A.J. Burnett Rumors
Now that Bronson Arroyo has agreed to terms with the Diamondbacks, the Orioles have one fewer option available in their search for a starting pitcher, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. It was reported last night that the Orioles and Diamondbacks were the top contenders for Arroyo. Encina notes that the fact that the Orioles are in the American League (and perhaps, more specifically, the tough AL East) hurt them in their pursuit of Arroyo, and appears to be hurting them in their pursuit of A.J. Burnett as well. If the Orioles can't get Burnett, their next logical choices would be Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana (although draft-pick forfeiture is an issue in both cases), or perhaps Suk-Min Yoon. Encina also notes that Fernando Rodney's pact with the Mariners makes it increasingly likely that the Orioles will fill their closer position internally. Here's more on the Orioles.
- The Orioles' highest priority remains a top-of-the-rotation starter, writes MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. Kubatko suggests that the Orioles should make sure they outbid any of Burnett's NL suitors, then let the press know they did so if Burnett chooses to go to stay in the NL anyway. They should also be willing to give up their draft pick for Jimenez, Santana or Kendrys Morales. Kubatko also suggests that Tim Hudson, who signed early in the offseason, would have been a good addition for the Orioles.
- Many Orioles fans are upset about the team's relatively thrifty offseason thus far, but the correlation between spending and winning isn't that strong, MASNsports' Steve Melewski writes. Only three of the ten highest-payroll teams made the playoffs last year (the Dodgers, Red Sox and Tigers), while three of the bottom five teams did (the Pirates, Athletics and Rays). Spending and trying to win aren't the same thing, Melewski says.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe shares a few hot stove items in his latest Sunday column...
- Bronson Arroyo has been looking for a three-year deal or at least a vesting option for a third year, which could be holding up his market. If Arroyo was willing to settle for a flat two-year contract, Cafardo opines, he could find a deal, possibly with the Diamondbacks; Cafardo reported earlier this week that Arizona was "beginning to kick the tires" on the veteran right-hander. Arroyo recently said that he has yet to receive a concrete offer from any team, despite a lot of interest from around the league.
- The Dodgers are another team who "are very interested" in Arroyo but don't want to give him a guaranteed third year.
- Nelson Cruz's market is beginning to heat up, and “there could be up to four or five teams who could take the plunge in the end," a Major League source tells Cafardo. This interest could manifest itself into a multiyear deal for Cruz, though Cafardo notes that the slugger could still have to settle for a one-year contract. We've recently seen the Mariners, Orioles, Rangers and Twins linked to Cruz in rumors, though Texas and Minnesota only seem interested at a greatly reduced price.
- Cafardo thinks the A.J. Burnett sweepstakes is down to the Pirates, Phillies and Orioles, though he wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees were also exploring a reunion with the veteran right-hander. The Rays and Blue Jays have also been connected to Burnett, though it seems more likely that Burnett will choose a team located closer to his home in Maryland.
- The Marlins have "asked a lot" about Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks but there doesn't seem to be a trade fit. Miami is one of several teams who have asked Boston about Middlebrooks' availability, but the Sox don't want to give up on Middlebrooks' power potential. Even if the Red Sox re-signed Stephen Drew to play shortstop and Xander Bogaerts took over at third, Middlebrooks would still receive playing time alternating between third and first base.
- While Jon Lester recently said he would take a hometown discount to remain with the Red Sox, Cafardo points out that it might not be a huge discount, as Lester also noted that "you never want to be the guy that takes the market backward."
- The Red Sox will experiment with Ryan Lavarnway as a first baseman during Spring Training, GM Ben Cherington confirmed. Since Boston is so deep at catcher at both the Triple-A and Major League levels, Lavarnway's only chance at continued playing time may be as a Triple-A first baseman.
- "There’s a feeling that a team like the Yankees may pluck Fernando Rodney, or someone of his ilk, to ensure they have another closer in case David Robertson breaks down or isn’t up to the task," Cafardo writes. Rodney was reportedly drawing interest from four teams, though the Yankees hadn't spoken with him since November and may not have enough remaining payroll space to add to the bullpen.
It might not be likely that the Blue Jays will sign A.J. Burnett, but in some respects, he would be a very good fit for them, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca. Burnett won't require the team that signs him to forfeit a draft pick and likely wouldn't want a long-term deal, and he arguably performed better in 2013 than all the other remaining free-agent pitchers, like Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Bronson Arroyo. A return to Toronto might be a longshot for Burnett, though -- he would likely prefer to be closer to his home in Maryland, and had previously said he was deciding between pitching for the Pirates and retiring. Here are more notes from the AL East.
- Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette brushed aside a report that his team was "all-in" on Burnett, saying that he was "not sure where that report came from," MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko reports. The Orioles do, however, remain very interested in signing a veteran starting pitcher. "Some of these young pitchers who we really like should be able to help us later on in the season, but if we could sign a veteran starter, I think that would help fill out our ballclub," he said.
- Emilio Bonifacio, who the Royals designated for assignment in a surprise move today, could make an interesting candidate for the Yankees' open bench infielder job, Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues writes. If they want to acquire him, though, they'll likely need to do so via trade, since the Dodgers also need infield help and could make a trade for him themselves.
Now that A.J. Burnett has decided to pitch in 2014, the Diamondbacks would be interested in adding him to their rotation, tweets Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. However, the D-Backs don't feel that Burnett is interested in pitching for a team on the West coast, according to Piecoro, so there may not be mutual interest. More on the D-Backs and the rest of the NL West below...
- The Diamondbacks are beginning to kick the tires on Bronson Arroyo, according to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo (on Twitter). Arroyo told ESPN's Jayson Stark earlier this week that he's yet to receive a formal offer from a club.
- Giants manager Bruce Bochy told Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle that his team is done pursuing free agent starting pitchers (Twitter link). The Giants seem likely to head into the season with Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and one of Ryan Vogelsong or Yusmeiro Petit in the rotation.
- Schulman also spoke with Brandon Belt, who said he has no ill feelings toward the Giants for submitting a $1.55MM arbitration figure ($2.05MM lower than his own figure) and won't have any hard feelings if they go to a hearing and he listens to the team make a case against him (Sulia link). "I don't think they think little of me," said Belt. "I think that's what teams do. That's the business side of baseball. I think what both sides are trying to do is create a midpoint, maybe. ... I know what I wasn't good at, so if I go in there it's not going to hurt my feelings any. If they have to tear me down a little bit, I'll be OK."
- New Dodgers second baseman Alexander Guerrero tells Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com that shortstop and second base are "completely different" and admits to struggling to adapt to a new culture. However, he called Los Angeles "beautiful" and voiced confidence that he'll be ready to handle second base come Opening Day. Saxon reports that the Dodgers are still looking to add one more infielder to their bench, likely to serve as insurance.
- Earlier in the week, Troy Renck of the Denver Post wrote that the Rockies have "mild" interest in Ervin Santana but aren't pursuing him at his current price and are also reluctant to surrender the 35th pick in this year's draft.
Here are some notes from around the game's eastern divisions:
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos hopes his club can benefit from the qualifying offer system given its array of draft picks, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. With two protected first rounders, the Jays would stand to lose only a second-round choice by signing a free agent who comes burdened with draft pick compensation. "It's significant," said Anthopoulos. "I think if we had to give up a first round pick, it would changes thngs in a significant manner. I think that's where the draft pick compensation component is impacting some of these clubs." Though he said that "there's still value with the second round pick ... and you still build that into an offer," Anthopoulos explained that "it's not close to the value of round one."
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson says he is "still looking for more players," reports ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin, but emphasized that he likes the club as currently constituted. "I think we've spent the fifth-most of any team in Major League Baseball on free agents this offseason," said Alderson. "And we might do something else before Spring Training starts."
- Meanwhile, two New York starting pitching options -- the recently signed John Lannan and Daisuke Matsuzaka -- have opt-out provisions in their contracts, Rubin reports. Lannan has a June 14 date in his deal, while Matsuzaka has the standard Type XX(B) contract (for minor league free agents with six-plus years of service), which includes a June 1 opt-out.
- The Phillies should act on their reported interest in free agent starter A.J. Burnett, opines Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. With Roberto Hernandez a puzzling addition and international signee Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez still a "huge wild card," in Zolecki's view, the Phils should go hard for Burnett unless the club really does not believe it is a likely contender.
- We heard earlier today that the Orioles and Rays are also possible contender's for Burnett's services.
- The Orioles are interested in bringing back Jason Hammel, but probably are not his likely landing spot since they would not guarantee him a starting role, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Baltimore executive VP Dan Duquette also acknowledged that "it would be nice" if the club could announce a significant addition at the team's fan event on Saturday, but of course emphasized that the event would not sway the decisionmaking.
- Baltimore announced a pair of international signings: 17-year-old Mexican Carlos Diaz and 16-year-old Dominican Jomar Reyes. As MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli reports (Twitter links), both teenagers are expected to start out in the Gulf Coast League. Duquette said that multiple other clubs were involved, and labeled Diaz and Reyes as "potential everyday major league players that can hit in the middle of the lineup." The indicated said that the two received "substantial" bonuses, Connolly reports on Twitter.
Burnett's reported decision to enter the open market promises to have a major impact on how the remaining free agent starting pitching situation plays out. In certain respects, Burnett is the most attractive remaining starter. (In particular, he was outstanding last year and figures to be had on a short-term deal.) As the newly reported interest of the Rays demonstrates, he could appeal to a variety of clubs, including those that had not been rumored to be players on the rest of the market.
But, as Gammons says, Burnett has only just begun the process of chosing a club. With pitchers and catchers reporting within a matter of weeks, and the starting pitching market still de-thawing from its Tanaka freeze, Burnett could potentially create further hold-up on the rest of the market. Teams like the Orioles, for instance, might conceivably hold off on other top options like Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana until Burnett has made his decision. And, as I noted previously, if Burnett lands with a club that had intended to add a starter, there could be less demand left for the other best open-market arms.
The Blue Jays haven't made any offers to free agent starters but that could change in the near future, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. The Jays have considered such options as Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett and Bronson Arroyo, and have also looked at adding starting pitching (such as the Rays' David Price and the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija) in trades. While Jimenez might not be Toronto's top choice, the team has nevertheless looked into his medical records and other "extensive background work" on the right-hander.
Here's some more from general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who spoke to reporters at the Jays' state of the franchise event tonight. All of Anthopoulos' comments are from the Twitter feeds of Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi...
- Anthopoulos noted that any of four free agent starters (Santana, Jimenez, Burnett, Arroyo) could "all be a significant improvement" to the Jays' rotation.
- The idea of pursuing a free agent is becoming more appealing to the club, Anthopoulos said, since prices are beginning to drop.
- In terms of internal pitching prospects, Anthopoulos praised Marcus Stroman, comparing the 22-year-old righty to Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray. While ideally Stroman would spend 2014 in the minors, Anthopoulos believes Stroman is ready for the majors now. Stroman made solid showing in recent top 100 prospects lists from Baseball Prospectus (ranked 27th), MLB.com (r55th) and ESPN's Keith Law (58th), and Baseball America considers Stroman to be the second-best prospect in Toronto's system, behind only Aaron Sanchez.
- Pitching seems to be Toronto's focus, as Anthopoulos said the club isn't actively pursuing position players. We heard yesterday that the Jays were "in the mix" for Stephen Drew to fill their hole at second base.
- Anthopoulos said the team has had dialogue with most of the top free agents and continues to talk with both free agents and with other teams about trades, though "I don't know that I'd say were close on anything."
The free agent pitching market was given a jolt by yesterday's news that A.J. Burnett will return in 2014 and that he's open to pitching for a team other than the Pirates. Here's the latest batch of news and opinions about the veteran right-hander...
- With the Phillies having checked in on Burnett earlier this offseason, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News notes that the Phillies could be aided by the fact that assistant GM Scott Proefrock is friends with Burnett and they live in the same neighborhood. Burnett and Cliff Lee share an agent in Darek Braunecker.
- Signing Burnett would put the Phillies over their stated payroll limit for 2014, though Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com wonders if the team would spend extra to help attract the fans back to Citizens Bank Park. Trade protection could also be a factor; Burnett would definitely want some type of no-trade protection in his next contract since he wants to be near his Maryland home, and the Phillies only give out partial no-trade clauses.
- In order to fit Burnett into the Pirates' budget, MLB.com's Tom Singer proposes that the Bucs should offer Burnett a one-year, $17MM contract for 2014. Of that sum, $10MM would be deferred, which Singer feels is a win-win for both sides --- the Pirates can keep their payroll in check, while Burnett gets to remain in a comfortable situation while still accepting a market-value contract.
- "Burnett might suddenly be the best free-agent starter left," writes Jeff Sullivan for Fangraphs. Burnett has had a better WAR over the last two seasons than Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Bronson Arroyo, and teams would be more amenable to signing Burnett to a short-term deal than taking a chance on a longer-term commitment to Jimenez or Santana.
A.J. Burnett plans to play this year, reports Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and the hurler may be open to pitching for a team other than the Pirates. This news throws a considerable wrinkle into the free agent pitching market.
Prior to today's news, the righty had been expected to pitch for the Pirates or retire, with the latter option looking increasingly likely. Now, he becomes one of the best arms available on the open market.
Burnett, 37, is coming off of two outstanding seasons in Pittsburgh. After a 202 1/3-inning, 3.51 ERA effort in 2012, Burnett threw 191 innings of 3.30 ball last year. He led all National League starters in 2013 with 9.8 K/9 and a 56.5% ground ball rate. Among free agents, Burnett had the lowest FIP (2.80), xFIP (2.92), and SIERA (3.10).
Burnett landed in the ninth position among baseball's top fifty free agents, according to MLBTR's Tim Dierkes. For teams looking to add impact without taking on long-term obligations, Burnett makes for a tantalizing option. That is especially so since, unlike other top rotation arms that remain, he is not tied to draft-pick compensation since the Bucs felt they could not afford to make a qualifying offer. As MLBTR's Steve Adams wrote before the offseason, Burnett would fit nicely in even the game's top rotations.
Pirates GM Neal Huntington has previously indicated that the club was not in a position to pay Burnett at the top of the market, though the club has made clear recently that it remains interested in a reunion. Commenting on today's report, Huntingon told MLB.com's Tom Singer that he was not aware of any new direction from Burnett but could not rule the possibility. "I can't say he has not [decided to test the market]. I'm not aware of every discussion there might have been," said Huntington. "All I can say is, he has been very public with his intent to pitch in Pittsburgh or not pitch at all." Huntington further said that the club's "process continues with A.J." and that there was "nothing new to report," Sawchik reports on Twitter.
The Orioles have been mentioned as a possible alternative landing spot for Burnett given his reported preference to play in close proximity to his Maryland home. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets that Burnett "would be at the top of the club's list." Other Mid-Atlantic clubs could presumably also be particularly appealing to Burnett, and the Phillies have reportedly also expressed interest, Sawchik tweets.
If Burnett sets his sights further afield geographically, many other teams could conceivably be interested. The Rangers have some interest in the hurler, tweets Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas. Burnett reportedly nixed a deal that would have sent him to the Angels back in 2012 -- the Yankees instead dealt him to the Pirates -- leading MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez to peg the Halos (via Twitter) as a longshot to land him via free agency.
The entry of Burnett onto the market could be bad news for the remaining free agent starting crop and could also lead to movement in other segments of the player market. Pittsburgh reportedly will not sign a replacement pitcher if Burnett does indeed leave town, but could repurpose funds towards a first baseman. If he decides to head for another team that is in the market for starters, Burnett would have a significant impact on the balance of supply and demand. And if the Pirates look to add a bat through free agency or, perhaps more likely, via trade, an inverse effect could take result in that arena.
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe checks in with GMs, players, writers, and scouts to help run down the best coaches in baseball. On his list of bench coaches who are managers in waiting: Brad Mills of the Indians, Torey Luvullo of the Red Sox, Larry Bowa of the Phillies, Tim Flannery of the Giants, and the Brewers' Jerry Narron. More from today's column..
- The Pirates probably won’t go after a pitcher if A.J. Burnett retires. Right now, Pittsburgh is looking for a full-time first baseman and would use the money that would have gone to the veteran toward that end. Cafardo also notes that the Orioles could be a "wild card" in the situation since Burnett lives in Baltimore.
- While the bids of the other teams are still unknown, one GM threw out the following figures in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes: Yankees $155MM, Cubs $120MM, Diamondbacks $120MM, Dodgers $119MM, White Sox $100MM, Astros $100MM.
- The Diamondbacks were head over heels for Tanaka, but the fact they weren’t on one of the coasts and they were in a smaller media market worked against them.
- Scott Boras doesn't represent David Ortiz, but he tells Cafardo that he feels for them. Boras sees some similarities between the Red Sox star and his own client Kendrys Morales. Morales is seen by most clubs as a DH rather than a first baseman which is hurting his value. Boras argues that Ortiz is the featured power hitter in Boston's lineup as a DH and believes that Morales can also provide value in that role.
- There had been some talk that Daisuke Matsuzaka might go back to Japan to pitch, but the possibility of breaking into the Mets’ rotation with Matt Harvey out intrigued Matsuzaka enough to fight for a spot.
- The Giants have been through a lot with Pablo Sandoval and even if he has a good season, this could be Pablo Sandoval's last in San Francisco. Sandoval will be a free agent following the 2014 season.