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Author Archives: Tim Dierkes
Last October, despite some questions about his ability, Cuban slugger Jose Abreu signed a six-year, $68MM contract with the White Sox heading into his age-27 season. Abreu’s MLB debut exceeded the most optimistic expectations, and now another Cuban player known for huge power is about to burst on the scene: Yasmany Tomas. Tomas, just 24 in November, defected from Cuba in June and should be granted MLB free agency shortly. He’s a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder with five years in Cuba’s Serie Nacional under his belt, and that experience, paired with his age, makes him exempt from international spending limitations. Teams will be able to spend whatever they wish to sign him.
The opportunity to sign a potential star player for his prime years comes along at most only a handful of times each year, typically with players coming out of Cuba or Japan. Abreu was heading into his age 27 season, younger than any normal free agent but still potentially catching some decline at the tail end of his contract. Since Tomas turns 24 in November, a seven-year deal would conclude with his age-30 season. He really couldn’t be much younger without being subject to each team’s international signing bonus pool money, which currently tops out around $5MM and includes a 100% tax on overages of 10% or more.
Tomas’ best attribute is his power, a trait that is in short supply in today’s game. Only 14 players hit 30 or more home runs in 2013, and fewer might reach that threshold this year. Tomas has 70 raw power on the 20-80 scale, wrote Baseball America’s Ben Badler in June, so he profiles as one of those rare 30+ home run bats. “He’s got a ton of power,” countryman Rusney Castillo told WEEI’s Rob Bradford through a translator this month. Tomas has produced a .290/.345/.504 throughout his career in Cuba, although those numbers include a pair of seasons in which he slugged just .385 (2009-10) when he was still a teenager.
Though Tomas checks in at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, he’s “agile for his size,” according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Sanchez also says Tomas has a strong arm, so he fits the typical right field profile (some teams may prefer him in left, of course).
One more plus: Tomas is not subject to a qualifying offer, so the cost will be entirely financial. Other free agent hitters like Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Victor Martinez, Melky Cabrera, and Nelson Cruz are expected to receive and turn down qualifying offers and therefore require forfeiture of a draft pick.
Badler wrote in his June scouting report that Tomas has below-average speed. More recently, Badler cited scouts who clocked Tomas at 6.9 seconds in the 60-yard dash at his Sunday showcase, which could be considered average speed.
Tomas may need some Triple-A seasoning, delaying his 2015 MLB impact. Badler noted that Tomas’ most recent season in Cuba wasn’t his best, writing, “This past season in Cuba…Tomas seemed to regress, even losing playing time in the second half, which one source said was the result of an arm injury he sustained crashing into an outfield wall in February.” Word is that Tomas has no physical issues currently.
Badler also noted that Tomas has shown some “swing-and-miss tendencies” and can struggle with quality breaking stuff. According to Sanchez, Tomas is “characterized as ‘high-risk, high-reward’ type of player in some international scouting circles.” He seems to come with a lesser reputation and less certainty than Abreu did last year. Not much has been written about Tomas’ defense, except that Sanchez feels the player has room for improvement.
Sanchez spent time with Tomas prior to his showcase this month, and was struck by his “youthful enthusiasm.” According to longtime friend Carlos Damas, Tomas is “always laughing.” I’ve heard Tomas likes to play video games in his spare time, and is often seen outside playing stickball with local kids.
The son of a fuel truck driver, Tomas is one of six children. As you might expect, the slugger found it very difficult to leave his home country.
Tomas’ showcase in the Dominican Republic drew hundreds of scouts, wrote Badler. It is believed that nearly every team in baseball had a presence. MLB Network’s Peter Gammons pegged the Giants as the early favorite, also naming the Phillies, Padres, Rangers, and Tigers as potential front-runners. The Phillies had a private showcase with Tomas on Monday; the Rangers host him today. On Monday, Badler named the Rangers, Phillies, Yankees, Diamondbacks, Giants, and Mets as teams with a strong presence at Tomas’ showcase. The Marlins and Pirates were also known to be in attendance.
Tomas’ agent Jay Alou told Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald in early September that he expects to top the record contract for a Cuban player, which is Rusney Castillo’s seven-year, $72.5MM deal with the Red Sox signed in August. While a six-year deal is possible for Tomas, seven makes more sense, especially if Tomas is not expecting to spend all of 2015 in the Majors. Seven years also gives the opportunity of increasing the overall contract total.
I believe Abreu’s stellar season inflated the Cuban market, leading to a likely inferior player in Castillo to top his total guarantee less than one year later. Nothing pays in free agency like power, so I agree with Alou’s expectation of continuing to raise the bar beyond Castillo’s $72.5MM. On September 14th, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe passed along the opinion of one international scout who feels Tomas could command $100MM. Tomas’ range seems wide right now. I see about $80MM as the floor, and $110MM as the ceiling. My prediction at present: $105MM over seven years.
Photo courtesy of Alyson Boyer Rode.
Less than one month remains in the 2014 regular season, so our 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings are starting to resemble the beginning of the Top 50 Free Agents list, which will come out in early November after teams make qualifying offers. Click here for the previous edition of the power rankings, and click here for the full list of 2015 free agents.
1. Max Scherzer. Scherzer has a 3.07 ERA in eight starts since the power rankings were last published. The 30-year-old ranks second in the AL with 220 strikeouts, fifth with 187 2/3 innings, 13th with a 3.26 ERA, and 5th with a 2.84 SIERA. His Tigers are a good bet for the playoffs, which would mark Scherzer’s fourth consecutive postseason. Scherzer could secure the largest free agent contract ever signed by a pitcher, a record currently held by C.C. Sabathia‘s seven-year, $161MM deal from six years ago. More recently, free agent Masahiro Tanaka required a $175MM commitment, but $20MM of that was paid to his former team. Both of those pitchers received opt-out clauses, a likely goal for Scherzer.
2. Jon Lester. Lester ranks fourth in the AL with a 2.55 ERA, fifth with 186 strikeouts, sixth with 183 2/3 innings, and eighth with a 3.06 SIERA. He hasn’t missed a beat since being traded to the Athletics at the July deadline. Because of the trade, Lester boasts a free agency advantage of not being eligible for a qualifying offer after the season. He’s headed to the playoffs for the fifth time in his career. Lester is only six months older than Scherzer, and some teams shopping in the high-end of the free agent pitching market may prefer him. The Red Sox told Lester they’ll be aggressive in trying to sign him as a free agent, and the lefty says he’s prioritizing his family’s happiness over money.
3. James Shields. Shields currently leads all free agent starters with 192 innings, but Scherzer could temporarily overtake him Thursday with a decent outing. At 33 years old in December, Shields belongs slightly below the Scherzer/Lester tier in what is shaping up to be the best trio of free agent starters since this website began nine years ago. Shields is looking to reach the playoffs for the fourth time in his career with a Royals club that hasn’t been there since 1985. ESPN’s Buster Olney and WEEI’s Rob Bradford have suggested the Red Sox could make a play for Shields. A four-year deal for Shields would be easier to stomach than six or seven years for Scherzer or Lester, although a strong finish could give Big Game James a case for five years.
4. Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez spent a few weeks on the DL in August for an oblique strain. It was his first DL stint of the year, though he missed around 15 games previously due to various ailments. The 30-year-old is beginning to look injury-prone, and his bat will be less impressive if he doesn’t stick at shortstop for most of his next contract. The game is flush with cash, but is this a $100MM player?
5. Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval has proven to be a useful player who hits for average with slightly above-average pop and surprisingly solid defense given his physique. He’s a better hitter than Chase Headley and is much younger than Aramis Ramirez, so Sandoval is the best third baseman available. The Giants seem likely to make a play to re-sign him.
6. Victor Martinez. Martinez has been on fire since our last set of power rankings, hitting .344/.433/.526 in 180 plate appearances. He’s been among the best hitters in all of baseball this year, and no other free agent comes close to his 2014 production. Martinez is mostly a designated hitter at this point, and he’ll turn 36 in December. He’ll probably find a team willing to take their chances on a three-year deal, possibly in excess of the $45MM Carlos Beltran received.
7. Yasmani Tomas. Last month, Rusney Castillo set a Cuban free agent record in signing a seven-year, $72.5MM contract with the Red Sox. Tomas is a different type of outfielder, a corner guy with middle of the order power. He’s also younger, at 24 years old in November. The Phillies have been linked to Tomas in the early going, but he still has to be cleared by the Office of Foreign Assets Control before becoming a free agent. Once that happens, Tomas could have the widest market of anyone on this list given his age.
8. Melky Cabrera. Cabrera’s solid campaign continues, as he’s hitting .305/.355/.464 in 605 plate appearances. He recently turned 30 and figures to aim for a five-year deal. He may only achieve three or four, owing to subpar defense, a potential qualifying offer, and his 2012 suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.
9. Russell Martin. By measure of Fangraphs wins above replacement, Martin has been roughly as valuable as Jose Bautista this year while playing in 70% as many games. Martin has been one of the best catchers in all of baseball, with an uncharacteristic .414 OBP and his typical excellent defensive work. It’s hard to find even a surefire starter among the other free agent catchers, so the 31-year-old Martin is about to cash in. A four-year deal north of $50MM seems possible.
10. Nelson Cruz. Cruz leads MLB with 36 home runs, yet he’s tumbled from sixth to tenth on this list. The 34-year-old’s success amounts to two good months to start the season, after which he’s hitting .214/.282/.406 in 340 plate appearances. He could still reach 40 home runs, which can’t be ignored, but with another qualifying offer Cruz might find free agency disappointing again. Cruz said recently he’d like to work out an extension with the Orioles before the end of the season, but talks to date have been casual.
26-year-old Japanese righty Kenta Maeda remains worth watching; he has a 2.73 ERA in 142 innings. Ervin Santana has been excellent in eight starts since our last power rankings and seems primed for a multiyear deal. Jason Hammel has settled in in Oakland, pitching quite well in four of his last five starts. Jake Peavy and Brandon McCarthy have excelled following trades, while Justin Masterson‘s stock has plummeted and he’s been moved to the Cardinals’ bullpen. Francisco Liriano and Jorge De La Rosa also warrant mention as multiyear deal candidates, though De La Rosa may end up with a qualifying offer attached to his name. Josh Beckett may be lost for the season with a hip injury, muddying his free agent picture.
On the position player side, Aramis Ramirez continues putting up strong numbers, and Mike Morse has remained useful in recent weeks. Asdrubal Cabrera has hit well in his new role as the Nationals’ second baseman. J.J. Hardy didn’t hit a home run until June 21, but he’s gone deep nine times since while playing his typical brand of elite defense at shortstop and should secure a nice multi-year deal. Nick Markakis has been steady and productive for most of the season. Late signees Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales have continued to struggle after being traded, calling their offseason strategy into question.
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SUNDAY: Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports (via Twitter) that Correia had already cleared revocable waivers, meaning Los Angeles passed on claiming him and the Twins were free to deal him to any team.
SATURDAY: The Dodgers acquired righty Kevin Correia from the Twins for a player to be named later or cash considerations, announced the teams. The Dodgers officially placed Josh Beckett on the DL earlier today with a left hip injury, which is expected to sideline him for at least two weeks. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti acquired Roberto Hernandez from the Phillies earlier this week in response to injuries to Beckett and swingman Paul Maholm.
At the time, Colletti noted he was still trying to add another arm, and it appears that he got his man in Correia (a name that MLBTR’s Steve Adams suggested as a possibility following Colletti’s comments). “Kevin gives us an additional option as a starter or long reliever. He also supplies us with more veteran pitching depth for the stretch drive,” said Colletti in tonight’s press release.
Correia, 34 later this month, posted a 4.94 ERA, 4.2 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 0.90 HR/9, and 41.5% groundball rate in 129 1/3 innings for Minnesota. Those numbers include a disastrous April, but he’s posted a respectable, if unspectacular 4.31 ERA in 102 1/3 innings since.
The Twins signed Correia to a two-year, $10MM deal after the 2012 season, and he used his pitch-to-contact approach to generate a 4.18 ERA in 31 starts last year. The San Diego native spent the first eight seasons of his career pitching for the Giants and Padres. He picked up an All-Star nod in 2011 as a member of the Pirates.
Minnesota has saved about $1.5MM by shipping Correia to the Dodgers. Additionally, they’ve opened a spot for new acquisition Tommy Milone, who will start Monday night in Houston. Twins GM Terry Ryan is looking beyond 2014, with his club mired in last place, and Milone will be one of two new faces in Minnesota’s rotation going forward, alongside rookie Trevor May. Colletti and Ryan matched up on a minor trade last summer as well, with the Dodgers picking up backup catcher Drew Butera for minor leaguer Miguel Sulbaran (who has since been flipped to the Yankees for Eduardo Nunez).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Yankees acquired infielder Martin Prado from the Diamondbacks, tweets Jack Curry of the YES Network. The D’Backs will receive catching prospect Peter O’Brien and a player to be named later or cash considerations and are not contributing cash to the deal, tweets MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. The Yankees have now officially announced the deal.
Prado, 30, is hitting .270/.317/.370 in 436 plate appearances for Arizona this year while playing mostly third base. He was a major piece of the January 2013 trade that brought Justin Upton to the Braves. Shortly after the acquisition, Prado signed a four-year, $40MM extension with the D’Backs. He has about $3.6MM remaining this year, and $11MM in each of the 2015 and ’16 seasons.
Minutes before this trade, the Yankees acquired Stephen Drew from the Red Sox for Kelly Johnson. On July 22nd, the Yankees added third baseman Chase Headley. Drew will play second base, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, while it’s not exactly clear how Prado will be employed.
O’Brien, 24, is hitting .267/.312/.593 with 33 home runs between High-A and Double-A in 413 plate appearances. Baseball America ranked him 23rd among Yankees prospects prior to the season, praising his power but questioning his defense.
In their second blockbuster trade of the day, the Red Sox sent veteran starting pitcher John Lackey to the Cardinals along with minor leaguer Corey Littrell and about $1.75MM in cash in exchange for young starter Joe Kelly and outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig. The deal is now official. The Red Sox continue to focus on players that can help them win in the near future, having traded Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes for Yoenis Cespedes earlier today. The Cardinals further bolster their rotation, having acquired Justin Masterson from the Indians yesterday.
Lackey, 35, has a 3.60 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.98 HR/9, and 46.9% groundball rate in 137 1/3 innings this year. His 2014 numbers closely resemble his work last year, a resurgent season after his 2011 campaign culminated in Tommy John surgery and he missed all of 2012. A second round draft pick in 1999, Lackey spent the early part of his career as a front of the rotation workhorse for the Angels.
Lackey joins Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn at the front of a St. Louis rotation that suffered several blows this year. Jaime Garcia is out for the season after rib surgery this month, while Michael Wacha will return in September in the best case scenario as he recovers from a stress reaction in his pitching shoulder. In addition, the Cards received unspectacular work from Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly. Masterson is due back soon from a DL stint for knee inflammation, and hopes to put this year’s struggles behind him before reaching free agency. The Cardinals are currently in third place and 2.5 games out in the NL Central, and one game out in the Wild Card.
The Cardinals also receive Littrell, a 22-year-old starter in High-A ball who was drafted in the fifth round last year out of the University of Kentucky. He owns a 3.60 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, and 0.72 HR/9 in 100 frames this year. Littrell did not rank among the Cardinals’ top 30 prospects prior to the season in the eyes of Baseball America, though BA ranked the team’s farm system seventh overall.
Kelly, 26, posted a 4.37 ERA, 6.4 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.77 HR/9, and 54.3% groundball rate in 35 innings for the Cardinals this year. He won the team’s fifth starter job out of spring training, but injured his hamstring in mid-April and missed nearly three months. Kelly will have two years and 116 days of Major League service after 2014, meaning he’ll likely miss Super Two status and won’t become arbitration eligible until after the 2015 season. He’s under team control through 2018. Kelly boasts an average fastball velocity near 95 miles per hour, a 3.25 career ERA, and 29 1/3 innings of postseason experience, but his peripheral stats don’t quite match up.
Craig, 30, has slumped to a .237/.291/.346 line in 398 plate appearances this year. He hit .306/.358/.492 in 1,420 plate appearances prior to 2014, suggesting he could bounce back for Boston. Craig signed a five-year, $31MM deal with the Cardinals in March 2013, of which about $26.4MM remains through 2017. The deal also includes a club option for 2018. Craig has appeared at first base and the outfield corners in his career, though he’s generally regarded as a below-average defensive outfielder. The Red Sox have designated hitter David Ortiz potentially through 2017, though first baseman Mike Napoli and outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Shane Victorino are signed only through 2015.
The 2011 Tommy John procedure plays a large role in Lackey’s trade value. When the Red Sox signed Lackey to a five-year free agent deal in December 2009, concerns over his elbow led to a clause creating a club option for the league-minimum salary for 2015, which was triggered with the Tommy John procedure. That means playing for little more than $500K next year after earning more than 30 times that much in each of the previous four seasons. Lackey has told the Cardinals he plans to honor the club option, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
This season, Lackey has a bit over $5MM in salary remaining, plus a $500K assignment bonus for being dealt. He had been scheduled to start tomorrow in Boston as the Red Sox kick off a three-game set against the Yankees.
Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com first reported the Red Sox were close to trading Lackey to the Cardinals or Dodgers. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first identified the Cardinals. Peter Gammons of MLB Network first named Joe Kelly and Allen Craig as part of the deal. WEEI’s Alex Speier first named Corey Littrell as part of the deal, while Yahoo’s Jeff Passan was first to report the cash involved. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Parra, 27, is hitting .259/.305/.362 in 440 plate appearances this year, playing mostly right field for Arizona. Parra has typically posted stellar defensive metrics, though he’s been about average this year based on UZR and DRS. He has about $1.6MM remaining on his contract this year, and is arbitration eligible for 2015. A left-handed batter, Parra could enter something of a platoon with Khris Davis in left field. Or, he may just spell Davis, Carlos Gomez, and Ryan Braun as an oft-used fourth outfielder.
Haniger, 23, is hitting .255/.316/.416 in 271 plate appearances at Double-A this year. Baseball America rated Haniger the third-best prospect in the Brewers’ weak farm system prior to the season, calling him the team’s most advanced hitting prospect. The Brewers drafted Haniger 38th overall in 2012 as a supplemental draft pick for the loss of Prince Fielder. Banda, 20, is a southpaw starter with 83 2/3 innings at Low-A this year. Baseball America ranked him 27th among Brewers prospects prior to the season, though they say the team viewed him as a potential mid-rotation starter.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick first reported the Brewers and D’Backs completed a trade involving Mitch Haniger. John Gambadoro of KTAR first reported the Brewers acquired Parra. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic first reported the D’Backs acquired a second player. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Pirates claimed righty Angel Sanchez off waivers from the White Sox, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Nightengale adds that the Bucs designated righty Josh Wall for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Sanchez.
The Rays claimed Sanchez off waivers from the Marlins in June, and then the White Sox claimed him earlier this month. The 24-year-old has a 6.57 ERA, 5.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, and 0.71 HR/9 in 89 innings at Double-A and High-A this year. Baseball America ranked him 16th among Marlins prospects prior to the season, noting a live 92-95 mile per hour fastball. The Marlins had acquired him from the Dodgers last July as part of the Ricky Nolasco trade.
Wall, 27, was also sent to the Marlins in the Nolasco deal last summer. He was claimed off waivers by the Angels in October, then claimed by the Pirates in May. He has a 3.55 ERA, 9.0 K/9, and 3.8 BB/9 in 33 Triple-A relief innings this year.
36-year-old Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd is hitting .270/.318/.477 with 20 home runs in 446 plate appearances, making him one of the better power hitters available in advance of this afternoon’s trade deadline. Byrd has no-trade protection for the Royals, Mariners, Rays, and Blue Jays, plus about $2.6MM in salary remaining this year. He’s owed $8MM for 2015, with another $8MM that could vest for 2016 based on plate appearances. Furthermore, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted Monday that Byrd will only waive his no-trade clause for those four teams if his option is exercised. The latest on Byrd:
- The Yankees are out on Byrd, hears ESPN’s Jayson Stark.
- The Phillies’ asking price for Byrd is extremely high, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. He says the Phillies gave the Mariners a list of three good prospects and suggested the Ms pick two of them. That request, plus Byrd’s no-trade protection, “seemed to scuttle things” between the two clubs. ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweeted yesterday that the Mariners were out on Byrd. A source who spoke to Heyman says the Phillies believe what they’ve been offered so far for Byrd is “embarrassing.”
- The Yankees, Pirates, and Giants are among the teams that have been previously linked to Byrd and have not been ruled out.
TODAY, 12:04am: Also in on Bonifacio as of this morning were the Pirates, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
11:13am: There is plenty of action on Bonifacio, who is being pursued currently by the Orioles, Giants, and Mariners, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.
YESTERDAY, 8:12pm: It does not appear that the Giants are going to acquire Bonifacio, according to a tweet from Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
6:42pm: The Royals are not yet close to adding Bonifacio, tweets Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star.
5:48pm: The O’s are not in on Bonifacio, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, who hears that the versatile fielder could be returning to Kansas City. Needless to say, that would be an interesting turn of events: Bonifacio finished well last year with Kansas City, was tendered a contract, agreed to a salary to avoid arbitration, and was then released before the start of the season.
5:14pm: At present, the Giants, Orioles, and Reds are all in play for Bonifacio, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
4:50pm: Bonifacio has been told to be prepared for a deal today, tweets Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.
4:42pm: Bonifacio is indeed not in the lineup, with manager Rick Renteria saying it was “prudent” to hold him out, according to Rogers (Twitter link).
2:50pm: The Cubs are getting close to trading Bonifacio, tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. Levine tweets that Bonifacio is not in tonight’s lineup, which could obviously signal that a deal is nigh. Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle hears that the Giants have been scouting Bonifacio all week, but the asking price for the impending free agent is said to be high.
2:32pm: The Orioles are Giants are considering Cubs utility man Emilio Bonifacio as a trade option, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score adds the Royals, Mariners, and Reds as three more potential suitors (All Twitter links).
Bonifacio, 29, is hitting .279/.318/.373 in 298 plate appearances for the Cubs. The switch-hitter is raking against lefties in this year’s limited sample. He’s mainly played center field and second base for the Cubs. Bonifacio is eligible for free agency after the season.