Giants Bring Back Veteran Starter Ryan Vogelsong

Ryan Vogelsong

The San Francisco Giants have agreed to terms on a one-year, $4 million with Ryan Vogelsong.

Vogelsong, 37, is coming off a 2014 season where he posted a 4.00 ERA, 1.278 WHIP, and a 151/58 K/BB ratio over 184.2 innings for the World Series champions.

It was a nice bounce back for the right-hander who was a train wreck in 2013 sporting a 5.73 ERA and 1.563 WHIP.

Vogelsong originally resurrected his career with San Francisco when he went 27-16 with a 3.05 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and a 297/123 K/BB ratio over 369.1 innings from 2011-2012 after he’d been out of big league ball since washing out as a reliever with Pittsburgh in 2006 season.

The Giants rotation appears loaded – and potentially overloaded – already with Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson, and Tim Lincecum in the projected starting rotation. Swingman Yusmeiro Petit is coming off a solid season of his own and would seemingly be first in line should a spot in the rotation open up.

Vogelsong will likely start the season working out of the bullpen in a role similar to Petit that sees him shifting between long relief and the occasional spot start.

If the Giants were being honest, they’d label his role for 2015 as “in-house insurance plan.”

While the rotation may appear to be set on the surface, Bumgarner is the only lock coming into the season; and that’s assuming there are no ill-effects from his heavy workload in the postseason.

Petit is coming off a fantastic year, but could be do for regression. Prior to his solid campaign in 2014, the right-hander had a carer 5.20 ERA, 1.397 WHIP, and 84 ERA+.

Lincecum and Peavy have both been mixed bags in recent years and it’s tough to imagine them both remaining effective for the entire season or having the ability to save the bullpen by pitching late into games.

Additionally, the Giants are currently banking on 40% of their starting rotation coming back from significant injuries; Cain had season-ending elbow surgery in 2014 and Hudson is coming off a right ankle surgery of his own.

In short, you can never have enough pitching.

And that’s exactly why Ryan Vogelsong is returning to San Francisco.

Posted in Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Free Agency, Jake Peavy, Matt Cain, MLB, National League, NL West, Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco Giants, Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum, World Series, Yusmeiro Petit | Leave a comment

Braves and Jonny Gomes Agree on One-Year Deal

Jonny Gomes

The Atlanta Braves continued plugging holes for the 2015 season with the signing of outfielder Jonny Gomes to a one-year, $4 million deal with a vesting option.

Gomes, 34, had a rough 2014 hitting just .234/.327/.330 with eight doubles, six home runs, and 37 RBI over 112 games split between the Red Sox and Athletics.

Despite his struggles last season, Gomes can still crush left-handed pitching. He has a career .861 OPS versus southpaws and just a .721 OPS against right-handers. As such, it’s expected that Gomes will be part of a platoon in left field with Zoilo Almonte.

Gomes is regarded as a terrible defender by scouts, fans, the media, traditional stats, advanced defensive metrics, and blind people (probably) so he’ll likely give way to Almonte most days; despite being the better hitter of the pair.

Gomes is often referred to as a “good clubhouse guy” which – while nice – generally has a lot more to do with being in the right place at the right time. Mediocre-to-good players who are eccentric – or sometimes just loud – will earn the “good clubhouse guy” tag when they play on a winning team.

Gomes has certainly done that, having played for teams that made the postseason in five of the last seven seasons; including the last three seasons consecutively.

You’ll note that there are very few mentions of “good clubhouse guys” on losing teams. As such, don’t expect to hear too much about Gomes’ status in that regard this season.

The Braves are poised to be very bad in 2015 – and likely 2016 – after trading away Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Evan Gattis in preparation for a couple of lean years before the club moves into their shiny new ballpark – SunTrust Park – north of Atlanta in 2017.

How bad will the Braves be this year, you ask?

Well, as it currently stands, Gomes – along with Nick Markakis – is one of the club’s two most high-profile acquisitions of the offseason.

Unless you count the awe-inspiring minor league deals the club inked with Wandy Rodriguez and Kelly Johnson.

…or their trade for whatever is left of former top prospect Manny Baneulos.

So, uh, yeah…it should be a real fun couple of years for Braves fans.

Posted in Atlanta Braves, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Evan Gattis, Free Agency, Jason Heyward, Jonny Gomes, Justin Upton, Kelly Johnson, Manny Banuelos, MLB, National League, Nick Markakis, NL East, Wandy Rodriguez, Zoilo Almonte | Leave a comment

White Sox Add Veterans Jesse Crain and Geovany Soto

Jesse Crain

The Chicago White Sox continued their offseason overhaul today by signing reliever Jesse Crain and catcher Geovany Soto to minor league deals.

Both veterans receive an invite to big league camp as part of their pacts with Chicago.

Crain, 33, had the best run of his career with the White Sox from 2011-2013. In that three-year stretch he posted a 2.10 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, 205 ERA+, and a 10.6 K/9 rate over 156 games.

The right-hander was absolutely ridiculous in 2013 posting a .74 ERA, 1.145 WHIP, 575 ERA+, and a 46/11 K/BB ratio in 36.2 innings. The performance earned him a spot on his first All-Star team. Unfortunately, Crain wouldn’t participate as he was injured and on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain that he’d suffered in early July.

Despite being on the disabled list, the White Sox traded Crain to the Tampa Bay Rays on July 29, 2013; but he never pitched for the club.

Last offseason he signed a one-year deal with the Houston Astros – under the pretense that he would close for the club – but he began the season on the 60-day DL and never played a single game for the Astros.

If healthy, Crain could earn a spot in a Sox bullpen that is already crowded with right-handed relievers including: new closer David Robertson, Zach Putnam, Javy Guerra, Jake Petricka, Daniel Webb, and Maikel Cleto.

Geovany SotoSoto, 32, has regressed heavily from his early glory days with the cross-town Cubs that saw him take home Rookie of the Year honors and make his only All-Star team in 2008.

That season, Soto hit .285/.364/.504 with 35 doubles, 23 home runs, and 86 RBI in 494 at-bats.

In recent years, however, Soto has lost both his ability to hit for power and his penchant for consistently getting on-base. The loss of these two skills has accelerated his transition into a veteran backup catcher.

Over the last three seasons, Soto has “hit” a combined .219/.291/.381 with a grand total of 27 doubles, 21 home runs, 72 RBI, and 73 runs scored in 567 total at-bats.

If he makes the club out of spring training, he’ll backup Tyler Flowers who hasn’t hit much better than Soto in the big leagues, but does have tremendous power potential.

The White Sox have had a very busy offseason adding Adam LaRoche, Jeff Samardzija, Robertson, Melky Cabrera, and Emilio Bonifacio; and while neither of today’s signings are on par with those acquisitions, both – especially a healthy Crain – could play a role in the White Sox chances of reclaiming the American League Central.

Posted in AL Central, American League, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Chicago White Sox, David Robertson, Emilio Bonifacio, Free Agency, Geovany Soto, Injuries, Jeff Samardzija, Jesse Crain, Melky Cabrera, MLB | Leave a comment

Blue Jays and Orioles Reportedly Nearing a Swap of Dan Duquette for a Top Pitching Prospect

Dan Duquette

Dan Duquette has been responsible for a number of huge acquisitions throughout his career and it’s looking like he might have another one up his sleeve in Baltimore.

Unfortunately, he won’t be around to reap the rewards of this addition, as he’ll likely be going the other way in the trade.

The Toronto Blue Jays have been searching for a new CEO to replace Paul Beeston for months and – in keeping with the recent trend of hiring successful general managers to high-ranking corporate positions – Duquette has been at the top of their list.

Earlier this month, Baltimore owner Peter Angelos flatly denied that Duquette might be leaving his post as executive vice president of baseball operations for the Orioles to take the promotion north of the border.

It’s understandable why Angelos would feel that way.

Duquette is under contract through 2018 and he’s played a huge role in turning around the franchise after years spent staring up at the competition. The Orioles have been to the playoffs twice during Duquette’s three seasons at the helm and appear poised to compete again in 2015.

Throughout the process Duquette has remained silent on the issue, but it’s widely-believed that he would love to take the job and Angelos is standing in his way.

The situation has seemingly reached a boiling point as Major League Baseball has actually intervened in the proceedings to help facilitate the deal for Toronto.

Now we’re getting wind that a deal could be in the works for Duquette to leave Baltimore, but not without compensation from Toronto.

And it’s looking as though that compensation could be significant:

Jeff Hoffman straight-up for Dan Duquette, huh?

I’m not going to lie, I’d be hard-pressed to think of anyone else on Baltimore’s current 25-man roster that could land Hoffman straight-up in a trade. Manny Machado, maybe? Dylan Bundy, maybe? That’s it…two maybes is as close as I can get.

Needless to say, that’s a pretty solid return for Baltimore and a tremendous coup for whomever may end up taking Duquette’s job in Baltimore.

Hoffman, 22, was taken ninth overall pick in last year’s amateur draft. He would have gone higher, but he was recovering from Tommy John surgery at the time.

Yes, you read that correctly, he was taken in the top ten despite having just undergone a ligament reconstruction. He’s that good.

He is currently ranked as the Blue Jays’ number three prospect by Baseball America and is widely-believed to have front of the rotation potential.

Prior to undergoing surgery Hoffman had mid-90s velocity and could routinely amp it up to 98 mph when necessary. His curveball and changeup are both viewed as plus-pitches by scouts and he has a slider that is still a work in progress, but can be devastating when he’s locked in.

Oh and if that wasn’t enough, he’s received rave reviews for his ability to command his vast arsenal of overpowering pitches.

If Hoffman is – in fact – the return for Duquette, we won’t officially know for months as he’s unable to be traded as anything more than a “player to be named later” given that he was just drafted in July.

The Duquette-to-Toronto saga has drawn on long enough for most fans and, undoubtedly, for both clubs as well.

I think it’s safe to say, that with spring training just weeks away, it needs to be wrapped up soon, one way or another.

Posted in AL East, American League, Baltimore Orioles, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Dan Duquette, Jeff Hoffman, MLB, MLB Trades, Peter Angelos, Toronto Blue Jays, Trade Rumors | Leave a comment

Atlanta Braves Reunite with Kelly Johnson

Kelly Johnson

The Atlanta Braves signed former first-round draft pick Kelly Johnson to a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp.

Johnson, 32, is coming off the worst season of his career where he hit .215/.296/.362 with 14 doubles, seven home runs, and 27 RBI in 106 games split between the Yankees, Red Sox, and Orioles.

It’s debatable how much Johnson has left in the tank after back-to-back dismal seasons, but Atlanta will give him an opportunity to win a super utility role in spring training if he’s able to find a spark with his bat.

Johnson is a few years removed from being one of the game’s better power threats at second base; from 2010 and 2012, Johnson averaged 27 doubles, 21 home runs, 61 RBI, and 14 stolen bases while posting an aggregate .245/.330/.428 batting line.

He’s long been a flawed player and his productivity has fallen off considerably over the past two seasons, but he’s a reliable defender at second base and has spent time at first base, third base, left field, and right field in recent seasons, adding to his value as a bench option.

Johnson was the 38th overall pick for the Braves in the 2000 amateur draft and he made his big league debut with the club in 2005 as a left fielder. A spring elbow injury and eventual Tommy John surgery cost Johnson the entire 2006 season.

He returned to the Majors in 2007 as a newly-minted second baseman and was a regular in Atlanta for the next two seasons before losing playing time in 2009 and departing as a free agent that winter.

The veteran has bounced around considerably since then, spending time in Arizona, Toronto, Tampa Bay, New York, Boston, and Baltimore.

A glance at the Braves projected depth chart doesn’t make it entirely clear if he has a path to regular playing time, but the Braves don’t expect to contend next season, so there’s zero reason not to give him regular at-bats if he has a big spring.

Despite his recent decline, Johnson still figures to be a nice addition to a very depleted club due to his power potential and versatility in the field.

Posted in Atlanta Braves, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Free Agency, Kelly Johnson, MLB, National League, NL East | 1 Comment

Johan Santana’s Latest Comeback Bid Halted by Shoulder Pain

Johan Santana

Johan Santana’s comeback has hit another speed bump.

Last week we covered Santana’s return to the mound for the Navegantes del Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Santana looked good, pitching two perfect innings against and facing a number of big league hitters in the process. The appearance reportedly drew the interest of a number of Major League clubs.

Unfortunately, LVBP.com is reporting that Santana felt lingering pain in the front of his left shoulder shortly thereafter and the club skipped his scheduled start on Sunday.

Magallanes was hoping he’d be able to take the hill this coming Thursday, but Santana continues to feel lingering discomfort.

As such, the club has opted instead to play it safe and shut him down for the remainder of the Venezuelan Winter League playoffs.

He underwent an MRI that revealed no structural damage to the shoulder, but his comeback bid is – for the moment – over.

If Santana can get – and stay – healthy, there’s a still a good chance someone will take a low-cost, minor league flier on the 35-year-old; but it’s looking less and less like Santana’s body, specifically his twice surgically-repaired shoulder, can hold up to the strain of pitching.

Prior to the injury, Santana was reportedly throwing upper-80s heat with his fastball and using his changeup with no limitations.

He’ll never been the Santana of old, but his two flawless innings last week showed that he’s still got the fire and the guile to get the job done against big league hitters; but his body just doesn’t appear to be willing or able to allow him that opportunity.

As a long-time fan of Santana, I’m hopeful that this will be nothing more than a temporary setback for the two-time Cy Young winner; but for now, it’s looking as though this might be the end of the road.

Posted in Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Free Agency, Injuries, Johan Santana, MLB | Leave a comment

Houston Astros Sign Outfielder Colby Rasmus

Colby Rasmus

The Astros and free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus have agreed on a one-year, $8 million deal for the 2015 season.

The signing comes just one day after Houston traded center fielder Dexter Fowler to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for infielder Luis Valbuena and pitcher Dan Straily.

Rasmus, 28, a career center fielder, would seemingly be Fowler’s replacement up the middle; allowing the club to keep burgeoning superstar George Springer in right field and sending former top prospect Jake Marisnick to the bench or back to the minors.

The move furthers the idea that the Astros are looking to be competitive, if not heavily-flawed, in 2015.

Rasmus is the latest addition to a lineup that will likely lead the league in home runs and could potentially set records for team strikeouts.

Last season, Rasmus hit 18 home runs while striking out 124 times in just 346 at-bats.

Here’s a quick look at the list of free-swinging mashers already on Houston’s roster and their HR/K numbers from 2014:

K-City

Needless to say, this team will be equal parts exciting and frustrating to watch in 2015.

In addition to big power and big strikeouts, Rasmus also brings an almost enigmatic quality to Houston.

Throughout his career he has posted two fantastic seasons in 2010 when he posted an .859 OPS, a 132 OPS+, and 3.6 WAR as a 22-year-old and in 2013 he put up an .840 OPS, 127 OPS+, and 4.6 WAR as a 26-year-old.

Surrounding those two seasons, however, is a lot of mediocrity and unfulfilled promise from a former first round draft pick. Consequently, it seems prudent to mention that he was drafted in St. Louis when current Astros general manager Jeff Lunhow was the Cardinals scouting director.

Lunhow and the Astros are clearly banking on a big bounce-back season for Rasmus.

It may be a tall order as we’re talking about a six-year veteran who has a career .246/.313/.438 batting line in more than 3,000 plate appearances and nearly 800 games at the big league level.

Rasmus probably isn’t as bad as he was last year, but he’s also not as good as he was in 2010 or 2013. The real Rasmus lies somewhere in between and is rapidly becoming a borderline everyday player.

Most defensive metrics agree that he looks stretched in center field and may be destined for a corner outfield slot moving forward.

It’s looking more and more likely that, at just 28-years-old, Rasmus may be at a crossroads in his career.

He’ll join the Astros and their island of misfit toys – seemingly the one place in baseball where his strikeouts won’t be a problem – and by season’s end, we’ll witness one of two outcomes.

He will have re-established his value in time to cash-in on the open market as a slugging center fielder or he’ll once again find himself a free agent deep into the depths of January, potentially searching for jobs as a fourth outfielder.

Posted in AL West, American League, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Colby Rasmus, Free Agency, Houston Astros, MLB | Leave a comment