2007 MLB Free Agents Rumors

Yankees, Eli Whiteside Avoid Arbitration

1:00pm: The deal is worth $625K, ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports (on Twitter). This means Matt Swartz's projection was within $25K.

12:27pm: The Yankees announced that they avoided arbitration with catcher Eli Whiteside, agreeing to a one-year contract for 2013. Pro Star Management, Inc. represents the catcher, who was claimed off of waivers from the Giants on November 5th.

Whiteside had been a non-tender candidate with a projected salary of $600K. Be sure to check out MLBTR's Non-Tender Tracker for the status of arbitration eligible players.

Whiteside appeared in 12 games with the Giants this past season and played another 60 contests with San Francisco's Triple-A affiliate. In parts of five seasons at the MLB level, the 33-year-old has a .215/.273/.335 batting line.

Rosenthal On Braves, Marlins, Lee, Cubs

The Braves are interested in adding a right-handed hitting outfielder, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Melky Cabrera and Nate McLouth have not hit well for the Braves, and Jason Heyward's now slumping. Eric Hinske has played tremendously, but can't be expected to post an OPS near 1.000, so the Braves may deal from pitching depth for a bat. Here are the rest of Rosenthal's rumors:

  • The Marlins are actively seeking relief help.
  • Rosenthal says the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers – yes, the Brewers – could be interested in Cliff Lee this summer. The Brewers could provide the Mariners with a hitter like Corey Hart or Mat Gamel and trade Lee to a third team for younger pitchers.
  • The Cubs would love to deal Kosuke Fukudome, but he will earn more than $21MMM between now and the end of 2011, so trading him will not be easy. Click here for more from Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi on Fukudome's availability.
  • Red Sox GM Theo Epstein will probably look to acquire a reliever this summer.

Torre: A-Rod to Dodgers?

The hot stove buzz this morning is Joe Torre’s coy remarks about Alex Rodriguez ending up in Dodger blue.  Said Torre, "It’s possible.  It’s possible.  It’s possible."  There are a number of articles, but Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant reminds readers that Torre and A-Rod have been exchanging phone messages.

In Amore’s article Torre adds that "you’ve got four or five clubs that figure to be in the sweepstakes."  The Dodgers were on Jon Heyman’s list of possible teams.  If the Yankees offer Rodriguez arbitration, which he would decline, and he signs with the Dodgers, the Yankees would not gain a first round pick; however, I’d say the Dodgers and A-Rod make a good deal of sense.  They’d certainly make room for him at 3B or SS.  And Frank McCourt is the kind of owner not afraid to make a big splash.

Posted by Nat Boyle

Could A-Rod Save the O’s?

Update:  Beat writer Jeff Zrebiec reports that yesterday Miguel Tejada told O’s President of Baseball Operations Andy McPhail, "I don’t care about changing positions if we’re going to be a winner, and I want to be on a team that is going to compete and win."  That is a change of tune from the once stubborn shortstop.  Orioles Manager Dave Trembley also said, "I fully expect that he’ll be a major part of this team next season."

The Orioles pitchers have been going the extra mile to make Alex Rodriguez feel at home in Camden Yards this weekend, writes Peter Schmuck.  Schmuck doesn’t add too much to the notion; however, he does suggest that, for a team at the mercy of indecision – do we sign big names or rebuild from within? – Alex Rodriguez, should he opt out of his contract, is one apparent solution.

The O’s need desperately to revive their franchise and A-Rod could certainly do that.  A new long term contract for Arod will have him chasing baseball’s greatest records with whom he signs.  Meanwhile, Miguel Tejada will either be moved to 3B or another team.  Considering his decline in defense, productivity, and attitude it seems the Orioles should lower their demands and trade him this offseason.  That would open up an obvious hole at shortstop, a spot once celebrated by Cal Ripken, and an opportunity that could entice Rodriguez and save the Orioles.

That said, I’m not sure the O’s could afford a potential $30MM player.  They have a total payroll of $93.5MM in 2007, already up 20% from 2006, and at an all-time high.  If they deal Tejada, it’s probable they swallow some of his $13MM/year.  The departure of Benson and Wright free up another $14MM.  If they could void Jay Gibbons‘ contract, they’d be looking in the ballpark of $30MM before arbitration for Erik Bedard and others, various departures, etc.  It seems probable they would have to again increase payroll to afford A-Rod.

Posted by: Nat Boyle

Andruw Likely Gone

Update:  Keith Law just predicted Torii Hunter will make 16MM/year in Texas.  That gels with what Andruw’s seeking.

Tim discussed The Andruw Jones Situation recently and whether he’d accept a 1-year deal or a 5-year hometown discount.  Now, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution discusses the inevitable departure of Andruw Jones here and here.

Despite Andruw coming off career-worst season of hitting .222 with 26 homeruns and 94 RBIs, Scott Boras has said there’s "no way" he’ll accept a 1-year deal.  Instead, he’s seeking a contract at the "fair-market value" of $17-20 million per year.  That’s Vernon Wells-esque.  And why not?  Wells has yet to approach Andruw’s career production.  And it’s always easy to forget after 12 years in the bigs that Andruw Jones is only 30.

Jones has three games left on his contract that paid him $75MM over the last 6 years, a real hometown discount.  Boras has made it known they have no interest in taking another one.

With the Braves’ desire to re-sign their new-darling Mark Teixeira after next season, who in the interim will command around $12MM in arbitration, along with salary increases for John Smoltz, Tim Hudson and other arbitration eligible players, Boras’ demands seem to indicate the unthinkable:  An Atlanta without Andruw.

Posted By: Nat Boyle

Free Agent Leftovers

Taking a look at my Top 50 Free Agents list from November 2nd, only nine players remain.  So far I’ve guessed correctly on 14 of the 41 signees (34%).  That’s already an improvement on last year, but I have to admit there were a lot of no-brainers.

More importantly, let’s take a look at the nine leftovers and assess the possibilities.

4. Barry Zito – The Mets will meet with Zito this week.  The Angels recently dropped out of the bidding.  The Rangers have already made an offer, and the Giants seem to be on the fringe.  If Zito craves the big stage, he’ll become a Met.  If it’s all about the money, it seems that the Rangers will have the top offer.  Would the Mets add a sixth year?

7. Roger Clemens – The Rocket will decide whether to pitch after the new year, and he’ll choose between the Astros, Red Sox, and Yankees for a possible 2/3 season.  Sound familiar?  The Red Sox may be strapped for cash, but leaving Jon Papelbon at closer and adding Clemens could make them the favorite in the AL East.  If things are still up in the air in May or June, perhaps an injury among the five Yankee starters could put them back in the game.  But right now, Houston is still the favorite.

27. Jeff Weaver – Last year’s one-year contract/Boras ploy didn’t work out, but Weaver can still get a multiyear deal in this market.  The Cardinals might want him back; not many other suitors have emerged.  Perhaps the Giants or the loser of the Zito sweepstakes will get involved.  Last year, Weaver didn’t sign until February.   

28. Jeff Suppan – Arguably the second best free agent starter remaining.  The Giants, Brewers, Pirates, Royals, and Blue Jays are still in the running for him.  He’ll wait for Zito to sign first.

35. Trot Nixon – He hasn’t been terribly popular this offseason.  The Pirates have made an offer, and the Orioles have some interest. The A’s or Phils could still jump in if the price is right.  One year, $7MM might get it done.

39. Mark Mulder – Mulder just got married this weekend.  Congrats, Mark!  I’m sure his new wife doesn’t want him on the phone with his agent on the honeymoon, so a decision isn’t forthcoming.  He wants a two-year deal and the D’Backs, Cards, Rangers, Padres, Indians, Devil Rays, Orioles, or Giants could sign him.  He’s already got offers in hand from Texas, Arizona, and St. Louis despite the uncertainty of his shoulder.

46. Aubrey Huff – The last reliable, fairly young bat.  The Pirates have been surprisingly disinterested, but the Orioles, Astros, or Phillies could make an offer.  Houston doesn’t have a ton of room for him though, and the O’s signed Jay Payton.  He might have to reduce his demand to a two-year contract and could be a bargain.

47. Craig Wilson – The only team to show even mild interest so far has been the Yankees.  They’re currently checking Doug Mientkiewicz‘s medical records and seem to be leaning that way.  That leaves Wilson floating around as a poor man’s Huff, unable to play any position well.  Perhaps he should don the tools of ignorance again and market himself that way.

48. Ryan Klesko – Why wouldn’t the Mariners sign a guy like this instead of trading for Jose Vidro?  Klesko’s said to be feeling good, and he could provide 20 HR and a nice OBP as a DH.  The Giants and Orioles are the only interested parties right now.

2007 MLB Free Agents: Tomo Ohka

With seven teams seriously interested, it's time to take a closer look at free agent starter Tomo Ohka

Ohka made $4.53MM this year.  He turns 31 in March and is seeking a three-year commitment.  RotoWorld names the Nationals, Mariners, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, and Pirates as interested parties.  I've also heard the Cardinals mentioned; they seem to succeed with this type of pitcher.

Ohka is a guy who pitches to contact and typically shows good command.  He's a flyball pitcher who mostly throws fastballs and sliders.

Some past history on Tomokazu Ohka (source: RotoWire):

The Red Sox purchased the 22 year-old's contract from the Yokohama Baystars of Japan's Central League.  He'd worked mostly in relief in Japan.

He excelled at Double A and Triple A, going 15-0 across the two levels for the year.  A 5.7 K/BB ratio in Triple A inspired the Sox to call him up in July to face the Marlins.  He pitched poorly in two starts and later six relief appearances.  He earned the team's Minor League Pitcher of the Year honor.

Ohka didn't break camp with the Red Sox; he began the year at Pawtucket.  In June, he tossed a perfect game for the Triple A club.  A few weeks later, he earned a suspension for an off-field fight with South Korean Sun-Woo Kim.  Kim's still around, so perhaps they'll clash again. 

Trade rumors swirled about, but Ohka stayed put and eventually made 12 starts for the Sox with a 3.12 ERA.

He broke camp with the Sox, but was sent back down in May when David Cone temporarily healed.  Ohka bounced back and forth, filling in for Cone, Pedro Martinez, Frank Castillo, and Bret Saberhagen.  Ohka pitched poorly.  At the trading deadline,  he was sent to the Expos for Ugueth Urbina.  He posted a 4.77 ERA in 10 starts for Montreal.

This was Ohka's breakout season, as he won 13 games with a 3.18 ERA in 31 starts.  It was a strong Montreal staff, with Javier Vazquez, Bartolo Colon, Carl Pavano, Tony Armas, and Masato Yoshii contributing.  One note is that Ohka received a six-game suspension for throwing at Andruw Jones after Jones hit two home runs off him.  In November, Ohka pitched for an MLB All-Star team that played in Japan.

An uneventful but healthy season, as Ohka won ten games with a 4.16 ERA in 34 starts. Well, there was one event.

He began the season as the #3 guy behind Livan Hernandez and Zach Day. In June, a Carlos Beltran liner broke his right forearm; Will Carroll described it as a "particularly nasty fracture."  He was activated from the DL in September.  On the season, he posted a fine 3.40 ERA despite his weakest strikeout rate and a lot of baserunners.

With a metal plate and screws in his forearm, Ohka was not the same pitcher in April.  His velocity was down and he allowed more flyballs.  Frank Robinson moved him to the bullpen in May but he found his way back once John Patterson got hurt.

In June came Ohka's famous diss of Robinson – he turned his back on his manager when he came out to make a pitching change.  Robinson had to grab the ball out of his hand.  The Nats fined him and traded him five days later to the Brewers for Junior Spivey.  This despite his 3.33 ERA in nine starts on the season and a year and a half of service time left.  Upon joining the Brewers, Ohka posted a 4.35 ERA in 20 starts, including his first shutout.

Shoulder discomfort popped up on May 1st; Ohka was showing reduced velocity from a strained rotator cuff.  The partial tear led to a DL stint.  He returned from rehab in July; Will Carroll said his velocity looked good.  A hamstring injury in September ended his season.  The Brewers declined to offer him arbitration, and here we are.

Free Agent Spending By Team

I’ve had a few people ask how much money has been spent so far on free agents so I compiled a list at my blog showing the values for the first 28 players that have signed.

Here’s the link: http://buccoblog.mlblogs.com

How’s your team doing? Sinking, swimming, or not even close to the water yet?

By Jake at Bucco Blog

Free Agent Class Ranks 2006

This isn’t a major concern for most teams, (especially in the current market) but sandwich picks and other compensation in the rule 4 (amateur) draft are determined by a cockamamie formula developed by the Elias Sports Bureau. 

Teams that lose a Type A free agent are compensated with two draft picks. Teams that lose a Type B free agent get one pick in return.  The other particulars, along with the entire list of this year’s FA Class Rankings, can be found here.  The entire list of Elias rankings (everybody, not just FAs) can be seen here.  (The formula takes into account the previous two seasons–that’s how a guy like Mark Mulder and his 93 IP of 7.14 ERA in ’06 can wiggle his way to the top of the B class of starting pitchers.)

It’s interesting because it’s an exploitable area.  If you’re a low-budget team looking to build your organization through the draft and player development, losing the right guys (overvalued, Type A free agents) can pay dividends.  Similarly, signing the right low-level (Type-B/No-Comp) undervalued FAs, whereby you don’t lose a pick, is certainly low-risk, and might be high-return if you’re lucky. 

With position classes weighted equally, losing David Riske (RP) gets you as many compensatory picks as losing Jason Schmidt (SP) or Alfonso Soriano (1B,OF,DH). White Sox fans can feel good about that one, and Red Sox fans can rejoice with Mark Loretta making the A-list.

Keep in mind, nearly all these comped picks are within the first two rounds, that’s before solid-looking prospects like Jonathan Papelbon, Elijah Dukes, or Ricky Nolasco are getting picked…they are slots where you’re essentially getting instant top-20 prospects within your organization.

(UPDATE: Apologies.  Teams that sign a Type B Free Agent do lose one of their own draft picks.  Also, (and something pretty important that I forgot to mention) the top 15 picks are protected.  So, as a few commenters pointed out, the Cubs, for instance, do not lose their cozy #3 slot as a result of signing Alf.

–Koch at CubDumb

Tim Getting Married? Oh my..

Tim invited me to post a few comments while he is off on his honeymoon. I suppose my first post should be titled "Why, Tim?" but I’ll leave that alone. Instead, I’ll throw you a few general tidbits today so you have some reading material over the weekend.

The Rockies and Marlins have had some interest in acquiring Chris Duffy from the Pirates but word out of Pittsburgh is, Duffy isn’t available.

I posted a new article at Bucco Blog: Marginal $/Marginal Wins: 1999 – 2006 which tends to show the front office efficiency of MLB teams over the last eight years.

David Pinto has started to release his year-end PMR (Probabilistic Model of Range) defensive stats based on ball in play data.

Dan Syzmborski is also starting to release his 2007 offensive player ZIPS projections at The Baseball Think Factory.

David W. Smith presented a paper titled "Effect of Batting Order (Not Lineup) on Scoring" at SABR’s 2006 national convention. It’s a great read. You can look through some of the better SABR papers at Retrosheet’s research section.

Baseball-Reference has added a lot of great features so far this off season including box scores for every game since 1957, batting and pitching gamelogs, and my favorite, splits. Here is Zach Duke’s splits to give you an idea.

Until next week, join me in sending Tim and his new bride congrats — *Jake toasts his Corona*.

By Jake at Bucco Blog