Brandon League Rumors

Dodgers Release Brandon League

JULY 10: The Dodgers have announced that they’ve released League. League is now a free agent, and the Dodgers remain on the hook for the rest of his 2015 salary.

JULY 2: The Dodgers have designated right-hander Brandon League for assignment, the team announced. League, who is earning $7.5MM in 2015, has not pitched this season due to inflammation in his throwing shoulder. He had been on the 60-day disabled list.

League, 32, is in the final season of an ill-fated three-year, $22.5MM contract signed prior to the 2013 season. Widely panned from the moment it was signed, the contract looked dismal in year one, as League posted an ERA of 5.30 with a greatly diminished strikeout rate (4.6 K/9). The 2014 season proved to be a nice rebound for League, who worked to a 3.40 ERA with a slight increase in strikeouts (5.4 per nine) and a drastically improved ground-ball rate of 67.5 percent.

League earned that three-year deal (which was issued by the Dodgers’ former front office, headed by then-GM Ned Colletti) by posting a collective 3.38 ERA with 7.1 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 59 saves and one of the game’s best ground-ball rates in 320 innings between the Blue Jays, Mariners and Dodgers from 2008-12.

By cutting bait on League, the Dodgers are now paying a combined $17MM to a pair of relievers — League and Brian Wilson — that will not throw a single pitch for the team in 2015. The Dodgers will have 10 days to trade, waive or release League, though in the event that he’s placed on waivers, he’ll assuredly go unclaimed due to his salary and health issues this season.


2016 Vesting Options Update

Several notable players could see their 2016 statuses change depending on whether or not they unlock vesting options in their current contracts.  With the opening month of the 2015 season almost in the books, let’s check in on the progress each of these players are making towards those getting those options to vest…

  • Chase Utley: The veteran second baseman has a $15MM vesting option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed if he makes 500 plate appearances.  (If he doesn’t, it becomes a team option worth between $5MM-$11MM depending on how much time Utley spends on the DL, with a $2MM buyout.)  Utley has received 81 PA while playing in 21 of the Phillies’ first 22 games, so he is well on the way to having his option vest despite a very rough start — only a .398 OPS and two homers this season, thanks to an incredibly low .102 BABIP.  There is little chance the Phils would let Utley walk for nothing this winter, especially when they could obtain something for him in a trade this summer if Utley agrees to waive his no-trade clause.
  • Jonathan Papelbon: The Phillies closer’s 2016 vesting option is one of the reasons why he hasn’t yet been traded, as other teams have been wary about acquiring a reliever with such a potentially large price tag.  Papelbon’s $13MM vests if he finishes 55 games this season, or posts a combined 100 games finished between 2014-15.  The stopper finished 52 games last year and has seven finishes thus far in 2015, putting him on pace for that guaranteed salary next year.
  • David Ortiz: If Ortiz makes at least 425 PA and passes a physical after the season, Boston’s $10MM team option on his services for 2016 will become guaranteed at $11MM (or more, depending on how many plate appearances Ortiz makes).  Ortiz has only had less than 425 PA in two of the last 14 seasons, so barring any injury setbacks for Big Papi, this one seems like a safe bet to vest.
  • Joaquin Benoit: The Padres hold an $8MM team option on Benoit for 2016, but the righty can turn that into a guaranteed option if he finishes at least 55 games this season.  Benoit’s chances are pretty remote, as he was relegated to setup man duties after San Diego acquired Craig Kimbrel.
  • Marlon Byrd: His original two-year, $16MM deal with the Phillies included an $8MM club option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed if he reaches 600 PA this season, or a total of 1100 PA over 2014-15 with at least 550 PA this season.  Byrd received 637 PA last season and he has 74 PA over 20 games with the Reds in 2015.  He should continue to get regular playing time for Cincinnati though Byrd is off to a slow start — a .441 OPS with no walks and 24 strikeouts.
  • Santiago Casilla: The Giants righty signed a three-year, $15MM deal in the 2012-13 offseason that contained a vesting option, though little is known about the option’s value or specifics.
  • Nori Aoki: The Giants’ $5.5MM club option on Aoki for 2016 will become a mutual option if Aoki reaches 550 PA.  The outfielder is hitting well and his 102 PA currently leads the league, so he’s well ahead of the pace to vest his option.
  • Jonny Gomes: The Braves outfielder can guaranteed another year on his contract (at a $3MM salary) if he makes 325 PA, and he can unlock higher salaries at the 425 PA and 500 PA plateaus.  Gomes has thus far received 47 PA over 15 games, putting him in decent shape for at least the first level of his vesting option.

We already know that Cliff Lee won’t achieve the innings totals required for his 2016 option to vest.  The Phillies southpaw is attempting to recover from a torn left flexor tendon without undergoing surgery and is currently on the 60-day DL.  Dodgers reliever Brandon League is also recovering from a right shoulder injury and thus stands virtually no chance of reaching the games-finished totals required to allow his 2016 player option to vest.


Brandon League Likely Out Several Months

Dodgers righty Brandon League is expected to miss at least a couple of months with a right shoulder injury, manager Don Mattingly told reporters including MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick (via Twitter). An MRI revealed that there was sufficient injury to require League to be shut down, though it appears he will avoid surgery for the time being.

League, 32, figured to be a fairly important piece in the Dodgers pen. Though he is undoubtedly overpaid as he enters the final guaranteed year of his three-year, $22.5MM pact, League is nevertheless a plenty viable arm. Last year, he tossed 63 innings of 2.57 ERA ball, compiling a 3.40 FIP in spite of just 5.4 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 because he also managed to induce groundballs at a ridiculous 67.5% clip.

League’s deal includes a vesting option that will not almost certainly not vest. Of course, that was quite unlikely regardless since the clause was tied to games finished, requiring League to be the last Dodger to toe the rubber at least 55 times this year. Barring a run of unpredictable events, that was not going to happen anyway.

The news on League is perhaps most troubling for what it means for the Dodgers’ overall pitching depth. Already compensating for injuries to Kenley Jansen and starter Hyun-jin Ryu, the team is looking somewhat thin on established, healthy arms. Of course, with plenty of trade candidates amongst their positions players, the Dodgers could conceivably swing a deal or two to fill some innings.



Dodgers Shopping Brandon League

After designating fellow high-priced reliever Brian Wilson earlier today, and cleaning house more generally, the Dodgers are apparently looking to move on from another expensive remnant of the prior administration. Acordding to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link), the club is talking with competitors about righty Brandon League and offering to pick up “almost half” of the $7.5MM he is owed this year in a trade.

League, now 31, was signed to a three-year, $22.5MM deal just after the end of the 2012 season. Pursuant to that contract, he is owed the above-noted $7.5MM sum for 2015. The deal also includes a vesting option, though it is only triggered if he finishes 55 games in the coming season.

The contract was widely disparaged immediately upon signing, and League fell far short of expectations in its first year. But he was actually productive last season, working to a 2.57 ERA over 63 frames. Though his 5.4 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9 do not inspire much confidence, he did generate an obscene 67.5% groundball rate. ERA estimators like FIP (3.40), xFIP (4.09), and SIERA (3.58) viewed him, collectively, as an essentially average relief pitcher.

Of course, there is value in being average, and some teams will perhaps be enticed by League’s groundball abilities, generally strong history before his 2013 meltdown, and his bottom-line results last year. As the Dodgers continue to clean out some of the team’s more notable players, the ability to move on from League and save some cash in the process apparently holds some appeal as well.


NL West Links: Rockies, League, Lincecum, Giants

Earlier tonight, Jeff Todd recapped and analyzed the Padres' winter moves in the latest entry of the MLBTR Offseason In Review series.  Jeff has also covered the Giants and Diamondbacks thus far in the OIR series.  Here's some more from around the NL West…

  • "There has been buzz" that the Phillies and Tigers are interested in the Rockies' extra outfielders, Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes.  Even if Colorado uses a center field platoon of one of Corey Dickerson or Charlie Blackmon (both left-handed hitters) and one of Drew Stubbs or Brandon Barnes (both righty batters), that still leaves a surplus.  Detroit could use a left-handed hitting outfielder to replace the injured Andy Dirks, though the Tigers aren't yet sure if they'll look outside the organization to make such a move.
  • Could the Dodgers cut Brandon LeagueSteve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times doesn't quite think the club is ready to take that step given the $17MM remaining on League's contract through 2015.  That deal looks worse and worse for L.A. given how League struggled in 2013 and during this year's Spring Training, while the Dodgers have a number of impressive young bullpen arms who might be relegated to Triple-A.
  • Tim Lincecum dicusses his pitching evolution with Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, noting that though he has lost a few miles off his fastball, he is working to become a better overall pitcher as he ages.
  • Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com discusses the Giants' roster and other topics during a Giants-centric chat with readers.

Placed On Waivers: Saturday

The July 31st trade deadline is behind us, but teams can still make waiver trades happen in the month of August.  We'll keep track of players placed on waivers today in this post..

  • The Dodgers have placed reliever Brandon League on waivers, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Twitter).  League is obviously a notable name that could draw interest from clubs seeking relief help, but his contract could be a deterrent.  League is owed $1.5MM for the rest of this season, $7.5MM in 2014, and $7.5MM in 2015 with a vesting player option for 2016.

Quick Hits: Red Sox, League, Astros

The GM Meetings could be busier than usual this year, Jon Paul Morosi writes at FOX Sports. Morosi suggests the Red Sox and Indians line up as potential trade partners given each team’s needs. The meetings take place in Indian Wells, California beginning tomorrow. In the meantime here are today’s links…

  • Jim Bowden estimates the cost of the offseason’s top free agents in an ESPN piece that’s worth checking out.
  • ESPN.com’s Keith Law provides a guide to available and potentially available outfielders. Law believes Melky Cabrera will be a good value signing, but he doubts Cody Ross has value outside of Boston on a multiyear deal.
  • Tom Verducci of SI.com ranks this year free agent outfielders starting with Josh Hamilton. Verducci suggests we shouldn't expect Hamilton to end up signing a bargain deal given his skills.
  • Brandon League's $22.5MM contract with the Dodgers could be worth as much as $33.5MM, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports. Incentives based on games finished could push the value of the 2016 option as high as $9MM, according to Hernandez.
  • The Astros announced the hiring of David Stearns as their new assistant GM. Stearns, 27, spent the 2011 season with the Indians and has also worked in the front offices of the Mets and Pirates.

Dodgers Re-Sign Brandon League

10:24pm: The 2016 vesting option can escalate from $7.5MM to $9MM based on games finished, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter).  League can also earn an additional $500K per year based on games finished.

8:27pm: League's option for 2016 is worth $7.5MM and will vest if he finishes 55 games in 2015, tweets Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.

8:01pm: The deal, negoatiated by League's representatives at ACES, is worth $22.5MM across three years with a vesting option, according to Tim Dierkes (via Twitter). 

7:01pm: The Dodgers have re-signed reliever Brandon League, a source tells Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter).  There's no word on the dollar amount yet but Hernandez reports that the deal is for three years (Twitter link).

League's representatives told Hernandez on Saturday afternoon that the two sides were discussing a three-year contract.  The 29-year-old earned $5MM last season in his final year as an arbitration eligible player.

The Dodgers acquired League on July 30th for a pair of minor leaguers, outfielder Leon Landry and right-hander Logan Bawcom.  In 28 appearances for the Dodgers last season, the California native posted a 2.30 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9.  League was less-than-stellar in Seattle but rebounded nicely in Los Angeles and finished out the year as closer.

The Dodgers are hoping to keep most of their bullpen in place and General Manager Ned Colletti has said that he hopes to hang on to League, Jamey Wright, and Randy Choate.  As a whole, the Dodgers' pen had a 3.23 ERA on the year, good for fourth-best in the National League and eighth-best in the majors.


Dodgers Notes: League, Fujikawa, Otani

Yesterday, Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti ran down a number of topics during the club's formal introductory press conference for Carl Crawford.  During the presser, Colletti said that the Dodgers would target both starting and relief pitching this winter, plus outfield depth.  Here's more out of Los Angeles from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times..

  • Colletti reiterated that Brandon League has interest in returning to the Dodgers and the club would like to keep him.  League's representatives told Hernandez that the two sides are currently discussing a three-year pact.  The 29-year-old is able to hit the open market for the first time after earning $5MM in his final season as an arbitration eligible player.
  • People familiar with the Dodgers' thinking say they are interested in Japanese free-agent reliever Kyuji Fujikawa.  The right-hander boasts a mid-90s fastball and has been considered the Japanese league's top closer in recent years.  Fujikawa is expected to pitch in the major leagues next season after recently completing his contract with the Hanshin Tigers.
  • The Dodgers are also known to be in on 18-year-old Shohei Otani along with the Red Sox and Rangers.  Hernandez notes that the Dodgers may have to approach the situation carefully as they have a longstanding relationship with Japanese baseball.  The Nippon Ham Fighters, who selected Otani first overall in the NPB draft, have until the end of March to negotiate with him.  Any team that signs him before then could hurt MLB's relationship with the top league in Japan.
  • The Dodgers are still looking for a hitting coach and Mickey Hatcher, who assisted Dave Hansen late this year, is not in the mix.

Dodgers Notes: Colletti, League, Crawford

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti discussed a number of offseason topics with the media (including MLB.com's Ken Gurnick) during today's official introductory press conference for Carl Crawford.  Here are some of the highlights…

  • Colletti said the Dodgers would look to add starting and relief pitching this winter, plus outfield depth.  "Our outfield is somewhat complete, but not complete," Colletti said.  "We've got to keep our versatility and have somebody that can play center field. Tony Gwynn is still part of the organization and a candidate."  Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are set as the Dodgers' starting outfield trio for 2013, though good bench options are necessary given Crawford and Kemp's recent injury problems.
  • Mickey Hatcher is not a candidate to replace the recently-fired Dave Hansen as the Dodgers' hitting coach, though Colletti said Hatcher could find a job in another capacity with the team.  Hatcher, fired last spring as the Angels' hitting coach, served as "a de facto assistant" to Hansen last season.
  • The Dodgers are interested in bringing back Jamey Wright, Randy Choate and Brandon League next season.  All three relievers are free agents, though Colletti is "encouraged" by negotiations thus far with League (as tweeted by Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times).
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe has the details of Crawford's meeting with the media, including his surprise at being traded last summer, his willingness to waive his no-trade clause and how he wished he'd immediately undergone Tommy John surgery rather than trying to play through the pain.  "I wish I’d done it [earlier], because I’d be better now. With the Boston fans you have a big deal that was made about my money and trying to play for the team," Crawford said. "Maybe I shouldn’t have done that and taken care of myself. I pretty much put pressure on myself to play. You get looked at as being soft and as somebody just trying to take money. I wanted to prove that wasn’t the case. That probably cost me a little time for next year."