Cincinnati Reds Rumors

Cincinnati Reds trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Examining The Homer Bailey Extension

Reactions among fans and MLBTR readers to the initial report of Homer Bailey nearing a six-year deal in the $100MM range seemed at best uncertain and negative at worst. The Reds and Bailey have since reportedly finalized a six-year, $105MM contract that includes a $25MM mutual option (or $5MM buyout) for a seventh season, and little seems to have changed.

The most common criticism I've noticed to this point is that Bailey's career numbers don't make him feel like a $100MM pitcher. However, Bailey's career, as a whole, has little to do with the dotted line on which his signature will find itself in the coming days. The Reds aren't paying Bailey to be the pitcher he was as a 21-year-old or even as a 24-year-old. Cincinnati is paying Bailey for his recent work and what they feel he can do from 2014 through 2019. Bailey's career 4.25 ERA shouldn't be a factor when we evaluate this deal from the outside, because it almost certainly wasn't a major factor when the Reds were deciding whether or not he was worth this price.

In making the deal, Cincinnati appears to be banking on Bailey continuing the improvement he's shown over each of the past two seasons. Dating back to 2011, Bailey has seen year-to-year improvement in his command, ground-ball rate, swinging-strike rate, velocity and out-of-zone pitches chased by hitters. The changes haven't necessarily manifested in his ERAs — though his 3.68 and 3.49 totals from the past two years are solid — but teams have already begun to demonstrate that they're willing to pay for things other than ERA. Given the volatile nature of that stat, it's no surprise to see clubs betting on trends, skill-set and age rather than the ultimate outcome.

For some context, Bailey's 10.7 percent swinging-strike rate in 2013 tied for 11th in the Majors among qualified starters. In fact, he trailed White Sox ace Chris Sale by just 0.01 percent in that field and induced grounders at nearly the same rate — 46.1 percent for Bailey and 46.6 percent for Sale. His 34.9 percent opponents' chase rate was tied for 10th in all of baseball with Hiroki Kuroda and Bailey's own teammate, Mat Latos. Bailey's average fastball velocity jumped from 92.2 mph in 2011 to 92.5 in 2012 and 94.1 in 2013. That 94.1 mph average was the seventh-highest in the Majors among qualified starters, and his velocity actually increased as the season wore on. The Reds probably aren't concerned with his ability to sustain that heat, as he averaged 94.4 mph over 113 innings in 2009 (Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan took an extended look at Bailey's velocity spike earlier in the week).

Bailey hasn't been on the disabled list since 2011 and has topped 200 innings in each of the past two seasons as well. On top of displaying promising peripherals, he's demonstrated some durability. While that can change at a moment's notice, 200-plus innings will get a pitcher paid, and the Reds likely feel that Bailey's medicals give him a strong chance of staying healthy moving forward. Also of significance is Bailey's age; at 27 years old (28 in May), the Reds are buying more prime years than a team would typically receive in paying open-market prices for a pitcher. Starting pitchers that reach free agency are usually closer to 30 or 31 than Bailey would have been (heading into his age-29 season).

Looking at other pitchers who were extended with five to six years of service time (with some help from the MLBTR Extension Tracker), Bailey's deal is the third-largest in history for a pitcher one year (or less) from free agency. He rightfully fell well short of the extensions signed by Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels, but he was able to top Jered Weaver's five-year, $85MM deal. That contract was thought to be team friendly at the time, however, and Weaver's deal is also two years old at this point.

As MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth noted Sunday evening, the deal essentially amounts to five new years and $95MM, as Bailey was in line for a salary in the $10MM range anyhow. Put another way, he's signing away five free agent years for $15MM more than Anibal Sanchez received a year ago (also for his age 29 to 33 seasons). With one more strong season under his belt and further TV revenue flooding the game, Bailey would likely have topped Sanchez's mark, even in a relatively strong class of free agent pitchers that figures to include James Shields, Justin Masterson, Max Scherzer and possibly Jon Lester (though Lester seems highly likely to sign an extension of his own, and Scherzer could do the same).

Age again becomes a factor here, as Bailey is four years younger than Shields, two years younger than Scherzer and Lester, and one year younger than Masterson. Even if Shields were perceived as the better of the two pitchers next winter, would a team be more comfortable guaranteeing him top dollar starting in his age-33 season, or would Bailey's age-29 season be more alluring?

Reds GM Walt Jocketty and his staff are continuing to place a premium on age (we've already seen this, to varying degrees, in the offseason with Freddie Freeman's extension and the free-agent deals signed by Phil Hughes and Masahiro Tanaka). While Bailey did have a three-WAR season in 2013, it's unlikely that the Reds feel he's reached his ceiling at this point. A nine-figure guarantee for a pitcher with just two seasons of 200 innings and a career 4.25 ERA seems excessive to many, but again, the Reds aren't paying Bailey for his accomplishments (or lack thereof) in his age-21 to age-24 seasons; the Reds are paying Bailey to be the pitcher they believe he can be based on improvements in non-ERA elements of his game over the past few years.

As for Bailey, he and his agents at Excel Sports Management were likely confident in his ability to post strong totals in his walk season, but there's also the reality that pitchers simply get hurt with relative frequency. Even a two- or three-week DL stint related to his elbow or shoulder would have cast some doubt on his free agency, and missing a significant chunk would have been disastrous.

While many will be quick to call this an overpay, it looks to me as if the Reds paid market value (or close to it at five years, $95MM) for Bailey's 2012-13 skill set, with the belief that he can take another step forward and be the type of pitcher who could have signed for something closer to $120MM+ over six years next offseason. Those outcomes illustrate the risk for both sides: for the Reds, paying market value a year early, and for Bailey, potentially missing out on tens of millions of dollars. Of course, if he regresses or gets injured, the deal will quickly look poor for the Reds, but that's the case with any long-term deal. And given Bailey's age, there's no reason to suspect significant regression in 2014.


Reds Claim Brett Marshall, Outright Henry Rodriguez

FEBRUARY 19: The Reds have outrighted Rodriguez after he cleared waivers, the club announced on Twitter.

FEBRUARY 12: The Reds announced (on Twitter) that they've claimed right-hander Brett Marshall off waivers from the Cubs and designated infielder Henry Rodriguez for assignment. Marshall had been claimed by the Cubs from the Yankees earlier in the off-season.

The 23-year-old Marshall first cracked the bigs last year with the Yankees, throwing just 12 innings (over three relief appearances). He spent his entire prior minor league career in the Yankees system, working exclusively as a starter. Reaching the Triple-A level for the first time last year, Marshall notched 138 2/3 innings of 5.13 ERA ball, with 7.8 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, is a 24-year-old infielder who has seen limited action in two brief stints with the Reds. In 514 Triple-A plate appearances last year, he put up a .274/.319/.335 line. Rodriguez has spent a majority of his time in the minors at second, but has also played third and short.


Homer Bailey, Reds Progressing Toward Deal

WEDNESDAY: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the contract will be worth $100-110MM and contain an option for a seventh season. Tomorrow's arbitration hearing is unlikely to happen, Heyman adds.

TUESDAY: Bailey and the Reds are "on the one-yard line" in their extension talks, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio.

MONDAY: Bailey confirmed to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he and the Reds are getting closer to a multi-year extension, though he didn't comment on specific parameters: "We're going in the right direction. The majority of it is worked out," the right-hander told Fay (Twitter links).

SUNDAY: Homer Bailey and the Reds are "getting close" on a six-year deal worth around $100MM, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer tweets. Earlier today, ESPN's Jim Bowden reported Reds GM Walt Jocketty had said he was hopeful the two sides could reach a deal. Bailey is represented by Excel Sports Management.

Bailey is eligible for free agency after the season, and as a relatively young pitcher coming off a strong season in Cincinnati (209 innings, 3.49 ERA, 8.6 K/9, 2.3 BB/9), he figures to be in line for a large contract once he does. Bailey has asked for $11.6MM in his last year of arbitration eligibility, with the Reds filing for $8.7MM. He made $5.35MM in 2013.

If Bailey were to sign a six-year, $100MM contract, it would essentially amount to a five-year, $90MM deal that begins in 2015, given that the arbitration process controls his 2014 salary. Such a deal would likely have made Bailey the second-highest-paid pitcher in this year's free-agent class, behind Masahiro Tanaka (depending, of course, on the contracts Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana receive, although it's difficult to see either of them approaching $90MM). That seems reasonable, given Bailey's age and talent. Clayton Kershaw's recent seven-year, $215MM contract came with between five and six years of service time, although clearly, Bailey isn't Kershaw's peer. Another recent touchstone for pitchers approaching free agency was Cole Hamels' six-year, $144MM contract, signed halfway through the 2012 season.

If the Reds are able to sign Bailey, it will reduce the amount of talent in the 2014-15 free agent starting pitching class, which also includes Max Scherzer and James Shields. Bailey's deal would come in the midst of a flurry of February extensions that includes Coco Crisp of the Athletics, Michael Brantley of the Indians, and Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel of the Braves.

For the Reds, signing Bailey long-term would be by far the biggest move in what's been a quiet offseason — since firing manager Dusty Baker, the Reds have traded catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Rays, re-signed reliever Manny Parra, and added infielder Skip Schumaker and catcher Brayan Pena. They've also lost star outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and pitcher Bronson Arroyo to free agency. 



Extension Notes: Bailey, Masterson, Samardzija, Segura, Simmons, Sandoval, Belt

Homer Bailey and the Reds were said earlier today to be close to a new deal, but nothing had materialized as of this evening. In the latest update, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports that details are still being worked out. GM Walt Jocketty echoed his star hurler's comments, saying that progress had been made. "There are still some outstanding issues," said Jocketty. "Hopefully they get resolved in the next 24 hours or else people are going to have to suit it up and go east." Jocketty was referring, of course, to donning not baseball uniforms but rather the business attire necessary for an arbitration hearing. "It's a lot of little things," Jocketty continued. "The structure of the contract, how it's paid and things like that."

Here's a look at some other potential extension situations shaping up around baseball …

  • Though the threat of an arbitration hearing has been avoided between Justin Masterson and the Indians, those parties could be operating on something of a deadline of their own. Masterson, a comparable pitcher to Bailey in many ways, is also entering his final season of arb-eligibility before hitting the open market. Though Masterson has said he'd be willing to continue discussions into the season, club GM Chris Antonetti says that he would rather keep talks to the spring, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.
  • Another power pitcher, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, currently stands to qualify for free agency after 2015. As ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers reported today, team president Theo Epstein still hopes a deal can be worked out. On the other hand, his comments echoed some of the sentiment recently expressed by Samardzija, who indicated that the sides had reached something of a stalemate in negotiations. "Sometimes there is going to be a natural gap where a player values himself for what he can do and the team has to factor in a little bit more what he has done," Epstein explained. "It doesn't mean we're tremendously far apart, but if you are apart you kind of table it for another day and we'll see what happens."
  • The Brewers previously explored extension talks with young shortstop Jean Segura, but those discussions did not lead anywhere. The club remains interested, but as MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports, nothing has occurred in the interim. "We're always open to [extension talks]," said GM Doug Melvin. "We've locked up some, some we didn't. We didn't get Prince [Fielder]. We offered him a deal earlier on to buy into free agency, but it just depends what players want. Not a lot of them want long-term deals that will take away free agency, and we like to get deals that have at least a year of free agency if we can."
  • Another promising young shortstop, the Braves' Andrelton Simmons, has watched as three youthful teammates inked long-term deals in recent deays. As David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes (link behind paywall), Simmons is keeping his eye on the field but would be interested in a new contract. "I'm just focused on playing," said Simmons. "If it happens, great. I love Atlanta. So hopefully something gets done. But you never know." As O'Brien points out, uncertainty remains in Simmons' arbitration value. Not only does it remain unclear whether he will qualify as a Super Two (he has 1.125 years of service time), but his immense defensive value may not translate into commensurate arbitration earnings. Of course, another defense-first shortstop — Elvis Andrus of the Rangers — was able to ink a shorter-term, early-career deal (at three years of service) and then land another, much greater extension just a year later.
  • The Giants have at least two worthy extension candidates. The first and more pressing, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, is entering his final season before hitting the open market at age 28. But the sides are currently not engaged in talks, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Cotillo notes that today's physical could have a bearing on how things play out. Sandoval, who at times has seen his conditioning questioned, has made some waves by slimming down entering camp this year.
  • A different sort of urgency is shaping up with regard to Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who is scheduled for an arbitration hearing bright and early tomorrow. As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, though discussions are presently focused on Belt's 2014 salary (the sides stand far apart at $3.6MM and $2.05MM), GM Brian Sabean says he remains interested in exploring a longer-term deal. "We like the player," said Sabean. "We think he's one of the up-and-coming players in the National League and we want to hold onto him. But first things first." What Sabean seems to mean is that Belt's future earning capacity through arbitration is very much tied to the divergent filing figures submitted by each side.
  • Indeed, Belt would stand at the same starting point as fellow Super Two first baseman Eric Hosmer (who agreed to a $3.6MM price with the Royals) if he wins his hearing. That would set both players on a potentially higher arbitration trajectory than that of another young first bagger, Atlanta's Freddie Freeman, who just inked a monster extension to avoid arbitration in his first of just three seasons of eligibility. Freeman had filed at $5.75MM, with the Braves countering at $4.5MM; both Belt and Hosmer could easily land in that realm with another big year. As I recently explained in discussing the impact of the Freeman deal, Belt and Hosmer could potentially look to Freeman's eight-year, $135MM contract as a target — though it remains to be seen, of course, whether their employers would go to that level.

Extension Notes: Segura, Bailey, Quintana, Parker

Shortstop Jean Segura and the Brewers figure to discuss a contract extension this spring, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo reports. This isn't the first time the Brewers have discussed an extension with Segura, but Cotillo says that two parties haven't talked much since last fall. In September, MLBTR suggested that Segura might receive about five years and $20-23MM guaranteed in an extension, although that number might need to be upward somewhat given extensions that have been reached since then. He's set to become arbitration-eligible after the 2015 season, and free agency-eligible after 2018. Here are more notes on extensions.

  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty still has hope that his team can sign Homer Bailey long-term and believes he has made progress toward that goal, ESPN's Jim Bowden tweetsRecent reports have indicated that Bailey and the Reds aren't close on an extension, which makes sense, given Bailey's situation — he's eligible for free agency after the season and should be in line for a hefty new contract.
  • The White Sox and pitcher Jose Quintana do not plan to discuss an extension during spring training, Cotillo tweets. Quintana, 25, posted a 3.51 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 200 innings in 2013. He will likely be eligible for arbitration next offseason as a Super Two player.
  • Pitcher Jarrod Parker and the Athletics have not talked about an extension this offseason, but they could do so this spring, Cotillo tweets. The righty threw 197 innings in 2013, posting a 3.97 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. He's arbitration-eligible after the 2014 season.

Quick Hits: Bailey, Dodgers, Kemp, Red Sox, Orioles

Let's round up some stray links from the day:

  • The possible extension of Homer Bailey by the Reds has been a hot topic lately, but talks could spill over into the regular season, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com. If a deal cannot be reached, Bailey would be among the more attractive starters to hit the open market next year.
  • The Dodgers' glut of starting-caliber outfielders has long been mentioned as the possible basis for a trade, though we've heard little chatter of late. One of the team's biggest question marks is the health of one of its four highly-paid options: Matt Kemp. The 29-year-old bristled today at the notion that he could be a fourth outfielder, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times"I don't know where you get this fourth outfielder talk from," said Kemp. "… I think all four of us outfielders feel the same way. None of us are fourth outfielders. Everybody wants to play every day. I won't accept that role. I can't accept that role." 
  • Though the Dodgers' enviable cash position certainly has its benefits, it can create issues of its own, writes Rob Neyer of FOX Sports. When teams commit big dollars to players, says Neyer, they tend to keep trotting out those players even if their performance no longer warrants the playing time. But the game may now be flush enough with cash, suggests Neyer, that clubs will feel more comfortable with treating such deals as the sunk costs they are and cutting ties when necessary.
  • There are no active discussions involving Red Sox starters, reports WEEI.com's Alex Speier. With many quality free agents still yet to sign, says Speier, the expectation is that a trade market for Boston's arms will not develop until March (if it does so at all).
  • The Orioles opened camp with 29 pitchers, with three more yet to report, writes Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun. Manager Buck Showalter indicated that he is pleased with the depth and number of options at the club's disposal, particularly since Baltimore figures to be able to keep most of those players regardless of who makes the Opening Day roster. "We kept our flexibility with only two or three exceptions," said Showalter. "We don't have a lot of pitchers out of options, really. We'll be able to keep the depth. It''s obviously too early to handicap anything, but if it doesn't get separated by injury, it's going to be pretty competitive at the end."

Minor Moves: Robinson, Knapp, Egan, Morillo, Garrison, Wrigley, Geer, Johnson

Here are some of today's notable minor moves — a rather interesting group on the whole — all courtesy of Baseball America's Matt Eddy unless otherwise noted:

  • Catcher Chris Robinson will retire, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 29-year-old, who was a 3rd round pick of the Tigers back in 2005, had a chance to see his first MLB action (and hit his first home run) last year with the Padres. At Triple-A with the Pads and Orioles, Robinson put up a .282/.307/.320 line in 255 plate appearances.
  • The Rangers have signed righty Jason Knapp to a minor league deal, tweets Eddy. As MLBTR's Steve Adams recently explained, Knapp is attempting a comeback after washing out of baseball following successive shoulder surgeries. The big hurler was once a top prospect, and headlined the deal that sent Cliff Lee from the Indians to the Phillies. Though he hasn't thrown a professional pitch since 2010, Knapp is just 23 years old and reportedly has managed to build his heater back up into the 90s.
  • Reliever Pat Egan has signed with the Reds, Eddy tweets. Though he has yet to crack the bigs at age 29, the towering righty has found success in recent seasons at the upper reaches of the minors. In 2013 with the Braves organization, Egan notched a 2.95 ERA in 73 1/3 innings (though he was better at Double-A than Triple-A). And in 2012, he was good for 67 innings of 1.61 ERA ball for the Orioles' top affiliates.
  • Reliever Juan Morillo has signed a minor league deal with the Orioles, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun recently reported. The 30-year-old fireballer struggled in four MLB cups of coffee, and washed out of American professional baseball after 2012 as his walk totals reached unsustainable levels. According to Encina, Morillo served as the closer for the Taiwanese EDA Rhinos, during which time his heater registered at a league-record 99.4 mph.
  • The Orioles have also signed lefty Steve Garrison and first baseman Henry Wrigley to minor league deals, tweets Eddy. Garrison, 27, has thrown in just one big league game, and worked 43 2/3 innings of 3.30 ball for the Diamondbacks' Double-A affiliate last year, his first as a reliever. In the process, he boasted significantly higher strikeout totals (10.1 K/9) than he carried as a starter. Wrigley, also 27, spent his entire career in the minors with the Rays before moving to the Rockies in 2013. Previously a solid (if strikeout-prone) hitter with 20-home run power, Wrigley struggled to a .188/.227/.348 line in 119 Double-A plate appearances last year.
  • Righty Josh Geer has re-signed with the Padres, Eddy tweets. Geer battled back from Stage III melanoma before the 2012 season. Now 30, the RIce University product saw time in the bigs over 2008-09 but has thrown in the upper minors since. Working mostly as a reliever for the first time last year, he threw 104 1/3 innings of 3.54 ERA baseball with 6.9 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9.
  • Longtime catcher Rob Johnson will attempt to move onto the mound with the Padres organization, Eddie notes in the same tweet. The 31-year-old saw MLB action behind the dish in every season between 2007-13, carrying a lifetime .200/.275/.295 line in the process. Though a surprising number of converted catchers have found success as pitchers, far fewer can say they appeared at both positions at the big league level.
  • One example that Johnson can hope to emulate is Chris Hatcher, who has seen MLB time as a catcher and pitcher. Hatcher was recently designated by the Marlins and remains in DFA limbo. As MLBTR's DFA Tracker shows, two others join Hatcher in waiting to learn their fates: Henry Rodriguez (Reds) and Jimmy Paredes (Marlins).

Reds Sign Chien-Ming Wang

FEBRUARY 14, 2014: Wang can opt out on May 31st or June 30th, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com.

DECEMBER 19, 2013: The Reds have signed right-hander Chien-Ming Wang to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, according to a news release in Taiwan from Wang's agency, Octagon (via Focus News Taiwan). Wang would earn $1.25MM upon making the Major League roster and could see his salary hit $3MM should he reach all of the incentives in the deal.

Wang, 34 in March, turned in a pair of brilliant starts for the Blue Jays last season but saw those two excellent starts sandwiched by a series of poor outings that led to a 7.67 ERA with 4.7 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and a 58 percent ground-ball rate in 27 frames. The Taiwanese hurler was very solid between the Triple-A affiliates for the Blue Jays and Yankees though, pitching to a 2.87 ERA with 4.5 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 109 2/3 innings.

Wang's big league career got off to a promising start, as he posted a 3.79 ERA in 628 2/3 innings over parts of four seasons (2005-08) with the Yankees. That run included a pair of sub-4.00 ERA, 200-inning seasons — one of which landed him second in the AL Cy Young voting.

Injuries are the likely reason for Wang's 6.60 ERA in 163 innings since the 2009 season. His 2008 season was cut short by a Lis Franc fracture in his foot, and he then required shoulder surgery in 2009. It's been an uphill battle for the veteran since that time, though last year's Triple-A work and an impressive showing in the World Baseball Classic give some reason for a bit of optimism.


NL Central Notes: Latos, Bailey, Samardzija, Pirates, Neshek

The Reds announced today that right-hander Mat Latos had minor surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. He's scheduled to return to his regular throwing program in 10 days (Twitter links). MLB.com's Mark Sheldon writes that Latos injured the knee a couple of days ago when he slipped while playing long-toss. Latos also had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow back in October, Sheldon adds. Though the club does not seem overly concerned, it remains uncertain whether or not Latos will be ready for Opening Day. Here's more from the NL Central…

  • Fellow Reds hurler Homer Bailey says that he is still in extension talks with the club, the Cincinnati Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans reports. Even with an arbitration hearing scheduled for February 20th, Bailey said that the sides "haven't really talked one-year that much, it's been primarily multi-year." It was recently reported that, though talks continued, Bailey and the Reds remain far apart.
  • For another extension candidate, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, the reported gap in negotiations may be generating some friction, as Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. "The emotional attachment I have to this organization, a lot of times you just give the benefit of the doubt," said Samardzija. But, he added: "The more this process goes along, the more I realize it is a business and that only goes so far."
  • Samardzija painted a picture of a negotiation process in which both parties fully understood the others' position, but are seemingly unwilling to give in. "If there wasn't a gap, we would have signed," said Samardzija. "But both sides are justified. It's not like anyone is asking for some outlandish concept. I understand where they're coming from, and they understand where we're coming from. That's really all there is to say."
  • Meanwhile, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says that the team kept some of its off-season powder dry, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports"In the two previous off-seasons, we've spent every dollar available to us," said Epstein, "and this is the first winter where we ended up keeping some in reserve to be used on players [that are] hopefully prime-age, impact-type players down the road. It gives us a bit of a leg up as we look toward next winter or an in-season move that might make the present and the future better." Epstein went on to discuss how those funds could be put to use. "Rather than just spend the money to spend it," said Epstein," if we can book that and have it available to us to sign that international free agent who comes along in the summer or to acquire a player in a trade who carries significant salary but fits for the long term, or to just start out next off-season knowing we can be a little more aggressive on the guys we really want early because the money will be available to us, that made more sense than spending the money now just to spend it." 
  • The Pirates have heard some complaints about their failure to spend significant money this off-season, but the club seems unconcerned, reports MLB.com's Tom Singer. "Payroll does not equal playoff," quipped GM Neal Huntington. Having decided against making any big splashes, the Bucs will look to replicate last year's success by once more getting contributions from homegrown talent. "We are really excited by where we can get to with some of the younger players we'll see in this camp," said Huntington. "The challenge is knowing when they will be ready, because when they get here, they will have to help." Manager Clint Hurdle said that the organization "will always rely heavily on developing our own talent," placing Pittsburgh among half of the league in that respect. "You have to anticipate change and get ready for change," said Hurdle. "We have created a culture of opportunity and manning up."
  • Right-hander Pat Neshek had multiple offers this offseason but chose to sign with the Cardinals because of the chance it presented him to get to a World Series, he told MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. Neshek said that he is open to pitching for Triple-A and waiting for a spot to open up: "If I have to go down to Memphis, that's fine. There would be no problems from me. From my past experiences, if you do well, you're going to get an opportunity. It might not be right away."

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.

 


NL Notes: Nationals, Burnett, Bastardo, Marshall

Major League Baseball is dealing with several employment issues not relating to big league players. As Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reported yesterday, MLB owners voted in January to permit teams the authority to take away pension plans from any employees that do not wear a uniform. (The effect would be prospective only.) MLB COO Rob Manfred noted that the vote does not require such a course of action and said no team has cut pension benefits, while asserting defined contribution plans are a reasonable alternative retirement structure. Though Rubin reports that some clubs appear primed to make reductions, Manfred disputed that it was inevitable. Meanwhile, as Wendy Thurm of Fangraphs details, MLB is now defending multiple lawsuits filed by interns, volunteers, and, most recently, minor league ballplayers. 

Here are some notes from the National League …

  • After today's trade for catcher Jose Lobaton and a pair of prospects, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo explained his reasoning, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post was among those to report. RIzzo said that Lobaton "fit the criteria we were looking for" due to his switch-hitting abilities and solid pitch-framing ratings, the latter of which Rizzo labeled "key" to the deal. "Switch hitting is certainly a bonus," said Rizzo. "Our statistical analysis people rank all the catchers in baseball, and he ranks very well in the framing." Rizzo said that he was particularly high on Felipe Rivero, indicating that he felt like he took the place of fellow 22-year-old southpaw Robbie Ray, who was shipped out in the Doug Fister deal. The Washington GM labeled Rivero a "huge-upside left-handed starter."
  • The Pirates' inability to reel back A.J. Burnett is based, at root, in a decision not to allocate all of the club's free payroll space to one arm, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Though Pittsburgh ultimately made a $12MM offer to Burnett, the club went into the off-season hoping to spread approximately $17MM to $19MM among multiple acquisitions, and came close to landing both Josh Johnson and James Loney. That explains much of the team's decision not to make Burnett a qualifying offer, says Sawchik, though he opines that the offer likely would have been declined. "It's always easy to look in hindsight," said GM Neal Huntington. "If [Burnett had] accepted the offer it would have had a significant impact on what we could have done. … It would have affected our approach on the first base market, the right field market, and bullpen market. If we had [a] crystal ball and seen this is the way it would play out maybe things are different."
  • Even after inking Burnett to a $16MM deal that reportedly pushes the Phillies player contract tab right up to (if not over) the $189MM luxury tax line, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said today that the club's payroll remains flexible, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
  • Philadelphia reliever Antonio Bastardo will look to return from a 50-game PED suspension last year arising out of the Biogenesis scandal. In addition to expressing contrition today, he said that he faced a 100-game ban had he appealed, tweets Nightengale.
  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty explained how his club came to claim Cubs righty Brett Marshall off of waivers, as MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports"I talked to him and he sounded like a good kid," said Jocketty. "We had good reports on him. He had one of the best changeups in the Yankees organization. He's a sinkerballer with a good slider. He's got a couple of options left."