Boston Red Sox Rumors
A long-term agreement between Mike Trout and the Angels would carry upside and risk for both player and club, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes. Agent Paul Cohen, whose clients include Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki, tells DiGiovanna he's generally in favor of such deals. "Our view is you never turn down your first fortune, especially if you can keep your free agent years intact at age 29 or 30," Cohen comments. However, Scott Boras chimes in to argue that such deals often benefit teams. Boras discloses that the Indians attempted to extend his client Shin-Soo Choo with a deal in the $27MM-$42MM range. Choo, of course, waited and cashed in this offseason with a seven-year, $130MM free agent deal with the Rangers. Here are more notes from around the majors:
- Continuing our extension theme, the Red Sox and Jon Lester's representatives have had at least two conversations about a long-term deal, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe tweets.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman's suggestion earlier this week that the Orioles' 2012 success was a fluke has rankled some in Baltimore, but the club has largely been quiet on the matter, writes Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun.
- Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press Sports says there are parallels to be drawn between Dave Dombrowski's administration of the Tigers and John Schuerholz's tenure running the Braves.
Jon Lester is due to become a free agent after the season, but both he and the Red Sox hope an extension is in the works, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. And with Lester declaring that "I don't like change" and Red Sox brass declaring their strong interest in keeping him, Heyman writes, the odds are that an extension will get done. The Red Sox picked up their $13MM club option on Lester for 2014, and Lester would surely get a hefty raise on that total in an extension. Despite both parties' interest in completing a deal, however, it's not a given that a contract will get done before spring training ends. "I'd like to get it done down here," Lester says. "But it's going to be a tedious process." Yesterday, Lester's agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, arrived in Red Sox camp, although the reasons are unclear.
In negotiations between Lester and the Red Sox, an obvious starting point would be Homer Bailey's recent contract with the Reds. Like Lester, Bailey was due to become a free agent following the 2014 season. The two were fairly similar in value in 2013. Lester, at 30, is two years older than Bailey, but likely would receive somewhat more per year due to his better career performance. Bailey received six years and $105MM, with a mutual option for 2020.
The Orioles organization suffered a major loss today, as PR director Monica Pence Barlow passed away at just 36 years of age after a long battle with cancer. As this morning's outpouring reveals, Barlow was an inspiration to those who knew her. Among the many writers impacted by the loss was MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko, who offers a tribute: "Whenever someone would ask, 'Why you?,' Monica would reply, 'Why not?' Pretty much says it all, doesn't it?"
As MLBTR joins in offering its condolences, here are some notes from around the American League East:
- Sam and Seth Levinson, the agents for Jon Lester and several other Red Sox players, have arrived in Fort Myers, reports WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. It is not yet known whether they will engage in talks with GM Ben Cherington regarding a new deal for Lester, but Cherington has made clear that he would to keep negotiations to the spring.
- Fellow Sox starter John Lackey says he is not worried about the fact that he'll be subject to a league-minimum club option net year, writes Bradford. "It's different," said Lackey. "There will be some things I will have to think about, for sure." But he says he isn't worried about that now. "I haven't even gotten to that point of thinking that far ahead," Lackey said. "We'll play this year out and see what happens. I'm not worried about the money. I've made plenty of that."
- Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus is entering his walk year, but he says he'll join Lackey in focusing on the present, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. "I haven't thought about it at all," said Rasmus. "For me, it's all about right now, and next year don't matter." After a turnaround 2013 season that restored some of his earlier luster, the 27-year-old Rasmus could play his way into (or out of) a big contract.
Chuck Myron, lead writer for our sister site Hoops Rumors and occasional MLBTR contributor, has co-written an excellent book called Hits and Misses in the Baseball Draft. Authors Myron and Alan Maimon have created a must-read for any baseball fan hoping to understand why so many of the best young players fail to make meaningful contributions in The Show, and so many teams make the wrong choices on draft day. Please check out Hits and Misses in the Baseball Draft; we think you'll like it. Note, also, that if you are planning a trip to Florida for Spring Training, you can meet Chuck and Alan at either of two scheduled book signings. The authors will appear at two Barnes & Noble locations in mid-March: in Clearwater on March 14 at 7pm and in Fort Myers on March 15 at 3pm.
Moving on, here are some notes from around the league for your Thursday evening reading...
- Engel Beltre and Michael Choice will both be fighting for roster spots in Spring Training, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, but Beltre is the favorite to stick due to the fact that he is out of options. The Rangers aren't likely to let him go, and while Choice could help as a right-handed option in a DH platoon, Texas is wary that such a limited role could hinder his development.
- In an effort to prove Mike Trout's sky-high value without relying on advanced metrics, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs adds the 2013 production of Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo (using standard stats such as singles, doubles, triples, homers, steals, etc.) and subtracts Mike Trout's numbers. Cameron finds that the result is surprisingly similar to Eric Young's 2013 totals. Because Young was acquired for a replacement-level arm, Cameron suggests that acquiring a partner to match the output is nearly free. In the end, he suggests that Trout is worth more than Choo and Ellsbury combined.
- In a subscription-only piece, R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus looks at how the players he ranked in his Top 50 stacked up to the expected average annual value he laid out prior to the offseason. Anderson concludes that he underestimated the market for back-end starters, setup men and veterans with perceivable upside remaining. Because of that last category, he wonders if names like Asdrubal Cabrera and Chad Billingsley could see larger paydays than many are expecting next winter.
- Sticking with Baseball Prospectus, Phil Hughes tops a free list of nine players that the minds at B-Pro expect to see show improvement in 2014. Also appearing on the list are Matt Cain, CC Sabathia and Brett Lawrie, amongst others.
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier breaks down the numerous Spring Training decisions facing the Red Sox, including homegrown prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. and reclamation project Grady Sizemore fighting for center field (Speier writes that it's Bradley's job to lose). Within the piece, Speier wonders if spring struggles from Middlebrooks would make the Red Sox reconsider their stance on Stephen Drew.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson recently told the club's executives and baseball personnel that he believes the team can win 90 games in 2014, reports John Harper of the New York Daily News. Alderson neither denied nor confirmed the report, but his comments implied he had set an ambitious target for the organization. "All I'll say is we have higher expectations than we've had in the past," said the GM. "Because I think it has to be a mind-set. Part of creating a winning environment is setting ambitious goals and working toward them. But it has to be systematic and it can’t be totally unrealistic. I don’t think it is in this case.”
Here are a few more notes from the game's eastern divisions to start the day:
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman says that the last thing he's concerned about is the health of the team's star shortstop and first baseman, reports the New York Post's George A. King III. "I am more focused on the bullpen, the rotation and how that will shake out and the infield that is not Mark Teixeira or Derek Jeter," he said. We heard yesterday that the Yankees are still keeping an eye on possible additions to the club's infield mix.
- Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich says that the silver lining of the club losing its top draft choices is that his scouts will be able to drill down harder on the players who are likely to be available to them further down in the order, reports Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com. "I think we will try to identify all the players we think will be gone," Rajsich said. "We will focus on second and third-round guys and try to sign an undervalued player there.
Every area scout will still scout the top guys in their area, but they will not spend a lot of time on the ones they think are definitely first-round guys. I would say we may be able to eliminate as many as 45 or 50 players." At present, the O's will first select a player with the 90th overall choice.
- The Red Sox have quickly amassed a nice array of young arms in the upper minors, writes Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. And while most of those arms do not figure to break camp with the big club, GM Ben Cherington said that they will nevertheless be a valuable resource in 2014. “That young group, no matter what, is going to be relied upon in some way at some point during the year,” Cherington said. “You can never have enough.”
Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says he hasn't had many trade talks about a shortstop given that Stephen Drew is still on the market, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. If Towers did feel compelled to move either Chris Owings, Didi Gregorius, Cliff Pennington or Nick Ahmed in "the right deal," Towers said that the team would likely target either a minor league pitcher who's close to the big leagues or a catcher. "Our biggest needs in our system are catching," Towers said. "If it’s the right, top-notch catching prospect. Someone we could have right behind Miggy [Miguel Montero]. More of an upper-level guy.” Of the teams known to be looking for shortstop help, the Yankees stand out as a possible trade partner, especially since New York is known to be shopping its catching depth.
Here's some more from around the majors...
- Also from Piecoro, the Red Sox are "at least monitoring the shortstop market." The Sox currently aren't in negotiations with Stephen Drew, but it stands to reason they could still be looking for a cheaper infield option to back up Xander Bogaerts.
- With more and more teams locking up their young stars to long-term extensions, SI.com's Tom Verducci writes that "what we are going to see is a further eroding of the free-agent market as a place of any kind of efficiency. Teams will continue to make bad deals on free agents because it mostly involves paying too long and too much for the decline years of star players."
- Mike Trout is the most high-profile example yet of a team locking up its young superstar, and Verducci thinks that a seven-year extension (covering four of Trout's free agent years) could cost the Angels $204MM.
- Juan Rincon is planning to work out for interested teams soon, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman tweets. The 35-year-old righty posted a 4.03 ERA over 444 games (three of them starts) with the Twins, Indians, Tigers and Rockies from 2001-10, but hasn't appeared in the Majors since, spending the last three years with the Angels' Triple-A affiliate and for independent teams. In December, we heard Rincon was looking for a minor league deal that would allow him to mentor young pitchers and then eventually turn into a scouting job.
- Tomo Ohka talks to the Toronto Star's Brad Lefton about adopting the knuckleball in order to save his career, and how he's hoping for one last crack at the Major Leagues with the Blue Jays.
- Fangraphs' Wendy Thurm breaks down which teams spend the highest percentage of their payroll on their starting rotation, starting lineup, bullpen and bench, respectively.
- The Astros (+18 WAR) and Red Sox (-16 WAR) project as the most- and least-improved teams in 2014, according to Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan, who lists a top ten in each category. Of course, as Sullivan notes, these totals are respectively skewed by how poorly and how well the two clubs fared last season, as Sullivan still expects Boston to contend and Houston to be one of the league's lesser clubs.
The Red Sox have not had meaningful tallks with free agent shortstop Stephen Drew since the start of camp, reports Alex Speier of WEEI.com. Boston appears set to move forward with its present roster construction, without adding Drew.
That does not mean that the team is saying that a reunion is an impossibility, explains Speier. Rather, the Red Sox now views Drew like any other valuable free agent: they might become involved if the bottom falls out of his market, or if a need arose due to an injury. In other words, Boston would only rejoin the chase for Drew if opportunism or exigency intercedes.
The Orioles introduced new outfielder Nelson Cruz today, and MLB.com's Britt Ghiroli has a transcript of the press conference. Cruz, of course, settled for a one-year, $8MM deal with Baltimore after previously declining a $14.1MM qualifying offer from the Rangers. "It was a frustrating process," said Cruz, "but I'm happy for the decisions that I made. I'm really excited for the opportunity." Here are more notes from the O's and the rest of the AL East:
- We learned previously that the Orioles had made a competitive offer for free agent starter Bronson Arroyo before he signed with the Diamondbacks, and now Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com has the details. Baltimore ultimately offered Arroyo a $21.5MM guarantee over two years, including a third-year option that could have brought the total value to $33MM. The pitcher instead signed with Arizona for a $23.5MM guarantee, but his deal can only max out at $30MM if his option is exercised.
- Though agent Scott Boras softened his strong words towards the Blue Jays in comments today, he continued to implore the team to open its pocketbooks by saying that Toronto has a "rare opportunity" to add impact free agents because of its protected first-round draft picks, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (interview via Jeff Blair of Sportsnet 590 The FAN). In addition to its advantageous draft situation, Boras argued that the Jays have the "flexibility in the long term" to backload contracts.
- Boras said that client Stephen Drew could significantly upgrade the team's second base position, and that Drew would be willing to shift to the other side of the bag "if the club came and made the position a long-term one for him." Meanwhile, Boras argued that the switch-hitting Kendrys Morales would offer a better option against lefties than incumbent DH Adam Lind, who Boras said could be dealt for pitching. Toronto could recoup a future draft choice via qualifying offer when those players' deals end, the agent added.
- In spite of (or, perhaps in part, because of) their success last year, the Red Sox are sticking with their strategy of "caution and strict sensibility," writes MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince. "We recognize that our goal is to be as good as we possibly can be in 2014 but also 2015 and 2016 and beyond," explains GM Ben Cherington. "To do what we want to do, year in and year out, there has to be integration of young players. We're not going to force that unless we're reasonably confident those guys can contribute right away."
In his column last night, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe discussed several matters concerning the American League East. From a transactional perspective, Cafardo says not to be surprised if David Ortiz asks the Red Sox to break the $20MM barrier in adding a year to his current contract. Here's more from the AL East:
- Early returns on Red Sox outfielder Grady Sizemore are positive, reports Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com. Hitting coach Gregg Colbrunn said that his swing has "all the good things you look for" in spite of his long layoff, while manager John Farrell said that Sizmore has been at "full speed" on the bases and in the field. Of course, notes Mastrodonato, the club has maintained that it is mostly focused on gauging whether Sizemore can maintain his health over a draining season.
- We heard earlier today that the Orioles have approached J.J. Hardy about opening extension talks. From Hardy's perspective, the shortstop tells ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, he still has not heard much about how things might shape up. "I don't know how that will all play out," Hardy said. "We'll see. I'm actually going to meet with my agent. And we're going to talk a litle bit about what could happen. And he'll kind of fill me in ... because I don't really know much."
- Rays GM Andrew Friedman covered a variety of topics on the MLB Network Hot Stove show (transcript via Cork Gaines of Rays Index). Friedman said that the club still feels it will be tough to hold onto ace David Price for the long haul, but that its "mindset is to enjoy each and every day we have David here and do everything in our power to continue that relationship." The likely ultimate scenario -- a trade -- could take any form, explained the Tampa GM, whose assessment of the Price situation reflects the franchise's general operating strategy. "[W]e really can't have any hard and fast rules about anything," said Friedman. "So we have to be really prepared and nimble. The more prepared you are, the easier it is for you to react more quickly when things pop up. And that's what we have to do is to remain very fluid and not ever get into a situation where we have to make a certain move. But to continue to kind of assess the market and figure out when things kind of line up in our time horizon of what makes the most sense for us to sustain success."
- While the Yankees' money surely played a substantial role in landing Masahiro Tanaka, the club did not just rely on making the highest offer, reports Brandon Kuty of the Star-Ledger. With Pacific advisor George Rose leading the charge, the Yanks put together a series of gestures intended to convince him of their longstanding interest in Tanaka and overall experience with Japanese ballplayers.
The three remaining free agents tied to draft-pick compensation -- Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew, and Kendrys Morales -- would all considering waiting to sign until after the June amateur draft, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal's piece builds upon a prior report from MLBTR's Tim Dierkes, who noted that those players could be considering the strategy, which would prevent their former clubs -- the Royals, Red Sox, and Mariners -- from picking up an extra draft choice.
Here's how it works: If a sufficient offer is not forthcoming, these free agents could change their market situation by waiting until after the draft to sign. At that point, a new signing club would no longer need to sacrifice a pick, and their prior club would not stand to earn one.
Interestingly, Rosenthal also suggested a twist on that strategy, noting that a player could avoid a future qualifying offer just by waiting until after Opening Day to sign. If any of the three remaining draft-pick bound players was forced to settle for a one-year deal (like Cruz), he could use that approach to ensure that his new club would not once again saddle him with compensation, while also ensuring a full year's payday (one of the problems with waiting until June to sign). Of course, there is a countervailing consideration: a signing club would lose the possibility of retaining the player through a qualifying offer or instead getting a compensation pick in return, which reduces the player's value to his new club.
In the aggregate, these options constitute a set of increasingly high-stakes maneuvers, each carrying leverage trade-offs between the player and prospective clubs. For instance, as Dierkes has noted, the threat of a former team not gaining a compensation pick could make a re-signing more likely.
I would add that these two possible approaches each make more sense for different situations. A player who is planning to settle for a one-year pillow contract would take significant risk by waiting until June, because any increase in their annual salary would potentially be offset or eclipsed by the fact that they cannot earn all of it (not to mention risks of changes in how the market sees the player and in market demand). But that player would also potentially gain quite a bit by waiting for Opening Day to sign, because he would get to enter the following year's market without compensation attached. The considerations go the other way for a player who still figures to land a multi-year deal, who would have relatively less to lose by skipping a few months of salary and, potentially, more to gain by shedding the burden of draft compensation. But if three years were already on the table, a free agent would gain nothing by waiting until after the start of the season to sign unless they were truly willing to sit all the way through the June draft.
The agents for the trio made clear to Rosenthal that they have thought through the rules, and are leaving all options on the table. Bean Stringfellow, Santana's agent, said that waiting until after the draft is "certainly something we've talked about," and made clear that his client would not follow Nelson Cruz in signing a one-year deal for substantially less than the $14.1MM qualifying offer. "Once you get past the draft," said Stringfellow, "a lot of teams will be in play with the expanded playoffs. You wouldn't have a draft pick attached. ... Ervin Santana is a front-line starting pitcher. He will be compensated as such. Whatever it takes to make that happen, we will make it happen, simple as that."
Scott Boras, who represents Drew and Morales, noted that other clubs also have incentives to wait until after the draft since they do not need to give up a pick to sign the player. He also notes that a signing would mean that those clubs would also potentially avoid the need to sign a future compensation player, and could potentially reap a future pick of their own when the player's deal expires. "A road map for this strategy has been figured out," said Boras. "There is a significant advantage under this system for teams to develop a plan to sign premium free-agent players -- the top 6 to 12 percent -- where they can gain draft currency and also improve their team in the current and long-term."