- White Sox Claim Kyle Drabek
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- East Notes: Papelbon, Warren, Victorino
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Brandon Moss Rumors
Indians outfielder Brandon Moss nearly retired from baseball in 2012, writes MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Moss had nine days left before an opt-out clause in his minor league deal with the A’s and planned on playing out the season in Japan — on a more lucrative deal. His plans were then to join a high school friend as a firefighter in his native Georgia. However, Moss was called up to the A’s on June 6 that year and, after initially struggling, proceeded to mash five homers in a four-game span. That burst of power set the tone for Moss, who stuck with the A’s through this offseason when he was traded to Cleveland. Over the past three seasons, the late-blooming Moss is a .254/.340/.504 hitter with 76 home runs. Bastian’s article has several interesting quotes from Moss, his former coaches/managers and his friends and is well worth the read.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- Royals lefty Tim Collins had an MRI on his left elbow yesterday after experiencing tightness Wednesday of this week, writes MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. The Royals and Collins remain hopeful that it’s just normal soreness that can often be expected of pitchers early in Spring Training. If not, the team does have other lefty options in camp, including Franklin Morales, Brian Flynn, Joe Paterson and top prospect Brandon Finnegan.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan told reporters, including MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, that his club isn’t hindered by payroll or revenue. Ryan’s goal, he says, is to reach the postseason this year, though he admits that a lot will need to go right for that to happen. Namely, the Twins will need to stay healthy and see a number of their younger players take their game to a new level.
- Phil Coke, who agreed to a minor league deal with the Cubs yesterday, told MLive.com’s Chris Iott that he’ll miss being a Tiger and enjoyed his time in the Motor City. Iott writes that while the Tigers never officially closed the door on re-signing Coke, his fate was more or less sealed once the team signed Tom Gorzelanny to his one-year, $1MM deal. Detroit didn’t want to carry a pair of veteran lefty relievers without options when it had a number of younger in-house options, such as Blaine Hardy, Ian Krol and Kyle Ryan, Iott explains. Iott adds that he, too, hears Coke rejected a Major League offer in favor of his minor league deal with the Cubs; it’s certainly possible that the relatively sizable $2.25MM salary Coke will be paid if he makes Chicago’s roster outweighs a more modest salary he received on a guaranteed deal.
Looking to get some more insight into the trade that sent Brandon Moss from Oakland to Cleveland, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer spoke with Athletics assistant GM David Forst and manager Bob Melvin about the swap (Oakland received second base prospect Joe Wendle in exchange). Though Wendle has never ranked as a Top 100 prospect according to outlets such as Baseball America, ESPN, etc., Forst said that the A’s don’t concern themselves with prospect rankings. Rather, the A’s have been enamored with Wendle for more than a year and tried to trade for him in the past. “He is a high-contact hitter. He plays good defense. He has an outstanding makeup. We like him,” Forst explained. Melvin explained that the A’s very much like Moss, but were hoping to get a bit younger. Candidly, the Forst told Pluto that the A’s feel Ike Davis can replace Moss’ bat at a cheaper price.
A bit more from Pluto’s interview and the rest of the AL West…
- Forst told Pluto that the Athletics never discussed Josh Donaldson with the Indians. Oakland targeted a few select teams, and the Blue Jays were at the top of their list of potential trade candidates, he added. Meanwhile, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star chimed in on that same trade (via Twitter), noting that Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said that his initial hope was to acquire Donaldson and move Brett Lawrie to second base, but it eventually became clear that Lawrie had to be included in the return to obtain Donaldson.
- The Rangers offered Joba Chamberlain more than the $1MM base salary he received on his new deal with the Tigers, but Chamberlain elected to return to Detroit, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Earlier this morning, GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters that Chamberlain had received more lucrative offers elsewhere but “really wanted” to be a Tiger again.
- Also from Heyman (on Twitter), infielder Elliot Johnson will receive a $900K base salary if he makes the Rangers‘ big league roster. Johnson signed a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite yesterday, the team announced.
- Drew Butera‘s Major League experience and the fact that he’s out of options make him the favorite to win the Angels‘ backup catcher job, writes Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. However, Fletcher does quote manager Mike Scioscia, who says he’s also been impressed by candidates Carlos Perez and Jett Bandy. “All of these guys have shown on the defensive side they are ready for the challenge,” said Scioscia.
- Astros catcher Jason Castro recently spoke to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle about the feeling of seeing his name floated in trade rumors for much of the offseason. “I think if you focus too much on it, you kind of drive yourself crazy,” said Castro, who called trade rumors “part of the offseason.” The White Sox and Rangers were among the teams with interest in Castro, per Drellich. Castro’s spot with the Astros became secure again once the team dealt Carlos Corporan to the Rangers. Castro and Hank Conger will see the bulk of the time behind the plate for Houston.
Recently-retired veteran Kevin Youkilis will be joining the Cubs as a special assistant, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports on Twitter. The connection will be obvious for many: Youkilis rose to prominence and made most of his impact on the field playing for former Red Sox GM and current Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.
Here’s more from the central divisions:
- Pirates starter Francisco Liriano held talks with the Red Sox, Twins, Astros, and Royals before re-signing with Pittsburgh, the lefty told Dan Zangrilli of 93.7 The Fan (Twitter links). Kansas City went as high as $36MM over three years, said Liriano, who ultimately took home $39MM from the Pirates. Interestingly, Liriano noted that he felt the qualifying offer did not significantly hinder his market.
- If Brandon Moss and Nick Swisher prove their health this spring, outfielder David Murphy (or another roster candidate) will likely need to be dealt before breaking camp, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. It may be hard to find a taker without eating a good bit of Murphy’s $6MM salary, should that come to pass. For now, this remains an interesting story to watch over the coming months.
- While the Tigers do have some worrying signs in their large contracts and low-rated farm, they are not yet facing the kind of difficulties that the Phillies have found, Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes. If nothing else, Detroit still looks to be legitimately competitive at present, and has time to prepare for a soft landing when its window does finally begin closing.
9:46pm: Tomlin’s deal is guaranteed, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca tweets.
1:35pm: The Indians have agreed to one-year deals to avoid arbitration with first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss ($6.5MM), right-hander Josh Tomlin ($1.5MM) and right-hander Bryan Shaw ($1.55MM), reports Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (on Twitter). Moss’ salary comes in below MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz’s $7.1MM projection, while Tomlin and Shaw were closer to their respective projections of $1.7MM and $1.5MM.
Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija both helped their former Athletics teammate Jon Lester in his decision to sign with the Cubs, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat writes. Of course, Lester was already familiar with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein from their time in Boston. “I think the Theo-Jon bromance was going to happen anyways,” says Hammel. “But [Lester] was definitely interested, and he was picking our brains all the time.” Here are more quick notes from the Central divisions.
- The Reds didn’t attract much attention this week, but they quietly traded two starters (Alfredo Simon and Mat Latos) who didn’t project as well as one might think in 2015 for talent that could help them immediately, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs writes in a piece for FOX Sports. Shortstop Eugenio Suarez (acquired in the Simon deal) projects to be as good an offensive player as Didi Gregorius next year, and pitcher Anthony DeSclafani (acquired in the Latos deal) might turn out to be almost as good next year as Latos anyway.
- Simon could move to the Tigers‘ bullpen if they re-sign Max Scherzer, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press suggests. Publicly, the Tigers won’t say that, Fenech writes, because they would look like they lost if Scherzer signed elsewhere. But it seems possible that the Tigers could be thinking of Simon primarily as a backup plan for their rotation.
- The Indians‘ trade for Brandon Moss was a deal worth making, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. Moss is expected to fully recover from offseason surgery, and the cost to get him (minor league second baseman Joey Wendle) wasn’t steep. With Moss in the fold, Pluto writes, the Indians will likely work to trade fellow lefty outfielder David Murphy, who has one year remaining before free agency.
- Pluto also writes that the Indians dodged a bullet when Justin Masterson didn’t accept their three-year, $45MM extension offer last offseason. Masterson, of course, suffered through a year of injury and poor mechanics, and with him under contract, the Indians would have had about half their payroll committed to three players: Masterson, Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. Masterson agreed to a one-year deal with the Red Sox this week.
Moss, 31, is projected by MLBTR/Matt Swartz to earn $7.1MM this year, his second-to-last of arbitration eligibility. He is an accomplished power bat, with a 135 OPS+ and 76 home runs over the last three years.
But those figures have trended downward in each successive campaign. Then there is the fact that Moss’s value is limited by his poor defense in the outfield. Most worryingly of all, he has dealt with a significant hip issue that required offseason surgery.
The Indians will gladly roll the dice on a recovery, especially since the club will have a chance to decide whether to tender Moss after the season. Moss’s manageable salary offered the chance for Cleveland to add the big bat that many felt they needed, while his health questions lowered the ask. As Jordan Bastian of MLB.com rightly notes on Twitter, Cleveland may well need to do something to clear its logjam of first base/corner outfield type players.
For the A’s, this deal represents the latest sign that GM Billy Beane is firmly committed to cashing in assets that no longer have much potential to accumulate value and/or improve production. Moss joins Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes as former core players who have been moved by Oakland in recent months.
Wendle, a 24-year-old prospect, did not rate among the Indians’ top ten prospects in the recent estimation of Baseball America but did land at ninth on MLB.com‘s most recent list. Wendle’s calling card is his hit tool, with which he combines decent power and solid defense. A broken hamate bone cut the 24-year-old’s season short, but he had put up a .253/.311/.414 line over 370 Double-A plate appearances and owned even an even more robust slash the prior year at High-A.
ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reported on Twitter that the teams’ prior talks were nearing completion. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported (Twitter links) that the deal was done, with Wendle making up the return. John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group first reported the connection between the clubs on Twitter, while Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle first reported that Oakland was interested in Wendle.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here’s a morning links roundup from the American League:
- The Athletics are still “inching” toward a deal with the Indians on Brandon Moss, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. A swap is likely to go down over the next few days, Sherman adds.
- Clubs that have spoken with the Athletics about Jeff Samardzija have been left with the impression that Oakland would not be willing to grant an extension negotiation window as part of the deal, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports on Twitter. That is perhaps not terribly surprising, as Samardzija does not appear particularly likely to forego a chance at testing the open market.
- For the Yankees, one side benefit of adding Martin Prado (last summer) and Andrew Miller (just a few days ago) is that it conveys leverage in talks with now-free agent third baseman Chase Headley and closer David Robertson, Sherman writes. While New York is now willing to put a fourth year on the table for both players, says Sherman, it will not match the reported four-year, $65MM offer out to Headley or the $50MM+ asking price of Robertson.
- While there are several intriguing possibilities for the Tigers at the Winter Meetings, the odds are that the team will make only smaller moves, if any, per Chris Iott of MLive.com. Iott takes a look at Detroit’s various options for improvement, concluding that most are rather unlikely to take place.
10:00pm: If the trade gets done, it will likely be a one-for-one swap sending a player that is not on Cleveland’s 40-man roster to the A’s, reports Hoynes. That would rule out Ramirez and Gonzalez and indicate that Wendle could be the return for Oakland.
DEC. 5, 2:05pm: The two sides have yet to reach a deal but have discussed shortstops Jose Ramirez and Erik Gonzalez in addition to Wendle, reports Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area. Presumably, only one of that grouping would head to Oakland in a potential trade.
10:25pm: The A’s are interested in Indians second base prospect Joe Wendle, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Wendle hit .265/.326/.425 in 396 plate appearances while battling injury. He spent most of the season at Double-A. Meanwhile, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets that negotiations should reach a conclusion on Friday, one way or another.
DEC. 4, 5:13pm: The Indians “are guardedly optimistic” that they can complete a deal for Moss, tweets Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
DEC. 3, 9:01pm: The Indians are not the only club looking into adding Moss, MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports on Twitter. A move does not appear to be imminent, she adds.
3:48pm: The Athletics are “listening” to the Indians on left-handed slugger Brandon Moss, John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group reports on Twitter. Moss, 31, is capable of playing first base or the corner outfield, and is an obvious DH candidate as well.
For the Indians, a run at Moss makes sense, particularly if the team views him as a plausible candidate to spend regular time in the outfield. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained in his offseason outlook for Cleveland, the team could add a new outfield piece while utilizing Nick Swisher in a pure DH role. Alternatively, if Swisher himself were to be moved, then Moss might make sense as a hitting-only player.
Moss appeals due both to his recent success and his controlled salary (a projected $7.1MM in his second-to-last year of arbitration eligibility). He took a step back at the plate last year, due in part to hip issues that were addressed by offseason surgery, but he was still well above-average. His three-year slash line stands at .254/.340/.504, good for a 135 OPS+, with Moss contributing 76 home runs over 1,381 plate appearances.
Athletics GM Billy Beane firmly rejected the recently-suggested idea that some kind of tension between he and Josh Donaldson played any role in the latter’s recent trade, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. “It is so absurd to respond further is to give it credibility,” said Beane. We’ll take a closer look at Oakland on today’s podcast, which features beat reporter Jane Lee of MLB.com.
Here’s more from the American League:
- The Athletics are “going to trade Brandon Moss,” an executive told ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark last night (Twitter link). We heard yesterday that the Indians were making a run at the slugger, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the pursuit continues today. Of course, as Lee reported last night (via Twitter), there are other teams looking into Moss.
- Lingering concerns over neck issues may have played a role in the Orioles‘ decision not to top the Braves’ offer to Nick Markakis, Rosenthal reports. Markakis has been quite durable over the last two seasons since being diagnosed with a “small disc herniation,” but of course he has also failed to deliver much pop in that time.
- Nevertheless, the Orioles did have the second-highest offer on the table to Markakis, per Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs (Twitter link). He hears that Baltimore offered four years and $40MM.
- The Tigers are receiving strong interest in David Price and Rick Porcello, Rosenthal reports (links to Twitter). What Detroit would ask for in return for these starters remains a mystery, Rosenthal adds. Of course, there are several other big-name, 5+ service time pitchers who could potentially be had, and Rosenthal notes that all are still “in play.” He adds that the primary appeal of such arms is their generally below-market salary and the achievement of a year of exclusive negotiating rights. Implicit, of course, is that teams are interested not only in a reasonable hope of achieving excess value on the contract, but also in doing so without exposure to the massive downside risk of a longer-term deal.
- The Twins will turn their attention to the pitching staff during the Winter Meetings, reports MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. When asked what the team’s priority is, GM Terry Ryan left little doubt how he feels: “Pitching is, and I don’t think there’s any question. We’ve had our struggles on the mound, so we’ll continue to look at pitching first.”
- Justin Smoak left money on the table to join the Blue Jays, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. Agent Dustin Bledsoe told Nicholson-Smith that his client wanted the chance at everyday playing time at first more than the possibility of increasing his guarantee next year.
The Giants‘ pre-season efforts to extend Pablo Sandoval were more aggressive than had previously been known, according to a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Before the season, San Francisco offered Sandoval a deal that would have added four years and a vesting option on top of his 2014 arbitration salary, potentially reaching $91.5MM over that six-year span. (That figure includes the option; the report does not indicate the precise guaranteed figure.) While that falls shy of what Sandoval ultimately achieved, of course, it certainly sounds like a competitive offer for the context in which it was made.
More from the National League;
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says he was “not disappointed” to see Yasmany Tomas land with another club, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. Amaro did say that the Phils had “dialogue” yesterday with Tomas’s representatives, which would seem to indicate that the team had at least some involvement right down to the wire.
- Amaro went on to reject the concept that the team was focused on bolstering its lineup. “Who said we were looking for a power bat?” Amaro queried. “We have a long-term plan and the moves we make are based on that. We’re looking for pitching right now.”
- We’ve heard various reports of late suggesting that the Marlins are interested in adding a left-handed bat. One name to keep an eye on, per a report from Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, is Brandon Moss of the Athletics.