Brian Bannister Rumors

Quick Hits: Free Agents, Heyward, Cespedes, Greinke

In the latest edition of his 10 Degrees column, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan looks at what some of the offseason’s top free agents are likely to fetch on the open market after conversations with two GMs, two agents and two front office personnel executives.  All agree that David Price is a lock to receive more than $200MM though contract predictions fluctuate with other players.  Chris Davis, for instance, inspired guesses that ranged from a $60MM deal to a $150MM deal.  I agree with Passan that guessing on the high side is the better option, since power bats are at a premium; nine figures seems the minimum for Davis’ next contract.  Here’s some more from Passan’s column and elsewhere around baseball…

  • Jason Heyward “will be the bellwether of this market,” as his unique case as a player who brings youth (26 years old) and elite defense to free agency rather than an elite bat will set the tone for other signings.  His youth could play a different role in the contract, as one GM thinks Heyward could sign an eight-year, $175MM deal with an opt-out clause after four years.  This way Heyward could hit free agency again when he’s only 30 years old and in good position for another major contract.  Passan notes that Heyward is represented by Excel Sports Management, and Excel’s Casey Close has negotiated high-profile opt-out clauses in recent contracts for clients Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke (though it’s worth mentioning that Heyward isn’t represented by Close himself).
  • Two free agents who were dealt at the trade deadline have greatly harmed (Johnny Cueto) and helped (Yoenis Cespedes) their chances at a major deal this winter due to their performances with their new clubs.  Passan notes that Mets ownership finds itself in a Catch-22 with Cespedes.  Letting him leave would enrage a fanbase that already feels the club doesn’t spend enough, yet Cespedes has enough flaws in his game that the Mets could easily find themselves burned by giving him a massive long-term contract.  All six of Passan’s sources feel Cespedes’ market will begin at $125MM and perhaps go as high as $160MM.
  • Zack Greinke‘s age will keep him from getting a seven- or eight-year commitment when he opts out of his Dodgers contract, though Passan feels Greinke could look to set a new record for highest average annual value in the form of a five-year, $175MM deal.
  • In his ranking of the five open GM positions in baseball, Joel Sherman of the New York Post lists the Red Sox job as the most appealing given the team’s financial resources, passionate fanbase and existing talent in both the majors and minors.  The downside is that the Boston job carries a particular amount of pressure, and a new GM may not have autonomy with Dave Dombrowski leading the baseball operations department.  Sherman lists the pros and cons of the Red Sox, Phillies, Mariners, Angels and Brewers openings, though as one executive puts it, “There is no perfect job. If you wait for the perfect one, you will wait forever….You have to figure out how to accentuate the positives and fix or navigate around the warts.”
  • Former Royals hurler Brian Bannister is the first Red Sox director of pitching analysis and development, a position specifically created by Dombrowski to match Bannister’s unique skill-set.  Peter Gammons, in his latest piece for GammonsDailycom, looks at the work Bannister has already done with Boston’s pitchers in his former capacity as a pro scout, and how Bannister is blending mound experience with knowledge gleaned from analytical data.
  • Matt Harvey is scheduled to make his next start against the Yankees on Sunday, a Mets team source tells Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News.  Harvey was only supposed to start once more after that, though manager Terry Collins told Ackert and other reporters that workload wouldn’t do enough to keep the ace sharp for the playoffs.  “We got to get him on the mound a little more consistently,” Collins said.  “Every 12 days is not a good scenario….We have to have Matt Harvey ready to pitch.  He doesn’t need to have 15 days off. We got to have him ready.”  The Mets could use Harvey on regular turns in the rotation but just on limited innings and pitch counts in each outing, with a reliever ready to “piggyback” the rest of the outing.

Front Office Notes: Red Sox, Kantrovitz, Bloom

The Red Sox on Wednesday announced a trio of front office promotions, beginning with the promotion of former big league right-hander Brian Bannister to a newly created position: director of pitching analysis and development. He had previously been serving as a pro scout for the Sox. Additionally, amateur scout Chris Mears was bumped to pitching cross-checker, and Gus Quattlebaum was moved up from assistant director of professional/international scouting to director of pro scouting. Quattlebaum will replace former pro scouting director Jared Porter, who reportedly took a job with the Cubs late last month in the wake of Ben Cherington’s resignation.

More front office chatter from around the league…

  • D-Backs senior vice president De Jon Watson and Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen have surfaced as candidates for the GM vacancy in Boston, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Brewers VP of amateur scouting Ray Montgomery’s name has also come up in connection to the Sox, Heyman adds. As Heyman notes, Watson has previously worked under Dave Dombrowski with the Marlins. Frank Wren’s name is still very much in play as well, Heyman hears, but there’s no clear-cut favorite at this point.
  • The Brewers have received permission from the Athletics to interview assistant general manager Dan Kantrovitz, per Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Kantrovitz is in his second stint with the Athletics and served as the Cardinals scouting director in the interim. Those interested in learning more about Kantrovitz will want to check out his interview with Fangraphs’ David Laurila from last October.
  • Rosenthal also reports (Twitter link) that the Brewers are expected to request an interview with Rays vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom. Tampa Bay promoted Bloom from director of baseball ops to VP of baseball ops last offseason after Andrew Friedman joined the Dodgers organization. A graduate of Yale, Bloom has a background in player development, contract negotiation and international scouting.

Brian Bannister Leaves Yomiuri Giants

Pitcher Brian Bannister left the Yomiuri Giants on March 15th in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, reported Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times on April 10th.  Unlike most foreign players, Bannister left without permission and had to be placed on the restricted list.  Coskrey said that placement on the list prevents Bannister from playing for any team – "in or outside of Japan" – until the situation is resolved.

An AP story on this topic surfaced today, in which Bannister reportedly told Japanese officials he has no plans to play in Japan or the U.S.

Bannister, 30, elected free agency after being outrighted by the Royals in November following a 6.34 ERA campaign.  He went on to sign a $1.8MM deal with the Giants, but never pitched for them.

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Brian Bannister Heading To Japan

Free-agent starter Brian Bannister has agreed to a one-year deal (plus a club option) with the Tokyo Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

Bannister, a five-year veteran of the big leagues, pitched for one season with the Mets and the past four with the Royals, to largely underwhelming results, and made 108 starts in his four-year stint with Kansas City. He'll turn 30 in February.

A second-generation Major Leaguer, Bannister was selected by the Mets in the seventh round of the 2003 draft.

Three Teams Heard Bannister Was Retiring

Brian Bannister plans to pitch in 2011. Apparently, three teams didn't get the memo — or they just got the wrong one.

FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets that three clubs told Bannister's agents at Gaylord Sports that they'd heard the right-hander was planning on retiring this offseason. As Rosenthal points out, Bannister, a free agent, is definitely intent on pitching in 2011.

Bannister was designated for assignment and elected free agency last month (he'd have been non-tendered anyway) after the worst season of his career in 2010. The 29-year-old saw his ERA jump to 6.34 through 127 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 4.79 mark with which he entered the season.

Bannister's struggles can likely be traced to an alarming spike in his HR/FB, which rose to a career-high 14.5%. Couple that with his BB/9 raising to 3.52 (2.9 BB/9 career prior to 2010), as well as a career-high .323 BABIP, and you can see why his results soured.

If Bannister can rediscover his control, he'd be due for a rebound, especially with a move to the National League. His poor performance in 2010 and peripheral stats make him an intriguing buy-low candidate. At the very least, he's been durable since coming to the Royals. He only had one trip to the disabled list over the past four years, although the catch there is that it did come recently — he missed 31 days with shoulder tendinitis in the second half of the 2010 season.

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Brian Bannister Becomes A Free Agent

Brian Bannister is officially a free agent, according to the Royals. Kansas City reinstated Jason Kendall and David DeJesus from the 60-day DL and made room by outrighting Bannister to Triple-A and designating right-hander Brian Anderson for assignment. Bannister refused his assignment and became a free agent.

Bannister, 29, pitched to a 6.34 ERA in 127 2/3 innings last year. His walk rate rose to 3.5 BB/9 and his strikeout rate dropped to 5.4 K/9, so it's not surprising that the Royals let him go. If they had offered arbitration, Bannister would have made something like $2.3MM, his 2010 salary. When Mike Axisa identified Bannister as a non-tender candidate last month, 71% of MLBTR readers correctly predicted that the Royals would cut him loose.

Anderson, a longtime outfielder in the major leagues, started making the transition to the mound this year. He logged 17 1/3 innings across three levels in the Royals system, striking out 17 and walking 5.

Non-Tender Candidate: Brian Bannister

One of Dayton Moore's very first moves as general manager of the Royals was to swap hard-throwing but enigmatic reliever Ambiorix Burgos to the Mets for then 25-year-old righthander Brian Bannister. Bannister had just 38 big league innings to his credit at the time (4.26 ERA) but he was consistently excellent in minors (3.31 career minor league ERA at the time of the trade) and considered ready to step into a big league rotation. After a brief tune-up in Triple-A to start the 2007 season, the now 29-year-old Bannister joined Kansas City's starting staff and has remained there ever since.

Nearly four full years after the fact, it's easy to declare Moore the winner of the trade. Not only has Bannister out-WAR'ed Burgos 7.1 to 0.0 since the deal, but the latter hasn't even pitched since 2008 due to a litany of legal issues. Perhaps best known for his love of advanced statistics, Bannister has given the Royals 629.1 innings across 108 starts (and one relief appearance) in his four seasons with the team, posting 5.13 ERA with 5.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. Shoulder tendinitis this August prevented him from eclipsing the 150 inning mark for a fourth straight season.

After making $2.3MM in 2010, Bannister will go through the arbitration process one final time this winter before becoming a free agent after next season. He posted an ugly 6.34 ERA in 127.2 innings this year, and the .302/.365/.503 line opponents managed against him approximates Ryan Braun's 2010 production (.304/.365/.501). Never a big stuff guy, Bannister's fastball actually crept up in the last few seasons and now sits right around 90 mph.

Bannister was a fine piece when he was making six figures, but now that he's entered into multi-million dollar territory, Moore will assuredly think twice before tendering the righty a contract this offseason. In fact, Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star recently predicted that the team will shop Bannister around this offseason and could non-tender him if they don't find a taker. Bannister's name has been featured at each of the last two trade deadlines, but obviously no deal was made and now the team is facing the possibility of losing him for nothing.

If you haven't seen it already, or if you just want to read it again, make sure you check out the Q&A Tim conducted with Bannister back in 2008 (parts one, two, and three). Once you're done with that, click here to vote about what you think the Royals will do with Bannister after he season, and here to see the results.

Royals Notes: Payroll, Greinke, Chen, Bannister

It will likely be "a relatively quiet offseason" for the Royals, writes Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.  Here are some of the hot stove-related notes from Dutton's recent look ahead to the Royals' 2011 season.

  • The payroll is expected to be in "the low $60MM range" next season, down from K.C.'s 2010 payroll of just under $75MM.  This whole drop could be attributed to Jose Guillen's $12MM salary coming off the books. 
  • Speaking of Guillen, Dutton reports that "the days of shelling out millions to retread veterans for stopgap purposes appear over."
  • There have been some rumors about Zack Greinke being on the trade block, but Dutton thinks the K.C. ace won't be moved this winter since his trade value will be higher at next year's trade deadline and in the 2011-12 offseason.
  • Bruce Chen wants to re-sign in Kansas City and there appears to be mutual interest from the Royals.  The club may "have too many promising left-handed prospects to offer Chen more than a one-year deal," but it's hard to imagine another club giving Chen multiple years.
  • Dutton predicts the Royals will either deal or non-tender Brian Bannister.  The right-hander made $2.3MM in 2010 and is entering his third arbitration year.
  • With Jason Kendall set to miss part (or maybe all) of 2011 after rotator cuff surgery, Kansas City will be in the market for a cheap, defensive-minded veteran catcher.
  • The team is looking for right-handed hitting and will probably "scour the bargain bins" for the likes of a Matt Diaz or a Cody Ross.  Dutton notes, however, that if the Royals are particularly taken with a higher caliber of right-handed hitting corner outfielder, they would be "willing to shell out a few million for a good fit."  Such a player would be all the more important to the club if David DeJesus is traded in the winter.

Giants Discussing Guillen, Interested In Willingham

The San Francisco offense is heating up, but the Giants are still looking for outfield bats. The Royals are discussing Jose Guillen with San Francisco, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The potential deal would send the 34-year-old to San Francisco along with cash to cover some of the $4.5MM or so remaining on Guillen’s contract. 

But Jayson Stark of hears (via Twitter) from a rival official who believes the Royals have “no real options” to move Guillen, even if they ask for a modest return and take on salary. Stark’s source says (via Twitter) there’s very little action on some of Guillen’s teammates: Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies and Kyle Farnsworth.

Another one of Guillen’s teammates, Scott Podsednik, is drawing strong interest from NL West teams, including the Giants. For what it’s worth, the Giants have been scouting Guillen aggressively, according to Jon Heyman of (via Twitter). For the season, Guillen has 16 homers and a .271/.333/.457 line.

The Giants are pursuing outfielders other than Guillen and Podsednik, according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Like the Braves, Rays and Red Sox, the Giants have interest in Josh Willingham.

Royals Will Listen To Offers

Royals GM Dayton Moore told Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that the club has some "nice pieces" to market this summer. The 27-37 Royals have a number of players who might appeal to contenders and Moore is ready to listen, even though the Royals aren't actively looking to move players at this point.

"We'll evaluate what comes our way if anything does come our way," he said. 

It wouldn't be surprising to see an offer or two for David DeJesus come the Royals' way. Dutton reports that clubs are already scouting the outfielder, who is hitting .314/.392/.479. DeJesus makes an affordable $4.7MM salary this year and there's a club option for $6MM in 2011 ($500K buyout). 

If the Royals hold onto DeJesus, they could decline his option and offer him arbitration. If he turns down their offer to sign elsewhere, they would obtain at least one draft pick, possibly two. The promise of draft picks makes the Royals hesitant to deal him for a pedestrian return, but there are advantages to dealing now. DeJesus must climb into Type A territory under the Elias rankings system and decline arbitration for them to get two picks. Even if they get the picks, they would have to wait a year and pay each draftee about $1MM. 

Rival teams could also have interest in Scott Podsednik, Jose Guillen, Kyle Farnsworth, Willie Bloomquist, Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies, Alberto Callaspo and Rick Ankiel.