Alexei Ramirez Rumors

Free Agent Stock Watch: Shortstops

It’s often dangerous to read too much into a hot streak, as the endpoints of the streak will often be arbitrary, and shrinking the sample size makes the data more susceptible to randomness. Though it’s dangerous to use them as a predictive tool, hot streaks can hold some significance for upcoming free agents — particularly ones that have struggled for much of the season. A well-timed hot streak can take a player’s numbers from good to great or from terrible to passable. A huge second half following a disastrous first half can demonstrate that a player hasn’t suddenly lost all of his skill, giving offseason suitors hope for more consistent production in the season(s) to follow.

The overall numbers on the following players may not quite look appealing, but here are three that could be in the midst of bolstering their offseason earning power after dreadful starts to the year (coincidentally — they’re all shortstops!)…

  • Ian Desmond, Nationals: Perhaps no player looked to be costing himself as much money as Desmond entering the All-Star break. Heading into his contract season, there was a legitimate case to be made for Desmond as the game’s most productive shortstop over the past three seasons, but he slumped to a .211/.255/.334 batting line in the first half and endured an awful error-prone stretch in the field early on. He’s tightened up the errors after those first few weeks, though, and is finally showing signs of life at the plate. Over his past 21 games, Desmond is hitting .312/.376/.636 with seven homers and four steals. The question for him will become whether or not a huge second half can make his first half simply look like an anomaly and convince a team to invest more than $100MM.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera, Rays: Cabrera settled for a one-year deal this winter, and through the first eight to 10 weeks of the season, he looked like a player that didn’t deserve anything more. However, since mid-June, Cabrera’s hitting .357/.393/.579 with four homers, 13 doubles and a triple. It’s easy enough to see that his .418 BABIP in that stretch is inflating his numbers, but there’s been some improvement as well. Cabrera struck out at a 23.1 percent clip through June 18, but since that night he’s at a more palatable 18.4 percent. He’s also hitting the ball with more authority, as evidenced not only by his spike in power but by his decrease in soft contact and increase in medium and hard contact (per Fangraphs). Surprisingly, Cabrera grades out as a plus defender at shortstop in 2015 as well, though it may take more than a few hundred innings to overturn his previous reputation as a poor defender. At the very least, he’s positioning himself to land the multi-year deal that eluded him this past winter.
  • Jimmy Rollins, Dodgers: Suffice it to say, the 2015 season hasn’t gone as the Dodgers or Rollins had hoped. In his first season sans Phillies pinstripes, Rollins has flirted with the Mendoza Line and carried a sub-.600 OPS for much of the year. His current line is about 20 percent worse than the league-average hitter (80 wRC+, 78 OPS+), but a good deal of his struggles have also been BABIP-related, and his fortunes have begun to turn. Dating back to July 1, Rollins is hitting a much-improved .256/.315/.453, including hits in 15 of his past 18 games. Though his steals are well down, he’s already sporting a double-digit home run total. Rollins has not drawn strong ratings on his defense this year, but he does have a lengthy track record of high-quality glove work on which he can fall back. If he can continue his late surge at the plate and continue to make the first half look more like a blip, he should draw plenty of interest from teams looking for a sturdy veteran option up the middle.
  • Alexei Ramirez, White Sox: Not long ago, Ramirez’s $10MM club option looked like a no-brainer to be bought out. Glancing at his overall numbers, that’d still be the case, but like the others on this list, he’s looked like a different player over the past month-plus. Ramirez was hitting .212/.235/.281 on June 30, but he’s hitting .291/.321/.480 with five homers and six steals in 34 games since. He’s not walking much (4.4%), but he’s also not striking out (7.4%), so his solid production comes with a very sustainable .283 BABIP. Ramirez can’t erase his ugly numbers through June 30, but if he sustains this production through season’s end, the White Sox or another team could easily be convinced that a .234 average on balls in play was responsible for his poor first half than a total collapse of his skill set.

Clearly, these four can’t all sustain their recent production (especially in the case of Desmond and Cabrera). However, it’s worth keeping an eye on each player’s production over the final seven weeks of the season, as none of the four looks as lost as he did even six weeks ago. In Desmond’s case in particular, that could mean the difference of tens of millions of dollars.


AL Central Notes: Buxton, Twins, Sox, Ramirez, Royals, Santana

The Twins announced today that Byron Buxton has been placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a sprained left thumb that was suffered when sliding in an attempt to steal second base on Tuesday. Danny Santana, the club’s Opening Day shortstop, has been recalled to take Buxton’s roster spot. Presumably, Santana could see some time in center field, where he played extensively at the big league level in 2014. Some within the organization tell 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson that Buxton could be good to go within two weeks (Twitter links), but manager Paul Molitor took a more conservative approach, telling Go 96.3 Radio’s Dana Wessel that Buxton could miss a month or more (Twitter link).

More from the AL Central…

  • Twins general manager Terry Ryan spoke with FOX Sports North’s Tyler Mason in a lengthy Q&A, discussing the team’s unexpected status as a contender within the division and the timelines/future roles of some key prospects. Specifically, Ryan said that Miguel Sano‘s bat is well ahead of his glove, adding that while that’s OK, he does need to continue to improve his fielding and all-around game. Regarding Alex Meyer, who was promoted to the Majors for today’s game to join the team’s bullpen, Ryan said the team has not closed the book on Meyer as a starting pitcher. He also addressed the impending return of Ervin Santana and the potential rotation logjam that will face the Twins.
  • Jeff Samardzija spoke with Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune about the likelihood of hearing his name in trade rumors over the coming month due to the White Sox‘ poor standing in the AL Central. Samardzija, who has been traded twice in the past calendar year, said those previous two swaps have helped him learn to ignore the rumors. “It’s easy to get distracted in this game, whether it’s trade rumors or personal life,” said Samardzija. “…It’s so important to make your priorities between the foul lines.” It’s not known for sure that Samardzija will be shopped, but Sullivan notes that the White Sox are willing to part with the struggling Alexei Ramirez. Of course, given Ramirez’s $10MM salary, declining glove and .222/.243/.293 batting line, he’d likely be difficult to move.
  • The Royals are looking at second base, the starting rotation and right field as potential areas to upgrade via the trade market, writes Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star in this morning’s mailbag. However, he notes that GM Dayton Moore has never made a blockbuster addition in July, and opines the team is better than it was in 2014 when it elected not to make a deal and rode its core to the World Series.
  • In his latest notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that the Indians haven’t lived up to expectations to this point and are facing a tough road trip during which they’ll face the Orioles, Rays and Pirates. Rosenthal wonders if Carlos Santana may eventually be made available — a topic on which Jeff Todd and I have speculated regularly on the MLBTR Podcast (including just last week). Rosenthal feels that a team like the Red Sox would have interest in Santana due to his affordable 2016 salary ($8.25MM) and 2017 club option ($12MM).

Rick Hahn Talks Jeff Samardzija, Future Moves

The White Sox have been among the most active teams in baseball this offseason, and at the Winter Meetings in San Diego today, general manager Rick Hahn discussed the now-official acquisition of Jeff Samardzija and minor league Michael Ynoa from the A’s.

Rick Hahn“This is the guy we wanted,” Hahn stated when asked why the White Sox preferred to trade a package of four players — Marcus Semien, Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley and Rangel Ravelo — to acquire a pitcher with one year of control as opposed to pursuing any of the multiple free agent starters on the market. Though the Sox are acquiring one year of Samardzija at a projected $9.5MM (per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz), Hahn was quick to explain that the White Sox will “try to make this a long-term relationship” with an extension, though he recognized that may be easier said than done. “I think the calculus of the trade is that we’re acquiring one year of Jeff Samardzija — obviously, the prospect Ynoa plays a role in that too — and the exclusive ability to talk to him for 10 months. Although we may want to extend him we can’t count on that.”

Hahn likened the deal to the 2004 Freddy Garcia trade — a midseason deal that netted the team a rental player who was eventually extended and contributed to Chicago’s 2005 World Series victory. Conversations with the A’s about Samardzija, Hahn said, dated back to October. The two sides also spoke about Samardzija at the GM Meetings in November before finally pushing the deal across the finish line in San Diego.

The offseason moves made by the White Sox thus far indicate a clear desire to win in 2015, and Hahn stated multiple times that more moves will be coming. “We know we’re not done,” Hahn said. However, he also acknowledged that the financial commitments they’ve made thus far have used up a large portion of the team’s budget and that he may have to get “creative” to address the remainder of the team’s offseason needs.

“There’s a few areas on the position player side of things where we want to make sure we’re as athletic as we can be,” Hahn said when asked what those specific needs entail. “We want to make sure our lineup’s balanced. Defensively, I think we haven’t been quite as strong as we want to be.”

While Hahn of course didn’t mention any specific positions or name any players, one area that the White Sox could look to get more athletic and improve defensively would be in left field. Dayan Viciedo is coming off a .231/.281/.405 season and has long graded out as a poor defensive outfielder. The trade market features a large number of outfield bats ranging from a platoon option like Matt Joyce, David DeJesus or Daniel Nava to an impact corner bat like Justin Upton. Shane Victorino, should he stay healthy, would be a definitive defensive upgrade, though he’s owed $13MM and coming off a season in which he played just 30 games.

Catcher seems to be another area of potential need, as Tyler Flowers‘ 36 percent strikeout rate and .355 BABIP suggest that his .241 average and .297 on-base percentage are likely to regress. The trade market currently features names like Yasmani Grandal and Evan Gattis. And, of course, with the trade of Semien, the team lost an option at second base (though they have internal options in Carlos Sanchez and Micah Johnson).

One widely speculated move that seems unlikely to come to fruition is a trade of the veteran Alexei Ramirez. Hahn told the group that he didn’t think the likelihood of a Ramirez trade “was ever great,” and of course moving Ramirez after the Sox’ series of win-now moves would seem counterproductive.

Hahn and his staff have already signed lefty setup man Zach Duke (three years, $15MM), first baseman and now-DH Adam LaRoche (two years, $25M) and reportedly agreed to terms with David Robertson on a four-year, $46MM contract. Further additions in the outfield, behind the plate, in the bullpen or perhaps at the back of the rotation can continue to improve the club and give the Sox an even stronger shot to make a run at the AL Central.



White Sox, Athletics Discussing Samardzija Deal

The White Sox and Athletics are discussing a deal that would bring starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija back to Chicago, Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. “I believe serious talks are going on,” an AL source told Van Schouwen. Yesterday, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that the A’s were in the midst of discussions regarding Samardzija.

The White Sox have already added first baseman Adam LaRoche and lefty reliever Zach Duke this offseason. As Van Schouwen notes, Samardzija would give them another strong starter to complement Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, and his acquisition would be another step toward building a competitive team around Sale and Jose Abreu. Samardzija pitched 219 2/3 innings while posting a 2.99 ERA, 8.3 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in a terrific 2014. He’s projected to make $9.5MM in arbitration this offseason, and is eligible for free agency next winter.

Last night, the Athletics sent star third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays, so it makes sense that they would also consider trading Samardzija, since he only has one more more year of club control. They acquired Samardzija in another blockbuster trade last summer, sending top prospect Addison Russell, along with Dan Straily and Billy McKinney, to Chicago in exchange for Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

Van Schouwen speculates that the Athletics’ return for Samardzija could include shortstop Alexei Ramirez (although the actual terms of the trade discussions are unknown at this time). The Athletics have needs at both middle infield positions. Ramirez will make $10MM in 2015, and has a team option for 2016.


Trade Notes: Porcello, Ramirez, Upton, Kendrick, Padres

It’s already been a fairly active winter on the trade front, as we’ve seen the Brewers acquire Adam Lind, the D’Backs acquire Jeremy Hellickson, the Tigers acquire Anthony Gose and of course the Cardinals/Braves Jason Heyward blockbuster. All of this has come before the Winter Meetings, so action on the trade front only figures to increase over the next month. Here are some of the latest rumblings from around the league…

  • ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that in addition to Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and the Reds’ quartet of starters that are rumored to be available (Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon), Rick Porcello is believed to be attainable in trades. Rival evaluators feel that many players that are set to be free agents a year from now could be had for the right offer. The Tigers, of course, are aiming to contend in 2015, but Porcello is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $12.2MM in arbitration and could fetch a nice piece while freeing up some cash for GM Dave Dombrowski to address other areas of need.
  • Olney also hears (Twitter link) that the White Sox‘ asking price on Alexei Ramirez is “steep to the degree that you’d want to be buying in for two to three years.” Ramirez is guaranteed $10MM next season and has a $10MM club option for the 2016 season with a $1MM buyout.
  • The Mariners will surely make a run at either Justin Upton or Evan Gattis, if they haven’t already, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links). O’Brien gets the sense that top prospect Taijuan Walker is not completely off the table in trade talks with Seattle, but it would probably take more than one year of Upton to acquire him.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto tells Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times that he’s had trade discussions regarding Howie Kendrick, but he’s in no way eager to move his second baseman. The Halos entered the offseason thinking they might be able to move Kendrick for a controllable, young rotation option but somewhat surprisingly did so by acquiring Nick Tropeano in the Hank Conger trade. “The only way we would move him is if we become a better club,” Dipoto tells DiGiovanna. “And it would take a heck of a deal for us to feel like we’re a better club by moving Howie.”
  • Though much has been made of the possibility that the Padres could trade Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner to bolster the club’s offense, the team is now strongly considering hanging onto both pitchers, sources tell MLB.com’s Corey Brock. Interestingly, Brock’s report mentions reported trade interest in Ian Kennedy but does not state that the Friars are similarly likely to hold onto the 29-year-old. Kennedy will be a free agent next winter.

AL Notes: Jays, Astros, Anderson, White Sox, Kluber, Twins, Bourjos

The heavily backloaded nature of the Blue Jays‘ deal with Russell Martin leaves the club with additional potential payroll capacity for 2015, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. It is worth noting that Toronto likely feels comfortable pushing cash into the 2016-19 segments of the contract because, as is apparent from my recent post regarding future obligations, the team had very little on the books after this year.

Here’s the latest from the American League:

  • The Astros have checked in with Brett Anderson‘s representatives, tweets Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The oft-injured, but generally excellent lefty makes his home in Houston and could represent an interesting upside play for the rising Astros.
  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn has an extensive history with Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, notes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. As Hayes explains, the two even managed to pull of a trade for the injured Jesse Crain at the 2013 trade deadline. While it remains to be seen whether a deal will be worked out involving shortstop Alexei Ramirez, it seems fair to believe that all reasonable possibilities will be explored between those two clubs.
  • Of course, the White Sox already made an interesting move earlier today by locking up southpaw Zach Duke to a three-year, $15MM pact. Hahn says he is pleased but already “on to the next [deal] now,” as Hayes reports“It’s an important get, one we’re all very happy about,” said Hahn. “But we’re not deluding ourselves that we’re by any means finished addressing our needs both in the bullpen or elsewhere.”
  • A move by the Indians to push for an extension with Cy Young winner Corey Kluber would not be surprising; indeed, I profiled Kluber as an extension candidate back in August. But the club has yet to initiate talks, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).
  • With the Twins still lacking a clear solution in center field for 2015, Peter Bourjos of the Cardinals is a name to keep an eye on, according to a tweet from Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. MLBTR’s Steve Adams has been one notable advocate of such a move for Minnesota.

Dodgers Aggressively Pursuing Alexei Ramirez

The Dodgers are “aggressively pursuing” Alexei Ramirez in trade talks, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). The veteran Ramirez, owed $10MM in 2015 with a 2016 option for the same amount, is known to be available in trades, though the White Sox haven’t been said to be shopping him.

The Dodgers could potentially lose shortstop Hanley Ramirez to free agency, and their pursuit of Ramirez in trades could signal that they aren’t confident in their ability to retain him or simply don’t want to commit to him at shortstop any longer due to his defensive deficiencies. Letting him walk and sign elsewhere would, of course, net the Dodgers a compensatory draft pick in 2015.

Cuban infielders Alex Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarrena were both signed to large contracts within the past year (four years, $28MM and five years, $25MM, respectively) and would seem to present in-house options at short. However, each of those players was signed by the previous front office. New president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, GM Farhan Zaidi and VP Josh Byrnes may not be as bullish on that duo as the previous regime. This is purely speculation on my behalf, but it’s possible, even, that one of those two names could be up for discussion in trade talks.

The White Sox could also use starting pitching, some bullpen help and a left-handed bat, although it seems like quite the stretch to connect either of the left-handed hitting outfielders L.A. would like to move — Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford — to this particular rumor. Ethier is owed a staggering $56MM over the next three seasons, while Crawford is owed $62.25MM over the same term.


AL Central Notes: Yost, Tomas, Alexei, Hanrahan

The Royals have yet to begin extension talks with manager Ned Yost, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports.  “There’s a progression in the offseason.  There’s a sequential way we’re doing things. Right now, we’re focused on other things,” GM Dayton Moore said, in reference to the team’s roster.  Whenever negotiations take place, there’s no doubt Yost will eventually get a fresh new contract from the team in the wake of the Royals’ unexpected postseason performance.  Here’s the latest from the AL Central…

  • Also from McCullough (Twitter links), a group of Royals officials are en route from the GM Meetings to organizational meetings in the Dominican Republic where they could watch Yasmany Tomas work out.  The Royals are a recently new addition to the list of teams interested in Tomas, though McCullough says K.C. has “scouted Tomas extensively, but quietly, leading up to this winter.”
  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn will listen to other teams’ offers for Alexei Ramirez as he would for any player, though Hahn tells reporters (including Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune) that the Sox aren’t looking to trade their shortstop.  “Being strong up the middle is the priority for any good club, and we don’t intend to take a step back there,” Hahn said.  “We’re open-minded and we have depth in the area, so it’s reasonable to hear his name out there. I get that, but it’s certainly not something we’re pursuing on our end or are eager to convert on.”
  • The Tigers have been talking to Joel Hanrahan about a minor league contract, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (via Twitter).  Hanrahan signed a one-year, $1MM Major League deal with Detroit in May but didn’t pitch at all last season as he suffered a setback in his recovery from May 2013 Tommy John surgery.
  • Scott Bream is staying in his current position as the Tigers director of pro scouting, Turner Sports’ Scott Miller tweets.  The Dodgers had reportedly been on the verge of hiring Bream to join their front office.
  • Twins righty Ricky Nolasco‘s three-team no-trade clause has been updated for this offseason, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (Twitter link).  All three teams are “big-market” AL clubs, so Berardino speculates that the Yankees and Red Sox are included.
  • The Twins have hired Gene Glynn as their third base coach, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (Twitter link).
  • The Indians could look for small upgrades rather than a big splash in free agency, GM Chris Antonetti told reporters (including MLB.com’s Mark Bowman).  “I think what we would look for from the free-agent market is something to complement our roster,” Antonetti said. “I don’t think we are going to be in the free-agent market to add a cornerstone player.”

Mets Inquired On Jimmy Rollins

A Mets trade for Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is “not happening,” a source tells Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.  Rubin says such a move is not on the Mets’ radar due to the $120MM owed to Tulo through 2020, as well as the prospect cost of “two or three blue-chippers.”  More from Rubin:

  • The Mets spoke with the Phillies about acquiring Jimmy Rollins, writes Rubin.  Rubin adds, “The pursuit since has been dismissed because Rollins does not want to leave Philadelphia.”
  • The Mets are unenthusiastic about the available free agent shortstops, and plan to go the trade route to fill the position.  The Diamondbacks, Mariners, White Sox, and Cubs are viewed as viable trade partners.  Andy Martino of the New York Daily News says “it has been difficult, if not impossible” for the Mets and Cubs to agree on the value of Starlin Castro.  Meanwhile, Martino says Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox only emerged as a possibility within the past week.  Martino’s early read has the White Sox seeking the Mets’ top young starters and the Mets pitching their veterans.
  • If the Mets are unable to acquire a shortstop, or go with a defense-first type like Didi Gregorius, they are likely to retain second baseman Daniel Murphy, writes Rubin.  If they get a shortstop who can hit, Murphy is more likely to be dealt if the Mets get a sufficient offer.  Rubin expects the Mets to wait on Murphy until after resolving their shortstop situation.
  • The Mets seek a veteran lefty reliever to complement Josh Edgin in their bullpen.  They are also seeking a backup infielder, unless Wilmer Flores is bumped to that role.
  • The Mets will also consider trading Dillon Gee, Jonathon Niese, or Bartolo Colon.

White Sox Receiving Interest In Alexei Ramirez

The White Sox have received solid early trade interest in shortstop Alexei Ramirez, according to a report from Bruce Levine of CBSChicago.com. Chicago has been contacted by the Mets, Yankees, and Dodgers regarding the 33-year-old.

Ramirez has one year left on his deal at an affordable $10MM. He also comes with a $10MM option for 2016, which carries a $1MM buyout. Though he could not maintain his hot start to the year, Ramirez ended with a solid .273/.305/.408 slash to go with 15 home runs and 21 steals. A well-regarded defender, Ramirez compiled 4.1 rWAR and 3.3 fWAR.

Were the White Sox to part with Ramirez, the team would look for a one-year stopgap. The long-term solution, the team hopes, is working its way up through the system in the person of Tim Anderson. The 2013 first-rounder reached the Double-A level last year.