Aroldis Chapman Rumors

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.


Arbitration Breakdown: Greg Holland, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Steve Cishek

Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.

Four relievers enter their second year of arbitration eligibility this winter, with a chance to collectively make a huge impact on that market. Each will influence each other’s salary as they did last year, and will influence many players that follow in the coming years. Greg Holland, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Steve Cishek each became full-time closers during their second full seasons in 2012, and have dominated hitters since.

Becoming a closer so early was a rare feat just a few years ago. Teams used to give three-year or four-year deals worth upwards of $10 million per year for an “established” closer. Players like Francisco Cordero, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, Brad Lidge, Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Jonathan Papelbon signed such deals that began between 2008 and 2012, and few of those worked out. As I wrote several years ago, teams were paying far more per WAR for relievers than any other position on the diamond by far. Obviously the measurement of WAR is tricky, but regardless of how it is measured, it was clear that allocating $10 million to a guy to throw 60 innings three years down the line was not working out for many teams.

Fortunately, something happened that gave a number of teams the opportunity to change their ways. An onslaught of talented young pitchers emerged onto the scene with incredible fastballs, and many were given the opportunity to be closers quickly. Craig Kimbrel is actually from the same service class as these four players but he signed a four-year deal last winter. However, that makes five teams who quickly established a young arm in the closing position and had some success with it. Of course, now that these guys have some experience, the price has gone up.

Holland had the best year of the foursome, with a 1.44 ERA and 46 saves. Jansen was no slouch with a 2.12 ERA and 44 saves, Chapman’s ERA was just 2.00 and he had 36 saves, while Cishek had 39 saves but a more pedestrian 3.17 ERA. As a result, the model predicted a $4.62MM raise for Holland, $3.5MM for Jansen, $3.1MM for Cishek, and $3.05MM for Chapman. The model weighs heavily on saves since the market for relievers has done so in recent years, so it has unsurprisingly ranked their raises by saves. Holland’s raise is actually subject to “The Kimbrel Rule,” which states that a player cannot beat the record for his role and service time by more than $1MM, so his projected raise is limited to $4.275MM (topping Francisco Rodriguez’s $3.275MM raise from 2007 by $1MM), which gives him a $8.95MM projected salary.

What makes these guys even more unique is the fact that so few teams have gone year-to-year in arbitration with their closers. Jason Motte, Jonathan Broxton, and Carlos Marmol have each gotten two-year or three-year deals in recent years. Obviously Kimbrel’s four-year deal meets those criteria as well.

In fact, the only closer with 30 saves in his platform season, 45 saves in his pre-platform seasons, and an ERA under 3.50 in the last five years who did get a one-year deal during his second year of arbitration was Jonathan Papelbon. He got a $3.1MM raise from the Red Sox in 2010 after putting together 38 saves and a 1.85 ERA. Before him, Francisco Rodriguez’s 2007 raise of $3.275MM is a possible clue (1.73 ERA and 47 saves), as could be Jose Valverde’s $2.7MM raise in 2008 (2.66 ERA, 47 saves), or Chad Cordero’s $2.05MM raise in 2008 (3.36 ERA, 37 saves). However, those last three cases are very old and are less likely to be considered in an arbitration case.

All four of the closers in question will basically have Jonathan Papelbon’s $3.1MM raise and whatever each other get as a reference. I think that there is a strong possibility that Chapman and Cishek do get right around their projected numbers, which are within $50K of Papelbon’s raise. I could see Chapman’s reputation pushing him a little higher, though. And I’m also inclined to agree with the model that Kenley Jansen and Greg Holland, with similar ERA’s and more saves than Papelbon, plus a few years of salary inflation behind their cases, are likely to top Papelbon’s raise. Jansen’s $3.5MM raise seems about right, and while I think the model’s estimate for Holland of a $4.62MM raise strikes me as unlikely, a Kimbrel rule-adjusted $4.275MM raise sounds reasonable.

If I had to guess, I think that these four guys will follow the model well. However, I think that they will either all collectively make the model look good, or the first guy will make it look bad, and the following three guys to sign will make it look worse as they affect each other’s cases. Without many historical comparables that look anything like this foursome, they will all become comparables for each other. Unless their teams follow the Braves and ink a multi-year deal, I would not be surprised if these four guys affect each other’s 2016 salaries as well.



Central Links: Reds, Cubs, Avila, Tigers, Tomas, Butler

Reds GM Walt Jocketty is of the mindset that his team will need to either be “all in” or “all out” in 2015, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. In other words, if the Reds decide to trade one of four starters who is eligible for free agency following the 2015 season — Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Alfredo Simon — others may very well follow. Sherman lists Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman as names to watch if Cincinnati does elect to go into a full rebuild. Both can be free agents after 2016, though the Reds have a club option on Bruce for the 2017 season.

Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Sherman also tweets that the Cubs aren’t likely to spend big on a closer this winter, which seemingly eliminates a potential suitor for David Robertson. Earlier today, reports indicated that Robertson is seeking a contract comparable to Jonathan Papelbon‘s four-year, $50MM contract.
  • The Tigers are willing to listen to offers on Alex Avila, tweets the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Avila has a $5.4MM club option for his final arb year and was projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn the same amount in arbitration. Cafardo notes that the Braves and Red Sox are both looking for left-handed bats. While both have inexperienced catchers (Christian Bethancourt and Christian Vasquez, respectively), adding Avila would limit each team’s ability to get an extended look at how their young backstop handles a full workload.
  • John Manuel of Baseball America tweets that the Tigers‘ defense up the middle in 2015 could be special with Jose Iglesias and the newly acquired Anthony Gose. He also notes that Devon Travis, who went to the Blue Jays in the deal, now has a clear shot to Major League playing time that he may not have had in Detroit.
  • The Royals could scout Yasmany Tomas in the Dominican Republic next week, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Royals officials will be in the Dominican Republic on other business anyway and met with Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, earlier this week at the GM Meetings. The team’s payroll could surpass the $100MM mark for the first time next season, and there’s perhaps room for one significant expenditure such as Tomas, Ervin Santana or Melky Cabrera, McCullough writes.
  • Billy Butler is receiving interest from a number of clubs — even one National League club — tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The interest in Butler likely means that a return to the Royals isn’t the best fit, he adds. McCullough reported Tuesday that K.C. doesn’t seem inclined to go beyond two years to retain Butler.
  • Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wonders if the Brewers will consider trading a starting pitcher (Twitter link). The Brew Crew needs some payroll flexibility, and the Braves are one team that has been poking around at the GM Meetings.

Aroldis Chapman Changes Agents

Reds closer Aroldis Chapman has changed agents by moving to Relativity Baseball, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). Chapman had been represented by Hendricks Sports.

For Chapman, 26, the move comes at an important time for the contractual side of his career. He earned $5MM this year after opting into arbitration. That will no doubt happen again next year, and Chapman will be in for a significant raise after racking up 36 saves over 54 innings. Though those totals were limited by his DL stint to the start the year, the remainder of Chapman’s numbers — a 2.00 ERA, an absurd 17.7 K/9 (against 4.0 BB/9), and an equally ridiculous 3.5 H/9 — will support a nice new payday.

And that’s only the starting point for the southpaw fireballer, who is currently set up to become a free agent after the 2016 season. While that is a long way off for a reliever, he already has a hefty earning base and will cost a pretty penny to buy out ahead of time. Craig Kimbrel signed a four-year, $42MM deal (including an option year) entering his first arb-eligible season.


Central Notes: Cardinals, Chapman, Moustakas

The Pirates and Cardinals faced off tonight on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, but the matchup meant something different for each team, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch writes. It was the first time ESPN had hosted the broadcast in Pittsburgh in 1996, and for Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, appearing on the show demonstrates that the Pirates are relevant once again. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, though, doesn’t like playing on Sunday nights, especially given the travel headaches it causes when playing on the road. “I don’t think it’s taken into consideration at all that it makes it harder for us,” Matheny says. “You get in at four o’clock in the morning and … if they tell you that playing the next day that’s not going to affect you, I’d say they’re wrong.” Here are more notes from the Central divisions.

  • Reds closer Aroldis Chapman made his first appearance of the season on Sunday after missing the first six weeks after being struck in the face with a line drive in spring training, and he appears he hasn’t missed a beat. Chapman threw 15 fastballs of at least 100 MPH and topped out at 102 MPH while striking out three batters and collecting his first save against the Rockies.
  • The Royals are considering demoting infielder Mike Moustakas as they open roster space for a reliever, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. It’s been a disappointing season for Moustakas, who’s hitting just .147/.215/.321. The 2007 second-overall pick has struggled since a strong season in 2012 and has been below replacement level in 2014, even though he’s a skilled defensive third baseman.

Injury Notes: Tommy John Surgeries, Chapman, Davis

This year more than ever, it seems an enormous number of pitchers have suffered injuries that required Tommy John surgery. That includes big-leaguers like Matt Moore, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Patrick Corbin, A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker, along with potential first-round picks in Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde. But as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal notes, the prognosis for pitchers who have Tommy John surgeries is now very good, and teams are much more cautious about diagnosing significant problems than they used to be. MacPherson quotes a number of former big-league pitchers whose experiences would seem wildly out of place today. “Everybody kept thinking, ‘If I had surgery, it might be the end of my career, so I’m going to pitch until it blows, and then that’s the end of my career,’” says former Orioles, Red Sox, Royals and Brewers hurler Mike Boddicker, who pitched in the big leagues until 1993. “It used to be that you had some inflammation — tendinitis. That was the big thing. You had tendinitis. You look some anti-inflammatories, and you’d rest a little bit, and then you’d keep going.” Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Aroldis Chapman‘s return after a stay on the disabled list with a head injury allows the Reds plenty of flexibility in their bullpen, writes Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. Chapman’s addition bumps Jonathan Broxton back to a setup role. The Reds have been fortunate in that their starters have worked deep into games, meaning that their bullpen likely won’t be overworked going forward. “There’s just not a lot of opportunities for these guys to come in the fifth or sixth and, sometimes, the seventh inning,” says manager Bryan Price. “We’ve spent a lot of time closing a game with one to two innings of bullpen work.”
  • Chris Davis made an appearance for Double-A Bowie on Saturday to rehab his injured oblique, and he feels he’s ready to return to the Orioles, MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski tweets. Davis last appeared in a game for the Orioles on April 25, and Steve Pearce has largely handled first-base duties since then.

Quick Hits: Chapman, Giants, Stroman

The Reds have announced that they have reinstated closer Aroldis Chapman from the disabled list. He will immediately move back into his usual ninth-inning role, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Chapman had surgery to insert a metal plate into his head after being struck with a line drive in spring training. He made two rehab appearances for Triple-A Louisville this week. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Outfielder Tyler Colvin has been promoted to the Giants, Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News tweets.  Colvin had been hitting .267/.315/.408 in 130 plate appearances for Fresno. Brandon Belt, meanwhile, is headed to the disabled list with a broken thumb, and CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly writes that Belt could be out six weeks. Mike Morse will be the Giants’ starting first baseman until Belt returns, ESPN’s Jim Bowden tweets. The Giants also activated Matt Cain and optioned pitcher George Kontos to Triple-A Fresno.
  • Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays is appearing as a reliever in his first stint in the big leagues even though he started in the minors, Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca notes. That’s a little bit unusual for a promising starting pitcher, but it’s not totally without precedent — Earl Weaver favored having rookie pitchers begin their careers in the bullpen, and the Cardinals frequently have top young starters pitch in relief in their first seasons. “We have been a very competitive team for the last ten years and we typically have had strong rotations,” says Cards GM John Mozeliak. “Getting pitchers to begin their careers in the bullpen allows them to experience the major league hitters, ballparks, and experience.” Mozeliak also adds that having young starters pitch in relief prevents them from becoming overworked. On the flip side, Nicholson-Smith points out, having an excellent young pitcher in the bullpen blunts his impact — having Jose Fernandez start his career in relief would have cost the Marlins wins, for example.

Central Notes: Chapman, Wong, Weeks, ChiSox, Cubs

On this date 70 years ago, Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis (home to the National League’s Cardinals and the American League’s Browns) became the final MLB stadium to integrate seating for fans. Although there was no official team or municipal policy, African-Americans were restricted to the bleachers before finally being allowed to purchase grandstand tickets.

Here’s today’s news and notes from MLB’s Central divisions:

  • Reds closer Aroldis Chapman is expected to rejoin the club this Friday, if his final two rehab appearances go well, reports MLB.com’s Andy Call. Chapman, who was struck by a line drive during a Spring Training game and needed a three-inch plate and 12 screws to stabilize the bones around his left eye, is scheduled to pitch in back-to-back Triple-A games beginning Tuesday.
  • Last year, the Cardinals sent a highly-touted prospect (Michael Wacha) to the minors after a disappointing start only to become a key player for them late in the season, and they are hoping history repeats itself with Kolten Wong, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • The Brewers should consider all alternatives when it comes to Rickie Weeks because his offensive struggles and being limited to only playing second base puts pressure on the organization, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak in a recent reader’s chat.
  • Both Chicago franchises, with the right returns in trades, could accelerate their rebuilding, opines Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Gonzales notes shedding Alexei Ramirez‘s salary would allow the White Sox to address other needs while the Cubs may deal Jason Hammel hoping for results similar to last summer’s flip of Scott Feldman.

NL Central Notes: Grichuk, Hellweg, Chapman

Randal Grichuk will make his first career start tonight for the Cardinals, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweets. Grichuk will start in center field, a position usually occupied by Peter Bourjos. The Cardinals acquired both players this offseason, dealing David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Angels in a bid to upgrade their defense. The Cardinals have gotten little from Bourjos and from right fielder Allen Craig so far this season, while Grichuk and the Cardinals’ other Triple-A outfielders have excelled, so the Cardinals promoted Grichuk on Sunday. Here are more notes from around the NL Central.

  • Brewers prospect Johnny Hellweg had Tommy John surgery today, the Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt tweets. Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook 2014 ranked Hellweg the No. 4 prospect in a weak Brewers system. The 6-foot-9 righty walked 6.8 batters per nine in 126 Triple-A innings in 2013, and struggled badly with his control in 31 big-league innings. When healthy, however, he has an outstanding fastball, and gets plenty of outs on the ground.
  • Reds closer Aroldis Chapman could make a rehab appearance in Dayton on Thursday, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Chapman has been out since being hit in the face with a line drive in an ugly injury suffered in spring training.