The Blue Jays have signed veteran left-hander Johan Santana to a minor league contract with an invitation to their big league Spring Training camp, according to a team press release. Santana is represented by Peter Greenberg of the Legacy Agency.
Santana hasn’t pitched in either the majors or minors since 2012, as he has been sidelined by both left shoulder capsule surgery (his second such procedure in three years) and, most recently, a torn Achilles tendon last June while on a minor league deal with the Orioles. Santana returned to make some appearances in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason and drew interest from multiple teams, including the Padres and Yankees, though his Venezuelan outings were limited by shoulder soreness.
Given his checkered injury history and the fact that Santana turns 36 in March, it’s hard to see this as anything more than a depth signing for Toronto. It’s worth noting, however, that the last time Santana was healthy (the first few months of the 2012 season), he still gave the Mets several quality starts, including a no-hitter.
The Jays’ rotation depth was thinned by a few offseason trades, leaving rookie top prospect Daniel Norris as the projected fifth starter behind Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison. Aaron Sanchez and Marco Estrada are likely the two top backup options should Norris struggle, though since the Jays are aiming to have both pitchers in the bullpen, a veteran option like Santana could come in handy. The Jays have been looking for relief pitching depth as well, though according to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi (Twitter link), Santana is being looked at by the team as a starter.
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon told reporters today, including Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, that he was happy to see the news that Francisco Rodriguez had agreed to a two-year deal in Milwaukee. Papelbon described Rodriguez a “talent that needs to be in Major League Baseball.” Asked if he was disappointed that a trade to Milwaukee was seemingly no longer an option, Papelbon said no, but he did have an interesting response when asked if he would be open to playing for the Blue Jays. “Yes, Toronto, interests me — if it interests [GM Ruben Amaro]. I know some of the guys on their coaching staff. They’re a good team. If Ruben can do a deal with them, I’d be interested.” Papelbon said he is more interested in pitching in Toronto than he had been in pitching for Milwaukee, but his ultimate hope is to contend with the Phillies. “My storybook ending here is sneaking into the wild card and getting hot in the playoffs with these Phillies.”
Here are some more Phillies-related items…
Though second baseman Daniel Murphy has been one of the Mets’ most consistent offensive performers over the past few seasons, the team has no plans to negotiate an extension with the 29-year-old during the season, reports ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin. While that wording would seem to leave open some possibility of a Spring Training extension, Rubin writes that the expectation is for New York to let Murphy walk as a free agent next offseason.
Dilson Herrera, acquired from the Pirates in the 2013 Marlon Byrd/John Buck trade, is the heir apparent for the Mets at second base. He batted a strong .323/.379/.479 between Class-A Advanced and Double-A in 2014, and he hit three homers to go along with a .220/.303/.407 batting line in an 18-game MLB cameo as well. Herrera, who turns 21 next week, seems likely to open the season at Triple-A and could be ready for a full-time gig in the Majors in 2016. The Mets also have Matt Reynolds and Wilmer Flores as potential second base options (should the team eventually find an alternative to Flores at shortstop).
Murphy told Rubin and other reporters that he’s willing to discuss an extension during the season and would love to remain with the club in the future, but his present focus is on the 2015 season. In fact, he said he didn’t even want to be involved in any theoretical extension discussions unless the talks become serious. Slated to earn $8MM in his final season of team control, Murphy said no multi-year deal was discussed while working to avoid arbitration.
If an extension isn’t in the cards, Murphy will be one of the most attractive second base options on the open market, assuming a typically strong season. Entering his age-30 season, he’ll be younger than competitors Howie Kendrick (32) and Ben Zobrist (35), and he has a better track record than comparably aged players such as Asdrubal Cabrera. Over the past four seasons, Murphy has batted .294/.333/.414 and averaged 10 homers and 15 steals per 162 games.
The Athletics have claimed right-hander Chad Smith off waivers from the Tigers, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Detroit had designated the 25-year-old for assignment in order to clear space on the 40-man roster for the recently re-signed Joba Chamberlain.
Smith is a former 17th-round pick of the Tigers that made his big league debut in 2014, allowing seven runs on 15 hits and three walks with nine strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings. He has worked to a strong 2.68 ERA over his minor league career, averaging 8.8 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine innings pitched. After working as a starter for part of his first minor league season, he transitioned to the bullpen in 2013 and has posted solid numbers since, though he did struggle in 27 innings at the Triple-A level last year.
After the week’s quick hits, Jeff welcomes MLB.com national reporter Jesse Sanchez to the show (2:04) to discuss the Red Sox‘ signing of Yoan Moncada and the rest of the Cuban market. Jeff is then chats with MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk (16:29) on a variety of topics.
The MLB Trade Rumors Podcast runs weekly on Thursday afternoons.
The Toronto Blue Jays are hoping that Johan Santana can return to something resembling his 2004 and 2006 Cy Young-winning form. According to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, the Jays agreed to a minor league deal with the veteran lefty.
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick believes Santana offers a low risk but a nice reward if he can stay healthy and effective:
Sportsnet Stats also unearthed an interesting statistic regarding the Blue Jays:
In his prime, Santana was one of the most dominant pitchers in the league. He either tied or led the American League in strikeouts and ERA+ from 2004 to 2006, per Baseball-Reference.
The four-time All-Star hasn't appeared in a regular-season game since 2012, with injuries and old age conspiring to make him a shell of his old self.
Back in January, Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, spoke about why the former Minnesota Twin and New York Met is still trying to get his career back on track, per Crasnick:
Johan wants to go out on his own terms. He doesn't want to go out because an injury put him out. He's worked very hard and kept himself in shape, and he's never thought about retiring. It's not about the money or anything like that. He's said he wants to draw his own ending. He wants to go out on his own terms. He's told me, 'I want to add to my legacy.' I think anybody who knows him is going to bet on him.
Nobody will expect Santana to roll back the years and repeat his prime.
However, he could be a nice addition for the Jays as they attempt to make the postseason for the first time since 1993, which was the second of their back-to-back World Series-winning seasons.
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Last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick became eligible for the 2015 draft on Thursday, as IMG Academy announced Brady Aiken will pitch for its postgraduate baseball team this spring.
Aiken and the Houston Astros famously were unable to reach an agreement before the July 15 signing deadline, and it was expected that the 18-year-old left-hander would sign on with a junior college program and re-enter the draft.
He will join right-hander Jacob Nix, who failed to sign with the Astros as a fifth-round pick last year and ultimately settled a grievance with the club in November, at IMG, and both pitchers will once again audition for scouts leading up the June 8 draft.
“We’re excited for Brady [Aiken] to join us at IMG Academy,” said IMG Academy’s Director of Baseball, Dan Simonds, via its official website. “At IMG [Academy] he will have access to everything from world-class coaches and performance experts to top-notch facilities and the latest technology.”
Aiken was the top prospect in the 2014 draft class, and he should be among the best—if not the best—this time around. At the same time, a lot can happen between now and early June that has the potential to affect his draft stock.
So, how realistic is it that Aiken will be selected first overall for the second straight year?
It wasn’t long after last year’s draft, two days to be exact, that Aiken reportedly agreed to a $6.5 million bonus with the Astros, according to MLB.com writer Jim Callis. On June 23, the Cathedral Catholic High left-hander arrived in Houston to make his signing official, which obviously didn’t happen.
After two weeks of speculation as to why Aiken had yet to sign, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the Astros saw something they didn’t like in a post-draft MRI of the then-17-year-old’s left elbow. As a result, the team immediately reduced its offer to Aiken from $6.5 to $5 million, well below the $7.9 million slot value for the No. 1 overall pick.
Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com went on to report that the Astros believed “Aiken’s physical revealed a ‘significant abnormality’ in the area of his elbow ligament,” and he also added that the team had made another revised offer to the southpaw of $3,168,840.
However, Aiken’s adviser, Casey Close, who also advises Nix, maintained throughout the ordeal that his client was fully healthy contrary to reports of an elbow issue, per Rosenthal.
Aiken will now have the opportunity to erase any doubt regarding his health at IMG Academy, which was ranked by PerfectGame.org as the No. 2 high school team in the country prior to his enrollment.
According to ESPN.com’s Keith Law:
Aiken is expected to report to IMG this week and should be ready to face live hitters in game action in about two weeks. The source indicated that Aiken is likely to make seven to nine starts for IMG, enough for scouts from MLB teams to evaluate him while limiting his innings enough to allow him to pitch a full summer for the team that drafts and signs him.
At 6’3”, 210 pounds, Aiken, who doesn’t turn 19 until August, projects as a front-line starter with the potential for three plus offerings and an outstanding feel for his craft. Basically, it’s easy to make a case for him as the top draft prospect for 2015.
"I don't know how you don't have him at No. 1, especially in a fairly weak draft class," one American League scout told ESPN Insider Christopher Crawford earlier this month.
"You don't see left-handers with three plus pitches and borderline plus-plus command come around very often, and you get that in Aiken. That could change if he struggles this spring or someone steps up more than we expect, but if you're asking me today, Aiken's the guy."
That’s not to say Aiken won’t have competition for the No. 1 spot, though.
Brendan Rodgers (Lake Mary HS; Lake Mary, Florida) is currently the top position player in this year’s class, as he projects as a plus hitter with plus power and has a legitimate chance to stick at shortstop.
Meanwhile, there will be numerous pitchers trying to overtake Aiken on the draft boards this spring, a group that currently includes college right-handers Michael Matuella (Duke), Kyle Funkhouser (Louisville) and Walker Buehler (Vanderbilt), as well as high-ceiling prep left-handers Kolby Allard (San Clemente HS; San Clemente, California) and Justin Hooper (De La Salle HS; Pasadena, California).
That being said, Aiken is a safe bet to come off the board very early in the first round so long as he stays healthy, as even a poor performance this spring for IMG is unlikely to significantly affect his draft stock.
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What I remember is a sunny afternoon in Cincinnati, a spectacular Opening Day with blue skies, warm sun and an absolutely chill-inducing standing ovation for Josh Hamilton.
This was in the eighth inning of a 5-1 game. No drama, no big moment and long before he would win a Most Valuable Player award in Texas, become a five-time All-Star or step into two World Series.
No, these were the first major league steps in the "and back" part of Hamilton's "to hell and back" journey.
And when this little-known rookie stepped in to pinch hit to lead off the bottom of the eighth on this optimism-filled day in 2007 for his very first major league at-bat, the 42,720 people in attendance responded with one of the coolest things I've ever seen.
Everyone knows Cincinnati has terrific, smart baseball fans. But to stand and wrap this mostly unknown kid in a such warm embrace, to welcome him into their city and send notice that they had his back, was beyond heartwarming.
Many of us in the press box that day were there for Lou Piniella's debut as Chicago Cubs manager.
But we walked out of the ballpark that night still stirred from that standing ovation, still touched by one of those totally spontaneous moments that is unmarketed and priceless.
Eight years and 4,168 plate appearances later, absolutely nothing has changed for Josh Hamilton.
He is still a tortured soul in need of a warm hug.
This comes as absolutely no surprise because anyone who has been touched by any type of addiction whatsoever—close relative, beloved friend, distant acquaintance—knows this is a battle that is never over.
No number of standing ovations, home runs or All-Star appearances can ever guarantee that what Hamilton has gone through—and, apparently, is going through again—will never occur in the future. Just ask Doc Gooden. Or Darryl Strawberry. Or Steve Howe. Or Bob Welch.
Five o'clock comes early—earlier for some of us than for others.
One day, the past is pushed away, the demons are safely locked in a room and the deep breaths come relatively easy.
The next day...who the hell really can tell what happens?
That Hamilton spent Wednesday in New York meeting with Major League Baseball officials about a disciplinary issue is no secret.
That things had gotten really weird with him and the Angels over the past week or so clearly was evident.
It wasn't that he suddenly needed surgery on his right shoulder, which he had been rehabbing all winter, and that the surgery would sideline him another month. That wasn't good news for the Angels, but stuff happens.
No, the strange part is that he was home rehabbing in Texas and the club didn't even have a locker for him this spring. Rehabs come in all different shapes and sizes, but almost always, those shapes and sizes are with the team, in the clubhouse, surrounded by teammates.
Now come sketchy details and grave fears.
Tampa Bay's No. 1 pick in 1999, Hamilton endured a four-year addiction to cocaine and alcohol and was on baseball's suspended list from 2003 to 2005. One condition of his reinstatement was that he be tested for drugs three times a week.
For most of the past eight seasons, Hamilton traveled with an "accountability partner," essentially a companion whose job was to help fend off the temptations that can be more prevalent to someone with an addictive personality than for others.
Nevertheless, there are no guarantees, and Hamilton had well-publicized alcohol relapses in 2009 and 2012.
On the field, the past two seasons since signing a five-year, $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels have been incredibly frustrating for him. Especially last summer, when he hit .263/.331/.414 with just 10 homers and 44 RBI in 89 games and looked, in the playoffs, like a man trying to catch a fly with a spatula.
As things were unraveling on the field last September, he and I spoke of those voices that sometimes find their way inside of a hitter's head.
"I think players who are coachable, who respect guys who have been around the game, coaches and players, are going to listen to guys like that," he told me. "And then you've got guys who don't care what anybody says, and they go out and do what they need to do.
"I can fall into the first category. Sometimes, you've got to put that aside and say, 'All right,' so you listen, but then you know what you've got to do."
Hamilton is an incredibly friendly and gentle soul who wants to please, so it did not surprise me when he admitted that maybe he was listening to too many people and getting confused by too many of those voices.
"You know, you go through these things, and you think mechanical this, my hands there, I've got to start here," Hamilton told me during our talk. "And you get to a point where it's like, OK, obviously searching and working on things mechanical didn't really get it done. So what's really worked in the past? And that's just get up there, see it and hit it."
This was the same guy who, in one of the most productive weeks in baseball history, crushed nine home runs and produced 15 RBI over six games while with the Rangers in May 2012, becoming only the third player ever to reach those minimum levels in a six-game span, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
But seasons change, and one week is different than the next, and for guys battling the demons that Hamilton has fought during his 33 years on this earth, you don't take things day by day, but hour by hour.
Given his declining numbers and damaged shoulder, there was no telling what one of their most important players was going to be able to give the Angels this season.
Now suddenly, as has happened to so many of his predecessors, this is no longer about what Hamilton can do on the field, but whether he can regain control of his life.
He's been an inspiration to so many. Here's hoping that whenever he comes out on the other side of this, he becomes an even stronger inspiration.
Here's to at least one more standing ovation, and warm hug, for a guy who really can use one.
Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com.
Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball @ScottMillerBbl.
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According to ESPN.com's Keith Law, Aiken has opted to pitch for the post-graduate team at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida rather than attending UCLA, which means he will be placed back into the draft pool.
Per Evan Drellich of The Houston Chronicle, the IMG Academy released a statement expressing its approval of the 18-year-old hurler's decision:
There was a great deal of controversy surrounding the inability of the Astros and Aiken to come to terms last year. According to The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), MLB Players Association head Tony Clark accused the Astros of conducting unfair negotiations with Aiken and fifth-round pick Jacob Nix.
"Today, two young men should be one step closer to realizing their dreams of becoming Major League ballplayers," Clark said. "Because of the actions of the Houston Astros, they are not. The MLBPA, the players and their advisers are exploring all legal options."
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the failure to agree on a contract, Aiken is now in position to be a high pick once again in 2015.
The San Diego native has electric stuff and a strong track record, so he figures to land in a good spot despite the controversy attached to him in 2014.
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It's no secret that most (if not all) fathers are very protective of their daughters. As a father, former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling doesn't like it when people make suggestive remarks about his daughter.
On Wednesday, Schilling announced on Twitter that his daughter, Gabby, would be continuing her softball career with the Salve Regina Seahawks:
What a proud dad.
Unfortunately, there are those on the Internet who can't help but make suggestive remarks. That's when Schilling's fatherly instincts took over.
Don't mess with the Schillings.
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