Angels Likely To Trade Kendrick Or Freese

The Angels are likely to trade either second baseman Howie Kendrick or third baseman David Freese, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Kendrick will make $9.5MM in the last season of a four-year deal after hitting .293/.347/.397 in 2014. Freese, who made $5.05MM last season after arriving from the Cardinals in a trade, will likely receive a raise in his last season of arbitration eligibility before free agency. He hit .261/.321/.383 in his first season in Anaheim.

The Angels would like to add starting pitching or left-handed relief help, and dealing a relatively expensive player in Kendrick or Freese would help with their luxury tax issues. Gordon Beckham, who the Angels acquired from the White Sox in a minor deal in August, could replace either player as a starter, or the Angels could use Grant Green at second. Beckham and Green would likely be downgrades, however, particularly if the Angels were to trade Kendrick.


Rockies Exercise LaTroy Hawkins’ Option

The Rockies have announced that they’ve exercised their option on closer LaTroy Hawkins, paying him $2.25MM rather than a $250K buyout. In addition, they’ve outrighted 1B/OF Matt McBride.

Hawkins, who will be 42 in December, posted a solid 3.31 ERA in 2014, striking out just 5.3 batters per nine innings but limiting walks, with just 2.2 BB/9. Hawkins continued to throw hard in his 20th big-league season, and his cheap option allows the Rockies to control him for another season without much risk. McBride, 29, hit .305/.345/.487 for Triple-A Colorado Springs this season, but collected only 34 plate appearances in the big leagues.


Mets Outright Satin, Rice, Eveland, Carlyle

Here are today’s minor moves from around baseball.

  • The Mets have outrighted infielder Josh Satin and relievers Scott Rice, Dana Eveland and Buddy Carlyle, Marc Carig of Newsday tweets. The moves leave 34 players on the Mets’ 40-man roster. Satin spent most of the season with Triple-A Las Vegas, hitting .289/.386/.449 in 440 plate appearances. Rice struck out 13 batters but walked 12 in an extreme specialist role in New York this season, pitching just 13 2/3 innings over 32 appearances. Eveland, also a lefty, had a strong year, posting a 2.63 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 27 1/3 innings, but he missed most of the last month of the season with elbow trouble. The righty Carlyle also had some success, posting a 1.45 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 in 31 innings.


Cubs Hire Joe Maddon As Manager

FRIDAY 3:49pm: The Cubs have officially announced Maddon’s hiring in a team release, as MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat notes (on Twitter).

2:19pm: The Cubs, who earlier today fired manager Rick Renteria, will host a press conference on Monday to announce the Maddon hiring, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

WEDNESDAY: The Cubs will hire Joe Maddon as their new manager, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Earlier today, Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Maddon and the Cubs had been negotiating. Rick Renteria, who had been serving as manager, has two years remaining on the three-year pact he signed with Chicago just last offseason.

Joe Maddon

Maddon’s agent, Alan Nero, has told reporters, including Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com (Twitter link) that the two sides are in negotiation, but he is still talking with other clubs. However, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that he, too, has been able to confirm through a source that an agreement is in place.

It’s very possible that both the Cubs and Nero are simply attempting to downplay the report because of its timing. Major League Baseball tends to frown upon major news announcements during the World Series, and Maddon joining the Cubs would be a major storyline to break just hours before Game 7 of the World Series between the Giants and Royals commences. Nonetheless, it does indeed appear that an agreement has been reached for Maddon to supplant Renteria as manager.

Maddon shocked the baseball world by opting out of his contract with the Rays last Thursday, just weeks after expressing a desire to remain with Tampa long-term. However, Maddon told reporters that he was unaware of a clause in his contract that provided him a two-week opt-out window should former GM Andrew Friedman ever leave the organization. (Friedman, of course, recently left the Rays to become the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations.)

Shortly after his decision to opt out, Maddon explained that he felt this was his last chance to gauge his true value around the game by testing the open market. Reports have indicated that he was seeking something in the vicinity of a five-year, $25MM contract. It’s also worth noting that other reports have indicated that the Rays may look into the possibility of tampering, should Maddon end up with the Cubs quickly after opting out. Sherman tweets that he suspects they will do just that in the coming weeks.

Maddon has developed a reputation as one of the most-respected, if not the most-respected manager in Major League Baseball. As manager of the Rays, he compiled a 754-705 record, leading the Rays to six consecutive winning seasons from 2008-13. Within that run, Maddon was at the helm for the first postseason appearance and first American League pennant in Rays franchise history. He’s drawn praise for his ability to connect with players and also his advanced thinking and willingness to embrace new techniques. Maddon’s Rays were early adopters of mass defensive shifting, and he’s done well in rotating versatile players that are capable of fielding multiple positions. He was twice named American League Manager of the Year, first in 2008 and again in 2011.

Many have noted that Maddon could be seen as a “next-level” manager for a club that is on the brink of contention, and the Cubs fit that bill. The team has deep pockets and one of the game’s brightest farm systems, with many prospects at or near the Major League level. Maddon will be tasked with not only leading a core of Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, Jake Arrieta and others back to the playoffs, but with crafting that group into a perennial contender.

He should have help from the front office as well, as president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer are said to be willing to spend heavily this offseason to supplement their young core. The Cubs have already been tied to elite starting pitchers, including Jon Lester and James Shields.

The move comes as a blow to Renteria, who is seen as a solid baseball man and by all accounts was well-respected and performed well in his first season as a Major League manager. Both Rizzo and Castro, who struggled in 2013, rebounded in 2014 under Renteria. It seems likely that Renteria will again find a managerial opportunity in the near future, but he may have to wait until next year, as only two openings currently exist: the Twins and the Rays. Minnesota is said to be nearing completion of its managerial search, while the Rays, obviously, have only just begun their own.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Yankees To Extend Qualifying Offer To David Robertson

The Yankees will extend a qualifying offer to closer David Robertson, Jack Curry of the YES Network tweets. They hope to keep him, Curry writes, citing a source.

The decision was probably not a difficult one for the Yankees. Robertson continued his strong work in his first season as the replacement for Mariano Rivera, posting a 3.08 ERA with an excellent 13.4 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 64 1/3 innings. Even given the qualifying offer, he’ll be the most desirable player on the closer market, particularly given his relative youth — he’ll be 30 in April. MLBTR’s Steve Adams predicted that Robertson would receive a four-year, $52MM deal this offseason.


Rangers Decline Rios’ Option; Outright Adcock, Lucas, Figaro

The Rangers announced that they have officially declined their $13.5MM club option on outfielder Alex Rios in favor of a $1MM buyout. Additionally, the team has outrighted infielder Ed Lucas and right-handers Nathan Adcock and Alfredo Figaro to Triple-A Round Rock. Adcock has elected minor league free agency.

The Rangers informed Rios earlier this month that they would not pick up his $13.5MM option. Instead, Rios will receive a $2MM buyout. The corner outfielder posted a .280/.311/.398 line in 521 plate appearances this season.

The Rangers claimed Lucas from the Marlins earlier this month after he hit .251/.283/.296 in 189 plate appearances while playing six infield and outfield positions in Miami. The 26-year-old Adcock spent much of the season with Triple-A Round Rock, posting a 2.95 ERA with 9.3 K/9 but with 4.6 BB/9. The Rangers claimed Figaro from the Brewers in October after the 30-year-old posted a 3.71 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 70 1/3 innings for Triple-A Nashville.

 


Brewers Exercise Mutual Option On Aramis Ramirez

The Brewers have exercised their half of a $14MM mutual option on third baseman Aramis Ramirez, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Ramirez and his agents at Kinzer Management will now have three days to decide whether to accept their half or decline in favor of free agency.

Should Ramirez exercise his half, he’d be locked into a one-year, $14MM deal to return to the Brewers. If he forfeits that salary, the Brewers could still make him a one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer. The team has obviously expressed a willingness to pay him $14M, so it stands to reason that the additional $1.3MM wouldn’t be too much of a detriment, especially considering the fact that it would secure them a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round of the 2015 draft should Ramirez decline the offer and sign elsewhere.

MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently penned a free agent profile on Ramirez noting that the he believes Ramirez can find a two-year, $30MM contract on the open market with a qualifying offer attached but may have to settle for a lesser annual value and take something along the lines of a two-year, $26MM deal if the Brewers make the QO.

One other option, as Tim covered in the profile, would be for the two sides to work out a compromise over the next 72 hours and draw up a new two-year deal at a slightly lesser rate than the QO or the current $14MM sum. Tim speculated that the same $26MM price tag might make sense for both sides, and I’m inclined to agree.

Ramirez, 36, batted .285/.330/.427 with 15 homers in 133 games (531 plate appearances) this season, though he did struggle in the season’s second half. Nevertheless, 2014 marked the 11th time in the past 12 seasons that Ramirez has posted an OPS+ of 100 or better. He averaged a 134 OPS+ from 2011-13, suggesting that he can still produce at a very high offensive level even as he ages.


Rays Exercise Ben Zobrist’s Option

The Rays announced that they have exercised their one-year, $7.5MM club option on Ben Zobrist.

The move was perhaps one of the easiest calls for any team with an option over a player, as the 33-year-old Zobrist again turned in an excellent campaign and proved to be a tremendously valuable asset for Tampa. In 654 plate appearances for the Rays, Zobrist slashed .272/.354/.395 at second base and in the outfield corners, and he even chipped in at shortstop and in center field as well.

The upcoming season will mark Tampa’s final year of control over Zobrist, who early in the 2010 season signed a four-year, $18MM contract extension that contained a pair of club options. Zobrist earned $7MM in 2014 — the first of the two option years — and will earn $7.5MM this year, bringing his total earnings on the deal to $30MM over six years. He’s averaged a staggering 5.4 fWAR and 5.8 rWAR per season over the life of that deal.

It will be interesting to see how the Rays approach Zobrist over the next calendar year. He drew considerable interest at the trade deadline and would figure to do so again this offseason were new president of baseball operations Matthew Silverman willing to make Zobrist available. However, doing so would put a significant dent in the team’s hopes of contending next season. They could at some point approach him about an extension as well, or look to shop him next July should they again fall out of contention. Of course, Tampa could also just retain Zobrist through season’s end next year and extend him a qualifying offer, thereby guaranteeing themselves at east a compensatory draft pick following what would likely be another season of excellent production.


Cubs Fire Rick Renteria

The Cubs have announced the firing of manager Rick Renteria. The move doesn’t come as a large surprise, given recent reports that the team has agreed to terms with Joe Maddon to become their new manager. Renteria had completed just one season of the three-year contract he signed to become the Cubs’ manager last offseason.

Within the press release announcing the move, Cubs president Theo Epstein made the following statement:

“Today we made the difficult decision to replace Rick Renteria as manager of the Chicago Cubs. On behalf of Tom Ricketts and Jed Hoyer, I thank Rick for his dedication and commitment, and for making the Cubs a better organization.

Rick’s sterling reputation should only be enhanced by his season as Cubs manager. We challenged Rick to create an environment in which our young players could develop and thrive at the big league level, and he succeeded. Working with the youngest team in the league and an imperfect roster, Rick had the club playing hard and improving throughout the season. His passion, character, optimism and work ethic showed up every single day.

Rick deserved to come back for another season as Cubs manager, and we said as much when we announced that he would be returning in 2015. We met with Rick two weeks ago for a long end-of-season evaluation and discussed plans for next season. We praised Rick to the media and to our season ticket holders. These actions were made in good faith.

Last Thursday, we learned that Joe Maddon – who may be as well suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us – had become a free agent. We confirmed the news with Major League Baseball, and it became public knowledge the next day. We saw it as a unique opportunity and faced a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization. In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe.

While there was no clear playbook for how to handle this type of situation, we knew we had to be transparent with Rick before engaging with Joe. Jed flew to San Diego last Friday and told Rick in person of our intention to talk to Joe about the managerial job. Subsequently, Jed and I provided updates to Rick via telephone and today informed him that we will indeed make a change.

We offered Rick a choice of other positions with the Cubs, but he is of course free to leave the organization and pursue opportunities elsewhere. … We have clung to two important ideals during our three years in Chicago. The first is to always be loyal to our mission of building the Cubs into a championship organization that can sustain success. The second is to be transparent with our fans. As painful as the last week was at times, we believe we stayed true to these two ideals in handling a sensitive situation. To our fans: we hope you understand, and we appreciate your continued support of the Cubs.”


Blue Jays Sign Jeff Francis To Minor League Deal

The Blue Jays announced that they have signed veteran left-hander Jeff Francis to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league Spring Training. Francis is a client of Frontline Athlete Management.

Francis, 34 in January, split the 2014 season between the Reds, Athletics and Yankees, totaling 20 innings of work. He allowed 13 runs in that time for a 5.85 ERA, though he did post a strong 15-to-3 K/BB ratio as well.

Originally the ninth overall pick in the 2002 draft by the Rockies, the Canadian-born Francis has totaled a 4.95 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 1269 career innings between the Rockies, Royals, Red, A’s and Yankees. He’ll give the Jays some rotation depth to stash at Triple-A and could also serve as a relief option, as he did with the Rockies last season and in 11 of his 12 appearances in 2014.


Brewers Claim Juan Centeno

The Brewers announced that they have claimed catcher Juan Centeno off waivers from the Mets (Twitter link).

Centeno, 24, received 43 plate appearances with the Mets from 2013-14 and batted .225/.279/.225. In 439 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, the Puerto Rican backstop has a much more palatable .298/.345/.355 batting line. Baseball America ranked Centeno as the Mets’ No. 28 prospect following the 2013 season and named him the best defensive catcher in the Pacific Coast League this past season.


Tigers Make Qualifying Offer To Scherzer, Martinez; Outright Kelly, Reed

The Tigers announced that they have extended one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer to impending free agents Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez. Additionally, the team announced that utility man Don Kelly and right-hander Evan Reed have been outrighted off the 40-man roster. The Tigers also announced that they have selected the contract of outfielder Wynton Bernard, adding him to the 40-man roster.

That Scherzer and Martinez — two of the top 10 free agents in the Majors — received qualifying offers comes as little surprise. Each should be in high demand this offseason, and by extending the QO, the Tigers assure themselves of receiving a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round for each player, should he sign elsewhere as a free agent.

The 34-year-old Kelly has been with the Tigers in a utility capacity since 2009 and has posted a .234/.297/.340 in 1157 plate appearances with Detroit in that time. Kelly has seen time at every position on the diamond, including catcher and pitcher, in his career, although his lone experience at shortstop came with the Pirates in 2007 — his only Major League stint that came in a uniform other than that of the Detroit Tigers.

Reed, 28, pitched to a 4.18 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 32 1/3 innings for the Tigers this season, and he posted similar numbers in 24 1/3 inning sample size a year prior. That Reed would clear waivers is a mild surprise, given his 96 mph average fastball velocity and fairly solid 3.78 FIP, 3.89 xFIP and 3.51 SIERA marks in addition to his 4.20 ERA. He can become a minor league free agent now by refusing his outright assignment.


Orioles Claim Patrick McCoy

The Orioles have claimed left-handed pitcher Pat McCoy off waivers from Detroit, according to  a press release from the Tigers.

McCoy, who turned 26 in August, made his big league debut for the Tigers this season, notching a 3.86 ERA in 14 innings. However, his ERA is a bit misleading, as the southpaw walked 13 batters against 11 strikeouts in that time and also allowed an alarming 21 hits.

Formerly a 10th-round pick of the Nationals, McCoy signed a minor league deal with Detroit last offseason and enjoyed a nice campaign in the minors before getting his first call to the bigs. Splitting the season between Double-A and Triple-A, McCoy pitched to a 3.00 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 45 innings of work.


Blue Jays Claim Andy Dirks

The Blue Jays have claimed outfielder Andy Dirks off waivers, the Tigers announced via press release.

Dirks, 28, was expected to serve as Detroit’s primary left fielder this season in a platoon with Rajai Davis, but a back injury required surgery and wound up costing him the entire year. Dirks has a solid career slash line of .276/.332/.413, and he grades out as an excellent defender in left field, having compiled 16 Defensive Runs Saved and an UZR/150 mark of +5.1 in 1569 innings in left field.

With Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus both hitting the open market, Dirks makes for a very nice add to the team’s outfield depth if he can return to health in 2015 and beyond. He’s projected to earn $1.63MM in his first time through arbitration this offseason, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, and he can be controlled through 2017 via the arb process.


Red Sox Decline Craig Breslow’s Option

The Red Sox announced that they’ve declined their $4MM club option on left-hander Craig Breslow. The 34-year-old Breslow will instead receive a $100K buyout and become a free agent.

Breslow struggled in 2014 but is just one season removed from a 2013 campaign in which he posted a 1.81 ERA in 59 2/3 innings. The 2014 campaign wasn’t as kind to Breslow, however, as he saw his ERA spike to 5.96 despite an increase in strikeouts. Breslow’s command also worsened (his 4.6 BB/9 was the worst full-season mark of his career) and he saw his fastball velocity dip from an average of just under 90 mph to 88.4 mph.

Prior to this season he’d been a fairly reliable relief arm, having pitched to a 2.82 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 373 2/3 innings from 2008-13. That stretch of success will likely generate some interest on a market for lefty relievers that is fronted by Andrew Miller but also includes Zach Duke, Joe Thatcher and Neal Cotts, among others.