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.
One of the Rockies' three incumbents in the outfield is about to roll over.
Orioles, Rockies discussing Colorado’s spare outfielders
The slow-developing outfield market lost another mid-tier free agent Tuesday, when the Rockies agreed to a three-year, $27.5 million deal with Gerardo Parra. Like Denard Span, who signed a three-year, $31 million contract with the Giants last week, Parra represented something of a risk after batting just .237/.268/.357 following a deadline trade to Baltimore. But the Rockies apparently were comfortable writing off that skid to Parra’s mid-year city and league change, investing in him through the 2018 season with a $12 million fourth-year option.
Colorado was always something off an odd fit for Parra, because the Rockies already had plenty of left-handed-hitting outfielders. Nonetheless, rumors tying them to the ex-D’backs outfielder persisted and eventually a deal came to fruition. Now, Walt Weiss has four lefty-swinging outfield regulars for three spots: Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson, and Carlos Gonzalez all bat from that side of the plate, and Brandon Barnes and Kyle Parker are available as right-handed batters off the bench.
The Padres and Ian Desmond fit nicely together, while Bronson Arroyo has unfinished business in Cincinnati.
Padres at least keeping tabs on Ian Desmond
Ian Desmond played shortstop last year. The Padres’ projected starting shortstop is Alexi Amarista, producer of a .205 TAv in 357 plate appearances last season. Ian Desmond is available. Which also means that, despite the obviousness of the match, he’s not yet donning San Diego’s new (old) colors.
Just about all of Andrew Friedman’s pitching plans have gone awry to this point in the offseason, and as Christmas approaches, none of Zack Greinke, Aroldis Chapman, or Hisashi Iwakuma is in line to wear Dodger blue on Opening Day. But while the Dodgers might have grown a little more desperate in their efforts to patch the void left by Greinke’s departure and otherwise upgrade their pitching staff, it doesn’t appear that they’re desperate enough to meet the Marlins’ asking price on Jose Fernandez.
When Johnny Cueto makes his first start for the Giants, it will end a very unusual streak in San Francisco.
Over the past 19 seasons, there have been 6,700 regular-season major-league games started (GS) logged by pitchers born in the Dominican Republic. The Giants are responsible for one of them.
On April 2, 2008, the Giants were slated to play the Dodgers in Los Angeles in the third game of each club’s regular season. The sky was partly clear at first-pitch time, but the Doppler radar just west of Dodger Stadium was as green as the oncoming clouds were dark, and managers Bruce Bochy and Joe Torre were in a bind. Starting the probables, Tim Lincecum and Chad Billingsley, meant begging for a mid-game dilemma—pitching a dynamic young starter on both sides of a delay or wearing out the bullpen in an early-April contest—which would leave each skipper open to media scrutiny just days into the season. After some deliberation, Torre gave the ball to one of his relievers, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Bochy followed suit by scratching Lincecum for Merkin Valdez.
Rain delays are a rarity in Chavez Ravine—almost as rare as Dominican-born starters donning the Giants’ orange and black. There have been only two of them since that April evening: on May 23, 2008, and April 7, 2015. One of those brought the tarp out pre-game, the other in the ninth. Neither required a manager to weigh the risk of losing his starter in the early frames.
Valdez, whose career in the majors spanned parts of five rocky seasons, is the answer to several trivia questions. He is one of eight players to appear in three different Futures Games. He was once traded (with Damian Moss) for Russ Ortiz. And he went by Manny Mateo at the time of said trade. But all of those pale in comparison to this one:
In a 19-year span, Valdez was the Giants’ only Dominican-born starter. And he was afforded that opportunity by accident.
Since Juan Marichal—the first-ever Dominican-born Hall of Famer, a Giants legend immortalized with a statue outside AT&T Park’s right-field gate—left San Francisco for Boston after the 1973 season, precious few of his fellow countrymen have pitched in the Giants’ rotation: