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Author Archives: Steve Adams
In this morning’s Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that he feels a Josh Donaldson trade is likely for the Athletics this offseason. Billy Beane has shown a willingness to trade players at their peak value, Olney writes (citing the Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill trades, among others), and Donaldson’s salary will begin to rise quickly now that he’s hit arbitration. Olney looks at the rest of Oakland’s roster and notes that no other trade candidate has value as high as Donaldson’s, so while Jeff Samardzija would be an attractive chip, Donaldson could help Beane usher in his next roster reconstruction.
Some more news from the American League…
- The Red Sox won’t hold a private workout for Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, reports Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. The team did attend his showcase in the Dominican Republic and they’re intrigued by his power, but the team’s glut of outfielders and concerns over Tomas’ strikeout rate in Cuba have tempered their interest.
- Tim Britton of the Providence Journal points to the Pirates’ success in reviving the careers of Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett and points to some similar buy-low candidates that the Red Sox could try for on the free agent market. Of course, as he notes, the Sox are expected to pursue Jon Lester and James Shields, so his suggestions of Justin Masterson, Brandon McCarthy and Ervin Santana are intended to be secondary targets.
- Miguel Cabrera turned down his share of the team’s postseason bonus when the time came to sign the paperwork, reports Paul White of USA Today. Cabrera refused to sign, instead stating that he “just wants the ring.” As White points out, Cabrera could be turning down as much as $300K (though that figure pales in comparison to his salary), and that money could be reallocated to other players as well as Tigers staff such as clubhouse personnel, traveling secretaries, etc.
- Justin Smoak‘s contract to avoid arbitration last year contained a rare club option, and Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes that it’s a virtual lock that the Mariners will buy out his $3.65MM option for $150K and non-tender the first baseman. Smoak, the centerpiece of an ill-fated Cliff Lee trade with the Rangers, hit just .202/.275/.339 and has failed to establish himself as a regular in four seasons with Seattle.
- Also from Divish’s piece, GM Jack Zduriencik called the decision to pick up Hisashi Iwakuma‘s $7MM option a “no-brainer,” which certainly isn’t surprising.
OCT. 1: Pirates owner Bob Nutting has now also voiced a willingness to stretch the payroll to retain Martin, writes Sawchik’s colleague Rob Biertempfel. He quotes Nutting:
“As we’ve made priorities, we’ve found opportunities to stretch. He’s an example of a player we’re going to need to do what we can. We’re going to need to stretch. We’re probably going to go beyond what a rational deal is. He’s a player who we love and respect and we hope he’s back.”
SEPT. 24: While the Pirates have previously had a philosophy of not allocating more than 18 percent of the team’s payroll to one player, the team is rethinking that strategy in anticipation of Russell Martin‘s free agency, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. General manager Neal Huntington tells Sawchik that the Pirates are prepared to “stretch beyond our normal comfort zone” in order to retain their standout catcher.
Martin’s potential departure from the Pirates has become an increasingly large story, particularly in the Pittsburgh media, given Martin’s dynamic impact on the game and importance to the Pirates’ success. Martin is enjoying a career year at the plate, as he entered play Wednesday with a brilliant .294/.405/.437 batting line. Martin is one of just four players in the Majors with at least 400 plate appearances and an OBP north of .400 (the others being Jose Bautista, Victor Martinez and Martin’s teammate, Andrew McCutchen). Beyond that, he’s regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in the game; he’s caught 39 percent of opposing base-stealers and rates as one of baseball’s best catchers in terms of pitch-framing via both Baseball Prospectus and StatCorner.com.
The 18 percent benchmark was a factor last offseason in determining whether or not the team could retain A.J. Burnett last offseason, Sawchik notes, and it stems from a study to which Huntington contributed when working with the Indians. The study found that no team that has committed 18 percent of its payroll to a single player had won a World Series. That study was done a decade ago, however, and Huntington conceded that it could be outdated.
The Pirates do maintain that they can only pay for a player’s future performance, rather than their past merits, and Martin will be 32 in February. Huntington said that Martin’s offensive performance has even exceeded the Pirates’ highest expectations, and the GM acknowledged that other clubs may be able to one-up the Pirates in the end: “There are other clubs in other markets don’t have to worry about the extra years, or the extra two or four or six million dollars to get a deal done. … That’s the realities of the market and the market size. It’s not the first time we’ve faced, and it is not the last time we will face it.”
Nonetheless, while Huntington has previously noted that the team would “do everything it can” to keep Martin, this is the likely the most encouraging report for Pirates fans to date, as it’s the first that the team has publicly stated a willingness to stretch payroll. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently speculated (on Twitter) on the possibility of Martin topping $50MM. While I personally thought that was aggressive at first, it does seem like an increasingly likely possibility.
The Blue Jays have outrighted infielder Munenori Kawasaki and first baseman Dan Johnson, according to the team’s official transactions page.
Kawasaki, 33, batted .258/.327/.296 in 274 plate appearances in his second season with the Blue Jays. The Japanese infielder’s outgoing nature and quirky sense of humor have made him popular with both fans and teammates, but he hasn’t hit much in either of his two seasons in the Majors. He does grade out as a solid defender at shortstop, and both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved gave positive reviews to a small sample of work at third base this season.
The 35-year-old Johnson saw some action with Toronto this season as a replacement for the injured Adam Lind. The AL East veteran (he’s also been with the Rays, Orioles and Yankees) batted .211/.333/.342 with a homer in 48 trips to the plate. Johnson posted yet another gaudy OBP total at Triple-A, slashing .232/.381/.434 with 18 homers in 459 PA. In parts of 11 seasons at the Triple-A level, the former seventh-round pick is a .281/.401/.509 hitter, so he should be able to find a home rather easily this winter if he wishes.
Chicago acquired the 26-year-old De Los Santos from the Rays last September in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later. In his first season with the ChiSox, De Los Santos posted a 4.84 ERA with 4.2 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 44 2/3 innings at Triple-A Charlotte. In parts of eight minor league seasons, the Dominican hurler has a 4.09 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 657 1/3 innings.
Many teams figure to follow suit and begin outrighting players over the coming weeks as they perform some 40-man roster maintenance to gear up for the offseason.
Former Rangers cornerstone Michael Young has joined the team’s front office, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link), although Heyman does not include specifics on Young’s role with the club. While he was once speculated as a candidate to fill the team’s managerial vacancy, he’s now helping with the search, Heyman adds.
More from the AL West…
- Rival executives don’t expect Athletics GM Billy Beane to stand pat following the team’s late collapse and elimination in last night’s one-game playoff, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. One executive speculated that Jeff Samardzija could be an offseason trade candidate, while a second threw out the possibility of trading Josh Donaldson. While I can personally envision the Samardzija scenario — he’s a free agent after 2015 and could $10MM+ via arbitration — the Donaldson suggestion is tough to picture. As Rosenthal notes, he’s arb-eligible for the first time this offseason and controlled through 2018, so there’s no reason to think Oakland would feel pressure to trade him.
- Among the players whom the A’s could potentially lose to free agency is Jed Lowrie, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with Lowrie about the situation (All Twitter links). Slusser notes that Lowrie is one of the few players who was honest about his free agency by admitting that money will be a driving factor behind his decision. Lowrie adds that he’s looking for a good fit for him and his family, and he says he’s be willing to play second base on a full-time basis. Asked about the possibility of receiving a qualifying offer, Lowrie said he’d have to give consideration to accepting. A qualifying offer to Lowrie seems unlikely, in my view.
- MLB.com’s Richard Justice calls the Astros‘ hiring of A.J. Hinch a bold move and revisits former Diamondbacks/Padres GM Josh Byrnes’ decision to give Hinch his first managerial gig back in 2009. The move was controversial, to say the least, as Byrnes had to dismiss the popular Bob Melvin to bring the 34-year-old Hinch into the picture. Hinch had never coached or managed, but as Byrnes explains to Justice, Hinch brings a number of desirable qualities to the table.
- Justice’s colleague, Brian McTaggart, writes that Astros players appear to be on board with the move. Chad Qualls spoke highly of Hinch, who was his manager with the D’Backs in 2010, and Gregorio Petit called him “a real honest guy” after getting to know him a bit while in the Padres organization. Dallas Keuchel is excited after meeting Hinch and hinted that there were communication problems not only between previous manager Bo Porter and the front office, but also between Porter and the players. “I think we need to have better communication than we’ve had in the past couple of years,” said Keuchel.
Click here to read a transcript of this week’s live chat, hosted by MLBTR’s Steve Adams.
The Yankees are working on a contract extension with general manager Brian Cashman, whose current deal expires at the end of October, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney. Reports have previously indicated that the longtime Bombers GM wasn’t in danger of losing his role despite the fact that the Yankees missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season this year.
Cashman, 47, has been the Yankees’ general manager since 1998, but this is the first time in his tenure — and the first time since 1992-93, as Olney points out — that the team has missed the playoffs in successive seasons. Nonetheless, Cashman’s strong standing with the Steinbrenner family and the organization’s overall success under his watch has him in line for a new contract.
The Yankees were derailed by a barrage of injuries to the rotation this season, as CC Sabathia missed most of the season with a knee injury, Ivan Nova underwent Tommy John surgery, Michael Pineda missed much of the year with a shoulder injury and rookie ace Masahiro Tanaka missed nearly three months with a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. The Yankees also saw disappointing returns on major free agent investments Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. Lesser free agents such as Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson and Brendan Ryan also scuffled. Jacoby Ellsbury, the largest non-pitching acquisition of last offseason, provided a generally strong season, hitting .271/.328/.419 with 16 homers and 39 steals.
The Marlins made a 15-game improvement over last season’s 62 wins, but president of baseball operations Michael Hill explains to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald that the team still has work to do, as they’re not one of the 10 teams whose season has yet to end. A busy offseason figures to be ahead, and at the forefront of the action will be an attempt to sign Giancarlo Stanton to a long-term deal. Marlins president David Samson spoke candidly to Spencer about the team’s hopes, and concretely stated that Stanton will not be traded this offseason:
“He’s on this team [in 2015] either way. I can’t wait until after the season to sit down with Giancarlo and [agent] Joel Wolfe and talk about contract. We’re ready. We want him to be a Marlin well past his arbitration years. We hope that he believes in us and believes in Miami and believes in the direction of this team and recognizes that he has a chance to be the leader of a successful team for many years to come.”
Regardless of whether or not a long-term deal is reached, Stanton’s salary figures to soar after an MVP-worthy campaign in 2014. Before his season came to a frightening end after he was struck in the face by a Mike Fiers fastball, Stanton had compiled an electric .288/.395/.555 batting line with a league-leading 37 homers and a career-best 105 RBIs. That type of production will warrant a sizable raise from his $6.5MM salary in arbitration. Spencer speculates that Stanton’s salary could double to $13MM, which seems entirely plausible; last offseason, Chris Davis earned a record $7MM raise for a second-time arbitration player — the same juncture at which Stanton currently finds himself. Granted, Davis was coming off a 53-homer campaign with a gaudier RBI total — both figures that factor into the arbitration process — but his raise could provide a rough guideline for Stanton this winter.
With that raise in mind, it’s of particular importance that Spencer reports the team’s payroll is expected to clear $60MM this coming season. While that would still represent one of the lowest totals in baseball — if not the lowest — it also will allow the Marlins to accommodate a much larger salary for their prized slugger, as well as arbitration raises to others, such as Steve Cishek (second time), Henderson Alvarez (first time) and Nathan Eovaldi (first time).
If the Marlins aren’t able to secure Stanton on a multi-year deal, they’ll still look to upgrade elsewhere, most notably targeting upgrades at first base an in the starting rotation, according to Spencer. General manager Dan Jennings said that he would like to cut down on the club’s strikeouts and improve its two-strike approach. The Marlins whiffed at the third-highest rate in Major League Baseball and grounded into more double plays than any club but the Rangers this season.
Marlins first basemen hit a respectable, if unspectacular .254/.313/.402 this season. They’ll have a several names to choose from in a free agent class that will have numerous solid options such as Adam LaRoche, Mike Morse and Michael Cuddyer (who is, might I add, a former teammate of recently extended manager Mike Redmond). Pitching depth is one thing the Marlins already possess with the likes of Jose Fernandez (returning from Tommy John), Alvarez, Eovaldi, Jarred Cosart, Tom Koehler, Anthony DeSclafani, Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino, Brian Flynn and Brad Hand, but adding a veteran could allow them the flexibility to move some of those arms in a trade.
The Diamondbacks more or less kicked off their offseason last week when they announced the hiring of Dave Stewart as general manager and De Jon Watson as vice president of baseball operations. That duo, along with chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, will be tasked with righting the ship for a team that lost an MLB-worst 98 games in 2014. Both Nick Piecoro and Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic have authored highly informative columns about how things will shake out this offseason after talking with that group. Here are some highlights from the Republic’s scribes, but each piece is full of lengthier quotes and is well worth reading in its entirety…
- It’s tough to get a read on Stewart at this point, Piecoro writes, as the new GM expressed a desire to add a front-of-the-rotation arm but expressed hesitancy toward the free agent market and toward the trade market. Stewart appears to be more conservative than predecessor Kevin Towers on the trade front, according to Piecoro, and as for free agency, both Stewart and Watson doubted the team would have the resources to pursue Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields.
- A trade of minor league talent to acquire an established pitcher doesn’t seem likely either, Piecoro writes. He quotes Stewart: “We’re going to try to maintain our minor-league system. We’ve got to start putting players back in our system. So the trade market, we’ll look at it if it makes sense, but it’s not likely.”
- La Russa tells Piecoro that when it comes to a manager, the team is looking for a candidate that can “lead and inspire.” Previous managerial experience sounded important to La Russa, who stated, “…when you start managing the game, the more that you’ve pulled the trigger as a manager somewhere, there is an art to that.” Asked specifically about recently dismissed Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, La Russa said he is “sure” that Gardenhire’s name will come up during their search.
- La Russa also touched on payroll, though his answer when asked for a specific figure was nebulous; payroll could fall anywhere between $80-110MM, he stated, depending on whether or not there is value to be found, per Piecoro.
- Shifting to Buchanan’s piece, La Russa said that there may not be many changes to the team’s coaching staff beyond the firings of Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell. La Russa offered particularly high praise for first base coach Dave McKay, pitching coach Mike Harkey and bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. — the latter two of whom he feels handled Arizona’s slew of injuries well. Roving pitching instructor Dave Duncan, La Russa’s former pitching coach, will take on a bigger role in the organization but will not return to a coaching position.
- Buchanan spoke with Stewart on the team’s outfield situation. While Towers had expressed the desire to add an outfield bat, Stewart sounds much less inclined to do so. “I think that A.J. (Pollock) in center, (David) Peralta played well, (Mark) Trumbo will probably be in the outfield mix with (Paul) Goldschmidt being at first base and being healthy again,” the GM explained to Buchanan. “It’s a pretty solid outfield, in my opinion.” La Russa spoke on the outfield as well, adding praise for Ender Inciarte.
- The D’Backs have yet to address their desire to incorporate analytics into their front office, but Stewart again repeated that it is a priority for the team. “…We’ve got to go through the process of trying to get the right person in to take over that department for us,” he said.
Rickie Weeks doesn’t think that he’ll be back with the Brewers next season, he tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Weeks, who has an $11.5MM club option that won’t be exercised, didn’t request a final appearance with the team in the season’s last game. “I told the manager if the time permitted itself during the game to put me out there, OK. If not, so be it,” he said. “Life still goes on. It’s not like this is the end of all (things). I’m the type of person that I move on. That’s the way it is. I don’t think I’m going to be here next year. It’s just for me to go out there and move forward with my life.”
Some more NL Central items as the playoffs loom…
- Francisco Rodriguez also spoke to Haudricourt about his future, and unlike Weeks, who seems resigned to being elsewhere, K-Rod hopes to return to the Brewers in 2015. “I definitely know where I want to be,” he said. “I want to be here. But it is not my decision.” As Haudricourt points out, Milwaukee’s trade for Jonathan Broxton and his $9MM salary next season could give Broxton the inside track for the closer’s gig and push K-Rod out of the picture. The team additionally saw a breakout performance from Jeremy Jeffress and expects to have Jim Henderson returning to health.
- MLB.com’s Tom Singer spoke with Pirates general manager Neal Huntington about the team’s lack of an impact trade this summer in a recent Q&A. Huntington wasn’t sure whether it was more satisfying to get to the postseason on the back of some well-executed trades (such as last year’s acquisition of Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau) or to get there by trusting his internal options. “This July 31 (non-waiver Trade Deadline) we wanted to, we were willing to, give up prospects as we did last August. We worked hard to find the right deal, large and small, and we couldn’t find the right impact coming in the door to match the impact that would’ve been going out the door.”
- Huntington also touched on the timeline of Gregory Polanco‘s promotion to the Majors, noting that he wishes Neil Walker wouldn’t have gotten hurt. Had Walker remained healthy, Josh Harrison wouldn’t have had to shift to second base — a move that necessitated the promotion of Polanco, according to Huntington. “I hated [promoting Polanco]. I really did,” said Huntington. As the GM explained, the team thought Polanco was “borderline ready,” but he also stated: “There’s a reason why that Triple-A level exists, why most guys who have had success at the Major League level have experienced Triple-A beyond 250 at-bats.” Polanco got off to a blistering start in his first two weeks but has batted just .204/.275/.324 since and started just three games in September.