Atlanta Braves Rumors
Homer Bailey and the Reds were said earlier today to be close to a new deal, but nothing had materialized as of this evening. In the latest update, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports that details are still being worked out. GM Walt Jocketty echoed his star hurler's comments, saying that progress had been made. "There are still some outstanding issues," said Jocketty. "Hopefully they get resolved in the next 24 hours or else people are going to have to suit it up and go east." Jocketty was referring, of course, to donning not baseball uniforms but rather the business attire necessary for an arbitration hearing. "It's a lot of little things," Jocketty continued. "The structure of the contract, how it's paid and things like that."
Here's a look at some other potential extension situations shaping up around baseball ...
- Though the threat of an arbitration hearing has been avoided between Justin Masterson and the Indians, those parties could be operating on something of a deadline of their own. Masterson, a comparable pitcher to Bailey in many ways, is also entering his final season of arb-eligibility before hitting the open market. Though Masterson has said he'd be willing to continue discussions into the season, club GM Chris Antonetti says that he would rather keep talks to the spring, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.
- Another power pitcher, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, currently stands to qualify for free agency after 2015. As ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers reported today, team president Theo Epstein still hopes a deal can be worked out. On the other hand, his comments echoed some of the sentiment recently expressed by Samardzija, who indicated that the sides had reached something of a stalemate in negotiations. "Sometimes there is going to be a natural gap where a player values himself for what he can do and the team has to factor in a little bit more what he has done," Epstein explained. "It doesn't mean we're tremendously far apart, but if you are apart you kind of table it for another day and we'll see what happens."
- The Brewers previously explored extension talks with young shortstop Jean Segura, but those discussions did not lead anywhere. The club remains interested, but as MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports, nothing has occurred in the interim. "We're always open to [extension talks]," said GM Doug Melvin. "We've locked up some, some we didn't. We didn't get Prince [Fielder]. We offered him a deal earlier on to buy into free agency, but it just depends what players want. Not a lot of them want long-term deals that will take away free agency, and we like to get deals that have at least a year of free agency if we can."
- Another promising young shortstop, the Braves' Andrelton Simmons, has watched as three youthful teammates inked long-term deals in recent deays. As David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes (link behind paywall), Simmons is keeping his eye on the field but would be interested in a new contract. "I'm just focused on playing," said Simmons. "If it happens, great. I love Atlanta. So hopefully something gets done. But you never know." As O'Brien points out, uncertainty remains in Simmons' arbitration value. Not only does it remain unclear whether he will qualify as a Super Two (he has 1.125 years of service time), but his immense defensive value may not translate into commensurate arbitration earnings. Of course, another defense-first shortstop -- Elvis Andrus of the Rangers -- was able to ink a shorter-term, early-career deal (at three years of service) and then land another, much greater extension just a year later.
- The Giants have at least two worthy extension candidates. The first and more pressing, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, is entering his final season before hitting the open market at age 28. But the sides are currently not engaged in talks, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Cotillo notes that today's physical could have a bearing on how things play out. Sandoval, who at times has seen his conditioning questioned, has made some waves by slimming down entering camp this year.
- A different sort of urgency is shaping up with regard to Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who is scheduled for an arbitration hearing bright and early tomorrow. As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, though discussions are presently focused on Belt's 2014 salary (the sides stand far apart at $3.6MM and $2.05MM), GM Brian Sabean says he remains interested in exploring a longer-term deal. "We like the player," said Sabean. "We think he's one of the up-and-coming players in the National League and we want to hold onto him. But first things first." What Sabean seems to mean is that Belt's future earning capacity through arbitration is very much tied to the divergent filing figures submitted by each side.
- Indeed, Belt would stand at the same starting point as fellow Super Two first baseman Eric Hosmer (who agreed to a $3.6MM price with the Royals) if he wins his hearing. That would set both players on a potentially higher arbitration trajectory than that of another young first bagger, Atlanta's Freddie Freeman, who just inked a monster extension to avoid arbitration in his first of just three seasons of eligibility. Freeman had filed at $5.75MM, with the Braves countering at $4.5MM; both Belt and Hosmer could easily land in that realm with another big year. As I recently explained in discussing the impact of the Freeman deal, Belt and Hosmer could potentially look to Freeman's eight-year, $135MM contract as a target -- though it remains to be seen, of course, whether their employers would go to that level.
The Braves have released utilityman Mat Gamel, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Gamel, who was trying to work back from a pair of ACL surgeries, apparently reinjured his knee last week during personal workouts.
Once a highly-regarded prospect, the 28-year-old hooked on with Atlanta when his career never took off in Milwaukee. He has consistently hammered pitching in the upper minors, but never yet had the chance to be a big league regular. Set to become the Brewers first baseman last year, Gamel instead suffered his second ACL tear and missed the year.
Back in October, MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz explained that Braves closer Craig Kimbrel has been so good in his first three seasons, he broke our arbitration projection model. We eventually decided to create a special rule because of Kimbrel, which limits a player's raise to $1MM beyond the previous record for his player type. Since Jonathan Papelbon had set a $6.25MM first-time arbitration record for closers in 2009, we capped Kimbrel's 2014 projection at $7.25MM.
Without the rule, our system had assigned a $10.2MM projection to Kimbrel, so we lopped off about $3MM more for which he at least had a statistical argument, if not a precedent. With such a wide spread of possibilities, it was no surprise when Kimbrel and the Braves ended up exchanging arbitration figures. Kimbrel and his agent David Meter submitted a $9MM figure, a number reflective of the attitude, "We don't just deserve to beat Papelbon's record, we should crush it." The Braves went with $6.55MM, which would have thrown Kimbrel just $300K beyond Papelbon's record despite this potential hearing coming five years later and Kimbrel's far superior statistical record.
With a midpoint of $7.775MM, Meter would only have had to convince an arbitration panel his client deserved a dollar more than that, meaning that Kimbrel should get $1,525,001 more than Papelbon did. You always hear that arbitration hearings are a crapshoot, but if I were a betting man, I would have bet on Kimbrel's side. It's not just Meter putting together the argument; they would have had the knowledge of a motivated players' union behind them.
Once the two sides reached the point of exchanging figures, a one-year deal went off the board because of the Braves' file-to-go stance. But the two sides still discussed a multiyear deal and were able to get it done. Kimbrel signed a four-year, $42MM deal with a club option for 2018. The deal bought out all three of Kimbrel's arbitration years and one free agent year, with the option for a second free agent year.
For Meter and the Braves, one key question that had to be explored before agreeing to this deal was how much Kimbrel stood to earn in arbitration going year-to-year. I asked Matt Swartz to show me a few scenarios. Initially, Matt used what I considered to be fairly conservative stat projections for 2014 and 2015. He used Steamer's 65 innings, 28 saves, and 1.88 ERA for Kimbrel's 2014 season, and then regressed to the mean a bit on 2015 with 55 innings, 22 saves, and a 2.20 ERA.
Using these stats and assuming Kimbrel lost this month's arbitration hearing, he'd have salaries of $6.55MM, $9.9MM, and $12.9MM for a total of $29.35MM over his three arbitration years. In his actual multiyear deal, Kimbrel will earn $28MM over his three arbitration years. In this scenario, Kimbrel left just $1.35MM in arbitration money on the table. In his multiyear deal he still conceded up to two free agent years, and of course the younger a free agent is, the better he does.
Using the same stats and assuming Kimbrel won this month's arbitration hearing, he'd have salaries of $9MM, $12MM, and $14.7MM for a total of $35.7MM. It's interesting to note that there was a lot more at stake in the 2014 hearing than the $2.45MM spread -- losing this one hearing would have lost Kimbrel a projected $6.35MM in total arbitration earnings. Comparing the $35.7MM projection to the $28MM his contract pays, Kimbrel gave a discount of more than 21% for his arbitration years.
As I mentioned above, I felt that Matt's statistical projections for Kimbrel were pretty conservative. The 50 saves Matt projected for 2014-15 is equal to his 2013 total. In three years as a closer, he's averaged 46 saves per year. Still, great closers fall short of the 40 save plateau all the time. I asked Matt to plug in 35 saves for each of the 2014 and '15 seasons and run the numbers. With the pair of 35-save seasons, Kimbrel projected to earn $33.65MM for 2014-16 if he lost his 2014 arbitration hearing and $40.1MM if he won it.
It's clear that the Braves feel Kimbrel has a good chance to reel off quality 35 save seasons in his next two years, with a reasonable chance of more than 70 overall. Let's say, then, that the team might estimate his arbitration earnings in the $34-42MM range. Compared to the actual contract, they might consider their arbitration savings anywhere from 18 to 33%. In the scenario where Kimbrel wins his 2014 arbitration hearing and then reels off a pair of 35 save seasons, which I find quite plausible, the Braves essentially secured his first free agent year for free, plus an option on a second.
Keeping with the 35 save scenario, Kimbrel's 2016 salary projected at $16.1MM if he won lost his 2014 hearing and $17.9MM if he won it. Since more than 35 saves a year is certainly possible, I'd widen that range and just say Kimbrel could have earned $16-20MM in 2016 alone. Whatever the exact number, even the free agent market is not paying that much for elite relievers. The Braves were likely picturing not being able to keep Kimbrel on the team in 2016, a point at which he'd have reduced trade value with an arbitration salary outstripping his potential free market salary. Furthermore, if you take a more aggressive 40 save projection for Kimbrel for 2014 and assume he would have won the upcoming hearing, a $14MM salary for 2015 appeared possible. Even that might have been untenable for Atlanta, reducing their Kimbrel window to one more year.
Since Kimbrel could have potentially earned all $42MM through arbitration and then gone to free agency as a 28-year-old, you might ask why he signed this multiyear deal. As with most multiyear deals, Kimbrel chose to leave some potential earnings on the table for guaranteed money now. Eric Gagne is a cautionary tale. The former Dodgers closer was invincible from 2002-04 and then pitched 15 1/3 innings from 2005-06 due to elbow issues. If something like that happens to Kimbrel, he's still got all $42MM coming to him, which is not the case if he had decided to go year-to-year through arbitration.
The arbitration pay scale for closers is just wacky, even more so in a time where teams are backing away from huge contracts for relievers. With this deal, the Braves subverted the arbitration system and found a way to keep an elite reliever for more than one or two additional years. If Kimbrel stays healthy and reasonably effective, they'll save significant money compared to arbitration, too. Kimbrel can rest easy, having secured his family for generations three years prior to when he would have reached free agency.
MONDAY: Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports the contract's year-to-year breakdown (via Twitter): Teheran will receive a $1MM signing bonus and earn $800K in 2014. His salary jumps to $1MM in 2015, $3.3MM in 2016, $6.3MM in 2017, $8MM in 2018 and $11MM in 2019.
FRIDAY, 10:08am: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the option is valued at $12MM and contains a $1MM buyout.
9:55am: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that Teheran's extension is worth a guaranteed $32.4MM, meaning he falls slightly short of Madison Bumgarner's $35MM record for a pitcher with one to two years of Major League service time.
9:25am: The Braves announced that they have signed standout right-hander Julio Teheran to a six-year extension that runs through the 2019 season and contains an option for the 2020 campaign. Teheran is a client of Relativity Baseball.
Teheran, who had one year, 62 days of Major League service time, was already under control through the 2018 season. This new contract locks in all of his arbitration salaries and guarantees that the Braves can control one free agent year, with the potential for a second free agent season via the 2020 option. GM Frank Wren is quoted in the press release:
"We are excited to sign Julio to a long-term contract. He is one of the best young pitchers in the National League and one of our core of players we expect to be together for a number of years."
Indeed, the former top prospect took a massive step forward in his first full season at the big league level in 2013. After a slow start to the year (5.08 ERA in April), Teheran righted the ship and turned in an outstanding 2.86 ERA from May 1 through season's end. The net result was a 3.20 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 37.8 percent ground-ball rate. That performance was good enough for a fifth-place showing in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, though it should be noted that 2013 featured a particularly impressive crop of rookies. In another year, Teheran's performance -- valued at 2.4 WAR by Fangraphs and 3.2 WAR by Baseball-Reference -- may have been worthy of taking the award home.
While terms of the deal have yet to be disclosed, a look at MLBTR's Extension Tracker gives a list of comparables for pitchers with one to two years of big league service. Currently, Madison Bumgarner's five-year, $35MM contract (which contained two options) is the largest deal for a pitcher in this service class. As I speculated last week, when reports of the Braves' interest in an extension for Teheran surfaced, that type of guarantee is certainly within reach over a six-year span for the Colombian right-hander.
It's a surprise to see the Braves, a team not previously known for doling out extensions, sign two of their core players to significant long-term deals this offseason. The team announced a franchise-record eight-year, $135MM extension for Freddie Freeman last week and is also said to have interest in locking up Andrelton Simmons on a long-term deal. Prior to Freeman's extension, that last Braves player to sign an extension with fewer than five years of service time was Brian McCann back in 2007. The Braves did welcome former Rangers and Indians GM John Hart to their front office as a senior advisor this offseason, so perhaps the esteemed executive has had some influece on these decisions.
The Braves feature a wealth of home-grown starting pitchers, as Teheran now looks set to join Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen in the rotation for the foreseeable future. The fifth spot in 2014 figures to be filled by some combination of Alex Wood, Gavin Floyd and Freddy Garcia, although Wood (also a home-grown product) or top prospect and 2012 first-rounder Lucas Sims could eventually fill that slot on a more permanent basis.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Braves have signed Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel to long-term deals in recent weeks, but don't expect them to do the same with Jason Heyward, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Heyward recently signed a two-year deal with Atlanta that did not delay his free-agency eligilibility, and now it will be difficult for the Braves to get Heyward to commit to a deal that's worth less per year than the $20MM-$22MM Freeman will get at a comparable point in his service-time clock. Here's more from the East divisions.
- Homer Bailey's negotiations with the Reds could have an impact on Justin Masterson and the Indians, the Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes writes. Hoynes broke the news that Bailey and the Reds are in discussions about a six-year deal that could be worth $100MM, and a Bailey deal could set a precedent for an extension for Masterson, who was similarly valuable in 2013 and also is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.
- The Yankees spent heavily this offseason, but they now have a injury-prone, top-heavy roster and little depth, Joel Sherman of the New York Post argues. That's especially true in their infield, although Sherman notes the situation might have been better if the Yankees had acquired Jhonny Peralta, Omar Infante or Logan Forsythe, all of whom they pursued this offseason (Peralta and Infante on the free-agent market, and Forsythe via trade).
- The Red Sox are making plans now that Ryan Dempster and his salary are out of the equation for 2014, writes CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam. McAdam writes that the Red Sox have known about Dempster's decision for the past two weeks and have been looking for a veteran free agent pitcher, but probably one who would start the season at Triple-A and provide depth. The Red Sox could also save Dempster's salary for a trade-deadline acquisition.
- Stephen Drew and the Mets still aren't close on a contract, Newsday's Marc Carig reports. Carig also notes that the Mets have interest in former Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan, who is making his way back from Tommy John surgery. The Mets' level of interest may depend on how well the team does at the beginning of the season. Hanrahan is not expected to be ready to pitch until May.
- The Phillies still aren't interested in rebuilding, writes USA Today's Bob Nightengale. "We're committed to this core. We want to surround them with the best possible players. In time, hopefully we'll be able to transition to some of younger players," says Phillies president David Montgomery. "But now, we want to give this group every chance to win.'' GM Ruben Amaro Jr., meanwhile, repeats that he expects the Phillies to do better this season because of improved health. "Listen, if Ryan [Howard] is on the field, we are winning games," Amaro says.
Here's the latest from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
- Rival executives aren't all enthusiastic about Craig Kimbrel's new deal with the Braves, citing the downside risk in long-term deals for closers. Rosenthal notes, however, that Kimbrel's new contract could reduce the Braves' payouts in what would have been his arbitration years.
- The Braves' new ballpark galvanized the team's recent extension spree, GM Frank Wren says.
- The Red Sox have enough depth that they don't need to worry about replacing Ryan Dempster in their rotation. The $13.25MM they would have paid Dempster also might not have a huge impact on whether or not they sign Stephen Drew. Signing Drew would cost the Red Sox the compensation pick they would receive if he were to sign elsewhere, and it would have implications for youngsters Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks as well.
- A.J. Burnett says the two years he spent with the Pirates marked a new phase of his career. "I found who I was again, I guess," says Burnett. "I will never put myself in the same category as a (Roy) Halladay, ever. But as far as mentor-wise and player relations-wise, I became that guy over there. ... It showed me who I was, who I could have been for a long time that I wasn't." After the Yankees traded him to Pittsburgh, Burnett emerged as a leader to younger pitchers like Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton.
It has been a newsworthy Sunday in the NL East with the Braves extending closer Craig Kimbrel and the Phillies announcing the signing of A.J. Burnett. Here's the latest on those two deals and the rest of the division:
- Kimbrel's agent David Meter called Braves GM Frank Wren one week ago and the extension was finalized Friday night, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- ESPN's Buster Olney tweets the Kimbrel extension is a win-win for both sides.
- The Kimbrel extension sets a good precedent for baseball because it will tamp down arbitration salaries for closers and it signals no closer will ever receive more than a four-year contract, writes Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio (Insider subscription required).
- Burnett told reporters, including the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel, he chose Philadelphia because of its proximity (a 90-minute drive) to his home in Monkton, MD. "This is the first time in my career that I made a decision that wasn't about A.J. Burnett. It was about my wife. It was about my kids. It was about playing somewhere where I'm at home and I can still do what I love. And that feels good. It was a no-brainer to me."
- Burnett says he didn't receive much interest from the Nationals and Orioles, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
- Phillies Assistant GM Scott Proefrock, who lives a mile away from Burnett, told FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal the behind-the-scenes story of how the signing came about.
- Shortstop Andrelton Simmons could be next in line to receive an extension from the Braves, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets the two sides have a difference of opinion on the 24-year-old's future offensive value.
- O'Brien tweets it's safe to say the Braves will extend Simmons either this year or next.
- Daisuke Matsuzaka has a May 30 opt-out in his minor league deal with the Mets, tweets Sherman.
9:39am: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) has the full breakdown of Kimbrel's deal. The closer will earn a $1MM signing bonus, $7MM in 2014, $9MM in 2015, $11MM in 2016, and $13MM in 2017 with a $13MM option for 2018. If the option is not exercised, Kimbrel gets a $1MM buyout.
8:58am: The deal gives Kimbrel a guaranteed $42MM over four years plus the $13MM option in 2015, tweets Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter) adds that a potential $3.5MM in performance bonuses bring the total max value of the deal to $58.5MM.
8:36am: The Braves announced that they have agreed to terms with Craig Kimbrel on a four-year contract to avoid arbitration. The contract runs through the 2017 season and includes an option for the 2018 campaign but financial terms of the deal were not disclosed by the team.
There was a sizable gap for the two sides to bridge as they headed towards a hearing. The closer submitted a $9MM figure while the Braves countered at $6.55MM. As MLBTR's Matt Swartz wrote back in October, there's truly no precedent for a closer doing what Kimbrel has at this point of his career. In fact, Kimbrel's numbers to date have been so impressive that they actually proved to be an exception to Swartz's carefully crafted model. Other notable closers going through arbitration for the first time such as Jonathan Papelbon, Bobby Jenks, John Axford, and Brian Wilson, had their stats eclipsed by Kimbrel.
“We are very excited to agree to terms with Craig, who we feel is the best closer in Major League Baseball,” Braves Executive Vice President and General Manager Frank Wren said in the press release. “He is one of the key pieces of our pitching staff and we are happy to keep him in a Braves uniform for at least four more years.”
It has been a busy offseason for Wren, as shown in the MLBTR Extension Tracker. Some might have thought that Atlanta was done after signing Freddie Freeman to a massive eight-year, $135MM extension and carving out a two-year, $12.3MM deal with Jason Heyward, but they found a way to also lock up their superstar closer.
In 68 relief appearances last season, Kimbrel turned in a 1.21 ERA with 13.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. In total, the 25-year-old owns a 1.39 ERA with 15.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 over the course of four big league seasons in Atlanta. For arbitration purposes, his career 139 saves (50 in 2013) helped his case in a major way.
Kimbrel is represented by David Meter of SportsMeter, according to the MLBTR Agency Database.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Perhaps notable among this year's wave of stories on early-spring physiques, a trimmer Pablo Sandoval has reported to Giants Spring Training, writes Chris Haft of MLB.com. Sandoval is aware that many will credit the weight loss to his impending free agency, but says he was motivated by his teammates and the desire to win a championship. Haft notes that Giants GM Brian Sabean indicated during the Winter Meetings this year that he'd consider a multiyear deal for Sandoval if he reported to camp in shape. More late-night links from around the majors:
- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez says he plans to offer encouragement to Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, who both struggled mightily in 2013 (via MLB.com's Mark Bowman). "I'm going into the season, right now, thinking Danny is going to play second base," Gonzalez said.
- New Dodgers infielder Alexander Guerrero's transition from shortstop to second base "has not come easily," Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports. Guerrero's struggles at the position reportedly motivated the Dodgers' signings of Chone Figgins and Justin Turner.
- The Orioles will announce their deal with Suk-Min Yoon on Sunday, and both sides expect a press conference on Monday, Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com writes.
- A deal between the Tigers and free agent reliever Ryan Madson is unlikely, according to MLB.com's Jason Beck. Detroit had a scout in attendance at Madson's recent workout, but the team's interest is likely "limited to due diligence." While GM Dave Dombrowski has hinted at the possibility of adding another reliever, the Tigers prefer a minor league deal, Beck says.
Ryan Howard was "the single most productive player in the game" before he signed his extension in 2010, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal in an extended interview. "Did we expect some dropoff later on? Sure. But can we gauge that the man was going to blow out his Achilles? No. That was a big blow to us. And it was a big blow to us because of the nature of the injury. It was a fluke injury," Amaro says. Amaro also argues that, although his roster might be on the older side, plenty of older players are effective. He hopes the 2014 team to be healthier than last year's team, but also notes that this year's edition is better equipped to deal with injuries. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- Julio Teheran's new extension with the Braves is similar to the one Madison Bumgarner signed two years ago, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs writes. While Teheran's deal isn't as surprising as the Freddie Freeman deal was, Cameron argues that it still demonstrates that pre-free-agency extensions are getting more expensive. Bumgarner, for example, had accomplished more at the time of his extension than Teheran has. Teheran also received much more than Martin Perez did in his extension, which he received in November.
- Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller has an arbitration hearing on Tuesday, and in preparation, Miller and the Sox are working on a one-year deal, not a multiyear contract, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald tweets. Miller has asked for $2.15MM, while the Red Sox have countered with $1.55MM.