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Author Archives: Charlie Wilmoth
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.
The Rangers have acquired right-hander Yovani Gallardo from the Brewers. Going in return are a group of young players: infielder Luis Sardinas and righties Corey Knebel and Marcos Diplan. Milwaukee will pick up $4MM of Gallardo’s salary, which will rise from $13MM to $14MM by operation of a clause in his contract.
Gallardo brings plenty of value with him to a Rangers rotation that has several question marks coming off of a rough overall 2014. Though he’ll need to deliver all of it this season, as he qualifies for free agency after the year, Gallardo’s Texas roots could make him an extension candidate. He will not turn 29 until February. And he has had a nice run of gobbling up innings, lodging the sixth-most in the game over the last six years. Reuniting with his former pitching coach, Mike Maddux, probably does not hurt Gallardo’s outlook.
In terms of performance, Gallardo has had his ups and downs but is undoubtedly a quality arm. He registered a career-low 6.8 K/9 last year, though he posted career-bests with a 3.51 ERA and 2.5 BB/9. In terms of advanced statistics, the view was that 2014 was more of an average year for the veteran. His FIP (3.94), xFIP (3.64), and SIERA (3.78) were generally in line with his career norms.
For Milwaukee, the trade brings some much-needed young blood into the system and gave the team an opportunity to cash in on an expiring asset in Gallardo. While the trio of prospects that were acquired all come with questions, they also deliver talent and plenty of years of control, and should begin contributing in the immediate future.
Sardinas, 21, struggled in a 2014 season split between Double-A, Triple-A and the Majors (posting a .281 average in the minors, but with a .302 OBP and .364 OBP), but he was young for all three levels and still rates as one of the Rangers’ better young players. The question remains whether Sardinas can hit enough to become a MLB starter, or whether he will instead top out as a utility infielder. But of the three players in the deal, he is the only one to crack Baseball America’s top-ten list, with Knebel (17) and Diplan (22) landing further down the line.
On the other hand, Knebel makes an appearance in the eighth slot on MLB.com’s latest ranking of the pre-trade Texas rotation. Knebel, who came to the Rangers along with Jake Thompson in last summer’s Joakim Soria deal, was taken 39th overall in the 2013 draft an reached the bigs in 2014. The 23-year-old is a pure reliever, but was fairly dominant in the upper minors (2.18 ERA, 12.5 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 4.6 H/9) in 45 1/3 frames last year and showed the ability to miss big league bats with 11 strikeouts in his brief 8 2/3 inning stint.
MLB.com also saw Diplan as one of the Rangers’ twenty best young players, albeit barely. An undersized righty, the 18-year-old nevertheless landed a $1.3MM bonus as a July 2 player. He was effective last year in the Dominican Summer League, but remains a good distance from a major league roster and is far and away the most volatile asset in this deal.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post theorizes a Gallardo trade could make Milwaukee players for James Shields, noting the Brewers are in a strong position to make a big play as they will shed $47MM in salary, including Gallardo’s $13MM, after 2015 (Twitter links). This line of thinking is strengthened by Milwaukee’s dearth of MLB rotation depth as Doug Melvin also traded swingman Marco Estrada in November for Adam Lind. Outside of their current projected rotation (Kyle Lohse, Wily Peralta, Matt Garza, Mike Fiers, and Jimmy Nelson), only three other pitchers on the Brewers’ 40-man roster have started a Major League game and two of them, Tyler Thornburg (elbow) and Johnny Hellweg (Tommy John surgery), missed most of 2014 with injuries. A third, Will Smith (17 starts with the Royals from 2012-13) is slated to resume his setup role in the bullpen.
This should make for an interesting week in Milwaukee as the Brewers gear up for their annual fan fest “On Deck” next weekend. It was this time one year ago, the Brewers signed Garza to the largest free agent contract (four years, $50MM) in franchise history. A deal for Shields would shatter that mark. The Brewers, however, could decide to invest the Gallardo cost savings into strengthening their bullpen by re-signing Francisco Rodriguez, who saved 44 games for the club last year. This approach would allow Milwaukee to stretch Smith out during Spring Training creating that much needed rotation depth while preserving some payroll flexibility.
FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi were first to report that a deal involving Gallardo to Texas was in the works. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported the return (via Twitter), while Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram added that money was also changing hands (via Twitter). SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo was first to tweet that the deal was done, and noted on Twitter that the Rangers were rumored to be closing in on adding a pitcher. Morosi reported the trade escalator in Gallardo’s contract, via Twitter.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Giants are still looking for another starting pitcher, but probably not one in the Jordan Zimmermann / James Shields class. Instead, they could bring back Ryan Vogelsong, who remains on the free agent market, Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes (Twitter links). The defending champs have had a quiet offseason overall, and in a long article, as Schulman explains. They tried to sign Jon Lester, but haven’t made similar pushes to sign Shields or Max Scherzer, since they felt Lester was the best gamble of the three (although Schulman leaves open the possibility that they could bid for Shields). They’ve pursued trades for Justin Upton and other players to help make up for the loss of Pablo Sandoval, but do not want to give up one or more of their better young players for a rental. That means the Giants might not make any big moves, perhaps waiting to add talent via trade during Spring Training or the regular season. Here are more notes from the National League.
- The Dodgers are trying to acquire a late-inning relief option, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Casey Janssen, Rafael Soriano and Francisco Rodriguez are among the top names remaining on the free agent market. The Dodgers have been active in trades this offseason, however, and one might think they could easily pursue an upgrade there rather than paying for an established late-inning type in free agency.
- The Mets‘ shortstop situation might not be as bad as it appears, Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes. Assuming Wilmer Flores gets most of the playing time, the Mets only project to be a bit below the middle of the pack at that position, and many of the shortstops available one way or another this offseason (Stephen Drew, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, Yunel Escobar, and so on) came with significant offensive or defensive question marks. There are bigger-ticket options like Troy Tulowitzki and Ian Desmond, but they would only be available to the Mets at steep prices. At least at the shortstop position, the Mets aren’t victims of complacency so much as they’re victims of a lack of options.
- Fowler says he never discussed a long-term deal with the Astros, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. “We didn’t really talk about contract stuff — more going through the arbitration process and that whole thing,” says Fowler. “Obviously I’m going to be a free agent next year so I guess that (topic) would have been a little bit more down the road.”
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer says the two teams had been discussing a Fowler trade since last month, Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago tweets.
- The Cubs and Astros are suddenly looking to be competitive in 2015, and the Fowler trade was about making each of their rosters more complete, Eno Sarris of Fangraphs writes. The Cubs had plenty of infield talent but were thin in the outfield, and sending Valbuena to the Cubs gives them more flexibility to figure out what to do with Kris Bryant, Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez while giving them a veteran outfielder who they might also be able to extend a qualifying offer after the season. Meanwhile, Valbuena improves the Astros at third base while clearing space for some combination of Jake Marisnick and Robbie Grossman in the outfield.
- Valbuena’s departure assures that Kris Bryant will begin his big-league career at a third baseman and not as an outfielder, Rogers writes. Meanwhile, the Cubs will have Alcantara play a number of positions, remaining open to the idea that he could emerge as a starter at one of them.
- Scherzer’s contract represents another win for Scott Boras, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The market for Scherzer seemed, on the outside, to be rather quiet, with few clear candidates to provide the money Boras was seeking, but he managed to get a huge sum anyway. Boras’ close relationship with the Nationals and their 89-year-old owner, Ted Lerner, likely helped.
- Sherman also adds that he hears the Nationals intend to keep Jordan Zimmermann, who’s eligible for free agency after the season.
- Scherzer, clearly one of the game’s best pitchers, is worth $210MM, Dan Szymborski writes for ESPN Insider. Szymborski also writes that the Nationals’ rotation projects to rank among the best of any team so far this century, behind only the 2013 Tigers, the 2002 Diamondbacks, the 2011 Phillies, the 2001 Yankees and the 2004 Red Sox.
- Scherzer is a great pitcher, but he’s less of an immediate upgrade than one might think, because the Nationals’ rotation was already so good last season, Rob Neyer of FOX Sports writes. The Nationals were already a 96-win team with exceptional starting pitching, and it’s hard to do much better than that, although adding Scherzer now does improve the Nats’ chances of winning the NL East in years beyond 2015. If the Nationals are to get better in the short term, the best way for them to do it might be to add another second baseman.
- Now that the Nationals have Scherzer in the fold, they have a variety of options available, Anthony Castrovince of Sports On Earth writes. One obvious possibility would be to trade Zimmermann or Doug Fister, with the recent trade of Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox helping define the market for a strong starting pitcher with one year of control remaining.
The Giants have already held a private workout for Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports. The Giants’ ownership is pushing for the team to get more involved in acquiring Cuban talent, Badler writes, and signing the 19-year-old Moncada, a very highly rated young talent, would be a splashy way to do just that. Of course, such a signing will have to wait for now, as Moncada still needs to be cleared by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control before he can sign. The Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Marlins have already been connected to Moncada. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- With Max Scherzer‘s signing and the impending trade of Yovani Gallardo to the Rangers, the Brewers could try to trade for Wisconsin native Jordan Zimmermann, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi writes. The Brewers’ past trades for aces C.C. Sabathia and Zack Greinke helped key playoff runs, and Morosi thinks Milwaukee might be able to sign Zimmermann long-term, given that Aramis Ramirez, Kyle Lohse, Jonathan Broxton, Adam Lind and Gerardo Parra can all come off the books after 2015.
- Teams are increasingly avoiding boom-and-bust cycles and are instead trying to build consistent winners, Alden Gonzalez writes for Sports On Earth. Teams are trying to avoid becoming the Phillies, now on the downswing after clinging to their veteran core. Instead, they’re trying to win both now and in the future, avoiding dramatic going-for-it moves as well as full rebuilds. The current postseason structure (with ten teams, including four Wild Card teams) encourages teams to try to get in but discourages making “all-in” moves, because making one’s way through the playoffs involves a high degree of variance. Gonzalez counts only two teams (the Tigers and perhaps the Blue Jays) pushing in all their chips in 2015, with only one (the Phillies) that isn’t really trying to compete. More emblematic, perhaps, of the current environment are the Athletics, whose offseason has blended future-oriented and win-now moves, and the Nationals, who have largely maintained a very strong team but geared their offseason toward sustaining their success beyond 2015.