Twins Looking For Relief Pitching

The Twins are looking to add bullpen help, two sources tell La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  The club is looking to add at least one and possibly two hurlers to their relief corps, possibly through trades or via waiver wire pickups as teams make roster cuts at the end of Spring Training.

“This bullpen has been a topic of conversation at headquarters,” Neal writes, and it “isn’t surprising” that Minnesota is looking for reinforcements given that their pen has an overall lack of experience and pitchers who can miss bats.  Getting another left-hander could be a specific need, Neal notes.  Besides closer Glen Perkins, the Twins have Brian Duensing and Caleb Thielbar as their primary lefty bullpen arms.  Southpaw Aaron Thompson has had a good Spring Training and may have gotten himself in the mix, though the 28-year-old has only 15 career Major League innings to his name.

Trevor May, Tommy Milone and Mike Pelfrey are battling for the fifth starter’s job and Twins GM Terry Ryan recently told MLB.com’s Andrew Simon that any of the trio could also see bullpen duty.

Twins relievers ranked 21st in the league in ERA (3.73), 24th in fWAR (0.9), 29th in xFIP (4.18) and dead last in strikeouts per nine innings (6.66 K/9).  Perhaps the biggest issue facing Minnesota’s bullpen is Perkins’ health, as the star closer has missed most of Spring Training with an oblique injury, though he is back pitching now and is expected to be ready for Opening Day.


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Offseason In Review: Chicago White Sox

The White Sox had an active, successful offseason in which they upgraded their pitching staff and imported multiple bats.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades And Claims

Extensions

  • Adam Eaton, CF: five years, $23.5MM.  Includes $9.5MM club option for 2020 with a $1.5MM buyout and $10.5MM club option for 2021 with a $1.5MM buyout.

Notable Losses

Needs Addressed

With core players Jose Abreu, Chris Sale, and Jose Quintana signed to affordable contracts, the White Sox were expected to take an aggressive approach to the offseason to fill their needs.  They met with Pablo Sandoval‘s agent at the GM Meetings in November, and had Victor Martinez on their wish list as well.  Around this time GM Rick Hahn also quietly explored trading for Jason Heyward, which wasn’t reported until this month.  Martinez re-signed quickly with the Tigers, however, so Hahn signed Adam LaRoche at less than 40% of the commitment Martinez required.

The price difference between LaRoche and Martinez reflects the fact that Martinez is a better hitter, of course.  Still, the White Sox got their coveted left-handed bat without taking on the risk of Martinez’s age 36-39 seasons.  Plus, bringing in a more capable defensive first baseman in LaRoche should help keep Abreu healthy.

The White Sox continued moving quickly by signing lefty reliever Zach Duke to a three-year, $15MM deal in mid-November.  Such a contract would have seemed absurd less than a year prior, as Duke had joined the Brewers on a minor league deal in January.  Duke was quietly dominant for the Brewers in 2014 after making a series of adjustments to his pitch mix and arm slot.  No team likes signing a reliever to a three-year deal, especially one with such a brief track record of success.  Only three other relievers received deals of three or more years this offseason, and one of those was also with the White Sox.  Still, the third year for Duke was the cost of doing business, and waiting until January for bargains is risky in its own way.MLB: Seattle Mariners at Chicago White Sox

Hahn owned the first night of the Winter Meetings, grabbing headlines by closing in on a trade for Jeff Samardzija and a free agent contract for David Robertson in the course of a few hours.  The Samardzija trade was a big win for the White Sox.  I do see the sneaky value in the players the A’s acquired — lower ceiling players who are mostly considered to be solid-average regulars by Baseball America.  Still, they were all players Chicago could afford to surrender to acquire one year of a potential front-rotation arm (plus perhaps an accompanying draft pick if Samardzija departs via free agency).  The White Sox would have had to take on a lot more risk in the free agent market to bring in a pitcher of Samardzija’s caliber.  In Sale, Samardzija, and Quintana, Hahn has assembled one of the better rotation trios in the game.

In Robertson, the White Sox acquired the offseason’s best available reliever at market price.  It’s interesting to note that Robertson apparently had another team offer even more than $46MM.  As with Duke, the term is not ideal, but it was necessary to sign the elite stopper.  $61MM is a lot to spend on commitments to relievers in one offseason, but the White Sox had very few dollars invested into their bullpen prior to Robertson and Duke.  Spending that much money is kind of a blunt-force way of addressing the team’s biggest problem, but it should work pretty well in the short term.  The Sox also complemented their bullpen by acquiring southpaw Dan Jennings from Miami.

Hahn continued going down his long list of offseason upgrades, signing Melky Cabrera to a three-year, $42MM deal to play left field.  (We’ll have more on that signing in the Deal of Note section.)  After Cabrera, free agents Emilio Bonifacio, Gordon Beckham, and Geovany Soto were added as versatile bench pieces.  Getting Soto on a minor league deal was a plus.  Matt Albers and Jesse Crain were also added on minor league deals.

A five-year, $23.5MM extension for center fielder Adam Eaton capped Chicago’s busy offseason.  The talented 26-year-old missed 124 games due to injuries over the past two seasons, but the White Sox balanced that risk with reasonable salaries and a pair of club options at the end.

Questions Remaining

With top prospect Carlos Rodon a phone call away, maybe rotation depth won’t prove to be a problem for the White Sox.  Still, the rotation looks strong when Sale, Samardzija, and Quintana are pitching, and vulnerable the other 40% of the time with Hector Noesi, John Danks, Rodon, and maybe Brad Penny.  The Sox are still tied up with $28.5MM owed to Danks through 2016.

I raised the question of catching in my Offseason Outlook, and some alternatives and/or backups to Tyler Flowers were added in Soto, Rob Brantly, and George Kottaras.  The Sox did reportedly poke around on the Astros’ Jason Castro and discussed Miguel Montero with the Diamondbacks, so alternatives to Flowers were considered.  Catching still seems like a weak point in both the short and long-term.

There’s also the issue of executive vice president and former GM Ken Williams.  It was revealed in December that the Blue Jays sought to interview Williams to be their president/CEO, but White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf declined to grant them permission, and considered the attempt to be tampering.  Ultimately the Blue Jays retained Paul Beeston for one more year, and Williams doesn’t appear to begrudge Reinsdorf about the situation, perhaps because the Jays’ timing was indeed terrible.  Williams’ future with the White Sox bears watching though.

Deal Of Note

Melky Cabrera entered the offseason as our fourth-ranked free agent hitter, and many of us at MLBTR thought he would get the five-year deal he sought.  While there was reportedly one four-year offer, Cabrera settled for three years from the White Sox.  Even accounting for his 2012 PED suspension, qualifying offer, and below-average defense, it was surprising he didn’t sign for more money in a thin market for bats.  It works very well for the White Sox, who committed less to Cabrera and LaRoche than the Tigers did just to Martinez, diversifying their risk in the process.

Overview

We know “winning the offseason” doesn’t mean much once games start, but the White Sox entered the winter with a long list of needs and filled most of them, finding a few relative bargains along the way.  Hahn has assembled a much more interesting team that should be in contention in 2015.

Photo courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports Images


Trade Candidate: Juan Uribe

Much is still unknown about how (or if) the pending addition of Hector Olivera will impact the 2015 Dodgers.  The Cuban infielder could struggle in his first taste of American pro ball and require more time in the minors than expected, or Olivera’s slightly-torn UCL in his right elbow could become a major issue and put him on the disabled list.  As the Dodgers already have Juan Uribe and Howie Kendrick manning third and second base, they don’t even have any immediate need for Olivera’s services, and could be planning to only give Olivera significant playing time in 2016.

On the other hand, what if Olivera demolishes Triple-A pitching and forces the Dodgers’ hand for a promotion?  While Olivera is a versatile player, it’s hard to believe he’d see much time at first base given Adrian Gonzalez‘s presence or in left field given how the Dodgers already have an outfielder surplus.  Kendrick over four years younger than Uribe and has a longer track record of consistency and durability, so it would be a big surprise to see Kendrick lose his starting job for any reason other than an injury.MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers-Workout

If the Dodgers decide to find a place for Olivera, therefore, it will likely be at the hot corner.  Uribe is a free agent after the season, and many have speculated that with Olivera on board, the Dodgers are already planning for a future without the 14-year veteran.  As Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins are also both pending free agents, it’s possible the 2016 Dodgers infield could consist of Olivera, Corey Seager and Alex Guerrero, with Enrique Hernandez and Justin Turner in super-sub roles.

With all this in mind, could L.A. consider cutting ties with Uribe early and start shopping the 36-year-old on the trade market this summer?  If Uribe starts until Olivera is called up, then Uribe’s first month or two of the season could essentially be an audition for other teams.  Turner and Hernandez could become the top fill-in third base options if Olivera were to struggle; both men hit well in 2014, especially Turner and his .897 OPS over 322 plate appearances.  (Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron recently opined that the Dodgers didn’t need Olivera since they already had a cheaper comparable in Turner.)

Hamstring injuries limited Uribe to 103 games last season, though he still hit .311/.337/.440 with nine homers in 404 plate appearances.  While that slash line was undoubtedly aided by a .368 BABIP, it was Uribe’s second consecutive solid year at the plate (a .769 OPS and 116 OPS+ in 2013), continuing an unlikely career turn-around after his production fell off the table in 2011-12.  While his hitting has yo-yoed over the last four years, however, his defense has been uniformly tremendous.  Since the start of the 2010 season, Uribe’s 41 Defensive Runs Saved are the fifth-most of any third baseman in baseball and he has the best UZR/150 (25.4) of any player who has played at least 2500 innings at third.  Between that stellar glove and his improved bat, Uribe’s 8.6 fWAR over the last two seasons has been topped by only 28 players.

With all this in mind, you could argue that the Dodgers would need to see significant evidence from Olivera before they considered giving up on Uribe.  Even keeping Uribe in a bench role would be a fit for L.A. since they certainly have the payroll capacity to afford a $6.5MM backup, and he plays an “integral” leadership role in the clubhouse.

Still, as we’ve already seen from the Andrew Friedman/Farhan Zaidi regime, no move can be ruled out for the Dodgers’ roster.  If the team’s starting pitching depth becomes tested (i.e. Brandon McCarthy or Brett Anderson‘s significant injury histories, or Hyun-Jin Ryu’s bad shoulder), Uribe could be an intriguing trade chip for a starter.  Or, as the Dodgers are having trouble finding takers for Andre Ethier, they could sweeten the pot by adding Uribe to the mix, though contract size could still be an issue.

Looking at contenders with a possible hole at third base, the Indians, Tigers, Royals and White Sox are all going with young players who have yet to prove themselves as surefire contributors.  For these four teams, acquiring Uribe for a pennant race wouldn’t spell the end of, for example, Nick Castellanos or Mike Moustakas as a “third baseman of the future” since Uribe could leave in free agency next winter anyway.  Beyond the AL Central, the Giants are relying on Casey McGehee to repeat his solid 2014 season, though it’s near-impossible to see the Dodgers swing a trade with their arch-rivals.

For the moment, Uribe is staying put in Los Angeles.  If Olivera (or even Turner) starts swinging a hot bat, however, don’t be surprised if the Dodgers start exploring deals.  The Dodgers’ overflow of talent in both the infield and outfield gives them a number of options if they need to patch holes in their rotation or bullpen, and Uribe might be the most realistic trade chip of the bunch.

Photo courtesy of Rick Scuteri/USA Today Sports Images



Brady Aiken Undergoes Tommy John Surgery

In a self-penned piece for The Players’ Tribune, left-hander Brady Aiken revealed that he underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday.  While pitching at IMG Academy last week, Aiken said that “something felt a little wrong” and examination revealed that he had a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

The Astros took Aiken with the first overall pick of the 2014 draft but failed to reach an agreement with the then-17-year-old.  Negotiations fell through due to Houston’s concerns over Aiken’s unusually small UCL, and the club wanted to reduce Aiken’s proposed bonus from $6.5MM to $5MM.  The Astros’ failure to sign Aiken caused a chain reaction that led to fifth-rounder Jacob Nix also going unsigned, which led to an MLBPA grievance since Nix had made a verbal agreement with the team.

Aiken was projected to be one of the top picks in the 2015 draft, and despite his surgery, it’s still possible (if even probable) that he could receive a high selection if his recovery proceeds as planned.  As Aiken noted himself, two pitchers — Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde — who underwent Tommy John surgery last year were taken ninth and 18th overall, respectively.  Aiken’s case could differ, however, due to his small UCL; one of the questions the Astros had about his health was that recovery from possible TJ surgery could be more difficult given his ligament’s size.

If all goes well for Aiken, undergoing the surgery now would mean he would be back throwing in 12-14 months and able to start his minor league career early in the 2016 season.


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Minor Moves: Harris, Lohman, Boggs

Here are the day’s minor transactions, updated as we go:

  • The Rays have released outfielder James Harris, MLBTR has learned. Harris was a supplemental first-round pick in the 2011 draft, taken 60th overall by Tampa and signed for a (then under-slot) bonus of $490K. Drafted as something of a toolsy project out of high school, Harris never got comfortable at the plate during his four pro seasons, hitting only .215/.291/.305 over 898 minor league plate appearances. The 21-year-old topped out at the A-ball level in the Rays’ system last year.
  • The Phillies announced that they have acquired minor league shortstop Devin Lohman from the Reds in exchange for future considerations. Lohman, 25, has spent the past two seasons with Cincinnati’s Double-A affiliate in Pensacola, where he’s batted a combined .240/.307/.339. A third-round pick by Cincinnati in 2010, Lohman’s bat has never come around as a pro, but he’s a well-regarded defender. Baseball America ranked him 25th among Reds farmhands two offseasons ago on the strength of his glove and ranked him as the best infield defender in the organization’s minor league system that winter as well.
  • The Red Sox have released right-handed reliever Mitchell Boggs, the team announced. Boggs, 31, was in camp on a minor league deal. He has not pitched in the big leagues since 2013, but had enjoyed six straight seasons of MLB pen work before that. Over 316 2/3 career frames, Boggs owns a 4.12 ERA with 6.6 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9. His best year to date was 2012, when he racked up 73 1/3 innings of 2.21 ERA pitching for the Cardinals.

Mets Monitoring Dodgers, Rockies In Search For Lefty Relief

4:46pm: The Mets are also intrigued by Rockies left-hander Rex Brothers, writes Adam Rubin of ESPN New York. A team official told Rubin at the Winter Meetings that Brothers was of interest to the Amazins, and that interest is apparently still alive. The 27-year-old Brothers will earn $1.4MM this year after a down season in 2014. Last year, he struggled to a 5.59 ERA as his control spiked and he posted a career-worst 6.2 BB/9 rate.

Brothers was excellent, however, from 2011-13, especially when considering his home park. In that time, he notched a 2.82 ERA with 11.2 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 out of the Colorado ‘pen. He’s had a good Spring Training thus far and is under team control through 2017. Brothers has a career 2.40 ERA on the road compared to a 4.51 mark at Coors Field.

As Rubin notes, the Rox also have southpaw Boone Logan, though his contract seems especially prohibitive for the Mets; Logan is owed $5.5MM this year and $6.25MM in 2016.

4:01pm: The Mets are “keeping an eye on” three Dodgers left-handed relief options — J.P. Howell, Paco Rodriguez and Adam Liberatore — in case any of the three become available, reports Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles (via Twitter).

The Mets have a known need for a bullpen lefty following Josh Edgin‘s Tommy John surgery and have been connected to Baltimore’s Brian Matusz on multiple occasions this spring. Of course, Matusz sounds to be more available than any of the three Dodger southpaws, based on Saxon’s wording.

Howell would seem to have a spot in the Dodgers’ bullpen locked down, as the former Ray has posted a 2.19 ERA over the past two seasons with Los Angeles and is entering the second season of a two-year, $11.25MM contract signed following a strong first year with the Dodgers. Besides that fact, Howell is slated to earn $4MM this season, and the Mets reportedly aren’t even comfortable with Matusz’s $3.2MM salary, so it’s hard to envision a great fit with Howell.

Rodriguez and Liberatore, however, could conceivably be more available, and neither would cost much more than the Major League minimum in terms of salary. Rodriguez, 23, was the Dodgers’ second-round pick in 2012 and reached the Majors that same season. However, despite a strong 2013 followup to his brief 2012 cameo, (2.32 ERA, 10.4 K/9, 3.1 BB/9), Rodriguez saw just 14 regular-season innings with the Dodgers last year. Rodriguez struggled to a 4.40 ERA in Triple-A’s hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in 2014 and was slowed by a strained shoulder muscle as well. With just one year, 120 days of MLB service time, Rodriguez likely wouldn’t be arbitration eligible for another two years, making him an understandably appealing target.

It’s unclear how the new front office views Rodriguez, but the old regime clearly had some concerns over his readiness. The former front office invested significantly in free agent relievers last winter (including Brian Wilson and Chris Perez — neither of whom panned out) and quickly optioned Rodriguez to Triple-A after a rough patch in late April. New president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, GM Farhan Zaidi and VP Josh Byrnes may have more faith in Rodriguez and be reluctant to part with him.

As for Liberatore, the Dodgers only acquired him this offseason. The 27-year-old had previously been with the Rays, so it was hardly surprising to see Friedman pull both Liberatore and Joel Peralta from the Rays organization in a trade with his former colleagues. Liberatore is older for a prospect, but he has exceptional numbers at the Triple-A level, where he’s worked to a 2.40 ERA in 146 1/3 innings. His most impressive work came in 2014, when he worked to a 1.66 ERA with 11.9 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 65 innings.

For what it’s worth, both Liberatore and Rodriguez have had excellent Spring Training campaigns, combining for 13 innings of scoreless relief. That likely doesn’t mean much, and considering the fact that both have Minor League options remaining, there’s no pressure for the Dodgers to move either, even if they don’t break camp in the bullpen. Also to be considered is the fact that relief help is a need for the Dodgers themselves, particularly in the wake of an injury to closer Kenley Jansen that may only sideline him through mid-April but could leave him on the shelf into mid-May. The Dodgers have a number of contracts they’d like to shed (e.g. Alex Guerrero, Erisbel Arruebarrena) but the Mets would hardly seem to be in a financial position to sweeten the pot by taking on some salary in a trade.


Aaron Harang On Signing With Phillies

Last season, Aaron Harang was a pleasant surprise for the Braves.  Signed to a cheap one-year pact, the veteran hurler pitched to a 3.57 ERA with 7.1 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, and a 39.4 percent ground-ball rate in 204 1/3 innings, a major step up from his 2013 campaign where he went from team to team and finished with a combined 5.40 ERA.  Some, including yours truly, felt that his bounce back season would put him in line for a two-year deal.  Instead, Harang wound up signing a one-year deal with the Phillies worth $5MM.  It’s conceivable that something more lucrative could have materialized with time, but Harang didn’t want to be left without a chair when the music stopped.

The Phillies were the most aggressive team as far as just getting things moving.  I had a few other clubs that were talking to me at the same time but there were some other pieces that needed to fall in line before things could move forward with them,” Harang told MLBTR on Wednesday morning in Clearwater, Florida.  “The Phillies moved the fastest.  I knew that with some clubs, if I played my part and waited, there would be opportunities there.  Obviously, I learned from last year that I didn’t want to sit around and wait so at that point I wanted to go to the team that was most aggressive, and that was the Phillies.”

Harang was also drawn to the Phillies’ rotation and felt that he would be a solid fit in the middle of the starting five.  He was admittedly wary of some things about the roster, including the December trade of Marlon Byrd, but he says that he felt good about the organization as a whole and he believes that the lineup will get a boost from an improved Ryan Howard.

Still, the Phillies’ edge above the other potential suitors came from their readiness to make a deal.  Like many other starters on the open market, Harang was left hanging by teams as they waited to see how the top of the pitching market would play out.

There were a couple of East Coast teams and then a couple of West Coast teams that we had tentative conversations with, but a lot of it had to do with when [Jon] Lester was going to sign and when [James] Shields was going to sign and waiting for the dominoes to fall.  But, [Phillies GM Ruben Amaro] called up and they were being the most aggressive out of anyone,” Harang explained.

Heading into the winter, Harang heard from a number of people in baseball who felt that he would wind up getting a multi-year deal.  Still, he didn’t dwell on that and went in with the attitude that the market would determine the appropriate deal for him.  After being traded twice in April of 2013 and spending time with four clubs in total that year, Harang felt that it was more important to find a place that valued him highly as a starter.  Harang also indicated that he was disappointed by Braves’ level of effort to re-sign him early in the offseason, but he sounds plenty happy with his new home in the NL East.


Sean Burnett To Throw For Teams In May Or June

Free agent left-hander Sean Burnett is making progress toward a return this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career on June 5 last season, agent Jim Munsey tells MLBTR.

“I actually feel great and have begun throwing off a mound,” said Burnett, via Munsey. “This isn’t my first rodeo so I’ve got a pretty good idea about my progress.” Multiple teams have reached out to Munsey to check in on Burnett, and the agent says his client is currently on track to help a club sometime around the All-Star break or trade deadline in mid-to-late July. Burnett is expected to throw for interested teams in May or June.

Burnett, 32, was limited to just 10 1/3 innings over the life of a two-year, $8MM contract signed with the Angels prior to the 2013 campaign. Nerve irritation and a strained flexor tendon cut short his first season with the Halos before the aforementioned Tommy John wiped out nearly all of his 2014 season.

From 2009-12, though, Burnett was a very strong left-handed option in the bullpen, working to a 2.85 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 234 innings for the Pirates and Nationals. During that time, Burnett unsurprisingly displayed strong numbers against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .213/.279/.336 batting line. However, unlike many lefty relievers, Burnett also tallied strong numbers against right-handed hitters. While hitters with the platoon advantage did post superior numbers to their left-handed counterparts, the .235/.319/.340 batting line they tallied from ’09-’12 is overall a rather weak level of production.


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Yankees Release Jared Burton

The Yankees announced that they’ve released right-hander Jared Burton from his minor league contract. The former Twins and Reds setup man had been vying for a spot in the club’s bullpen and pitched well, throwing four scoreless innings with just two hits and no walks to go along with a pair of strikeouts. Presumably, the 33-year-old righty will look for an opportunity with a club that has a clearer path to a spot in the bullpen.

After enjoying strong seasons in 2012-13 with the Twins (particularly in 2012), Burton’s K/9 rate dipped to 6.5, and his BB/9 rate ticked up to 3.5. Meanwhile, his ground-ball rate (38.5 percent) and fastball velocity deteriorated (92.9 mph in 2012; 91.5 in 2014). However, Burton still possesses an effective split-finger changeup (which he’s termed a “splangeup” in the past) that has been his best pitch in recent years. If he can rediscover some of his fastball effectiveness and/or some of his control, he could again re-emerge as a successful bullpen arm in a big league bullpen.


Chris Tillman, Orioles Begin Extension Discussions

MARCH 26: Tillman told Orioles reporters today, including Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (Twitter link), that not much has changed on the extension front since January. He’s open to a long-term deal but is letting his agent handle the situation. MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli tweets that Tillman also said he’d prefer that talks didn’t carry on into the regular season.

MARCH 25: Starting pitcher Chris Tillman and the Orioles have initiated extension talks with a goal of completing a deal by the start of the season, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. The talks have not gotten specific yet in terms of dollar figures, a source tells Heyman.

I profiled Tillman as an extension candidate in January. Tillman has established himself as a workhorse in the past two seasons, pitching over 200 innings with good ERA numbers in both. His peripheral numbers have suggested he’s a somewhat worse pitcher than that, however, and his velocity has fallen in each of the past two seasons, dropping to an average fastball speed of 90.7 MPH last year. He might, however, be able to outperform his peripheral numbers to a degree due to his excellent work controlling the running game. He also pitched very well in the second half last year, and he’ll be 27 next month, an age at which he could take a step forward.

If no extension is reached, Tillman will make $4.315MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility this season. That should set the Beverly Hills Sports Council client up to make $20MM or so in his three arbitration seasons, depending on how he performs this year and next. Any extension discussions for a contract of three or more years would have to begin there, with the ultimate total of the deal dictated by its length. At the long end, Tillman could ask for something like the five years and $55MM Matt Harrison received prior to the 2013 season, although the Orioles might perceive such a contract to be a risk given the underwhelming numbers (6.5 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 4.20 xFIP in 2014) beneath Tillman’s ERA.


Reds Acquire Dan Johnson From Astros

The Reds announced that they’ve acquired veteran first baseman Dan Johnson from the Astros in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. The 35-year-old had been with Houston on a minor league contract.

Johnson hasn’t seen much in the way of regular playing time since his tenure with the Athletics ended in 2008, but he’s appeared in the bigs in each season dating back to 2010. His 2014 work came north of the border, as he picked up 48 plate appearances for the Blue Jays and batted .211/.333/.342. The type of plate discipline and strike zone knowledge displayed by Johnson in that small sample is indicative of his career to date. Johnson has a 13.2 percent walk rate in 1604 Major League plate appearances and, perhaps not surprisingly, has walked six times in 25 plate appearances with Houston this spring. He’s also collected just three hits in 19 at-bats, however.

Johnson will report to minor league camp, the Reds have added, making his acquisition one for depth purposes. He reportedly has an opt-out date in his contract, but it does not come until after the season has started. Additionally, Johnson isn’t an Article XX(B) player, so the Reds wouldn’t need to offer him a $100K retention bonus to option him to Triple-A. Johnson had positive things to say about his brief time with the Astros, per the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich.


Padres Claim Jandel Gustave From Royals

The Padres have claimed hard-throwing right-hander Jandel Gustave off waivers from the Royals, reports Josh Vernier of 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City (Twitter link). Gustave had been with the Royals in camp after being selected from the Astros in this year’s Rule 5 Draft, but Kansas City placed him on waivers earlier in the week.

Gustave, 22, is probably a long shot to make the Padres’ roster, considering he’s yet to pitch an inning above Class-A, where he worked to a 5.01 ERA in 79 innings last season. However, he has a fastball that can reach 100 mph and has 199 strikeouts in 196 1/3 Minor League innings, so it isn’t exactly difficult to see why teams are intrigued by his arm. Gustave does also come with command issues; he’s averaged 6.7 walks per nine innings in the Minors.

The Padres have a few options if they wish to retain Gustave. As a Rule 5 pick, he’d have to stick on the team’s 25-man roster all season before he could be optioned to the Minor Leagues. That seems unlikely, so the Padres could simply place him on waivers again and hope that he clears. However, even then, he’d have to be offered back to the Astros, who would likely be happy to reacquire his arm. Perhaps a likelier scenario would be one in which the Padres and Astros discuss a trade that would allow Gustave to remain in the San Diego organization.

San Diego will get a little more than a week to evaluate Gustave before a decision needs to be reached. They’ve placed catcher Tim Federowicz on the 60-day disabled list in order to clear a 40-man spot for Gustave.


MLB Trade Rumors Podcast: Dylan Hernandez

This week, Jeff talks Dodgers with Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, exploring the team’s changes under new front office leadership and attempting to sort out where the busy organization is headed. Jeff also checks in with MLBTR’s Zach Links about his spring training travels.

Click here to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and please leave a review! The podcast is also available via Stitcher at this link.

The MLB Trade Rumors Podcast runs weekly on Thursday afternoons.


Poll: Rating The Dodgers’ Offseason Moves

The Dodgers have had an incredibly busy offseason under new president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi. Indeed, as MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker shows, the new Los Angeles regime has racked up about thirty deals of some kind or another.

Many of those, of course, were not major moves. But the Dodgers have obviously not been shy about making significant transactions to add and remove veterans from their roster — a topic that I discussed at length with Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times for today’s MLBTR Podcast. (Keep an eye out for that to post later today.)

Sticking to the most impactful deals, I thought it would be interesting to get a sense of how the MLBTR readership views the work of the new LA leadership. (We’ll treat the interconnected Kendrick and Gordon deals as one for purposes of this poll.)

Sign infielder Hector Olivera for six years, $62.5MM

Olivera figures in the mix at second or third, but with so many other options there — and given the risk that he brings — was this a wise allocation of resources?

Sign starter Brett Anderson for one year, $10MM

Anderson has always been productive when healthy, but can he stay on the hill?

Sign starter Brandon McCarthy for four years, $48MM

Can McCarthy continue his success from late last year and avoid his own injury woes?

Acquire shortstop Jimmy Rollins from Phillies for minor league pitchers Zach Eflin and Tom Windle

Rollins is still a solid performer despite his age, but will he hit a wall at age 36?

Acquire second baseman Howie Kendrick from Angels for starter Andrew Heaney after acquiring Heaney, infielder/outfielder Enrique Hernandez, reliever Chris Hatcher, and catcher Austin Barnes from Marlins in exchange for middle infielder Dee Gordon, pitcher Dan Haren, infielder Miguel Rojas, and a player to be named 

Giving up Gordon while adding Kendrick upgraded the team in the near term but sacrificed control, and the team passed on a chance to plug a young arm into the back of a rotation that arguably lacks depth.

Acquire catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Wieland, and Eflin from Padres in exchange for outfielder Matt Kemp and $32MM

As Hernandez discusses on today’s podcast, this move has the biggest chance for blowback potential from the fan base; was it a shrewd business move or will the organization regret parting with a prominent star?

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Mario Hollands Likely To Undergo Elbow Surgery

Phillies lefty Mario Hollands appears likely to require season-ending surgery on his left elbow after suffering a torn common flexor tendon, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. That is the same injury that has sidelined teammate Cliff Lee, and surgery would almost certainly cost Hollands the season.

As with Lee, Hollands has experienced a setback following an attempt at resting an rehabbing through the injury. As a result, team physician Michael Ciccotti has recommended surgery. While Hollands is awaiting the results of a second opinion from orthopedist James Andrews, he says that he is leaning towards surgery.

“I wanted to do the PRP and rest because I wanted to help the team this year. I wanted to play,” Hollands said. “That’s still in my head because I want to play so bad, but I am a little worried because it’s the second time so I don’t know if rest or PRP will be the only solution. So surgery, I’m thinking about it pretty hard.”

The 26-year-old debuted with Philadelphia last year, throwing 47 innings and posting a 4.40 ERA with 6.7 K/9 against 4.0 BB/9. He had figured to step in as the club’s second lefty behind Jake Diekman. Now, Rule 5 choice Andy Oliver figures to have an inside track on a pen slot.