Tomorrow marks the opening of the 2015-16 international signing period, during which so-called “July 2″ prospects can begin inking deals with MLB clubs. Every MLB team has been allocated a series of bonus slots, all of which may be traded, with certain restrictions. Baseball America provides a tally of each team’s total available pool this year. Clubs that spend over their allotment face escalating penalties, ranging from taxes on overages (up to 100%) to a two-year ban on $300K+ international bonuses (for going over 15% above the total allocation). This year, the team with the top overall pool allocation — the Diamondbacks ($5,393,900) — is ineligible to spend more than that amount on any single player, and is expected to deal away some of its capacity since it cannot put it to full use. Likewise, the Angels, Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees face that limitation due to budget-busting deals in the 2014-15 July 2 period. And numerous additional clubs are expected to incur future signing limitations in the coming signing period. While most of the players subject to the signing rules are a long ways away from the big leagues, there are undoubtedly impact players among them — some of whom could come up in trade talks long before they’re close to the majors.
Here’s the latest on the market, which will gear up quickly tomorrow, as well as some key resources to get acquainted with:
Though the industry expectation has long been that the Dodgers would reel in highly coveted international shortstop Lucius Fox, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez now reports (via Twitter) that the division-rival Giants have leapfrogged the Dodgers as the favorites to land Fox when tomorrow’s signing period kicks off. In fact, according to Sanchez, the Dodgers are no longer even in the race to sign Fox.
Fox, a native of the Bahamas, moved to the United States and attended American Heritage High School in Florida. However, the 18-year-old recently moved back to the Bahamas and petitioned with Major League Baseball to be an international free agent as opposed being subject to the draft. The league approved his request and declared Fox a free agent, making the MVP Sports Group client eligible to sign as an international free agent, beginning tomorrow.
Sanchez ranks Fox third among this year’s class of international prospects — a ranking with which Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel agrees. Ben Badler of Baseball America recently ranked Fox as the No. 4 prospect in this year’s international class. Fox is projected by McDaniel to land a $6MM signing bonus, although it’s certainly possible that the change in likeliest landing spot has come as a result of an increase in the Giants’ willingness to spend.
In Sanchez’s free scouting report, he notes that Fox is considered by some to be a five-tool player and the best athlete in the class. A switch-hitter, Fox has a line-drive stroke and has a knack for putting the ball in play, per Sanchez. Badler notes in his own scouting report (subscription required and highly recommended) that some scouts feel he’ll move to center field. He adds that Fox has little power, but calls him a plus-plus runner with a chance to hit at the top of a big league lineup. McDaniel feels that second base is a possibility as well, but says he should start his career at shortstop and has a real chance to be a regular contributor at any of the three up-the-middle position
9:09pm: The Angels have officially announced that Dipoto has resigned as the team’s GM and that Stoneman will serve as the GM for the remainder of the season. The team also confirmed that Klentak and fellow assistant GM Scott Servais will remain with the team in their previous roles while assisting Stoneman.
5:54pm: The Angels will name senior advisor of baseball operations Bill Stoneman as their interim GM, following Jerry Dipoto’s sudden resignation, reports MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter links). Assistant GM Matt Klentak will act as Stoneman’s No. 2 in the new arrangement, per Gonzalez, who adds that a full search for a permanent replacement will begin in the offseason. Promoting Klentak is also an option, according to Gonzalez.
Stoneman, 71, has a lengthy track record in front offices, including within the Angels front office. He served as the team’s general manager from the 1999 through 2007 seasons prior to stepping down and ceding the role to Tony Reagins. Stoneman oversaw the construction of the Angels’ 2002 World Series roster and has been working in front offices dating back to 1984, when he was a member of the Expos’ front office. He, of course, is also the GM that initially hired manager Mike Scioscia, whose reported refusal to utilize data provided by the team’s analytics staff served as a catalyst for Dipoto’s decision to resign.
Stoneman and the young Klentak (34) will run point on the team’s baseball operations decisions as the trade deadline looms. While Klentak himself seems likely to be a consideration for the permanent GM’s chair, he’s also been speculatively mentioned as a candidate to join the Phillies’ front office in some capacity. Klentak has a strong relationship with new Phillies president Andy MacPhail, who gave him a prominent role in the Orioles’ front office back in 2008. Those looking to learn more about Klentak can check out an early episode of the MLBTR Podcast, where Klentak joined to discuss the Angels’ offseason goals with host Jeff Todd.
The Brewers are being realistic about their status as sellers, pro scouting director Zack Minasian tells MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. “We’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we weren’t honest with ourselves about where we’re at [in the standings],” Minasian told McCalvy. He adds that his message to his scouting team is that it’s OK to be both frustrated and angry with the team’s struggles this year, but times like this are the scouts’ chance to make an impact on the future of the club. As McCalvy notes, Adam Lind, Aramis Ramirez, Gerardo Parra and Kyle Lohse are all logical trade targets for the Crew, and if the team wanted to target a bigger deal, Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez represent more controllable options that could be dealt. Minasian tells McCalvy that when he sees scouts from other clubs on assignment, he has no qualms about being straightforward: “I don’t have a problem going up to them and asking, ‘What are you here for?’ … We are straightforward with clubs about what we can and can’t do.”
Here’s more from the NL Central…
5:44pm: Kubatko says that GM Dan Duquette sounded confident that he’ll be able to trade Young, though a deal won’t be completed today (Twitter link).
5:20pm: The Orioles announced (Twitter link) that they have designated outfielder Delmon Young for assignment. A little more than an hour ago, manager Buck Showalter indicated to reporters that a move was coming soon in order to clear a spot on the roster for right-hander Tyler Wilson. MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko tweets that the O’s will try to trade Young, and GM Dan Duquette has spoken to execs in both the AL and the NL about him.
The 29-year-old Young is in the midst of his second season with the Orioles after signing a one-year, $2.25MM contract this offseason to return to Baltimore. However, after enjoying a nice run as a part-time player with the Orioles in 2014 when he batted .302/.337/.442 in 255 plate appearances, Young has struggled to a .270/.289/.339 batting line in 2015. Though he has a strong throwing arm, Young’s range is limited in the corner outfield spots. He is still owed $1.19MM through season’s end and would earn $125K bonuses for reaching 250 and 300 plate appearances, with another $100K kicking in for every 50 PAs beyond that point — up to 600 PAs.
Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reported earlier today that the Orioles have been exploring trade possibilities for Young, and he again tweets that one NL club has shown some definite interest in Young. It’s not known at this time which team is showing the most interest, but from a speculative standpoint, I’d think that both the Giants and Pirates make some sense. San Francisco recently lost both Hunter Pence and Nori Aoki to the disabled list, and over in Pittsburgh, Gregory Polanco has looked overmatched by left-handed pitching all season. Young, for all of his flaws, is a weapon against lefties; he’s batted .302/.337/.461 in his career when holding the platoon advantage.
Houston Astros center fielder George Springer departed Wednesday's 6-5 win over the Kansas City Royals after suffering a right wrist contusion, according to the Houston Chronicle's Jose de Jesus Ortiz.
Continue for updates.
Springer was dinged on the right wrist during a fifth-inning at-bat against Royals pitcher Edinson Volquez, and he headed for the locker room in the bottom of the sixth.
"I’m not optimistic he’s going to miss the DL," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, according to Ortiz. "I do think it’s going to be a DL."
Prior to departing Wednesday's contest, Springer went 1-for-2 with a run scored.
After batting .247 in May, Springer went on a tear throughout June, hitting .321 with six home runs and 12 RBI. On the season, he's batting .264 with 13 dingers and 29 RBI while posting an on-base percentage of .365.
The AL West-leading Astros have relied on Springer's bat all year, as he ranks tied for second on the team in doubles (14), third in home runs and fifth in RBI. His 42 walks are also a team-high, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
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San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey was evaluated by team trainers after taking a liner off his catcher's mask Wednesday against the Miami Marlins, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Posey passed his concussion test and didn't return because he didn't want to risk another blow.
Continue for updates.
Andrew Susac would replace Posey, per Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. Posey went 1-for-2 before exiting.
Posey said he felt good and believed he could play based on his current state, per Schulman.
Entering Wednesday's game, Posey was hitting .304 with 12 home runs and 54 RBI in 75 games played.
The Giants have been taking steps to protect Posey's bat long term by playing him more at first base while still letting him catch on occasion because his value behind the plate is so much greater. He's played at least 147 games each of the last three years, which includes two World Series titles (2012, 2014).
Posey's worst season as a professional came in 2011, when he was limited to 45 games. That was the year he suffered a gruesome broken leg when then-Florida Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins barreled into him on a play at the plate.
That was just one of those freak incidents, though it helped lead MLB to change collision rules. Otherwise, Posey has been one of the most durable players in baseball since 2010.
Given the lack of depth in San Francisco's lineup, Posey's presence is crucial to this team's success.
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There's no telling yet who will be the next permanent general manager to work for Los Angeles Angeles manager Mike Scioscia. Whoever it is, I trust he (or she) will be highly skilled at fetching coffee, taking telephone messages and maybe making copies.
Making copies of overly analytical scouting reports, however, will likely not be in the job description.
Good try, Jerry. We'll hold a spot for you in the therapist's office next to Tony Reagins while former GM Bill Stoneman (2000-2007) takes over as emergency interim GM.
Score another victory for Scioscia in his long-running power campaign inside the Los Angeles Angels of Disneyland Sponsored by "It's a Small World," And That Means You, You GM Wanna-Bes.
Dipoto gave it a spirited run. He really did. But when you have a manager on one side with acres of turf already staked out, and an owner on the other who impulsively shops for sluggers like Guy Fieri searches out diners and dives, there is such a tiny sliver of room to operate, it's nearly impossible even to fall on your own sword.
Still, Dipoto did so and did so beautifully Tuesday, with he and the manager again going all Hatfields and McCoys following last year's best-in-the-AL 98 wins.
And good for him. Because in Anaheim, the flow chart doesn't flow. The chain of command hasn't been unchained.
Owner Arte Moreno, now in his 13th year of fouling up the baseball operations side of his business, is more adept at creating chaos than championships. And as good a manager as Scioscia has been over the years, as long as he has a direct line to the owner and the owner backs the manager over his GM, chaos will reign and the Angels are doomed.
No relationship in baseball is as important as that of a GM and a manager, not even the relationship between Tommy Lasorda and his pasta in the old days. You cannot underestimate it. You cannot fake it.
"It has to be like a marriage," one longtime baseball man said Tuesday. "There has to be mutual respect. There has to be give and take."
Not since Stoneman retired as GM after the '07 season has that been the case in Anaheim.
Lessons should have been learned during Reagins' short, four-year run as GM (2007-2011), which started with consecutive playoff appearances and ended with two years of being boxed out of October.
During that time, Reagins was little more than a glorified executive secretary as Moreno and Scioscia made all of the key decisions. Including, during an emotional fit after losing out on free agent Carl Crawford, Moreno ordering Reagins to acquire expensive outfielder Vernon Wells from Toronto. Sources say Reagins' marching orders were to acquire Wells within 24 hours or be fired. Done.
Such is life under Moreno, a constant state of measuring height so you're safely on guard when the owner barks "Jump!"
One industry source reminded me Tuesday that for part of the time when Reagins was "running" things, the Angels didn't even bother using scouts to watch the American League because, well, Scioscia handled that. While managing the team.
As the Angels regressed, Moreno sacked Reagins and lured Dipoto, promising a sharp young executive viewed within the game as a rising star that he could run things his way.
But even with a modicum of room to work, enough that he fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher in May 2012, Dipoto never had a chance to entirely implement his program because, like a student driver with an instructor in the car, he was never fully licensed.
No surprise there. Scioscia has had a vice grip on power within the organization since the owner handed him a 10-year deal before the 2009 season. Back to the manager-GM relationship, there is a reason why in most organizations, the GM's contract at least matches the manager's in length, and usually exceeds it.
So whenever there was a disagreement in Anaheim and Dipoto tried to flex his muscles, more often than not it was going to go the way of a tent in a tornado. The staying power just wasn't there.
Meantime, it was Moreno who went shopping for Albert Pujols ($240 million) and Josh Hamilton ($125 million), allocating significant resources at times in directions Dipoto and his staff wouldn't have gone. Just as Wells, whose back-loaded, $126 million deal, one of the worst in baseball history, wasn't a deterrent for Moreno.
In a changing game in which whip-smart front offices meld scouting and data in sophisticated ways, this is an utterly anachronistic way of doing business. But Moreno persists in involving himself in baseball decisions.
There are no indications that will change anytime soon, which is bad news for the Angels no matter who eventually permanently succeeds Dipoto. Scioscia, whose contract runs through 2018, can opt out of his deal after this season. But now that he's won another power struggle, and with $15 million owed to him over the next three seasons, there is a better chance of the Rally Monkey becoming GM than there is of Scioscia opting out.
As for Dipoto, he will take his advanced analytics reports and ideas on defensive shifts elsewhere. You know where he would be a great fit? Philadelphia, under Andy MacPhail.
There is little room for shifts in Anaheim. Worst part is, I don't mean on the field.
Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.
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Lil Jon and 50 Cent are really making it hard for other rappers to be asked to throw out ceremonial first pitches.
Before Wednesday's game between the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres at Petco Park, Lil Jon was given the honor of tossing out the first pitch. It didn't go so well.
It wasn't quite as bad as 50 Cent's first pitch, but it certainly wasn't a strike, either. We'll just say that the Padres were being polite to their guest with that tweet.
Lil Jon's first pitch was wild enough that San Diego outfielder Matt Kemp had to clown on the rapper.
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