Orioles To Acquire Travis Snider

The Orioles and Pirates are believed to have a deal in place that will send outfielder Travis Snider to Baltimore, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Class-A pitcher Stephen Tarpley is one of the prospects heading to the Pirates in the deal, Passan adds. Earlier today, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reported that trade talks between the two sides had re-kindled, and Class-A left-hander Steven Brault was a possible name to keep an eye on in trade talks.


Latest On The Phillies’ Papelbon Trade Talks

While trade talks between the Brewers and Phillies regarding Jonathan Papelbon have slowed, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki hears from two sources that the Phillies are still talking  to both Milwaukee and Toronto about Papelbon. Zolecki adds that the seriousness of the talks is unclear at this time, though Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that Toronto’s interest is extremely limited (Twitter link). The Blue Jays would only acquire Papelbon if the financial risk associated with the transaction is “extremely limited,” per Rosenthal.

Additionally, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that the Phillies have been in touch with an unknown AL club regarding Papelbon in the past few days. While that club could certainly be Toronto, it’s also possible that a second American League club could have kicked the tires on Papelbon.

The Blue Jays have repeatedly expressed interest in adding some experience to the back of their bullpen, though Papelbon is an imperfect fit for a number of reasons. For one, the Blue Jays are said to have only about $7MM remaining to improve their 2015 roster, and Papelbon is owed $13MM in 2015. Secondly, as CSN Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury reported last week, Toronto is one of the team’s on Papelbon’s no-trade clause. Multiple reports indicated that Papelbon would require his $13MM vesting option to be guaranteed in order to approve a deal to a team on his no-trade clause, further muddying the financial situation for the Blue Jays.

As for the Brewers, talks with that team broke down due to financial concerns, and those concerns are still present, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. As he further notes, the ball is in Philadelphia’s court when it comes to a Papelbon trade, but the Phillies are strongly against letting his $13MM vesting option kick in, so it makes little sense for the Phillies to pay that money to facilitate a trade.

That scenario was one of the topics I discussed in today’s MLBTR Chat earlier this afternoon. The Phillies, as it stands, are on the hook for $13MM of Papelbon’s contract. If the team trades him and guarantees Papelbon’s vesting option, the acquiring club would owe the 34-year-old a total of $26MM. In that instance, even if the Phillies ate half of the money owed to Papelbon, they wouldn’t actually be saving anything. In fact, they may actually cost themselves money, as moving Ken Giles, the likely closer-in-waiting, into the ninth inning to open the 2015 season would surely cause his eventual arbitration price to rise.

It’s difficult then, to envision the Phillies paying anywhere close to $13MM of Papelbon’s salary without receiving a return that they feel is a significant upgrade to their farm system. The alternative would be to deal Papelbon to a club that is not on his no-trade list, with the acquiring club deploying him in a setup capacity. That could allow Philadelphia to save some money on Papelbon’s salary without the option coming into play. However, to this point, there haven’t been any indications that any of the 12 teams to which he cannot block a trade — the Red Sox, Rays, Royals, Angels, Mariners, Astros, Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Cubs and Padres — have any significant interest in trading for him.


Orioles, Pirates Closing In On Travis Snider Trade

6:36pm: One name involved in talks, according to Connolly, is Class-A left-hander Steven Brault (Twitter links). Connolly gets the sense that if Brault and a second prospect are sent to the Pirates, the second player would be a hitter.

5:06pm: The Orioles are attempting to acquire Snider for “less” than two minor leaguers at present, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.

4:47pm: Connolly adds, via Twitter, that the two sides could be closing in on a deal, and a trade could be agreed upon within the next day.

4:42pm: The Orioles and Pirates have rekindled their previous trade talks regarding Travis Snider, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. While Connolly cautions that a deal is not complete, it seems that the general parameters have been discussed in some depth, as he adds that Snider would cost the Orioles one or two non-40-man prospects — at least one pitcher and possibly another player (that could also be a pitcher).

The 26-year-old Snider (27 next week), formerly one of the Top 10 prospects in all of baseball according to both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, never was able to live up to those lofty expectations, but he enjoyed a solid season in 2014. Last year with the Pirates, the former Blue Jays top pick batted .264/.338/.438 with 13 homers in 359 plate appearances.

Snider and the Pirates have already agreed to a $2.1MM salary this season, avoiding arbitration. He’s controllable through the 2016 season, as he currently has four years, 91 days of Major League service time. Previous talks regarding Snider involved Brian Matusz, according to Connolly, though he is not under consideration as a part of this deal.

The Orioles lost both Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz to free agency this offseason and have yet to replace either, with the current starting outfield projecting to feature Alejandro De Aza in left field, Adam Jones in center and David Lough in right field. Both Steve Pearce and Delmon Young could serve as right-handed options at the outfield corners, though Young figures to spend most of his time at DH. The left-handed hitting Snider would give the Orioles a third lefty-swinging corner option, though perhaps the team feels that the defensively oriented Lough is best deployed as a fourth outfielder.



Yoan Moncada, Others May Be Nearing Free Agency

6:26pm: Badler adds (via Twitter) that should Major League Baseball end its previous policy of requiring a specific license, in addition to OFAC’s license, then not only would Moncada be eligible to sign, but second basemen Andy Ibanez and Hector Olivera would also be able to sign immediately.

6:21pm: Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada is close to being declared a free agent and could be cleared to sign with a Major League club as soon as two weeks from now, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

As Passan writes (and as Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel chronicled recently), changes announced by President Obama allow Cubans that can prove residence in a third country to receive a general unblocking license and avoid the process of being cleared by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The 19-year-old Moncada has a permanent residency document from Guatemala, a Guatemalan National I.D. and a statement from a Guatemalan bank to prove that residency, Passan reports.

A Treasury Department official tells Passan that if Moncada receives that general license, the onus falls on Major League Baseball to clear the player to negotiate with big league teams. Moncada had previously been waiting for a license from OFAC, but changes to the relations with Cuba now shift responsibility to clear him to MLB (which is one of the reasons that Baseball America’s Ben Badler recently reported that MLB, not OFAC, was preventing Moncada’s free agency). The League has drafted a letter and will request a meeting with OFAC to confirm that the changes to the policy, Passan hears.

Passan adds that MLB is rightfully taking caution in their approach to this, as past cases of Cuban players coming to America have been tainted by forged documentation and bribes to expedite the process. Should there be a conflict with the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, penalties could include $1MM in corporate fines, $250K in personal fines and as many as 10 years in prison. The league issued the following statement to Passan regarding the matter:

“MLB has important questions regarding how the new regulations apply to the unique circumstances of Cuban players based on our significant experience in this area, and our discussions with OFAC in prior years. MLB is committed to following the laws of the United States, and will not change its policy requiring that Cuban Players receive a specific OFAC unblocking license until it confirms with all relevant branches of our government, including OFAC, that any new approach is consistent with the law. We hope to receive clarity on this issue as quickly as possible.”

As it stands, the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs remain the favorites, Passan notes. Of course, the Cubs are presently unable to sign Moncada as they are restricted from signing an international prospect for more than $250K after blowing past their international spending limit in the 2013-14 signing period. Should Moncada not sign rior to June 15, the Cubs would again be able to sign him, while the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Angels would be restricted from doing so after exceeding their own international spending limits from the 2014-15 signing period.


Red Sox, Rangers Swap Anthony Ranaudo, Robbie Ross Jr.

Rangers executive vice president of communications John Blake has announced, on Twitter, that Texas has acquired right-hander Anthony Ranaudo from the Red Sox in exchange for left-hander Robbie Ross, Jr.

Ranaudo, 25, made his big league debut in 2014 with the Red Sox but experienced underwhelming results, compiling a 4.81 ERA with 3.4 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and a 34.1 percent ground-ball rate in 39 1/3 innings (seven starts). However, Ranaudo has a respectable pedigree, having previously ranked as a Top 100 prospect, per both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus after being selected 39th overall in the 2010 draft.

Indeed, Ranaudo fared significantly better at Triple-A in both 2013 and 2014, totaling 168 1/3 innings of 2.67 ERA ball with 7.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. He could compete for a rotation spot with a Rangers team that lacked depth last year in what was an injury-riddled season, but it’s also possible that the Rangers view him as a bullpen candidate. Currently, Texas projects to have a rotation consisting of Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Yovani Gallardo, Colby Lewis and one of Ross Detwiler and Nick Martinez.

As for Ross, the 25-year-old struggled when he transitioned from the bullpen to the rotation last year, largely due to those injuries. However, he excelled as a left-handed weapon out of the Rangers’ bullpen the previous two seasons, logging 127 1/3 innings with a 2.62 ERA, 7.4 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. Ross has a 53.8 percent ground-ball rate in his career, including a worm-burning 62.4 percent mark in his 2012 debut.

Curiously, Ross has a significant reverse platoon split. Even when he was at the height of his game in 2012-13, he held right-handed hitters to a meager .223/.292/.282 batting line while surrendering a fairly robust .276/.347/.425 line to fellow lefties.


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Tuesday

Here are the day’s minor arbitration settlements, with all projections coming via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz (remember that all arb situations can be monitored via MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker):

  • Shortstop Brandon Crawford and the Giants have settled on a one-year deal worth $3.175MM, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). Crawford, arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason, had filed at $3.95MM, while the team had countered with an offer of $2.4MM. His eventual salary represents the exact midpoint between those two figures, as Heyman notes. The 28-year-old Crawford, considered to be a standout defender at shortstop, turned in his best season to date with the bat in 2014, posting career-bests in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home runs. He did well to top Swartz’s $2.5MM projection by a significant margin.
  • The Royals have agreed to terms with outfielder Jarrod Dyson, Heyman reports on Twitter. Dyson will receive $1.225MM next year, landing just under the midpoint between the two sides’ submission points and his projection of $1.3MM. Dyson, 30, has a marginal bat but is a major threat on the basepaths (36 stolen bases last year despite just 290 plate appearances) and a stellar defender (36.4 UZR/150 in 2014).

Pitching Notes: Johan, Shields, Twins

Most of the meat left on the free agent bone belongs to the pitching segment of the market. Indeed, five of the seven players who I listed this morning as intriguing free agents were right-handed pitchers.

Here’s the latest on some arms from around the league:

  • There was more cloudy news out of Venezuela regarding Johan Santana‘s comeback attempt, as his agent tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports that he will not attempt to pitch again in the winter league. (Twitter links.) Santana may still aim to take a mound for scouts, but any such plans are “unclear” at this point.
  • The Angels are still not interested in chasing James Shields, even if his price may have dropped somewhat, GM Jerry Dipoto tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter).
  • For their part, the Twins have no intentions of going after free agent righties John Axford and Alexi Ogando, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune tweets. As he notes, the market has several attractive right-handed relief arms, though it is not clear whether Minnesota has any interest in adding to its pen. Both Axford and Ogando made my list of interesting players to watch. I consider the pair to be among the remaining free agents who could either break out or break down in 2015.

NL Notes: Nats, D’Backs, Rockies

Former Nationals minor leaguer Justin Bloxom transitioned quickly from a stalled playing career to re-joining the organization as a scout, Chelsea James of the Washington Post writes. The eleventh-rounder was part of a productive 2009 draft for the team, which will now hope to extract value from him in a somewhat different manner.

  • The Diamondbacks are comfortable with their budget sitting in the low-$90MM range, GM Dave Stewart tells MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. Arizona is open to moving more salary but will not sacrifice on-field performance to do so, per Stewart. The most likely avenue to savings, says Gilbert, would be shedding some portion of the large tabs owed righty Trevor Cahill and outfielder Cody Ross.
  • Rockies GM Jeff Bridich says that it is “highly, highly unlikely” that the team will make a deal involving either of the club’s two biggest stars (Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez), Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. That is no surprise, of course: there have always been multiple, significant barriers to a deal this offseason, and any earlier momentum seems to have died in recent weeks.

MLBTR Chat Transcript

Click here to read a transcript of this week’s live chat, hosted by MLBTR’s Steve Adams.


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Minor Moves: Frank Herrmann

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • The Angels announced the signing of righty Frank Herrmann to a minor league deal with a spring invite, via Twitter. The 30-year-old last worked in the bigs back in 2012, and owns a 4.26 ERA with 5.4 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 over 120 1/3 career frames. After Tommy John surgery wiped out his 2013, Herrmann struggled last year in 29 2/3 Triple-A frames with the Indians, the only organization he had previously played for.

Cuba Links: Unblocking, Moncada, Olivera

We looked yesterday at the latest on the slowly-moving Yoan Moncada signing eligibility process. Today, there’s an update to that story as well as some more interesting info on the always-intriguing Cuban market:

  • It is Major League Baseball, not the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), that is currently holding up Moncada’s freedom to sign, reports Baseball America’s Ben Badler. Though MLB has already declared him a free agent, and Moncada has met the standards for a “general license” that would leave him free to sign (“unblocked”) in OFAC’s eyes, the league is not permitting Moncada (and others) to reach eligibility based on that general license. Instead, per Badler, MLB has required players since Yasiel Puig to apply for and receive a “specific license,” creating up to a six-month delay. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez adds (via Twitter) that OFAC changed its rules four years ago, with the additional step (presumably, the specific license) being added at some intervening point.
  • As Badler explains, if the process drags on long enough, it could create some intrigue, as teams like the Yankees and Red Sox will face a two-year international signing ban (for all but sub-$300K bonus amounts) beginning on June 15 of this year.
  • Fellow second basemen Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez, among other players, are awaiting their specific licenses, like Moncada, Badler notes.
  • Olivera, of course, is more of a plug-and-play option than the other, young Cuban middle infielders. Baseball America passes on some video of Olivera, who cuts rather an imposing figure for a second baseman. Badler wrote up Olivera’s efforts yesterday, noting that the PadresGiantsAthletics, and Braves had significant presences in the stands.

AL East Notes: Monbouquette, A-Rod, Blue Jays, Orioles

Former Red Sox starter Bill Monbouquette passed away Sunday at age 78. The Massachusetts native tossed nearly 2,000 MLB frames, most of them with Boston, and notched a no-hitter in 1962. He was a three-time American League All-Star. MLBTR extends its sympathies to his family and friends.

Here are some recent notes from the AL East:

  • We’ve already heard it suggested that the Yankees could seek to invalidate Alex Rodriguez‘s home run milestone bonus clause, and ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Marchand now reports that the team is indeed attempting to craft a legal strategy to that end. If you are interested in thinking about what kinds of arguments the club might come up with, I addressed this very question in a series of posts last year regarding legal theories and remedies that teams could conceivably pursue against players suspended for PED use. The third part, in particular, covered A-Rod’s situation, while Part II (and, to a lesser extent, Part I) include useful background information.
  • The Blue Jays and Orioles now seem destined to return to the status quo in their front offices, at least for the coming season, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says that both sides made missteps in the recent run of Dan Duquette-to-Toronto rumors.
  • For his part, once-and-still Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston says that he is glad to still be with the team and that it is time to move on, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. Beeston added that he believes the ownership group would approve additional payroll if the club’s baseball leadership requests it.
  • As for the Orioles, it is time for Duquette and the organization to begin the process of re-establishing trust and normalcy, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. The sides were never close to agreeing on compensation, Connolly adds, and Baltimore is still keeping open the possibility of filing tampering charges against Toronto.

The Open Market’s Most Intriguing Remaining Names

As it always does, the free agent market contains some fairly noteworthy names entering the final month before Spring Training. A good portion of the value at the top of the leftover market lies in established names who have been reliable, healthy, and good in the recent past: James Shields, Francisco Rodriguez, and the like.

Some of those types of players may be a bit long in the tooth, perhaps, or might lack upside or be coming off of a somewhat down 2014 season. But there are teams with expectations of contending that are interested in signing them and plugging them into important roster slots. This segment of the market contains relative certainty.

But as much as the solid veteran group is useful, it is entirely less interesting than the array of wild cards that also remain to be signed. For another market niche, comparative youth, talent, and/or upside marry with various issues, inconsistency, and/or injury. Some such players will surely flame out, never to be heard from again, but it is likewise possible that one or more will re-establish themselves as quality regulars and deliver immense value to their new teams.

If you are a fan of a team that wants someone to dream on without breaking the bank (or even committing a big league roster spot, in some cases), consider one of these players from the scratch-and-dent market:

  • Mike Adams, right-handed pitcher, 36 – Remember when the 6’5 reliever was a really effective set-up man? Wait, he has always been a really effective set-up man — when healthy. He may not have been on the field enough to deliver value to the Phillies on his $12MM free agent contract, but even while battling through injury Adams worked to a 3.50 ERA over 43 2/3 innings. Last year, especially, he was quite good: a 2.89 ERA (supported entirely by sub-3.00 ERA estimator marks) and better than ten punchouts per nine with a 56.3% groundball rate. Sure, it was a small sample (18 2/3) and his shoulder problems were still present. But if you’re going to roll the dice, it may as well be for a nice potential return.
  • John Axford, right-handed pitcher, 31 – Axford still pumps gas and still logs double-digit strikeout rates. Sure, he walked nearly six batters per nine last year and ERA estimators have been increasingly dubious of his quality over the past three seasons. If he can figure out a way to reign back in the free passes and yield a few fewer long balls, Axford still looks like a late-inning arm. And now, teams can take a chance on a return to form without the high salaries that he carried more recently.
  • Brandon Beachy, right-handed pitcher, 28 – The former Brave owns a lifetime 3.23 ERA over 46 big league starts, with a 3.34 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, and 3.39 SIERA. He has averaged better than nine strikeouts and less than three walks per nine innings. He also is on his second replacement UCL, this one installed last spring. In each of the above-referenced statistics, Beachy is entirely not-unlike fellow former Atlanta hurler Kris Medlen. Yet Beachy — who is one year younger — remains unsigned while Medlen has already secured an $8.5MM guarantee. He also can be controlled for an additional year through arbitration, with a low salary base to work from.
  • Chad Billingsley, right-handed pitcher, 30 – As with Beachy, Billingsley was once an effective starter who has struggled for some time now to return from Tommy John surgery. What the latter lacks in dominating upside, he makes up for in the lengthy run of reliable innings he provided before succumbing to elbow troubles. From the time he became a full-time starter in 2008 through the 2011 season (the one before his elbow troubles began), Billingsley averaged 194 frames of 3.73 ERA pitching.
  • Everth Cabrera, shortstop, 28 – Were it not for his off-field issues, it seems likely the Padres would have tendered the former starting shortstop and given him a chance to regain his 2013 form. The year before last, Cabrera registered a 114 wRC+ while swiping 37 bags (down from 44 in the season prior) and playing the best-rated defense of his career. That was a 3.1 fWAR player, even in a season cut short due to suspension. The 2014 version of Cabrera was not, even when on the field instead of nursing an injury. There are issues aplenty here, but his abilities stand out in a market that hurt for middle infield talent from the start. And it does not hurt that he comes with a year of arb control remaining.
  • Alexi Ogando, right-handed pitcher, 31 – Flipping back and forth between starting and relief, Ogando and his mid-90s heater have long been a storyline. And until last year’s dud, he had never been anything but effective. Even after putting up 25 innings at double the allowed runs rate that he had generally permitted, Ogando sits with a lifetime 3.35 earned run mark. The track record of arm trouble remains a concern, but Ogando’s velocity was just fine last year and he could easily be on the rise with a normal spring.
  • Rickie Weeks, second base, 32 – Once one of the game’s better keystone options, Weeks has stumbled backward in all areas of the game since 2012. But last year was a bit different; while his defensive metrics continued to lag behind his earlier work, Weeks did put up a .274/.357/.452 slash in 286 plate appearances that brought to mind better days. True, Weeks inflicted much of his damage against lefties, with his solid line against right-handers propped up by a .420 BABIP. But given his track record, a revived spurt of production at least raises the possibility of a late-career renaissance.

Astros Among Teams With Interest In Kevin Correia

The Astros are among the clubs “looking at” righty Kevin Correia, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). Houston is still looking to add depth to the back of its rotation after missing on Ryan Vogelsong, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported yesterday.

Correia’s most recent work does not inspire much confidence. But he does have a track record of logging innings, a fairly clean medical sheet, and the ability to generate groundballs at a league-average or better clip.

The 34-year-old pitched to a 5.44 ERA over 154 frames last year with the Twins and Dodgers. He has put up triple-digit innings tallies annually since 2007, and registered an average of 178 with a 4.19 ERA over 2012-13.

For the Astros, the Evan Gattis deal took away one possible starting piece in Mike Foltynewicz, as did last year’s Jarred Cosart swap. Even with Dan Straily now in the mix, uncertainty over Brad Peacock‘s timetable certainly seems to leave room for another arm.

Of course, there are several other clubs that are in a similar position. While Correia is hardly the most exciting option available, his market is yet another reminder that plausible big league starting pitchers are rather a rare commodity.


Central Notes: Ramirez, Shields, Reds

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince takes a look at some folks around the league who are, in his view, facing make-or-break seasons. He includes some less obvious names, but two players stand out who could conceivably be All-Stars or become non-tender candidate: Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates and Mike Moustakas of the Royals.

Here are some notes from the game’s Central divisions…

  • The Indians had the team’s defense in mind when they traded Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals at the July 31 non-waiver deadline, manager Terry Francona explains to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). However, Francona admits that there was some hesitation on Cleveland’s behalf because of how they thought the move would be perceived by fans and the rest of the roster. “…[GM Chris Antonetti] was justifiably concerned about the perception, that we were throwing up the white flag. So we had to kind of decide, ‘OK, look, we believe in what we’re doing and we’ll make sure the players understand that we think we can actually be a better team and get a prospect back.’ I think it took awhile, but once [Jose] Ramirez came up and everybody saw how he played shortstop, they saw why we wanted to make the move. We love Cabby — always will — but we felt we had a chance to get a little bit more athletic at shortstop and you saw the way Jose played.”
  • Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals are still monitoring James Shields‘ free agency, though he notes it’s likely just due diligence. Said general manager Dayton Moore said to McCullough: “I’m not sure there’s a fit.” As McCullough notes in a followup tweet, the Royals have six starting pitchers under contract (including Kris Medlen), and the team’s payroll is already set to top $110MM — a club record.
  • The Reds completed a four-year extension with catcher Devin Mesoraco earlier today that bought out all three of his arbitration seasons and one free agent year, but it doesn’t sound like agreements for the team’s remaining arb-eligible players are close. GM Walt Jocketty told MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that the Reds are “a ways apart” with both Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman (Twitter link). It sounds like Cincinnati may have spoken with Frazier’s agents at CAA about an extension as well, via the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay, but things don’t look promising based on his tweet. Jocketty tells Fay that the Reds talked to Frazier about a new deal, “but we’re not nearly as close as we were with Mesoraco.”