Cleveland Indians Rumors

Cafardo On Cabrera, Dodgers, Santana, Hardy

In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe ranks the top managers in MLB.  Red Sox skipper John Farrell comes in at No. 1 thanks to his communication skills, ability to delegate responsibilities well, and, of course, his 2013 World Series ring.  Bob MelvinTerry FranconaBruce Bochy, and Joe Maddon round out the top five.  More from today's column..

  • There have been no talks concerning a contract extension between the Indians and Asdrubal Cabrera.  Cabrera can become a free agent at the end of the season, but it appears the Indians want to see how he rebounds from a down season.  Cafardo sees the shortstop as a potential target for the Yankees next offseason.
  • The Dodgers outfield surplus should work in their favor to start the year with Matt Kemp on the mend, but that doesn't mean GM Ned Colletti won't consider a move later in the season.  One National League special assistant believes that Andre Ethier would work out very well with the Red Sox.  “He needs someone to kick him in the butt, that’s why he would be perfect in Boston with [Dustin] Pedroia. That’s his buddy, and Pedroia would get the most out of him. He doesn’t have anyone like that in L.A.,” said the exec.
  • Don't be surprised if the Yankees' efforts to land Ervin Santana intensify in the coming weeks.  Even after landing Masahiro Tanaka, the Bombers could use one more solid starter to round out their starting five.
  • J.J. Hardy is in the final year of his contract with the Orioles and they would like nothing more than to keep him.  Baltimore will have to pony up some serious cash, however, as he could demand a deal of at least five years, possibly in the $15-17MM range.

AL West Notes: Angels’ Stadium, Astros, A’s, Mariners

Angels owner Arte Moreno spoke with Tustin, Calif., officials last week about the possibility of building a new stadium, a team spokesman confirmed today (via Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times). The club is attempting to work out a deal for a new Angel Stadium lease with the city of Anaheim, but talks are "at a stalemate," Moreno comments. Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait has hesitated to accept a proposed deal in which the Angels would spend $150MM to renovate the ballpark but receive a 66-year, $1-per-year lease to develop a 155-acre space in the parking lot, according to DiGiovanna. Marie Garvey, a consultant employed by the Angels, said the club's "preference is to remain in Orange County.Here's the latest out of the AL West:

  • Nolan Ryan's new position with the Astros could lead the club to switch its Triple-A team, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports. While the Round Rock Express is currently a Rangers affiliate, Ryan is a co-owner of the team. The Astros' deal with their current affiliate will expire after the 2014 season.
  • Athletics reliever Ryan Cook is on track to be ready for Opening Day after being shut down for several weeks with shoulder inflammation, Jane Lee of MLB.com reports. Cook appeared in 71 games for the A's in 2013, posting an ERA of 2.54.
  • Fernando Rodney says the Orioles, Mets and Indians all expressed interest before he agreed to terms with the Mariners, according to Jose M. Romero of The Associated Press. The signing reunites Rodney with manager Lloyd McClendon, who served as bullpen coach in Detroit during Rodney's tenure there.

Central Notes: Cubs’ Draft, Brewers, Indians, Sox

The Cubs intend to stock their minor league system with pitching in the upcoming draft, though President Theo Epstein indicated this week that the club may not target an arm with its first-round pick, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. If the Cubs opt against taking a pitcher with the fourth overall selection, North Carolina State shortstop Trea Turner is one possibility, according to Gonzales. Here's more from baseball's Central divisions:

  • Donovan Hand tells Adam McCalvy of MLB.com that he was surprised to learn that he had lost his 40-man roster spot after the Brewers re-upped with Francisco Rodriguez. The swingman says he hoped his 2013 campaign, which saw him post a a 3.69 ERA in 31 games, would net him a spot on the 2014 Opening Day roster. "It's part of the business here," he acknwoledged, adding that "I love this organization." 
  • Terry Francona says the Indians haven't worked out any deals with any of the 24 nonroster invites the club has in camp. "In other words, they haven’t been guaranteed big-league jobs if they come to camp on a minor-league deal to save the Tribe some money," Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer clarifies. "We’ve got guys like Jeff Francoeur here and his reputation is flawless in the game," Francona commented. "That’s the last thing I want to do is lie to somebody or get them here under false pretenses."
  • The White Sox are unlikely to bring on any free agents that require draft pick compensation, Scott Merkin of MLB.com reports. "I will say that we are certainly looking forward to having the size of the draft pool we have right now," GM Rick Hahn said. "That is part of what we are trying to do, one of the silver linings of an extremely disappointing season."


Long List Of Teams Interested In Ervin Santana

Ervin Santana's list of suitors includes not only the Blue Jays, Orioles and Mariners (all of whom have been connected to Santana in the past week), but also the Indians, Rockies, Royals and other teams, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. Heyman cautions that it's possible that some teams may merely be trying to get Santana on a cheap deal, however.

The Royals would like Santana to return, Heyman writes. The Indians may also be a possibility, although they might be more likely to re-sign Ubaldo Jimenez (which itself seems unlikely). The Reds and Phillies could also be possibilities, although those seem more speculative.

The Blue Jays and Mariners would appear to have an edge in pursuit of Santana, since both teams could be competitive, and neither team would lose a first-round draft pick if they signed him. Perhaps the takeaway here, however, is that, with spring training camps opening and with Santana as one of five qualifying-offer players still on the market, there is plenty of uncertainty, and the team that signs him might not end up being one of the obvious contenders.


AL Central Notes: Scherzer, Shields, Indians

Tigers starting pitcher Max Scherzer reiterates that he won't negotiate an extension once the season starts, George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press writes. "This can be a major distraction," Scherzer says. "I understand I have a chance to secure my future here with the team. I want that to happen. But at the same time, I’m not going to drag negotiations out into the season." Scherzer would not say whether he and his agent, Scott Boras, are currently negotiating a deal with the Tigers. Here are more notes from the AL Central.

  • James Shields of the Royals is heading into his last season before what should be a hefty free-agent payday, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports. "I’d definitely say he’s a $20 million (per season) guy," says one AL executive. Along with Scherzer and Homer Bailey, Shields will headline the 2014-2015 class of starting pitching. The Royals aren't ruling out extending Shields, but it will be tricky for them to retain him. "If they keep him, it’ll be a bit of a revelation over there," says the executive.
  • After a quiet offseason, the Indians seem to be hoping the team can take a step forward with newcomer David Murphy and with better performances from returning players like Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Swisher and Michael BournPaul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. Hoynes also notes that the Indians have not had contact with Ubaldo Jimenez's agent since last month.

Josh Tomlin Loses Arbitration Case

Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin has lost his arbitration case, Tom Withers of the Associated Press tweets. Tomlin had asked for $975K, but he will make $800K instead. Tomlin is represented by SSG baseball.

Tomlin, 29, appeared in just one game with the Indians in 2013 after returning from Tommy John surgery. He could compete for a job in the back of the Indians' rotation this spring. He has a career 4.92 ERA with 4.9 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 343 2/3 innings.


AL Central Links: Ryan, Royals, Indians, Martinez

Twins general manager Terry Ryan was released from the hospital today after undergoing surgery to treat cancer discovered in his neck, the team announced. He'll spend the next several days at home recuperating as the Twins get their 2014 Spring Training underway. Here's more out of the AL Central…

  • Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star looks at the Royals' payroll in an effort to correct critics that mocked GM Dayton Moore calling the 2014 payroll a "gamble." Those critics pointed to the additional $25MM in revenue teams are receiving from national TV revenue, but Mellinger spoke with Forbes Sports senior editor Kurt Badenhausen who explained that the $25MM number is a myth. The Royals' increase (after MLB takes its share) is more like $5-10MM, he explaines. Mellinger writes that while owner David Glass and Moore have each had their failures, the success or failure of the past seven years will ultimately be determined by the 2014 Royals' on-field results.
  • Indians left-hander Nick Hagadone and GM Chris Antonetti both are relieved to have the long-standing grievance between the two sides resolved, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Antonetti said he and the rest of management feel Hagadone can be a big part of the bullpen going forward, and Hagadone said he was happy with the grievance's outcome: "In the end, I thought it was very fair. I’m happy with the outcome. I’m happy I can just concentrate on baseball."
  • MLB.com's Jordan Bastian writes that the Indians and right-hander Josh Tomlin tried to settle their pending arbitration case but were unable to do so before today's hearing. Announcement of a result can be expected in the near future. Within that piece, Antonetti says he is still hopeful of avoiding a hearing with ace Justin Masterson.
  • The Tigers are planning on getting Victor Martinez some occasional time behind the plate in 2014, writes MLive.com's Chris Iott. In reference to interleague games in National League parks, manager Brad Ausmus told Iott: "We can't not have Victor play for five straight games." Martinez says that he's excited to get back into some games at catcher. Additionally, Miguel Cabrera could still work some games at third base, with Martinez handling first base Iott writes. Both will work on those positions in Spring Training.

Quick Hits: Fregosi, Trout, Garcia, Mets, Rodney

Keep former big league shortstop and manager Jim Fregosi in your thoughts and prayers tonight. The six-time All-Star suffered multiple strokes while on a cruise and has been taken off life support in a Miami-area hospital, writes MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby. As a player, Fregosi played in parts of 18 seasons with the Angels, Rangers, Mets and Pirates, batting a collective .265/.338/.398. He went on to manage the Angels, White Sox, Phillies and Blue Jays over parts of 15 seasons, taking Philadelphia to the World Series in 1993. He is currently the Senior Advisor of Player Personnel for the Braves — a role he has filled for 13 years. Fregosi's larger than life personality has endeared him to teammates, media members and colleagues for decades. We at MLBTR are keeping Fregosi, his family and his many friends in our thoughts tonight and wishing for the best. As you do the same, here are some notes from around the league…

  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs examines what a potential Mike Trout extension could look like, ultimately concluding that while the end result would be a shocking sum, the Angels would be wise to sign him to a nine-year, $260MM or ten-year, $300MM extension if possible. The longer the team waits, says Cameron, the closer it comes to getting into a free agent bidding war over Trout, which could push his price tag up toward $400MM.
  • Freddy Garcia did not decide to sign with the Braves until the team offered him a March 25 opt-out clause, writes MLB.com's Mark Bowman, and that clause will create an interesting battle for the team's final two bullpen spots in Spring Training. That Garcia would rather return to his family than pitch at the Triple-A level makes him a favorite to earn a spot on the team if he pitches reasonably well, and he could even temporarily push Alex Wood to the bullpen, writes Bowman.
  • "Impatient is an understatement," Mets third baseman David Wright told Tim Rohan of the New York Times in discussing his desire to be a part of a winning club. However, Wright went on to say that he believes in GM Sandy Alderson's plan. Wright says he'd like to win before he feels like he cannot compete at a high level anymore. Rohan also spoke with Alderson and was told that there are no constraints on the club's payroll, and any lack of spending right now is a philosophical choice.
  • In addition to the two-year, $14MM offer from that Mariners that he accepted, Fernando Rodney had offers from the IndiansMets and Orioles, according to MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom (on Twitter).

Minor Moves: Kyle Davies, Yao-Hsun Yang

Here are the lastest minor transactions from around the league…

  • The Indians announced yesterday that they've agreed to a minor league deal with former big leaguer Kyle Davies. The right-hander did not receive an invite to Major League Spring Training, however. Davies, still just 30 years old, spent the 2013 season pitching with the Twins' minor league system as he recovered from shoulder surgery. Davies posted a 3.41 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 across three levels, though he didn't pitch at Triple-A. He has a 5.59 ERA in 768 Major League innings between the Braves and Royals.
  • The Pirates announced today that they've inked Taiwanese lefty Yao-Hsun Yang to a minor league pact with an invite to big league Spring Training. Yang has a career 3.08 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 in Nippon Professional Baseball, but he's thrown just 90 2/3 innings. The 31-year-old spent last season pitching in the Japanese minor leagues, according to the Pirates' release.
  • Three players are currently in DFA limbo: Jimmy Paredes and Chris Hatcher of the Marlins along with the Reds' Henry Rodriguez. You can keep an eye on their statuses using MLBTR's DFA Tracker.

Indians Extend Michael Brantley

The Indians have announced a four-year extension with outfielder Michael Brantley via press release. First reported on Monday, the deal will guarantee Brantley $25MM over its four years, and comes with an $11MM club option for 2018. The 26-year-old is a client of the Legacy Agency.

Brantley

Brantley has established himself as a solid ballplayer over his early career, though he has yet to post a true breakout campaign. Since becoming a full-time player in 2011, Brantley has posted a cumulative .280/.334/.394 triple-slash, with 23 home runs and 42 stolen bases over 1,716 plate appearances in that three-season period. Last year, he checked in with a .284/.332/.396 line, but did post a career-best 10 home runs and 17 swipes (he was caught only four times).

Making way for Michael Bourn, Brantley switched from center to left field last season and figures to remain there for the foreseeable future. Advanced defensive metrics view Brantley as an approximately average outfielder over the last few years, whether playing up the middle or in the corner. (In 2012, at center, Brantley posted a UZR of -0.7 and DRS of -1; in left last year, he notched a -4.1 UZR but was +2 per DRS.)

Brantley had been preparing to go to an arbitration hearing in his first year of eligibility, and was set up to qualify for free agency after the 2016 season. Instead, he will now be under team control through 2018. If Cleveland exercises that final-year option, Brantley will hit the open market after his age-31 season.

Brantley's contract calls for him to receive a $3.5MM signing bonus. His annual salary breakdown is as follows: $1.5MM (2014), $5MM (2015), $6.5MM (2016), and $7.5MM (2017). The 2018 club option is for $11MM and comes with a $1MM buyout. The structure of the deal gives Brantley a big payday up front, but spreads the $3.5MM signing bonus over the life of the deal for purposes of the CBA. That also means that Brantley's 2014 salary will not set a high bar for arbitration purposes: it lands at just $2.375MM, well under the respective $3.8MM and $2.7MM filing figures.

The most obvious comparable for Brantley's deal is the five-year, $25MM extension inked by Cameron Maybin with the Padres before the 2012 season. Though that deal covered an additional guaranteed year, Maybin was also a year further from free agency. Though featuring a Brantley-esque .264/.323/.393 triple-slash, Maybin's pre-extension season was better than anything that Brantley has put together: he also swiped 40 bags and played a stellar center that left him credited with better than four wins above replacement. Though Brantley has a longer track record, he has maxed out at about three WAR and is somewhat older than was Maybin.

But Maybin's deal is now two years out of date, a hugely significant factor given the observed increase in spending in the interim. (The four-year, $20.5MM Franklin Gutierrez extension signed in 2010 is even further out of date.) Viewed thusly, the Indians seem to have done fairly well to land Brantley for a term of years and amount of money that fits comfortably in the mold of earlier extensions.

Indeed, Brantley's extension is the first of three-or-more years signed by a player with less than six years of service since the massive extension signed by Freddie Freeman (and that of Clayton Kershaw, for that matter). As I wrote recently, though Freeman's deal potentially set the stage for less solid but non-premium young players to command somewhat greater extension guarantees, prior extension models remain valid until proven otherwise. The Brantley deal confirms that, as it seems to reflect mostly measured growth in the market.

Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer first reported the deal, as well as its length and guaranteed money, via Twitter, and was also first to report that the sides were close. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com was first to report the annual breakdown (on Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.