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- Diamondbacks To Sign Yasmany Tomas
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- Braves, Cardinals Trade Jason Heyward For Shelby Miller
- Tigers Exercise Alex Avila's Option
- Diamondbacks Acquire Jeremy Hellickson
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Boston Red Sox Rumors
Though there’s been mutual interest between Melky Cabrera and the Blue Jays for months, ESPN’s Buster Olney hears that, all things being equal, Cabrera’s preference would be to sign somewhere other than Toronto so that half of his games aren’t played on artificial turf (Twitter links). However, the turf won’t prevent Cabrera from remaining in Toronto if the club’s offer is clearly the best that he receives.
Some more links pertaining to baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- The Marlins are willing to listen to offers on top prospect Andrew Heaney, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. While parting with the player that entered last season as a Top 30 prospect according to Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com (and 34th per ESPN’s Keith Law) would of course be difficult, the club very much wants a left-handed bat to pair with Giancarlo Stanton in the middle of the order. One key reason for their willingness to part with Heaney, Frisaro notes, is the emergence of fellow lefty Justin Nicolino. Miami acquired Nicolino — who has ranked as a Top 100 prospect himself — from Toronto in the Jose Reyes blockbuster. He posted a 2.85 ERA in 170 1/3 innings at Double-A this season, walking just 1.1 hitters per nine. However, he also saw his strikeout rate dip to a somewhat troubling rate of just 4.3 per nine.
- Frisaro also notes that right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and southpaw Brad Hand are also available for the right offer. Eovaldi, in particular, is intriguing given the blistering 96 mph he’s averaged as a starter over the past two seasons. Though he struggled a bit with a 4.34 ERA in 2014, FIP (3.37), xFIP (3.76) and SIERA (3.91) all feel he was better than that ERA would suggest. The 24-year-old Hand, meanwhile, has a 4.42 ERA in 195 1/3 big league innings and started 16 games for last year’s club.
- Daniel Murphy‘s name can frequently be found on the pages of MLBTR, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson said earlier this week on SNY TV in New York (via Metsblog’s Matthew Cerrone) that the second baseman “should be an important part of our team next year,” further suggesting that it’s a long shot that Murphy will be moved.
- Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino will swing a bat for the first time since undergoing back surgery on Monday and tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that he’s on pace to be 100 percent by Spring Training. While Boston has quite the outfield logjam, Victorino plainly explains to Bradford that he feels he should be the starting right fielder next season. “…[I]f I’m healthy if there’s a better outfielder in right field then show me and go out there and do it,” says Victorino. “I’m not saying that in a cocky or arrogant way. It’s just how confident I am to know I should be the starting right fielder.” The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” is set to earn $13MM in the final season of a three-year, $39MM pact. While injuries limited him to 30 games last year, the former Phillie was one of the best players on Boston’s 2013 World Series winner, hitting .294/.351/.451 with elite outfield defense leading to more than 5.5 WAR.
The Marlins are known to be looking for first base help and Allen Craig is the latest name to be added to their list of potential trade targets, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports (Twitter link). Dealing Craig would help the Red Sox clear out some of their outfield surplus, while giving Miami a right-handed bat to platoon with Garrett Jones at first base. The Marlins are dangling young pitchers in trades, though I’m not sure this would necessarily appeal to Boston — the Sox already have plenty of young arms and if they did move an outfielder, they’d likely prefer a proven starter who can immediately be slotted into their 2015 rotation.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Andrew Miller is in serious negotiations with between eight and 10 teams, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. The Orioles aren’t one of the suitors, as Miller’s four-year asking price is higher than they would like to give to a setup man. Miller has already received multiple three-year offers and reportedly received interest from 22 of the league’s 30 teams.
- The Yankees have discussed signing Jason Grilli, WFAN’s Sweeny Murti reports. Grilli could be pursued by the team if David Robertson leaves in free agency.
- The Blue Jays are in need of relief pitching but would GM Alex Anthopoulos break from his usual modest bullpen spending and pursue a big-ticket reliever like Miller or Robertson? Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith looks at the pros and cons of signing relievers to big contracts.
- In a reader mailbag piece, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm figures the Blue Jays have at least $20MM “and possibly even upward of $30MM” in remaining payroll space, provided that Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston were correct in saying that the club’s payroll would grow past its $137MM mark from 2014. Some of the space could be created if J.A. Happ or Dioner Navarro are traded.
- Also from Chisholm’s mailbag, he cites some reasons some players are reluctant to come to Toronto, such as the Rogers Centre’s artificial surface or a lack of desire to move to Canada. Cole Hamels, Howie Kendrick, Justin Upton and Jay Bruce are just a few of the notable players who reportedly have the Jays on their no-trade lists, though Chisholm notes that several players with trade protection include AL East teams for financial leverage purposes.
- Sean Rodriguez was “definitely surprised” to be designated for assignment by the Rays, the utilityman tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. “This (stinks) right now, but I feel like it may be an opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “What I bring to the table (in terms of versatility) is something a lot of teams like and want to have more of.”
Brandon Moss could not help but become aware that the Athletics have made some notable additions that have a bearing on his status with the club, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Moss, who avoided the need for micro-fracture surgery on his hip and expects to be ready to go on something close to a normal schedule this spring, says he realizes that the additions of Billy Butler and Ike Davis could set up some other changes. “You never know; the front office likes to mix up,” said Moss. “I’m trying not to let anything surprise me, because I don’t want to be blindsided. Obviously, I love playing in Oakland, but when this happened, I knew it could mean someone else gets moved.”
Here’s more from the American League:
- In addition to the four players noted yesterday, the Mariners are interested in Evan Gattis of the Braves, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Seattle is determined to come away with one of Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Nelson Cruz, Yoenis Cespedes, and Gattis, per the report. The M’s made a competitive offer for Victor Martinez before he re-signed with the Tigers, Heyman adds.
- Talks between the Red Sox and Jon Lester are not on any kind of timetable, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter links). Lester is still making the rounds and considering his alternatives, per Bradford.
- The Yankees are willing to go to three years in a deal for third baseman Chase Headley, Heyman reports. But Headley, unsurprisingly, is out looking for longer, better offers. New York is unlikely to go further than three, Joel Sherman reported yesterday, and it seems that Headley is drawing sufficient interest to get a fourth year guaranteed.
- The Rays have announced that bench coach Dave Martinez will pursue other opportunities with another organization. Martinez was not listed as a finalist to replace Joe Maddon in the big league dugout, making a separation seem all but inevitable.
- After a wide search, the Twins have agreed bring on Neil Allen as the team’s pitching coach, along with Eddie Guardado as bullpen coach and Joe Vavra as the bench coach to new skipper Paul Molitor. Allen had been the Rays’ pitching coach at Triple-A Durham.
The Padres missed out on Pablo Sandoval, who signed with the Red Sox earlier today, and MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports that the they are now heavily focused on trades, although Yasmany Tomas appears to be one notable exception. According to Brock, the Padres are believed to have reached out to the Red Sox regarding Yoenis Cespedes‘ availability.
Cespedes, 29, would become San Diego’s top power threat, though he’s only under control through the 2015 season and has a contractual clause preventing him from receiving a qualifying offer. However, as Brock notes (and as many others have speculated), a trade centering around Ian Kennedy and Cespedes would seem to be a fair swap of comparably priced players with only one year of control remaining. Cespedes is earning $10.5MM in 2015, and MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects Kennedy to earn $10.3MM. San Diego has a wealth of pitching talent but little in the way of outfield bats, and the Red Sox have the opposite problem. Boston also added Hanley Ramirez on a four-year deal today and announced him as their new left fielder, leaving little doubt that Cespedes could be had on the trade market. At this time, however, Brock notes that it’s unclear just how serious the Friars are about working on a Cespedes trade. GM A.J. Preller is tirelessly exploring possibilities, so there’s no guarantee to this point that Cespedes is a top target.
In addition to Cespedes, names like Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Matt Kemp, Michael Saunders, Dexter Fowler, Allen Craig and Matt Joyce have seen their names surface in trade rumors over the past week or two.
As for Tomas, Brock hears from a source that San Diego has had an offer on the table for some time now, but Tomas has yet to make a decision. San Diego’s offer is not the highest for Tomas, Brock reports. However, they’re still in the running at this time, and he Brock wonders if missing out on Sandoval will cause the Padres to raise their offer. He adds that Preller was in the Dominican Republic on Saturday to meet with Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou.
Tomas notwithstanding, it’s unsurprising to see the Padres focus more heavily on the trade market. Petco Park’s reputation as a pitchers’ haven makes it tough for the Padres to land free agent bats, and their pursuit of Sandoval is a perfect example. Reports have indicated that the Padres actually offered Sandoval a longer contract than either the Red Sox or Giants, but Sandoval still declined in favor of a lesser guarantee in a more hitter-friendly environment.
8:05pm: Ramirez’s option will vest if he reaches 1050 plate appearances from 2017-18 and does not finish the 2018 season on the disabled list, reports Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal (Twitter link).
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports adds (Twitter links) that Ramirez receives a limited no-trade clause in the deal. He will receive $50K bonuses for each All-Star nod, Silver Slugger award and Gold Glove he earns. He can also receive up to $150K each year based on MVP voting and additional bonuses for postseason awards.
5:29pm: On Nov. 24, 2005, the Red Sox traded Hanley Ramirez to the Marlins in a blockbuster deal, but nine years and a day later, the team has officially announced that Ramirez will return to Boston on a four-year deal.
Ramirez, a client of the Wasserman Media Group’s Adam Katz, will reportedly earn $88MM over those four years, and his contract contains a $22MM vesting option for a fifth year. The contract calls for a $3MM signing bonus, a $19MM salary in 2015 and a $22MM salary from 2016-18.
Ramirez, who hit .283/.369/.448 with 13 homers for the Dodgers last season and owns a .300/.373/.500 slash line for his career, was cited by MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes as the top position player available in free agency, though it was “unclear” as to how Ramirez’s market would develop. While Ramirez’s impact bat was clearly a huge asset in an offense-thin free agent market, he has a notable injury history and is a below-average defensive shortstop, posting negative Defensive Runs Saved and UZR/150 totals in seven of his nine full-time seasons. In order to help his free agent case, Ramirez said he was open to switching positions, though his signing with the Sox opens up a number of possibilities on that front.
The Red Sox announced Ramirez as a left fielder, which should put to rest any questions about his role with the team. Fellow free agent signee Pablo Sandoval will be penciled in as the everyday third baseman, and the promising Xander Bogaerts will look to improve in his second full season in the league. Ramirez will join Boston’s very crowded outfield mix of Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts and Daniel Nava. Cespedes’ name has been mentioned in trade rumors, so he seems like the most probable candidate to be playing elsewhere in 2015, but the Sox seem very likely to move multiple outfielders this winter.
It’s clear that the Red Sox are looking to amass as many top bats as possible in the increasingly pitching-dominated league. The Sox have been hesitant about signing free agents to long contracts given how several of their recent major signings (i.e. Carl Crawford, J.D. Drew, John Lackey, Adrian Gonzalez) provided limited returns. On paper, Ramirez doesn’t fit the model of the safe signing that Boston would prefer given his age (he’ll be 31 on Opening Day), injury history and defensive issues, though given how little payroll space the Sox have tied up in future commitments, the club had plenty of flexibility.
Earlier this month, MLBTR’s Zach Links projected Ramirez would get a six-year, $132MM deal, so the reported total of his pact with Boston lags behind in both years and dollars. The qualifying offer and the questions about Ramirez’s defense could have played a role, or it could be that Ramirez was simply willing to take less money to play for the organization that originally signed him as an amateur free agent in 2000. Ramirez developed into one of the game’s top prospects while in the Sox farm system and he played his first two Major League games with the team in 2005. He was dealt that November to the Marlins as part of the trade package that brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston.
The Dodgers will earn a compensation pick between the first and second rounds of the 2015 draft as a result of the signing, as Ramirez turned down the team’s qualifying offer. Boston’s 2015 first-round pick is protected, so the Sox have surrendered both their second- and third-round picks in order to bring Sandoval and Ramirez aboard.
Christopher Meola first reported that Ramirez would sign with Boston (Twitter link), and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted the terms of the deal. The year-to-year breakdown was first reported by WEEI.com’s Alex Speier (Twitter link).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
At today’s press conference to announce the signing of Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox owner John Henry told reporters, including WEEI.com’s Alex Speier, that his team is willing to exceed the $189MM luxury tax threshold in 2015. “The way it’s structured we can blow through one year,” Henry said. “Again for next year we have tremendous flexibility so we could go could through for one year and not overly effect us.”
Henry added that his previous comments about aversion to long-term contracts were overblown and stated, “You can’t win unless you engage in free agency.” The Red Sox’ early actions this offseason have exemplified that line of thinking, as the team today announced the signing of Ramirez to a four-year, $88MM contract (with a vesting option for a fifth season) and Pablo Sandoval to a five-year $95MM contract. Additionally, they inked Koji Uehara to a two-year, $18MM pact before he even hit the open market.
Boston’s spending doesn’t seem the least bit likely to stop there, as both Henry expressed that he is hopeful of securing a reunion with Jon Lester, who is a well-known target of GM Ben Cherington. Boston is believed to be looking at to add at least two starting pitchers this season and has also been linked to trade target Cole Hamels and free agent James Shields, among others.
The flexibility to which Henry refers is significant; Mike Napoli ($16MM AAV), Shane Victorino ($13MM AAV), Edward Mujica ($4.75MM AAV) and Yoenis Cespedes ($9MM AAV) are all coming off the books following the upcoming season. As Speier examined in depth yesterday, the Red Sox figure to already be within $7-8MM of the $189MM threshold, and that’s without adding a pair of starters as well as perhaps a backup catcher and another bullpen arm. However, the team will also undoubtedly be offloading some significant salary in trades of its outfield surplus. Cespedes has been heavily rumored as a likely trade candidate, and any of Victorino, Allen Craig, Daniel Nava could theoretically be moved as well.
The Red Sox announced that they have designated corner infielder Juan Francisco for assignment. The move clears roster space for Hanley Ramirez, whose deal has now been officially announced by the team.
Francisco’s tenure with the BoSox was brief, to put it lightly. Boston claimed the lefty slugger off waivers from the Blue Jays not one week ago, but the addition of Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to the roster left little room for Francisco on the roster.
The 27-year-old Francisco possesses serious pop from the left side of the dish, as evidenced by his lifetime .203 isolated power mark (slugging minus average) and the even more impressive .236 figure that he posted with Toronto in 2014. However, for all of thunder Francisco can bring to a lineup, he’s fanned in more than 34 percent of his career plate appearances, he’s regarded as a below-average defender at third and he’s struggled against lefties throughout his career. Francisco’s .248/.310/.476 batting line against righties is impressive, but those totals drop to just .159/.213/.210 against southpaws.
Francisco was projected to earn $2.2MM in arbitration by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. A team with a need at third base or for a left-handed bench bat could show interest in him, but they’d be on the hook for roughly that projected amount in 2015 should they acquire Francisco via waivers or in a trade with the Red Sox.
Yesterday, we took a look at some news and rumors on free agent Jon Lester and the connection of his market to the trade market for Cole Hamels. As things continue to develop for Lester, here’s the latest …
- Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com hears that the Cubs are very much in on Lester still. The Cubs have been on top of the situation from the beginning, Levine writes, and while his source wouldn’t wager a guess as to where Lester will sign, the source did indicate that an annual salary of $25MM or more.
- The Cubs have made Lester an offer of over $135MM and are willing to go to six years on a deal, according to a report from David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com (audio and written version).
- Kaplan also reports that the Giants‘ interest in Lester is real and significant. The lefty is scheduled for a visit to San Francisco next week, per ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Twitter links).
- Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters, including Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, that he is “confident that we’re making every attempt internally here and the hope would be to get [Lester] back here.” But things could still take some time to shake out, with Farrell adding that he expects to “get a better read on that in the coming weeks.”
11:29am: Third baseman Pablo Sandoval has officially signed with the Red Sox, kicking off a fascinating offseason for Boston. He’ll earn a guaranteed $95MM over five years, with a club option for a sixth season.
Sandoval will receive a $3MM bonus, then earn $17MM annually over 2015-17 before taking home an $18MM salary in both 2018 and 2019. The club option is for $17MM and comes with a $5MM buyout.
Sandoval’s addition immediately addresses Boston’s need for a third baseman in the wake of Will Middlebrooks‘ disappointing 2014 season, and the switch-hitting Sandoval also adds some balance to a predominantly right-handed hitting Red Sox batting order. While Sandoval never had much trouble hitting at AT&T Park (a career .853 OPS in San Francisco), it stands to reason that the move to hitter-friendly Fenway Park will only help his production.
With Sandoval in the fold and Hanley Ramirez reportedly also close to finalizing a deal, the Red Sox may have landed the two biggest infield bats on the free agency market. It remains to be seen how the Red Sox will deploy their talent given Xander Bogaerts‘ presence at shortstop, though Sandoval is the obvious choice at third base given that he has posted above-average UZR/150 numbers in three of the last four seasons.
The Red Sox were one of three reported finalists for Sandoval along with the Giants and Padres. (The Blue Jays and White Sox also showed some interest in Sandoval earlier this winter.) This interest didn’t result in Sandoval finding his desired six guaranteed years, though if the contract does pay him a $20MM average annual value, it will be the second-highest AAV ever given to a third baseman, topped only by Alex Rodriguez‘s deal with the Yankees. San Francisco assistant GM Bobby Evans tells Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter) that Sandoval informed him he was looking for a “new challenge,” and he apparently found that in Boston.
Sandoval, 28, had spent his entire seven-year Major League career with the Giants, becoming a fan favorite due to his “Kung Fu Panda” persona and his clutch bat. Sandoval owns a .344/.389/.545 slash line in 167 postseason plate appearances, most notably being named MVP of the 2012 World Series. Losing Sandoval is a big blow to the Giants, who may be looking to replace his production by signing Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas. Since Tomas could be deployed as a third baseman, he might end up as a direct replacement for Sandoval should he indeed wind up a Giant. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets that the Giants are interested in Tomas as a left fielder and would likely pursue Chase Headley to fill their third base vacancy if Sandoval went elsewhere.
The Giants offered Sandoval a five-year, $95MM contract and showed some willingness to go to $100MM if necessary, tweets Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com hears the same and adds that there was an understanding that the $95MM wasn’t necessarily a final offer.
San Francisco will now receive a bonus pick between the first and second rounds of the 2015 draft as compensation for Sandoval signing elsewhere, since he rejected the team’s one-year qualifying offer. Boston’s first round pick (7th overall) is protected, so the Sox will instead give up their second rounder as a result of the signing.
The contract breakdown comes from Alex Speier of WEEI.com, on Twitter. Heyman reported the final guaranteed figure, in a tweet. Manolo Hernandez Douen was first to report that the deal included a sixth-year option (via Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
We heard recently that the Reds will at least listen to offers on outfielder Jay Bruce. While that still seems to be a long shot, it is worth noting that Bruce has an eight-team no-trade clause that would come into play were he shopped.
According to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, Bruce can block deals to the Athletics, Blue Jays, D’backs, Marlins, Rays, Red Sox, Twins, and Yankees. That mix of small and large-market teams presumably shields Bruce from destinations he may prefer not to play in while affording him leverage if a big-spending AL East club were to come calling.
Bruce had an off year in 2014, but has been one of the game’s most consistent power threats and is just entering his age-28 season. He is guaranteed $25.5MM over the next two seasons, which includes a buyout for a $13MM club option in 2017.