- The Rockies have continued to keep in touch with Scott Boras in regards to free agent outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, general manager Jeff Bridich told Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on Sunday (Twitter link). Ian Desmond, Gerardo Parra and David Dahl rank as the Rockies’ most prominent corner outfielders at the moment, but all three come with question marks. Desmond was subpar last year, Parra is out several weeks after undergoing hand surgery (and hasn’t been particularly good as a Rockie) and Dahl didn’t play in the majors at all in 2017 on account of a rib cage injury. Meanwhile, Gonzalez posted the worst season of his career – which helps explain why he’s still available – though he went on a tear in September (.377/.484/.766 in 93 plate appearances) to end on a high note.
Both the Giants and Rangers came away impressed after watching free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum’s showcase on Thursday, per reports from Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Unsurprisingly, Giants brass has a fondness for Lincecum stemming from his mostly incredible run with the franchise from 2007-15. On whether they’ll try to reunite with Lincecum, general manager Bobby Evans said: “It’s up to the competition of what clubs are bidding on him, and I can’t speak to that yet. It’s early. We obviously are all rooting for Timmy. Selfishly, anything he does, we would love for it to be in a Giants uniform, but sometimes opportunities on the business side dictate otherwise. But we’re always rooting for him.” The Rangers, meanwhile, are likely to continue pursuing the 33-year-old, according to Grant.
- The Rockies have shown some interest in re-signing first baseman Mark Reynolds since last season ended, yet the 34-year-old remains on the open market. Reynolds told Bill Ladson of MLB.com that he doesn’t know why he’s still unsigned, but he’s continuing to hope for a return to the Rockies after playing with them from 2016-17. “It would be my first choice. It was a great situation. I was good there the last two years,” said Reynolds, who combined to hit .274/.354/.471 during those seasons. “It’s something that I felt was a great fit. But I can’t control what they are thinking. I played there to prove that I’m very capable of playing at that level. … But the Rockies are a good fit, and they are a playoff team and that’s something I’m factoring in my decision as well.” The Reynolds-less Rockies do have in-house first base options on hand in prospect Ryan McMahon and utilityman Ian Desmond.
- Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar hasn’t developed as hoped since his days as a top prospect, and now that he’s out of minor league options, he could be in another uniform soon. Profar hopes that’s not the case. “I know this team loves me a lot, and I love them,” the 24-year-old said (via Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). “I’m ready to help them win. I just want to play and help the team win. I know I can do it.” Profar was a non-factor last season in Texas, where he hit .172/.294/.207 over a small sample of 70 plate appearances. Left field was Profar’s main position with the Rangers in 2017, but they’re only planning to use him in the infield this spring, per Wilson. He’ll have difficulty carving out a regular role, though, with Joey Gallo (first base), Rougned Odor (second), Elvis Andrus (third) and Adrian Beltre (third) entrenched as starters.
- Rockies outfielder Gerardo Parra underwent surgery on the broken hamate bone in his right hand last Friday and could miss four to six weeks, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports. While Parra is “going to be fine,” according to manager Bud Black, Saunders notes that his injury could open the door for David Dahl to steal a starting spot in right field. Dahl came on the scene in impressive fashion as a rookie in 2016, but a rib cage injury kept him from the majors last season and limited him to 82 minor league PAs. Parra, on the other hand, hit a Coors Field-inflated .309/.341/.452 in 425 trips to the plate.
- Several Rockies starters performed well in 2017, and their potential and continued development could make the team’s 2018 rotation the best in franchise history, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. Colorado will head into the season with Jon Gray, Chad Bettis, German Marquez, Tyler Anderson, Kyle Freeland, Jeff Hoffman, and Antonio Senzatela all in the mix for rotation jobs, though it seems likely that all seven (and more starters) will required due to the inevitable wear-and-tear of a full season’s workload. The depth will also help guard against any struggles from this still young and largely-unproven group of pitchers.
- With the Rockies’ control over third baseman Nolan Arenado, center fielder Charlie Blackmon and second baseman DJ LeMahieu dwindling, it’s imperative infield prospects Ryan McMahon and Brendan Rodgers and young outfielder Raimel Tapia pan out, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post observes. The Rockies have turned away trade interest in McMahon and Rodgers, Saunders reports, indicating they’re highly confident in the pair. McMahon is seemingly the more likely of the two to make an impact in 2018, as he could emerge as the Rockies’ starting first baseman. He’s also capable of playing third and second, both of which will open up soon if Arenado and LeMahieu depart within the next couple years. Rodgers is a shortstop, but with Trevor Story there, he might also be an option at the keystone. Regardless, the Rockies believe their young talent will help them withstand any potential losses in free agency. “Our job is to not worry about Charlie, Nolan or DJ. Our goal is churning out impactful, major-league players from year to year,” director of player development Zach Wilson told Saunders. “We think we have a chance to do that for a really long time.”
38-year-old former Tigers starter Andy Van Hekken is attempting to earn a job with an MLB club, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press writes. Anyone calling it a comeback attempt should note this bit of context: Van Hekken hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2002 and only has five career starts at that level. Still, the Holland native is reportedly training back in his home county, and a late-thirties push for MLB has been in his plans for a while. “I’ve been thinking about it over the last few years,” he said. “I always wanted to come back and give it another try to get back to the big leagues and see if I could do it. I would love an opportunity and hopefully there will be one.” As Fenech aptly points out, Van Hekken’s timing couldn’t be worse… there are well over a hundred free agents who have yet to sign during what has been a phenomenally slow hot stove season. The left-hander is best known for throwing a complete game shutout against the Indians in his major league debut. He’s mixed a high-80’s fastball with a forkball to great success in Korea during the past half-decade or so, posting solid ground ball and strikeout rates.
Some other items from around the league as we inch closer to spring training…
- Have fans been conditioned to accept half-hearted attempts at contention? Travis Sawchik attempts to answer this question in a piece for Fangraphs. Sawchik writes that while it’s typically for business owners to take great care in running their businesses efficiently and at a profit, baseball is not a typical business. Fans invest in ballclubs both emotionally and fiscally (with their taxes), so owners have a civic duty to put a competitive product on the field. He references former Tigers owner Mike Illitch, who at times spent irrationally on his club. He even kept a General Motors advertisement above the center field batter’s eye when the company could no longer afford it, in similar spirit of upholding the city’s identity. Sawchik then turns his focus to Nutting, who has gutted the club’s core to slash payroll by $20MM this season without paying for a single free agent. Sawchik suspects that the club could cover its current payroll without selling a single ticket, and points out its $50MM BAMtech payment from Disney (that also hasn’t been reinvested in the team). He posits that fans have been trained to accept the “small-market” excuse for not spending as a reality, when in fact it may not entirely explain a given club’s low payroll.
- The Rockies have built a contending club in part by betting on its youthful rotation, Daniel Cramer of MLB.com writes. Back in spring training of 2016, GM Jeff Bridich apparently told young right-hander Jeff Hoffman that the club wasn’t seeking any veteran upgrades. Fast forward to today, and the organization hopes to build on a “blossoming pitching culture with the potential for sustained success”. Cramer describes Colorado’s blueprint for pitchers as “a power arm supplemented with a mental confidence to pitch at Coors Field.” For their part, a group consisting of German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Tyler Chatwood, Jon Gray, Jeff Hoffman, Antonio Senzatela, Tyler Anderson and Chad Bettis combined for 11.8 fWAR last season (good for 11th in the majors), and that entire group minus Chatwood is set to return for 2018.
Unrest on the players’ side of the fence in a dismally slow offseason reached the point where player reps in the union asked if whether it was viable for even those who have signed contracts to collectively refuse to report to Spring Training until Feb. 24, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required). That represents the mandatory reporting date, though pitchers and catchers (and some others) will report to camp prior to that date in a given year. The MLBPA informed those representatives that doing so would violate the CBA and constitute an “unlawful strike,” prompting the notion to be dropped. The very thought further illustrates the overall discontent of players, Rosenthal notes, and that general level of frustration doesn’t help matters as the league and union continue to negotiate the implementation of pace-of-play measures.
Some other notes from around the game…
- In addition to Ken Giles, whose arbitration hearing took place yesterday, we should soon learn the results on a pair of arb hearings from the Marlins. FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweeted recently that J.T. Realmuto’s arb hearing was on Jan. 31, while Justin Bour’s was slated for Feb. 1. Giles and the Astros filed at $4.6MM and $4.2MM, respectively. Meanwhile, the Marlins filed at $2.9MM and $3MM for Realmuto and Bour, while that duo countered with respective figures of $3.5MM and $3.4MM (all of which can be seen in MLBTR’s 2018 Arbitration Tracker). Heyman also noted that Dan Straily’s hearing is set for Feb. 14, and Luke Jones of WSNT.net tweeted recently that Orioles righty Kevin Gausman told him his hearing is also set for the 14th of the month.
- The Nationals have little interest in bringing Jayson Werth back to D.C., writes Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. Werth, though, hopes to play next season and tells Janes that he’s enhanced his workout routine this offseason. “I’m still training,” says Werth. “I’m still doing the same stuff I would do every other year. I’m actually training harder because I know I’m getting older, and the only way to keep up is to work harder, which sucks.” Werth, 38, was sporting a productive .262/.367/.446 batting line in 2017 when he hit the DL in early June due to a foot injury. When he returned in late August, though, he struggled to a .155/.226/.286 slash through the end of the season, and his struggles continued in the postseason.
- Rockies top prospect Brendan Rodgers tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that his ultimate goal for the 2018 season is to make his MLB debut. While the team’s director of player development, Zach Wilson, loves the ambition behind that goal, he wouldn’t comment directly on the plausibility of that scenario. “We’ll see what happens, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have those aspirations and those goals this year,” Wilson told Saunders. “But I will also say this: we’ll make sure he is ready for the next step before he takes it.” Wilson adds that Rodgers will see action at both middle infield positions during Cactus League play this spring but will also get in plenty of side work at third base as the team increases his versatility. Rodgers is viewed as a potential cornerstone piece in the infield for the Rox, though with Nolan Arenado at third base, Trevor Story at short and DJ LeMahieu at second base, there’s no immediate opening for him. LeMahieu, though, is a free agent following the 2018 season.
The Rockies have honed in on a few targets in their search for a right-handed-hitting corner infielder, Thomas Harding of MLB.com writes. The club is reportedly considering a reunion with either Mark Reynolds or Carlos Gonzalez, while also weighing the possibility of signing Todd Frazier (Harding cites some interesting data points relating to each player). While bringing one of these players into the fold appears to be their preferred option, they’ve also got plenty of young players who could conceivably force their way into the picture (even though the ones mentioned in the piece are all left handed). The club feels as though it has a lot of flexibility due to the presence of Ian Desmond, who’s capable of playing either at first base or in the outfield.
Here are a few other items of note from around MLB…
- Though the pace of play debate has largely centered around replay review and the potential implementation of a pitch clock, Ken Rosenthal latest piece at The Athletic details a significant factor he believes is largely overlooked: sign-stealing. Rosenthal had an in-depth conversation with a major-league manager who believes that MLB must take action in order to prevent teams from using advanced technology to steal signs. The manager, like most around baseball, agrees that sign-stealing with one’s own eyes and relaying the signals without the help of technology is simply part of the game. Sign-stealing through the use of tech, however, is causing significant paranoia around the league and is at least one catalyst for an excess of mound visits that are slowing down the game. The manager suggests having an MLB official in every replay room around the league, while others around the league have advocated for pitchers and catchers to wear NFL-type receivers to eliminate the need for hand signals entirely. The piece provides some fascinating insight into an invasive issue that’s not talked about often enough.
- Today, Red Sox pitcher Tanner Houck became the latest player to leave agent Jason Wood and CSE, Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reports (separate links). The player exodus, of course, comes in the midst of allegations that Wood filmed players in his shower with a secret camera. Houck is now with CAA sports, and joins Mitch Keller, Jake Odorizzi, Riley Pint, Joey Wentz, Cody Asche, and Taylor Gushue as players who have left CSE to sign with other agencies. As Murray points out, many are expected to follow in their footsteps, perhaps including one of the agency’s most notable clients, Andrew Benintendi.
- After acquiring left-handed slugger Brandon Moss just earlier today, the Athletics will attempt to find a taker for him, says Rosenthal on Twitter. Moss will earn $7.25MM this season, and the Royals sent over $3.25MM along with his contract, meaning the A’s need only to pay the 34-year-old $4MM for the coming season. While that’s certainly not a handicapping salary, it’s fairly significant considering Moss doesn’t have a clear role on the team outside of perhaps being a bench bat. For his part, Moss has every intention of forcing his way into the picture. “I’m going to figure something out,” he told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’m going to rake all spring and they’ll have to keep me.”
The Rockies announced a host of invitations to Major League Spring Training on Monday, including a new minor league contract with right-hander Brooks Pounders.
Pounders, 27, has appeared for the Royals and Angels in the past two seasons, totaling a combined 23 innings but struggling to a dismal 9.78 ERA in that time. The former second-round pick has logged an impressive 25-to-8 K/BB ratio in that time, but he’s an extreme fly-ball pitchers (29.9 percent ground-ball rate, 51.9 percent fly-ball rate) and has been tattooed for a whopping 10 homers in his brief MLB tenure (3.9 HR/9).
A former second-round pick (Pirates, 2009), Pounders has posted markedly better numbers in parts of three Triple-A seasons. In his time at the minors’ top level, he’s worked to a tidy 2.94 ERA with 9.5 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9 in 131 2/3 innings. He’ll have a crowded bullpen picture to try to crack thanks to Colorado’s offseason signings of Wade Davis, Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw, but he’ll provide the team with some depth it can stash in the upper minors should injuries thin out the big league club.
- Rockies manager Bud Black shared some positive health news about David Dahl, as Black told the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders and other reporters that Dahl should be “full go” at the start of Spring Training. “He’s engaged, he’s running, he’s lifting weights, he’s swinging at 100 percent. Right now there are no concerns, and medically everybody feels really good about David,” Black said. Dahl was limited to just 19 minor league games in 2017 due to a stress reaction in his rib cage, and his potential return gives Colorado another intriguing piece for its outfield.
- Center fielder Charlie Blackmon could be part of one of the best free agent classes of all-time next year, but he’s open to signing an extension with the Rockies and forgoing a trip to the market. “It’s a two-way street,” the 31-year-old told Thomas Harding of MLB.com. “I really like playing here. It’s been a great place to be. I like the people. I like the teammates. And I’ve also been on a one-year situation for the past three to four years, so it doesn’t really change anything for me. I’m used to that go-out-and-produce mindset. Hopefully, something happens. That would be great.” If something doesn’t happen, the reigning NL batting champion (.331) will play 2018 for $14MM and vie for a third straight star-caliber season.