Author Archives: Tim Dierkes

Which Top 2016 Free Agents Will Negotiate In-Season?

Last week we published my 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings, an assessment of the earning power of players on track to reach free agency after the 2015 season.  Sometimes contract year players cut off extension negotiations at the start of the season, while others are willing to negotiate at any time.  Here’s the latest on where these top potential free agents stand.

1.  Justin UptonIn a December appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM with Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden, Upton’s agent Larry Reynolds indicated that he and his client did not want to negotiate during the season, and actually didn’t want to negotiate during Spring Training either.  So it looks like the Padres’ exclusive window to sign Upton to a new contract will only re-open after the season.  Padres position players are due to report to Spring Training today.

Key quote: “If anything were to happen, we’d probably want to do that before he packs up to go to Spring Training.” – Larry Reynolds, December 2014

2.  Jason Heyward.  Heyward was asked in January at the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up whether he would have a reason to stop talking contract once the season started, and he replied, “At this point, I don’t.” (Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporting).  According to Goold, the two sides had yet to discuss an extension at that point in January, though GM John Mozeliak did say he’d be interested in pursuing one.  Goold explained, “The Cardinals prefer to bring a player in, wrap him in red and then do what’s possible to keep him.”  As Goold notes, retaining Heyward would require the largest contract in franchise history, which is currently Matt Holliday‘s seven-year, $120MM deal from January 2010.

Key quote: “For me, I hope I love it so much I won’t have to leave.” – Jason Heyward, January 2015

3.  David Price.  Interest is mutual in a deal between the Tigers and Price.  In January, as Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reported, the lefty said he’s open to anything, and GM Dave Dombrowski said, “We hope he stays a Tiger for a long time.”  Last Sunday in Lakeland, Price explained, “I’d probably rather not talk about it all year long.  But I don’t feel like closing any doors.  It doesn’t have to be cut off. I just don’t want to talk about it every day.” (Bob Nightengale of USA Today reporting).  Price did say he wanted to avoid the situation Max Scherzer went through with the Tigers last spring, where the team released a statement on March 23rd about the pitcher rejecting their contract offer.

Key quote: “I would definitely welcome it.  If it’s right for both of us, I’m sure we can make it happen.” – David Price, February 2015

4.  Ian Desmond.  Desmond’s agent Doug Rogalski and Nationals GM Mike Rizzo didn’t have any significant extension talks during the offseason, reported MLB.com’s Bill Ladson yesterday.  According to James Wagner of the Washington Post, Desmond said he hasn’t thought about whether he would be open to talking about an extension during the season.  Desmond doesn’t seem likely to be extended by the Nationals, but in-season negotiations have not been explicitly ruled out.

Key quote: “I’ve kind of kept it to myself and my agent. And that’s the way I plan on going forward. I feel like we’ve got a lot of expectations in here, and to reach them we’ve got to be really focused. I’m not going to be the one that adds any extra distractions.” – Ian Desmond, February 2015

5.  Johnny Cueto.  In December, Cueto’s agent Bryce Dixon set an Opening Day deadline for extension talks with the Reds, in talking to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, so less than six weeks remain.  Dixon noted in that conversation that Lester is a better comp for Cueto than Homer Bailey, while Max Scherzer is the closest comp.  The two sides held preliminary talks at the Winter Meetings in December.

Key quote: “He wants to stay if the numbers are right.” – Bryce Dixon, December 2014 (MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reporting)

6.  Jordan Zimmermann.  Zimmermann is willing to discuss a contract if the Nationals initiate talks this spring, but he does not want to negotiate in-season, reports Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com.  The pitcher said Saturday, “We negotiated a little bit and didn’t get very far,” also saying that he believes everything is on hold right now.

Key quote: “Once the season starts, I really don’t want to talk.  So if something happens in spring here, we’re willing to listen. But once the season starts, I don’t really want to talk about it.” – Jordan Zimmermann, February 2015

7.  Alex Gordon.  Talking to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star on Saturday, Gordon backed off his previous suggestion that he’ll pick up his $14MM player option for 2016, saying, “That’s a question that honestly doesn’t need to be answered right now.  Because I don’t know the answer right now. I don’t know how this year is going to go, or how it’s going to look at the end of the year.”  According to McCullough, Gordon indicated there were no ongoing negotiations, but he’s willing to discuss an extension at any point during the season.

Key quote: “I want to stay here.  Absolutely. It’s close to home. Kansas City almost feels like my hometown. We love the city. We love everybody in this organization. And obviously it’s in a good place right now. It’s come a long way. And I want to be a part of the success that I think we’re still going to have.” – Alex Gordon, February 2015

8.  Zack Greinke.  Last Thursday, Greinke told reporters including MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick he won’t decide whether to opt out of his contract until after the season.  Greinke can become a free agent that way, or he can stick with the remaining three years and $71MM covering 2016-18.  Greinke told reporters he’s open to negotiating with the Dodgers, noting, “and I’m sure they’re open to me taking a cheap deal.”

Key quote: “It’s all to your benefit. If things are going good, you can use it for more power. There’s no negative to it.” – Zack Greinke on his opt-out, February 2015

9.  Jeff Samardzija.  Samardzija’s agent Mark Rodgers joined Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM earlier this month and said he and his client will listen to the White Sox anytime they want to talk.  At the Winter Meetings in December, Sox GM Rick Hahn expressed interest in extending his new acquisition.  On the radio show in February, though, Rodgers explained that a player needs to reach free agency to determine his true open market value.

Key quote: “To talk about what his value is in free agency a year early would really do him an injustice, because I think there’s more to come, better to come from Jeff.” – Mark Rodgers, February 2015

10.  Matt Wieters.  Back in December, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe said there seems to be no urgency with Wieters’ camp or the Orioles to work out an extension.  Most of the talk lately about Wieters has been about whether he will be ready for Opening Day given his Tommy John surgery last June.  Since Wieters is a Scott Boras client, the chances of a deal getting done before free agency seem slim.

For some other names that could battle their way into the top ten in the coming months, check out my 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings.  The 2015-16 class looks very strong, much better than the projected 2016-17 group.  But how many of the ten players listed here will actually reach the open market?  I feel that Heyward, Price, and Gordon have reasonable chances of signing extensions, while the other seven are likely to reach free agency.


Tigers Re-Sign Joba Chamberlain

7:54am: Chamberlain can earn up to $500K with the same incentive scale that he had on his previous one-year deal with the Tigers, tweets MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Per Cot’s Contracts, that included an additional $100K for reaching 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 appearances.

7:33am: Chamberlain will receive a $1MM base salary plus incentives, tweets Rosenthal.

6:50am: The Tigers have reached an agreement on a one-year, Major League deal with reliever Joba Chamberlain, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Chamberlain, a client of Excel Sports Management’s Jim Murray, was spotted in Tigers Spring Training camp this morning, notes Rosenthal.

Chamberlain, 29, posted a 3.57 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9, and 53.2% groundball rate in 63 innings for the Tigers last year.  The Dodgers also had late interest in him this offseason.  As MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted earlier this month, Chamberlain makes for a solid buy on a one-year deal, perhaps more so than remaining free agent relievers Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano.  Chamberlain did experience a second-half dropoff, at a time he was also helping his ailing mother.

Chamberlain rejoins a Tigers bullpen that hasn’t seen much turnover since the end of last season.  The Tigers did add lefty Tom Gorzelanny in January, and they’ve got Bruce Rondon on the mend from March 2014 Tommy John surgery.  They’ll have a full season of Joakim Soria, and closer Joe Nathan remains under contract as well.  However, for the most part, the Tigers will deploy a very similar mix to the grouping that cost them in the 2014 American League Championship Series.  Receiving better production from that group will be vital for the Tigers in an improved AL Central that saw the White Sox, in particular, make an aggressive push toward contention this winter.

On the whole, Detroit relievers posted an unsightly 4.29 ERA and a 4.09 FIP, both of which ranked 27th among 30 big league clubs.  They’ll hope that the return of Rondon and a full season of Soria can help to right the ship in the bullpen.


Hoops Rumors Has Your NBA Trade Deadline Coverage

The clock is ticking toward the NBA trade deadline at 2pm Central time today! We’re on top of it all on Hoops Rumors as the Thunder and Nets near a blockbuster involving Brook Lopez and Reggie Jackson. Multiple deals have already gone down elsewhere, with Arron Afflalo heading to the Blazers, JaVale McGee on his way to the 76ers, and Ramon Sessions and Andre Miller changing places. Check out Hoops Rumors for all the excitement as the trade rumors fly!


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Recent Reviews For The Trade Rumors App

136 five-star reviews don’t lie.  Check out a sampling of the App Store reviews for our Trade Rumors app on iOS, all from within the last two weeks:

Stop thinking about it and download it already.  It’s as awesome as the site.  – Skin E. G., Feb. 18

I have had the MLBTR app for a while after using the site for years.  Then the new app blew me away.  I had never followed the NFL site before but it is now a critical part of my sports day.  Love it. – Johndcoyle, Feb. 18

This app is great to keep up with a specific team or league.  The info is usually spot on and is delivered quickly before anyone else. – Joemx14, Feb. 13

Love the ability to see just my teams and players that I want to follow.  Great app.  – digitalturtle, Feb. 12

This is THE go-to app for sports transactions.  The real-time information and analysis is second to none.  – Robert Martinez, Feb. 8

Did we mention the Trade Rumors app is free and now allows you to set up notifications and feeds at the sport, team, and/or player level?  Download Trade Rumors for iOS or Android today!


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2016 Free Agent Power Rankings

With the sun setting on the 2014-15 free agent class, it’s time to turn our attention to the 2015-16 group.  These players project to become free agents after the 2015 season, unless they sign contract extensions first.  A few extensions are likely, but for now the 2015-16 free agent class has no shortage of star power.  MLBTR’s full list of 2015-16 free agents can be found here.

What exactly are we ranking here?   The simplest explanation would be earning power.  These rankings represent expected contract size, assuming each player reaches the open market and goes to the highest bidder.  Of course, nothing affects a free agent’s earning power more than his most recent season, so I’ll be updating these rankings monthly.

1.  Justin Upton.  Upton possesses the profile that most often results in a monster contract: power, youth, and durability.  He doesn’t turn 28 until August, so his next team might be able to avoid paying him into his late 30s.  The first overall draft pick in 2005, Upton has hit 26 or more home runs in four of his six full seasons, including the last two.  He peaked at 31 bombs in 2011, and given his pedigree, there’s an underlying assumption that he’s capable of hitting 35-40.  With the December trade to San Diego, Upton must verify his power in a home ballpark where longballs go to die.  He’s nothing special defensively; Upton’s chance at Robinson Cano money or better lies in good old-fashioned baseball card stats.

2.  Jason Heyward.  Upton’s former teammate can challenge his ranking with a big year for the Cardinals.  Unlike Upton, Heyward didn’t surrender any potential free agent years through a mid-career extension.  The result: Heyward doesn’t turn 26 until August.  That’s about as young as a star free agent can reasonably be, given the requirement of six years of Major League service.  Heyward seemed destined for MVP awards after he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting with a great season at age 20.  However, he hasn’t been able to repeat his .393 on-base percentage from that season, and he missed large chunks of the 2011 and ’13 seasons due to injuries.  Heyward hit 27 home runs in 2012, so he still owns that skill despite hitting just 25 in the two subsequent seasons.  More than his offense, Heyward’s value is derived from Gold Glove defense in right field.  If he posts another slugging percentage under .400, his free agency will be a litmus test of whether teams will pay superstar money for superstar defense.  If he couples that defense with rediscovered 25+ home run power, Heyward could sign the largest free agent contract in baseball history.

3.  David Price.  This is a very strong crop of free agent starting pitchers at present, but Price is the best.  30 in August, Price won the AL Cy Young award in 2012 and finished sixth in the voting last year.  Last year he tossed 256 1/3 total innings with a career-best strikeout rate, while maintaining the excellent control he established in 2013.  The only real blemish on his health record is a 47-day DL stint in ’13 for a triceps strain.  If he racks up innings this year for the Tigers with another low-3s ERA, he might be able to exceed $200MM without relying on deferred money to get there.

4.  Ian Desmond.  The Nationals’ shortstop rejected a seven-year, $107MM extension offer during the 2013-14 offseason, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.  Kilgore reported that the offer was actually only for five additional seasons, and it included deferred money.  Desmond, 30 in September, has the potential to exceed $200MM on the open market with another strong season.  In terms of wins above replacement, he’s easily been the game’s best shortstop since 2012.  Desmond offers the extremely rare combination of power, durability, speed, and solid shortstop defense.  However, his contact rate dipped below 70% for the first time in 2014, and a continuation of that trend would affect his earning power.

5.  Johnny Cueto.  Only Clayton Kershaw‘s brilliance prevented Cueto from winning the NL Cy Young award in 2014.  Cueto, who turned 29 last Sunday, posted a 2.25 ERA over 243 2/3 innings last year with a career-best strikeout rate.  That was a huge workload, especially since Cueto was limited to 11 starts in 2013 due to a shoulder strain.  He missed significant time in 2011 with shoulder issues as well.  Cueto can set aside some concerns with a DL-free 2015 campaign.  Potential bonus: he could become ineligible for a qualifying offer if the Reds trade him during the season.

6.  Jordan Zimmermann.  Zimmermann, 29 in May, finished fifth in the NL Cy Young voting last year.  A few factors put him below Cueto: he doesn’t go particularly deep into games, and he’s generally posted strikeout rates below the league average prior to 2014.  That might be nitpicking – Zimmermann has great control and a 3.00 ERA since 2011.  He had Tommy John surgery in August 2009 and has avoided the DL since.

7.  Alex Gordon.  Gordon is an older version of Heyward – an occasionally underpowered corner outfielder who posted a huge WAR last year on the strength of great defense.  Gordon still has 39 home runs over the last two seasons, though, so he’s shown more recent pop than Heyward.  Gordon, drafted by the Royals directly after Upton in ’05, delayed his free agency by two years with an extension in 2012.  As such, he recently turned 31.  As Shin-Soo Choo can attest, that’s still young enough to garner a contract well above $100MM.  In August, Gordon told Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star he plans to pick up his 2016 player option, which appears to be worth $14MM.  If the Royals are willing to double their current franchise record $55MM contract, an extension could be possible, but I don’t think there’s much chance of Gordon simply picking up that player option when it comes due.

8.  Zack Greinke.  After the 2015 season, Greinke must decide whether to opt out of the remaining three years and $71MM left on his contract.  That wouldn’t be worth doing for something similar to the four-year, $75MM contract James Shields just received, but Greinke will be a year younger than Shields was.  So far Greinke has a 2.68 ERA in 380 innings in his two seasons for the Dodgers, with his strikeout rate bumping back up in 2014.  Another healthy season with an ERA around 3.00 would instill confidence in a potential five-year deal, in which case Greinke would be expected to opt out to try to lock in $100MM+ in new money.

9.  Jeff Samardzija.  Samardzija, 30, made his first All-Star team in 2014.  He posted a 2.99 ERA in 219 2/3 innings for the Cubs and A’s after posting a 4.10 ERA in his previous two seasons as a starter.  It was clear that Samardzija’s 2012-13 ERAs were inflated beyond his skill level.  He’s a horse who works at 94-95 miles per hour, and he’s never been on the disabled list.  A wide receiver at Notre Dame, Samardzija didn’t commit fully to baseball until the Cubs drafted him in ’06.  He also spent much of his early big league career as a reliever.  The result is less mileage on his arm than any of the pitchers listed above him, even including Zimmermann.  He could easily wind up being a better bet for the next five or six years than his rival free agent starters.  Samardzija was traded to the White Sox in December.

10.  Matt Wieters.  Wieters, 29 in May, saw his season end on May 10th of last year due to an elbow issue.  The catcher had Tommy John surgery in June and expects to be ready for Opening Day.  Will he be able to throw out baserunners?  Wieters, who was drafted by the Orioles fifth overall in 2007, also must answer questions about his bat.   He slumped to a .704 OPS in 2013, but had a great first month in ’14.  Wieters tallied a mammoth 4,600 innings behind the dish from 2010-13, and it’s difficult to say when that workload will catch up to him.  Wieters could get a nine-figure contract this offseason, but only if all of these questions are answered with a strong year.

Plenty of other players will be vying to break into our top ten throughout the season, including Ben Zobrist, Yoenis Cespedes, Denard Span, Howie Kendrick, Steve Pearce, Rick Porcello, Mat Latos, Doug Fister, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Chris Davis.  You can check out the full 2015-16 free agent list here.


Free DraftKings MMA Contest With $500 Prize Pool

Free is always good.  Check out the latest MMA salary cap contest at DraftKings: it’s free to play, and has $1,000 in prize money!

The top 225 finishing positions win money, with first place getting $100.  As we mentioned, it’s free to join.  The deadline for entry is Saturday at 7:30pm eastern time.  Also, if you do want to try a contest with an entry fee, first-time depositors at DraftKings receive a 100% bonus up to $600.

This is a salary cap style MMA contest, where you use a $50,000 budget to select five fighters.  Check out my picks below:

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Only hours remain, so don’t hesitate.  Enter this free MMA salary cap contest at DraftKings now!


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Astros Sign Roberto Hernandez

2:45pm: The contract includes an opt-out five days prior to Opening Day, and the Major League side of the deal is worth $2.65MM, MLBTR has learned.

2:08pm: The Astros have signed righty Roberto Hernandez to a minor league deal with an invitation to Major League Spring Training, the team announced. Hernandez is represented by DPX Sports.

Hernandez, 34, posted a 4.10 ERA, 5.7 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, 1.04 HR/9, and 49.7% groundball rate for the Phillies and Dodgers last year.  He had signed a $4.5MM free agent deal with the Phillies last offseason.

A legitimate chance to make the Astros’ rotation likely weighed in Hernandez’s decision.  The agreement between the two sides comes after a one-year pact with Ryan Vogelsong fell through in January.  Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh are locks for the Astros’ rotation after breakout 2014 seasons, and veteran Scott Feldman has a spot secured as well.  According to an article from Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle from late January, Brett Oberholtzer is also penciled in.  According to Drellich, new acquisition Dan Straily might be the favorite for the fifth spot, with Brad Peacock not expected to be ready for Opening Day after offseason hip surgery.  Alex White, Asher Wojciechowski and Sam Deduno are other fifth starter candidates to watch, according to Drellich.


Check Out HoopsRumors.com

The NBA trade deadline is a week from Thursday, and Hoops Rumors has been tracking all of the developments in what’s already been a busy trade season so far. The free-spending Nets are open to trading Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, their three most highly paid players. Lance Stephenson, Charlotte’s marquee offseason free agent signing, is the subject of persistent trade rumors. Other storylines, like the pursuit of Ray Allen and the unsettled Kings coaching situation, threaten to pop to the forefront any minute. Whatever happens, we’ll be on top of it with context and analysis, so bookmark us and check back often!

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Trade Rumors App Now Has Notifications

The world’s best app for staying up-to-date on MLB, NFL, and NBA trades and free agency just got better.  I’m happy to announce that our free Trade Rumors app, available for iOS and Android, now has notifications!  You can set up notifications at the sport, team, or even player level, and receive a notification as soon as a new article is posted on that topic.

We’ve also rolled out an improved, more intuitive layout to the app, with each feed represented by a vertical column on the home screen.  Switch between your feeds by swiping left on the home screen.  Vertical columns allow for easier one-hand scrolling.

[Download Trade Rumors for iOS and Android]

But wait, there’s more!  Other features of the Trade Rumors app:

  • Customize your home screen.  The app has feeds for MLB Trade Rumors, Pro Football Rumors, and Hoops Rumors by default, but if you’re more of a one or two-sport person, you can easily remove and reorder feeds.  You can also add a feed for any of the 92 MLB, NFL, or NBA teams, as well as the thousands of players in the archives of our three sites.
  • We’ve also allowed for filtering of all stories versus top stories, for what is shown on the home screen as well as for notifications.  This allows you to limit yourself to just the most important news for a feed, if you prefer.
  • Article sharing options are plentiful: choose Facebook, Twitter, email, and text message.
  • Once you’ve clicked an article in a feed, you can swipe to read the next article in that feed.
  • Did we mention the Trade Rumors app is completely free?  Download today for iOS and Android.

Wondering what’s next for the always-improving Trade Rumors app?  We intend to add comments, but must first switch to a native commenting system on the three websites.

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Check Out ProFootballRumors.com

Super Bowl XLIX is officially in the books, which means the NFL’s offseason fun is just getting started over at Pro Football Rumors. Free agency is only five weeks away, and stars like Dez Bryant, Ndamukong Suh, and NFL sack leader Justin Houston are among the players eligible for free agency this winter. Will the Cowboys be able to bring back both Bryant and DeMarco Murray, 2014’s Offensive Player of the Year? Will the Lions need to use a costly franchise tag to retain Suh? Will newly extension-eligible quarterbacks like Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson break records for NFL salaries? We’ll be following all of those storylines and more at PFR, so be sure to bookmark us!

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