- Rangers Release Ryan Ludwick
- Brewers Release Chris Perez
- Mike Pelfrey Walks Back Trade Comments
- Mariners Prospect Victor Sanchez Dies
- Mets, Lucas Duda Discussing Extension
- Nate Schierholtz Opts Out Of Deal With Rangers
- Cubs Release Felix Doubront
- Rangers Acquire Sam Freeman From Cardinals
- Angels Release Matt Lindstrom
- Twins’ Lewis Thorpe To Have Tommy John Surgery
Trade Rumors Apps
- Trade Rumors iOS App
- Trade Rumors Android App
- MLBTR Podcast
- 2014-15 MLB Free Agent Tracker
- 2015 MLB Free Agent List
- 2015 Arbitration Tracker
- Projected Arbitration Salaries For 2015
- Free Agent Contest Leaderboard
- Reverse Standings
- 2016 MLB Free Agent List
- Transaction Tracker
- DFA Tracker
- Agency Database
- Hot Stove Glossary
- MLBTR On Facebook
- MLBTR On Twitter
- Team Twitter/RSS Feeds
- Team Facebook Pages
- Hoops Rumors
- Pro Football Rumors
- West Notes: Rockies, Rosario, Heaney, Tropeano
- East Notes: Herrera, Lough, Rays
- Central Notes: Garcia, Marcum, Brewers, Ramirez
- Rangers Release Ryan Ludwick
- MLBTR Originals
- Brewers Release Chris Perez
- Nationals Notes: Uggla, Janssen, Injuries, Strasburg, Zimmermann
- Minor Moves: Burton, Garner, Toles
- Twins Outright Stephen Pryor
- Mike Pelfrey Walks Back Trade Comments
- AL Notes: Wright, Vazquez, Russell, Pelfrey
- Why I Chose My Agency: Cody Asche
- Blue Jays Claim Andy Wilkins
- Cafardo On Porcello, Chacin, Kimbrel
- Joe Blanton Nearing Opt Out Date
MLBTR Mailing List
Rumors by team
- Angels Rumors
- Astros Rumors
- Athletics Rumors
- Blue Jays Rumors
- Braves Rumors
- Brewers Rumors
- Cardinals Rumors
- Cubs Rumors
- Diamondbacks Rumors
- Dodgers Rumors
- Giants Rumors
- Indians Rumors
- Mariners Rumors
- Marlins Rumors
- Mets Rumors
- Nationals Rumors
- Orioles Rumors
- Padres Rumors
- Phillies Rumors
- Pirates Rumors
- Rangers Rumors
- Rays Rumors
- Red Sox Rumors
- Reds Rumors
- Rockies Rumors
- Royals Rumors
- Tigers Rumors
- Twins Rumors
- White Sox Rumors
- Yankees Rumors
Author Archives: Tim Dierkes
The White Sox had an active, successful offseason in which they upgraded their pitching staff and imported multiple bats.
Major League Signings
- David Robertson, RP: Four years, $46MM
- Melky Cabrera, LF: Three years, $42MM
- Adam LaRoche, 1B: Two years, $25MM
- Zach Duke, RP: Three years, $15MM
- Emilio Bonifacio, 2B/CF: One year, $4MM. Includes $4MM club option for 2016 with a $1MM buyout.
- Gordon Beckham, 2B/3B: One year, $2MM
- Total spend: $134MM
Notable Minor League Signings
- Geovany Soto, Matt Albers, Brad Penny, Jesse Crain, Scott Carroll, Logan Kensing, Joe Savery, George Kottaras, Andy LaRoche, Engel Beltre, Zach Phillips
Trades And Claims
- Claimed OF J.B. Shuck off waivers from Indians
- Claimed RP Onelki Garcia off waivers from Dodgers
- Claimed C Rob Brantly off waivers from Marlins
- Acquired SP Jeff Samardzija and RP Michael Ynoa from Athletics for IF Marcus Semien, SP Chris Bassitt, C Josh Phegley, and 1B Rangel Ravelo
- Acquired RP Dan Jennings from Marlins for SP Andre Rienzo
- Acquired 1B/3B Neftali Soto from Reds for cash considerations
- Adam Eaton, CF: five years, $23.5MM. Includes $9.5MM club option for 2020 with a $1.5MM buyout and $10.5MM club option for 2021 with a $1.5MM buyout.
- Dayan Viciedo, Paul Konerko, Jordan Danks, Ronald Belisario, Matt Lindstrom, Felipe Paulino, Marcus Semien, Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley, Rangel Ravelo, Andre Rienzo, Moises Sierra, Taylor Thompson
With core players Jose Abreu, Chris Sale, and Jose Quintana signed to affordable contracts, the White Sox were expected to take an aggressive approach to the offseason to fill their needs. They met with Pablo Sandoval‘s agent at the GM Meetings in November, and had Victor Martinez on their wish list as well. Around this time GM Rick Hahn also quietly explored trading for Jason Heyward, which wasn’t reported until this month. Martinez re-signed quickly with the Tigers, however, so Hahn signed Adam LaRoche at less than 40% of the commitment Martinez required.
The price difference between LaRoche and Martinez reflects the fact that Martinez is a better hitter, of course. Still, the White Sox got their coveted left-handed bat without taking on the risk of Martinez’s age 36-39 seasons. Plus, bringing in a more capable defensive first baseman in LaRoche should help keep Abreu healthy.
The White Sox continued moving quickly by signing lefty reliever Zach Duke to a three-year, $15MM deal in mid-November. Such a contract would have seemed absurd less than a year prior, as Duke had joined the Brewers on a minor league deal in January. Duke was quietly dominant for the Brewers in 2014 after making a series of adjustments to his pitch mix and arm slot. No team likes signing a reliever to a three-year deal, especially one with such a brief track record of success. Only three other relievers received deals of three or more years this offseason, and one of those was also with the White Sox. Still, the third year for Duke was the cost of doing business, and waiting until January for bargains is risky in its own way.
Hahn owned the first night of the Winter Meetings, grabbing headlines by closing in on a trade for Jeff Samardzija and a free agent contract for David Robertson in the course of a few hours. The Samardzija trade was a big win for the White Sox. I do see the sneaky value in the players the A’s acquired — lower ceiling players who are mostly considered to be solid-average regulars by Baseball America. Still, they were all players Chicago could afford to surrender to acquire one year of a potential front-rotation arm (plus perhaps an accompanying draft pick if Samardzija departs via free agency). The White Sox would have had to take on a lot more risk in the free agent market to bring in a pitcher of Samardzija’s caliber. In Sale, Samardzija, and Quintana, Hahn has assembled one of the better rotation trios in the game.
In Robertson, the White Sox acquired the offseason’s best available reliever at market price. It’s interesting to note that Robertson apparently had another team offer even more than $46MM. As with Duke, the term is not ideal, but it was necessary to sign the elite stopper. $61MM is a lot to spend on commitments to relievers in one offseason, but the White Sox had very few dollars invested into their bullpen prior to Robertson and Duke. Spending that much money is kind of a blunt-force way of addressing the team’s biggest problem, but it should work pretty well in the short term. The Sox also complemented their bullpen by acquiring southpaw Dan Jennings from Miami.
Hahn continued going down his long list of offseason upgrades, signing Melky Cabrera to a three-year, $42MM deal to play left field. (We’ll have more on that signing in the Deal of Note section.) After Cabrera, free agents Emilio Bonifacio, Gordon Beckham, and Geovany Soto were added as versatile bench pieces. Getting Soto on a minor league deal was a plus. Matt Albers and Jesse Crain were also added on minor league deals.
A five-year, $23.5MM extension for center fielder Adam Eaton capped Chicago’s busy offseason. The talented 26-year-old missed 124 games due to injuries over the past two seasons, but the White Sox balanced that risk with reasonable salaries and a pair of club options at the end.
With top prospect Carlos Rodon a phone call away, maybe rotation depth won’t prove to be a problem for the White Sox. Still, the rotation looks strong when Sale, Samardzija, and Quintana are pitching, and vulnerable the other 40% of the time with Hector Noesi, John Danks, Rodon, and maybe Brad Penny. The Sox are still tied up with $28.5MM owed to Danks through 2016.
I raised the question of catching in my Offseason Outlook, and some alternatives and/or backups to Tyler Flowers were added in Soto, Rob Brantly, and George Kottaras. The Sox did reportedly poke around on the Astros’ Jason Castro and discussed Miguel Montero with the Diamondbacks, so alternatives to Flowers were considered. Catching still seems like a weak point in both the short and long-term.
There’s also the issue of executive vice president and former GM Ken Williams. It was revealed in December that the Blue Jays sought to interview Williams to be their president/CEO, but White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf declined to grant them permission, and considered the attempt to be tampering. Ultimately the Blue Jays retained Paul Beeston for one more year, and Williams doesn’t appear to begrudge Reinsdorf about the situation, perhaps because the Jays’ timing was indeed terrible. Williams’ future with the White Sox bears watching though.
Deal Of Note
Melky Cabrera entered the offseason as our fourth-ranked free agent hitter, and many of us at MLBTR thought he would get the five-year deal he sought. While there was reportedly one four-year offer, Cabrera settled for three years from the White Sox. Even accounting for his 2012 PED suspension, qualifying offer, and below-average defense, it was surprising he didn’t sign for more money in a thin market for bats. It works very well for the White Sox, who committed less to Cabrera and LaRoche than the Tigers did just to Martinez, diversifying their risk in the process.
We know “winning the offseason” doesn’t mean much once games start, but the White Sox entered the winter with a long list of needs and filled most of them, finding a few relative bargains along the way. Hahn has assembled a much more interesting team that should be in contention in 2015.
Photo courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports Images
The Cubs made multiple splashes this winter, spending big to bring in Jon Lester and Joe Maddon while also rounding out their rotation and adding a new starting catcher and center fielder.
Major League Signings
- Jon Lester, SP: six years, $155MM. $25MM mutual option for 2021 with a $10MM buyout. Guaranteed with 200 innings in 2020 or 400 in 2019-20. Full no-trade clause.
- Jason Hammel, SP: two years, $20MM. $12MM club option for 2017 with a $2MM buyout. May void based on 2016 performance.
- David Ross, C: two years, $5MM.
- Jason Motte, RP: one year, $4.5MM.
- Tsuyoshi Wada, SP: one year, $4MM.
- Chris Denorfia, OF: one year, $2.6MM.
- Jacob Turner, SP: one year, $1MM (club option exercised).
- Total spend: $192.1MM.
- Joe Maddon, Manager: five years, $25MM.
Notable Minor League Signings
- Phil Coke, Francisley Bueno, Daniel Bard, Jonathan Herrera, Mike Baxter, Adron Chambers, Taylor Teagarden, Chris Valaika, Pedro Feliciano
Trades And Claims
- Claimed RP Joe Ortiz off waivers from Rangers.
- Claimed RP Donn Roach off waivers from Padres.
- Acquired IF Tommy La Stella from Braves for RP Arodys Vizcaino. Deal included swap of international bonus slots that netted Braves $832K in pool money.
- Acquired C Miguel Montero from Diamondbacks for RP Zack Godley and RP Jeferson Mejia.
- Acquired cash from Angels for Rule 5 pick Taylor Featherston.
- Acquired RP Matt Brazis from Mariners for OF Justin Ruggiano.
- Claimed RP Mike Kickham off waivers from Giants. Later traded to Mariners for SP Lars Huijer.
- Acquired CF Dexter Fowler from Astros for IF Luis Valbuena and SP Dan Straily.
- Claimed RP Gonzalez Germen off waivers from Rangers.
- Claimed RP Drake Britton off waivers from Red Sox.
Manager Joe Maddon surprised the baseball world by opting out of his Rays contract in late October, a clause triggered when top executive Andrew Friedman jumped to the Dodgers. Cubs manager Rick Renteria was fired a week later. In a statement on Halloween, Cubs president Theo Epstein explained he made the difficult decision to be loyal to the organization rather than being loyal to Renteria, who had been expected to manage the Cubs in 2015. Maddon’s deal with the Cubs was announced hours later.
The Rays contend Maddon opted out after talking to the Cubs, and MLB is investigating the Cubs for tampering. In February, new Commissioner Rob Manfred said a decision regarding that charge will be made prior to Opening Day. Aside from perhaps strained relations between the two clubs, it’s difficult to imagine the Cubs suffering any penalty of consequence even if they are found guilty. The series of events feels a little dirty, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports put it, but in the end, the Cubs now have one of the best-regarded managers in baseball.
After declining a $5MM option on Wada, the Cubs inked him to a non-guaranteed deal worth $4MM. The 34-year-old showed promise as a back-rotation option in a small sample of 13 starts in 2014, and the cost was minimal. Travis Wood was also retained, with an arbitration contract worth $5.685MM. He’s consistently shown the skills of a 4.40 ERA pitcher. With Wood a borderline non-tender candidate and Wada potentially ticketed for Triple-A to start the season, it’s fair to ask whether the Cubs could have found a better way to spend nearly $10MM.
Also in November, the Cubs picked up La Stella in a trade with the Braves. Though GM Jed Hoyer insisted the move wasn’t a precursor to anything, La Stella fits nicely as a replacement for Valbuena, who was traded in January. We’ll look at that trade under the Deal Of Note section.
The Cubs had a functional catcher under control in Welington Castillo, but clearly felt that was an area to upgrade. They kicked off their offseason with a pursuit of Russell Martin, by far the best available option. The Cubs ended up finishing in second on Martin, though there’s no evidence they got close to the five-year, $82MM deal he signed with the Blue Jays.
Though it was thought the Cubs were in the Martin market rather than the catching market, they executed on Plan B by acquiring Montero during the Winter Meetings. With a minimal cost in prospects, the acquisition was akin to signing Montero to a three-year, $40MM free agent deal (the amount remaining on his contract). The Montero and Ross acquisitions suggest a conscious effort to improve the team’s pitch-framing, an area in which Castillo rates poorly. Veteran leadership was also a factor.
Still, there’s a reason a willingness to take on Montero’s contract was most of what was needed to acquire him – the 31-year-old hit .237/.324/.358 over the last two seasons and makes more than $13MM annually through 2017. In Montero, Wood, Motte, Denorfia, and Ross, the Cubs took on almost $58MM in commitments to five players who weren’t very good in 2014.
The Cubs also brought Hammel back as the Winter Meetings began, locking in their secondary rotation piece at a lower than expected price. It was thought that Hammel might command a three-year deal, but perhaps he was just motivated to return to Chicago. The Cubs had reportedly looked at Justin Masterson as an alternative; he signed a one-year, $9.5MM deal with Boston.
The Winter Meetings was also the site of the Cubs’ biggest winter splash, as they completed their tense pursuit of Lester with the largest contract in franchise history. The lofty $155MM price tag matched expectations, and after years of conserving payroll, the Cubs can certainly afford it. The Cubs need their new ace to be a workhorse, a trait that’s missing from the team’s other projected starters. Any deal of this magnitude and length for a starting pitcher carries a lot of risk, but the Lester signing addressed the team’s biggest need without sacrificing young cornerstone players or a draft pick.
Also in December, the Cubs picked up Motte on a low-risk deal to complement their bullpen. The former Cardinals closer will be two years removed from Tommy John surgery in May. The Cubs’ bullpen could be deep if Motte rediscovers his 2012 form.
As James Shields‘ free agency dragged into February, the Cubs got involved in hopes of a bargain. According to Pat Mooney of CSNChicago.com, “The Cubs made Shields a backloaded offer that started at $60 million over four years. That morphed into a three-year, $60 million concept that included a significant amount of deferred money and a vesting option that would still cap the overall value at less than $80 million.”
As with Martin, the Cubs finished in second, but nowhere close to the player’s ultimate contract. Shields would have gone a long way toward answering the Cubs’ remaining rotation question marks. Even if Lester’s spring “dead arm” phase turns out to be nothing, none of the Cubs’ No. 2-4 starters (Jake Arrieta, Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks) have ever pitched 185 innings in a season. The Cubs have also shown continued interest in Cole Hamels. Such a deal could potentially happen this summer if the Cubs are willing to take the hit in giving up a young potential star.
The Cubs made the wise and expected choice to keep starting shortstop Starlin Castro, as the team’s impressive infield depth behind him has yet to fully arrive. The long-term look of the Cubs’ middle infield may start to be determined this year, depending on how Addison Russell, Javier Baez, and Arismendy Alcantara perform. Could Castro be moved this summer? We have seen that move from Theo Epstein’s playbook once before. For now, it will be Baez and Castro at second base and shortstop, with Russell potentially ready by midseason. Alcantara is valuable now in a super-utility role. The surplus has yet to manifest itself.
The Cubs have more immediate roster issues to address before the April 5th opener. With no strong offers for Castillo, the team is currently leaning toward opening the season with three catchers (none of whom can play another position). Epstein says Maddon has been “pounding the table” for three catchers, but it reduces the team’s flexibility if non-catchers need days off. The versatility of Alcantara, La Stella, and Denorfia would be crucial in a three-catcher scenario.
The Cubs also don’t have enough bullpen spots to retain everyone currently on their 40-man roster. Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez, Jason Motte, Justin Grimm, and Phil Coke appear locked in, leaving one spot for Edwin Jackson and out of options relievers Drake Britton and Felix Doubront (assuming Wada goes to the minors or the DL). The disabled list could solve this logjam, or the Cubs can just release the worst two of the three.
Perhaps the biggest question for Cubs fans is, “When will Kris Bryant join the roster?” The third base phenom has clubbed nine home runs in 11 spring training games, but the Cubs would lose the ability to control him for the 2021 season if they put him on the Opening Day roster. Stashing him in Iowa for a few more weeks is the prudent thing to do, even if agent Scott Boras thinks the Cubs are “damaging the ethics and brand of Major League Baseball.”
I do want to play devil’s advocate to the commonly accepted wisdom that Bryant should not open the season with the Cubs. Say the Cubs wait until April 15th, meaning Bryant misses out on the bare minimum of eight potential big league games. Projections suggest the Cubs are sacrificing less than 0.3 wins above replacement in this scenario. However, I don’t think WAR was meant to be employed this way, and a player with Bryant’s talent could easily affect the outcome of one or two games within eight (or more). A single well-timed home run can do that. And the Cubs could easily miss the playoffs by one game this year. The 2010 Braves opened the season with Jason Heyward and won the Wild Card by one game. I’d probably cook up a reason to hold off on selecting Bryant’s contract, perhaps health or defense-related, but I don’t think it’s open-and-shut.
Deal Of Note
The Cubs’ January acquisition of Dexter Fowler may have flown under the radar because of Lester. The trade, which sent Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily to Houston, was a better allocation of resources for both teams. The Cubs didn’t have a true center fielder on the roster, and mostly because of Bryant, they didn’t really need Valbuena (the game’s 15th-best third baseman by WAR in 2014). Fowler projects for the highest on-base percentage on the Cubs, and the team thinks it found a way he can improve defensively. Beyond defensive concerns, Fowler has battled health issues. But if all goes well, he could be a qualifying offer candidate for the Cubs after the season.
The Cubs flirted with some huge moves in the 2013-14 offseason, and a year later they finally brought in their big-name manager and ace starter. Still, they’re keeping a relatively low payroll to start 2015, and probably could have afforded and justified an all-in plunge for Lester, Martin, and one of Shields, Ervin Santana, or Brandon McCarthy.
Second-guessing aside, the stakes are high for the first time in Theo Epstein’s tenure. The Cubs will be viewed as a disappointment if they don’t make the playoffs. They appear to be primed for sustained success, but it would be nice to get some actual wins on the board.
Opening Night is less than two weeks away, and none of the top ten free agents from the first installment of our Power Rankings seem close to an extension. It’s time for an update.
As a reminder, these rankings represent the earning power in terms of total contract size, assuming everyone reaches the open market and goes to the highest bidder. Here’s MLBTR’s full list of 2015-16 free agents.
1. Justin Upton. Padres GM A.J. Preller explained his Upton trade recently to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune, saying, “We made this deal with eyes open, knowing that this may be a long-term relationship and it may end up being a one-year relationship.” In December, Upton’s agent Larry Reynolds said they won’t be negotiating in-season, so the young slugger seems likely to reach the open market.
2. Jason Heyward. In contrast, Heyward seems willing to negotiate in-season. Check out Derrick Goold’s March 9th piece for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for an in-depth look at the Cardinals’ new outfielder. Heyward said of his contract, “The sooner that is done the better, for me,” while also hedging against any urgency in the comments that followed. But I found that comment telling, as well as his emphasis on comfort and a good fit. In February, I talked about Heyward potentially signing the largest contract in free agent history if his power returns. That’s the best case, open-market scenario, however. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports polled a bunch of GMs in March about Heyward’s next contract, and most felt he’ll fall short of $200MM.
3. David Price. Price is another top free agent who seems willing to sign an in-season extension, though there were no talks as of March 12th. Five days prior, the lefty had said he didn’t think the Tigers would wait until he nears free agency to open up discussions.
4. Ian Desmond. All is quiet on the Desmond contract front, as the shortstop prefers. Based on the currently available information, he seems headed for free agency after the season.
5. Johnny Cueto. Reds GM Walt Jocketty told Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM earlier this month, “We’ve had some discussions,” and said he wanted to let the team’s fans know they’re still trying. This seems like a case where the hometown team will make a valiant effort but won’t be able to afford the player.
6. Jordan Zimmermann. Zimmermann doesn’t intend to discuss a contract during the season, so it appears he’ll hit the market. If the Nationals allow Desmond, Zimmermann, and Doug Fister to leave, they’ll be in for an interesting offseason of retooling.
7. Alex Gordon. There has been “not one bit” of contract discussion between Gordon’s agent and the Royals, the left fielder told Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star last week. December wrist surgery delayed Gordon’s spring debut, and he’s only played in two games to date.
9. Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija told reporters earlier this month he’s in a “pretty intense situation with a lot on the line.” He told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports on March 5th that there were no contract talks with the White Sox, and he doesn’t want to talk in-season. Heyman feels it would be an upset to see the big righty sign an extension prior to free agency.
10. Yoenis Cespedes. The lone new entrant on this list, Cespedes told reporters in March he’d “like to be in a Tigers uniform for a lot of years.” The 29-year-old slugger is ineligible to receive a qualifying offer, it should be noted.
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters loses his spot at #10, as he’s likely to start the season on the DL. He is still on schedule in his recovery from June Tommy John surgery, but it would be good for his free agent value to see him behind the dish and firing on all cylinders before May.