D'Backs pick up Heilman from Cubs for minor leaguers

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piniella heilman.jpgAaron Heilman was traded for a third time in 12 months Wednesday, going from the Cubs to the Diamondbacks for prospects Scott Maine and Ryne White.
There’s a good chance the Cubs would have non-tendered Heilman. The former Met did bounce back from an awful 2008, lowering his ERA from 5.21 to 4.11 last season, but he still wasn’t close to the same kind of reliever he was in 2006 and 2007. One of the game’s most reliable setup men, he combined to pitch a whopping 173 innings with a 3.33 ERA and 49 holds between those seasons. His strikeout rate has remained strong since, but he’s been giving up more homers and walks and it’s been hard to trust him late in close games as a result.
The Diamondbacks could let Heilman contend for a rotation spot, as he did with the Cubs last spring before being returned to the pen. Heilman would certainly prefer to start games, as he made clear in New York on numerous occasions. Heilman does have the advantage of being very good against left-handed hitters, thanks to his plus changeup. Still, as shaky as he’s been working an inning at a time these last couple of years, there’s little reason to think he’s ready to emerge as a quality starter.
In Maine and White, the Diamondbacks received a couple of fringe prospects. Maine, a 2007 sixth-round pick, had a 2.90 ERA and a 61/22 K/BB ratio in 62 IP while being used strictly as a reliever in Double- and Triple-A last season. The former Miami Hurricane has a chance to be more than a lefty specialist out of the pen, but it’s doubtful that he’ll be a true setup man.
White, 23, was regarded as Arizona’s top first base prospect a year ago, but he couldn’t hit for power in the hitter friendly California League last season. He finished at .266/.371/.356 with six homers in 418 at-bats for Single-A Visalia. Particularly now that the Diamondbacks have young first baseman Brandon Allen, who was picked up from the White Sox for Tony Pena Jr., White was very expendable.
It’s possible that the Diamondbacks could have gotten Heilman without surrendering any talent had they waited a month, but they didn’t want to take the chance. He’s set to make a little more than $2 million in his last year of arbitration, and at that price, it’s quite possible another team would have traded for him.
My thought is that it’s a pretty good move for Arizona. Heilman has proven extremely durable, and he offers more upside than the typical pitcher who goes for $2 million or so in free agency. As for the Cubs, they get one decent prospect for a pitcher who was no longer in their plans. It’s doubtful that they could have done much better.

Shapiro, Murray defend Dellin Betances after arbitration feud

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Dellin Betances #68 of the New York Yankees and the American League pitches against the National League during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.

Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”

Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”

Royals will experiment with Alex Gordon in all three outfield spots this year

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 7: Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals reacts to a fan while on first base during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 7, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.

Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.

According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.

While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.