Yasmany Tomas Rumors: Monday

Late last week, the Padres and Braves were rumored to be emerging as the favorites for Yasmany Tomas, and on Sunday it was reported that he’s received offers from the Braves, Giants and Padres with the Mariners, Phillies and Diamondbacks still lurking on the periphery of his market. We’ll keep track of Monday’s Tomas reports in this post…

  • Though Peter Gammons tweeted over the weekend that the Braves have made an offer, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was told that no offer has been extended (Twitter link). This may be a case of semantics, as Atlanta could have made its comfort level known without technically extending a formal offer.
  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the Braves are traveling to the Dominican Republic to meet with Tomas again today. He adds that the Padres “just made a big push” for Tomas as well, and feels the Giants‘ interest will increase with Pablo Sandoval likely heading to Boston today. (Sandoval’s agents this morning said that no decision has been made, but one will be reached today. Most believe Boston to be the destination.)

Red Sox Agree To Terms With Hanley Ramirez

The Red Sox have reached an agreement with Hanley Ramirez, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets.  FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets that it’s a four-year, $88MM contract with a $22MM vesting option for a fifth season.  Christopher Meola, who initially broke details of the Giancarlo Stanton signing, first reported yesterday morning that Ramirez would sign in Boston (Twitter link).   Ramirez is represented by Adam Katz of the Wasserman Media Group.

Hanley Ramirez

Ramirez, who hit .283/.369/.448 with 13 homers for the Dodgers last season and owns a .300/.373/.500 slash line for his career, was cited by MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes as the top position player available in free agency, though it was “unclear” as to how Ramirez’s market would develop.  While Ramirez’s impact bat was clearly a huge asset in an offense-thin free agent market, he has a notable injury history and is a below-average defensive shortstop, posting negative Defensive Runs Saved and UZR/150 totals in seven of his nine full-time seasons.  In order to help his free agent case, Ramirez said he was open to switching positions, though his signing with the Sox opens up a number of possibilities on that front.

As of now, Ramirez projects as the everyday Red Sox third baseman, sharing the left side of the infield with shortstop Xander Bogaerts.  Since the Sox are reportedly close to a deal with Pablo Sandoval, however, Ramirez could be moved into a left field role, joining Boston’s very crowded outfield mix of Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts and Daniel Nava.  Cespedes’ name has been mentioned in trade rumors, so he seems like the most probable candidate to be playing elsewhere in 2015, but the Sox seem very likely to move multiple outfielders this winter.

The other alternative for Boston would be to install Ramirez at shortstop, Sandoval at 3B and then look to deal Bogaerts, whose star-caliber ceiling would make him a major chip in any trade.  Even if Bogaerts was dealt, the Red Sox wouldn’t have to deal with Ramirez’s shortstop glove for too long — prospect Deven Marrero could eventually take over, shifting Ramirez or Sandoval to DH (the other would play third) once David Ortiz retires.  Ortiz’s contract is only guaranteed for the 2015 season, though the 39-year-old slugger has a pair of team/vesting options for 2016 and 2017.

However things break down, it’s clear that the Red Sox are looking to amass as many top bats as possible in the increasingly pitching-dominated league.  The Sox have been hesitant about signing free agents to long contracts given how several of their recent major signings (i.e. Carl Crawford, J.D. Drew, John Lackey, Adrian Gonzalez) provided limited returns.  On paper, Ramirez doesn’t fit the model of the safe signing that Boston would prefer given his age (he’ll be 31 on Opening Day), injury history and defensive issues, though given how little payroll space the Sox have tied up in future commitments, the club had plenty of flexibility.

Earlier this month, MLBTR’s Zach Links projected Ramirez would get a six-year, $132MM deal, so the reported total of his pact with Boston lags behind in both years and dollars.  The qualifying offer and the questions about Ramirez’s defense could have played a role, or it could be that Ramirez was simply willing to take less money to play for the organization that originally signed him as an amateur free agent in 2000.  Ramirez developed into one of the game’s top prospects while in the Sox farm system and he played his first two Major League games with the team in 2005.  He was dealt that November to the Marlins as part of the trade package that brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston.

The Dodgers will earn a compensation pick between the first and second rounds of the 2015 draft as a result of the signing, as Ramirez turned down the team’s qualifying offer.  Boston’s 2015 first-round pick is protected, so the Sox will surrender their second-rounder to sign Ramirez (or their third-rounder, should Sandoval also be signed).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Josh Willingham Announces Retirement

Josh Willingham will officially retire after an 11-year Major League career, the outfielder told ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Willingham’s decision comes despite receiving what he termed a “substantial” offer from a contending club this offseason, Crasnick writes. Willingham explained his decision process:

“I felt like it wouldn’t be fair to myself, and more importantly to the team that was paying me a lot of money to perform at a high level, if there was a chance my dedication would waver — particularly as the season got longer. I’m honored to have played for as many years as I have, and I feel even luckier to walk away on my own terms instead of having the decision made for me.”

The 35-year-old Willingham (36 in February) was a late bloomer who didn’t become an MLB regular until his age-27 season with the Marlins. However, once he established himself as a presence in their lineup, he quickly became known for his excellent plate discipline and plus right-handed power. He found himself traded to the Nationals and then to the A’s before reaching free agency for the first time, where he ultimately signed a three-year, $21MM contract with the Twins.

Willingham’s best season came in his first year with the Twins, as he batted .260/.366/.524 with a career-high 35 home runs — earning him a Silver Slugger and making him just the third player in Twins franchise history to hit 35 or more homers in a season (along with Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew and former AL Rookie of the Year Bob Allison). In total, Willingham’s career comes to a close with a .253/.358/.465 batting line, 195 homers and 632 RBIs in 1147 games between the Marlins, Nationals, A’s, Twins and Royals. The “Hammer” earned more than $35MM in his playing career, according to Baseball-Reference.com. MLBTR wishes Willingham and his family luck and happiness in his post-playing days and congratulates him on a very nice career.



Red Sox Finalizing Deal With Hanley Ramirez

MONDAY: Multiple sources tell ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that the five-year, $90MM figure which has been reported is inaccurate (Twitter link).

SUNDAY: Hanley Ramirez will go to Boston on Monday to finalize a deal with the Red Sox in the five-year, $90MM range, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). Reports emerged this afternoon indicating that the Red Sox were in hot pursuit of Ramirez.

As Rosenthal wrote earlier today, the Red Sox’ endgame with Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval is unclear. It’s possible they want Ramirez to play shortstop, but they already have Xander Bogaerts, who has upside and is a far superior defender. If they want Ramirez to play third, it’s unclear what will come of their outstanding offer to Sandoval (which reportedly was for a similar total of five years and $95MM). They could also try Ramirez at outfield, although he has limited experience there, and the Red Sox have plenty of outfielders. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets that the Red Sox are still trying to sign both players.

As the previous paragraph suggests, however, there are big questions about Ramirez’s defense, particularly at shortstop. He has also had trouble staying healthy in the past several seasons. Still, Ramirez, who hit .283/.369/.448 for the Dodgers last season and is .300/.373/.500 for his career, clearly has an impact bat, and that’s a huge asset, particularly in an offense-thin free agent market. Earlier this month, MLBTR’s Zach Links projected Ramirez would get a six-year, $132MM deal, so the reported total of his pact with Boston lags behind in both years and dollars. It could be possible Ramirez is willing to take less money to play for the Red Sox, the organization that signed and developed him before trading him to the Marlins in 2005.

Ramirez rejected the Dodgers’ qualifying offer, so L.A. will add a pick at the end of the first round of next year’s draft if the Red Sox do complete the signing. The Red Sox’ top pick (No. 7 overall) is protected, so they would lose their second-round pick as a result of signing Ramirez.


Mariners, Kyle Seager Agree To Seven-Year, $100MM Extension

The Mariners and third baseman Kyle Seager are on the verge of completing a seven-year, $100MM extension, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. The contract contains an option for an eighth season which could be worth as much as $20MM, depending on performance escalators, Passan adds. Seager’s deal is pending a physical. He is represented by Jet Sports Management’s Andrew Lowenthal.

Kyle Seager

Seager’s payday is well-deserved, as the 27-year-old has emerged as one of baseball’s best third basemen over the past three seasons. Seager has established himself as a durable source of power in an increasingly pitcher-friendly environment, and he’s a solid defender at third base as well. This past season, he batted .268/.334/.454 with a career-high 25 homers and excellent defensive marks (+10 DRS, +9.2 UZR/150) at third. His offense has increased incrementally with each full season in the Majors, and he’s never been placed on the disabled list.

Originally selected in the third round of the 2009 draft out of UNC, Seager has spent his entire career with the Mariners organization and now looks poised to spend the majority of his days as a Major Leaguer calling Safeco Field his home. The new contract will run through Seager’s age-33 season, with the option year covering his age-34 campaign. Seager had been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $5MM this offseason as a first-time arbitration eligible player.

If we take a guess at his second- and third-time arbitration figures — and this is a highly rudimentary estimate — he may have earned something in the range of $27-30MM over his arbitration seasons. That means the four free agent seasons purchased in this contract are valued somewhere between $17.5MM and $18.25MM. Seager becomes just the fourth player in his service class to secure a $100MM payday. As Passan tweets, only Mike Trout, Buster Posey and Freddie Freeman had reached that feat prior to this deal.

MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently looked at each team’s future payroll obligations, where the Mariners were among the leaders in future commitment due to their contracts with Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano. While this will further boost their long-term commitments and potentially limit their ability to add a large contract via trade or free agency, team president Kevin Mather recently said payroll will continue to increase following the $107MM spent in 2014. And, the contracts don’t overlap entirely; Hernandez is only controlled through 2019, which will be just the second free agent season on Seager’s deal. The team could potentially backload the contract, to some extent, to create sustained financial flexibility until Hernandez’s deal is off the books.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Giants Have Shown Interest In Jon Lester

It appears likely — though not yet 100 percent certain — that Giants mainstay Pablo Sandoval is on his way to the Red Sox, and the Giants may look to go a different route recouping the lost value. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports spoke to one person with knowledge of the team’s thinking who believed the loss of Sandoval could put San Francisco in play for Jon Lester, and Rosenthal then confirmed with a source that the Giants have indeed shown interest in Lester (Twitter links).

Earlier this morning, reports indicated that Sandoval had agreed to a five-year pact with the Red Sox, but his agents have since publicly stated that no agreement is in place with Boston or any other club at this point. Sandoval will make his decision today, his agent told WEEI.com’s Alex Speier, so we’ll have some closure in the near future.

If the union with Boston does indeed to come to fruition, Lester makes for a logical, albeit more expensive target for Giants GM Brian Sabean (Boston has reportedly already offered Lester $110-120MM over six years). The Giants have little rotation certainty, despite coming off a 2014 World Series victory. Madison Bumgarner is an unquestioned ace, but Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong are free agents. Matt Cain will be returning from elbow surgery. Tim Hudson will be 40 next July, and Tim Lincecum has proven to be unreliable at this stage of his career. Lester could likely be penciled in for 200+ innings and provide some much-needed stability.

Of course, such a pursuit does leave the Giants thin at third base and on the lookout for offense. One other alternative, Rosenthal tweets, would be to pursue Chase Headley. He characterizes a Headley pursuit as “likely” for San Francisco, should Sandoval depart. The switch-hitting Headley would become the prize of the free agent market at third base, and the Giants would no doubt have competition for his services. The Yankees are said to very much want Headley back, but any club that showed interest in Sandoval could logically have some interest in Headley as well. That would include the Blue Jays and White Sox, although to this point, those matches are speculative on my behalf, as there’s yet to be a firm connection to Headley for either club.


Latest On Pablo Sandoval

9:25am: Sandoval will make a final decision today, Vasquez tells Speier (Twitter link). FOX’s Ken Rosenthal tweets that the Padres have yet to be informed that they’re out of the running as well.

8:50am: The Giants offered Sandoval a five-year, $95MM contract and showed some willingness to go to $100MM if necessary, tweets Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com hears the same and adds that there was an understanding that the $95MM wasn’t necessarily a final offer.

7:04am: Gustavo Vasquez says no agreement has been reached and that his client is still weighing offers, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier reports (Twitter link).

6:51am: The Red Sox have agreed to a deal with free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  It’s a five-year contract worth in the range of $100MM.  Jake Wesley originally tweeted late last night that Sandoval and the Sox had reached a deal.  Sandoval is represented by Gustavo Vasquez of the SPS Sports Group.

Sandoval’s addition immediately addresses Boston’s need for a third baseman in the wake of Will Middlebrooks‘ disappointing 2014 season, and the switch-hitting Sandoval also adds some balance to a predominantly right-handed hitting Red Sox batting order.  While Sandoval never had much trouble hitting at AT&T Park (a career .853 OPS in San Francisco), it stands to reason that the move to hitter-friendly Fenway Park will only help his production.

With Sandoval in the fold and Hanley Ramirez reportedly also close to finalizing a deal, the Red Sox may have landed the two biggest infield bats on the free agency market.  It remains to be seen how the Red Sox will deploy their talent given Xander Bogaerts‘ presence at shortstop, though Sandoval is the obvious choice at third base given that he has posted above-average UZR/150 numbers in three of the last four seasons.

The Red Sox were one of three reported finalists for Sandoval along with the Giants and Padres.  (The Blue Jays and White Sox also showed some interest in Sandoval earlier this winter.)  This interest didn’t result in Sandoval finding his desired six guaranteed years, though if the contract does pay him a $20MM average annual value, it will be the second-highest AAV ever given to a third baseman, topped only by Alex Rodriguez‘s deal with the Yankees.

Sandoval, 28, has spent his entire seven-year Major League career with the Giants, becoming a fan favorite due to his “Kung Fu Panda” persona and his clutch bat.  Sandoval owns a .344/.389/.545 slash line in 167 postseason plate appearances, most notably being named MVP of the 2012 World Series.  Losing Sandoval is a big blow to the Giants, who may be looking to replace his production by signing Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas.  Since Tomas could be deployed as a third baseman, he might end up as a direct replacement for Sandoval should he indeed wind up a Giant.  FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets that the Giants are interested in Tomas as a left fielder and would likely pursue Chase Headley to fill their third base vacancy if Sandoval went elsewhere.

San Francisco will now receive a bonus pick between the first and second rounds of the 2015 draft as compensation for Sandoval signing elsewhere,  since he rejected the team’s one-year qualifying offer.  Boston’s first round pick (7th overall) is protected, so the Sox will instead give up their second rounder as a result of the signing.


Orioles Interested In Melky Cabrera As “Fallback Option”

If the Orioles can’t re-sign Nick Markakis, the team’s “fallback option” is to pursue free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports.  Markakis and the O’s looked like they were headed towards a reunion earlier this winter when the two sides were seemingly close to a four-year contract, though there hasn’t since been much progress.

Cabrera posted a .301/.351/.458 slash line and a 125 wRC+ in 621 PA last season in comparison to Markakis’ .276/.342/.386 line and 106 wRC+ over 710 PA, though Cabrera’s defensive deficiencies and fewer plate appearances gave him only a slightly higher fWAR (2.6 to 2.5) than Markakis.  MLBTR’s Steve Adams predicted Cabrera for a five-year, $66.25MM deal and Markakis for a four-year, $48MM deal in his Free Agent Profiles of both outfielders, so signing Cabrera would likely be a more expensive proposition for the Orioles and he’d cost them a draft pick due to the qualifying offer.  If Cabrera’s market is depressed by the QO, however, it’s possible the Orioles could try to sign him for a relative bargain, as they did last winter with Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz.

The White Sox and Mariners have also shown interest in Cabrera this offseason, with the Royals more loosely linked to the outfielder.  The door also hasn’t fully closed on Cabrera re-signing with the Blue Jays, depending on how his market plays out.


Latest On Hyeon-jong Yang

MONDAY, 7:15am: The Rangers haven’t been told they’re the high bidders for Yang, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports.

SUNDAY,10:54pm: The Rangers, not the Twins, won the bidding for Yang, FOX Sports’ C.J. Nitkowski tweets. The fee was about $1.5MM, and Kia could opt to keep Yang. A previous report from Korea had indicated that the Rangers had posted the top bid.

9:10pm: Berardino now tweets that the Kia Tigers haven’t officially decided whether to accept the top bid for Yang, and MLB doesn’t notify the top bidder until the bid is accepted.

12:29pm: Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News hears from an informed baseball source that the Twins have in fact won the bidding.  The value of the Twins’ bid has not been announced and sources have thrown out estimates ranging from $700K to ~$1.5MM.

Both the Kia Tigers and Yang are disappointed with the size of the bid, but the pitcher is pushing the Tigers to accept it so that he can pursue his dream of pitching in the majors.  The team has previously said that it would accept a bid for Yang as long as it was of “a reasonable amount,” but never specified the monetary figure.  The KBO has said that it will inform MLB of the Tigers’ decision by 4pm CT on Friday, November 28th.

10:51am: The Twins are insisting that they haven’t been told they’ve won the bidding for Yang, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter).

SATURDAY, 10:18am: The Twins have won the bidding for Korean lefty Hyeon-jong Yang and are nearing agreement on a deal, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press writes. The Kia Tigers posted Yang earlier this week. The Twins have a 30-day negotiating window with Yang.

Yang, who will be 27 in March, posted a 4.25 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 165 innings in Korea in 2014. Those numbers don’t sound that impressive at first, but each team scores an average of 5.63 runs per game in the offense-heavy KBO, far higher than in the Majors, and Yang’s season earned him the KBO’s equivalent of the Cy Young award. Yang is viewed as a mid-rotation starter with No. 2 starter upside, the New York Daily News’ Mark Feinsand reports. Yang has a smooth delivery and throws 92-95 MPH.

Feinsand had named the Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox, Giants and Astros as teams that could have interest in Yang. The Red Sox also reportedly had interest. The Padres recently won the bidding for another KBO pitcher, Kwang-hyun Kim, for $2MM, although the top bid for Yang was expected to cost more.

The Twins were expected to pursue starting pitching this offseason, and Yang should give them an option to accompany Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson and Ricky Nolasco. Twins starters posted a league-worst 5.06 ERA in 2014.


Non-Tender Candidate: Mitch Moreland

Most Rangers players struggled or were injured in Texas’ disastrous 2014 season, and first baseman Mitch Moreland was no exception. The lefty hit .246/.297/.347 in 184 plate appearances through early June, then had ankle surgery and missed the rest of the year. Now, he’s heading into his second season of arbitration eligibility with a projected $2.8MM salary on the horizon.

USATSI_7950726_154513410_lowresMoreland is now 29 and is on the fringes, at best, as a starting first baseman. Since a partial season as a rookie in 2010, he hasn’t posted an OPS+ above 106 or an OBP above .321, and as a slightly above average defensive first baseman or below average corner outfielder, he doesn’t provide much value with the glove. Even before his injury, he might have been an acceptable choice as a starter only for a team like Texas that had plenty of stars elsewhere in its lineup.

One of those stars is Prince Fielder, who should return from his own injury to take over first base in Texas next year. There’s also limited room for Moreland in the outfield — Shin-Soo Choo will be in right, Jake Smolinski hit well down the stretch last season and could get playing time in left, and Moreland has played only sparingly in the outfield since 2011 anyway. That leaves DH, where the Rangers can be flexible in finding an alternative to Moreland. They’re likely to pursue a DH upgrade this offseason, possibly on the trade market. Another possibility for the Rangers might be to acquire Justin Upton and bump Smolinski to DH.

Moreland posted a wRC+ of 76 last season; every AL team but two (the Indians and Mariners) got better production from their designated hitters. Of course, Moreland’s ankle might partially explain his struggles, and some rebound is likely. Steamer projects Moreland will post a wRC+ of 99 in 2015, which would be more palatable, but still isn’t a figure to which a team should aspire at DH, even at a relatively low price.

If the Rangers don’t acquire outfield or DH help this offseason, however, or if they don’t acquire a left-handed hitter for one of those positions, perhaps they could consider re-signing Moreland at a reduced rate, whether or not they non-tender him first. Smolinski’s breakout in a month’s worth of games in his MLB debut was unsustainable, and entrusting him with an entire starting job, whether that’s DH or left field, without a viable backup plan seems too ambitious. 24-year-old Ryan Rua offers a potentially decent alternative, but like Smolinski, he’s right-handed. Then there’s Michael Choice, who’s also a righty and had a disastrous rookie season.

Giving a fair amount of playing time to some combination of Smolinski, Rua and Choice seems like a good idea for the Rangers, but having reinforcements at DH and in the outfield seems like a good idea as well. Moreland had a poor season in 2014, but he’s experienced and left-handed, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him return to the Rangers in 2015 one way or another. A tender is therefore a possibility.

The Rangers’ decision needs to be made in early December, however, and given Moreland’s struggles last season, the Rangers might feel it’s unnecessary to commit nearly $3MM without first exploring other possibilities. A trade before that seems unlikely, since Moreland isn’t an obvious upgrade for many teams at first or DH. Perhaps if he becomes a free agent, a team like the Yankees might be a fit — Moreland could pick up at bats against righties while occasionally playing first base, DH and right field. The Rangers could also wait until later in the offseason to decide what to do with Moreland, to ensure that Fielder is fully ready and to see if an injury in another organization might create a better market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Quick Hits: Cabrera, Martin, Cubs, Diamondbacks

There’s still a chance the Blue Jays could re-sign Melky Cabrera, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star writes. GM Alex Anthopoulos is prepared to wait until Cabrera has a sense of what’s available to him in free agency, and if Cabrera doesn’t find an offer to his liking, he could return to the Jays, possibly on a four- or five-year contract. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Russell Martin signed with the Jays, but the Cubs were key bidders, the catcher’s agent tells Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. “There were times throughout the process where it was Toronto and the Cubs, 1 and 2,” says Matt Colleran. “One day the Cubs [were] going a little ahead, and the next Toronto was ahead. When we got into the [last] weekend the dollars started to come into play, and Toronto was just super aggressive with their approach.” The day before Martin and the Blue Jays agreed to terms, the Cubs reportedly were the front-runners to sign him.
  • The Diamondbacks recently began interviews for their open scouting director position, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. The position opened when the Brewers hired Ray Montgomery away from Arizona. The Diamondbacks’ candidates include Tim Huff (from the Angels), Sam Hughes (Cubs), Sean Johnson (Twins), Deric Ladnier (Nationals), Mark Snipp (Reds) and Tim Wilken (Cubs). The team has also interviewed two internal candidates, Todd Donovan and Bill Gayton. Ladnier, Wilken and Gayton all have experience as scouting directors, and Diamondbacks senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson has suggested the team might prefer a scouting director with experience.

Athletics Fielding Calls On Left-Handed Hitters

After acquiring lefty first baseman Ike Davis from the Pirates, the Athletics are fielding calls on lefties Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick and John Jaso, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The Blue Jays have reportedly asked the A’s about the now-healthy Jaso, with the Athletics showing interest in lefty starter Sean Nolin. (The Jays already have Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole to back up Russell Martin at catcher, although Navarro hopes to be traded.) The Athletics also have keen interest in finding a shortstop, given the likely departure of Jed Lowrie to free agency.

Seen in this context, the Athletics’ acquisition of Davis, who cost them only the rights to $270K in international spending, might mostly be an insurance policy in case they trade someone else. If the Athletics don’t deal another player, Slusser writes, they could non-tender Davis. Reddick (who boasts an above-average bat and a good corner outfield glove) and Moss (who’s a liability defensively but who has had three straight seasons of over 20 home runs) would appear to have significant trade value.


Non-Tender Candidate: Kris Medlen

This year, teams have until 11:59 ET on December 2 to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. About 40 players are non-tender candidates, per MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes. Included on the list is injured Braves starting pitcher Kris Medlen.

Medlen, 29, earned $5.8MM through arbitration last season. He’s likely to earn a similar amount next season and no less than $4.64MM after missing the entire 2014 season due to his second Tommy John surgery. Based only on his statistics – a career 2.95 ERA, 7.62 K/9, and 2.15 BB/9 in 512 2/3 innings – he appears to be bargain. He’s been flexible about his role, with 61 starts and 89 relief appearances to his name. Return from major injury always comes with risk, especially for players who have undergone multiple Tommy John procedures. With only one more season of club control, the budget-conscious Braves may opt to cut ties with Medlen.

MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta Braves Jon Roegele and Jeff Zimmerman of the Hardball Times recently researched Tommy John surgeries in separate articles. Pitchers usually see an increase in their walk rate, decrease in strikeouts, and allow more runs in their first year back from the injury. Zimmerman cites the American Journal of Sports Medicine as saying, “83% of the pitchers they looked at made it back to the majors after surgery and 97% were at least able to pitch in a minor-league game after the surgery.” Roegele found that 28-to-29-year-old pitchers (sample size 73) took an average of 16.9 months to return from the surgery. Only 71% of pitchers in the cohort returned to big league action. Roegele does note some sample size issues, but it’s safe to say Medlen is bordering on the danger zone where age begins to correlate with poorer outcomes.

The average recovery time is skewed by players who suffer extended setbacks – like Diamondbacks pitcher Daniel Hudson. Even so, there is a plausible chance Medlen won’t be ready to compete until next July – 16 months from his surgery on March 18. An efficent recovery of 13 months still has him missing the early part of the season. A more financially endowed club may feel inclined to hope for the best outcome, but the Braves may have to be more pragmatic with a possible $5.8MM investment.

Reportedly, Atlanta’s preferred option is to re-sign Medlen at a lower rate, possibly with performance bonuses. Last offseason, the club inked Gavin Floyd to a one-year, $4MM deal with $4.5MM in possible bonuses. Floyd was also coming off Tommy John surgery and was expected to miss the beginning of the season. He made his Braves debut in May, but landed back on the disabled list in June after fracturing a bone near his elbow.

The experience with Floyd may serve as both a benchmark for expected contract and a cautionary tale. Floyd has a career 4.40 ERA and 4.36 FIP, so his performance has been substantially worse than Medlen’s. However, Floyd was relatively durable prior to his injury, whereas Medlen has a history of problems. Another relevant anecdote is that of Andrew Miller. The Red Sox non-tendered and re-signed him prior to last season. Atlanta may wish to try the same tactic, although it will be a risky move if their goal is to retain him.

On the open market, I foresee a one-year, $5MM guarantee with performance bonuses. Mutual options are not uncommon with injured or injury prone players. With a mid-season return uncertain, a club option could prove attractive to teams hoping to get more than a couple months of production.

The injury complicates any potential trades. Obviously, the Braves cannot expect a substantial return – Medlen wouldn’t be a non-tender candidate if they could. Trades involving injured players are rare, so Braves fans shouldn’t expect a notable prospect in return if a deal is reached.

Medlen, who is represented by Wasserman Media Group, seemingly fits with any club in need of rotation depth and upside. Since that describes the Braves, they could be motivated to bite the bullet and tender a contract. While half of the teams in the league could serve as possible landing spots, a few suitable playoff contenders include the Angels and Dodgers. Both clubs could use rotation depth with the flexibility to work out of the bullpen.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


MLBTR Originals

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR this past week:

  • MLB Trade Rumors Podcast featured host Jeff Todd reviewing the week’s transactions and discussing with Steve Adams how the early free agent signings will affect the market going forward. A new edition of MLB Trade Rumors Podcast will drop every Thursday and can be accessed on iTunesSoundCloud, and Stitcher.
  • Tim was the first to report Pablo Sandoval had a second meeting with the Red Sox.
  • Tim expects the bidding for Sandoval to top out at a six years and $114MM. Sandoval is number five on MLBTR’s 2014-15 Top 50 Free Agents list.
  • Braves President John Hart told Mark Polishuk the trade of Jason Heyward was due in part to an impasse in negotiations over a contract extension. “He wanted a two-year deal and wasn’t interested in a long-term extension unless the dollars were maybe beyond where the club certainly wanted to go,” said Hart. “We had a strong feeling he was going to go on the market. That’s what he wanted to do. We wanted to protect ourselves and position ourselves better.
  • After the A’s signed Billy Butler to a three-year, $30MM pact, Royals GM Dayton Moore explained to Zach Links his rationale for not exercising the club’s $12.5MM option on Butler and then working out a trade. “That’s something talked about but the timing of it really didn’t allow us to do that, Moore said. “There was nobody really willing to do that at the time. We just finished playing [in the World Series] and three days later we had to make a decision. If we would have found a viable trade partner, it’s something we would have done, or looked at.  I don’t know if we would have done it because I’m not sure what the package would have been, but it’s something we certainly looked at.
  • Max Scherzer, MLBTR’s top ranked free agent, will receive $185MM over seven years, according to Tim.
  • Steve Adams pegs Jon Lester (#2) for a six-year, $153MM contract and was right on the money with his Billy Butler (#41) prediction of a three-year deal worth $30MM.
  • Charlie Wilmoth profiled Cubs left-hander Travis Wood as a non-tender candidate.
  • A Major League source told MLBTR the Rangers will likely sell Jim Adduci‘s rights to a Korean or Japanese club.
  • Tim was the first to learn Mitch Moreland left BBI Sports Group to join Bob Garber at RMG Baseball.
  • Tim broke the news of the Angels adding right-hander Danny Reynolds to their 40-man roster and the Diamondbacks signing infielder/outfielder Jamie Romak to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
  • MLBTR learned the Tigers inked left-hander Omar Duran to a minor league deal, which includes a Spring Training invite.
  • Zach was first with Bret Saberhagen‘s desire to return to MLB as a pitching or bullpen coach.
  • Steve hosted the MLBTR live chat this week.
  • Zach put together the best of the baseball blogosphere in Baseball Blogs Weigh In.

Full Story | Comments | Categories: MLBTR Originals

Quick Hits: Upton, Montero, Rays, Hunter, Pirates

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince names the ten players most likely to be traded this offseason and the Braves’ Justin Upton tops the list. Castrovince feels the Braves could obtain a similar, if not better, return than they received for Jason Heyward because Upton’s powerful bat has tremendous value.

Here are the latest notes from around baseball:

  • Miguel Montero placed tenth on Castrovince’s list and Buster Olney of ESPN.com (on Twitter) wonders if the hiring of Henry Blanco will create traction for the Cubs‘ interest in the Diamondbacks’ catcher, who was a Blanco pupil in 2014. The D’Backs have reportedly spoken with the Cubs, Dodgers, and White Sox about Montero.
  • With Jose Molina gone, the Rays are working to add a backup to Ryan Hanigan, either via trade or signing. They’d like a catcher with more experience than Curt Casali and, preferably, options, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
  • More from Topkin who reports, in addition to an expected trade of Matt Joyce and/or David DeJesus, the Rays may be looking to deal from depth in reserve infielders and relievers. He identifies Logan Forsythe and Sean Rodriguez as infield trade possibilities and Brandon Gomes as a bullpen arm who could be moved.
  • It may not be “sexy,” but the Red Sox‘s pursuit of Pablo Sandoval makes perfect sense, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. The Red Sox appear to be one of the finalists for Sandoval, alongside the Padres and incumbent Giants.
  • Torii Hunter told Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press he favors the Twins among the teams with which he is considering signing. “(Twins General Manager) Terry Ryan and I have talked several times, and there’s definitely a common interest there, for sure,” the veteran said. Ten teams reportedly have interest in Hunter.
  • The Pirates could re-allocate the resources set aside for Russell Martin to pursue rotation and bullpen help, a first baseman, and/or sign some of their young core to extensions, according to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.