- The Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen is the best bargain in baseball, opines Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Cook notes McCutchen is the 158th-highest-paid player this season and 77 players have richer contracts than the six-year, $51.5MM extension (plus a $14.75MM club option for 2018) he signed in March 2012. The 27-year-old is following up his 2013 MVP season with a slash of .313/.423/.527 with 11 home runs and a league-leading 52 walks.
- The Brewers are legitimate contenders, writes MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby, and their confidence was bolstered by the offseason free agent signing of Matt Garza. “When we signed Garza, I think that’s when we started to feel something could happen,” Jonathan Lucroy told Ringolsby. Added Ryan Braun, “It showed the front office and ownership felt we were a good team.“
- An under-the-radar free agent signing has also paid huge dividends for the Brewers, reports Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Brewers inked Zach Duke inked to a minor league deal in January and the left-hander has been well worth the investment posting a 1.57 ERA, a K/BB ratio of 7.8 (39/5), and a 53% groundball rate.
- The Cardinals’ priorities as the Trade Deadline approaches, according to the St. Louis Post-Disptach’s Joe Strauss, include finding an offensive upgrade at second base (or third base, if Matt Carpenter is moved to second), a bench bat, and determining whether Pat Neshek can be a reliable 8th inning option.
- Earlier today, the Cubs added Tsuyoshi Wada to their 40-man roster and promptly optioned him to Triple-A. Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald tweets Wada could slide into the Cubs’ rotation, if a starter is dealt between now and the Trade Deadline.
Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen were respectively announced as the American League and National League Most Valuable Players, according to the Baseball Writers Association of America.
This is the second consecutive year that Cabrera has captured the MVP trophy, making it three years in a row that a Detroit player has won the award after Justin Verlander's MVP year in 2011. While Cabrera's 2013 season lacked the history of his 2012 Triple Crown campaign, he achieved another unique treble by leading the league in every slash line category (.348/.442/.636) and also hitting 44 homers and 137 RBI.
Cabrera captured 23 of 30 first-place votes from the writers and finished second on the other seven ballots. Angels outfielder Mike Trout was Cabrera's runner-up for the second straight year, claiming five first-place votes and 19 second-place votes. Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson each received one first place vote and finished third and fourth overall on the ballot, with Yankees second baseman (and free agent) Robinson Cano finishing fifth.
McCutchen's race to the MVP Award wasn't nearly as close, as he captured a whopping 28 of 30 first-place votes. McCutchen was an all-around threat, hitting .317/.404/.508 with 21 homers, stealing 27 bases, scoring 97 runs and providing a strong (+8.4 UZR.150) glove in center field — he generated 8.2 WAR according to both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference. He becomes the first Pirate to win the MVP since Barry Bonds in 1992.
Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt finished second in the balloting despite not receiving any first-place votes. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina received those other two firsts and finished in third place, followed by teammate Matt Carpenter in fourth and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman in fifth place.
On this day in baseball history in 1957, Giants president Horace Stoneham violated baseball's protocol for announcements about teams relocating to new cities by failing to wait until after the World Series. Stoneham cited declining attendance to the press as to why the Giants were headed to San Francisco to play their home games for the following season. The team's board of directors approved the move by the vote of 8-1 with M. Donald Grant casting the lone dissenting vote. Grant would later go on to become the chairman of the expansion Mets.
Here's the latest news and headlines from around the league…
- Melky Cabrera's suspension ensures that the beleaguered outfielder won't see the field again until the playoffs, but that doesn't mean he can't win the NL batting title, writes Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com. Doyel suggests MLB commissioner Bud Selig should intervene and prevent Cabrera from receiving the award if he finishes the season with the highest batting average in the league. Andrew McCutchen currently leads the NL with a .356 average entering Sunday's action as compared to Cabrera's .346 mark with 43 games to go.
- The Mets may have a trade partner for Johan Santana this offseason if the left-hander can regain the strong form he's occasionally displayed this season, opines Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Martino looks at the Dodgers as a possible fit for the former two-time Cy Young winner given their newly-minted deep wallets. With Santana guaranteed over $25MM next season, the Mets may elect to keep their struggling ace rather than pay $20MM to watch him pitch for another team.
- Bobby Valentine never had a chance as the manager of the Red Sox given the state of the franchise from top to bottom, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. When Boston brought Valentine aboard to replace Terry Francona this offseason, it was getting a brilliant baseball mind who could identify talent at an expert level but was prone to a soap opera from time to time. As Heyman puts it, the Red Sox never should have hired Valentine if they were just going to cut his vocal chords mere months later in the wake of the Kevin Youkilis incident.
- McCutchen turned down two contract offers before agreeing to terms with the Pirates, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
- The Pirates figured that Walker would be easier to sign than McCutchen earlier on in the negotiating process. A source close to the Walker-Pirates talks tells Biertempfel that a lot of work needs to be done on a possible agreement.
- It sounds like the Pirates won't work out an extension with Walker in the immediate future, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington said Pirates fans don’t have to worry that the club will flip McCutchen for prospects, according to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. “We are now well beyond the talent-accumulation phase,” Huntington said. “We're into the championship, Major League team-building phase." Huntington also pointed out that in baseball there’s no LeBron James or Sidney Crosby to come in and save a franchise more or less on his own.
- Heyman writes that he doesn't consider McCutchen a $51.5MM player yet, though Pirates people expect him to become one.
Andrew McCutchen is officially the face of the Pirates through at least 2017. The team announced his new six-year contract today, which reportedly guarantees $51.5MM and has a seventh year club option. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has the salary breakdown.
McCutchen's contract buys out his final pre-arbitration year, all three arbitration years, and a pair of free agent seasons with a club option for another. The Pirates now control their young superstar through the 2017 or 2018, having previously controlled him through 2015.
The 25-year-old, represented by Steve Hammond of Aegis Sports Management, has just two fewer days of service time than Jay Bruce did when he signed nearly the same deal — six years and $51MM. Likewise, Justin Upton had less than three years of service time when the Diamondbacks locked him up for six years and $51.25MM. The Pirates, like the Reds, were able to secure a club option, which Arizona failed to do in Upton's case. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes examined McCutchen's case last May, noting how he'd played significantly more games than Upton and deserved at least as much money.
Pittsburgh selected McCutchen with the 11th overall pick in the 2005 draft. He debuted as a 22-year-old in 2009, and has since tallied 420 big league games while hitting a strong .276/.365/.458 with 51 homers and 78 steals. Ultimate zone rating hasn't been kind to McCutchen's defense thus far in his career, but he did post a positive mark for the first time in 2011, checking in with a UZR/150 of +3.3.
The Pirates have long been interested in locking McCutchen up, and now should have two-thirds of their outfield set for many years. Last August, the team secured a multi-year deal with Jose Tabata as well, inking a six-year guarantee with club options that run through the 2019 season.
As MLBTR's Transaction Tracker shows, general manager Neal Huntington has architected multi-year deals in the past for Tabata, Nate McLouth, Freddy Sanchez, Paul Maholm, Matt Capps, and Ian Snell, though none of those deals were anywhere near this magnitude. McCutchen's guarantee falls just shy of Jason Kendall's record for the largest contract in franchise history; Kendall received $60MM over six years back in November of 2000.
Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first broke news of McCutchen's contract Sunday night. Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.
The Pirates put a finishing touch on their offseason yesterday, agreeing to terms with Andrew McCutchen on a six year, $51.5MM contract extension. Here's the latest on the Pirates, starting with some reactions to the McCutchen deal…
- Neil Walker told Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Pittsburgh is lucky to have McCutchen under long-term control (all Twitter links). Walker, an extension candidate himself, told Sanserino that he'd also like to sign a long-term deal with the Pirates. So far extension talks haven’t gone very far, according to Walker.
- Dave Cameron of FanGraphs agrees with Walker, writing that Pirates fans should "dance in the streets" to celebrate the contract that will keep McCutchen in Pittsburgh for his prime.
- Nate McLouth and Charlie Morton were also pleased to see the deal completed, MLB.com's Tom Singer writes.
- Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has the yearly breakdown of McCutchen's contract (Twitter link).
- ESPN.com's Buster Olney told Joe Giardina of Pittsburgh Sports Report that the Pirates are having trouble luring free agents to Pittsburgh. "They seem to be picking from just a different menu than some of the other teams," Olney said.
- Olney added that Pedro Alvarez is the most important player to the 2012 Pirates since he could break out into a star or continue to struggle.
- Marshall will earn $4.5MM in 2013, $5.5MM in 2014, and $6.5MM in 2015 according to the AP (via John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer on Twitter). The southpaw can earn $1MM more per year if he closes for the Reds.
- “We’re obviously very excited about it,” said Reds GM Walt Jocketty to reporters (including MLB.com's Mark Sheldon) about Marshall's deal. “When we made the trade for him, we made it intending to extend him. We felt confident we would do that. We wanted to approach it sooner than later.”
- The Pirates are still willing to work out a long-term extension with Andrew McCutchen, reports Rob Biertempfel of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. McCutchen's camp is looking for something close to the $51MM given to Justin Upton while the club is coming in around $10MM below that.
- Jeff Francis told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that his final decision came between the Reds and Mets (Twitter link). The southpaw signed a minor league deal with Cincinnati last month.
- "We saw this coming years ago," said Pirates team president Frank Coonelly to Biertempfel when asked about the new draft spending restrictions. "We pushed money up to make sure we'd be taking advantage of opportunities we had last year and the year before."
MLB has announced that Tony La Russa will manage the NL team during the All-Star Game in 2012, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). La Russa retired from managing earlier this offseason, but he'll continue the tradition of the pennant winning managers from the prior year managing the two All-Star clubs. Here's the latest from around the league…
- Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post reports that Ryan Zimmerman is open to a creative contract extension that would allow the Nationals to build a strong team around him. "We want to do a deal so it helps me and the team at the same time, so they can go out and sign guys like Prince Fielder or other free agents," said Zimmerman. Fielder is off the table now, and the Nats know what it'll take to sign their star third baseman long-term.
- "Never say never," said Pirates GM Neal Huntington to Jeff Nelson and Jim Memolo of MLB Network Radio when asked about a potential Andrew McCutchen trade. "If someone wants to back up the truck and give us one of those organization-altering deals, it's something that we'd have to listen to…It would have to be a dramatic overpay on the part of the other club."
- The Nationals consider Yoenis Cespedes a corner outfielder or even a first baseman, reports MLB.com's Bill Ladson (on Twitter). Earlier today we learned that Cespedes has gained residency in the Dominican Republic, and now awaits MLB's approval to become a free agent.
- The Indians are "making the necessary moves to get [Robert Hernandez Heredia] to the United States," reports the AP (via ESPN). Heredia, better known as Fausto Carmona, faces a judicial process in the Dominican Republic after lying about his identity.
- Twins top prospect Miguel Sano has changed representation according to SI.com's Melissa Segura (on Twitter). He is now with SFX agent Troy Caradonna.
Talks about a long-term contract extension between the Pirates and Andrew McCutchen didn't progress much this summer, but GM Neal Huntington told fans that he's "optimistic" about reaching an agreement with the star outfielder at PirateFest yesterday, reports Bill Brink of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"When you enter a negotiation, you're at X, the player's at Z and you work awfully hard to try to find Y," said Huntington. "There has to be a compromise, there has to be a shared risk on both sides."
Back in May we heard that the team wants at least five years in a McCutchen extension, meaning they want to buy out at least one year of free agency. The 25-year-old is a .276/.365/.458 career hitter in his two-plus big league seasons, which is comparable to the .272/.350/.485 line Justin Upton owned when he signed his six-year, $52.25MM deal prior to the 2010 season. A contract along those lines is reasonable for McCutchen, a first-time All-Star in 2011.
Happy birthday to Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who turns 33 on December 17. Utley is looking to rebound from his most disappointing full season in the majors, as he posted just a .769 OPS and didn't play until May 23 due to an unusual knee injury.
Some news from around baseball as we head into the weekend…
- Carlos Beltran has at least one offer worth $10MM per year on the table, tweets Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com. With the Rockies out of the picture after signing Michael Cuddyer, Beltran's known market includes the Blue Jays, Cardinals and two mystery teams.
- Responding to fans on his Twitter feed, Omar Vizquel says he plans to play in 2012, isn't returning to the White Sox and would "go now" if the Giants offered him a one-year deal (all links are via Twitter).
- Pirates players and officials took part in a Q&A period at today's Piratefest fan event and Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review was there to tweet some pertinent hot stove information. Manager Clint Hurdle said the team is still interested in re-signing Derrek Lee and team president Frank Coonelly said the Pirates were prepared for the cap on draft signings in the new collective bargaining agreement.
- Reggie Willits intends to play in 2012 and has discussed opporunities with MLB teams, tweets MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith.
- GM Neal Huntington said the Pirates want to keep Andrew McCutchen "as long as we can (but) we've got to be smart about it" (via Biertempfel's Twitter account). McCutchen's name was floated in trade rumors earlier this winter but they were quickly shot down by Bucs management.
- The Tigers should keep pursuing Gio Gonzalez, writes John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press, even though he doesn't think the Tigers would deal the Athletics' asking price of prospects (Jacob Turner, Drew Smyly and Nick Castellanos) "for any one player."
- The Rule 5 draft is losing relevance and could soon be abandoned "in history's dustbin," writes Baseball America's John Manuel.
- The Astros, Athletics, Cubs, Padres and White Sox are "the five most intriguing sellers" in baseball according to FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, who lists each club's biggest trade chips and what teams could fit as trade partners.