Outrighted To Triple-A: Villalona, Roach, Watkins

Here are today’s minor moves and outright assignments from around the league…

  • The Giants announced that they have outrighted first baseman Angel Villalona off the 40-man roster to clear a 40-man spot for Sergio Romo, whose two-year deal was made official earlier today. Villalona, 24, once ranked as a Top 100 prospect but struggled at Double-A this season, hitting just .227/.290/.381 with 10 homers. Villalona is a lifetime .254/.311/.422 hitter in the minor leagues and has had his share of off-field issues in addition to recent on-field struggles. As Kevin Fagan wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009, Villalona was connected to a murder investigation in his native Dominican Republic, although he was never convicted.
  • Right-hander Donn Roach and infielder Logan Watkins have cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A by the Cubs, tweets Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. The pair was designated for assignment last week when the Cubs claimed Ryan Lavarnway and Shane Peterson off waivers. Roach, 24, pitched 30 1/3 innings of 4.75 ERA ball for the Padres in 2014, and the 25-year-old Watkins hit .246/.269/.338 in 68 plate appearances with the Cubs.

Pirates Win Bidding For Jung-ho Kang

12:16pm: The winning bid on Kang was said to be $5,002,015 over the weekend, according to a report from Yonhap. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review has confirmed with a source that the bid was indeed $5MM (Twitter link).

The Pirates, of course, will get the $5MM back if they are unable to work out a contract with Kang in their exclusive 30-day negotiation window.

11:39am: The Pirates have won the bidding for Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Kang’s former club, the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization, will reportedly accept the bid.

Kang, 28 in April, put together an exceptional season in Korea in 2014, .356/.459/.739 with 40 home runs in 117 games between the regular season and the playoffs. Kang’s Heroes reached the Korean Series (KBO’s Championship series) but fell to the Samsung Lions four games to two.

While his numbers are undeniably incredible, it should be noted that KBO is an extremely hitter-friendly environment, somewhat diminishing the impact of those eye-popping numbers. Major League scouts appear genuinely split on whether or not Kang can be an everyday player in the Majors. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Kang 15th among free agents this offseason, noting that he feels Kang should be given a chance to play shortstop everyday initially, as he could show enough power to handle the position and make up for less-than-stellar defensive tools at the position. However, he did note that some scouts see Kang as an “unathletic corner guy” whose power won’t translate to the Majors.

Recently, Ryan Sadowski of Global Sporting Integration appeared with Jeff Todd on the MLBTR Podcast and discussed Kang in detail. Sadowski, a former MLB and KBO pitcher, has seen Kang play extensively.

Kang is reportedly seeking $5-6MM annually on a multi-year deal, which isn’t an exorbitant price but also would be a costly miss for a payroll-conscious club like the Pirates in the event that Kang cannot be a productive player in the bigs.

The Pirates have plenty of infield depth as is, with Neil Walker entrenched at second base and Josh Harrison set to man third base in 2015 and beyond. Jordy Mercer played a solid shortstop in 2014, but he seems the most likely to be displaced if Kang is signed and the looks the part of an everyday shortstop. Then again, the Bucs may simply prefer to rotate Kang between three infield spots or shift Mercer to a utility role. There’s certainly room for all four infielders to remain on the roster.


Giants Re-Sign Sergio Romo

The Giants announced that they have officially re-signed righty Sergio Romo to a two-year contract that is reportedly worth $15MM and allows him to earn an extra $1MM in each season via incentives. Now entering his age-32 season, Romo lost his job as the San Francisco closer but rebounded to have a strong second half.

"<strongBringing back Romo represents be the offseason’s first significant addition for GM Brian Sabean, who fell short in efforts to re-sign Pablo Sandoval and draw Jon Lester. The team is said to be casting a wide net in efforts to bolster its roster for a World Series defense.

Getting Romo at a two-year guarantee may have cost the Giants a slight premium in AAV, with MLBTR’s Zach Links having predicted a three-year, $21MM deal for the slider specialist. In spite of his difficult start to the 2014 campaign, there is plenty to like about the veteran. As Zach noted, Romo owns a career 2.51 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9, and has appeared in at least 64 games a season since the 2010 campaign.

And then there is that second half of last year. Other players — Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley chief among them, perhaps — rode strong late-season runs to long contracts. For his part, Romo flipped a switch and posted a 1.80 ERA on the back of 10.4 K/9 against 1.4 BB/9 down the stretch. ERA estimators validated the improved results, as he compiled a 2.58 FIP and 2.89 xFIP.

Romo was also quite stingy during the Giants’ World Series run, allowing just one earned run in seven innings of work, with seven punchouts and no free passes. He owns a lifetime 2.11 ERA in 21 1/3 postseason frames, and has been a key component on each of San Francisco’s three recent championship clubs.

The free agent relief market is now without another top arm. Of the nine relievers to crack the top fifty list of MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes, four remain unsigned: Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, Casey Janssen, and Jason Grilli.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the agreement, on Twitter. ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted details on the incentives.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Nationals, Heath Bell Agree To Minor League Deal

The Nationals have reached a minor league contract with right-hander Heath Bell, the pitcher himself wrote in an exclusive guest column for The Players’ Tribune. The contract includes an invitation to big league Spring Training. Bell is a client of the Ballengee Group.

Bell, 37, was an All-Star closer with the Padres from 2009-11, pitching to a combined 2.36 ERA with 9.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and 132 saves in 202 1/3 innings of work. That excellent performance netted him a three-year, $27MM contract with the Marlins in their offseason spending spree prior to the opening of the new Marlins Park, but that deal proved to be an ill-fated move. Bell struggled to a 4.91 ERA over the past three seasons with three different teams — Miami, Arizona and Tampa Bay — changing hands often in salary dump trades.

Though Bell has struggled tremendously over the past three years, he does come with some upside and carries minimal risk on a minor league pact. The Nationals already possess a pair of strong closing options in Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard. Presumably, Bell will battle to make the club and serve in a setup capacity to Storen.


Twins Extend Phil Hughes

The Twins have locked up a key rotation cog going forward, as the team today announced that they have restructured and extended the contract of Phil Hughes. Originally owed $16MM through 2016, Hughes receives an additional three years and $42MM under his new deal.

Phil Hughes

Hughes, a client of CAA’s Nez Balelo, had been scheduled to earn $8MM in each of the next two seasons. He’ll now earn $9.2MM in 2015 and in 2016 before earning $13.2MM annually from 2017-19. In essence Hughes’ contract is now a five-year, $58MM contract. He’ll have limited no-trade protection, allowing him to block deals to three clubs each season. Additionally, Hughes will earn $200K each season for reaching 200 innings pitched.

The 28-year-old Hughes enjoyed an excellent season with Minnesota in 2014 — the first of a three-year, $24MM pact he signed as a free agent last offseason. Twins GM Terry Ryan and his staff took a gamble by offering Hughes three guaranteed years based largely on his age and upside rather than his results, and it paid off nicely. Hughes set a single-season record for the best strikeout-to-walk ratio ever (11.63) and posted a 3.52 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 0.7 BB/9 and a 36.5 percent ground-ball rate in a career-high 209 2/3 innings. That innings total fell one out shy of earning him an additional $500K in performance incentives, and though the club offered him a chance to pitch out of the bullpen on the final weekend of the year to reach the milestone, Hughes declined the opportunity.

ERA estimators such as FIP (2.65), xFIP (3.18) and SIERA (3.17) all feel that Hughes was significantly better than his ERA actually indicated, and Fangraphs pegged his 6.1 wins above replacement in a tie for fourth-best among Major League pitchers (tying him with both David Price and Jon Lester).

Prior to signing with the Twins, Hughes’ problems at Yankee Stadium were pronounced. A fly-ball pitcher by nature, Hughes posted a career ERA of 4.77 at the new Yankee Stadium and a 5.92 mark at the old facility, due largely to problems keeping the ball in the yard. Moving to the more spacious Target Field helped his cause, although Hughes still showed a somewhat curious home/road split, yielding a 4.25 ERA in Minneapolis as opposed to a sparkling 2.78 mark on the road.

All told, Hughes is set to earn $66MM from his age-27 season through his age-32 season (that figure includes last year’s salary). His next crack at free agency is now slated to come at roughly the same juncture of his career at which James Shields currently finds himself, giving him at least one more chance at another substantial multi-year deal.

For the Twins, Hughes is now unquestionably viewed as a fixture in their rotation for the long haul in what has been a lengthy rebuild. He’ll be joined by the recently signed Ervin Santana through at least 2018 and a hopefully resurgent Ricky Nolasco through at least 2017, with young starter Kyle Gibson having earned a spot in the starting five as well. That grouping will be joined by one of Alex Meyer, Trevor May or Tommy Milone in 2015, any of whom could emerge as the team’s long-term fifth starter. Beyond that, pitching prospects Jose Berrios and Kohl Stewart are both on the horizon, though each is a ways from reaching the Majors (Stewart in particular).

Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News first reported the agreement and terms of the contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Arbitration Breakdown: David Price

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.

David Price enters his fourth and final year of arbitration with a phenomenal case. He already earned $14MM in 2014, but my model projects that he will earn $19.3MM in 2015. After a player’s first year of eligibility, in which their entire career is considered, subsequent arbitration cases generally look at the previous year and determine a raise based on that one year of performance. In that sense, if Price earned $5MM less, he would be likely to get a similar raise in magnitude, but his previous salary would lead to a 2015 salary that was $5MM lower due to a lower baseline. Price has put together several great seasons already, which is why he has reached $14MM in the first place, and now with a 15-12 record, a 3.26 ERA, and gigantic totals of 248 1/3 innings and 271 strikeouts, Price is poised to get another large raise.

David Price

That said, my model has always had an interesting relationship with Price’s abnormal performances. In his first year of eligibility, my model projected that he would earn $7.8MM but he only settled on $4.35MM. Since then, his case has been interesting enough to write about every year. In his second year of eligibility, I wrote about how I projected he would earn $9.5MM and he actually topped that and got $10.1125MM. Then the next year I explained how I projected he would earn $13.1MM, but he got $14MM. The last two misses were not as bad as the first, but clearly the southpaw has caused my model some trouble. With an eye-popping 248 1/3 inning season, and a model that rewards performance time to mirror the actual process, it is hard to know if his $19.3MM projection as high, low, or just right.

Perhaps the best comparable for Price is Cole Hamels’ 2012 arbitration case. He got $5.5MM, which is just below the $5.3MM raise that I have projected for Price. Hamels had 216 innings, so that is definitely short of Price’s 248 1/3, as were his 194 strikeouts relative to Price’s 271. Hamels also went 14-9, winning one fewer game than Price at 15-12. However, Hamels 2.79 ERA is decidedly better than Price’s 3.26, and could be enough to offset the innings, strikeouts, and extra win in favor of Price. However, they are not necessarily great comparables because of these differences. Unfortunately, few players are great comparables for Price.

Max Scherzer clearly had a better case last year when he went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 214 1/3 innings. Scherzer also won the Cy Young, further cementing his superb season and arbitration case. He got an $8.8MM raise though, and that is obviously the (very high) ceiling for Price here.

On the other side, a few pitchers emerge as clear floors for Price. Anibal Sanchez got a $4.3MM raise in 2012 with an 8-9 record, a 3.67 ERA, and 196 1/3 innings. None of those make him look as good as Price, so $4.3MM is clearly a floor. Justin Masteron’s $4.07MM raise after a 14-10, 3.45 ERA season with 193 innings last year, could also have served as a floor.

There are few other pitchers who fit in that wide range of $4.3MM to $8.8MM. Way back in 2007, Carlos Zambrano set the record for starters with at least five years of service time with a $5.9MM raise. That type of time lag would generally mean Zambrano is not likely to be used as a comparable in Price’s case, though it is worth noting that he went 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA in 214 innings. Zambrano’s definitely led to a higher salary than people were expecting, and he was a tough comparable to use because other salaries did not seem to fall on the same scale. Still, it could be that Price tries to argue that he should top Zambrano’s $5.9MM raise.

With such a wide range of potential salaries and so few pitchers with similar credentials, it is difficult to say if this will be one of my better or worse projections for Price’s salary. I could see more upside than downside, if only because Price’s innings total is so incredible, but I think that the best comparable is definitely likely to be Hamels, and his $5.5MM raise might be the best bet for Price.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Quick Hits: Umpires, Parity, Yankees, Pirates, Tigers

MLB and its umpires have reached a five-year labor agreement to follow their current deal, which was set to expire at the end of the year, Ben Walker of the Associated Press reports. The new pact continues more than a decade of labor peace within the game and will be the last labor agreement under outgoing commissioner Bud Selig. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB and its players expires in December 2016. Here are more notes from throughout the big leagues.


Free Agent Spending By Division

With the Winter Meetings behind us, it’s likely most of this offseason has already happened, and it’s been a barn burner, with a number of surprising signings and huge trades, and big bursts of activity from the Red Sox, White Sox, Dodgers and Padres in particular.

With that in mind, here’s one view of how the divisional picture has changed, with a look at where each of MLBTR’s Top 50 free agents have signed (or agreed to terms) by division. Although 33 of our top 50 free agents are off the market, this is just a snapshot at this point in time. In particular, the No. 1 and No. 3 free agents (Max Scherzer and James Shields) remain unsigned and will have a dramatic effect on divisional spending once they do come to terms.

AL East

4. Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox ($88MM)
5. Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox ($95MM)
8. Russell Martin, Blue Jays ($82MM)
16. Chase Headley, Yankees ($52MM)
17. Andrew Miller, Yankees ($36MM)
18. Justin Masterson, Red Sox ($9.5MM)

TOTAL = $362.5MM

The historically deep-pocketed AL East has so far lived up to its reputation, thanks largely to the Red Sox. Boston continued a team makeover that began at last season’s trade deadline by spending more on top-50 free agents this winter than three entire divisions, while also adding Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Anthony Varvaro and Ryan Hanigan in trades. The Blue Jays, too, have been very active, adding not only Martin, but also Josh Donaldson and Michael Saunders via the trade market. The Yankees haven’t had a splashy offseason by their standards, although they retained Headley and signed Miller to help compensate for the loss of David Robertson. The Orioles have been quiet so far but are ultimately likely to add an outfielder, while the cost-cutting Rays’ biggest signing has been Ernesto Frieri, who will make a base salary of just $800K.

AL Central

6. Victor Martinez, Tigers ($68MM)
7. Melky Cabrera, White Sox ($42MM)
11. Ervin Santana, Twins ($55MM)
13. David Robertson, White Sox ($46MM)
25. Adam LaRoche, White Sox ($25MM)
30. Alex Rios, Royals ($11MM)
31. Edinson Volquez, Royals ($20MM)
33. Torii Hunter, Twins ($10.5MM)

TOTAL = $277.5MM

The Tigers are in win-now mode, the Royals are trying to take advantage of their World Series run, and the White Sox hope to quickly build a foundation around Jose Abreu and Chris Sale, so it’s been a busy offseason in the AL Central. Chicago not only added Cabrera, Robertson and LaRoche, but also signed non-top-50 pitcher Zach Duke to a significant contract and traded for Jeff Samardzija. The Royals (who have also added Kendrys Morales and Kris Medlen, along with Rios and Volquez) and Twins have also been active, and the Tigers could still make a splash by re-signing Scherzer. Even the Indians, who have otherwise had a relatively quiet winter, added Brandon Moss. In any case, the top two spending divisions this offseason have been in the American League, which is nothing new.

NL Central

2. Jon Lester, Cubs ($155MM)
15. Francisco Liriano, Pirates ($39MM)
19. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers ($14MM mutual option)
22. Jason Hammel, Cubs ($20MM)
34. A.J. Burnett, Pirates ($8.5MM)

TOTAL = $236.5MM

The Cubs also traded for Miguel Montero, while the Cardinals added Jason Heyward. The Reds and Brewers haven’t spent much (although the Brewers’ trade for Adam Lind isn’t reflected here), and the Reds have dealt Mat Latos in preparation for the potential departures of a number of key pitchers following the 2015 season. But the Pirates (despite losing Martin) have spent heavily for a small-payroll team, with their deal to re-sign Liriano more than doubling their previous largest-ever free-agent contract. (It was Martin’s two-year, $17MM deal, in case you were wondering.) And, of course, the Cubs, after five straight seasons of 87 or more losses, finally appear set to contend with the addition of an ace to complement their young hitting.

NL West

10. Yasmany Tomas, Diamondbacks ($68.5MM)
14. Brandon McCarthy, Dodgers ($48MM)
26. Jake Peavy, Giants ($24MM)
35. Sergio Romo, Giants ($15MM)
46. Brandon Morrow, Padres ($2.5MM)
48. Brett Anderson, Dodgers ($10MM)

TOTAL = $168MM

The total above doesn’t reflect the level of activity in the NL West this offseason — the Padres and Dodgers have dominated this month’s headlines with trades (including one with one another), and the Giants could still add Shields. The Padres (who were also serious bidders for top free agents before heading to the trade market) have already acquired Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers, and a potential trade of Cole Hamels to San Diego could be their most earth-shaking move yet. They also appear likely to add No. 49 free agent Josh Johnson. On the other side of the scale, the Diamondbacks have traded away Montero, Miley and Didi Gregorius.

The number of big trades in the NL West this offseason surely reflects the fact that all its teams except the World Series-winning Giants have new front offices (although the Rockies have been quiet even with a new GM in place). Despite the hype surrounding the Padres and Dodgers, though, and the addition of Yasmany Tomas, the division that lost more games (421) than any other in 2014 might have lost talent overall, given the departures of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.

AL West

9. Nelson Cruz, Mariners ($58MM)
21. Jed Lowrie, Astros ($23MM)
32. Luke Gregerson, Astros ($18.5MM)
41. Billy Butler, Athletics ($30MM)
45. Pat Neshek, Astros ($12.5MM)

TOTAL = $142MM

The Athletics, who have dealt Donaldson, Samardzija, Moss and Derek Norris while losing Lester, Lowrie and Gregerson to free agency, are clearly retooling, and the Rangers haven’t done much after their disastrous 2014 season, perhaps hoping they’ll improve next season merely by having someone stay healthy. The Angels traded Howie Kendrick and are in luxury-tax purgatory, while the Mariners lost out on Melky Cabrera and have had a quiet offseason aside from the Cruz signing and a couple relatively small trades. That leaves the Astros, who have signed three top-50 free agents to bolster their middle infield and bullpen as they slowly rebuild after six straight losing seasons.

NL East

24. Nick Markakis, Braves ($44MM)
28. Mike Morse, Marlins ($16MM)
29. Michael Cuddyer, Mets ($21MM)

TOTAL = $81MM

Here’s baseball’s quietest division, at least on the free agent market. The Marlins, who have acquired Latos, Dee Gordon and perhaps Dan Haren in addition to Morse, appear to be the only team in the division adding talent at the big-league level. The Nationals have few obvious needs and won the NL East by 17 games in 2014 — for perspective, the difference between first and last place in the NL Central was also 17 games. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the Nats haven’t been overly active, aside from their widely praised haul in the three-way Myers trade. With a major headache on the horizon as Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond, Tyler Clippard and Denard Span all become eligible for free agency after the season, they won’t have the luxury of inactivity next winter. The Braves (who have traded Heyward and Upton while also losing Santana) and Phillies (who dealt Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers) appear headed for periods of hibernation, while the Mets agreed to terms with Cuddyer early in the offseason but otherwise haven’t yet done much to add to a 79-win 2014 team.


Minor Moves: Wil Ledezma

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.

  • The Twins have signed lefty reliever Wil Ledezma, according to the International League transactions page (via a tweet from Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press). Ledezma, 33, posted good winter numbers with Aragua in Venezuela after spending the 2014 season with Yucatan in Mexico. He pitched in the Dodgers system in 2012 and last appeared in the Majors in 2011, where he demonstrated excellent velocity for a lefty. Nonetheless, he has a career 5.40 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in parts of nine seasons with the Tigers, Braves, Padres, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Pirates and Blue Jays.

Padres Don’t Intend To Trade Myers

9:00pm: Sources within the Padres organization indicate that the team does have interest in Hamels, but plans to keep Myers and play him in center field, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. He’ll be joined by Justin Upton in left field and Matt Kemp in right.

4:40pm: The Padres have had discussions about trading for Cole Hamels, a San Diego native, with newly acquired Wil Myers part of the package, reports Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. The Padres only finalized the trade for Myers on Friday.

With the trade last week of Jimmy Rollins and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. admitting the franchise would be better off without Ryan Howard, the Phillies find themselves torn in regards to Hamels, who is due $96MM through 2018 with a 2019 club option worth $20MM ($6MM buyout). Philadelphia could continue its rebuild by maximizing value through trading Hamels (reportedly for two or three premium prospects, per Lawrence) or build the next contending team around the left-hander.

We can keep him and it would be great for us and if we feel he can move us forward by moving him, that’s something we can explore as well,” Amaro said. “We don’t have any rush to move him or mandate to move him. Hopefully, he’s one of those guys that will be in a Phillies uniform for a long time, but we have to explore all of our opportunities. We’re not doing our organization any justice if we don’t explore every opportunity to get better.

The Padres are not on Hamels’ no-trade list and would be a match for the Phillies based on San Diego’s surplus of outfielders and Philadelphia’s lack of such throughout its system. Lawrence also noted a possibly insignificant but curious development: the Padres have Matt Kemp and Justin Upton jerseys in stock and for sale at the Petco Park team store, but jerseys for Myers are not available.


West Notes: Tulo, Scutaro, Vogelsong, A’s, Astros

Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki tells The Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders he hears the trade rumors, but that isn’t his focus this winter. “I have been talking to the Rockies throughout the process,” Tulowitzki said. “We have respect for each other. But my concentration right now is just on getting healthy.” Tulowitzki, recovering from August hip surgery, has yet to start baseball activites but has begun light running and is continuing a program to increase flexibility in his hips. Here’s the latest from MLB’s West divisions:

  • It cannot be a good sign the Giants‘ training staff is preparing an update this week on Marco Scutaro, opines John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. Because of a back injury, Scutaro, who is due $6MM in the final year of his contract, appeared in only five games in 2014 with 13 trips to the plate.
  • In the same article, Shea reports there are no current talks between the Giants and free agent starter Ryan Vogelsong.
  • GM Billy Beane made the A’s better now and in the future with the returns he achieved in the Jeff Samardzija and Derek Norris trades, according to SB Nation’s Alex Hall.
  • Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle compares the Astros‘ methodical rebuilding plan with that of the Padres, who reshaped their franchise by making five trades with six teams in a span of two days.

MLBTR Originals

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR the last seven days:

  • MLB Trade Rumors Podcast featured host Jeff Todd discussing the Korean Baseball Organization and its premier players with former MLB and KBO pitcher Ryan Sadowski of Global Sporting Integration, a company helping baseball players transition to and from Asia. A new edition of MLB Trade Rumors Podcast will be released every Thursday and can be accessed on iTunesSoundCloud, and Stitcher.
  • Tim Dierkes attended the Cubs’ press conference announcing their signing of Jon Lester and reported on the importance President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein placed on the move. “It’s not every day the best free agent goes to a team that finished in last place. We knew early on that if we signed Jon Lester, it would be about belief. It was because he would believe in us, believe in our future, and believe that winning a World Series with the Cubs was a unique opportunity.
  • Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi told reporters, including Zach Links, why he was willing to sign injury-prone starters Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson to lucrative deals. “Going forward with any pitcher now, it’s part of the cost-benefit analysis. You could have a guy who pitched 200-plus innings in the last four years that has a really bad elbow and that could go at any moment. Conversely, you could have a guy who has an injury history that you feel may be over the hump.
  • MLBTR was the first to report the details of the incentives in Chase Headley‘s four-year, $52MM contract with the Yankees: $1MM per season for reaching 550 plate appearances, which could raise the total value of the pact to $56MM.
  • MLBTR has released its 2015 Arbitration Tracker displaying all arbitration eligible players, with fields for team, service time, player and team submissions, the midpoint, and the settlement amount. The 2015 Arbitration Tracker can also be filtered by team, signing status, service time, Super Two status, and whether a hearing occurred. The 2015 Arbitration Tracker is located in the Tools menu at the top of the site and the right sidebar under MLBTR Features.
  • Steve Adams was the first to learn the Cubs signed right-hander Anthony Carter to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.
  • Jeff asked MLBTR readers to name the team with the best “all-in” offseason to date (posted prior to the Padres finalizing trades for Matt Kemp and Justin Upton). Almost 46% of you believe the White Sox have been the most aggressive in posititioning themselves for near-term contention.
  • Brad Johnson asked MLBTR readers whether the Padres have done enough to make the playoffs in 2015. Nearly 43% of you believe GM A.J. Preller still hasn’t acquired enough offense to reach the postseason.
  • Steve hosted the MLBTR live chat this week.
  • Zach put together the best of the baseball blogosphere in Baseball Blogs Weigh In.

Full Story | Comments | Categories: MLBTR Originals

AL East Notes: Wieters, Rays, Yankees

The Silver Shield Foundation, a charity established by the late Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, will pay for the education of the two children of slain NYPD officer Rafael Ramos, reports Bill Madden and Teri Thompson of the New York Daily News. The foundation was started by Steinbrenner and former Olympian Jim Fuchs 32 years ago and, among other services (per the foundation’s website), pays for the education of the children of all members of the Fire Department of the City of New York; Police Department of the City of New York; Port Authority of New York/New Jersey Police Department; New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut State Police; police departments of Nassau and Suffolk Counties; and all police departments in Connecticut who died in the line of duty, as well as 700 children who lost a parent on September 11, 2001. Ramos was killed yesterday with his partner Wenjian Liu (who didn’t have any children) by a lone gunman in Brooklyn.

Here’s the latest news and notes from the American League East:

  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman has taken some huge gambles with his offseason moves (getting younger and stockpiling power arms) which belie the organization’s long held win-now, World Series or bust philosophy, opines Madden in a separate article.
  • Scott Boras tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Twitter) Orioles catcher Matt Wieters will be ready by Opening Day. Earlier today, Cafardo reported there is no urgency on either side in negotiating an extension.
  • The Rays‘ search for offense in the wake of the Wil Myers trade is limited to what remains of the outfield free agent market or obtaining a player whose team will eat almost all the salary on a bad contract, writes the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin. Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard, and B.J. Upton fit the latter category, according to Topkin.

Spring Training Deadline For Justin Upton Extension

Justin Upton will not negotiate a contact extension once Spring Training starts, his agent tells MLB Network Radio (audio link). Larry Reynolds says he will “never say no to anything” and “will take it as it comes” when asked by hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette whether Upton is open to an extension with the Padres or is intent on hitting free agency.

Reynolds also acknowledged the Braves never approached him about a long-term contract for Upton, who will earn $14.5MM in 2015, and wasn’t surprised by the trade, especially after Jason Heyward was dealt to the Cardinals. The Padres acquired Upton in a six-player swap with the Braves Friday and may be comfortable with the idea of him being a one-year rental knowing draft pick compensation is possible with a qualifying offer.


NL Notes: Dodgers, Padres, Stewart, Braves

The Dodgers did it: they ended the Yankees’ 15-year streak as Major League Baseball’s biggest spenders and owe more than $26.6MM in luxury tax, as Ronald Blum of The Associated Press writes.  The Dodgers finished with a record payroll of $257,283,410, more than $20MM above the previous high set by the Yankees last year.  More from the National League..

  • Despite making offensive upgrades, there are plenty more moves for the Padres to make, writes Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego. San Diego has some obvious weaknesses and Lin figures they’ll make at least two more moves. The Padres need left-handed hitting and a leadoff bat and a new face at first base would probably make sense.  The Padres could also look seek out another starter and search for something more stable than the shortstop duo of Alexi Amarista and Clint Barnes.
  • Dave Stewart’s journey to becoming the General Manager of the Diamondbacks has been years in the making, writes MLB.com’s Tom Singer.  “What I’ve always looked for is something to challenge me, something to keep the fire burning,” Stewart said.  Now the fourth ex-player currently in a GM seat, Stewart will look to turn the D’Backs around and get them into contention in the NL West.
  • In a Q&A session with Braves president of baseball operations John Hart, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked about new acquisition Dian Toscano, the team’s timeline for contending in relation to the new stadium, and the team’s priorities for the rest of the winter.