Author Archives: Zach Links

AL East Notes: Yankees, Carpenter, Orioles

Hiroki Kuroda was said to be deciding between the Yankees, a return to Japan, and retirement this offseason.  That doesn’t mean that another club didn’t try and work their way into things, however.  The Padres reportedly made a serious push to sign Kuroda before he ultimately agreed to join the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.  While Kuroda would have been a solid addition to San Diego’s starting five, it’s hard to feel bad for the Padres given the major acquisitions they’ve already made this winter.  Here’s a look at Kuroda’s former team and more out of the AL East..

  • Brendan Kuty of the Star-Ledger looked at the Yankees‘ acquisition of relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve.  After trading effective right-handed reliever Shawn Kelly to the Padres on Monday, Carpenter comes in as a solid replacement who is also younger and cheaper.  While the 31-year-old Kelley will hit the open market next season, the 29-year-old Carpenter can’t until 2018.  Shreve, meanwhile, could find a spot as the seventh man in the Yanks’ bullpen.  The deal, of course, meant giving up once-promising southpaw Manny Banuelos, who will now look to get on track with the Braves.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com looks ahead at what might be in store for the Orioles between now and Opening Day.  The O’s figure to add at least one left-handed bat for the outfield and Colby Rasmus appears to be the current favorite for that role.  Baltimore executive VP Dan Duquette would also like to add a catcher and a right-handed reliever for the big league club and might make a depth signing by adding a starter in Triple-A Norfolk.
  • The Yankees should be excited about pitching coach Larry Rothschild working with the newly-acquired Nathan Eovaldi, Kuty writes.  The 24-year-old right hander can bring the heat, but he has yet to make that translate into gaudy strikeout totals.   Eovaldi, 25 in February, has a career 6.3 K/9 versus 2.9 BB/9.

Quick Hits: Mariners, Tigers, Kuroda, Toritani

Baseball’s competitive balance is the top takeaway from the 2014 season, opines MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince. Parity can be defined in many ways, Castrovince notes, but what cannot be ignored is no team has won 100 games since 2011, three division winners in 2014 (Angels, Nationals, and Orioles) were not in the playoffs the year before, and the World Series featured a pair of Wild Card clubs. Castrovince lists a greater reliance on young talent, revenue sharing, TV money, and draft and international spending limits as reasons for the competitive balance never being stronger.

Elsewhere around baseball:

  • The Mariners‘ payroll isn’t keeping pace with payroll increases throughout the game, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times argues. The Mariners spent $93MM in 2010 and had the 14th highest payroll in the game, but because of salary inflation since then, their $109MM 2014 payroll only put them at 16th. The Mariners did add Nelson Cruz this offseason, but Baker feels their outfield would have benefited from another bat, like Melky Cabrera, Justin Upton or Matt Kemp, any of whom would have put a dent in their payroll. The Mariners have financial benefits a team like the Royals doesn’t have, Baker says, and their spending shouldn’t be in MLB’s bottom half.
  • The Tigers have not discussed an extension with David Price this offseason, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi notes. That indicates it’s still possible they could sign free agent Max Scherzer and deal Price (Twitter links).
  • It sounds like pitcher Hiroki Kuroda is ready to finish his career as a member of the Hiroshima Carp, which would rule out an eventual MLB return. The veteran told Sanspo (Japanese link) his return should be “the last decision of his baseball life,” according to Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker (on Twitter).
  • Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune sees Takashi Toritani filling two roles for the Padres: a reliable, experienced defender at shortstop and a legitimate leadoff bat from the left side. The Padres’ interest in the Japanese infielder, who is an unrestricted free agent, was reported yesterday.
  • The Padres have become relevant again with their series of moves by new GM A.J. Preller making the collection of MLB California franchises the best in the game, writes Lyle Spencer of MLB.com.
  • The Indians prefer to round out their roster through trades rather than free agency and could deal from their surplus of relievers and middle infielders (excluding Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez), reports Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group.

AL East Notes: Red Sox, Orioles, Aoki, Pearce

Free agent starter Hiroki Kuroda was long thought to be deciding between the Yankees, returning to Japan, or retiring.  Last week, he decided that he would sign on with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of NPB.  Hiroshima is where it all started for the soon-to-be 40-year-old.  Starting at age 22, he gave the club eleven seasons and pitched to a 3.69 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9.  Here’s today’s look at the AL East..

  • Even after missing out on Jon Lester, the Red Sox are in remarkably good shape for 2015, opines John Tomase of the Boston Herald.  Boston’s offense – now bolstered by the acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval – could vault them from the bottom in 2014 to the top in the coming year.  There are still question marks about the starting five, of course, but there will be no power shortage at Fenway this year.
  • The Orioles‘ outfielder options are dwindling, writes Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com.  Melewski still sees free agent Nori Aoki as a fit for the O’s, but their interest appears to be lukewarm in him and there hasn’t been much buzz on him overall.   Melewski sees Aoki as a good fit for his batting average, on-base percentage, and decent defense, and notes that he would come at an affordable rate.  Failing that, he suggests that the O’s can turn to the trade block.  Last night, in a poll asking MLBTR readers to choose the best available free agent position player remaining, Aoki was edged out by Asdrubal Cabrera.
  • Orioles outfielder Steve Pearce has an opportunity to turn himself into a prized free agent following the 2015 season, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.  If the O’s don’t make a move between now and Opening Day, Pearce remains their most viable option in right field and with another step forward, he could be a hot commodity this time next year.  Pearce batted .327/.405/.704 in 111 plate appearances against left-handers in 2013 and a redux could lead to a very healthy payday.


Cafardo On Drew, Swisher, Longoria, Gomes

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Orioles are still the team to beat in the AL East, a largely stagnant offseason which included losing two top players.  The Orioles are, in part, banking on Chris Davis having a bounce back season in his walk year and they believe healthy seasons out of Manny Machado and Matt Wieters will elevate them.  More from Cafardo..

  • Agent Scott Boras thinks the market for Stephen Drew will heat up in January after teams have exhausted trade possibilities for a middle infielder.  Boras hinted to Cafardo that a personal issue may have contributed to his offensive decline last season, though he declined to elaborate.
  • The Indians would like to trade Nick Swisher after acquiring Brandon Moss from Oakland and the Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles, Padres, Brewers, and Cubs could all be possible trade partners.  Swisher is owed about $30MM on his deal, however, so Cleveland might have to foot some of the bill.
  • One National League GM told Cafardo that he inquired about Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and was rebuffed.  The Rays have Longoria under contract at $11MM this year and $11.5MM next year before his extension kicks in in 2017, running through 2023.
  • Cafardo writes that Jonny Gomes could wind up with former Red Sox Jon Lester and David Ross on the Cubs to add some veteran presence to a young outfield.  “He’s still an effective player. He works for a team that’s on the verge and on a team like the Cubs or Astros who need a veteran presence,” said one National League GM.
  • At some point, the Phillies might have to release Ryan Howard and eat more than $60MM in salary.  Still, it’s not surprising to hear that a GM told Cafardo that an American League team would scoop him up as a DH if he is free.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Thome, Rays, D’Backs

On this date in 2005, the Diamondbacks sent Troy Glaus and highly touted infield prospect Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays for second baseman Orlando Hudson and starting pitcher Miguel Batista.  Santos would go on to make an impact in the big leagues, but not in the role he was expected to.  Here’s this week’s look around the baseball blogosphere..

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


Agents, Executives On Holiday Activity In Baseball

Reprinted from December 25, 2013. 

So far, it has been an entertaining offseason in baseball littered with surprising trades and free agents landing lucrative deals thanks to the influx of new TV money across MLB.  However, there tends to be less deals consummated during the holidays and (never say never, but) we’re not likely to see a major transaction go down on Christmas.  That doesn’t mean that the business of baseball magically comes to a screeching halt, however.  Agents and executives are still sending texts and making calls as they enjoy Christmas and New Year’s Eve with their families.

When I’ve had a free agent negotiation in progress, I can recall times that I have been talking to a GM in the back of my in-laws house while he was at the back of his in-laws house,” said agent Joe Longo of Paragon Sports International, a firm that represents Mike Napoli, Sergio Santos, and other notable big leaguers.

We all have families and we’re all trying to celebrate the holidays but sometimes you just have to get an update on a free agent when there are four or five teams you’re talking to.  Luckily, my family is really understanding.  My wife gets it.

For Giants Vice President Bobby Evans, there’s “never a complete shutdown” on business and he told MLBTR last week that his front office will continue to be active through the holiday season.

There are still quite a few guys out there so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some activity.  Some of it can be put to the side and kept quieter until after the day of Christmas or the New Year but there’s still goint to be activity, there are just too many options out there,” Evans said, while noting that, in his case, the Giants have already taken care of most of their Christmas shopping list and will instead focus on minor league pickups from this point forward.

While everyone acknowledges that the holidays are a slower time, agent Burton Rocks says that he finds that the stretch between Christmas and New Year’s Eve can be a springboard for future activity.  Deals that have stalled, he notes, can be rekindled by reaching out to an executive and wishing them happy holidays.

Meanwhile, one prominent agent says he’ll be focusing on negotiations for his arbitration-eligible clients during the holidays.  Of course, he acknowledges that it’s still possible for something to come out of left field for one of his free agents before the ball drops.  Things may be a bit quieter during the holidays, but every agent and GM will be keeping their phones handy during their downtime.


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Poll: Where Will Max Scherzer Land?

It’s December 25th and the top available free agent of the winter remains unsigned.  In some ways, it’s surprising to see the 30-year-old Max Scherzer still on the market given the widespread interest in him as a talent.  On the other hand, agent Scott Boras has never been afraid to patiently wait for the right deal.  So, who’s in right now?  Well, oddly enough, it might be easier to list the teams that appear or claim to be out.

The incumbent Tigers have had “no conversations” with Scherzer’s camp, according to assistant GM Al Avila.  Earlier this month, an industry source told MLB.com’s Jason Beck even though Scott Boras has openly said the Tigers won’t receive a chance to match an opposing team’s final offer for the hurler, Boras will, in fact, give owner Mike Ilitch a chance to match “at least as a professional courtesy.”  Keeping Scherzer won’t be cheap, but the Tigers know the value that he brings and David Price is a year away from hitting the open market himself.

The Giants have some major question marks in their rotation beyond top starters Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson and they’d undoubtedly love to add the former Cy Young winner to their starting five.  However, Giants GM Brian Sabean says that he hasn’t had discussions with Scherzer and doesn’t plan to.  Given their financial constraints and the recent commitments made to retain Jake Peavy and Sergio Romo, SF’s budget just won’t allow for such a deal.

It’s a similar story for the rest of the field.  The Cardinals say they are not actively pursuing Scherzer, even though he’s a native of the St. Louis area.  Teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Nationals, and Red Sox, who are normally not as shy about spending, have also been quick to say they’re not in the mix.

Yesterday, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post sized up the rest of the field and rightly noted that the Blue Jays aren’t likely to splurge on Scherzer after showing a reluctance to spend heavily on a reliever.  Davidoff spoke with an AL official who speculated the possibility of the Nationals trading Jordan Zimmermann, a year away from free agency himself, and signing Scherzer – a theory that ESPN’s Jayson Stark was hearing quite a bit from others earlier this month.  Another official from a second AL team pegged the Angels as the team to suck it up and pay the luxury tax penalty necessary to sign Scherzer.  Davidoff picked Detroit and St. Louis as the most likely landing spots for Scherzer while leaving room at the table for the Cubs, who were thought to be a top contender at the start of the offseason.

Take your best guess – where will this offseason’s best free agent wind up in the New Year?


Chihiro Kaneko To Stay With Japanese Club

Japanese standout Kenta Maeda won’t be coming to MLB in 2015 and neither will right-hander Chihiro Kaneko.  The Orix Buffaloes ace announced yesterday that he’ll be staying with his club after signing a four-year deal worth ¥2 billion (~$16.6MM) plus performance-based incentives, according to The Japan Times.

Kaneko was named the Pacific League MVP for his stellar season in 2014 and also won the Sawamura Award, roughly the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award.  Kaneko, like Maeda, was not eligible for true free agency this season but could have been posted by his club.  Kaneko signed on with Arn Tellem of Wasserman Media Group last month.

Back in October, Kaneko attended the World Series to get a first-hand look at the atmosphere of Major League Baseball.  Despite having some interest in making the jump and scouting looks from the Phillies (GM Ruben Amaro personally watched him throw in September), Red Sox, and Padres, he opted to remain with Orix.  Still, the major leagues remain in his future plans.

I would like to do that at some point,” Kaneko said.

While not as highly regarded as Maeda, Kaneko earned an honorable mention on Tim Dierkes’ Top 50 Free Agents list and likely would have been included had he been posted.  This past season, Kaneko pitched to a 1.98 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 through 26 starts.


D’Backs To Re-Sign Jordan Pacheco

The Diamondbacks will re-sign Jordan Pacheco to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, a source tells Chris Cotillo of SB Nation (via Twitter).

Arizona claimed the infielder/catcher off waivers from the Rockies back in June.  Pacheco, 29 in January, was outrighted in November, but the club made it known soon after that they were hoping to retain him.

Though he hasn’t set the world on fire offensively, he does offer contact skills and defensive versatility.  Over the last few years, he has seen significant time at catcher, first base, and third base.  In 2012, he posted a .309/.341/.421 slash line (good for a 93 OPS+) across 505 plate appearances.  Since then, however, he has slashed just .245/.285/.320.

Pacheco is represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council, as shown in the MLBTR Agency Database.


Jake Peavy On His New Two-Year Deal With Giants

The Giants have some uncertainty in their rotation behind top starters Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson, but they shored things up by bringing back Jake Peavy on a two-year, $24MM deal. The pact became official yesterday and on a conference call with reporters yesterday evening, Peavy talked about his decision to stay put in San Francisco.  Like Sergio Romo yesterday, Peavy had nothing but praise for the Giants organization and its close-knit locker room.

The veteran says that he had lots of interesting opportunities elsewhere, but ultimately it was an easy choice to return to the Giants.

Not being Jon Lester, I wasn’t flying around everywhere nor did I want to get my door beat in but…we had six or seven teams wanting to make offers,” Peavy said when I asked him about interest from other clubs around baseball.  “Once the market starts to go, it starts to go, and guys start to go to teams fast and teams want to get players fast.”

The veteran, 34 in May, intimated that he spurned more lucrative offers from other teams to remain in orange and black.

I had some really nice offers but I wasn’t chasing the most money.  There were opportunities for that, but I didn’t take those and I feel blessed.  I wanted to be in a situation where A. I can win – [manager Bruce Bochy] and [Giants vice president Bobby Evans] will tell you this, it does nothing but re-energize you and it makes you want to win even more than you previously did.

I feel like I can be a really good major league player and I wouldn’t show up if I didn’t think I could go out and replicate what I did in August and September there and I wanted to get a fair deal – what I thought was very fair deal – and I think for both sides we gave a bit to make that happen and that’s about as good as I can answer.”

Peavy’s desire to return to the Giants has been clear for some time but he “waited for the dust to settle” rather than rushing into a deal.  He was never skeptical about whether he could work out a new pact with the Giants but, rather, he wanted to see how the market played about before signing anywhere.  As he alluded to, that was the smart move for free agent starters on the second-tier or below.  With Lester and others off the board, things became much clearer for Peavy and other veteran starters looking for their landing spot.

At the age of 34, this was Peavy’s first go-round through free agency and it wasn’t a process that he terribly enjoyed.  In the end, though, things appear to have worked out just fine.  Peavy is back with the Giants – and back with Bochy – on a two-year pact.  And, thanks to his full no-trade clause, he knows that he’ll be able to take off his coat and stay a while.