- The White Sox offered Fowler a two-year contract worth more than $17MM, CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine reports. The offer was for a set two years and didn’t include an opt-out clause or a mutual option after the first season. Fowler’s deal with the Cubs guarantees him $8MM in 2016, and then he and the team can either both enact a $9MM mutual option for 2017 or the Cubs can buy Fowler out for $5MM. It’s clear that Fowler and agent Casey Close were focused on flexibility after the 2016 season, as the Orioles’ refusal to include an opt-out clause is what caused the breakdown in talks between the two sides. The Sox have been known to be interested in Fowler and others this winter as they continue to look for corner outfield help, though the club hasn’t yet done much in the way of major moves to address left or right field. Melky Cabrera and Avisail Garcia are still on hand as the incumbent starters, though both had sub-replacement level seasons in 2015. Signing Fowler would’ve represented a major upgrade for the Pale Hose yet also cost the team the 27th overall pick in the draft since Fowler was a qualifying offer free agent. The top White Sox pick (the 10th overall selection) was protected, with the later first-round selection given to the team as compensation for Jeff Samardzija signing with the Giants.
- With Fowler no longer an option, the Orioles are likely to pursue another corner outfielder, MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli writes. Manager Buck Showalter is satisfied with his internal options, which include the likes of Mark Trumbo (who will probably see lot of DH time), Nolan Reimold, Henry Urrutia, Dariel Alvarez and Rule 5 draft pick Joey Rickard on the 40-man roster. Urrutia is the only left-handed hitter of the bunch, so one of the righty-swingers will be used to complement new addition Hyun-soo Kim in left field. Ghiroli cites Jay Bruce, Austin Jackson or Pedro Alvarez as possible targets for the Orioles, with Alvarez joining the club as a DH and Trumbo then getting most of his playing time in right. With so many right-handed hitting outfielders already in the mix, left-handed hitting free agents like David Murphy, Grady Sizemore or David DeJesus also make sense as speculative fits.
- One of the many unusual aspects of the Fowler/Orioles drama was that Adam Jones seemingly had verbal confirmation from Fowler that the outfielder was indeed joining the team. Jones addressed that situation with reporters (including Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun), saying he was surprised to learn Fowler wasn’t signing with the O’s but there was no issue between he and Fowler. “At the end of the day, he’s happy where he’s at. His family is happy in Chicago, so good for him,” Jones said. He also expressed that this gives an opportunity to the Orioles’ other outfielders, and noted that the O’s could pursue midseason upgrades with the money they saved on Fowler’s contract.
Adam Jones described the Orioles’ offseason as “solid” thus far but the outfielder tells MLB.com’s Ian Browne that he hopes Chris Davis and Darren O’Day can be re-signed. He cites those two as the club’s top priorities and he feels the organization is “really going to make an aggressive attempt to sign CD. At the end of the day, you need CD.” Even if neither player returns, Jones still has confidence the O’s can adapt and return to the winning form of the 2012-14 seasons, noting “We’ve had tastes of success the last three or four years. There’s no going back to Walmart steak. We’re a Whole Foods type of organization now. We want to win.” With three years left on his own contract, Jones says it’s up to the team if he’ll spend the rest of his career as an Oriole, and he very much wants to win a World Series in Baltimore.
Here’s more from Charm City…
- Dan Duquette tells MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko that as prices for available pitchers continue to escalate, it’s more important than ever to develop young arms. Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright and David Hess are some of the young pitchers Baltimore needs to develop to keep costs down in the rotation, though Duquette said the O’s are also still searching for an external addition to their staff. The rotation also needs incumbent starters like Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez to bounce back from disappointing 2015 seasons.
- Duquette also discussed scouting Pedro Alvarez early in his career, which adds to the speculation that the Orioles are indeed interested in the newly-available first baseman.
- Kubatko’s piece includes a partial transcript of Manny Machado’s recent appearance on 105.7 The Fan radio, as the third baseman discusses his career, his bonds with his teammates and Matt Wieters’ return, among other topics. Kubatko notes that the O’s have yet to discuss a contract extension with Machado this offseason but they’re likely to do so once more pressing winter business is settled.
- Now that Orioles have tendered contracts to arbitration-eligible players, MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski projects that the club’s payroll looks to be in the neighborhood of $103MM for 19 players. It looks like the O’s will indeed have to top last year’s $118MM payroll to address the rest of their needs, including possibly re-signing Davis. Kubatko notes that Baltimore could boost payroll in 2016 and then lower it by about $25MM in 2017 once Wieters and Trumbo are off the books. Jim Duquette (the MLB Network Radio analyst, former Mets GM and Dan Duquette’s cousin) noted to Melewski that the Orioles have financial room to maneuver on long-term deals since Jones is the only player signed beyond the 2017 season.
- The decision to re-sign Nolan Reimold likely means that Steve Pearce won’t be returning, CSNMidAtlantic.com’s Rich Dubroff opines. Between Trumbo, Reimold and L.J. Hoes, Baltimore now has plenty of right-handed hitting options for the outfield, first base and DH spots and the team probably doesn’t need another righty-swinger in Pearce. Any further additions will need to be a left-handed hitter (i.e. Davis or Alvarez) to add balance to what is currently an overwhelming right-handed hitting roster. Pearce hasn’t drawn too much attention in free agency yet, however, so Dubroff speculates that if this continues, he could be a low-cost signing for the O’s later in the winter since he’s a popular figure within the team.
While the Orioles will make an effort to make competitive offers to their impending free agents, the club’s previously exhibited unwillingness to overpay might lead Chris Davis, Wei-Yin Chen, Matt Wieters and Darren O’Day to new clubs this winter, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. The top offers will likely end up surpassing the early, often conservative estimates, and Connolly notes that Chen could conceivably land a five-year deal, while O’Day could get four years. (I personally agree with each possibility, especially the latter.) Davis, meanwhile, could command $150-200MM over a seven-year term, which would shatter the team’s most expensive contract ever (Adam Jones’ $85.5MM deal). While Connolly notes that the Orioles “should” have the money to make strong pushes to retain their free agents, history is not on their side in retaining their top free agents.
A bit more on the O’s and some other Eastern-division clubs…
- MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski writes that Baltimore is probably caught between a rock and a hard place with Davis; there’s a large outcry among fans to see Davis return after the Orioles failed to re-sign Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. However, the O’s will eventually want to make a run at locking up Manny Machado and also need to pursue help for the top of the rotation. As Melewski points out, it would seem difficult for the Orioles to sign Davis, extend Machado and bolster the rotation — or even to accomplish just two of those three goals.
- While the Phillies traded many of their former stars over the past calendar year, there was no interest from another club in first baseman Ryan Howard, former president Pat Gillick tells CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. Gillick expressed some surprise that no American League team expressed any interest in swinging a deal for Howard, who despite his contract and platoon issues remains a candidate for part-time DH work. The Phils would, of course, have to eat a huge portion of the $35MM still due to Howard ($25MM in 2016 salary plus a $10MM buyout on his 2017 option), though they were willing to absorb money most of their recent trades of veteran pieces.
- Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post breaks down the Nationals’ roster, outlining the players that exceeded expectations, those that met expectations and those that failed to meet expectations. Most notably, in doing so, Janes points out that Denard Span, Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth were all penciled into the lineup on the same day just twice this season.
- Red Sox president of baseball operations sees more of the Royals in his team than he does the Blue Jays, writes Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. Put another way, Dombrowski said last week that he feels the Sox have enough power on their roster and is pleased with the team’s overall low strikeout rate (even though a few players do whiff with regularity). As Silverman writes, pitching and defense — specifically the former of those two elements — will be Dombrowski’s primary focus this offseason.
Orioles star Adam Jones continued to express his feelings on an important offseason for the organization, as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. The highly-respected veteran said that he thinks re-signing Chris Davis is “probably the highest priority” for the organization this winter. Skipper Buck Showalter addressed the subject in a less direct manner. “We’d like to keep everybody, obviously,” he said. “I think everybody shares that. Let’s see where it goes. We all have our own personal feelings about it. You can probably guess what mine are. Some things you reach for because, let’s be frank, it makes your job easier. But you also know what your job description is.”
Here’s more from the AL East:
- The Orioles “briefly” pursued extension talks with Davis and his representatives at the Boras Corporation, per Connolly. But despite stated interest from both sides in an ongoing relationship, those discussions never gained much traction.
- Looking even further back into “what-if” transactional history, the Red Sox had a legitimate chance a few years ago to land Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins, according to ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes. But Miami was insistent that any deal would have to include shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and that proved a sticking point that prevented further progress.
- The Red Sox have obviously received exactly what they hoped for when they placed a high value on Bogaerts. As he turns 23 today, the shortstop is putting the finishing touches on an outstanding season in which he’s been worth about 4.5 to 5 wins above replacement. The same holds true, of course, of the versatile Mookie Betts. (He’ll reach 23 years of age within the week.) Those performances raise the possibility of extension talks, says Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, who analyzes the history of similarly-situated young players as well as that of new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.
Though the Rays are on pace for their second straight losing season, the team’s pitching depth gives them hope for a turn-around in 2016, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi will be joined in the rotation by the now-healthy Matt Moore and Drew Smyly. The fifth spot will be contested between Erasmo Ramirez, Nate Karns or top prospect Blake Snell, with Alex Colome and Matt Andriese on hand as further depth options. That’s not even counting Alex Cobb, who will be back from Tommy John surgery late next season. While Tampa certainly may want to hang onto its pitching depth given the team’s recent injury issues, I would think the Rays may also considering dangling an arm or two as trade bait this winter to add some offensive help.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Adam Jones plans to speak to owner Peter Angelos about the Orioles’ offseason plans, the outfielder tells the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly. It will be a challenging winter for the O’s with eight free agents, though Jones feels most of them would come back for the right offer since “it’s a great place to play. I know they all like being here.” If some leave, Jones notes that the silver lining is freed-up payroll space. “It’s going to be exciting to see what goes on this offseason because I know when you have a lot of free agents that means you have a lot of money to spend,” Jones said. “And so, hopefully, I can influence some officials to spend a little bit of that money.”
- Last winter saw the Orioles also lose Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller and Nick Markakis to free agency, and another free agent exodus could threaten this competitive chapter in O’s history, as closer Zach Britton notes to Connolly. “If you look at it, our window was a three- to four-year window that everyone was talking about. ’OK, if we’re going to do it, now is the time.’ So, yeah, if we lose every single guy [to free agency], it’s going to be a real challenge to have to replace them,” Britton said. “You have to do it through the draft, you’ve got to do it through trades or do it through signing free agents. We’ve got to do it somehow.”
- Two of those free agents say they want to return to the Orioles. Steve Pearce tells Connolly that “I’d love to be back. I’d love for everybody to be back,” while Matt Wieters tells MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski that he knows this could be his last few days in a Baltimore uniform. “I’m trying to embrace it and enjoy this last bit of the season,” Wieters said. “I’ve been very fortunate being able to to be here as long as I have and would love to stay here. But that is all stuff that will be controlled and talked about in the offseason.”
- There is “healthy skepticism” around baseball that the Red Sox will fully explore having Hanley Ramirez as a full-time first baseman next year, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald reports. This and the hefty $66MM still owed to Ramirez will make it difficult for the Sox to get any kind of decent return if they want to trade him.
- Eduardo Rodriguez isn’t technically a homegrown prospect (the Red Sox acquired him from the Orioles last summer in the Andrew Miller trade), though CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam believes the young southpaw can be the first front-of-the-rotation arm produced from Boston’s farm system since Clay Buchholz. Rodriguez, 22, has posted a 3.85 ERA, 2.65 K/BB rate and 7.2 K/9 over 121 2/3 IP for the Sox in his rookie season.
- It’s been a trying year overall for Rick Porcello, but the right-hander tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that he’s learned some lessons from his first year with the Red Sox and is going into 2016 on a high note. Porcello signed a four-year, $80MM contract with Boston prior to the season and became a target of fan ire after his early struggles, though he’s pitched well since coming back from a DL stint in August.
Bedard, 36, was only just returning to action after suffering a strained muscle in his back. He had thrown 14 1/3 innings at the High-A level on the season, striking out seven and walking one while allowing eight earned runs.
The southpaw is well removed from his heyday, but was once one of the more effective starters in the game. Pitching for the Orioles, he came in fifth in the Cy Young voting back in 2007, when he threw 182 innings of 3.16 ERA ball with a league-leading 10.9 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9.
That big campaign led the Mariners’ to deal for him, forking over a prospect package fronted by Adam Jones and Chris Tillman to add him. Though Bedard continued to put up good results, shoulder issues bit hard and limited him to 255 1/3 frames over his three years in Seattle (plus another 38 after he was dealt to the Red Sox in the middle of 2011).
Bedard has bounced around since, putting up solid strikeout numbers but failing to hold down the free passes. All told, Bedard has racked up just over 1,300 big league innings of 3.99 ERA pitching while averaging 8.6 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, and a 41.9% groundball rate.
Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy spoke with MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko about the extension he signed last October, explaining that he told agent Mike Seal he enjoyed Baltimore and wanted to remain there due to the club’s winning ways. Wondering where he was going to play the 2015 season did weigh on him throughout the season, Hardy said, and he was happy to agree to terms on a deal to keep him with the O’s. However, Hardy also discussed the departure of Nick Markakis, noting that the move didn’t necessarily sit well with him or franchise cornerstone Adam Jones. “Adam and I have both thought about that,” Hardy told Kubatko. “I know Adam thinks about it a lot. I mean, losing Nick was big. He was one of the guys out there every single day with us. Obviously, we want to win and the reason we signed our extensions is because we like it here and we like the guys who were around, so if everyone starts leaving, I don’t know.” Hardy said he hasn’t voiced any concerns to executive vice president/general manager Dan Duquette or manager Buck Showalter and that, when signing, he trusted that the Orioles would do everything possible to keep their players. Hardy also discussed teammates Matt Wieters and Chris Davis, pointing out that each has Scott Boras as an agent. “[Boras] kind of does a lot more decision-making,” Hardy said, adding that he hopes to see both Wieters and Davis stay in Baltimore.
More from the AL East…
- The Yankees announced that Hideki Matsui has been hired as a special adviser to GM Brian Cashman. Per ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Marchand, Matsui will work closely with Cashman and vice president of player development Gary Denbo, and he’ll spend much of the 2015 season visiting minor league affiliates to work with their managers, coaches and players, focusing on aspects of hitting.
- Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News spoke to Cashman about why the Yankees re-signed Stephen Drew. The GM explained that the team believes Drew’s rapid offensive deterioration in 2014 to be an aberration, and there’s little concern about the defensive en of the equation despite a change of positions. Andrew Miller, newly signed with the Yankees but a teammate of Drew’s last year in Boston, also weighed in with Feinsand, stating that he doesn’t envy the situation Drew entered in 2014. “Missing spring training and trying to come in with that weight on your shoulders, for it to be such a big story, have a team act so excited to see him, it was a little unfair to him,” Miller explained. “I can’t imagine missing that time and then trying to go to game speed.” Drew himself adds that the missed time hurt him quite a bit, and he’s pleased to be getting reps on schedule this year with the rest of the league.
- The Phillies scouted both the Yankees and Red Sox today, via Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter links). Of course, having a senior scout in attendance doesn’t necessarily indicate that anything eventful is on the horizon in terms of trade activity, as scouts are frequently watching multiple teams over the course of Spring Training. Still, Abraham notes that the Phils have taken quite a few looks at Boston third base prospect Garin Cecchini.
According to a "60 Minutes" report, members of Alex Rodriguez's inner circle obtained unredacted Biogenesis documents in February and leaked the names of Ryan Braun, Francisco Cervelli and Danny Valencia (who was later cleared) to Yahoo Sports. Michael Radutzky of CBS News writes. Rodriguez talked to the media (including Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York) today and denied leaking the names of any fellow player, particularly his Yankee teammate Cervelli. The third baseman also warned that more details in the case would be made public in the coming days:
"You know, I've been a member of this union for 20 years, and it is important for all the guys to understand that my loyalty is to this union and it would never happen, it would never occur and it didn't happen. Let's make one thing clear: For the next seven weeks, it is going to be a very bumpy road. Every day expect a story like this, if not bigger."
Here are some more items from around the AL East…
- Given the uncertainty of Rodriguez's situation and Derek Jeter's health, the Yankees will need to explore alternatives at third base and shortstop this winter, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Under Sherman's scenario, Jeter would play half his games at shortstop and the rest at first base or as the Yankees' primary DH against right-handers.
- As least 12 teams project to be suitors for Jacoby Ellsbury this winter, Fangraphs' Paul Swydan writes. The Red Sox are one of those teams, as "GM Ben Cherington isn’t letting Ellsbury go without a fight," though Swydan notes that the Sox could be in a position crunch in left field (with Jackie Bradley, Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes) if they re-sign both Ellsbury and Mike Napoli.
- The Rays still look like the winners of the Wil Myers/James Shields trade, despite the Royals' recent hot streak, Grantland's Rany Jazayerli opines.
- The hiring of Buck Showalter was the key move that turned the Orioles from also-rans into contenders, outfielder Adam Jones writes in a guest piece for Buster Olney's column (ESPN Insider subscription required).
The Rays announced that they added Hideki Matsui to their active roster today, optioning Stephen Vogt to Triple-A and transferring Brandon Guyer to the 60-day disabled list in corresponding moves. Here are some items of interest from the AL East…
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports explains that Adam Jones’ new extension is about Jones the person, not just Jones the center fielder. The Orioles signed Jones to a six-year, $85.5MM deal last week.
- The Blue Jays aren’t currently discussing an extension with the representatives for Edwin Encarnacion, Morosi reports (on Twitter). The Wasserman Media Group client is on track to hit free agency after the season.
- The Blue Jays announced that they optioned Eric Thames to Triple-A. Thames, the Opening Day left fielder, returns to the minors and infielder Mike McCoy takes his place on Toronto’s active roster.
- Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal suggests it wouldn't be surprising if the Red Sox moved to extend Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the next few months. The hot-hitting catcher will be arbitration eligible for the third and final time this coming offseason and can expect a raise from his current $2.5MM salary.
- Here's a look at the 2013 contract issues facing the AL East teams: Red Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays.
6:29pm: It's a six-year, $85.5MM contract according to Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun (all four Twitter links). There is no seventh year option but there is a no-trade provision, and escalators could push the total value to $91.5MM. Jones will earn $8.5MM in 2013, $13MM in 2014 and 2015, $16MM in 2016 and 2017, and $17MM in 2018 with a $2MM signing bonus.
In terms of total value, it's the second largest largest contract among active center fielders behind Matt Kemp's eight-year, $160MM deal with the Dodgers.
SATURDAY, 5:27pm: Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reports that the deal is done and an announcement could come today with a press conference tomorrow.
FRIDAY, 10:42am: The deal will cover six years and fall in the $85MM range, Rosenthal and Morosi report (on Twitter). This means the deal will buy out Jones' final arbitration year (presumably for $9-10MM) and five free agent seasons at approximately $15MM per year.
7:41am: Adam Jones is the best player on the first-place team in baseball's most competitive division and the Orioles aren't going to let him slip away. They are nearing a long-term contract extension with the center fielder, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports report (plus Twitter links).
Jones completed his physical yesterday and the sides are in the process of completing the final details of the contract. The Orioles are making a commitment "well north" of Miguel Tejada's six-year, $72MM contract and Nick Markakis' six-year, $66MM extension, Rosenthal and Morosi report. This means the CAA Sports client will sign the largest contract in Orioles history. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun expects the deal to be for five or six years and $80-90MM.
Jones, 26, is earning $6.15MM this year as a second-time arbitration eligible player. The extension will buy out one year of arbitration eligibility and an unknown number of free agent seasons.
Jones is hitting .311/.357/.601 in 196 plate appearances this year. He's on his way to establishing career-highs in home runs (14 so far) and slugging percentage. Though he has a career on-base percentage of .322, his walk rate and on-base percentage are both on the rise.
Earlier this month Dave Cameron of FanGraphs compared Jones' breakout to Matt Kemp's 2011 season and suggested an extension in the $120-140MM range could work for both sides. Check out MLBTR's Extension Tracker for more comparable contracts.
Photo courtesy of US Presswire.