Velasquez, who turns 24 in June, debuted with the Astros last year in a swingman capacity. He made seven starts and appeared 12 times in relief, racking up 58 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings, a reflection of big-league-ready stuff. Chris Crawford wrote in our Transaction Analysis of the Giles trade, “At worst, Velasquez marks a strong central piece as a potential high-leverage reliever,” but the Phillies will let him start until he proves he can’t, and his ceiling could be substantially loftier than the late-inning floor.
Many a fifth starter is down in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Pablo's gain might be Travis Shaw's... gain.
Dodgers fifth-starter spot back up for grabs
The theme song for the Dodgers rotation this spring has been “Another One Bites the Dust”—and that’s not a reference to opposing hitters digging in against Clayton Kershaw. Over the weekend, manager Dave Roberts revealed that the group’s latest ailing member is right-hander Mike Bolsinger, who was supposed to be the failsafe when the fragile veterans ahead of him went down. Now, the 28-year-old Bolsinger is sidelined with an oblique injury, and while it’s not believed to be a long-term matter, it does open up another void in Roberts’ Opening Day rotation.
The Brewers look to settle the battle for center field, while Eric Sogaard might be facing Triple-A.
Keon Broxton emerging as possible center-field favorite in Brewers camp
The Brew Crew arrived in Arizona with a vacancy in center field, where Carlos Gomez once roamed before then-general manager Doug Melvin shipped him to the Astros at the 2015 trade deadline. At the time, now-GM David Stearns was in Houston, but since the Brewers hired him away in late September, it was Stearns’ job to fill the void created by his predecessor. And if Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt is reading the situation correctly, Stearns may have done so in a relatively nondescript December trade.
As Christmas approached, the Brewers struck a deal with the Pirates, sending first baseman Jason Rogers to Pittsburgh in exchange for two minor-leaguers: right-hander Trey Supak and outfielder Keon Broxton. The latter hit .273/.357/.438 in 133 plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A last year and has the athleticism to play up the middle, but with his 26th birthday looming in May, Broxton was running out of time to prove his major-league value. Now, his chance seems to have arrived.
Alas, it wasn’t in the cards. The AL Central team that now employs Jackson is not the Tribe but the White Sox, who inked him to a one-year, $5 million contract. And the runner-up in the race to sign the 29-year-old wasn’t Cleveland, but Anaheim, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
With Ian Desmond officially off the board, the offseason rumor mill is on its last legs. The spring training position battle and intriguing-opt-out time of year is only just beginning. Here are two situations in that vein that could be worth monitoring in the coming weeks…
The Red Sox look for bullpen help and the Rangers look to extend one of their elder statesmen.
Red Sox eyeing left-handed relievers
As the offseason winds down, teams stocking up on bullpen options qualifies as noteworthy news. Peter Abraham, who covers the Red Sox for the Boston Globe, brought us a dose on Thursday, tweeting that Dave Dombrowski and his staff are in the market for a southpaw. Specifically, Abraham mentioned Neal Cotts and Franklin Morales as possibilities for the Red Sox, who are likely hoping that one of the veterans would accept a minor-league deal and come to camp as a non-roster invitee.
Gurriel brothers defect from Cuba
In something of a stunning Monday morning development, the Gurriel brothers—the 31-year-old Yulieski Gurriel and the 22-year-old Lourdes Gurriel Jr.—are reportedly defecting from Cuba. The El Nuevo Herald had the story first, and MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, the go-to source for news on soon-to-be Cuban free agents these days, expanded on it yesterday. The Gurriels defections come as a surprise mainly because the two were not expected to leave Cuba without permission from the government. It appears, however, that the allure of the majors proved too strong to resist.
Yulieski Gurriel is a veteran infielder, considered one of the elite players in Serie Nacional, and would not be subject to the international bonus pools. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., a shortstop and outfielder regarded as one of the top amateur talents in Cuba, would put his first big-league employer in the penalty—assuming he signs before turning 23 on October 19th. Sanchez pointed out that “it could take several months” for the Gurriels to receive clearance from Major League Baseball, by which point the younger Gurriel might be tempted to weigh the benefits of waiting until the fall to secure a major-league contract.
The Pirates' pitching guru is a free agent next winter, while an AL East team wants to ship Andrew Cashner across the country.
Ray Searage wants to stay with Pirates beyond 2016
Next offseason’s free agent pitching market might pale in comparison to the bonanza that teams were treated to over the past couple of months, but the market for pitching coaches could feature a marquee name.
Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote Sunday about the value of the Bucs’ pitching coach, Ray Searage, who is widely regarded as one of the game’s best teachers, able to extract maximum value out of arms who come to the Steel City with middling reputations. General manager Neal Huntington is able to rummage through the bargain bin, confident that every pitcher he finds will exceed expectations because, as Cook put it, “Ray will make him better.” But Huntington is only guaranteed that comfort for one more year, because Searage’s contract expires at the end of the 2016 season.
According to John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, extension talks with Reddick will commence shortly, and at the very least, there appears to be mutual interest in a long-term relationship. At the club’s weekend Fan Fest, Reddick told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that he was “thrilled” to hear the A’s wanted to keep him in Oakland beyond the 2016 season, his final year of arbitration. The question now is whether the sides can agree on dollars and years.
Arizona and A.J. Pollock aren't on an extension path, while Cespedes is a possibility in Houston--or, at least, an unlikely possibility.
D’backs table extension talks with A.J. Pollock
Few players did better for themselves heading into their first tour of arbitration than A.J. Pollock, who delivered a 5.4 WARP campaign on the strength of 39 doubles, 20 homers, and 39 stolen bags. The 28-year-old bloomed late but has established himself as a star-level contributor, the sort of player teams are eager to lock up as free agency draws nearer. Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, while they’ve accomplished a lot this offseason, locking Pollock up long term may have to wait.