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- Nationals Acquire Jonathan Papelbon
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- Jenrry Mejia Suspended 162 Games For Second Failed PED Test
- Dodgers Prioritizing Cole Hamels In Search For Pitching
- Phillies Asking Clubs For Best Offers On Hamels By Tomorrow
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- Phillies Expect To Trade Papelbon; Nationals “Making Progress” On Deal
- Royals Acquire Ben Zobrist
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Brian Dozier Rumors
If all the high-profile moves the White Sox have made this offseason don’t work out, the organization plans to be “nimble” in trying to contend in 2016 and beyond, GM Rick Hahn tells MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “Knock on wood, given the young players that we have in the organization now and the ones we have coming and players under control for the next several years, I don’t think that what happens in ’15 is going to cause us to take a significant step backwards in terms of that plan,” says Hahn. “It just may have us reallocate assets to future seasons so that we can get back on track quickly.” That might suggest that the White Sox could trade someone like Jeff Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency after 2015, if the team doesn’t contend this summer. That stands to reason, of course, although it’s somewhat rare to hear a GM describe contingency plans in a year in which his team is expected to contend. Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- Twins infielder Brian Dozier‘s new extension contains a few potential bonuses, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Dozier can make $100K for winning and MVP or World Series MVP award, plus $25K for Gold Gloves or All-Star appearances.
- The Cubs haven’t yet decided whether Javier Baez will make the team out of camp, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com writes. “You put your present and future hat on. In the present tense, there has to be some adjustments made at the plate; future tense, I can see all those things coming together,” says manager Joe Maddon. Baez hit nine homers in 229 big-league plate appearances last year, but struck out in 41% of his plate appearances. As Tim Dierkes noted in today’s Offseason In Review post on the Cubs, Baez is part of a hazy middle infield picture in Chicago.
- Royals reliever Ryan Madson says he has an opt-out at the end of Spring Training, but he hasn’t thought about exercising it, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Madson, who has not appeared in the big leagues since 2011, is simply enjoying getting back to pitching after years of injury troubles.
The Rays will honor the late Don Zimmer by announcing that his #66 jersey will be retired in a ceremony on Opening Day. Zimmer only wore #66 for one season during his 11 years as a senior advisor for the Rays, as he increased his uniform number by one every season to reflect how many years he had spent in baseball. The beloved long-time coach, manager and player passed away last June.
- Using Max Scherzer‘s signing with the Nationals as an example, Scott Boras discusses how he markets (though the agent dislikes that term) and presents his major free agent clients in an interview with Bloomberg’s Joshua Green. Boras and his staff identify which teams are ideal fits for his clients and then specifically tailors each pitch to relate to each team owner during negotiations. With Scherzer, Boras had four lengthy meetings with Nats owner Ted Lerner highlighting how Scherzer would create more value to the franchise both baseball-wise and from a business perspective.
- MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo debate which club has had the best farm system of the last five years. Callis chose the Nationals since they’ve found more superstar talent, while Mayo picked the Cardinals due to their system’s overall depth.
- The possibility of an international draft has been a topic of discussion throughout baseball lately, with proponents like commissioner Rob Manfred advocating a “single modality of entry” to allow consistency in the way MLB teams sign amateurs from various parts of the world. Flipping the idea around, however, Rob Neyer of FOX Sports suggests that MLB could instead ensure consistency by abolishing the amateur draft. Instead of a draft, MLB could allow teams to spend a predetermined amount on amateur players (be they domestic or international) each year. Neyer favors doing so in such a way that would stop baseball from penalizing winning by having the top teams take lower draft picks. The idea could also be easily modified so that teams with the worst records would be able to spend more money. In either case, Neyer believes his system would encourage all teams to hunt for talent both at home and abroad.
- It’s becoming rare to see pre-arbitration players sign extensions that don’t cover at least one free agent year, yet Brian Dozier‘s new contract with the Twins is such a deal, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards writes in his analysis of the extension. Edwards thinks more players could possibly pursue “a safe deal” like Dozier’s if they “place an emphasis on getting to free agency.”
- Orlando Hudson is in the Diamondbacks‘ camp to work with the infield, though he plans to be back on a diamond in more than an instructor role, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports (via Twitter). Hudson hopes to play winter ball and attempt a Major League comeback for the 2016 season. The 37-year-old former Gold Glove second baseman last played in the bigs in 2012 and had seemingly hung up his spikes following brief stints in the Mexican and Dominican winter leagues in 2013.
It’s already been a busy day for AL Central news. We’ve learned Corey Kluber and the Indians aren’t close in contract negotiations, MLBTR’s Zach Links has a pair of interviews with Twins GM Terry Ryan and right-hander Mike Pelfrey, and Minnesota also grabbed headlines by inking second baseman Brian Dozier to a four-year, $20MM extension. Here’s even more from around the division…
- Dozier, Ryan, Twins assistant GM Rob Antony and Dozier’s agent Damon Lapa discussed the contract during a press conference today (Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has the details). The two sides discussed extensions of up to eight years in length, but they instead settled on a deal that only covers Dozier’s arbitration years and doesn’t include any club options. “In Brian’s case, we felt it important to restrict the club’s ability at the back end of the contract to have any options or anything like that,” Lapa said. “To us that resulted in a shorter term, but we feel in the long run that’s in Brian’s best interests. It preserves his ability to hit free agency on time at 31 as opposed to some of the other players who will be in their mid-30s.”
- While retaining the ability to test free agency was a key point for Dozier, he made it clear that he would like to spend the rest of his career in Minnesota. He’s quite open to a future extension with the team and “hopefully this [contract] is a stepping stone for something possibly even longer.”
- “There are rumblings some talks are in the works” between David Price and the Tigers about an extension, Tony Paul of the Detroit News writes. Price said two weeks ago that there hadn’t been any negotiations between the two sides but he expected the club to approach him before the start of the season.
- Also from Paul’s piece, he suggests the Tigers should explore extending J.D. Martinez or Nick Castellanos now in order to gain cost certainty over the young players, pick up another year or two of team control and possibly score a bargain if they keep producing. While I’m sure the Tigers would take a team-friendly figure if they could find it (especially with Martinez coming off a huge 2014 season), they might be more inclined to wait a bit longer to make sure of what they really have in either player.
- Royals lefty Brandon Finnegan will begin the season at Double-A, the team announced yesterday. Finnegan, the Royals’ first-round draft pick last July, was fast-tracked to the majors after just 27 minor league innings and he made some important bullpen appearances for K.C. during their playoff run. There was some question as to whether Finnegan would pitch out of the Royals’ bullpen again on Opening Day or if he’d continue developing as a starter at Triple-A, though GM Dayton Moore tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that the move to Double-A was made because “we’re still learning about Brandon.” Pitch counts and workload were also factors, though Moore was pleased with how Finnegan accounted for himself while in the bigs.
The Twins have gained cost certainty over a key piece of their lineup after announcing a four-year, $20MM extension for second baseman Brian Dozier. The deal will pay Dozier $2MM this season, $3MM in 2016, $6MM in 2017 and $9MM in 2018. There isn’t any no-trade protection in the contract, as noted during the club’s press conference (hat tip to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). Dozier is represented by Damon Lapa of All Bases Covered Sports Mangaement.
The extension gives Dozier a raise for 2015 (he was already contracted for $590K as a pre-arbitration player) and covers his three years of arbitration eligibility. There weren’t any option years attached to the deal, so the 27-year-old Dozier is still on track to become a free agent following the 2018 season.
Looking at other recent extensions for second basemen with between 2-3 years of service time, Dozier’s deal has fewer years and dollars than the contracts signed by Matt Carpenter and Jason Kipnis within the last 13 months. Carpenter received six years and $52MM (plus an $18.5MM club option) from the Cardinals while Kipnis received six years/$52.5MM (plus a $16.5MM club option) from the Indians. If you look at just the first four years of those two contracts, however, both Carpenter and Kipnis received $22MM guaranteed over that span, so Dozier’s deal is a fair comparable. (It’s also worth noting that Carpenter and Kipnis were both coming off overall stronger seasons prior to their extensions.)
The two sides were known to be discussing an extension earlier this month, and the Twins in fact first explored locking Dozier up last offseason. “Many scenarios were discussed,” ESPN 1500’s Darren Wolfson reports, and Wolfson was a little surprised the Twins didn’t look to add at least one option year onto the deal. On the one hand, if Dozier keeps producing, the Twins now face paying a lot more for his 2019 season and beyond if they want to keep him. That said, the Twins would obviously be ecstatic if Dozier keeps hitting since it will make their four-year/$20MM commitment look like a bargain, yet the deal is also short enough that it gives Minnesota flexibility if Dozier comes back to earth. From Dozier’s perspective, he scores one big payday now and still has the freedom to test the open market at age 31.
An eighth-round pick as a shortstop in the 2009 draft, Dozier has produced two solid seconds as Minnesota’s everyday second baseman. He hit .242/.345/.416 with 23 homers, 21 steals and 112 runs in 2014, posting the fifth-highest fWAR (4.8) of any second baseman in baseball. Most of that value came with the bat as Dozier is still a bit of a work in progress at second (a -4.4 UZR/150 and no Defensive Runs Saved last year), though it seems to be a tradeoff the Twins are happy to make for 20-20 production from the keystone. The power is something of a new development for Dozier — he’s already hit 47 home runs over his 1670 Major League plate appearances after hitting only 16 homers over 1613 minor league PA.
Photo courtesy of Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports Images
MARCH 12: In a radio appearance on 1500 ESPN, Twins assistant GM Rob Antony told Darren Wolfson that nothing is close between the two sides (Twitter link). However, Wolfson hears from other sources that the two sides are still talking.
MARCH 3: 5:04pm: The Twins are set to meet with Lapa tomorrow, MLB.com’s Rhett Bolinger reports. Nothing is imminent right now, per the report.
7:59am: The Twins and second baseman Brian Dozier are making progress on an extension, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The deal is believed to be close, per Berardino’s source. Dozier, a client of All Bases Covered Sports Management’s Damon Lapa, naturally declined comment on any talks, though he did express a willingness and openness to signing a long-term pact. “I don’t want to be anywhere else,” he told Berardino. “If the opportunity presents itself, then I’m all for it. We’ll see.”
Dozier, 28 in May, has gone from a relatively unheralded prospect to what looks to be a potential long-term answer at second base for the Twins in short order. Over the past two seasons, he’s shown 20-homer, 20-steal capabilities and batted .243/.330/.415 with 41 homers and anywhere from slightly below-average defense to slightly above, depending on your metric of choice. (For what it’s worth, I consider Dozier to be underrated by defensive metrics.) Fangraphs has pegged him at 7.3 wins above replacement over the past two seasons, while Baseball-Reference, which likes his defense more, has him at about nine wins.
In terms of plate discipline, Dozier made a significant step forward in 2014, boosting his walk rate to 12.6 percent and cutting his strikeout rate to 18.2 percent. The uptick in walks bodes well for further positive OBP marks in the future, and if he can work to reduce his pop-ups (15 percent of his fly-balls are of the infield variety), he could harness that keen eye into better batting average marks down the line as well.
Dozier isn’t yet arbitration-eligible, and a look at MLBTR’s Extension Tracker shows a pair of potentially relevant comparables in extension talks; both Jason Kipnis and Matt Carpenter agreed to extensions in the $52MM range over six-year terms last spring when they were in Dozier’s same service class.
The Tigers didn’t trade Rick Porcello to the Red Sox due to a lack of progress in extension talks, Porcello’s agent Jim Murray tells FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi. The two sides “briefly discussed” extending Porcello’s contract beyond the 2015 season, Murray said, “but it was more in the context of something both parties may or may not talk about in the future.” Here’s some more from around the AL Central…
- Though Scott Boras has openly said the Tigers won’t get a chance to match an opposing team’s final offer for Max Scherzer, an industry source tells MLB.com’s Jason Beck that the agent will indeed give Tigers owner Mike Ilitch a chance to match “at least as a professional courtesy.” The good relationship between Boras and Ilitch has paved the way for several Boras clients to come to Detroit, perhaps most notably Prince Fielder in the 2011-12 offseason.
- Also from Beck, he passes along comments from Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski reiterating that nothing has changed between Detroit and Scherzer. “I guess anything can happen but we’re not in active pursuit at this time. We’re happy with our starting pitching,” Dombrowski said. “Again, we love him, but as I said at the time, we were the sole club that could sign him last spring. It didn’t work. I don’t think our odds improve with 29 other clubs that could potentially try to sign him.”
- Melky Cabrera is still the Royals‘ top choice to fill their hole in the outfield, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. If Cabrera can’t be signed, K.C. has such options as Nori Aoki, Colby Rasmus or Alex Rios as fallback options.
- The vesting option on Ervin Santana‘s four-year contract with the Twins will require more than just 200 IP from the righty in 2018 to guarantee his 2019 season, a source tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link).
- The Twins haven’t discussed extensions with Phil Hughes, Brian Dozier or Trevor Plouffe yet this offseason, Mike Berardino reports (via Twitter). Berardino suggests that talks could wait until January. The three players have very different contract situations — Dozier isn’t arbitration-eligible until next winter, Plouffe is projected to earn $4.3MM in his second of four arb years as a Super Two player and Hughes still has two seasons remaining on the three-year, $24MM deal he signed last winter. Of the three, Hughes would clearly be the most expensive to extend given his tremendous 2014 campaign.
The Indians are pursuing free agent starter Brett Anderson, ESPN’s Jim Bowden tweets. If he’s healthy, the talented but oft-injured Anderson would provide a wild card and a left arm for a talented Indians rotation that currently includes Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and T.J. House. Anderson has recently been connected to the Twins, Rockies, Royals and Astros. Here’s more from the AL Central.
- The Royals discussed a potential Ross Detwiler trade with the Nationals, but talks didn’t advance, James Wagner of the Washington Post tweets. The Royals saw the lefty reliever and Missouri native as “more of a backup option,” Wagner notes. Detwiler, 28, posted a 4.00 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 63 innings with the Nats last season.
- There has been plenty of interest in Twins middle infielders Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar, but the Twins do not want to trade either one, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Dozier and Escobar were among Minnesota’s most productive position players last season, so it’s understandable that the Twins would be reluctant to part with them, although they also got very good seasons from fellow middle infielder Danny Santana and from third baseman Trevor Plouffe.
The title of the game’s most underrated player has gone to the Rays‘ Ben Zobrist in the past, writes Dave Cameron for FOX Sports, but now belongs to Brian Dozier of the Twins, who has exhibited a similar career trajectory to the late-blooming Zobrist. Showing power that he never carried in the minors, Dozier emerged last year. He has only upped his performance in 2014, with an increasing walk rate, strong defense, and good baserunning combining with that newfound pop to make Dozier one of the game’s most valuable second basemen over the last calendar year. Even better for Minnesota, the 27-year-old will not even be eligible for arbitration until 2016. Certainly, he increasingly appears to be an extension candidate — a possibility that the team has previously explored.
Here’s more from around the American League:
- The Red Sox are considering how to proceed with outfielder Grady Sizemore, who ended the evening with a .218/.293/.336 slash in 133 plate appearances, reports Joon Lee of WEEI.com. Manager John Farrell indicated that a move was not out of the question. “There’s ongoing discussion,” he said, “not just today but for some time. We’re trying to get the best read we can on our guys here. That doesn’t suggest there’s any change imminent.” While Sizemore is set to earn just $750K in base salary on his comeback deal, he does get $250K bonuses for every 25th plate appearance between 225 and 500 as well as for his 60th, 90th, 120th, and 150th day on the roster. As those milestones begin to approach, the team will have increasing incentives to consider alternatives.
- For the division-rival Blue Jays, a move up in the standings only highlights the need to add starting pitching, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. While the results from the rotation have actually been pretty solid, Davidi notes that the staff has failed to go deep into games and still lacks a solid, established group of five starters.
- The struggling Rangers should consider marketing star infielders Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus over the summer, opines Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. While the club has attractive infield prospects rising through the ranks, its rotation looks thin after its recent run of devastating injuries. Adding some young pitching and temporarily shedding salary in advance of a pitching-rich free agent market could better align the club’s resources for a run in 2015, says Morosi.
- In the midst of a difficult stretch at the plate, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas has been optioned to Triple-A in favor of Jimmy Paredes. As Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes, the move was not surprising at this point, with the 25-year-old sporting a 152/.223/.320 line. Needless to say, Kansas City will hope that the former top prospect can regain his form with some time in the minors; as Cameron writes on Fangraphs, Moustakas has shown serious contact issues.
- Notably, the demotion comes not long before Moustakas would have passed the key threshold of three years of MLB service (he entered the season with 2.111 to his credit). As occurred last year with Danny Espinosa of the Nationals, Moustakas could see his arbitration and free agent eligibility delayed by a year apiece if he does not make it back to the bigs. The same holds true for Hector Santiago of the Angels, who was recently optioned to the minors after beginning 2014 with 2.024 years of service in the bag.
- With the recent example of Stephen Drew‘s re-signing with the Red Sox, it is time for the Mariners to seriously consider a move to bring back Kendrys Morales, writes Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. The need is now there with Corey Hart joining Logan Morrison on the disabled list, he says, and the club should have the financial flexibility to make it work. Obviously, it is also important to note that the team now has little chance of acquiring a compensatory draft choice arising out of Morales’s decision to decline a qualifying offer. With no obvious alternative suitors for Morales, Seattle should be in a fairly solid position to make a win-win offer.
The White Sox are off to a solid start to the season with a 7-6 record, and they've already won more games against the division-rival Indians than they did in 2013, writes Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. Hayes spoke with Indians GM Chris Antonetti about his division rivals, and Antonetti said he's not surprised to see the Sox looking like an improved club. "Unfortunately for us, I thought [White Sox GM Rick Hahn] and his staff had an exceptional offseason," Antonetti told Hayes. "They’ve positioned themselves not only better for the short term but also for the long term as well and that’s a challenging thing to do. … I thought they made a number of tremendous moves that will not only help them this year but for years to come, unfortunately to our detriment."
Here's more about the White Sox and the rest of the AL Central…
- The White Sox' largest move of the offseason, financially speaking, was the signing of Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68MM contract. CSN Chicago's David Kaplan spoke to former Sox GM and current executive vice president Kenny Williams about the Abreu signing. Williams said he initially told Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf that he thought Abreu was worth a four-year, $40MM investment, to which Reinsdorf replied, "Why not $50MM?" Williams said he's 100 percent confident in Abreu as well as Reinsdorf and Hahn, who closed the $68MM deal (Twitter link).
- Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press looks at yesterday's $35MM extension for Jedd Gyorko and examines what that means for the Twins' chances of locking up Brian Dozier. The Twins and Dozier's agent, Damon Lapa, had extension talks this spring that didn't progress beyond the exploratory phase, Berardino writes. He notes that while Gyorko's bat has been superior to Dozier's thus far, Dozier trumps Gyorko in defense, baserunning and overall wins above replacement.
- In the latest edition of his "Hey Hoynsie!" mailbag, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer points out that the Indians are in a familiar situation with Asdrubal Cabrera. Though the club had an affordable option on Omar Vizquel back in 2004, they made no indication of wanting to pick it up and instead let Vizquel walk to make room for Jhonny Peralta. In 2010, the team traded Peralta to the Tigers without showing much interest in retaining him, due to Cabrera's presence in the minors. Now, with Cabrera five-and-a-half months from free agency and Francisco Lindor looming, there's been little to no talk of Cabrera's Cleveland tenure lasting beyond 2014. The bigger question, says Hoynes, is whether or not Cabrera will play well enough to merit a qualifying offer. Given his struggles at the plate over the past year, that seems unlikely at this time.
One hidden key to the Royals' emergence has been the club's dedication to Latin American scouting, signing, and player development under GM Dayton Moore (and special assistant Rene Francisco), writes Rany Jazayerli of RanyontheRoyals.com. Jazayerli breaks down the team's long history of virtually no significant spending on Latin American players, and how increased investments — especially on lower-priced players like Salvador Perez, Yordano Ventura, Miguel Almonte, and Jorge Bonifacio (total commitment: $253K) — have been critical to building the team's overall talent base. Here's more from the American League Central:
- Max Scherzer requested an eight-year deal in his negotiations with the Tigers, reports Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Twitter links). The Tigers' reported offer was for six years and $144MM. If the sides were in agreement on the $24MM AAV, that would hypothetically put Scherzer's demands on total gaurantee at $192MM. Scherzer has injury protection through an insurance policy, Bowden adds, which perhaps has increased his willingness to wait for a larger deal on the open market.
- Meanwhile, the White Sox were able to secure seven years of control rights over their own prized starter, Jose Quintana, for a total guarantee that maybe as low as $21MM (if he does not qualify for Super Two status). Of course, unlike Scherzer, Quintana has just 1.133 years of service and did not win the AL Cy Young last year. Nevertheless, the deal looks like a smart investment for a Chicago club that has purchased prime years of several players at seemingly reasonable rates. As Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports, GM Rick Hahn sees the value in early extensions, which "frees us up to allocate our resources to other needs." Hahn explained: "You've seen the magnitude of what some of these deals have gotten to in free agency. It makes sense to try to get out in front of that sometimes, to try to get the price points locked in before the market continues to grow … ."
- Twins assistant GM Rob Antony had several updates today, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Infielder Jason Bartlett has agreed to push back his March 25 opt-out to the March 30 Opening Day roster deadline, which gives both sides more time to assess their options. Meanwhile, the club is still in discussions on a new deal with reliever Matt Guerrier, who was released because the club did not want to pay the Article XX(B) free agent signee a $100K retention bonus to stash him in the minors.
- Though the Twins have had some exploratory discussions about an extension with second baseman Brian Dozier, the 26-year-old tells Berardino that a deal is probably not happening at this point. That is not surprising, as Dozier has just 1.100 on his service clock and still has some questions to answer as a player. But he indicated that there is a positive vibe between the two sides and a hope that talks could pick up in the future. "We had some talks or whatever," he said. "Obviously nothing took place but it was a bunch of good postive feedback on both ends.It's very unlikely anything will be coming soon or during the season or anything. We'll let another year play out and see where it goes. That was just a thing to see where everybody was. I think [the Twins] would be in the near future open to it and we definitely are."
- The Indians were one of the clubs vying for Scott Baker's services before the offseason, and just released Aaron Harang. Nevertheless, Cleveland will not pursue the starter at this point, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Baker was released today by the Mariners after deciding he would rather test the market than accept an assignment to Triple-A.