Athletics Designate Josh Lindblom, Kyle Blanks

The Athletics have designated Josh Lindblom and Kyle Blanks for assignment to clear roster space for tonight’s major trade, tweets MLB.com’s Jane Lee.


Blue Jays To Acquire Josh Donaldson From Athletics For Brett Lawrie, Others

9:27pm: The deal is official, with the A’s announcing it.

8:48pm: The Blue Jays have struck a deal to acquire third baseman Josh Donaldson from the Athletics, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Infielder Brett Lawrie, righty Kendall Graveman, and shortstop Franklin Barreto are part of the package going back. Prospect Sean Nolin is also in the deal, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets.

This deal’s franchise-changing implications are evident on its face. Donaldson, 28, and Lawrie, 24, have each been viewed as cornerstone third basemen for their respective clubs.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Toronto Blue Jays

Donaldson is, of course, the best piece moving in this swap and one of the more valuable commodities in all of baseball. A late bloomer, he had emerged as one of the game’s very best position players over the last two seasons. Collectively, he has slashed .277/.363/.477 with 53 home runs and 13 stolen bases over 1,262 plate appearances since the start of 2013. With stellar defense included, Donaldson has racked up 15.4 rWAR and 14.1 fWAR in that span.

Projected by Matt Swartz/MLBTR to earn $4.5MM in his Super Two season of arbitration eligibility, Donaldson was just starting off on a track to become rather pricey. But he comes with four seasons of control, and will unquestionably be paid less than his anticipated worth on the diamond.

Though significantly younger, Lawrie comes with one less year of control. He is, however, projected to take home just $1.8MM this season and will therefore also have a much lower starting point for his next two seasons of earnings.

On the other hand, he has yet to match Donaldson’s output in spite of his own, oft-noted ability. Over his first three-plus seasons in the bigs, Lawrie owns a .265/.323/.426 slash (good for a 104 OPS+) and has generally drawn solid-to-outstanding reviews on his defensive work. Injuries have limited his time on the field over each of the last two seasons, but Lawrie has generally performed at a well-above-average clip when healthy.

The other pieces involved are, of course, responsible for making up the gap in value between Donaldson and Lawrie. Barreto could be the hidden gem in the package, with Ben Badler of Baseball America noting on Twitter that the 18-year-old was the top July 2 prospect of two years prior and is probably at top-100 level player at this point. He came into the year as Toronto’s fifth-rated prospect, per Baseball America, and his .865 OPS with six home runs and 29 steals in just 328 low A plate appearances did nothing but improve upon that standing. Per BA, Barreto has several plus tools (hit, speed, arm) with good power and room to improve on his footwork at the shortstop position.

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Nolin, a lefty, placed tenth on that BA listing. He has been deemed ready enough to warrant one MLB appearance in each of the last two seasons, though he has spent most of his time in the upper minors. In 105 Triple-A innings thus far, Nolin has posted a 3.17 ERA with 7.5 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9. BA credits him with a “true four-pitch mix” and calls him a fairly polished number four starter.

Graveman, 23, sprinted through the Blue Jays’ system after going in the eighth round of the 2013 draft. He threw 172 innings across five levels of the organization just last year.


Athletics In Advanced Trade Discussions

8:14pm: Then again, it is obviously possible that multiple deals are in the works, and Rosenthal further tweets that the team is in talks on multiple trades, with a source saying that GM Billy Beane is “re-working the club.” (Twitter link.)

Slusser, meanwhile, tweets that ten teams have expressed interest in Samardzija, including the Red Sox and White Sox, but that he does not appear to be in any deal nearing completion.

8:05pm: Oakland is negotiating a deal but it does not involve Samardzija, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Neither is Brandon Moss involved in the chatter, per MLB.com’s Jane Lee (via Twitter).

7:41pm: The Athletics may be closing in on a trade involving starter Jeff Samardzija, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter links). Oakland would receive several players in return, per Slusser, with the focus being on acquiring bats.

Samardzija is projected to earn $9.5MM in his final year of arbitration. The righty had a breakout 2014 campaign, posting a 2.99 ERA over 219 2/3 frames with 8.3 K/9 against 1.8 BB/9. Samardzija had previously posted strong peripherals and intriguing ERA estimator tallies, but finally put it all together in his first All-Star campaign.

The 29-year-old was brought to Oakland last summer in a blockbuster that cost the A’s top prospect Addison Russell, and the club currently has significant needs up the middle. In his offseason outlook piece for the A’s, MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained why dealing away Samardzija (or fellow rotation piece Scott Kazmir) could make sense for the club.



NL East Notes: Nationals Bullpen, Fister, Crow, Marlins

Here’s the latest out of the National League East:

  • The Nationals are interested in adding a veteran right-handed arm to the pen, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post, who adds that the team is presently focused on other matters and has not fully engaged the free agent market. Wagner lists many of the better free agent arms as at least theoretical possibilities, and says that Washington has at least “shown some interest” already in both Casey Janssen and Jason Motte.
  • Doug Fister and the Nationals have not re-engaged on extension talks since they first took place last spring, reports Wagner. Fister has been mentioned as a hypothetical trade candidate as well, though presumably the club would only seriously consider dealing one of he and Jordan Zimmermann.
  • Just-added Marlins hurler Aaron Crow has worked from the bullpen for the last four seasons but could get a chance to return to a starting role in Miami, reports Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel. “It’s still early in the offseason and we’re not sure how the rest of the offseason will unfold in terms of what else we add to our pitching staff, but we love the flexibility,” said president of baseball operations Michael Hill. We love the thought he could possibly be a starting option for us, but at a minimum we know he’ll be a valuable bullpen piece and just add to the overall depth of our staff.”
  • The Marlins‘ front office is focused on achieving “sustainable success,” writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Miami hopes to step its payroll up over the next few years, more or less in line with the raises in Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract, by adding targeted pieces to supplement its young core.

Free Agent Faceoff: Max Scherzer vs. Jon Lester

A look at this year’s market for free agent starting pitching reveals a group that is deep in quality options and also features a pair of prime-aged top-of-the-rotation arms in Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. This duo, represented by Scott Boras and ACES, respectively, is commonly believed to be the cream of the free agent crop, but which will be the better buy?

Few pitchers have been as dominant as Scherzer over the past two seasons. In that time, he’s pitched to a 3.02 ERA with 10.2 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and a 36.5 percent ground-ball rate in 434 2/3 innings. His K/9 rate trails only Yu Darvish among qualified starters, and he grades out well according to ERA estimators FIP (2.79 — sixth) and SIERA (2.94 — eighth). In that two-year stretch, Scherzer leads qualified starters in ERA, FIP, xFIP, SIERA, K/9 and opponent batting average (.216), to name a few categories. He’s entering his age-30 season on the heels of a pair of All-Star appearances and a pair of top five finishes in the Cy Young voting — including his first Cy Young win in 2013. The 6’3″, 220-pound right-hander has cemented himselves among the game’s elite arms and is looking for a sizable payday, as evidenced by his rejection of a six-year, $144MM contract extension in Spring Training.

Lester is no slouch, however, as he ranks second to Scherzer in ERA (3.10) and FIP (3.19) among qualified free agent starters in that time. His SIERA mark, though a ways behind at 3.49, is still third-best over the past two seasons (Brandon McCarthy sits between them). Beyond that, Lester has been more of a workhorse in his career; he has reached the 200-inning mark in six of the past seven seasons, falling shy only in 2011 when he tossed 191 2/3 frames. Lester certainly keeps the ball on the ground more often than Scherzer, with a career ground-ball rate just under 47 percent and sitting at 43.7 percent over the past two seasons. Lester is also coming off the best platform season of any free agent starter, having pitched to a brilliant 2.46 ERA with 9.0 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 42.4 percent ground-ball rate. He’s spent almost all of his career in the hitter-friendly AL East, whereas Scherzer has spent more time in a more favorable pitching environment (Detroit’s Comerica Park). Lester is a year older than Scherzer, however, and he’s thrown about 300 more innings in his big league career. He’s rumored to already have an offer upwards of $120MM from the Red Sox, and another possibly as large as $135MM from the Cubs, so the price tag figures to be substantial here as well.

In our free agent profiles, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted a seven-year contract for Scherzer while I personally went with six years for Lester, but it certainly wouldn’t be a shock to see a team guarantee Lester that seventh season. The above paragraphs are a mere snapshot of each pitcher, while the linked profiles offer a more in-depth look at the pair of aces. You can read over those to brush up on each pitcher’s strengths and weaknesses before making a vote below if you wish, but let’s get to the question at the root of this post.


Ronald Belisario Elects Free Agency

Right-hander Ronald Belisario has elected free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment to Triple-A, MLB.com’s Scott Merkin tweeted earlier today.

Belisario, 32 on New Year’s Eve, pitched 66 1/3 innings for the White Sox in 2014, though he struggled to a 5.56 ERA with a below-average mark of 6.4 K/9. However, Belisario also posted a strong 2.4 BB/9 with an outstanding 59.3 percent ground-ball rate, leading metrics such as FIP (3.54) and SIERA (3.22) to feel that he was experienced some particularly poor luck. He did see his BABIP spike to a career-worst .339, and his 57.7 percent strand rate was well below both the league average and his career mark (69.9%).

Belisario has been a fixture in a big league bullpen in each of the past three seasons, averaging 68 innings per year with the White Sox and Dodgers. FIP and xFIP have graded him pretty consistently throughout his career and both feel he’s capable of an ERA in the 3.60 range, while SIERA (3.22) is a bit more bullish.


White Sox Sign Tony Campana

12:32pm: Campana’s contract is a minor league deal, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation.

12:25pm: The White Sox have signed Tony Campana, the outfielder himself announced on Twitter. Campana is represented by Pro Star Management.

The 28-year-old Campana is a veteran of parts of four Major League seasons, where he’s batted a combined .249/.296/.288. Not known for his bat, Campana possesses blistering speed, as can be seen in his 66-for-75 track record in stolen base attempts. Those 66 swipes have come in a total of just 477 plate appearances/257 games. Unsurprisingly those wheels allow him to cover a significant amount of ground in the outfield, leading to plus defensive marks in both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved (although both metrics feel he’s better suited to play a corner position than center field).

Camapana, who broke into the bigs with the Cubs in 2011, split this past season between the D’Backs and Angels and should give the ChiSox some additional outfield depth. He’s a career .291/.348/.361 hitter at the Triple-A level.


Marlins Acquire Aaron Crow

The Marlins have acquired right-hander Aaron Crow from the Royals in exchange for left-hander Brian Flynn and minor league righty Reid Redman, the teams announced.

Aaron Crow

Crow, 28, has considerably more big league experience than the 24-year-old Flynn. Crow has spent the past four seasons as a setup man for manager Ned Yost, pitching with great effectiveness from 2011-13. In his first three years with the Royals, Crow posted a 3.19 ERA, 9.0 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a ground-ball rate north of 50 percent.

However, the typically hard-throwing former No. 12 overall pick struggled this year as his velocity dropped. Crow posted a career-worst 4.12 ERA with a career-low 5.2 K/9 rate against 3.7 BB/9 in 59 innings this past season. His ground-ball rate dipped to a career-low 43.2 percent as well. On the plus side, he didn’t miss any time due to injuries, so if the Marlins saw something in Crow’s delivery that they feel can be fixed, they could have a nice bullpen piece on their hands at a relatively modest price. Crow is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $2MM in 2015, though his struggles did make him a non-tender candidate. It’s possible that with today’s signing of Jason Frasor, the Royals felt they had found a cheaper solution to their middle relief needs. With exactly four years of service time under his belt, Crow can be controlled by the Marlins for an additional two seasons.

The Marlins originally acquired Flynn from the Tigers along with Jacob Turner and Rob Brantly in the trade that sent Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to Detroit. Since being acquired by Miami, Flynn has seen a couple of brief Major League stints, allowing 24 runs in 25 innings with a 21-to-16 K/BB ratio. Those numbers aren’t the most impressive, obviously, but he has a considerably better minor league track record and has been a mainstay on Marlins top prospect lists. Heading into the season, Baseball America ranked him sixth among Fish farmhands, while MLB.com ranked him 10th on their midseason Top 20 list.

Flynn has a lifetime 3.44 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 277 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level. In their scouting report, BA praised a fastball that sat 89 to 93 mph and touched 95 out of the 6’7″ lefty’s hand. Flynn features a four-pitch mix with his best offspeed offering being a slider, per BA, and he also features an average changeup and a show-me curveball that he mixes in less often. Flynn will provide the Royals with another Major League ready rotation option, but he could also fill a need in the bullpen, as the Royals are without a solid lefty relief option.

Redman, who recently turned 26, reached Double-A for the first time this season. Drafted by Tampa in 2012 as a third baseman, Redman has successfully converted to the mound since that time. In 90 professional innings, he has a 2.00 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the swap of Crow and Flynn, and the Marlins then announced that Redman was in the deal (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Royals Re-Sign Jason Frasor

The Royals announced that they have re-signed right-hander Jason Frasor to a one-year deal with a mutual option for the 2016 season. Frasor, a client of agent Dave Meier, reportedly receives a $1.25MM base in 2015 with a $2MM option that contains a $550K buyout. That makes for a $1.8MM guarantee, and the deal also calls for as much as $500K of incentives in each season.

Jason Frasor

Frasor, 37, was acquired by the Royals in a mid-July swap that sent minor league righty Spencer Patton to the Rangers. The veteran Frasor was excellent for the Royals in both the regular season and the postseason, allowing a combined four earned runs in 23 innings of work. Frasor doesn’t have the 93 mph heat that he used to, but he did average 91.9 mph on his fastball in 2014. Overall, he posted a solid 2.66 ERA with 8.7 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 46.9 percent ground-ball rate in 47 1/3 regular season innings between the Rangers and Royals.

The Royals became notorious for their smothering defense and lights-out bullpen in the playoffs this year, but the relief corps was actually a very top-heavy unit. Behind Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera, only Aaron Crow topped 40 innings, and Crow was largely ineffective. Frasor will provide the club with some much-needed depth in the middle innings.

As I noted in Kansas City’s Offseason Outlook, bullpen help was (and likely still remains) an area of need for the Royals. In particular, the club will likely look at left-handed relief options, as they’ll be short on reliable southpaws next season. Tim Collins struggled with his command again in 2014 and is a non-tender candidate (though GM Dayton Moore did previously indicate to McCullough that he’s still considering tendering a contract to both Collins and Crow), and Scott Downs departed via free agency. That Frasor was able to be had on a modest deal is good news for the Royals, who already projected to field a payroll in the mid-$80MM range before this signing. It’s been reported that Kansas City’s payroll could top $100MM next season, so there’s some flexibility, but adding some reliable innings on a relatively low-cost deal addresses one need without significantly denting Moore’s available funds, allowing him to look for further upgrades in the rotation and possibly in right field.

Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star was the first to report the terms of the contract (Twitter links).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports images.


East Notes: Melky, Heaney, Eovaldi, Murphy, Victorino

Though there’s been mutual interest between Melky Cabrera and the Blue Jays for months, ESPN’s Buster Olney hears that, all things being equal, Cabrera’s preference would be to sign somewhere other than Toronto so that half of his games aren’t played on artificial turf (Twitter links). However, the turf won’t prevent Cabrera from remaining in Toronto if the club’s offer is clearly the best that he receives.

Some more links pertaining to baseball’s Eastern divisions…

  • The Marlins are willing to listen to offers on top prospect Andrew Heaney, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. While parting with the player that entered last season as a Top 30 prospect according to Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com (and 34th per ESPN’s Keith Law) would of course be difficult, the club very much wants a left-handed bat to pair with Giancarlo Stanton in the middle of the order. One key reason for their willingness to part with Heaney, Frisaro notes, is the emergence of fellow lefty Justin Nicolino. Miami acquired Nicolino — who has ranked as a Top 100 prospect himself — from Toronto in the Jose Reyes blockbuster. He posted a 2.85 ERA in 170 1/3 innings at Double-A this season, walking just 1.1 hitters per nine. However, he also saw his strikeout rate dip to a somewhat troubling rate of just 4.3 per nine.
  • Frisaro also notes that right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and southpaw Brad Hand are also available for the right offer. Eovaldi, in particular, is intriguing given the blistering 96 mph he’s averaged as a starter over the past two seasons. Though he struggled a bit with a 4.34 ERA in 2014, FIP (3.37), xFIP (3.76) and SIERA (3.91) all feel he was better than that ERA would suggest. The 24-year-old Hand, meanwhile, has a 4.42 ERA in 195 1/3 big league innings and started 16 games for last year’s club.
  • Daniel Murphy‘s name can frequently be found on the pages of MLBTR, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson said earlier this week on SNY TV in New York (via Metsblog’s Matthew Cerrone) that the second baseman  “should be an important part of our team next year,” further suggesting that it’s a long shot that Murphy will be moved.
  • Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino will swing a bat for the first time since undergoing back surgery on Monday and tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that he’s on pace to be 100 percent by Spring Training. While Boston has quite the outfield logjam, Victorino plainly explains to Bradford that he feels he should be the starting right fielder next season. “…[I]f I’m healthy if there’s a better outfielder in right field then show me and go out there and do it,” says Victorino. “I’m not saying that in a cocky or arrogant way. It’s just how confident I am to know I should be the starting right fielder.” The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” is set to earn $13MM in the final season of a three-year, $39MM pact. While injuries limited him to 30 games last year, the former Phillie was one of the best players on Boston’s 2013 World Series winner, hitting .294/.351/.451 with elite outfield defense leading to more than 5.5 WAR.

MLB Trade Rumors Podcast: Episode 8

MLB player agent Matt Sosnick of Sosnick Cobbe Sports joins host Jeff Todd for the first of a two-part discussion (1:26). This week’s portion includes the latest on Josh Johnson as well as discussion of other Sosnick Cobbe clients such as Josh Willingham, Jay Bruce, Jon Singleton, and Ricky Nolasco. Then, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes joins the show to go in-depth on the latest moves from the Red Sox (20:18).

Don’t forget to fill out our podcast survey for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card.

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. It is appearing a day early in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.


Quick Hits: Pirates, Bruce, Rule 5 Draft, Capuano

The Diamondbacks won the Yasmany Tomas sweepstakes, signing the Cuban outfielder to a six-year, $68.5MM contract and drawing praise from some around the baseball world, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports.  One AL scout called the contract “a great deal,” since another AL scout told Piecoro that “most people thought it would cost between $80MM-$100MM” to sign Tomas.  It’s possible that the Snakes were able to get a relative bargain, however, due to concerns that other teams had about Tomas’ defense and plate discipline, not to mention career numbers in Cuba’s Serie Nacional that fell well behind the totals posted by such stars as Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes or Yasiel Puig.

MLBTR wishes all our readers a Happy Thanksgiving, and here are some items from around baseball to go with your pumpkin pie for dessert…

  • Pirates president Frank Coonelly tells Dejan Kovacevic of DKOnPittsburghSports.com that the team’s payroll “certainly can and I suspect will” top the $90MM mark in 2015.  This works out to roughly $20MM in available funds by Kovacevic’s calculations, and “everything I’m hearing is that most, if not all, of that money will be committed to starting pitching,” with the Pirates hoping to re-sign both Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez.
  • The Reds are looking for multiple “inexpensive Major League-ready players” in exchange for Jay Bruce, a rival scout familiar with the team’s demands told Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.  Cincinnati is known to be listening to offers for Bruce, though it could just be a case of due diligence rather than a legitimate desire to deal the outfielder.
  • The Rule 5 Draft is coming up on December 11, and Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper lists some of the intriguing names that are likely or unlikely be picked in two weeks’ time.  BA’s Matt Eddy, meanwhile, examines some of the key statistics and factors that led several prospects to be added to team’s 40-man rosters in advance of the draft.
  • Chris Capuano said “there’s a lot of truth to” rumors he is interested in pitching in Japan next season, the veteran lefty told Casey Stern and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link).  “It piqued my interest back in 2006….we’re considering it,” Capuano said.  The 36-year-old posted a 4.35 ERA, 2.47 K/BB and 7.5 K/9 over 97 1/3 IP in 2014, making 12 starts for the Yankees and 28 relief appearances for the Red Sox.
  • The Mariners would be hard-pressed to deal starting pitching given their lack of rotation depth, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes, and thus a rumored Hisashi Iwakuma-for-Yoenis Cespedes deal doesn’t make much sense for the team.
  • If GM Brian Cashman truly believes David Robertsonchecks every box” for what’s expected from a Yankees closer, then the team should’ve re-signed Robertson by now, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News opines.  The Robertson/Dellin Betances combo was a major strength for the Yankees last season, though Betances might not be ready to take over the closer’s role.  Plus, as Feinsand argues, “who takes over the setup role if Betances moves to the ninth? Andrew Miller? Luke Gregerson? If you’re going to pay a free-agent reliever, why not spend on the one you’ve drafted and developed yourself?”

NL East Links: Detwiler, Hamels, Rice

Here’s the latest from the NL East…

  • Ross Detwiler‘s camp “has suggested” that the Nationals trade the left-hander if possible, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports.  After being used as a starter and swingman in previous seasons, Detwiler was used solely as a reliever in 2014 and he posted a 4.00 ERA and -0.2 fWAR over 63 IP.  He told Wagner that he had trouble getting used to an irregular bullpen schedule and isn’t sure what his future holds in Washington.  “I don’t feel they have confidence [in me] so I don’t feel like I’m going to be in any significant role whatsoever,” Detwiler said.  Nats GM Mike Rizzo said he expects Detwiler to fill the same role as a reliever and emergency starter, though Wagner wonders if the club could non-tender Detwiler to save some money.  The southpaw is arbitration-eligible and projected to earn $3.3MM by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz.
  • Given the overlap between the teams trying to acquire Cole Hamels from the Phillies and the teams trying to sign Jon Lester, Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com looks at how the Lester market could best benefit the Phillies.  Since the Red Sox and Cubs are heavily rumored to be going after both lefties, Seidman figures that Lester signing with either Boston or Chicago would hurt the Phillies’ trade demands, as one major suitor would be off the board.  Lester signing with the Giants or Yankees would keep both the Cubs and Sox in the Hamels, plus the Red Sox could be more eager to obtain an ace starter to keep up with New York.  Lester going to the Giants could also bring the Dodgers into the Hamels market to keep pace with San Francisco, Seidman writes.
  • There has been some discussion within the Mets front office about re-signing left-hander Scott Rice, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports.  Rice would be brought back on a minor league contract and invited to the big league Spring Training camp.  The Mets outrighted Rice off their 40-man roster last month and he elected free agency following a 2014 campaign that saw him post a 5.93 ERA, 8.6 K/9 and 7.9 BB/9 over 13 2/3 IP.
  • Jeff Todd covered some Phillies and Marlins items as part of an NL Notes post earlier today on MLBTR.

Arbitration Breakdown: Todd Frazier

Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.

Todd Frazier enters his first year of arbitration this winter coming off a career year. In 660 PA, Frazier hit .273, stole 20 bases, smashed 29 home runs and collected 80 RBIs. The Reds’ third baseman has some solid pre-platform year numbers as well, having already accumulated 44 home runs and 155 RBIs before 2014, as well as 10 steals and a .249 average in 1186 PA. Several players have entered arbitration with similar numbers in recent years, but Frazier has somewhat of a leg up on many of them. As a result, my arbitration model projects him to get $4.6MM this winter. While I think that is more likely to be high than low, I do not think he is likely to miss this mark by much.

One promising comparable for Frazier could be Jason Heyward in 2013. He earned $3.65MM after 650 PA with 27 home runs and 21 stolen bases, along with 82 RBI and a .269 average. Basically, his platform season is a dead ringer for Frazier’s but Frazier’s pre-platform power numbers are better, as Heyward hit 32 homers (12 less than Frazier) and 114 RBIs (41 less than Frazier). Both had similar averages in their pre-platform years (Heyward hit .255), and Heyward stole 20 bases to Frazier’s ten. Frazier also had amassed 1186 pre-platform PA, to Heyward’s 1077.  Since Heyward is so similar to Frazier in his platform year, yet Frazier clearly has him beat in his pre-platform years, it seems likely that Frazier will beat Heyward’s $3.65MM mark.  The fact that salaries have grown over the last couple years also factors into Frazier’s higher projected salary.

CAA Sports, Frazier’s agency, could try to argue for Dan Uggla on the high side. Uggla earned $5.35MM in his first year of arbitration, although that was six years ago and thus less likely to be used as a comparable. Furthermore, Uggla was a second baseman, and Frazier is more apt to be compared to outfielders or other corner infielders. This being said, Uggla’s case is somewhat similar — he had 32 home runs and 92 RBI in 2008, so his power numbers bested Frazier’s 29 and 80 in his platform year, and he also had better numbers in his pre-platform years (58 HR and 178 RBI) than Frazier (44 HR and 155 RBI). Frazier had a slightly better platform-year average (.273 versus .260) though his .249 average over his pre-platform years was lower than Uggla’s .263 mark. Overall, Uggla’s $5.35MM number seems like the absolute ceiling of what Frazier can expect to earn.

A couple other players between Heyward’s $3.65MM and Uggla’s $5.35MM are possible comparables for Frazier as well. Pedro Alvarez agreed to a $4.25MM deal last year after having better power numbers, but a lower average and fewer steals than Frazier both in his platform and pre-platform years. Alvarez had 36 HR and 100 RBI in his platform year and 50 HR and 168 RBI in his pre-platform years.  Alvarez’s averages, however, in his platform (.233) and pre-platform years (.237) fall short of Frazier’s .273 and .249, and he only had two steals both in his platform and pre-platform years, falling well short of Frazier’s 20 and 10 steals in each respective period. Overall, depending on how power gets treated relative to average and steals, Alvarez could be seen as a superior or inferior case to Frazier.

Another possibility is comparing Frazier to Mark Trumbo, who earned $4.8MM last season. Trumbo had a .234 average, but 34 HR and 100 RBI with five stolen bases in his platform year, and he hit .259 with 61 home runs and 184 RBIs with 13 stolen bases in his pre-platform years. Trumbo has better numbers across the board in his pre-platform years, but his platform year again asks the question of whether power or batting average and stolen bases are more important. Given all the factors that could eliminate Uggla — 2B vs. 3B, 2008 vs. 2014, etc. — from being a comparable to Frazier, Trumbo’s $4.8MM will in all likelihood be seen as the true ceiling for what Frazier can earn in arbitration.

My best guess is that Alvarez is seen as the most appropriate comparable for Frazier. Alvarez has something of the edge in power numbers while Frazier has the edge in the batting average/stolen base numbers, though there isn’t really a huge gap in any of the categories. Frazier could potentially earn a slight increase representing inflation over Alvarez if they are seen as similar, however. While the model projection of $4.6 is probably too high, I think the Reds third baseman will get relatively close to that number.


At Least Four Teams Interested In Yoan Lopez

Cuban right-hander Yoan Lopez has drawn “strong interest” from several teams, including the Diamondbacks, Giants, Padres and Yankees, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports.  The 21-year-old Lopez held one showcase for scouts earlier this month and will showcase himself again next week in the Dominican Republic.

Lopez is a 6’4″, 190-pound pitcher who has three seasons under his belt for Isla de la Juventud of Cuba’s Serie Nacional.  Major League Baseball has declared Lopez a free agent, but the righty still has to receive clearance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury before he can sign with a team.

According to Sanchez, Lopez “throws a cut-fastball, a change, a curve and a slider, but is best known for a fastball that hovers in the 93-to-95 MPH range. His fastball has been clocked at 100 MPH three times since he began working out for teams.”

The Yankees are one of four clubs (the others being the Rays, Red Sox and Angels) who have already exceeded their spending pools for the 2014-15 international signing period, as Sanchez notes.  This could make these teams more apt to spend on Lopez since they’re already being penalized anyway, though if Lopez doesn’t receive his clearance by June 15, the quartet will be prohibited from spending more than $300K to sign Lopez or any pool-eligible player for each of the next two international signing periods.  If one of the other 26 teams particularly fancies Lopez, of course, they can always exceed their pool limit and accept a penalty themselves.

The D’Backs made a big splash in the international market yesterday by signing Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, while the Padres and Giants were finalists for Tomas’ services.  San Francisco and New York were recently listed by Baseball America’s Ben Badler as two of the top contenders for another star Cuban prospect, Yoan Moncada.  The Yankees, of course, were by far the most active team of the 2014-15 signing period, making deals with ten of Baseball America’s top 30 international prospects.