2014-15 Free Agent Leaderboards

As I did last year, I’ve taken the liberty to compile Fangraphs leaderboards for the most notable players that will be eligible for free agency following the season. Those who enjoy playing GM — and if you read this site with any regularity, you presumably do — can filter each leaderboard to their liking to see which potential free agents are the best fits with a club’s specific needs.

Fangraphs leaderboards will allow you to sort hitters both by position and by statistics. Everything from basic stats like average and homers, advanced metrics like wRC+ and wOBA, or batted-ball metrics like line-drive rate and HR/FB is available. If you click the “Fielding” tab near the top of the page, you can check out sortable defensive metrics as well. On the pitching side of things, everything from ERA to FIP to swinging-strike rate to fastball velocity can be found. You can also set each leaderboard to include data from previous seasons to increase the sample size.

For the purposes of this post, I’ve created four leaderboards (Note: These are not MLBTR’s rankings of free agents. They are sorted by Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement but can be sorted by any stat under any tab on the leaderboard simply by clicking that stat. MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agent rankings will be published after the season, and the latest version of our Free Agent Power Rankings was published earlier in the month):

It’s also worth noting that I included any player who is eligible to become a free agent following the season. Though club options for players such as Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist, Hisashi Iwakuma and others are locks to be exercised, I thought it best to simply include all players rather than make judgement calls on more borderline cases. If you’d like any such players removed, you can simply highlight their name under the “Custom Players” section near the bottom of the page and click the X to the right of the column, then generate a new, updated list.

If you see any notable omissions, please, of course, let us know. The cutoff used for these leaderboards is the same that we typically use for our Free Agent list here at MLBTR: 50 plate appearances for hitters or 20 innings pitched for pitchers. These lists also include significant players that did not take the field in 2014 such as Josh Johnson and Luke Hochevar. Their stats will be available if you expand the leaderboards to include seasons prior to 2014.

Thanks to Fangraphs.com for the ease of use that led to creating these leaderboards!


Red Sox Notes: Tomas, Castillo, Uehara, Alvarez

Despite their outfield logjam, the Red Sox will be in attendance for Yasmani Tomas‘ showcase in the Dominican Republic on Sunday, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Bradford spoke with Boston’s newest outfielder, Rusney Castillo, about his countryman and received strong reviews. “He’s a really high quality baseball player, and a really good person,” said Castillo through an interpreter. “He’s got a ton of power. For his physique, he actually moves pretty well. He’s pretty quick for a big guy.” Castillo agrees with scouting reports that say Tomas isn’t the same athlete that Yasiel Puig or Yoenis Cespedes is, but likened his power to that of Jose Abreu.

More from Bradford and some additional pieces on the Red Sox…

  • Red Sox owner John Henry told Bradford, via email, that the team’s near-miss on Abreu fueled the club’s aggressiveness on Castillo. Boston bid just $5MM less than the White Sox did to secure Abreu, prompting Henry to admit: “Yes, the financial aspects were impacted by coming close on Abreu. The White Sox did their homework.” 
  • GM Ben Cherington appeared on the Dennis & Callahan radio show to discuss a number of Red Sox topics, and WEEI’s Jerry Spar has some highlights. Cherington said that while the team doesn’t consider Castillo to be have one elite tool, they feel he’s very good in a lot of categories and should be a quality Major League outfielder. Cherington stopped short, however, of proclaiming Castillo the team’s center fielder in 2015. (The Arizona Fall League announced today that Castillo will play there this offseason, which should give Boston more time to make that evaluation.) He also addressed the Mookie Betts situation, noting that the team most likely projects Betts as an outfielder moving forward and has not discussed playing him at third base.
  • “I think it’s safe to say we would still have interest in keeping him here,” Cherington said in that same appearance when asked about Koji Uehara. Cherington praised Uehara’s accountability during his recent rough patch, and that accountability is an appealing factor when pursuing a new contract. Boston has yet to make an offer or discuss a new contract with Uehara at this time, per Cherington.
  • As John Tomase of the Boston Herald points out, the Red Sox, by some metrics, have had the worst production in the league at third base. As such, they’ll be on the hunt for third basemen with power this offseason, preferably ones that hit left-handed or are switch-hitters in order to balance out a right-leaning lineup. Tomase expects Pedro Alvarez to be on the team’s list, as the club tried desperately to sign him as a 14th-round pick out of high school back in 2005. Boston was willing to offer Alvarez $850K and showed a late willingness to push the number closer to Alvarez’s $1MM asking price, but he instead attended Vanderbilt. The decision paid off, as Alvarez was drafted No. 2 overall and received a $6MM signing bonus from the Pirates three years later. Tomase speculates that a swap of underachieving third basemen — Alvarez and Will Middlebrooks — might make sense for both clubs (presumably, other pieces would be required in such a deal).
  • The right-leaning nature of Boston’s lineup is the focus of the latest from Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe, who notes that the Sox currently project to have just one regular lefty bat in the lineup next season — David Ortiz. While others such as Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley and the switch-hitting Daniel Nava could be worked into the mix, the team cannot afford to have such a glaring deficiency, as other clubs will exploit it, writes Massarotti.

Astros Notes: Managers, Appel, Martinez, Rasmus

Though the Astros just went through the process of finding a new manager two years ago, GM Jeff Luhnow tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that he expects the list of candidates to be longer, not shorter, this time around. Luhnow wouldn’t put a timeline on the first round of interviews beginning, though he acknowledged that the birth of his son this week pushed the start date back a bit. Drellich writes that veteran managers Manny Acta and A.J. Hinch will be considered for the position. Drellich spoke with catcher Jason Castro about interim manager Tom Lawless’ reception in the clubhouse, and Castro had good things to say about Lawless, though he noted that his managerial style was quite different from that of the departed Bo Porter. “Bo is definitely more of an active manager,” said Castro. “Very involved in different aspects of the game, and intensity level is definitely a lot higher. Tom’s kind of approach is just to observe.”

Here’s more on the Astros…

  • Triple-A manager Tony DeFrancesco tells MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart that he hopes to receive an interview for the managerial vacancy in Houston. DeFrancesco was the club’s interim manager for the final 41 games of the 2012 season following Brad Mills’ dismissal — an experience which he terms “one of the best times in my career.” DeFrancesco’s Oklahoma City Redhawks finished with a 74-70 record this season and a Pacific Coast League leading 82-62 record in 2013.
  • Mark Appel recently worked out at Minute Maid Park with special assistant Doug Brocail and big league pitching coach Brent Strom, both of whom came away with strong impressions, reports Mark Berman of FOX 26 in Houston (All Twitter links). Brocail said he “saw some thunder” coming out of Appel’s hand, while Strom notes that he saw fastballs that could play at the Major League level immediately. Appel, of course, experienced a dramatic turnaround upon his promotion to Double-A. After struggling greatly with Class-A Advanced Lancaster, he pitched to a 3.69 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 39 innings with Double-A Corpus Christi.
  • The Astros made a clear mistake in letting J.D. Martinez go this spring, writes David Coleman for SB Nation’s Crawfish Boxes, but rather than criticize the front office, he notes that it’s important to see if they can learn from the error. Every team makes mistakes like this, he notes, and the Astros have been on the other end of this same time of misstep recently by coaxing a breakout from Collin McHugh. Coleman speculates that Colby Rasmus could be a buy-low target to make up for the production lost in cutting ties with Martinez. Rasmus was of course drafted by Luhnow and could thrive with a new hitting coach, as he’s had some difficulty with current hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, though Rasmus recently offered praise for Seitzer despite his offensive struggles in 2014.

Full Story | Comments | Categories: Houston Astros

Mets Links: Tomas, Payroll, Backman

The Mets will send three scouts to get a first-hand look at Yasmani Tomas for his showcase on Sunday, reports Newsday’s Marc Carig. However, as has been documented recently, the team’s payroll isn’t likely to rise significantly next season, which could make Tomas a stretch, financially speaking. The 23-year-old could top Rusney Castillo‘s $72.5MM guarantee, and a $100MM commitment is certainly possible. Mets VP of player development and scouting Paul DePodesta tells Carig that despite the team’s lack of activity, they’ve been keeping close tabs on the Cuban market: “We have been very diligent about all of the free agents who have come available, there just hasn’t been a fit yet.”

Elsewhere in Mets-related news…

  • Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes that the lack of a payroll increase doesn’t necessarily doom the Mets in 2015, as the team’s surplus of young pitching gives them an inexpensive rotation and the ability to trade for a cost-controlled shortstop if it is eventually deemed necessary. However, he feels that it’s becoming clear that the Mets intend to try to fill the shortstop hole from within, giving Wilmer Flores an opportunity to prove himself. Left field may be the more problematic area of need for New York, and while GM Sandy Alderson would like to fill that void via trade, Madden says, the dearth of power hitters in the game might make it difficult to swing. He suggests Michael Cuddyer as a viable free agent option, which makes some degree of sense for the Mets in my opinion. While Madden doesn’t state it, Cuddyer could start at first base versus left-handed pitching to shield Lucas Duda and jump to the outfield against righties. Madden also rightly notes that payroll doesn’t guarantee success, and a look at this year’s contenders and non-factors proves that.
  • Triple-A manager Wally Backman is joining the coaching staff for the final nine games of September, and a team insider tells Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com that the possibility of adding Backman to the 2015 coaching staff is “under consideration.” Many fans prefer Backman to manager Terry Collins, Rubin notes, but Collins says he views Backman as an ally rather than a threat: “We have a very strong relationship. Wally and I are very good friends. We always have been — for a lot of years. … He brings a lot to the table.”
  • Madden’s colleague, Andy Martino, writes that the Mets shouldn’t have to subtract payroll by trading someone like Bartolo Colon or Daniel Murphy in order to add a free agent such as Cuddyer or another bat. The baseball ops department should be granted what it needs to work with, as Alderson “does not exactly ask for the moon.” He also notes that Alderson and Backman have a good deal of philosophical differences, so if Backman is on next year’s staff, it’ll mean the GM didn’t want to choose that battle or he feels he can keep a better eye on him with the big league club.

NL West Notes: Trumbo, Pennington, Maybin

It’s been a highly disappointing debut season for Mark Trumbo in Arizona, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, who examines whether or not the D’Backs should explore the concept of trading Trumbo this season. Trumbo hasn’t hit much when healthy, and while he hasn’t been charged with any errors in left field, he also displayed poor range when playing there (prior to Paul Goldschmidt‘s injury). However, as Piecoro notes, much of that could be due to a stress fracture in Trumbo’s left foot — an injury that has limited him to just 79 games this year. Trumbo’s price tag could top $6MM in arbitration this season, and he may well be best-suited for an AL team or a team with an opening at first base. However, despite those factors, Piecoro concludes that the Snakes have traded too many players with their value at a low point in recent seasons, and moving Trumbo now would be an instance of history repeating itself. Instead, he feels that even if Arizona decides trading Trumbo is best, it should be done after he has a chance to rebuild some value in 2015.

Here’s more on the D’Backs and the NL West…

  • Cliff Pennington views himself as an everyday player and would like more at-bats, he tells Piecoro, but that doesn’t mean he’s unhappy with the Diamondbacks. Rather, he very much likes his teammates and the atmosphere in Phoenix. Still, given Arizona’s bulk of shortstop candidates — the team has Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed as potential Major League options — Pennington’s future with the team is uncertain. As Piecoro notes, he’ll be due a raise on his $2.75MM salary in his final trip through arbitration. The Diamondbacks are looking to trim payroll, and Pennington could be considered expendable due to his loftier price tag. He’d have little trouble finding work in the event of a non-tender, Piecoro implies, and I’d imagine that there could be clubs in need of infield help that are intrigued by Pennington’s solid defense and his .253/.346/.358 batting line this season.
  • Cameron Maybin feels he can be more productive with everyday at-bats, he tells Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune, and he’ll play in the Dominican Winter League this offseason to get some reps after an injury- and suspension-shortened season. Maybin says his goal is to help the Padres in an everyday role, though his comments could imply that he feels he might be traded: “For me, I feel like if I’m healthy, I can be somebody’s really good everyday center fielder. …a big part of going to the Dominican Republic is making sure I’m ready for spring training so I can help whoever – mainly the Padres.” The 27-year-old is owed $16MM over the next two seasons, which makes him a difficult trade candidate given his lack of recent production. However, he’s a former No. 10 overall pick and top prospect, so teams may be willing to gamble on a rebound, particularly in a more hitter-friendly environment. Should he bounce back, his contract would actually turn into quite the asset, as he’s owed $7MM in 2015, $8MM in 2016 and has a $9MM option (1MM buyout) for 2017.

NL Central Links: Cueto, Arrieta, Zarraga, Brewers

In Thursday’s edition of his Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney opines that the Reds should give serious thought to trading ace Johnny Cueto this offseason. Cueto has a no-brainer $10MM club option for 2015, making him a highly affordable and elite talent — an appealing alternative to clubs in win-now mode that don’t want to commit long-term dollars to Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields. The Reds will see Cueto, Mat Latos and Mike Leake hit free agency following the 2015 season, with Aroldis Chapman set to do the same the following year. Those losses, coupled with the rising salary of Joey Votto, give the Reds incentive to create some flexibility and add prospect depth. Olney wonders if the Reds could look to pair Cueto with Brandon Phillips in an effort to free themselves of the $36MM remaining on the second baseman’s deal. Of course, even if a team were to take on Phillips, they’d still likely need to surrender notable prospect value.

Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan looks at Jake Arrieta‘s breakout season through a historical lens, noting that he has the sixth-largest season-to-season K-BB% improvement since 1920 (min. 75 IP each season) and the single largest FIP- improvement in that same span. Sullivan looks at how much more effectively Arrieta has repeated his mechanics with the Cubs, and he also points to the fact that Arrieta has doubled the usage of his hard slider/cutter while moving to the third-base side of the rubber. Both David Ross and Ryan Zimmerman noted that Arrieta, who now busts right-handed hitters inside at a much greater rate, often appears to be “throwing behind you” before his ball breaks over the plate. Whether or not Arrieta is a legitimate ace, the trade that sent him and Pedro Strop to Chicago in exchange for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger looks like quite the feather in the cap of GM Jed Hoyer and president Theo Epstein.
  • The Brewers announced that they have agreed to a new minor league contract with catcher Shawn Zarraga and invited him to 2015 Spring Training. Zarraga, 25, was Milwaukee’s 44th-round pick out of high school in 2007 and enjoyed a strong season at Double-A this year before struggling in his first crack at Triple-A. The Aruban backstop hit .330/.440/.419 in 267 plate appearances with Double-A but just .213/.304/.255 in 57 PA at the top minor league level.
  • In more Brewers news, GM Doug Melvin isn’t happy about the split between his organization and the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Nashville. Melvin told reporters, including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, that he asked the Sounds to let them know if they were considering re-affiliation three weeks ago. The Brewers heard nothing and then saw the Sounds sign a new player development contract with the A’s, which Melvin feels cost the Brewers a chance to pursue an affiliation with what they considered to be an attractive fallback option. The Sounds, McCalvy writes, weren’t pleased with the losing product the Brewers had put on the field in the two seasons prior to 2014.

Multiple Teams Change Minor League Affiliations

As Baseball America’s Josh Leventhal writes, yesterday marked a two-week period where Major League clubs are free to negotiate with available minor league organizations. Major League clubs sign player development contracts with minor league organizations much like players will sign contracts with teams. As such, Leventhal notes that the “affiliation shuffle” is akin to free agency for minor league teams. Leventhal’s article provides more insight behind many of the moves and offers quite a bit of detail for those who are curious to read more about this process.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll see multiple teams sign deals with new affiliates, and MLBTR will keep track of them here for those that are interested …

Triple-A

  • The Giants announced that they have reached a two-year PDC with Triple-A Sacramento (formerly occupied by the Athletics).
  • The Brewers announced that they have reached a two-year PDC with Triple-A Colorado Spring (formerly occupied by the Rockies)

Earlier Announcements

  • Fresno (formerly the Giants’ affiliate) has announced that it has reached a PDC with the Astros.
  • The Athletics have announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Sacramento to Nashville (previously occupied by the Brewers).
  • The Dodgers have announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City (previously occupied by the Astros).
  • The Rockies announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Colorado Springs to Albuquerque (previously occupied by the Dodgers).
  • The Brewers have announced that their Triple-A affiliation with Nashville has been terminated by the Sounds.

Double-A

  • The Twins announced that they will be moving their Double-A affiliate from New Britain to Chattanooga (previously occupied by the Dodgers) after agreeing to a four-year term.
  • The Dodgers announced that they will be moving their Double-A affiliate from Chattanooga to Tulsa (previously occupied by the Rockies).
  • New Britain (formerly the Twins’ affiliate) has announced that that it has reached a PDC with the Rockies.

Class-A Advanced

  • Daytona (formerly the Cubs’ affiliate) has announced that it has reached a PDC with the Reds.

Earlier Announcements

  • The Cubs announced that they will be moving their High-A affiliate from Daytona to Myrtle Beach (previously occupied by the Rangers).
  • The Indians announced that they will be moving their High-A affiliate from Carolina to Lynchburg (previously occupied by the Braves).

Rangers Notes: Washington, Young, Manager, Tomas

Former Rangers manager Ron Washington stated in a live press conference that he had an extra-marital relationship, which was the basis for his decision to leave his post. He also said that he intends to return to the game at some point in the future, though no specific timeline was given.

Here’s more on the Rangers…

  • As Texas looks for its new skipper, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that there’s some mutual interest between the team and former cornerstone Michael Young. Sources tell Rosenthal that any past issues between Young and general manager Jon Daniels have been settled. Young, of course, had a tumultuous end to his time with the Rangers and at one point requested a trade, going on the record stating that he had “been misled and manipulated” and was “sick of it.”
  • Daniels told reporters, including Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, that he expects the managerial search to pick up steam the week after the regular season’s conclusion. The Texas GM said that he is considering a wide variety of candidates, including one “just off the field” candidate, which could of course be Young. However, Grant notes that Young may not be ready to jump back into the game. Young turned down multiple offers that would’ve paid him more than $4MM to play in 2014 to be close to his family, Grant writes. Grant also speculates that 39-year-old Gabe Kapler could surface as a candidate, though Kapler declined to comment when reached by Grant last week.
  • The Rangers will have scouts on hand to watch Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas‘ showcase this Sunday in the Dominican Republic, reports Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com. As he notes, the Rangers could be in need of a replacement for Alex Rios if his $13MM club option is not exercised. The Rangers do appear set with their other two outfield spots, however, with Leonys Martin under team control through 2018 and Shin-Soo Choo under contract through the 2020 season.

Nationals Claim Pedro Florimon From Twins

The Nationals have claimed infielder Pedro Florimon off waivers from the Twins, the club announced. This is the move that necessitated the designation of Eury Perez for assignment, which the team also announced.

Florimon, a switch-hitter, slashed .221/.281/.330 over 446 plate appearances in full season action last year for Minnesota. He swiped 15 bases (caught six times) and hit nine home runs. He was worse at the plate in minimal action this year, though did manage a .257/.328/.389 slash in 314 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. Florimon’s calling card, of course, is not his bat but his glove. Depending on one’s preferred defensive metric, Florimon has been anywhere from above average (career 3.8 UZR/150) to outstanding (21 defensive runs saved) in the field.

It is not immediately clear why Washington made a claim on Florimon. He will not, of course, be eligible for the postseason, and the club already has the pennant in hand. On the other hand, the 27-year-old shortstop could conceivably be a utility infield option for the team next year, as he can be controlled for the league minimum. The team has been said in the past to be looking for alternative options at short in the event that an extension cannot be reached with Ian Desmond, but it would seem a stretch to believe that Florimon would figure in those plans.

If Danny Espinosa is traded or non-tendered, a bench spot could conceivably go to a player such as Florimon (who, it is worth noting, has a much better track record hitting against righties). It appears that Florimon also comes with an option remaining, as he was added to the 40-man before the 2012 season but did not spend any time in the minors last year.


Nationals Designate Eury Perez For Assignment

The Nationals have designated outfielder Eury Perez for assignment, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). The speedy 24-year-old missed significant time this year with a fractured toe, but was activated off of the 60-day DL and optioned to Triple-A in July. Perez was designated to make room for shortstop Pedro Florimon, who was claimed off waivers.

Perez entered the season rated 20th among Nationals prospects, according to Baseball America, after posting a .300/.336/.422 season with 23 stolen bases in his first full year at Triple-A in 2013. That line represented a step up in his slash and a step back in his baserunning output from years prior. In 273 plate appearances this year, Perez swiped 26 bags (against just four unsuccessful attempts) while slashing .310/.371/.409.

Though he remains a reasonably interesting player, Perez seems largely without a place in D.C. and has burned his last option this year. With Denard Span having an excellent season at the major league level and higher-upside prospects like Michael Taylor and Brian Goodwin filtering up, Perez is not a long-term piece for the Nats. On the other hand, it would be somewhat disappointing to lose him without achieving any return.


West Notes: Deadline, D’backs, Gibson, Stewart, Angels

Three clubs in the league’s western division may have the greatest trade deadline regrets, in the opinion of MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince (writing for Sports On Earth). The Athletics have seen their fortunes fade since dealing away Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester, though of course Lester has been outstanding. The Mariners‘ three key additions — Austin Jackson, Kendrys Morales, and Chris Denorfia — have generally failed to hit. And the Dodgers passed on a chance to add an impact starter.

  • Of course, it is eminently arguable that the Athletics‘ underperformance since the deadline is really not a reflection on Cespedes-Lester swap at all, as Tony Blengino of Fangraphs explains. The team has failed to score runs, to be sure, but that is due in large part to the production fall-offs from key first-half contributors like Brandon Moss, Derek Norris, and John Jaso (the latter, in large part, due to injury).
  • The one-year extensions signed before the season by Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson and then-GM Kevin Towers contain rollover clauses that provide for automatic re-extensions if they are not dismissed by a certain date, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. (Such an anti-lame duck provision is also a feature of the Blue Jays’ contract with manager John Gibbons.) Player support for Gibson is “all but gone,” sources tell Rosenthal, but he could still be retained by chief baseball officer Tony La Russa.
  • Meanwhile, Rosenthal joins others in reporting that Dave Stewart is the leading candidate to take over as GM. Stewart says he is “very interested” in the position, and his hiring would make it likely that Towers stays on in a senior scouting role, according to Rosenthal.
  • Of course, the status of Stewart’s agency business (Sports Management Partners) would be up in the air if he takes the job. Rosenthal reports that some key clients such as Matt Kemp of the Dodgers have said they would stay on with SMP if the agency continues without Stewart.
  • The Angels‘ run to the AL West crown represents a remarkable turnaround for GM Jerry Dipoto, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes. One year after most of his moves backfired, Dipoto has pulled off a series of largely successful trades and signings that helped fuel the team’s success. Most remarkably, perhaps, the team has received solid production from a variety of arms that have generally outperformed expectations.
  • Another remarkable turnaround in Halos land is the working relationship between Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia, as Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register writes. Last August, it was even reported that things had deteriorated to the point that one or the other would have to go, though Scioscia shot down the suggestion at the time. Now, Dipoto credits Scioscia with doing an “unbelievable job” at making adjustments and acting on new information — as reflected in the team’s lineup construction and use of defensive shifts.

East Notes: Rasmus, Gee, Flores, Tomas

Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus discussed his disappointing season and pending free agency in a lengthy and excellent interview with Scott Macarthur of TSN.ca. Rasmus’s comments are too lengthy and complicated to encapsulate fully and fairly here, but are well worth a read (or a listen) to anyone interested in understanding one of the more interesting free agent situations in the game. Ultimately, Rasmus comes across as an extremely thoughtful player who, perhaps, needs the right environment to thrive. Though he did not say outright that he does not view that place as Toronto, Rasmus did say that his time with the Cardinals was at times “so unenjoyable that I had trouble wanting to come to the yard everyday and enjoy it,” and noted that he has “kind of run into some of that” this season as well. Said Rasmus: “This year has been a tough year and I’m just going to go home, enjoy it, go back to the drawing board and try to work my tail off this offseason to get in good shape and hopefully find a place to where I fit in well and I can help my team win.” It will be fascinating to see how his free agency turns out; though he has had good years and bad, Rasmus just turned 28, offers rare power for a center fielder, and has put up two approximately four-win seasons.

  • Mets starter Dillon Gee is under team control for next year, but as Newsday’s Marc Carig writes, he could find himself squeezed out of the rotation after a tough second half. “I’ll have a spot somewhere,” said Gee. “It might not be here but it will be somewhere.”
  • The Mets could be more and more inclined to hold off on adding a shortstop given the recent play of Wilmer Flores, as Mike Puma of the New York Post reports“We’re getting a lot more comfortable,” said GM Sandy Alderson. “One of the reasons for giving [Flores] as much playing time as we have is to build up his number of plate appearances to get him more comfortable to try to establish sort of a baseline.” Alderson said that Flores has done a solid job defensively at short, noting that Ruben Tejada and Matt Reynolds also remain internal options to take the position next year.
  • While Yasmani Tomas makes a good deal of sense for the Phillies, that does not mean that they are favorites to sign him, writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. Other clubs in better position to contend will likely place an increased value on adding a bat like Tomas given their spot on the win curve, Murphy suggests.

Central Notes: Aramis, Indians, Perkins

Here’s the latest out of the game’s central divisions:

  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin denied a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that the team had decided to exercise its end of a $14MM mutual option over third baseman Aramis Ramirez for next season. The option, which comes with a $4MM buyout, has yet to be decided on according to Melvin. As MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports, Melvin expressed surprise at hearing the report and indicated that he had not discussed the option with either team owner Mark Attanasio or Ramirez’s agent, Paul Kinzer. Ramirez, 36, has had a solid overall campaign and remains an above-average option at the hot corner. Needless to say, Milwaukee’s decision on his option will have important ramifications for the third base market.
  • Though the Indians boast an intriguing group of young starters, GM Chris Antonetti said that the team will look to add more arms in the offseason, as Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports“We’ve seen it first-hand this year,” Antonetti explained. “The five who started the season for us aren’t the same five who are pitching for us right now.” Also on the docket for the fall is an effort to improve the team’s infield defense, said Antonetti. According to Fangraphs’ measurement of defensive value, Cleveland ranks second to last in all of baseball. (Of course, one potentially positive sign is that newly installed shortstop Jose Ramirez has received stellar marks from advanced metrics, quite the opposite of Asdrubal Cabrera, who he replaced after the trade deadline.)
  • Twins closer Glen Perkins is set to undergo a “complete look” at his throwing arm, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Fresh off of signing a four-year, extension with just over $14MM in new guarantees before the season, Perkins was strong for much of the year. But things have turned south in the last month, and he has now allowed seven earned runs in his last four outings. Perkins missed time due to neck and shoulder discomfort, and since returning has seen the issue extend to the rest of his arm. “We’re going to give him a test on the left arm, see what’s going on there,” said GM Terry Ryan. “He’s got a little soreness, so we’ll get it looked at. His neck is fine.” Ryan said that the team would wait for an assessment before determining a course of action for the rest of the year, though obviously the future is of greater concern: “[Doctors] are going to give him a complete look, whatever that means. I don’t want to be premature here. If it’s severe, we’ve got issues. If it’s not, then we’ll move forward.”

Phillies Notes: Burnett, Tomas, Offseason Needs

On the day that the Phillies were officially eliminated from the postseason race, let’s check in on things in Philadelphia:

  • 37-year-old starter A.J. Burnett indicated that he is pitching through several physical maladies as he nears a tough decision on his future, reports Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. In addition to the need for offseason hernia surgery, Burnett said that his right arm was fatigued. “If I can lift my arm up at the end of the season then I might pitch,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes.” Burnett faces a decision whether to exercise his $12.75MM player option just one week after the World Series wraps up, but indicated to Gelb that he may have some reservations about his time in Philadelphia — while declining to get into specifics. “I expected a lot of things to be different,” he said. “A lot.”
  • The Phillies have “legitimate interest” in Cuban free agent Yasmani Tomas, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. The 23-year-old power hitter appeals more to Philadelphia than did countrymate Rusney Castillo, says Salisbury. His youth and profile would appear to be a nice fit for a Philly club that is in need of an infusion of MLB-ready talent.
  • Indeed, manager Ryne Sandberg said today that improved production from the middle of the order is high on his wish list for next year, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Of course, as Sandberg acknowledged, “everybody needs the same thing.” That also holds true of the other area that he stressed: “solidify[ing] the starting rotation.” With around $140MM already on the books for next year (assuming Burnett returns), and arbitration raises coming for Antonio Bastardo, Ben Revere, and Domonic Brown (if they are not traded), Philly will have some room to add salary before bumping up to the $189MM luxury tax. Of course, the team must decide whether it is wise to add substantial future obligations to veterans through free agency.

AL East Notes: Walker, Maeda, Uehara, Castillo, Melky, Rays

The Orioles announced today that they have selected the contract of first base prospect Christian Walker for the final few games of the season. Walker, 23, was Baltimore’s fourth-round pick in 2013 and batted a combined .288/.357/.489 between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk this season. As Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com explains, Baltimore will take a look at Walker while resting Steve Pearce over the remainder of the regular season. The team was hesitant to add Walker to the 40-man roster, as he did not need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft this winter, but they decided to give him a mini-audition of sorts (Twitter links). No moves were needed to clear a spot in light of the suspension of Chris Davis, tweets Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.

Here’s more from the American League East…

  • The Red Sox have interest in Japanese hurler Kenta Maeda, tweets Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, but that interest is similar to their interest in many free agent starters, including Francisco Liriano. That is to say, according to Bradford, that Boston considers him a middle-of-the-rotation arm rather than an ace to slot atop the team’s starting five.
  • The struggles of Koji Uehara have not changed the interest of the Red Sox in bringing him back, GM Ben Cherington tells Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). After showing excellent form for much of the season, Uehara’s age-39 campaign took a quick downturn from mid-August onward. He remains a tantalizing free agent, however, given his recent track record of dominance.
  • For the time being, of course, all eyes will be on Rusney Castillo tonight as he makes his debut for the Red Sox. But with so little time left in the season, his real work will come over the winter, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. Castillo is expected to play in both the Arizona Fall League and the Puerto Rican Winter League as he looks to dial in his play in anticipation of competing for a starting job next spring.
  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos expects Melky Cabrera to test the free agent market rather than sign an extension, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. While reports have indicated that Cabrera will receive a qualifying offer and Toronto hopes to retain him on a new multi-year deal, Anthopoulos said that it just makes sense for most players who get to this point to see what’s out there. Anthopoulos added that he’s open to bringing back any of the team’s pending free agents if it makes financial sense.
  • The Rays‘ immediate future is not promising, in the opinion of Gary Shelton of the Tampa Bay Times. With the team expected to oversee a drop in payroll, it will take bounce-backs from several key players (such as Wil Myers and Evan Longoria) to improve the team moving forward. For his part, skipper Joe Maddon says that he foresees a return to form for Tampa, especially given the team’s talented pitching staff. “I just want to believe it’ll be more offensive,” Maddon said of next year’s club. “Whether it’s with the guys who are here or potential acquisitions.”