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Next year’s free agent market contains plenty of players who could receive qualifying offers — David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Heyward, and others. Here’s a look at potential qualifying offer recipients who have the best chance of being traded this season, thus preventing them from receiving that designation.
At issue, of course, is draft pick compensation and forfeiture. A team extending a qualifying offer to a player receives a draft pick in return if the player signs elsewhere. The signing team also gives up a draft pick. But a player who has been traded in the season before he becomes a free agent can’t be extended a qualifying offer and thus isn’t attached to draft picks. That can be an important consideration for teams shopping for free agents, as we’ve seen in recent years in the cases of Kyle Lohse, Nelson Cruz, Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales, whose markets have all shrunk in part because of the qualifying offer.
Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, Reds. The Reds are off to a 4-0 start but still aren’t that likely to contend, which means that Cueto and Leake could hit the free agent market this summer. Trading Cueto, in particular, would be a great way for the Reds to add to their collection of young talent. Leake might be somewhat trickier to trade, since the Reds’ return might not be worth that much more than the draft pick and negotiating leverage they would forgo by dealing him.
Ben Zobrist and Scott Kazmir, Athletics. Billy Beane’s trade for Zobrist this offseason was a somewhat surprising one to begin with. The Athletics could easily contend, but if they don’t, Beane seems unlikely to sit still, and finding a new home for Zobrist wouldn’t be difficult given his versatility. Kazmir is another possibility — if he performs at his 2014 levels, he could receive a qualifying offer if the A’s contend or be traded if they don’t.
Alex Gordon, Royals. The Royals haven’t discussed an extension with Gordon, who would undoubtedly be an attractive trade target if the Royals were to fall out of contention in the AL Central. They’re currently 4-0, however, and there’s still the matter of Gordon’s $12.5MM option. Exercising it would likely not be an optimal financial decision from Gordon’s perspective, but he’s expressed interest in doing so before. If he were to make clear to the Royals that he planned to do so, he almost certainly wouldn’t be a trade candidate.
Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy, Padres. San Diego gambled heavily this offseason on the Padres’ ability to win in 2015. If they don’t, A.J. Preller doesn’t seem like the sort of GM to hang onto two key players who are due to become free agents. One possibility if the Padres were to trade Kennedy or especially Upton would be to acquire big-league talent in return, much like the Red Sox did when they dealt Jon Lester last summer. That would enable the Padres to re-tool for 2016, when they’ll still control most of the players they acquired over the winter.
Yovani Gallardo, Rangers. The Brewers exercised what was effectively a $12.4MM 2015 option ($13MM minus a $600K buyout) before trading Gallardo to Texas. His market value likely is somewhere near the value of a qualifying offer, and extending him one wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Rangers if he performs well this season. They could easily trade him rather than doing that, although that might be somewhat difficult given all the higher-impact starters who might be available and the value that would disappear if the ability to extend Gallardo a qualifying offer were to vanish.
Jeff Samardzija, White Sox. The new-look White Sox are 0-4, and GM Rick Hahn has said he will be “nimble” in turning his attention to the future if the organization’s moves to contend this summer don’t work out. That might mean Samardzija could be traded for the third time in a year. He would likely command significant value on the trade market.
Chris Davis and Matt Wieters, Orioles. Davis and Wieters are worth watching, although it’s somewhat unlikely that they’re valuable enough to receive qualifying offers and that they become trade candidates. Davis had a down season in 2014, while Wieters continues to struggle with health problems (and there’s currently no timetable for his return from an elbow injury). If Davis and Wieters are productive and healthy, the Orioles could well contend, and thus it’s unlikely they’ll be traded. If they aren’t, they might not be qualifying offer candidates.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Alex Gordon | Baltimore Orioles | Ben Zobrist | Chicago White Sox | Chris Davis | Cincinnati Reds | Free Agent Market | Ian Kennedy | Jeff Samardzija | Johnny Cueto | Justin Upton | Kansas City Royals | Matt Wieters | Mike Leake | MLBTR Originals | Oakland Athletics | San Diego Padres | Texas Rangers | Yovani Gallardo
Archie Bradley of the Diamondbacks is set for his big-league debut against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers Saturday, Steve Gilbert of MLB.com writes. “I mean, it’s exciting,” says Bradley. “He’s one of the best, if not the best, in all of baseball. I just take it as a challenge, like why not start my career against someone like him?” Heading into the season, Baseball Prospectus ranked Bradley the No. 11 prospect in baseball, with MLB.com ranking him No. 15 and Baseball America putting him at No. 25. He likely missed out on a chance to make his big-league debut in 2014 after struggling with an elbow injury. The Diamondbacks liked what they saw from Bradley this spring, though, and traded Trevor Cahill to clear space for him. Here are more quick notes on pitchers.
- The criticism Carlos Carrasco has received for his four-year extension with the Indians is misplaced, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. Carrasco has four children, an injury history and an uneven pre-2014 performance record, so it made sense for him to take $22MM guaranteed, even though he gave away his first season of free-agent eligibility and the rights to two more seasons beyond that.
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter is “proud” of Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. Garcia pitched 2 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays Friday, allowing one run and two walks while notching two strikeouts. The 22-year-old pitched in the lower levels of the Red Sox system last season, so he’s making a big leap to the Majors this year. “If he can get going and get strike one, he has a chance to have some success,” says Showalter.
We checked into the west earlier tonight; now, let’s look at the latest from the east:
- The Yankees are prepared to go to arbitration to avoid paying Alex Rodriguez any home run marketing bonuses, Bill Madden and Teri Thompson of the New York Daily News report. Rodriguez is seeing plenty of plate appearances, and it is probably only a matter of time before the issue is triggered. New York will simply not declare any triggering home runs as milestones (click here for an explanation of how the contract works), leaving it up to Rodriguez and the union whether to file a grievance.
- The Red Sox‘ prescient pursuit of Mookie Betts in the 2011 draft is at least partially attributable to the concept of neuroscouting, writes Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. To some extent, it seems, the club is still working to assess the merits of its neurological program, as well as to delineate between its scouting and development components. GM Ben Cherington explains the intuition that justifies the effort: “If you have that strength, then you might improve that. Hopefully we think we can improve it. But the player who starts with the advantage still probably has the advantage.”
- At the big league level, Cherington is trying to return the Red Sox to the depth it had in 2013, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports. Protecting against (or avoiding) injury and underperformance are key goals, of course, and depth — as well as the intelligent deployment of it — can help to maximize productivity.
- The Braves‘ offseason was dedicated rather clearly to shedding salary and adding young pitching, with the notable exception of the signing of Nick Markakis. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution looks at the reasoning, explaining that the team was motivated both by near-term and mid-term goals. At its most basic, there was simply a hole in right field that needed to be filled. But the organization also wanted to add a steady, veteran presence to the lineup and clubhouse over the next few years. “This guy’s a great leader and a great player,” said assistant GM John Coppolella. “We thought he fit us really well. We had a lot of inside information from Dave Trembley, who managed him when (Markakis) was a kid with the Orioles. … There isn’t anything wrong with this player, anything that he doesn’t do well. He’s a very good player who fits not only what we’re going through now as we try to remodel, but as we start getting to the playoffs and getting to the World Series, he will be a key part of that as well.”
Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette discussed today’s trade of Ryan Webb to the Dodgers with reporters, including Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. He praised the two prospects (catcher Chris O’Brien and righty Ben Rowen) the O’s received in the deal and felt they were worth the cost of the Competitive Balance draft pick included in the trade. “We value the picks,” Duquette said. “In this case, we think we’re getting some players who could help our major league team quicker than the player we would get out of the draft.” Here’s some more from Baltimore and elsewhere around the AL East…
- The Orioles had interest in Rowen when he was an offseason free agent, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports (Twitter link). Rowen was released by Texas in December and inked a minor league deal with the Dodgers the next month.
- O’Brien received praise from Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel (via Twitter), who described him as having a “good chance to be a solid backup” in the majors. McDaniel prefers O’Brien to Brian Ward, the catcher who went from the O’s to the Dodgers in the trade, describing Ward as an “all glove/little bat emergency type.”
- Whereas some clubs add veterans when they’re in “win-now mode,” the Blue Jays have gone the opposite direction by promoting several of their top prospects to start the season, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. As Sherman puts it, the Jays “ignored age, service time, future costs and protocol” in putting six rookies on their Opening Day roster.
- Two of those rookies, Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna, are now getting an even bigger role as Toronto moves to a virtual closer committee for the next few games, Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters (including Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi) today. Castro may be Toronto’s first choice for saves as closer Brett Cecil is still recovering arm strength after missing time in the spring with shoulder soreness. Follow @CloserNews on Twitter to keep up with all of the latest ninth-inning news.
- Yankees right-hander Ty Hensley will miss the 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Baseball America’s Alexis Brudnicki reports. Hensley was the 30th overall pick of the 2012 draft but has thrown only 42 1/3 professional innings due to surgeries on both hips and a hernia operation. If that wasn’t enough, Hensley also suffered facial lacerations after being assaulted over the offseason.
The Orioles and Dodgers announced that Baltimore has traded right-hander Ryan Webb, Minor League catcher Brian Ward and a Competitive Balance (Round B) draft pick to Los Angeles in exchange for right-hander Ben Rowen and Minor League catcher Chris O’Brien.
Webb, 29, was removed from the Orioles’ 40-man roster this week and is slated to earn $2.75MM in the second season of a two-year, $4.5MM contract this year. The former Marlin was solid, if unspectacular in his lone year with Baltimore, working to a 3.83 ERA (101 ERA+) with 6.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 48.7 percent ground-ball rate. The ground-ball rate is above the league average but checks in well below Webb’s career mark of 56.1 percent.
The Dodgers will hope for a return to form not only in terms of ground-ball rate, but also in ERA. The durable Webb notched a 2.91 mark in 2013 but struggled to repeat that mark in 2014. Webb gives the Dodgers another relief arm to step into an injury-plagued bullpen that has seen both Kenley Jansen and Brandon League sidelined by early-season injuries. Webb’s ground-ball skill set would seem highly similar to that of League, who rebounded from a dreadful 2013 season to serve as a very useful reliever in L.A. last year during the regular season.
The Dodgers will also take on Webb’s entire salary, which was likely a condition required in order to coerce the Orioles to part with the Competitive Balance pick. Baltimore will send the No. 74 pick in the 2015 draft to the Dodgers to help facilitate the deal. That pick comes with a slot value of $827K, which the Orioles will lose from their pool and the Dodgers will add to their pool. The Orioles’ draft pool will drop from $7,677,400 to $6,850,400, while the Dodgers’ pool will rise from $6,954,700 to $7,781,700.
Ward, also 29, has never cracked the Major Leagues. Signed as a 23-year-old undrafted free agent in 2009, he’s worked his way to Triple-A and batted .227/.330/.286 at that level in parts of the past two seasons. While he clearly doesn’t offer much in the way of upside with the bat, Baseball America did rank Ward as the best defensive catcher in Baltimore’s Minor League system heading into the 2013 season.
The 26-year-old Rowen is an extreme side-arm pitcher that generates a huge amount of ground-balls and has been tough to hit for opposing batters throughout his Minor League career. Rowen has held opponents to just 6.9 hits per nine innings in the Minors and worked to a 3.45 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 47 Triple-A innings last year. In 2013, Rowen posted a ridiculous 0.69 ERA in 65 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, averaging 7.9 strikeouts and 2.3 walks per nine innings.
O’Brien, 25, ranked as the Dodgers’ No. 26 prospect and profiles as a backup catcher, per Baseball America’s Ben Badler (on Twitter). The former 18th-round draft pick (2011) spent the 2014 season with the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate, slashing .266/.341/.438 in 407 plate appearances.
Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reported that Webb and Ward were headed to the Dodgers (Twitter links). FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted that Rowen and O’Brien were on their way to the Orioles, and Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweeted that the Comp Pick was going to the Dodgers.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Orioles have released catcher J.P. Arencibia, reports MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko (on Twitter). The former Blue Jays/Rangers backstop was reassigned to Minor League camp at the end of Spring Training and was expected to head to Norfolk but will now be a free agent.
Arencibia, 29, spent 2011-13 seasons as the Blue Jays’ primary catcher, surviving early in his career on plus power in spite of low averages and on-base percentages. However, his .194/.227/.365 line wasn’t enough to outweigh his 21 homers in 2013, and the Orioles cut him loose following the season. Arencibia spent time at catcher and first base for the Rangers last season but didn’t see his overall production improve much.
Agent Josh Kusnick, who represents Orioles backstop Steve Clevenger, tells Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com that he’s unsure why the team elected to select Ryan Lavarnway‘s contract and option Clevenger to Triple-A. The sequence has Kusnick questioning Clevenger’s future in Baltimore, and he went so far as to say, “If Steve is going to lose his job to someone with no options remaining, the same age and same position, then it would be great if he could find a major league opportunity somewhere else if it’s not going to work out in Baltimore.” Kusnick says that he and Clevenger haven’t been told of a specific area that Clevenger needs to improve, and he feels that Clevenger has proven himself at the Triple-A level to the point where he should have a chance to stick in the Majors. The 28-year-old Clevenger has a strong .311/.371/.420 batting line at Triple-A (760 plate appearances) and has nearly identical numbers over the life of his Minor League career as a whole. Both the Diamondbacks and Padres have been linked to catchers in the media of late, though the D-Backs have stated that they’re not interested in adding a catcher at this time.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- With Rick Porcello now signed to a four-year extension, Justin Masterson is the only Red Sox starter not signed beyond 2015. WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford spoke to Masterson about that reality, but the 30-year-old didn’t seem fazed by pitching in a contract year for the second straight season. Masterson spoke about his decision not to take an extension with Cleveland last spring, noting that he disagreed with naysayers stating that he should’ve taken the two-year offer that was on the table. “No,” said Masterson. “I would have actually felt worse if I had taken it because I knew I wasn’t feeling good. I just think it’s based off the person. But for some people it can make it hard to play.” Masterson had physical issues from the onset of Spring Training in 2014, writes Bradford, but he’s feeling healthier this year and more focused on the season than a contract.
- Fangraphs’ David Laurila looks at the parallels between Hanley Ramirez as a 22-year-old and Xander Bogaerts, who is entering his age-22 season. Laurila interviewed Ramirez as a 22-year-old back in 2004 and sees similarities in Ramirez’s approach as an inexperienced hitter and the one presently utilized by Bogaerts. One key difference, Laurila notes, is that while Bogaerts’ .240/.297/.362 line from last year was disappointing, Ramirez batted just .271/.335/.385 at the Double-A level when he was 21 years of age. Laurila opines that we shouldn’t be surprised to see a Bogaerts breakout this summer.
- Blue Jays prospect Jeff Hoffman spoke with Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel (audio link) about his return from Tommy John surgery and the progress he’s made since college and pitching in the Cape Cod League. Hoffman, the ninth pick in the 2014 draft, feels that his command is all the way back and is looking forward to getting his Minor League career underway. McDaniel also asked Hoffman about whether or not he followed trade talks in the offseason — Hoffman was prominently mentioned in the Orioles-Blue Jays Dan Duquette talks — to which Hoffman replied that he’s aware of trade discussions but tries not to focus on them. “My agent does a good job of making me aware of what can and can’t happen, and what will happen, because a lot of the stuff out there is kind of crazy,” said Hoffman. (McDaniel also spoke to Twins prospect Nick Gordon — another 2014 draftee — about his transition to pro ball, making for a pair of interesting interviews.)
- The myriad transactions of Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos will be put to the test this year in a season that could very well determine his future with the team, writes Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. Davidi tracks much of Anthopoulos’ more notable moves, including how he masterfully manipulated the CBA’s former draft pick compensation system. Anthopoulos turned Marco Scutaro, Rod Barajas, Miguel Olivo, Scott Downs, Frank Francisco, Kevin Gregg, John Buck, Jon Rauch and Jose Molina into Aaron Sanchez, Justin Nicolino, Daniel Norris, Asher Wojciechowski, Jacob Anderson, Dwight Smith, Kevin Comer, Joe Musgrove, Matt Smoral, Mitch Nay and Tyler Gonzales — often by acquiring marginal free-agents-to-be and offering them arbitration in order to stockpile draft picks when they rejected. This year is a blend of both trades and scouting/development, and if the team fails to make the playoffs, “someone else may very well get a chance to push this team over the finish line,” Davidi writes.
Both names have been mentioned as candidates to land with another team for some time now, with Matusz at one point being connected to the Mets midway through Spring Training (New York, of course, opted instead to acquire Alex Torres and Jerry Blevins). Though that door may be shut, Matusz likely holds appeal to clubs in need of left-handed relief. The Rangers currently don’t have a lefty in their bullpen, for example, while teams like the Cubs (Phil Coke) and Rays (Jeff Beliveau) have just one southpaw in the bullpen. I can envision the Tigers as a fit also, given Ian Krol‘s struggles in 2014.
Part of the reason that Matusz is considered expendable for the Orioles is his $3.2MM salary for the 2015 season, so moving him would require an acquiring club to expand its payroll, although Baltimore could theoretically be willing to include some cash to help facilitate the deal. Over the past two seasons, Matusz has been exceptional against 224 same-handed hitters, holding them to a .192/.251/.314 batting line.
As for Webb, the 29-year-old has reportedly already cleared outright waivers and, as a player with five-plus years of Major League service, can reject an outright assignment and force the team to either trade or release him (while still paying his salary). Webb’s $2.75MM salary undoubtedly played a role in his clearing waivers, though a team may be interested in bringing him on board if Baltimore is willing to pick up a portion of his contract. Of course, interested teams may be reluctant to give up much for a player that they know could soon be a free agent. Webb worked to a respectable 3.83 ERA with 6.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 48.7 percent ground-ball rate last year in Baltimore.
Webb, 29, had already been passed through outright waivers, so the move was more a formality than anything. He is owed $2.75MM this year under the two-year deal he signed last offseason. Baltimore will remain on the hook for that, less whatever league minimum salary Webb is able to collect if and when he hits an active roster. In 49 1/3 innings last year, the reliever threw to a 3.83 ERA with 6.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 48.7 percent ground-ball rate.
As for Lavarnway, the move had likewise been expected. He lost his 40-man status earlier in the offseason but nevertheless proved worthy of an Opening Day roster spot. The former Red Sox prospect may or may not figure in the club’s plans for the course of the year depending upon his performance, that of Caleb Joseph, and the timeline for Matt Wieters to return.
The rosters for Opening Day have been officially submitted this afternoon. Several minor league signees have won jobs with their clubs and earned 40-man roster spots. Here are today’s additions:
- The Orioles will purchase catcher Ryan Lavarnway‘s contract on Monday, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. The 25-man roster that the Orioles announced today included Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger at catcher, but not Lavarnway, who they had reassigned to the minors.
- The Padres have announced that they’ve purchased the contract of catcher Wil Nieves. With Tim Federowicz out with a knee injury, Nieves will back up Derek Norris. As we noted when Nieves signed, his big-league salary will be $850K.
- Ryan Madson has made the Royals‘ Opening Day roster, tweets MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Madson caps his comeback from multiple elbow injuries and his first appearance for Kansas City will be his first in the Majors since 2011.
- The Nationals have announced on Twitter that second baseman Dan Uggla and outfielder Reed Johnson have made their Opening Day roster.
- The Braves announced they have officially purchased the contracts of outfielders Eric Young, Jr. and Kelly Johnson, left-hander Eric Stults, and right-hander Cody Martin. The Braves cleared space on their 40-man roster by placing right-hander Arodys Vizcaino and outfielder Dian Toscano on the restricted list.
- One name missing from the Braves‘ roster is Pedro Ciriaco, who was reported yesterday to have made the club. This is likely a procedural move, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (Twitter links), because the Braves placed Josh Outman on the 25-man roster instead of releasing him after the left-hander complained of shoulder tenderness. The move will also buy the Braves some time to look for an upgrade over Ciriaco, tweets Bowman.
- The Phillies have announced outfielder Jeff Francoeur and infielder Andres Blanco have made the team. Francoeur is just one of four outfielders on Philadelphia’s Opening Day roster, so he could see time as Grady Sizemore‘s platoon partner in right field. The Phillies are now at their 40-man limit.
- The Marlins have selected the contract of utility player Don Kelly, tweets MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Kelly earned his spot with solid Spring Training line of .270/.357/.324 in 42 plate appearances. Frisaro reports the 35-year-old will backup both the corner infield and outfield spots, as well as serving as the team’s emergency third catcher.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Andres Blanco | Arodys Vizcaino | Atlanta Braves | Baltimore Orioles | Dan Uggla | Dian Toscano | Don Kelly | Eric Stults | Eric Young, Jr. | Grady Sizemore | Jeff Francoeur | Josh Outman | Kansas City Royals | Kelly Johnson | Miami Marlins | Pedro Ciriaco | Philadelphia Phillies | Reed Johnson | Ryan Lavarnway | Ryan Madson | San Diego Padres | Transactions | Washington Nationals | Wil Nieves