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- Central Notes: Maddon, Dirks, Giambi, Indians
- Alex Rios Hires Scott Boras
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Chicago White Sox Rumors
Paulino, 31, had signed a one-year, $1.75MM deal before the 2013 season. At the time, Paulino was coming off of Tommy John surgery and looked to be an easy high-upside risk to take. That gamble did not pay off, however, as Paulino made just four MLB appearances and was roughed up at all levels this year.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe details the challenges faced by the Braves and Dodgers this offseason. John Hart and Andrew Friedman differ in age, style, and substance, but they face similar roadblocks. Here’s more from Cafardo..
- Scouts who have seen pending free agent James Shields over his career feel he’s changed from a fastball/changeup pitcher to a fastball/cutter pitcher. At one time his changeup was unhittable and the cutter, which has now taken over, is hittable at times. Shields is still effective but there is some bewilderment over his repertoire.
- Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle will be made available in a trade, though his $19MM contract will be a deterrent unless the Jays are willing to assume part of it. Still, he seems more tradable than knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
- Cafardo expects Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist to draw a lot of trade interest this offseason. In fact, new Dodgers boss Andrew Friedman might want to reunite with him in Los Angeles.
- The White Sox would love to move John Danks, but the $28.5MM owed to him over the next two years will be a deterrent to teams. Meanwhile, pitching coach Don Cooper still believes Danks, who has lost some of his heat, could become the second coming of Buehrle and pitch effectively in the mid-to-high 80s.
- The Twins haven’t asked Torey Lovullo for a second interview yet, but he also hasn’t been told he’s out of the hunt.
The Royals have claimed outfielder Moises Sierra off outright waivers from the White Sox, according to MLB.com’s Scott Merkin (Twitter link). Additionally, the Sox have outrighted outfielder Michael Taylor to Triple-A Charlotte.
The move comes at a somewhat unexpected time for the Royals, who are in the midst of the World Series, but Sierra will add to the team’s outfield depth for the 2015 season. The 26-year-old batted .276/.311/.417 with a pair of homers in 135 plate appearances for the White Sox this season after they claimed him on waivers from the Blue Jays. Sierra has played mostly right field in his career, and while defensive metrics didn’t like his work with the Blue Jays, both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating gave him positive reviews in a small 372-inning sample this season. Sierra has less than two years of Major League service and can be controlled through the 2019 season if Kansas City sees fit.
Taylor, 28, at one time ranked as high as the No. 29 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America, but his career stalled after a few promising seasons at the Triple-A level. Taylor was one of three players, along with Travis d’Arnaud and Kyle Drabek, traded by the Phillies to the Blue Jays in exchange for Roy Halladay. Toronto traded him to Oakland for Brett Wallace (another top prospect who ultimately did not pan out), who eventually flipped him to the White Sox in a minor deal for right-hander Jake Sanchez. Taylor is a career .167/.254/.216 hitter in 114 big league plate appearances, though he sports a .278/.369/.441 batting line at Triple-A.
With these moves, Chicago’s 40-man roster is down to 37, Merkin notes.
Sad news today out of Chicago, as longtime White Sox scout Paul Provas passed away from brain cancer at age 63. As Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports, Provas had been scouting for the South Siders since 1993 after doing the same for the cross-town rival Cubs dating back to 1983. MLBTR extends its condolences to his family and friends.
Here are the day’s news and rumors out of the American League:
- Left-hander Joe Beimel would love to return to the Mariners, and the team has expressed interest in re-signing him as a lefty specialist, reports Greg Johns of MLB.com in his latest Mariners Inbox. The veteran southpaw made the club after signing a minor league deal and posted a 2.20 ERA in 45 innings. Beimel’s 5.0 K/9 leaves something to be desired, but he was a legitimate weapon against lefties. Beimel held same-handed hitters to a .188/.217/.288 batting line. Sabermetric stats such as FIP (3.18) and xFIP (2.96) both approved of his work against left-handers, though he was well north of 5.00 in each stat when facing righties.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Marius Payton of CSN Houston that top prospect Carlos Correa‘s rehab is considered complete at this point (h/t: Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter). Baseball America’s No. 3 midseason prospect saw his season come to an end prematurely due to a broken leg, but he was impressive when on the field, hitting .326/.415/.510 with six homers and 20 steals in 62 games at Class-A Advanced.
- Even as the Royals are gunning for a World Series title in 2014, thoughts inevitably must drift at times to the future. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders whether starter James Shields may present a double-edged sword with his history of huge innings totals: on the one hand, those innings show his durability; on the other, they act as an arm odometer. Then, of course, there is the matter of his increasingly poor postseason track record.
- Kansas City faces tough decisions as it ponders its amazing late-inning arms, Sherman adds. Wade Davis and Greg Holland might combine for a $15MM tab next year, with further increases for 2016. GM Dayton Moore said the team can fit those salaries, but also indicated that he already is thinking about how things will play out in the long run. “Yes, in the immediate, it works,” he said. “We can make that fit. But we do have to analyze our roster from an economic standpoint every year.”
- Meanwhile, former Royals GM — and current Red Sox VP of player personnel — Allard Baird tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he looks back fondly on his time in Kansas City and is pleased with the club’s run of success. As Cafardo notes, Baird’s time resonates in the current roster, as he drafted players like Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Zack Greinke (who was later flipped for several current key roster pieces) during his time at the helm.
Tigers catcher Alex Avila is now symptom-free after suffering yet another concussion in the final game of this year’s ALDS against the Orioles, he tells MLive.com’s Chris Iott. While many have speculated that Avila could need to step away from the game after being diagnosed with what he referred to as three “mild” concussions this year, Avila isn’t thinking along those lines. “I had a CT scan and an MRI checking my brain and my neck and the arteries leading to it, and everything checks out normal and healthy,” Avila told Iott. “And talking with the neurologist that examined everything, I shouldn’t have any concern.” Avila’s concussion issues do predate this season, Iott notes, but the catcher maintains that he’d be ready to step on the field today if the Tigers needed him to do so. Detroit holds a $5.4MM option on Avila with a $200K buyout. Even if the option were to be declined, he’d still be under control via arbitration.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian discusses a wide variety of offseason- and 2015-related topics in his latest Indians Inbox piece, including Francisco Lindor. Bastian writes that he would be “shocked” if Lindor wasn’t with the team next season, but given the notable step back he took in terms of his K/BB numbers at Triple-A and a lack of seasoning at that level, Lindor is probably headed for the minors to open the year. The defensively gifted Jose Ramirez will likely be ticketed to open the season as Cleveland’s shortstop.
- Also from Bastian, he notes that if Lindor is indeed expected to be Triple-A bound to start the season, it makes sense for the team to exercise Mike Aviles‘ $3.5MM club option. Bastian downplayed the idea of Josh Tomlin as a non-tender candidate due to his modest salary and remaining options, and he also touched on the future of Lonnie Chisenhall, noting that third base is one of the most logical areas of upgrade for Cleveland.
- Left-handed power will be a priority for the White Sox this winter, writes Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. Levine runs down a list of potential targets for the ChiSox, headlined by Victor Martinez but also including Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche and Pablo Sandoval. LaRoche is a bit of a reach to me given the presence of Jose Abreu and LaRoche’s reputation as a solid defensive first baseman. Levine notes that he spoke to a Tigers source that indicated the team would do “whatever it could” to bring back Martinez for 2015 and beyond — and that’s not the first time a reporter has gotten that vibe from Detroit; ESPN’s Buster Olney heard something similar earlier in the month.
Here’s the latest from the South Side of Chicago…
- Jose Abreu, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana will combine for (at most) $16.445MM in salary in 2015, a huge bargain for three star players that has left the White Sox with plenty of payroll space, CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes writes. Quintana and Sale’s contracts, in particular, looks like very shrewd investments for the Sox at this point. Sale, for his part, has no regrets about signing his extension in March 2013 since it allows the team to acquire more talent. “With them being able to do that and have pieces of the puzzle and still a little money in the bank, they can kind of assemble guys around us to do the same things,” Sale said.
- Marcus Semien, Carlos Sanchez and Micah Johnson will be competing for second base job in the spring, and ESPN’s Doug Padilla doubts all three players will still be with the team by Opening Day. Padilla figures one of the trio could be dealt for a reliever, or could be part of a package in a larger trade.
- In a look at notable Arizona Fall League prospects, ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider subscription required) praised White Sox righty Francellis Montas, who joined the organization as part of the Jake Peavy trade in July 2013. Montas, 21, posted a 1.44 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 3.64 K/BB rate over a combined 81 innings at rookie ball, high-A ball and Double-A in 2014, and Law said Montas’ fastball touched 102 mph in a recent instructional league game.
- Law also had good things to say about the White Sox farm system in general, saying this is the strongest Chicago’s system has been in the six years he’s been working for ESPN. Law hinted that four White Sox minor leaguers are slated for his next top-100 prospect list.
Though the White Sox weren’t in a position to add veterans on short-term deals last offseason, GM Rick Hahn feels that with the club closer to contention, that’s an avenue worth exploring, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. “We’re never going to move our eye from those long-term targets being a priority,” Hahn said. “At the same time, we may be in a position where some shorter-term deals with some veteran-type players might make some sense in order to get this team closer to where we want to be.” The additions of Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton, the progression of Jose Quintana, and the selection of Carlos Rodon in last year’s draft have all accelerated Chicago’s timeline to contend again. Hayes feels that an outfielder and/or DH would make sense, and he also mentions the bullpen. I think they could look to upgrade behind the dish as well, as Tyler Flowers whiffed at a 36 percent clip last season and is a long shot (to say the least) to repeat his .355 batting average on balls in play. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently provided a preview of Chicago’s upcoming offseason.
More from the AL Central…
- Once arbitration numbers and league-minimum players are accounted for, the Indians project to have $72-75MM committed to the 2015 roster, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes in his most recent inbox piece. The team has typically operated in the $80-85MM payroll range, so there’s some degree of financial flexibility. However, Bastian notes that with the large number of contracts spread around the team, Cleveland is limited as to where and how it can upgrade what was a stagnant second-half offense. He feels that third base and right field are the most logical areas to target, noting that the trade market may be “more opportunistic” for the Indians this offseason.
- The Tigers will look to upgrade on a bullpen that melted down and, in the estimation of many, cost them their season in the playoffs, writes James Schmel of MLive.com. However, he cautions not to expect a new closer in 2015. There’s a “strong chance” that the team will exercise Joakim Soria‘s $7MM club option, Schmel writes, and he also notes that Joe Nathan, Al Alburquerque, Bruce Rondon, Blaine Hardy, Kyle Lobstein and Luke Putkonen are expected back. Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, Jim Johnson and Joel Hanrahan are likely on the outs. Schmel lists some speculative bullpen targets for Detroit, including Luke Gregerson, Andrew Miller, Neal Cotts and Pat Neshek, and as he notes, the Tigers have been linked to Gregerson in the past and nearly reacquired Miller this past July.
Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson will not be back with the team next year, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. According to Rosenthal’s source, Anderson informed GM Terry Ryan that he wouldn’t return once Ron Gardenhire was ousted as manager. However, John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press spoke with Anderson directly, who went on the record with a different story, saying he didn’t quit, but just assumed he was out once Gardenhire was dismissed. “It’s been a tough four years,” Anderson tells Shipley. “I understand where they’re coming from. Maybe they need someone new. I imagine the new guy will want someone new. It’s not like I’m saying, ‘I’m out,’ I’m just assuming that will be the case.” However the scenario truly played out, it does appear certain that the Twins will have a new pitching coach for the first time in 13 years next season.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- The Twins have expressed interest in arranging a private workout for slugging Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter link). The news comes as a bit of a surprise, because as I noted in yesterday’s Offseason Outlook for the Twins, the team has never shown a willingness to approach the dollars Tomas figures to command. However, the team does have a need in the outfield.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn spoke with Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this week and offered several glimpses into the South Siders’ upcoming offseason. “Long-term targets are priority,” the GM said when asked whether the Sox would be players on the free agent market before softening his stance a bit. “We may be in position where shorter-term deals for veteran players might make sense.” The bullpen will be a target for the Sox this winter, and while Hahn isn’t opposed to signing or trading for an established ninth-inning arm, he said he’s never much bought into the “proven closer” concept: “The overall goal for the bullpen is to have multiple options from potentially the right and left side, many of which could be end-game options. I’ve never been of the mindset that somebody has to be the closer. It’s not an ideal way to deploy what should be your best reliever.”
- ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick hears from multiple sources that Miguel Cabrera‘s comments about not wanting his postseason bonus money were made in jest, and the Tigers slugger will indeed sign the paperwork to receive his money. As USA Today reported Tuesday, Cabrera stated that he wouldn’t sign and didn’t care about the money, as he “just want[ed] the ring.”
After a fourth place finish in the AL Central, the White Sox will supplement their bullpen, and perhaps add reinforcements at left field, designated hitter, catcher, and in the rotation.
- Jose Abreu, 1B: $51MM through 2019
- John Danks, SP: $28.5MM through 2016
- Chris Sale, SP: $28.15MM through 2017
- Jose Quintana, SP: $25.65MM through 2018
- Alexei Ramirez, SS: $11MM through 2015
- Jeff Keppinger, IF: $4.5MM through 2015 (released in May 2014)
- Scott Downs, RP: $250K buyout (released in July 2014)
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via Matt Swartz)
- Ronald Belisario, RP (4.151): $3.9MM projected salary
- Tyler Flowers, C (3.148): $2.1MM
- Dayan Viciedo, RF/LF (3.123): $4.4MM
- Hector Noesi, SP (3.006): $1.9MM
- Nate Jones, RP (3.000): $600K
- Javy Guerra*, RP (2.133, Super Two): $1.3MM
- Non-tender candidates: Belisario, Viciedo
- Felipe Paulino, SP: $4MM club option with a $250K buyout
It was another summer of trading away veterans for the White Sox, as GM Rick Hahn dealt Gordon Beckham, Alejandro De Aza, and Adam Dunn in a span of 11 days at the end of August. The exact return on Beckham won’t be determined until the offseason, but Hahn did acquire a solid pitching prospect for Dunn in Nolan Sanburn.
It was an ugly campaign, but the 2014 season did provide Chicago clarity at several key positions. Most importantly, 2013 signing Jose Abreu looks like a huge bargain after posting MVP-caliber numbers in his rookie MLB season. Also, center fielder Adam Eaton established himself with a quality year worth 2.8 wins above replacement.
While the player acquired alongside Eaton from Arizona, Matt Davidson, remained in Triple-A and took a step backward, the Sox still found a solid stopgap at the hot corner in 27-year-old Conor Gillaspie. Gillaspie fits on the strong side of a platoon, and could match up with Marcus Semien again.
Avisail Garcia is the incumbent in right field after missing much of 2014 due to a shoulder injury. Just 23, Garcia could take a leap forward in 2015. Tyler Flowers had a passable season as the starting catcher, but struck out a ton and could easily see his average back around the Mendoza line in 2015. The Sox could pony up for Russell Martin, but Hahn should be proactive in attempting to find a quality backstop via trade. The Yankees are probably the team with the most depth at the position, in terms of long-term catchers.
25-year-old Dayan Viciedo declined to a .231/.281/.405 line, and does not look like a long-term piece for Chicago. He could be non-tendered or traded. Should Hahn turn to the free agent market to fill left field, options include Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Morse. Nori Aoki, Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter, and Nick Markakis haven’t generally played the position, but could be considered. The Rays’ Matt Joyce could be a trade option, and the Dodgers’ outfield surplus remains unresolved. The most intriguing choice would be young Cuban corner outfielder Yasmany Tomas, with whom Abreu is familiar. The problem is that Abreu’s success reset the Cuban market such that Tomas’ price tag could be in the $100MM range. The White Sox have not been connected to Tomas in any notable way thus far.
The White Sox have finally gotten Adam Dunn off the books, and in August Bruce Levine of CBSChicago.com wrote that stealing Victor Martinez away from the Tigers tops Chicago’s offseason wish list. The Sox fell just short of signing Martinez four years ago, leading to their deal with Dunn. Martinez, who had a monster offensive 2014 season few saw coming, turns 36 in December and now spends the majority of his time as a designated hitter. Martinez would represent a fairly risky win-now signing for the Sox, but the switch-hitter would make a fantastic tandem with Abreu in 2015 as he did with Miguel Cabrera in Detroit. The Carlos Beltran deal should be Martinez’s floor, and the Sox would have to forfeit their second-round draft pick.
Trades for Alexei Ramirez could be entertained, though he still has value to the White Sox. He’s under contract for 2015 and has a club option for ’16, and could make a nice bridge to hopeful shortstop of the future Tim Anderson. Anderson, the team’s first-round pick in 2013, missed nearly two months with a broken wrist but still received a surprise promotion to Double-A. With Beckham gone, second base next figures to be a competition, with Micah Johnson, Marcus Semien, and Carlos Sanchez in the mix.
In the rotation, Chris Sale’s dominance continued and Jose Quintana had a quietly excellent campaign. John Danks ate innings at the back end, if nothing else. Hector Noesi, claimed off waivers from the Rangers in April, posted a 4.43 ERA in 27 starts for the Sox. The team is missing at least one more above average starting pitcher, and they could have it soon in 2014 first-round pick Carlos Rodon. Rodon finished the season at Triple-A and has a chance to break camp in 2015 in the big league rotation.
The Paulino experiment was a bust, though the Sox spent very little on him. To reduce the risk of dipping heavily into the team’s No. 6-8 starters, the Sox should at least add a project arm or two for depth.
The White Sox bullpen struggled in 2014, putting up a 4.28 ERA that was second-to-last in the American League. Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam filled the ninth inning void after the offseason trade of Addison Reed, injuries to Matt Lindstrom and Nate Jones, and ineffectiveness from Ronald Belisario (a likely non-tender candidate). Petricka, Putnam, and Daniel Webb were able to keep the ball on the ground, but failed to miss bats. Jones underwent Tommy John surgery in July, so he’s a non-factor for 2015 even if the Sox tender him a contract. The bullpen is a clear area of upgrade for Hahn, who told MLB.com’s Scott Merkin in September, “The overall goal of the bullpen is going to be to acquire multiple options, potentially from the right and left side … many of which could be end-game options for us.” Even if Chicago decides to pass on top free agent reliever David Robertson, the market offers a wide array of quality options.
Hahn used the word “aggressive” multiple times regarding the upcoming offseason, as reported by MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. An aggressive approach makes sense, with Abreu, Sale, and Quintana currently so affordable. The Sox have about $46MM in contract commitments for 2015, plus maybe another $6MM if they retain Flowers, Noesi, Jones, and Guerra. Hahn could have around $40MM to play with in 2015 salaries without raising payroll, enough to add multiple significant free agents.
Though 2014 didn’t go as planned, the Sox received star-caliber performances from Abreu, Sale, and Quintana and quality seasons from Eaton and Gillaspie. There seems to be much offseason work to do to vault this team into contention, with the wish list including a retooled bullpen, an effective bat or two, and added rotation depth.
Note: there is some question as to Javy Guerra’s official service time. MLB’s calculation of 2.133 would make him a likely Super Two player, but his contract being selected (at least publicly) on May 20th suggests 2.128, which would fall short.
Chicago acquired the 26-year-old De Los Santos from the Rays last September in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later. In his first season with the ChiSox, De Los Santos posted a 4.84 ERA with 4.2 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 44 2/3 innings at Triple-A Charlotte. In parts of eight minor league seasons, the Dominican hurler has a 4.09 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 657 1/3 innings.
Many teams figure to follow suit and begin outrighting players over the coming weeks as they perform some 40-man roster maintenance to gear up for the offseason.