Aroldis Chapman Rumors

Quick Hits: Reds, Meyer, Ryu, Arruebarrena

The game is in need of greater minority representation in its most visible non-playing role, that of manager, says Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman lists twenty excellent candidates who ought to receive strong consideration from those clubs that are in need of new dugout leaders after the season.

  • It’s no secret, of course, that Reds pitchers Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman would draw intense interest on the trade market if they are made available. Writing for FOX Sports, Jeff Sullivan analyzes just how much they could bring back this summer. In spite of his excellence, Cueto might most realistically be expected to bring back a very good prospect rather than a great one, says Sullivan, while Chapman probably has somewhat more value given his nearly-unmatched dominance and extra year of control. As Sullivan notes, the possibility of jointly marketing the two in search of more premium talent in less player seems interesting, though perhaps something of a long shot.
  • The Twins have decided to move top-100 pitching prospect Alex Meyer into the Triple-A bullpen, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports. It appears that the team is doing so more with the idea of getting him back on track than preparing him for MLB bullpen work — Meyer has struggled mightily, especially with his control — but it would not be surprising to see him appear as a late-inning arm if he can turn things around and Minnesota can stay in the hunt.
  • Dodgers lefty Hyun-jin Ryu, who is set to miss the rest of the year with shoulder surgery, told reporters that he has been pitching with a labrum tear at least since he signed with the club, as J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group tweets. Ryu says that his MRI back in 2013 revealed the slight tear, which has not worsened — but is apparently now a much greater problem — since that time.
  • Meanwhile, the Dodgers will not attempt to void the contract of infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena, Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com tweets. While the club felt justified in suspending Arruebarrena for the entire rest of the year for disciplinary reasons, Saxon says that the still-unreported transgressions were not considered significant enough to warrant yet more drastic action.

NL East Notes: Nats, Chapman, Duda, Braves

ESPN’s Jayson Stark is picking the Nationals to win the World Series, and his opinion that they’re baseball’s best team is shared by many scouts and executives around the game.  The Nats have depth, playoff experience, an incredible pitching staff and an easy road (on paper) to the postseason since the NL East projects to be a weak division.  Also, with so many major free agents after the year, the Nationals have a great sense of urgency to win in 2015 and will surely be aggressive in filling roster needs throughout the season.  “They have what everyone wants — a ‘now’ team with ingredients they can move if they need to,” one scout told Stark.

Here’s some more from around the NL East…

  • As an example of how aggressive the Nationals could get, Stark heard “a lot” of speculation that they could try to obtain Aroldis Chapman from the Reds at the trade deadline if Drew Storen underachieves as closer.  This would, of course, likely depend on whether or not the Reds are themselves contenders.
  • There’s no progress on extension talks between the Mets and Lucas Duda‘s representatives, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin reports.  The two sides are still talking but have yet Opening Day as the negotiating deadline.
  • No teams are showing any “significant interest” in Mets righty Dillon Gee, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (via Twitter).
  • The Braves are still considering possible trades, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets, but it seems as if Pedro Ciriaco will make the roster as a backup outfielder.  Ciriaco signed a minor league deal with Atlanta last October and the Braves will have to create a 40-man roster spot for him if he indeed breaks camp with the team.
  • At the moment, the Braves aren’t close to making any trades, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link).

Reds Avoid Arbitration With Aroldis Chapman

9:20am: Chapman settled at an $8.05MM figure, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. That sum is a fairly sizable $375K higher than the midpoint of the two figures, suggesting that the Reds may have been particularly motivated to avoid a hearing.

9:12am: The Reds announced that they have avoided arbitration with closer Aroldis Chapman by agreeing to a one-year deal. The flamethrowing southpaw, projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $8.3MM in 2015, had filed for an $8.7MM salary, while the team had countered at $6.65MM (as shown in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker).

Chapman, who was arbitration eligible for the second time this offseason, enjoyed a characteristically brilliant season out of the bullpen for Cincinnati. Though he missed the beginning of the season after he was struck in the face by a line drive in Spring Training, Chapman showed no negative effects once he was able to take the field. The soon-to-be 27-year-old Relativity Sports client pitched to an even 2.00 ERA with a preposterous 17.7 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and a 43.5 percent ground-ball rate. Despite the missed time, his 36 saves fell just two shy of his career-high 38 — a total he achieved in both 2012 and 2013.



Central Notes: Royals, Frazier, Chapman, Reds, Indians

The Royals should employ “selective memory” regarding their successful 2014 playoff run, writes Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star. During the Wild Card game, the Royals were just a few outs from elimination against the Athletics. A series of improbable events led to a remarkable comeback victory. Without that first win, Ned Yost would be a punching bag in the media due to questionable decisions, Mike Moustakas would have entered the offseason with another disappointing season on his resume, and Lorenzo Cain would have failed to gain national acclaim. The postseason success also allowed the Royals to bolster their payroll, which should help in 2015.

  • The Reds have two more arbitration players – Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman, writes Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. The club continues to talk to agents of both players in an effort to find a middle ground. Per GM Walt Jocketty, “we’re going to keep working on it this weekend and see if we can make some progress.” Both players have fairly substantial differences in their submitted figures. Frazier asked for $5.7MM compared to the club’s offer of $3.9MM in his first season of eligibility. Chapman’s camp submitted for $8.7MM while the Reds countered at $6.65MM. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected a $4.6MM payday for Frazier and $8.3MM for Chapman.
  • The Reds are “pretty much done” with free agent signings, reports Sheldon. Cincinnati inked reliever Burke Badenhop earlier today and signed former closer Kevin Gregg to a minor league deal. Jocketty left the door open, saying he’ll see if “something pops up,” but it’s unlikely.
  • Patience allowed the Indians to acquire and develop three of their semi-homegrown stars, writes the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto. Michael Brantley was a player to be named later in the 2008 CC Sabathia trade. It took him six seasons to breakout at the major league level. In 2010, Corey Kluber was acquired in a three team trade. As we know, he also took awhile to reach his ceiling. Catcher Yan Gomes is another important trade acquisition for the club. Cleveland sent pitcher Esmil Rogers to Toronto in exchange for Gomes and Mike Aviles. All three players never ranked among the top 100 prospects in the game, and they’re all under club control through at least 2017.

Central Notes: Ramirez, Shields, Reds

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince takes a look at some folks around the league who are, in his view, facing make-or-break seasons. He includes some less obvious names, but two players stand out who could conceivably be All-Stars or become non-tender candidate: Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates and Mike Moustakas of the Royals.

Here are some notes from the game’s Central divisions…

  • The Indians had the team’s defense in mind when they traded Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals at the July 31 non-waiver deadline, manager Terry Francona explains to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). However, Francona admits that there was some hesitation on Cleveland’s behalf because of how they thought the move would be perceived by fans and the rest of the roster. “…[GM Chris Antonetti] was justifiably concerned about the perception, that we were throwing up the white flag. So we had to kind of decide, ‘OK, look, we believe in what we’re doing and we’ll make sure the players understand that we think we can actually be a better team and get a prospect back.’ I think it took awhile, but once [Jose] Ramirez came up and everybody saw how he played shortstop, they saw why we wanted to make the move. We love Cabby — always will — but we felt we had a chance to get a little bit more athletic at shortstop and you saw the way Jose played.”
  • Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals are still monitoring James Shields‘ free agency, though he notes it’s likely just due diligence. Said general manager Dayton Moore said to McCullough: “I’m not sure there’s a fit.” As McCullough notes in a followup tweet, the Royals have six starting pitchers under contract (including Kris Medlen), and the team’s payroll is already set to top $110MM — a club record.
  • The Reds completed a four-year extension with catcher Devin Mesoraco earlier today that bought out all three of his arbitration seasons and one free agent year, but it doesn’t sound like agreements for the team’s remaining arb-eligible players are close. GM Walt Jocketty told MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that the Reds are “a ways apart” with both Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman (Twitter link). It sounds like Cincinnati may have spoken with Frazier’s agents at CAA about an extension as well, via the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay, but things don’t look promising based on his tweet. Jocketty tells Fay that the Reds talked to Frazier about a new deal, “but we’re not nearly as close as we were with Mesoraco.”

Cafardo On Scherzer, Shields, Kimbrel, Chapman

Teams are aware that Max Scherzer and James Shields are excellent pitchers, but many teams don’t have enough money remaining in their budgets to sign them, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The Red Sox like both pitchers and don’t have an obvious ace, but they’ve already spent heavily this offseason and have plenty of good starters, one of whom could emerge to lead them. A number of teams, meanwhile, are waiting for Shields’ price to come down. Where Scherzer and Shields land could depend on owners who are willing to step up and sign them, regardless of their teams’ budgets. (The Nationals and another team are reportedly currently involved in the bidding for Scherzer.) In other nuggets from Cafardo’s Sunday Notes column:

  • The Red Sox are committed to Christian Vazquez being their starting catcher; but, with the development of Blake Swihart, it may not be for long. The Phillies covet Swihart in a potential Cole Hamels trade, but one NL executive wonders whether they would take Vazquez instead.
  • Baseball executives tell Cafardo the Braves may be willing to deal closer Craig Kimbrel at the trade deadline, if the club is struggling. The same goes for the Reds and Aroldis Chapman. Cafardo lists the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Tigers as the teams who would most benefit from adding either reliever.
  • The Orioles will not be able to obtain an MLB player as compensation if Dan Duquette joins the Blue Jays, but owner Peter Angelos will seek one or two very good prospects.
  • The Giants scored another quality signing when they came to terms with outfielder Nori Aoki. The Giants had inquired with the Red Sox about their surplus of outfielders, including Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, and Daniel Nava.

Arbitration Roundup: 54 Players Exchange Figures

With today’s flurry of activities in the books, 144 players have agreed to deals to avoid arbitration for a total spend of $433MM. But that leaves 54 players who have exchanged figures and have ground left to cover before their 2015 salaries are settled. That number is up from last year’s tally of 39, and may point to the possibility that we will see more hearings than the three in 2014 (which was itself up from zero the year before).

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker is a great resource for seeing where things stand. It is fully sortable and even allows you to link to the results of a search. (The MLBTR/Matt Swartz arbitration projections are also quite handy, of course.) Using the tracker, I compiled some broad notes on where things stand in the arbitration process this year.

Remember, deals avoiding arbitration can still be reached even after the exchange of numbers. Hearings will be scheduled between February 1st and 21st, so there is plenty of time for the sides to come together before making their cases.

That being said, some teams are known for their “file and trial” approach to arb-eligible players, meaning that they refuse to negotiate after the exchange deadline and go to a hearing if agreement has not been reached. Among those clubs (the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox, per the most recent reporting), there are several open cases remaining: Mat Latos and Michael Dunn (Marlins), Josh Donaldson and Danny Valencia (Blue Jays), Mike Minor (Braves), and Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier (Reds).

Meanwhile, some other clubs have historically employed the “file and trial” approach on a modified or case-by-case basis: the Pirates, Nationals, and Indians. Among those clubs, the Pirates (Neil Walker, Vance Worley) and Nationals (Jerry Blevins) have open cases, though all of them feature relatively tight spreads.

And there are some other interesting cases to keep an eye on as well. Consider:

  • The Orioles and Royals not only faced off in last year’s American League Championship Series, but find themselves staring at by far the most unresolved cases (six and eight, respectively). They are also the only teams with eight-figure gaps between their submissions and those of their players ($10.85MM and $10MM, respectively).
  • Among the Orioles players, two stand out for the significant relative gulf separating team and player. Zach Britton, who excelled after taking over as the closer last year, filed at $4.2MM while the team countered at $2.2MM, leaving a $2MM gap that is worth nearly 91% of the club’s offer. Even more remarkably, the O’s will need to bridge a $3.4MM gap ($5.4MM versus $2MM) with surprise star Steve Pearce. That spread is 1.7 times the value of the team’s offer and easily beats the largest difference last year (Logan Morrison and the Mariners, 127.3%).
  • Of course, it is worth remembering that first-year arb salaries have added impact because they set a baseline for future earnings. (Each successive year’s salary is essentially calculated as an earned raise from that starting point.) For the Reds, the outcome of their cases with Frazier ($5.7MM vs. $3.9MM) and Mesoraco ($3.6MM vs. $2.45MM) could have huge ramifications for whether the team will be able to afford to keep (and possibly extend) that pair of strong performers.
  • Likewise, the Angels face an important showdown with Garrett Richards, a Super Two whose starting point will factor into three more seasons of payouts. As a high-upside starter, he has sky high earning potential, so any savings will be most welcome to the team. The current spread is $3.8MM versus $2.4MM, a $1.4MM difference that equates to 58.3% of the team’s filing price.
  • Interestingly, the biggest gap in absolute terms belong to Pearce and the Orioles at $3.4MM. After that come Bud Norris and the Orioles ($2.75MM), David Freese and the Angels ($2.35MM), Greg Holland and the Royals ($2.35MM), Dexter Fowler and the Astros ($2.3MM), Eric Hosmer and the Royals ($2.1MM), and Aroldis Chapman and the Reds ($2.05MM).

Of course, plenty of deals already got done today. Here are some of the more notable among them:

  • David Price agreed to a $19.75MM salary with the Tigers that stands as the single highest arbitration payday ever, by a fair margin.
  • Interestingly, the Rays agreed to rather similar, sub-projection deals with all seven of their arb-eligible players. Discounts on Swartz’s expectations ranged from 3.23% to 13.21%. In total, the club shaved $1.525MM off of its tab.
  • The opposite was true of the Tigers, who spent a total of $1.4MM over the projections on just three players. Of course, since one of those players was Price, the commitment landed just 5.2% over the projected total.
  • Detroit’s overages pale in comparison to those of the Cubs, who handed out several of the deals that beat the projections by the widest relative margin and ended up over $2.5MM (14.5%) over their projected spend.
  • The MLBTR/Swartz model badly whiffed (over 50% off) on just three players, all of whom earned well over the projections: Chris Coghlan of the Cubs (78.9%), Carlos Carrasco of the Indians (66.9%) Tony Sipp of the Astros (60%).
  • On the low side, the worst miss (or the biggest discount, depending on one’s perspective) was Mark Melancon of the Pirates, who fell $2.2MM and 28.9% shy of his projected earnings. Danny Espinosa (Nationals) and Chris Tillman (Orioles) were the only two other players to fall 20% or more below their projections. Of course, in the cases of both Melancon and Tillman, Swartz accurately predicted that they would fall short of the model.

Arbitration Filing Numbers

Many players will avoid arbitration today, and dozens of others exchanged figures with their teams in anticipation of hearings. Most cases won’t go to arbitration hearings, but teams such as the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox (per the most recent updates) are known for their “file and trial” policies. For players on those teams this marks the last chance at negotiations before a hearing.

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker will keep you up to date on every one of the filing numbers from around the game, but here are the highlights — players who filed for $5MM or more. Projections can be found here. Now for the details …

  • The Reds countered the $5.7MM filing of Todd Frazier with a $3.9MM figure, according to Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs (via Twitter).
  • Third baseman David Freese filed at $7.6MM and the Angels countered at $5.25MM, WAPT’s Mike Perchick tweets. Halos outfielder Matt Joyce has filed for $5.2MM against a $4.2MM counter, according to Perchick (on Twitter).
  • Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler filed for $10.8MM while the club countered at $8.5MM, Perchick tweeets.
  • Pirates second baseman Neil Walker filed at $9MM while the club landed at $8MM, Perchick tweets.
  • Just-acquired reliever Tyler Clippard has filed for $8.85MM against the Athletics, who countered at $7.775MM, Perchick tweets.
  • Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay filed at $5MM while the team countered at $4.1MM, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweets.
  • Pedro Alvarez has requested a $5.75MM salary for the coming season while the Pirates are at $5.25MM, per a tweet from Perchick.
  • Righty Mat Latos filed at $10.4MM and the Marlins countered with a $9.4MM figure, per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
  • Third baseman Casey McGehee filed at $5.4MM, with the Giants countering at $4MM, Heyman tweets.
  • The Braves countered Mike Minor‘s $5.6MM filing number with a $5.1MM team figure, Heyman reports on Twitter.
  • Mark Trumbo has filed for $6.9MM against a $5.3MM counter from the Diamondbacks, Heyman tweets. Closer Addison Reed, meanwhile, filed at $5.6MM with the team countering at $4.7MM, per Heyman (via Twitter).
  • The Orioles went with a $7.5MM price point for righty Bud Norris, who filed at $10.25MM, per Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). In both relative and absolute terms, there is an even bigger gap between the O’s ($2MM) and breakout slugger Steve Pearce ($5.4MM), who is looking to cash in on a big season in his final year of eligibility. That news also comes via Connolly, on Twitter.
  • Entering his final year of arbitration, infielder Daniel Murphy has filed for $8.6MM while the Mets have submitted a $7.4MM figure, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets.
  • Reds 9th inning man Aroldis Chapman filed for $8.7MM while the team countered at $6.65MM, per Heyman (via Twitter).
  • The Orioles and outfielder Alejandro De Aza will negotiate between filing figures of $5MM and $5.65MM, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets.
  • Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer filed at $6.7MM and the team countered at $4.6MM, Heyman tweets. The club will also have some ground to make up with closer Greg Holland, who filed at $9MM versus a team filing of $6.65MM, per another Heyman tweet.
  • Newly-acquired third baseman Josh Donaldson has filed at $5.75MM, while the Blue Jays countered at $4.3MM, Heyman tweets.

NL Central Notes: Pirates, Cueto, Lynn, Weeks

The Cubs’ signing of Jon Lester is the headline item out of the NL Central today, but here’s some other pertinent news from the division…

  • Now that the Pirates have re-signed Francisco Liriano, they’re probably not going to look for any more starting pitching and will instead focus on the bullpen, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports (Twitter links).  The Bucs are willing to give a multiyear contract to a reliever “if it’s right guy-right deal situation.”
  • The Reds met with Johnny Cueto‘s agent today to explore a long-term extension, GM Walt Jocketty told reporters (including MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon).  “If it’s possible, I’m not sure it will be, I think it’s still something we have to take a look at as we explore every possibility,” Jocketty said.
  • Teams have reportedly been calling the Reds about Cueto and Aroldis Chapman, though Jocketty said that the Reds aren’t themselves shopping those pitchers.  “I don’t know where the Chapman stuff came from….I walked into the room today and asked our guys if there was anything on Chapman,” the GM said.  “I got three texts and a phone call this morning. I’ll listen to anything that makes sense. It was not something we initiated….I don’t consider, unless we get proposals from clubs, that it’s anything legitimate. It’s just inquiring.”
  • Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jen Langosch) that it’s “fair to say” that Lance Lynn‘s name came up during Mozeliak’s meeting today with an Excel Sports Management agent, as Lynn is an Excel client.  While Mozeliak didn’t comment on the meeting, Langosch wonders if the two sides could’ve discussed Lynn’s forthcoming arbitration eligibility or perhaps even a multiyear extension for the right-hander.
  • The Cardinals have some interest in Rickie Weeks, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets.  The Cards would use Weeks as a right-handed bench bat and possibly also as first base depth, which would require Weeks to learn a new position.
  • How quiet has this Winter Meetings been for the Brewers?  Haudricourt reports (Twitter link) that as of earlier tonight, the Crew had yet to personally meet with any agents or with representatives from another team.

Reds Drawing Interest In Cueto, Chapman

Reds ace Johnny Cueto and closer Aroldis Chapman are each drawing a lot of trade interest, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links).  The Reds are at least listening on Cueto, though they’re trying to direct trade discussions to other starting pitchers like Mat Latos, Mike Leake or Alfredo Simon.

As I wrote back in September, all four of those Reds starters projected as possible trade candidates since they’re all eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.  While Cueto would bring the most back in a trade, he’s also the one Cincinnati is least likely to deal since they want him atop their rotation next year.

Chapman is projected to earn $8.3MM in 2015 through salary arbitration (per MLBTR’s Matt Swartz) and he still has another arb-eligible year left before hitting free agency after the 2016 season.  This could make him an expensive luxury for the Reds, and as Rosenthal notes, other teams know that the Reds want to cut payroll.