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Cleveland Indians Rumors
An MRI today revealed a sprained MCL in the right knee of Indians catcher Yan Gomes, which will sideline the standout backstop for six to eight weeks, Cleveland has announced.
The injury to Gomes is a significant blow to the Indians, who are expected by many to contend for the AL Central title this season but will now be without one of their most valuable players for up to two months. In the interim, Roberto Perez figures to step into an everyday role behind the plate, and Carlos Santana can serve as a backup in the near-term. However, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Cleveland pursue upgrades from outside the organization.
Gomes, 27, has established himself as one of the game’s better catchers over the past season and a half, batting a combined .284/.325/.476 with 32 homers in 223 games from 2013-14. He’s also an excellent defender, grading very well in terms of both pitch-framing metrics and shutting down the running game. Gomes has caught 35 percent of opposing base stealers in his big league career, while the league-average rate in that time has been 27 percent. Both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference pegged Gomes’ value at roughly 4.5 wins above replacement last year.
The Indians announced a series of roster moves this morning, including the release of right-hander Charles Brewer, who had occupied a slot on the team’s 40-man roster. Cleveland has placed Yan Gomes on the 15-day disabled list with a knee sprain, optioned lefty Kyle Crockett to Triple-A, recalled right-hander Austin Adams and selected the contract of former Blue Jays/Brewers starter Shaun Marcum.
Cleveland picked up Brewer, 27, from the Diamondbacks this offseason. He didn’t appear in the Majors last year, but he did pitch six innings for the 2013 D-Backs, yielding a pair of runs with five strikeouts against two walks. In 169 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level (in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League), Brewer has a 5.29 ERA with 6.9K/9 and 2.5 BB/9.
As for Marcum, the right-hander will be taking the mound in the Majors for the first time since 2013 when he debuts for the Indians. Marcum was very good from 2010-12 with the Jays and Brewers, working to a 3.62 ERA (113 ERA+) with 7.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 520 innings of work. A nerve injury in his neck and thoracic outlet syndrome have hindered Marcum over the past two years, however. He spent the 2014 season rehabbing with the Indians in their Minor League system but only totaled 17 2/3 innings.
Archie Bradley of the Diamondbacks is set for his big-league debut against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers Saturday, Steve Gilbert of MLB.com writes. “I mean, it’s exciting,” says Bradley. “He’s one of the best, if not the best, in all of baseball. I just take it as a challenge, like why not start my career against someone like him?” Heading into the season, Baseball Prospectus ranked Bradley the No. 11 prospect in baseball, with MLB.com ranking him No. 15 and Baseball America putting him at No. 25. He likely missed out on a chance to make his big-league debut in 2014 after struggling with an elbow injury. The Diamondbacks liked what they saw from Bradley this spring, though, and traded Trevor Cahill to clear space for him. Here are more quick notes on pitchers.
- The criticism Carlos Carrasco has received for his four-year extension with the Indians is misplaced, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. Carrasco has four children, an injury history and an uneven pre-2014 performance record, so it made sense for him to take $22MM guaranteed, even though he gave away his first season of free-agent eligibility and the rights to two more seasons beyond that.
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter is “proud” of Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. Garcia pitched 2 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays Friday, allowing one run and two walks while notching two strikeouts. The 22-year-old pitched in the lower levels of the Red Sox system last season, so he’s making a big leap to the Majors this year. “If he can get going and get strike one, he has a chance to have some success,” says Showalter.
Following yesterday’s MRI, the Twins will place right-hander Ricky Nolasco on the disabled list and recall prospect Trevor May to join the rotation, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. After signing a four-year, $49MM contract in the 2013-14 offseason, Nolasco’s first season was marred by an elbow injury that limited his time on the field and led to an ERA well north of 5.00. He improved upon returning from the DL, so both he and the team hoped to leave last season’s struggles in the past. Unfortunately, his elbow flared up again in an ugly first start, leading to the forthcoming decision to officially place him back on the DL. May, ranked as one of Minnesota’s best prospects by Baseball America (No. 9), MLB.com (No. 11) and Fangraphs (No. 9), notched an excellent 2.85 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 98 Triple-A innings last year. He was hit hard in his first taste of MLB action, registering a ghastly 7.88 ERA, but a sky-high .377 BABIP contributed heavily to those troubles. One would think that this could be an opportunity for May to seize a rotation spot for the long run if he performs well out of the gate.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- The Indians announced today that they’ve purchased the contract of first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands, optioned Austin Adams to the Minors and transferred Josh Tomlin to the 60-day DL. The addition of Sands may not be a long-term maneuver, however, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets that Sands will serve as outfield insurance while Michael Brantley deals with a back issue. (Brantley is in the lineup for today’s home opener, though.)
- In a Royals mailbag, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star notes that while the team’s bullpen is excellent, its composition isn’t exactly ideal. The only Royals relievers with options remaining are Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera. The Royals lack the flexibility to option a lesser reliever to the Minors without first exposing them to waivers, thereby eliminating the possibility of making roster moves to bring in a fresh arm when necessary. McCullough opines, though, that a trade won’t be necessary upon Luke Hochevar‘s activation from the disabled list. McCullough also handicaps future rotation options and discusses Mike Moustakas‘ outlook in the piece.
- Joakim Soria is better equipped to be the Tigers‘ closer than Joe Nathan, writes MLive.com’s James Schmehl, and while Soria will indeed own the ninth inning while Nathan is on the disabled list, that transition in no way fixes the Detroit ‘pen, he opines. The Tigers lack a reliable option to step into the eighth inning on a consistent basis, and the move of Soria to the ninth inning only further exemplifies what a thin relief corps Detroit has on its hands. Manager Brad Ausmus called the bullpen “a little bit of a concern” but said he only expects Nathan to be sidelined for a few weeks. All this said, I doubt there’d be much surprise around the game if the Tigers were yet again seeking bullpen help on the trade market this season.
The opening series between the Tigers and Twins could hardly have been more lopsided, as Detroit finished off a three-game sweep with a 7-1 victory today. The only bright spot for the Twins was that they finally scored a run, after losing the first two games by a combined 15-0 score. Minnesota will have to turn things around to avoid getting into an early-season hole, as 23 of the Twins’ first 26 games are against division rivals. Let’s look at some AL Central news…
- Ricky Nolasco left the team on Thursday to return to Minneapolis and undergo an MRI on his right elbow. Twins skipper Paul Molitor told reporters (including Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press) that Nolasco “felt a little bit of a spike” in his elbow during Wednesday’s start, though it’s too early to tell if this injury is related to the flexor strain that sent Nolasco to the DL last season.
- In other injury news, Indians righty Josh Tomlin underwent shoulder surgery yesterday. The procedure will sideline Tomlin for approximately 3-4 months.
- The hiring of Terry Francona after the 2012 season has brought some much-needed stability to the Indians franchise, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Not only has the Tribe improved on the field and locked up several young stars to long-term extensions, they’ve also looked to improve the fan experience (and improve attendance) at Progressive Field by upgrading the ballpark’s amenities.
- While recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, right-hander Kris Medlen “was intent on finding a team with a strong rehab staff and the patience not to rush him,” ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes. Medlen found a two-year deal with a mutual option from the Royals, and he’s received some advice regarding how hip weakness could be impacting his delivery. Crasnick’s piece includes several insightful comments from Medlen and his former Braves teammate Brandon Beachy (now a Dodger and also trying to recover from his second TJ operation) about their rehab process and some of the public misconceptions about Tommy John surgery as the procedure becomes more commonplace. For instance, Medlen and Beachy feel that 12 months is too short a realistic recovery time for Tommy John patients, and 16-20 months is a more reasonable estimate to return to full strength.
Over the past week, we’ve seen multi-year deals signed by Yordano Ventura (five years, $23MM), Carlos Carrasco (four years, $22MM), Corey Kluber (five years, $38.5MM) and Rick Porcello (four years, $82.5MM). As usual, there’s been no shortage of reactions to these contracts, and here are a few reactions/opinions from around the baseball world to each of the deals…
- Signing Ventura to a five-year deal was a necessary risk for the Royals, opines Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards. Ventura has long been seen as a risky commodity due to his smaller stature and a fear that he may be bullpen-bound, and he also produced results that were more good than great in 2014. However, only three Royals starters — Zack Greinke, James Shields and Ervin Santana –have matched Ventura’s modest 2.4 fWAR over the past five seasons. The Royals’ rotation is typically occupied by journeymen starters, and the upside for a mid-rotation or front-line starter at that price makes the risk worth taking, writes Edwards, even if there’s a risk he may not hold up as a starter.
- The Carrasco and Kluber extensions appear to be the latest in a long line of contracts signed with the intent of developing a long-term core. As GM Chris Antonetti said recently on MLB Network Radio (Twitter link): “This nucleus is going to be in place for awhile. Ownership has given us incredible resources.”
- Mutually beneficial extensions have been a key component of successful Indians’ seasons since John Hart began pioneering them in the 1990s, writes MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Bastian spoke to other members of that growing core — Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes — each of whom has signed extensions of their own in the past year-plus. The Cleveland core expressed excitement about being able to grow and express excitement together in the coming years as they enter their primes.
- Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel looks at the financial implications of the latest pair of Indians extensions, and he also spoke with Antonetti about the decision to offer Carrasco a long-term deal based on a relatively small sample of success. “His mix of pitches has always been a strength from the time we acquired him,” said Antonetti. “But we’ve seen the continued development and maturity and improvement in his routines, his consistency and his focus and we saw it translate to his success as a starting pitcher last year. We believe that now, not only does he have the physical attributes, but the other attributes to be a successful starter.”
- Carrasco’s deal may appear team-friendly, but an irregular heartbeat that required offseason surgery and a newborn baby played a role in Carrasco’s decision to accept the contract, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and FOX Sports writes that Porcello’s age-23 through age-25 seasons mirror those of Justin Masterson, and Masterson experienced a breakout in his age-26 season — the same that Porcello is currently entering. While that certainly doesn’t guarantee a breakout for Porcello, Cameron notes that the Sox are betting on a breakout or step forward of sorts — one that would’ve launched Porcello’s free agent price considerably beyond the $82.5MM figure upon which he agreed. Judging contracts based on average annual value is all too common a mistake, Cameron notes, as the years accompanying that AAV are a critical factor of any deal. Boston is showing a tendency to pay a premium to keep contracts short in an effort to avoid rostering expensive non-performers down the line, with Porcello’s deal and the Hanley Ramirez contract serving as recent examples, he adds.
- Tim Britton of the Providence Journal offers a similar take, using CC Sabathia as an example of the dangers of signing a pitcher into their 30s. As Britton notes, Sabathia would’ve been one of the best free agent signings in history had the Yankees let him walk after he exercised an opt out clause following the third season of his initial contract. However, they re-signed him through age-36, and Sabathia’s contract has become an albatross on the Yankees. While Porcello isn’t as good as prime Sabathia and likely never will be — a fact Britton acknowledges — his situation still aids the argument that it’s better to pay a premium for a pitcher in his prime than commit exorbitant amounts of money to their decline years.
- I’ll echo my thoughts on the Porcello deal that I tweeted out and included in MLBTR’s write-up of his extension and agree with both Cameron and Britton. While Porcello is not now and may never be a front-of-the-rotation arm, the Red Sox clearly believe that he’s capable of taking a step forward from a career year in 2014, and they’re willing to pay what currently seems to be an above-market annual price in order to secure his prime. It’s commonplace for teams to sign older free agents knowing that the final year or two (and sometimes more) will likely be a sunk cost, and yet as observers we accept that as part of free agency. The Red Sox are taking an opposite approach, seemingly making a strong bet that Porcello’s best years are ahead. Paying for an expected outcome that has yet to take place is risky, to be sure, but it’s no riskier than guaranteeing a pitcher north of $20MM in his age-36 season, as we saw with James Shields, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer this winter. The notion that a player must first “prove” that he is worth upper-market dollars over a long-term implicitly requires that those upper-market dollars will be awarded after or at the tail end of his peak, thereby negating much of the logic in committing such a sizable sum. Whether or not the Porcello deal ultimately looks wise or turns into an albatross, the thinking behind the deal is sound: make projections based on scouting and analytic input, and invest. The alternative — wait and see, then pay for the downswing of a player’s career — is hardly a less risky approach.
The Indians have announced yet another extension, this one with righty Carlos Carrasco. The contract guarantees him $22MM over the next four years and includes two club options.
Carrasco will earn $4.5MM next year, $6.5MM in 2017, and $8MM in 2018. The option years are for $9MM and $9.5MM, respectively, and can each be escalated by $4MM based on top-ten Cy Young finishes, bringing the total max value of the contract to $48MM. Those options come with $662.5K in total buyouts. Carrasco was already set to earn $2.337MM in his first of three arbitration years, which the new deal leaves in place — meaning that Carrasco nets just under $20MM in new money.
Carrasco, who just recently celebrated his 28th birthday, posted a 5.29 ERA over his first four seasons (238 1/3 IP) with the Tribe and struggled last April, losing his starting job and even getting designated for assignment last summer. However, he started to turn things around after a stint in the bullpen. As a reliever, he posted a 2.30 ERA with 43 relief innings.
When Carrasco came back to the starting five, he closed out 2014 and in a small sample size of ten games he looked like an absolute superstar. During that span, the hurler posted a 1.30 ERA and 78 strikeouts (against just 11 walks) over 69 innings.
Carrasco, an ACES client, now has financial security going forward despite a rocky career which included a lost 2012 season thanks to Tommy John surgery. Now, with Carrasco and Corey Kluber both under contract, the Indians could have a potent No. 1 and No. 2 locked in for years to come. The Cy Young winner’s deal looks different however as he’ll earn a reported $38.5MM across his guaranteed five seasons while Carrasco will get $22MM across his additional three years. Kluber receives additional years on his deal, but the difference in average annual value is a modest $400K.
Carrasco, in theory, could have rolled the dice with another solid season of pitching. Even though he could have secured a sizable arbitration raise and even more leverage in extension talks by building on his close to 2014, he understandably opted for security.
On Saturday night, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the two sides were discussing a deal. Rosenthal tweeted that the deal was done. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links) reported contract details, as did MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (via Twitter) and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
In negotiations for his recent extension, Corey Kluber was forthright about wanting to continue to pitch for the Indians, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes (on Twitter). “Corey was really upfront,” says GM Chris Antonetti. “He said, ‘This is where I want to be. I want to be in Cleveland for a long time. Ideally, I’d like it to be a lifetime contract.‘” Here are more notes on extensions.
- The Orioles will not extend Chris Tillman before Opening Day despite recent discussions between the two sides, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets. As of late last week, it did not appear that the two sides were close, and Tillman does not want to continue extension discussions once the season begins. He has three more years before he’s eligible for free agency, however, so it’s not impossible the two sides could negotiate again next offseason.
- The Reds have discussed a new contract with Johnny Cueto recently, but the two sides are unlikely to strike a deal before the season begins, Heyman writes. It’s looking extremely likely that Cueto will hit the free agent market next winter. Heyman also notes that the Reds have not pursued extension talks with Mike Leake.
- Another free-agent-to-be, Rick Porcello of the Red Sox, reiterates that he will not discuss an extension during the season, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. “I don’t want any distractions when we start the season,” says Porcello. The two sides did have at least some dialogue in March regarding a possible deal, Bradford writes.
- A Mets representative says Lucas Duda and the team have not discontinued their contract talks, Matt Ehalt of the Record tweets. A previous report had indicated that the two sides had stopped talking as Opening Day approached. The two sides have reportedly discussed an extension in recent weeks.
The Indians have announced signing reigning CY Young Award winner Corey Kluber to a five-year contract, which runs through the 2019 season and contains club options for 2020 and 2021. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets Kluber’s guaranteed five-year portion is worth $38.5MM while Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets the contract, plus its unique escalators and trade language, is the largest guarantee ever for a pre-arbitration pitcher. Kluber is represented by B.B. Abbott of Jet Sports Management.
“This is an exciting day for our organization, Corey and his family,” said Indians GM Chris Antonetti. “In his time with us, Corey has grown into a leader in our clubhouse and an exemplary teammate. His tireless work ethic, consistent preparation and fierce competitiveness set an example for our younger players, and his presence on our team is a key reason that we are prepared to compete for a championship in 2015 and beyond.”
Kluber can earn $77MM across the life of the deal if all escalators, which are based on where he finishes in the Cy Young race, are met, according to Rosenthal (Twitter links). Starting in 2015, Kluber will earn salaries of $1MM, $4.5MM, $7.5MM, $10.5MM, and $13MM. His fifth year can go from $13MM to $17MM with escalators (link). The 2020 option will be worth $13.5MM and can go to $17.5MM with escalators. In 2021, the option will be worth $14MM and can be as large as $18MM with escalators. That second option can be instead bought out for $1MM.
If traded, Kluber’s new club will have to decide on the 2020 and 2021 options within three days after the 2019 World Series. If the new club declines that option, Kluber must be given a $1MM buyout (link). He’ll also receive a $1MM bonus if traded and his 2021 club option will convert to a vesting option if he is traded in 2020 (link). The vesting option would call for him to pitch 160 innings and not finish the year on the DL, according to Rosenthal.
Kluber is coming off a Cy Young season in which he posted 18 wins, a 2.44 ERA, 10.27 K/9, and 1.95 BB/9 in 235 innings. As a Super Two player, he would have been eligible for arbitration from 2016 through 2019 and, with a similar performance to last season, would have been in store for strong earnings via arbitration. As such, he was in a position to earn more than Yordano Ventura netted from his similar extension.
The advanced metrics were also quite fond of Kluber in 2014. The right-hander pitched to a 2.57 xFIP, a figure that’s more or less in line with his 2.44 ERA on the season. That figure put him only second to Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who pitched to an eye popping 2.08 xFIP last year.
Last week, Antonetti explained the team had “a clear preference” to conclude any contract talks before Opening Day in order to “minimize distractions” for the players. For a while, it seemed like an extension wouldn’t come together at all prior to the start of the 2015 season. Cleveland owner Paul Dolan, president Mark Shapiro, Antonetti and Abbott had a face-to-face meeting last month, but it seemed like the two sides were at an impasse due to the pitcher’s unique situation.
Kluber, who turns 29 on April 10th (the date of Cleveland’s home opener), was still under the Tribe’s control for four more seasons. While he ostensibly wanted some financial security ahead of free agency going into his age-33 season, the Indians weren’t necessarily under the gun to give him a long-term pact. Ultimately, the two sides appear to have found some middle ground: Kluber gets his security and the Indians gain cost certainty at a reasonable price.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the two sides were nearing agreement on a long-term deal and it could be finalized before Opening Day (Twitter links). Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports first tweeted the length of the deal while Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first tweeted a deal had been reached pending a physical. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Indians are close to locking up one big rotation piece in Corey Kluber, and the team is also discussing an extension with another in righty Carlos Carrasco, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). Carrasco just recently celebrated his 28th birthday and was arbitration-eligible for the first time this past winter, avoiding a hearing by agreeing to a one-year, $2.337MM contract for the 2015 season.
A multi-year deal would represent a stunningly quick career resurrection for Carrasco, who posted a 5.29 ERA over his first four seasons (238 1/3 IP) with the Tribe and struggled last April, losing his starting job and even getting designated for assignment last summer. The right-hander turned things around in the bullpen with a 2.30 ERA over 43 relief innings and then returned to the rotation with astonishing results. Over his last 10 starts of 2014, Carrasco was arguably the best pitcher in baseball, posting a 1.30 ERA and 78 strikeouts (against just 11 walks) over 69 innings.
Given Carrasco’s rocky career numbers and notable injury history (he missed all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery), it’s difficult to project exactly what an extension might look like for the ACES client. From the Tribe’s perspective, they’re obviously looking to gain cost certainty on Carrasco’s future now and potentially gain a front-of-the-rotation arm at a discount price over a free agent year or two if he performs anything close to the level of his last 10 starts.
It’s possible Carrasco could want to strike while the iron is hot and gain financial security, even if he might be leaving money on the table. Conversely, a full season of solid pitching would earn Carrasco a big arbitration raise next winter and line him up nicely for either an even richer extension with Cleveland or as a free agent following the 2017 season.