Author Archives: Steve Adams

Minor Moves: Pena, Boyer, Gutierrez, Belisario, Boesch

Some minor moves from around the league…

  • Also outrighted today was Ramiro Pena of the Braves, per the MLB.com transactions page. The utility man was designated recently, presumably in large part due to his rising arbitration salary.
  • Righty Blaine Boyer (Padres) and Juan Gutierrez (Giants) have elected free agency rather than accepting outright assignments, also via the MLB transactions page.
  • The White Sox have outrighted righty Ronald Belisario, per the MLB.com transactions page. Belisario was designated recently to make room for the claim of reliever Onelki Garcia.
  • Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reported a number of new transactions in his weekly Minor League Transactions roundup on Monday. Of particular note is a crop of Phillies signings: catcher Koyie Hill, right-hander Paul Clemens, and infielders Chase d’Arnaud and Cord Phelps. Clemens gives them some pitching depth, as he’s totaled 98 innings with the Astros over the past two seasons, albeit with a 5.51 ERA.
  • Also from Eddy, the Reds have inked outfielder Brennan Boesch to a minor league contract. The 29-year-old Boesch hit .269/.330/.436 in 248 games with the Tigers from 2010-11, but since that time, he’s batted just .237/.277/.376 in 635 plate appearances with the Tigers, Yankees and Angels.
  • The Tigers have announced that outfielder Ezequiel Carrera has elected free agency rather than accepting an assignment to Triple-A after being outrighted (Twitter link). The 27-year-old hit .261/.301/.348 in 73 plate appearances with Detroit this season and is a lifetime .253/.305/.340 hitter in the Majors. Carrera hasn’t hit much in 478 big league PAs, but he brings some speed and solid baserunning to the table and is capable of handling all three outfield spots.

Offseason Outlook: Kansas City Royals

The 2014 Royals went from playoff hopeful to Wild Card winners to a Cinderella team that made it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. While the Giants ultimately prevailed, the team’s success brought about a baseball renaissance in Kansas City, leading to passionate and raucous crowds at Kaufman Stadium throughout the entire postseason. Now, GM Dayton Moore and his staff must determine how best to position the team for a repeat of that success despite several escalating salaries and the departures of key free agents.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (Service time in parentheses; projections via Matt Swartz)

Free Agents

Other payroll obligations

  • $1MM owed to Bruce Chen for buyout of 2015 option

The Royals opened the 2014 season with a payroll just over $92MM, and they’re already at $52.75MM in 2015 simply by exercising their option on Wade Davis and buying out the option on Billy Butler. That figure doesn’t include arbitration raises for any of the many arb-eligible players, nor does it include pre-arbitration players to round out the roster. Going off Matt Swartz’s projections, arbitration alone figures to boost the Royals up to $81MM in guarantees — a figure that would jump into the mid-$80MMs when factoring in pre-arb salaries.

There isn’t much room between that projection and the Opening Day payroll of 2014, but of course, there will be extra funds to spend thanks to the team’s deep postseason run. Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star wrote recently that the payroll could surpass $100MM for the first time, meaning GM Dayton Moore could have a fairly well-stocked war chest for the offseason. McCullough reported that room for one fairly significant addition does seem to exist.

Perhaps the biggest area of concern for the Royals will be in the starting rotation. Although the team is said to have a strong desire to retain James Shields, odds are that another team will outbid the Royals by a fairly significant margin. That would leave the club with a rotation consisting of Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas, Danny Duffy and Jeremy Guthrie. The team does fancy Brandon Finnegan an eventual starter despite his key role in the postseason bullpen, but dropping him right into the fire from day one next season might be ambitious. He threw just 40 innings between the Royals (minors, regular season and postseason) plus another 105 2/3 innings at TCU last year.

The free agent market features a number of second-tier options at starting pitcher, and though the top names among that second tier — Brandon McCarthy, Francisco Liriano, Kenta Maeda and old friend Ervin Santana — could command average annual values north of $12MM on multi-year commitments, that seems to be within the Royals’ means. Indeed, McCullough specifically listed Santana as a target for the Royals when writing about the payroll, and there’s said to be mutual interest between the two sides. Of course, if Moore doesn’t want to spend most of his available money in one place, he could look to more affordable arms like Jason Hammel or try to catch lightning in a bottle by signing Brett Anderson or Brandon Morrow in hopes of getting 150+ innings of strong production should either finally remain healthy.

An alternative solution is the trade market. Reports have already indicated that the Royals will at least listen on some names they’d likely be loath to move, including Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. However, in my eyes, the clearest area for the team to shed some payroll is by breaking up the core of the “big three” relievers that gained so much notoriety in this year’s postseason. Greg Holland could stage a legitimate argument for being the game’s best closer, but he’s also projected to earn a whopping $9.3MM next season — a mark that represents about 10 percent of Kansas City’s Opening Day payroll from 2014. Combining to pay Holland and Davis $16.3MM seems a luxury that is too much for Kansas City to afford. However, with two years of team control remaining, Holland will be an attractive asset even with his quickly escalating salary and could fetch some strong young talent in a trade. Davis could slot into the closer’s role, with Herrera becoming the primary setup man. Given Davis’ club options for 2016 ($8MM) and 2017 ($10M), the additional saves won’t drive up his price tag through arbitration as they would Holland’s. Moore has stated that he thinks the team can afford both, however, and the Royals are reportedly even looking to add to their bullpen, so that speculation may be far-fetched, but it does carry some logic, in my mind.

Around the infield, the Royals are set at nearly every position. Catcher Salvador Perez is one of the game’s best bargains, Hosmer will look to return to his 2013 offensive production, Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar will form the double-play tandem, and Mike Moustakas will hope to build off a sound postseason in which he flashed legitimate power. It’s worth debating whether or not the team could look to upgrade over Hosmer and Moustakas, each of whom has disappointed to some level (Moustakas in particular, at the plate at least), but both have been looked at as cornerstone pieces in the past and both possess significant upside that makes it difficult for Kansas City to go in another direction. At the very least, a right-handed platoon option that can handle either corner infield spot seems like it would be a wise acquisition.

In the outfield, Alex Gordon may be baseball’s best left fielder, and the team can either choose to lean on Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson in center/right or platoon the two and pursue an external right fielder. A reunion with Aoki, to whom they’ve already been connected, can’t be ruled out. The Royals are also reportedly interested in Torii Hunter, and had been listed as a serious suitor for Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, though he is reportedly off the market. An additional (and completely speculative) target could be Justin Upton, who’s owed $14.5MM next year before hitting the open market. Moore knows the Atlanta brass well, and Upton would add some legitimate power (at the expense of defensive value). And, he could net the team a draft pick next winter if he signed elsewhere. However, Atlanta would ask for some high-upside names, likely pitchers, and if the Braves want a Major League ready starter, as they got for Jason Heyward, the very mention of the names “Duffy” or “Ventura” would likely end those talks before they began in earnest.

Another question for the Royals will be how to replace longtime DH Billy Butler, who signed a three-year, $30MM contract with the A’s last week. Kansas City could look to Mike Morse as a DH or attempt to buy low on Corey Hart or Kendrys Morales if the preference is to avoid spending big on designated hitter (which would explain Butler’s departure). They could also elect to use DH as a spot to give Gordon, Hosmer, Moustakas and a potential free agent outfield addition some rest (particularly if K.C. ends up adding an older veteran like Hunter). In the conference call discussing Butler’s departure, Moore told reporters, including MLBTR’s own Zach Links, that he was open to either scenario — a dedicated DH or a rotation to keep multiple regulars fresh.

One final piece for Kansas City could be a bullpen arm. Free agent Jason Frasor pitched well in Kansas City after being acquired from Texas and will leave a void in bridging the gap from starter to closer. A reunion could make sense, as he figures to land a one-year deal at a modest cost and knows the team well. Otherwise, I’d peg Kansas City as a potential landing spot for Pat Neshek, Jason Grilli and other solid arms that won’t come with an exorbitant annual value.

In the end, the Royals should be able to boost payroll above $100MM this offseason, but the large arbitration raises due for their core players will prevent them from spending too freely. Moore and his staff could very well look to the trade market to alleviate some of that pressure. The cost-controlled core that is in place should provide the foundation for another run at an AL Central title, so long as the team is able to replace the value lost by Shields’ seemingly inevitable departure. Significant steps forward from Hosmer or Moustakas may take care of that on their own, but Kansas City would be wise to supplement the roster so that those steps forward would be a bonus rather than a necessity.


Yasmany Tomas Rumors: Wednesday

The Padres and Diamondbacks both found themselves in yesterday’s Yasmany Tomas rumors, as it was reported that the D’Backs have very legitimate interest, while the Padres were said not to have a long-standing offer to Tomas (though not the largest which he has received). We’ll track today’s Tomas rumors in this post…

  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart discussed his club’s interest with Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic (Twitter links: 1, 2, 3, 4.) Stewart says that no formal offer has been issued, but that Tomas and his reps know the kind of deal — longer, with a lower AAV — that Arizona is interested in. The club is not sure how competitive it is at this point, or where the other bidders stand, but Stewart suggested he had reason to believe that Tomas is looking for a bigger deal than the Rusney Castillo contract. Also, the D’Backs would be interested in deploying Tomas as an outfielder, not at third.
  • Tomas is in the process of sorting through offers from at least the Braves, Diamondbacks, Padres, and Giants, reports Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. San Diego is not believed to have the top offer on the table at present, adds Sanchez. The Phillies are still interested, though their concerns with the price tag remain.

Earlier Updates

  • Tomas is weighing both short- and long-term offers from clubs, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Reports over the past week have indicated that Tomas could be open to taking a shorter term pact. Rosenthal mentions a possible three-year deal (presumably at a higher annual value), which would allow Tomas to secure his first fortune, potentially establish himself as a productive power bat and then hit the open market in the midst of his prime. He also tweets that while the D’Backs are reported to have become more aggressive along with the Braves, Padres and Giants, Tomas’ situation is the type in which we cannot rule out mystery teams.
  • Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune gets the sense that some feel a Tomas signing could boost or sink A.J. Preller’s career as a GM, which is one reason that the Padres might potentially be interested in a shorter-term deal (Twitter links).
  • The Braves have shown an increased interest in Tomas since trading Jason Heyward, reports MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Atlanta sent another group of officials to the Dominican Republic to scout Tomas yesterday. Among those in attendance were assistant GM John Coppolella, top international scout Gordon Blakeley, manager Fredi Gonzalez and hitting coach Kevin Seitzer.


Shortstop Rumors: Rollins, Tulo, Dodgers, Miller

The Yankees called the Phillies to ask about the availability of Jimmy Rollins, reports ESPN’s Jayson Stark, but the asking price was deemed too high and the Bombers have since moved on (All Twitter links). GM Ruben Amaro Jr. wouldn’t comment to Stark on the Yankees’ interest, but he tells Stark that Rollins is still one of the best shortstops in baseball and would therefore want a lot in return. Amaro adds that Rollins would be “very hard to replace” and is someone the Phillies want on their team. According to Stark, Rollins was never even approached by the team to ask if he would waive his no-trade clause to accept a trade to New York. Throwing even more cold water on the idea of a match, Stark reports (Twitter links) that the Yankees were offering only a “utility player” and that Rollins was not interested in playing in New York.

Here are some more notes pertaining to shortstops from around the league…

  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports that while the thought of Troy Tulowitzki heading to the Yankees in a trade has long been considered a long shot, there are “recent, strong indications” that there’s absolutely no chance of such a trade. The Yankees are showing a real reluctance to take on another significant contract, and the six-year, $114 commitment Tulowitzki has remaining has no appeal.
  • Not only that, Martino hears from executives with interested teams that over the past two weeks, the Rockies have given the impression that Tulowitzki is simply unavailable.
  • The Dodgers are in the market for a stopgap to serve as a bridge to top prospect Corey Seager, reports MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. The team feels that while whoever mans shortstop for them in 2015 won’t have the offensive talent of Hanley Ramirez, he will provide a marked defensive difference that offsets some loss of offense. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and several Dodgers decision-makers watched Seager in the Arizona Fall League, and Friedman disagreed with scouts who feel that Seager will have to move to third base. Said Friedman: “I’m convinced that I would not move him off shortstop right now — his hands work really well, and we have a number of guys who think he has a real chance to stick there.”
  • In a video blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney notes that while three big-market teams — the Yankees, Mets and Dodgers — have a need at shortstop, the perception among executives is that there just isn’t much to be had. Executives feel that they could “absolutely” call the Mariners about Brad Miller, says Olney, but he’s been inconsistent at the plate. Stephen Drew hasn’t hit consistently over the past three seasons, either. Rollins has 10-and-5 rights and hasn’t given an inclination that he wants to approve a trade. And free agent Jed Lowrie is viewed by many teams as more of a second baseman than a shortstop.

Royals Acquire Ryan Jackson From Dodgers

The Dodgers announced that they have traded recently designated infielder Ryan Jackson to the Royals in exchange for cash consideration.

The 26-year-old Jackson has just two hits in 25 career plate appearances in the Majors. The Dodgers claimed Jackson off waivers from the Padres, and many speculated that former San Diego GM Josh Byrnes, now working in the Dodgers’ front office, had a hand in that decision. However, the Dodgers opted to designate Jackson for assignment when they acquired right-hander Juan Nicasio — a fellow DFA victim — from the Rockies.

A shortstop by trade, Jackson is a career .274/.344/.369 hitter at the Triple-A level. He missed most of the 2014 season recovering from surgery on his right wrist.


Reds Notes: Promotions, Free Agents, Frazier, Leake

Earlier this month, the Reds made their front office addition of Kevin Towers official, but that’s far from the only change they made. As MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports, the Reds have also promoted VP of baseball operations Dick Williams to VP/assistant general manager, giving him a larger role in the club’s decision-making process. Presumably, he’ll assume some of the responsibilities of well-regarded veteran AGM Bob Miller, who is now with the Nationals. Promoted to senior director positions were Nick Krall (baseball operations) and Sam Grossman (analytics). As for Towers’ official title, he will be a special assistant to GM Walt Jocketty, as will fellow new hire Jeff Schugel, who worked with Atlanta in a similar capacity last year.

Here are some more Reds notes…

  • In a second column, Sheldon examines some free agent outfield options that are on the Reds’ radar or at least should be, in his eyes. Sheldon lists Nori Aoki, Mike Morse, Torii Hunter, Colby Rasmus, Alex Rios and Chris Denorfia as potential fits, though he notes that sources have indicated to him there’s been no contact with Hunter or Denorfia to this point. Interest in Aoki and Morse has been confirmed by Jocketty, but it’s unclear whether the Reds have touched base with Rasmus or Rios.
  • John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer looks at how the Mariners’ reported extension of Kyle Seager has increased the price of a potential extension for Todd Frazier. Both third basemen are arbitration-eligible for the first time (or Seager was, prior to his extension, at least). Frazier is a year older than Seager but the two posted very similar batting lines in 2014, have good defensive marks and are comparable in terms of WAR. I’d think Frazier’s case is a bit weaker due to a less consistent offensive track record and the age difference, but the two are certainly comparable. Seager’s extension is said to be worth $100MM over seven seasons.
  • In this week’s edition of the MLBTR Podcast, site owner Tim Dierkes chatted with host Jeff Todd about speculation surrounding the Reds and Red Sox as trade partners. The Reds could theoretically benefit from Cespedes’ bat and have comparably priced pitchers to trade, leading some to wonder about a potential deal with Cespedes and Mat Latos. However, Tim posits that Mike Leake could be a safer option for the Red Sox as a centerpiece in a Cespedes trade, given his clean injury history. Leake’s taken a step forward over the past two seasons, pitching to a combined 3.54 ERA in 406 2/3 innings in Cincinnati’s very hitter-friendly stadium. Latos made just 16 starts and lost nearly two mph off his fastball. Tim and I have discussed this scenario as well. We both agree that Leake, who would hit the market at the young age of 28 next offseason, could net his 2015 club a draft pick assuming he isn’t traded midseason and is capable of turning in something in the vicinity of the 104 ERA+ he’s notched over the past two seasons.

Rays Sign Ernesto Frieri, Designate Sean Rodriguez

The Rays announced that they have signed right-hander Ernesto Frieri to a one-year, Major League contract. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that Frieri, a client of agent Matt Colleran, will earn an $800K base salary and can take home a total of $3.15MM if he meets all of his contract’s performance incentives. To clear roster space, The Rays announced that they have designated infielder Sean Rodriguez for assignment.

Frieri, formerly the Angels’ closer, had a down year in 2014 after posting a 2.76 ERA from 2009-13 between the Padres and Halos. He’s always missed a large number of bats and did so again in 2014, averaging 10.4 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9 in 41 2/3 innings. However, Frieri’s ERA spiked to 7.31 due to a bloated 19.3 percent homer-to-flyball ratio that is likely to dip back down toward his career rate of roughly 10 percent next season. He also saw his typically excellent strand rate plummet to 60.9 percent. The Angels flipped him to the Pirates in a one-for-one swap that netted Jason Grilli and ultimately got the better end of the deal, as Frieri would be designated for assignment by Pittsburgh after struggling there as well.

Frieri seems to be a classic buy-low candidate for a Rays team that has successfully turned around the careers of many struggling veterans in the past. He averaged a solid 94 mph on his fastball in 2014, and metrics such as xFIP (3.67) and SIERA (2.96) feel that he is an excellent candidate to return to form this season. There’s upside beyond the 2015 campaign for the Rays as well, as Frieri can be controlled through 2016 if he rebounds.

Rodriguez, also 29, batted just .211 with a .258 on-base percentage but a career-best .443 slugging percentage. The utility infielder did hit a career-high 12 homers, but the Rays apparently weren’t comfortable paying him something in the $2MM range projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.


Orioles Acquire Scott Barnes

The Orioles announced that they have acquired left-hander Scott Barnes from the Indians in exchange for cash considerations. Additionally, they’ve officially announced their previously reported signing of Rey Navarro to a Major League deal.

Barnes, 27, was designated for assignment by Cleveland on Sunday. He didn’t pitch in the Majors in 2014 but did in 2012-13, totaling 27 2/3 innings of 5.20 ERA ball with 8.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. Barnes has a 4.33 ERA in 199 1/3 Triple-A innings but a highly impressive 10.2 K/9 rate against a 4.2 BB/9 rate at that level. In 2014, he posted a 3.69 ERA at that level and held opposing lefties to a paltry .191/.296/.255 batting line.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette tells MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko that the Orioles are impressed by Barnes’ sharp slider, which he can use effectively against both right- and left-handed hitters (Twitter link).


Indians Out On Headley, Interested In Morales, Denorfia

Although the Indians were connected to free agent third baseman Chase Headley as recently as last night, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Headley won’t be coming to Cleveland, as he’s considered too expensive. The Indians did indeed reach out to Headley’s camp a few times before making that assertion, Hoynes adds.

Cleveland might not be a significant player on the free agent market at all, Hoynes writes, though they have contacted the agents for Kendrys Morales and Chris Denorfia. Cleveland’s interest in Morales dates back to 2006 when he was a free agent defector from Cuba. The switch-hitting Scott Boras client struggled in 2014, hitting a combined .218/.274/.338 in 401 plate appearances between the Twins and Mariners. However, Morales may have struggled due to sitting out through June 8, and he did enter the 2014 season as a lifetime .280/.333/.480 hitter in eight seasons. As Hoynes notes, Morales would become a more plausible target for the Indians if they’re able to unload Nick Swisher‘s contract, which they’ve reportedly been trying to do.

Denorfia, 34, also struggled in 2014, batting .230/.284/.318 between the Padres and Mariners. While he’s never had Morales’ upside at the plate, Denorfia has a long track record of hitting left-handed pitching and has excellent defensive marks in both outfield corners (plus the ability to play center in a pinch). A career .292/.358/.430 hitter against left-handed pitching, Denorfia could provide the Indians with a solid glove to pair with David Murphy in an outfield platoon, as Murphy hit just .238/.279/.325 against lefties last year and has a history of struggles against same-handed pitching.


Padres Focusing On Trade Market, Yasmany Tomas

The Padres missed out on Pablo Sandoval, who signed with the Red Sox earlier today, and MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports that the they are now heavily focused on trades, although Yasmany Tomas appears to be one notable exception. According to Brock, the Padres are believed to have reached out to the Red Sox regarding Yoenis Cespedes‘ availability.

Cespedes, 29, would become San Diego’s top power threat, though he’s only under control through the 2015 season and has a contractual clause preventing him from receiving a qualifying offer. However, as Brock notes (and as many others have speculated), a trade centering around Ian Kennedy and Cespedes would seem to be a fair swap of comparably priced players with only one year of control remaining. Cespedes is earning $10.5MM in 2015, and MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects Kennedy to earn $10.3MM. San Diego has a wealth of pitching talent but little in the way of outfield bats, and the Red Sox have the opposite problem. Boston also added Hanley Ramirez on a four-year deal today and announced him as their new left fielder, leaving little doubt that Cespedes could be had on the trade market. At this time, however, Brock notes that it’s unclear just how serious the Friars are about working on a Cespedes trade. GM A.J. Preller is tirelessly exploring possibilities, so there’s no guarantee to this point that Cespedes is a top target.

In addition to Cespedes, names like Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Matt Kemp, Michael Saunders, Dexter Fowler, Allen Craig and Matt Joyce have seen their names surface in trade rumors over the past week or two.

As for Tomas, Brock hears from a source that San Diego has had an offer on the table for some time now, but Tomas has yet to make a decision. San Diego’s offer is not the highest for Tomas, Brock reports. However, they’re still in the running at this time, and he Brock wonders if missing out on Sandoval will cause the Padres to raise their offer. He adds that Preller was in the Dominican Republic on Saturday to meet with Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou.

Tomas notwithstanding, it’s unsurprising to see the Padres focus more heavily on the trade market. Petco Park’s reputation as a pitchers’ haven makes it tough for the Padres to land free agent bats, and their pursuit of Sandoval is a perfect example. Reports have indicated that the Padres actually offered Sandoval a longer contract than either the Red Sox or Giants, but Sandoval still declined in favor of a lesser guarantee in a more hitter-friendly environment.