October 2013

Pirates To Try To Re-Sign Burnett, Byrd, Barmes

The Pirates will try to re-sign pitcher A.J. Burnett, outfielder Marlon Byrd and shortstop Clint Barmes, and they may extend Burnett a qualifying offer, MLB.com's Tom Singer reports. Burnett is still deciding between playing for the Pirates for one more year and retiring, but Singer suggests that the most likely route is that Burnett will accept their qualifying offer. Since Burnett has already said he wants to retire as a Pirate, the Bucs do not need to worry much about their five-day exclusive negotiating period, except in the sense that whether or not they re-sign Burnett will have a significant impact on the rest of their offseason plans.

Byrd, who arrived via an August trade with the Mets, would continue to serve as the Pirates' right fielder if he were to re-sign. If he does not, the bulk of the playing time will likely go to Jose Tabata, with prospects Andrew Lambo and Gregory Polanco behind him. After posting a .291/.336/.511 season in 2013, Byrd will likely be in line for a multiyear deal, even at age 36.

Barmes made $5.5MM in the second year of his two-year deal with the Bucs in 2013. He hit poorly in both seasons and lost his starting shortstop job to Jordy Mercer, but he still has value due to his strong defense. If the Pirates retain him, it would likely be on a cheap one-year deal to back up Mercer.

The Bucs will try to negotiate with Byrd and Barmes before the bidding opens to other teams, Singer reports. He also notes that the Pirates are unlikely to re-sign first baseman Justin Morneau, catcher John Buck, or pitchers Jeff Karstens or Kyle Farnsworth.

AL Notes: Nathan, Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers

Joe Nathan wants to continue pitching for the Rangers, but he understands it might not be possible if he wants a two-year deal, Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com reports. "I know they have a surplus of arms in the bullpen and I know the business side of it," says Nathan. "You’re trying to get as much money as you can to strengthen your club, so they may want to spend that money somewhere else. They have some work to do to piece some holes together." The Rangers have a one-year, $9MM team option on Nathan, although Nathan has the right to void it; even that might not be the best use of resources for the Rangers, who will be trying to address a variety of needs (catchers and the outfield, in particular) with a limited budget. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman says he will congratulate Red Sox GM Ben Cherington at the Winter Meetings in December, Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News reports. Cashman says he texted Cherington before the World Series, adding, "I was rooting for them and thought they were the team to beat." Cashman notes, however, that the stress of the offseason means that Cherington won't have much time to enjoy his organization's accomplishment. "As GM, you don’t have time to enjoy it long," says Cashman. "The work starts again right away."
  • The Tigers interviewed Padres bench coach Rick Renteria for their manager position today, writes John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported earlier this week that Renteria would interview. Renteria worked in the Marlins system when current Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski was GM there. The Tigers have also interviewed their own hitting coach, Lloyd McClendon, along with Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach and Padres executive Brad Ausmus.

AL West Notes: Mariners, Angels, Astros

The Mariners interviewed Dave Valle for their managerial opening this week, Ted Keith of SI.com reports. Valle played in ten seasons for the Mariners, primarily at catcher, but has no prior coaching experience. As Keith notes, teams appear to value prior managing experience, at least, less than they once did, with Mike Matheny, Robin Ventura, Bryan Price, Don Mattingly and John Farrell all winning jobs without prior managing experience in the Majors or the minors. Valle has recently worked in broadcasting. Here's more on the AL West.

  • The Angels aren't likely to extend a qualifying offer to free agent Jason Vargas, but they might sign him to a multiyear deal anyway, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. Vargas would likely decline the Angels' qualifying offer, DiGiovanna says, but the Angels don't want to offer one because the $14.1MM commitment if Vargas were to accept would move them close to the $189MM luxury tax threshold.
  • The Angels' luxury-tax issues will likely mean they'll attempt to upgrade their rotation primarily through trades, explains Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. If they bring Vargas back, it would appear to be for less on a yearly basis than the $14.1MM qualifying offer. In the meantime, they'll hope to acquire young pitching by dealing players like Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar or Peter Bourjos. Doing so might also help them shed salary.
  • The Astros' payroll could rise to $50MM or $60MM next year, writes MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. That doesn't sound like much, but it's a huge increase over the team's $13MM 2013 payroll. "If you add three or four key positions and bring in a couple of guys [from the Minor Leagues] that are ready, this team is pretty competitive pretty quickly with the starting pitching we've got," says owner Jim Crane. "We're deep in pitching." McTaggart writes that the Astros will look for bullpen help, but they could also in a power hitter (perhaps a corner outfielder) and a starting pitcher.

East Notes: Phillies, Braves, Orioles

The Phillies could be major players in the outfield free agent market, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. That means they could pursue Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz or Curtis Granderson. (Of those, Cruz might make the most sense, since the Phillies have expressed interest in right-handed hitting to balance out their lefty-heavy lineup.) They're also interested in the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton, but it does not appear the Marlins will trade him. Other than Domonic Brown, Philadelphia got little out of their outfield positions last year. Heyman notes that the Phillies also would like relief help. Here are more notes from the East divisions.

Blue Jays Exercise Janssen, Lind, DeRosa Options

6:50pm: The Jays have exercised their options on Lind and DeRosa, while declining their option on Kawasaki, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi writes. Lind hit .288/.357/.497 while splitting his time between first base and DH in 2013. DeRosa hit .235/.326/.407 while playing first, second, third and DH. Kawasaki provided a feel-good moment or two for the Jays in a season in which they had very few, but he split his time between Toronto and Triple-A Buffalo and only hit .229/.326/.308 in the Majors. Davidi notes that the Jays could re-sign him to a minor-league deal.

5:04pm: The Blue Jays have exercised their $4MM option on closer Casey Janssen, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets. Janssen pitched 52 2/3 innings in 2013, posting a 2.56 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9, so the decision was likely a relatively straightforward one. The option came as part of a two-year, $5.9MM deal signed prior to the 2012 season. Janssen made $3.9MM in 2013. He is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.

The Jays have yet to announce decisions on options for first baseman / designated hitter Adam Lind ($7MM with a $2MM buyout), infielder Munenori Kawasaki ($1MM) and utilityman Mark DeRosa ($750K with a $25K buyout).

Dodgers Decline Options On Mark Ellis, Chris Capuano

The Dodgers announced on Twitter that they have declined their options on Mark Ellis and Chris Capuano. Ellis' contract contained a $5.75MM club option, and Caupano's deal contained an $8MM mutual option. Each player will receive a $1MM buyout.

Ellis, 36, batted .270/.323/.351 with six homers and four steals in 126 games (480 plate appearances) for the Dodgers this season. As is typically the case, he was a standout defender at second base, posting marks of +7.6 in UZR/150 and +12 in The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) metric. I speculated earlier today that the Dodgers may be able to trade Ellis to a team in need of an upgrade at the keystone position, as his $5.75MM option was plenty reasonable, but the veteran will now be able to negotiate with any club.

Capuano, 35, pitched to a 4.26 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 105 2/3 innings for the Dodgers this season. While his role with the club was uncertain early on, injuries opened up a rotation spot, and 20 of his 24 appearances for the Dodgers wound up being starts. A .334 batting average on balls in play shows that Capuano was the victim of some poor luck, and his FIP reflects that, projecting that his ERA should've been closer to 3.55.

The Dodgers showed a clear readiness to move on from Ellis when they inked Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero to a four-year $28MM contract on Oct. 22. In terms of pitching depth, they can afford to let Capuano go in search of higher-profile options, given the presence of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley and Stephen Fife.

Red Sox Will Make Qualifying Offers To Drew, Napoli, Ellsbury

The Red Sox plan on extending qualifying offers to Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli and Jacoby Ellsbury, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. That Ellsbury will receive a qualifying offer is no surprise; he currently ranks second on MLBTR's Free Agent Power Rankings and is commonly thought to be the No. 2 free agent on the market behind Robinson Cano.

Likewise, the news that Napoli and Drew will receive qualifying offers is none too surprising. Napoli is one of the top power bats on this year's free agent market, and the $14.1MM value of a qualifying offer would be just a $1.1MM raise on the $13MM he earned in 2013 after hitting all of the incentives on his one-year contract.

Drew earned $9.5MM in 2013, so the risk is somewhat more substantial for the Red Sox, especially considering the fact that they have Xander Bogaerts in tow as the shortstop of the future. However, Drew should be able to secure a multiyear contract in what is, as always, a thin class of free agent shortstops. He and Jhonny Peralta are the only two free agents that could be realistically expected to hold down an everyday shortstop role in 2014. 

Napoli batted .259/.360/.482 with 23 homers in his first season with the Red Sox, appearing in 139 games (578 plate appearances) and showing no signs of ill effect from his recent diagnosis of avascular necrosis (AVN) in each of his hips. Napoli has already gone on record as saying he'd like to return to Boston, though he's unlikely to accept the qualifying offer, knowing that the Red Sox (and the rest of the market) value him more highly than that. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes projects that he'll sign a three-year, $42MM contract this offseason.

Though he slumped in the postseason, Drew slashed a strong .253/.333/.443 with 13 regular-season home runs. His overall line is boosted by a sizzling second half in which he batted .276/.356/.481 with eight of his 13 homers. UZR/150 pegged his shortstop defense as 6.7 runs above average.

Absent from the list of free agents expected to receive qualifying offers is catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Heyman writes that at this time, it's unclear as to whether or not the Red Sox will be comfortable tendering the 29-year-old a one-year, $14.1MM offer. I'd expect that Salty will receive the offer as well, and Tim agreed in his free agent profile of Saltalamacchia, pegging him for four years and $36MM even with draft pick compensation attached.

Cardinals Decline Jake Westbrook’s Option

The Cardinals have declined their half of the $9.5MM mutual option on Jake Westbrook's contract, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (on Twitter). Westbrook will be paid a $1MM buyout.

The 36-year-old Westbrook posted a 4.63 ERA in 116 2/3 innings for the Cards this season, maintaining a strong ground-ball rate (56.3 percent) as has come to be expected of the veteran. However, his already low strikeout rate dropped, and he wound up posting a career-worst 44-to-50 K/BB ratio. The writing was on the wall for Westbrook, as he was left off the team's postseason roster.

Typically very durable, Westbrook also saw a pair of stints on the 15-day disabled list in 2013, missing a month with elbow inflammation and another two weeks with a strained lower back. Westbrook may be able to find a Major League deal this offseason in free agency based on his track record, but the two DL stints and the fact that he walked more batters than he struck out in 2013 would mean his guarantee would be just a fraction of this season's $8.75MM salary.

The Cardinals are well-equipped to move on from Westbrook, with Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly and Jaime Garcia all present as internal options for the starting rotation.

Marlins Exercise Jacob Turner’s Option

The Marlins have exercised their $1MM club option on right-hander Jacob Turner, the team announced. Turner earned $1.175MM in 2013 — the final season of a four-year, $5.5MM contract that he signed as a first-round draft selection of the Tigers in 2009.

Turner, 22, was acquired by the Marlins in a July 2012 trade that sent Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to Detroit. Turner made 20 starts for the Fish this season and looks to have earned himself a place in the 2014 rotation after posting a 3.74 ERA in 118 innings. His 5.9 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 could both stand to improve, though he posted a solid 45.7 percent ground-ball rate and averaged a respectable 91.9 mph on his fastball.

Going forward, Turner figures to be a part of a young Marlins rotation that will be anchored by Rookie of the Year front-runner Jose Fernandez and will also contain Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez.

Rangers Decline Lance Berkman’s Option

The Rangers have declined their $12MM club option on designated hitter Lance Berkman in favor of a $1MM buyout, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter).

Berkman, who turns 38 in February, missed nearly two months of the season with a hip injury and also missed a week earlier in the season with knee soreness. Signed to be the Rangers everyday DH, his durability issues shone through, as he appeared in just 73 games and totaled 294 plate appearances. In those 294 trips to the plate, Big Puma slashed .242/.340/.359 with six homers.

As the season wore on, Berkman weighed retirement but ultimately decided that he felt he could make a comeback and return to the team. He did make it back to the club, but his injuries limited him at the plate and he wound up going hitless in just 12 September at-bats.

Designated hitter figures to be an area of need for the Rangers this offseason, along with catcher, left field and possibly first base if they'd like to upgrade over Mitch Moreland.