Author Archives: Zach Links

Offseason Outlook: Arizona Diamondbacks

During their third consecutive season without a playoff appearance, the Diamondbacks shook things up from top to bottom.  With a very different regime in place, Arizona figures to make some serious changes this winter.

Guaranteed Contracts

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

Contract Options

Free Agents

The writing was probably on the wall for General Manager Kevin Towers when the Diamondbacks hired Tony La Russa to oversee the front office in the spring.  Towers, of course, got the ax last month and weeks later La Russa appointed his former ace Dave Stewart as GM and plucked De Jon Watson away from the Dodgers to serve as the senior VP of baseball operations.  While some expect the Diamondbacks to take a step back before moving forward, Watson says that won’t be the case.

I don’t see this as a complete rebuild,” said Watson, according to MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. “I think we had some bad health, a little bad luck. This club is going to be better than most people are thinking they’re going to be going into next year. So I’m excited about coming back into Spring Training, I’m excited about this upcoming winter and going out and try to find upgraded talent to add to what we currently have in-house.

Watson isn’t just being a sunny optimist – the Diamondbacks really did get hit hard by the injury bug in 2013.  Left-hander Patrick Corbin was one of several young, talented starters who underwent Tommy John surgery in March, ending his season before it started.  Reliever David Hernandez, who was looking to build off a strong finish to the 2013 season, also underwent Tommy John surgery prior to Opening Day.  Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt‘s season ended in early August when a fastball from Pirates reliever Ernesto Frieri fractured his left hand.  When considering those injuries plus the ones suffered by Mark Trumbo, A.J. Pollock, and pricey winter addition Bronson Arroyo, it’s easy to see how the Diamondbacks wound up losing 98 games.

The D’Backs now need to figure out who will lead the turnaround effort from the dugout.  The club is casting a wide net in their managerial search with out-of-house options like Jim Tracy, Rangers interim manager Tim Bogar, and Sandy Alomar. Jr. alongside internal candidates Triple-A Reno manager Phil Nevin, Double-A Mobile manager Andy Green, and big-league hitting coach Turner Ward.  If there are bonus points to be had for La Russa ties, someone like McEwing could have an advantage in the process.

After that, the Diamondbacks’ first order of business will probably be to address their starting rotation which has plenty of candidates but a greater number of question marks.  Corbin may not be back in action until June and Arroyo will probably be sidelined for a few months thanks to his July Tommy John operation.  As it stands now, the D’Backs have Wade Miley to head the rotation alongside rising sophomore Chase Anderson and Vidal Nuno.  Josh Collmenter could be a consideration as well, though he may wind up in the bullpen rather than the starting five.  Trevor Cahill will look to get back on track, though that is far from a given after his disappointing season.  Prospects Archie Bradley and Andrew Chafin also figure to get long looks but how ready they are remains to be seen.

The best fix, arguably, would be to go after top free agent arms like Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, and James Shields.  However, Stewart and Watson expressed doubt that they can work those kinds of guys into the budget in a recent chat with Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic.  Don’t count on a blockbuster, either.  Stewart doesn’t seem to have the trading bug like his predecessor did and he indicated that a trade of minor league talent to acquire an established pitcher is unlikely.

So, where does that leave us?  With a bevy of young starting pitching talent and a limited budget, the D’Backs could look to sign veteran arms to short, affordable deals.  Thanks to his age and a career path that has been anything but linear, Aaron Harang might be available at a reasonable price.  As I wrote earlier this week, Harang has some similarities with Arroyo including age and the ability to eat up a lot of innings, though he should cost a lot less than Arroyo did at $23.5MM guaranteed over two years.  Names like Roberto Hernandez and Kyle Kendrick could also get a look if the D’Backs are looking for affordable pitching, and on a one-year deal, they could be moved come summertime when the staff should be back to full health.  If Arizona is willing to take on more pitchers coming back from injury, Chad Billingsley, Brett Anderson and Gavin Floyd shouldn’t cost much, and each offers some upside.

While it’s lower on the to-do list than the rotation, the D’Backs may also look to add a piece or two to their bullpen.  The Diamondbacks aren’t expected to target top relievers, but notable names like Jason Frasor, Matt Lindstrom, and Matt Belisle could get looks as the D’Backs seek to improve on their 3.92 bullpen ERA from last season, the eighth-highest in the majors.  Stewart unfortunately faces the unenviable task of trying to lure free agent pitchers to a one of the game’s most hitter-friendly environments just months after his team finished with the worst record in baseball.  Because of that, it wouldn’t be surprising to see their bullpen signing come down after the New Year when some relievers are left hanging.

While Towers wanted to add an outfield bat, that’s one area that we can safely expect Stewart & Co. to leave alone.  “I think that A.J. (Pollock) in center, (David) Peralta played well, (Mark) Trumbo will probably be in the outfield mix with (Paul) Goldschmidt being at first base and being healthy again,” the GM explained to The Arizona Republic’s Zach Buchanan. “It’s a pretty solid outfield, in my opinion.”  Like it or lump it, outfielder Cody Ross will also be there in support thanks to his $8.5MM salary.

Arizona will leave their depleted farm system alone, but there are trade chips to work with on the varsity squad, particularly in the infield.  Second baseman Aaron Hill is no stranger to the pages of MLBTR and he could, in theory, be moved this offseason.  Hill will be 33 come Opening Day and is still owed $24MM through 2016, but he plays a position of need for many other clubs.  Shortstops Cliff Pennington and Nick Ahmed could also be trade candidates.  Pennington posted a .253/.346/.358 batting line to go with his usually solid defense but they might choose to move him and his $3.3MM projected salary.  With several teams looking for a shortstop, including the Mets, Arizona could find a ripe market for their shortstop surplus.  If Arizona installs Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius in the middle infield full-time and reallocates that money elsewhere, it’ll give them much more flexibility.

All in all, it’s hard to say how much breathing room the D’Backs will have this winter as they survey the free agent market.  Arizona already has ~$67MM committed to the roster with arbitration raises due for Miley, Pennington (if tendered an offer), David Hernandez, Addison Reed and Mark Trumbo.  One month ago, Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall said that he payroll will likely scale back from $112MM to about $100MM, but La Russa has since said that it could be anywhere between $80-110MM, depending on whether or not there is value to be found.  Value or no value, it’d be a surprise to see the team under $90MM if they truly want to compete next year.

It’ll take some creativity for the D’Backs to get back into contention in 2015, but then again, this is the franchise that was creative enough to invent the title of “chief baseball officer.”


NL West Notes: Friedman, Dodgers, Ishikawa

One of Jeff Bridich’s proudest accomplishments likely didn’t come up when he was bumped from senior directior of player development to GM of the Rockies.  As a junior at Harvard, Bridich hit a two-run homer over Fenway’s Green Monster against UMass.  Even though the Crimson ultimately lost 13-12, it remains a cherished family memory for Bridich, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.  “Hitting a homer at Fenway was cool, but it’s more special because my dad did the same thing when he played for Harvard,” Bridich said. “He hit his to almost the same spot. Of course, my father did it with a wood bat, so that’s a little bit more impressive.”  Here’s more out of the NL West..

  • If the Dodgers move on from General Manager Ned Colletti, their top target appears to be Rays GM Andrew Friedman, according to Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times.  A lot of great things happened under Colletti’s watch, including Clayton Kershaw becoming a Cy Young Award winner and Dee Gordon becoming an All-Star, but the new Dodgers owners view him as someone who gave away too much money to older players and built a shoddy bullpen.
  • While toiling away in Triple-A last season, Giants first baseman Travis Ishikawa spent just two weeks with his family between February 1 and September 1.  With little hope of getting back to the bigs, he nearly gave up on baseball to spend more time with his family back home, writes Alex Pavlovic of The Mercury News. “I thought about retiring.  I was trying to figure out something else where I could be home and make money…Thank God I stuck with it,” the Giants’ unlikely hero said.
  • Bridich understands the value of catching and Saunders wonders if that could affect his offseason plans.  Russell Martin would be a tremendous get for the Rockies, but he’ll be a very hot commodity after the season he had in Pittsburgh.  While the Rockies have Wilin Rosario and Michael McKenry behind the plate, there are limitations to what they can do.

Cafardo On Peavy, Martinez, Samardzija

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that Jake Peavy has gone from a likely minimal contract in free agency to a possible three-year deal.  The Giants are interested in re-signing him because they need him, and manager Bruce Bochy has gotten great work out of him.  For his part, the 33-year-old appears to enjoy being back with Bochy, his manager during his glory years in San Diego.  Here’s more from today’s column..

  • A major league source tells Cafardo that Victor Martinez‘s preference is to stay with the Tigers and, therefore, Detroit will get the first crack at him. The interest is mutual and the Tigers would like to get something done sooner rather than later.
  • If A’s GM Billy Beane listens to offers on Jeff Samardzija this offseason, you can count the Red Sox as one of the possible interested parties.  The Sox inquired with the Cubs about him before the trade deadline, and they would not give up a package that included lefthanded pitching prospect Henry Owens.
  • Orioles outfielder/DH Nelson Cruz enjoys Baltimore and wants to stay, but Cafardo expects the Yankees, Rangers, and Mariners to be in on the bidding.  No matter what, the 34-year-old looks like he’ll make a bundle somewhere on a three- or four-year deal.
  • First baseman Adam LaRoche likely won’t re-signed by the Nationals, who could move Ryan Zimmerman to first base.  However, LaRoche lines up nicely as a target for the Brewers, who have toyed with the idea of Ryan Braun moving to first but will likely keep him in the outfield.  He could draw interest from the Orioles if they lose Cruz.
  • While there’s intrigue over Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, there’s still some pushback from scouts who have seen him play on whether he can translate well to MLB.  Some are worried about the pronounced leg kick in his stance that lasts deep into his swing.  There also has always been skepticism over his defensive ability, even though he won the Korean version of the Gold Glove.


Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Kershaw, Desmond, Corbin

On this date in 2013, for the first time in baseball history, two playoff games on the same day ended with the score of 1-0, as Leo Panetta of NationalPastime.com writes:

In Game One of the ALCS, the Tigers blank Boston at Fenway Park with the contest’s lone run scoring on Jhonny Peralta’s sac fly in the sixth, and Jon Jay‘s fifth inning sacrifice fly at Busch Stadium provides the only run the Cardinals will need to take a 2-0 game advantage to Los Angeles in the NLCS.”

Here’s this week’s look around the baseball blogosphere..

Please send submissions to Zach at ZachBBWI@gmail.com.


Free Agent Profile: Aaron Harang

Last winter, veteran starter Aaron Harang hooked on with the Indians on a minor league deal and, at the time, he appeared to have a strong chance of being the fifth man in the Tribe’s rotation.  In March, when he was informed that he wouldn’t be a part of the Opening Day roster, Harang requested and secured his release.  That same day, he agreed to a big league deal with the Braves and he did not disappoint in Atlanta.  Now, the 36-year-old is hitting the open market once again and this time around he should only be fielding big league offers.

Strengths/Pros

Harang exceeded all expectations this season as he turned in a 3.57 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9.  A lot of pitchers tend to tail off around Harang’s age, but this past year ranks as one of his very best at the big league level.  His ERA was the lowest it has ever been (ditto for his identical 3.57 FIP) and his 204.1 innings of work stands as his highest total since 2007.  Ultimately, his $1MM deal proved to be one of the better free agent bargains of 2014.Aaron Harang (vertical)

The 36-year-old won’t be held back by a qualifying offer and there’s reason to believe he could continue to deliver a ton of innings for his next team.  Harang hasn’t been on the disabled list with an arm-related injury since 2008 and he can hardly be penalized for his late season emergency appendectomy in 2009.

Harang didn’t magically discover the fountain of youth or go on a hardcore Julio Franco-esque diet this past season.  Instead, as he explained to David Lee of The Augusta Chronicle late last month, he has become a craftier pitcher in recent years.

I threw a lot more four-seamers when I was younger,” Harang said. “I had a coach show me how to throw a two-seamer, and I started doing it, and every year it seems to be more effective. Once you get used to throwing it and realize how key that pitch can be, you make those adjustments.

Harang made a concerted effort to start throwing more two-seam fastballs in 2009.  As Lee notes, in 2008, when he threw 64 percent four-seamers and 8 percent two-seamers, he posted a 4.78 ERA and averaged 1.7 home runs per nine innings.  This season, it was much more balanced with Harang throwing 29% two-seamers and 30% four-seamers.  Harang’s pitch velocity has faded a bit in recent years, but thanks to a different approach on the mound, he has been able to adjust and age more gracefully than a lot of his contemporaries.

Weaknesses/Cons

While Harang’s 2014 performance was strong, his 2013 campaign didn’t go quite as smoothly.  At the start of the season, the Dodgers traded Harang to the Rockies for Ramon Hernandez before he was quickly DFA’d and flipped to the Mariners just days later.  After posting a 5.76 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 22 starts for Seattle, the M’s DFA’d him in August.  Harang finished out the year with the Mets, meaning that he had bounced between four clubs all within that year.  In total, Harang had a 5.40 ERA – a number his next club doesn’t want to see – with 7.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9.  

This year, while his ERA was solid and his strikeout and walk rates were more or less consistent with his career average, some of the advanced metrics aren’t as crazy about his performance.  Both xFIP (4.03) and SIERA (4.18) feel that Harang’s ERA should have been a touch higher than 3.57.

Harang is putting less emphasis on his heater than he was earlier in his career, but it’s still hard to ignore his decreasing velocity.   Harang threw his fastball at an average of 88.8 MPH, his lowest average in the past eight years that it has been recorded by PITCHf/x.  If his velocity continues to lose steam, it’s fair to wonder whether his 6.4% HR/FB ratio from 2014 can be sustained.  For his career, Harang has a decidedly less sharp 10.2% HR/FB ratio.

Personal

Harang and his wife Jennifer have three children.  He knows how important fatherly wisdom can be as he attributes his 2,100+ innings of major league work to sage advice from his dad.

I would never teach a kid a breaking pitch until age 13,” Harang said, according to Anna McDonald of ESPN.com. “My dad wouldn’t show me one. He didn’t want [my elbow] to blow out. So I didn’t start throwing a curveball until I was 13 years old. I had the karate-chop one, where you just throw it and it spins up there. Your muscles aren’t developed enough, your ligaments aren’t developed enough to withstand it.

Harang, a San Diego native, told Dan Hayes (then of U-T San Diego) in 2010 that he prefers fish tacos to Skyline Chili, even though he has spent the bulk of his career in Cincinnati.  He also prefers The Simpsons to Family Guy, which is the right choice in my book.

Market

For his part, Harang told reporters, including MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, that he would be interested in pitching for Atlanta again.  The Braves undoubtedly appreciate his work this year, but they also know that they can’t retain him with another one-year, $1MM deal.  In theory, the Braves can trot out a starting five of Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran, Brandon Beachy, and Alex Wood.  However, Medlen and Beachy are recovering from Tommy John surgery with unknown return dates and it would certainly help to have a battle-tested veteran pitcher at the ready.

Still, he may not be in the budget in Atlanta and he may not take a discount to stay put since this could be his last sizable deal.  The Pirates are one team that could use a reasonably priced out-of-house addition to their rotation.  Harang may also find a match with teams like the Astros and Rockies if he’s not aiming for a likely contender.

Expected Contract

Last winter, Bronson Arroyo, also at the age of 36, secured a guaranteed $23.5MM over two years from the Diamondbacks with an $11MM club option.  Like Arroyo, Harang fits the profile of a durable innings eater who isn’t dependent on velocity for success and both had strong walk years before hitting the open market.  However, not all innings eaters are created equal: before Arroyo’s unfortunate UCL tear this season, he pitched 200 innings or more from 2005 through 2013, with the exception of a 199 inning total in 2011.  Also, Harang’s vagabond 2013 might hurt his case for big money.

We expect the Levinson brothers to readily bring up Arroyo’s name, but Harang probably won’t match his deal.  I predict Harang will land a two-year, $14MM deal this offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Quick Hits: Reds, Martinez, Street, Blue Jays

The Tigers and Athletics made noise at the trade deadline when they acquired David Price and Jon Lester, respectively, but now they have little to show for it, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes. Instead, some of the most effective moves have been the quieter ones, like the Orioles acquiring dominant lefty reliever Andrew Miller or the Giants dealing for Jake Peavy. Nightengale also notes that the Dodgers made the best move of the trading season by not dealing Matt Kemp, who hit like crazy down the stretch and so far in the postseason. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon can all become free agents after the 2015 season, putting the Reds in a tough spot, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. “As much as I think we’d like to be able to keep every single guy and pay them what they deserve, it’s impossible to do it here,” says manager Bryan Price. Rosecrans quotes Cueto, Latos and Leake all saying they would be happy staying in Cincinnati, but the Reds will have a tight budget, with plenty of money already committed to Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey.
  • Victor Martinez doesn’t have a monetary goal in mind when it comes to the contract he’ll sign as a free agent this offseason, but he does know how many years he’d like to receive, writes Anthony Castrovince of Sports On Earth. Martinez won’t say how many years that is, but he does say he doesn’t want to still be playing at 40. He’ll open next season at 36, which might indicate he’s looking for a four-year deal. Martinez is poised to cash in after an outstanding .335/.409/.565 season in Detroit, although Castrovince notes that Martinez’s market will be constrained somewhat because he’s a DH and because the Tigers will almost certainly extend him a qualifying offer.
  • Now with the Angels (who were just eliminated from the postseason by the Royals), Huston Street fondly remembers his time as the Padres‘ closer, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune.  “When you leave someplace, you want to miss it as much as I miss San Diego, says Street. “Just because that means the time you spent there was meaningful. It was a time in my career that really set me on a very successful path.
  • Not retaining Casey Janssen will probably be the correct decision for the Blue Jays, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star writes. Teams frequently change closers, as a look at playoff teams’ rosters indicates — the only playoff closer who has been in that position with his team for three years is Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers. Instead of worrying about a closer, Griffin argues, the Jays should address second base and the outfield.

East Notes: Sandoval, Burnett, Shields, Mets

The AL East champion Orioles are looking for their first playoff sweep since they eliminated the A’s in the 1971 ALCS as they face the Tigers in Game Three of their ALDS. The NL East champion Nationals, meanwhile, will look to avoid being swept by the Giants tomorrow in their NLDS.

Here’s the latest from baseball’s East divisions:

  • Pablo Sandoval, with his personality and left-handed bat, would be a good fit for the Red Sox, opines the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Despite Sandoval’s weight issues and a declining OPS over the past four seasons, Cafardo hears the third baseman will command a five-year, $100MM pact with the Yankees and Dodgers joining Boston in the bidding.
  • A.J. Burnett‘s decision whether to exercise his $12.75MM player option will dictate how the Phillies‘ offseason unfolds, according to CSNPhilly.com’s Corey Seidman. If Burnett declines the option, the Phillies will have the financial flexibility required to make impactful free agent signings and begin the necessary roster overhaul, Seidman writes.
  • The James Shields-Wil Myers trade between the Rays and Royals is still under evaluation, notes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. At this point, who “won” the trade depends on whom you ask.
  • The Mets don’t need a spending spree to improve for 2015, posits Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Of course, it would be nice if they could spend the necessary money to sign free agent catcher Russell Martin, but there are cheaper ways they can upgrade their offense. One idea Sherman has is calling the Red Sox to inquire on a Bartolo Colon for Shane Victorino deal.

Free Agent Profile: Justin Masterson

In 2013, Justin Masterson turned in a career season for the Indians as he pitched to a 3.45 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9, earning an All-Star Game nod and piquing the attention of baseball people everywhere.  No one knew where he would wind up after the 2014 season, but everyone agreed that he was in line for a massive contract.  Masterson might not get the same long-term haul he once envisioned thanks to a lackluster 2014, but he still figures to get paid this winter.

Strengths/Pros

Everything came together for Masterson in 2013.  His power sinker was clicking, he was striking batters out at a career-high rate, and his 3.33 xFIP indicated that he was just flat out good, not lucky.  With an aggressive approach on the mound and a 58.5 percent ground-ball rate, Masterson truly realized his potential with the Tribe.

Justin Masterson

Of course, the main difference between the 2013 and 2014 versions of Masterson was health.  Fortunately, he’s on the mend from his injuries and should be 100% on all fronts by the start of Spring Training.  While others in his position – banged up in a contract year – might have chosen to rest up, Masterson mostly pitched through the pain.  At 29, Masterson is younger than most of the quality pitchers available on the open market.  And, thanks to the midseason trade that sent him to St. Louis, Masterson can’t be hit with the qualifying offer and won’t have draft pick compensation tied to him.

His 2014 numbers – a 5.88 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 – aren’t so hot, but the fact that he managed to make 25 starts and 3 relief appearances despite it all is pretty impressive.  The righty logged four straight seasons of at least 180 innings for Cleveland and while his ERA yo-yoed – 4.70 in 2010, 3.21 in 2011, 4.93 in 2012, and 3.45 in 2013 – he was solid on the whole and his 11.7 fWAR in that stretch placed him among the top thirty starters in the game.  Masterson also hasn’t had a ground ball percentage lower than 55.1% in the last five years and he’s been around 58%  over the last two seasons.

GMs will ask their team doctors to do a thorough check on Masterson before putting pen to paper, but they probably won’t fret about the right-hander resting on his laurels and counting his money.  It’s also worth mentioning that the 29-year-old’s xFIP (4.06) and SIERA (4.03) were far kinder to him this year than ERA and his 8.1 K/9 is actually stronger than the average of his previous four seasons.  Given time to heal up and iron out the kinks in his delivery, Masterson could get back to his old self rather quickly.

Weaknesses/Cons

His troublesome right knee, which plagued him for a good chunk of the season, is partially to blame for the down year.  That problem seems to be in the rear view mirror but shoulder impingement and a nagging left oblique injury have held him back and adversely altered his mechanics.  He’s expected to fully recover from all of those injuries with some rest, but teams will certainly be wary and especially thorough in their examinations.  Clubs will want to be sure that they’re more likely to get the 2010-2013 version of Masterson than the 2014 version.

During Masterson’s 2010-2013 run, his fastball had an average velocity of about 92.9 MPH.  This season, Masterson threw his heater at a decidedly less warm 90.3 MPH.  Faulty mechanics brought on by injury are believed to be culprit for the drop, but teams will still view the decreased velocity as a concern.

Masterson’s struggles landed him in the Cardinals’ bullpen to finish out the regular season and that’s obviously not how St. Louis saw things shaking out when they traded for him at the deadline.   The hurler was viewed as a top-of-the-rotation piece just a year ago and he will wind up with relief appearances as the most recent work on his resume.  Masterson actually did well in his grand total of 3 and 1/3 innings of bullpen work, but he’s obviously looking to join someone’s starting five next season.

Personal

Earlier this year, Justin and his wife Meryl welcomed twins to the world, a boy and a girl, making their three-year-old daughter a big sister.   Justin, the son of a pastor, spends much of his downtime aiding in humanitarian causes both here and abroad with Meryl.  This offseason, he’ll be heading to Uganda and Kenya on a mission trip to help with water projects and to build orphanages for needy children.  The Mastersons founded a non-profit organization (the Fortress Foundation) in 2013 to help extremely impoverished people from all around the world.  In Cleveland, they volunteered and donated to Laura’s Home, a local battered women’s shelter.  It’s no surprise that the Indians made Justin a repeat nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.

In the clubhouse, Masterson is known a supportive teammate and someone who is always willing to help out the younger pitchers.  At 29, Masterson is still young, but he also has lots of valuable experience to draw from.

Market

If the medicals check out, a team could very well come away with one of the best pitching bargains of the winter.  Back in January, when Masterson was coming off of his career year, Tim Dierkes pegged his extension value around $65-$85MM over a five year stretch.  Like any free agent, the 6’6″ hurler has his question marks, but he could be a very solid value after an offseason of rest.

Last last month, Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com wondered aloud if Masterson could be a fit for the Cubs.  His history with former Red Sox GM and current Cubs president Theo Epstein could lead to a union and, as Mooney notes, coach Chris Bosio has a track record for taking his pitchers to the next level.  Speaking of the Red Sox, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote back in August that Boston will have interest in Masterson in the offseason.

Outside of those old friends, teams in bigger parks with pitching needs like the Twins, Angels, Marlins, and Braves might be in the mix for Masterson.

Expected Contract

Because Masterson’s four consecutive strong years were followed by a spotty walk year, it’s hard to gauge what kind of contract he’ll net this winter.  A one-year deal to reassert himself as a top starter could put him in line for a substantial long-term deal.  At the same time, it’s not hard to envision a team coming to the table with a multi-year offer to Masterson’s liking.

If Masterson opts for a one-year deal in order to restore his value and go for a monster contract after the 2015 season, a one-year, $12MM contract could make sense.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.  Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Rivera, Tomas, Sanchez

On this date in 2010, Hanshin Tigers outfielder Matt Murton broke Ichiro’s Japanese record for the most hits in a single season when he recorded his 211th hit of the year.  The 2003 first-round draft pick of the Red Sox had a rather unremarkable stint with the Rockies in the year prior, but made a major impact overseas.  Here’s this week’s look around the baseball blogosphere..

Please send submissions to Zach at ZachBBWI@gmail.com.


Cafardo On A-Rod, Miller, Iglesias, Jaso

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo is everybody’s bridesmaid right now.  He has a strong resume that has prepared him for managing, but he hasn’t gotten his big break yet.  There are others in the same boat, including Dodgers bench coach Tim Wallach and Athletics bench coach Chip Hale.  Lovullo hopes that like Bo Porter, he can break through it eventually.  Here’s more from today’s column..

  • Manager Joe Girardi says otherwise, but Cafardo writes that the Yankees are viewing Alex Rodriguez are more of a DH than a third baseman possibility in 2015.  A-Rod’s ability to play third could have an impact on the Yankees’ offseason plans, including whether to re-sign Chase Headley.
  • Orioles lefty Andrew Miller is a strong union man who will seek the best contract for himself when he reaches free agency.  Miller wants to return to the Red Sox, if they’re not close on money, but he’ll ultimately go to the highest bidder.  Major league sources tell Cafardo that they believe the bidding will start at three years, $21MM.
  • There was some trade buzz around shortstop Jose Iglesias but it now looks like he may be back in the driver’s seat as the Tigers‘ future shortstop.  Eugenio Suarez and Andrew Romine both showed promise at times, but they’ve each had their runs and fizzled out.  Iglesias has recovered fully from stress fractures in both shins and is expected to pick up where he left off as one of the top defensive shortstops in baseball.
  • The A’s are open to trading anyone, the Red Sox are looking for a backup left-handed hitter, and John Jaso seems to fit the profile for what Boston wants.  Jaso started 47 games this season for the A’s, who also used him at DH.