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The White Sox have agreed to a deal with free agent righty Mat Latos, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. He’ll receive a $3MM guarantee on a one-year term, Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago adds via Twitter. There aren’t any incentives or options included in the deal, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets.
Latos has long appeared to be one of the better bounceback options on this year’s market, as he’s only just turned 28 and has established a rather lofty ceiling in the majors. The Bledsoe Agency client does come with some health concerns after dealing with elbow issues and tallying just 218 2/3 innings over the past two seasons, but he was largely healthy after an early DL stint in 2015.
Clubs are often willing to give more significant guarantees to such players — Justin Masterson, for instance, got $9.5MM from the Red Sox and Doug Fister just secured $7MM from the Astros. Low-base, high-incentive deals are another popular option; to take but one recent example, Bronson Arroyo received $6MM worth of upside in his deal with the Nationals (if he cracks the major league roster).
In the case of Latos, though, it seems there may have been some hesitation about adding a player who has developed a questionable reputation in prior clubhouses. It doesn’t help that he scuffled badly down the stretch with both the Dodgers and Angels, of course, but it remains notable that Latos fell so far shy of expectations — $12MM on a one-year deal, in the estimation of MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes — in a market that paid out so much for pitching. It was just last winter that the Marlins gave up a solid young pitching prospect for the rights to employ Latos at what turned out to be a $9.4MM salary.
By taking on some risk, but making only a limited commitment, the White Sox seem to have made a worthy gamble to bolster their rotation. The staff’s top three looks quite strong, but as August Fagerstrom of Fangraphs notes, John Danks and Erik Johnson are an underwhelming duo behind that group and there isn’t much depth to speak of. Fagerstrom was explaining why a move for Yovani Gallardo might make sense, but that would seem rather unlikely after today’s move.
Of course, the addition of Latos represents quite a different proposition than that of a player such as Gallardo, whose main claim to free agent earnings comes from durability and solid innings. But gambling on the still-youthful righty is arguably a better allocation of resources for a club that’s already committed to exceed its 2015 Opening Day payroll and still has other areas to improve.
Latos has every incentive to get himself back on track, and the upside is significant. Other than his struggles as a rookie and his troubles last year, the big righty has been a major contributor. In over 900 innings between 2010 and 2014, he logged a 3.27 ERA with 8.2 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9.
Looking more closely at his efforts last year, it’s easy to see cause to look past an unsightly 4.95 ERA. All major ERA estimators valued him as a sub-4.00 pitcher, and he not only recovered velocity from 2014, but improved over his early-season results as the year wore on. Latos posed a swinging strike rate (9.9%) that lines up with his earlier years’ work. Of course, the finish left much to be desired, but on the whole there’s plenty to roll the dice on.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Marines have signed veteran righty Joel Peralta to a minor league deal, per a club announcement. He”ll receive an invitation to major league camp.
This dispute seemed to be one of principal, as practicalities would have suggested a compromise with just $250K at issue. Castro had been projected by MLBTR to earn only $4.6MM in his final season of arb eligibility, and Houston seemingly felt it had already gone high enough in its negotiations. Indeed, the team reportedly took a “file and trial” stance with respect to his case.
Castro earned $4MM last year but turned in a disappointing overall campaign. Despite carrying a rare left-handed bat for a backstop, and receiving near-regular playing time in the prior two seasons, he only took 375 plate appearances. Already coming off of a down 2014, Castro did not post the hoped-for turnaround. All told, since his breakout 2013 campaign, he owns a .217/.284/.365 slash with 25 home runs.
There’s cause to think there could be more in the tank, of course. Castro has shown an average to above-average bat in prior campaigns, and did manage a useful .219/.299/.408 batting line against right-handed pitching last year. His strikeout rate remains a concern, but he’s succeeded with big K numbers before, and might be in line for some positive regression after posting a .280 BABIP.
Castro has also turned himself into a highly-regarded defender — see here for one recent evaluation from a statistical perspective, and read this on his framing. As a defensively-proficient, lefty-swinging receiver, he doesn’t need to do much with the bat to justify a prominent role, and the glove gives him a nice floor. Castro should still more than justify his salary, and his good power (.154 ISO in 2015) leaves some room for upside.
The Rays are a “long shot” to land Ian Desmond, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter, with the required draft pick compensation (from the qualifying offer he declined) posing a significant barrier. Tampa Bay is in “bargain shopping” mode, he adds. We’ve seen previous suggestions that Desmond could line up with the Rays, though he doesn’t make for the most obvious roster match and it’s always seemed that he’d need to take a deal far below pre-winter expectations for that to occur.
Here are some more rumblings from the open market:
- There are plenty of other teams hunting for value at this stage of the market, of course, with the Marlins eyeing pitching, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter). We’ve heard that before, of course, and the club seems to be a prime destination for players seeking opportunity as the market settles.
- One possibility that has often been tied to Miami is righty Tim Lincecum, who is preparing for a showcase some time this month. Sherman tweets that his agent, Rick Thurman, will check in on the veteran’s progress tomorrow as his camp decides upon a date to call in the scouts.
- Yovani Gallardo remains the best available free agent arm, and Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets that he’s still drawing interest from the Orioles and two other teams. Cotillo had suggested (via Twitter) that the bidding would come down to the O’s, Astros, and Rockies, but Houston is out of the hunt after signing Doug Fister and he now says that Colorado appears to be on the sidelines.
- August Fagerstrom of Fangraphs argues that the White Sox may be the better fit for Gallardo, given their lack of quality and depth at the back of the rotation. It helps, of course, that the team’s first overall selection is protected. It’s worth noting that Chicago also makes a good deal of sense for the other remaining qualified free agents — Desmond and Dexter Fowler — and could in theory lower the average draft pick compensation cost by signing more than one such player. On the other hand, Chicago’s current spending commitments are already right at last year’s Opening Day mark once you account for league-minimum salaries to round out the roster. Things look slightly better in 2017, though, with John Danks and Adam LaRoche coming off of the books, so creative contract structuring could create some daylight.
- Two new names to watch in the coming months are prominent Cuban brothers Yulieski Gurriel and Lourdes Gurriel, both of whom reportedly left the national team in the Dominican Republic with intentions of heading towards major league free agency. But it might be unrealistic to expect to see either appear in the 2016 campaign, Ben Badler of Baseball America explains. His colleague, John Manuel, breaks down both players, noting that the elder Yulieski is a better player than Hector Olivera and could “set off a significant bidding war.” And for more reading on the interesting pair, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains their unique place in Cuban baseball.
11:07am: Torres is deciding between major league and minor league offers, Links tweets, and is looking for the right opportunity in making his decision.
10:29am: Reliever Carlos Torres is “very close” to signing with a new club, MLBTR’s Zach Links reports on Twitter, with the righty set to choose between three organizations. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN recently tweeted that a deal was expected by week’s end.
Torres could theoretically match up with any number of clubs. The Orioles have reached out to his reps at Full Circle Sports Management, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. The Twins seem a theoretical match, but are not involved, per Wolfson. We’ve also heard prior chatter that the righty has drawn interest from Asian teams, though it’s not clear whether that’s currently under consideration.
Torres, 33, recently elected free agency after he was outrighted by the Mets. The Full Circle Sports Management client had initially agreed to a $1.05MM salary to avoid arbitration with New York, and the club will remain on the hook for one sixth of that value ($175K) regardless of what Torres ends up earning with a new organization.
Last season was a rough one for Torres in the results department, as he ended with a 4.68 ERA. But a .326 BABIP-against and 65.3% strand rate probably impacted the results. And there were other indicators to suggest that he could still be much the same pitcher he was when he logged a 3.24 earned run mark over the prior two campaigns.
Torres posted a career-best 48.3% groundball rate, continued to exhibit good control (2.8 BB/9), and improved his average fastball velocity to 92.5 mph. He did see a slight drop in strikeouts per nine and swinging strike rate, but remained solid in those departments (7.5 K/9, 9.6% SwStr%). All told advanced metrics saw his 57 2/3 frames in much the same light as they did his work in 2013-14.
In the aggregate, it isn’t hard to see why there is interest in Torres. He ought to have every chance to compete for a job in camp, and promises to bolster the depth of any pen. It’s worth noting, too, that he ran up big innings totals in his first two years in New York (183 1/3 total frames), indicating that he could fill a long-man role if needed.
TODAY: The deal is expected to come in at $28.65MM, per Ronald Blum of the Associated Press (via the Washington Post).
The sides had been set for arbitration, with Donaldson filing at $11.8MM and the team countering at $11.35MM. While the gulf between those numbers is obviously a pittance compared to the overall value involved, the Jays employ a “trial and file” strategy that made a hearing inevitable after numbers were swapped — barring a multi-year deal. The sides could have worked out a deal to buy out all of Donaldson’s remaining arb years — he was a Super Two last year and is under control through 2018 via arbitration — if not a yet longer pact to lock up some free agent seasons, but chose the more straightforward option.
Fresh off of an American League MVP award, Donaldson had enormous earning power at the arb table. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz broke down his case in January, noting that the projected $12MM salary would have represented a record $7.7MM raise. Obviously, both team and player agreed that was a bit more than was warranted, though even the Jays were willing to pay the same bump that the prior record holder received (Chris Davis, with a $7.05MM raise).
The new deal not only rewards Donaldson for his monster 2015 season with a nice salary in the coming season, but also promises him a second huge payday. It’s less than he might have earned with another strong season — and much less than a repeat MVP effort would have brought — but significantly reduces his risk in exchange for some potential cost savings and certainty to the club.
Donaldson, who came over from the A’s last winter, went to a hearing with his new club before he ever suited up. The club won, with Donaldson settling for $4.3MM — a fair sight shy of the $5.75MM that he sought. Of course, he’s now more than made up for it with this new deal.
There certainly weren’t any lingering effects from that adversarial proceeding on Donaldson, who exceeded already-high expectations last year. The MVP tab was well deserved, as the 30-year-old delivered a .297/.371/.568 slash and 41 home runs, helping to lead Toronto to an AL East pennant. With typically stellar defense mixed in, Donaldson tallied 8.8 rWAR and 8.7 fWAR.
Something of a late-bloomer, Donaldson represents a tough decision as a long-term extension candidate. There’s little chance he’d take a significant discount to give away free agent years, but he’s already under control through his age-32 season and has every right to demand a premium payday.
Toronto is, of course, already examining the possibility of buying up seasons of sluggers in their mid-30s, as pending free agents Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista are on the docket for extension talks this spring. Having Donaldson’s salary for 2017 already on the books certainly removes a variable, though balancing the long-term checkbook still seems a matter that will require some care.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- The Mets announced the signing of outfielder Roger Bernadina to a minor league deal that includes an invitation to major league camp. He’ll earn $750K if he makes it to the MLB roster, Jon Heyman tweets, and receives a June 15 opt-out. Bernadina, 31, has accumulated nearly 1,500 MLB plate appearances, with the bulk of that action coming between 2010-13 with the Nationals. He’s also spent time with the Phillies, Reds, and Dodgers. Last year was his first without any action in the majors since he broke in with the Nats in 2008. Bernadina put up a .276/.383/.466 slash with 15 home runs and 20 steals in 447 plate appearances for the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate in 2015.
- Infielder Danny Worth has caught on with the Astros, per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy. The 30-year-old owns a .230/.293/.295 slash in 292 big league plate appearances, all of which came with the Tigers between 2010-14. He played at Triple-A last year in the Diamondbacks organization, slashing a rather robust .314/.394/.469 in 399 trips to the plate.
- The Dodgers brought back right-hander Chin-hui Tsao on a minor league pact, according to Eddy. Now 34, the Taiwanese reliever (and former top prospect) has seen 95 1/3 MLB innings spread between 2003 and 2015. He spent most of last year with the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate, working to a 2.77 ERA in 39 frames with 9.7 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9.
- Backstop Steven Lerud recently inked with the Mariners, per a club announcement. The 31-year-old has minimal MLB experience, but has been in the upper minors since 2008. Most recently, in 2015, he posted a .238/.320/.301 slash over 231 plate appearances at Triple-A Syracuse in the Nationals organization.
TODAY: Pollock will receive annual salaries of $3.5MM and $6.75MM, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets.
YESTERDAY: The Diamondbacks have struck a two-year deal to avoid arbitration with outfielder A.J. Pollock, Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports on Twitter. He’ll receive $10.25MM in the contract, Buster Olney of ESPN adds (Twitter link).
Pollock filed at $3.9MM, with the team countering at $3.65MM — both of which fell below his $4.3MM projection — so there wasn’t much room for movement on his 2016 salary. But Arizona may have saved a bit of cash on next year’s bill in order to help ease a settlement on this season’s payday.
And for Pollock, he won’t have to worry about injury or a performance decline sapping his earning power for 2017. Certainly, the new deal builds in a substantial raise for the burgeoning star. He’ll be promised a $3.25MM bump for the added season covered in the pact.
As a 3+ service-time player, Pollock will still have one year of arb eligibility remaining after his new deal is up. A longer-term arrangement still seems plausible for the 28-year-old, who cemented himself as the D-Backs’ center fielder with an excellent 2015 campaign. If nothing else, the major raise baked into the deal suggests that the team doesn’t expect him to fall off in the coming year.
Pollock’s signing puts a cap on a banner evening for two-year, arb-only extensions for prominent players. Josh Donaldson reportedly struck his own such arrangement with the Blue Jays, while J.D. Martinez did the same with the Tigers. In some cases, that can suggest that the sides were unable to work out something larger and settled for agreeing to terms on salaries on years already controlled. Of course, Pollock is younger than Donaldson and further from free agency than Martinez, so he remains a fairly plausible candidate to sell some free agent seasons to his current club.
Pollock turned heads in an injury-shortened 2014 in which he emerged as a premium player both at the plate and in the field. But many were waiting to see if he could repeat in a full season of action, and he delivered.
All told, Pollock contributed a .315/.367/.498 slash with 20 home runs and 39 steals over his 673 plate appearances in 2015. And he rated as one of the game’s most productive center fielders, too, significantly adding to his value. By any measure, he was one of the game’s best all-around players, and his 7.4 rWAR and 6.6 fWAR attest.
The move continues a busy offseason for Arizona, which recently added reliever Tyler Clippard to a pitching staff that was already set to gain starters Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller. While this latest contract won’t impact the organization’s roster for the coming season, or any future campaigns, it does represent another significant commitment.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Much of free agency is in the books, but there are lots of players left as teams look to round out their rosters — and it seems that more international free agents are added to the mix everyday. In this week’s mailbag, we’ll take a look at some questions on the offseason transactions that still remain to be made:
Having seen your update on the MLBTR website regarding the Gurriel brothers out of Cuba, I wonder what teams fit the bill to pursue their talents over the calendar year. I’m a Phillies fan and wonder if Lourdes would be a good fit for them, despite having Maikel Franco at 3B and Crawford rising to the SS position. Would he fit in their left field plans? — Rob O.
Any club with a need in the infield and some money to spend makes sense when looking at Lourdes Gurriel, from my vantage point. The Phillies definitely fit that bill. As you pointed out, Franco and J.P. Crawford are believed to be the long-term answers at third base and shortstop, but it’d make sense for Philadelphia to at least have interest in adding Lourdes Gurriel as a second base option. Scott Kingery was one of their top picks in this most recent draft and may profile as a second base option down the line, but adding depth and talent at the position doesn’t hurt, and either could potentially be moved to left field in the future, if necessary. Alternatively, if Franco ultimately needs to play first base, that could open a spot at third base.
I do agree that Lourdes makes more sense than his older brother, Yulieski, for the Phillies. Yulieski will be 32 in June, so he’s on the older end of the spectrum for a rebuilding club like Philadelphia. Lourdes won’t be 23 until October, although I think that he’ll probably wait to sign until that point, as well, because turning 23 will make him exempt from international bonus pools.
Since their pick is protected and his market is seemingly coming down, why shouldn’t the Reds consider Yovani Gallardo? He could help the young pitchers and could possibly bring a good return at trade deadline. — Jeff L.
I can see the concept working out in the Reds’ favor, but I wouldn’t advocate them taking that gamble. Cincinnati would have to part with the No. 35 overall selection (the first pick in Comp Balance Round A) in order to sign Gallardo. There’s a scenario that’s not too difficult to envision where he signs for one year, pitches to a mid-3.00s ERA for three to four months and gets flipped for a prospect that carries more value than whomever the Reds would select at No. 35. Certainly, having traded both Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier, Cincinnati would be able to afford the deal.
However, there’s also a scenario where Gallardo’s recent decline continues. If his strikeout and walk rates keep going the wrong direction, or Gallardo gets hurt, the rebuilding Reds could end up sacrificing a valuable draft asset for an extra win or two in what could be a last-place season. That risk is probably too great in the mind of the front office. If anything, rolling the dice on someone like Chad Billingsley, Justin Masterson or any other formerly useful starter that has seen his career slowed by injuries makes more sense for Cincinnati.
Ultimately, it’s tough to see the Reds making any type of notable commitment. The Reds, after all, just lost out on re-signing Bronson Arroyo because their minor league offer didn’t beat the Nationals’ minor league offer: a $2MM base and $6MM worth of incentives. No matter how far Gallardo’s market has fallen, it hasn’t and won’t drop near that level, and even other once-established veterans seeking minor league deals could look for similar upside to the contract Arroyo landed in D.C.
Are the White Sox still making acquisitions this offseason? If so, who are they targeting? If not, how do you forecast Avisail Garcia and Adam LaRoche for 2016? Are Sox waiting for trade deadline to see if they are in contention to make a further move? — Matt B.
Since the New Year, they’ve been connected to Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, Dexter Fowler, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig, among others. There’s no real indication that the White Sox are done seeking a final upgrade after adding Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie in trades this offseason. Fowler is still the easiest fit, in my mind. He could make the Sox at least two wins better in 2016, and having traded Trayce Thompson, they could stand to add his athleticism to their outfield. Failing that, the Sox do seem like a good landing spot for Austin Jackson, even if he’s not the left-handed bat they’re reportedly seeking. Jackson would be a massive defensive upgrade over either Melky Cabrera or Garcia, and he wouldn’t require draft pick forfeiture. A one-year deal in Chicago would probably have some appeal to Jackson as well, considering the fact that U.S. Cellular Field is a hitter-friendly environment.
What is the best course of action for the Orioles pitching depth? — David D.
With the (presumably) limited financial resources the Orioles have remaining, I actually think their money is better spent on an outfield upgrade. Gallardo is probably the best free agent starter available on the market, but he’s not as much of an upgrade over the internal options in the fifth spot of the Baltimore rotation as Fowler or Jackson would be over Nolan Reimold, Ryan Flaherty and whatever other options the O’s are looking at in right field. Gallardo’s swinging strike rate was the seventh-lowest in the Majors among qualified starters last season, and he’s more of an innings-eating fourth starter than a difference-maker for a lacking rotation. I’d focus on adding the most value possible with the remaining dollars, then add depth options on minor league deals for pitchers with some upside. Mat Latos, Mike Minor, Tim Lincecum and Justin Masterson all come with upside, although each has obvious health concerns, and the Orioles carry a reputation for having a difficult physical to pass.
Are the A’s really done after just replacing Davis with Alonso and beefing up the bullpen? — Issac G.
You’re forgetting about the reacquisition of Jed Lowrie and the one-year signings of Henderson Alvarez and Rich Hill. Still, there’s enough rotation depth there — Sonny Gray, Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, Chris Bassitt, Jarrod Parker, Aaron Brooks, Felix Doubront, Hill and Alvarez (plus top prospect Sean Manaea) — that I can see them dealing from their rotation depth in order to add some further outfield depth in their outfield/DH mix.
What’s up with Pedro Alvarez? No AL team would like a 1B/DH? — Luke L.
Any ML team desperate enough for 25-35 HR to sign Alvarez to a 1 year contract and give him a third baseman’s glove? — Frank K.
Alvarez made 24 throwing errors in 873 innings innings at third base the last year he played there (2014). No team is going to give him regular at-bats there, and I doubt you’d find any that consider him much more than an emergency option at the hot corner. Alvarez is the perfect example of teams not valuing home runs and RBIs in the same way they did 10-15 years ago. There seem to be plenty of fans that disagree with the notion that Alvarez’s defensive shortcomings outweigh his power, but the market certainly doesn’t seem to agree. The Pirates didn’t find any takers for Alvarez and his $8.1MM projected salary, and agent Scott Boras has yet to generate huge interest in his client, it would seem.
Alvarez is hurt by the fact that many American League teams have set combinations at first base/DH. At this point, Alvarez might be the type of player who waits for an injury to pop up in Spring Training and sign a one-year deal with a club that loses a first baseman or designated hitter, because looking around the American League, most clubs are pretty set at those positions.