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Author Archives: Tim Dierkes
Pitcher Jake Peavy has agreed to a deal to return to the Giants, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. It’s a two-year, $24MM deal with a full no-trade clause, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Peavy, a CAA client, will be paid a $4MM signing bonus and salaries of $7MM in 2015 and $13MM in 2016, writes Crasnick.
Peavy, 34 in May, posted a 3.73 ERA, 7.0 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.02 HR/9, and 38.5% groundball rate in 202 2/3 innings for the Red Sox and Giants this year. The Red Sox traded him to the Giants on July 26th with cash for Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree. Peavy posted a 2.17 ERA in 78 2/3 innings for the Giants after the trade. While his control improved with the Giants, his sharp drop in homer-to-flyball rate (3.2 percent) isn’t sustainable, even in the pitcher friendly AT&T Park.
While the level of production he showed in the season’s second half is very likely to come back down to Earth, there’s no doubt that a full-time move to AT&T Park and the NL West will be of benefit to Peavy’s numbers. He’ll provide the Giants with some much-needed stability in the rotation, as the team currently has a great deal of uncertainty behind ace Madison Bumgarner and veteran workhorse Tim Hudson. Matt Cain is coming off elbow surgery, Ryan Vogelsong is also a free agent, Tim Lincecum hasn’t been reliable for the past three seasons and Yusmeiro Petit, while excellent in 2014, has never held down a rotation spot for a whole season.
Peavy’s contract closely mirrors that two-year, $25MM contract extension that fellow 34-year-old NL West hurler Jorge De La Rosa signed in August, and it’s also in line with what both Hudson and Bronson Arroyo signed for last winter. While each of the latter two pitchers is considerably older than Peavy, they signed in a free agent market with less quality pitching available. In a free agent profile back in late October, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd correctly predicted that Peavy would top Hudson and Arroyo, though Peavy’s final deal fell a bit shy of his $28MM prediction.
This marks only the second significant move for Giants GM Brian Sabean this offseason — he agreed to terms on a two-year, $15MM deal with Sergio Romo earlier in the week — though not for lack of trying. The Giants made a legitimate run at re-signing Pablo Sandoval and have also been connected to Jon Lester, Yasmany Tomas and Chase Headley, among others, but each has signed elsewhere, leaving the Giants to seek upgrades elsewhere.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Take your shot at a $400K prize pool in the NFL Flea Flicker Championship at DraftKings! First place will take home a whopping $50K, and the top 18,995 entrants will get paid. The entry fee is just $5. First time depositors at DraftKings receive a 100% bonus up to $600, too.
The contest starts on Sunday, December 21st at 1:00pm eastern time. It’s a salary cap style contest, where you use a $50K budget to select nine players. The roster will be 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex, and 1 Defense. Here’s a look at my potential roster:
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Our 2015 arbitration tracker is now available! The tracker displays all arbitration eligible players, with fields for team, service time, player and team submissions, the midpoint, and the settlement amount. You can filter by team, signing status, service time, Super Two status, and whether a hearing occurred. So far only 12 of 197 arbitration eligible players have signed, as figures do not need to be exchanged until January 16th.
You can bookmark MLBTR’s 2015 Arbitration Tracker here, or you can find it in the Tools menu at the top of the site.
MLBTR is also the only place for salary projections for every arbitration eligible player, which you can find here.
“It’s not every day the best free agent goes to a team that finished in last place,” Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said today at the press conference announcing starting pitcher Jon Lester‘s new six-year contract. Epstein later explained, “We knew early on that if we signed Jon Lester, it would be about belief. It was because he would believe in us, believe in our future, and believe that winning a World Series with the Cubs was a unique opportunity.”
According to Epstein, the ability to contend for Lester’s services was a culmination of “a pretty quick rebuild” due to the hard work of the Cubs’ scouting and player development people. The Cubs now possess a trove of young position player talent, including Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Addison Russell, and Kyle Schwarber. Epstein considers the Lester signing a transition to a point where the team is “clearly very serious about winning a World Series.” Lester agreed, telling the crowd,“I can tell you honestly, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think they were going to win in 2015.”
Lester said the chance of winning a World Series with a team that hasn’t done so since 1908 “just adds that little extra for me.” Questioned on the topic later, Epstein admitted the team’s long history of losing actually helped them sign Lester. “We’re not hiding the ball. The fact that we haven’t won in so long helps define who we are. It adds meaning and resonance to what we’re trying to accomplish here, and I think it attracts players who aren’t afraid of that challenge and want to be here for the right reasons and it definitely attracted Jon Lester.”
The Cubs’ front office and ownership gave Lester the largest contract in franchise history, a reported $155MM deal with a seventh-year vesting option and a full no-trade clause. It didn’t take long for Epstein to concede to the no-trade clause, a rarity for him. “I don’t usually like those, but when you’re talking about a free agent of this caliber who had just gotten traded to Oakland as a result of having a team that relied on some young players and ended up with a disappointing performance, it would have been really hard to sign him without a no-trade given the unique circumstances involved here. In the spirit of the negotiation, it was something that we initially objected to but didn’t keep the fight up too long because it was outside the spirit of the connection that we were trying to make.”
Epstein went up against his and Lester’s former employer, the Red Sox, in negotiations that went down to the wire at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. The Red Sox topped out at a reported $135MM offer, though they didn’t help their cause four months earlier by trading Lester, Jonny Gomes, and cash to the Athletics for Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive balance pick. When Bob Nightengale of USA Today asked Lester whether it would have been a lot harder to leave Boston had he not been traded, the lefty replied, “Yeah, I think so. I think there’s always that unknown when you are traded. Obviously that’s the unknown of going to a whole different coast, a whole different organization, a whole different philosophy. I think going there prepared us for this time. I think if you finish out the year in Boston and you get down to this decision, I think it would be a lot harder. Not to say it wasn’t hard as it was. But I feel like that broke that barrier of, ‘Well, I wonder if I can play for another team.’ And I think we answered those questions.”
Though Lester’s deal with the Cubs was consummated at last week’s Winter Meetings, it was the product of more than a month’s worth of courting. The Cubs sent Lester a 15-minute video on the first day of free agency, talking about the team’s future. Epstein and company experienced a turning point in a mid-November meeting, after which they felt “unmistakable momentum.” That momentum never waned, even through tense late night negotiations with Lester’s agents at ACES.
For his part, Lester said he enjoyed initial meetings with teams, but the second phase of actually making a decision was not fun. Much has been made of Lester’s long relationship with Epstein and Cubs GM Jed Hoyer, dating back to the pitcher being drafted out of high school in ’02. Both sides agreed that the comfort level and trust helped.
Does the Lester signing mean the Cubs are all-in for 2015? As Epstein described it, “We’re very much all-in for our future, and the future starts in 2015.” Asked whether the team is interested in trade targets with only one year of remaining control, Epstein answered, “Yeah, if they were priced accordingly. Obviously those players carry less value in our minds than players you can control going forward.”
The Cubs have already spent almost $180MM on free agents Lester, Jason Hammel, Jason Motte, and Tsuyoshi Wada, and they also traded for Tommy La Stella and well-paid catcher Miguel Montero. I talked to Hoyer about remaining potential areas for upgrade, and he said the Cubs may attempt to add an outfield bat, given the youth of the team’s current group. Asked if there’s room for another starting pitcher, Hoyer replied, “Potentially. We’re not going to sit here and say we’re done. I think we’re very comfortable going forward right now with what we have, but obviously the winter’s not over yet, there’s a lot of guys out there and we’ll certainly be engaged on some of those guys.”
The Epstein rebuild has taken three years to reach this point, and the team’s president said today that the Cubs’ “incredibly patient” fans “truly deserve a pitcher and a person of this caliber to call their own.” Lofty expectations have been set for Lester, who appears ready for the challenge.
7:40am: Bryce Harper and the Nationals have avoided a grievance, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The two sides reached a settlement Sunday evening in advance of a potential Tuesday hearing. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets the two sides have agreed to a two-year deal.
The issue at stake was whether Harper had the right to opt out of the $1.5MM salary owed to him through the Major League deal he signed upon being drafted and enter baseball’s arbitration system, which would have allowed him to earn more money.
As Kilgore explained in a previous article, Harper and the Nationals reached a verbal agreement on a five-year, $9.9MM Major League deal just minutes before the signing deadline, and when a final contract was drafted up, there was no clause for Harper to opt into arbitration. Harper and agent Scott Boras refused to sign the deal, at which point MLB and the MLBPA stepped in, allowing a letter of agreement that stated Harper could opt for a grievance hearing to determine whether or not he qualified for arbitration, should be become eligible for arb before the deal’s final season.
28-year-old shortstop Everth Cabrera became a free agent earlier this month, as the Padres elected not to tender him a contract for 2015. Cabrera had been arrested in September for suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana. In November, the San Diego County district attorney’s office charged him with resisting arrest during that traffic stop. He plead not guilty on that charge last week, and a readiness hearing will happen in mid-January.
How does agent Scott Boras market Cabrera to MLB teams, given the looming situation? “With every negotiation you have complete disclosure, you walk through the factual situations,” Boras told me today at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. Boras explained, “I think we all know that players get involved in situations where they might have made a mistake and done things. You talk to teams about the player’s history, his character, where he’s going in the future. So it’s really a due diligence dynamic with Everth.” Boras feels that the public’s perception of the incident differs from reality.
Certainly, there’s great risk in signing a free agent who could potentially face jail time if found guilty. A team will have to buy into Cabrera’s upside despite that concern. Boras made his pitch: “Everth Cabrera is a very talented player, so there’s that tweak in there [that makes you say] ‘Hey, if this guy could give you All-Star talent and I’m able to get him at a shorter term and a very young age, this guy could really have a big season.'”
Cabrera made the All-Star team with a strong first half in 2013.
Since Cabrera has four years and 144 days of Major League service time, a team that signs him this winter could potentially control him for 2016 through the arbitration process. The teams currently showing interest may have some kind of familiarity with Cabrera, as Boras said, “The people that are coming after him know him well, so they have to have the comfort level. They know this is an isolated issue, and they know his talent too.”
Cabrera was initially signed out of Nicaragua by Rockies scouts Rolando Fernandez and Francisco Cartaya. Fernandez is still employed by the Rockies, while Cartaya is with the Dodgers. The Dodgers also employ Josh Byrnes, who was in charge when Cabrera earned his All-Star nod. Kevin Towers, now with the Reds, was Padres GM when the team signed Cabrera, while current Cubs GM Jed Hoyer succeeded Towers.
Cabrera may not be in a position to demand more than $2-4MM, nor a starting shortstop job. He’s spent little time outside of shortstop in the Majors, but did log some games at second early in his pro career. Of the teams linked above, the Rockies could consider Cabrera to back up Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu if they trade Josh Rutledge. The Dodgers turned over their middle infield today, acquiring shortstop Jimmy Rollins and sending starting second baseman Dee Gordon to the Marlins. The Cubs aren’t hurting for middle infield options, while the Reds have Zack Cozart, Brandon Phillips, and Kristopher Negron and could do some middle infield shuffling.
Cabrera has not actually been linked to any teams so far, except for Adam Rubin’s note for ESPNNewYork.com ruling out the Mets. It should be noted, too, that Cabrera missed significant time with hamstring injuries in the last few years and missed significant time prior to 2012 with other injuries. On top of that, he served a 50-game PED suspension in 2013. Clearly the teams that mine this well for talent have many issues to consider, but that’s also what will keep Cabrera’s price down.
DECEMBER 10, 6:16am: The Padres met with Kim’s agent yesterday, MLB.com’s Corey Brock tweets. Kim has already taken a physical, and as their 30-day negotiating window prepares to close, the Padres hope to have Kim under contract soon.
NOVEMBER 11, 11:51pm: The Wyverns will accept the Padres’ bid for Kim, who now has a 30-day window to negotiate a contract with the Padres, according to a report from Naver Sports (Korean link; hat tip to Sung-Min Kim on Twitter). Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net tweets that Kim is being represented by veteran MLB agent Melvin Roman.
The Yonhap News Agency has a full English report on Kim’s posting, noting that he features a fastball which sits around 93 mph and a sharp slider. However, Kim relies primarily on those two pitches and would like to develop a more effective changeup if he jumps to the Majors. Kim thanked the Wyverns for the opportunity and issued the following statement:
“Now that I’ve been given a chance to try to reach the majors, which has been my lifelong dream, I’ll try to make the best of the situation and prove myself on the biggest stage. I will go back to the drawing board and prepare the best I can.”
9:19am: The Padres have posted the highest bid for Korean lefty Kwang-hyun Kim, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, at $2MM. He notes that Kim’s team, SK Wyverns, might not accept since they were reportedly seeking $10MM.
The 26-year-old Kim is considered the country’s ace, wrote C.J. Nitkowski for Just A Bit Outside. However, Nitkowski feels Kim might be best-suited bullpen work in MLB. In a new article, Nitkowski writes that he expects intense conversations between Kim and SK, with the pitcher pushing hard to be let go.
Kim pitched to a 3.33 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 in 167 2/3 innings this season in the notoriously hitter-friendly environment that is the Korea Baseball Organization. Though he’s struggled with health in recent years, Kim has a lifetime 3.28 ERA in more than 1000 innings in KBO.
1:29pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that Hochevar can earn $500K worth of incentives for non-closing relief work, $500K of incentives for closing work and up to $2MM for starting.
DEC. 5, 12:35pm: The Royals officially announced Hochevar’s return yesterday, including the fact that it contained a 2017 mutual option. Today, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports the breakdown of his contract (Twitter links). Hochevar will earn $4MM in 2015 and $5.5MM in 2016. The deal contains a $7MM mutual option with a $500K buyout as well as performance escalators that can boost his salary from $5.5MM to $6.5MM. Interestingly, the triggers for that $1MM increase is either 23 games started or 150 innings pitched, so it seems that the Royals are at least open to letting Hochevar work as a starter, though perhaps only if they’re unable to supplement their rotation this offseason.
DEC. 3:The Royals have reached an agreement with reliever Luke Hochevar on a two-year, $10MM deal, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The signing further deepens the best bullpen in the Majors. Hochevar is represented by the Boras Corporation.
Hochevar, 31, switched to the bullpen in 2013 and turned in a dominant season with a 1.92 ERA and 10.5 K/9. However, he went under the knife for Tommy John surgery in March of this year. Some pitchers are able to fully recover in one year, though many require several months beyond that. Hochevar has spent his entire pro career with the Royals after being drafted first overall in 2006. He had been rated as a top five draft prospect the year prior but fell to the Dodgers at 40th overall due to his bonus demands and affiliation with Boras.
The trio of Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera turned in dominant seasons for the Royals, including a 1.12 ERA in 40 1/3 postseason innings, and all three remain under team control. The Royals also re-signed veteran Jason Frasor five days ago, so they’re very deep in right-handed relief pitching. They could stick with this unit and continue to shorten games, or entertain trading one of Holland, Davis, or Herrera as their salaries grow. Kansas City has already traded Aaron Crow to the Marlins in exchange for lefty Brian Flynn and minor leaguer Reid Redman, the former of whom could theoretically jump right into the bullpen or work as a starter in the minors.
Hochevar’s contract is the third significant multi-year deal scored by a reliever since the World Series concluded, and all have come at a relatively significant price. Zach Duke nabbed a three-year, $15MM contract, and Koji Uehara signed on for two more years in Boston at a total of $18MM. This signing is a bit more expensive than that of Eric O’Flaherty‘s with Oakland last offseason, but the two are largely similar. O’Flaherty inked a two-year, $7MM contract with the A’s after undergoing Tommy John surgery on May 21, 2013. Hochevar’s Tommy John came prior to the regular season, so it stands to reason that he could return to the Majors earlier in the 2015 season than O’Flaherty was able to in 2014. That difference is likely a contributing factor to the additional $3MM on Hochevar’s guarantee.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
More than 200 players are arbitration eligible and unsigned for 2015. About 30 of those can be considered non-tender candidates. Players who are not tendered contracts become free agents. The deadline for teams to decide is December 2nd at 11pm central time. Below is my subjective list of non-tender candidates. Please note that not all of them will actually be non-tendered — many are simply bubble players who at least merit consideration for a non-tender and could also find themselves traded. Click here for MLBTR’s projected salaries for these players, if they are tendered contracts. Also, check out our handy non-tender tracker, which will chronicle Tuesday’s action and can be filtered by team.
Alejandro De Aza
Eric Young Jr.
I had collected some thoughts on this year’s non-tender candidate class last week for a potential podcast discussion, but we bumped it last week due to the Red Sox news (listen to that episode here). Here is my collection of non-tender and arbitration-related musings.
Around 40 new players will become free agents at today’s non-tender deadline (11pm central time). Keep an eye on MLBTR’s Non-Tender Tracker to see who gets cut loose. Of those 40 or so non-tendered players, I would expect around 10 to sign Major League deals, based on recent history. Last year at the top end, we saw two-year deals for Garrett Jones and Ryan Webb. Infielder Gordon Beckham strikes me as a player who could score a two-year deal this year.
When we talk about non-tender candidates, we’re really talking about arbitration players on the bubble of being worth their projected salary to their current team. Another team might value the player differently or have fewer payroll concerns, so all of these players are trade candidates leading up to tonight’s deadline and even beyond. We’ve already seen Marco Estrada, Ike Davis, Justin Smoak, Cesar Ramos, and Hank Conger change teams. Juan Francisco did so as well, but he’s in DFA limbo currently. Players like Davis and Smoak could still be on the move as their current teams, the A’s and Blue Jays, are known to continually rearrange pieces.
A lot of this year’s arbitration bubble players were drafted in the first round in 2008. Smoak, Davis, Aaron Crow (who didn’t sign that year), and Brett Lawrie have already changed teams (of course, Lawrie was never a non-tender candidate). Beckham is perhaps the most notable non-tender candidate tonight, while other ’08 first-rounders such as Pedro Alvarez, Brian Matusz, Yonder Alonso, Jason Castro, Andrew Cashner, and Wade Miley could be trade candidates this winter.
Further thoughts on some of the arbitration eligible bubble players:
- Does Beckham have a Daniel Murphy type season in him? He always seemed to flash that potential with one or two good months in a season for the White Sox, and the two line up well in terms of career walk rate, strikeout rate and isolated power (an identical .130). Murphy’s 23.5 percent line-drive rate is significantly better than Beckham’s 18.8 percent clip, but Beckham has hit liners at better than a 20 percent clip in two seasons. The Blue Jays, Marlins, and Nationals could look at him, as could the Mets if they trade Murphy. The Angels are also said to want him back in a utility role, even if they non-tender him.
- Alejandro De Aza hit well in a brief stint with the Orioles, and was useful with the White Sox. He’s a left-handed hitter who could be a good fit for a platoon. The Orioles already lost Nelson Cruz and seem likely to lose Nick Markakis as well, increasing the chances De Aza stays put, even with a projected $5.9MM salary that the White Sox wanted no part of. De Aza and Markakis are closer than you might think — check out this comparison of their last three seasons.
- Another potential ex-White Sox player is Dayan Viciedo, who might be done in Chicago after a couple of replacement level seasons. At a projected $4.4MM salary, he should find a trade suitor. Just 26 in March, the right-handed-hitting Viciedo hit 25 home runs in 2012 and 21 this year and could be a fit for the Orioles, Royals, or Rangers.
- After having Tommy John surgery in March, the Braves’ Kris Medlen might not be ready for an MLB mound until the 2015 All-Star break. Medlen rejoined the Braves’ rotation at the 2012 trade deadline and was healthy through the 2013 season. That was a 280-inning stretch where he ranked third in baseball with a 2.47 ERA. The data on pitchers who had Tommy John surgery twice is inconclusive due to a small sample size, however. As was noted this morning, the Braves are being creative to try to keep Medlen.
- Alonso’s second half in 2012 was as good as, if not better than the second half of Brandon Belt or Anthony Rizzo. He hasn’t been healthy since then. He’s cheap enough that the Padres won’t cut him loose for nothing, but they have been considering replacements at first base and could move him if they find one.
- A lot of these players had big 2012s, such as Diamondbacks reliever David Hernandez. Hernandez had Tommy John surgery in April and would be an interesting addition to any bullpen.
- Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune outlined Everth Cabrera‘s delicate situation with the Padres in an article yesterday. The bottom line is that Cabrera just turned 28 and was a regular at shortstop not long ago. There will be teams willing to roll the dice on his off-field issues given the scarcity of shortstops around the game. Will it be easier for new Padres GM A.J. Preller to move Alonso and Cabrera, since he didn’t acquire them? Or will he be worried about them bouncing back with new teams?