Chris Tillman Rumors

Extension Notes: Kluber, Tillman, Reds, Porcello

In negotiations for his recent extension, Corey Kluber was forthright about wanting to continue to pitch for the Indians, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes (on Twitter). “Corey was really upfront,” says GM Chris Antonetti. “He said, ‘This is where I want to be. I want to be in Cleveland for a long time. Ideally, I’d like it to be a lifetime contract.‘” Here are more notes on extensions.

  • The Orioles will not extend Chris Tillman before Opening Day despite recent discussions between the two sides, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets. As of late last week, it did not appear that the two sides were close, and Tillman does not want to continue extension discussions once the season begins. He has three more years before he’s eligible for free agency, however, so it’s not impossible the two sides could negotiate again next offseason.
  • The Reds have discussed a new contract with Johnny Cueto recently, but the two sides are unlikely to strike a deal before the season begins, Heyman writes. It’s looking extremely likely that Cueto will hit the free agent market next winter. Heyman also notes that the Reds have not pursued extension talks with Mike Leake.
  • Another free-agent-to-be, Rick Porcello of the Red Sox, reiterates that he will not discuss an extension during the season, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. “I don’€™t want any distractions when we start the season,” says Porcello. The two sides did have at least some dialogue in March regarding a possible deal, Bradford writes.
  • A Mets representative says Lucas Duda and the team have not discontinued their contract talks, Matt Ehalt of the Record tweets. A previous report had indicated that the two sides had stopped talking as Opening Day approached. The two sides have reportedly discussed an extension in recent weeks.

AL East Notes: Red Sox, Tillman, Bautista

As expected, the Red Sox optioned Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley to Triple-A today, though both manager John Farrell and GM Ben Cherington stressed to reporters (including ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes) that neither decision was easy.  Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Shane Victorino will comprise Boston’s starting outfield with Allen Craig and Daniel Nava as bench depth.  The Red Sox outfield surplus has been a topic of speculation all offseason and it still wouldn’t be a surprise to see them make a trade to address the situation early in the season.  Victorino’s health could be the major factor in such a decision, as if he isn’t recovered from an injury-plagued 2014 season, the Sox will want to hang onto their depth.

Some more from around the AL East…

  • The Orioles and Chris Tillman are “not close yet on [an] extension,” CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  The two sides continue to talk, however, in an effort to get a deal done by Opening Day as Tillman has said that he doesn’t want negotiations to continue into the season.
  • Jose Bautista will gain 10-and-5 rights seven days into the season, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi reports.  This will give Bautista automatic no-trade protection, though it’s a moot point at the moment since the Blue Jays obviously aren’t looking to deal the slugger.  If the Jays struggle this season or Paul Beeston’s replacement as team president wants to take the roster in a new direction, however, Davidi observes that Bautista could become a major trade chip.
  • Bautista is entering his last guaranteed year under contract with Toronto but he believes the team will exercise its $14MM club option on his services for 2016.  No extension talks have taken place yet, though Bautista is only focused on the coming season.  “When the time comes, I’m sure that situation will be addressed by both parties, and I’€™m not in any kind of hurry. I’m doing just fine,” the right fielder said.  Davidi believes the Jays will wait until the new team president is hired before “any serious talk of an extension” takes place.
  • In other AL East news from earlier today, the Blue Jays signed Felix Doubront to a minor league deal and the Rangers claimed Rule 5 Draft pickup Logan Verrett off waivers from the Orioles.

Chris Tillman, Orioles Begin Extension Discussions

MARCH 26: Tillman told Orioles reporters today, including Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (Twitter link), that not much has changed on the extension front since January. He’s open to a long-term deal but is letting his agent handle the situation. MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli tweets that Tillman also said he’d prefer that talks didn’t carry on into the regular season.

MARCH 25: Starting pitcher Chris Tillman and the Orioles have initiated extension talks with a goal of completing a deal by the start of the season, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. The talks have not gotten specific yet in terms of dollar figures, a source tells Heyman.

I profiled Tillman as an extension candidate in January. Tillman has established himself as a workhorse in the past two seasons, pitching over 200 innings with good ERA numbers in both. His peripheral numbers have suggested he’s a somewhat worse pitcher than that, however, and his velocity has fallen in each of the past two seasons, dropping to an average fastball speed of 90.7 MPH last year. He might, however, be able to outperform his peripheral numbers to a degree due to his excellent work controlling the running game. He also pitched very well in the second half last year, and he’ll be 27 next month, an age at which he could take a step forward.

If no extension is reached, Tillman will make $4.315MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility this season. That should set the Beverly Hills Sports Council client up to make $20MM or so in his three arbitration seasons, depending on how he performs this year and next. Any extension discussions for a contract of three or more years would have to begin there, with the ultimate total of the deal dictated by its length. At the long end, Tillman could ask for something like the five years and $55MM Matt Harrison received prior to the 2013 season, although the Orioles might perceive such a contract to be a risk given the underwhelming numbers (6.5 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 4.20 xFIP in 2014) beneath Tillman’s ERA.



AL East Notes: Steinbrenner, Tillman, Matusz, Norris

Yankees owner and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner covered a number of topics in a recent chat with Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Among other things, Steinbrenner credited the front office with having “better drafts of late,” naming prospects Greg Bird, Rob Refsnyder, and Aaron Judge as some of the players to show promise. He also addressed the team’s offseason spending, which — while still substantial — was not as extraordinary as it has been at times in the past. Steinbrenner noted that the team still put out a lot of money on the international market even as it missed on Yoan Moncada. He also gave some thoughts on the team’s future intentions in free agency: “I’m not saying we’ll never give another seven-year contract, but going in you know you’re probably only going to get three-four good years out of it. It remains my goal to get under that $189 million (luxury-tax threshold), but it’s not going to happen for at least two more years when these big contracts we have expire. But I’ve continued to say you shouldn’t need $200 million to win a championship.”

Here are some more links from the AL East:

  • The Orioles continue to discuss contractual matters with starter Chris Tillman even after agreeing to an arbitration salary for 2015, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. President of baseball operations Dan Duquette said earlier this year that the sides have “mutual interest” in an extension. MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth recently examined his extension case.
  • Meanwhile, Orioles lefty Brian Matusz has seen his name come up in trade rumors. After tossing four scoreless frames today, he acknowledged the chatter, as MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli reports. Matusz is still hoping to line up a starting role, but says he is most focused on providing value in any capacity. “I mean, it’s no secret. I’m well aware of talks and things going on,” said Matusz regarding the possibility of a deal. “But for me all I can control is what I can control. To be able to go out and pitch and get extended and throw all four pitches and mix. Be able to pitch my game is really what it’s all about.”
  • Young lefty Daniel Norris seems to have all but established himself as the Blue Jays‘ fifth starter, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star reports. While veteran Marco Estrada is still considered part of the competition, Kennedy says that it would take a major change to move Norris out of the role now. Both Norris and fellow youngster Aaron Sanchez would stand to put themselves on track to hit arbitration eligibility in 2018 before qualifying for free agency in the 2021 season, if they can hold onto their big league roster spots for all or most of 2015. (Norris 29 days of big league service at present, while Sanchez has 69 days.)

East Notes: Ichiro, Tillman, Blue Jays

The Marlins‘ level of interest in free agent outfielder Ichiro Suzuki has begun to increase, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. He adds that while the Marlins are set for outfield starters, they lack depth behind Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, and they can use Ichiro’s combination of experience and speed. The Blue Jays and Orioles have also been connected to the 41-year-old outfielder. Here are more notes from the East divisions.

  • The Orioles have discussed extensions with a small handful of players, including starter Chris Tillman, and could revisit those talks in the future, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. The Orioles signed Tillman to a one-year, $4.315MM deal earlier this week to avoid arbitration. MLBTR looked at the possibility of a long-term deal for Tillman in a recent extension candidate piece.
  • Starter R.A. Dickey is cautiously optimistic about the the Blue Jays‘ upcoming season, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star writes. “I’m as excited as I was in 2013,” says Dickey, referring to the splashy offseason in which the Jays acquired him. “Now, we all know what happened in ’13.” Dickey says he’s excited about the Jays’ additions of Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, although he’d still like to see them acquire bullpen help.

Arbitration Roundup: 54 Players Exchange Figures

With today’s flurry of activities in the books, 144 players have agreed to deals to avoid arbitration for a total spend of $433MM. But that leaves 54 players who have exchanged figures and have ground left to cover before their 2015 salaries are settled. That number is up from last year’s tally of 39, and may point to the possibility that we will see more hearings than the three in 2014 (which was itself up from zero the year before).

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker is a great resource for seeing where things stand. It is fully sortable and even allows you to link to the results of a search. (The MLBTR/Matt Swartz arbitration projections are also quite handy, of course.) Using the tracker, I compiled some broad notes on where things stand in the arbitration process this year.

Remember, deals avoiding arbitration can still be reached even after the exchange of numbers. Hearings will be scheduled between February 1st and 21st, so there is plenty of time for the sides to come together before making their cases.

That being said, some teams are known for their “file and trial” approach to arb-eligible players, meaning that they refuse to negotiate after the exchange deadline and go to a hearing if agreement has not been reached. Among those clubs (the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox, per the most recent reporting), there are several open cases remaining: Mat Latos and Michael Dunn (Marlins), Josh Donaldson and Danny Valencia (Blue Jays), Mike Minor (Braves), and Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier (Reds).

Meanwhile, some other clubs have historically employed the “file and trial” approach on a modified or case-by-case basis: the Pirates, Nationals, and Indians. Among those clubs, the Pirates (Neil Walker, Vance Worley) and Nationals (Jerry Blevins) have open cases, though all of them feature relatively tight spreads.

And there are some other interesting cases to keep an eye on as well. Consider:

  • The Orioles and Royals not only faced off in last year’s American League Championship Series, but find themselves staring at by far the most unresolved cases (six and eight, respectively). They are also the only teams with eight-figure gaps between their submissions and those of their players ($10.85MM and $10MM, respectively).
  • Among the Orioles players, two stand out for the significant relative gulf separating team and player. Zach Britton, who excelled after taking over as the closer last year, filed at $4.2MM while the team countered at $2.2MM, leaving a $2MM gap that is worth nearly 91% of the club’s offer. Even more remarkably, the O’s will need to bridge a $3.4MM gap ($5.4MM versus $2MM) with surprise star Steve Pearce. That spread is 1.7 times the value of the team’s offer and easily beats the largest difference last year (Logan Morrison and the Mariners, 127.3%).
  • Of course, it is worth remembering that first-year arb salaries have added impact because they set a baseline for future earnings. (Each successive year’s salary is essentially calculated as an earned raise from that starting point.) For the Reds, the outcome of their cases with Frazier ($5.7MM vs. $3.9MM) and Mesoraco ($3.6MM vs. $2.45MM) could have huge ramifications for whether the team will be able to afford to keep (and possibly extend) that pair of strong performers.
  • Likewise, the Angels face an important showdown with Garrett Richards, a Super Two whose starting point will factor into three more seasons of payouts. As a high-upside starter, he has sky high earning potential, so any savings will be most welcome to the team. The current spread is $3.8MM versus $2.4MM, a $1.4MM difference that equates to 58.3% of the team’s filing price.
  • Interestingly, the biggest gap in absolute terms belong to Pearce and the Orioles at $3.4MM. After that come Bud Norris and the Orioles ($2.75MM), David Freese and the Angels ($2.35MM), Greg Holland and the Royals ($2.35MM), Dexter Fowler and the Astros ($2.3MM), Eric Hosmer and the Royals ($2.1MM), and Aroldis Chapman and the Reds ($2.05MM).

Of course, plenty of deals already got done today. Here are some of the more notable among them:

  • David Price agreed to a $19.75MM salary with the Tigers that stands as the single highest arbitration payday ever, by a fair margin.
  • Interestingly, the Rays agreed to rather similar, sub-projection deals with all seven of their arb-eligible players. Discounts on Swartz’s expectations ranged from 3.23% to 13.21%. In total, the club shaved $1.525MM off of its tab.
  • The opposite was true of the Tigers, who spent a total of $1.4MM over the projections on just three players. Of course, since one of those players was Price, the commitment landed just 5.2% over the projected total.
  • Detroit’s overages pale in comparison to those of the Cubs, who handed out several of the deals that beat the projections by the widest relative margin and ended up over $2.5MM (14.5%) over their projected spend.
  • The MLBTR/Swartz model badly whiffed (over 50% off) on just three players, all of whom earned well over the projections: Chris Coghlan of the Cubs (78.9%), Carlos Carrasco of the Indians (66.9%) Tony Sipp of the Astros (60%).
  • On the low side, the worst miss (or the biggest discount, depending on one’s perspective) was Mark Melancon of the Pirates, who fell $2.2MM and 28.9% shy of his projected earnings. Danny Espinosa (Nationals) and Chris Tillman (Orioles) were the only two other players to fall 20% or more below their projections. Of course, in the cases of both Melancon and Tillman, Swartz accurately predicted that they would fall short of the model.

Orioles Avoid Arbitration With Wieters, Davis, Tillman, Matusz

The Orioles have avoided arbitration by agreeing on one year deals with three players, according to reports. Catcher Matt Wieters, corner infielder/outfielder Chris Davis, righty Chris Tillman, and lefty Brian Matusz all have reached terms for 2015.

After missing most of 2014, Wieters will earn $8.3MM in his final year of arbitration, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). That represents a $600K bump over his salary last year, a much lower figure than would have been expected coming into the season. The 28-year-old saw only 112 plate appearances, slashing an impressive .308/.339/.500 in that short sample, before succumbing to right elbow issues that ultimately required Tommy John surgery.

Davis also will receive a much lower raise than seemed likely before 2014, in his case due to performance issues and a late-season suspension. He will take home $12MM, up from $10.35MM last year, per Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz was right on the mark with a $11.8MM projection for the slugger. Davis can also earn bonuses of $150K upon his 500th and 575th trips to the plate and $50K each for an All-Star appearance, Gold Glove award, or Silver Slugger nod.

Tillman, meanwhile, has settled for $4.315MM, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Connolly was first to report (on Twitter) that a deal had been reached. The 26-year-old becomes the second-highest-paid first-time arb-eligible starter in MLB history. As Swartz wrote recently, Tillman seemed likely to come in just under the record, and fall shy of the $5.4MM projection that Swartz’s model produced.

As for Matusz, he will play for $3.2MM next year, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. That constitutes a nice increase over Swartz’s projection of $3.2MM. Soon to turn 28, Matusz was again effective from the pen last year, tossing 51 2/3 frames of 3.48 ERA ball.


Orioles Notes: Duquette, Rasmus, Tillman

The ongoing rumors about Dan Duquette leaving Baltimore to become the Blue Jays’ new team president have cast a fog over the Orioles’ offseason, Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun writes.  While Peter Angelos’ statement yesterday allegedly ended the matter, Schmuck notes that Duquette himself has yet to address the situation, and the speculation will continue until Duquette makes a definitive statement about his future.  Here’s more from Camden Yards…

  • Schmuck noted that the lack of resolution with Duquette could create tension within the front office, and according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, this could already be the case.  More than one source within the organization described the situation as “toxic,” Kubatko writes.
  • The Orioles are preparing a preliminary list of candidates who could potentially fill Duquette’s position if he did leave, The Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly reports.  The list includes four former general managers (Ned Colletti, Kevin Malone, Omar Minaya and Kevin Towers) though none have yet been contacted.  If a hiring is necessary, this new front office figure would join manager Buck Showalter and VP of baseball operations Brady Anderson in making personnel decisions, and the new hire could be working under Anderson on the team’s depth chart.
  • The “ball is in the hands of” Blue Jays’ ownership now, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets (multiple links), as it seems as if “an extraordinary offer” will be required to get the O’s to release Duquette from his contract.  Since Duquette hasn’t come out and said he wants to stay in Baltimore, Olney notes that the remaining scenarios are that a deal is worked out between the two teams or Toronto decides to look elsewhere for its next president.
  • Colby Rasmus is looking for a raise from his $7MM salary in 2014 and the Orioles aren’t eager to pay him more than that amount, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports.  While the O’s are still interested in the free agent outfielder, they’re hoping to land him on a relatively team-friendly one-year deal, Encina notes.  It had been widely assumed that Rasmus would pursue such a pillow contract in the wake of his underwhelming 2014 season to potentially set him up for a richer multiyear deal next offseason.
  • Also from Encina, right-hander Chris Tillman confirmed that he’s interested in an extension with the O’s, though he is leaving the negotiations up to his representatives at this point.  “I think it’s smart to listen, and I think it’s dumb not to,” Tillman said. “You weigh all the options and go with it. I don’t know a whole lot about it, to tell you the truth. My agent called me about it, and I told him, ‘You know what? Call me back when you know something.’ That’s not me. I’m day to day. I roll with the flow.”  MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth recently examined Tillman as an extension candidate.

Extension Candidate: Chris Tillman

With his youth, solid performance, strong health record and history of eating innings, righty Chris Tillman certainly seems like the kind of player who ordinarily would get extension consideration. It comes as no surprise, then, that the Orioles are interested in extending the Beverly Hills Sports Council client. It doesn’t sound like discussions have gotten very far, however, and it’s not clear where they’ll end up once they do.

USATSI_8036927_154513410_lowresTillman has pitched over 200 innings in each of the last two seasons, establishing himself as a workhorse at the relatively tender age of 26. After struggling through half-seasons in the big leagues in 2010 and 2011, he’s gotten above-average results. What’s not immediately obvious, however, is why he’s gotten those results. Tillman’s K/BB numbers (6.5 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 2014; 6.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 for his career) are fine but nothing special, and he also isn’t a ground ball pitcher. He’s posted very low BABIPs (.221, .269 and .267) in each of the last three seasons, and he’s stranded runners at a very high rate in each of the last two. Unsurprisingly, Tillman’s xFIP and SIERA figures have run well behind in his ERAs in each of those years, suggesting a back-of-the-rotation type who looks better than he is thanks to the Orioles’ excellent defense. His velocity has also dropped in each of the past two seasons.

Tillman does benefit from the fact that it’s nearly impossible to steal bases against him, however, which doesn’t turn up in peripheral numbers. Also, it’s possible he turned a corner at some point last season — he posted a 4.11 ERA in the first half, then a 2.33 in the second half, with 7.7 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9. That kind of decisive improvement might be mostly variance (Tillman also pitched significantly better in the second half in 2013, but didn’t carry that improvement into the first half of 2014), but it’s also possible he simply got better as the season went on, particularly given his age. Tillman changed his release point as 2014 progressed, perhaps suggesting that at least a portion of his improvement is sustainable. And even if Tillman reverts to his career norms next year, his ability to soak up innings has value. Exactly how good Tillman is can be debated, but if he keeps pitching 200 innings a season, extending him has limited downside (at least by the standards of multi-year pitcher contracts) even if he’s merely average.

It’s difficult to find precedents for a Tillman extension that don’t come with significant caveats. Tillman has between three and four years of service time, and via MLBTR’s Extension Tracker, most recent extensions for starting pitchers with that much service are either very short (two years each for Mat Latos and Clayton Kershaw, for example) or out of date (Johnny Cueto got a four-year deal plus an option prior to the 2011 season, while Ervin Santana got four plus an option two years before that). A long-term deal for Tillman would potentially recalibrate the market for pitchers with similar service time.

So to map out a Tillman extension, we’ll begin with his likely salary heading into his first year of arbitration. Matt Swartz’s model for MLBTR projects that Tillman will get $5.4MM in his first arbitration season, but as Swartz noted last week, that figure is probably unlikely. The current record for a one-year deal for a pitcher eligible for arbitration for the first time is $4.35MM, and Swartz thinks Tillman would approach or match that figure rather than crashing through it.

If Tillman were to make $4.35MM next year, that would still set him up to clear $20MM in his arbitration seasons, depending on his development. If Tillman’s contract were to match the Cueto and Santana deals in structure (four years plus an option), that would put him between $32MM and $40MM. That figure seems low, given more recent extensions for pitchers with slightly less service time, like Chris Sale (who had between two and three years of service time when he got $32MM guaranteed for five years, plus two options) and Derek Holland (who had roughly the same service time as Sale and got $28.5MM guaranteed for a five-year deal with two options). Julio Teheran signed for six years and $32.4MM last offseason despite having just over a year of big league service.

Of course, Tillman and the Orioles could aim longer. For five years guaranteed, Tillman could perhaps ask for the five years and $55MM given to Matt Harrison, who had a year more service at the time of his extension than Tillman has now. Phil Hughes‘ recent deal gave up three years of free agency eligibility at $14MM per season, and a five-year deal for Tillman would give up two. Given what Tillman is set to make in arbitration, a $55MM total, or perhaps a bit less, for the next five years makes sense. Alternately, the two sides could strike a two- or three-year deal, although that would likely be done purely on Tillman’s arbitration projections and probably wouldn’t contain any options.

Given the money Tillman is already set to make in arbitration, it would be hard to blame him for aiming high in extension discussions. The question is whether the Orioles would want to pay $50MM or more for a pitcher with so many sabermetric question marks. If a large percentage of Tillman’s success is due to the Orioles’ defense, it doesn’t make sense for the Orioles to pay a premium for him going forward. Unless Tillman is willing to take a substantial discount, the Orioles’ best route might be to take him year-to-year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Tillman, Orioles Mutually Interested In Extension

Righty Chris Tillman and the Orioles have “mutual interest” in an extension, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette tells Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Tillman is represented by Beverly Hills Sports Council.

There are a few candidates for that,” says Duquette. “We haven’t spent much time on that, but contract discussion is always a good time to explore that.”

Matt Swartz’s model projects Tillman will make $5.4MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility. As Swartz notes, that would break Dontrelle Willis‘ record (later tied by David Price) for first-time eligible starting pitchers, which has stood at $4.35MM for eight years. Swartz suspects, however, the model’s $5.4MM guess is a bit high.

Still, with a 13-6 record in 2014 (not a particularly important figure analytically, but a consideration in arbitration), a 3.34 ERA and 207 1/3 innings pitched, Tillman can make a very strong arbitration case. Of course, one reason Willis’ mark has stood for so long is because some candidates to break it (such as Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum and Mat Latos) have signed extensions first. All three of those pitchers initially signed two-year deals. It’s unclear if the Orioles would have interest locking Tillman up long term, or if they would want a shorter deal primarily intended to provide cost certainty for the 26-year-old’s arbitration years. If it’s the latter, Latos’ two-year, $11.5MM deal from before the 2013 season might provide a reasonable starting point for discussions.