Braves Front Office Move Coming “Very Soon,” Frank Wren Likely Out As GM

The Braves’ rumored front office changes could quickly become a reality, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link) reports that a “move is going to happen very soon.”  This move will likely be the removal of Frank Wren from the general manager’s job — O’Brien would be surprised if the move is anything besides Wren’s firing and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (Twitter links) that Wren is gone “barring a last-minute reversal” from upper management.  Wren could be fired as early as today, Rosenthal reports.

A 4-14 record in September both ended the Braves’ postseason hopes and generated speculation about Wren’s job security.  The most heavily-rumored scenario would see team president John Schuerholz or senior advisor John Hart take a larger role in the team’s baseball operations department, with assistant GM John Coppolella promoted to the general manager’s job on at least an interim basis.  (If Wren is indeed ousted today or before the season ends, Coppolella seems like the obvious candidate to be in the interim GM anyway.)


Trade Candidate(s): The Reds’ Starting Pitchers

The Reds’ hopes of challenging in the NL Central were dimmed by several major injuries this year, and this visit from the injury bug was particularly damaging to a team who already faced some big decisions in the offseason.  With just over $71MM committed to 10 players on the 2015 payroll, the mid-market Reds may be forced to save some money by moving a starting pitcher.  Though Cincinnati’s durable and deep rotation has been a big part of the club’s success in recent years, pitching seems like a natural area for payroll reduction simply due to the fact that three starters will enter their third year of arbitration eligibility.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Baltimore OriolesTwo pitchers who won’t be dealt are Homer Bailey and Tony Cingrani.  The Reds have already committed to Bailey in the form of a six-year, $105MM extension, and wouldn’t have been likely to move him even if Bailey hadn’t recently undergone forearm surgery.  Cingrani has also had injury problems, spending most of 2014 on the DL with shoulder problems.  Had Cingrani been able to build off of his impressive 2013 rookie season, the Reds would’ve felt at least a bit better about trading one of their more established starters (Bronson Arroyo wasn’t re-signed last winter in part because the Reds were comfortable with Cingrani).

It’s possible Cincinnati could trade multiple starters, though I’d suspect that the team wouldn’t want to lose too much pitching depth until they know Bailey and Cingrani are fully healthy.  The Reds would probably rather not have David Holmberg or Dylan Axelrod as full-time rotation members next year, top prospect Robert Stephenson still needs some seasoning (a 4.74 ERA in 136 2/3 IP at Double-A in 2014) and the newly-signed Raisel Iglesias could still wind up in the bullpen.

The Reds’ other four pitchers are all controlled only through 2015, so the team likely wouldn’t score a truly huge return in a trade but all carry value even as one-year pitchers.  The candidates…

Johnny Cueto: The Reds have a $10MM option on Cueto for 2015 that is sure to be exercised given how well Cueto has pitched.  After an injury-shorted 2013, Cueto bounced back in a major way by posting a 2.15 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 3.73 K/BB rate over a league-leading 222 innings.

Cueto’s next contract will be in the nine-figure range, and it’s unclear if the Reds would be willing ink another major extension given how much money has been tied up in recent deals with Bailey, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips.  Cueto would net the biggest return in a trade, though moving their ace would seem to hint that the Reds are punting on 2015, which I doubt they’re prepared to do.  On the other hand, the Reds could trade Cueto for Major League parts (such what the Rays and Red Sox received for David Price, John Lackey and Jon Lester before last July’s trade deadline) and use a Cueto deal to reload rather than rebuild.

Keeping Cueto would give the Reds stability at the top of their rotation, and they could still explore dealing Cueto at next year’s trade deadline if they fall out of the race.  If they’re contending and wanted to keep Cueto, Cincinnati could then get a compensatory draft pick via the qualifying offer if he leaves in free agency after the 2015 season.

In a recent Insider-only piece, ESPN’s Buster Olney recently explored Cueto’s trade market and raised the possibility that the Reds could clear some payroll space by attaching Phillips, for example, to Cueto in a trade package.  With several notable starters available as free agents this winter, Olney believes some teams might prefer trading for a year of Cueto rather than making an expensive multiyear commitment for an ace on the open market.  Also, a contending team that potentially loses their ace in free agency (such as if Max Scherzer leaves the Tigers or James Shields leaves the Royals) could look to Cueto as a short-term replacement to keep their rotation strong for another run in 2015.

Mat Latos: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently cited Latos as perhaps the likeliest of the Reds’ starters to be dealt, as both Latos and Cueto can make a case for commanding an extension larger than Bailey’s deal.  While Cueto is two years older than Latos, presumably the Reds would be more inclined to extend their homegrown product than they would Latos, who missed part of 2014 with an elbow injury.  Latos has a 3.25 ERA in 102 1/3 IP this year, though ERA indicators show that he hasn’t pitched quite that well (3.64 FIP, 4.00 xFIP, 4.08 SIERA) and both his ground ball and strikeout rates dropped significantly below his career averages.  The right-hander’s average fastball velocity also dropped to 90.7 mph, down from 92.5 mph in 2013.

The Reds already tested the market for Latos at the trade deadline, so I tend to agree with Rosenthal that if a Cincy starter is moved, it’ll probably be Latos.  His declined numbers could be explained by his elbow issues, and if fully healthy, Latos could be a standout front-of-the-rotation starter for several teams.  He earned $7.25MM in 2014 in the last year of a two-year extension, and he’ll be eligible for arbitration for a third and final time this winter.

Mike Leake: Another pitcher with a third arb year remaining, Leake will get a raise from his $5.925MM salary in 2014.  The right-hander has been a reliable rotation piece over his five Major League seasons, not missing many bats (career 6.1 K/9) but inducing a lot of grounders (49.8% ground ball rate) and eating a lot of innings, averaging 191 IP over the last three years.

Leake comes with the fewest question marks of any Cincinnati starter, lacking the injury histories of Cueto and Latos but also never pitching nearly as well as those two have at their peaks.  While Leake’s ceiling in the bigs may never surpass the “solid” level (he has an even 100 ERA+ over his career), this also means that the Reds could extend him at a much lower price than Cueto or Latos.  A Leake extension could look something like the five-year, $65MM deal the White Sox gave John Danks a few years ago, as Leake and Danks are decent comparables in terms of age and career numbers to that point in their careers, plus both had one arb year left before free agency.

The Reds put Leake and Latos on revocable waivers in August, possibly in a move to gauge trade interest for the upcoming offseason.  I’d guess there’s a better chance Leake stays in Cincinnati than goes, though the Reds will certainly get interest in the durable 26-year-old.

Alfredo Simon: The big surprise of the group, the 33-year-old Simon moved from the bullpen to the rotation as an injury fill-in and wound up making his first All-Star team.  Though his performance has very much come back to earth in the second half, Simon still has a 3.48 ERA through 178 1/3 innings on the season despite a middling 5.9 K/9.

Simon is arb-eligible for the third time this winter and he’ll earn a healthy raise over his $1.5MM salary, though the raise will hardly break the bank.  Simon’s age and career track record give him a very modest amount of trade value, so it’s likely he stays with the Reds and competes for the fifth starter’s job (or returns to the pen) if and when a rotation spot opens up via trade.

With this variety of available starters and a wide variance in asking prices for each of the four pitchers, many teams could fit as potential trade partners for the Reds under the “you can never have too much pitching” argument.  If the Reds look to deal a starter and fill an everyday lineup hole at the same time, they’ll likely target a left fielder or a shortstop as upgrades on Ryan Ludwick and Zack Cozart, respectively.  Ludwick has a $9MM mutual option for 2015 but after two negative fWAR seasons, the Reds might instead buy him out (for a deferred $4.5MM) and look for other options.

Using these needs to speculate about trade partners, the Cubs, Diamondbacks and possibly the Indians stand out as teams with a shortstop surplus.  The Red Sox have a glut of outfielders and are known to be looking for starting pitching.  The Dodgers could finally solve their long-standing logjam in the outfield and, if it meant getting back Cueto or Latos, would be willing to eat a lot of salary on one of their high-priced outfield bats.

As Ken Rosenthal noted (video link), the Reds could employ some gamesmanship with their starters and perhaps leverage them against each other in figuring out which (if any) pitchers they want to sign over the long term.  Between these negotiations and waiting for the free agent pitching market to play out, Cincinnati might wait until January or even February to move a starter.  At this point, the only thing that seems certain about the Reds’ 2015 rotation is that at least one of Cueto, Latos, Leake or Simon won’t be on the roster come Opening Day.

Photo courtesy of Joy R. Absalon/USA Today Sports Images


Quick Hits: Red Sox, Martin, Cardinals

The Red Sox‘ trades of Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront this summer created opportunities for younger Red Sox starters, but those young pitchers haven’t taken advantage, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo have all been underwhelming this season. “What that group is learning is that it’s a sizable jump from Triple-A to here,” says manager John Farrell. “It’s a matter of learning challenges at the major-league level.” The Red Sox aren’t necessarily planning for all those pitchers to be successful, and they figure to pursue starters this offseason, but getting one or more solid starters out of the group of De La Rosa, Workman, Webster and Ranaudo would provide a big boost next season. Here’s more from throughout the big leagues.

  • The Pirates‘ organizational philosophy of finding buy-low players is likely to keep them from re-signing impending free agent Russell Martin, David Manel of Bucs Dugout writes. The Pirates appear to be bracing for fan backlash if they don’t re-sign Martin, and GM Neal Huntington points out that his organization might be about to become a “victim of its own success,” as Manel puts it. “Russ is one of those unique circumstances where we got beat up and highly criticized for signing him when we did,” says Huntington. “And if he does walk out the door, we’ll get highly criticized when he does walk out the door.”
  • The results of the Cardinals‘ in-season trades have been mixed, but their outfield has improved thanks to the team’s flexible approach, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com writes. Justin Masterson hasn’t pitched well and Lackey hasn’t made a huge impact, and Oscar Taveras hasn’t hit well filling in for the departed Allen Craig. The Cardinals have, however, done well in the second half throughout their outfield in general, with Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk putting up solid numbers in center and right field, respectively.


Frank Wren’s Job Possibly In Jeopardy

Nearing the end of a disappointing season, the Braves could fire GM Frank Wren, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes, noting that the Braves’ collapse appears “sure to lead to some sort of significant change.” Manager Fredi Gonzalez’s job does not appear to be in danger at this time, Heyman adds.

These aren’t the first rumblings that the Braves’ front office might be in for a shakeup. Earlier this week, it emerged that the Braves might have either senior advisor John Hart or president John Schuerholz take an increased role in baseball operations. There have also been indications that, if Wren loses his job, the team might look to former Braves assistant GM and current Royals GM Dayton Moore, although Heyman suggests that’s unlikely. Earlier today, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman wrote that the Braves could consider dismissing Wren and/or Gonzalez “within the next few days.”

If the Braves were to fire Wren, they would likely turn to assistant GM John Coppolella, who would take the job on an interim basis and be mentored by Hart. Bowman writes, however, that Hart enjoys working as an MLB Network analyst and would not be interested in taking a full-time role with the Braves.

It’s been a tough September for the Braves — they’re currently 4-14 for the month and have fallen three games below .500. After spending much of the year in playoff contention, they were mathematically eliminated from the race today. Over the course of the season, the Braves have struggled with a weak group of position players, getting little from hitters like B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla, Ryan Doumit and Tommy La Stella, the first two of whom Wren signed to expensive long-term deals. If the Braves were to dismiss Wren, he would be the third GM fired or reassigned this year, following Josh Byrnes of the Padres and Kevin Towers of the Diamondbacks.


MLBTR Originals

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR the last seven days:


Full Story | Comments | Categories: MLBTR Originals

AL Notes: Rios, Leyva, Tanaka

Alex Rios‘ career with the Rangers could be over. The outfielder has a bruised right thumb, and MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports that Rios has decided it would be better to simply not play, since the thumb has not gotten better and risks infection. The Rangers are expected to decline Rios’ $13.5MM option this offseason and pay his $1MM buyout, which means that his next big-league plate appearance could come with another team. In Rios’ absence, Sullivan writes, the Rangers will likely move Shin-Soo Choo from left field to right and spend their savings on pitchers. Here’s more from the American League.

  • The Orioles have officially announced the signing of Cuban pitcher Lazaro Leyva. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported the signing in September, although Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reported earlier this weekend that the two sides were still in the process of finalizing the signing. The deal is reportedly for $725K.
  • Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka made a successful first start on Sunday after missing two months with an elbow injury, allowing one run while striking out four and walking none in 5 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays. He says that his elbow feels good and that he does not think he needs Tommy John surgery, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com reports. “It’s pain-free,” Tanaka says, adding that he rarely thinks about the injury. A strong full season from Tanaka would, clearly, provide a huge boost for the Yankees in 2015 — he’s been one of the best pitchers in the American League this year when he’s been healthy.

NL Central Notes: Martin, Huntington, Brewers, Cubs

As a former player, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly can relate to what Cubs prospects Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara are going through, writes David Just of the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s just a time factor with the young guys,” Mattingly said. “They can look good right away, and the next year they come out and it doesn’t look good. Or they can look kind of shaky and figure a lot of it out. So time is going to tell.” As a youngster, Mattingly got off to a slow start with the Yankees, hitting .278 with a .326 on-base percentage in his first 98 games during the 1982 and ’83 seasons. He then led the American League in hits, doubles, and batting average in 1984.

Here’s the latest from the NL Central:

  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington says re-signing catcher Russell Martin is a priority for the franchise, tweets Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We are going to try to do everything we can to keep Russ,” said Huntington. “We’d love nothing more than to have (Martin) in a Pirates uniform.
  • Huntington, however, reiterated the Pirates will not veer from their financial philosophy. “We’re going to continue to have to pay guys for what we believe they’re going to do, and not what they’ve done,” said Huntington (as quoted by MLB.com’s Stephen Pianovich). “The bigger markets certainly have luxury to be able to extend much beyond comfort levels to pay an extra year or two, to pave over prior mistakes with more money.
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin does not “think there’s a need to go out and try to get another starter” and will instead focus on offense this offseason, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. The Brewers are all but certain to pick up the $13MM option on Yovani Gallardo, McCalvy opines.
  • The Brewers‘ biggest offseason decisions will be the infield corners and whether to exercise Gallardo’s option, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a recent chat. The Brewers will consider both internal and external options at first base, but Haudricourt notes finding productive first basemen is easier said than done.
  • In a separate piece, Haudricourt writes Rickie Weeks is nearing the end of his tenure with the Brewers (his $11.5MM option isn’t expected to be exercised), but the team’s senior member in terms of service time is not thinking about 2015. “I’ll worry about that when the time comes,” Weeks said. “I’m still with the Brewers right now. That’s the way I look at it.
  • What we’d really like is to have a bunch of really good baserunners,” is what Cubs manager Rick Renteria told reporters, including MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, when asked about the club’s 2015 wish list.

AL Notes: Soria, Indians, Cruz, Bogar

Offense is at a premium this season and Rays manager Joe Maddon doesn’t think it will improve any time soon, writes MLB.com’s Bill Chastain. “The hitter’s at a total disadvantage right now,” Maddon said. “And there’s no advantages on the horizon. I don’t see it. That’s why it’s going to take a lot of creative thinking. It could be just going back maybe to something that had been done before. I’m not sure. But right now, offense is going south, and it’s going to continue going south based on pitching and defense. Everything, data, video, all the information benefits them over offense.” Maddon also pointed to improved bullpens throughout baseball as another factor in the depressed offensive numbers.

Here’s more from the American League:

  • July acquisition Joakim Soria deserves a shot at pitching in high-pressure situations for the Tigers, writes Chris Iott of MLive.com. Soria could be the best relief pitcher the Tigers have and they paid a price to get him, so they should utilize him in the best way possible, Iott argues.
  • The Indians led the majors in errors for much of the sesaon, but there likely won’t be sweeping changes in Cleveland’s infield, writes Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer.
  • Nelson Cruz reiterated he would like to stay with the Orioles, but extension talks will still wait until after the season, tweets Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
  • Tim Bogar is now the clear runaway favorite to be hired as the next Rangers manager, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter).

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Kang, O’s, D’Backs

On this date in 2001, a crowd of 41,235 at Shea Stadium witnessed the return of baseball to New York City for the first time since the 9/11 attacks.  Uplifting ceremonies before and during the game, which included singers Diana Ross, Marc Anthony, Lisa Minnelli as well as bagpipers, paid tribute to victims of the tragedy.  Later, Mike Piazza‘s eighth inning home run gave the Mets a 3-2 dramatic victory over the Braves.  Here’s this week’s look around the baseball blogosphere..

Please send submissions to Zach at ZachBBWI@gmail.com.


Yankees Designate Chaz Roe For Assignment

The Yankees announced that they have designated pitcher Chaz Roe for assignment.  In a related move, Masahiro Tanaka has been reinstated from the 60-day disabled list to make his start today against the Blue Jays.

Roe, 27, was acquired by the Yankees from the Marlins on August 31st.  In his season at Triple-A New Orleans, Roe posted a 3.66 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 64 innings of relief.  Prior to joining the Yanks, his only big-league experience came in 2013, when he pitched 22 1/3 innings for the Diamondbacks, posting a 4.03 ERA with a respectable 9.7 K/9 and 5.2 BB/9.  Roe made three appearances for the Bombers this year.

As the DFA Tracker shows, Roe and Eury Perez are the only players currently in DFA limbo.


AL East Notes: Rays, Tanaka, Red Sox, Tomas

Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the Yankees were somewhat handcuffed this year by their obligation to the legendary Derek Jeter and with that in mind he looks at ten other similar issues that could be brewing elsewhere.  The list includes a look across town at the Mets where David Wright isn’t performing the way they had hoped when he inked his eight-year, $138MM extension.  Here’s today’s look at the AL East..

  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times looked at the major decisions the Rays will have to make this winter.  Tampa Bay has a decision to make on Ben Zobrist but Topkin sees his $7.5MM option as a slam dunk and says it’s unlikely that they would trade him.
  • If Masahiro Tanaka resembles his pre-injury self today against the Blue Jays, it might influence the Yankees spend this offseason, opines John Harper of the New York Daily News.
  • One major league evaluator suggested to Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that there are questions about whether Red Sox target Yasmany Tomas will make enough consistent contact to be successful against the higher-quality pitching he will face in the big leagues.  Tomas hit 15 homers in Cuba’s Serie Nacional in 2012-13 but went deep only six times this season, possibly because of a shoulder injury.  Boston was in attendance for Tomas’ weekend showcase in the Dominican Republic.
  • The Red Sox are likely to have one spot in their 2015 rotation reserved for a young starter and while there are several candidates, it’s not clear who will fit in that role, writes Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. Rubby De La Rosa, who looked like a keeper a few weeks ago, struggled again on Saturday night in a 7-2 loss against the Orioles.  Fellow prospects Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, and Brandon Workman haven’t set the world on fire lately either.

Bud Black To Return As Padres Manager

Despite some speculation to the contrary, Bud Black will return as the Padres’ manager next season, GM A.J. Preller tells Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com.

Like I said from the beginning, I viewed it as Buddy is our manager,” Preller said. “I had a chance to really enjoy the last month, to get to know him more on a day-to-day basis, getting to be around him and getting his thoughts on the team and his thoughts on baseball in general.”

When asked specifically if he looked forward to working with Black for an entire season, Preller told Bloom: “Yes, I’m looking forward to that for sure.”

The Padres exercised an option on Black’s contract for the 2014-15 seasons in November of 2012, so his deal is already in place for next year.  Preller cited the team’s energy and work ethic as the main factor in the team’s decision to keep Black.

While the Padres’ 73-81 record isn’t what they had hoped for, they have reason for optimism going forward.  Preller went on to tell Bloom that management is on board to make the Padres competitive again in the NL West.


Cafardo On Hellickson, Gardenhire, Ramirez

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes looks at six teams that badly need some fixing this offseason.  The list starts with the Braves, who have been held back in part by B.J. Upton‘s five-year, $75MM deal.  The Rangers also need some serious help in the form of two starting pitchers, a right-handed power bat, and possibly a catcher.  The Phillies are in the toughest spot of all, Cafardo writes, as they are overloaded with older players on bad contracts.  Here are some of the highlights from today’s column..

  • As teams start putting together lists of pitchers who could be had in trade this offseason, Jeremy Hellickson’s name has been surfacing.  One AL team believes that the Rays could make another Wil Myers-Jake Odorizzi for James Shields-Wade Davis type of deal centering around Hellickson, who is still just 27 and inexpensive.
  • It looks more and more like Twins manager Ron Gardenhire will return next season.  A Twins executive said he would be “surprised” if Gardenhire didn’t come back based on his young team playing hard and having fun playing the spoiler role down the stretch.
  • Even with Alex Rodriguez coming back, Cafardo sees the Yankees as a possibility for Hanley Ramirez if the Dodgers don’t retain him.
  • The Red Sox haven’t committed to bringing David Ross back next season but it doesn’t appear he’ll have to worry about finding a job.  A few teams have privately discussed Ross as a backup/mentor.  If Boston moves on from Ross, there aren’t many clear-cut alternatives on the open market.
  • Red Sox vice president of player personnel Allard Baird had a very good interview for the Diamondbacks‘ vacant GM job, but Tony La Russa is still leaning towards Dave Stewart or Gary LaRocque, according to a source. Baird, of course, was the GM of the Royals from 2000-06.
  • Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield is beginning to receive more interest as a managerial candidate.  Don’t be surprised to see his name mentioned more often for openings, Cafardo writes.

The Most Improved Free Agents

Behind the scenes at MLBTR, we’re busy discussing and polishing our Top 50 Free Agents list for the 2015 offseason. While we’ll wait until the appropriate time to officially release the list, it’s not too soon to talk about a few of the players who have done the best to improve their free agent stock. In general, I’m looking at players who weren’t even on the radar when Steve Adams kicked off our 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings series on April 15. Today, we’ll take a look at a pure hitter, a starting pitcher, and an elite reliever.

1. Victor Martinez. I’m sure Martinez’s appearance on this list is of no surprise. When we compiled our initial power rankings post, 25 players were named. Martinez was not one of them. The 35-year-old designated hitter is limited in defensive versatility, but his bat is clearly elite. He is enjoying a fantastic offensive season with a .335/.404/.566 line and 31 home runs. All are career bests. He’s even stolen three bases (also a career best). The exceptional performance comes with a 10.5% walk rate and 6.6% strikeout rate, making him one of just two players with more walks than strikeouts (Jose Bautista is the other).

Martinez, who earned $12MM this season, will receive a qualifying offer, according to Buster Olney of ESPN. It’s difficult to handicap how the slugger will perform on the free agent market. The only recent comparable player is David Ortiz, although the short contracts he signed with the Red Sox do not appear to be directly applicable to Martinez’s situation.

The Tigers will have some leverage in retaining Martinez, where he can continue to hit with Miguel Cabrera. The White Sox are also said to be interested, per Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com. Chicago appears to be an ideal fit with its extremely hitter friendly stadium (Detroit’s Comerica Park is a neutral stadium), and he would make a good tandem with Jose Abreu. We seem to have the basic ingredients for a bidding war, and other teams will likely enter the fray.

2. Brandon McCarthy. What a fascinating season it’s been for McCarthy. His fastball gained two mph over previous seasons, and he’s posted the highest ground ball rate of his career at 52.7%. While his 3.93 ERA is merely decent, advanced ERA estimators like xFIP (2.90) and SIERA (3.03) expect better things to come. He’s also buffed his strikeout rate to 7.72 K/9 while maintaining an elite walk rate of 1.53 BB/9.

McCarthy was easy to overlook entering the season. His command and control profile made him a steady but uninspired rotation option. His first 18 starts came with the Diamondbacks, where he flashed excellent peripherals with an unseemly 5.01 ERA. He was dealt to the Yankees prior to the July trade deadline. In 13 starts, he’s pitched to a 2.54 ERA that is supported by his peripherals. Many pundits (including this one) worried about the influence of Yankee Stadium on the homer prone starter, but his HR/FB ratio has regressed to league average in New York.

Prior to this season, he never managed more than 170 and two-thirds major league innings in a single season. That came in 2011. He’s frequently dealt with injuries including recurring “stress reactions” in his pitching shoulder. His most recent shoulder injury occurred in 2012. This season, he’s managed a career high 194 and two-thirds innings with a chance to eclipse the 200 inning threshold.

A sabermetrically inclined front office – especially one with a large ballpark – could justifiably view McCarthy as the fourth best free agent starter, after the triumvirate of Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and James Shields. McCarthy’s history of shoulder problems will likely temper enthusiasm for a large contract offer. That might serve to increase demand by making him an affordable, second-tier option. McCarthy, who is entering his age 31 season, could top the four-year, $49 million contract signed by Ricky Nolasco last offseason. However, a smart club would include language to mitigate risk from future shoulder flare-ups.

3. Andrew Miller. If Miller was on anybody’s radar entering the season, it was as a moderately interesting LOOGY. By halving his walk rate and proving he’s no platoon pitcher, Miller will enter the offseason as an untested but possibly elite closing option. Due to his inexperience recording saves, clubs may still look at him as a setup reliever.

Split between the Red Sox and Orioles, the 30-year-old southpaw has posted a 1.93 ERA in 60 and two-thirds innings. His 14.84 K/9 is impressive, especially in light of his 2.37 BB/9. He’s allowed just 32 hits on the season and is one of three relievers to cross the 100 strikeout threshold – four others appear poised to do so by the end of the season.

No recent left-handed reliever has entered free agency coming off of such a strong season, which puts Miller in uncharted waters. Jeremy Affeldt, who signed a three-year, $18MM contract with the Giants following the 2012 season is a distant comparable. Joaquin Benoit is probably the best example among recent right-handed pitchers. He signed a two-year, $15.5MM contract with an option after emerging as the Tigers closer. However, he was also entering his age 36 season, so he was considerably older than Miller. Per the MLBTR Transaction Tracker, no non-closing reliever has signed a contract with over a $20MM guarantee. Miller has a chance to be the first. Prior to the 2007 season, Justin Speier signed a four-year, $18MM contract that could serve as a barometer of sorts once inflation is included.


Poll: Who Will Sign Yasmany Tomas?

It’s an exceptionally quiet night on the transaction front, so let’s turn our attention to a poll. Tomorrow is Yasmani Tomas day with the Cuban slugger scheduled to workout at the Giants Dominican complex in front of about two dozen clubs. Even though tomorrow is a landmark date in Tomas’ move toward the majors, it is really just the beginning of the process. Like with fellow countryman Rusney Castillo, I assume Tomas will conduct private workouts with the most interested teams in the next few weeks. It’s also worth noting that Tomas has not yet been declared a free agent by major league baseball.

We heard last Sunday that Tomas could command as much as $100MM in a bidding war. While we can assume that every team with some modicum of interest will be represented at the showcase, we’ve seen eight teams directly tied to Tomas. The Yankees and Phillies are popular speculative destinations. Hall of Fame journalist and MLB Network contributor Peter Gammons mentioned five clubs as front runners, including the Phillies, Rangers, Tigers, Padres, and Giants. The Red Sox and Mets have also been tied to Tomas here at MLBTR. 

So my question is this: who do you think will sign Tomas? I’ve removed a few teams from the poll below based on payroll or other constraints (i.e. the Rays). If the team you think will sign him is not represented, you should vote for “other.”