Brian McCann Rumors
It is not often, perhaps, that a team improves after losing its best player. But that is precisely what happened to the Cardinals after watching all-time great first baseman Albert Pujols leave town for Anaheim, writes Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal. GM John Mozeliak says he was "down, depressed, disheartened" upon losing Pujols. Since last season, however, the team has received just as much production as Pujols has given the Angels, and at a much lower cost (now and in the future). Meanwhile, money that might otherwise have gone to Pujols was used to ink highly productive players like Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina. Of course, the Cards tried to keep Pujols, though they were not willing to exceed the $200MM barrier to do so. Mozeliak recalls conferring with St. Louis owner Bill Dewitt Jr., who declined the opportunity to bid whatever amount necessary to keep the franchise cornerstone. Says Mozeliak: "In the end, it came down to business discipline versus emotionally driven negotiation." Even before Pujols's injury-addled start to 2013, the Cardinals looked smart for sticking to their position.
Here are a few other notes from around the National League:
- Brian McCann has just begun a season that many believe will be his last in a Braves uniform, but he is focused on the present, writes Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. While the slugging catcher and his surgically-repaired shoulder are being watched closely by potential new employers, McCann claims that he is not thinking about the future. "I think when you get ahead of yourself is when you get in trouble." For now, McCann says, "I'm worried about playing baseball. ... I'm worried about helping this team win. I'm worried about getting my shoulder stronger every day. And I'm in a good place."
- Mets officials appear to be anticipating the call-up of top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler sooner rather than later, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. One official said that Wheeler would arrive in New York by June 1 "at the latest," while another called that date "a little aggressive." Martino says that the team genuinely does not appear to be angling to keep Wheeler from achieving Super Two status, but instead intends to promote him when it feels he is ready.
- Dodgers president Stan Kasten apologized to fans for the team's less-than-inspiring start to the year, but said that the club was planning to stay the course. As Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports, Kasten claims not to be contemplating any immediate, major moves. Kasten did continue to emphasize the Dodgers' seemingly endless, but arguably aimless, payroll flexibility: "We can do whatever we feel makes sense in the long term and short term."
- The Cubs' sabermetric focus has not only trickled down from the front office to the playing field, but according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune has produced some wise decisions. Specifically, the Cubs look smart for declining to pursue Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Sullivan says the team has been better in the short term, at least for the time being, without the expensive stars. More importantly, the club maintained roster flexibility and youth by choosing to go with the promising Anthony Rizzo at first and a veteran platoon in right field.
Carlos Gomez has emerged as the top player from the Johan Santana trade between the Mets and the Twins, the New York Post's Joel Sherman writes. Santana himself had season-ending shoulder surgery in early April, and the other players the Twins received along with Gomez (Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra) haven't panned out. Meanwhile, Gomez, who the Twins shipped to the Brewers for J.J. Hardy, is off to a .368/.417/.642 start while playing great defense in center field. Sherman doesn't really blame the Mets for dealing Gomez, however. "Would this franchise and this city really have had the patience to wait six years for a blossoming — if it ever would have happened here?" he says. Here are more notes from the NL.
- In a blog entry, Sherman compares Gomez to former Yankees star Bernie Williams, in that both players needed more time than usual to turn their considerable tools into skills. Williams entered the Majors in his age-22 season in 1991, but didn't post an OBP higher than .354 until age 25 and didn't hit 20 homers in a season until age 27. Doug Melvin, now the Brewers' GM, was the Yankees' scouting director when New York signed Williams.
- Paul Maholm and the Braves have not had discussions regarding the possibility of a contract extension, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports (Insider-only). The Braves exercised their 2013 option on Maholm, guaranteeing him $6.5MM. But he is a free agent in the coming offseason, and with a good 2012 season and a strong start in 2013 (3.09 ERA, 7.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9), Maholm could be rewarded with a much bigger payday.
- The timing of Brian McCann's free agency is inconvenient for him, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. McCann returned from shoulder surgery to make his season debut Monday, going 0-for-4 with a walk. He'll be a free agent after the season just as he's entering his 30s, and his injuries and declining play will likely limit the market for him (depending on how he does this season, of course). Also, the emergence of Evan Gattis -- who has a meager .305 OBP this season, but a .563 slugging percentage -- gives the Braves a reasonable alternative to McCann at catcher. Still, Martino suggests that there will likely still be strong interest in McCann, perhaps from teams like the Yankees in need of catching help. McCann has a strong reputation within the game, and finding a catcher who can hit isn't easy.
For those who are visual-minded baseball fans, the Los Angeles Times has an interactive graphic that allows users to see a side-by-side comparison of two teams' salaries on a position-by-position basis. After you're finished checking out what that looks like when you compare the Astros to the Dodgers and Yankees, here's more from around the league...
- "The handwriting is on the wall" that Brian McCann will be playing for a new team in 2014, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman opines that the strong play of Evan Gattis have given the Braves, who typically operate with a payroll around $90MM, the flexibility to let McCann walk.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told MLB.com's Bill Ladson that he's approached Jordan Zimmermann's agents at SFX about the possibility of a contract extension. We heard earlier in the offseason that the Nats were interested in a long-term deal, but this is the first report of the team beginning negotiations.
- ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Cubs and Rangers also bid aggressively on Hyun-Jin Ryu this offseason but were blown out of the water by the Dodgers' $25.73MM bid (Twitter link). The Cubs bid $15MM and the Rangers bid $18MM, per Olney.
- Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN examines what has become a strong Twins farm system, highlighting under-the-radar prospects Josmil Pinto and Jorge Polanco. Mackey also spoke with former Twins skipper Tom Kelly about the improvements top prospect Miguel Sano has made defensively at third base.
The emergence of Evan Gattis as a power threat could soon create a logjam at catcher for the Braves, MLB.com's Mark Bowman writes. Brian McCann is nearly set to return from the disabled list, but the Braves don't want to demote Gattis (who has six home runs), and it's too early to get rid of Gerald Laird, in part because the Braves signed him to a two-year contract over the winter. (Laird has also hit well in limited time so far.) Jason Heyward's recent appendix surgery could create a temporary opportunity for Gattis in the outfield, but as the season progresses, it could be interesting to watch Atlanta's catching situation. McCann is a free agent after the season, and as Jeff Todd noted last week, Gattis' emergence, if it continues, could make the Braves feel better about McCann's likely departure. Here are more notes from around the National League.
- The Phillies recently designated catcher Humberto Quintero for assignment, but they want him to clear waivers, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Now that Carlos Ruiz is returning from his suspension, the Phillies have settled on Erik Kratz to be his backup. But they want more veteran catching depth in their organization, and they value Quintero's big-league experience. "There's a chance he could still be with us, and selfishly, we hope he is," says assistant GM Scott Proefrock.
- The Rockies are waiting to see what happens to infielder Chris Nelson, who they designated for assignment on Sunday, according to MLB.com's Thomas Harding. Nelson was the Rockies' first-round pick in the 2004 Draft. "It's important to honor Nellie and what he's meant to this organization," says Rockies manager Walt Weiss. "Personally, my relationship goes beyond player-manager. They brought him in and worked him out before the Draft, and I was out there taking ground balls with him in front of our entire scouting department, and I was with him in our Minor League system."
Commissioner Bud Selig says he wants his stewardship of the game to be judged by the value of MLB's franchises, writes Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal. He called the Dodgers' sale "stunning," and said that "every franchise is worth a lot more today ... because the game is healthy." Selig also weighed in on the DH, saying that "some cataclysmic event" would be needed to keep the bat out of National League pitchers' hands. Here are some more notes from around the National League:
- Padres GM Josh Byrnes is taking a hard look at the club's farm system to find a solution to the team's pitching woes, writes Chris Jenkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune. According to Fangraphs, the Padres' rotation has put up negative 1.4 WAR thus far, a full .5 WAR worse than the second-to-last Astros staff. Jenkins says that the front office's "unwillingness or failure" to supplement the team's less-than-promising rotation over the offseason is to blame for the club's present difficulties.
- Two in-house options for San Diego are minor league arms Tim Stauffer and Sean O'Sullivan, both of whom possess similar out clauses in their contracts, writes Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Center says that both pitchers can opt out around June 1 if they have not been elevated to the Padres' big league roster.
- The emergence of catcher Evan Gattis could ultimately have an impact on the Braves' plans behind the dish, writes MLB.com's Mark Bowman. The team has benefitted enormously from his performance as stalwart Brian McCann works his way back from injury. But as Bowman says, the first-place Braves have every reason to try and work McCann back into his starting role, and still have Gerald Laird locked up for this year and next. On the other hand, with the Braves already unlikely to re-sign McCann after this season, Gattis's continued performance could make that decision much easier for the team.
- Meanwhile, Bowman says the Braves were interested in locking up outfielder Jason Heyward and first baseman Freddie Freeman during the offseason. Despite the team's efforts to initiate talks, however, they were rebuffed by the young stars. Heyward currently stands to reach free agency in 2016, with Freeman following him in 2017.
- Cubs starter Matt Garza suffered yet another setback, failing to make his first rehab start after suffering from what Cubs manager Dale Sveum called a "dead arm," writes Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribute. Garza is, however, scheduled for long toss tomorrow and should be set up for a comeback start soon, David Furones writes for MLB.com. Of course, the Cubs would like not only to benefit from Garza's work on the mound, but to begin his audition for teams looking for rotation help at the trade deadline. In addition to the already-noted Chase Utley, Garza is one of several players that ESPN's Buster Olney says (on Insider) to keep an eye on as trade season approaches. Others include Mets catcher John Buck and Indians reliever Chris Perez.
Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says he has discussed a contract extension with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, according to AZCentral.com's Nick Piecoro. Goldschmidt is represented by Joe Sambito of SFX. Piecoro quotes a source saying that it would be "a surprise" if Goldschmidt and the Diamondbacks were to strike a deal in the near future, however. Last month, the Diamondbacks attempted to initiate talks with Goldschmidt, but Goldschmidt had indicated that he wanted to go year-to-year in an attempt to build up more value.
Goldschmidt, 25, would be eligible for arbitration after the 2014 season and eligible for free agency after the 2017 season. MLBTR's Extension Tracker reveals that, in the past five years, no first basemen with between one and two years of service time have signed long-term deals, so establishing a baseline value for Goldschmidt is difficult. (Goldschmidt himself had told Towers in February that he wanted to build up more service time before discussing an extension in order to get a clearer sense of who is "peer group" was.)
Allen Craig, who recently signed a five-year, $31MM extension with the Cardinals, shares passing similarities with Goldschmidt as a hitter, but also has a year more service time than Goldschmidt. Craig will make $11MM in the final guaranteed year of his contract. Replacing that year with a pre-arbitration salary for the first year of a potential Goldschmidt deal produces a starting point of five years and $20.5MM, which would cover all of Goldschmidt's remaining pre-arbitration seasons. The Diamondbacks would presumably also want to add a team option or two at the end of the deal, giving them the chance to buy out one or more of Goldschmidt's free agent years.
Here are more notes from the National League.
- A return to form by Brian McCann will likely ensure that the he signs with a new team next winter, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. McCann, who is recovering from labrum surgery, will likely return to the Braves' lineup about two weeks into the season. Some of McCann's old teammates tell Rosenthal that McCann was unhappy last season, when he played through injury and hit only .230/.300/.399, down from .270/.351/.466 in 2011. A phone call from GM Frank Wren to McCann after the season may have helped improve the relationship between the team and its star catcher, but that might not matter once he becomes a free agent at the end of the season. If McCann hits well in 2013, the Braves might not be able to afford him, Rosenthal says; if McCann hits poorly, the Braves might not want him, at least not an expensive long-term deal.
- The Nationals added Rafael Soriano this offseason, but not a lefty reliever, despite the departures of Sean Burnett and Tom Gorzelanny, MLB.com's Marty Noble notes. That likely leaves Zach Duke as the only lefty in the Washington bullpen. But manager Davey Johnson, who can count on tough righty relievers like Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Craig Stammen in addition to Soriano, says it's no problem that the Nats didn't acquire another lefty. "I don't have room for another lefty reliever," he says.
- Cutting Ian Stewart, who is suffering from a quad injury, doesn't make sense for the Cubs, Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago argues, since the savings from cutting Stewart would be insignificant. The Cubs can avoid paying most of Stewart's one-year, non-guaranteed contract if they release him in Spring Training, but the entire cost of the deal is just $2MM.
Here's the latest from around the NL East...
- Though the Braves and Brian McCann have agreed to put extension talks on hold until the end of the season, GM Frank Wren said the team won't rule out re-opening talks during the season, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. McCann is entering his last contracted year with Atlanta.
- Over 19% of the Phillies' 2012 payroll was lost to time spent the disabled list, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News observes. Murphy notes that the Phils have lost over $100MM to injuries over the last five seasons, with approximately $64.5MM of that total coming from 2011 and 2012.
- We heard last week that the Mets were interested in Roy Oswalt, and the club "flirted with the idea" of using Oswalt as a late-game reliever and possible closer, Metsblog.com's Matthew Cerrone reports. If the Mets are indeed looking for a veteran swingman, Cerrone suggests that Derek Lowe or Daisuke Matsuzaka could be possible fits.
- Shaun Marcum's Mets contract contains up to $4MM in incentive bonuses, which are outlined by the Associated Press (via ESPN New York's Adam Rubin).
- If Gio Gonzalez ends up facing a PED-related suspension, there aren't many optimal left-handed starting options left for the Nationals in free agency, MASNsports.com's Byron Kerr writes. A Gonzalez suspension would put added pressure on Ross Detwiler as Washington's only current left-handed starter, and Kerr lists a few other internal options. Earlier this offseason, the Nats non-tendered southpaw John Lannan, who signed with the Phillies.
In today's column, Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) writes that it would make sense for the Giants to look into a Joey Votto-type deal for catcher Buster Posey. The Reds locked Votto up on a ten-year contract extension in April of last year, keeping him in Cincinnati through 2023. In the meantime, the Giants have a fascinating arbitration case on their hands when it comes to Posey and Matt Swartz broke it all down with some interesting comparables last week. Here's more from around baseball..
- Braves GM Frank Wren told Jim Duquette (Twitter link) and Jim Bowden of SiriusXM that the team and catcher Brian McCann have agreed to table contract talks until the end of the year. McCann is entering the final year of his contract and will earn $12MM. Wren also told the duo that the club hasn't closed the door on free agent Michael Bourn.
- Olney also writes that some rival officials were surprised by the $10MM deal Lance Berkman signed with the Rangers. However, Texas likely reasoned that in an offseason where Mike Napoli got $13MM per season (assuming his deal goes through) and David Ortiz got a two-year deal for $26MM, Berkman at $10MM isn't an overpay.
- Several unresolved questions linger for the Mets and Yankees at this stage of the offseason, writes Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. The Mets are in the market for pitching and outfield help and they're more likely to get a notable name in the former than the latter. The Yankees are also in search of some extra pieces but GM Brian Cashman hasn't had any trouble finding gems in mid-to-late winter before.
Jeremy Bonderman hasn’t pitched at the MLB level since 2010, but he’s ready to return to the big leagues, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports. Bonderman lost 35 pounds and his arm feels good following reconstructive elbow surgery. He’ll be ready to throw for teams by January and hopes to sign a minor league contract with an invitation to MLB Spring Training. Here are more of Olney’s notes from around MLB...
- Teams checked in about the availability of Brian McCann before the Braves exercised his $12MM option for 2013, Olney reports. The Braves would have wanted a decent return in a trade, but other teams were looking to acquire the catcher cheaply.
- Some Atlanta executives are realistic about their chances of signing Michael Bourn. It doesn’t look like the center fielder will re-sign with the Braves.
- Many executives assume the potential trade that would have sent Dan Haren to the Cubs blew up because of health issues, Olney writes. This means CAA Sports, the agency that represents Haren, will have to convince teams that the free agent right-hander is healthy.
- The Yankees like Russell Martin a lot, but won’t overpay to keep him, Olney writes.
2:03pm: The Braves announced they've exercised the options for McCann, Hudson and Maholm.
10:46am: The Braves are expected to announce today that they've exercised the 2013 contract options for Brian McCann, Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). The Braves have until tomorrow to decide whether the players will return to Atlanta for another year or become free agents.
McCann recently underwent shoulder surgery that was more extensive than expected, so there was some question as to whether GM Frank Wren would exercise the $12MM option. The 28-year-old hit 20 home runs and posted a .230/.300/.399 batting line in 2012, the worst offensive season of his career.
Hudson will earn $9MM in 2013 instead of a $1MM buyout. He posted a 3.62 ERA with 5.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 179 innings with the Braves in 2012. Joining him in the rotation will be Maholm, who posted a 3.67 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 189 innings this past season. The 30-year-old left-hander will earn $6.5MM.