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Here are today’s minor transactions from around baseball, with the latest moves at the top of the post…
- The Reds outrighted right-hander Dylan Axelrod off their 40-man roster and down to Triple-A, according to the team’s official transactions page. This move will help free up space for one of the several veterans Cincinnati is looking to add to its 40-man roster. Axelrod posted a 2.95 ERA in 18 1/3 IP for the Reds last season and a 4.01 ERA in 103 1/3 innings at the Triple-A level in the Reds and White Sox organizations.
- The Phillies have put Rule 5 Draft pick Andy Oliver on waivers, CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports. If Oliver clears waivers, Salisbury notes that the Phils could try to fully obtain the lefty’s rights from the Pirates in a trade. As a Rule 5 Draft player, Oliver must spend the entire season on a 25-man roster or else be offered back to his original club (Pittsburgh).
- The Giants seem to have released left-hander Travis Blackley, as per the southpaw’s own Twitter page. Blackley tweeted his thanks to the organization for giving him a chance to pitch this spring (on a minor league deal) and used the past tense in describing the Giants as “a very classy organization that I was proud to play for!” Blackley posted a 5.23 ERA over 192 2/3 innings spread over four MLB seasons between 2004-13 with the Mariners, Giants, A’s, Astros and Rangers, and he spent the 2014 campaign pitching in Japan.
- The Twins have released left-hander Wil Ledezma, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (via Twitter). Ledezma, 34, signed a minor league deal with the Twins in December and was looking to reach the big leagues for the first time since 2011.
- The White Sox released outfielder Brian Anderson, CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes reports (via Twitter). The Sox also parted ways with two more veterans according to their team transactions page, releasing right-hander J.D. Martin and infielder Andy LaRoche.
1:14pm: The MLB.com site is incorrect: Crain is still with the team and has only been reassigned, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweets.
Crain, an Article XX(B) free agent, was in line for a $100K retention bonus, which the team had reportedly decided to pay. While it remains unclear precisely what transpired, it obviously would not make sense for the White Sox to have committed to the bonus before dropping him the very next day.
The 33-year-old has been trying to return to action from shoulder surgery. He was one of the game’s very best relievers in 2013, but has yet to return to full game action since his shoulder issues cropped up.
The Blue Jays have announced they have claimed first baseman Andy Wilkins off waivers from the White Sox. Toronto immediately optioned the 26-year-old to Triple-A Buffalo where he will serve as organizational depth at first base.
Wilkins made his MLB debut last year with the White Sox appearing in 17 games slashing .140/.178/.186 in 45 plate appearances. Wilkins spent the majority of 2014 at Triple-A, his first full season at that level, and batted .293/.338/.558 with 30 home runs in 529 trips to the plate.
Infielder Marcus Semien isn’t surprised the White Sox traded him last winter, and the Bay Area native is happy to be with the Athletics, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com writes. “We knew we had a lot of capable guys who could play at the big league level and that the White Sox needed some right-handed arms,” says Semien, who headed west in the Jeff Samardzija trade. “Those two, that went together and it just happened to be me and now I’m just excited to play and have an opportunity to play with anyone, especially being able to come home to Oakland.” Here’s more from around the league.
- The Rangers are seriously considering keeping outfielder and Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. DeShields is fast (like his father was), but the Rangers are convinced he can do more than just run. “The speed is obvious,” says GM Jon Daniels. “But to me there is more to it. I think his arm has played ‘up.’ I think there is strength in his swing, it’s short and through the ball.” With Nate Schierholtz out of the picture, the Rangers now have DeShields, Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski and Carlos Peguero competing for three open outfield jobs.
- Roberto Hernandez hasn’t outperformed Asher Wojciechowski in the competition to be the Astros‘ fifth starter, but Hernandez should get the job anyway because that’s the easiest way to keep depth in the organization, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Wojciechowski can easily just be sent to Triple-A. Hernandez is an Article XX(B) free agent, so the Astros either have to add him to their roster, release him or pay him a $100K retention bonus to keep him in the minors. If the Astros were to send Hernandez to Triple-A, they would also have to give him a June 1 opt-out date. (On Twitter, Drellich also suggests that, as a courtesy, teams generally do not send Article XX(B) players to the minors.) The Astros have plenty of depth at some positions, but not in their rotation, so the easiest path for now would be to place Hernandez in their rotation and make sure that both he and Wojciechowski stay in the organization.
Right-hander Kyle Drabek has been claimed on waivers by the White Sox, the Blue Jays announced. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweeted minutes before the announcement that an unknown club had claimed Drabek, and Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi had originally tweeted that Drabek was packing up his locker and appeared to be on the move. Fellow righty Nate Jones has been placed on the 60-day DL to clear a roster spot, the White Sox announced.
The 27-year-old Drabek was once regarded as one of baseball’s top 30 prospects by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, and he was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Roy Halladay from Toronto to Philadelphia. Injuries, however, have limited much of his ability to stay on the mound since being acquired by Toronto (he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012), and he’s been ineffective when able to take the hill. In 172 1/3 big league innings, Drabek has a 5.27 ERA, an even more unsightly 5.41 FIP and an uninspiring 118-to-111 K/BB ratio.
Drabek has been effective over the past two Minor League seasons, however, and he’s had a strong Spring Training (7 IP, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K), though it’s tough to place too much emphasis on seven spring innings. Drabek is out of Minor League options, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently noted, meaning that he’d have to clear waivers before the Sox could send him outright to Triple-A.
The Sox may very well try to sneak Drabek through waivers, as the bullpen picture already contains David Robertson, Jake Petricka, Zach Duke, Daniel Webb, Zach Putnam, Javy Guerra and Dan Jennings, with Maikel Cleto and Eric Surkamp also serving as options.
While Kris Bryant‘s situation is grabbing all of the headlines in Chicago (and nationally, for that matter), Jon Morosi of FOX Sports believes that another Chicago phenom — White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon — is making a strong case for the Opening Day roster as well. Morosi argues that the ChiSox are running out of reasons not to bring last year’s No. 3 overall pick north with the team, as the lefty has whiffed 19 hitters in 12 1/3 innings thus far and recently struck out nine of 16 Royals hitters in a four-inning effort. The Sox will need a pitching boost early in the season, he adds, with Chris Sale unavailable for Opening Day and veterans such as John Danks and Brad Penny struggling. Starting Rodon’s service clock early isn’t as problematic as it would be in the case of Bryant (or any position player), Morosi writes, because the Sox could use the All-Star break as a means of limiting his innings and also regaining enough service time to delay his free agency by a year. Rodon could strategically be optioned to Triple-A in advance of his final first-half start, then have his second-half debut delayed as late as possible.
- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told reporters, including MLive.com’s James Schmehl, that there’s no competition for the closer job, which firmly belongs to Joe Nathan. The 40-year-old Nathan is coming off perhaps his worst season since becoming a closer and has struggled further this spring, while setup man Joakim Soria has been excellent, but no change is imminent. Soria spoke to Schmehl about pitching in a setup capacity and admitted that he’s “not excited” about not being a closer, though he added that pitching the eighth inning isn’t much different, and he’ll be happy pitching in any role. MLBTR will again be tracking all closer-related situations with our @Closernews Twitter account this season, for those who play fantasy baseball and want to stay current.
- Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that while most believed Danny Salazar was capable of breaking camp in the Indians’ rotation, the right-hander has done nothing to deserve that spot and should be passed over for Zach McAllister, at least in the short term. McAllister is out of Minor League options and was believed to be ticketed for bullpen duty, but using him in the rotation early on would give Salazar some much-needed time to regroup at Triple-A. Manager Terry Francona voiced disappointment in Salazar’s spring thus far, Pluto writes, noting that his stuff is still electric, but the results and control haven’t been there.
- Non-roster invitee Shane Robinson has made a good impression on the Twins in camp thus far, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The 30-year-old Robinson is battling for an outfield job with the Twins and has batted .257/.333/.371 in 39 plate appearances. He’d likely only make the team in the event that both Aaron Hicks and Eddie Rosario were optioned to Triple-A, however, Berardino notes. Robinson tells Berardino that a number of teams called him once he became a Minor League free agent this winter, but a very candid 25-minute phone conversation with GM Terry Ryan and the Twins’ strong early interest led him to select Minnesota. The former Cardinal has an April 2 opt-out date and would earn $550K in the Majors, Berardino reports.
The White Sox had an active, successful offseason in which they upgraded their pitching staff and imported multiple bats.
Major League Signings
- David Robertson, RP: Four years, $46MM
- Melky Cabrera, LF: Three years, $42MM
- Adam LaRoche, 1B: Two years, $25MM
- Zach Duke, RP: Three years, $15MM
- Emilio Bonifacio, 2B/CF: One year, $4MM. Includes $4MM club option for 2016 with a $1MM buyout.
- Gordon Beckham, 2B/3B: One year, $2MM
- Total spend: $134MM
Notable Minor League Signings
- Geovany Soto, Matt Albers, Brad Penny, Jesse Crain, Scott Carroll, Logan Kensing, Joe Savery, George Kottaras, Andy LaRoche, Engel Beltre, Zach Phillips
Trades And Claims
- Claimed OF J.B. Shuck off waivers from Indians
- Claimed RP Onelki Garcia off waivers from Dodgers
- Claimed C Rob Brantly off waivers from Marlins
- Acquired SP Jeff Samardzija and RP Michael Ynoa from Athletics for IF Marcus Semien, SP Chris Bassitt, C Josh Phegley, and 1B Rangel Ravelo
- Acquired RP Dan Jennings from Marlins for SP Andre Rienzo
- Acquired 1B/3B Neftali Soto from Reds for cash considerations
- Adam Eaton, CF: five years, $23.5MM. Includes $9.5MM club option for 2020 with a $1.5MM buyout and $10.5MM club option for 2021 with a $1.5MM buyout.
- Dayan Viciedo, Paul Konerko, Jordan Danks, Ronald Belisario, Matt Lindstrom, Felipe Paulino, Marcus Semien, Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley, Rangel Ravelo, Andre Rienzo, Moises Sierra, Taylor Thompson
With core players Jose Abreu, Chris Sale, and Jose Quintana signed to affordable contracts, the White Sox were expected to take an aggressive approach to the offseason to fill their needs. They met with Pablo Sandoval‘s agent at the GM Meetings in November, and had Victor Martinez on their wish list as well. Around this time GM Rick Hahn also quietly explored trading for Jason Heyward, which wasn’t reported until this month. Martinez re-signed quickly with the Tigers, however, so Hahn signed Adam LaRoche at less than 40% of the commitment Martinez required.
The price difference between LaRoche and Martinez reflects the fact that Martinez is a better hitter, of course. Still, the White Sox got their coveted left-handed bat without taking on the risk of Martinez’s age 36-39 seasons. Plus, bringing in a more capable defensive first baseman in LaRoche should help keep Abreu healthy.
The White Sox continued moving quickly by signing lefty reliever Zach Duke to a three-year, $15MM deal in mid-November. Such a contract would have seemed absurd less than a year prior, as Duke had joined the Brewers on a minor league deal in January. Duke was quietly dominant for the Brewers in 2014 after making a series of adjustments to his pitch mix and arm slot. No team likes signing a reliever to a three-year deal, especially one with such a brief track record of success. Only three other relievers received deals of three or more years this offseason, and one of those was also with the White Sox. Still, the third year for Duke was the cost of doing business, and waiting until January for bargains is risky in its own way.
Hahn owned the first night of the Winter Meetings, grabbing headlines by closing in on a trade for Jeff Samardzija and a free agent contract for David Robertson in the course of a few hours. The Samardzija trade was a big win for the White Sox. I do see the sneaky value in the players the A’s acquired — lower ceiling players who are mostly considered to be solid-average regulars by Baseball America. Still, they were all players Chicago could afford to surrender to acquire one year of a potential front-rotation arm (plus perhaps an accompanying draft pick if Samardzija departs via free agency). The White Sox would have had to take on a lot more risk in the free agent market to bring in a pitcher of Samardzija’s caliber. In Sale, Samardzija, and Quintana, Hahn has assembled one of the better rotation trios in the game.
In Robertson, the White Sox acquired the offseason’s best available reliever at market price. It’s interesting to note that Robertson apparently had another team offer even more than $46MM. As with Duke, the term is not ideal, but it was necessary to sign the elite stopper. $61MM is a lot to spend on commitments to relievers in one offseason, but the White Sox had very few dollars invested into their bullpen prior to Robertson and Duke. Spending that much money is kind of a blunt-force way of addressing the team’s biggest problem, but it should work pretty well in the short term. The Sox also complemented their bullpen by acquiring southpaw Dan Jennings from Miami.
Hahn continued going down his long list of offseason upgrades, signing Melky Cabrera to a three-year, $42MM deal to play left field. (We’ll have more on that signing in the Deal of Note section.) After Cabrera, free agents Emilio Bonifacio, Gordon Beckham, and Geovany Soto were added as versatile bench pieces. Getting Soto on a minor league deal was a plus. Matt Albers and Jesse Crain were also added on minor league deals.
A five-year, $23.5MM extension for center fielder Adam Eaton capped Chicago’s busy offseason. The talented 26-year-old missed 124 games due to injuries over the past two seasons, but the White Sox balanced that risk with reasonable salaries and a pair of club options at the end.
With top prospect Carlos Rodon a phone call away, maybe rotation depth won’t prove to be a problem for the White Sox. Still, the rotation looks strong when Sale, Samardzija, and Quintana are pitching, and vulnerable the other 40% of the time with Hector Noesi, John Danks, Rodon, and maybe Brad Penny. The Sox are still tied up with $28.5MM owed to Danks through 2016.
I raised the question of catching in my Offseason Outlook, and some alternatives and/or backups to Tyler Flowers were added in Soto, Rob Brantly, and George Kottaras. The Sox did reportedly poke around on the Astros’ Jason Castro and discussed Miguel Montero with the Diamondbacks, so alternatives to Flowers were considered. Catching still seems like a weak point in both the short and long-term.
There’s also the issue of executive vice president and former GM Ken Williams. It was revealed in December that the Blue Jays sought to interview Williams to be their president/CEO, but White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf declined to grant them permission, and considered the attempt to be tampering. Ultimately the Blue Jays retained Paul Beeston for one more year, and Williams doesn’t appear to begrudge Reinsdorf about the situation, perhaps because the Jays’ timing was indeed terrible. Williams’ future with the White Sox bears watching though.
Deal Of Note
Melky Cabrera entered the offseason as our fourth-ranked free agent hitter, and many of us at MLBTR thought he would get the five-year deal he sought. While there was reportedly one four-year offer, Cabrera settled for three years from the White Sox. Even accounting for his 2012 PED suspension, qualifying offer, and below-average defense, it was surprising he didn’t sign for more money in a thin market for bats. It works very well for the White Sox, who committed less to Cabrera and LaRoche than the Tigers did just to Martinez, diversifying their risk in the process.
We know “winning the offseason” doesn’t mean much once games start, but the White Sox entered the winter with a long list of needs and filled most of them, finding a few relative bargains along the way. Hahn has assembled a much more interesting team that should be in contention in 2015.
Photo courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports Images
If all the high-profile moves the White Sox have made this offseason don’t work out, the organization plans to be “nimble” in trying to contend in 2016 and beyond, GM Rick Hahn tells MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “Knock on wood, given the young players that we have in the organization now and the ones we have coming and players under control for the next several years, I don’t think that what happens in ’15 is going to cause us to take a significant step backwards in terms of that plan,” says Hahn. “It just may have us reallocate assets to future seasons so that we can get back on track quickly.” That might suggest that the White Sox could trade someone like Jeff Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency after 2015, if the team doesn’t contend this summer. That stands to reason, of course, although it’s somewhat rare to hear a GM describe contingency plans in a year in which his team is expected to contend. Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- Twins infielder Brian Dozier‘s new extension contains a few potential bonuses, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Dozier can make $100K for winning and MVP or World Series MVP award, plus $25K for Gold Gloves or All-Star appearances.
- The Cubs haven’t yet decided whether Javier Baez will make the team out of camp, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com writes. “You put your present and future hat on. In the present tense, there has to be some adjustments made at the plate; future tense, I can see all those things coming together,” says manager Joe Maddon. Baez hit nine homers in 229 big-league plate appearances last year, but struck out in 41% of his plate appearances. As Tim Dierkes noted in today’s Offseason In Review post on the Cubs, Baez is part of a hazy middle infield picture in Chicago.
- Royals reliever Ryan Madson says he has an opt-out at the end of Spring Training, but he hasn’t thought about exercising it, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Madson, who has not appeared in the big leagues since 2011, is simply enjoying getting back to pitching after years of injury troubles.
White Sox GM Rick Hahn announced a five-year, $23.5MM extension with center fielder Adam Eaton today on CSN Chicago. The deal includes two club options, which give the team risk-free control over Eaton for 2020 and 2021. Eaton is a client of Diamond Sports Management.
Here’s how the deal breaks out for the 26-year-old, who entered the spring with just over two years of service time and would have been playing for his first of three arbitration deals. Eaton receives $850K for the 2015 campaign, followed by $2.75MM, $4MM, and $6MM salaries for what would have been his arbitration seasons and $8.4MM for his first season of free agent eligibility. The club options are valued at $9.5MM and $10.5MM, respectively, and either can instead be bought out for $1.5MM. The last club option can increase to $12MM if Eaton finishes second or third in MVP balloting any season from 2015 through 2020, and $13MM if he wins the MVP any of those years.
So, what did the White Sox get for their investment? Last year, in his first full run through the bigs, Eaton slashed .300/.362/.401 and swiped 15 bases. While he has no power to speak of, Eaton’s cumulative, park-adjusted work at the plate checked in at about 15% above league average. He draws walks at about a league-average rate while striking out a good bit less than the mean. Eaton’s .359 BABIP is probably not quite sustainable, but Eaton’s speed makes him a candidate to maintain a rather high average on balls in play; indeed, he consistently topped that level as a minor leaguer.
That kind of output will play at most positions, but is especially valuable in an up-the-middle defender. How one views this deal largely swings on how one values Eaton’s defense. He was not considered a sure thing in center as a prospect, but had at least proven he can handle the position heading into last year and unquestionably has the speed required.
The question is: with one full season in the books, which rating system (if any) do you believe? In the estimation of Ultimate Zone Rating (-3.3 last year), Eaton is slightly below average at the position; thus, he checked in at 2.7 fWAR. But by measure of Defensive Runs Saved (12 runs above average), Eaton is an outstanding defender and was worth a staggering 5.2 rWAR last year.
If we split the difference and peg Eaton as an average to slightly above-average performer in center, and assume that he can continue to hit at an average or slightly better rate and provide value on the bases, then you have the makings of a solid 2.5 to 3.5 win player for the foreseeable future. That makes his new contract look rather appealing.
The closest comp for the Eaton deal is probably the 2012 extension between the Padres and Cameron Maybin. That contract went for five years and $25MM, with the team picking up just one option year. Maybin was obviously a high-variance player with bigger counting stats, so San Diego had to pay for his upside. Another obvious comparison point was just set: the $49.57MM Christian Yelich deal with the Marlins, which more than doubles the promise made to Eaton. While Yelich has more power upside, he plays in the corner. And though Yelich is a good bit younger (just 23), he also was one year further away from arbitration and free agency.
Of course, there are other elements weighing down Eaton’s price here. For one, his skillset is unlikely to translate into huge arbitration earnings And then there’s the fact that Eaton has dealt with a series of injury issues in recent seasons. Last year, it oblique and hamstring strains led to DL stints. In 2013, Eaton went down to a UCL sprain in his left elbow. It remains to be seen whether Eaton is uniquely injury prone or has just encountered some bad luck, but that track record certainly increased the deal’s logic from his perspective.
All told, the White Sox are undoubtedly pleased with how things have turned out with Eaton. Chicago was able to add him in exchange for lefty Hector Santiago, serving to facilitate the late 2013 Mark Trumbo deal.
Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune first tweeted the news. Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweeted the option details. Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune tweeted the annual breakdown, while CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweeted details about Eaton’s last option season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Soto was a third-round pick for the Reds in the 2007 amateur draft and he’s posted a .274/.322/.447 slash line and 107 homers over 3315 career plate appearances in the minors. The 26-year-old made his Major League debut in 2013 and has only an .071 batting average (3-for-42) over 44 PA over the last two seasons.
Chicago is already pretty deep at the corner infield spots, what with Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche holding down the first base/DH duties and Conor Gillaspie starting at third base. Beyond the starters, Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio are also on hand for backup purposes, so Soto will likely be used largely at the Triple-A level.