Carlos Ruiz Rumors
Denard Span was surprised to hear his name come up again in trade rumors, MLB.com's Bill Ladson writes. Span has been with the Nationals less than a year, having arrived from Minnesota in a trade for prospect Alex Meyer last November 29. "My first reaction was, 'Here we go again,'" says Span. "I dealt with trade rumors the last two years. It surprised me because I've been in Washington for one year. The guys in Washington have been trying to get me for a while, and to hear rumors this quick after one year is surprising." Span hit .279/.327/.380 in his first year in Washington, a bit below his career averages. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- Carlos Ruiz might be a good fit with the Red Sox, suggests FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal hears that one team has already offered Ruiz somewhere in the vicinity of two years and $20MM, and he thinks that team could be the Red Sox. By signing Ruiz rather than Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston would avoid committing to a contract of more than two years. Signing a catcher for three years or more might not be ideal, with prospects Blake Swihart and/or Christian Vazquez potentially ready to help in the next couple years.
- Marlon Byrd's deal with the Phillies signals how difficult it will be for the Mets to find power this offseason, Newsday's Marc Carig writes. Byrd's contract, which could balloon to $24MM through 2016 if he can stay on the field, followed in the footsteps of Jose Dariel Abreu's $68MM deal with the White Sox, as well as Hunter Pence's $90MM contract with the Giants. Carig notes, though, that the frenzy for power hitters could be beneficial to the Mets in one respect -- Lucas Duda and Ike Davis might be able to fetch a decent return on the trade market, despite their deficiencies.
Here's the latest on the Blue Jays, who look set for another busy offseason...
- The Jays have made inquiries about such catchers as Carlos Ruiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi reports. Davidi also suspects Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos has checked in on Brian McCann, to boot.
- The Jays were known to be looking to improve behind the plate this winter and current catcher J.P. Arencibia has drawn trade interest from other teams. Davidi says there is some feeling that Arencibia has too much "accumulated baggage" in Toronto and might not reach his potential in a Blue Jay uniform. Arencibia is projected to earn $2.8MM as a first-time arbitration eligible player this winter and the Jays would certainly prefer getting something back for him in a trade than simply non-tendering him.
- Ervin Santana, Tim Hudson and Hiroki Kuroda have all received calls from the Blue Jays, Davidi reports, noting that Hudson and Kuroda probably don't have any mutual interest. Hudson is being courted by over 10 teams while Kuroda seems to be set on either re-signing with the Yankees, returning to pitch in Japan or retiring.
- Also from Davidi, Munenori Kawasaki could sign a new minor league deal with the Jays that would pay him more than the $600K base salary he earned last season.
- In another piece from Davidi, Melky Cabrera is looking much healthier and fit after a tumor was surgically removed from his spine, Anthopoulos said. Cabrera looks to be the Jays' everyday choice in left field, though obviously that could change if he suffers a setback in his rehabilitation.
- Rajai Davis is likely to leave the Jays for a team that can offer him more playing time, Davidi reports. The club's hope is that Anthony Gose or Moises Sierra can be a low-cost replacement for Davis as a backup outfielder.
- Sierra is out of options and "is a prime candidate to be shopped," MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm writes. Brad Lincoln could also be part of a trade package, as Chisholm breaks down possible scenarios for the Jays' nine out-of-options players.
Here's the latest from the City of Brotherly Love...
- The Phillies intend to avoid more expensive free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Brian McCann in favor of "mid-level" free agents, CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury reports. The Phillies are wary of how much it would cost to sign Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran or Curtis Granderson even though they like all three players.
- Also from Salisbury, the Phillies have discussed signing Franklin Gutierrez, Marlon Byrd, Joaquin Benoit, Joe Smith and Bronson Arroyo.
- GM Ruben Amaro told reporters (including Salisbury) that the team could wait to see what kind of a market there is for Roy Halladay's services before deciding whether or not to pursue the former Cy Young Award winner. “We’re keeping our eyes open on him. We’re not sure how the market is going to develop for him. But we haven’t ruled out bringing him back," Amaro said.
- The Phillies have "long-standing interest" in Mike Morse and see Morse as "a potential Jayson Werth-like late bloomer," CSNPhilly.com's Corey Seidman writes. Despite this interest, Morse could just be a backup plan for the Phillies if they can't sign a more higher-profile hitter.
- Carlos Ruiz could make a decision about his next contract soon, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter link). We heard earlier this week that the Phillies wanted a quick decision from Ruiz so they could figure out their catching situation.
- If Ruiz doesn't re-sign, Morosi tweets that John Buck could be a more realistic backup plan for the Phillies than A.J. Pierzynski. Not only would Buck be cheaper, Philadelphia is in need of right-handed bats.
- Trading Domonic Brown and bringing back Ryan Madson are two of the topics addressed by MLB.com's Todd Zolecki as part of a Phillies-centric reader mailbag.
On this date 25 years ago, the Dodgers' Orel Hershiser was an unanimous selection as the National League Cy Young Award winner becoming the only player to be named the Cy Young, NLCS MVP, and World Series MVP in the same season. 1988 was the benchmark in Hershiser's career highlighted by his still-standing MLB record of pitching 59 consecutive scoreless innings. The "Bulldog" also set career-highs in wins (23), strikeouts (190), innings pitched (267.0), complete games (15), and shutouts (8). Here are today's news and notes from the NL West:
- The Padres appear to be set in terms of rotation depth, Corey Brock of MLB.com writes. They aren't likely to target a starter this offseason unless it's a player that could sit at the top of a rotation or provide long-term value. Such a move would likely be via trade, Brock says, adding that the club's main focus will be on finding left-handed offense.
- Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle profiles Giants pitching prospect Kyle Crick, who has drawn comparisons to Matt Cain. While the 20-year-old Crick may have the highest ceiling among Giants pitching prospects, he's not likely to help the major league club in 2014, as he finished the year at High-A San Jose.
- The Los Angeles Times' Steve Dilbeck comments on a report from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal that the Dodgers are listening on Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford. Shopping the veteran outfielders is the right move as the club explores extensions for Hanley Ramirez and Clayton Kershaw, Dilbeck says. However, he adds that the salaries and injury histories of the three make a deal unlikely.
- The Rockies have reached out to Tim Hudson, but they will have to overpay in either dollars or years to pique his interest, according to Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post. MLBTR's Steve Adams predicts a one-year, $9MM contract for Hudson (#31 on MLBTR's 2014 Top 50 Free Agents list), but Renck believes the right-hander may be able to secure a two-year deal with as many as 15 teams in pursuit.
- Within the same article, Renck reports the Rockies will make an offer to free agent catcher Carlos Ruiz, but it's unclear whether they are willing to go beyond two years.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
Power bats are increasingly in short supply, both on the Major League free agent market and in the talent pipeline, writes Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. That could mean big dollars for this year's few legitimate power sources, says Gammons, chief among them Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli. So, is this a classic overpay situation? Maybe not, according to ESPN's Keith Law (subscription required), who pegs Napoli as one of the best values among corner infielders on the open market. Here's more from Boston ...
- Assuming that Napoli declines his qualifying offer, tweets Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, the Sox will consider other players on the market rather than focusing solely on bringing him back.
- The Sox' 2014 payroll may be somewhat more constrained than appears at first glance, WEEI.com's Alex Speier explains. This is the first season in which revenue sharing funds will be clawed back from some large-market teams and returned to paying clubs -- depending upon their staying below the luxury tax line. Ticking through the club's obligations, and adding some room to add salary during the course of the season, Speier figures the team can add around $32MM in 2014 salaries before the luxury tax becomes a big concern. Or, he notes, the club could shed salary from a relatively deep area like starting pitching to gain additional flexibility.
- Indeed, while last year's rash of injuries to the starting-rich Dodgers and Boston's own fateful letting-go of Bronson Arroyo provide cautionary tales, there is a reasonable argument to be made for trying to ship out a veteran arm, writes the Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson. In particular, given the thin starting market and big salary demands being tossed around, the Red Sox might reap a substantial return for some of its hurlers.
- Who would the Red Sox really target in free agency? Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports looks at several recently rumored possibilities, saying that catcher Carlos Ruiz could be a real target for GM Ben Cherington.
- Assuming Boston isn't willing to top the market for Brian McCann, another backstop option is the Reds' Ryan Hanigan, MacPherson argues. The 33-year-old appears to be expendable after Cinci signed Brayan Pena to a two-year pact, and he could be a reasonably-priced, defensively reliable partner for David Ross.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that the club has "already made offers to several players," reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. Though no specific offer targets are identified in the piece, it seems that Amaro intends to act aggressively. As Zolecki notes, that is what happened back in 2011, when the Phils moved fast on Jonathan Papelbon.
One player that could be feeling the heat from Amaro is longtime Phils catcher Carlos Ruiz. Amaro said he feels there are "several candidates that could be our catcher next year," Zolecki reports. And the Philly GM also made clear that he had no interest in a prolonged dalliance with Ruiz, as occurred with Jimmy Rollins in 2011.
"There will be very little chance of bringing Chooch back" if that kind of delay takes place, Amaro told Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News, because the club "can't afford to miss out on other opportunities." Though Amaro indicated that he believes Ruiz is still a fit with the club, he says his front office is "perusing the landscape of catching right now."
Philly may need to make a sizeable commitment to get Ruiz to commit early. He seems to have had his fair share of interest and would be a solid fallback for teams that miss on Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, or prefer a more reasonably priced alternative. Most recently, we learned that the Rockies are expected to dangle multiple years at the veteran over the coming days.
4:25pm: In addition to Ruiz, Veras and Smith, the Rockies are also pursuing Brian Wilson, Renck reports in a new article. Colorado is prioritizing power arms to serve as a safety net for Rex Brothers or in order to use Brothers in a setup role where he could match up against lefties in tough situations.
Wilson returned on a $1MM contract with the Dodgers late in the season and totaled 19 2/3 innings between the regular season and the playoffs, allowing just one run and posting a 21-to-6 K/BB ratio. Earlier today it was reported that the Rockies are also interest in Grant Balfour.
9:10am: With Matt Belisle back in the fold after both he and the Rockies exercised their half of his $4.25MM option, the Rockies are eyeing right-handers Jose Veras and Joe Smith as pieces to help fix what was the worst bullpen in the NL last season, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Perhaps more interestingly, Renck adds that the Rockies are continuing their pursuit of backstop Carlos Ruiz and plan to offer him a multiyear contract this week.
The Rockies currently have Wilin Rosario at catcher, but bringing in Ruiz would allow them to give Rosario some additional at-bats at first base and perhaps in right field, writes Renck. The team considers Ruiz to be a clear defensive upgrade over Rosario, although one would imagine that Rosario wouldn't exactly be a swift defender in the outfield should be find playing time out there (then again, neither is incumbent Michael Cuddyer).
Smith, who turns 30 next March, is likely appealing to the Rockies due to his career 57.2 percent ground-ball rate. That number dropped much closer to the league average in 2013, checking in at 49.1 percent, but Smith compensated to an extent by topping his career rates in strikeouts (7.7 K/9) and walks (3.2 BB/9). Overall, his ERA sat at 2.29 in 63 innings of work the the Indians.
The 33-year-old Veras posted a career-best 3.02 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 41.2 percent ground-ball rate in 62 2/3 innings between the Astros and Tigers. Detroit made the surprising decision to buy out his club option last week, making an eighth team in nine seasons a very real possibility for Veras.
The Rockies' 4.23 bullpen ERA in 2013 was the worst in the National League and the third-worst in all of Major League Baseball. The team has already lost former closer Rafael Betancourt to Tommy John surgery, and last offseason's acquisition of Wilton Lopez didn't work as planned, as the former Astro pitched to a 4.06 ERA with a career-low 5.7 K/9 rate in 75 1/3 innings. Lopez figures to return along with Belisle, Adam Ottavino and likely closer Rex Brothers.
Earlier today, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the Phillies have kicked around the idea of making an offer for David Price, but it's unlikely to happen because GM Ruben Amaro Jr. knows he has multiple needs to address and one big splash won't fix the team. Here's more on the Phils...
- The Red Sox, according to sources, are quietly doing their due diligence on Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, writes Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. While there are other free agent catchers available, Ruiz is the guy that the Phillies want and the guy that the pitchers want. The Phillies need to prioritize right-handed hitting and both Brian McCann and A.J. Pierzynski are left-handed hitters. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter, but he struggles from the right side. The Rockies are also known to be pursuing Ruiz and are reportedly planning to offer him a multiyear deal this week.
- GM Ruben Amaro says that he has already made offers on "several" free agent players, writes Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. While Amaro declined to name names, Zolecki suggests that Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran, and Mike Morse could be among their targets.
- The Phillies hired Scott Freedman from Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department to help the club incorporate analytics into their personnel decisions, Zolecki writes. "I don't know if it's going to change the way we do business, necessarily," Amaro said. "We still plan to be a scouting and player development organization, but I think it's important to get all the information and analyze not just what we're doing, but how other clubs are evaluating players."
Here are some National League notes to round out the evening ...
- The Marlins are not going to trade star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton in the offseason, newly minted GM Dan Jennings emphatically asserted. As ESPN's Jim Bowden reports (via Twitter), Jennings said that "Mr. Stanton is not available" and that the team is "building around him."
- The Rockies are making a run at free agent catcher Carlos Ruiz, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Incumbent Wilin Rosario would presumably get some or all of his playing time at first or in the outfield if Colorado were to land Ruiz. The soon-to-be 35-year-old backstop landed at number 29 on the list of MLB's top fifty free agents compiled by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes, who sees a return to Philadelphia as the most likely scenario.
- Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers said yesterday that he was "curious" about free agency but "open-minded going into the off-season," Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reported. He also expressed some frustration with the recent reports that he turned down a $300MM deal from the club. Now, says Hernandez's colleague Steve Dilbeck, the team may be facing something of a catch-22: the team surely must sign him at some hard-to-fathom rate, but the risks are enormous.
- Though the Cardinals' future remains unquestionably bright given the organization's array of young talent, says Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the club faces some significant questions. If Carlos Beltran can be brought back on a reasonable deal, Miklasz writes, it is possible that the club will use super-prospect Oscar Taveras in center with a combination of Beltran, Allen Craig, Matt Adams, and Matt Holliday at first base and the corner outfield. But if Beltran leaves, he says, it is not unrealistic to think the club might pursue Jacoby Ellsbury.
- The club's greatest hole, of course, is at shortstop. GM John Mozeliak needs to make a proactive move at this point, says Miklasz, either by signing a player like Stephen Drew or Jhonny Peralta or by trading from the team's pitching depth. Fellow Post-Dispatch writer Rick Hummel looks at some possible trade targets for the team.
- For the Phillies to return to contention, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the club must spend big in free agency. Gelb says the club has ample room to increase spending above the $189MM luxury tax line if it wants, though GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has expressed hesitation. "Obviously, we had a lot less people coming to the ballpark this year," Amaro said at season's end. "We have to be cognizant of that. We have been greatly supported - our payroll was, what, $165MM? That should be enough to put a contender on the field." Dierkes sees the Phils as the front-runners for Nelson Cruz, Ricky Nolasco, Ruiz, and Edward Mujica, though he notes that it all depends whether the team is willing to tack on $40MM+ to its 2014 obligations.
As usual, there are multiple MLB teams that could look to upgrade their backstops. The Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Phillies, among others, will enter the off-season unsettled behind the dish. Teams such as those might chase the consistent power and presence of Brian McCann, or the emergent bat and youth of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But both players look to be in line for multiple years and tens of millions of dollars.
So, let's say your team misses on McCann and Salty. Or, perhaps, it isn't willing to roll the dice on the former's balky shoulder or the latter's sudden breakout. Or maybe it sees value further down the market, among a couple of aging veterans who might just have some life left.
The next two catchers on the list, Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies and A.J. Pierzynski of the Rangers, have both passed the midway point of their fourth decades. Neither figures to command more than two years, if that, and should be had for a reasonable annual salary. And while neither probably has the on-field upside of McCann or Saltalamacchia entering 2014, each may well have more value upside and is nearly certain to carry less risk. But which is a better target? That question warrants another Free Agent Faceoff.
Fortunately, the task of evaluating these two catchers is made easier by the profiles that MLBTR recently published. Tim Dierkes analyzed the 35-year-old Ruiz, pointing to the rather remarkable .303/.388/.454 triple-slash that he posted over the 2010-12 seasons. Though he came out of the gate poorly this year after missing time due to a suspension for Adderall, over the last two months of 2013 he hit much like the Chooch of old. Ruiz is only one year removed from a 4.5 rWAR/5.2 fWAR campaign, though he has experienced a series of minor injuries over the last few years and may not be capable of manning a truly full-time load behind the plate.
Pierzynski, who was profiled by Steve Adams, has never had a year quite like Ruiz's 2012, but could be viewed as a safer, sturdier choice. As Adams notes, the 36-year-old has been incredibly durable, averaging over 130 annual games with the gear on for over a decade. And he is still hitting a ton of long balls for a catcher, though he rarely draws walks. Pierzynski is one of the least-liked opponents in the game, but then again he has drawn his fair share of praise from teammates. And even after putting up better numbers than did Ruiz in 2013 (94 OPS+ versus 90 OPS+), he might well come cheaper.
Whether by choice or by way of backup plan, which veteran backstop would you prefer to ink this off-season?