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Arizona Diamondbacks Rumors
The D’backs have designated a pair of righties in Mike Bolsinger and Charles Brewer, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (via Twitter). The move was done in concert with the team’s 40-man additions today.
The 26-year-old Bolsinger threw 52 1/3 innings of 5.50 ERA ball at the MLB level last year, mostly as a starter. He managed a solid 8.3 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9 in that stretch, along with a 52.4% groundball rate, but was victimized by the long ball and the dreaded high BABIP/low strand rate combo. Across 193 2/3 career frames at the Triple-A level, Bolsinger has a 4.32 ERA with 8.6 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9.
As for Brewer, also 26, his six innings of big league action last year are insufficient to say much about his future. He has amassed 399 2/3 innings at Triple-A, putting up a 5.29 ERA along the way. Brewer has struck out 6.9 and walked 2.5 batters per nine, but has also allowed 10.8 hits per nine in that stretch.
Free agent lefty Francisco Liriano, most recently of the Pirates, is looking to land a three or four-year deal with a $12MM+ average annual value, according to a report from Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via Twitter). That seems like a plenty reasonable starting point given Liriano’s excellent numbers over the past two seasons. While draft compensation will no doubt play a role in his free agency, MLBTR’s Steve Adams still predicts that he will land $40MM over three years.
Here are some notes out of the National League:
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak is “increasingly aggressive and unpredictable,” says Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That lends some credence to the notion that St. Louis could pursue a top free agent starter, says Miklasz, who documents the reasons that adding Jon Lester or even Max Scherzer could make sense. In the final analysis, though, the veteran sportswriter says he would still be shocked if the team beats the market for an ace.
- Not only senior VP of baseball operations De Jon Watson but also GM Dave Stewart have been making the rounds internationally, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, who notes that the Diamondbacks are hoping to “make waves” in the international market. On the domestic front, Didi Gregorius is drawing the most interest on the trade market among the team’s middle infielders, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets.
- The Padres appear to be leaning toward keeping starters Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, reports MLB.com’s Corey Brock. San Diego can and should avoid marking down the price on that pair, in my view, as it ought to provide a cheap source of solid rotation production over the next several years.
- Even if the Dodgers are not internally discussing a deal to bring back Hanley Ramirez at shortstop, as was recently reported, that does not mean that the club is closing the door completely to a reunion, per a tweet from Chris Cotillo of SB Nation.
Earlier today the Marlins officially announced their 13-year, $325MM extension with Giancarlo Stanton. Here’s the latest on the team following that historic agreement…
- The Marlins have made a two-year, $20MM offer to Adam LaRoche, reports Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Recent reports have indicated that the Marlins are strongly interested in LaRoche, and Jackson’s report would back that up, though the $20MM may be a bit light to seal the deal. I recently pegged LaRoche for a two-year, $30MM deal, and he just wrapped up a two-year, $24MM pact. LaRoche is also said to be drawing interest from the Padres and White Sox.
- Also from Jackson, the Marlins have expressed interest in free agents Jason Hammel and Justin Masterson. Miami is said to covet a veteran arm to add to its rotation while ace Jose Fernandez rehabs from Tommy John surgery. James Shields‘ name has also been floated recently, though he’d obviously come at a much higher cost than either of the targets named by Jackson. The Fish are also interested in Wade Miley as a trade target, Jackson writes, but the D’Backs have very little pitching depth as it is, so moving one of their only reliable arms would seem a bit curious.
- The Marlins say their payroll will top $60MM in 2015, according to Jackson. With Stanton set to earn just $6.5MM in the first year of his extension, the Marlins currently have about $22MM committed to next year’s roster. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects an additional $20.3MM in arb raises, but the Fish should be able to add at least $20MM or so worth of salary this winter. A LaRoche signing, I would think, could lead the team to shop Garrett Jones, which would remove another $5MM from the currently projected commitment.
- Jackson’s column is rife with excellent quotes from Stanton’s press conference, including quotes from Stanton himself, from agent Joel Wolfe and from team president David Samson. Jackson hears that the Marlins’ first offer to Stanton came shortly after season’s end and was worth roughly $130MM over six years. However, Wolfe says that Stanton told him, “if it’s not a lifetime contract, there’s no point in talking.”
- The Marlins still won’t be giving out no-trade clauses to other players, according to Samson, but they had no problem giving one to Stanton. The opt-out clause was much trickier, as the Marlins were very resistant. The Marlins wanted the opt-out to be conditional based on team performance, only allowing Stanton to elect free agency if the team lost a certain number of games. Samson explained, however, that Stanton made it very clear he wasn’t interested in opting out to earn more money after that point of the contract, but rather to protect himself from being part of a losing culture. “Once we believed the opt-out clause would be used as a shield and not a sword, we were OK with it,” said Samson. Stanton also comfortable with the idea of earning less money up front in the deal to surround him with better players. A new TV deal could be in the offing for the Marlins soon, which would of course allow them a better payroll.
- Also of note from Jackson is that owner Jeffrey Loria has no intentions of selling the team. Though Samson says many people place calls with interest in buying, Loria is “in it for the long run because he loves it.”
- Shifting away from Jackson’s must-read piece — the highlights here are but a fraction of the interesting points within — former MLBTR scribe Cork Gaines writes in a piece for Business Insider that the Stanton extension can be used as leverage in negotiating a new TV deal. Miami currently has the worst local TV deal in all of baseball, paying them $13-18MM annually (the Dodgers’ deal, in contrast, pays them $334MM per year, Gaines writes). Gaines notes that having a legitimate superstar on the team will increase the value of the new TV deal. Gaines speculates that negotiations could begin in 2016 as there appears to be some kind of opt-out on the current contract, which runs through 2020. Indeed, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that they are aiming for a new TV deal to begin in 2017 — which, perhaps not coincidentally, aligns with the first significant spike in Stanton’s salary.
- In a full column, Rosenthal points out that the Rangers, Tigers and Angels each spent significant money prior to signing their new TV deals so they had a more attractive product in place for negotiations. While history has the skeptics gearing up for a fire sale in the near future, Rosenthal opines that this doesn’t look like a club that’s merely going to tear it all down again in two years.
The Mariners were in the mix for free agent catcher Russell Martin, reports MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince. It is not clear exactly what Seattle’s plans would have been with young backstop Mike Zunino, had they managed to land Martin, but it seems fair to assume that the club was only looking at the catching market for that specific player. Going forward, though, this report supports the idea that the M’s are indeed prepared to spend on the open market.
Here’s more from out west:
- Gustavo Vasquez, the agent for third baseman Pablo Sandoval, plans to speak with the Giants by phone this evening after wrapping up a lengthy visit to Boston yesterday, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. His client could be on the horn as well, says Rosenthal. It is not yet known whether Sandoval came away from his visit with the Red Sox with a firm offer in hand.
- Veteran Giants righty Tim Hudson says he is likely to retire after 2015, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). “I have one more year left on my contract, so I’m pretty sure that’s going to be it after this season,” Hudson said. “I just started my workouts yesterday, which is kind of crazy to me.”
- The Astros are readying for another, “fresh look” at the possibility of working out extensions, GM Jeff Luhnow tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Last year, of course, the club pursued several long-term deals with younger players, ultimately locking up Jon Singleton. Renewed exploration of a deal with catcher Jason Castro remains possible, said Luhnow, though Drellich reports that no talks are taking place at present. The catcher has consistently said he would be interested in a new deal to stay in Houston for the long run, though his name has come up as a possible trade candidate.
- Discussions went pretty far down the line last year, with Drellich reporting that the club made Castro an offer after his stellar 2013 season. Per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation, that offer would have promised the now-27-year-old around $10MM for 2015-16 while conveying two option years (covering Castro’s first two seasons of free agent eligibility) to the team. Had they been exercised, the deal’s total value could have reached about $25MM. It is not hard to see why he declined that proposal, as Castro is projected by MLBTR/Matt Swartz to earn $3.9MM this year even after a rough 2014 campaign.
- MLB.com’s Corey Brock takes a closer look at Ed Lewis, the Diamondbacks‘ newly-minted director of baseball analytics and research. Needless to say, Lewis’s background — he is a veterinarian by training — is an unusual one for a MLB executive. But chief baseball officer Tony La Russa says that Lewis has a track record of working with baseball numbers. “Ed gave me my first introduction to advanced analytics when he worked with our offensive preparation in St. Louis and I’ve always been impressed with his intelligence and integrity,” said La Russa (via press release). “It was clear that [GM Dave Stewart] and [president/CEO Derrick Hall] were also very impressed by his wealth of knowledge. He is a scientist who is mathematically inclined and he knows the game. Most importantly, he understands our approach to it.”
Though not available to MLB clubs at present, righty Chihiro Kaneko could become a virtual free agent (in the same manner as Masahiro Tanaka last year) if he is posted by the Orix Buffaloes. The 31-year-old has signed on with agent Arn Tellem of Wasserman, according to a tweet from Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal.
- While we wait to see whether Kaneko shakes up the market, let’s look at the latest of one top arm who is already free to sign with any club. The Marlins still have ongoing interest in James Shields, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Meanwhile, Rosenthal writes that the Diamondbacks at least like Shields, though it remains from clear that the club will be able to clear the salary it needs to make a legitimate run at him. As these reports would indicate, and Rosenthal notes, the market is quiet right now for the veteran righty.
- The Cubs are among five teams to have shown legitimate interest in outfielder Jonny Gomes, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter links). The right-handed-hitting Gomes, 33, will surely market himself as a bench or platoon bat in the corner outfield. Though he had a rather rough go of things in 2014, he still managed a .743 OPS against lefties.
- Fellow lefty-masher Josh Willingham has yet to decide whether he’ll play, agent Matt Sosnick tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Willingham, 35, will surely be intrigued by the possibility of entering a market that just paid Michael Cuddyer $21MM over two years (along with the sacrifice of draft compensation).
- As we continue ticking through the veteran outfielders, the Royals and Twins are the clubs most aggressively courting outfielder Torii Hunter, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. That comes as little surprise, as those AL Central rivals have long been said to be competitors for Hunter, whose market is now wide open with the Tigers saying they do not expect to bring him back.
Baseball America’s Matt Eddy has this week’s edition of his Minor League Transactions feature up, which, as usual, features several recent minor league signings. Here are a few highlights from his piece, as well as other minor moves from around the league…
- After releasing him on Friday, the Nationals have re-signed lefty Matt Purke to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. Purke has never thrown to the potential that the team saw when they gave him a massive bonus to sign out of the 2011 draft, but now he will have a chance to rehab from Tommy John surgery without occupying a 40-man roster spot.
- The Dodgers have acquired right-handed-hitting outfielder/first baseman Kyle Jensen from the Marlins, the clubs announced. Jensen, 26, has yet to see playing time at the MLB level, but slashed .260/.331/.481 with 27 home runs last year in the PCL. Miami will receive cash or a player to be named later in return.
- The Phillies have signed right-hander P.J. Walters, according to Eddy. The 29-year-old comes with 152 innings of big league experience, though he’s struggled to a 6.28 ERA in that time. Much of that work came with the 2012-13 Twins, where he posted a 5.79 ERA in 101 innings. Walters has a 4.70 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 735 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level.
- The D’Backs and left-hander Justin Marks have agreed to a minor league deal, also per Eddy. The 26-year-old Marks picked up his first two big league innings in 2014 and has a lifetime 5.02 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in Triple-A. Marks struggled overall in 2014 but was previously excellent against lefties, holding them to a .191/.301/.268 batting line in 2013. He, along with Vin Mazzaro, was one of two players acquired by the Royals from the A’s in exchange for David DeJesus back in 2010.
- The Brewers announced last week that they have re-signed outfielder Jeremy Hermida and infielder Pete Orr to minor league deals. The 30-year-old Hermida once carried a significant amount of promise — he was the 11th overall pick in 2002 and hit .296/.369/.501 as a 24-year-old in 2007 — but hasn’t seen Major League action since 2012 with the Padres. Orr, 35, has seen MLB action parts of eight seasons, most recently with the Phillies in 2013. He is a career .257/.289/.328 hitter that is capable of playing all over the diamond. He hit .301/.329/.423 with the Brewers in Triple-A last year.
- The Marlins have inked indy league second baseman Omar Artsen, Eddy reports. The 24-year-old Artsen spent last season playing in the Pecos League where he boasted a gaudy stat line of .397/.480/.576 with nine homers and 52 steals in 353 PA.
The Tigers are a team built to win in the present, but that doesn’t mean their future has to be bleak, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs writes. The team’s recent four-year deal for Victor Martinez is one of many Tigers contracts that could turn ugly, and the team already has $75MM on the books in 2018 for Martinez, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have any flexibility. Considering the likelihood of modest payroll increases in the coming seasons, they could have a payroll north of $180MM in 2018. That would give them enough leeway to have a shot even with their current commitments and thin farm system. Sullivan suggests that one future-oriented move the Tigers could make would be to sign J.D. Martinez to a long-term deal. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Yankees first baseman Greg Bird has been named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League. Bird, a fifth-round pick out of high school in 2011, hit .271/.376/.472 in a 2014 season split between Class A+ Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Bird then hit .313/.391/.556 in 26 games with the Scottsdale Scorpions. The 22-year-old Bird isn’t on the same level as the previous winner, Cubs super-prospect Kris Bryant, but he could still potentially play his way onto the Yankees roster at some point in 2015.
- Re-signing David Robertson is the Yankees’ highest priority this offseason, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes. The Royals’ success shows how important a good bullpen can be, and how much a good ‘pen can do to help starters who don’t rack up high innings totals. With Robertson, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Jacob Lindgren, Shawn Kelley and new acquisition Justin Wilson, the Yankees could have one of the stronger bullpens in the Majors in 2015, Madden writes. On the flip side, the Yankees would like to re-sign starter Brandon McCarthy, but they think they’ll be able to replace him if another team outbids them.
- A.J. Burnett is a back-end starter at this point, but his new discount contract is still a good one for the Pirates, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. The deal is only for one year, and it’s likely to produce about 1.5 WAR in value, which is a solid rate for an $8.5MM contract. Meanwhile, the Pirates’ homer-suppressing ballpark, defensive shifting and emphasis on pitch framing make Pittsburgh a great destination for pitchers.
- Dave Stewart of the Diamondbacks sees Jeremy Hellickson as “a number two or number three starter,” Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. The prospects the Diamondbacks sent to the Rays, Justin Williams and Andrew Velazquez, both have potential. (Williams hit .351/.403/.437 in 320 plate appearances in rookie ball and at Class A South Bend this season, impressive numbers for an 18-year-old at any level.) But for Stewart, Hellickson’s talent was more important, and he can help the Diamondbacks now. “They could both be All-Stars, but from our standpoint they’re three or four years away from being major league players,” says Stewart. “We have an opportunity to get a good starter to put in our rotation now and go along with our plans for our team with the 2015 season.”
The Mariners make sense as a suitor for Nelson Cruz, but their organizational philosophy regarding players who have been suspended for PED could be an issue, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. There are conflicting details regarding whether the Mariners might have a policy in place preventing them from signing PED players and whether Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln refused to approve a deal for Cruz last winter. If they team does have such a policy, however, it could have a significant impact on their offseason, given that both Cruz and Melky Cabrera, who play positions the Mariners could try to upgrade, have PED suspensions in their pasts. A source within the Mariners tells Morosi that the team does not have a policy against PED players, and, further, that the team has spoken to Cruz and his agent this offseason. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano fractured his toe while playing in Japan Saturday and will miss the rest of the Japan series, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports. Cano will only be out three to four weeks, however, and should easily be ready for spring training.
- Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart is a big fan of new acquisition Jeremy Hellickson, Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona writes. “He is going to be outstanding here,” says Stewart. “He is going to pitch well. This is one guy I believe is really going to help our rotation.” The Hellickson deal, which sent two prospects to Tampa, became official last night. The Diamondbacks will continue to search for starting pitching, Magruder adds, with Kenta Maeda or Chad Billingsley (a former client of Stewart’s when he was an agent) as possibilities.
- The Rangers‘ recent extensions for GM Jon Daniels and assistant GM Thad Levine help provide continuity and stability throughout the organization, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. “We want to build from within and keep the group together,” says Daniels. “Thad and I are the ones mentioned in the press release, but [ownership] has allowed us to do good things for others.” Daniels adds that Levine is likely to one day be a GM, perhaps in Texas.
The Diamondbacks have reached a deal to acquire starter Jeremy Hellickson from the Rays, the clubs announced. Outfielder Justin Williams and shortstop Andrew Velazquez — both prospects playing in the low minors — constitute the return for Tampa.
The swap represents perhaps the first significant move of the tenure of both principle baseball decisionmakers involved: GM Dave Stewart of the D’backs and president of baseball operations Matt Silverman of Tampa. For Stewart, Hellickson represents the arm (or, perhaps, one of the arms) that he has repeatedly said was the focus of the offseason.
Hellickson is projected by MLBTR/Matt Swartz to earn $3.9MM in his second trip through the arbitration process. He will have one final year of control in 2016 before hitting the open market.
Entering his age-28 campaign, Hellickson has seen his value drop after a rough couple of campaigns. First, there is the fact that Hellickson has pitched to a 5.00 ERA in 237 2/3 innings over 2013-14. Then, there’s the fact that he only threw 63 2/3 of those frames last year, after undergoing an elbow cleanup procedure just before the open of camp.
Hellickson took home the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year award, but did so in spite of ERA estimators that valued him more as a back-of-the-rotation innings eater. That assessment has never really changed; Hellickson has never posted a FIP, xFIP, or SIERA mark below the 4.00 level over a season. Though he averaged a 3.02 ERA over 366 innings in 2011-12, but those marks were propped up by an unsustainable BABIP (.223 and .261, respectively) and the regression came with a vengeance.
That being said, there are, perhaps, some signs of encouragement. Hellickson has seen his strikeout rate rise over each of the last three years. And those very same advanced metrics that predicted a decline after Hellickson’s hot start also look more promising now than they did at the time.
As for Tampa’s end of the deal, the club gets a pair of interesting young players while clearing some payroll space. Both Velazquez (#12) and Williams (#14) rated among the D’backs’ twenty best prospects in the most recent list from MLB.com’s prospect gurus Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo.
Previously a largely marginal prospect, he 20-year-old Velazquez made his name with a record-setting 74-game on-base streak this year, besting the more celebrated run of Mookie Betts. He finished a full season at low-A with a .290/.367/.428 slash to go with nine home runs and an eye-opening 50 stolen bases over 623 trips to bat. MLB.com says that Velazquez has improved his approach and strike zone awareness while delivering plus speed, though his small size and remaining contact issues could limit him moving forward.
Williams, 19, reached low-A ball last year after being taken in the second round of the 2013 draft. The left-handed-hitting youngster continued to put up strong overall numbers last year, but continues to lag in the power department. Over 544 plate appearances as a pro, Williams has swatted only five long balls. Despite the fact that he is said to possess a big power tool, it has yet to show up in game action. Nevertheless, his overall line in the minors — .351/.401/.461 — and solid pedigree led Baseball America to rate him the seventh overall prospect in the Pioneer League this year.
Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com first reported that a deal was close between the two teams. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported on Twitter.that the deal was finalized. Cotillo (via Twitter), Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter), and Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (via Twitter) each reported elements of the prospect return.
MONDAY, 9:14pm: The Rockies aren’t the mystery NL team, The Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders reports (via Twitter).
1:47pm: The D’Backs have interest in Hellickson, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). However, it’s not clear that Arizona is in or has had any advanced talks with the Rays.
9:27am: The Rays are moving toward dealing right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to an unknown National League team, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Times (via Twitter). A deal is likely to get done this week, Sherman adds.
Hellickson, who turns 28 next April, was limited to 63 2/3 innings in 2014 as he recovered from January surgery to remove loose bodies from his throwing elbow. The 2011 AL Rookie of the Year pitched to a 2.95 ERA in a stellar rookie season, but he’s never graded out well when looking at sabermetric indicators such as FIP, xFIP and SIERA. Each of those three metrics pegs Hellickson between 4.34 and 4.38, suggesting that his strong work early in his career was a bit of a mirage, likely propped up by a BABIP south of .260 and a strand rate north of 80 percent.
Over the past two seasons, Hellickson has an even 5.00 ERA in 237 2/3 innings. On the plus side, he’s bumped his K/9 to 7.2 over those past two seasons and dropped his walk rate to 2.7 per nine — both of which are improvements over the marks he posted early on in his career.
Though Hellickson has struggled recently and never graded out that well from a sabermetric standpoint, there’s plenty of upside to be had from an acquiring team’s standpoint. He’s still in his prime and was ranked among the game’s Top 10 prospects by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus prior to his promotion to the Majors. The Scott Boras client can be controlled through the 2016 season and is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn a very reasonable $3.9MM in 2015.
Though the Rays dealt Cesar Ramos to the Angels last week, a Hellickson deal would be the first significant move by new Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman and newly minted VPs Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom. The Cubs, Rockies, Giants, Pirates and Braves could all make some sense for Hellickson, and it’s of course worth speculating that new Dodgers president of baseball ops Andrew Friedman is interested in re-acquiring the right-hander.