UPDATE: I’m in Surprise today at Rangers camp. I just hung out in the Rangers clubhouse for a while. Everyone is proceeding in a business as usual way, but a lot of people — not players — are of the distinct impression that something messed up is afoot in the Rangers’ front office. This jibes pretty well with the report from this morning. The sense here is that either the Rangers’ owners or Jon Daniels needs to say something about Nolan Ryan’s status sooner rather than later because (a) there is too much uncertainty now; and (b) Ryan is not the person who should have to say that, no, he is not being squeezed out.
8: 19 AM: This would be something of a big deal. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is reporting that Nolan Ryan could leave the Texas Rangers soon, possibly by the end of Spring Training.
The report is based on the announcements over the weekend that GM Jon Daniels has been promoted to president of baseball operations and that and that Rick George has been promoted to president of business operations. The Star-Telegram says that while Ryan’s title with the team is still CEO, Daniels now has final say over all baseball decisions and George the final say over business decisions, which would seem to leave little room for Ryan. They also report, however, that these moves happened in November internally even though they were just announced this weekend.
Team co-owner Bob Simpson denies that any changes are afoot, so this could all be hooey. But if there really were moves to squeeze Nolan Ryan out, it’s not the sort of thing you’d figure anyone would want to go on record to say.
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.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.
Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.
The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.
Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.