East Notes: Ibanez, Phillies, Mathis

The Yankees have spoken with veteran Royals outfielder Raul Ibanez about their hitting coach position, George A. King III of the New York Post writes. Since Ibanez was still technically a Royal during the team’s World Series run (although he was not on their active roster), the Yankees waited until late this week to contact him. The 42-year-old Ibanez has an excellent clubhouse reputation, although, obviously, he has never been a professional hitting coach. The Yankees have interviewed Chili Davis (who ended up in Boston) and Dave Magadan (who returned to the Rangers). Here are more notes from the East divisions.

  • The Phillies‘ pair of deals involving current Giants star Hunter Pence turned out horribly, Ryan Lawrence of the Daily News writes. Jarred Cosart is already contributing in the big leagues, and Jon Singleton and Domingo Santana, who joined Cosart in heading to Houston when the Phillies acquired Pence, are both promising. Meanwhile, little remains of the Phillies’ haul when they sent Pence to San Francisco — catcher Tommy Joseph has struggled to stay healthy, while pitcher Seth Rosin, who will be 26 next week, was demoted to Double-A at one point this summer.
  • The Marlins appear likely to exercise their option on catcher Jeff Mathis, writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. The 31-year-old Mathis has never hit well (he batted just .200/.263/.274 last season), but he’s competent defensively and he’s cheap, at just $1.5MM for 2015. If the Marlins do in fact pick up his option, he’ll spend another season as Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s backup.

Blue Jays To Exercise J.A. Happ’s Option

The Blue Jays will exercise their team option on lefty starter J.A. Happ, paying $6.7MM rather than a $200K buyout, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Prior to the 2013 season, the Jays signed Happ to a one-year, $5.4MM extension for 2014 that included the option they’re exercising now. He can become a free agent after the coming season.

Happ pitched 158 innings for the Jays in 2014, with a 4.22 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and a 2.9 BB/9 that marked a significant improvement over his 2013 mark of 4.4. Happ also increased his average fastball velocity from 91.1 MPH to a career-high 92.7, perhaps an indication that he can continue to be helpful. He looks likely to be in the Jays’ rotation again in 2015.


Central Notes: Maddon, Dirks, Giambi, Indians

The Cubs‘ decision to replace Rick Renteria with Joe Maddon seems “a little dirty,” but the baseball world will go on, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. The Rays believe the Cubs tampered with Maddon while they had him under contract, and others in the game aren’t happy that Maddon’s situation led to Renteria’s firing. Rosenthal notes that if MLB can prove the Cubs tampered, the Rays could demand a promising young player in compensation, maybe even a player as talented as Javier Baez or Addison Russell. Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers would have retained outfielder Andy Dirks in 2015 if they knew he would be healthy, Tom Gage of the Detroit News tweets. Dirks platooned with Matt Tuiasosopo in left field for the Tigers in 2013, but he missed the entire 2014 season with back and hamstring issues, and the Tigers lost him on waivers to the Blue Jays today.
  • Indians GM Chris Antonetti doesn’t believe Jason Giambi will be a good fit for the team’s roster next season, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer tweets. Giambi will be 44 in January, and he hit .133/.257/.267 in limited duty in 2014, so it’s no surprise that the Indians might move on. Terry Francona has called Giambi a “manager-in-waiting,” so Giambi’s next move could involve coaching.
  • The Indians have made a variety of front office moves, Hoynes tweets. Ross Atkins will be Cleveland’s new vice president in charge of player personnel, with Carter Hawkins becoming director of player development and Paul Gillispie the director of pro scouting.

Alex Rios Hires Scott Boras

Free agent outfielder Alex Rios has hired Scott Boras as his new agent, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets. Rios was previously represented by the Kinzer Management Group.

Rios is hiring Boras just as he enters the free agent market for the first time. The 33-year-old was a first-round pick by the Blue Jays in 1999, and the seven-year extension he signed with them in 2008 just came to an end as the Rangers officially declined his team option earlier today. Rios hit .280/.311/.398 with only four home runs in 521 plate appearances with Texas in 2014. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes projected Rios would get one year and $8.5MM this offseason.

Full Story | Comments | Categories: Alex Rios | Newsstand

Dodgers Decline Option On Chad Billingsley

The Dodgers have declined their option on starting pitcher Chad Billingsley, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Given the cost of the option ($14MM minus a $3MM buyout) and Billingsley’s struggles to stay healthy, the move comes as no surprise. Billingsley was once among baseball’s more promising young arms, but he’s pitched only 12 big league innings since September 2012 after a series of elbow injuries and setbacks. He had Tommy John surgery in April 2013, then another elbow surgery in June of this year.

For his career, Billingsley has a 3.65 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in parts of eight seasons in the Majors, but he’s now very far removed from his last productive stretch. The Dodgers took Billingsley in the first round in 2003, and he’s spent his entire career with Los Angeles, but now, at age 30, he’s a free agent.

West Notes: Sandoval, Lewis, Ethier, Angels

Coming off another World Series win with the Giants, free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval is seeking a nine-figure contract, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. Sandoval would, however, like to remain in San Francisco. “He loves the city. He loves the team. He loves the fans,” says agent Gustavo Vazquez. “And he wants to stay.” Sandoval himself echoes those sentiments earlier today, and the Giants want him to return as well. The Red Sox are also expected to be among the teams bidding for Sandoval. Here’s more from the West divisions.

  • Rangers GM Jon Daniels says starting pitcher Colby Lewis will test the free agent market, FOX Sports Southwest’s Anthony Andro tweets. The Rangers had previously indicated they were interested in re-signing Lewis, even though he posted a 5.18 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 170 1/3 innings in 2014 after missing the previous season due to elbow and hip injuries.
  • The Dodgers ought to consider keeping Andre Ethier, Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times writes. Joc Pederson‘s performance in a small sample down the stretch might indicate he’s not ready to start, Dilbeck argues, and Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp might not be able to stay healthy. So the Dodgers might as well keep Ethier, particularly if the alternative is eating tens of millions of dollars in salary and not getting much back in return.
  • The Angels are likely to have a quiet offseason, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes. They don’t have many free agents departing and not many clear needs, and since they want to stay under the luxury tax threshold, they don’t have much money to spend anyway. They do want bullpen and rotation depth, and a report earlier today indicated one way they might try to get it is by trading Howie Kendrick or David Freese.

AL East Links: Chavez, Yankees, Breslow, Jays

The Yankees have hired longtime big league third baseman Eric Chavez as a special assignment scout, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Chavez retired at midseason this year but has expressed a desire to remain within the game. He’s had a close relationship with Yankees GM Brian Cashman and assistant GM Billy Eppler since playing with the Yankees in 2011-12. Heyman adds that Chavez was eyed by some clubs as a potential hitting coach, though it’s uncertain whether or not he’s interested in coaching gigs at this time.

A few other items on the Yankees and the rest of the AL East …

  • In a piece for Baseball America, George King examines changes to the Yankees‘ player development structure and notes that the team is much happier with its current crop of minor league talent than it was two years ago. However, King also spoke to an NL scout who said the minor league system lacks depth beyond Luis Severino and Gary Sanchez, adding that he didn’t feel there was a true power-hitting bat that could play every day in the Majors. Baseball America’s Josh Norris released the Yankees’ list of Top 10 prospects today, which is headlined by Severino, outfielder Aaron Judge, shortstop Jorge Mateo, first baseman Greg Bird and Sanchez.
  • The Red Sox declined reliever Craig Breslow‘s $4MM option after a poor 2014 season, but they could aim to bring him back at a lower price, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. “He has a lot of good qualities and we have a great relationship with him, so we’ll see what happens,” says GM Ben Cherington.
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs, which are owned in part by Rogers Communications, signed defenseman Dion Phaneuf to a seven-year contract. As the Canadian Baseball Network’s Bob Elliott reports, agent Scott Boras wonders why the Blue Jays, which are owned in full by Rogers Communications, don’t sign players to seven-year deals. “If they can give one of their hockey players a seven-year deal, why can’t they give a seven-year deal to a baseball player?” asks Boras. Of course, the last Blue Jay to receive a seven-year contract was outfielder Vernon Wells, which might provide a partial answer to that question. The Jays haven’t been very active in recent years in signing key free agents to shorter deals, either, although they’ve made some splashy moves via trade.

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. Carig notes that Satin, Eveland and Carlyle are now free agents, and Rice will become on on Monday. 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.