Baltimore Orioles Rumors
For a fascinating look at some of the background motivations for the Yankees' recent signings of catcher Brian McCann and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, be sure to read this excellent article from Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal. As Costa explains, New York's singular spending capacity is closely connected to its unique financial circumstances. The club's ticket sales and stadium seat licenses took a greater-than-$50MM hit last year due to missing the post-season, Costa reports. When one factors in the impact to merchandise, concessions, and future ticket sales, says Costa, the club's massive free agent investments begin to look more like a necessity. As Vince Gennaro notes in the piece, "If the Yankees were an 85-win team or an 83-win team for three or four years in a row, they would suffer financially orders of magnitude more than any other franchise."
Here are some more notes out of the Bronx and the rest of the AL East:
- If the Yankees have any chance of staying under the $189MM luxury tax level, a source tells Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, the club needs for Alex Rodriguez to remain suspended for all of 2014. If the suspension is upheld, the Yankees will avoid both his $27.5MM salary as well as the $6MM bonus they stand to pay if Rodriguez passes Willie Mays on the all-time home run list.
- The Yankees initially pursued Carlos Beltran more aggressively than Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post, but shifted their attention to Ellsbury as a third year became more and more likely for Beltran. The Mariners were seemingly willing to give Ellsbury a stunning nine-year deal, but the center fielder was apparently less than enthused about going to Seattle. Talks accelerated over the weekend when the Yanks agreed to exceed the Carl Crawford contract, Sherman reports.
- Meanwhile, Red Sox manager John Farrell told WEEI's Salk & Holley (via WEEI.com's Alex Speier) that the field staff and players were "jolted" by the news of Ellsbury's departure. With about a half-dozen current players reaching out for more information, Farrell told them that GM Ben Cherington was "doing the best he can with the two remaining guys, with [Mike Napoli] and [Stephen Drew]." "We're going to do anything we can to bring both guys back," Farrell told his players. Be sure to check out the link for a lot more quotes from Farrell on the team's recent moves and path forward.
- While Ellsbury's parting may have surprised Sox players, it seemed to be rather expected by the front office, as Speier notes. Indeed, as John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports (via Twitter), the club never made its star outfielder a nine-figure offer. Looking ahead, Boston still has plenty of work to do after resolving its catching opening by signing A.J. Pierzynski. But given the club's slate of young players already in the fold, says Speier, there are plenty of ways that Cherington can maneuver in addressing Boston's remaining questions.
- We just learned that the Orioles could be chasing some big-money free agents, but the club's most immediate move is expected to be the addition of outfielder Francisco Peguero, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com had previously reported (via Twitter) that a deal was in place, but executive vice president Dan Duquette said that "it's not a done deal." Duquette did, however, confirm that an agreement was close. The top Orioles baseball man noted that the club likes Peguero's defensive flexibility and hit tool. Adding Peguero would leave Baltimore with two vacant 40-man spots, Kubatko notes.
The Orioles are "active" in discussions for multiple free agent pitchers and hitters, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Among them are outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz as well as starter Ubaldo Jimenez, according to Morosi.
While Baltimore entered the off-season with several needs, MLBTR's Mark Polishuk explained that budget constraints -- especially with Chris Davis and Matt Wieters entering their last year of team control -- left it unclear just how much the club would be able to spend. After clearing the projected $10.8MM salary of closer Jim Johnson, however, executive vice president Dan Duquette may have additional space with which to work.
Discussing the Johnson deal, Duquette indicated that it was in large part driven by "resource allocation." Looking forward, Duquette said the club was "still looking for help in left field" and "would also like to sign some other pitchers."
While any of the above-noted players would fill a need for Baltimore, it would seem to be something of a surprise for one to land there. As Duquette went on to note, "I don't think free agency is the way to build a strong team." And the big dollars expected to be landed by Choo, Cruz, and Jimenez would certainly eat up a big chunk of the present and future payroll for the O's.
Whenever there's a trade that fans perceive as being one-sided, fans will often wonder why their team didn't get involved in negotiations. The beginning of a recent SportsNet.ca interview with Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos shows why that might not be as easy as it sounds. Anthopoulos says Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told him that the Jays simply didn't have the players he wanted in a trade for Doug Fister. Detroit eventually sent Fister to the Nationals for Ian Krol, Steve Lombardozzi and Robbie Ray. That Dombrowski apparently didn't think the Blue Jays could beat that package might seem surprising, but it appears the Tigers simply had a very clear idea what they wanted, and it wasn't possible for the Jays to enter a higher bid. Here are more notes on the AL.
- The Orioles didn't have an easy time dealing Jim Johnson, a source tells Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Other teams weren't eager to trade for a closer making a hefty salary, so the offers the O's received were underwhelming.
- The Orioles would give up their first-round draft pick -- No. 17 overall -- if the right free-agent opportunity presented itself, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets. That means that, if they're willing to open their wallets, they could be contenders for players like Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz, both of whom rejected qualifying offers.
- The Rays are hopeful that they can fix newly-acquired reliever Heath Bell, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. "His stuff is virtually as good as when he was a dominant closer with the Padres (2009-11)," says executive vice president Andrew Friedman. "He missed a lot of bats last year. He commanded the ball better than he had in previous years. He's just got a lot of things in place that give him a chance to be really good, and it's about trying to sync them all up."
DEC. 4: The Cubs are preparing to do some "serious listening" on Samardzija at next week's Winter Meetings, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter).
NOV. 27, 7:08pm: The Cubs are going to keep trying to sign Samardzija long-term despite the trade rumors, a major league source tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Twitter).
6:30pm: Jeff Samardzija's name has been swirling about the rumor mill for quite some time, and David Kaplan of CSN Chicago reports that as many as eight teams have shown "considerable" interest in Samardzija. Kaplan lists the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Diamondbacks as frontrunners to land the pitcher often referred to as "Shark," though as Kaplan notes, the asking price is substantial.
One Major League source told Kaplan, "I don't see him throwing another pitch for the Cubs," while a second offered a laundry list of reasons that Samardzija is an excellent trade candidate: he has two years of control remaining, has no injury history, comes with relatively low mileage on his arm due to his prolific football career at Notre Dame and is an excellent clubhouse presence. "Add in the fact that this guy is a big-time competitor, and I would have no hesitation in acquiring him," said Kaplan's second source.
Kaplan points out that teams run a serious risk by waiting for resolution to the Masahiro Tanaka situation since teams that miss out on the Japanese standout will swarm on Samardzija and other alternatives. One NL scout suggested that if he were a GM and didn't have pockets deep enough to guarantee landing Tanaka, he'd give up more than he'd like to get the Cubs' hurler.
The Orioles are among the frontrunners for Samardzija but most scouts that Kaplan checked in with do not expect the Cubs to trade for catcher Matt Wieters unless he was part of a much larger deal that also included young starting pitching that is nearly MLB ready.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
The Athletics have officially acquired closer Jim Johnson from the Orioles in exchange for second baseman Jemile Weeks. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter) was the first to report the deal. The Orioles also pick up a player to be named later or future considerations in the deal, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.
The Baltimore closer had been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn a $10MM+ payday through arbitration for the Orioles, but will now have the opportunity to try and break eight figures in Oakland. Rosenthal reported earlier this evening that talks were heating up between the A's and O's on Johnson.
The big right-hander has led the bigs in saves over 2012-13, with 101 total to his credit. Last year, he pitched to a 2.94 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 as well as a 58% ground-ball rate. Though he struggled for a stretch in May, Johnson rebounded with a strong run over the last four months of the season.
Weeks, meanwhile, has failed to reproduce his outstanding 2011 campaign, when he posted a .303/.340/.421 triple-slash in 437 plate appearances at age 24. Though he has struggled in the bigs since that campaign, Weeks did muster a .271/.376/.369 in Triple-A last year and still has the capacity to steal 15 to 20 bags a year. And with just 1.142 years of service under his belt, he will bring plenty of cheap years of control to Baltimore.
It appears that this deal fills holes for both clubs. The Athletics were in need of a back-end option with closer Grant Balfour hitting free agency, and the Orioles have long been searching for a reliable keystone option. The major questions, of course, will be whether Johnson can live up to his pay grade and whether Weeks will ever regain enough of his stroke to become a big league regular.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
With tonight's non-tender deadline looming, several players figure to not only be tendered contracts but agree to their 2014 salaries prior to 11pm CT. We'll run down the players to avoid arbitration with their respective clubs in this post, and remember that you can track the progress on all arbitration eligible players by using MLBTR's 2014 Arbitration Tracker. For a reminder on the projected salaries for each of these players, check out Matt Swartz's projections in MLBTR's Arbitration Eligibles series.
- The Nationals announced they've avoided arbitration with righty Ross Ohlendorf, tweets Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com. Ohlendorf's deal will guarantee him $1.25MM and can reach $3MM via incentives that can be achieved as a starter or reliever, per the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore.
- The Cubs have avoided arbitration with utility infielder Donnie Murphy, reports Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com (via Twitter), agreeing to a one-year, $825K pact that includes incentives.
- The Orioles have avoided arbitration with outfielder Steve Pearce for $700K, tweets Rosenthal.
- The Padres have reached terms with pitcher Eric Stults on a $2.75MM deal to avoid arbitration, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. He had been projected by Swartz to earn $3MM through arbitration. Unlike most arbitration deals, tweets Rosenthal, this one will be guaranteed. Also getting a guaranteed deal from the Padres, per Rosenthal, is righty Tim Stauffer at $1.6MM.
- The White Sox have avoided arbitration with catcher Tyler Flowers with a $950k contract, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- The Athletics have avoided arbitration with righty Fernando Rodriguez, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Rodriguez, who is represented by Metis Sports Management, LLC, will earn $600K plus award bonuses, MLBTR has learned. The A's will tender contracts to its remaining arb-eligible players, Slusser notes via Twitter.
- The Indians have avoided arbitration with relievers Frank Herrmann and Blake Wood, the club announced. Each player will earn $560k, tweets Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, which falls below their respective projections from MLBTR's Matt Swartz.
- Newly-acquired catcher George Kottaras has reached agreement on a one-year, $1.075MM deal to avoid arbitration with the Cubs, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The contract includes incentives, according to Heyman. A left-handed batter, Kottaras managed only a .180 batting average last year, but got on base at a .349 clip in addition to posting a .370 slugging mark in his 126 plate appearances.
- The Orioles have avoided arbitration with outfielder Nolan Reimold, sources tell Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (link to Twitter). The 30-year-old will get a one-year, $1.025MM deal that includes incentives. Reimold lost most of the last two seasons to injury, but has a career .252/.327/.439 slash in 1,056 plate appearances dating back to 2009. His salary will be guaranteed, tweets Connolly.
- The Phillies have avoided arbitration with infielder Kevin Frandsen, the club announced. Frandsen will receive a one-year, $900k deal that includes performance incentives. Last year, Frandsen had a .234/.296/.341 slash line in 278 plate appearances. The deal is guaranteed, Rosenthal tweets.
- The Braves announced that they have avoided arbitration with infielder Ramiro Pena and left-hander Jonny Venters (Twitter link). Pena, 28, batted a solid .278/.330/.443 in 107 PAs this season before shoulder surgery ended his season. Venters' contract was first reported two weeks ago and is said to be worth $1.625MM.
- MLB.com's Jason Beck tweets that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with Don Kelly by agreeing to a one-year, $1MM contract for 2014. Kelly will turn 34 in February and batted .222/.309/.343 in 2013 -- all numbers that are nearly mirrored by his career .229/.290/.344 batting line. He is represented by LSW Baseball.
- The Pirates have avoided arbitration with Chris Stewart, according to Daniel Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal (on Twitter). Barbarisi reports that the trade sending Stewart to Pittsburgh was actually in place on Friday but was also contingent on Stewart agreeing to a new contract with the Pirates. Stewart, a client of James A. Kuzmich, PLLC, agreed to his new contract today, thereby finalizing the trade. He projected to earn $1MM, per Swartz.
Major League clubs have until 11pm CT tonight to tender contracts to players for the 2014 season. We'll run down the list of American League non-tenders here. Remember that you can track all of the action using MLBTR's Non-Tender tracker, and we offer a full list of non-tender candidates as well. Also of use will be our Arbitration Eligibles series, which includes Matt Swartz's projected 2014 salaries for all arbitration eligible players.
- The Orioles announced they've non-tendered outfielder Jason Pridie and minor league starter Eddie Gamboa.
- The Rays will non-tender reliever Wesley Wright, tweets Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune.
- The Red Sox announced that they have non-tendered outfielder Ryan Kalish, Mike Salk of WEEI.com tweets.
- The White Sox will not tender a contract to pitcher Dylan Axelrod, tweets Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune.
- The Angels will non-tender pitcher Jerome Williams, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. The club will also non-tender righty Tommy Hanson and third baseman Chris Nelson, tweets DiGiovanna. J.C. Gutierrez will also be non-tendered, tweets Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, though that seemed a given since that he had already been designated for assignment.
- The Indians have non-tendered outfielder Matt Carson, pitcher Tyler Cloyd, and catcher Lou Marson, the club announced.
- The Rays are non-tendering outfielder Sam Fuld, a source tells Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Fuld, who will turn 32 in a few weeks, could be a lefty-swinging bench piece for another club, though he slashed only .199/.270/.267 last year in 200 plate appearances for Tampa.
- GM Brian Cashman says that the Yankees will non-tender infielder Jayson Nix, tweets Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. The 31-year-old veteran appeared in 87 games for New York last season, putting up a .236/.308/.311 line in 303 plate appearances. The club will also non-tender reliever Matt Daley and infielder David Adams. New York confirmed the moves via press release.
- The Royals announced that they have non-tendered second baseman Chris Getz. The 30-year-old Getz has tried to hold down Kansas City's keystone spot for several years now but produced just a .246/.299/.314 batting line from 2012-13. Swartz had pegged Getz for a $1.3MM salary in 2014.
The Orioles are working on trading closer Jim Johnson, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). The Athletics are "most involved" in those discussions, says Rosenthal, while the Dodgers are also talking but do not expect to land the big righty.
With Johnson projected to earn $10.8MM in his final season of arbitration by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, he has increasingly been the subject of trade speculation. For an Orioles club that seems constrained in its efforts to fill other needs because of salary concerns, shedding Johnson certainly has some appeal. After all, as MLBTR's Tim Dierkes explained in the above-linke post, the save numbers that have driven up his salary arguably overstate his true value. Last year, Johnson registered a 2.94 ERA in 70 1/3 innings, and his 2013 FIP (3.45) and xFIP (3.38) do not frame him as a dominant reliever.
In that respect, the interest of the Athletics is somewhat surprising. Though the club does need to replace closer Grant Balfour in some manner, it would cut against GM Billy Beane's track record to dedicate that much cash to a single reliever. And while the Dodgers have not hesitated to throw dollars at the bullpen, the club is set with Kenley Jansen at closer and is already carrying the sizeable contract of Brandon League.
The Orioles are trying hard to trade closer Jim Johnson, and the Dodgers are in the mix, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Johnson is projected to earn $10.8MM in arbitration this offseason by our own Matt Swartz.
Johnson, 30, posted a 2.94 ERA this season with 7.2 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 58 percent ground-ball rate. His 50 saves led the American League and tied Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel for the Major League lead. Over the past two seasons, no pitcher has amassed more saves than Johnson's total of 101.
The Orioles have been linked to some big-name free agents like Carlos Beltran and Jhonny Peralta (prior to his agreement with St. Louis), but their budget constraints make it difficult for them to pursue such marquee names. Shedding Johnson's salary (or at least the bulk of it) could allow Baltimore to be more aggressive on the free agent market.
The Dodgers, of course, have the game's deepest pockets, which should mean they're more than capable of absorbing Johnson's big salary. GM Ned Colletti showed he's not afraid to spend big on relievers last offseason by signing Brandon League to a three-year, $22.5MM contract, though it's fair to wonder if that contract will serve as a cautionary tale and dampen the team's interest in Johnson. The Dodger bullpen figures to be anchored by strikeout wizard Kenley Jansen, so a Johnson acquisition would likely push one solid closer into a setup role.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald looks at the Red Sox's top three needs this winter. Aside from finding a replacement for Jacoby Ellsbury and a solution to their catching vacancy, the Red Sox need to make sure they have protection for David Ortiz in the lineup. If Mike Napoli returns, he could easily fill the No. 4 or No. 5 hole. If not, it's possible that Xander Bogaerts could be the man to take over. More from the AL East..
- With catcher Jose Molina all but officially announced as re-signed and the bullpen reconstruction expected to be ongoing into January, the Rays presumably will turn their attention to first base, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Topkin notes that all of the Rays' potential trade targets are still out there, including Ike Davis of the Mets and Texas' Mitch Moreland.
- The Red Sox and the Cardinals are staying flexible this offseason, writes Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. The Cards probably won't re-sign Carlos Beltran while Boston seems likely to lose at least three of Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia this winter. As CEO Larry Lucchino put it, it's all about not falling "in love" with your veterans.
- Relief pitcher Oh Seung-hwan of the KBO Samsung Lions decided to move to Japan’s Hanshin Tigers on a record-breaking contract, his agency told The Korea Herald. Seung-hwan, who boasts a 94-96 MPH fastball, had drawn interest from the Yankees.
- Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com looks at the candidates to back up Matt Wieters in the wake of the Orioles' acquisition of Johnny Monell.