Storylines: John Hart named head of baseball ops with Braves
In this MLB News and Notes segment, I will be giving occasional reports on the latest news and rumors throughout the MLB. I also will try to tweet news and rumors as I see them, so feel free to follow me on Twitter: @AndrewIBI.
Here are the stories from Thursday, Oct. 24.
- Interim Braves GM John Hart accepted an offer to take a permanent role with the club Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported and the Braves officially announced the move. The Braves have been on the hunt for a new leader of their baseball ops department since firing longtime GM Frank Wren a month ago. Hart, who joined the team as a senior adviser last offseason, will now be tasked with that role. The Braves announced that they signed Hart to a three-year contract which will run through the 2017 season — the first in their new stadium, SunTrust Park. The Braves will not change John Coppolella's title and have no plans to hire a new GM, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Coppolella will have some of the duties of a normal GM, however. Atlanta is essentially grooming Coppolella to take over as the next GM in 2017 without directly saying as much, he added.
- The Indians are expected to exercise their $3.5 million club option on Mike Aviles rather than pay him a $250,000 buyout, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. The Indians could have reasonably gone either way, as the team has some limited financial flexibility. It appears that his versatility will earn him a spot on the 2015 club. The 33-year-old batted .247/.273/.343 in 374 plate appearances with Cleveland last year.
News and Notes:
- The Giants, unsurprisingly, plan to make third baseman Pablo Sandoval a qualifying offer after the season, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported. Heyman noted that the two sides have not engaged in any extension discussions since the spring, which would seem to indicate that a late-breaking deal is rather unlikely — particularly since both team and player are rather occupied at the moment. All said, it seems that Sandoval will test the market, where he will be among the most hotly-pursued free agents.
- Even as the Royals are gunning for a World Series title in 2014, thoughts inevitably must drift at times to the future. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wondered whether starter James Shields may present a double-edged sword with his history of huge innings totals: on the one hand, those innings show his durability; on the other, they act as an arm odometer. Then, of course, there is the matter of his increasingly poor postseason track record.
- Kansas City faces tough decisions as it ponders its amazing late-inning arms, Sherman added. Wade Davis and Greg Holland might combine for a $15 million tab next year, with further increases for 2016. GM Dayton Moore said the team can fit those salaries, but also indicated that he already is thinking about how things will play out in the long run. "Yes, in the immediate, it works," he said. "We can make that fit. But we do have to analyze our roster from an economic standpoint every year."
- The Rockies fired pitching coach Jim Wright and bullpen coach Bo McLaughlin, the team announced yesterday. Colorado will immediately begin a search to fill both positions, the team added. As the Denver Post's Nick Groke wrote, Wright has been pitching coach for three seasons and was initially a co-pitching coach with McLaughlin before the latter assumed the role of bullpen coach in 2013. The Rockies' 4.83 team ERA over the past three seasons is the worst in baseball, as is their collective 4.33 FIP.
- MLB.com's Jason Beck spoke with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, and while the GM didn't specifically say that the team would exercise its $7 million club option on Joakim Soria, he certainly implied as much with his comments: "We still have to make the final decision, but it's a situation where we look at him as being an important acquisition toward this [coming] year also." Dombrowski said that the team views Joe Nathan as its closer next season, though he indicated that Nathan will have to perform up to his previous capabilities in order to hold onto that role.
- Some familiar with the Mets' thinking believe that the team would be interested in adding Michael Cuddyer on a two-year deal, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. The Mets are known to be hesitant to deal from their crop of high-upside young arms, and Cuddyer would provide them with a fairly versatile piece that can add some punch to the lineup. Martino also noted that the Mets are monitoring Yoenis Cespedes and consider Rafael Montero more tradeable than Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom. For what it's worth, Cuddyer grew up in the same town as David Wright and the two have long been friends and offseason workout partners. MLBTR's Zach Links recently profiled Cuddyer and projected a two-year, $22 million contract.
- There's been a great deal of speculation that Evan Gattis could be trade bait this winter, but MLB.com's Mark Bowman took a long look at whether or not the Braves should entertain offers for Justin Upton and/or Jason Heyward as well. Each corner outfielder is set to become a free agent next winter. Moving one would allow the team to keep Gattis and play him in the outfield, although as Bowman noted, that would significantly weaken the club's defense. Still, with each dangerously close to the open market, the front office could move one for a group of prospects that would further position the team for success as it heads into a new stadium in 2017, Bowman wrote.
- The Blue Jays are hopeful to retain Melky Cabrera and have opened preliminary discussions with his representatives at the Legacy Agency, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Toronto is said to be willing to offer "at least" a three-year contract, according to Heyman, though he's spoken with some in the industry who expect Cabrera to pursue a five-year pact.
- The Phillies agreed to a one-year, $2 million extension with Grady Sizemore that will keep the outfielder in Philadelphia for 2015, the club announced. Sizemore's contract includes performance incentives that could boost its value to $5 million, per MLBDailyDish.com's Chris Cotillo.
- Blue Jays first baseman/DH Adam Lind has drawn interest from a number of teams, including National League clubs, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reported. One executive told Elliott that he heard at least three or four teams have called to check in on the 31-year-old Lind.
- Japanese right-hander Chihiro Kaneko is visiting the United States to get a first-hand look at the atmosphere of Major League Baseball by visiting the World Series, according to Yahoo Sports Japan. The 31-year-old Kaneko is the ace of Nippon Professional Baseball's Orix Buffaloes and is eligible to be posted this offseason, if his team agrees to post him (and, if he expresses a desire to jump to MLB). Kaneko has been scouted personally by Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. in September as well as the Red Sox and Padres, according to the Yahoo report. In 184 innings this season, Kaneko posted a sparkling 1.91 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9, allowing a minuscule seven homers in an excellent season. In parts of nine pro seasons, Kaneko has a 2.69 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 in 1279 1/3 innings.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told Marius Payton of CSN Houston that top prospect Carlos Correa's rehab is considered complete at this point (h/t: Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter). Baseball America's No. 3 midseason prospect saw his season come to an end prematurely due to a broken leg, but he was impressive when on the field, hitting .326/.415/.510 with six homers and 20 steals in 62 games at Class-A Advanced.