Rumors

  • 2015-16 International Signing Period Opens Tomorrow

    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:

    • As has been widely expected — and as Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs reported several months back — the Dodgers are set to sign Cuban righty Yadier Alvarez to a $16MM bonus tomorrow, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (Twitter links). Passan does caution that it’s best to wait until Alvarez formally signs to declare his market closed. Los Angeles has just over $2MM in spending capacity, meaning that it would start off with a $14MM overage tax on its bill and take on a two-year signing ban for adding Alvarez alone.
    • MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez just provided one major market shift, reporting that the Giants appear to be in the lead for shortstop Lucius Fox, who landed third overall on Sanchez’s list of the thirty best international prospects available on the market.
    • Baseball America’s Ben Badler provides his final top-thirty prospect list, with detailed scouting reports on all those players ranked as well as notes on the teams favored to sign them. He also breaks down each MLB team’s expected overall approach heading into July 2.
    • Likewise, McDaniel has produced his final pre-signing board, which also includes his own assessments of many of the most highly-regarded names and projections of their landing spots. While Badler rates Vladimir Guerrero Jr. first overall, McDaniel places him fourth, giving the top spot to the aforementioned Alvarez.
  • Giants The New Favorites To Sign Bahamian Shortstop Lucius Fox

    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

  • Angels Name Bill Stoneman Interim GM

    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.

  • NL Central Notes: Brewers, Aramis, Alvarez, Guerra, Cards

    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…

    • The Mets scouted Aramis Ramirez during the Brewers‘ recent series with the Twins but came away unimpressed with his play on both sides of the ball, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter). Sherman adds that the Mets weren’t all that interested in Ramirez even prior to that series, making a trade fit seem particularly unlikely.
    • There was once a time where Pirates fans may have feared losing Pedro Alvarez to free agency, writes Brian O’Neill of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but the Alvarez question has now shifted to whether or not he should even be tendered a contract this winter. O’Neill notes that Alvarez’s offensive profile over the past season-and-a-half is remarkably similar to that of two platoon-challenged first basemen on whom the Pirates have recently cut bait: Ike Davis and Garrett Jones. A trade of Alvarez, be it this month or this winter, wouldn’t bring much of a return without significant improvement at the plate, and giving him a raise on his $6MM salary after he’s shifted to first base and hit .236/.316/.417 over his past 694 plate appearances may not be worth it.
    • O’Neill’s colleague, Stephen J. Nesbitt, spoke with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and right-hander Deolis Guerra about Guerra’s long road to the Major Leagues. One of the key pieces in the 2008 blockbuster that sent Johan Santana from the Twins to the Mets, the now-26-year-old Guerra had never reached the Majors until this Sunday with Pittsburgh. Minnesota released him after six seasons in the organization this November, but Guerra worked with Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage and bullpen coach Euclides Rojas in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason and refined the control of his secondary pitches at Triple-A this season. Guerra called his MLB debut “the greatest feeling,” adding that he experienced “so many emotions going on at the same time” that he couldn’t even put it into words. Hurdle said this type of debut is the type that gives veteran players and coaches alike goosebumps. “One of the biggest blasts you can have is watching a kid that’s had to fight, scratch and claw get out there, get the ball,” said Hurdle.
    • Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks down the upcoming outfield logjam that will face Cardinals manager Mike Matheny once Matt Holliday returns from the DL. With Holliday and Jason Heyward locked into the outfield corners, the Cards will be left to divide the center field at-bats between Randal Grichuk, Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos. Grichuk’s excellent power numbers and sound defense should earn him at-bats, writes Miklasz, but he also notes that Bourjos’ offensive game has improved a great deal in 2015. Bourjos is, historically, the best defender of the bunch as well. Jay’s track record with the team is the lengthiest, but as Miklasz writes, his offense hasn’t been the same since undergoing wrist surgery this offseason. Miklasz observes that Matheny is typically loyal to his players almost to a fault, which could lead to continued playing time for Jay despite his offensive struggles. He also notes that last season, when a similar situation occurred with the struggling Allen Craig, GM John Mozeliak intervened and traded Craig to Boston.
    • From my vantage point, a trade of Bourjos is at least something worth exploring for the Cardinals. A team in need of a center field upgrade could be appealed to Bourjos’ strong defensive track record and improved offensive output, and while Bourjos is highly affordable, he’s also controlled through just the 2016 season. Jay’s contract and defensive decline will make him difficult to trade, and Grichuk’s status as a cost-controlled piece with both power and defense in his skill set make him a highly appealing long-term piece for the Cardinals. If Mozeliak is looking to address some needs on his 2015 roster — fifth starter, bullpen, first base — flipping Bourjos to a contender with a hole in center could help to fill the need without dipping into his farm system (or, at least, not dipping as far as he’d have to without including an MLB-ready asset).
  • Orioles Designate Delmon Young For Assignment, Will Seek Trade Partner

    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.

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