainly is the hope. It’s way too early to tell whether that is realistic, but David Lennon of Newsday noted that Tebow has a revamped and improved swing that could help. Old-time baseball scouts moistly have suggested that Tebow should plateau as a DH at Double-A based on early returns, though heart and desire can take one a bit further. And connections and positive publicity can’t hurt either.
- Alderson is said to have received a multiyear deal. The Mets haven’t said how long the deal is, but it’s at least (and probably exactly) two years, according to sources.
- Alderson recently seemed to make clear what we have all suspected, that when he does leave John Ricco will be the GM. Fine choice.
- The loss in arbitration to Zack Wheeler gave Jet Sports Management a rare 3-0 record in arbitration, counting previous wins for Jeff Mathis and Mike Minor. Players did better in arbitration this year, when management put the clamps down and took 20 players into a hearing room (only the Yankees and Tigers are seen as rare teams that are “old school” and don’t abide by the get-tough policy on arb-eligible players). But historically, teams have won about 60 percent of cases. So a 3-0 record is pretty good.
- Jeurys Familia said he was caught off guard by the accusations leveled at his agents, ACES, in the lawsuit recently filed by former ACES employee Juan Carlos Nunez (and he was an employee even if they want to call him a contractor); he certainly was ever-present on their behalf recruiting Latin American clients. The story of that lawsuit first appeared on FanRag, and it’s a wild one.
- Jonathan Lucroy would seem to be a potential fit there, but Mets people say they haven’t even discussed it. They like Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki as a tandem.
New York Yankees
- The Yankees had been trying for Brandon Drury all winter for two reasons: 1) their scouts like him, and 2) he will make under $1 million as a player who isn’t arbitration eligible yet and can easily fit into their payroll without threatening the luxury tax threshold of $197 million (and even gives them a bit of room to add a starting pitcher at some point). The D-backs are said to have driven the trade since they badly wanted Steven Souza.
- The dalliance with Mike Mouswhtakas would appear to be over.
- The Yankees are either $16 million below the luxury tax threshold or $23 million below, depending on who you talk to.
- Japanese tennis great Kei Nishikori visited Masahiro Tanaka the other day at camp (h/t Erico). Nichikori came from the IMG Academy in nearby (45 minutes away) Bradenton for the surprise visit. He has been ranked as high as No. 4 in the world.
- The hiring of Aaron Boone and other former major leaguers with no or limited managerial (or even coaching) experience appears to be the wave of the future.
- The A’s have a new potential stadium site at Howard Terminal. Which is fitting, because they’d like this search to come to an ending.
- Jorge Mateo is slowed by a left knee injury in camp, according to Jane Lee of MLB.com.
- Meanwhile, Dustin Fowler — whose season was ended in his first inning in the majors by a knee injury — is feeling healthy. That’s great news.
- Josh Phegley lost 7 percent body fat, which is reason to root for him win the starting catching job. There are other reasons, too.
- It’s a great sight to see Rickey Henderson and Dave Stewart at A’s camp.
- Gabe Kapler, in a truly Gabe Kapler moment, talked about the psychology of music in terms of performance.
- Super Bowl and parade hero Jason Kelce of the champion Philadelphia Eagles fired up the Phillies before their first full-squad workout. Kelce admitted his language was a bit saltier for his talk with the Phillies. Todd Zolecki of MLB.com asked on twitter: “Is that possible?”
- Carlos Santana is working on helping Maikel Franco with his batting approach. It would be hard to find a better teacher.
- Bryce Brentz gets what might be his last chance after the Pirates bought him from the Red Sox (or as they like to say, acquired him for cash). It was a big break for Brentz. But not everyone was impressed. Jay Reisinger, a players-side lawyer from Pittsburgh, tweeted, “the acquisition of Brentz as opposed to signing one of the many available free agent outfielders is the cherry on top of the Pirates tanking sundae.” We don’t lightly use the “tanking” word in this space. But if that is their strategy, it’s a losing one. The Astros benefited because they were on the cutting edge of the “tanking” craze; there are just too many teams that are horrible now for a strategy to tank to work. As bad as they are, they would appear to have little chance at the first or second pick (which may be locked up soon by the two Florida teams).
- They did sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league contract.
- The Yankees’ deal for Brandon Drury means that Josh Harrison won’t get his wish to be traded to the Yankees. (He’d like to be traded somewhere, as he so politely made clear again, after first telling that to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and MLB Network.) Best wishes to Ken, by the way, as he recovers from back surgery.
- David Freese didn’t sound that thrilled about the direction of the team in interviews with Pirates writers.
St. Louis Cardinals
- The Cardinals are aiming to pitch more up in the zone, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes.
- They are expecting a monster season from ace Carlos Martinez, and actually need a monster season.
- There’s been no credible source linking Mike Moustakas to the Cardinals, but it would make sense.
San Diego Padres
- New Padre Eric Hosmer ($144 million, eight years) and Carlos Santana ($60 million, three years) got huge deals on this year’s market, Yonder Alonso and Mitch Moreland did fine, and Chris Carter got a nice $1.75 million salary considering his struggles last year should he make the Angels on a minor-league deal. But the first-base market remains a very difficult one for players. Maybe it isn’t quite the disaster it was last year considering those few success stories, but it is quite rough. And the plight is embodied in nobody better than Logan Morrison, who hit 38 home runs, and as of a few days ago, was said not to have one current offer he could accept. Here are all the first basemen who could still be had.
- They are believed to have interest in Tim Lincecum after watching his showcase.
San Francisco Giants
- The Giants love their heroes, and it should come as no surprise they are one of the teams showing interest in Tim Lincecum. Several teams reached out following a surprisingly positive showcase last week, and the Giants may have competition from their greatest rival, the Dodgers, who seem to have liked what they saw, too. Lincecum has long been attached to the West Coast, and the Padres were a third team that was impressed by Lincecum’s outing, in which he threw 90-93 mph for about 15-20 teams, as FanRag Sports first reported. The Giants have long had an interest in bringing back Lincecum, but two years ago he decided to make his comeback attempt with the Angels since they were offering him a chance to start at the time. There’s no indication starting is a prerequisite this time, and Lincecum has maintained an excellent relationship with his old team, even working out at their Scottsdale, Ariz. complex on occasion. They brought back Pablo Sandoval when no one figured they would, and have shown affinity for the heroes of their heyday. Lincecum won two Cy Youngs for the Giants and helped them win three World Series, with about half his postseason appearances actually coming in relief. His funky delivery could actually make him a natural for the pen.
- The Giants issued a statement wishing for the best for Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda, who was hospitalized in the San Francisco area in critical condition following a cardiac event.
- Kyle Lewis had a second surgery on his knee, but this one was just a cleanup. That said, there is concern for Seattle’s one elite prospect. The Mariners got him at No. 11 after he was rumored to have a chance to go as high as No. 1.
- The Mariners need a big comeback year from the King.
Tampa Bay Rays
- Rays players are upset by the first-of-its-kind spring fire sale. And fans are said to be beside themselves.
- Competing execs don’t believe it will be easy to trade Corey Dickerson as a DFA’ed player. “He’s an impact bat but he’s not much of an outfielder. He’s an American League player,” one scout said. Still, it’s very unusual to see an All-Star DFA’ed, and unbecoming.
- Carlos Gomez got $11.5 million following a year in which he had a .682 OPS, but $4 million following a year in which he had an .802 OPS. That illustrates this bizarre market.
- Juan Pablo Martinez (JP Martinez) is eligible to sign with teams March 6, and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News says the Rangers are targeting the center fielder. Martinez’s available was first reported by Ben Badler of Baseball America.
- They loved Carlos Gomez in Texas but they are committed to Delino DeShields Jr.
- They are believed to have interest in Tim Lincecum after watching his showcase.
Toronto Blue Jays
- In the least surprising news of the spring, Josh Donaldson and the Jays are not close in contract talks. Donaldson, following years with superstar production, is expecting a home run, and the Jays have become very conservative on contracts since Mark Shapiro arrived. Donaldson was quoted as saying they are “not in the same type of area, the same ballpark.” Which is likely a nice way of putting it. The sides talked this winter but agreed to table things when spring started, so they are tabled for now. They aren’t guaranteeing they won’t resume discussions during the year. But it’s hard to see the sides getting together on this for a deal before free agency.
- Troy Tulowitzki has yet to begin running, but there are still hopes he can be ready for opening day. It’s very possible the turf doesn’t agree with him, as his injury woes have worsened in Toronto. If he can get on the field, that would be a big help. It might help to trade him to a team with a grass field, too (though the infield is mostly dirt). In any case, Tulowitzki got a full no-trade clause upon being traded, makes $20 million a year and is having trouble staying on the field. So the market isn’t going to be there at the moment.
- The Jays would consider the right bullpen piece, as GM Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson Smith of Sportsnet.
- They won a lot of games with Lucas Maille as the backup catcher last year, but might consider improving their catching depth.
- Bryce Harper says he only wants to talk about 2018, meaning he doesn’t want to talk about his free agency. That’s probably a smart move since it has the potential to overwhelm things.
- Everyone seems to think it’s a foregone conclusion GM Mike Rizzo will be back, but for some odd reason, the Nats seem to like to wait on these things. They did the same with Dusty Baker, then made the bizarre (and wrong) call to let him go.