Author Archives: Jeff Todd

MLB Trade Rumors Podcast: Episode 3

On the third episode of the MLB Trade Rumors Podcast, Jeff Todd runs down the transactional news from the week (1:20) before being joined by Angels assistant GM Matt Klentak (2:07), who talks about the state of the Halos as they look to supplement a 98-win team while remaining cognizant of the future. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes also joins the line (24:05) to talk through upcoming qualifying offer decisions around the league and predict whether or not this will be the year that a QO is finally accepted.

 

PodcastClick here to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and please leave a review! You can download the episode directly with this link.

You can access the podcast via SoundCloud at this link. The podcast is also available via Stitcher at this link.

The MLB Trade Rumors Podcast runs weekly on Thursday afternoons.


*MLBTR apologizes for the delay in posting this episode, which was the result of technical difficulties.


Latest On Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon shocked many people by opting out of his contract with the Rays today and has now become the most coveted managerial free agent in recent history. While early speculation was that he’d follow former GM Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers, Friedman and the Dodgers have issued a statement backing Don Mattingly as their manager, definitively stating that Mattingly will manage the Dodgers next season.

There’s been plenty of other Maddon chatter, however, so we’ll keep track of the latest on his situation here…

  • Twins GM Terry Ryan tells Berardino that the news of Maddon’s availability came as a surprise to him. “This is a pretty big opt-out,” he said. “When I saw it, I was surprised, but it’s certainly caught my eye.” Though he did not say expressly that the team would consider Maddon, Ryan seemed to indicate that is very much a possibility. “I certainly will do my due diligence on anybody that’s available,” said Ryan. “Everybody was hoping I would hurry up and get a manager. ‘What’s taking so long.’ Now everybody sees this.”
  • Meanwhile, sources tell LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (via Twitter) that the team will indeed reach out to Maddon.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto put to bed any speculation that the Halos would consider Maddon, telling Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (Twitter link) that, “of course Mike [Scioscia] will be our manager.”

Earlier Updates

  • David Kaplan of CSNChicago has spoken to several sources who have indicated to him that the Cubs are indeed the front-runner to land Maddon at this time, but there are several teams that have shown interest (Twitter link).
  • ESPN’s Buster Olney, who intially reported the opt-out, hears that if Maddon ends up with the Cubs, the Rays will investigate the issue of tampering (Twitter link).
  • Sherman reports that Maddon is looking for a five-year deal worth roughly $25MM (Twitter link). He again downplays any thought that the Mets could go to those heights, noting that GM Sandy Alderson doesn’t believe managers should be compensated as such.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post spoke with Maddon on the phone (Four links to Twitter) and was told that Maddon didn’t feel the Rays would commit to him the dollars he was hoping for on a new contract. Maddon, 60, has had jobs throughout his career where his salary was dictated to him, and he felt this would be his last chance to find out how the open market would value him. He added that he was unaware of a clause in his contract that allowed him to opt out if Friedman left the team, and it was new Rays president of baseball ops Matthew Silverman who told Maddon of the clause. He said being contacted by teams with managers is none of his business. “They will do their business how they want to do it,” he told Sherman.
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports (via Twitter) that Maddon was looking to be compensated with a deal that would’ve paid him like one of the top two or three skippers in the game, meaning something north of $5MM per season. Cafardo then spoke with Maddon’s agent, Alan Nero (Twitter link), and was told that Maddon would consider sitting out for a year, perhaps taking a TV gig, if the right opportunity doesn’t arise, but Cafardo adds that Nero’s phone line is “lighting up.”
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also spoke to Maddon (Facebook link), and Maddon told him that he learned his contract contained a two-week opt-out window in the event that Friedman left the Rays. Rosenthal asked Maddon specifically about the Cubs, to which Maddon replied, “I don’t know. I have to talk to people. I have interest everywhere right now. I’ve got to hear what everyone has to say.” Maddon wants to work, regardless of landing a new managerial gig, but his preference is to be in a dugout.
  • Sherman tweets that he’s been told that Maddon won’t be going to the Braves or Blue Jays and that all signs point to the Cubs.
  • Yahoo’s Jeff Passan spoke to one Maddon confidante who said Maddon wouldn’t have opted out of a deal without having a sense for what the market could offer, and he wants to go to a big market (Twitter link).
  • The Twins are the only team with a current managerial opening (besides the Rays, of course), but La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune heard that the team had yet to contact Maddon (Twitter link).
  • Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press looks at whether or not the Twins could plausibly make a run at Maddon, noting that the team has never paid a manager more than $2MM annually and will in fact be paying Ron Gardenhire $2MM not to manage the club this season.
  • Mets owner Jeff Wilpon gave Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link) a very concise and definitive answer when asked about Maddon, stating, “No. We are not changing managers.” GM Sandy Alderson told Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, “Terry is our manager,” via text message (Twitter link).
  • Jayson Stark of ESPN tweets that the more people with whom he speaks, the greater the sense he gets that there was almost no offer the Rays could’ve made to keep him there.

Royals Designate Liam Hendriks For Assignment

The Royals have designated righty Liam Hendriks for assignment, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Presumably, the move creates space for Moises Sierra, who was claimed earlier today.

Hendriks, 25, threw 19 1/3 frames for Kansas City after being acquired from the Blue Jays in a mid-season deal. On the year, Hendriks tossed 32 2/3 innings if 5.23 ERA ball, striking out 6.3 and walking 1.9 batters per nine and posting a more favorable 3.84 FIP.

Over parts of four seasons in the bigs, Hendriks has worked to cumulative 5.92 ERA over 188 2/3 total innings. In nearly 400 Triple-A innings in his career, however, Hendriks has allowed 3.19 earned per nine.



Orioles Outright Steve Johnson

1:37pm: Johnson will be a free agent, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. Baltimore hopes to sign him to a minor league deal, however, while he continues to rehab his shoulder.

1:12pm: The Orioles have outrighted right-hander Steve Johnson, the club announced. With the move, Baltimore has opened a 40-man roster spot.

Johnson, 27, did not see any time at the MLB level this year after receiving brief stints in each of the last two seasons. In total, he owns a 3.67 ERA over 54 big league innings. Johnson struggled mightily this year at Triple-A, allowing 7.11 earned runs per nine over 13 starts (over which he lasted just 38 innings).

Control issues were the primary culprit, as Johnson issued more than seven free passes per nine innings after never coming close to that mark in prior years. Of course, underlying that may well have been the presence of a significant bone spur in his throwing shoulder, which was ultimately removed surgically.


Joe Maddon Opts Out Of Contract With Rays

12:29pm: Maddon’s agent, Alan Nero, tells Topkin (Twitter link) that he expects Maddon will manage a team in 2015. Friedman tells Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter) that his new team, the Dodgers, will not be among the suitors regardless of Maddon’s newfound availability.

On Tampa’s end, team president Matt Silverman says that the team will pursue a full search for a replacement, considering internal and external candidates, per Topkin (via Twitter).

11:27am: Rays manager Joe Maddon has opted out of his contract with the Rays and will be leaving the team, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. The move comes as a major surprise, as Maddon had said recently that he expected to remain in Tampa.

Maddon represents the second key departure to hit the Rays in recent weeks, as the team lost long-time GM Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers. Indeed, the opt-out clause vested with Friedman’s departure, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.

Speculation immediately began that Maddon could follow Friedman to Los Angeles, though all involved shot that down quickly. Indeed, the Dodgers have stated publicly that they intend to keep skipper Don Mattingly in place heading into 2015. The only open managerial seat at present is the Twins’, though Minnesota appears to be well down the line in its search.

In a statement confirming the news, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg says that the club “tried diligently and aggressively to sign [Maddon] to a third contract extension prior to his decision.” Sternberg added that Maddon, whose deal ran through 2015, has “enabled himself to explore opportunities throughout Major League Baseball.”

Maddon had been at the helm of the Rays for nine seasons, during which he established a reputation as one of the game’s most innovative and forward-thinking skippers. After two years in the basement, Maddon helped to oversee a stunning rise to prominence in Tampa. He ran the dugout for two AL East crowns and four total postseason appearances.

Despite that run of success, Maddon tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (links to Twitter) that a combination of financial disagreement and his own curiosity to seek out a new opportunity led to the move. Though a new deal was discussed, Maddon says that the sides “were still too far apart.” Maddon says he hopes to manage next year but has nothing set up at this point.


AL Notes: Provas, Beimel, Correa, Shields, Royals

Sad news today out of Chicago, as longtime White Sox scout Paul Provas passed away from brain cancer at age 63. As Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports, Provas had been scouting for the South Siders since 1993 after doing the same for the cross-town rival Cubs dating back to 1983. MLBTR extends its condolences to his family and friends.

Here are the day’s news and rumors out of the American League:

  • Left-hander Joe Beimel would love to return to the Mariners, and the team has expressed interest in re-signing him as a lefty specialist, reports Greg Johns of MLB.com in his latest Mariners Inbox. The veteran southpaw made the club after signing a minor league deal and posted a 2.20 ERA in 45 innings. Beimel’s 5.0 K/9 leaves something to be desired, but he was a legitimate weapon against lefties. Beimel held same-handed hitters to a .188/.217/.288 batting line. Sabermetric stats such as FIP (3.18) and xFIP (2.96) both approved of his work against left-handers, though he was well north of 5.00 in each stat when facing righties.
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Marius Payton of CSN Houston that top prospect Carlos Correa‘s rehab is considered complete at this point (h/t: Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter). Baseball America’s No. 3 midseason prospect saw his season come to an end prematurely due to a broken leg, but he was impressive when on the field, hitting .326/.415/.510 with six homers and 20 steals in 62 games at Class-A Advanced.
  • Even as the Royals are gunning for a World Series title in 2014, thoughts inevitably must drift at times to the future. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders whether starter James Shields may present a double-edged sword with his history of huge innings totals: on the one hand, those innings show his durability; on the other, they act as an arm odometer. Then, of course, there is the matter of his increasingly poor postseason track record.
  • Kansas City faces tough decisions as it ponders its amazing late-inning arms, Sherman adds. Wade Davis and Greg Holland might combine for a $15MM tab next year, with further increases for 2016. GM Dayton Moore said the team can fit those salaries, but also indicated that he already is thinking about how things will play out in the long run. “Yes, in the immediate, it works,” he said. “We can make that fit. But we do have to analyze our roster from an economic standpoint every year.”
  • Meanwhile, former Royals GM — and current Red Sox VP of player personnel — Allard Baird tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he looks back fondly on his time in Kansas City and is pleased with the club’s run of success. As Cafardo notes, Baird’s time resonates in the current roster, as he drafted players like Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Zack Greinke (who was later flipped for several current key roster pieces) during his time at the helm.

Phillies Avoid Arbitration With Cesar Jimenez

The Phillies have agreed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration with lefty Cesar Jimenez, the club announced. Terms were not made available, though MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected Jimenez to earn just over league minimum, $600K, through the arbitration process.

In concert with the team’s recent one-year extensions — really, pre-market free agent deals — with Grady Sizemore and Jerome Williams, it appears that Philadelphia is pursuing a strategy of locking in cost certainty early on with several veterans.

Jimenez, 29, had his best season as a pro in 2014. After largely struggling in limited MLB action, he tossed 16 innings of 1.69 ERA ball. But his peripherals were less promising, as he struck out 4.5 and walked 3.9 batters per nine while generating a 40.8% groundball rate. And ERA estimators provided cause to expect regression, as Jimenez put up a 4.26 FIP, 5.22 xFIP, and 5.02 SIERA.


Phillies Extend Grady Sizemore For 2015

The Phillies have agreed to a one-year, $2MM extension with Grady Sizemore that will keep the outfielder in Philadelphia for 2015, the club announced. Sizemore’s contract includes performance incentives that could boost its value to $5MM, per MLBDailyDish.com’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter).

Sizemore, 32, was one of the game’s most interesting stories last year, when he returned from a long layoff and had a big spring with the Red Sox. The fairytale took a turn when Sizemore struggled to keep pace in Boston, however, and he ultimately was designated for assignment as his OPS dipped to .612.

Philadelphia gave Sizemore a late run, however, and he had better overall success there. With the Phillies, Sizemore put up a .253/.313/.389 slash with three home runs over 176 plate appearances.

Spending most of his time in the corner outfield with the Phillies, Sizemore ultimately landed with approximately average defensive ratings there. His time in center, mostly with Boston, was less promising, as both UZR and Defensive Runs Saved viewed him as a below-average performer.

For the Phillies, the move does offer some cost certainty, and opens renewed questions about the team’s intentions as the offseason nears. All three of the team’s Opening Day starters — Domonic Brown, Marlon Byrd, and Ben Revere — have been mentioned as trade candidates (the former two in particular). Brown and Revere both swing from the left side of the plate, as does Sizemore.


Free Agent Profile: Rafael Soriano

The Nationals gave Rafael Soriano $28MM (half of it deferred) over two years and sacrificed a draft choice to install him at the back of the pen of one of the league’s most talented rosters. Though he was a reasonably productive pitcher, however, Soriano was not the force that Washington had hoped and he ultimately ceded his closer’s role late in 2014. Now entering his age-35 season, the Scott Boras client will presumably look to score another multi-year deal, but faces market competition in maximizing his dollars.

Pros/Strengths

Soriano actually had a stronger overall campaign in his second year in D.C. In particular, he restored his strikeout rate to the mid-8 K/9 level that he had generally maintained over his previous several seasons, after ending 2013 with 6.9 K/9 – his lowest mark by far since his rookie year. While Soriano posted near-identical earned run marks in each of his two seasons with the Nationals (3.11 and 3.19, respectively), he seems to have re-learned to induce whiffs in spite of his reduced fastball velocity. In particular, Soriano seems to have restored some confidence in his slider after it went missing in 2013, increasing its usage and effectiveness. All of those factors would, it seems, bode well moving forward.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins

Buttressing his good-but-not-great recent production level is its place in the overall context of his career. Since 2006, the veteran has recorded at least 60 innings in seven of nine campaigns. And he has only concluded a season with an ERA higher than last year’s 3.19 mark once: his injury-shortened 2011. While he probably no longer offers the hope of double-digit strikeouts per nine innings, Soriano seems a good bet to deliver a full load of solid innings.

And whatever one thinks of the merit of valuing pitchers based on saves and the like, Soriano’s broad experience is a feather in his cap. He now owns 207 career saves, meaning that he has been exposed to a ton of high-leverage situations. And without suggesting anything about its predictive value, it is worth noting that Soriano has a long record of positive “clutch” scores (per Fangraphs). That experience has its value, particularly for a team that expects to contend and wants a veteran presence in the pen.

Teams intrigued by that consistency will surely also notice that Soriano has been fairly good against lefties: for his career, he has held them to a .234/.309/.395 line. Even better, though he was not as dominant against righties as he had been at times in the past, Soriano showed in 2014 that he can be deployed confidently against hitters of both sides. In fact, facing a nearly even number of left-handed and right-handed bats, Soriano held the former to a .273 wOBA (against a .297 mark from righties).

Cons/Weaknesses

It is not terribly surprising that Soriano has seen some decline in his fastball velocity, but it nevertheless must be accounted for. He has maintained his heater in the 91+ mph range over the last two seasons, after sitting between 92 and 93 earlier in his career. He has seemingly compensated for that fact by increasingly utilizing a mix of four-seam, two-seam, and cut fastballs, though pitch-recognition mechanisms Baseball Info Solutions and Pitch F/X disagree as to his actual mix amongst those three offerings. But the bottom line is that that Soriano’s days of rearing back and throwing it by hitters are probably over. Meanwhile, he has increased his slider velocity to over 84 mph, the highest level of his career, decreasing further the separation for his primary offspeed offering.

One additional factor to consider is Soriano’s tendency to induce a significant number of fly balls, which has spiked back toward the well-above-average rates he maintained earlier in his career. In 2014, Soriano generated only a 31.6% groundball rate while permitting flies at a 49.1% clip. Though a meager 4.8% HR/FB kept the damage to a minimum, Soriano’s career mark sits at nearly twice that level. A few more balls leaving the yard could put a big dent in Soriano’s bottom-line productivity.

It bears mentioning that Soriano’s late-season struggles led to a demotion from the closer’s role — in part due to his inability to keep the ball down — which certainly does not help with perception as he enters the market. And that move was not without statistical basis: Soriano posted a 6.48 second-half ERA after marking his first 37 innings with an impressive 0.97 mark. And those numbers, in turn, had their source in Soriano’s declining peripherals: his strikeout percentage dropped significantly (26.7% to 19.7%) while his rate of line drives allowed went up (14.8% to 24.1%).

Finally, while Soriano has been healthy of late, he does have a deeper injury history that could come into play in a multi-year scenario. Soriano underwent Tommy John surgery early in 2004, returning late in 2005 after a long recovery. Since, he has seen flareups from time to time and even underwent an ulnar nerve transposition and bone spur procedure on his right elbow back in 2008. Most recently, he missed 66 games in 2011 for inflammation. Though his overall recent health has been good, there has to be at least some consideration for the fact that Soriano has a decade or so of mileage on his replacement UCL.

Personal

Soriano is married and has two children. The Dominican native also enjoys a special relationship with his mother, with whom he speaks by phone twice a day, per an interesting profile from James Wagner of the Washington Post.

Soriano persevered through a poor economic upbringing and early difficulties in his career. His quiet disposition belies a warm personality, according to Wagner. But there is no question that a new club will not be getting a boisterous, rah-rah presence. By the same token, Soriano is generally stoic on the hill and does not (visibly, anyway) seem to be overly affected by pressure situations. Though at times he has had a less-than-stellar clubhouse reputation, Soriano seems not to have left that impression in D.C. even after his demotion from the closer role, according to a recent report from the Post’s Adam Kilgore.

Market

As I explained back in early September, Soriano is one of many similarly situated veteran relievers. Though I said at the time that he was one of the few to have maintained his value coming into the year, that assessment was based in part on his poor 2013 and came before his late-year struggles were fully manifested.

At this point, Soriano looks to face a tough market, with plenty of competition on the supply side. His precise placement is subject to debate, but he probably falls in the same general tier as other veteran arms such as Sergio Romo, Francisco Rodriguez, and Casey Janssen.

It is difficult to assign possible landing spots for a sub-elite reliever. But in Soriano’s case, one major factor is his pronounced flyball tendency, which could make him more appealing to a club that plays in a more spacious park while reducing the level of interest from teams with more home run-friendly environments.

Expected Contract

Soriano faces a wide range of plausible outcomes, given his warts, the healthy supply of veteran late-inning arms, and the ever-present volatility of a market with so few actors. But he does have a rather extensive track record of finishing off wins, and that can still boost a player’s earning capacity. Though Soriano may have slightly more upside, and perhaps even more downside, I see him landing a two-year, $12MM deal that falls near the bottom of the range of last year’s closer market.


Latest On Twins’ Managerial Search

As the Twins continue to seek a replacement for longtime skipper Ron Gardenhire, here are the latest news and rumors:

OCTOBER 22:

  • Molitor’s one-on-one meeting with GM Terry Ryan went “fine” but did not result in a job offer, per a tweet from Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  • Internal candidate Gene Glynn is out of the running, according to Jim Mandelaro of the Democrat and Chronicle. It is unclear if he will return to his current post as manager of the Rochester Red Wings.
  • Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN would hire Lovullo, he writes in his latest piece. Lovullo offers substantial experience and outside ideas from a first rate organization. Mackey notes that the Twins like to hire from within, which favors Molitor and Mientkiewicz. It does appear as though Minnesota has narrowed down to these three candidates.
  • Speaking of Lovullo, the Red Sox have granted the Twins an extension to continuing speaking with him, tweets Nick Cafardo.

OCTOBER 21:

  • Molitor has a one-on-one meeting with GM Terry Ryan today, tweets Wolfson, which could mean a number of things.
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets that Lovullo is “very much” still in the mix, and Mackey echoes that sentiment.
  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that Orioles bench coach John Russell, once a rumored candidate, never heard from the Twins.

OCTOBER 20:

  • Still in the running for the post, according to Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter), are Paul Molitor, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Torey Lovullo.
  • The Twins have told Alomar that he is no longer under consideration, tweets Wolfson. Hale has also been advised that he will not get the position, according to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun (h/t Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press).

OCTOBER 17:

  • Wolfson tweets that McEwing has been ruled out for the position, meaning that the team could be inching closer to making a decision.

(more…)