Alex Avila Rumors

NL West Notes: Shields, Stewart, Dickerson

It’s been a wild day of major moves in the NL West, and here are a few more news items from around the division…

  • The Giants don’t intend to pursue Max Scherzer, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter link).
  • The Giants “will go hard on” signing James Shields, Peter Gammons tweets.
  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart told reporters (including Zach Buchanan of azcentral.com)  that Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro or Tigers catcher Alex Avila could be fits for his team in their search for help behind the plate, while the Snakes have no interest in Geovany Soto.  Stewart said his team doesn’t intend to trade relief pitching to obtain a catcher, however.
  • Also from Stewart, he said the D’Backs aren’t looking into extending any players at the present time, though he named Mark Trumbo, Addison Reed, Oliver Perez, Chris Owings, Chase Anderson and A.J. Pollock as possible extension candidates.
  • The Rockies are receiving “massive interest” in Corey Dickerson, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (via Twitter).  Despite all this interest, Colorado would have to get an overwhelming offer to deal the outfielder.
  • Also from Rosenthal, it’s been nothing but “crickets” for the Rockies on interest in Troy Tulowitzki.

AL Notes: Avila, Cabrera, Athletics, PawSox

The Tigers plan on having Alex Avila as their primary catcher in 2015, despite his issues with concussions, but that will probably be his last season with them, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News reports. Since hitting .295/.389/.506 for the Tigers in 2011, Avila’s offensive production has declined, though he remains a strong defensive catcher. In preparation for his departure via free agency, the team will create opportunities for 24-year-old rookie James McCann in 2015. Here are more notes from around the American League.

  • After yesterday’s acquisition of Josh Donaldson from the Athletics, the Blue Jays are still trying to re-sign Melky Cabrera, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets. That makes sense, of course — the Jays have a hole in the outfield, and they can use another batter who can hit left-handed. A recent report indicated that Cabrera would prefer to sign with a team that doesn’t play on turf, as the Blue Jays do, although Cabrera himself recently tweeted that he didn’t care whether he played on turf or grass.
  • Billy Beane says the Athletics are unlikely to sign a free agent shortstop, Joe Stiglich of Comcast SportsNet California tweets. They have a big hole at the position given the departure of Jed Lowrie to free agency, but it isn’t a strong market, with Lowrie, Stephen Drew and Asdrubal Cabrera as the headliners. That the A’s are already bowing out could be an indication that they plan to address the position with a trade.
  • Part of the Red Sox‘ ownership is preparing to buy the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The PawSox have had a great run as the Red Sox’ Triple-A team since the 1970s, and they’ve been International League champions in two of the last three seasons. The move will, presumably, mean that the PawSox will continue as a Red Sox affiliate for the foreseeable future. It’s not clear, Cafardo notes, whether the team’s current front office will continue under new ownership or whether the Red Sox will install new personnel there.

Tigers Exercise Option On Alex Avila

The Tigers have exercised their club option on catcher Alex Avila for the 2015 season, the team announced.  Avila will earn $5.4MM in 2015 rather than being bought out for $200K, though he still would’ve been arbitration-eligible and under team control had Detroit chosen to buy him out.  Avila is represented by Excel Sports Management.

Avila broke out with an .895 OPS season in 2011 but hasn’t been nearly as productive at the plate since, posting only a .705 OPS in 1270 plate appearances in 2012-14 and hitting .218/.327/.359 over 457 PA in 2014.  Injuries have played a role in Avila’s struggles, as he has battled knee and hamstring issues and (most troubling) multiple concussions.  After suffering his latest concussion during the ALDS, Avila said he’d passed his medical tests and was ready to keep playing.

While Detroit now has Avila officially in place for next season, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe recently reported that the Tigers were listening to trade offers for the catcher.  This could be due diligence on the Tigers’ part or a hint that they’re looking for an upgrade due to Avila’s injury history and lack of hitting.  James McCann, a second-rounder from the 2011 draft, hit .295/.343/.427 in 460 PA at Triple-A Toledo last season and made his MLB debut for Detroit, though if the Tigers did make a move at catcher, you’d expect they would look to replace Avila with a veteran rather than entrust the position to a rookie.  A platoon could also be an option, as Avila and McCann hit from opposite sides of the plate.



AL Notes: Lester, Scherzer, Red Sox, Avila

Which of this offseason’s free agents are most likely to justify their contracts? It’s hard to say, given that we most big-name free agents haven’t even agreed to terms yet, but Doug Miller polled MLB.com’s writers to compile a list of top free agents, and they think Jon Lester‘s next contract is most likely to turn out to be a good one. Miller notes that contracts for pitchers often go south, but points out that Lester is healthy, left-handed and relatively young, and has been a consistently strong performer. Perhaps the most outside-the-box choice is Andrew Miller at No. 3, the idea being that Miller’s lack of closer status will limit him on the market, perhaps to three years and under $30MM. Here are the latest notes from the American League:

  • Scott Boras told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio he has not heard anything from the Tigers indicating they are not interested in re-signing Max Scherzer. MLB.com’s Jason Beck has a partial transcript of the interview, including Boras saying he is not worried about the lack of teams linked to Scherzer while implying clubs may sign his client and then open a spot in their rotation by trading another of their starters calling this “a two-step process.”
  • Speaking of Scherzer (the top ranked free agent on MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agents list), the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman believes the Red Sox should kick those tires because their rotation is in shambles. Lester is the preferred option, according to Silverman, but a trade for Cole Hamels may wind up being the surest route for the Red Sox to get the caliber of starter they need.
  • The Tigers have until Thursday to exercise Alex Avila‘s 2015 option, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. If the Tigers opt for the $200K buyout rather than the $5.4MM option, Morosi notes Avila will remain on their roster because he is still arbitration eligible.

Cafardo On Lester, Hamels, Iwakuma, Sandoval

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders if the Dodgers‘ outfield surplus could net them a solution to their shortstop situation.  Los Angeles isn’t expected to re-sign Hanley Ramirez and with underwhelming options on the open market, it stands to reason that the Dodgers could explore trading from their strongest area to find a replacement.  Earlier this week, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman acknowledged that “the best course of action” would probably be to trade one of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, or Carl Crawford.  More from today’s column..

  • While Jon Lester is reportedly receiving “legitimate interest” from six interested clubs, some are skeptical about his market.  “Really? Six teams are going to be six years at $150 million for Jon Lester?” said one NL executive. “Sounds like agent enhancement of his client to me.”
  • The Red Sox have already shot down a couple of proposals from the Phillies involving Cole Hamels.  Cafardo expects the Phillies to reopen talks with Boston.
  • The Mariners have fielded inquiries from a few teams on Hisashi Iwakuma and the Red Sox have had at least internal conversations about the 33-year-old right-hander. The Mariners, meanwhile, would want an impact hitter like Yoenis Cespedes in return.
  • It’s expected that the Red Sox would want to offer Pablo Sandoval a contract with bonuses that would reward him for staying within a certain range.  A Giants official told Cafardo that Sanoval lost almost 30 pounds in the offseason only to gain 20 of them back during the season.  The CBA forbids teams from taking money away from players for gaining weight, but they can incentivize staying trim.
  • Mark Mulder continues to work toward a comeback but he indicated to Cafardo that he’s not 100% sure it will happen.  Mulder was making a run at it last offseason when during one of his workouts he tore his Achilles.  Afterwards, the hurler returned to ESPN as an analyst.
  • Rival scouts have worked hard to cut through the hype in their evaluations of the Red Sox‘s pitching prospects.  The biggest debate concerns Henry Owens and how his 92-mile-per-hour fastball and slow curve would play in the big leagues.  Meanwhile, some believe that left-hander Brian Johnson might be the best pitcher in Boston’s system.
  • Cafardo reported last week that the Tigers are listening to trade proposals on Alex Avila and mentioned the Braves and Red Sox as possible suitors for his left-handed bat. Today, Cafardo added the Cardinals as a team that could see him as a solid backup option.

Central Links: Reds, Cubs, Avila, Tigers, Tomas, Butler

Reds GM Walt Jocketty is of the mindset that his team will need to either be “all in” or “all out” in 2015, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. In other words, if the Reds decide to trade one of four starters who is eligible for free agency following the 2015 season — Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Alfredo Simon — others may very well follow. Sherman lists Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman as names to watch if Cincinnati does elect to go into a full rebuild. Both can be free agents after 2016, though the Reds have a club option on Bruce for the 2017 season.

Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Sherman also tweets that the Cubs aren’t likely to spend big on a closer this winter, which seemingly eliminates a potential suitor for David Robertson. Earlier today, reports indicated that Robertson is seeking a contract comparable to Jonathan Papelbon‘s four-year, $50MM contract.
  • The Tigers are willing to listen to offers on Alex Avila, tweets the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Avila has a $5.4MM club option for his final arb year and was projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn the same amount in arbitration. Cafardo notes that the Braves and Red Sox are both looking for left-handed bats. While both have inexperienced catchers (Christian Bethancourt and Christian Vasquez, respectively), adding Avila would limit each team’s ability to get an extended look at how their young backstop handles a full workload.
  • John Manuel of Baseball America tweets that the Tigers‘ defense up the middle in 2015 could be special with Jose Iglesias and the newly acquired Anthony Gose. He also notes that Devon Travis, who went to the Blue Jays in the deal, now has a clear shot to Major League playing time that he may not have had in Detroit.
  • The Royals could scout Yasmany Tomas in the Dominican Republic next week, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Royals officials will be in the Dominican Republic on other business anyway and met with Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, earlier this week at the GM Meetings. The team’s payroll could surpass the $100MM mark for the first time next season, and there’s perhaps room for one significant expenditure such as Tomas, Ervin Santana or Melky Cabrera, McCullough writes.
  • Billy Butler is receiving interest from a number of clubs — even one National League club — tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The interest in Butler likely means that a return to the Royals isn’t the best fit, he adds. McCullough reported Tuesday that K.C. doesn’t seem inclined to go beyond two years to retain Butler.
  • Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wonders if the Brewers will consider trading a starting pitcher (Twitter link). The Brew Crew needs some payroll flexibility, and the Braves are one team that has been poking around at the GM Meetings.

Dombrowski On Tigers’ Offseason Plans

Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski addressed a number of points with the media yesterday, and Jason Beck of MLB.com provides a transcript of his comments. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Dombrowski listed the team’s top three priorities. First among them is deciding on an approach in center, which he said could either mean finding a platoon partner for the right-handed hitting Rajai Davis or going with a new, full-time option. Second: improving the bullpen, with some new arms potentially coming from within. And finally, the team wants to add another left-handed bat in some capacity. The GM rejected the notion that the club’s contention window is closing, saying he has confidence in its veteran core.
  • Explaining that he is more concerned about Alex Avila‘s concussion issues on a human level than in terms of planning, Dombrowski said that he is confident in the team’s situation behind the plate. He expects Avila to be able to man the position next year, but also likes prospect James McCann as a long-term piece.
  • Dombrowski said that he does not know whether Torii Hunter will retire. If he elects to play, the club values his clubhouse presence immensely but has yet to make any decisions as to whether it would pursue him in free agency. Dombrowski also discussed prospect Steven Moya, who could be a long-term replacement for Hunter. “I don’t know if he’s going to be ready or not,” Dombrowski said of Moya. “You can hope and he may be ready, but I’m not really sure. His performance in the Arizona Fall League, then going to winter ball will be important for him.”
  • Soon-to-be free agent starter Max Scherzer appears set to test the market, and Dombrowski did nothing to curb the idea that he could be headed for a new team. “Well, we had thorough conversations before the season, and I don’t know that it’s all dictated by us at this point,” said Dombrowski. “I think we made ourselves pretty well known at the time where we stood. … I think we probably made more of an effort to sign Max earlier in the year. So I don’t think your odds improve [from] what they were earlier. Why would they improve if we have one-on-one ability to speak with you, compared to having 29 other clubs speak with you? Only time will tell.”
  • In terms of a possible replacement in the rotation, Dombrowski said the team has internal options and may not feel the need to add an arm via free agency. “I think we have some young pitchers we feel pretty comfortable with at this point,” said Dombrowski, “… but I feel comfortable staying internal with the four guys we would have at that point. But again, we haven’t made that decision.”
  • The prognosis on shortstop Jose Iglesias is positive, says Dombrowski. Though he will allow manager Brad Ausmus a chance to evaluate him in the spring, the GM says that he expects Iglesias to take the everyday job “if he returns to the form of the past.” On the other hand, Dombrowski said the team needs to be prepared if Iglesias is not at full strength.
  • Detroit’s closer situation will probably not undergo changes over the offseason, said Dombrowski. Joe Nathan will likely have the ninth inning job going into the year, but will need to “perform up to the capabilities required” to keep it. Elsewhere in the relief corps, young power reliever Bruce Rondon, who underwent Tommy John surgery, is expected to be ready for the year, says Dombrowski.

AL Central Notes: Avila, Lindor, Indians, White Sox

Tigers catcher Alex Avila is now symptom-free after suffering yet another concussion in the final game of this year’s ALDS against the Orioles, he tells MLive.com’s Chris Iott. While many have speculated that Avila could need to step away from the game after being diagnosed with what he referred to as three “mild” concussions this year, Avila isn’t thinking along those lines. “I had a CT scan and an MRI checking my brain and my neck and the arteries leading to it, and everything checks out normal and healthy,” Avila told Iott. “And talking with the neurologist that examined everything, I shouldn’t have any concern.” Avila’s concussion issues do predate this season, Iott notes, but the catcher maintains that he’d be ready to step on the field today if the Tigers needed him to do so. Detroit holds a $5.4MM option on Avila with a $200K buyout. Even if the option were to be declined, he’d still be under control via arbitration.

Here’s more from the AL Central…

  • MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian discusses a wide variety of offseason- and 2015-related topics in his latest Indians Inbox piece, including Francisco Lindor. Bastian writes that he would be “shocked” if Lindor wasn’t with the team next season, but given the notable step back he took in terms of his K/BB numbers at Triple-A and a lack of seasoning at that level, Lindor is probably headed for the minors to open the year. The defensively gifted Jose Ramirez will likely be ticketed to open the season as Cleveland’s shortstop.
  • Also from Bastian, he notes that if Lindor is indeed expected to be Triple-A bound to start the season, it makes sense for the team to exercise Mike Aviles‘ $3.5MM club option. Bastian downplayed the idea of Josh Tomlin as a non-tender candidate due to his modest salary and remaining options, and he also touched on the future of Lonnie Chisenhall, noting that third base is one of the most logical areas of upgrade for Cleveland.
  • Left-handed power will be a priority for the White Sox this winter, writes Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. Levine runs down a list of potential targets for the ChiSox, headlined by Victor Martinez but also including Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche and Pablo Sandoval. LaRoche is a bit of a reach to me given the presence of Jose Abreu and LaRoche’s reputation as a solid defensive first baseman. Levine notes that he spoke to a Tigers source that indicated the team would do “whatever it could” to bring back Martinez for 2015 and beyond — and that’s not the first time a reporter has gotten that vibe from Detroit; ESPN’s Buster Olney heard something similar earlier in the month.

Tigers Avoid Arbitration With Alex Avila

The Tigers announced, via press release, that they have avoided arbitration with catcher Alex Avila by agreeing to a one-year contract for the 2014 season. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Avila receives a $4.15MM salary for 2014, and the Tigers have a $5.4MM club option with a $200K buyout for the 2015 campaign. The option can vest if Avila is named to the 2014 All-Star team, finishes Top 15 in the MVP voting or wins a Silver Slugger award (Twitter links). Avila is a client of Excel Sports Management.

Avila and the Tigers exchanged arb figures two weeks ago, with Avila submitting a $5.35MM salary and the club countering at $3.75MM. That places Avila's $4.35MM guarantee slightly below the $4.55MM midpoint. All figures are higher than the $3.7MM mark projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.

Avila, who turned 27 just two days ago, batted .227/.317/.376 with 11 homers in 102 games (379 plate appearances). It's been a rough couple of seasons for the former fifth-round pick, but in 2011 he met all three of his vesting option criteria when he made the All-Star team, won a Silver Slugger and finished 12th in the AL MVP voting. Avila also played a whopping 133 games at catcher that season, and since that time, he's had some issues with his knee and hamstring. He also missed time in 2013 with a concussion.

The Tigers have likely locked in Avila's final two years of arbitration with this deal, and they've also avoided an arbitration with any of their eligible players, as Avila was their last remaining unsigned case.


AL Central Notes: Twins, Tigers

Let's take a look at the latest out of the AL Central:

  • Twins star Joe Mauer told reporters, including Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com, today that former teammate Justin Morneau was among those who urged him to make the switch to first base. "He actually told me, 'Joe, you need to move. It's just not worth it,'" Mauer reported. Morneau, of course, suffered a career-altering concussion in 2010.
  • Justin Verlander may not be ready to pitch the Tigers' season opener on March 31 after undergoing core muscle surgery earlier this month, GM Dave Dombrowski disclosed Thursday (via Chris Iott of MLive.com). However, Dombrowski added that the ace is "doing great" in his recovery, and if he is out of action at the start of the season, it "would only be a very short time period."
  • Alex Avila doesn't expect to go to an arbitration hearing, despite being the Tigers' only arbitration-eligible player to swap contract figures with the club, MLB.com's Jason Beck reports. "Filing numbers just basically gives you more time to negotiate," the catcher commented on Thursday. As the MLBTR Arbitration Tracker shows, Avila filed for $5.35MM, while the Tigers countered with $3.75MM.