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Brian Roberts Rumors
Roberts, a long-time division rival of the Yankees after spending his entire career in Baltimore prior to 2014, signed a one-year, $2MM deal as a free agent in the offseason. He struggled at the plate in his lone season in Yankee pinstripes, slashing .237/.300/.360 with five homers and seven stolen bases.
Roberts was among the league’s top second basemen last decade, but injuries derailed many of his would-be peak years. He’s undergone hip surgery and hamstring surgery in recent years in addition to dealing with concussion symptoms. In his career, the switch-hitter is a .276/.347/.409 hitter with 97 homers and 285 stolen bases.
In an interesting piece for FOX Sports, Dan Rozenson of Baseball Prospectus looks at the increasing proliferation of knuckle-curveballs around the game, and suggests that the pitch could be a better weapon than a traditional hook — especially for hard throwers — due to its more fastball-like release point and typically greater speed. While A.J. Burnett of the Phillies is one of the game’s better-known practitioners of the pitch, many others are less well-publicized and have only recently been identified in the PITCHf/x system.
Here are a few more brief notes from the game’s eastern divisions to start off the morning …
- When Brian Roberts joined the Yankees as their starting second baseman, he not only left the only organization he had known (the Orioles) but stood to replace one of the game’s best players in Robinson Cano. Adapting to his new environs and dealing with that pressure may have explained some of Roberts’s early-season struggles, writes Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. “I think it was more self-inflected than anything,” Roberts said of his slow start. “You try hard, I think. I’ve always said it’s got to be hard for guys to switch teams all the time. I was always so comfortable. It was like riding a bike every year.”
- The Nationals are increasingly setting loose ace Stephen Strasburg, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. “I mean, he’s our horse,” said manager Matt Williams. “He’s a guy that can go 120 [pitches].” While Strasburg’s fastball velocity is down and his results have lagged somewhat in the early going — thanks in large part to giving up lots of early runs — he is striking out batters at a ridiculous 12.2 K/9 rate and advanced metrics love his work. Strasburg has thrown 47 1/3 frames through his first eight starts, which lags Adam Wainwright‘s league-leading 58 innings in as many outings. But if the 25-year-old can continue working late into games, he could well make his first push past 200 innings. That could deliver a big bump in arbitration earnings for Strasburg, who netted a relatively modest $3.975MM in his first trip through the process.
Brian Roberts spoke with Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun yesterday about his decision to join the Yankees and leave an Orioles organization that was the only one he'd ever played for professionally. Roberts explained that he decided to join a new club in part because "the opportunity to be an Oriole wasn't there anymore." The second baseman indicated that Baltimore never approached him about a return. "We really didn't have any conversations about [a return]," said Roberts. "I don't think it's my place as a player to necessarily go to an organization and ask for a job." Roberts had nothing but positive things to say about his time with the Orioles, but said he is excited at the chance to don pinstripes. "[W]e felt like that was the best opportunity when it came to everything we were looking for, when it came to an opportunity to play and an opportunity to win and several other things that our family was looking at."
Here are some more notes from the American League:
- The Mariners are "in on" closer Fernando Rodney, tweets Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. Seattle was said to have interest in Rodney during the Winter Meetings. As Brown notes, other clubs in pursuit of the former Ray reportedly include the Mets and Orioles.
- While the Yankees may be done adding significant players before the start of the season, ESPN's Buster Olney explains (Insider subscription required and recommended) that New York could potentially add a talented player in a trade-deadline salary dump. Olney lists several players who could conceivably become available for little more than salary relief, depending upon their team's performance.
- Among the players on that list is Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle, who Olney says was dangled in trade talks within the past year. Olney calls the southpaw a "plow horse … being paid like a racehorse." The sturdy-but-unspectacular Buehrle is owed $37MM over 2014-15 under his backloaded deal. Moving the 34-year-old's contract could represent an easy way for the team to shed dollars if it is not in contention, says Olney.
- Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are still talking with the Cubs about acquiring pitcher Jeff Samardzija, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Indeed, Toronto has been the "most aggressive team" with regard to Samardzija, according to Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com (via Twitter), although Chicago is still working to extend him even as the team explores trade options.
Sherman also has the breakdown of Roberts' incentives. He will receive $175K for reaching 250 and 300 plate appearances, $250K for 350 and 400 plate appearances, $300K for 450 and 500 plate appearances, $350K for 550 plate appearances and $400K for 600 and 650 plate appearances (Twitter link). All told, Roberts can earn $2.6MM worth of incentives (as the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly reported last month), meaning he can earn a total of $4.6MM on his one-year deal.
DEC. 17: The Yankees and second baseman Brian Roberts have agreed to a one-year deal worth $2MM plus incentives, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Morosi's colleague, Ken Rosenthal, reported last night that the two sides were likely to reach an agreement. Roberts is represented by Relativity Baseball (formerly known as SFX).
The 36-year-old Roberts played in 77 games last season — his highest total since 2009. He's spent his entire career with the Orioles to date, finishing a four-year, $40MM extension this past season that saw him play just 192 games and slash just .246/.310/.359 due to injuries. Over the life of that contract, Roberts was sidelined for significant amounts of time due to an abdominal strain, two concussions (one of which caused him to miss more than an entire season's worth of games), hip surgery and hamstring surgery.
Prior to that onslaught of injuries, the switch-hitting Roberts was a consistent threat at the plate and on the basepaths. From 2004-09, he batted .290/.365/.438 and averaged 46 doubles, four triples, 12 homers and 35 stolen bases per season. He's spent his entire career with to this point with the Orioles, who selected him with the 50th overall pick in the 1999 draft as compensation for the loss of free agent Rafael Palmeiro.
As Rosenthal notes (on Twitter), Roberts' low base salary will allow the Yankees to pursue other infield options. Mark Reynolds remains a possibility, and the team has also expressed interest in trading for Dustin Ackley. New York was also linked to Brandon Phillips in a rumor that gained quite a bit of attention, but that doesn't appear to be a likely outcome at this point.
Should Yankees fans be rooting for Alex Rodriguez to avoid a lengthy suspension? Joel Sherman of the New York Post points out that the Yankees' only chance of staying under the $189MM luxury tax limit is if A-Rod is suspended for the entire 2014 season, but the club would then have very little spending room to address its remaining needs. If Rodriguez is only suspended for 50 games or so, Sherman argues that the Yankees should abandon their plan of staying under the tax limit and spend freely to improve next year's roster. “We either have to be under $189MM or up over $200MM or more," a member of the organization tells Sherman. "Think how dumb it would look if we worked for a few years to get under $189MM and we didn’t and we were at like $192MM and just missed. Either we go under or way over.”
Here's some more from the Bronx…
- Also from Sherman, while the modified posting system will hurt the Yankees' chances of signing Masahiro Tanaka at a relative bargain (in terms of avoiding the luxury tax), the delay in finalizing the new posting agreement puts Tanaka's market closer to the Rodriguez arbitration decision. This will give the Yankees a better idea of their payroll situation and a better idea of what they'll be able to offer Tanaka. Sherman predicts a Rodriguez decision will come on either January 3rd or January 13th, with the latter date being preferable to MLB since it be after the Hall of Fame announcements.
- Brian Roberts' contract with the Yankees contains $2.6MM worth of incentives, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. All of the incentives are tied to plate appearances.
- The Yankees have stayed away from the closer market this winter, which The New York Post's Ken Davidoff interprets as a sign that the club has a lot of confidence in David Robertson to finish games in 2014. While the Yankees could still acquire a reliever with closing experience, Davidoff believes such an acquisition would likely be for depth rather than as legitimate competition for Robertson.
- Johan Santana could be a good investment for the Yankees on a minor league deal, ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews opines. Matthews also suggests Roy Oswalt could be a similar type of low-cost veteran signing, while Paul Maholm could be a safer (if more expensive) choice for the back of the rotation.
- In news from earlier today, the Yankees' signing of Carlos Beltran was made official, and New York created 40-man roster space for the slugger by designated righty Brett Marshall for assignment.
The longtime Orioles second baseman entered free agency for the first time this year after spending 13 years in Baltimore. He just finished off the last season of the four-year, $40MM extension (2010-13) that he signed before the 2009 season. The former All-Star played in just 192 games over the span of that contract, as he dealt with a host of injuries that included a serious concussion.
In 296 plate appearances in 2013, Roberts posted a .249/.312/.392 line. In 2009, his last full season of action, Roberts put up a then-typical .283/.356/.451 triple-slash. Once a plus defender, defensive analytics now see him as an approximately average fielder at the keystone. (In 2013, he registered a 5.1 UZR/150 and a neutral mark from The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved metric.)
From the Yankees' perspective, the addition of Roberts would not prevent the club from adding another bat to the infield, Rosenthal notes. New York may be hesitant to rely on a combination of Roberts and Kelly Johnson at second and third, particularly given Roberts' injury history. (Twitter links.) One possibility, in Rosenthal's estimation, is a re-signing of Mark Reynolds. And we heard earlier today that minor league signee Dean Anna could join the mix at second.
The latest from the AL East..
- The Yankees may have interest in Darwin Barney of the Cubs, tweets Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. The two sides have discussed the second baseman in the past and talks have been renewed in the wake of Omar Infante's agreement with the Royals. Barney had a down year in 2013, posting a .208/.266/.303 line in 501 plate appearances.
- Meanwhile, the Marlins are looking for a third baseman and are intrigued by free agent Casey McGehee, who played in Japan this year and led his team to a championship, writes Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Back in October, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reported that McGehee was seeking a return to MLB. The 31-year-old hit .289/.371/.512 with 27 home runs in his first season with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Wilson Betemit, who lost 2013 to injuries, has also been discussed as an option. Miami wants a third baseman with versatility, and McGehee and Betemit both fit the bill.
- Despite a little talk about other teams interest in Brian Roberts, he hasn’t been mentioned very often by the Orioles in the last few weeks, writes Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
- Rays infielder Tim Beckham, the top pick in the 2008 draft, will miss a good chunk of the 2014 season after suffering an ACL tear, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. He would have been a long shot to make the Opening Day roster but he likely would have seen action if Tampa Bay needed depth or had an injury to a middle infielder.
Let's round up a few morning updates from around the NL Central….
- Charlie Morton and the Pirates reached an agreement on a three-year extension yesterday, but the team has yet to discuss long-term deals with Neil Walker or Pedro Alvarez this offseason, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- The Cardinals have discussed Brian Roberts as a potential target, but his injury history limits the team's enthusiasm, says Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- The last open spot on the Brewers' 40-man roster had originally been ticketed for Corey Hart, but now that Hart is headed to Seattle instead, Milwaukee is considering using that opening to pick a player in this morning's Rule 5 draft. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has the details.
- The Cubs may end up selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft, but it sounds like the team is preparing to lose more players than it adds, according to MLB.com's Carrie Muskat (via Twitter).
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette confirmed to Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter) that he has interest in Raul Ibanez and Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, but says that he won't be in the mix for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka or Kendrys Morales. The O's will be out looking for a left-handed hitting left fielder or DH as well as pitching (link). Here's more out of Baltimore..
- The Orioles checked on the availability of Ethier and fellow Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, but there were issues with the amount of salary that the Dodgers were willing to absorb, an industry source told Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.
- While he didn't shut the door on re-signing second baseman Brian Roberts, Duquette told reporters, including Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, he is pleased with his options at the position, especially Ryan Flaherty.
- The O's will announce their signing of Ryan Webb today, but they're still in the hunt for a closer, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). Webb agreed to a two-year, $4.5MM deal with Baltimore last week.
The Orioles have been one of the most mentioned teams on MLBTR with the club trying to decide whether to extend or trade Matt Wieters and approaching the Cardinals about a J.J. Hardy-Shelby Miller trade. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com weighs in on those and other topics in a "Because You Asked" column:
- The Hardy-Miller talks were just preliminary, but not unexpected because of the Orioles' quest for starting pitching and the Cardinals' need for a shortstop. Kubatko sees the O's acquiring a starter and keeping Hardy.
- Wieters is not untouchable and the Orioles are willing to trade him, but are not feverishly shopping the catcher. Financial constraints are compounding the Wieters situation, as the front office is trying to figure out how to accomodate within their budget the pursuit of free agents like Carlos Beltran and arbitration raises for Wieters and others (MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects $41.2MM for eight arbitration eligible players).
- There is no progress in negotiations with outfielder Nate McLouth. The Orioles are concerned with other clubs offering him a two-year deal. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted two years and $10MM for McLouth to which a person in the Orioles organization, when asked by Kubatko late in the season, responded: "Well, he won't be getting that from us."
- Kubatko suggests the Orioles swallow hard and give McLouth a two-year contract since they did so for Wilson Betemit. If re-signed, Kubatko doesn't necessarily see McLouth as the full-time starter in left, but a valuable fourth outfielder, occasional DH, pinch-runner, and defensive replacement.
- The Orioles like Carlos Beltran and see him as a great fit; but, will have to outbid some big spending teams, which they haven't done historically.
- One option worth debating to free up payroll space for Beltran, according to Kubatko, is trading Jim Johnson and his expected $10.8MM arbitration salary. The Orioles have said they intend to keep their closer.
- Kubatko spoke with someone in the organization recently who steered him away from Scott Kazmir, as if the Orioles have no interest. The O's, however, do have interest in Tim Hudson.
- There is a definite possibility Brian Roberts will return to Baltimore. If not, Mark Ellis is on the club's radar as an alternative because he won't command a three-year deal like Omar Infante.