Chris Sale Rumors
Here's the latest from around the AL Central...
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski admitted to reporters (including Lynn Henning of the Detroit News) that teams had been calling him about the Tigers' starting pitching depth. The Rangers reportedly asked about Rick Porcello earlier this week and several teams have shown interest in the right-hander throughout the offseason.
- Dombrowski and Jim Leyland revealed no new details about the Tigers' closer situation other than saying that rookie Bruce Rondon is still very much a candidate for the job despite struggling in four Spring Training outings.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn discussed Chris Sale's extension with reporters (including MLB.com's Scott Merkin) and likes that the team was able to lock up a potential ace at what could end up being a bargain price. "Obviously this past offseason was a pretty robust one in terms of where the compensation was going. So being able to lock something down before there was further escalation in Chris' market had a lot of appeal to us," Hahn said.
- Scott Kazmir can opt out of his minor league deal with the Indians if he isn't on their Major League roster by April 2, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (via Twitter). Daisuke Matsuzaka, another Tribe minor league signing, also has an opt-out date "about the same time."
- Unless Justin Morneau improves on his 2012 numbers, Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities feels the Twins will struggle to get "anything significant" for the slugger in a possible trade, and could have to settle for a trade package similar to what they received for Francisco Liriano last summer. Morneau hit .267/.333/.440 with 19 home runs in 570 PA in 2012 and is entering his last season under contract with Minnesota. Mackey also discusses the Twins payroll, various roster decisions and other topics during this chat with fans.
The White Sox announced that they have agreed to sign Chris Sale to a five-year extension. The deal will guarantee the left-hander $32.5MM and could keep him in Chicago through 2019. Sale, a client of Jet Sports Management, emerged as a frontline starter in 2012.
“We are thrilled to be able to reward Chris for his accomplishments thus far in his career and to keep one of the best young starters in the league in a White Sox uniform for potentially the next seven years,” White Sox senior vice president/general manager Rick Hahn said.
Sale's deal covers his remaining pre-arbitration season, his three arbitration seasons, and at least one free agent year. The contract also includes club options for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The 23-year-old will earn $850K in 2013, $3.5MM in 2014, $6MM in 2015, $9.15MM in 2016 and $12MM in 2017. The White Sox have options for $2018 ($12.5MM) and 2019 ($13.5MM) with $1MM buyouts.
The deal includes an escalator that could increase the total value of the contract to $60MM over seven years, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com reports (on Twitter). Sale would have to win a Cy Young to trigger the escalator.
Sale pitched like one of the American League's top starters in 2012 after contributing out of the bullpen for his first two MLB seasons. He posted a 3.05 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 192 innings in 2012, earning a spot on the AL All-Star team.
As MLBTR's Extension Tracker shows, it's nothing new for pitchers with two-plus years of service to sign five-year extensions worth $30MM or so. Jonathon Niese, Derek Holland, Trevor Cahill, Yovani Gallardo and Jon Lester are among the pitchers who signed these deals. Typically the extensions include at least one club option.
Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com first reported the agreement. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The talks appear to be preliminary. If the two parties can't agree on an extension, Sale will make $600K in 2013, after posting a 3.05 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 192 innings in 2012.
Sale will be arbitration eligible for the first time next winter, and he has 2.061 years of service time. Trevor Cahill and Clay Buchholz's contracts, which are both around $30MM (and also include club options) and were signed when those pitchers had between two and three years of service time, provide rough blueprints. (See MLBTR's Extension Tracker for more.)
The White Sox would likely want to cover Sale's four remaining pre-free agency seasons, along with at least one free agency season. Sale, meanwhile, would be guaranteed north of $30MM, mitigating his risk in the event of health problems or ineffectiveness.
White Sox GM Rick Hahn had a relatively quiet debut offseason while AL Central rivals such as the Indians and Royals made aggressive moves. Hahn told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that at times he thought about making a splash. “There’s a strong temptation first to try to be part of that, add yourself in as a three-way or four-way. And we did explore some of those avenues, but obviously it becomes pretty complex." Here are the latest White-Sox related notes...
- Hahn said he was ultimately happy to re-sign Jake Peavy instead of making moves for the sake of making moves.
- The White Sox announced that they agreed to terms with all pre-arbitration eligible players, including Dayan Viciedo, Chris Sale and Addison Reed. Every member of the team's 40-man roster is now under contract for 2013.
- Viciedo will earn $2.6MM, Sale will earn $600K and Reed will earn $520K, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports (Twitter links). While the raises for Sale and Reed are nothing out of the ordinary, Viciedo’s salary is unusually high for a pre-arbitration eligible player. He obtains a modest raise from the $2.5MM salary he earned in 2012, the final season of the four-year, $10MM contract he signed as an amateur free agent in 2008.
- The White Sox acquired third baseman Conor Gillaspie from the Giants for minor league right-hander Jeff Soptic earlier today.
Here's the latest from the AL Central...
- Chris Sale doesn't know of any discussion between his representatives and the White Sox about a possible long-term deal but is happy to take one-year contracts for now, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. "I know it [a multiyear deal] happens from time to time," Sale said. "But I'm just doing my stuff. If something happens, we'll see." Sale will be arbitration-eligible for the first time next winter and is scheduled for free agency after the 2016 season.
- Jake Peavy and White Sox GM Rick Hahn talked to MLB.com's Scott Merkin about the steps that led to Peavy re-signing with the club, both sides' mutual interest in continuing their relationship and Peavy's agent switch to CAA's Jeff Berry.
- Jeremy Guthrie talks to MLB.com's Dick Kaegel about why he re-signed with the Royals, despite offers from other teams. Guthrie signed a three-year, $25MM contract with Kansas City in November.
- Jim Leyland thinks Andy Dirks has the ability to be an everyday player, but the Tigers manager tells reporters (including MLB.com's Adam Berry) that he would like to have a right-handed hitting outfielder who could occasionally spell Dirks when Detroit faces a tough lefty starter.
- Some more White Sox and Tigers items can be found in Ben Nicholson-Smith's edition of Quick Hits, published earlier today on MLBTR.
How long will the Wild Card playoff format be a one-game elimination? The running gag among baseball executives, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, is until the Yankees are eliminated in a such fashion. That possibility is looming larger as the Yankees and Orioles are tied for the AL East lead with four games to play. The Yankees currently have a one-game lead over the A's in the Wild Card race. However, if the two teams finished with identical records, the Yankees would have to travel to Oakland because they tied in the season series and the A’s currently own the next tiebreaker - a superior record within their own division. It will make for an interesting finish to the season. Also from Rosenthal's column:
- In response to the likelihood the two AL Wild Card teams will have a better record than the AL Central Division champion, Rosenthal suggests the playoff qualifiers with the two worst records meet in the Wild Card game. Rosenthal admits winning a weak division would be less meaningful, but such a team hardly would be in position to argue since it would be lucky to reach the playoffs in the first place.
- Angels owner Arte Moreno recently acknowledged the fans' desire for the team to re-sign Torii Hunter, but Rosenthal says he may have competition from a division rival. The Rangers have long had interest in Hunter, who lives in a Dallas suburb. With Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli free agents this winter and Nelson Cruz a free agent next offseason, the team almost certainly will look for offensive help. Rosenthal believes a trade for a younger slugger such as Arizona's Justin Upton is more likely than a short-term signing of Hunter. But at the very least, the Rangers could pursue Hunter to drive up the price for the Angels.
- Despite the recent slump that may cost the White Sox a playoff berth, Rosenthal claims this has been a successful season for the South Siders. Rosenthal points to highlights like Robin Ventura establishing himself as a manager, Chris Sale developing into an ace, a number of rookie pitchers emerging as valuable parts, and bounce back seasons from Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, and Jake Peavy.
- Rosenthal credits the Rays' recent resurgence to manager Joe Maddon's decision to make batting practice optional and allow players to arrive at the park later, which resulted in the players becoming more relaxed.
The Yankees enter play today with a one-game lead over the Orioles and four games over the Rays. And, it's a good thing this isn't your father's Yankees, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. If George Steinbrenner was alive today, Rosenthal believes he might have fired manager Joe Girardi after blowing a ten-game lead in the AL East and replaced him with the likes of Lou Piniella. Hal Steinbrenner is almost the polar opposite of his father. So much so that, when Rosenthal asked Brian Cashman of the potential fallout that might occur if the team fails to reach the playoffs, the Yankees' GM said, "We have objective, patient ownership." Also from Rosenthal's column:
- The new schedule hasn't been a cure-all for small market teams like the Rays. Rosenthal suggests one way to mitigate the Rays’ disadvantage would be to scale revenue sharing so they would receive a greater percentage than a low-revenue club such as the Indians, who compete in a division with lower payrolls.
- A criticism of the new playoff system is Wild Card teams who have better records than division winners are penalized in the seeding of the Division Series. Rosenthal's solution is to wait until after the Wild Card game to seed the Division Series.
- The AL CY Young Award voting will be a test of how accepted advanced statistics are by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Rosenthal points out the last eight AL pitchers to either lead or tie for the lead in those categories, like the Rays' David Price this year, each have won the award. The Tigers' Justin Verlander meanwhile leads in wins above replacement and Chris Sale of the White Sox leads in ERA+. Price is tops, however, in quality of opponents faced, based on the rankings of Vince Gennaro, president of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
- Larry Bowa's interview for the Astros' managerial vacancy is a good sign, as rival executives have worried that GM Jeff Luhnow is surrounding himself with too many like-minded sabermetric types rather than building a diverse baseball operations department.
- The Marlins may have difficulty in sticking with their plan to keep Emilio Bonifacio in center field, play Donovan Solano at second, and make the acquisition of a third baseman their top priority. Rosenthal points out the market for third basemen is bare, so one alternative for the Marlins is to acquire an outfielder and move Bonifacio back to third base.
- Look for the Rays to exercise their $2.5MM option on Fernando Rodney. Rodney is bidding to become only the second reliever in history (Dennis Eckersley in 1990) to have a season of 40 or more saves and an ERA under 1.00. Rodney leads baseball with 43 saves and his ERA is 0.66.
- The Cubs will look again this offseason to move Alfonso Soriano, who is one home run and one RBI shy of his first 30-homer, 100-RBI season since 2005. If the Cubs fail to receive a sufficient offer, they could always bring back Soriano, owed $36MM over the next two years, and try to move him at the deadline again. Rosenthal cited the example of Carlos Lee of how it is easier to deal an overpriced player the closer he gets to the end of his contract.
Building a rotation through free agency can be expensive and frustrating, so teams are understandably open to alternatives. One way for teams to avoid free agent salaries and long-term commitments is to move relief pitchers to the starting rotation. Yet few relievers have the repertoire and durability to succeed in the rotation, so it's not uncommon for converted relievers to flop as starters.
Here’s a mid-season update on four pitchers who jumped from the ‘pen to the rotation this year. None of the pitchers below had started more than three MLB games in a season before 2012 and all of them were big league relievers last year:
- Daniel Bard - Bard walked more batters than he struck out and posted a career-high ERA as a starting pitcher before being optioned to the minor leagues in early June. The right-hander saw his fastball velocity (93.1 mph) and swinging strike rate (7.9%) dip as a starter. He's now pitching out of the bullpen at Triple-A, and the results have been mixed. This attempted transition has been a disappointment.
- Neftali Feliz - The Rangers have successfully converted C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando to starting roles under Ron Washington and Mike Maddux in recent years, but Feliz's conversion didn't go nearly as well. He will miss the rest of the season and much of 2013 to undergo and recover from Tommy John surgery. Feliz's injury may be unrelated to his change in roles, but it doesn't make the reality of his elbow issues any more pleasant for the Rangers. The 24-year-old started just seven games before hitting the disabled list, and the results were acceptable, if not overwhelmingly positive: a 3.16 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9.
- Jeff Samardzija - Credit the Cubs for putting Samardzija in the rotation this spring. He's enjoying a breakout season with a 4.19 ERA, 9.0 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 120 1/3 innings (he recovered from an ugly month of June to string together some strong starts in July). The 27-year-old has maintained his fastball velocity, averaging 95 mph with his heater. Among MLB starters only Cole Hamels and Tim Lincecum generate a greater percentage of swings and misses (12.0%).
- Chris Sale - Sale has pitched to a 2.61 ERA through 124 innings with a 114K/31BB ratio and impressive hit and home run rates. The 2012 All-Star has lost some zip on his fastball (now 92.1 mph), but he continues to generate lots of swings and misses. A major success for rookie manager Robin Ventura, pitching coach Don Cooper and the White Sox.
Note: Though Lance Lynn, Anthony Bass and Felix Doubront pitched in relief last year, they also started in the minors for much of the 2011 season, so I don’t consider them converted relievers. Advanced stats via FanGraphs.
One way for teams to avoid building their rotations through free agency is to move relief pitchers to the starting rotation. Few relievers have the repertoire and durability to succeed in the rotation, but teams are understandably tempted by certain promising bullpen arms. After all, starters have the potential to limit the opposition for 180-200 innings, while relievers might pitch 60-70 innings.
The Rangers have successfully converted C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando to starting roles under Ron Washington and Mike Maddux in recent years, but some conversions don't work out quite as well. For example, Phil Coke and Kyle McClellan started the 2011 season in the rotation, before returning to relief roles.
Here’s an early season update on four pitchers who jumped from the ‘pen to the rotation this year. None of the pitchers below had started more than three MLB games in a season before 2012 and all of them were big league relievers last year:
- Daniel Bard - Bard's walk rate has spiked, his strikeout rate is down and he's generating fewer ground balls. His average fastball sits in the 93-94 mph range, down from 97.3 mph out of the bullpen, but he continues to generate swings and misses. A dropoff is expected from relievers who move to the rotation, and Bard showed promise against the White Sox last week.
- Neftali Feliz - Feliz's 3.81 ERA is a little deceptive. He has 18 strikeouts against 14 walks, partly because he's generating fewer swings and misses. He has also been lucky on balls in play, as his .194 opponents' BABIP indicates.
- Jeff Samardzija - The strikeouts are up, the walks are down and the peripheral numbers suggest this may well be sustainable. Samardzija's fastball continues to average 94.7 mph and batters are swinging and missing more than ever. So far, Samardzija's conversion has been a major success, especially relative to pre-season expectations. To his credit he has faced the Cardinals -- the NL's top offense -- twice.
- Chris Sale - Sale's transition to the rotation is going smoothly. Though his fastball velocity has dipped to 92.4 mph and his strikeout rate is down, he's limiting walks and averaging more than six innings per start.
Note: Though Lance Lynn, Anthony Bass and Felix Doubront pitched in relief last year, they also started in the minors for an extended period of time, so I don’t consider them converted relievers. Advanced stats via FanGraphs.
The White Sox have many appealing trade chips, including Carlos Quentin and Gavin Floyd, so GM Kenny Williams will likely be fielding all kinds of inquiries in Dallas at next week's Winter Meetings. Here's the latest on the White Sox...
- The White Sox haven’t offered John Danks a long-term deal recently, according to Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com. The White Sox were rebuffed not too long ago and are now more likely to trade the left-hander, according to Padilla. However, the team hasn’t given up on working out a new contract with Danks.
- Teams have asked the White Sox about Chris Sale and Alexei Ramirez, but the price for either player would be "sky-high," according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).
- White Sox manager Robin Ventura told reporters, including Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, that he's like to get 30 starts out of both Danks and Floyd while playing Quentin in right field on a regular basis (Twitter link). However, the new manager realizes it may not work out that way in 2012.