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The Marlins are looking to fill voids at second base, third base, and catcher this offseason and it appears that GM Dan Jennings has a level of flexibility that predecessor Larry Beinfest did not, writes Peter Gammons of Gammons Daily. For their second base opening, Miami has discussed Mark Ellis, who would also provide the club with some needed veteran leadership.
The 36-year-old had his $5.75MM club option declined by the Dodgers after they finalized their deal with Cuban second baseman Alexander Guerrero. Ellis batted .270/.323/.351 with six homers and four steals in 126 games (480 plate appearances) for the Dodgers and, as usual, he was a standout defender at second base. Ellis posted marks of +7.6 in UZR/150 and +12 in The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) metric. The Tigers also have Ellis on their radar.
The Marlins have also approached the Red Sox about 22-year-old third baseman Garin Cecchini, even though he would appear to be similar to Colin Moran, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft. Cecchini spent time in Advanced-A and Double-A in 2013, hitting a combined .322/.443/.471 with seven homers. Baseball America ranked Cecchini as the seventh-best prospect in the Red Sox's system heading into the 2013 season. One executive covering the Arizona Fall League told Gammons that the youngster “has sneaky power that will play in the big leagues and will keep increasing in pro ball.”
We've all seen the range of responses to the four-year, $53MM deal that Jhonny Peralta inked with the Cardinals right on the heels of serving a fifty game suspension for violating the performance enhancing substances prohibitions contained in the league's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program (JDA). Rather than rehash them here, or take a moral stand in one way or another, I'd like to look at things from a practical perspective.
By guaranteeing four years at over $13MM per, the contract went well beyond the biggest multi-year deals given to other players recently hit with a suspension just before hitting free agency. That doesn't change the moral calculus, but it does highlight that — as MLBTR's Steve Adams has explained — teams may not be substantially reducing their valuation of a player based on his past usage of PEDs. Though clubs may factor in some negative PR value, discount past performance during periods of use, or add in a bit of an additional risk adjustment, the net just isn't that great.
Peralta may well have landed his deal because of his steady production and defense at a position in great demand on the present market, rather than his PED use. But he just as surely did not lose his deal because of the banned substances that he took.
This matters most, it seems to me, because of what it says about incentives. Teams' market-driven decision-making is apparently not going to provide a significant disincentive on its own. And the fact is, as Cards' GM John Mozeliak correctly points out, "at this point in the game, there's nothing that says [Peralta] can't go play or isn't free to go sign with another club."
And, arguably, neither is the JDA itself doing enough to shift the PED equation. Like all punitive systems, the JDA sets up upon negatives incentives to outweigh positive incentives to engage in the behavior it wishes to prohibit. As Diamondbacks reliever and union rep Brad Ziegler said on Twitter: "We thought 50 games would be a deterrent. Obviously it's not."
This may be somewhat overstated: the shaming effect (especially given the shift in player sentiment) and suspension process seem to be having at least some effect, as most observers acknowledge that PED usage is not nearly as rampant as it once was. On the other hand, Ziegler is definitely on to something. At least for some players, in some situations, the benefits to using PEDs outweigh the drawbacks — even, perhaps, if they are caught. The meager weight of the current suspension system, I think, is the most worrying lesson from the Peralta deal.
Viewed in its worst light, the suspension system creates a mental process much like the kitchen table scene in Office Space. Playing the devil on the shoulder of his would-be co-conspirators, Peter Gibbons seals their agreement to skim cash from their hated employer by dismissing the downside: "This isn't Riyadh. … The worst they would ever do is they would put you for a couple of months into a white-collar, minimum-security resort!"
But is it really the case that the use of banned substances could, in some cases, present only de minimus downside for a player? Is Ziegler right that Peralta shows that "it pays to cheat"?
In some ways, that certainly could be the case. Players who get caught with their hand in the cookie jar often claim they used PEDs to help recover from injury, not to artificially boost performance. Now that we're past the era of cartoonishly outsized sluggers, that may even be the most common and impactful use of PEDs. You know, just getting back to a player's regular level of production and giving him a chance to demonstrate his value at an opportune time. Sure, he may pay for it later by giving up fifty games worth of salary. But the chance to, say, highlight performance before hitting free agency, or jump at an early-career MLB opportunity, can often be invaluable to a ballplayer.
So, assuming that a blanket ban on the list of disallowed PEDs is in fact the goal — putting aside, in other words, the debate on their use in injury rehab — it seems to me that a more thoughtful disincentive system is plainly needed. As a baseline, it is important to recognize that PED prohibition is an agreed-upon rule of the game, and its enforcement is as much about fairness to clean players (and to fans) as it is about keeping dirty players from using to their own long-term health detriment.
Click below to see my conceptual proposal for some methods that might be employed, individually or in concert, to arrive at a more effective system of PED disincentives. These include: eliminating suspensions altogether; varying punishment based upon service time and/or contract status; and utilizing financial disincentives while minimizing impact on competition and the market.
Last week, the Yankees pounced on top available free agent catcher Brian McCann, inking him to a five-year, $85MM deal. The Bombers were connected to other backstops along the way, including Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Carlos Ruiz, but they reportedly only had passing interest in them as backup plans. Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger heard that the Yanks didn't make serious overtures to Ruiz and had slightly more substantive talks with Salty. Here's more out of the AL East..
- The Orioles are said to be willing to listen on offers for closer Jim Johnson and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com ran down the possible alternatives if he's dealt. The hard-throwing Tommy Hunter is the most likely in-house candidate to take over, but closing would be new territory for him. Darren O'Day would be a consideration, but the O's value him in a set-up role.
- Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com looks at Rays pitcher David Price as a trade candidate for the Rangers. Durrett argues that it would be worthwhile to give up promising young second baseman Jurickson Profar to land a pitcher of Price's caliber.
- The Mariners could be the wild card club to pull Robinson Cano away from the Yankees, but George A. King III of the New York Post wonders if the second baseman would go all the way to Seattle to play for a losing ballclub.
Longtime Cardinals scout Mike "Lefty" Roberts' distinguished career and recent battle with cancer is detailed by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Mike Roberts has more than three decades as a scout, five decades of knowledge," Cards GM John Mozeliak said as part of the profile. "As our scouting department evolved and we became more diverse — a playing background is less critical now than it was 20 years ago — we had to get our scouts up to speed. Mike bridged that gap.”
With another Thanksgiving in the books, let's check out from news from around baseball…
- Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball will continue negotiations about a new posting agreement next week, according to a Kyodo News report (passed on by Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times via Twitter).
- The Tigers' blockbuster trade of Prince Fielder wasn't a factor in the team's decision to let Jhonny Peralta leave in free agency, MLB.com's Jason Beck reports. Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski says the team saw Peralta as a shortstop, and the club couldn't decide on Peralta as a third base option since the Tigers still aren't sure what they'll do at third with Miguel Cabrera possibly moving back to first and Nick Castellanos possibly taking over the hot corner.
- Also from Beck, he notes that with Fielder gone, the Tigers will be looking for a left-handed bat to add balance to the lineup.
- Peralta was somewhat of a risky signing for the Cardinals but Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch feels it was one the Cards could afford to make given the overall strength of their organization and their modest future payroll commitments.
- David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News looks at some realistic depth options the Phillies could add to their bench for 2014.
- Jacoby Ellsbury makes a lot of sense for the Cubs, ESPN.com's David Schoenfield opines.
The Athletics have a "meaningful interest" in Nelson Cruz, a source tells Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, though no deal is imminent between the two sides. The A's were noted as one of the clubs interested in Cruz (along with the Mariners, Rangers, Mets and possibly the Phillies) earlier this week by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. As Slusser notes, Cruz's demands for a four-year/$75MM contract seem well out of Oakland's price range and the team already has a set outfield. Signing Cruz would also cost the A's a first round draft pick as compensation, so I'd have to say that a Cruz/Oakland connection seems like a long shot.
Here are some more items from around both the AL and NL West divisions…
- Also from Slusser, "nothing is imminent" between the A's and Bartolo Colon, though the team is still interested in the veteran right-hander. Jed Lowrie is drawing "significant interest" from other teams but the A's need him at shortstop and are "highly unlikely" to pursue trade talks.
- The Diamondbacks aren't interested in Cruz or any player connected to PED usage, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Ken Kendrick, the D'Backs' managing general partner, is a key figure behind this unofficial policy, though a few exceptions have been made on the roster and on the coaching staff. As Piecoro notes, D'Backs reliever Brad Ziegler was openly critical of the Cardinals' recent signing of Jhonny Peralta, another player who missed time with a PED suspension last season.
- Justin Morneau is the Rockies' "primary target," Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes. Renck reported yesterday that Colorado was "aggressively pursuing" Morneau, and he feels the former AL MVP could thrive at Coors Field.
- Mariners chairman and CEO Howard Lincoln tells Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times that the team's payroll budget will be higher than last season's $95MM mark (of which around $84MM was spent). "It’s certainly going to be above what we budgeted last year,” Lincoln said. “How much? For competitive purposes, I’m not prepared to say. But it certainly is not going to go down.” Lincoln also talks about the search to replace retiring president/COO Chuck Armstrong.
- For more from the West divisions, check out Jeff Todd's collection of NL West Notes from earlier today on MLBTR.
Middle relievers like Javier Lopez and Joe Smith have commanded eight-figure multiyear contracts in free agency, so teams looking for less-expensive relief help could turn to the Blue Jays as trade partners later this offseason, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi writes. "My early sense of the relief market is that it could be a very lucrative one for the players, and I think the value of our players and our relievers is actually going to climb," Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos recently said. Toronto has a surplus of bullpen arms ranging from closer candidates like Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos or Brett Cecil to out-of-options swingmen like Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond.
Here's the latest from around the AL East…
- The Blue Jays' payroll won't be affected by Rogers' recent $5.2 billion purchase of NHL television rights for its cable networks, Rogers Media president Keith Pelley told Jeff Blair on The Fan 590 Radio (partial transcript from Sportsnet.ca's Jeff Simmons).
- Scott Feldman could accept a two-year contract with an option on a third year, sources tell MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. There is mutual interest between Feldman and the Orioles, and since the team isn't willing to give him more than two years, the option year could be a nice compromise. Feldman recently said that his market was slow in developing, though around half the teams in baseball had checked in with his agent. Besides the Orioles, the Twins and Yankees have also been linked to Feldman in rumors.
- Also from Kubatko, "not everyone in the [Orioles] organization is convinced that [Jim] Johnson will be on the Opening Day roster next year." The O's are known to be listening to offers for their closer, though as Kubatko notes, listening on Johnson is different from openly shopping him.
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier does a position-by-position breakdown of the Red Sox depth, noting that the club's strong bench and minor league reinforcements were a big reason for Boston's success in 2013.
- In other AL East news from earlier today, we collected some Yankees items as part of a New York Links post.
The 2014 season will be a big one for some of these managers and general managers entering the final years of their current contracts. For a few, it's just a matter of time until they get extensions; for others, 2014 is their last chance to prove they belong in their current jobs. This post may not include every eligible skipper or GM, as some clubs don't make management contract terms available to the public. Thanks to the invaluable Cot's Baseball Contracts for providing many of the contract details.
* Angels. There were rumors throughout the summer that GM Jerry Dipoto or manager Mike Scioscia could be fired given the Halos' underachieving performance in both 2012 and 2013, but both men will be back in 2014. Scioscia, of course, is under contract through 2018 but Dipoto is entering the last guaranteed year of his deal. The Angels have options for both 2015 and 2016 on Dipoto's services, though if the team doesn't contend this season, it seems very likely that Dipoto won't be retained.
* Mariners. GM Jack Zduriencik had his contract extended through the 2014 season, a move that angered some Seattle fans given the club's run of four consecutive losing seasons. The team's pursuit of free agent sluggers has been described as "desperate" by some industry sources, which is a long-term danger for a team being led by a general manager who is only focused on his short-term job security. Zduriencik will be judged harshly if he doesn't obtain a top hitter, but the Mariners simply need to top (or at least approach) the .500 mark for Zduriencik to have any chance to continuing in his current role. The recent retirement of Mariners president and COO Chuck Armstrong also hints at larger changes coming to the franchise's management structure.
* Astros. GM Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter both signed multiyear deals when they were respectively hired after the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and those deals could almost be up since the lengths of the contracts aren't known. It's almost impossible to believe that the club would abandon its vaunted long-term rebuilding plan by letting Luhnow go, of course, and ditching Porter after two years would also seem like an odd move. Wins and losses won't dictate Porter's fate, as he'll be judged by how the Astros' young talent continues to develop at the Major League level.
* Rangers. Ron Washington is entering his last year under contract but GM Jon Daniels wants to keep his manager in the fold beyond 2014. Washington has previously signed a pair of two-year extensions with Texas, though those deals weren't signed until Washingon had already completed his final season. It's possible the Rangers could again wait to extend their skipper, and despite Daniels' comments, the club might consider a change if it again fails to make a significant postseason run. Then again, the "wait-and-see" strategy with Washington in the past could have been inspired by former club president Nolan Ryan, and with Ryan gone and Daniels now with more power in the organization, the Rangers may not wait to extend Washington.
* White Sox. Speaking of "wait-and-see," Robin Ventura took that same tack himself when he turned down a contract extension during Spring Training. The Pale Hose manager wants to complete his original three-year deal before discussing his future with the team, though Ventura says he's eager to return. Another 99-loss season, of course, will likely inspire GM Rick Hahn to make a change in the dugout.
* Indians. This is another situation where details are murky, as GM Chris Antonetti is known to have had his contract extended beyond his original five-year deal with the Tribe that ran out in 2012. His extension could possibly be up this season, though the odds are Antonetti was locked up for more than just two extra years. In any case, it's a moot point since Cleveland's playoff appearance last season has certainly given Antonetti more job security.
* Royals. GM Dayton Moore is entering the final year of his contract and he could be an extension candidate this winter given that the club is coming off its first winning season of Moore's tenure. The Royals have long been aiming to become legitimate contenders in 2014, so it's possible upper management will see what Moore does this offseason and perhaps what the team does over its first couple of months before locking the general manager up to a new deal. There's quite a bit of pressure on Moore this season since another dip below the .500 mark could cost him his job.
* Twins. Terry Ryan's contract specifics aren't known, the Minnesota GM has been rumored to have virtually unlimited job security. You'd wonder if another 66-96 season would test that security, as the Twins have posted identical losing records in the two full seasons since Ryan returned as the club's general manager. Given the strong state of the Twins' minor league system, I'd guess that Ryan will be given more time (if he even is a contractual lame duck) to rebuild the franchise even if the Major League team isn't doing well, though the signing of Ricky Nolasco is a sure indicator that Ryan wants better results.
* Blue Jays. There was speculation that John Gibbons would be fired even before the midway point of the Jays' disappointing 2013 campaign, and while he's still in charge in Toronto, another poor season will surely lead the team to decline their 2015 option for the manager. GM Alex Anthopoulos' contract status isn't confirmed but he's rumored to be locked up beyond 2014 — if not, however, he could also be facing some heat if the Jays don't contend.
* Red Sox. Ben Cherington is another GM whose contract tenure isn't known, though in the wake of a World Series title, Boston isn't going to let him go anywhere.
* Yankees. Brian Cashman is entering one of the most important offseasons of his tenure as New York's general manager, and the fact that Cashman is entering the last year of his deal only adds to the pressure. Brian McCann is the first major signing of what should be a busy winter for the Yankees, though if Cashman's additions don't get the Yankees back into the playoffs, his job will be in serious jeopardy.
* Braves. Both manager Fredi Gonzalez and GM Frank Wren are entering the final year of their contracts. Consecutive playoff appearances bode well for one or the both of them to receive contract extensions before Opening Day.
* Mets. Sandy Alderson is facing pressure to upgrade the Mets lineup this offseason, though any hopes of contending in 2014 probably went down the drain thanks to Matt Harvey's Tommy John surgery. The Mets hold an option on Alderson for 2015 that I'd expect them to exercise (perhaps as soon as this winter) given his reputation in baseball, though adding a big bat or two would certainly cement Alderson's case.
* Pirates. The club holds options on both manager Clint Hurdle and GM Neal Huntington for 2015, which will surely be exercised in the wake of Pittsburgh's breakthrough playoff season. You can probably expect discussions about longer-term deals for both men as well this winter.
* Reds. Dusty Baker's firing hints at some impatience in Cincinnati, as the Reds failed to advance past the NLDS in 2010 and 2012, and then lost the NL wild card game last season after spending just under $107MM in payroll (a club record). With one change already made at manager, you wonder if GM Walt Jocketty could also be on the hot seat as he enters the final year of his deal.
* Brewers. Ron Roenicke is contracted through 2014 and the Brew Crew hold an option on their manager for 2015. You could argue that the Brewers' poor record last season was due to factors beyond Roenicke's control (i.e. injuries and the Ryan Braun PED suspension) but the club will definitely need to show some improvement if Roenicke is to continue in Milwaukee.
* Diamondbacks. Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers share the same contract situation; both the manager and general manager are signed through 2014 with club options for 2015 and 2016, and the D'Backs have reportedly declined to pick up those options. While the options could be exercised at a later date, between that news and the shakeup of Arizona's coaching staff, it appears as if Towers and especially Gibson have little wiggle room. Both men need the Snakes to take a step forward after finishing with consecutive 81-81 records.
* Dodgers. It's been a roller-coaster season for Don Mattingly, who was seemingly on the verge of being fired in June before the Dodgers went on an incredible hot streak to win the NL West and advance to the NLCS. That NLCS appearance triggered a vesting option that gave Mattingly another year under contract for 2014, though the manager has been quite open about his desire for a long-term commitment. While Mattingly and the club are negotiating that extension, expectations are high enough in Los Angeles that Mattingly will need at least another NLCS appearance to keep his job past this season.
What better to go with your Thanksgiving apple crisp than some baseball news from the Big Apple? Here's the latest from the Mets and Yankees…
- Citi Field's reputation as a pitchers' park has generated concerns amongst some of the Mets' free agent targets, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports. Though Citi Field's fences were brought in before the 2012 season, the club's pitcher-friendly history is “something that is still in the (players’) heads out there, that it’s a tough park to hit in,” one agent said. "They see what David Wright went through there and it makes them a little nervous I think." As Ackert notes, Citi Field allowed an average of 1.2 home runs per game in 2013, the tenth-most of any stadium in the majors.
- The Mets have an interest in signing right-hander Armando Galarraga and southpaw Victor Garate, Rafael Tejera reports (via Twitter). Both pitchers have also been offered contracts by teams in Asia. As ESPN New York's Adam Rubin notes, the Mets would "undoubtedly" only be interested in the two hurlers on minor league deals.
- The Yankees were set on Brian McCann as their top catching target and had only passing interest in Carlos Ruiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger reports. The Bombers made no "serious overtures" to Ruiz and had slightly more substantive talks with Saltalamacchia, though one industry source described Salty only as the Yankees' "Plan B" if McCann signed elsewhere.
- "There’s no imaginable, alternate usage of the Yankees’ resources that will give them a roster superior to one featuring [Robinson] Cano," Ken Davidoff of the New York Post writes. Cano will "get paid" by someone, however, as all elite free agents do, and Davidoff expects the Yankees to pay at least $200MM to retain the second baseman. If another team goes substantially beyond a projected eight-year/$200MM offer, then Davidoff says the Yankees "would have an intellectual right" to let Cano leave.
- Earlier today, we learned that Yankees free agent hurler Phil Hughes should be able to find a multiyear on the open market, which puts the Mets out of the running for the right-hander's services.
5:23pm: The Giants are offering "north of $3MM for sure" in guaranteed money to Vogelsong, Schulman reports, and roughly $4MM in total. Signing Vogelsong would mean the Giants would (at least for now) turn away from signing another starting pitcher to a multiyear deal and instead focus on finding a left fielder. Also from Schulman (Twitter link), the Giants were still interested in Bronson Arroyo as of this morning, though it's unclear how signing Vogelsong could affect their pursuit of Arroyo.
TODAY, 12:41pm: The club is nearing a one-year pact with Vogelsong, reports MLB.com's Chris Haft, with "momentum" gathering toward an agreement. Vogelsong reportedly wants incentives that could boost the contract value into the $7-$8MM range, while the Giants have indicated that they'd be amenable to bringing him back on a deal that combines base salary and incentives to reach or exceed the value of the option that the club declined. Of course, given that San Francisco decided against promising Vogelsong $6.5MM, it seems clear that the guaranteed portion of a new deal would fall shy of that figure.
YESTERDAY: The Giants are moving toward a deal with free agent starter Ryan Vogelsong, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco recently declined a $6.5MM club option on the 36-year-old righty.
Vogelsong, a client of Dave Meier, was a minor league deal reclamation project for San Fran who turned in two outstanding seasons over 2011-12. He suffered an injury-aided downturn last year, however, posting a 5.73 ERA in 103 2/3 innings. Vogelsong registered a notably lower 5.8 K/9 rate in 2013 and saw his HR/FB leap to 13.4%. While advanced metrics put a better light on his campaign, his 4.91 FIP and 4.50 xFIP were hardly promising.
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