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3:26pm: Markakis, too, says he is unaware of any current extension talks, tweets Connolly. He quotes the right fielder: “Nothing. Unless my agent hasn’t been telling me everything, because I haven’t heard anything.”
2:53pm: Cruz says that there are no talks at present, though he had some discussions with the Orioles earlier in the year, MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli reports on Twitter.
1:37pm: The Orioles have interest in reaching a late-breaking extension with outfielder Nick Markakis as well, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun suggests on Twitter. He does note that deals do not appear imminent with either Markakis or Cruz.
Earlier, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweeted that he would not be surprised to see the club try to open talks with Markakis.
12:08pm: After seemingly reaching terms on a deal with J.J. Hardy, the Orioles are now “pushing” to get a contract done with fellow free agent-to-be Nelson Cruz, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter.
Cruz, 34, enjoyed a monster season at the plate in his first year with the O’s, hitting an MLB-best 40 home runs while working his way to a strong .271/.333/.525 batting line. While he’s been known to have injury problems in the past, Cruz tied a career-best with 159 games played this season.
Cruz is currently playing on a one-year, $8MM contract after struggling to find a suitable multi-year deal last offseason on the heels of a PED suspension and a qualifying offer. The slugging DH/outfielder recently switched agents, signing on with Diego Bentz of Relativity Sports, so he’ll have different representation this time around than he did when negotiating his last contract.
If the two sides do indeed reach a deal, the free agent market will take a significant hit today. Hardy was arguably the best pure shortstop on the market, and Cruz represented perhaps the best power bat for teams looking to add some thump to their lineup. An extension for Cruz would be unquestionably good news for the likes of Victor Martinez, Melky Cabrera and Yasmany Tomas, as there will now be less competition on the open market.
The Orioles are closing in on an extension with shortstop J.J. Hardy and could announce an agreement this afternoon, Jeremy Conn of 105.7 The Fan reports on Twitter. Terms are expected to land at three years and over $40MM, with an option of some kind included on the back end, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
An extension has long been rumored to be a possibility. But reports indicated that talks never really got started over the winter and early portion of the season.
Things have changed since that time, of course. For one, Manny Machado — long considered the eventual replacement for Hardy at short — suffered a second consecutive season-ending knee surgery and has in any event established himself as a premier defensive third baseman. On top of that, as you might have noticed, the O’s cruised to the American League East crown and into the ALCS. While it is hard to know whether that had any role in Baltimore’s thinking, the added current and future revenue stream surely did not hurt.
Of course, Hardy’s performance has had its ups and downs this year. While his power numbers are down, and he was fairly inconsistent at the plate on the whole, Hardy continues to provide immense value with his glove. In the aggregate, Hardy was once again about a 3-and-a-half win player in the regular season.
While several other useful shortstop options are present on the upcoming free agent market, Hardy seemed to be the prize — at least for clubs looking for an option that promises to stick at the position over the duration of the contract. (Hanley Ramirez, it seems fair to say, does not fit that description.) His absence from the market would be a boon to the likes of Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, and Stephen Drew.
26-year-old Kenta Maeda of Japan’s Hiroshima Carp is expected to become available through the posting system, making him an intriguing potential addition to the upcoming free agent market. Ben Badler of Baseball America has a report on Maeda’s last outing in the Nippon League, writing that he “flash[ed] three average or better pitches with good fastball command.” Though slight in build, Maeda steadily worked in the 90-94 mph range. Ultimately, Badler indicates that, while the righty is not viewed as a top-of-the-rotation arm at the MLB level, he should draw plenty of interest if he is made available.
Here are a few more stray notes from around the game:
- The Yankees may be interested in re-signing mid-season acquisition Chase Headley, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. A move to bring back the third baseman would appear to be a strong indication that Alex Rodriguez is not expected to be an option there, Heyman explains.
- The Tigers thought they were going to acquire then-Red Sox lefty Andrew Miller at the trade deadline after meeting Boston’s asking price, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. But the Sox gave the Orioles one last chance, resulting in Eduardo Rodriguez heading north to a division rival. As Sherman notes, the eleven outs that Miller recorded in the ALDS for the O’s, rather than the Tigers, had an undeniable impact on Baltimore’s three-game sweep.
- Looking ahead to Miller’s free agency, one executive tells Sherman that three years and $21MM is probably just the starting point for the southpaw’s market. The ability to deploy Miller in the way that the Yankees used Dellin Betances in his breakout year — often throwing multiple innings in winnable games — greatly increases his value, says Sherman.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says “there’s nothing that’s really off the table” for the team as it enters the offseason, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Though he said he does not believe “this organization needs a philosophical overhaul as far as how we evaluate players,” Amaro said the team needs to get younger and more athletic while “looking for more long-term solutions” in the player market. Ultimately, the organization could put added emphasis on “speed and contact” given the lack of power bats available.
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.
The Pirates have acquired minor league righty Preston Guilmet from the Orioles in exchange for cash considerations, Baltimore announced. Guilmet was recently designated for assignment by the O’s.
The 27-year-old had mixed results with Baltimore this year at the big league level. Over 10 1/3 innings, he struck out 12 against just two walks, but he also yielded six earned. The former Indians farmhand also had a cup of coffee with Cleveland. Though his earned run mark rose at Triple-A Norfolk this year, Guilmet continued to post appealing K/BB figures, striking out 10.1 and walking only 1.9 batters per nine.
As of yet, those solid minor league numbers have not yet resulted in much of a chance at the big league level. As MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth noted upon Guilmet’s DFA, that could be due to the fact that he tops out in the low 90s and is not a groundball producer.
After crunching a variety of payroll numbers, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier concludes that the Red Sox should have at least $50MM to $55MM in 2015 payroll still available. You’ll want to read the typically excellent piece to understand exactly how Speier reaches his conclusions, but the bottom line is that the team’s financial situation dovetails with an impressive stock of prospects to convey unmatched flexibility to GM Ben Cherington entering the offseason. Of course, as Cherington notes, that doesn’t mean that Boston can snap its fingers and return to contention. “I think we have a challenging offseason ahead of us that’s sort of, in a way, simple to see but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to execute,” he explained.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, recently of the Yankees, says he would welcome a chance to continue in pinstripes as he looks to rebound from a rough 2014. As George A. King III of the New York Post reports, Drew’s agent — Scott Boras — still believes his client has productive baseball ahead of him. “I would say clubs would spend a good deal of time focusing on his career offensive statistics as opposed to a couple hundred at-bats,” said Boras. “Defensively, he is still elite and a lot of teams will have interest in him as a shortstop.” Boras did seem to acknowledge that Drew needs to rebuild his stock one year after declining a qualifying offer and waiting to sign until after the draft. “If it’s a multi-year [deal], I don’t think it would be a long one,” said Boras. “I trust this player.”
- Meanwhile, Joel Sherman of the New York Post analyzes the possible Derek Jeter replacements for the Yankees. He ultimately rejects many names that have commonly been linked to New York, noting that many of the free agent shortstops come with questions about how long they can continue to play the position. Sherman lists Drew, Didi Gregorius, Jose Iglesias, Jimmy Rollins, and Alexei Ramirez as five possible candidates. (All but Drew, of course, would have to be acquired via trade.)
- 2012 Blue Jays third-round draftee Anthony Alford has agreed to a full-time baseball commitment. The Clarion-Ledger reported yesterday that Alford had decided to end his football career at Ole Miss to join the Jays. As John Lott of the National Post explains, Alford’s deal with Toronto — which came with a $750K bonus — allowed him to focus primarily on football. That risk was the only way to acquire Alford’s rights, said GM Alex Anthopoulos, who explained that the organization believes Alford to be an “outstanding prospect” who could move quickly in full-season baseball.
- Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette says his ballclub is better now than in 2012 due to its starting pitching, and credits pitching coach Dave Wallace for the improvement, as MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli reports. Meanwhile, Duquette talked over some of the organization’s notable mid-season moves to fill gaps that had opened, acknowledging the hard work and remarkable performances of players like Steve Pearce and Caleb Joseph. Of course, as Ghiroli suggests, some portion of the credit for those fill-ins must go to Duquette and his front office.
With the regular season in the books, it’s worth assessing how things ultimately shook out from last winter’s Rule 5 draft. Only nine players were taken in this year’s draft. Here’s where things stand:
Remember, players are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they aren’t on the 40-man roster four or five years after signing, depending on the age at which they signed. If a team makes a selection, it pays the former team $50K and must keep that player on the Major League roster all season or offer him back to his original team for $25K. (Note that Rule 5 selections can change hands like any other player, with an acquiring team stepping into the shoes of the original selecting club. Click here for more details.)
- Patrick Schuster, LHP (taken first overall by the Astros from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. But not before a somewhat eventful tour. He was first dealt to the Padres, then placed on waivers and claimed by the Royals before finally being sent back. He never ended up throwing a big league inning, and ultimately struggled to 4.50 ERA in 18 frames at Triple-A once back with the D’backs.
- Adrian Nieto, C (taken third overall by the White Sox from the Nationals): Retained by Chicago. The switch-hitting, 24-year-old backstop hung on all year, posting a .236/.296/.340 line in his first 118 MLB plate appearances. He is now White Sox property.
- Kevin Munson, RHP (taken fourth overall by the Phillies from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. Munson never made it onto the active roster, and was sent back in mid-March. Though he never saw MLB action this year, he did post a rather dominant campaign at Triple-A: 2.60 ERA, 11.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9.
- Tommy Kahnle, RHP (taken eighth overall by the Rockies from the Yankees): Retained by Colorado. The 25-year-old was an oft-used bullpen piece for the Rockies, posting a 4.19 ERA in 68 2/3 frames with 8.3 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9. Colorado owns his rights moving forward.
- Brian Moran, LHP (taken ninth overall by the Blue Jays from the Mariners): Still in limbo after season-ending surgery. Moran was dealt by Toronto to the Angels on the day of the draft, and opened the season DL’ed on the active roster. But his left elbow ultimately required Tommy John surgery, meaning that he ended up on the 60-day DL. The Halos do not yet own Moran’s rights permanently: to keep him, the club will need to carry him on the active roster without a DL stay for at least 90 days.
- Seth Rosin, RHP (taken tenth overall by the Mets from the Phillies): Returned to Philadelphia. Dealt immediately after the draft to the Dodgers, Rosin was claimed by the Rangers late in the spring and made three appearances before his roster spot was needed and he was returned. Back at Triple-A with the Phillies, he worked to a 3.86 ERA over 58 1/3 rames.
- Wei-Chung Wang, LHP (taken eleventh overall by the Brewers from the Pirates): Retained by Milwaukee. It took some doing, but a contending Brewers club was able to hold onto Wang for the entirety of the season. Though he did miss 45 games with a DL stint, Wang ultimately made only 14 appearances for the club. The 22-year-old will presumably be stretched out as a starter again as he returns to his development track in the lower minors.
- Marcos Mateo, RHP (taken fifteenth overall by the Diamondbacks from the Cubs): Returned to Chicago. Mateo was the first player to be returned, heading back in mid-March. The 30-year-old threw to a 3.86 ERA in 37 1/3 innings upon his return to Triple-A with his original team.
- Michael Almanzar, 3B (taken sixteenth overall by the Orioles from the Red Sox): Returned to Boston … but ultimately traded back to Baltimore. Shelved with injury for much of the year, Almanzar was returned to the Red Sox in the middle of the summer after a rehab stint. But the O’s obviously wanted him back, and added him as part of the Kelly Johnson deal. Over 233 minor league plate appearances on the year, Almanzar posted a .245/.322/.389 slash.
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Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons are in no immediate danger of losing their jobs, but that could change if team president Paul Beeston leaves his post, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. Beeston is in the last year of his contract, and there is speculation around the game about whether he’ll stay. Beeston backed Red Sox chairman Tom Werner over Rob Manfred for commissioner, which Rosenthal implies might suggest Beeston was looking for a job in the commissioner’s office. Also, Rogers Communications, which owns the Jays, hired a new CEO in January. Here are more notes from the American League.
- Phil Hughes is open to a contract extension with the Twins, writes Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. Hughes quietly had one of the top seasons among starting pitchers, with 6.1 fWAR and 4.3 rWAR. He walked just 16 batters in 209 1/3 innings. Combined with a solid 8 K/9, Hughes set a major league record for K/BB ratio at 11.63 while pitching to a 3.52 ERA. Hughes is entering his age-29 season and has two years and $16MM remaining on his contract.
- Earlier this weekend, the Orioles designated reliever Preston Guilmet for assignment. For Guilmet, that move concluded a season spent in a transaction vortex, CSN Baltimore’s Rich Dubroff writes. Since Guilmet arrived in a minor trade with the Indians in April, he’s been involved (by MLBTR’s count) in 14 transactions, mostly a function of the fact that he had options. None of those transactions were earth-shaking, but they had to have been trying for Guilmet personally.
Guilmet, 27, pitched 10 1/3 innings for the Orioles this year, striking out 12 batters and walking just two but giving up two homers and six earned runs. Guilmet, a long-time closer in the Indians’ system, has always posted strong numbers in the minor leagues, but hasn’t gotten a clean shot at a big-league job, perhaps in part because of his underwhelming stuff — most of his fastballs don’t top 90MPH, and he doesn’t get many ground balls.
Casilla tells Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter) that he thought his season was over, and that he had been getting ready to play winter ball in the Dominican. The 30-year-old Casilla hit .264/.315/.320 in 213 plate appearances for Triple-A Norfolk this year. He has not played since August 30 due to a hamstring injury. He is in the Orioles’ lineup today, playing third base.
Alex Rios‘ career with the Rangers could be over. The outfielder has a bruised right thumb, and MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports that Rios has decided it would be better to simply not play, since the thumb has not gotten better and risks infection. The Rangers are expected to decline Rios’ $13.5MM option this offseason and pay his $1MM buyout, which means that his next big-league plate appearance could come with another team. In Rios’ absence, Sullivan writes, the Rangers will likely move Shin-Soo Choo from left field to right and spend their savings on pitchers. Here’s more from the American League.
- The Orioles have officially announced the signing of Cuban pitcher Lazaro Leyva. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported the signing in September, although Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reported earlier this weekend that the two sides were still in the process of finalizing the signing. The deal is reportedly for $725K.
- Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka made a successful first start on Sunday after missing two months with an elbow injury, allowing one run while striking out four and walking none in 5 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays. He says that his elbow feels good and that he does not think he needs Tommy John surgery, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com reports. “It’s pain-free,” Tanaka says, adding that he rarely thinks about the injury. A strong full season from Tanaka would, clearly, provide a huge boost for the Yankees in 2015 — he’s been one of the best pitchers in the American League this year when he’s been healthy.