Now that he’s found a taker for Rafael Soriano on a heavily deferred deal, Scott Boras is trying to get teams interested in ex-Tigers closer Jose Valverde.
Valverde, 34, was 49-for-49 saving games for the Tigers in 2011 and 35-for-40 last season, but the postseason meltdown that saw him give up nine runs in 2 2/3 innings, combined with some declining peripherals from the regular season, has scared away seemingly every team this winter.
Boras knows he can’t use words to sweep away Valverde’s October struggles, but he does cite workload and fatigue as a possible reason for the sudden swoon. Counting the postseason, Valverde appeared in 81 games in 2011 and 75 last season.
“Closers normally have anywhere from 58 to 62 appearances and Valverde’s just had two years where he was used a lot,” Boras told George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press. “It was a very unusual year this year, because he had so many non-save situations. He had like 31 of them, which normally they only have 17 or 18. So, it was a very unusual year.”
Those non-save situations are another thing working against Valverde this winter. He has a history of struggling without a save on the line, so contenders aren’t looking at him as a potential setup man.
Realistically, Valverde is going to have to settle for a cheap one-year deal with a chance to rebuild his value. If he’s willing to sign for $2 million or so, then maybe the Mets, Astros, Marlins or Twins could give him the chance to close. There’s certainly no reason to give him anything more than that, not with Brian Wilson, Francisco Rodriguez, Matt Capps, Jon Rauch and Francisco Cordero all sitting around waiting for phone calls, too.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.