Phil Hughes Talks Contract Extension

Phil Hughes was two years away from free agency, but both he and the Twins realized that they wanted to work something out for the long-term.  Earlier today, the Twins announced a three-year extension that will pay him an additional $42MM, giving the right-hander a pact that will take him through the 2019 season.  The deal gives Hughes job security, a healthy payday in the here and now, and also allows him the opportunity to cash in again at the age of 32.  As our own Steve Adams pointed out this afternoon, Hughes is on track to hit the open market again at roughly the same age as James Shields is this winter.  On a conference call earlier today, I asked Hughes about the importance of getting a deal that could allow him to land another hefty multi-year contract down the line.

That’s the benefit of coming into the league at the age of 20, I put some service time behind me so even after this contract, I’ll be 32, 33, but that’s something for another day,” Hughes said.  “I haven’t even begun to think about my next deal, this is five years away and I have a lot of things I want to accomplish.  After that, we’ll see where we’re at.

Hughes knows that he could have boosted his value even further by continuing on his previous deal, but he would have had “a little bit more of a struggle” in talking agent Nez Balelo into greenlighting an extension one year away from free agency.  The 28-year-old is clearly comfortable in Minnesota and spoke glowingly of the team’s potential in the years to come.  He was effusive in his praise of the roster, from promising youngsters like Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas to veterans like Ervin Santana and Torii Hunter.

I didn’t want it to be where I came in for three years, kind of saw this team get back on the right track and then said, ‘Thanks for everything. Thanks for having faith in me, but see you later.’ I wanted to be part of this for years to come, and I believe in the process and the direction that this team is going,” said the hurler.

As GM Terry Ryan put it, the extension called for “some risk on both parties.”  While Hughes passed up a chance to bet on himself and possibly earn more after the 2016 season, the Twins are making a sizable commitment to the right-hander and banking on the kind of pitching that he delivered in 2014.  For his part, Hughes is confident that he will continue to excel while warming up to the idea of a veteran leadership role at such a young age.


Minor Moves: Twins, Phillies

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • The Twins have announced the signings of first baseman Brock Peterson and catcher Dan Rohlfing to minor league deals (via MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger). Peterson, 31, has never had a full chance at the big leagues, though he did have a brief stint with the Cardinals in 2013. He has strong overall batting numbers in the high minors. The 25-year-old Rohlfing, meanwhile, has not yet cracked the bigs and has also never ended a professional season above the .700 OPS threshold. But he has done enough to keep moving up the ladder, and will stay with the only organization he has played for.
  • Per an announcement by the Phillies, MiLB deals have been reached with first baseman Chris McGuiness and righties Sean O’Sullivan and Kevin Slowey. All three receive invites to big league camp. The 26-year-old McGuiness has only minimal time at the MLB level and slashed .264/.358/.412 in 489 Triple-A plate appearances last year. O’Sullivan, 27, and Slowey, 30, each have fairly significant major league track records and could compete for a pen slot or even the fifth starter’s role in Philadelphia.

NL East Notes: Taylor, Marlins, Haren, Tulo, Gattis

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo tells Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post that he was comfortable trading Steven Souza to the Rays because top outfield prospect Michael A. Taylor is only about a half a year behind Souza in terms of development. Taylor’s development has taken on greater importance now that Souza is gone, Janes notes, as he’s now the most big-league ready of their outfield prospects. Director of player development Mark Scialabba tells Janes that the team was happy with Taylor’s progress in 2014 and believes he can help in the Majors in 2015, but he also acknowledged that Taylor’s plate discipline is a work in progress. Taylor’s development is of particular importance, in my mind, due to his ability to handle center field; Denard Span is a free agent in one year’s time, and the Nats may not be able to retain him, Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Tyler Clippard — each of whom is in their final year of team control.

More from the NL East…

  • Though the Marlins have an exceptional young outfield in Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton, the club is still on the lookout for a fourth outfielder, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Ideally, Morosi notes, they’d acquire someone who can handle center field to back up Ozuna. The free agent market has little to offer in terms of center fielders who saw significant time in the Majors last year, though the trade market has some options. The Padres have a number of outfielders that can play center field (Will Venable, Abraham Almonte and Cameron Maybin), Oakland’s Craig Gentry is an excellent defender, and the Cardinals’ Peter Bourjos is elite with the glove as well. One buy-low option on the free agent market could be Franklin Gutierrez, though his health issues are significant and he didn’t take the field in 2014. All of those names are my own speculation.
  • Dan Haren is said to be holding out hope that the Marlins will trade him to either the Angels or the Padres, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The veteran Haren, acquired in the trade that also sent Dee Gordon to Miami, has a very strong, well-known desire to be on the West coast near his wife and children in Los Angeles.
  • Meeting the Rockies’ asking price for Troy Tulowitzki doesn’t make sense for the Mets given Tulo’s health concerns, writes Newsday’s David Lennon. The Rox are set on multiple pitching prospects in return and haven’t shown any indication that they’re willing to eat a significant amount of cash. Lennon assumes the Rockies would need to eat a similar a percentage of the contract as the Dodgers did when moving Matt Kemp, which would come out to roughly $36MM.
  • MLB.com’s Mark Bowman feels that if the Braves do still move Evan Gattis in a trade, they’ll attempt to land a starting pitcher or outfielder that can step into the Majors in short order and has a good deal of team control remaining. Of course, Gattis himself fits the description of an outfield option with team control remaining, though it’s certainly possible the Braves would prefer a better defender with a different skill set. As Bowman notes, the Braves have made a conscious effort to infuse their system with more speed- and contact-oriented players. Bowman also touches on the Braves’ bullpen and the money they’ve saved this offseason in his latest Braves Inbox.


Cubs Sign Jason Motte

DEC. 22: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets the breakdown of Motte’s incentives structure: Motte will receive $250K for appearing in 60 games and another $250K for appearing in 65 games. He also has incentives for games finished, as he’ll earn $250K for each of his 50th through 59th games finished.

DEC. 19: The Cubs have officially announced the signing of Motte to a one-year deal.

DEC. 15, 6:44pm: The deal comes with $2.5MM in achievable bonuses, Levine tweets.

5:32pm: Motte gets a $4.5MM guarantee, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (Twitter links). Motte has incentives based on games finished, Passan adds.

5:18pm: The Cubs have agreed to a one-year deal with free agent reliever Jason Motte, Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com reports on Twitter. Motte, a 32-year-old righty, is represented by ACES.

Motte had a nice run with the Cardinals as one of the game’s better back-end relievers. Over 2010-12, he tossed 192 1/3 innings of 2.43 ERA ball with 9.5 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9. He moved into the team’s closer role in 2012, locking down a league-leading 42 games.

But things took a turn when Motte was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. A long recovery period kept him out until the 2014 season, when he also missed time with a lower back issue. All said, Motte only appeared for 25 innings last year, struggling to a 4.68 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9.

More troublingly, perhaps, ERA estimators were down on Motte’s work last season: FIP (6.49), xFIP (4.58), and SIERA (4.25) all saw Motte as a below-average contributor. He was hurt significantly by the long ball, giving up a 20.0% HR/FB rate and a whopping 2.52 HR/9 that ranked second-to-worst in all of baseball among relievers who threw at least 20 frames.

He will look for a rebound in the same division, moving to a Cubs team that has some live young arms at the back of the pen. Motte should slot in as a setup option, but perhaps his experience in the closer’s role provides some measure of protection if Hector Rondon cannot repeat his strong effort from a season ago.


Pirates Sign Corey Hart

DEC. 22: Heyman tweets the exact breakdown of Hart’s incentives. He will earn $250K for reaching 350, 375, 400 and 425 plate appearances. Reaching 450, 475, 500, 525 and 550 will each net Hart $300K.

DEC. 19, 12:59pm: Hart will earn $2.5MM in base salary and can double it with another $2.5MM in incentives, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).

12:55pm: The Pirates announced that they have signed free agent Corey Hart.

Hart could serve as a platoon partner with Pedro Alvarez to help make up for his shortcomings against lefties.  After missing the entire 2013 season due to knee surgery, Hart was signed by the Mariners around this time last year.  The veteran made 55 starts as a designated hitter while also making seven appearances in right field, two at first base and one in left field.  All in all, he posted a .203/.271/.319 slash line in 255 plate appearances.  Prior to his lost 2013 season, Hart owned a career .276/.334/.491 slash line.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Hart, the Pirates have designated right-handed pitcher Preston Guilmet for assignment.  To keep up with his status and everyone else in DFA limbo, check out MLBTR’s DFA Tracker.


Outrighted: Bawcom, Villalona, Roach, Watkins

Here are today’s minor moves and outright assignments from around the league…

  • Mariners right-hander Logan Bawcom, who was designated for assignment last week, has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma, tweets Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. The 26-year-old posted a 4.93 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 45 2/3 innings at Triple-A in 2014.
  • The Giants announced that they have outrighted first baseman Angel Villalona off the 40-man roster to clear a 40-man spot for Sergio Romo, whose two-year deal was made official earlier today. Villalona, 24, once ranked as a Top 100 prospect but struggled at Double-A this season, hitting just .227/.290/.381 with 10 homers. Villalona is a lifetime .254/.311/.422 hitter in the minor leagues and has had his share of off-field issues in addition to recent on-field struggles. As Kevin Fagan wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009, Villalona was connected to a murder investigation in his native Dominican Republic, although he was never convicted.
  • Right-hander Donn Roach and infielder Logan Watkins have cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A by the Cubs, tweets Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. The pair was designated for assignment last week when the Cubs claimed Ryan Lavarnway and Shane Peterson off waivers. Roach, 24, pitched 30 1/3 innings of 4.75 ERA ball for the Padres in 2014, and the 25-year-old Watkins hit .246/.269/.338 in 68 plate appearances with the Cubs.

Padres, Josh Johnson Still Working Toward Deal

2:22pm: Sosnick tells ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that an agreement isn’t in place, and Johnson has not taken a physical (Twitter links). If and when a contract gets done, Sosnick tells Crasnick, it will take a few more days.

1:54pm: The Padres and right-hander Josh Johnson are now in agreement on a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $1MM that can reach $7.25MM total via incentives, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Johnson, a client of Sosnick/Cobbe Sports, was said to be on the verge of an agreement late last week.

Johnson will receive $500K for making his fifth start, $1MM for his 10th start, $500K for his 15th start and $1MM for his 20th. He will then earn $250K per start for starts 21-33, according to Passan.

The 30-year-old Johnson (31 next month) signed a one-year, $8MM deal with the Padres last offseason coming off a down season with Toronto. However, Johnson underwent Tommy John surgery in April and never made a start wearing a Padres uniform. His contract contained a conditional $4MM club option that triggered in the event he made fewer than seven starts, but the Friars declined that option and chose to re-sign him to an even lower guarantee. Though Johnson had the ability to test the open market, it was widely expected that he’d return to San Diego, as agent Matt Sosnick said more than once that Johnson felt he has “unfinished business” in San Diego.

It’s been two full years since Johnson was fully healthy, but there’s little denying what an impactful arm he can be when healthy. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA/2.41 FIP over the course of 183 2/3 innings with the Marlins in 2010 and has a career 3.40 ERA in 998 innings at the Major League level. Staying healthy has never come easy to Johnson, however, who has topped 180 innings just three times since debuting in 2005.

Johnson is the second injury-prone, high-upside arm that the Padres have added this offseason. GM A.J. Preller also inked Brandon Morrow to a one-year, $2.5MM contract that is heavily incentive-laden as well. Those two will give the Padres some rotation depth beyond a front trio of Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy. Right-hander Jesse Hahn, who pitched well out of the Friars’ rotation in 2014, was dealt to the A’s in the Derek Norris trade, and fellow righty Joe Wieland went to Los Angeles in the Matt Kemp deal. Johnson and Morrow will compete with Robbie Erlin and Cory Luebke (who is recovering from his second Tommy John operation) for spots in manager Bud Black’s rotation. Johnson, however isn’t likely to be ready to pitch on Opening Day, as his operation came on April 24 last season.


Pirates Win Bidding For Jung-ho Kang

12:16pm: The winning bid on Kang was said to be $5,002,015 over the weekend, according to a report from Yonhap. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review has confirmed with a source that the bid was indeed $5MM (Twitter link).

The Pirates, of course, will get the $5MM back if they are unable to work out a contract with Kang in their exclusive 30-day negotiation window.

11:39am: The Pirates have won the bidding for Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Kang’s former club, the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization, will reportedly accept the bid.

Kang, 28 in April, put together an exceptional season in Korea in 2014, .356/.459/.739 with 40 home runs in 117 games between the regular season and the playoffs. Kang’s Heroes reached the Korean Series (KBO’s Championship series) but fell to the Samsung Lions four games to two.

While his numbers are undeniably incredible, it should be noted that KBO is an extremely hitter-friendly environment, somewhat diminishing the impact of those eye-popping numbers. Major League scouts appear genuinely split on whether or not Kang can be an everyday player in the Majors. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Kang 15th among free agents this offseason, noting that he feels Kang should be given a chance to play shortstop everyday initially, as he could show enough power to handle the position and make up for less-than-stellar defensive tools at the position. However, he did note that some scouts see Kang as an “unathletic corner guy” whose power won’t translate to the Majors.

Recently, Ryan Sadowski of Global Sporting Integration appeared with Jeff Todd on the MLBTR Podcast and discussed Kang in detail. Sadowski, a former MLB and KBO pitcher, has seen Kang play extensively.

Kang is reportedly seeking $5-6MM annually on a multi-year deal, which isn’t an exorbitant price but also would be a costly miss for a payroll-conscious club like the Pirates in the event that Kang cannot be a productive player in the bigs.

The Pirates have plenty of infield depth as is, with Neil Walker entrenched at second base and Josh Harrison set to man third base in 2015 and beyond. Jordy Mercer played a solid shortstop in 2014, but he seems the most likely to be displaced if Kang is signed and the looks the part of an everyday shortstop. Then again, the Bucs may simply prefer to rotate Kang between three infield spots or shift Mercer to a utility role. There’s certainly room for all four infielders to remain on the roster.


Giants Re-Sign Sergio Romo

The Giants announced that they have officially re-signed righty Sergio Romo to a two-year contract that is reportedly worth $15MM and allows him to earn an extra $1MM in each season via incentives. Now entering his age-32 season, Romo lost his job as the San Francisco closer but rebounded to have a strong second half.

"<strongBringing back Romo represents be the offseason’s first significant addition for GM Brian Sabean, who fell short in efforts to re-sign Pablo Sandoval and draw Jon Lester. The team is said to be casting a wide net in efforts to bolster its roster for a World Series defense.

Getting Romo at a two-year guarantee may have cost the Giants a slight premium in AAV, with MLBTR’s Zach Links having predicted a three-year, $21MM deal for the slider specialist. In spite of his difficult start to the 2014 campaign, there is plenty to like about the veteran. As Zach noted, Romo owns a career 2.51 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9, and has appeared in at least 64 games a season since the 2010 campaign.

And then there is that second half of last year. Other players — Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley chief among them, perhaps — rode strong late-season runs to long contracts. For his part, Romo flipped a switch and posted a 1.80 ERA on the back of 10.4 K/9 against 1.4 BB/9 down the stretch. ERA estimators validated the improved results, as he compiled a 2.58 FIP and 2.89 xFIP.

Romo was also quite stingy during the Giants’ World Series run, allowing just one earned run in seven innings of work, with seven punchouts and no free passes. He owns a lifetime 2.11 ERA in 21 1/3 postseason frames, and has been a key component on each of San Francisco’s three recent championship clubs.

The free agent relief market is now without another top arm. Of the nine relievers to crack the top fifty list of MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes, four remain unsigned: Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, Casey Janssen, and Jason Grilli.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the agreement, on Twitter. ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted details on the incentives.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Nationals, Heath Bell Agree To Minor League Deal

The Nationals have reached a minor league contract with right-hander Heath Bell, the pitcher himself wrote in an exclusive guest column for The Players’ Tribune. The contract includes an invitation to big league Spring Training. Bell is a client of the Ballengee Group.

Bell, 37, was an All-Star closer with the Padres from 2009-11, pitching to a combined 2.36 ERA with 9.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and 132 saves in 202 1/3 innings of work. That excellent performance netted him a three-year, $27MM contract with the Marlins in their offseason spending spree prior to the opening of the new Marlins Park, but that deal proved to be an ill-fated move. Bell struggled to a 4.91 ERA over the past three seasons with three different teams — Miami, Arizona and Tampa Bay — changing hands often in salary dump trades.

Though Bell has struggled tremendously over the past three years, he does come with some upside and carries minimal risk on a minor league pact. The Nationals already possess a pair of strong closing options in Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard. Presumably, Bell will battle to make the club and serve in a setup capacity to Storen.


Twins Extend Phil Hughes

The Twins have locked up a key rotation cog going forward, as the team today announced that they have restructured and extended the contract of Phil Hughes. Originally owed $16MM through 2016, Hughes receives an additional three years and $42MM under his new deal.

Phil Hughes

Hughes, a client of CAA’s Nez Balelo, had been scheduled to earn $8MM in each of the next two seasons. He’ll now earn $9.2MM in 2015 and in 2016 before earning $13.2MM annually from 2017-19. In essence Hughes’ contract is now a five-year, $58MM contract. He’ll have limited no-trade protection, allowing him to block deals to three clubs each season. Additionally, Hughes will earn $200K each season for reaching 200 innings pitched.

The 28-year-old Hughes enjoyed an excellent season with Minnesota in 2014 — the first of a three-year, $24MM pact he signed as a free agent last offseason. Twins GM Terry Ryan and his staff took a gamble by offering Hughes three guaranteed years based largely on his age and upside rather than his results, and it paid off nicely. Hughes set a single-season record for the best strikeout-to-walk ratio ever (11.63) and posted a 3.52 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 0.7 BB/9 and a 36.5 percent ground-ball rate in a career-high 209 2/3 innings. That innings total fell one out shy of earning him an additional $500K in performance incentives, and though the club offered him a chance to pitch out of the bullpen on the final weekend of the year to reach the milestone, Hughes declined the opportunity.

ERA estimators such as FIP (2.65), xFIP (3.18) and SIERA (3.17) all feel that Hughes was significantly better than his ERA actually indicated, and Fangraphs pegged his 6.1 wins above replacement in a tie for fourth-best among Major League pitchers (tying him with both David Price and Jon Lester).

Prior to signing with the Twins, Hughes’ problems at Yankee Stadium were pronounced. A fly-ball pitcher by nature, Hughes posted a career ERA of 4.77 at the new Yankee Stadium and a 5.92 mark at the old facility, due largely to problems keeping the ball in the yard. Moving to the more spacious Target Field helped his cause, although Hughes still showed a somewhat curious home/road split, yielding a 4.25 ERA in Minneapolis as opposed to a sparkling 2.78 mark on the road.

All told, Hughes is set to earn $66MM from his age-27 season through his age-32 season (that figure includes last year’s salary). His next crack at free agency is now slated to come at roughly the same juncture of his career at which James Shields currently finds himself, giving him at least one more chance at another substantial multi-year deal.

For the Twins, Hughes is now unquestionably viewed as a fixture in their rotation for the long haul in what has been a lengthy rebuild. He’ll be joined by the recently signed Ervin Santana through at least 2018 and a hopefully resurgent Ricky Nolasco through at least 2017, with young starter Kyle Gibson having earned a spot in the starting five as well. That grouping will be joined by one of Alex Meyer, Trevor May or Tommy Milone in 2015, any of whom could emerge as the team’s long-term fifth starter. Beyond that, pitching prospects Jose Berrios and Kohl Stewart are both on the horizon, though each is a ways from reaching the Majors (Stewart in particular).

Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News first reported the agreement and terms of the contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Arbitration Breakdown: David Price

Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.

David Price enters his fourth and final year of arbitration with a phenomenal case. He already earned $14MM in 2014, but my model projects that he will earn $19.3MM in 2015. After a player’s first year of eligibility, in which their entire career is considered, subsequent arbitration cases generally look at the previous year and determine a raise based on that one year of performance. In that sense, if Price earned $5MM less, he would be likely to get a similar raise in magnitude, but his previous salary would lead to a 2015 salary that was $5MM lower due to a lower baseline. Price has put together several great seasons already, which is why he has reached $14MM in the first place, and now with a 15-12 record, a 3.26 ERA, and gigantic totals of 248 1/3 innings and 271 strikeouts, Price is poised to get another large raise.

David Price

That said, my model has always had an interesting relationship with Price’s abnormal performances. In his first year of eligibility, my model projected that he would earn $7.8MM but he only settled on $4.35MM. Since then, his case has been interesting enough to write about every year. In his second year of eligibility, I wrote about how I projected he would earn $9.5MM and he actually topped that and got $10.1125MM. Then the next year I explained how I projected he would earn $13.1MM, but he got $14MM. The last two misses were not as bad as the first, but clearly the southpaw has caused my model some trouble. With an eye-popping 248 1/3 inning season, and a model that rewards performance time to mirror the actual process, it is hard to know if his $19.3MM projection as high, low, or just right.

Perhaps the best comparable for Price is Cole Hamels’ 2012 arbitration case. He got $5.5MM, which is just below the $5.3MM raise that I have projected for Price. Hamels had 216 innings, so that is definitely short of Price’s 248 1/3, as were his 194 strikeouts relative to Price’s 271. Hamels also went 14-9, winning one fewer game than Price at 15-12. However, Hamels 2.79 ERA is decidedly better than Price’s 3.26, and could be enough to offset the innings, strikeouts, and extra win in favor of Price. However, they are not necessarily great comparables because of these differences. Unfortunately, few players are great comparables for Price.

Max Scherzer clearly had a better case last year when he went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 214 1/3 innings. Scherzer also won the Cy Young, further cementing his superb season and arbitration case. He got an $8.8MM raise though, and that is obviously the (very high) ceiling for Price here.

On the other side, a few pitchers emerge as clear floors for Price. Anibal Sanchez got a $4.3MM raise in 2012 with an 8-9 record, a 3.67 ERA, and 196 1/3 innings. None of those make him look as good as Price, so $4.3MM is clearly a floor. Justin Masteron’s $4.07MM raise after a 14-10, 3.45 ERA season with 193 innings last year, could also have served as a floor.

There are few other pitchers who fit in that wide range of $4.3MM to $8.8MM. Way back in 2007, Carlos Zambrano set the record for starters with at least five years of service time with a $5.9MM raise. That type of time lag would generally mean Zambrano is not likely to be used as a comparable in Price’s case, though it is worth noting that he went 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA in 214 innings. Zambrano’s definitely led to a higher salary than people were expecting, and he was a tough comparable to use because other salaries did not seem to fall on the same scale. Still, it could be that Price tries to argue that he should top Zambrano’s $5.9MM raise.

With such a wide range of potential salaries and so few pitchers with similar credentials, it is difficult to say if this will be one of my better or worse projections for Price’s salary. I could see more upside than downside, if only because Price’s innings total is so incredible, but I think that the best comparable is definitely likely to be Hamels, and his $5.5MM raise might be the best bet for Price.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Quick Hits: Umpires, Parity, Yankees, Pirates, Tigers

MLB and its umpires have reached a five-year labor agreement to follow their current deal, which was set to expire at the end of the year, Ben Walker of the Associated Press reports. The new pact continues more than a decade of labor peace within the game and will be the last labor agreement under outgoing commissioner Bud Selig. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB and its players expires in December 2016. Here are more notes from throughout the big leagues.


Free Agent Spending By Division

With the Winter Meetings behind us, it’s likely most of this offseason has already happened, and it’s been a barn burner, with a number of surprising signings and huge trades, and big bursts of activity from the Red Sox, White Sox, Dodgers and Padres in particular.

With that in mind, here’s one view of how the divisional picture has changed, with a look at where each of MLBTR’s Top 50 free agents have signed (or agreed to terms) by division. Although 33 of our top 50 free agents are off the market, this is just a snapshot at this point in time. In particular, the No. 1 and No. 3 free agents (Max Scherzer and James Shields) remain unsigned and will have a dramatic effect on divisional spending once they do come to terms.

AL East

4. Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox ($88MM)
5. Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox ($95MM)
8. Russell Martin, Blue Jays ($82MM)
16. Chase Headley, Yankees ($52MM)
17. Andrew Miller, Yankees ($36MM)
18. Justin Masterson, Red Sox ($9.5MM)

TOTAL = $362.5MM

The historically deep-pocketed AL East has so far lived up to its reputation, thanks largely to the Red Sox. Boston continued a team makeover that began at last season’s trade deadline by spending more on top-50 free agents this winter than three entire divisions, while also adding Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Anthony Varvaro and Ryan Hanigan in trades. The Blue Jays, too, have been very active, adding not only Martin, but also Josh Donaldson and Michael Saunders via the trade market. The Yankees haven’t had a splashy offseason by their standards, although they retained Headley and signed Miller to help compensate for the loss of David Robertson. The Orioles have been quiet so far but are ultimately likely to add an outfielder, while the cost-cutting Rays’ biggest signing has been Ernesto Frieri, who will make a base salary of just $800K.

AL Central

6. Victor Martinez, Tigers ($68MM)
7. Melky Cabrera, White Sox ($42MM)
11. Ervin Santana, Twins ($55MM)
13. David Robertson, White Sox ($46MM)
25. Adam LaRoche, White Sox ($25MM)
30. Alex Rios, Royals ($11MM)
31. Edinson Volquez, Royals ($20MM)
33. Torii Hunter, Twins ($10.5MM)

TOTAL = $277.5MM

The Tigers are in win-now mode, the Royals are trying to take advantage of their World Series run, and the White Sox hope to quickly build a foundation around Jose Abreu and Chris Sale, so it’s been a busy offseason in the AL Central. Chicago not only added Cabrera, Robertson and LaRoche, but also signed non-top-50 pitcher Zach Duke to a significant contract and traded for Jeff Samardzija. The Royals (who have also added Kendrys Morales and Kris Medlen, along with Rios and Volquez) and Twins have also been active, and the Tigers could still make a splash by re-signing Scherzer. Even the Indians, who have otherwise had a relatively quiet winter, added Brandon Moss. In any case, the top two spending divisions this offseason have been in the American League, which is nothing new.

NL Central

2. Jon Lester, Cubs ($155MM)
15. Francisco Liriano, Pirates ($39MM)
19. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers ($14MM mutual option)
22. Jason Hammel, Cubs ($20MM)
34. A.J. Burnett, Pirates ($8.5MM)

TOTAL = $236.5MM

The Cubs also traded for Miguel Montero, while the Cardinals added Jason Heyward. The Reds and Brewers haven’t spent much (although the Brewers’ trade for Adam Lind isn’t reflected here), and the Reds have dealt Mat Latos in preparation for the potential departures of a number of key pitchers following the 2015 season. But the Pirates (despite losing Martin) have spent heavily for a small-payroll team, with their deal to re-sign Liriano more than doubling their previous largest-ever free-agent contract. (It was Martin’s two-year, $17MM deal, in case you were wondering.) And, of course, the Cubs, after five straight seasons of 87 or more losses, finally appear set to contend with the addition of an ace to complement their young hitting.

NL West

10. Yasmany Tomas, Diamondbacks ($68.5MM)
14. Brandon McCarthy, Dodgers ($48MM)
26. Jake Peavy, Giants ($24MM)
35. Sergio Romo, Giants ($15MM)
46. Brandon Morrow, Padres ($2.5MM)
48. Brett Anderson, Dodgers ($10MM)

TOTAL = $168MM

The total above doesn’t reflect the level of activity in the NL West this offseason — the Padres and Dodgers have dominated this month’s headlines with trades (including one with one another), and the Giants could still add Shields. The Padres (who were also serious bidders for top free agents before heading to the trade market) have already acquired Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers, and a potential trade of Cole Hamels to San Diego could be their most earth-shaking move yet. They also appear likely to add No. 49 free agent Josh Johnson. On the other side of the scale, the Diamondbacks have traded away Montero, Miley and Didi Gregorius.

The number of big trades in the NL West this offseason surely reflects the fact that all its teams except the World Series-winning Giants have new front offices (although the Rockies have been quiet even with a new GM in place). Despite the hype surrounding the Padres and Dodgers, though, and the addition of Yasmany Tomas, the division that lost more games (421) than any other in 2014 might have lost talent overall, given the departures of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.

AL West

9. Nelson Cruz, Mariners ($58MM)
21. Jed Lowrie, Astros ($23MM)
32. Luke Gregerson, Astros ($18.5MM)
41. Billy Butler, Athletics ($30MM)
45. Pat Neshek, Astros ($12.5MM)

TOTAL = $142MM

The Athletics, who have dealt Donaldson, Samardzija, Moss and Derek Norris while losing Lester, Lowrie and Gregerson to free agency, are clearly retooling, and the Rangers haven’t done much after their disastrous 2014 season, perhaps hoping they’ll improve next season merely by having someone stay healthy. The Angels traded Howie Kendrick and are in luxury-tax purgatory, while the Mariners lost out on Melky Cabrera and have had a quiet offseason aside from the Cruz signing and a couple relatively small trades. That leaves the Astros, who have signed three top-50 free agents to bolster their middle infield and bullpen as they slowly rebuild after six straight losing seasons.

NL East

24. Nick Markakis, Braves ($44MM)
28. Mike Morse, Marlins ($16MM)
29. Michael Cuddyer, Mets ($21MM)

TOTAL = $81MM

Here’s baseball’s quietest division, at least on the free agent market. The Marlins, who have acquired Latos, Dee Gordon and perhaps Dan Haren in addition to Morse, appear to be the only team in the division adding talent at the big-league level. The Nationals have few obvious needs and won the NL East by 17 games in 2014 — for perspective, the difference between first and last place in the NL Central was also 17 games. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the Nats haven’t been overly active, aside from their widely praised haul in the three-way Myers trade. With a major headache on the horizon as Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond, Tyler Clippard and Denard Span all become eligible for free agency after the season, they won’t have the luxury of inactivity next winter. The Braves (who have traded Heyward and Upton while also losing Santana) and Phillies (who dealt Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers) appear headed for periods of hibernation, while the Mets agreed to terms with Cuddyer early in the offseason but otherwise haven’t yet done much to add to a 79-win 2014 team.


Minor Moves: Wil Ledezma

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.

  • The Twins have signed lefty reliever Wil Ledezma, according to the International League transactions page (via a tweet from Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press). Ledezma, 33, posted good winter numbers with Aragua in Venezuela after spending the 2014 season with Yucatan in Mexico. He pitched in the Dodgers system in 2012 and last appeared in the Majors in 2011, where he demonstrated excellent velocity for a lefty. Nonetheless, he has a career 5.40 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in parts of nine seasons with the Tigers, Braves, Padres, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Pirates and Blue Jays.