Cincinnati Reds Rumors
With Matt Carpenter and the Cardinals are reportedly closing in on a six-year extension that will be worth $50-55MM, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the long road Carpenter has taken to get to this point. Carpenter had to settle for a $1,000 signing bonus as a fifth-year senior out of Texas Christian University and didn't establish himself as a big league regular until age-27. Goold spoke to manager Mike Matheny and several Cardinals players about Carpenter's perseverance and leadership. Said Matheny: "One of those great stories — a guy who didn’t necessarily have the golden road paved for him. He came in here and worked his butt off."
Here's more on the Cardinals and the NL Central...
- Matheny also told Goold that Cardinals non-roster invitee Pat Neshek's chances of making the club are largely tied to his ability to retire left-handed hitters. Neshek did just that in his most recent appearance, but lefties have been a problem for the sidearmer over the past two seasons. Matheny doesn't want two specialists in his bullpen, and he already has lefty specialist Randy Choate as a fixture in the relief corps.
- MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince looks at the turbulent last year for Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, who has found himself at the center of controversy and trade speculation. Castrovince notes that it was Phillips' brash attitude that got him traded from Cleveland to Cincinnati, and some of that has been on display in recent months. Phillips laughed off the notion that he's declined, citing his RBI total and Gold Glove Award, but did say that the offseason trade rumors hurt him to an extent. "This offseason, I really found out that baseball is a business," he told Castrovince. "...Did it [hurt]? Yeah, it [hurt]. I did as much as I can for this organization when it comes to social media or caravans or Reds Fest. I did it all because I wanted to do it. Not because they asked me to do it; because I wanted to do it."
- Emilio Bonifacio and Jose Veras have a presence among the Cubs' young Latin American prospects, right-hander Carlos Villanueva tells MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. Villanueva says that prospects such as Arismendy Alcantara and Jeudy Valdez idolized Bonifacio as they grew up watching him play in the Dominican Winter Leagues. Bonifacio tells Muskat he tries to laugh and share his energy with everyone to keep the clubhouse positive.
The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options. That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so. I've included players on multiyear deals. This list was compiled through MLBTR's sources. Today, we'll take a look at the NL Central.
Francisco is competing with Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay for the Brewers' first base job. It's hard to imagine a scenario where all three make the team, wrote Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last week. Reynolds and Overbay signed minor league deals, but it seems likely at least one of them will make the team. When Reynolds signed in January, it was said the Brewers told him he'll almost certainly make the team, so Overbay might have to beat out Francisco, who has the advantage of already being on the 40-man roster.
Back in February, Curt Hogg of Disciples of Uecker dissected the Brewers' reserve infielder situation, explaining that while they may need to carry seven infielders, Bianchi still seems needed as the only one capable of backing up Jean Segura at shortstop.
McDonald is competing with Chris Rusin for the Cubs' fifth starter job, at least until Jake Arrieta's shoulder is deemed ready. Meanwhile, Cabrera is battling for the final bullpen spot with about a half-dozen others.
The Bucs' seven primary relievers last year were Jason Grilli, Melancon, Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, Gomez, Mazzaro, and Morris, and indeed, that was their bullpen for the NLDS. It would be difficult for Oliver to break into that group, but surely the Pirates don't want to lose the hard-throwing Pimentel. Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects thinks they'll find a place for him. Some kind of trade makes sense to clear the logjam, barring injury.
Reds: Alfredo Simon
Simon is in good standing as a member of the Reds' pen.
MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark doesn't expect the Collective Bargaining Agreement to be reopened before its 2016 expiration to address issues with the qualifying offer system, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. "It’s very difficult to open up a CBA," said Clark. "Suffice it to say, if there are issues during the course of any agreement, we continue to have discussions that may not require the CBA be to opened up, making sure that whatever the concerns are, whatever the issues are, and if they can be discussed in some more formal fashion, so be it, but more often than not, come 2016 when we have an opportunity to sit down is when we’ll do so." Last night, Aaron Steen asked MLBTR readers about the qualifying offer and nearly 47% want to tweak the QO while 25% want to eliminate it entirely.
In National League news and notes on Oscar Sunday:
- With the ink barely dry on Homer Bailey's six-year, $105MM contract extension, the Reds will be in the same situation with starters Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Johnny Cueto next year. Owner Bob Castellini told the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay the team wants to retain all three. "We’re going to try to sign all these guys," Castellini said. "Whether we can or not, I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball."
- Castellini also told Fay he is not pleased with the media's coverage of the Reds' offseason because it has had an adverse affect on the team's revenues. "That season-ticket number is the most important number we can generate," said Castellini. "We knew we wanted to sign Homer. We knew we were going to make some other commitments. It’s not that we didn’t look. It gets written in such a way – 'Well, the Reds aren’t doing anything' – that really does affect people buying season tickets." Castellini provided Fay with details of the club's revenue generated through ticket sales, sponsorships, and the national TV contract adding neither he nor any of the other principal owners or investors have ever taken money out of the franchise.
- Last month, the Braves gave Jason Heyward a two-year, $13.3MM contract. In two years, the perfect storm of baseball's economics, Heyward's age, and actions taken by the Braves will set the 24-year-old up for a huge payday on a likely barren free agent market, according to Mike Petriello of ESPN.com in an Insider-only piece (subscription required).
- With mixed reviews to date, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez made his Spring Training debut yesterday. Phillies GM Ruban Amaro Jr. was upbeat about what he saw, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. "He probably threw better with his stuff as far as his velocity and breaking ball since he's been in camp," Amaro said. "I was encouraged that his stuff was better than it had been in his sides. And hopefully it will continue to progress in a positive way." Pitching coach Bob McClure added (as quoted by Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Inquirer), "I saw a very competitive (guy), and that is what I was really hoping for. And he might be one of those guys that’s not the best practice player, but you put him in a game and he competes." Reports surfaced last week Gonzalez could open the season in the minors.
- Solid pitching will be key to any improvement the Rockies hope to make this season. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick focuses on young starters Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler while the Denver Post's Troy E. Renck examines the Rockies' adherence to pitch counts to protect their starting rotation and the corresponding reliance on their bullpen, which could be called upon to record 10 or 11 outs every game.
MLB.com's Corey Brock brought readers into the dugout for some game action in an interesting read today. Receiving permission to camp out with the Padres during their game Thursday, Brock observed a number of inside snippets. For instance, infielder Stephen Carmon, who came over from minor league camp as depth and did not play, enjoyed a peaceful afternoon chatting with some veterans and sampling the wide variety of sunflower seed flavors made available.
Here are a few notes from around baseball:
- In another great story out of the NL West, Alex Pavloic of the San Jose Mercury News tells how 31-year-old Mark Minicozzi took an improbable path -- around the world, through multiple injuries, and over multiple years -- to rejoining the Giants. He left the organization after 2007, only to come back in 2012. Last year, he homered in his first Spring Training at-bat with the big club after coming over from the minor-league side for a road trip. This year, he earned his first non-roster invitation, and had his first ever start today. In his first trip to the plate, he swatted another long ball. Though Minicozzi still has many obstacles to overcome to reach a regular-season MLB game, his tale is testament to the power of perseverance and positive thinking.
- The second base position for the Dodgers is now a "full-blown tryout camp," reports MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. Major offseason acquisition Alex Guerrero continues to try to learn second while adapting to the pace of the big league game, and Gurnick says it seems as if he'll start off in Triple-A. Though Dee Gordon is the other player that the team would like to see emerge, he too has not separated himself from a pack that includes Brendan Harris, Chone Figgins, Justin Turner, and Miguel Rojas.
- Infielder Jack Hannahan has not yet appeared in full spring action for the Reds because he underwent offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum, reports MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. Hannahan struggled mightily last year, but was apparently playing through the injury the entire time. The 33-year-old is in the final guaranteed year of a two-year, $4MM deal that comes with a $4MM club option for next season.
The Pirates claimed Brent Morel off waivers because they felt they needed a better "Plan B" in the event of an injury to Pedro Alvarez, manager Clint Hurdle told Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh has been following Morel since 2011 and had interest in him when he was placed on waivers in December, writes Brink. Toronto claimed him then, but Pittsburgh got their second chance this week and claimed him based on his solid defense, hands and power, said Hurdle. Morel told Brink that he's thankful for the opportunity and that, as a Steelers fan, he's excited to play in Pittsburgh.
A few more NL Central links as we await the start of the weekend...
- Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times that trade talks don't bother him, but instead simply put a chip on his shoulder when he pitches. Wittenmyer writes that the Blue Jays and D'Backs have shown interest in Samardzija this winter, and an executive from a third team called the 29-year-old a "monster in the making." Samardzija is used to pitching in front of scouts for numerous other clubs and simply smiled as he told Wittenmyer, "You want to put on a good show for them."
- ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers took a look at the scenarios to watch in Cubs camp during Spring Training yesterday, most notably wondering if February pickup Emilio Bonifacio can supplant Darwin Barney at second base. He also examined whether or not July 2013 acquisition Mike Olt can recover from his vision issues and take the third base job from Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy.
- Michael Lorenzen was a two-way player when the Reds selected him 38th overall in last year's draft, having served as an outfielder and closer for Cal State Fullerton. In a piece for Baseball America, C. Trent Rosencrans reported that the Reds have told Lorenzen he will focus on pitching, and not only that, but they value him as a starting pitcher. Lorenzen sounded pleased with the decision and has already been talking with college-closer-turned-starter Tony Cingrani in Spring Training. "I’m picking his brain," Lorenzen told Rosencrans. "We’ve been in the same situation as a college guy moving quick. He’s been really good with me."
The Mets still have a big hole at shortstop, and Stephen Drew is the perfect player to fill it, ESPN's Jim Bowden writes, suggesting the Mets should offer a deal in the two-year, $22MM range. Bowden argues Drew will help create a "winning environment" that will aid the Mets' core of young pitching. And with the qualifying offer dragging down Drew's market, the Mets are likely to get a deal that they might not get next offseason, when J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie and Asdrubal Cabrera will be available. Here are more notes from the National League.
- Cubs prospect Javier Baez denies rumors that he's looking for a new agent, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Baez became a client of KPS Sports in September. "I don't know how this got started. I'm not sure. But that's a lie," Baez says. "I'm still with my (agency). They're doing a great job."
- The Reds would like to have former star third baseman Scott Rolen back as a guest instructor, Cincinnati.com's John Fay writes. Manager Bryan Price notes that Rolen would likely return in a player-development capacity, and the main obstacle right now is Rolen's commitment to his family.
MLB.com's Mark Sheldon spoke with Reds outfielder Donald Lutz, the first German-developed Major League player. Lutz was called up to the majors in late April, hitting .241/.254/.310 in 59 plate appearances while serving mostly as a bench bat. His lone home run during that time, however, was likely seen by thousands of Germans when a clip of it was broadcast during Lutz's appearance this winter on a late night German talk show. "It was the first time something about baseball was streamed out nationwide to the most viewers," the outfielder said. Sheldon says Lutz could position himself for another callup with a strong Spring Training. Here's more from the NL Central:
- Look for the Reds to be more active on the basepaths under manager Bryan Price, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick writes. Speedster Billy Hamilton should factor heavily into the new strategy, but the Reds also believe 6-3, 220-pound third baseman Todd Frazier could be good for 10 to 15 steals.
- Crasnick tweets that industry sources say Cubs infielder Javier Baez, ranked the No. 5 prospect in the game by Baseball America, may be looking for a new agent. The infielder changed agents as recently as last year, Crasnick notes. MLBTR's agency database shows Baez is currently represented by KPS Sports.
- Cubs pitcher Arodys Vizcaino hit 98 on the radar gun during his first live batting practice session this Spring Training, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reports. Vizcaino had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and did not pitch at all in 2013, but has ranked as high as No. 40 on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list in the past.
Homer Bailey and the Reds have officially agreed to terms on a six-year, $105MM extension, including a $25MM mutual option with a $5MM buyout. Cincinnati will control the 27-year-old hurler through at least the 2019 campaign.
Bailey, a client of Excel Sports Management, successfully avoids arbitration by agreeing to the massive extension and also forgoes his first venture into free agency, which would have come at the end of the 2014 season. He had filed for an $11.6MM salary last month, while the Reds countered with an offer of $8.7MM. The two have been said to be working on a long-term deal for quite some time.
The former No. 7 overall draft pick back in 2004, Bailey has steadily improved over the past few seasons, culminating in a 2013 campaign that saw him post a 3.49 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 46.1 percent ground-ball rate in 209 innings. That marked the second consecutive season in which Bailey had posted a 200-inning campaign with an ERA well under 4.00 and a K/BB ratio of well over 3-to-1. It bears noting, also, that Bailey has thrown no-hitters in each of the last two seasons.
Bailey's deal accelerates throughout. He will receive $9MM and $10MM over the next two years, then see a significant bump to $18MM in 2016, $19MM in 2017, $21MM in 2018, and $23MM in 2019.
Notably, a significant portion of each year's annual salary will be deferred until the month of November, after the end of each season covered. Bailey's in-season salaries will be $3MM (2014), $4MM (2015), $11MM (2016), $12MM (2017), $14MM (2018), and $15MM (2019), with the remainder deferred to the fall of each year. Likewise, the $5MM buyout of the mutual option year is deferred until the following November, if it becomed payable. If Bailey is dealt, however, that aspect of the contract is swept away and he would receive all money during the appropriate season (or, in the case of the buyout, at the point that the option is declined).
Though the Reds are a small-market club with definite payroll restrictions, the team has spent aggressively in recent years to secure its talent. Cincinnati issued a franchise-record 10-year, $225MM extension to Joey Votto in April 2012 and locked up second baseman Brandon Phillips on a six-year, $72.5MM extension one week after that deal. With a salary in the range of $10MM likely had they avoided arbitration on a one-year deal, Bailey has essentially signed away five free-agent seasons for a total guarantee of $95MM -- or $19MM annually.
Despite that spending, the deal calls into question whether or not the Reds will be able to retain the rest of its rotation. Bronson Arroyo has already departed via free agency, but the Reds are equipped to handle that loss for the time being (rookie Tony Cingrani will fill his spot). More pressing will be the contractual situations of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Mike Leake -- all of whom are under control through the 2015 season. Latos, in particular, would be costly to sign to a long-term deal, but it would seem difficult for the Reds to allow 60 percent of their rotation to walk in two years' time, even with Cingrani and top prospect Robert Stephenson on the horizon.
For the time being, Bailey will return to a strong Reds rotation that will also include Cueto, Latos, Leake and Cingrani. His extension weakens the 2014-15 free agent class, which is currently set to be headlined by Max Scherzer, James Shields, Justin Masterson and Jon Lester. It remains to be seen whether any of those names come off the board as well. Lester, in particular, appears to be a likely extension candidate, and both Scherzer and Masterson have been rumored to be in line for new deals as well. Bailey and Masterson are relatively close in age and are coming off of similarly valuable campaigns, making the former's extension a particularly relevant comparable for the Indians hurler.
The move is unquestionably the largest of the season for the Reds, who otherwise made a series of fairly small moves. Cincinnati traded Ryan Hanigan to the Rays in a three-team deal; inked free agents Brayan Pena, Skip Schumaker and Manny Parra to two-year deals; and also worked out a two-year extension for right-hander Sam LeCure. Most notably, however, are the departures of Arroyo and Shin-Soo Choo. GM Walt Jocketty, new manager Bryan Price and the rest of the Reds' brass are hopeful that Cingrani can fill Arroyo's shoes, and that top prospect Billy Hamilton can occupy center field and the leadoff position in the absence of Choo.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes first reported that the parties were close to a six-year extension. MLB.com's Mark Sheldon was first to report that a deal was in place. Joe Kay of the Associated Press reported the annual breakdown.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
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.
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.