Author Archives: Brad Johnson

Non-Tender Candidate: Kris Medlen

This year, teams have until 11:59 ET on December 2 to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. About 40 players are non-tender candidates, per MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes. Included on the list is injured Braves starting pitcher Kris Medlen.

Medlen, 29, earned $5.8MM through arbitration last season. He’s likely to earn a similar amount next season and no less than $4.64MM after missing the entire 2014 season due to his second Tommy John surgery. Based only on his statistics – a career 2.95 ERA, 7.62 K/9, and 2.15 BB/9 in 512 2/3 innings – he appears to be bargain. He’s been flexible about his role, with 61 starts and 89 relief appearances to his name. Return from major injury always comes with risk, especially for players who have undergone multiple Tommy John procedures. With only one more season of club control, the budget-conscious Braves may opt to cut ties with Medlen.

MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta Braves Jon Roegele and Jeff Zimmerman of the Hardball Times recently researched Tommy John surgeries in separate articles. Pitchers usually see an increase in their walk rate, decrease in strikeouts, and allow more runs in their first year back from the injury. Zimmerman cites the American Journal of Sports Medicine as saying, “83% of the pitchers they looked at made it back to the majors after surgery and 97% were at least able to pitch in a minor-league game after the surgery.” Roegele found that 28-to-29-year-old pitchers (sample size 73) took an average of 16.9 months to return from the surgery. Only 71% of pitchers in the cohort returned to big league action. Roegele does note some sample size issues, but it’s safe to say Medlen is bordering on the danger zone where age begins to correlate with poorer outcomes.

The average recovery time is skewed by players who suffer extended setbacks – like Diamondbacks pitcher Daniel Hudson. Even so, there is a plausible chance Medlen won’t be ready to compete until next July – 16 months from his surgery on March 18. An efficent recovery of 13 months still has him missing the early part of the season. A more financially endowed club may feel inclined to hope for the best outcome, but the Braves may have to be more pragmatic with a possible $5.8MM investment.

Reportedly, Atlanta’s preferred option is to re-sign Medlen at a lower rate, possibly with performance bonuses. Last offseason, the club inked Gavin Floyd to a one-year, $4MM deal with $4.5MM in possible bonuses. Floyd was also coming off Tommy John surgery and was expected to miss the beginning of the season. He made his Braves debut in May, but landed back on the disabled list in June after fracturing a bone near his elbow.

The experience with Floyd may serve as both a benchmark for expected contract and a cautionary tale. Floyd has a career 4.40 ERA and 4.36 FIP, so his performance has been substantially worse than Medlen’s. However, Floyd was relatively durable prior to his injury, whereas Medlen has a history of problems. Another relevant anecdote is that of Andrew Miller. The Red Sox non-tendered and re-signed him prior to last season. Atlanta may wish to try the same tactic, although it will be a risky move if their goal is to retain him.

On the open market, I foresee a one-year, $5MM guarantee with performance bonuses. Mutual options are not uncommon with injured or injury prone players. With a mid-season return uncertain, a club option could prove attractive to teams hoping to get more than a couple months of production.

The injury complicates any potential trades. Obviously, the Braves cannot expect a substantial return – Medlen wouldn’t be a non-tender candidate if they could. Trades involving injured players are rare, so Braves fans shouldn’t expect a notable prospect in return if a deal is reached.

Medlen, who is represented by Wasserman Media Group, seemingly fits with any club in need of rotation depth and upside. Since that describes the Braves, they could be motivated to bite the bullet and tender a contract. While half of the teams in the league could serve as possible landing spots, a few suitable playoff contenders include the Angels and Dodgers. Both clubs could use rotation depth with the flexibility to work out of the bullpen.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Indians Acquire Charles Brewer

The Indians have acquired right-handed pitcher Charles Brewer from the Diamondbacks in exchange for cash considerations, tweets Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Brewer was designated for assignment on Thursday. It’s the second trade of the evening for Arizona – they also dealt Mike Bolsinger to the Dodgers for cash considerations.

Brewer, 27 next season, had a brief cup of coffee with the Diamondbacks in 2013. Over a six season minor league career, he’s posted a 4.09 ERA, 7.8 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9. The righty has a 90 mph fastball. Prospect maven John Sickels of SB Nation wrote in 2012: “he has a short window of opportunity to establish himself but has a shot at becoming a back-end rotation member or a reliever.”

The Indians likely view Brewer as a useful depth piece who can help to provide stability at the Triple-A level. Their rotation is currently full, with viable major league starters Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin penciled in as sixth and seventh on the depth chart. Brewer has worked almost exclusively as a starter, but his best chance at reaching the majors may be as a reliever.


Quick Hits: Twins, Albers, Bavasi, Scherzer

The Twins will hire Neil Allen as their pitching coach, write LaVelle E. Neal III and Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. However, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (via Twitter) that Allen has been told “absolutely nothing.” Allen has coached in the Rays organization since 2007, including the last four years as the Triple-A pitching coach. He has no major league experience. The other finalist, former Indians and Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis, was informed on Friday that he had not been selected, per Berardino (tweet).

  • Former Twins starter Andrew Albers would consider a return to Minnesota if he doesn’t remain in the Korea Baseball Organization, writes Berardino. Albers spent 2014 with the Hanwha Eagles. He pitched to a 5.89 ERA in 151 and one-third innings. While the ERA was unsightly, the KBO is an offensively oriented league. Per KBO rules, Albers is not yet eligible to speak with major league clubs.
  • Former GM Bill Bavasi has been named the head of the Major League Scouting Bureau, tweets John Manuel of Baseball America. Bavasi, who comes from a storied baseball family, was the GM for the Angels and Mariners for a combined 11 years. His father Buzzie and brother Peter each also served as GM for two franchises (Buzzie oversaw the Dodgers move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles).
  • The Nationals could emerge as a destination for Max Scherzer, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. With Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister just one year away from free agency, the Nationals are considering their options moving forward. That includes a trade involving either pitcher. If an in-house candidate is dealt, Scherzer could be looked at as an alternative and long term solution. However, Wagner notes that the rotation is deep. GM Mike Rizzo adds that it’s “not on the top of our wish list.”


Dodgers Acquire Mike Bolsinger, Designate Jarret Martin

The Dodgers have acquired right-handed pitcher Mike Bolsinger from the Diamondbacks in exchange for cash considerations, tweets Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Bolsinger was designated for assignment by Arizona last Thursday. The Dodgers have confirmed the move via twitter. The Dodgers designated Jarret Martin to clear room for Bolsinger.

Bolsinger, 27 next season, made his major league debut last year. He pitched 52 and one-third innings in 10 appearances (nine starts) with a 5.50 ERA, 8.25 K/9, and 2.92 BB/9. The soft-tossing righty works with a 88 mph fastball and was stung by the long ball in his limited sample. While it’s too soon to tell if Bolsinger has a home run problem, a move to pitcher friendly Dodgers Stadium should help to mitigate the damage.

Bolsinger will likely serve as rotation depth. FanGraphs currently lists Carlos Frias, Zach Lee, and Chris Reed as contenders for the fifth spot in the rotation. Bolsinger will probably join the fray, although I expect Los Angeles to eventually sign a veteran to fill the role.

Martin is a left-handed reliever who posted a 3.29 ERA, 10.54 K/9, and 7.90 BB/9 in 54 and two-thirds Double-A innings this season. He’s experienced similar issues with control in the past. He joins 15 other players in DFA limbo.


AL East Notes: Yankees Roster, Joyce, Rays Managerial Finalists

The Yankees currently have 39 players on their 40-man roster after adding four players and selling Zelous Wheeler to Japan. More change is on the way, writes Chad Jennings of LoHud.com in an analysis of the roster. Jennings expects the club to add another four players, which would necessitate further moves. He speculates that Chase Whitley, Preston Claiborne, David Huff, Esmil Rogers, and Austin Romine are all candidates to be designated for assignment. Romine is the most obvious since he is out of options and behind Brian McCann and John Ryan Murphy on the depth chart.

  • The Rays are open to trading Matt Joyce, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. The 30-year-old platoon outfielder is coming off a .254/.349/.383 season. The Rays have hidden Joyce from lefties with just 35 of his 493 plate appearances coming against fellow southpaws. FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron has noted that clubs are showing a preference for right-handed power hitters, so I wonder if that may retard the interest in Joyce. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projects a $4.9MM payday for Joyce in his final spin through arbitration.
  • The Rays’ decision to drop bench coach Dave Martinez from their managerial hunt was an “especially difficult” decision, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. As we saw with Tim Bogar and the Rangers, the club may opt to part ways with Martinez as a clean break from the Joe Maddon era. We learned earlier in the week that the Rays have narrowed the field to Kevin Cash, Raul Ibanez, and Don Wakamatsu. Of the trio, only Wakamatsu has managerial experience.

Minor Moves: Lannan, Cisnero, Savery, Laffey, Britton, Triunfel

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.

  • The Reds have signed right-handed reliever Jose Cisnero, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. Cisnero is entering his age 26 season and has a 4.66 ERA, 8.57 K/9, and 4.84 BB/9 in 48 and one-third career innings – all with the Astros. Cisnero was outrighted by Houston earlier in the month and has inked a minor league deal with Cincinnati.
  • In the same tweet, Cotillo also reports four other minor league signings. The Mariners re-signed Burt Reynolds, the White Sox inked left-handed reliever Joe Savery, and the Rockies signed right-hander Brett Marshall and left-hander Aaron Laffey. Of the four, Laffey comes with the most major league experience – 487 innings of 4.45 ERA ball. The soft-tossing lefty’s last extended stint in the majors was in 2012. Marshall had a 12 inning cup of tea with the Yankees in 2013 but struggled to a 6.53 ERA with the Reds Triple-A affiliate this season. Savery, a former first round pick, has seen spot work in parts of four seasons. The Phillies tried to use him as a lefty specialist, but he’s actually posted reverse platoon splits.
  • The Rockies have also signed pitchers Justin Miller, Jose Ortega, and John Lannan, tweets Matt Eddy of Baseball America. Right-handers Miller and Ortega saw minimal work for the Tigers, where they have posted uninspiring numbers. Lannan is a major league veteran of eight seasons, although he hasn’t seen a full season of action since 2011. He has a 4.18 ERA, 4.70 K/9, and 3.39 BB/9 in 862 career innings.
  • The Dodgers have signed infielder Buck Britton to a minor league deal, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets. Britton, the brother of Orioles reliever Zach, had spent the previous seven years in Baltimore’s system. Last season, the 28-year-old hit .289/.345/.453 in 505 plate appearances split between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, primarily playing second base and third base.
  • The Giants have signed infielder Carlos Triunfel and lefty Braulio Lara to minor-league deals, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy tweets. Triunfel hit just .223/.256/.330 for hitter-friendly Triple-A Albuquerque in 2014, mostly playing the two middle infield positions. The Dodgers outrighted him in September. The 25-year-old Lara posted a 5.77 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 in 57 2/3 innings of relief in a 2014 season spent in the upper minors of the Rays’ system.

Pablo Sandoval Rumors: Saturday

Here’s the latest on free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval, with the day’s latest stories at the top.

  • Teams have been asked to submit their final offers for Sandoval, tweets Alex Speier of WEEI.com. That appears to mean that the bidding is down to three teams – the Padres, Red Sox, and Giants – Speier notes in a separate tweet.
  • The trio of clubs have all submitted offers, and Sandoval will make his choice next week, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets.
  • The Padres have made the most expensive offer to Sandoval so far, but Sandoval is still more likely to pick the Red Sox, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Previous reporting indicated the Red Sox had offered Sandoval five years and $95MM, so the Padres’ offer appears to be worth more than that. The Giants will turn their attention to Yasmany Tomas if Sandoval departs.
  • Preller and the Padres made a “very serious” offer to Sandoval, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes.
  • The Blue Jays have not had contact with Sandoval’s camp in the last two days, suggesting that they are not a key bidder for Sandoval at this time, Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca writes.
  • The Giants have received no indication that they trail the Red Sox in the race to land Sandoval, Rosenthal tweets.
  • Echoing Rosenthal, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets that the Giants still believe they’re in contention to re-sign Sandoval. Cafardo wrote yesterday that the Red Sox had extended Sandoval a five-year, $95MM offer.
  • Padres GM A.J. Preller, meanwhile, was in Miami on Friday to meet with Sandoval’s agent, Gustavo Vasquez, MLB.com’s Corey Brock writes. He is expected to fly to the Dominican Republic today to meet with Tomas’ representation. Rosenthal reported yesterday that the Padres would make a formal offer to Sandoval on Friday. The Padres have joined the Giants and Red Sox as the key contenders to sign Sandoval, and the Braves as one of the key teams in the bidding for Tomas.

Orioles To Sign Rey Navarro To Major League Deal

The Orioles have signed infielder Rey Navarro to a major league contract, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.

Navarro, 25 in 2015, is coming off a solid season in the Reds farm system. He hit a combined .282/.343/.435 in 542 plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A. The switch hitter – originally signed by the Diamondbacks in 2007 – tied a career high with 12 home runs this season. His defense is his calling card, with Kubatko describing it as “plus” at shortstop. In 2011, Baseball America named him the best defensive second baseman in the Carolina League. It seems likely he will compete for a utility infield role.

Under GM Dan Duquette, the Orioles have used major league contracts to entice top minor league free agents, as they did earlier this week with Oliver Drake. Baltimore now has 38 players on their 40-man roster.


Quick Hits: Oh, Depth, Mariners

Here’s the latest from around the league as we wait for somebody to throw more wood in the hot stove.

  • Closer Seung-Hwan Oh of the NPB’s Hanshin Tigers is still eyeing the majors, reports Hyun-Woo Nam of the Korea Times. The 32-year-old reliever is under contract with the Tigers for one more season after making the transition from Korea to Japan this year. Per MLBTR’s report last offseason, Oh works between 94-96 mph with a splitter. At the time, the Yankees were said to have expressed interest.
  • Teams with depth could play a “big role” in the shape of the offseason, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Frequent readers of MLBTR will recognize the Cubs (position players), Dodgers (outfielders), and Red Sox (outfielders) as frequent sources of rumors. Sherman also highlights the White Sox who have a different sort of depth – three stars signed to fantastic contracts.
  • Earlier tonight, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune answered fan tweets on a number of Mariners subjects. Two may interest MLBTR readers. Dutton hears (tweet) that the Mariners have “some interest” in Melky Cabrera, but the outfielder prefers to remain in the East or Midwest. Meanwhile, he’s heard (also Twitter) nothing to suggest Seattle will check in on expensive free agent pitchers. This jives with other reports that cite a focus on offense.

Florida Notes: Stanton, Rays Manager

The Marlins and slugger Giancarlo Stanton may be on the cusp of a 13-year, $325MM contract extension, but Stanton may be “playing a dangerous game,” writes Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. The Marlins under Jeffrey Loria and David Samson have bamboozled and excused their way out of spending money on the major league product. Passan wonders why Loria would eschew the methods that have made him money over the years. The rumored payday could be a “Faustian bargain” if the front office doesn’t properly fill the roster around Stanton.

  • Stanton’s negotiations are all about power – and not just home run power – says Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. As it stands, Stanton is still two years away from free agency. The rumored deal is expected to contain a no-trade clause and an opt-out after the 2019 season. Both clauses give Stanton leverage. He can potentially dictate where he’s traded, force a mid-contract extension, or hit the open market as a 30-year-old. To me, this mitigates the risk of Loria-being-Loria.
  • The Rays have concluded the first round of interviews for their open manager position, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Barry Larkin was the last of ten interviewees in the initial round. The club will step back before deciding how many candidates to bring back for a round of in-person interviews.
  • Andrew Velazquez and Justin Williams – the players acquired in the Jeremy Hellickson trade – were immediately ranked as the ninth and tenth best prospects in the Rays system by MLB.com, Topkin notes.