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Andrew Miller Rumors
The Marlins are known to be looking for first base help and Allen Craig is the latest name to be added to their list of potential trade targets, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports (Twitter link). Dealing Craig would help the Red Sox clear out some of their outfield surplus, while giving Miami a right-handed bat to platoon with Garrett Jones at first base. The Marlins are dangling young pitchers in trades, though I’m not sure this would necessarily appeal to Boston — the Sox already have plenty of young arms and if they did move an outfielder, they’d likely prefer a proven starter who can immediately be slotted into their 2015 rotation.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Andrew Miller is in serious negotiations with between eight and 10 teams, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. The Orioles aren’t one of the suitors, as Miller’s four-year asking price is higher than they would like to give to a setup man. Miller has already received multiple three-year offers and reportedly received interest from 22 of the league’s 30 teams.
- The Yankees have discussed signing Jason Grilli, WFAN’s Sweeny Murti reports. Grilli could be pursued by the team if David Robertson leaves in free agency.
- The Blue Jays are in need of relief pitching but would GM Alex Anthopoulos break from his usual modest bullpen spending and pursue a big-ticket reliever like Miller or Robertson? Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith looks at the pros and cons of signing relievers to big contracts.
- In a reader mailbag piece, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm figures the Blue Jays have at least $20MM “and possibly even upward of $30MM” in remaining payroll space, provided that Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston were correct in saying that the club’s payroll would grow past its $137MM mark from 2014. Some of the space could be created if J.A. Happ or Dioner Navarro are traded.
- Also from Chisholm’s mailbag, he cites some reasons some players are reluctant to come to Toronto, such as the Rogers Centre’s artificial surface or a lack of desire to move to Canada. Cole Hamels, Howie Kendrick, Justin Upton and Jay Bruce are just a few of the notable players who reportedly have the Jays on their no-trade lists, though Chisholm notes that several players with trade protection include AL East teams for financial leverage purposes.
- Sean Rodriguez was “definitely surprised” to be designated for assignment by the Rays, the utilityman tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. “This (stinks) right now, but I feel like it may be an opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “What I bring to the table (in terms of versatility) is something a lot of teams like and want to have more of.”
Andrew Miller is one of the hottest free agents on this year’s open market, and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that Miller has multiple three-year offers in hand, making it increasingly likely that he will end up with a four-year deal. Miller’s current offers would give him the highest annual value ever for a reliever without closing experience, Morosi adds, although that’s not too surprising considering that figure is currently at $6MM.
Reports last week indicated that Miller’s agent, Mark Rodgers, had been contacted by a staggering 22 clubs. The Red Sox and Blue Jays are believe to have serious interest in Miller, who is known to be seeking at least a four-year pact on the heels of a dominant season split between Boston and Baltimore. Yesterday, Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com heard (Twitter link) that the Red Sox, in particular, were “very serious” about bringing Miller back into the fold and felt they had the flexibility to make a legitimate pursuit, even in addition to their pursuit of Pablo Sandoval and Jon Lester. The Cardinals also met with Miller last week, though those talks were believed to be “exploratory” in nature.
The Cubs are perhaps the only big-spending team that have been rumored to pass on Miller, as they’re said to be looking to lengthen the bullpen with lower-profile additions. Earlier today, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweeted that while the Mets are hoping to add a lefty reliever at the Winter Meetings, there’s “no shot” they sign Miller.
As if signing Russell Martin wasn’t enough, the Blue Jays are also looking to address their rotation and bullpen. Toronto is one of the six teams in the market for southpaw Jon Lester, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reports. The Jays have also been “very aggressive” in courting Andrew Miller, Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair (Twitter link) hears from a source on another team in pursuit of the free agent reliever.
As a durable top-of-the-rotation arm with a lot of AL East familiarity, Lester makes sense for the Jays, though they already have six starters (Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada) in play for their 2015 rotation. Starting pitching isn’t an obvious need, though since the Blue Jays will probably have to move at least one starter to address other needs anyway, they could package two arms in one deal or make multiple trades. The Martin signing indicates that Toronto is willing to spend and be players in free agency, though meeting Lester’s projected six-year/$150MM price tag would take things to another level for the Jays.
The Red Sox are known to be one of Lester’s other five suitors, and it’s safe to assume that the Cubs are another given how they’re meeting with him this week and have been so often linked in rumors.
Miller recently met with the Jays, and it’s probably no surprise that Toronto is being aggressive given that they’re one of a whopping 22 teams who have reportedly checked in with agent Mark Rodgers about Miller’s services. Miller is looking for a four-year deal at minimum, and he’ll likely find it with such a healthy market. The Blue Jays could offer Miller a closing role, as Casey Janssen is likely to depart in free agency and Toronto has no clear in-house replacement for the ninth inning job.
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.
Twins GM Terry Ryan is “doing well” after his bout with throat cancer, writes MLB.com’s Barry Bloom. The 61-year-old still is experiencing various forms of discomfort, but has completed radiation and is back at full force in the Minnesota front office.
Here’s more out of the American League:
- The Tigers will not pursue Torii Hunter after inking Victor Martinez and trading for Anthony Gose, GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters today, including George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press. “I called and said it just didn’t look like it was going to fit the way the club was getting put together,” Dombrowski said. “Thanked him for everything. Absolutely love him. If something changes where we make some changes for one reason or another, that we’re not anticipating, we would still be open. It’s just probably not much of a fit right now.” Hunter indicated in an Instagram post that he still intends to play in 2015.
- The Blue Jays recently met with free agent lefty Andrew Miller, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter. Miller figures to be a highly sought-after relief weapon. Toronto has definite pen needs, as Nicholson-Smith’s colleague, Shi Davidi, told me on this week’s podcast, and as MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk wrote in previewing the club’s offseason.
- Free agent utility man Emilio Bonifacio is receiving interest from his former teams, including the Blue Jays and Royals, Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com tweets. (Cotillo also lists the Cubs as a team with possible interest.) Bonifacio should have his pick of situations given his versatility and place on the market.
- The Red Sox have promoted Mike Rikard to become the team’s scouting director, according to a tweet from Clint Longenecker, formerly of Baseball America. He replaces Amiel Sawdaye, who will be promoted to a vice president role, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal (via Twitter). Longenecker himself is moving on to join the Indians, Baseball America’s John Manuel tweets.
The Red Sox are trying to set up a visit to Boston for Pablo Sandoval, perhaps as early as next week, reports the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Sandoval has drawn interest from four clubs, per Cafardo, but the Red Sox and Giants are the two most serious suitors. David Ortiz has been pitching Boston to Sandoval and trying to persuade him away from San Francisco, Cafardo hears.
Some more free agent notes as baseball news slows down following the conclusion of the GM Meetings…
- A hefty 22 teams have reached out to agent Mark Rodgers regarding Andrew Miller, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Heyman adds that one team that’s unlikely to make a play for Miller is the Cubs, who are more focused on lengthening their ‘pen with lower-profile acquisitions. Reports yesterday indicated that the Cubs were out on David Robertson as well.A
- Heyman also writes that the Dodgers are serious about making a run at Russell Martin but still facing competition from the Cubs, Pirates and Blue Jays. The Pirates, Heyman hears, are said to have already made a strong bid to retain Martin. Despite their acquisition of Francisco Cervelli, he notes, the Pirates are not out on Martin.
- Six clubs have shown interest in Jonny Gomes to this point, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation’s MLB Daily Dish. The Cubs are believed to be one of those clubs, though Gomes isn’t close to any kind of decision and is still “early in the process.”
- Right-hander Anthony Carter, who spent this past season in Japan, will not have his mutual option with the Nippon-Ham Fighters exercised, MLBTR has learned. Carter technically has to clear waivers in Japan before he can become a free agent and become eligible to sign with a Major League organization or a different club in NPB. The 28-year-old posted a 3.97 ERA in 45 1/3 innings of relief in Japan this season and has a lifetime 4.93 ERA at Triple-A. His best season came in 2013 with the Red Sox when he posted a 3.47 ERA with 11.4 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 at Triple-A.
Earlier today, reports indicated that David Robertson is seeking a four-year deal in the mold of Jonathan Papelbon‘s $50MM contract, and the asking price on top lefty reliever Andrew Miller might not be much lower. Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com hears from a source that Miller is seeking “at least” a four-year deal and isn’t listening to any offers that have anything less than an “astounding” average annual value.
The Red Sox met with Miller’s camp this afternoon, Mastrodonato hears. Miller’s agent, Mark Rodgers of Frontline Athlete Management, told the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo that he saved his meeting with the Red Sox for last at this year’s GM Meetings (Twitter link).
Miller is coming off an elite season in which he posted a combined 2.02 with an incredible 103 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings (14.9 K/9) between the Red Sox and Orioles. He dominated right- and left-handed hitters alike, averaging just 2.5 walks per nine innings with a ground-ball rate of 46.9 percent. That 14.9 K/9 mark is the highest in AL history for a reliever with more than 50 innings, as pointed out yesterday by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, who also reported that Miller is drawing interest as a potential closer.
Of course, Miller doesn’t come with a lengthy track record of this type of dominance. He posted excellent ERAs in 2012-13, but in shorter samples (a total of 70 1/3 innings in that time) and while being shielded from facing many right-handed hitters. Miller also battled his command until this season, as he entered the year with a career BB/9 rate of 5.3.
All of this as covered in greater detail in Tim Dierkes’ Free Agent Profile of Miller. Though his track record is a bit spotty, Tim projected that Miller’s historic season would be parlayed into a four-year, $32MM pact.
A rumored deal of Jordan Zimmermann to the Cubs is reportedly not happening, which makes sense to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal since such a trade wouldn’t really be a fit for either the Cubs or the Nationals. The Cubs are likely to address their pitching need by either signing a top free agent arm or trading one of their infield prospects for a controllable younger arm. Dealing for Zimmermann would the Cubs to both give up prospects and spend big, Rosenthal notes, since Chicago would obviously want to sign the righty to a long-term extension.
Here’s some more from around the NL Central…
- The Cardinals are wary of making commitments that will result in future roadblocks to upcoming younger players, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. GM John Mozeliak notes that the team feels it could be “exposed” at first base or the corner outfield if it does not get the performances it hopes for, and is interested in left-handed relief help and a utility infielder.
- In fact, the Cardinals met with representatives for Andrew Miller on Tuesday, Goold tweets. The meeting was characterized as exploratory in nature, though the fit is obvious.
- Both the Cardinals and Reds had interest in Michael Cuddyer before he signed with the Mets, Goold reports in a separate piece.
- Though the Reds are interested in Nori Aoki and Michael Morse, that is not an exclusive list, GM Walt Jocketty tells C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link). The club’s top priority is adding offense, and it is considering trade scenarios in addition to looking at the free agent market.
Talk about the market’s top free agent, Max Scherzer, has been scarce to this point, but agent Scott Boras tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that he’s not worried about the quiet air surrounding his client. “Premium free agents are rarely talked about at the GM meetings,” Boras said. “This is an owners’ decision. Every GM wants him. There’s always a place for him on every team. The issue is not whether the player is wanted. The issue is whether the owner will make the commitment to try to win the World Series.” Heyman’s piece contains many examples of the litany of stats Boras will use when pitching Scherzer to owners around the league. The Tigers are said to love Scherzer, but indications at this time are that they’re out on Scherzer. That, of course, could change as the offseason progresses, though one Tigers source told Heyman that Boras’ counteroffer to the team’s six-year, $144MM extension offer was “way, way” north of that sizable $144MM sum.
A few more notes on some free agents…
- While many top free agents take their time to see how the market plays out, a source tells MassLive.com’s Jason Mastrodonato that Jon Lester is willing to sign as soon as the right offer presents itself, “whether it is tomorrow or April 1.” While the Red Sox are known to have a preference to shy away from commitments of four-plus years to pitchers in their 30s (following their five-year deal for John Lackey), GM Ben Cherington implied that the team might be willing to make an exception for Lester, noting that it’s never been a hard policy.
- Andrew Miller‘s agent, Mark Rodgers, tells ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that he plans to be “methodical” in discussions with teams and doesn’t envision signing a contract in the near future. Miller is open to pitching in a setup capacity for a contending team with an entrenched closer, but he’s also generating interest from teams in need of a closer.
- The Twins prefer to add a right-handed bat to their outfield this offseason, and while Torii Hunter has been listed in connection to Minnesota, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that Alex Rios is another name to watch.
One of the questions facing all teams in free agency is whether to pay for top talent or delve into the second tier for a bargain. Ben Lindbergh of Grantland lists five instances where the generic option could provide more financial value than the name brand asset. In the case of players like Pablo Sandoval, James Shields, and David Robertson, cheaper options probably won’t outperform them, but they could come close at less than half the guaranteed cost. Here’s more from the realm of free agency.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post picked destinations for 10 “hot MLB free agents.” Sherman thinks the Mets could be the surprise winners of the Yasmany Tomas sweepstakes, since the move would energize a depressed fan base. In my opinion, his oddest pick is Max Scherzer to the Brewers. Sherman reasons that Milwaukee has been aggressive under owner Mark Attanasio, but I’m not sure they can support a massive investment in a starting pitcher. Meanwhile, the Tigers could grab two trendy free agents with Sandoval to man third base and Andrew Miller to play the role of relief ace.
- For those who aren’t satisfied with MLBTR’s list of MLB free agents, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy has all the minor league free agents for your perusal. As we learned earlier this week via FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, MiLB free agents represent a potentially under-exploited opportunity to buy value. To a stats analyst, not many names jump of the page. One I’ll be tracking, if only because he’s an interesting story, is Jason Lane.