Mining the News (10/17/23)

• Yuki Matsui is considering signing with an MLB team.

Star closer Yuki Matsui looks to be interested in a potential move to Major League Baseball, as a Yahoo Japan report (Japanese language link) indicates that Matsui has exercised his international free agent rights, as well as his rights to freely negotiate with other Nippon Professional Baseball clubs.

• Here is a full list of all players with some form of an opt-out that must get decided this winter.

Rich Hill plans on signing after the season has started, hopefully with a contending team.

Hill might not sign over the winter, however. While he’d previously expressed an intent to play in 2024, the 43-year-old (44 in March) now tells Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune he’s giving some thought to waiting until midway through the campaign before joining a new team.

There are a few reasons behind Hill’s decision-making. The most straightforward one is health. MLB’s oldest active player, Hill conceded to Acee he has “a pretty good gauge and a monitor on my body” and considers “half a season … much more palatable than a full season.” Hill also pointed to a desire to spend more time with his family, noting that he’d like to watch his 12-year-old son play during his final year of Little League baseball next spring. By waiting until midseason, he’d also have a chance to survey the competitive landscape and look to land a spot with a playoff contender.

If a contending team signs Hill, they won’t be contending for long.

American League

Angels

• The team plans to go with a five-man rotation next year.

General manager Perry Minasian recently acknowledged they could move to a five-man staff next season (link via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register). That’s true regardless of whether they retain Ohtani since he can’t pitch next year.

Mickey Moniak and Jo Adell are out of minor-league options.

What’s in store for Mickey Moniak and Jo Adell?
Both players present fascinating conundrums for the Angels.

Another factor: Neither player can be optioned next year

Astros

José Abreu played through back issues over the summer.

An easy answer appeared on Aug. 12, when the Astros placed Abreu on the 10-day injured list due to lumbar spine inflammation. He disclosed then that his back had bothered him at points throughout the season, but he didn’t want to use it as an excuse for his performance.

Blue Jays

Cavan Biggio changed his mechanics and performed better.

From May 23 on, Cavan Biggio slashed .265/.378/.407 with a 124 wRC+, re-establishing himself as a valuable complement to the lineup. A change in mechanics and mindset helped Biggio have his first above-average offensive season since the shortened 2020 campaign and moving forward, he’ll slide into a versatile super-utility man role.

Here is an explanation of the change:

Biggio has worked to “swing down” more, which sounds counterintuitive in an era of baseball obsessed with hitting the ball in the air. He recognized early that his attempts to lift the ball had him pulling his bat away from the zone too quickly. The balance was all off.

“I’ve always been a guy who hits a lot of fly balls, especially when I’m not really using the whole field,” Biggio said. “Swinging down on it, keeping my head on it and being able to use the whole field has been able to help me cover the whole zone. That gives me a ton of confidence.”

This started back in Spring Training, when Biggio attached himself to Victor Martinez. V-Mart has been with the organization as a special assistant and had an immediate impact on a handful of the club’s young hitters, Biggio included.

Biggio lowered his launch angle some (20 degrees to 16 degrees). The problem is that he only has a 33% HardHit%, so he profiles as a flyout hitter. Too much launch angle to hit line drives, and too little power to hit home runs. All of Biggio’s 2023 gains are plate discipline based with his 1H to 2H K% going from 31% to 21% and his 1H to 2H BB% going from 7% to 16%.

Orioles

DL Hall’s 2024 role has not been set yet.

While Hyde praised Hall’s work with the club during the regular season last month out of the bullpen, he also noted that the club hasn’t discussed what his role next year will be, though Hyde emphasized that Hall will play a significant part in the club’s plans for 2024 regardless of his role.

Red Sox

• Sounds like the team won’t use both Jarren Duran and Ceddanne Rafaela in the outfield and expects Masataka Yoshida to play there quite a bit.

I actually had posed a similar question to Cora during the final series of the season in Baltimore, but with the thinking that if Yoshida remained in left, perhaps having an elite center fielder with significant range like Rafaela would mitigate some of Yoshida’s defensive issues.

His reply: “Good try, but I think Yoshida has been a lot better the last month and a half. He was negative-8 (Outs Above Average) and now within the last month, I think he’s at neutral. He’s getting better jumps, better routes, he’s improving. Obviously, we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Ceddanne needs repetitions, too. For how much we like him in center field, the offensive part of it, we still have to work. … obviously, whoever plays center, it’s going to help (Yoshida). We’re going to have an athletic guy most likely in center. They should help him out.”

So, a few things here: Cora’s answer actually made me think they’re more inclined to start Rafaela in Triple-A next season to work on his offense. In 22 games, Rafaela hit .241 with a .666 OPS with 28 strikeouts and just four walks. His swing decisions have always been something they’ve wanted him to work on. We’ll see how he fares in spring training and who else the Red Sox get for the outfield this winter, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in Triple A to start the year.

• A team official stated that the team won’t invest in a second baseman.

One member of the organization pointed out that with shortstop prospect Marcelo Mayer on the way up and Trevor Story likely to end up back at second base eventually, “I don’t see the sense of a big investment at (second base).”

Tigers

Spencer Turnbull is expected to show up in Spring Training to compete for a rotation spot.

“We are going to have an exit interview with Spencer and we expect him to prepare as a starter this offseason and show up to Lakeland ready to compete for a job in our rotation,” Harris said. “You guys heard me talk many times about how talented Spencer is. We’ve seen flashes of it in this organization of what he can do. And we’ve got to find a way to get the best version out of Spencer. It starts with reflecting on the season and then planning for the offseason and making sure he shows up and is ready to compete for a job.”

• The team needs to connect with Austin Meadows.

“I haven’t talked to Austin in a few months,” Harris said. “I need to talk to Austin in October. We’re going to talk to him, and we’re going to explore what the path forward is. I don’t have any answers on that. I hope he’s doing well. I got to reconnect with him, and that’s going to be a priority for us in October.”

Twins

Carlos Correa will have a procedure to deal with his deviated septum.

Fortunately, the Twins have more clarity regarding shortstop Carlos Correa’s path to health this offseason. Per Nightengale, Correa will be meeting with Twins medical staff to ensure a smooth recovery from his season-long battle with plantar fasciitis. While Correa’s foot will not require surgery, he is expected to undergo a procedure to correct the deviated septum in his nose. Correa previously underwent surgery to correct the issue back in 2018.

Byron Buxton will have another knee surgery.

The hope is that a second knee surgery will help. Buxton underwent an arthroscopic procedure to excise the plica (a membrane flap) in his right knee on Friday, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. The Twins believe the surgery will alleviate the issues related to the patellar tendinitis that limited and pained Buxton throughout this season.

Alex Kirilloff will have elbow surgery.

Alex Kirilloff, whose right shoulder issues bumped him from the Twins’ playoff roster during the ALDS, will also undergo labrum repair surgery on the shoulder on Oct. 24 with Dr. Neal ElAttrache, with a recovery timetable to come following the procedure.

Louie Varland’s role is up in the air going into next season.

In the event that both Gray and Maeda left, Falvey said he liked the Twins’ remaining rotation options, which arguably already make up a solid starting five in Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Louie Varland, and Chris Paddack.

“That’s a good group to start with, but it doesn’t mean we’re not going to think about ways to get better….I would say we’ll see where the process takes us,” Falvey said. The PBO and Baldelli both also mentioned how well Varland pitched as a reliever last year, yet indicated that there’s plenty of time left in the offseason to determine Varland’s 2024 role.

And here is another quote from the managers leaning on him being a reliever.

Louie Varland was initially reluctant to move to a bullpen role down the stretch, and made his reservations known both internally and externally.

That happened with the expectation that Varland would return to starting in 2024 — but the Twins don’t want to make a call on that just yet, both Baldelli and Falvey said. They’re glad he now has experience doing both at the highest level, but it did affect their perspective to see Varland up to 100 mph with his fastball with a cutter that gave hitters fits out of the bullpen.

“I think he has the ability to be an elite reliever,” Baldelli said. “I don’t want to make any bold statements. I’ll talk to him soon. What he showed out of the bullpen was special. It’s hard to look away from that and not at least think about that going forward. I’ll just say that.”

Royce Lewis will play third base next season.

The Twins are preparing for next season with the idea that Royce Lewis will be the starting third baseman, Baldelli said.

He could take some grounders at shortstop, too, so that he could be ready as a backup option for Carlos Correa, but even with a crowded infield group that could further grow with the eventual promotion of No. 2 prospect Brooks Lee, the Twins do not have any intentions to try Lewis in the outfield again.

Yankees

Michael King will start the 2024 season being stretched out as a starter.

Right-hander Michael King transitioned from a relief role to a starting gig this year and the results were encouraging enough that the Yankees will give him a chance to stick in the rotation next year. Both King himself and manager Aaron Boone tell Greg Joyce of The New York Post that the righty will go into the offseason preparing to take on a starter’s workload in 2024. “I’m looking forward to seeing how we go 150-plus innings,” King says.

Oswald Peraza is out of minor-league options. He’ll need to stay on the major league roster or move to another team.

Peraza is out of options, so the Yankees can’t send him back to Triple-A.

Oswaldo Cabrera went back to his old swing.

One of Cabrera’s biggest problems this season has been his ground-ball rate, which was 47.9 percent through Aug. 8. Cabrera’s swing was different at the start of this season; he was no longer pulling the ball in the air like he was during his brief stint with the team at the end of last year.

“My swing is my swing and I don’t need to change anything,” Cabrera said of what he’s learned about his swing. “That was the problem in the beginning of the season for the first two to three months. I’ve been working with different things in my swing that I thought could make me better. The next day after I got back from Triple A and talked with Trevor, I adjusted my swing. That’s what got me here. My swing in Triple A got me here. I’ve been swinging with the same swing from 2018 to 2022, so what do I have to change? I have to get better within my swing. I don’t have to change it.”

Cabrera said he had “a lot of voices in my head” when referencing why his swing path had changed at the start of the season. For the first three months, Cabrera said he had his hands higher than he was used to since becoming a professional ballplayer. It messed with his timing. What’s odd is Cabrera was one of the team’s best performers in spring training and was an unquestionable member of the Opening Day roster because of how he succeeded in the box, but it went downhill fast in April.

Before getting demoted, he was hitting .173/.328/.192 with a 53% GB%. With his improved swing, he hit .198/.236/.306 with a 48% GB%. He needs to find some power with a 29% HardHit%.

National League

Braves

• According to the GM, Vaughn Grissom will be a utility player with some time in left field.

Anthopoulos said Vaughn Grissom could be used in a utility role, creating the possibility he could see time in left.

Charlie Morton dealt with some late-season injuries.

“I know [Morton] was hurt at the end of this year, but you look at the body of work and all the starts he’s made here over the past few years,” Anthopoulos said. “Beyond that, he’s always been incredible teammate.”

Brewers

Tyler Black will be considered at a corner spot, possibly early next season.

5. The Brewers want more offense from first base and third base, and Tyler Black (MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 Brewers prospect) is in the picture.

“I think there’s a way we can certainly improve there,” Arnold said. “Obviously, we liked what we got out of [Andruw] Monasterio this year at third base. I think we like what we see out of Tyler Black. We’ll see what he ends up being at third or first, but he’s got a lot of upside as well and can factor into the situation for next year, potentially early on.”

Marlins

Jazz Chisholm Jr. had toe surgery.

Jazz Chisholm Jr. underwent surgery to repair turf toe in his right foot on Tuesday, with the Marlins’ center fielder posting a photo with the caption “Surgery was successful” on his Instagram story.

A source told MLB.com on Monday that the procedure will sideline Chisholm for 12 weeks before he can return to wearing a shoe and running again.

Mets

Francisco Lindor had elbow surgery to remove a bone spur he dealt with all of the season.

New York Mets star shortstop Francisco Lindor played through an injury for the entirety of the 2023 season, making his durability and overall production with a 30-30 campaign all the more impressive.

The Mets announced on Tuesday that Lindor had surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. He is expected to be ready for spring training.

The issue first popped up for Lindor in spring training, a league source confirmed to The Athletic. SNY first reported that Lindor played all season with the injury. Over time, the discomfort worsened, but Lindor wanted to continue playing without making the ailment public knowledge.

Francisco Alvarez wore down in the season’s second half.

The Mets believe Alvarez’s slumping second half, in which he hit .174 with a .270 on-base percentage and .343 slugging percentage, can be blamed mostly on fatigue. He’d never caught more than 77 games in a season as a professional; he caught 104 this year between Triple-A Syracuse and the majors. That’s a big increase.

That didn’t manifest itself in any alteration of Alvarez’s effort level. To the end, Mets coaches and players complimented all the work Alvarez put in on a daily basis. And Barnes wondered if Alvarez swung too hard some of the time.

“He’s getting the pitch he wants and he’s swinging and missing. Part of that is effort level. He has a high motor and when he gets a pitch he wants, he’s trying to hit it out of the stadium,” Barnes said. “We don’t want to take who he is away from him, but we want to reduce the miss.”

Phillies

• While it’s not as exciting as the fans cheering him on, Trea Turner turned his season around in Miami’s batting cages.

Before Trea Turner got the ovations that resurrected his season, he hit in the batting cages in Miami.

“It was boiling inside of him,” Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long said. “That’s when it all came to a head. Trea was so frustrated. He just needed to vent. We had some other guys in the cage, I said, ‘You guys need to leave.’ I knew he needed to vent. I knew he needed to talk. He needed to get a lot of [stuff] off his chest. Offensive, defensively, the way things were going for him, he was very upset about it.

“He got everything off his chest. I said, ‘OK, now we move forward.’ And then we started talking about his swing. We started talking about him relaxing and trusting his game, which I’ve seen for years and years and years. Knowing how talented he is and knowing that it’s in there, but at that point, he was not the Trea Turner that I had known and grown to love.”





Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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tomjefmember
4 months ago

Not sure how Paddack can be in the Twins rotation (at least for very long) with essentially 0 IP the last 3 years.