Inside Baseball from Jon Heyman brings you news, notes, rumors and more from all 30 MLB teams. For Heyman’s take on the recent MLBPA lawsuit filed against four teams, click here.
And now, around the majors…
- The D-backs were prepared to take another shot at J.D. Martinez had his deal with the Red Sox fallen apart. That’s true even though they’d already picked up Steven Souza and Jarrod Dyson.
- Sources say Dyson didn’t take a $14 million, two-year offer he had early (he wound up taking $7.5 million over two). He shouldn’t feel bad. Weird winter. There will be others with similar stories.
- Dansby Swanson is off to a good start, with a homer off Nationals star Max Scherzer.
- Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal Constitution advised the team not to rush superstar prospect Ronald Acuna, suggesting that was the mistake they made with Swanson.
- Chipper Jones, an avid hunter, was one baseball player to come out and denounced assault weapons. Good for him.
- Mike Foltynewicz simplified his delivery. He has the talent. Time for him to take a big step forward.
- Even after losing so many players in the scandal, folks still rank them as the No. 1 system.
- The Orioles’ dream would be to sign back Jake Arrieta. But most folks see either Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn as more realistic for them. They have talked about both pitchers.
- They have been developing some decent position players in recent years. Austin Hays could be a star. He has been nursing a shoulder injury but should be back soon.
- Great name: Ryan Mountcastle.
Boston Red Sox
- Good thing the Red Sox and J.D. Martinez were able to put their deal back together, with Boston getting some protection if the foot issue crops up late and Martinez adding a record third opt-out in the deal. The best feature of the deal may be the front-loading that gives him $50 million over the first two years (and $72 million the first three), so the opt outs are a big plus.
- It’s interesting to note that the backup plan, Logan Morrison, got $103.5 million less as a guarantee. The Morrison deal and the completion of the redone Martinez deal happened practically simultaneously, so one may have affected the other.
- It’s interesting to note that club president Dave Dombrowski’s two big free agent deals in Boston were for players he had while in Detroit, including also David Price.
- Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright are expected to begin the year on the disabled list.
- Mitch Moreland got a great deal by signing early, getting $13 million (exactly twice as much guaranteed as Logan Morrison), but there’s a big question how much he’ll play now. And he’s untradeable considering that contract and the lack of teams that need a first baseman.
- Someone on the air somewhere in Boston identified Mookie Betts as “the best defender” in baseball. But as Alex Smolokoff of FanRag Sports correctly pointed out on twitter, he may not even be the best outfielder on the Red Sox. That could easily be Jackie Bradley Jr. I’d nominate Andrelton Simmons, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado and Javy Baez. There are a lot of great outfielders, like Kevin Kiermaier, Kevin Pillar, Lorenzo Cain and many others, but the infielders seem more vital.
- The Cubs made an early play for Alex Cobb, before and after they signed Tyler Chatwood. They were speaking at levels slightly above Chatwood at the time, and they continued to talk even after Chatwood was signed. But then they unexpectedly signed Yu Darvish, so now they are out of room. And with Chatwood as the No. 5 starter, they are in excellent shape.
- Brandon Morrow will be the closer, with C.J. Edwards and Steve Cishek seen as possible fill-ins. The Cubs have no plans to try for Greg Holland.
- Morrow did a fantastic job with the Dodgers last year and is obviously unafraid of work. He missed only one game in the postseason and he became the second man to pitch in all seven World Series games (following Darold Knowles, the ex-A’s reliever who Morrow knew when they were both with the Jays); Knowles called him to congratulate him. Morrow originally had been hoping to go to the Dodgers, but they told him they’d have to move some money around before committing to a deal that he felt was commensurate with his value; the Cubs were a close second choice for him.
- They remain below the luxury tax threshold, and while it’s about $10 to $12 million of room, with natural churn it is a bit less than that. They want to leave enough in case they need trade deadline help.
- The Cubs identified three potential future managers to try to convince to come as coaches (one of whom now has a managing job), but Mark DeRosa, Raul Ibanez and Aaron Boone wound up not coming. Theo Epstein, upon seeing Boone was going to be named Yankees manager, jokingly told him that “it must have been a tough choice — Yankees manager of Cubs quality assurance coach.”
- Kyle Schwarber looks like a different person, in person. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN asked 15 executives what the most surprising thing of spring was so far, and the most common answer was Schwarber’s new physique. Good for him.
- Poor Victor Caratini. It was his liner that struck Felix Hernandez in his magical right arm in Hernandez’s first outing of the spring, and also Caratini who hit Daniel Poncedeleon in the head with a liner last year. Poncedeleon was described as “almost dying,” before brain surgery saved him. He is in spring training with the Cardinals this year. Good to see .
- Anthony Rizzo, who should be a candidate to become the first back-to-back Roberto Clemente winner following all the good work he’s done for his alma mater Marjory Stoneman Douglas, homered in his first spring at-bat.
- Gordon Wittenmyer talked to Jon Lester after FanRag’s story that his agency ACES is being sued by a former employee who’s making many detailed claims of shenanigans, and Lester didn’t have a strong reaction, as none of it involved him, they got him a good deal and he doesn’t appear to get to involved with his agent. The ACES proprietors, the Levinsons, called clients to warn them the lawsuit would probably come out. They are stressing that they were “cleared” by the union after an investigation into why they had 10 of 12 Biogenesis clients after they had a disproportionate number in the Mitchell Report. But that isn’t quite accurate, as the union censured them (though allowed them to continue to operate). MLB would like them out, but the CBA gives jurisdiction over agents to the union.
- Ex-Cub Jon Jay had an early chance with the Mariners. He normally signs early, but he remains available. He is great for a team.
Chicago White Sox
- Could the White Sox become an eventual landing spot for Matt Kemp?
- The White Sox tried for Manny Machado, so some have speculated that Mike Moustakas could fit – though there’s really been no evidence of a possibility there. Jon Morosi of MLB.com has been touting this possibility, but that seems speculative at this point.
- The ChiSox lost their top third base prospect Jake Burger with a torn Achilles, but that’s just a one-year proposition, so it’s hard to see how that changes things, either way. Burger, who had been ticketed for the minors, made some nice plays before suffering the injury.
- Michael Kopech has already wowed them in spring, hitting 100 on the gun in his debut.
- Folks continue to be excited about the hitting ability of Eloy Jimenez, whose missed a few days with a knee irritation but should be back soon.
- Tucker Barnhart knocked the cover off the ball, and @jamieblog offered visual evidence on twitter.
- The Reds and Indians should both be training in Florida. All I can figure is they found a Buckeye Road in Arizona, and liked the name (not kidding – both their sites are right off Buckeye Road, which was there long before the new stadiums). Other spring coincidences: The road from the old Twins to the Red Sox Camp was Ortiz Street (maybe it should have been Ortiz Drive). A main street in Sarasota is Route 301, the Baltimore area code.
- Ben Revere gives them a second guy with amazing speed, at $1.5 million.
- I can report: Billy Hamilton can play the heck out of center field.
- The Indians wouldn’t mind acquiring a right-handed-hitting outfielder.
- Bradley Zimmer is said to be healthy, which is a plus.
- Some think the Indians still might use Yandy Diaz at third with Jose Ramirez moving to second and Jason Kipnis in the outfield – though the Indians have said that is not the plan.
- Matt Belisle was a nice pickup as an NRI (non-roster invite).
- Mike Napoli is a nice addition to any team, but it sounds like the Indians have him in camp, just in case, and that Napoli is mostly auditioning for other teams.
- Napoli, we hear, has thoughts about managing. Maybe he should have been on this list.
- With Rajai Davis also back, there’s reason to party at Nap’s, while he’s still there.
- Nolan Arenado told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post, “We miss CarGo.” He certainly was a major presence on the team.
- Mark Reynolds did an excellent job for them last year, and it’s a bit perplexing why they haven’t shown more interest to this point.
- While the Rockies showed early interest in Jonathan Lucroy and Greg Holland, they signed Chris Iannetta and Wade Davis for those spots.
- The Tigers are surprising folks and winning games early in spring training. Most don’t expect it to carry over into the season.
- Michael Fulmer is back and feeling like himself. So that’s a big plus.
- It was curious when MLB didn’t announce the drug that triggered top Astros prospect Forrest Whitley’s 50-game suspension. It isn’t known why the drug wasn’t revealed, but sources suggest that a stimulant was detected in his system.
- Yuli Gurriel is out until at least May after hamate surgery, and if they want to look at the free agent market, there are plenty of choices there.
- They could just use the versatile Marwin Gonzalez at first base while Tyler White, JD Davis and AJ Reed are candidates to play there as well. The Astros may not look outside the organization since it is only expected to be about a six-week absence for Gurriel.
- If they were to look outside the organization, Mark Reynolds could possibly fit. And so might Jonathan Lucroy, who we’ve touted in this space before and might make even more sense now since he can play first and also spell veteran Brian McCann behind the plate (though there’s no evidence of much contact with Lucroy since the beginning of free agency).
- They’d like to see top prospect Derek Fisher win the left-field job.
- Carlos Gonzalez, another of the star free agents, remains out there and has been linked a bit to Houston.
- Some Astros don’t get why so many are picking the Yankees, including Justin Verlander. “There’s no guarantee of anything. We know that. But starting now, we’re the team to beat. Bottom line. You’re crazy if you think otherwise,” Verlander said.
Kansas City Royals
- A trio of Royals top free agents best illustrated what a crazy winter this is.
- Lucas Duda was a solid play at $3.5 million (plus incentives that take him to close to $5M). That was first reported by FanRag’s Robert Murray.
Los Angeles Angels
- Shohei Ohtani’s first game with at-bats was a beauty, with two walks and a hit.
- Andrew Bailey is a terrific hire for the front office. He comes in as video coordinator after announcing his retirement. GM Billy Eppler has made some nice hires for his staff.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- There has been no noticeable market for Matt Kemp. He lost 40 pounds, but folks still view him as a DH until he proves he can play the outfield again. And folks still wonder how he’d fit into a clubhouse. Dodgers people still seem to think it’s unlikely he’s still on the team come Opening Day, but they haven’t entirely ruled it out, it appears. It’s a surprise to them he’s still with them this long. One idea would be to attach a great prospect or two with him, which would in effect be selling those prospects for some portion of the $43 million to go on Kemp’s deal. But the Dodgers understandably also don’t love the idea of trading away top prospects. They could still release him if they can’t stir something up. From here, the White Sox look like a possible landing spot, but that would be after a release.
- The Dodgers’ last official offer for Yu Darvish was short of $100 million, though some believe they might have been willing to crack the $100 million mark if Darvish signaled he preferred them to the Cubs. It’s often hard to know, after the fact.
- Teammates have teased Yasiel Puig about being agent-less. He became that oh-so-rare player to be dumped by his agency, Wasserman, but no one is saying why they would give up some potentially pretty big fees.
- The Dodgers finished second for Tim Lincecum. Wouldn’t that have been something?
- The Marlins loved South Florida product Lewis Brinson, which is what gave the Brewers a leg up for Christian Yelich, especially after the Jays wouldn’t give up Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
- The Marlins look like they could use another outfielder, and a leadoff hitter. But right now Derek Dietrich is the favorite for left field and leadoff. Me: He can hit but may be better in a super utility role.
- Strangely, some Marlins people act like the loss of Dee Gordon was nothing major. In the scheme of things, it was No. 4 on the hit parade.
- Marlins people understand they won’t be world beaters this year, and will judge manager Don Mattingly on whether the team plays hard and professionally. That should be no problem under Mattingly.
- Nice feature on interesting outfield prospect Braxton Lee by Tim Healey of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. Healey, incidentally, who is very good, is moving to Newsday in New York (one of the many places I worked at: 1990-2006 for me).
- Mike Napoli had some hope to stay home with the young Marlins before he went to Cleveland. That really would have tested Napoli’s long track record of winning.
- The Brewers are talking to teams to try to alleviate their outfield logjam (and more to the point, add a starting pitcher) and have been dangling very good young players like Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips and Keon Broxton. But there’s an issue: Not many teams need outfielders, as evidenced by the fact that there are still some good free agent outfielders on the market. The OF market was wrecked by the Marlins trading four very good ones (assuming Dee Gordon becomes a very good one).
- The good news is: Broxton and Phillips have minor-league options and can be sent down.
- There seems to be a glut at first base, too, since Ryan Braun appears to be largely a first baseman at this time, barring injury. Jesus Aguilar does not have options, and Eric Thames is on a multiyear contract.
- Braun told Brewers writers he has some concern in spring about his back while he takes 50-100 grounders a day.
- As far as Braun playing first, Brewers manager Craig Counsell admitted, “We are really at the start of the process.”
- Despite hitting well when he played last year, Ryan Braun is seen as untradeable.
- The Brewers are considering signing a free agent pitcher, with Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb seen as more likely than Jake Arrieta. While they like Arrieta, they aren’t sure they could fit him into the budget. Arrieta would also be a nice way to tweak the Cubs.
- While the Brewers never made an “official” $100 million offer for Darvish, they certainly were willing to go there – if only he was willing to go to Milwaukee. Texas was a surprising sell for the Japanese star, but Milwaukee understood going in it was an extremely tough sell.
- If they don’t come up with a starter via trade or free agency, they will chose among Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Aaron Wilkerson, Freddy Peralta, Brent Sutter, Yovani Gallardo and Wade Miley for the final two spots. Milwaukee wouldn’t mind giving the job to one of the kids.
- One scout said Suter doesn’t look like much as he throws 86-88, but the Brewers see a potential crafty lefty who just might make it. Mark Buehrle or Jamie Moyer would be the mold.
- Chase Anderson looks “really, really good,” says a scout.
- Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich have looked terrific this spring, though Yelich admits he is still adjusting to the wind and sun of an Arizona spring.
- They plan to use highly touted prospect Josh Hader in an “Andrew Miller role.” But one scout says he thinks Hader can start right now. Brewers people think if he’s needed in the rotation it will prove beneficial to work multiple innings in relief to start.
- Nick Franklin looks like he has a little power left.
- The Twins got a very nice deal on Logan Morrison, at $6.5 million guaranteed, following his 38-home run season. The Twins, in fact, got decent deals on a few players. Addison Reed isn’t bad at $17 million for two years (he was hampered by a bad finish). And they made a few good ones for pen pieces.
- Someone reported LoMo’s improvement may have come from a change in swing, and thus launch angle, from 12.1 degrees to 17.4. Whatever it was, it worked.
- It was a bit surprising they didn’t bring back Matt Belisle since he did such a nice job closing for them last year and was said to be a clubhouse plus.
- Nick Gordon is remaining at Beverly Hills Sports Council. “He never left,” his dad Tom “Flash” Gordon said.
- They still might consider a starting pitcher, if they can get the right price. They seem to like Lance Lynn.
New York Mets
- Noah Syndergaard has already hit 101 mph. If he’s pacing himself, this might be some kind of year for him.
- Justin Verlander said he’s a Syndergaard fan.
- Steven Matz was healthy but ineffective his first time out, writes David Lennon of Newsday.
- Tim Tebow isn’t allowed to talk unless there’s a press conference. Which is weird since his other job is as a professional talker (announcer at ESPN).
- The Brooklyn-based ACES agency has received a delay to the typical 20 days they had to respond to the lawsuit filed by former employee Juan Carlos Nunez.
- The New York Daily News followed the story on FanRag, suggesting there could be more players called to testify beyond Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera.
- Jacob deGrom had a slight back issue, but there’s hope he’ll be ready for Opening Day.
- Brandon Nimmo is impressing early in spring training.
New York Yankees
- The Yankees are still weighing some rotation help. “(Yankees GM Brian) Cashman is a bargain hunter,” one person with Yankees ties said. That person predicted the Yankees would add someone.
- It was interesting that new manager Aaron Boone revealed that they weren’t really players for Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn, though it makes sense since they have only between $16 million and $22 million of room under the luxury tax threshold, and they want to save some money for the trade deadline.
- Reggie Jackson offered some interesting opinions on Giancarlo Stanton. His best advice was: play well. Some interpreted his talk as a way to subtly hint to beware the media. Me: Stanton can handle himself.
- While most of the attention is going to the Stanton-Aaron Judge combo at Yankees camp, let’s not forget Gary Sanchez. He hit a ball over the scoreboard in left-center field at Steinbrenner Field. That’s quite a poke.
- The Yankees have an amazing farm system. Estevan Florial looks terrific, but there are so many good young players it is hard to name them all.
- One scout says Miguel Andujar is ready, though he will apparently start the year in the minors now that Brandon Drury has been acquired.
- The Yankees seem thrilled to have gotten Danny Espinosa for what they did: a minor-league deal.
- The word “mild” should be stricken from team vocabularies as a modifier to concussions. Concussions are brain injuries. Clint Frazier, who suffered a straight-up concussion, told Yankees writers, “I can’t even sit in my living room without feeling like s***. I can’t shake the headaches.” Nothing mild about that.
- Six-foot-seven lefty A.J. Puk looks very impressive and is a candidate to help this year. He probably won’t start the year with the team, though.
- Slade Heathcott is studying for an aeronautical science degree, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. That’s nice news for a player who came into baseball with an iffy rep.
- Danny Valencia is one of many first baseman still out there, and one exec opined that his takedown of Billy Butler might finally have caught up to him. First base is a tough spot, but teams don’t like fights, and it counts against players who are less than stars.
- The Phillies would appear to have a chance to sign Jake Arrieta. Though there’s been a difference in years, the love Phillies people have for Arrieta – whom they drafted and developed while he and they were in Baltimore – may be a big factor. It will be interesting to see what Arrieta ends up with, but president Andy MacPhail, GM Matt Klentak and exec Joe Jordan (who was the scouting director in Baltimore who drafted him) all are admirers.
- “They will sign a pitcher,” one person with Phillies ties predicted. So if they don’t get Arrieta, they are expected to look at Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn. Jeremy Hellickson is still out there, and he pitched well for them before struggling with the Orioles
- One scout second-guessed the trade of Freddy Galvis. He sees him as a superior defender at shortstop. Meanwhile, that scout says that while rookie J.P. Crawford has hitting potential, he’s a little short as a defender.
- The scout, meanwhile, sees big things for Maikel Franco. “With his bat speed and power he has a chance to be something really special.” The scout compared him to a young Edwin Encarnacion.
- Look for the Phillies to go after Manny Machado regardless. They could play him at shortstop, or third.
- New manager Gabe Kapler has the unusual idea of having a social media competition, which could be fraught with peril.
- Daniel Nava is out 10 to 12 weeks after back surgery, Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reported.
St. Louis Cardinals
- It’s still hard to believe that the Cardinals, off two straight playoff-less seasons, did nothing to improve their pitching staff.
- They are planning to go with Luke Gregerson as closer. But some are envisioning the ultra talented rookie Alex Reyes stepping in when he returns.
- Miles Mikolas was shelled in his first outing. He showed St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Derrick Goold around his hometown of Jupiter, which also happens to be the Cardinals’ home. The Cubs and about 15 other teams showed interest in Mikolas, who starred in Japan after not initially making it in MLB.
- Cool moment: Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and his son Tate, a Red Sox prospect, meeting at home to present the lineup cards.
- There was some speculation they might take a look at Alex Cobb, though no hard evidence to that effect.
San Diego Padres
- Hunter Renfroe hit a tape measure job, which can’t hurt his trade value. However, with several good outfielders on the market, it isn’t easy trading outfielders.
- Some love Freddy Galvis. “After (Andrelton) Simmons, he may be the next best shortstop,” one scout says. High praise indeed.
- One notable omission from my future manager list was A.J. Ellis. He should have been on there. He was born to be a manager.
- Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times did a nice story talking to Cubs GM Theo Epstein about Kevin Towers, the former Padres and Diamondbacks GM who died at age 55. The memorial for him at PETCO Park was spectacular. Epstein had great words, and so did Brian Cashman, Bud Black, Dennis Gilbert and his former agent Barry Axelrod, who arranged the great ceremony. People left uplifted, which you don’t usually see at funerals.
San Francisco Giants
- The Giants only wanted to do a minor-league deal for Tim Lincecum but were probably pleased he chose the Rangers over the Dodgers.
- Good to see that Orlando Cepeda has shown significant improvement after suffering a heart episode, as the Giants announced.
- Don and Charlie’s is closing, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported. A thousand sportswriters wept (not this one though, it is mediocre) for the sportswriter hangout. There are much better places in Scottsdale.
- The Mariners may have dodged a big bullet when X-Rays on Felix Hernandez’s right arm were deemed negative after he was struck by a liner off the bat of Cubs prospect Victor Caratini. Felix was telling friends he was “sore,” but OK.
- Folks are betting on Hisashi Iwakuma, a legendarily hard worker. The goal is for him to be back by May. But of course, shoulders are tricky.
- Dee Gordon has looked pretty good in center field, and he even popped an early spring homer.
- Kyle Seager said he got to see younger brother Corey play for the second time in person when they met in a spring training game. The first time was in the 2017 World Series. The third brother, Justin, retired this year after plateauing at Double-A.
Tampa Bay Rays
- One team that’s talked to the Rays predicts, “No way they trade Chris Archer.” And how do you know? “They wanted our whole farm system.”
- Matt Duffy, coming off a year-long injury, will have the unenviable task of trying to replace Rays legend Evan Longoria.
- Tim Lincecum is a great pickup as a potential closer. The Rangers need a a closer, and Lincecum was fantastic in relief for the Giants in two postseasons. You know he likes big moments, too.
Toronto Blue Jays
- Ace Marcus Stroman has a bit of a shoulder concern. They absolutely need him.
- Jose Bautista remains on the market.
- The Nats are said to be “deliberating” on Jake Arrieta.
- The Nats wouldn’t part with either of their top two outfield prospects, Victor Robles or Juan Soto, even for J.T. Realmuto, who they were coveting. While they seemed willing to consider shortstop prospect Carter Kieboom or young outfielder Michael Taylor, the Marlins wanted significant other players paired with either of those two, and the Nats didn’t want to do that.
- Matt Wieters looks much better this spring. Last spring he was returning after a horrific household accident in which he was cut by the glass on a jug of water he dropped. Let’s hope he hires folks for those chores from now on.
- New manager Davey Martinez says he won’t put the clamps on Trea Turner, who has 76 steals in 162 career games. Martinez’s old Cubs team was last in steals last year, with 62.
- One scout called Juan Soto “the best hitting prospect I’ve seen in twenty years,” and compared him to Tony Oliva, a near Hall of Famer. He says Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Francisco Mejia are awfully good, too.
- Erick Fedde had “no lingering effects” from last year’s elbow issue, writes Jamal Collier of MLB.com.
- The Nationals nearly batted out of order. As Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post noted, it’s spring training for everyone.