October 2012

Royals Decline Option For Joakim Soria

The Royals announced that they've declined their 2013 option for Joakim Soria. The reliever, who missed the entire 2012 season to undergo Tommy John surgery, is now a free agent. He obtains a $750K buyout instead of an $8MM salary.

Soria established himself as an elite reliever in the five seasons preceding 2012. Though he struggled in 2011, his career numbers are excellent — a 3.40 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 298 total appearances. If the Royals had exercised his 2013 option they would have kept the rights to a 2014 option valued at $8.75MM.

Indians Exercise Option For Jimenez, Decline For Hafner & Hernandez

The Indians have exercised Ubaldo Jimenez's option for 2013, the team announced. Cleveland also declined their options for Travis Hafner and Roberto Hernandez.

Jimenez, 28, will earn $5.75MM next season after pitching to a 5.40 ERA in 31 starts and 176 2/3 innings last year. Given his track record and age, it's a worthy gamble. The 35-year-old Hafner hit .228/.346/.438 in 263 plate appearances this year, and will receive a $2.75MM buyout instead of a $13MM salary. Hernandez, 32, allowed 15 runs in 14 1/3 innings across three starts this year. His option was worth $6MM.

Orioles Decline Option For Mark Reynolds

The Orioles have declined their 2013 option for Mark Reynolds, MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli reports (on Twitter). The infielder obtains a $500K buyout instead of an $11MM salary.

Reynolds remains under team control via the arbitration process. The Orioles have until November 30th to decide whether to tender him a contract for 2013. If the Orioles offer Reynolds arbitration, he'd get approximately $8.9MM in the estimation of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.

Reynolds started the 2012 season slowly, but hit 15 home runs after August 1st, finishing with 23 homers and a .221/.335/.429 batting line. The 29-year-old struck out 159 times, but didn't lead the league in strikeouts for the first time since 2007.

The Orioles don't have any option decisions remaining. They exercised Luis Ayala's option earlier this week.

Angels Trying To Move Haren, Santana

The Angels are aggressively trying to trade starters Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. It’ll be an upset if they don’t complete at least one deal, and one MLB executive expects both right-handers to be moved. The Angels have been weighing possible trades for at least two days now.

The contracts of Haren ($15.5MM option) and Santana ($13MM option) both include options that could appeal to other teams, even though they aren’t particularly appealing to the Angels. The Angels will decline Santana’s option and there’s every indication they’d decline Haren’s, Rosenthal reports. 

Angels GM Jerry Dipoto isn’t the only one discussing possible deals. A number of teams are already engaged in serious trade talks for starting pitchers, according to Rosenthal. Some of the names in play are more appealing than Haren and Santana.

Offseason Outlook: Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays, one of the few teams with pitching to spare, have needs at multiple positions this coming offseason.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Contract Options

Free Agents

At some point we’ll have to believe Andrew Friedman when he says he doesn’t intend to trade from starting pitching depth. When he said as much a year ago, the rumors continued and the Rays held on to their pitching. Could this offseason be different? James Shields and David Price are becoming more expensive, so this could finally be the year the Rays trade a prominent member of their rotation.

David Price - Rays (PW)

The Rays could address multiple needs by dealing a top-of-the-rotation starter. Their offense ranked 18th in MLB in runs scored, so there’s clearly room for improvement. Still, Friedman has maintained in the past that there’s little use in strengthening one area — such as offense — at the expense of another — in this case pitching.

The Rays were exceptionally good at preventing their opponents from scoring in 2012, allowing the fewest runs in MLB. Their team ERA of 3.19 is even more impressive considering they face designated hitters and play in a division that includes two of the top eight offenses in baseball. The rotation has enough quality arms that Shields or Price could be traded. It'd have to be for the right return though. The Rays haven't always obtained much in trades for starting pitching in the past, once sending Jason Hammel to Colorado for Aneury Rodriguez.

The players themselves are never the only consideration in pro sports, a reality fans of the Rays know better than most. Shields ($10.25MM) and Price (projected arbitration salary of $9.5MM) are making serious money now. Not only could the Rays obtain impact MLB players or prospects for their starters, they could create the payroll flexibility required to address other needs. Any serious offer for Price or Shields will include at least one controllable player with All-Star potential. It could be difficult for the Rays to pass on a trade involving someone like Wil Myers, Jurickson Profar or Mike Olt

Pinning down the Rays’ payroll won’t be easy — it never is. Their expenses have fluctuated considerably in the past five years, all the way up to $72MM and all the way down to $42MM. Assuming the Rays fall somewhere in that range again in 2013, they’ll have one of the lowest payrolls in the game.

This means yet another homegrown player will leave Tampa Bay and sign elsewhere as a free agent this coming offseason. Center fielder B.J. Upton has positioned himself for a multiyear deal worth $10MM-plus per season and priced himself out of Tampa Bay. That much is certain. It’s less clear whether the Rays will make Upton a qualifying offer and set themselves up for draft pick compensation. An offer seems probable, since the Rays could trade Upton in the unlikely event that he accepts.

The Rays didn't get much offense from first base, designated hitter or catcher this past season. Friedman could look to upgrade at any of those positions in the next few months. With Jeff Keppinger and Upton hitting free agency, there are also potential needs at second base and center field. Thanks to the defensive skills of Ben Zobrist, the Rays have exceptional flexibility. They can pursue players at every position but third base. 

Florida native Mike Napoli could be a fit if he's willing to sign a short-term deal. Napoli figures to have multiyear offers, but he might consider a competitive one-year offer to play close to home for a contender. Given the Rays' need for offense at catcher and first base it's worth a shot.

There’s no way the Rays can address each of their needs through free agency, and every other team knows it. They’ll have to consider trades — not just blockbusters but low-profile moves. Could they get an outfielder from the Athletics? An infielder from the Rockies? A catcher from the Blue Jays? A first baseman from the Nationals? The possibilities are just about endless.

The Rays have a medium-sized arbitration class that includes at least three non-tender candidates. Ben Francisco figures to lose his roster spot by the end of November and infielders Sean Rodriguez and Ryan Roberts could also be non-tendered.

Other organizations would view Price as an extension candidate at this stage in his career, but it's extremely hard to envision the Rays paying him market value; it could cost $100MM to sign the left-hander to a six-year deal. It'd be more the Rays' style to pursue extensions for pre-arbitration eligible players such as Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson. Even if it's uncommon for clients of the Boras Corporation to sign so early in their careers, there's no harm in checking in to see if a long-term deal could work for both sides.

The Tampa Bay front office faces four option decisions, one of which has already been picked up. Shields will be a bargain at $10.25MM. Rodney will be a steal at $2.5MM once the Rays exercise his option. The $1.8MM option for 37-year-old Jose Molina will also be exercisedLuke Scott could return if the Rays believe he's healthy enough to hit for power the way he did in Baltimore. Yet he's 34 years of age and spent considerable time on the disabled list last year, so he doesn't seem like the kind of player the Rays would spend significant money on.

As always, Friedman will have to find relief arms on a budget. The Rays have done impressive work supplementing their ‘pen with low-risk relievers in recent years. Rodney, a revelation in 2012, might be Tampa Bay's most impressive relief acquisition of all. He’ll return along with Jake McGee, Burke Badenhop and Wade Davis. However, Joel Peralta, J.P. Howell and Kyle Farnsworth are hitting free agency. Let the search for affordable relievers begin yet again.

The Rays enter the offseason with more needs than most 90-win teams. Their fantastic pitching staff will require a tune-up. And their below-average offense could use upgrades at a number of positions. It could lead to a lot of turnover, not that that’s anything new for Friedman and the Rays.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

Quick Hits: Rockies, White Sox, Peavy, D’Backs

The Rockies have six known candidates for their managerial vacancy in Jason Giambi, bench coach Tom Runnells, former shortstop Walt Weiss, Jerry Manuel, former Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, and current Diamondbacks bench coach Matt Williams.  While they have expressed interest in Giants bench coach Ron Wotus, a major league source told Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post that the list is not likely to be expanded beyond those six.  The source didn't completely rule out the possibility of more names being added, though Wotus hasn't had an interview scheduled with the club.  Here's more from around baseball..

  • In a conference call with reporters, White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn said that the short length of Jake Peavy's deal was "absolutely key" in getting the deal done, writes Jim Margalus of South Side Sox.  Hahn went on to reiterate that he hopes to have Kevin Youkilis, A.J. Pierzynski, and Brett Myers back with the club in 2013.
  • After acquiring reliever Heath Bell and shortstop Cliff Pennington, the Diamondbacks don't have a lot of free agent needs this winter, writes Corey Brock of MLB.com.  General Manager Kevin Towers will now look to add a starting pitcher, left-handed reliever, and possibly a third baseman.  Towers obviously isn't averse to trading and could go that route rather than looking to the open market.
  • Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker runs down this year's NPB free agents with possible major league interest.  Relievers Kyuji Fujikawa and Hideki Okajima are already well-known but shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima and second baseman Kensuke Tanaka could also make the jump this winter.  The Yankees won the rights to sign Nakajima last year but were unable to come to terms with him on a deal.  Tanaka appears to be a prototypical small-ball player and is reportedly willing to take a minor league deal.
  • Reds pitching coach Bryan Price has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Marlins' managerial vacancy, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Dodgers Re-Sign Brandon League

10:24pm: The 2016 vesting option can escalate from $7.5MM to $9MM based on games finished, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter).  League can also earn an additional $500K per year based on games finished.

8:27pm: League's option for 2016 is worth $7.5MM and will vest if he finishes 55 games in 2015, tweets Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.

8:01pm: The deal, negoatiated by League's representatives at ACES, is worth $22.5MM across three years with a vesting option, according to Tim Dierkes (via Twitter). 

7:01pm: The Dodgers have re-signed reliever Brandon League, a source tells Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter).  There's no word on the dollar amount yet but Hernandez reports that the deal is for three years (Twitter link).

League's representatives told Hernandez on Saturday afternoon that the two sides were discussing a three-year contract.  The 29-year-old earned $5MM last season in his final year as an arbitration eligible player.

The Dodgers acquired League on July 30th for a pair of minor leaguers, outfielder Leon Landry and right-hander Logan Bawcom.  In 28 appearances for the Dodgers last season, the California native posted a 2.30 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9.  League was less-than-stellar in Seattle but rebounded nicely in Los Angeles and finished out the year as closer.

The Dodgers are hoping to keep most of their bullpen in place and General Manager Ned Colletti has said that he hopes to hang on to League, Jamey Wright, and Randy Choate.  As a whole, the Dodgers' pen had a 3.23 ERA on the year, good for fourth-best in the National League and eighth-best in the majors.

Which Players Will Receive Qualifying Offers?

This is the first offseason with qualifying offers for free agents, rather than the Elias ranking system and "offering arbitration" to free agents.  Teams have the opportunity to make qualifying offers of $13.3MM to their free agents by Friday at 5pm eastern time, assuming the player was with the team the entire season.  If offered, players must decide whether to accept by November 9th at 5pm eastern time.  Similar to the old system, accepting makes you a signed player for 2013, and declining puts you on the open market with a draft pick cost attached.  Ben Nicholson-Smith explained qualifying offers in further detail in this May article.

The risk of making a qualifying offer is that the player might accept, so we won't see them made to players who are worth nowhere near $13.3MM.  The benefit of offering is that the player may turn it down and sign elsewhere, giving his old team a supplemental draft pick at the end of the first round.  It is possible to decline a club option and then make a qualifying offer.  By my estimation, about a dozen players stand a reasonable chance of receiving a qualifying offer on Friday:

  • Josh Hamilton: The Rangers will certainly offer, and Hamilton will definitely turn it down in search of a multiyear deal at a higher salary.
  • Mike Napoli: This is a borderline case.  My guess is that the Rangers do not offer, as Napoli would have a solid chance of accepting the $13.3MM salary and they may not want to allocate that amount of money to him for 2013.
  • Michael Bourn:  I expect the Braves to make Bourn a qualifying offer, as he's likely expecting a multiyear deal somewhere.
  • B.J. Upton: The Rays will probably make the offer, as Upton also expects a much bigger contract.  If he were to accept for some reason, he'd be tradeable.
  • Nick Swisher: Another easy one: the Yankees will offer, and Swisher will decline in search of a multiyear deal.
  • Edwin Jackson:  This case probably gives the Nationals pause, as $13.3MM is a bit steep for Jackson.  Still, they had good results for $11MM in 2012 and are likely to take the risk of the 21% raise.  I imagine Jackson is all about a multiyear deal this time, anyway.
  • Adam LaRoche: The Nationals want LaRoche back and are likely to make a qualifying offer.
  • Dan Haren: This is a tricky one for the Angels.  They can buy out Haren's $15.5MM option for $3.5MM; doing so indicates they don't value him at $12MM for one year.  To make a qualifying offer after paying the buyout is a risk they probably would not take.  The Halos could exercise Haren's option and then trade him, kicking in the $3.5MM they would have had to pay anyway and getting some kind of useful player in return.
  • Hiroki Kuroda: Similar to Jackson, $13.3MM would feel a little steep for Kuroda but the Yankees will probably do it.
  • Kyle Lohse: Lohse is a good bet to receive a qualifying offer from the Cardinals.
  • Angel Pagan: Pagan is 31 and this is his best shot at a big multiyear deal.  I expect the Giants to offer and Pagan to decline, though they could just work out a new contract.
  • David Ortiz: The Red Sox might as well make the offer, as it gives them leverage and Ortiz clearly wants multiple years.  I doubt he'd like a one-year deal at a pay cut or hitting the open market with a draft pick cost.
  • Rafael Soriano: He's expected to choose a $1.5MM buyout over a $14MM salary for 2013.  At that point the Yankees are rumored likely to make a qualifying offer.  Soriano could accept and come out $800K ahead overall, or he could decline and look for multiple years despite the draft pick cost.
  • Torii Hunter: I don't think the Angels would take the risk.  

Time for you to weigh in…take the survey below and let us know who you think will receive a qualifying offer on Friday.  Click here to view the results.

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Justin Germano Opts For Free Agency

Cubs pitcher Justin Germano has elected free agency after being outrighted to Triple-A Iowa last week, according to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com.  Germano was acquired from the Red Sox in exchange for cash considerations back in July.

The 30-year-old posted a 6.75 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in twelve starts and one relief appearance for the Cubs this season.  The right-hander also made 16 starts and one relief appearance for the Red Sox’s Triple-A affiliate in 2012, posting a 2.40 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9.

Rangers Decline Options For Feldman, Tateyama

5:42pm: Tateyama's 2013 option was worth $1.2MM, according to our own Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).

4:03pm: The Rangers have declined their 2013 options for Scott Feldman and Yoshinori Tateyama, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. The Rangers reinstated Neftali Feliz from the 60-day disabled list and purchased the contract of Justin Miller in related moves.

Feldman obtains a $600K buyout instead of a $9.25MM salary. The 29-year-old started and relieved for the Rangers this past season, posting a 5.09 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 123 2/3 innings.

The value of Tateyama's option remains unknown, but his 2012 option was valued at $1MM. The 36-year-old allowed 17 earned runs in as many innings this year after a promising debut season. He spent most of the 2012 campaign at Triple-A where he pitched much more effectively.