January 2012

Stark On Tigers, Blanton, Bartlett, Kazmir

As ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark points out, the NL Central will look considerably different in 2012, now that Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa have moved on. Ryan Braun could miss 50 games with a suspension that would make the division even less recognizable. Here are Stark’s latest notes and rumors:

  • Scouts and executives doubt Miguel Cabrera will be able to play third base with much skill in 2012.
  • One AL executive suggests the Tigers would have to eat a lot of money to trade Victor Martinez next offseason. Insurance will likely cover approximately half of the switch hitter’s 2012 salary of $13MM, Stark writes.
  • Stark hears that the Phillies have sent signals that they might make Joe Blanton available this spring.
  • Jason Bartlett has been available this winter and the Red Sox could pursue him, Stark writes. However, the shortstop will earn $5.5MM in 2012 and the Red Sox aim to stay below the luxury tax threshold.
  • Scott Kazmir intends to pitch in 2012, but his fastball velocity is in the 84-85 mph range. The 28-year-old appeared in one game for the Angels last year and they released him after a rough stretch at Triple-A.
  • There’s every indication that the commissioner’s office will discipline Juan Carlos Oviedo/Leo Nunez and Roberto (Heredia) Hernandez/Fausto Carmona for using false identities.
  • Though many have told Bud Selig that adding a second Wild Card team to each league this year will create scheduling issues, the commissioner seems intent on expanding the playoffs in 2012, and Stark expects him to get his wish.

One-Year Deal Likely For Edwin Jackson

2:45pm: The Red Sox offered a one-year deal in the $5-6MM range and remain in the hunt for Jackson, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports.

1:09pm: Edwin Jackson has multiple three-year offers, but clubs are being told that the free agent right-hander is much more likely to sign a one-year deal than a multiyear contract, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. The Orioles like Jackson and have made him an offer, but Connolly suggests it won't be enough to sign him.

The Orioles would consider a four-year deal for Jackson, though they seem more comfortable with a three-year deal that includes a fourth option year, Connolly writes. If Jackson seeks a one-year deal, Baltimore would seem to be an unlikely destination given its hitter-friendly park, remote chances of contending and division.

Howard Megdal compared Jackson and Jason Schmidt earlier today, suggesting that Jackson could be a bargain signing. 

AL Central Notes: Cabrera, Floyd, Royals

The Indians made a trade today, acquiring 2011 International League MVP Russ Canzler from the Rays. It wouldn't be surprising to see Cleveland add another hitter before Opening Day, but their division rivals appear to have completed most of their offseason shopping at this point. Here's the latest from the AL Central…

Free Agencies Separated At Birth: Jackson & Schmidt

It is fairly astonishing that we are entering the month when teams report for Spring Training, and Edwin Jackson remains as homeless as Thomas Jane in Arrested Development.

This is particularly true when we compare Jackson's free agency to the one enjoyed ten offseasons ago by Jason Schmidt. The year was 2001. The Diamondbacks had just beaten the Yankees in the World Series. George Harrison died. Anthrax was in the air.

But none of that stopped Jason Schmidt. The righty, about to enter his age-29 season, had put up an ERA+ of 107 while pitching for two teams. For his career, his ERA+ stood at 99, with career walk rate of 3.8 per nine innings and a strikeout rate of 6.9 per nine innings. He was rewarded with a five-year, $41MM contract from San Francisco.

Fast forward ten years, and look at Edwin Jackson. The righty, about to enter his age-29 season, has just put up an ERA+ of 106 while pitching for two teams. For his career, his ERA+ stands at 97, with a walk rate of 3.7 per nine innings and a strikeout rate of 6.7 per nine innings. And he can't find a job.

If Schmidt is any indication, today's teams are missing an opportunity for a bargain. Over his next five seasons, Schmidt pitched just over 1,000 innings at an ERA+ of 127. He made three All Star teams, finished in the top four of Cy Young voting twice, won an ERA title in 2003, and reduced his walks to 3.2 per nine while elevating his strikeouts to 9.0 per nine. He was well worth that $41MM investment.

Chances are good that Jackson won't approach Schmidt's contract length, and his annual salary could dip below Schmidt's as well, even adjusting for the decade that has passed. Why? Teams fear getting stuck with the other Schmidt deal — the three-year, $47MM contract he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 2007 season. For that money, Los Angeles received 43 1/3 innings of 6.02 ERA pitching.

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Blue Jays, Mariners Talked Pineda For Lawrie Swap

Alex Anthopoulos hinted last night that some young Blue Jays drew trade interest this offseason, and Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail has the details on some talks that never materialized. The Blue Jays and Mariners discussed Michael Pineda, but the Blue Jays balked when the Mariners wanted Brett Lawrie in return for the right-hander, according to Blair's sources.

Instead, the Yankees obtained Pineda for Jesus Montero last month and the Blue Jays held onto Lawrie. The 22-year-old British Columbia native made his MLB debut in 2011, posting a .293/.373/.580 line in 171 plate appearances. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik selected Lawrie in the first round of the 2008 draft when he was Milwaukee's scouting director. Meanwhile, Pineda posted a 3.74 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 171 innings as a rookie last year.

Diamondbacks, Roberts Avoid Arbitration

The Diamondbacks and Ryan Roberts avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year, $2.0125MM deal, the Beverly Hills Sports Council tweets. BHSC represents Roberts, a super two player who was arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason.

As MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows, Roberts had filed for $2.275MM and the Diamondbacks had offered $1.65MM for a midpoint just shy of $2MM. Craig Breslow is Arizona's lone unsigned arbitration eligible player now that the Diamondbacks have agreed to terms with Roberts and Miguel Montero.

Phillies Sign Chad Qualls

The Phillies announced that they signed right-handed reliever Chad Qualls to a one-year, $1.15MM contract. The deal includes performance bonuses for the Hendricks Sports client.

Qualls posted a 3.51 ERA with 5.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 56.6% ground ball rate in 74 1/3 innings for the Padres last year. The Phillies point out that the 33-year-old has made more appearances (512) than any other MLB pitcher since 2005. He has a 3.78 ERA with 7.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and a 57.5% ground ball rate in eight career seasons.

The Phillies added Jonathan Papelbon and Dontrelle Willis to the bullpen earlier in the offseason. Dave Bush and David Purcey will be among the team's non-roster invitees.

Diamondbacks, Montero Avoid Arbitration

The Diamondbacks announced that they avoided arbitration with catcher Miguel Montero (Twitter link). The sides agreed to terms on a one-year, $5.9MM deal minutes before this morning's scheduled hearing, MLB.com's Steve Gilbert tweets.

As MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows, Montero and his representatives at Octagon had asked for $6.8MM, while the Diamondbacks had countered with a $5.4MM offer. The Diamondbacks now have two unsigned arbitration eligible players: Ryan Roberts and Craig Breslow.

Montero, who earned $3.2MM in 2011, is entering his final season of arbitration eligibility. He posted a .282/.351/.469 line with 18 home runs in 553 plate appearances last year, when he made his first All-Star team. He'll join Yadier MolinaMike Napoli and Russell Martin on next year's free agent market, assuming he doesn't sign an extension first.

AL East Notes: Jones, Red Sox, Yankees

On this date last year, the Rays signed Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez to one-year deals. Damon put together a successful season in Tampa Bay, but MLB suspended Ramirez for violating its drug policy and he appeared in just five games for the Rays. Here are today's AL East links…

  • Though the Orioles have some interest in extending Adam Jones, they haven’t begun extension talks with the center fielder, the Baltimore Sun reports. Jones is one of Baltimore’s three unsigned arbitration eligible players, along with fellow CAA client Jeremy Guthrie and right-hander Brad Bergesen. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes previewed a possible Jones extension last summer.
  • Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said it seems like compensation for his departure to Chicago should be determined sometime soon, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. The commissioner’s office will determine what the Red Sox obtain from the Cubs as compensation.
  • Larry Koestler of River Ave. Blues says the Yankees should target Zack Greinke at least as much as they target Cole Hamels next offseason. Both pitchers are set to hit free agency within the year, assuming they don't sign extensions first.

Extension Candidate: Anibal Sanchez

Before he turned 24, Anibal Sanchez had been dealt in a blockbuster trade, pitched a no-hitter and undergone an operation for a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. The unpredictability of the right-hander’s early career has subsided and Sanchez, who turns 28 next month, has established himself as a dependable, accomplished starter.

Anibal Sanchez - Marlins

Since 2010, Sanchez has averaged a 3.61 ERA, 196 innings, 8.3 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 44.7% ground ball rate. He’s entering his final season as an arbitration eligible player, and the Marlins view him as a candidate for a contract extension. The club approached Sanchez about a long-term deal late last season, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reported in the fall.

The Marlins offered $6.9MM for 2012, while Sanchez countered with an $8MM submission, as MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows. Let’s place his 2012 earnings at $7.5MM to keep things simple. 

Sanchez’s free agent years figure to be considerably more expensive for the Marlins. C.J. Wilson, who was able to solicit bids from all 30 teams this offseason, will earn $15.5MM per free agent year under his new contract with the Angels. Since 2010, Wilson has out-performed Sanchez in terms of wins, ERA and innings, so it's hard to imagine an annual salary of $15.5MM for Sanchez's free agent years at this point. Another Angels starter, Jered Weaver, signed an $85MM deal, but it’s also out of reach for Sanchez.

There’s little doubt that Sanchez’s free agent years are each worth $10MM-plus. Johnny Cueto, Trevor Cahill and other statistically similar pitchers had free agent years valued above $10MM on extensions, although those pitchers were considerably further from free agency than Sanchez is now. This gives us a likely $10MM floor for each free agent year to go along with the presumed ceiling of $15.5MM.

John Danks signed a five-year, $65MM deal with the White Sox and though the left-hander has historically been more durable than Sanchez, his deal could figure in to talks between the Marlins and Icon Sports Group. Danks’ free agent seasons were valued at $14.25MM each, a target Sanchez could approach.

A 2012 salary of $7.5MM and a $14MM salary for 2013-15 would amount to a four-year total in the $50MM range. The deal would not rival Danks’ contract in terms of length or overall value, but Sanchez has more labrum operations than 200-inning seasons at this point in his career, and the Marlins will surely take that into account when considering the possible risks of locking Sanchez up.

However, Miami committed $58MM for four seasons of Mark Buehrle and appear to have offered Wilson considerably more. They’re willing to spend on pitching and if they believe Sanchez can replicate his 2010-11 success, he could be their next long-term investment.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.