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- Nationals To Sign Max Scherzer
- Cardinals Sign Lance Lynn To Three-Year Deal
- Astros Acquire Evan Gattis
- Nationals, A's Swap Tyler Clippard, Yunel Escobar
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- Giants Re-Sign Brandon Hicks
- Minor Moves: Quintero, Bowker
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- Tigers Notes: Price, Scherzer, Kelly
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- East Notes: Papelbon, Hamels, Duquette
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Author Archives: Charlie Wilmoth
Here are the latest players to avoid arbitration:
- The Tigers and reliever Al Alburquerque have agreed to a one-year, $1.725MM deal, reports Mike Perchick of WAPT Sports. Additionally, Alburquerque will earn $12.5K if he makes 75 appearances, per CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman (via Twitter). The Tigers filed at $1.375MM while Alburquerque asked for $2.05MM. The reported deal is just north of the $1.712MM midpoint. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected a $1.7MM payout. A Super Two player, this was Alburquerque’s second spin through arbitration. The 28-year-old is club controlled for two more seasons after posting a 2.51 ERA, 9.89 K/9, and 3.30 BB/9 in 57.1 innings in 2014.
- Lefty reliever Brian Duensing and the Twins have agreed to terms for one year and $2.7MM, Phil Ervin of FOX Sports North tweets. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected that Duensing would make $2.5MM in his last year of arbitration eligibility. Via MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, Duensing’s camp proposed a $3.1MM salary and the Twins countered with $2.4MM, so $2.7MM is near the midpoint but a bit closer to the Twins’ side. Duensing is the last of the Twins’ six arbitration-eligible players to agree to terms. He posted a 3.31 ERA with 5.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 54 1/3 innings last season.
It’s still unclear where James Shields will wind up, and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tracks Shields’ hard-to-read market, guessing at nine potential destinations for the free agent righty. Topping the list is the Cardinals, who showed some interest in Jon Lester and Max Scherzer and likely have room for Shields in their budget. Still, much about the Shields market remains uncertain, without much reported action from traditionally heavy-spending teams, leaving teams like the Marlins, Astros and Padres near the top of Heyman’s list of possible destinations. Here’s more from around baseball.
- New Red Sox staring pitcher Rick Porcello is not yet ready to discuss an extension, Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com writes. “I just got here and met the guys last night so I think it’s premature for that,” says Porcello. “I’m just trying to settle in and fit in with everybody, get to know the staff and the guys.” Mastrodonato notes that the Red Sox would also probably like to get to know Porcello a bit better before signing him long-term. With a year remaining before free agency and youth on his side, the 26-year-old Porcello stands to cash in if he has a 2015 season similar to his 2014, when he had a 3.43 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and a stingy 1.8 BB/9 in 204 2/3 innings.
- GM Terry Ryan says that although the Twins aren’t planning to have top prospect Byron Buxton break camp with the team, Buxton could make his big-league debut at some point during the season, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets. Buxton only recently turned 21, has only a few plate appearances in the high minors, and missed most of the 2014 season with a wrist injury, so such an aggressive promotion schedule would be unusual for most players, particularly given the Twins’ typically cautious approach. Buxton has exceptional tools, however, and MLB.com currently rates him the top overall prospect in the game, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the Majors at some point this season.
Infielder Brandon Hicks has been assigned to Triple-A Sacramento, according to the Pacific Coast League transactions page, so it seems the Giants have re-signed him to a minor-league deal. Hicks is represented by Relativity Baseball.
Hicks, 29, collected a career-high 242 big-league plate appearances last season and hit .162/.280/.319 while playing mostly second base. The Giants ultimately replaced him with Joe Panik and outrighted Hicks to Triple-A in July. He became a free agent after the season. Hicks has logged significant Triple-A time in each of the past five seasons, and he hit .244/.350/.506 in his last stint with Sacramento in 2012, when it was an Athletics affiliate. He’ll likely provide infield depth for the Giants in 2015.
Here are today’s minor moves from around baseball:
- The Red Sox have signed catcher Humberto Quintero to a minor-league deal, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy writes. Quintero spent last season in the Mariners system, batting .290/.311/.425 for Triple-A Tacoma and picking up a few plate appearances at the big-league level to appear in the Majors for the 12th straight season. The 35-year-old has a long history as a big-league backup, although it might be tough for him to find playing time in Boston, with Christian Vazquez, Ryan Hanigan and Blake Swihart all on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster.
- The Giants have signed 1B/OF John Bowker, Eddy writes. The 31-year-old Bowker spent most of the past three seasons in Japan, hitting .248/.291/.411 in 230 plate appearances with Rakuten in 2014. Bowker was the Giants’ third-round pick in 2004, and he played parts of three seasons in San Francisco before being traded to the Pirates and then the Phillies.
The Marlins‘ offseason moves position them for a “measured buildup,” Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Mat Latos has just one year of control remaining, while Martin Prado and Michael Morse have two. And even the post-opt-out portion of Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract is structured so that the Marlins will be able to afford it once they renegotiate their TV deal. This isn’t like the 2011-2012 offseason, when the Marlins signed Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to long-term deals, only to trade all three. For that reason, Rosenthal writes, the Marlins are unlikely to sign James Shields to a big contract, even though they’ve been connected to him lately. Here’s more from throughout the big leagues.
- After Ichiro Suzuki plays his first game with the Marlins, the Reds will be the last team that hasn’t had a Japanese-born player, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. The Reds did express interest in Nori Aoki this offseason, but they don’t have a strong presence in Japan (although Rosecrans notes that the Reds aren’t the only team that doesn’t). “We do have some people who do cross checking. We don’t have a scout in Japan,” said GM Walt Jocketty. “It’s too costly.”
- The White Sox signed closer David Robertson for four years and $46MM, but GM Rick Hahn says they weren’t the highest bidder for his services, CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes tweets. It’s unclear who the top bidder might have been, although the Blue Jays and Astros were connected to Robertson this offseason.
- GM Jon Daniels said today at Rangers Fan Fest that the team is unlikely to trade for Josh Hamilton, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest tweets. The Rangers reportedly discussed a Hamilton deal with the Angels earlier this offseason, although those talks were not in-depth. Also, free agent lefty reliever Neal Cotts is not likely to re-sign with the Rangers, Andro tweets.
Here’s the latest from Detroit, where TigerFest takes place today:
- David Price reiterated that he would “absolutely” consider a long-term deal with the Tigers, MLive.com’s James Schmehl tweets. Price said earlier this week that he would be “all ears” regarding a possible extension. He will make $19.75MM in his last season of arbitration eligibility in 2015, then can test the free agent market next winter.
- GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers were not one of the final bidders for new Nationals signee Max Scherzer, MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets. “If there was a mystery club involved, and I’m not sure there was, it was not us,” Dombrowski says.
- Dombrowski says the Tigers tried to re-sign utilityman Don Kelly, Beck tweets. Kelly signed a minor-league deal with the Marlins instead, however, because he felt he had a better chance of making the big-league team there. Again via Beck, Dombrowski says that with Kelly gone, infielders Hernan Perez and Andrew Romine will compete for the super-utility job. They’ll work on playing the outfield this spring.
The Blue Jays have been graceless in their attempt to replace president Paul Beeston, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun writes. Elliott’s timeline of events begins in early November, when Rogers Communications chairman Ed Rogers contacted the White Sox seeking permission to hire Ken Williams for Beeston’s job, not realizing that Beeston and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf were best friends. Later, Reinsdorf told Williams the Blue Jays were interested in him, and Williams said he already knew, indicating that there had been tampering, according to Elliott. Here’s more on the Blue Jays’ search for a new president.
- Rogers has left behind a “trail of stink-bombs” in attempting to replace Beeston, writes John Lott of the National Post. The Blue Jays could have improved the situation by issuing a joint statement from Beeston and the team indicating his agreement to retire. The Orioles reportedly want more than just first-round pick Jeff Hoffman in return for allowing Dan Duquette to take the Blue Jays job. Hoffman might be too much to give up, Lott writes, but the Blue Jays should have to give up a good young player, or perhaps two.
- If Duquette does leave for the Blue Jays, the Orioles will be fine, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko writes. With Duquette gone, manager Buck Showalter could play a greater role in personnel decisions. Meanwhile, the rest of the Orioles’ front office (including Brady Anderson, Tripp Norton, Gary Rajsich, Brian Graham and John Stockstill) are capable as well, Kubatko argues.
The Astros nearly signed Ryan Vogelsong, but after Vogelsong took his physical with the Astros, he went another direction and re-signed with the Giants. Vogelsong later said he “really wasn’t comfortable with what was going on” with the Astros, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle notes. Vogelsong’s agent, Dave Meier, later said Vogelsong simply meant he wasn’t comfortable with the fact that negotiations were falling apart. Vogelsong also later added that his wife wanted to stay in San Francisco. As Drellich notes, though, Vogelsong’s phrasing was odd, and it’s unclear exactly why the two parties weren’t able to agree on a deal. “[E]verything that’s happened to me this offseason — and one of these days I’ll tell you guys all about it, when we’re all sitting around having a couple beers 10 years from now when I’m done playing — and you’ll go, ‘There’s no way that happened,’ and I’ll say ‘Yup,’ and you’ll understand what I’m talking about,” Vogelsong says. Here’s more from the West divisions.
- The Mariners could still re-sign outfielder Franklin Gutierrez to a minor-league deal, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. “He wants to give it a shot,” says assistant general manager Jeff Kingston. “Full disclosure, there are some veteran non-roster players we’re still talking to, and we probably will add a few more here before the start of camp.” The 31-year-old Gutierrez hit .248/.273/.503 in 2013, hitting a remarkable ten home runs in 151 plate appearances, but he missed the 2014 season with gastrointestinal issues.
- Athletics closer Sean Doolittle has a slight rotator cuff tear in his throwing shoulder, MLB.com’s Jane Lee notes. He is not expected to be ready to pitch to start the season (Twitter links). Doolittle dominated for the A’s in 2014, posting a 2.73 ERA with a ridiculous 12.8 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9 in 62 2/3 innings. The newly acquired Tyler Clippard, who had 32 saves with the Nationals in 2012, could perhaps get save opportunities for however long Doolittle is out.
Here’s a look back at this week at MLBTR.
- The Nationals signed top starting pitcher Max Scherzer to a seven-year deal.
- The Rangers acquired SP Yovani Gallardo and cash from the Brewers for IF Luis Sardinas and pitchers Corey Knebel and Marcos Diplan.
- The Cubs acquired OF Dexter Fowler from the Astros for IF Luis Valbuena and P Dan Straily.
- The Astros signed OF Colby Rasmus to a one-year deal.
- The Giants signed OF Nori Aoki to a one-year deal with a club/mutual option.
- A number of players avoided arbitration. Notably, Fowler agreed to terms for $9.5MM, and Giants OF Gregor Blanco got a two-year deal.
Signed / Agreed To Terms
- Braves - agreed to sign OF Jonny Gomes (one year with a vesting option)
- Giants - re-signed P Ryan Vogelsong (one year)
- Marlins - agreed to sign OF Ichiro Suzuki (one year)
- Rangers - acquired C Carlos Corporan from Astros for P Akeem Bostick
- Orioles - acquired P Daniel Rodriguez from Braves for cash
Designated For Assignment
- Braves - IF Tyler Pastornicky (link)
- Athletics - IF Andy Parrino (link)
- Mariners - P Anthony Fernandez (link)
- Orioles - C Ryan Lavarnway (link)
- Blue Jays - P Cory Burns (link)
Key Minor League Signings
7:56pm: Scherzer’s $50MM signing bonus is broken down by Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, who reports that Scherzer will receive $5MM of the bonus in 2015 as paid out in twice-monthly in-season installments. A similar structure will result in Scherzer getting the rest of his bonus, with the righty being paid $15MM in 2019, $15MM in 2020 and $15MM in 2021.
5:25pm: Scherzer will earn $10MM in 2015 and $15MM in each of 2016, 2017 and 2018, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports in a breakdown of the contract. The deferred payments begin after the 2018 season, as while Scherzer is scheduled to earn $35MM in each of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons, all of that money will be paid to him through 2028.
JAN. 22, 12:33pm: Scherzer’s contract does not have a no-trade clause, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter links). The Nationals feel that the deferrals and 14-year payment structure of the contract serve as de facto no-trade protection, and as Heyman points out, Scherzer will receive 10-and-5 rights after the 2019 season.
Additionally, Scherzer’s deal calls for a $500K bonus for each Cy Young Award he wins. He’ll receive $250K for finishing second, $150K for finishing third, $100K for finishing fourth and $75K for finishing fifth.
JAN. 21: The Nationals have officially agreed to sign the market’s top starting pitcher to join a rotation that already ranked among the league’s best. Ace right-hander Max Scherzer will come to D.C. for a seven-year term that will run through his age-36 season.
Scherzer will earn $210MM for seven years of work, but will receive that payout over twice that duration. The contract’s unusual structure has a significant impact on its value. Scherzer will receive $15MM per season for the next 14 years, meaning the Nationals will be paying Scherzer through 2028. Scherzer’s deferral is, obviously, the largest one in MLB contract history, leaving Bobby Bonilla and the Mets’ lengthy $29.8MM deferral in the dust.
That delayed payment drags down the deal’s true worth when discounted to present value. While it appears that the league will value the deal at $185MM for purposes of luxury tax calculations, the actual savings to the Nationals are likely much more significant, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs explains. (In Cameron’s estimation, Scherzer may have achieved only $10MM more in present value than Jon Lester received from the Cubs.)
The deal’s structure does, however, also protect Scherzer by including a $50MM signing bonus that will be paid in even installments over the 14-year term. In concert with Washington, DC’s lack of non-resident income tax and Scherzer’s planned move to Florida, he figures to reap tens of millions of dollars in tax savings. Needless to say, it is all but impossible to arrive at a precise valuation of the contract, both to team and player.
The Nats’ emergence as a top bidder for Scherzer came as somewhat of a surprise, given the terrific starting pitching they already had (including Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister, with the signing bumping Tanner Roark, who himself had a very good 2014 season, out of the rotation). But signing Scherzer should help the Nationals continue to contend in a weak NL East division beyond next winter, when Zimmermann, Fister, Ian Desmond and Denard Span all can become eligible for free agency.
The Scherzer deal also gives the Nationals the option to trade someone like Zimmermann or Fister within the next few months, potentially getting good value for one of their free-agents-to-be while maintaining a formidable rotation. A trade involving Strasburg, who is eligible for free agency following the 2016 season, could also be a possibility. (One also wonders whether Roark, with his lengthy and affordable control rights, might also be had.) The Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga tweets, though, that the Nationals won’t necessarily have to trade anyone to make room for Scherzer.
Though MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes rated Scherzer the top available free agent this winter, actual news about Scherzer had been slow in coming before this weekend. He and another top starting pitcher, James Shields, lingered on the market long after everyone else in the top ten had signed. Boras and Scherzer had reportedly been seeking a $200MM contract after rejecting a $144MM extension offer from the Tigers last spring.
Seven years is, of course, a very long time in a pitcher’s career. Via MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker, only four pitchers in recent history have received seven-year deals. Two of those were relatively recent extensions for Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez. C.C. Sabathia‘s seven-year deal worked out well for the first few seasons, but Sabathia has struggled with injury and diminished velocity in the last two years. A fourth seven-year deal, the Giants’ pact with Barry Zito, was a bust, although Zito, unlike Scherzer, showed signs of decline even before signing his contract. Depending upon how one values the deal (see above), Scherzer’s contract would exceed Hernandez’s $175MM contract and would also top Justin Verlander‘s 2013 extension with the Tigers, which tacked five years and $140MM onto Verlander’s existing deal to total seven years and $180MM.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo drafted Scherzer in the first round in 2006 while Rizzo was vice president of scouting for the Diamondbacks. Scherzer quickly emerged as a solid starting pitcher, making the Majors less than two years after being drafted and one year after signing. After two seasons in Arizona, he headed to Detroit and developed into an ace, posting three good seasons in his mid-20s before winning his first Cy Young award in 2013. He had a strong repeat season in 2014, throwing 220 1/3 innings with a 3.15 ERA, 10.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9.
Even without Scherzer, the Nationals already appeared to be easily the best team in the NL East — they won the division by 17 games last year, and the only other team in the division that has decisively improved its roster for 2015 is the Marlins. The Nationals’ acquisition of Scherzer strengthens their already-strong status as NL East favorites.
Scherzer’s departure leaves the win-now Tigers without their top starting pitcher, although they still have David Price, Anibal Sanchez, Verlander, and the newly acquired Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene. Price and Simon are eligible for free agency next winter.
Scherzer rejected the Tigers’ qualifying offer earlier this offseason, so the Nationals will sacrifice their first-round pick of this year’s draft, No. 27 overall, as a result of the signing. The Tigers will acquire the No. 35 pick.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweeted that the deal was agreed to after being first to report that the Nationals and another team were in talks for Scherzer. The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore later tweeted that the sides were close to a deal. Tyler Kepner of the New York Times (via Twitter), Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (in a tweet), Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan (likewise), and Heyman reported details of the contract deferral.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.