- Joining the Indians on a minors pact is lefty Kelvin De La Cruz, per a club announcement. He will not receive a big-league camp invite. De La Cruz hasn’t performed well in the upper minors as of late and spent last season in the independent Atlantic League, tossing 116 innings with a 4.19 ERA and 6.8 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9. His 2013 season split between the Dodgers’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates was strong enough for the Orioles to give him a Major League deal in the offseason despite the fact that he’d never pitched in the Majors, but his results from that time haven’t been encouraging.
10:41am: The deal also allows Guyer to earn up to $400K in plate-appearance-based bonuses in both 2018 and 2019, Bastian tweets. And the option value can rise to as much as $3.75MM with escalators.
9:51am: It’s a two-year, $5MM contract for Guyer, tweets MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. He’ll receive $2MM in 2017 (just shy of the $2.1MM midpoint between the two sides’ arbitration numbers) and $2.75MM in 2018. Guyer’s contract contains a $3MM club option for the 2019 season, which comes with a $250K buyout.
9:35am: The Indians announced on Wednesday that they’ve signed outfielder Brandon Guyer to a two-year deal with a club option for the 2019 season. The 30-year-old Guyer (31 next week) was arbitration-eligible and had filed for a $2.3MM, which the Indians countered with a $1.9MM offer (as shown in MLBTR’s 2017 Arbitration Tracker). Rather than hammer out a one-year pact, Guyer will instead agree to lock in both of his remaining arbitration salaries in exchange for a club option over what would’ve been his first free-agent year.
Guyer, a longtime member of the Rays, was a deadline pickup for the Indians, who traded minor league outfielder Nathan Lukes and minor league righty Jhonleider Salinas to the Rays to acquire the remaining two and a half years of control on Guyer’s contract. Guyer has long been a thorn in the side of left-handed pitching, and Cleveland benefited substantially from that trait, as Guyer slashed .333/.438/.469 in a limited role (91 plate appearances) over the remainder of the regular season following the trade. He also chipped in a .333/.500/.389 batting line in 24 postseason plate appearances.
Beyond his strong career performance against left-handed pitching (.289/.391/.470), Guyer thrives in one perhaps underappreciated element of the game: getting hit by pitches. Shortly after the trade, August Fagerstrom examined Guyer’s uncanny penchant for being hit by pitches over at Fangraphs, observing that Guyer is not only the active leader in total HBPs over the past couple of seasons, but the leader in HBPs on a percentage basis (min. 500 PAs) dating all the way back to 1921.
A ridiculous 6.1 percent of Guyer’s plate appearances have resulted in him being plunked by a pitch, which compensates for a below-average walk rate and has allowed him to consistently post strong OBPs in the Majors. As Fagerstrom breaks down in the aforementioned Fangraphs column, Guyer’s HBP magic isn’t as much from crowding the plate (though he does that, too) as it is from a striding toward the plate and the inside edge of the batter’s box as he loads for a swing. While some might raise an eyebrow at calling that a “skill,” Guyer’s propensity for reaching base the hard way has undoubtedly benefited his teams over the years, and no one in the game seems as adept at doing so.
Turning to Guyer’s glovework, he has experience at all three outfield positions but has spent the majority of his time in left field, where he grades out as an above-average defender. With Cleveland, however, he’s likely to spend the bulk of his time in right field, where he’ll serve as a platoon partner for the left-handed-hitting Lonnie Chisenhall (who has struggled considerably against southpaw pitchers in his career). Guyer, of course, can move all over the outfield for manager Terry Francona, if needed. Guyer and Chisenhall will be part of a mix that includes a hopefully healthy Michael Brantley in left field, Tyler Naquin in center (who could also potentially benefit from some platooning) and presumptive reserve outfielder Abraham Almonte.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
TODAY: There’s still work left between Bautista and the Jays, and both Cleveland and Tampa Bay remain interested, Heyman adds on Twitter.
YESTERDAY, 6:45pm: Bautista is expected to take home more than the qualifying offer value ($17.2MM) if the one-year-plus-option scenario is indeed adopted in a finalized deal, Heyman tweets. Indications still are that the sides are leaning toward that arrangement.
2:07pm: Rosenthal tweets that the deal, if completed, will be a one-year contract with a mutual option.
9:38am: A one-year deal is also still a consideration, as are other scenarios tweets Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. Heyman tweets that the current expectation is that the two sides will agree to a deal worth about $37MM over two years, though there’s nothing final. Both the Indians and Rays have bid on Bautista recently as well.
9:15am: Passan reports that the two sides are in the final stages of working out an agreement that will pay Bautista close to $40MM over a two-year term.
7:50am: Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports hears that the two sides are discussing a two-year contract (Twitter link). FOX’s Ken Rosenthal agrees, tweeting that Bautista and the Jays are discussing a two-year pact in the $35-40MM range. That’s a departure from Passan’s report, though it should be noted that Passan’s tweets were around 2am, so there’s certainly been enough time for talks to have changed course.
JAN. 16, 7:13am: Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the two sides have discussed multiple iterations of a deal but are currently focused on a one-year pact (Twitter links). A deal isn’t quite done yet, but each side is optimistic that something will be completed.
JAN. 15: The Blue Jays have emerged as the front-runners for free agent right fielder Jose Bautista’s services and are nearing an agreement with the slugger, reports Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (Twitter link). Details regarding the potential pact aren’t yet known, but Toronto hadn’t been willing to give the Octagon/Jay Alou client a deal worth more than the one-year, $17.2MM qualifying offer as of late December.
Bautista has been on the open market since rejecting a qualifying offer from Toronto in November, though the 36-year-old’s venture into free agency hasn’t gone according to plan. Despite serving as one of the majors’ foremost offensive weapons since an out-of-nowhere breakout in 2010, serious interest in Bautista has been scarce this offseason. Bautista has been willing to consider a one-year deal as a result, but it seems having to surrender a first-round pick to sign him has scared off potential suitors.
It also hasn’t helped Bautista’s cause that he’s coming off a disappointing season, one that featured multiple stints on the disabled list and an offensive decline. While Bautista hit a more-than-respectable .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs in 517 plate appearances, those numbers represented a stark drop-off from the ones he has typically posted as a Blue Jay. After toiling in anonymity with various teams from 2004-09, Bautista slashed a stellar .268/.390/.555 with 227 homers as a Jay between 2010-15.
Thanks to that otherworldly six-year run, Bautista was reportedly seeking a half-decade-long extension worth $150MM last winter. Toronto unsurprisingly balked at that asking price, and the club’s decision was clearly wise given Bautista’s production in 2016. It’ll look that much better if the team is able to bring back Bautista at what should be a palatable price on a short-term contract.
The Blue Jays have already lost one of the longtime faces of their franchise, first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, to free agency this offseason. Encarnacion landed in Cleveland, which knocked the Jays out of the playoffs last year and has also shown interest in Bautista. But it doesn’t appear the two will reunite this offseason, which is welcome news to a Jays club that’s in dire need of corner outfield help.
Jason Martinez of MLBTR and Roster Resource is currently projecting that the light-hitting Ezequiel Carrera will man Bautista’s spot in right, while free agent pickup Steve Pearce is slated to start in left. Pearce is far better suited for first base, though, and the Jays could stand to upgrade over Justin Smoak there. Re-upping Bautista would enable them to shift Pearce and their most significant offseason acquisition to date, Kendrys Morales, between first and designated hitter and perhaps platoon Carrera and Melvin Upton Jr. in left.
While retaining Bautista would be a boon to Toronto’s offense (and likely the morale of its fans), he does come with drawbacks. In addition to his offensive regression last season, Bautista continued to fall off in the field, as he finished with negative grades in Defensive Runs Saved (minus-6) and Ultimate Zone Rating (minus-5.6) for the second year in a row. He also failed to provide value on the base paths, making Bautista a one-dimensional player at this stage of his career. That dimension is rather effective, though, and is apparently going to lead him back to Toronto, where he’s an icon. Keeping Bautista will cost the Jays the compensatory first-round pick they’d have netted had he headed elsewhere, but the club seemingly values what he could bring in future years more than that selection.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The days of sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista terrorizing opposing pitchers as part of the same lineup might not be over. Despite general manager Mike Chernoff’s implication earlier this week that the Indians are done making major splashes after signing Encarnacion, they’re still “in touch” with Bautista and other free agents, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
Whether Cleveland will make any other significant moves this offseason will depend on ownership’s willingness to further increase payroll, per Rosenthal. In light of that, it’s perhaps worth noting that the Indians’ run to the World Series last season generated a sizable amount of extra revenue for the franchise.
Should ownership sign off on adding Bautista, whose market has been shockingly quiet this winter, it would reunite him and longtime Toronto teammate Encarnacion and make the reigning American League champions’ lineup even more formidable. The 36-year-old Bautista would likely continue as a right fielder in Cleveland, which already has Carlos Santana and Encarnacion set to occupy designated hitter and first base.
The Indians seem to have a full contingent of outfielders with Michael Brantley, Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer and Abraham Almonte in the fold, not to mention prospect Bradley Zimmer nearing the majors. Brantley missed nearly all of last season with shoulder issues, though, so Bautista’s presence would provide insurance if he’s unable to bounce back in 2017. And no one else from that group is nearly as established as Bautista, who Rosenthal suggests could bump Chisenhall to center.
Bautista rejected a qualifying offer from the Blue Jays before becoming a free agent, which means signing him could cost any team without a top 10 pick a first-rounder in next summer’s draft. The Indians already punted their top selection to secure Encarnacion, however, so they would only have to surrender a second-rounder – currently No. 64 – to sign Bautista. If they do, a back-loaded, two-year deal could be a possibility, according to Rosenthal, who notes that Santana is scheduled to become a free agent next offseason. Bautista would then take over for Santana at DH/first, which would be a logical step for an aging player who’s not an asset in the outfield. Bautista is certainly a positive at the plate, though; even in a down, injury-shortened 2016, he still slashed a more-than-respectable .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs in 517 plate appearances.
Regardless of whether they reel in Bautista or another corner outfielder, the Indians are also continuing to monitor the corner infield and relief markets, writes Rosenthal. Any further additions would beef up an Opening Day payroll that Jason Martinez of MLBTR and Roster Resource projects for $119MM-plus. The Indians began last season in the $96MM range and ended it one win from a World Series championship.
- The Indians have announced that they’ve signed righties Steve Delabar and Travis Banwart to minor-league deals with Spring Training invites. As a hard-throwing member of the Blue Jays bullpen, the 33-year-old Delabar was once one of the game’s more dynamic setup men, but he’s fallen on hard times of late. He struggled in eight innings with the Reds last season and finished his season with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan. The 30-year-old Banwart also pitched in Asia last year, posting a 5.79 ERA, 6.0 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 130 2/3 innings with the KT Wiz in Korea. It was his third year in the KBO. Before that, he pitched parts of eight seasons in the Athletics and Indians farm systems, ascending as high as the Triple-A level. He could end up pitching with the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate in Columbus, for which he posted a 3.13 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 16 starts in 2014 before departing for Korea.
- Danny Salazar and Bryan Shaw have both settled on one-year deals with the Indians, per Heyman (Twitter links). Salazar will receive $3.4MM in his first trip through the arb process, which checks in $400K below his $3.8MM projection. Meanwhile, Shaw’s $4.6MM salary (via Heyman) lands within $100K of his $4.5MM projection. As a Super Two player, Salazar still has four years of control remaining, whereas Shaw will be a free agent next winter. Lonnie Chisenhall, meanwhile, will earn $4.3MM according to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (on Twitter). That’s $200K more than his projection.
- The Indians and right-hander Zach McAllister have settled at one year and $1.825MM, tweets Heyman. The 29-year-old righty earned a $525K raise over last year’s $1.3MM salary and topped his projection of $1.7MM by $125K. McAllister tossed 52 1/3 innings out of the Cleveland ’pen last season, logging a 3.44 ERA, 9.3 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 to go along with seven holds. He’ll be arb-eligible one last time next winter and a free agent after 2018.
Allen, 28, is coming off an outstanding year in which he pitched to a 2.51 ERA with 32 saves, 11.5 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 68 innings of work out of manager Terry Francona’s bullpen. He takes home a significant raise on top of last year’s $4.15MM salary and comes in just shy of the $7.7MM projection of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. The Indians will control Allen for at least two more seasons, and he’ll be eligible for arbitration one final time next winter.
As can be seen in MLBTR’s 2017 Arbitration Tracker, the Indians have now avoided arb with four of their eight eligible players. In addition to their deal with Allen, the Indians have agreed to one-year pacts with Dan Otero ($1.055MM), Zach McAllister ($1.825MM) and Trevor Bauer ($3.55MM).
The Indians have avoided arbitration with righty Dan Otero, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). He’ll earn $1.05MM in his first season of eligibility, falling short of the $1.2MM that the MLBTR model had projected.
Otero, 31, was picked up in a waiver trade last winter, and went on to provide tremendous production for Cleveland. He logged a robust 70 2/3 innings of 1.53 ERA ball, with 57 strikeouts against just ten walks. He also chipped in 7 2/3 quality postseason innings during the team’s World Series run.
The Indians and right-hander Trevor Bauer have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3.55MM, reports FanRag’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). Bauer’s 2017 salary comes in a bit shy of the $3.7MM projection from MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
Bauer, 26 next week, logged a career-high 190 innings with the Indians in 2016 and posted a 4.26 ERA that represented an improvement over his 4.55 mark from the 2015 campaign. The former No. 3 overall draft pick averaged 8.0 K/9 against a career-best 3.3 BB/9 to go along with a career-high 48.7 percent ground-ball rate. He drew his share of criticism in the postseason for injuring his finger in bizarre fashion, as he was repairing a drone. Bauer’s ALCS start was pushed back from Game 2 to Game 3 and ultimately proved to be an abbreviated outing, as he lasted just two-thirds of an inning due to the injured hand. He did, however, go on to throw 8 1/3 innings in the World Series.
Cleveland originally acquired Bauer alongside Bryan Shaw, Matt Albers and Drew Stubbs in the three-team deal that sent Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds and Didi Gregorius to the Diamondbacks. Bauer has emerged as a reliable fourth starter for Cleveland, following up excellent right-handers Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar in one of the game’s more talented rotations. He reached arbitration as a Super Two player this year and will be eligible thrice more before hitting free agency upon completion of the 2020 season.
With tomorrow set as the deadline for teams and players to exchange arbitration numbers, there figure to be plenty more agreements in the 24 hours to come. You can follow all of the updates using MLBTR’s 2017 Arbitration Tracker.
- Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti tells MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian that top outfield prospect Bradley Zimmer could make his MLB debut in 2017. That’s not a surprising revelation after Zimmer, a former first-round pick and a consensus top 50 prospect in MLB, enjoyed a solid season at Double-A and reached Triple-A late in the 2016 season. Bastian writes that the current plan for the Cleveland outfield is for Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer to platoon in right field, with Tyler Naquin handling center on most days, Michael Brantley returning to left field and Abraham Almonte functioning as the primary fourth outfielder (possibly helping to shield Naquin from some lefties). Further injury problems for Brantley, regression from Naquin or an injury elsewhere on the roster could create an opening for the 24-year-old Zimmer. Bastian, though, also notes that Cleveland could still pursue a trade for an affordable center field option. Recent comments from GM Mike Chernoff suggest that Cleveland is mostly tapped out in terms of payroll after signing Edwin Encarnacion, though, so any acquisition would need to be very low-cost in nature.