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- Blue Jays Release Ricky Romero
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Chris Young Rumors
Five current members of the Astros bullpen (Luke Gregerson, Chad Qualls, Pat Neshek, Joe Thatcher and Sam Deduno) were on the 2011 Padres, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart notes. Astros manager A.J. Hinch was an executive with the Padres in 2011, but he says the Astros weren’t intentionally aiming to acquire former Padres players. “When we started this offseason, we wanted to have multiple guys that could finish games,” says Hinch. “Chad Qualls has a long history of closing, and Neshek and Gregerson were added for that reason. The way the game has evolved, those last nine outs are really hard to get, and to have guys that have done it before is nice to have.” Here are more quick notes from around the Majors.
- Outfielder Chris Young has had much more success with the Yankees than he had with their crosstown rivals, writes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. “We’ve always talked about [how] New York sometimes can be a tough place to get used to and adjust to. Sometimes it takes some players some time,” says Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “The way he’s played for us, I’m a little bit surprised that’s what happened [with the Mets], but he’s been really good for us.” Young now has 17 extra-base hits in 112 plate appearances with the Yankees going back to last season, after having just 20 in 287 plate appearances with the Mets. He’s also done a better job hitting for average and getting on base. His history suggests he might come back to earth, but at only 31, he could continue to help in a part-time role in the Bronx. Hoch notes that Young’s contract contains a series of bonuses for plate appearance thresholds, so if Young continues to play well, he could end up making significantly more than the $2.5MM he’s guaranteed.
- The Reds say catcher Devin Mesoraco (hip impingement) was available to pinch-hit this weekend, but his absence in the ninth inning with the tying run aboard against the Cardinals says otherwise, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Mesoraco wasn’t even in the team’s clubhouse after the game, Rosecrans reports. Mesoraco has been out for a week now, but the Reds continue to play with a short bench, even though they could place Mesoraco on the disabled list and backdate the move to April 13. In any case, being without a healthy Mesoraco hurts the 5-6 Reds — he earned a January extension after hitting .273/.359/.534 in a breakout 2014 season.
- As has been reported, Chris Young‘s contract with the Royals has a $675K base and can reach $6MM via incentives. Per Heyman, Young has $1MM available in roster bonuses, $2.25MM available for games started (capping at 29 starts) and $2.075MM available for total innings pitched (which run up to 140 innings).
- Everth Cabrera‘s deal with the Orioles, which pays him $2.4MM and can reach $3MM in total, awards him $75K for reaching each of 250, 300, 350, 400, 425, 450, 475 and 500 plate appearances, according to Heyman.
- Dustin McGowan signed a Major League deal with the Dodgers that guarantees him just the MLB minimum ($507.5K), but per Heyman, he’ll receive a $1MM roster bonus for spending as little as one day on the active roster. As was previously reported, he can earn $1.5MM worth of incentives via appearances and innings pitched, maxing out at 60 appearances and 60 innings.
The Rangers have an insurance policy on Yu Darvish and could recoup more than half of his $10MM salary if he undergoes Tommy John surgery and misses the year, reports Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News. The Rangers could use the insurance proceeds to add payroll. The policy’s total value to the club, however, is dependent on when the clock begins on the deductible. Grant notes the Rangers could make a case that this injury is a recurrence of the elbow problems Darvish suffered last year sidelining him for the final 50 days of the 2014 season.
Elsewhere in the American League:
- Darvish’s injury is not just a blow to the Rangers, but to all of baseball, opines CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman.
- Rick Porcello told reporters, including Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal (via Twitter), he has not had extension talks with the Red Sox this spring and does not expect to have any.
- The Indians and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber have not made any progress in negotiating a contract extension, writes Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Kluber is a pre-arbitration eligible player and Wednesday is the deadline for signing such players. If a deal cannot be reached, teams can renew the contracts of those players at their discretion, usually for a fraction above the MLB minimum of $507.5K. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently provided a primer on understanding pre-arbitration salaries.
- In a separate article, Hoynes chronicles how the Indians have re-built their farm system through the draft (especially their willingness to select high-upside high schoolers rather than college players), trades, and international free agent signings.
- Royals GM Dayton Moore told reporters, including MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan right-hander Chris Young, who the club signed yesterday, will make the team and pitch out of the bullpen. Flanagan notes, in a second article, the Royals have discussed keeping eight relievers and, if so, will have several contenders battling for just one spot.
- Evan Gattis has had two months to reflect upon his trade to Astros and still has mixed feelings, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The negative is that there’s a good fan base in Atlanta, I felt loved there,” Gattis said. “The positives are that I’m in the American League, I might be a little more durable; I’m going to try to have a healthy season. And I’m in Texas, stoked about that. So yeah, positives and negatives.“
The Royals have announced that they’ve signed pitcher Chris Young to a one-year, big-league deal. Young will receive $675K in base salary, plus up to $5.325MM in bonuses. Those bonuses will be for roster days, innings pitched and starts, with Young receiving $250K on Opening Day and then $250K for 30 days, 60 days and 90 days on the roster. To clear space for Young on their 40-man roster, the Royals moved Kris Medlen to the 60-day disabled list.
Young, 35, enjoyed a comeback season with the Mariners in 2014, posting a 3.65 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 165 innings after not appearing in the big leagues in 2013. He has obvious weaknesses — he doesn’t throw hard, doesn’t strike out many batters and allows tons of fly balls, suggesting he won’t be able to sustain his relatively low ERA from last season. As Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan tweets, though, the Royals’ strong defensive outfield should help Young. Also, he could benefit from Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, which has stifled home runs lately. Young has suffered from injuries in recent years, but the Royals’ guaranteed commitment to him is minimal, so they’re insulated from significant risk.
It’s unclear how Young will fit on the Royals’ roster. He’s surely most useful as a starter, but he doesn’t appear likely to supplant anyone in the Royals’ current rotation of Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Jason Vargas, Edinson Volquez and Jeremy Guthrie. He could, instead, find a home in the Royals’ bullpen, perhaps working in long relief until or unless he’s needed in the rotation.
For Young to receive a big-league deal at this point in the offseason qualifies as a minor coup. He had been one of only a few significant free-agent starters remaining on the market, along with Kevin Correia and Randy Wolf.
Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star was the first to tweet Young’s base salary and maximum incentive earnings. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick and MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweeted key details about the structure of Young’s contract.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Free agent starter Chris Young is reviewing offers and preparing to make a decision on where to sign by the end of the week, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. Young, the reigning AL Comeback Player of the Year, is entering his age-35 season.
Young had not made more than twenty starts in a season since way back in 2007 before toeing the rubber thirty times (29 starts) last year for the Mariners. Over 165 frames, he compiled a 3.65 ERA with 5.9 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9.
Advanced metrics were less sanguine on Young’s performance, though he has traditionally outperformed ERA estimators. Young benefitted from a .238 BABIP against, although unusually low marks are no surprise given his extreme flyball tendencies.
Interest has seemed to lag for Young in spite of his solid run-prevention tallies last year. At the very least, his market remains quiet. MLBTR’s Steve Adams and Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan have each taken a look at landing spots that might make sense, but there have been virtually no public reports tying Young specifically to any clubs.
The Red Sox have held preliminary discussions with manager John Farrell about a contract extension, Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com reports. Farrell’s deal is only guaranteed through 2015, though it comes with an additional club option as well. Boston hopes to “add length and security” in a new deal, per the report.
Here are some more items from around the game:
- Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino sat down with WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford to discuss his recovery from back surgery, telling Bradford that he feels 100 percent and is as motivated as he’s ever been heading into Spring Training. Victorino disagrees with the notion that there’s a “competition” between himself and Mookie Betts, saying that, rather, he views it as two athletes pushing each other to be better. “I’ve been a big advocate of Mookie since Day 1,” said Victorino. “I learned from Day 1 that he’s a kid that wants to learn. My first day in my rehab assignment in Pawtucket, 15 minutes before the game he’s asking me questions in the most respectful way. From Day 1 I’ve been a big fan of that kid.”
- Right-hander Steve Delabar was disappointed not to be called up in September by the Blue Jays last year, writes John Lott of the National Post. The team felt that Delabar, a 2013 All-Star who battled knee injuries throughout the 2014 season, needed to rest. Those knee issues, coupled with a 2013 shoulder injury that prevented Delabar from fully engaging in his offseason weighted-ball program, contributed to a rough year in 2014, Lott writes. Delabar will be competing for one of three bullpen spots, and the fact that he has minor league options remaining could work against him if he isn’t sharp this spring.
- The Rays were excellent at unearthing quality relievers while under the leadership of now-Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney notes (Insider link). Friedman will face an immediate challenge in finding a replacement for outstanding closer Kenley Jansen, at least for the season’s early going. The market still contains some notable arms — free agents Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano, as well as trade candidate Jonathan Papelbon — but in some respects their availability only increases the stakes of getting the decision right. There are several possibilities for filling the closer role and the open pen slot, including a few recent acquisitions as well as younger arms (Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia) who got a taste of the bigs last year and have impressed the new front office.
- MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently endeavored to identify potential landing spots for free agent righty Chris Young, and Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs contributes his own analysis on where Young’s notably flyball-prone propensities would best fit. Steve’s market analysis and Sullivan’s fit assessment concur in identifying the Rays as a match.
One Chris Young has found a home this offseason, as the former D-Backs, A’s and Mets outfielder re-signed with the Yankees early in the winter. The other Chris Young, despite having enjoyed the better results of the two in 2014, remains available on the free agent market. The 6’10” right-hander soaked up 165 innings in the Mariners’ rotation last season, working to a 3.65 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. That’s solid production, and based on runs allowed (RA9-WAR), Young was worth 2.4 wins above replacement.
And yet, the towering righty remains unsigned, perhaps in part due to the fact that sabermetric estimators suggest that his success was exceptionally fortunate. Young’s 5.02 FIP, 5.19 xFIP and 5.24 SIERA paint an ugly picture, to be sure, but there are reasons to think that he can still provide value in a team’s rotation.
Firstly, we can’t ignore the fact that Young’s career ERA (3.77) is significantly better than his career FIP (4.38), xFIP (4.82) or SIERA (4.63). Being an extreme fly-ball pitcher is likely a turn-off for teams in small parks, but because he allows so many fly balls (58.7 percent in 2014; 54.8 percent for his career), Young has proven capable of sustaining a BABIP that is considerably lower than the league average (fly balls in play fall for hits at a much lower rate than line drives and ground balls). Extreme fly-ball arms like Young have proven to be able to outperform those figures because a larger percentage of balls in play against them are converted into outs. Repeating a 3.65 ERA may not be likely, but it stands to reason that Young could demonstrate at least somewhat useful run prevention skills at the back of a rotation.
Young has also shown a dominance over right-handed hitters throughout his career, and particularly in 2014. Same-handed hitters have mustered a paltry .218/.287/.381 batting line against Young in his big league career, and he held them to an even feebler .199/.260/.372 line last year. On the flipside of that is that he struggles against left-handed hitters, of course, but a team with a spacious outfield that naturally suppresses lefty power could use its home environment to maximize Young’s strengths while shielding against his weaknesses.
The cost on Young shouldn’t be prohibitive; I’d imagine that if he is able to secure an MLB deal, the base salary would fall shy of the respective $5MM and $6.5MM guarantees of Aaron Harang and Kyle Kendrick. And, there’s also the possibility that given the late stage of the offseason and the number of teams with their rotations filled, Young will have to settle for a minor league deal. Any non-guaranteed deal would figure to have a relatively substantial base salary in the event that Young made the team. (John Axford, for example has a $2.65MM base on his minor league deal in Colorado.)
Given all of these elements, let’s examine a few spots that make sense for the Reynolds Sports Management client to end up…
- Angels: The Halos have addressed their pitching depth this winter by adding prospects Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano in separate trades, but the rotation still doesn’t have a clear-cut No. 5 starter. It’s also not a given that Garrett Richards will be ready for Opening Day, so adding a veteran like Young makes some degree of sense. Angel Stadium ranked 25th in left-handed home run factor in 2014 (per Baseball Prospectus) and routinely ranks in the bottom third of the league.
- Tigers: Detroit’s rotation depth has taken a hit in recent years due to several trades, and they have little in the way of certainty beyond their projected starting five (David Price, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon). Even Greene and Simon have some uncertainty about them, as Greene has little MLB experience, and Simon wilted in the second half of what could be an outlier season. Comerica Park ranked 23rd in left-handed HR factor last year, though it has played as more of a middle-of-the-road park for lefties in other seasons.
- Braves: Atlanta hasn’t been shy about adding veterans to slot into the bullpen or the rotation, having added the likes of Eric Stults, Wandy Rodriguez, Jose Veras, Matt Capps and Todd Coffey on minor league deals recently. Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Alex Wood and Shelby Miller are locks, but the fifth spot is up for grabs.
- Astros: Houston recently added Roberto Hernandez to a minor league deal with the idea that he could compete for a spot in their rotation, and Young could be brought in to compete in a similar manner. Righty Brad Peacock may not be ready to open the season, and Houston did part with Michael Foltynewicz in the Evan Gattis trade (though the team also added rotation candidate Dan Straily in the Dexter Fowler deal with the Cubs).
- Rays: Matt Moore won’t pitch until this summer as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, leaving Nate Karns and Alex Colome as the likely candidates to compete for the fifth spot behind Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer. The AL East and its hitter-friendly parks may not be an ideal setting for Young, but Tropicana Field is more favorable to pitchers than rival parks such as Yankees Stadium and Rogers Centre.
Few teams possess the type of pitching depth that would allow them to completely rule out adding a depth candidate to compete for a role at the back of the rotation. One could make a compelling case for Young fitting with any number of teams not listed here, and it’s also possible that a Spring Training injury could create a need for an arm like his. At 36 years of age and with a limited MLB track record in recent years, Young isn’t a big-ticket item, but 165 innings of 3.65 ERA in 2014 should at the very least net him the opportunity to try to prove that he can recreate the feat.
“Just because we didn’t win doesn’t mean it didn’t work out,” insisted Bautista. “It helped build a core for our team. And the last two years we’ve added to that core. I think the players really appreciate the commitment that [General Manager] Alex [Anthopoulos] has made to building our team.”
Here’s more from today’s column..
- One prominent baseball official feels that free agent pitcher James Shields has not been marketed properly by his camp. Few doubt Shields’ talent, but some have the notion that he isn’t a strong postseason pitcher. Meanwhile, a few executives suspect that the Blue Jays could become interested in his services if the club can convince Rogers Communications to shell out the money. At present, however, Toronto only has the budget to allow for a bullpen upgrade or two.
- Over the weekend, David Price reiterated that he would “absolutely” consider a long-term deal with the Tigers. Entering his walk year, Price doesn’t want to eliminate a big-market team from contending for his services, Cafardo writes. Still, it’s believed he’ll hit free agency and go elsewhere.
- With the Astros losing out on Ryan Vogelsong, they might turn their sights to comparable free agents such as Chris Young, Kevin Correia, and Kyle Kendrick.
- Recently, Cafardo asked Orioles manager Buck Showalter if he’d be interested in being a GM, which was a tough question for him to answer given that Dan Duquette is still with the O’s. Still, Showalter is already involved in personnel decisions and if Duquette leaves, Cafardo writes that he’d be at the helm along with talent evaluator Brady Anderson and a new GM. Recently it was reported that the O’s have a list of candidates for the job if it opens up and that includes names like Ned Colletti, Kevin Malone, Omar Minaya, and Kevin Towers.
With another quiet day turning into an even less eventful evening, I thought we’d spice things up with a look at a particularly interesting segment of the free agent market: innings-eating veteran starters.
Sure, I’m joking. Almost by definition, a back-of-the-rotation innings eater is not a very exciting pitcher. But, then again, perhaps there is something to the idea that this corner of the universe has more intrigue than it might seem at first glance.
Targeting top-end players is fairly straightforward, whereas figuring whether to pursue one or another back-end arm involves much more careful parsing to find value. The fact that most such pitchers sign for short-term deals means that clubs must be right on the player in the immediate term; there is no time to fix them for the future. And then there is the fact that the performance of these players matters a great deal; unlike a utility man or reliever, innings-eating arms are expected to occupy full-time roles. Racking up losses because your number 4 and 5 starters are not competitive is a great way to dig a hole in the standings.
The potential impact of this type of player is evidenced by the list of the best durable, veteran starters still available, several of whom played for contenders in 2014 and one of whom even pitched in the World Series. For better or worse, all of the players listed were allowed to throw at least 150 innings last year, creating plenty of opportunity to add or subtract value.
Kevin Correia: The results are not usually that exciting, but Correia has logged at least 100 innings in every season since 2007. He delivered an average of 178 innings of 4.19 ERA pitching over 2012-13 before suffering through a rough 2014.
Aaron Harang: Last year’s shining example of the importance of choosing your innings eaters carefully, Harang put up 204 1/3 frames with a 3.57 ERA. Sure, there’s a lot baked in there other than his pitching, but the bottom line is that Harang rated amongst the game’s fifty best starters in terms of preventing runs and among its 25 best in logging innings.
Roberto Hernandez: The results haven’t been there for Hernandez, and there is not much silver lining given that he has seen a steady decline in fastball velocity. But he is quite a steady groundball inducer, and showed enough that the Dodgers traded for him and gave him nine starts down the stretch.
Kyle Kendrick: At some point, 199 innings is 199 innings, and that’s what Kendrick delivered last season. He is also a fairly youthful 30 years of age, and is not far removed from producing serviceable results.
Ryan Vogelsong: Though his peripherals are somewhat less promising, Vogelsong has posted pretty darned useful bottom-line results in three of the past four seasons. And he had enough in the tank to run his fastball up to the mid-90s in the postseason.
Chris Young: ERA estimators view Young’s 3.65 earned run mark last year as a mirage, but then again he has always outperformed his peripherals. It had been quite some time since the towering righty had handled a full season in a rotation, but Seattle happily converted his 165 innings of work into a 12-9 record in 29 starts.
Before you vote on the player you think will be the best bet for 2015, you might want to check out these custom Fangraphs leaderboards for a sense of their recent statistical achievements: last year; last three years; last five years.
Former Cardinals and Rangers reliever Kyle McClellan has officially announced his retirement. In a message on his Facebook page, McClellan explained that he was told that his shoulder simply hadn’t recovered well enough following surgery, so he decided to hang up his glove after six Major League seasons. McClellan posted a 3.79 ERA over 387 1/3 career innings from 2008-13, spending five seasons with St. Louis (winning a World Series ring in 2011) and one in Texas. We at MLBTR wish McClellan all the best in his retirement and congratulations on a nice career.
Here’s some news from around the baseball world…
- The Orioles have “limited” interest in Nori Aoki, a source tells MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. With the O’s linked to such bigger-name free agent and trade targets as Melky Cabrera, Justin Upton and Matt Kemp, it’s safe to presume that Aoki could be more of a backup plan for the Orioles if they can’t land any of those other outfielders.
- The Mariners‘ acquisition of J.A. Happ from the Blue Jays probably ends any chance of Chris Young returning to Seattle’s rotation, MLB.com’s Greg Johns writes as part of a reader mailbag.
- An increasing number of agents are privately saying that they would’ve advised David Robertson to accept the Yankees’ qualifying offer, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets. I can’t say I agree with the agents’ opinions, since it’s not like the draft pick compensation tied to Robertson via the QO has hurt his market; the closer has reportedly already received a three-year, $39MM offer and several executives think he’ll find a deal in the four-year, $50MM range.
- Florida high schooler Brendan Rodgers holds the #1 spot on MLB.com’s rankings of the top 50 2015 draft prospects, MLB.com’s Jim Callis writes. Rodgers, a shortstop, heads a class that still contains a lot of question marks, according to one AL scouting executive. “It’s just wide open right now, especially at the top. There are some nice players, but there’s a lot of gray area. There are just no elite guys who completely stand out. There’s not as much upside at the top as the past few drafts,” the executive said.
- Former big leaguer Rico Brogna is now working as the Angels‘ quality control coach, somewhat of a troubleshooting position he tells Fangraphs’ David Laurila combines both traditional scouting analysis with advanced metrics to give his team a complete overview of a player’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Will Middlebrooks doesn’t have an obvious role on the 2015 Red Sox roster, but the third baseman tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that he’s working to get healthy and wants to stay with the Sox. “I understand the moves they had to make,” Middlebrooks said. “For the organization we are, we have to win next year. Everyone knows that. They had to make some moves. I was hurt, been hurt a lot. You can’t rely on that.”