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.
Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.
Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.
The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.
Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.
As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.
Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.
If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.
Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.
But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.
Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.
There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.
Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.
Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.
We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.
Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.
The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.
Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.