Carlos Villanueva Rumors
Whether the Blue Jays keep manager John Farrell or send him to the Red Sox, the time has come to make a decision, argues Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi. The manager controversy is taking the Jays' attention away from more important offseason business, and Davidi argues that unless the Jays receive quality compensation in return for Farrell, it will make the team look bad to free agents. "An ideal sales pitch doesn’t include: 'Come to Toronto, this manager won’t flee to help our direct opposition,' ” Davidi writes.
Here's the latest from north of the border...
- There is still speculation that the Jays are eager to part ways with Farrell, with one team-connected source telling Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that, “The people there [in Toronto] would charter a jet to get him out.''
- The negotiations between the Jays and the Red Sox about Farrell have advanced beyond the "preliminary" stage, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo broke the news yesterday that the two teams have begun to discuss how the Jays would be compensated in a possible trade of the manager.
- As to what that compensation might look like, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe uses the Theo Epstein and Ozzie Guillen deals as models to conclude that "a pitcher on the cusp of being helpful to the big league team and a Double A prospect" will be suitable, with Toronto also sending "a non-prospect" back to Boston.
- In a radio interview with Jeff Sammut of Sportsnet 590 The Fan (partially transcribed by Sportsnet.ca's Mike Johnston), Shaun Marcum said he'd be open to returning to the Jays as a free agent and cited his good relationships with the training staff, pitching coach Bruce Walton and third base coach Brian Butterfield. "They're on my list, that's for sure," Marcum said. "I enjoyed my time there, I loved the city, loved the coaching staff, so it's definitely a place that I would be interested in." Marcum said he's willing to pitch anywhere and in either league, though he wants to pitch for a team with a chance at the playoffs.
- Carlos Villanueva talks about his free agency, his late-season slump and the Toronto fans with MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm.
- As reported earlier today, the Jays claimed right-hander Tyson Brummett off waivers from the Phillies.
Royals owner David Glass recently said that the team is "committed to improving (their) starting pitching" while also indicating a willingness to operate at a financial loss to be competitive. Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star has the latest on the team...
- “Our market is what it is,” said GM Dayton Moore. “We’re not going to have a payroll of $100MM. We know that going into it. We embrace who we are ... We’ve got to stay consistent with our approach. We’re not going get crazy and go nuts in free agency.”
- There are indications that the Royals have Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse at the top of their free agent target list. Bringing Zack Greinke back for a second tour of duty is unlikely.
- The team's list of secondary pitching targets is believed to include Ryan Dempster, Hiroki Kuroda, Shaun Marcum, Carlos Villanueva, and Carlos Zambrano. They will also monitor pitchers who could have club options declined, like Dan Haren and Ervin Santana.
- “Absolutely ... I think any pitcher would be fortunate to pitch here," said right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, an impending free agent the team would like to retain. They are unwilling to go beyond a two-year deal, however.
- Moore acknowledged that there is a chance of working out a new contract with Guthrie during the exclusive negotiating window prior to free agency.
- “I wouldn’t say anybody is untouchable,” said Moore with regards to potential trade talks. “You go into any discussion with an open mind. That being said, there are certain positions on the diamond that are very difficult to replace ... You don’t want to compromise in one area just to get strong in another area.”
- Dutton estimates that the Royals could have $20-23MM to spend this winter while keeping the current roster intact.
When Carlos Villanueva throws his first pitch to Red Sox tomorrow afternoon, he'll set a career high in games started. For some pitchers it'd be a bit of trivia. For Villanueva, it's a more significant threshold that could help him establish his value to prospective suitors as he nears free agency.
The right-hander has spent the second half of the season in Toronto’s starting rotation and his success in that role could be enough to convince MLB executives that he can excel as a starter in years to come. Yet some observers remain unconvinced. Speaking to the media this week Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos credited Villanueva for a successful season but emphasized the importance of remaining objective and establishing realistic expectations.
“When you’re looking at a starter you’re looking at 32 or 34 starts, 200 innings, durability, things like that, that’s part of the equation,” Anthopoulos told reporters, including Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star. “There’s no question when he’s taken the ball he’s done a great job. But his [durability] is obviously part of the equation. That’s not to take anything away from him. But that’s the unknown with Carlos, he’s never had 200 innings, he’s never had 32 or 34 starts. I think we all would say you love what you see, what he’s done for us and he’s a great teammate and all those things. But again we’ve only had bits and pieces of him starting.”
Villanueva, who’s weeks away from hitting free agency for the first time, started 27 games over the course of his five seasons with the Brewers. He started 13 more last year after Anthopoulos acquired him from Milwaukee for a player to be named (the trade, overlooked at the time of its completion, has worked out tremendously for the Blue Jays). He's been a valuable reliever and spot starter to this point in his career. But he believes he can start at the MLB level despite Anthopoulos’ comments.
Let's set the rhetoric aside and look at the numbers. As Anthopoulos acknowledged, Villanueva is in the midst of an excellent season. He has a 3.48 ERA with 8.8 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and a 38.9% ground ball rate in 111 1/3 innings as a starter and reliever. He generates swings and misses on 9.9% of his offerings -- a marked improvement from 2011 -- despite a fastball that averages just 89 mph.
Villanueva's strikeout rate and ground ball rate have dropped since he joined the rotation. But he has also pitched to a 3.58 ERA out of the rotation and cut his walk rate in half. In fact, he walked more batters in 33 1/3 relief innings (21) than he has in 78 innings since joining the rotation (20). And Villanueva has been healthy for the entire 2012 campaign after missing time with a strained forearm last year.
For Villanueva to obtain a multiyear contract, he'll probably have to convince teams he's a starter. Multiyear contracts for free agent relievers dropped from 17 in 2010-11 to six last offseason and most of last winter’s multiyear deals went to big-name closers such as Jonathan Papelbon and Joe Nathan.
Many teams -- the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Royals, Twins, Brewers, Padres and Rockies to name a few -- figure to be looking for starting pitching this coming offseason. Teams that can’t afford Zack Greinke and miss out on Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda and Kyle Lohse could target Villanueva. After all, he’s younger than most free agents at 28 years old and enjoying success in the American League East.
Assuming Villanueva’s representatives at SFX market him as a starter, they could look to match recent deals obtained by Chris Capuano (two years, $10MM) and Aaron Harang (two years, $12MM). Those pitchers aren’t great comps for Villanueva -- few players are -- but a contract in that range seems possible. SFX could argue that Villanueva's upside and youth make up for the perceived lack of dependability.
If no multiyear offers surface, Villanueva would be looking for a one-year guarantee in the right environment. A one-year deal would presumably be worth less than the $11MM Edwin Jackson obtained following the 2011 season. Jackson, after all, had youth and durability on his side when the Nationals signed him last winter. However, pitchers such as Joe Saunders ($6MM), Roy Oswalt ($5MM), Paul Maholm ($4.75MM) and Erik Bedard ($4.5MM) signed one-year deals worth $5MM or so. That would represent a raise for Villanueva, who’s earning $2.28MM this year, without exposing the signing team to much risk.
Villanueva figures to draw lots of interest from teams interested in signing him for one year. I also expect some teams will have interest in multiyear deals given Villanueva’s recent success as a member of the Blue Jays’ rotation. One thing is certain: his last few starts will be scouted heavily as teams attempt to determine whether Villanueva is headed for sustainable success as an MLB starter or simply having a career year.
Photo courtesy of US Presswire.
Last night, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told reporters that he isn't sure if impending free agent Carlos Villanueva could last as a starter across the course of an entire season. Villanueva, who has a 3.58 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 13 starts this year, told reporters that he isn't happy with the lack of public support, according to Tony Ambrogio of Sportsnet (via Twitter). The right-hander is looking to be a full-time starter going forward, which would call for a more lucrative contract. Here's more from the Eastern divisions..
- Villanueva told reporters, including MLB.com's Chris Toman, that he took some time to speak with Anthopoulos following his comments to the media. "It's OK for him to have that doubt. It's OK for him to have his own opinion, because there are 29 other teams that might have a different opinion -- that's why we battle to get to free agency, so we can see what else is out there," Villanueva said.
- A person who is familiar with the Red Sox's ownership group told Peter Gammons of MLB.com (Twitter link) that the rumors of the club being for sale aren't true. Earlier today, Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino took to the Boston airwaves to deny the rumblings. Owner John Henry also shot down the speculation of a sale.
- The Astros are set to interview Nationals third base coach Bo Porter for their vacant managerial position, writes Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. Porter, 40, is the first name to surface as having interviewed for the position. Tony DeFrancesco has been managing the club on an interim basis since Brad Mills was let go last month.
- Rany Jazayerli of Grantland argues that the Nationals were wrong to shut down Stephen Strasburg. Jazayerli looks back at how other promising young pitchers were used it the past and also questions why the Nats imposed an innings limit on Strasburg rather than a pitch limit.
Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos addressed a number of topics concerning the club's future in 2013 and beyond tonight and Chris Toman of MLB.com has the goods..
- Anthopoulos is hoping to see more out of Adam Lind going forward, but noted that the Blue Jays won't be afraid to look elsewhere for better production. Toronto is on the hook for $5MM in 2013 with club options on him from 2014-16 totaling $22.5MM.
- Even if the Blue Jays don't find an out-of-house upgrade at first baseman/designated hitter, Lind could face competition Travis d'Arnaud, who could be in the mix with J.P. Arencibia as the starting catcher. David Cooper, a 2008 first-round pick who has hit .300/.324/.464 in 45 games this year, could also factor in.
- The Blue Jays still aren't sure if they see impending free agent Carlos Villanueva holding up as a starter for an entire season. The right-hander has made 13 starts for the Blue Jays this year, posting a 3.58 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in that role. Recently, Villanueva told Shi Davidi of Sportsnet that he wants to continue as a starting pitcher.
Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel is on the mend and set to return next month. With that in mind, O's General Manager Dan Duquette doesn't seem terribly focused on adding a starting pitcher, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Here's more from around baseball..
- Blue Jays right-hander Carlos Villanueva hopes to stay in Toronto, but wants to do so as a starting pitcher, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. Villanueva avoided arbitration with a $2.2775MM deal this winter but would likely look for a significant pay bump as a starter.
- This winter's free agent market figured to be light on heavy hitters anyway, but Melky Cabrera's situation means that the Rangers would have an even harder time replacing Josh Hamilton, writes Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com. One Texas official cautiously predicted that the slugger would re-sign with the team, but we learned last week that Hamilton will wait until the offseason to negotiate.
- It hasn't been a successful year for the Astros, but things could get worse upon their arrival in the American League West, writes Randy Harvey of the Houston Chronicle.
- Speaking of the Astros, they released 2008 second-round pick Jay Austin earlier today (hat tip to Jayne Hansen of What The Heck, Bobby). The 22-year-old outfielder never advanced beyond Advanced-A ball in his time with Houston.
- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine is staying upbeat in the face of the latest controversy surrounding him and the club, writes MLB.com's Ian Browne. Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia were reportedly the most vocal in a meeting between the players and principal owners regarding Valentine.
There’s not much overlap between the skills that earned Carlos Villanueva a spot in the Major Leagues and the skills that enabled him to represent his fellow-players in negotiations for baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement. Patience and attention to detail are prerequisites for any MLB player interested in representing his peers at the bargaining table. An Ivy League education is not.
“We have guys there who are very highly educated and we have guys like me that signed out of high school from the Dominican,” Villanueva told me in a recent interview. “So you just have to have an understanding about the rules and what everything means for the players’ association and go from there.”
Villanueva, an alternate representative on the executive board of the MLB Players Association, flew between Miami and New York several times per week this past offseason when baseball’s owners and players completed the sport’s collective bargaining agreement. Following a season of constant travel, most players elect to slow down, but Villanueva chose to participate in negotiations, even though it meant more time on the road. His interest in MLB labor relations emerged in Milwaukee, when former Brewers teammates Craig Counsell and Dave Bush, two prominent advocates for players, suggested Villanueva become involved.
"I think he is intelligent and thoughtful about the game," Counsell told me via email. "He really cares about baseball in his country and I think he realized that the Latin players need to play a role in the decision making at the union, which I strongly believed. Labor relations get more complicated every year and I just think Carlos is the perfect guy to offer his voice and have a good grasp on all the issues facing every type of player."
The message stuck with Villanueva, a speaker of Spanish and English. He can communicate with the vast majority of players in their native language, and he's interested in labor relations. It's not a combination he wanted to ignore.
“I just took it upon myself since I had a little more interest, I could understand a little more and there’s really not that big of a barrier for me,” the right-hander said. “So I thought if I have the tools to do it, I feel like I would be letting the guys down if I was not there.”
The rest of the MLBPA’s executive board consists entirely of American-born players: Bush, Jeremy Guthrie, Curtis Granderson, Chris Capuano, Aaron Heilman, Ross Ohlendorf and Kevin Slowey. Counsell, now a member of the Brewers' front office, says other players should be glad to have Villanueva on their side.
"He is going to have an important role moving forward with the changing landscape in Latin America," Counsell said. "I'm proud of him for taking an active role; the players will benefit from having his voice in the room."
Villanueva, 28, says his willingness to travel and listen enabled him to effectively represent the interest of his bosses -- the players. It doesn’t hurt to have Princeton graduates like Ohlendorf on side, but those who focus on pedigree are missing the point.
“You have to be interested in just a lot of sitting, listening and back and forth,” Villanueva said. “A lot of guys don’t have the patience for that. I like the back and forth, I like the negotiation and I like the paperwork. I like all of that stuff, knowing that I can make a difference in our world and in not only Latin America but the whole MLBPA.”
To a layperson, dividing up $7 billion in revenue between 30 owners and 750 players sounds like a great problem to have. But the negotiations aren’t always pretty, even in an era defined by labor peace and with experienced professionals Michael Weiner and Rob Manfred leading the way. Villanueva was present for negotiations and he says the tenor of the talks varies from day to day.
“It’s a little bit of everything. It’s more professional than anything. Some days it gets a little confrontational. Some days it’s just boring,” he said “Very boring.
“They drag on. They drag and drag, but in the end we gave up some and we got some and I think it was a good deal for both sides.”
The relationship between players and owners was considerably more turbulent from the 1960s to the 1990s. Now that the sides are approaching 20 years of labor peace, it can be tempting for outsiders to assume negotiations are a formality and peaceful agreements are inevitable. But the possibility of a work stoppage exists, even today.
“It could have gone to that point this year, too,” Villanueva said. “But we worked hard for that not to happen. The MLB side didn’t want to stop, we didn’t want to strike. We know what issues cause strikes and this year we just wanted a fair deal for both sides. They didn’t go after anything ridiculous. They didn’t go after a salary cap. We were reasonable and I think we went at it the right way.”
When the current agreement expires five years from now, Villanueva hopes to be around, not only as a Major League pitcher, but as an advocate for his peers in the U.S. and in Latin America.
Photo courtesy of US Presswire.
Dozens of arbitration eligible players have agreed to deals with their respective teams today and we've been tracking all of the developments right here. Several teams, including the Rays, Nationals, Marlins, White Sox, Blue Jays, Braves, and perhaps Astros, are known for committing to going to hearings if they get to the point of filing. Keep track of all the madness with MLBTR's arbitration tracker, which shows settlement amounts, filing figures, and midpoints. Today's players to avoid arbitration on deals worth less than $4MM:
- The Cardinals avoided arbitration with pitcher Kyle McClellan, tweets B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest. Joe Strauss of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (on Twitter) that the one-year deal is worth $2.5MM with incentives based on starts. MLBTR projected a $2.7MM for the Steve Comte client.
- MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith reports (on Twitter) that the Padres and Chase Headley agreed to a one-year deal worth $3.475MM, avoiding arbitration. Earlier this evening, the Padres announced that they avoided arbitration with Luke Gregerson, Edinson Volquez, Carlos Quentin and Will Venable. They also avoided arbitration with lefty reliever Joe Thatcher on a deal worth $700K, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. CAA announced catcher John Baker has signed for $750K. Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune first reported that the Padres reached agreements with Hundley, Chase Headley, and Tim Stauffer. Hundley will earn $2MM in 2012, MLB.com's Corey Brock tweets. Dan Hayes of the North County Times tweets the salaries for Volquez ($2.2375MM), Venable ($1.475MM), Gregerson ($1.55MM)
- The Rangers avoided arbitration with Matt Harrison, tweets Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News. The ACES client gets $2.95MM on a one-year deal. MLBTR had projected a $2.9MM salary.
- The Cubs announced that they have avoided arbitration with Jeff Baker ($1.375MM), Blake DeWitt ($1.1MM), Ian Stewart ($2.237MM) Chris Volstad ($2.655MM), and Randy Wells ($2.705MM). MLB.com's Carrie Muskat tweeted the salary figures.
Players who have performed well this month are more likely to intrigue buyers for at least two reasons. First of all, strong performance is an indication of health. Secondly, MLB teams have diverted some scouting efforts from amateurs to the pros since this year’s draft concluded about a month ago.
As a result, it’s fair to say that players who have been performing well this past month are more likely to draw interest at the trade deadline than players with similar overall numbers who had hot starts then cooled off later in the season. Here’s a look at some players who have been performing particularly well over the course of the past 30 days:
- Michael Cuddyer - The Twins aren’t prepared to sell yet, but Cuddyer would be a candidate to go if they do decide 2011 isn’t their year. He has a .378/.458/.633 line this month.
- Melky Cabrera - Cabrera is under team control through 2012 as an arbitration eligible player, so Kansas City’s front office may decide to keep him around for another year. His .342/.374/.470 line this month would appeal to contenders, though.
- Mark Reynolds - The slugger has ten homers in the past 30 days after starting the season slowly. He earns $7.5MM in 2012 and has an $11MM option for 2013 ($500K buyout).
- J.J. Hardy - Like Reynolds, Hardy had a power surge this month. He hit seven homers and added a .269/.306/.600 line. The Orioles are negotiating an extension with the shortstop, so there’s a good chance he stays in Baltimore.
- Coco Crisp - Crisp has a respectable .298/.364/.426 line this month.
- Carlos Pena - Like Reynolds, Pena strikes out a ton and has a low batting average. But his hot streaks can carry teams and he hit ten homers with a .240/.306/.600 line this month. Tim Dierkes examined Pena as a trade candidate earlier today.
- Livan Hernandez - GM Mike Rizzo says the Nationals will be buyers and sellers this month. Presumably some rival clubs are hoping the dependable Hernandez is available this summer, since he has a 3.62 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 this month.
- Edwin Jackson - It’s not surprising that clubs are inquiring on Jackson given that he has posted a 4.05 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 this month. And his 2.52 xFIP suggests he has pitched better than his ERA indicates.
- Ryan Dempster - Across town, Dempster could draw interest as well. The right-hander has a 2.59 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 this month.
- Carlos Villanueva - Though he may not be a trade candidate in the traditional sense, Villanueva’s success in the rotation has presumably drawn the attention of front offices around baseball. He has a 2.84 ERA with 5.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 this month.
- Hiroki Kuroda - Kuroda will require compensation to waive his no-trade clause, but he is already drawing interest. The right-hander has a 2.30 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 this month.
- Aramis Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Hunter Pence have been playing well, but it seems unlikely that they'll be dealt this month. I’m ignoring relievers, since many relievers have worked ten innings or less this month and that’s a minute sample size.
As the Giants raise their World Series banner with an assist from the Say Hey Kid, here's some news from around the majors...
- The Brewers received cash, rather than a player to be named later, from the Blue Jays to complete the Carlos Villanueva trade, reports the team (and passed on by MLB.com's Adam McCalvy).
- The Cubs aren't considering trying to lure Braden Looper out of retirement, reports ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine. Looper retired when he didn't make Chicago's Opening Day roster. With right-handers Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells on the disabled list, the Cubs have a sudden lack of pitching depth, but the team will turn to internal options like Casey Coleman, who will start on Sunday.
- The Red Sox got their first win of the season today, but there's still plenty of talk about Boston's slow start. SI's Tom Verducci thinks there are legitimate reasons for worry, namely that Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka "have to suddenly reverse the downward trends of their careers in their 30s."
- Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com also questions Boston's pitching, pointing out that barring rebound years from Beckett, Lackey and Matsuzaka, "they’re essentially the same team as the Yankees — terrific offense, deep bullpen, weak back of the rotation." Rosenthal, however, thinks it is far too early in the season for the Sox and their fans to panic.
- Jack Wilson asked to be taken out of the Mariners' 7-3 loss to the Rangers on Wednesday, Seattle manager Eric Wedge told reporters today. Wilson implied that Wedge had removed him from the game, which upset Wedge, tweets Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. The Twitter feed of the Brock & Salk radio show on 710 ESPN Seattle reports that Wedge described Wilson's actions as "unspeakable" and wouldn't discuss the veteran infielder's status with the club.
- Pirates right-hander Tyler Yates has a torn flexor tendon in his throwing elbow, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Yates hasn't pitched since 2009 due to Tommy John surgery, and Langosch reports that this latest injury might convince Yates to retire, a decision he's already considered earlier in his career.
- The Diamondbacks are looking at Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Danny Hultzen with the third pick in this June's amateur draft, says Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Sources on other teams think this trio will be the first three players taken in the draft, though perhaps not in that order. Arizona also has the seventh overall pick, and Piecoro notes that the D-Backs' priority with that pick is to draft a player they can sign. Vanderbilt's Sonny Grey and high schoolers Dylan Bundy and Taylor Guerrieri are some of the players Piecoro hears connected with this pick.
- Doug Davis held another workout today, tweets Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus. Five or six teams were present, down from the eight clubs that watched Davis throw two weeks ago.