Royals Re-Sign Jason Frasor

The Royals announced that they have re-signed right-hander Jason Frasor to a one-year deal with a mutual option for the 2016 season. Frasor, a client of agent Dave Meier, reportedly receives a $1.25MM base in 2015 with a $2MM option that contains a $550K buyout. That makes for a $1.8MM guarantee, and the deal also calls for as much as $500K of incentives in each season.

Jason Frasor

Frasor, 37, was acquired by the Royals in a mid-July swap that sent minor league righty Spencer Patton to the Rangers. The veteran Frasor was excellent for the Royals in both the regular season and the postseason, allowing a combined four earned runs in 23 innings of work. Frasor doesn’t have the 93 mph heat that he used to, but he did average 91.9 mph on his fastball in 2014. Overall, he posted a solid 2.66 ERA with 8.7 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 46.9 percent ground-ball rate in 47 1/3 regular season innings between the Rangers and Royals.

The Royals became notorious for their smothering defense and lights-out bullpen in the playoffs this year, but the relief corps was actually a very top-heavy unit. Behind Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera, only Aaron Crow topped 40 innings, and Crow was largely ineffective. Frasor will provide the club with some much-needed depth in the middle innings.

As I noted in Kansas City’s Offseason Outlook, bullpen help was (and likely still remains) an area of need for the Royals. In particular, the club will likely look at left-handed relief options, as they’ll be short on reliable southpaws next season. Tim Collins struggled with his command again in 2014 and is a non-tender candidate (though GM Dayton Moore did previously indicate to McCullough that he’s still considering tendering a contract to both Collins and Crow), and Scott Downs departed via free agency. That Frasor was able to be had on a modest deal is good news for the Royals, who already projected to field a payroll in the mid-$80MM range before this signing. It’s been reported that Kansas City’s payroll could top $100MM next season, so there’s some flexibility, but adding some reliable innings on a relatively low-cost deal addresses one need without significantly denting Moore’s available funds, allowing him to look for further upgrades in the rotation and possibly in right field.

Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star was the first to report the terms of the contract (Twitter links).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports images.


East Notes: Melky, Heaney, Eovaldi, Murphy, Victorino

Though there’s been mutual interest between Melky Cabrera and the Blue Jays for months, ESPN’s Buster Olney hears that, all things being equal, Cabrera’s preference would be to sign somewhere other than Toronto so that half of his games aren’t played on artificial turf (Twitter links). However, the turf won’t prevent Cabrera from remaining in Toronto if the club’s offer is clearly the best that he receives.

Some more links pertaining to baseball’s Eastern divisions…

  • The Marlins are willing to listen to offers on top prospect Andrew Heaney, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. While parting with the player that entered last season as a Top 30 prospect according to Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com (and 34th per ESPN’s Keith Law) would of course be difficult, the club very much wants a left-handed bat to pair with Giancarlo Stanton in the middle of the order. One key reason for their willingness to part with Heaney, Frisaro notes, is the emergence of fellow lefty Justin Nicolino. Miami acquired Nicolino — who has ranked as a Top 100 prospect himself — from Toronto in the Jose Reyes blockbuster. He posted a 2.85 ERA in 170 1/3 innings at Double-A this season, walking just 1.1 hitters per nine. However, he also saw his strikeout rate dip to a somewhat troubling rate of just 4.3 per nine.
  • Frisaro also notes that right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and southpaw Brad Hand are also available for the right offer. Eovaldi, in particular, is intriguing given the blistering 96 mph he’s averaged as a starter over the past two seasons. Though he struggled a bit with a 4.34 ERA in 2014, FIP (3.37), xFIP (3.76) and SIERA (3.91) all feel he was better than that ERA would suggest. The 24-year-old Hand, meanwhile, has a 4.42 ERA in 195 1/3 big league innings and started 16 games for last year’s club.
  • Daniel Murphy‘s name can frequently be found on the pages of MLBTR, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson said earlier this week on SNY TV in New York (via Metsblog’s Matthew Cerrone) that the second baseman  “should be an important part of our team next year,” further suggesting that it’s a long shot that Murphy will be moved.
  • Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino will swing a bat for the first time since undergoing back surgery on Monday and tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that he’s on pace to be 100 percent by Spring Training. While Boston has quite the outfield logjam, Victorino plainly explains to Bradford that he feels he should be the starting right fielder next season. “…[I]f I’m healthy if there’s a better outfielder in right field then show me and go out there and do it,” says Victorino. “I’m not saying that in a cocky or arrogant way. It’s just how confident I am to know I should be the starting right fielder.” The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” is set to earn $13MM in the final season of a three-year, $39MM pact. While injuries limited him to 30 games last year, the former Phillie was one of the best players on Boston’s 2013 World Series winner, hitting .294/.351/.451 with elite outfield defense leading to more than 5.5 WAR.

MLB Trade Rumors Podcast: Episode 8

MLB player agent Matt Sosnick of Sosnick Cobbe Sports joins host Jeff Todd for the first of a two-part discussion (1:26). This week’s portion includes the latest on Josh Johnson as well as discussion of other Sosnick Cobbe clients such as Josh Willingham, Jay Bruce, Jon Singleton, and Ricky Nolasco. Then, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes joins the show to go in-depth on the latest moves from the Red Sox (20:18).

Don’t forget to fill out our podcast survey for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card.

Click here to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and please leave a review! The podcast is also available via Stitcher at this link.

The MLB Trade Rumors Podcast runs weekly on Thursday afternoons. It is appearing a day early in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.



Quick Hits: Pirates, Bruce, Rule 5 Draft, Capuano

The Diamondbacks won the Yasmany Tomas sweepstakes, signing the Cuban outfielder to a six-year, $68.5MM contract and drawing praise from some around the baseball world, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports.  One AL scout called the contract “a great deal,” since another AL scout told Piecoro that “most people thought it would cost between $80MM-$100MM” to sign Tomas.  It’s possible that the Snakes were able to get a relative bargain, however, due to concerns that other teams had about Tomas’ defense and plate discipline, not to mention career numbers in Cuba’s Serie Nacional that fell well behind the totals posted by such stars as Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes or Yasiel Puig.

MLBTR wishes all our readers a Happy Thanksgiving, and here are some items from around baseball to go with your pumpkin pie for dessert…

  • Pirates president Frank Coonelly tells Dejan Kovacevic of DKOnPittsburghSports.com that the team’s payroll “certainly can and I suspect will” top the $90MM mark in 2015.  This works out to roughly $20MM in available funds by Kovacevic’s calculations, and “everything I’m hearing is that most, if not all, of that money will be committed to starting pitching,” with the Pirates hoping to re-sign both Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez.
  • The Reds are looking for multiple “inexpensive Major League-ready players” in exchange for Jay Bruce, a rival scout familiar with the team’s demands told Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.  Cincinnati is known to be listening to offers for Bruce, though it could just be a case of due diligence rather than a legitimate desire to deal the outfielder.
  • The Rule 5 Draft is coming up on December 11, and Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper lists some of the intriguing names that are likely or unlikely be picked in two weeks’ time.  BA’s Matt Eddy, meanwhile, examines some of the key statistics and factors that led several prospects to be added to team’s 40-man rosters in advance of the draft.
  • Chris Capuano said “there’s a lot of truth to” rumors he is interested in pitching in Japan next season, the veteran lefty told Casey Stern and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link).  “It piqued my interest back in 2006….we’re considering it,” Capuano said.  The 36-year-old posted a 4.35 ERA, 2.47 K/BB and 7.5 K/9 over 97 1/3 IP in 2014, making 12 starts for the Yankees and 28 relief appearances for the Red Sox.
  • The Mariners would be hard-pressed to deal starting pitching given their lack of rotation depth, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes, and thus a rumored Hisashi Iwakuma-for-Yoenis Cespedes deal doesn’t make much sense for the team.
  • If GM Brian Cashman truly believes David Robertsonchecks every box” for what’s expected from a Yankees closer, then the team should’ve re-signed Robertson by now, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News opines.  The Robertson/Dellin Betances combo was a major strength for the Yankees last season, though Betances might not be ready to take over the closer’s role.  Plus, as Feinsand argues, “who takes over the setup role if Betances moves to the ninth? Andrew Miller? Luke Gregerson? If you’re going to pay a free-agent reliever, why not spend on the one you’ve drafted and developed yourself?”

NL East Links: Detwiler, Hamels, Rice

Here’s the latest from the NL East…

  • Ross Detwiler‘s camp “has suggested” that the Nationals trade the left-hander if possible, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports.  After being used as a starter and swingman in previous seasons, Detwiler was used solely as a reliever in 2014 and he posted a 4.00 ERA and -0.2 fWAR over 63 IP.  He told Wagner that he had trouble getting used to an irregular bullpen schedule and isn’t sure what his future holds in Washington.  “I don’t feel they have confidence [in me] so I don’t feel like I’m going to be in any significant role whatsoever,” Detwiler said.  Nats GM Mike Rizzo said he expects Detwiler to fill the same role as a reliever and emergency starter, though Wagner wonders if the club could non-tender Detwiler to save some money.  The southpaw is arbitration-eligible and projected to earn $3.3MM by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz.
  • Given the overlap between the teams trying to acquire Cole Hamels from the Phillies and the teams trying to sign Jon Lester, Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com looks at how the Lester market could best benefit the Phillies.  Since the Red Sox and Cubs are heavily rumored to be going after both lefties, Seidman figures that Lester signing with either Boston or Chicago would hurt the Phillies’ trade demands, as one major suitor would be off the board.  Lester signing with the Giants or Yankees would keep both the Cubs and Sox in the Hamels, plus the Red Sox could be more eager to obtain an ace starter to keep up with New York.  Lester going to the Giants could also bring the Dodgers into the Hamels market to keep pace with San Francisco, Seidman writes.
  • There has been some discussion within the Mets front office about re-signing left-hander Scott Rice, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports.  Rice would be brought back on a minor league contract and invited to the big league Spring Training camp.  The Mets outrighted Rice off their 40-man roster last month and he elected free agency following a 2014 campaign that saw him post a 5.93 ERA, 8.6 K/9 and 7.9 BB/9 over 13 2/3 IP.
  • Jeff Todd covered some Phillies and Marlins items as part of an NL Notes post earlier today on MLBTR.

Arbitration Breakdown: Todd Frazier

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.

Todd Frazier enters his first year of arbitration this winter coming off a career year. In 660 PA, Frazier hit .273, stole 20 bases, smashed 29 home runs and collected 80 RBIs. The Reds’ third baseman has some solid pre-platform year numbers as well, having already accumulated 44 home runs and 155 RBIs before 2014, as well as 10 steals and a .249 average in 1186 PA. Several players have entered arbitration with similar numbers in recent years, but Frazier has somewhat of a leg up on many of them. As a result, my arbitration model projects him to get $4.6MM this winter. While I think that is more likely to be high than low, I do not think he is likely to miss this mark by much.

One promising comparable for Frazier could be Jason Heyward in 2013. He earned $3.65MM after 650 PA with 27 home runs and 21 stolen bases, along with 82 RBI and a .269 average. Basically, his platform season is a dead ringer for Frazier’s but Frazier’s pre-platform power numbers are better, as Heyward hit 32 homers (12 less than Frazier) and 114 RBIs (41 less than Frazier). Both had similar averages in their pre-platform years (Heyward hit .255), and Heyward stole 20 bases to Frazier’s ten. Frazier also had amassed 1186 pre-platform PA, to Heyward’s 1077.  Since Heyward is so similar to Frazier in his platform year, yet Frazier clearly has him beat in his pre-platform years, it seems likely that Frazier will beat Heyward’s $3.65MM mark.  The fact that salaries have grown over the last couple years also factors into Frazier’s higher projected salary.

CAA Sports, Frazier’s agency, could try to argue for Dan Uggla on the high side. Uggla earned $5.35MM in his first year of arbitration, although that was six years ago and thus less likely to be used as a comparable. Furthermore, Uggla was a second baseman, and Frazier is more apt to be compared to outfielders or other corner infielders. This being said, Uggla’s case is somewhat similar — he had 32 home runs and 92 RBI in 2008, so his power numbers bested Frazier’s 29 and 80 in his platform year, and he also had better numbers in his pre-platform years (58 HR and 178 RBI) than Frazier (44 HR and 155 RBI). Frazier had a slightly better platform-year average (.273 versus .260) though his .249 average over his pre-platform years was lower than Uggla’s .263 mark. Overall, Uggla’s $5.35MM number seems like the absolute ceiling of what Frazier can expect to earn.

A couple other players between Heyward’s $3.65MM and Uggla’s $5.35MM are possible comparables for Frazier as well. Pedro Alvarez agreed to a $4.25MM deal last year after having better power numbers, but a lower average and fewer steals than Frazier both in his platform and pre-platform years. Alvarez had 36 HR and 100 RBI in his platform year and 50 HR and 168 RBI in his pre-platform years.  Alvarez’s averages, however, in his platform (.233) and pre-platform years (.237) fall short of Frazier’s .273 and .249, and he only had two steals both in his platform and pre-platform years, falling well short of Frazier’s 20 and 10 steals in each respective period. Overall, depending on how power gets treated relative to average and steals, Alvarez could be seen as a superior or inferior case to Frazier.

Another possibility is comparing Frazier to Mark Trumbo, who earned $4.8MM last season. Trumbo had a .234 average, but 34 HR and 100 RBI with five stolen bases in his platform year, and he hit .259 with 61 home runs and 184 RBIs with 13 stolen bases in his pre-platform years. Trumbo has better numbers across the board in his pre-platform years, but his platform year again asks the question of whether power or batting average and stolen bases are more important. Given all the factors that could eliminate Uggla — 2B vs. 3B, 2008 vs. 2014, etc. — from being a comparable to Frazier, Trumbo’s $4.8MM will in all likelihood be seen as the true ceiling for what Frazier can earn in arbitration.

My best guess is that Alvarez is seen as the most appropriate comparable for Frazier. Alvarez has something of the edge in power numbers while Frazier has the edge in the batting average/stolen base numbers, though there isn’t really a huge gap in any of the categories. Frazier could potentially earn a slight increase representing inflation over Alvarez if they are seen as similar, however. While the model projection of $4.6 is probably too high, I think the Reds third baseman will get relatively close to that number.


At Least Four Teams Interested In Yoan Lopez

Cuban right-hander Yoan Lopez has drawn “strong interest” from several teams, including the Diamondbacks, Giants, Padres and Yankees, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports.  The 21-year-old Lopez held one showcase for scouts earlier this month and will showcase himself again next week in the Dominican Republic.

Lopez is a 6’4″, 190-pound pitcher who has three seasons under his belt for Isla de la Juventud of Cuba’s Serie Nacional.  Major League Baseball has declared Lopez a free agent, but the righty still has to receive clearance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury before he can sign with a team.

According to Sanchez, Lopez “throws a cut-fastball, a change, a curve and a slider, but is best known for a fastball that hovers in the 93-to-95 MPH range. His fastball has been clocked at 100 MPH three times since he began working out for teams.”

The Yankees are one of four clubs (the others being the Rays, Red Sox and Angels) who have already exceeded their spending pools for the 2014-15 international signing period, as Sanchez notes.  This could make these teams more apt to spend on Lopez since they’re already being penalized anyway, though if Lopez doesn’t receive his clearance by June 15, the quartet will be prohibited from spending more than $300K to sign Lopez or any pool-eligible player for each of the next two international signing periods.  If one of the other 26 teams particularly fancies Lopez, of course, they can always exceed their pool limit and accept a penalty themselves.

The D’Backs made a big splash in the international market yesterday by signing Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, while the Padres and Giants were finalists for Tomas’ services.  San Francisco and New York were recently listed by Baseball America’s Ben Badler as two of the top contenders for another star Cuban prospect, Yoan Moncada.  The Yankees, of course, were by far the most active team of the 2014-15 signing period, making deals with ten of Baseball America’s top 30 international prospects.


AL East Notes: Craig, Miller, Grilli, Jays

The Marlins are known to be looking for first base help and Allen Craig is the latest name to be added to their list of potential trade targets, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports (Twitter link).  Dealing Craig would help the Red Sox clear out some of their outfield surplus, while giving Miami a right-handed bat to platoon with Garrett Jones at first base.  The Marlins are dangling young pitchers in trades, though I’m not sure this would necessarily appeal to Boston — the Sox already have plenty of young arms and if they did move an outfielder, they’d likely prefer a proven starter who can immediately be slotted into their 2015 rotation.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Andrew Miller is in serious negotiations with between eight and 10 teams, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports.  The Orioles aren’t one of the suitors, as Miller’s four-year asking price is higher than they would like to give to a setup man.  Miller has already received multiple three-year offers and reportedly received interest from 22 of the league’s 30 teams.
  • The Yankees have discussed signing Jason Grilli, WFAN’s Sweeny Murti reports.  Grilli could be pursued by the team if David Robertson leaves in free agency.
  • The Blue Jays are in need of relief pitching but would GM Alex Anthopoulos break from his usual modest bullpen spending and pursue a big-ticket reliever like Miller or Robertson?  Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith looks at the pros and cons of signing relievers to big contracts.
  • In a reader mailbag piece, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm figures the Blue Jays have at least $20MM “and possibly even upward of $30MM” in remaining payroll space, provided that Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston were correct in saying that the club’s payroll would grow past its $137MM mark from 2014.  Some of the space could be created if J.A. Happ or Dioner Navarro are traded.
  • Also from Chisholm’s mailbag, he cites some reasons some players are reluctant to come to Toronto, such as the Rogers Centre’s artificial surface or a lack of desire to move to Canada.  Cole Hamels, Howie Kendrick, Justin Upton and Jay Bruce are just a few of the notable players who reportedly have the Jays on their no-trade lists, though Chisholm notes that several players with trade protection include AL East teams for financial leverage purposes.
  • Sean Rodriguez was “definitely surprised” to be designated for assignment by the Rays, the utilityman tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.  “This (stinks) right now, but I feel like it may be an opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “What I bring to the table (in terms of versatility) is something a lot of teams like and want to have more of.”

AL Central Links: Masterson, Ryan, LaRoche

Here’s the latest from around the AL Central…

  • The White Sox and Tigers have expressed interest in Justin Masterson, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, meaning that all five AL Central clubs have at least checked in on the free agent righty.  Outside of this division, Masterson’s long list of suitors also includes the Braves, Cubs, Red Sox, Giants and Marlins.
  • The Indians touched base with Masterson early in the offseason but “haven’t shown a lot of interest” since, Hoynes writes.
  • In an interview with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter links here), Twins GM Terry Ryan said his team “could use a right handed bat in the outfield. We’re rather young here especially in the outfield.”  Of course, the Twins have been connected to a right-handed hitting veteran in Torii Hunter, who recently said that he’d had numerous conversations with Ryan.  Minnesota is one of at least 10 teams who have shown interest in Hunter’s services this offseason.  Earlier today on MLBTR, Jeff Todd outlined Hunter’s free agent profile.
  • On the Twins‘ search for pitching, Ryan said that he’s looking for both left- and right-handed starters, noting that his club doesn’t have many proven innings-eaters in the rotation.  Relatively few free agent pitchers have come off the board this winter, though Ryan said “it may be a slow moving market and then one of those big time pitchers goes and all heck breaks loose.”
  • Adam LaRoche wasn’t keen to fully transition to a full-time DH role, yet he told reporters (including CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes) during his introductory White Sox press conference that he’s happy to cede most of the first base duties to Jose Abreu.  “They’ve got a kid [Abreu] that’s obviously going to be around and be really good for a long time,” LaRoche said.  “It’s not fair to make him a full-time DH this early in his career, especially when he can handle first base and handle the glove over there….I’ll do it however it plays out.  If they need me to play first more than we’re talking about, great, I’ll be there. If I end up DHing more, that’s fine.”  Sox manager Robin Ventura said that he plans to give LaRoche two starts per week at first base, a time-share that will hopefully keep both LaRoche and Abreu fresh for the entire season.

Scherzer, Lester, Shields And Career Pitch Counts

Agent Scott Boras has the prize of free agency in Max Scherzer, and Boras has taken to touting his client’s “pitching odometer.”  Boras explained to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, “[Scherzer] really has the [arm] of a 25 or 26 year old. This is like signing a 25 or 26-year-old pitcher.”

Perhaps reflecting what is found in Scherzer’s binder, Heyman cited the following stats:

“Did you know Scherzer, 30, has thrown 20,954 pitches, to 26,321 for Jon Lester and 29,461 for James Shields, the other top two free-agent pitchers in a top-heavy market containing three aces?”

Scherzer has thrown 8,507 fewer pitches than Shields and 5,367 fewer than Jon Lester. This difference may seem relevant, but in the end it will not matter. Instead, the focus should be on the trio’s birth date.

Context For Number Of Pitches Thrown

When looking at the total number of pitches, the zeros get in the way. For each game started, an ace will throw about 100 pitches. Most aces will start 30+ times a season, so each healthy ace-level pitcher can expect to throw at least 3,000 pitches in a season. The number could grow even higher with longer starts, more regular season starts and postseason games. Just using 3,000 pitches for a season and looking at each pitcher’s age, Boras’ difference can be explained by prorating the pitches thrown back to their age-29 season (Scherzer’s age at the end of last season).

Pitches prorated back to age-29 season
Scherzer: 20,954
Lester: 23,321
Shields: 17,461

The number of pitches thrown really just comes down to age. Scherzer’s arm had less mileage on it than Lester’s arm at the same age, but more than Shields. The difference of 8,500 pitches may seem like a ton, but for pitchers four years apart in age, the number is completely reasonable.

Pitches Thrown And Likelihood Of Next-Season DL Stint

Now, is there a magic number of pitches when a pitcher’s arm just quits being healthy? Is 25,000 pitches the point? 30,000? My study finds that no magic number exists. Actually, the opposite is true.

I looked at the career pitches thrown by pitchers from 2001 to 2012, then put the pitchers into 3,000-pitch groups and to find their chances of a DL stint next season. Here are the DL percentages for pitchers as they put more mileage on their arms.  (Note: 39% of all established pitchers will go on the DL at some point the next season.  (n) refers to the number of pitcher-seasons in the sample.)

# of pitches (n): DL rate, average # of DL days per pitcher
6000-8999 (674): 36%, 24
9000-11999 (470): 39%, 26
12000-14999 (324): 40%, 29
15000-17999 (225): 45%, 33
18000-20999 (179): 37%, 29
21000-23999 (111): 42%, 26
24000-26999 (99): 39%, 24
27000-29999 (88): 39%, 27
30000-32999 (71): 45%, 38
33000-35999 (47): 34%, 27
36000-38999 (28): 50%, 21
39000-41999 (26): 38%, 27
> 42000(79): 37%, 23

There are some increases and decreases, but generally the DL rate hovers around the expected 39%.

Here are the numbers grouped into 9,000-pitch blocks.

# of pitches (n): DL rate, average # of DL days per pitcher
6000-14999 (1468): 38%, 26
15000-23999 (515): 42%, 30
24000-32999 (258): 41%, 29
33000-41999 (101): 40%, 25
>42000 (79): 37%, 23

It may not seem intuitive that pitchers will have a smaller DL chance as they throw more, but they do. At 24,000 pitches, a pitcher has been productive and healthy enough to be in the league around eight seasons.  Besides just the number of DL stints, the time spent on the disabled list is just as important. The pitchers could go on the DL and stay there because of a major injury. If high-pitch pitchers were staying on the DL longer, the average number of days would be seen going up.  Instead, they decline.

Pitches Thrown And Expected Future Innings Pitched

The three pitchers in question — Scherzer, Lester, and Shields — are each looking for a multi-year deal. How many innings can teams expect out of these pitchers in the future? Looking at the pitches a pitcher has thrown in his MLB career from 2001 to 2009, here are the innings thrown in the next five seasons.

Pitches (n): IP
6000-8999: (468): 302
9000-11999: (364): 324
12000-14999: (249): 354
15000-17999: (176): 398
18000-20999: (129): 426
21000-23999 (86): 427
24000-26999 (81): 446
27000-29999 (68): 372
30000-32999 (45): 430
33000-35999 (32): 381
36000-38999 (17): 557
39000-41999 (18): 508
> 42000 (68): 476

And now the same data grouped into a few large groups.

Pitches (n): IP
6000-14999 (1081): 322
14000-23999 (391): 414
24000-32999 (194): 416
33000-41999 (67): 460
> 42000 (68): 750

Just because a pitcher has a ton of mileage on his arm doesn’t mean he is about to break down. He could continue to throw for years to come. The more pitches a pitcher has thrown, the better the chances he continues to throw. The three pitchers in question have passed the threshold of being healthy and good.

2015 DL Chances For Scherzer, Lester, Shields

Every pitcher (including these three) will eventually break down, we just don’t know when. An injury risk can be assigned to every pitcher. I have used a DL chance formula to determine the chance a pitcher will end up on the DL with accurate results. Using the formula, here their DL chances for 2015.

Name: Scherzer, Lester, Shields
Age: 29, 30, 33
GS (’12 to ’14): 98, 98, 101
DL Stints (’12 to ’14): 0, 0, 0
DL Chance: 34%, 35%, 38%

These three pitchers each have health (no recent DL stints) and a history of being able to make about 33 starts per season on their side. The only difference among them is age, which makes Scherzer the least likely to end up on the DL.

Boras continues to mention Scherzer’s pitching odometer as an advantage over Lester and Shields. However, the number of pitches thrown is not indicative of future injury. A high number shows the pitcher can hold up to the grind of being able to successfully throw for full seasons. The main issue between the three pitchers is age. Scherzer is four years younger than Shields. Scherzer’s body may still be able to hold up a bit better than the other pair, but they are still some of the healthiest pitchers in the league. The debate about the trio’s durability should begin and end with age.


Free Agent Profile: Torii Hunter

At 39 years of age, Torii Hunter is no longer the player he once was. But his reliable bat and clubhouse presence are sure to lead to plenty of interest.

Pros/Strengths

As he has throughout his career, Hunter hit in 2014. His 111 OPS+ (.286/.319/.446) marked the ninth consecutive season in which he has been at least 10% above league average in overall batting production (per that metric). Since becoming a regular in 2001, Hunter has only once (barely) dropped below the mean.

MLB: ALDS-Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles-Workouts

Neither is there any particular reason to think that a cliff is nearing. Hunter’s walk rate has been down sharply in the last two seasons — around 4% after posting numbers that were as much as twice that rate in the not-so-distant past — but he has also driven down his strikeout rate to a career-low 15.2%. And the contact is still good: Hunter posted a personal second-best 21.3% line drive rate last year and put the ball on the ground right at his career average. Bat speed and reflexes do not appear to be a problem; pitchers threw Hunter fastballs 57.6% of the time last year, the lowest percentage of his career.

That remarkable consistency is equaled by Hunter’s durability. Since the start of the 2007 campaign, Hunter has seen just one DL stint (for five weeks owing to a groin strain back in 2009). He has had his share of rest in recent years, averaging 142 games played over the last three seasons, but has made at least 584 trips to the plate in each of those.

It might reasonably be expected that teams will look beyond the numbers in determining their interest level in Hunter. He has 18 MLB seasons under his belt, and is widely characterized as a desirable clubhouse leader.

Cons/Negatives

Defensively, Hunter had already regressed from a solid center fielder to a solid right fielder. But over the last two years, defensive metrics have soured considerably on his work in right. Defensive Runs Saved, which judged Hunter a +15 contributor in 2012, has moving to -10 and then -18 since. Ultimate Zone Rating noted a less pronounced fade in 2013, but concurred with DRS on Hunter’s overall value last year. The issue, per UZR’s assessment, is clear: while Hunter’s arm and error propensity are approximately average, his range has disappeared.

At the plate, one could quibble and note that Hunter’s output last year was at the bottom range of his career range. While it would be a stretch to say that portends a precipitous decline – after all, he was still produced within the bounds of his career norms and did so on a career-average BABIP – that fact does, perhaps, dampen the notion that he might return to his 2012 levels (.313/.365/.451, albeit on a .389 BABIP).

Likewise, Hunter’s counting stats are down from his peak. He is no longer a threat to steal twenty bags or to hit 25-30 home runs. On the other hand, the loss of speed is not surprising, and Hunter still grades out well on the bases. And as for power, Hunter’s decline has tracked a more general league trend, and he still put up a .160+ ISO over each of the last two years and has never hit less than 16 long balls in a full season.

Personal

Hunter was born and raised in Arkansas, going straight from Pine Bluff to the Minnesota Twins after he was chosen in the first round of the 1993 draft. He is one of only two players from the first round of that draft still active in the majors, the other being first overall pick Alex Rodriguez.

Hunter makes his offseason home in the Dallas-Forth Worth area with his wife, Katrina. As he told MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the Hunters are already empty-nesters. Several of his sons excel at sports as well, enrolling in colleges on football scholarships, and Hunter says that he enjoys traveling to watch them in action.

Market

While the Tigers are not interested in a reunion at this point, recent reports suggest that as many as ten teams have already shown interest in the Reynolds Sports Management client, including the Royals, Cubs, Giants, Rangers, Blue Jays, and Mariners.

Then, of course, there are the Twins, Hunter’s former club. The veteran says he has had several conversations with Minnesota GM Terry Ryan. He has also indicated that he wants a regular role on a legitimate contender, and it would be difficult to cast the Twins in that light. Either way, having already earned over $160MM during his outstanding career, he seems unlikely to view the highest bid as a trump to personal preference.

The corner outfield market contains several players in the same general market niche as Hunter, though each obviously has their benefits and drawbacks. With Michael Cuddyer going to the Mets, teams looking for veteran production down the lines can also look to Alex Rios and Michael Morse.

It bears noting that Hunter has almost exclusively played right field since he moved off of center. He has spent a mere 119 1/3 frames patrolling left, all before he became a fixture in the Twins’ lineup. With his range being the major question, and his arm still playing at the big league level, it seems likely that he will be targeted primarily by clubs having (or willing to make) an opening on that side. As the list of teams with apparent interest would indicate, Hunter’s most obvious fit is with an American League club that plans to utilize some manner of platoon situation for its designated hitter slot, as he could benefit from a reduced defensive load as he enters his age-39 season.

Expected Contract

Hunter should have several appealing situations to ponder. To some extent, of course, the breadth of interest relates to the fact that he figures to be available on a short-term deal at a palatable rate. For teams looking to lock in a decent level of production at the plate for the short term, while keeping future payroll flexibility, Hunter makes for a highly appealing option.

Multiple years are certainly within reach if Hunter is interested, though he may not be – and may see somewhat reduced interest and lower-AAV offers if he does pursue that route. Cuddyer’s two-year, $21MM deal sets the market at the corner, and carries an even higher implied valuation since it required the Mets to sacrifice the 15th overall pick in the upcoming draft. (Applying a 3x multiplier to the slot value of that pick last year results in a rough $7.5MM valuation of New York’s added cost. As discussed by Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs, however, other means of estimation might put the value in the $10MM to $15MM range.)

Ultimately, assuming Hunter picks amongst the clubs pushing the top of his market, I think he will land a deal in the range of two years and $22MM. If he ultimately falls shy of that mark, it could well be because he prefers a one-year deal or takes a discount for one reason or another.


NL Notes: Sandoval, Tomas, Phillies, Marlins

The Giants‘ pre-season efforts to extend Pablo Sandoval were more aggressive than had previously been known, according to a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Before the season, San Francisco offered Sandoval a deal that would have added four years and a vesting option on top of his 2014 arbitration salary, potentially reaching $91.5MM over that six-year span. (That figure includes the option; the report does not indicate the precise guaranteed figure.) While that falls shy of what Sandoval ultimately achieved, of course, it certainly sounds like a competitive offer for the context in which it was made.

More from the National League;

  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says he was “not disappointed” to see Yasmany Tomas land with another club, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. Amaro did say that the Phils had “dialogue” yesterday with Tomas’s representatives, which would seem to indicate that the team had at least some involvement right down to the wire.
  • Amaro went on to reject the concept that the team was focused on bolstering its lineup. “Who said we were looking for a power bat?” Amaro queried. “We have a long-term plan and the moves we make are based on that. We’re looking for pitching right now.”
  • We’ve heard various reports of late suggesting that the Marlins are interested in adding a left-handed bat. One name to keep an eye on, per a report from Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, is Brandon Moss of the Athletics.

Arbitration Breakdown: Greg Holland, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Steve Cishek

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.

Four relievers enter their second year of arbitration eligibility this winter, with a chance to collectively make a huge impact on that market. Each will influence each other’s salary as they did last year, and will influence many players that follow in the coming years. Greg Holland, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Steve Cishek each became full-time closers during their second full seasons in 2012, and have dominated hitters since.

Becoming a closer so early was a rare feat just a few years ago. Teams used to give three-year or four-year deals worth upwards of $10 million per year for an “established” closer. Players like Francisco Cordero, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, Brad Lidge, Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Jonathan Papelbon signed such deals that began between 2008 and 2012, and few of those worked out. As I wrote several years ago, teams were paying far more per WAR for relievers than any other position on the diamond by far. Obviously the measurement of WAR is tricky, but regardless of how it is measured, it was clear that allocating $10 million to a guy to throw 60 innings three years down the line was not working out for many teams.

Fortunately, something happened that gave a number of teams the opportunity to change their ways. An onslaught of talented young pitchers emerged onto the scene with incredible fastballs, and many were given the opportunity to be closers quickly. Craig Kimbrel is actually from the same service class as these four players but he signed a four-year deal last winter. However, that makes five teams who quickly established a young arm in the closing position and had some success with it. Of course, now that these guys have some experience, the price has gone up.

Holland had the best year of the foursome, with a 1.44 ERA and 46 saves. Jansen was no slouch with a 2.12 ERA and 44 saves, Chapman’s ERA was just 2.00 and he had 36 saves, while Cishek had 39 saves but a more pedestrian 3.17 ERA. As a result, the model predicted a $4.62MM raise for Holland, $3.5MM for Jansen, $3.1MM for Cishek, and $3.05MM for Chapman. The model weighs heavily on saves since the market for relievers has done so in recent years, so it has unsurprisingly ranked their raises by saves. Holland’s raise is actually subject to “The Kimbrel Rule,” which states that a player cannot beat the record for his role and service time by more than $1MM, so his projected raise is limited to $4.275MM (topping Francisco Rodriguez’s $3.275MM raise from 2007 by $1MM), which gives him a $8.95MM projected salary.

What makes these guys even more unique is the fact that so few teams have gone year-to-year in arbitration with their closers. Jason Motte, Jonathan Broxton, and Carlos Marmol have each gotten two-year or three-year deals in recent years. Obviously Kimbrel’s four-year deal meets those criteria as well.

In fact, the only closer with 30 saves in his platform season, 45 saves in his pre-platform seasons, and an ERA under 3.50 in the last five years who did get a one-year deal during his second year of arbitration was Jonathan Papelbon. He got a $3.1MM raise from the Red Sox in 2010 after putting together 38 saves and a 1.85 ERA. Before him, Francisco Rodriguez’s 2007 raise of $3.275MM is a possible clue (1.73 ERA and 47 saves), as could be Jose Valverde’s $2.7MM raise in 2008 (2.66 ERA, 47 saves), or Chad Cordero’s $2.05MM raise in 2008 (3.36 ERA, 37 saves). However, those last three cases are very old and are less likely to be considered in an arbitration case.

All four of the closers in question will basically have Jonathan Papelbon’s $3.1MM raise and whatever each other get as a reference. I think that there is a strong possibility that Chapman and Cishek do get right around their projected numbers, which are within $50K of Papelbon’s raise. I could see Chapman’s reputation pushing him a little higher, though. And I’m also inclined to agree with the model that Kenley Jansen and Greg Holland, with similar ERA’s and more saves than Papelbon, plus a few years of salary inflation behind their cases, are likely to top Papelbon’s raise. Jansen’s $3.5MM raise seems about right, and while I think the model’s estimate for Holland of a $4.62MM raise strikes me as unlikely, a Kimbrel rule-adjusted $4.275MM raise sounds reasonable.

If I had to guess, I think that these four guys will follow the model well. However, I think that they will either all collectively make the model look good, or the first guy will make it look bad, and the following three guys to sign will make it look worse as they affect each other’s cases. Without many historical comparables that look anything like this foursome, they will all become comparables for each other. Unless their teams follow the Braves and ink a multi-year deal, I would not be surprised if these four guys affect each other’s 2016 salaries as well.


Poll: Best Early Free Agent Addition

The first portion of the free agent market — the sprint from the November 10 qualifying offer decision date to Thanksgiving — is now in the books. Next up, of course, will be the ramp-up to the upcoming Winter Meetings.

Before we get to round 2, let’s field opinions on round 1. Which early-market addition of a new talent do you believe to be the wisest?

*signing required sacrifice of draft pick

Standard disclaimer: I acknowledge that this poll asks for a prediction and that we won’t really know the answer for some time.

Non-standard disclaimer: because I forgot to include Victor Martinez’s re-signing with Detroit, but do not want to wipe out early votes, this poll will be about players who have found new teams.


Full Story | Comments | Categories: MLBTR Polls

AL Notes: Moss, Mariners, Lester, Headley, Rays, Twins

Brandon Moss could not help but become aware that the Athletics have made some notable additions that have a bearing on his status with the club, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Moss, who avoided the need for micro-fracture surgery on his hip and expects to be ready to go on something close to a normal schedule this spring, says he realizes that the additions of Billy Butler and Ike Davis could set up some other changes. “You never know; the front office likes to mix up,” said Moss. “I’m trying not to let anything surprise me, because I don’t want to be blindsided. Obviously, I love playing in Oakland, but when this happened, I knew it could mean someone else gets moved.”

Here’s more from the American League:

  • In addition to the four players noted yesterday, the Mariners are interested in Evan Gattis of the Braves, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Seattle is determined to come away with one of Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Nelson Cruz, Yoenis Cespedes, and Gattis, per the report. The M’s made a competitive offer for Victor Martinez before he re-signed with the Tigers, Heyman adds.
  • Talks between the Red Sox and Jon Lester are not on any kind of timetable, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter links). Lester is still making the rounds and considering his alternatives, per Bradford.
  • The Yankees are willing to go to three years in a deal for third baseman Chase Headley, Heyman reports. But Headley, unsurprisingly, is out looking for longer, better offers. New York is unlikely to go further than three, Joel Sherman reported yesterday, and it seems that Headley is drawing sufficient interest to get a fourth year guaranteed.
  • The Rays have announced that bench coach Dave Martinez will pursue other opportunities with another organization. Martinez was not listed as a finalist to replace Joe Maddon in the big league dugout, making a separation seem all but inevitable.
  • After a wide search, the Twins have agreed bring on Neil Allen as the team’s pitching coach, along with Eddie Guardado as bullpen coach and Joe Vavra as the bench coach to new skipper Paul Molitor. Allen had been the Rays’ pitching coach at Triple-A Durham.