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Baltimore Orioles Rumors
It would be “the longest of long shots” if the Yankees acquired Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus this offseason, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. Andrus’ eight-year, $120MM extension begins in 2015 and the Yankees aren’t interested in paying that type of superstar money to a player who hasn’t yet delivered on that level. “You would have to hope he turned a big corner if you took on that contract,” an executive tells Feinsand. “If he never gets any better, that’s a lot of money for a good — but pretty ordinary — player.” Ironically, the Yankees’ long-standing interest in Andrus was part of the reason why Texas extended him in the first place, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. It’s worth noting that Andrus has opt-out clauses in his deal after both the 2018 and 2019 seasons, so the financial commitment may not quite be as lengthy as it seems.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- There isn’t any truth to reports that the Orioles made a three-year, $30MM offer to Billy Butler, a member of the organization tells MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. While the O’s have had interest in Butler, Kubatko feels the team wouldn’t spend that much on a full-time DH.
- The Orioles will meet with Nick Markakis‘ agent Jamie Murphy today, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (via Twitter). The O’s are still seen as the favorites to sign Markakis, though the Blue Jays and other teams are interested in the veteran outfielder. Earlier this week, Murphy said that the Orioles weren’t one of the several teams he planned to speak with about his client during the GM Meetings.
- Though Yoenis Cespedes‘ name has frequently been mentioned in trade rumors, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington told reporters (including MLB.com’s Ian Browne) that those rumors aren’t “based in any sort of evidence. We’re happy to have him. We felt like as we were building a lineup for next year, adding that power element in the middle of the lineup was critically important to us. So now that we have it, we’re not really anxious to give it away. We believe he’s very important in 2015, and 2015 is very important to us.”
- Cherington spent “an extended period of time” talking with Jon Lester‘s agents last night, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford tweets.
- The Rays interviewed Giants bench coach Ron Wotus about their managerial opening yesterday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Of the ten candidates on the Rays’ list, the team still has to speak to Barry Larkin, Doug Glanville and Kevin Cash before getting into the second round of interviews.
- In other AL East news from earlier today, we published a collection of Blue Jays notes, the Yankees signed lefty Jose De Paula and the Orioles are shopping right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jimenez signed a four-year, $50MM free agent deal with the O’s last offseason but his tenure in Baltimore got off to a tough start. The veteran righty posted a 4.81 ERA and a career-high 5.5 BB/9 over 125 1/3 IP, a performance that saw him get dropped from the O’s rotation in August. Jimenez wasn’t used during the ALDS and wasn’t even on Baltimore’s ALCS roster, and his troubled season also included a month on the DL with an ankle injury.
Needless to say, the Orioles would be selling low on Jimenez. Suitors could be hard to find given the three years and $38.75MM remaining on the righty’s contract, though the O’s could eat some money in a trade or look to swap Jimenez for another unfavorable contract. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman speculates that the Indians, one of Jimenez’s former teams, could be a possibility given that they’re looking for rotation depth. Jimenez posted a 3.30 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 2.43 K/BB rate over 182 2/3 IP for the Tribe in 2013, a solid season that paved the way for his four-year free agent deal.
Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas will celebrate his 24th birthday on Friday, and it will surely be a happy one given the lucrative contract on the horizon. Yesterday, agent Jay Alou explained the Phillies’ standing in the Tomas derby, telling reporters including Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, “There are several teams that I could say are frontrunners, but yes (the Phillies are one of them).” Surprisingly, the Phillies have yet to make a formal offer, but Alou says, “It will all get going soon.”
Today’s Tomas rumors…
- Tomas is drawing interest from the Orioles, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal also notes on Twitter that the chase for Tomas is still heating up, with two teams set to visit him in the Dominican next week and others still weighing pursuit.
- The Royals have entered the Tomas sweepstakes, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Royals don’t feel that Tomas has the same type of advanced hitting skills that countryman Jose Abreu brought to the division-rival White Sox, but they have a need for a right fielder and feel his defense is at least adequate. The Royals like Melky Cabrera as well but Tomas would allow them to preserve their first-round pick, whereas Cabrera received and rejected a qualifying offer from Toronto.
- The Phillies, Padres and Giants have each seen Tomas three times, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. He also reports that agent Jay Alou rejected an eight-year offer (though he doesn’t specify the value), preferring a five to seven year term to get Tomas onto the open market again around his age-30 season. The Mariners also like Tomas but aren’t expected to outbid other clubs, according to Heyman.
- Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the Rangers aren’t likely to sign Tomas. Starting pitching is said to be the team’s top priority, and sources tell Wilson that the Rangers have informed Alou that their resources will be dedicated to that goal.
- How about the $100MM figure that has been bandied about for Tomas? “I don’t know where that came from, but he’d be happy and I’d be happy,” says Alou. In my September profile of Tomas, I posited a seven-year, $105MM contract. More recently, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports went with eight years and $100MM, an agent who spoke to Heyman said seven years and $93MM, and a GM said eight years, $100MM. Eight years is an interesting call, because that would mean Tomas would be giving up a potential valuable free agent season. Seven would be more aligned with typical MLB service time for a top prospect, who can put in just shy of seven years before reaching free agency if called up a few weeks into the season.
- Yesterday, Jorge Arangure Jr. had an excellent profile of Tomas for Vice Sports. In it, Arangure said Tomas will likely choose a team from the Phillies, Yankees, Red Sox, Mariners, and Padres, who have all scouted the player several times. Tomas’ Dominican-based trainer Raul Javier, asked when the player would sign, replied, “Very soon.”
7:15pm: Cruz is at the GM Meetings with his representatives, and had a meeting today with Baltimore, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal. It seems likely that he will meet with other clubs while in town, Rosenthal suggests.
6:27pm: Cruz is seeking a five-year contract, and the Orioles have no interest in that length of commitment, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. I’d assume that if Cruz is indeed asking teams for five right now, it’s likely just a bargaining ploy to get clubs to come up to four years as a compromise of sorts.
4:12pm: The Orioles made Nelson Cruz a three-year offer to remain in Baltimore before the 2014 MLB home run leader officially hit the open market, reports Buster Olney of ESPN (Twitter link). The Orioles now feel positioned to wait as Cruz explores his options with other teams, Olney adds.
Olney also reports that Baltimore remains in contact with Nick Markakis‘ camp about a new multi-year deal, though one of the unresolved issues for the two sides is deferred money. Earlier today, executive vice president/GM Dan Duquette told reporters that the O’s have enough financial flexibility to retain both Cruz and Markakis.
Baltimore figures to be one of the primary suitors for Cruz, though he’s also been connected to the Mariners in the early stages of the offseason. Cruz struggled to find a multi-year deal on last year’s open market when he entered free agency with what were then considered to be extremely lofty expectations. Now he’s coming off a .271/.333/.525 season with 40 homers and about 15-16 months between him and his 50-game suspension for PED usage, giving him a considerably stronger case. MLBTR’s Zach Links recently profiled Cruz and projected that he would indeed be able to find a fourth year.
Orioles skipper Buck Showalter and Nationals skipper Matt Williams have been voted as the American League and National League Managers of the Year.
Showalter, 58, takes home his third Manager of the Year Award, with the others previously coming in 1994 with the Yankees and 2004 with the Rangers. His Orioles won 96 games this season in a year when many believed the Red Sox, who were the defending World Champions, and the Yankees, who spent a half-billion dollars in free agency, would be fighting for the division. Baltimore made it all the way to the ALCS before being ousted by the Royals.
Williams, meanwhile, will win the award in his first year on the job. The Nationals also won 96 games this season, though their postseason journey ended in the National League Division Series at the hands of the eventual World Champion Giants.
Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle and San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy finished second and third, respectively, in the NL balloting. The Angels’ Mike Scioscia and the Royals’ Ned Yost were the respective second- and third-place finishers in the AL.
The Rays are nearing an agreement with St. Peterburg mayor Rick Kriseman that will grant the team permission to explore new stadium sites in Hillsborough County, report Stephen Nohlgren and Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times. Kriseman would like to finalize an agreement within the next month and “definitely before Christmas” so he can present the plan to City Council. If the Rays do leave for a new Hillsborough stadium, the city of St. Petersburg would be entitled to monetary compensation, as the Rays’ current lease at Tropicana Field runs through 2027.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- Orioles GM Dan Duquette was named Major League Baseball Executive of the Year by The Sporting News, and he spoke with MLB.com’s Paul Hagen about the honor. Duquette, who narrowly edged out Dayton Moore of the Royals, said his focus from day one has been improving the club’s pitching staff. He also addressed the success he’s had in finding value from unheralded minor league signings, and how that success makes them an attractive destination: “…when players sign with us, whether it’s Triple-A or the big leagues, they know they’re going to get an opportunity.”
- Duquette tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News that he has enough financial flexibility to sign both Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz (Twitter links). He plans to meet with Cruz’s new agent, Diego Bentz of Relativity Sports, at the GM Meetings, and the book is not closed on Markakis returning even though he’s meeting with other clubs.
- The Red Sox are receiving a lot of interest in minor league shortstop Deven Marrero, reports Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com (Twitter link). The 24-year-old was the club’s first-round pick back in 2012 and has an excellent defensive reputation, though he batted just .258/.327/.372 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014. The Mets, of course, are one team known to be looking high and low for a shortstop.
- Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal spoke with Sox GM Ben Cherington about interest in Marrero, and while he noted that there has indeed been interest, Cherington said it hasn’t been any greater than the interest he’s received in the past. Marrero has drawn steady interest over the years, according to Cherington. As MacPherson notes, however, Marrero is posting particularly strong numbers in the Arizona Fall League this year.
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe discussed the possibility of the Red Sox acquiring Cole Hamels with Hamels’ agent, John Boggs, and came away with the belief that the team has a shot, even though the Sox are on Hamels’ no-trade list. Hamels doesn’t have any issue with Boston, writes Cafardo, though he’d likely use the no-trade clause as leverage to get his 2019 option picked up in advance, as Ken Rosenthal noted yesterday. The Phillies have scouted Boston’s system extensively and like many of their players.
- Cafardo also notes that the Sox are receiving quite a bit of interest in Yoenis Cespedes. Boston is “desperately” trying to keep an outfield spot open for Mookie Betts, making a trade of Cespedes possible.
- The Boston Herald’s John Tomase spoke with Cherington, who stopped short of labeling any of his prospects untouchable, but he made it clear that those who contributed in 2014 (e.g. Betts) are extremely unlikely to be moved, Tomase adds (Twitter link).
Talks between the Orioles and Nick Markakis on a four-year deal appear to have stalled, as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that Markakis’ agent, Jamie Murphy of TWC Sports, will meet with several clubs at this week’s GM Meetings. Asked if the Orioles were among the clubs with whom he planned to meet, Murphy told Connolly, “No, not at this time.”
According to Connolly, the two sides were at one point nearing agreement on a four-year pact that would have paid Markakis $10-12MM annually. However, the agreement was never reached, and the two sides haven’t had any meaningful discussions in a week, Connolly writes. Prior to today, Murphy had been negotiating exclusively with the Orioles, but that has changed, and he’ll now shop for a palatable deal with teams around the league. Connolly tweets that he doesn’t get the sense this latest development has closed the book on Markakis re-signing in Baltimore.
Markakis, who just recently won his second Gold Glove, is coming off a season in which he rebounded from a poor 2013 with a .276/.342/.386 batting line and 14 homers. Though he wasn’t the doubles machine that he was earlier in his career, he still posted a solid OBP and home run totals that are in line with his career norms. I profiled Markakis last month and projected him to sign a four-year, $48MM contract.
The Orioles and Blue Jays discussed a potential Adam Lind trade before the Jays sent Lind to the Brewers, reports MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. The Jays asked for Steve Pearce in the deal, which would have amounted to something like a challenge trade — Lind and Pearce are the same age and play the same positions, although Lind is left-handed and Pearce right-handed, and Lind has one more year of team control. Pearce is coming off a significantly better season and will be much cheaper in 2015 (a projected $2.2MM for Pearce versus $7.5MM for Lind), however, so it’s not surprising that the Orioles said no. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Dan Duquette’s most significant trade for the Orioles was sending Jeremy Guthrie to the Rockies for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom, Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com writes. As that trade suggests, Duquette hasn’t been involved in many blockbusters in his three years on the job. The book is far from closed, however, on a couple of the deals Dubroff lists, like last season’s swap of Eduardo Rodriguez and Andrew Miller, and the 2013 trade of Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger.
- The Rockies should need to trade Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez to become relevant again, but they should wait until those stars prove they’re healthy, Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post writes. If the team can trade one at the peak of his value, the deal might mark a significant step forward for the franchise, much like the Cubs’ trade of Jeff Samardzija.
- Pablo Sandoval is likely to represent the best value among free agent corner infielders this winter, ESPN’s Keith Law writes (Insider-only). Law argues that since Sandoval is only 28, he has plenty of upside, although his conditioning could cut in two directions — he might be able to get better with improved conditioning, although that conditioning could also be a drawback as he ages if it doesn’t improve. Law also writes that Hanley Ramirez has good value as a third baseman but much less as a shortstop.
The Orioles‘ payroll will likely increase next season, MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski writes, adding up likely expenditures to reach a projected Opening Day payroll of about $121MM. That’s up from $107.5MM in 2014. Melewski includes free agent outfielder Nick Markakis for $12MM in his projections, in line with the four-year, $48MM contract MLBTR’s Steve Adams projected Markakis would get. (It’s since been reported that the Orioles were discussing a four-year deal with Markakis.) The Orioles could non-tender a player or two to drop their total, but one problem is that they’ve got 11 arbitration-eligible players, including many who were very good last season and two others (Chris Davis and Matt Wieters) whose salary baselines are already very high thanks to their performance in previous years. They also have Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy and Ubaldo Jimenez locked up to relatively expensive long-term deals. Here are more notes on the East divisions.
- The Yankees have tried to re-sign Brandon McCarthy, but McCarthy is waiting to see what the market has in store for pitchers like Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. After an outstanding stretch run in New York, McCarthy is attracting interest as a potential alternative to the top tier of free agent starting pitching.
- Emerging executive John Coppolella is now John Hart’s “right-hand man” with the Braves, but he got his start in the Yankees organization, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes. After turning down a lucrative job at Intel, Coppolella became a baseball operations intern in New York right after graduating college, also working part-time at Chili’s to make ends meet. That led to an opportunity in Atlanta, where he’s worked his way up to assistant general manager. He’s widely seen as a top GM candidate.
Blue Jays president Paul Beeston appears set to continue on in that capacity, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Of course, as Davidi notes, both Beeston and GM Alex Anthopoulos could face questions if a postseason berth is not in the offing in 2015. The front office will have at least $20MM to $30MM in free salary, Davidi reasons, which could be bolstered with a spending increase and/or move to shed some payroll obligations. As Davidi rightly notes, Toronto has a very clean balance sheet after this year, which could potentially leave the team with a big hammer to wield in free agency.
Here’s more from Toronto and the rest of the AL East:
- The Blue Jays have a number of possible offseason targets on both the trade and free agent front, writes Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. Among them is Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, who Toronto has “placed multiple calls on,” according to Nicholson-Smith — who, it should be noted, also recently reported that the Jays are on Kendrick’s no-trade list.
- Whether or not the Yankees are big free agent spenders this year remains to be seen, but the club’s financial muscle is flexed in many and disparate ways, as Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs writes. Over recent years, New York has consistently controlled the market for minor league free agents, bringing bigger and better offers to the table for players like Yangervis Solarte. (In an interesting note to give context to this relatively minimal spending, McDaniel says a team source told him the team could break even financially even if it carried $500MM in total payroll obligations, including luxury tax costs.)
- The early set of rotation targets for the Yankees features names like Brandon McCarthy, Jason Hammel, and Chris Capuano, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. That jibes with another recent report suggesting that New York has no current plans to attack the arms at the top of the market.
- Free agent closer David Robertson, who is currently weighing a qualifying offer from the Yankees, is one of the most fascinating free agents to watch. Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that his sense is the club will be interested in exploring a multi-year deal with Robertson, but may not chase him at the top of the market and would be comfortable allowing him to walk.
- Another QO recipient, Nelson Cruz, told MLB Network Radio (via Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun) that a return to the Orioles is his preferred outcome. “No doubt it’s my first choice,” said Cruz. “I’d love to be back. I understand the business. I know they’re interested in bringing me back. Hopefully we can work something out.” Cruz was not willing to say he would take a lesser deal to stay in Baltimore, though it is obviously hard to fault him for not copping to that publicly — or, for that matter, for choosing the best contract offer he receives, if that ultimately proves to be the case.
- The Red Sox catcher of the future is Blake Swihart, not Christian Vazquez, opines J.J. Cooper of Baseball America. But the team need not decide now how it will sort out the presence of two highly-regarded young backstops. Instead, the team has the option of adding a veteran presence alongside Vazquez for the coming year while Swihart continues to develop in the minors. Assuming Swihart establishes himself as a big league regular, Boston will have plenty of time to assess whether it makes more sense to keep both players or deal one away.