Cubs Designate Mike Olt For Assignment

The Cubs have designated infielder Mike Olt for assignment, the club announced. His roster spot was needed for the acquisition of Austin Jackson, which Chicago also made official.

Olt, 27, has never regained his trajectory after topping out as a prospect that rated as high as 22nd on league-wide rankings. In the midst of a disappointing 2013 season, he was dealt to Chicago as part of a package deal that sent righty Matt Garza to the Rangers. Vision issues were noted as a cause for concern at the time, and Olt has dealt with a right wrist fracture more recently.

Last season represented Olt’s first real opportunity at the big league level, in spite of that rough 2013, but he did not make the most of it. Over 258 plate appearances, Olt swatted 12 home runs but slashed just .160/.248/.356 while striking out an even 100 times.

Nevertheless, another team will likely be glad to take a shot on Olt’s upside. He’s always been regarded as a potentially solid defender at third base and has shown plenty of pop in his right-handed bat. And despite his struggles in relatively scant action at the big league level, Olt has hit will at Triple-A over the last two years. In 246 turns at bat there this season, he’s slashed .273/.346/.477.


Cubs Acquire Austin Jackson

6:26pm: The deal is now official, with the Cubs making an announcement.

6:20pm: Chicago will cover $1MM of Jackson’s remaining salary, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. The Mariners will pay the $430K or so of obligations otherwise left on his deal.

5:04pm: The Cubs have agreed to acquire outfielder Austin Jackson from the Mariners, Shannon Drayer of 710 AM ESPN in Seattle reports (Twitter link). Jackson had reportedly cleared revocable trade waivers, and by adding him today, the Cubs will have the option of utilizing him on their post-season roster.

A player to be named later and a $211,100 international signing slot will reportedly head to Seattle in the deal. Chicago also obtains cash to offset some of the remainder of Jackson’s $7.7MM annual salary.

Aug 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Austin Jackson (16) runs the bases after hitting a two RBI home run during the second inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Already set to hit free agency after the season, Jackson will end his disappointing tenure in Seattle earlier than had been planned. He was acquired with high hopes last summer in the three-team David Price deal, with the Mariners sending Nick Franklin to the Rays to add the center fielder from the Tigers. Needless to say, things have not worked out for the player or the team.

At the time, Jackson was putting up slightly-above-average offensive numbers in Detroit. But he’s been significantly worse with the M’s, slashing just .257/.297/.343 over 684 plate appearances between this year and last. Jackson has contributed only eight home runs in that span as his power has fallen off, and he’s been caught 11 times on steal attempts while successfully taking 26 bags.

Jackson remains an approximately league-average defender up the middle. And at just 28 years of age, he still holds at least some promise of more given his quality early-career production. Between 2010 and 2013, Jackson racked up 18.9 rWAR with a .278/.344/.416 cumulative slash, a solid power/speed mix, and defensive ratings that ranged from good to excellent.

Mariners interim GM Jeff Kingston explained that there was relatively little interest in the veteran this month, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times notes on Twitter. While there had been an outside chance that the club would hold onto Jackson and make him a qualifying offer, that is no longer an option with the mid-season trade. That seemed at least plausible given Jackson’s age, but it seems that Seattle decided against the risky move and chose instead to get what it could for him now.

For Chicago, Jackson represents another right-handed-hitting outfield option as Jorge Soler deals with an oblique injury, though it’s worth noting that he traditionally carries fairly neutral platoon splits. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Jackson can play in center, but he seems unlikely to take much time from the switch-hitting Dexter Fowler, who traditionally performs better against left-handed pitching. While Jackson is still owed about $1.43MM of salary this year, at least some of that obligation will remain Seattle’s responsibility.

MLB.com’s Greg Johns first suggested an international slot may be involved (via Twitter), as to which Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) and Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (also via Twitter) provided details. Divish first reported that a PTBNL was part of the return (on Twitter) provided details. 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Giants Still Discussing De Aza, Looking At Infielders

The Giants are still active in the run-up to tonight’s deadline to add players from outside the organization who will be postseason-eligible, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). San Francisco continues to discuss outfielder Alejandro De Aza with the Red Sox, per the report, but is more interested in acquiring an infield option.

A potential match between those clubs on De Aza was reported about a week back by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. As he explained then, San Francisco felt the asking price was too steep at the time the original discussions occurred, and it was not entirely clear whether talks had continued after the Giants’ acquisition of Marlon Byrd. Of course, unlike Byrd, De Aza is capable of playing center and hits from the left side.

Meanwhile, the Giants were also said to be seeking infield depth and made a run at Chase Utley. It’s unclear precisely what type of player might be pursued at this point, but second baseman Joe Panik remains something of a question mark as he works to return from back issues.



Diamondbacks Designate Kevin Munson

The Diamondbacks have designated righty Kevin Munson for assignment, Zach Buchanan of AZCentral.com tweets. Munson is a 26-year-old reliever who has yet to see MLB action.

After being by the Phillies in last year’s Rule 5 draft, Munson was sent back to Arizona in mid-March. Since that time, he’s posted some uneven results at the Triple-A level.

Munson looked like a future piece last year, running up 62 1/3 innings of 2.60 ERA ball with 11.8 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9. But he’s reversed course in 2015 after experiencing arm soreness in the spring. Over his 31 1/3 frames at the highest level of the minors, Munson has issued 7.2 walks to go with only 8.6 strikeouts per nine while accumulating a 4.60 earned run mark.


White Sox Pull David Robertson Off Waivers

1:10pm: Heyman tweets that the White Sox have pulled Robertson back off waivers.

11:50am: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears from a source that part of the Yankees’ motivation in making the claim was indeed to prevent the Blue Jays from having an opportunity to acquire Robertson (Twitter link).

8:32am: The Yankees have claimed closer David Robertson from the White Sox on revocable waivers, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, but a trade between the two sides is seen as unlikely. To this point, according to Heyman, there’s little indication of a deal in the works, and as of late Saturday night there hadn’t even been legitimate discussions between Chicago and New York. It seems probable that the White Sox will elect to pull their closer back off waivers.

Robertson, 30, has spent his entire career with the Yankees aside from this season. He departed as a free agent following the 2014 campaign, electing to sign a sizable four-year, $46MM contract with the Sox. (The Yankees, meanwhile, made their own significant commitment to lefty Andrew Miller: four years, $36MM.)

It’s still far too early to judge that hefty investment from the White Sox, but the early returns have been outstanding. Robertson has a 2.60 ERA with 12.2 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 (a career-best rate) a 38.3 percent ground-ball rate and 27 saves in 52 innings with the Sox. That ERA would likely be even better were it not for the fact that White Sox rate as one of the worst defensive clubs in all of baseball. SIERA, FIP and xFIP, for instance, all peg Robertson between 1.89 and 2.17 — significantly better than his still-impressive 2.60 ERA.

Robertson is earning $10MM in 2015 and has about $1.97MM remaining on his current salary, plus an additional $36MM through the 2018 season. The Yankees will have until 2:00 ET to work out a trade, per Heyman, indicating that the actual claim of Robertson was made on Saturday afternoon. It’s possible, though, that the Yankees made the claim not so much expecting a deal but more to prevent the division-leading Blue Jays from having an opportunity to add to their bullpen.

Even if that were the case, it wouldn’t mean the Yankees aren’t interested in a reunion. They pursued bullpen help in late July, and Robertson would mark at least the third elite reliever that the Yankees have attempted to acquire to pair with their already dominant late-inning duo of Miller and Dellin Betances. GM Brian Cashman reportedly showed strong interest in both Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman prior to the non-waiver trade deadline last month.

Though his specific trade probably won’t come to fruition, it’s likely that we’ll see a few swaps made prior to midnight. Players acquired on Sept. 1 or later are ineligible for their new team’s postseason roster, meaning that any last-minute trades that contenders wish to make in order to upgrade their potential playoff rosters will need to be completed in the next 14.5 hours.


Minor MLB Transactions: 8/31/15

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league, all of which are reported by Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, unless otherwise noted…

  • The Nationals and Scott Sizemore have agreed to a minor league contract. Now 30 years old, Sizemore was once a prospect of great intrigue in the Tigers’ system — a potential long-term answer for Detroit. However, after a trade to Oakland, Sizemore wound up missing consecutive seasons when he tore his ACL in 2012 and tragically did so once again after just two games in 2013. Sizemore spent most of the 2015 campaign with the Marlins’ Triple-A affiliate and didn’t hit much, though he’s been great in six games with the Nats’ Triple-A club since signing: .375/.412/.563. Sizemore can play both second base and third base.
  • The Blue Jays have released right-hander Phillippe Aumont, whom they’d previously inked to a minor league pact back in July. Formerly the No. 11 pick in the draft (2007, Mariners), Aumont was one of the key pieces sent to Philadelphia in Seattle’s acquisition of Cliff Lee. However, Aumont’s big league career has never panned out; he’s 26 years old and has a 6.80 ERA in 43 2/3 innings in the Majors. The former Top 100 prospect has battled his control all season long, working to a solid 3.14 ERA in 83 Triple-A innings with 8.8 K/9 but a very troubling 6.8 BB/9 rate in that time. His control worsened upon joining the Jays organization, as he walked 22 batters in 18 innings (he did whiff 23 in that time as well, though).

AL East Notes: Orioles, Duquette, Craig, Rays

Though the chances of the Orioles making a trade today may be remote, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun cautions not to rule out GM Dan Duquette making a final transaction. As Connolly notes, Duquette has made at least one trade in each of the past three Augusts, and the GM also told Connolly over the weekend that he’s not yet giving up on the 2015 season. Baltimore currently sits a seemingly insurmountable 11 games back of the AL East lead, but they’re a more manageable 5.5 games back from the second Wild Card position. Any players acquired after tonight’s midnight deadline would be ineligible for the postseason, though, so if a trade happens, it’s likely to come today.

Here are a few more notes pertaining to the O’s and the AL East…

  • In his latest notes column, FOX’s Ken Rosenthal writes that Orioles owner Peter Angelos’ stubborn refusal to let Duquette go in order to take the Blue Jays’ president/CEO position last offseason “created an unhealthy environment” around the club’s front office. There’s some lingering resentment, Rosenthal hears, including some among executives who felt they were in line for a promotion upon Duquette’s departure.
  • Within that column, Rosenthal also writes that Allen Craig is likely to be re-added to the 40-man roster for a September callup that will allow him to be evaluated not only by new Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, but also by rival teams. Craig, though, is owed $21MM through the end of the 2017 season and has batted a meager .271/.367/.348 since being outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket this year. Boston may be able to flip him for a bad contract, but I’d imagine that with only a month’s worth of games and presumably intermittent playing time, it’ll be difficult for him to fully convince other clubs that he can again be an asset.
  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times profiled and spoke to three veteran players that will be helping the Rays’ Wild Card push: J.P. Arencibia, Daniel Nava and Grady Sizemore. Topkin looks at how each came to join the Rays, with manager Kevin Cash admitting that the team initially expected Sizemore’s Tampa Bay tenure to last three or four days. Sizemore has instead been around for 37 games and delivered roughly league-average offensive production (park-adjusted), though his OBP and defensive skills are admittedly somewhat lacking.

Send In Your MLBTR Mailbag Questions

Last week, we revived the MLBTR Mailbag feature, which will be running every Monday from now on. I tackled a handful of questions on CC Sabathia, the Phillies, Jeff Samardzija and Khris Davis last week, and we’ll be running down a few more this afternoon as well.

If you have any questions you’d like to see addressed, you can email them here: mlbtrmailbag@gmail.com. Feel free to send emails throughout the week, of course, but also be mindful of the fact that we receive a sizable number of questions and cannot get to all of them.


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Blue Jays To Name Mark Shapiro As Team President

8:06am: Dolan will indeed absorb the business duties left behind by Shapiro, tweets MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince. Most importantly, the Indians have now announced the move, with both Shapiro and Dolan offering statements on the transition. Shapiro will become the new Blue Jays CEO upon conclusion of the 2015 season, he said in his statement.

AUG. 31, 7:15am: The Indians will not receive compensation for Shapiro’s departure, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). The Indians, Rosenthal continues, “follow a different philosophy,” and ownership didn’t wish to stand in the way of Shapiro receiving the role if he indeed wanted to leave.

AUG. 30: The Blue Jays will hire Mark Shapiro as the club’s new president, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  The official announcement could come this week, possibly as early as Monday.  Shapiro plans to retain Alex Anthopoulos as the Jays’ general manager, sources tell Heyman.

Shapiro’s name surfaced in connection to the Toronto job last week (via FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal) and the hiring was seen as increasingly likely to happen as the days passed.  Since current Jays president Paul Beeston announced he was going to retire after the 2015 season, the Jays have been linked to many experienced baseball names, including Dave Dombrowski, Kenny Williams, Terry Ryan and (in somewhat controversial fashion) Dan Duquette.

It isn’t yet known exactly when Shapiro will take over for Beeston, Heyman notes, as the long-time Blue Jays president may remain in the position until the season is over.  It also isn’t clear if Toronto will owe some sort of compensation to the Indians for hiring away their team president, as the details of Shapiro’s contract with the Tribe aren’t known.

Shapiro, 48, has been a member of the Indians front office since 1991, serving as GM for the 2002-2010 seasons and then being promoted to president prior to the 2011 campaign.  While Cleveland’s front office dynamic will undoubtedly be changed by losing such a long-time figure, it’s possible Shapiro’s departure may not cause too many ripples within the organization.  MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince guessed that chairman/CEO Paul Dolan may simply become president as well, and manager Terry Francona said he won’t opt out of his contract.  Rosenthal speculated that the Tribe could also promote from within, shifting GM Chris Antonetti to president and making well-regarded assistant GM Mike Chernoff the new general manager.

There’s little Shapiro hasn’t seen in his tenure with Cleveland, as the Indians have gone from doormat to contender a few different times and also had similarly large swings in terms of revenue.  The Tribe have only had a top-20 payroll once since 2003, so Shapiro will have much more money to work with in his new position, particularly given the Jays’ recent boom in attendance and TV ratings.  Shapiro’s role in the recent renovations to Progressive Field has been cited as a key factor in his hiring in Toronto, as ownership has been planning to make significant upgrades (including natural grass) to make Rogers Centre a more baseball-friendly stadium.

It had long been suspected that Anthopoulos was facing a make-or-break season given the incoming president change, though his job security has been solidified thanks to his aggressive moves in the offseason and at the trade deadline, culminating in the Blue Jays’ dominant 21-5 record in August.  As Heyman notes, Anthopoulos’ contract is up after the season but was expected to remain with the team if they wanted to keep him.


Quick Hits: Arrieta, Lincecum, Pirates

Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta threw his first career no-hitter tonight, shutting down the Dodgers on 12 strikeouts and just two runners allowed (one via walk, one via error).  By coincidence, Charlie Wilmoth looked at Arrieta’s case as an extension candidate earlier today on MLBTR to see what it might take for Chicago to lock the ace up over the long term and whether or not an extension makes sense for either side at this time.  Needless to say, Arrieta’s stock only continues to rise after performances like tonight’s history-making gem.  Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • Tim Lincecum is still experiencing discomfort in his hips and back and there’s a chance he might not pitch again in 2015, Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports.  Since Lincecum is a free agent this winter, it could also mean the end of his Giants tenure.
  • The Pirates aren’t planning to call up Tyler Glasnow for the September stretch run, GM Neal Huntington told reporters (including Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review).  Glasnow, one of the game’s most highly-regarded pitching prospects, has an 0.81 ERA and 10.5 K/9 over 33 1/3 Triple-A innings this season, albeit with 17 walks as well.
  • Also from Sawchik’s notebook piece, A.J. Burnett said he was pain-free after throwing five simulated innings on Sunday.  The veteran has spent a month on the DL with a flexor strain in his throwing elbow, though he is now aiming to return for a mid-September series against the Cubs.
  • Indians assistant GM Mike Chernoff has been rumored as a candidate to become the Tribe’s general manager if Chris Antonetti is promoted to replace Mark Shapiro as president, though Fangraphs’ David Laurila notes that “Chernoff is a hot commodity” around baseball.  If Chernoff is offered multiple jobs, Laurila wonders if he would prefer running a team with more payroll flexibility than small-market Cleveland.
  • Also from Laurila’s piece, he wonders if the Angels are disappointed enough with their season that Mike Scioscia’s job could also be in jeopardy.  It has been assumed that Scioscia is safe given his close ties with owner Arte Moreno, not to mention the fact that the manager is still owed $18MM through the 2018 season.

East Notes: Hazen, Dombrowski, Arrieta, Fish

MLBTR’s Zach Links collected sets of notes from both the AL East and NL East earlier today, and here are some more items from both divisions…

  • Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen “is a stronger candidate than some realize” to be the team’s next general manager according to “rumors around the majors,” Peter Gammons writes in his latest entry on GammonsDaily.com.  Hazen has been an assistant GM with the Sox since 2011 and he has interviewed for GM openings with the Padres and Dodgers in recent years.
  • Gammons’ piece is a general overview of the young talent on both the Red Sox roster and in their farm system.  While some of Dave Dombrowski’s biggest trades have involved moving prospects for established veterans, Gammons notes that some of those moves were ownership-driven and not necessarily a sign that Dombrowski will again use young players as wholesale trade bait.
  • Speaking of rival teams not swinging trades, the Nationals were interested in Jake Arrieta back when he was an Oriole, the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga tweets.  The two sides apparently “had a deal,” according to Svrluga, but it fell through since the “O’s wouldn’t trade with D.C.”  This would seem to imply that Baltimore upper management scuttled the deal.  The Nats and O’s have never combined on a trade (hat tip to the MLBTR Transaction Tracker) and the two clubs have been involved in a legal dispute over MASN broadcast rights fees.  Arrieta was instead dealt to the Cubs in July 2013, a trade that is looking like more and more or a steal for Chicago.
  • Nationals righty Aaron Barrett visited Dr. James Andrews in regards to his right elbow injury, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports.  Barrett went on the 15-day DL with what was called an elbow sprain on August 6 and he was shifted to the 60-day DL last week, though it isn’t yet known if a Tommy John procedure is needed.  Barrett has a rather misleading 4.60 ERA in 29 1/3 relief innings for Washington this season, as his peripheral numbers (10.7 K/9, 5.00 K/BB rate, 2.20 FIP) show that he’s pitched much better than his ERA would indicate.
  • The Marlins aren’t likely to make any trades before tomorrow’s waiver deadline, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports.  Martin Prado seemingly drew the most interest of any Marlin in August, though the club plans to hang onto most of its core players in order to make a run in 2016.  Miami was considering adding an innings-eating arm or two for September though if they do so, it won’t be via a trade.
  • The Marlins‘ release of veteran utilityman Jeff Baker in July was partially due to some internal problems, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports.  The Marlins “felt [Baker] was spreading negativity in the clubhouse, was a bad influence on a couple of young players and was conveying an anti-front office message.”  Jackson notes, however, that Baker was popular with teammates and media members.

J.P. Howell Attains 2016 Player Option

Dodgers left-hander J.P. Howell made his 52nd appearance of the season in tonight’s game with the Cubs, and also his 120th appearance since the start of the 2014 season.  By reaching this milestone, the $6.5MM option the Dodgers held on Howell’s services for 2016 has now been converted into a player option.  (Hat tip to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.)  Howell’s option will become official provided he doesn’t end the season on the disabled list.

The veteran southpaw signed a two-year, $11.25MM deal with Los Angeles in December 2013 that paid him a $3MM signing bonus and $4MM salaries in each of the 2014 and 2015 seasons.  The $6.25MM team option carried a $250K buyout, though Howell did have some agency if the Dodgers exercised it; Howell would’ve been allowed to opt out of the option if he forfeited the $250K.  Given how well Howell has pitched this season, he likely would’ve given up that $250K anyway in search of a longer-term contract, and the 32-year-old will get plenty of offseason attention from teams looking for bullpen help.

Howell has been a bright spot in a shaky Dodgers bullpen, posting a 1.46 ERA, 2.75 K/BB rate, 59.3% ground ball rate and 33 strikeouts over 37 innings.  Left-handed batters have only managed a .225/.309/.225 batting line against Howell this year.  The lefty has a 2.27 ERA in 198 1/3 innings from 2012-15, and while the peripheral stats indicate that he’s gotten some significant BABIP and strand-rate help over that stretch, Howell’s 2.9 BB/9 this season is on pace to be the lowest of his 10-year career.


AL West Links: Freese, Felix, Rangers

Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte earned his first Major League win today, tossing two scoreless frames to help the Athletics notch a 7-4 victory over the Diamondbacks in 11 innings.  While Venditte is known mostly for his singular pitching style, he’s also posted a decent 3.31 ERA over 16 1/3 relief innings for the A’s in his rookie season.  Here’s more from around the AL West…

  • There is a growing sentiment within the Angels front office that David Freese should be re-signed, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports, though things could change once the team hires its new general manager.  Freese is admired for his clubhouse leadership, and while the Angels’ slump obviously isn’t solely due to Freese’s DL stint (he’s recovering from a fractured finger), it’s worth noting that the Halos are 11-23 since Freese’s last game.  The former World Series MVP has just a .240/.309/.397 slash line and 11 homers in 353 PA this season, though Gonzalez surmises he could strong interest in free agency given the lack of third base options on the market.  If the Angels aren’t willing to bring him back, they could turn to Kaleb Cowart or Kyle Kubitza at the hot corner.
  • While the next Mariners GM will have to fix some significant weaknesses on the roster and in the farm system, it’s not impossible that the M’s could contend as quickly as next season, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times writes.  Perhaps most intriguingly, Stone suggests that the new GM will have to at least consider the idea of trading Felix Hernandez, which would both clear payroll space and restock the farm with some blue chip talent.  Stone stops short of advocating that a Hernandez trade would or should happen, however, and it could be a moot point anyway since Hernandez has full no-trade protection.
  • Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman didn’t just upgrade the Rangers bullpen by themselves, but their acquisitions also helped reinvigorate Keone Kela, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes.  The righty was demoted to Double-A on Aug. 1 to keep his arm fresh, a move Texas could afford to make with their new arms in the pen.  Since being recalled on Aug. 11, Kela has recorded 12 strikeouts (against just one walk and four hits) over 9 1/3 scoreless relief innings.  Kela has put up strong numbers in his rookie season, posting a 2.72 ERA, 3.93 K/BB rate and 59 strikeouts in 53 innings.

Extension Candidate: Jake Arrieta

In the midst of a second straight exceptional year, Cubs starter Jake Arrieta appears likely to sign a big contract at some point, whether that’s an extension with the Cubs or a free-agent deal following the 2017 season. The Cubs, however, have not begun extension discussions with Arrieta (as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times recently reported) and it’s not clear whether they’ll do so. Arrieta is already under team control for two more seasons, and the Cubs might feel that adding additional pitching talent this offseason is a higher priority than signing a pitcher they already have.

USATSI_8706115_154513410_lowresIf the Cubs did want to sign Arrieta, they would have a tough task ahead of them, though perhaps not an impossible one. Via CSNChicago.com’s Patrick Mooney, agent Scott Boras strongly suggests Arrieta won’t be cheap, comparing him to Max Scherzer and arguing that Arrieta’s relatively low innings totals (he’s pitched 740 1/3 in his career) make him a good bet to age well. Arrieta’s arm is “kind of ideal for the free-agent dynamic,” Boras says. But Arrieta himself said last season that he would be interested in staying in Chicago and that he wouldn’t ask for an “astronomical amount of money.”

Of course, if Arrieta were to ask for an astronomical amount of money, he’d be more likely to get it now than he was then. He finished ninth in NL Cy Young voting in 2014 and has followed up that breakout season with an even better one, pitching more innings per start and posting a career-high ground-ball rate (53.9%) while maintaining his strong peripherals (9.2 K/9, 2.2 BB/9). He currently ranks first in the league in wins (16), second in ERA (2.22) and fourth in strikeouts (178), setting him up for a huge raise on his $3.63MM salary through the arbitration process this winter.

Finding precedents for an Arrieta extension is difficult. Extensions for pitchers who are already arbitration eligible frequently only buy out arbitration seasons and do not delay free agency, as with recent extensions for Lance Lynn, Jordan Zimmermann and Mat Latos. (It’s certainly possible that the Cubs could sign Arrieta to a two-year deal in a similar mold, but that wouldn’t change much about his future with the organization.) Wade Miley gave up a year of free agency eligibility in his recent deal with the Red Sox, although Arrieta is obviously a much better pitcher. Matt Harrison‘s $55MM deal with the Rangers is probably the clearest comparable for Arrieta, particularly given that Harrison was coming off his first arbitration season and made a salary similar to Arrieta’s ($2.95MM). Arrieta is also better than Harrison was, though, and Harrison’s deal is almost three years old.

Using Harrison’s deal as a potential precedent is tricky for another reason, too. Harrison was only 27 at the time of his deal and figured to have another shot at a significant payday even after it was over. Arrieta is older, and if he were to agree to a long-term deal now, it would likely be the only significant multi-year contract of his career.

Then you have to factor in the escalation in salaries of starting pitchers since Harrison’s extension. Homer Bailey received a nine-figure deal from the Reds, and his best seasons prior to the deal were nowhere near as good as Arrieta’s last two. Bailey was a year closer to free agency than Arrieta is, but given the raise Arrieta is likely to receive this offseason, he could easily make $20MM-$25MM total in his last two years before free agency eligibility anyway. Beyond that, he could credibly ask for $20MM per season, and that might even be slightly undershooting it. Rick Porcello‘s four-year, $82.5MM deal with the Red Sox strongly suggests Arrieta ought to be worth more than $20MM a year, even though Arrieta doesn’t have youth on his side as Porcello did.

A five-year deal for Arrieta, then, could get close to the $100MM mark, and a six-year deal could push past the nine-figure mark. It seems unlikely that Boras would settle for anything less than five years, and probably even six, given that signing an extension that delays free agency by only a year or two likely wouldn’t provide Arrieta with enough of a financial incentive to put off seeking a big free-agent contract.

There’s also the problem of how a five- or six-year deal would work for the Cubs. A five-year deal would still be on the books in 2020, by which point the Cubs look somewhat likely to be dealing with significant arbitration raises for key younger players like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, and others. They will probably also wish to extend at least some of those players. They’ll also likely still be dealing with the contracts of Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo and any pitcher they sign this offseason.

That isn’t to say that a deal for Arrieta would be impossible. It seems likely that the Cubs’ budget will be significantly larger in 2020, with more money coming in from a new TV deal. If it is, the fuss over whether they can afford Arrieta might end up being mostly irrelevant. But, given that they already control Arrieta through his age-31 season, could be in line for a draft pick if he signs elsewhere, and that Boras is surely highly curious about the free-agent market, perhaps it isn’t surprising that the two sides haven’t struck a deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Padres Claim Chris Rearick, Designate Caleb Thielbar

The Padres claimed left-hander Chris Rearick off waivers from the Rangers, the team announced (via Twitter).  In a corresponding move, San Diego designated southpaw Caleb Thielbar for assignment.

Rearick is back with the Padres just a few days after the Rangers themselves claimed him off waivers.  Rearick had been designated for assignment by San Diego and was quickly DFA’ed again by Texas to make room for young lefty Andrew Faulkner.  Rearick made his MLB debut earlier this season with the Padres, and he has a 12.00 ERA over three innings in the Show.

San Diego claimed Thielbar off waivers after Minnesota designated him assignment on July 31.  The lefty has a 2.41 ERA over 41 innings for the Padres’ and Twins’ Triple-A affiliates, despite an unimpressive 1.09 K/BB rate (25 strikeouts and 23 walks).  This year’s peripherals aside, Thielbar has posted solid numbers over his minor league career and he has a 2.74 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 2.63 K/BB rate over 98 2/3 Major League innings with the Twins.

Thielbar joins five other players in “DFA limbo,” and you can keep track of their status via the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker.