Josh Leuke — one of the pitchers acquired by the Mariners in the Cliff Lee deal — faced rape and sodomy charges in California last summer. He later pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of false imprisonment with
violence. Lueke was sentenced to 40 days in prison but was released immediately thereafter for time served.
That’s bad. Also bad: not everyone on the Mariners seemed to realize this at the time of the trade. The Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker:
Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said he was “not aware” beforehand
that a Class AA pitcher obtained in the Cliff Lee deal pleaded no
contest last year to a charge of false imprisonment with violence
against a woman.
“I was not aware of that before we acquired him,” Armstrong said.
“And it is going to be addressed.”
Team CEO Howard Lincoln didn’t know either. General Manager Jack Zduriencik said he did know about it, but on Friday mistakenly said that Leuke had been “cleared,” which is not true, meaning that Jack Z either didn’t really know everything or else he was trying to gloss it over. Either way, he said he asked the Rangers if they thought Lueke was anything to be concerned about moving forward and was satisfied with their answer.
Still, how you don’t bring higher ups into the loop on this kind of thing beforehand is a mystery to me. It’s just as much a mystery to me why — regardless of Zduriencik’s responsibility to keep his bosses informed — they didn’t know it independently. Google Lueke and the case turns up pretty prominently (there are even pics of him in prison scrubs out there for crying out loud). Look at his stats from last year and you see that he pitched only four games. Even if you didn’t know about the criminal charges, don’t you look at that and ask if the guy had Tommy John surgery or something?
Geoff Baker is going to town on this. And rightfully so, in my mind. As he notes today, the Mariners have been out front in the community supporting groups and initiatives aimed at putting a stop to violence against women. This has led to a zero-tolerance policy on the part of the team which has in turn led to players being sent out of town on a rail before. Now the team trades for a guy who pleaded guilty to a charge which involved violence against a woman.
Reasonable people can disagree how much Lueke should be punished within his profession for his criminal transgressions. Reasonable people can’t disagree, however, that the Mariners either didn’t do their homework or simply didn’t care about Lueke’s background when they made the deal. My guess is that Zduriencik is in some hot water with his
bosses over all of this, and as I sit here right now, I think it’s pretty justified.
With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin.
“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.
“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”
Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.
Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.
It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.
The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.
Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.
As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.
Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.
Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.
The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.
Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.
MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.
Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.
Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.
The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.
This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.