Cleveland Indians Rumors

Cleveland Indians trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Central Notes: Ramirez, Shields, Reds

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince takes a look at some folks around the league who are, in his view, facing make-or-break seasons. He includes some less obvious names, but two players stand out who could conceivably be All-Stars or become non-tender candidate: Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates and Mike Moustakas of the Royals.

Here are some notes from the game’s Central divisions…

  • The Indians had the team’s defense in mind when they traded Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals at the July 31 non-waiver deadline, manager Terry Francona explains to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). However, Francona admits that there was some hesitation on Cleveland’s behalf because of how they thought the move would be perceived by fans and the rest of the roster. “…[GM Chris Antonetti] was justifiably concerned about the perception, that we were throwing up the white flag. So we had to kind of decide, ‘OK, look, we believe in what we’re doing and we’ll make sure the players understand that we think we can actually be a better team and get a prospect back.’ I think it took awhile, but once [Jose] Ramirez came up and everybody saw how he played shortstop, they saw why we wanted to make the move. We love Cabby — always will — but we felt we had a chance to get a little bit more athletic at shortstop and you saw the way Jose played.”
  • Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals are still monitoring James Shields‘ free agency, though he notes it’s likely just due diligence. Said general manager Dayton Moore said to McCullough: “I’m not sure there’s a fit.” As McCullough notes in a followup tweet, the Royals have six starting pitchers under contract (including Kris Medlen), and the team’s payroll is already set to top $110MM — a club record.
  • The Reds completed a four-year extension with catcher Devin Mesoraco earlier today that bought out all three of his arbitration seasons and one free agent year, but it doesn’t sound like agreements for the team’s remaining arb-eligible players are close. GM Walt Jocketty told MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that the Reds are “a ways apart” with both Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman (Twitter link). It sounds like Cincinnati may have spoken with Frazier’s agents at CAA about an extension as well, via the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay, but things don’t look promising based on his tweet. Jocketty tells Fay that the Reds talked to Frazier about a new deal, “but we’re not nearly as close as we were with Mesoraco.”

Indians Notes: Payroll, Kluber, Murphy

Indians president Mark Shapiro says the team has the flexibility to add payroll if the right opportunity presents itself, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes. “We try not to be encumbered at all by what payroll is and salaries are. Is there a way for us to creatively handle it?” says Shapiro. “[W]hat kills deals 95 percent of the time is not payroll, but player asks. Salary is not usually where it stops, but player asks.” The Indians’ only significant moves this offseason have been their acquisitions of Brandon Moss and Gavin Floyd, but it sounds like they could consider making other additions either this winter or in-season. Here are more notes from Cleveland, which hosted Tribe Fest this weekend.

  • Shapiro says the Indians plan to consider an extension for Corey Kluber in the near future, reports Bastian. “As prioritization of the calendar goes, it’s something we’ll probably look at over the next couple of months,” says Shapiro, cautioning that it’s not clear whether Kluber and the Indians will be able to agree to terms. “He has all the precursors that we would look for to enter into a multiyear agreement.” Last August, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd reviewed Kluber’s extension prospects. The Indians already control Kluber through his age-32 season, but with an extension, they could control him for even longer while keeping his arbitration-year salaries reasonable. Meanwhile, Kluber, who is still a zero-to-three player, would get long-term security.
  • With Moss’ addition and a variety of other corner outfield/DH types on the Indians’ roster, outfielder David Murphy understands that he’ll lose playing time but would not mind being traded if his plate appearances stood to be drastically cut, Bastian writes. “I’m prepared to lose playing time, but not to the point where I’m going to get 150 at-bats,” Murphy says. “If that’s the case, and that’s the best-case scenario for them and for me, I’m open to [a trade].” Murphy adds that he understands if the Indians need to wait and see whether Moss, who had hip surgery in October, and Nick Swisher, who had knee surgery in August, are healthy. Murphy, 33, hit a passable .262/.319/.385 in his first season in Cleveland in 2015, although with defense that rated as significantly below average. He has one more season on his contract, plus a $500K buyout on a $7MM option for 2016.

AL Central Notes: Johan, Hughes, Reimold, Swisher, Sox

Though Johan Santana‘s comeback attempt briefly stalled when he experienced some shoulder discomfort, it appears he’s back on course, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the former Cy Young winner will throw a bullpen session today and is tentatively scheduled to pitch Game 5 of the Venezuelan Winter League finals next week. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports (via Twitter) that the Twins will be scouting each of those showings, though his sense is that a return to his former stomping grounds isn’t in the cards for Santana.

More on the Twins and their division…

  • Right-hander Phil Hughes told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger that he was excited to sign a long-term extension with the Twins in December due to the high level of comfort that he felt in his first year with the club. Hughes implied that he entered the offseason hoping to work out a longer deal and was clearly able to do that, signing for an additional three years and $42MM on Dec. 22. However, Hughes noted that he wouldn’t have signed if he didn’t think the team was close to contending in the near future. Minnesota’s enviable farm system and their willingness to spend on veterans, demonstrated by signing Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana this winter, were both factors in Hughes’ decision as well.
  • The Indians are showing a great deal of interest in Nolan Reimold, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (on Twitter). Cleveland is trying to sign the former Oriole to a minor league deal, Kubtako notes, though he adds that the Orioles remain in the mix as well. Reimold, 31, has battled significant injuries over the past few seasons but does own a solid .251/.324/.439 batting line in 1134 big league plate appearances.
  • Nick Swisher struggled through the worst season of his career last year with the Indians, though many of his struggles were likely attributable to knee problems that plagued him all season. Swisher, who underwent surgery on both knees in August, explained to MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince that his knees were so bad that he literally could not walk to the bathroom at night (Twitter links). He admitted to Castrovince that he wished he’d had the operations sooner, but wanted to play through the pain due to the investment that the Indians made in him. Cleveland inked the Ohio native to a four-year, $56MM pact two offseasons ago.
  • At their annual Sox Fest event earlier today, White Sox GM Rick Hahn told reporters, including MLB.com’s Scott Merkin, that bullpen depth and another utility infielder to use versus left-handed pitching were the two primary items remaining on his offseason wishlist (Twitter link). Hahn also said that minor league signee Geovany Soto has a good chance to make the team out of Spring Training, so long as he can show that he is healthy (via CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes).


AL Central Notes: Kluber, Arcia, Castillo, Tomas

Here’s the latest from around the AL Central…

  • As far as Corey Kluber knows, his representatives haven’t had any talks with the Indians about an extension, the Cy Young Award winner told reporters (including Zack Meisel of the Northeast Ohio Media Group).  “That’s not my job to worry about that,” Kluber said.  “My job is to go out there and pitch. I have agents that can handle that stuff for me when the time comes. My job is to get prepared to play this season.”  Kluber is one of the game’s best bargains, as he’ll pitch the 2015 season on a near-league minimum salary, though he’ll be in line for a large raise when he is arbitration-eligible next winter.  Cleveland has him under team control through the 2018 campaign.
  • The Twins were granted a fourth option year on Oswaldo Arcia, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports, so they’re in no danger of losing the outfielder on the waiver wire if he can’t find a place on the Major League roster.  Eduardo Nunez and Jordan Schafer are the only out-of-options players on the Minnesota roster.
  • Tigers assistant GM Al Avila told Mlive.com’s James Schmehl that the club had interest in Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas and discussed the Tigers’ pursuit of the two high-profile Cuban free agents.  Detroit checked in on Tomas though the club only had a moderate interest.  “We liked him a little bit, but I’d say not to the same degree as Castillo,” Avila said. “We liked him. But, unlike Castillo, where we got involved in negotiations, we didn’t with Tomas. We didn’t see him as a fit.”  While the Tigers progressed to the talking stages with Castillo, however, his price tag escalated beyond the team’s comfort zone.
  • For more Detroit baseball news, check out this collection of Tigers Notes from earlier today.

Morosi On The Closer Market

The market for free agent relievers continues to develop slowly, writes Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Three free agents with over 20 saves last season remain available – Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Casey Janssen. Per Morosi, the Blue Jays, Indians, and Brewers are looking to add a late inning reliever. Obviously, other clubs could get involved at the right price.

Each of the three free agents come with performance concerns. Rodriguez, 33, was the best of the group with 44 saves. However, he’s allowed an above average rate of home runs in his last three seasons – all spent at homer friendly Miller Park. He’s a better fit for a pitcher friendly park, which may be why the Brewers have yet to re-engage his services.

Both Soriano and Janssen lost ninth inning privileges last season. Soriano, 35, actually had a solid season based on his peripherals, but a few costly, late season blow-ups led to Drew Storen taking over as closer. As a command and control pitcher, Janssen has always been an atypical closer.

The trio is unlikely to do much better than the two-year, $15MM deal Sergio Romo signed with the Giants. In some ways, Romo was better last year than any of the remaining free agents, and he’s younger too. Like Soriano and Janssen, Romo lost the closer role mid-season.

With Tyler Clippard moving to Oakland (presumably, GM Billy Beane won’t re-trade him before the season), the most obvious trade candidate is Philadelphia’s Jonathan Papelbon. His contract is an additional impediment to a trade – he’s owed $13MM this season with a $13MM vesting option (48 games finished). While Morosi didn’t mention it, some clubs have reportedly expressed concern about Papelbon’s clubhouse presence. He missed the end of last season after an unusual crotch grabbing incident.


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.

Indians Avoid Arbitration With Moss, Tomlin, Shaw

9:46pm: Tomlin’s deal is guaranteed, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca tweets.

1:35pm: The Indians have agreed to one-year deals to avoid arbitration with first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss ($6.5MM), right-hander Josh Tomlin ($1.5MM) and right-hander Bryan Shaw ($1.55MM), reports Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (on Twitter). Moss’ salary comes in below MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz’s $7.1MM projection, while Tomlin and Shaw were closer to their respective projections of $1.7MM and $1.5MM.


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Thursday

As we approach tomorrow’s deadline for exchanging filing numbers, the volume of arb deals will increase. All arb agreements can be monitored using MLBTR’s 2015 Arbitration Tracker, but here are today’s smaller agreements, with all projections referring to those of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz:

  • The Indians have avoided arbitration with third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and agreed to a one-year, $2.25MM deal, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  It’s a slight bump over Chisenhall’s projected $2.2MM salary.  Chisenhall hit .280/.343/.427 with 13 homers in 533 PA with the Tribe last season.
  • The Indians and left-hander Marc Rzepczynski have agreed to a one-year, $2.4MM contract to avoid arbitration, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link).  Rzepczynski surpassed his projected salary with the contract, as he was pegged to earn $1.9MM next season.  The southpaw posted a 2.74 ERA, 2.42 K/BB rate and an even 46 strikeouts over 46 innings out of Cleveland’s bullpen last season.
  • The Nationals and catcher Jose Lobaton will avoid arbitration after agreeing to a deal, CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman reports.  Lobaton will earn $1.2MM, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets, which exactly matches his projected 2015 salary.  Lobaton hit .234/.287/.304 over 230 PA in backup duty for the Nats last season.
  • The Athletics and outfielder Craig Gentry agreed to a one-year, $1.6MM deal to avoid arbitration, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets.  Gentry was projected to earn $1.5MM.  After posting a .759 OPS over 556 PA in 2012-13, Gentry took a step back at the plate last season, slashing just .254/.319/.289 over 258 plate appearances but still providing tremendous defense (a +16 UZR/150).
  • The Nationals have avoided arbitration with second baseman Danny Espinosa, agreeing to a one-year, $1.8MM contract, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports.  This deal falls below Espinosa’s projected $2.3MM contract, though Espinosa hit .219/.283/.351 in 364 plate appearances for the Nats last season and managed only a .465 OPS in 167 PA in 2013.
  • The Indians agreed to a one-year, $2.337MM deal with right-hander Carlos Carrasco, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter).  This figure is a significant increase over the $1.4MM contract that was projected for Carrasco in his first arb-eligible year.  The righty enjoyed a breakout 2014 season, posting a 2.55 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and 4.83 K/BB rate over 134 innings with the Tribe.  Carrasco pitched mostly out of the bullpen but also delivered several quality starts down the stretch.
  • The Dodgers and outfielder Chris Heisey agreed to a one-year deal worth $2.16MM to avoid arbitration, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.  This is slightly less than the $2.2MM Heisey was projected to earn.  Heisey is coming off a .222/.265/.378 slash line over 299 PA with the Reds last season and was dealt to L.A. last month.
  • The Angels inked catcher Drew Butera to a one-year, $987.5K deal to avoid arbitration, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports.  Butera was projected to earn $900K next season.  The catcher posted a .555 OPS in 192 PA with the Dodgers last season and was dealt to the Halos last month.
  • The Nationals agreed to a one-year, $2.25MM contract with Craig Stammen, avoiding arbitration with the right-hander, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (via Twitter).  This figure slightly tops Stammen’s projected $2.1MM contract.  Stammen posted a 3.84 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and a 4.00 K/BB rate over 72 2/3 innings out of Washington’s bullpen last season.
  • The Cardinals agreed to a one-year, $1.65MM deal with outfielder Peter Bourjos to avoid arbitration, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  Bourjos was projected to earn $1.6MM.  Bourjos displayed his usual top-shelf defense with the Cards last season but only hit .231/.294/.348 over 294 PA.

(more…)


Indians Sign Anthony Swarzak

1:59pm: Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that Swarzak will earn $900K on the Major League roster, and the contract contains an additional $350K worth of incentives. He’ll be paid $35K for reaching 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 appearances as well as $35K for reaching 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 innings pitched. He also has a Sept. 1 opt-out clause, Berardino adds (Twitter links).

12:10pm: The Indians announced today that they’ve signed right-hander Anthony Swarzak to a minor league contract and invited him to Spring Training (Twitter link).

Swarzak, a client of Jet Sports Management, ranks second in the Majors in relief innings dating back to 2012, as the Indians note in the linked tweet. Cleveland should be plenty familiar with Swarzak, as the former second-round pick has spent his entire career with the division-rival Twins to this point.

Now 29 years of age, Swarzak has experience as both as a starter and reliever, but he’s worked primarily in long relief and as a spot starter with the Twins over the past three seasons. Swarzak enjoyed an excellent 2013 season in which he made 48 relief appearances and totaled 96 innings with a 2.91 ERA, 6.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 45.2 percent ground-ball rate. However, he took a step back in 2014, registering a 4.60 ERA with declined rate states, including 4.9 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 44.5 percent ground-ball rate.

Minnesota non-tendered Swarzak rather than pay him a projected $1.4MM in his second run through arbitration. If he makes the club in Cleveland and pitches well, he’s controllable through the 2016 campaign.


Central Notes: Stauffer, Brewers, Indians, Baker, Viciedo

Though he receives only a $2.2MM guarantee, recently-signed Twins righty Tim Stauffer can earn significantly more through incentives, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports. Stauffer can max out his deal at a total of $3.95MM ($1.75MM bonus) if he makes 55 appearances in the coming season. He can earn $250K bonuses upon his 15th, 18th, 21st, 24th, and 27th appearances, land $100K for the 45th time he takes the hill, and nab another $250K at number fifty-five.

Here’s more from the central divisions:

  • The Brewers and Indians are among the teams on the market for late-inning relief help, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Neither team intends to “spend big,” however, Rosenthal adds. Several established pen arms remain available through free agency.
  • We heard yesterday that righty Scott Baker had interest from five clubs that were offering minor league deals. The Reds are one of the teams pursuing the veteran, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, whereas the Twins are not involved.
  • The White Sox could still cut Dayan Viciedo loose this spring after agreeing to avoid arbitration, writes SB Nation’s Jim Margalus, but the club would still be on the hook for a portion of his $4.4MM salary. Margalus breaks down recent instances of such scenarios, but explains that the actual cost to teams (as well as the presence or results of any grievance proceedings) remains largely unknown publicly. At this point, a spot as a bench bat seems the likeliest outcome, though a trade is still possible.