Cleveland Indians Rumors
Here are a couple of bullets relating to the American League Central:
- Consensus top-five overall prospect Miguel Sano of the Twins is headed for an MRI after suffering an injury to his throwing elbow. His agent, Rob Plummer, tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he fears the worst -- a torn UCL -- although he makes clear that nothing is yet known for certain. Rehab is always an option, though club and player had already considered Tommy John surgery after Sano strained the ligament over the winter. The health of Sano's elbow could have quite a significant impact on his future value, not just due to possible delays in his development, but because some already believe he will not be able to man the hot corner at the MLB level.
- Though Justin Masterson said yesterday that he thinks he'll ultimately reach agreement to extend his stay with the Indians, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com says that may be hard to reach in reality. A GM told Gammons that the two top starters most likely to be truly available on the open market are Masterson and James Shields. Looking ahead to the potential payday he could land, suggests Gammons, Masterson may be forced to choose between playing in Cleveland and earning market value.
- The GM that Gammons spoke thought it likely that Max Scherzer would stay with the Tigers. But while the club has reached massive extensions with superstars like Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera, negotiating a new pact with Scherzer will be most difficult of all, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. In large part, says Heyman, that fact is driven not only by Scherzer's skyrocketing value, but also his own "cool business stance" towards his next new deal. Detroit has played its part by agreeing to a record arbitration raise with Scherzer and clearing space for a new deal through several big offseason deals. But Heyman says that the reigning AL Cy Young winner has his sights set on matching -- or even exceeding -- the kinds of guarantees achieved by Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander in recent years.
Earlier today, Justin Masterson told reporters that he believes that "somehow, some way" he'll be in Cleveland for a few more years after this one. That statement can serve as a beacon of optimism for Masterson/Indians fans, but there have been plenty of instances of a player going on record to say he thinks he will/wants to/hopes to stay with a team, only to sign elsewhere in the future.
Masterson isn't likely to give the Indians a hefty discount with just seven to eight months sitting between him and free agency, and the price for extending players has seemed to trend upward recently. Masterson is one year older than fellow right-hander Homer Bailey, who signed a six-year, $105MM extension with a comparable amount of service time. The similarities don't stop there, either. As that comparison shows, fWAR assigns Masterson the higher value due to his higher innings total, but in terms of ERA, FIP and xFIP, the two have accumulate very, very similar results over the past three seasons. Masterson relies more on ground-balls, while Bailey's leaned more heavily on superior command and a few more whiffs.
Regardless, Bailey signed away five free agent seasons for roughly $95MM. That figure, as noted by Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer in an updated piece on Masterson's comments, simply isn't going to be on the table from the Indians.
Masterson currently faces a decision: he's experienced his ups and downs in recent seasons (2010 and 2012 were not pretty), but he's a talented pitcher in the midst of his prime who is months away from being one of the best pitchers on the free agent market alongside James Shields, Max Scherzer and Jon Lester (Lester, of course, is widely expected to sign an extension this spring). Another strong season would give Masterson three years of an ERA well under 4.00 with 193-plus innings and one of the league's best ground-ball rates. However, his comments today also hinted that he'd like to stay in Cleveland, and an extension would eliminate the risk of a poor season or injury sapping his potential earnings.
It would be beneficial to the Indians' long-term outlook to keep Masterson around and pair him with the likes of Danny Salazar for years to come, but the team could also look to fill the void internally (or with cheaper free agent/trade options) and recoup a draft pick via qualifying offer next offseason in letting Masterson walk.
4:04pm: Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the Indians' most recent offer to Masterson is believed to have been in the three- or four-year range. While that's significant lower than Bailey's six-year deal, also keep in mind that with Masterson's 2014 salary already agreed upon, each of those proposed years is a free agent year, while Bailey's deal sold off five free agent seasons.
3:41pm: Justin Masterson and the Indians agreed to a one-year, $9.7625MM contract last week to avoid an arbitration hearing at the eleventh hour. Extension talks have continued since that time, and while nothing is imminent, per MLB.com's Jordan Bastian, Masterson told reporters that he doesn't think this will be his final year in Cleveland (All Twitter links): "I figure that somehow, some way, I'll end up still being here for a few more years," said Masterson. Bastian adds that the two sides spoke earlier this week and plan to do so again over the weekend and in the early portion of next week. MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo writes that the two sides recently exchanged parameters.
Masterson has said in the past that he's willing to continue extension talks into the season, but GM Chris Antonetti is said to prefer a resolution by the end of Spring Training. Masterson compares somewhat favorably to Reds right-hander Homer Bailey (particularly in terms of age and service time), who signed a six-year, $105MM extension last week, though Bailey had the advantage of coming off his two best seasons. Masterson enjoyed his two strongest campaigns in 2011 and 2013 campaign but struggled in 2012.
Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet interviewed Royals GM Dayton Moore about the team's playoff hopes, his offseason moves and the difficulty of making trades. Asked about the tough decision to part with Wil Myers, Moore said the focus in trades has to be on what is acquired rather than what is given up: "If you focus on what you’re losing, you’ll never make a deal. You’ll be paralyzed. You have to focus on what you’re getting in return and that’s what we focused on."
More items pertaining to the Royals and the AL Central...
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick also looks at the Royals' high expectations, talking about the team's acquisition of Shields and the heavy emphasis placed on defense. Moore makes it clear to the club's scouts that he wants players with the discipline to focus for nine innings and the ability to continue to prioritize defense even in the midst of slumps at the plate. Shields and manager Ned Yost both spoke about this emphasis. Crasnick also discussed the turnaround of some of the team's young hitters with last year's interim hitting coach and Hall of Famer George Brett.
- Phil Hughes tells Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News that he's enjoying his transition to a new team after a "nightmare" season with the Yankees in 2013. Hughes, who has become fast friends with Twins first baseman Joe Mauer, says he enjoys the laid-back atmosphere. Now sporting a beard, Hughes feels that back pain that cost him most of Spring Training last season likely contributed to his struggles. Minnesota, of course, gambled on Hughes' youth and pedigree by signing him to a three-year, $24MM deal this offseason that was far larger than most had expected for the 27-year-old.
- Chris Iott of MLive.com answered reader questions and offered his take on the chances of Max Scherzer inking an extension prior to Opening Day. Iott pegs the chances of a long-term deal for the 2013 Cy Young winner at about 10 percent, noting that he simply can't envision it realistically happening.
- Also of note from Iott is that the Tigers are fully committed to using Drew Smyly as a starter. Iott writes that the club won't be making any last-minute additions of a veteran starter and expect the left-handed Smyly to be in their rotation for a long time.
- Iott also spoke with manager Brad Ausmus about trade acquisition Robbie Ray. Detroit's new skipper told him that Ray, acquired from the Nationals in the Doug Fister trade, has a deceptive delivery that allows his fastball to play up a couple of miles per hour. Ausmus anticipates Ray getting a lot of foul balls on fastballs up in the zone, believing that hitters will have a tough time keeping up with the pitch.
- The Tigers announced that non-roster invitee Eduardo Sanchez suffered an olecranon stress fracture of his right elbow and will miss an extended period of time. The former Cardinals setup man inked a minor league deal with Detroit in January and was vying for a spot in their bullpen.
- Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that the Indians know Trevor Bauer probably isn't ready for the Majors, which is what prompted their late signing of Aaron Harang to serve as depth. Bauer has altered his delivery somewhat and got mixed results in yesterday's game against the Reds.
Though he's yet to officially retire, 43-year-old slugger Jim Thome would like to be a big league manager at some point, writes Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. Thome, who took a position in the White Sox' front office last summer, told Van Schouwen: "I want to look at what the next phase is for me getting back on the field, competing at a high level. There is a side to me that wants to manage someday and prepare myself for it if that opportunity came calling." More out of the AL Central as Spring Training picks up steam...
- Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes that one conversation three years ago changed Glen Perkins' future with the team entirely. The bad blood between Perkins and his hometown Twins was well documented, as he had been weighing a grievance against Minnesota regarding his service time. Perkins approached pitching coach Rick Anderson and manager Ron Gardenhire and simply told them he had no desire to play elsewhere. Anderson tells Souhan: "He came to me right here and said, ‘Can I talk to you? I was born and raised in Minnesota, I’ve spent my entire life in Minnesota, I want to be a Twin. I want to be a better teammate, I want to be a better pitcher, don’t give up on me.’" Perkins, a 2013 All-Star, has developed into one of the game's best closers since that time.
- The Twins have signed 18-year-old Australian first baseman Jack Barrie to a six-figure bonus, according to a report from Australian news outlet SBS. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN confirmed that it's a six-figure deal and adds that the team still has money left in its 2013-14 international free agent budget after the signing (Twitter link).
- In the latest edition of his "Hey, Hoynsie!" mailbag, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tells one reader that he would be "stunned" if the Indians made a late play for Ervin Santana. Though Cleveland's name has been connected to the former Angels and Royals hurler, Hoynes says that the team values its first-round pick too highly to make such a move.
- Jhonny Peralta was planning on appealing his suspension last season in order to remain with his teammates through the playoff push, writes USA Today's Bob Nightengale. However, when the club acquired Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox, Peralta says he "knew [he] had to take [his] suspension." Nightengale spoke with GM Dave Dombrowski, who told him: "We talked to his agent (Seth Levinson, at the time) and we knew he was thinking of appealing. There was a time I was thinking he was going to appeal. And at that point, we wouldn't have made a trade. But my gut told me the closer we got to the (trade) deadline, and talked to them, he wasn't going to appeal."
Recent reports have indicated that the Indians will make a push to extend All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis, and today, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Cleveland's front office has begun the process. Heyman isn't sure how much progress has been made, only that the two sides have begun talking.
The 26-year-old Kipnis slashed .284/.366/.452 in 2013 -- his second full season at the Major League level. The Beverly Hills Sports Council client tallied 17 homers and 30 stolen bases as well, helping him earn his first All-Star nod and an 11th-place finish in the American League MVP voting.
As we've seen already in 2014, Spring Training is a time when many clubs hammer out extensions with their key players. However, Cleveland doesn't necessarily need to rush, as Kipnis is not arbitration eligible until next offseason and is under team control through 2017. However, another All-Star season would likely cause his price tag to skyrocket, and he said last April that he didn't want to talk about a new contract once the season started.
MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth recently profiled Kipnis as an extension candidate. Kipnis wouldn't be the only extension for GM Chris Antonetti and his staff, who have already inked Michael Brantley to a four-year, $25MM pact this winter.
The Brewers shipped out reliever John Axford to the Cardinals at last year's trade deadline, bringing back young righty Michael Blazek. Milwaukee has been impressed with the 25-year-old, with manager Ron Roenicke saying he profiles as a late-inning arm, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentine. Meanwhile, after being non-tendered by the Cards and signed by the Indians, Axford hopes to continue learning from his brief stint in St. Louis. As MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports, his former club informed him that he'd been tipping pitches, and Axford hopes that correction -- along with regained velocity -- will allow him to return to his peak form.
Here are more stray notes from around the game ...
- Another trade deadline mover, Mike Olt of the Cubs, has shown substantial improvement in the eyesight issues that plagued him last year with the Rangers, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times. Though his prospect stock has fallen in the meantime, all that matters to Olt is maintaining his health. "As long as I'm healthy," he said, "I know that I can do what I was capable of."
- Reliever Jason Frasor explained that he elected to re-sign with the Rangers for the simple reason that he likes playing for the club, reports Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. "Free agency isn't that great for middle relievers," he said. "I never wanted to be the kind of guy that bounced around from team to team as middle relievers often do with one-year deals. I found a place I really, really liked. ... I think I was the first [free agent] to sign [this offseason]. I just didn't feel it was worth it to try to scrape out maybe a little better contract ... ."
- One free agent who faces a much more open-ended market is former ace Johan Santana. As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports, Santana has fielded interest from at least three American League clubs. The 34-year-old is hoping to be ready to take the mound in a big league game in June.
- The Rays' roster battle features several situations where options will play a role, reports Bill Chastain of MLB.com. Among the players who must make the active roster or face a DFA are Chris Archer, Josh Lueke, Jake McGee, Cesar Ramos, Brandon Guyer, and Matt Joyce.
Barry Bonds will work with the Giants as a special instructor in spring training next month, Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News reports. Bonds has not had an official relationship with the Giants since 2007, his last season in the big leagues, so his presence could make quite an impression in Giants camp. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- The Indians will "soon make a serious push" to extend second baseman Jason Kipnis, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. Kipnis is eligible for free agency following the 2017 season, and Pluto notes the Indians would likely try to sign Kipnis to at least a five-year deal, picking up at least one free-agent season. MLBTR recently suggested Kipnis could make $30MM-$35MM over the course of a five-year deal.
- The Brewers will likely have a team-record payroll, and owner Mark Attanasio expects to win this season, Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel reports. "We’re at the point now where we’re well into the top half of payrolls in the major leagues. We have more pitching depth than we’ve had, really, in 10 years. As I’ve explained to everybody, as investors you wouldn’t make that decision to lose," Attanasio says. "The ownership group felt like this was the year to invest (more) in the team. I think we’re going to surprise people this year." After an offseason that featured the high-profile addition of Matt Garza, the Brewers have $86MM committed to 12 players, which could give them a higher payroll than they had in 2012, when their opening-day figure was $101.2MM.
- The signing of Ubaldo Jimenez has had a dramatic impact on Orioles fans, MASNsports.com's Steve Melewski writes. The Orioles' offseason had been very quiet, but suddenly they've landed Jimenez and now have Nelson Cruz as well.
- Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann is happy with his two-year, $24MM contract, and isn't concerned about the recent Homer Bailey extension, reports MLB.com's Bill Ladson. Zimmermann and the Nationals tried to negotiate a long-term deal, but ultimately couldn't find enough common ground. "They came to us with a two-year deal. Let's get this out of the way, so we don't have to worry about arbitration for the next two years," Zimmermann says. "We felt it was right, and I think it was fair for both sides, and we got the deal done."
- Arbitration-eligible players received an average raise of 117 percent this offseason, with their average salaries rising from $1.78MM to $3.86MM, the Associated Press reports. The heftiest raise went to Freddie Freeman of the Braves, who went from $560K in 2013 to a multiyear deal with an average salary of $16.875MM.
Former Indians GM and current Braves senior advisor John Hart discussed the evolution of extensions, as well as Atlanta's recent run of locking down young talent, in a fantastic interview with Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus. The full piece is required reading for anyone interested in understanding this key aspect of the transactional side of the game. Here are some of the many highlights:
- Hart spearheaded the now-widespread use of extensions while running a Cleveland club in the early-1990s that (like Atlanta currently) was loaded with young, impact ballplayers. Operating on a lower revenue, especially before the team opened Jacobs Field, the Indians started locking up players to avoid "run[ning] an entire class through arbitration" and to "demonstrate to our fan base that we were in this for the long haul." At the time, says Hart, his front office "sort of caught the industry by surprise" by locking up multiple players at attractive rates.
- Now, it is somewhat more difficult to get a "steal," Hart said, but teams can still "get a discount for the guarantee." He explained: "You're not always going to be successful on every guy. There's going to be different incentives and different factors in play." Nevertheless, he says, young players with "interest in stability" are still willing to reach deals that buy out free agent years. "With every success story comes with five or six crash and burns," said Hart, "and the players are aware of that. If you present opportunities for these guys at a younger age, you are going to have a willing ear."
- Though signing up lesser players carries "the risk of getting too locked down," Hart says that he expects to see increasing use of extensions for non-core players like back-end starters and relievers as teams continue to look for savings. Likewise, the increasing use of extensions by larger-market clubs, he opined, is merely a recognition that all organizations benefit from maintaining "a quality young core of players."
- In Hart's experience, it is possible to limit the risk that a player will not deal well with having sudden financial security. "These guys ... recognize that there's another bite out of the apple potentially for them," he said. "There's just also the self-pride, the peer pressure, if you will, to want to be as good as you can be. ... [W]e sort of knew what we had and didn't expect too much else. But I never saw anybody crash and burn."
- With regard to the current Braves club, Hart credited GM Frank Wren and president John Schuerholz both with accumulating the Braves' store of talent and with charting an extension strategy. In committing over $280MM in less than three weeks to extend Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, Julio Teheran, and Andrelton Simmons -- none of whom has over four years of MLB service -- Atlanta went on a stunning run of securing talent. That effort was aided, in part, by its breadth. "I think that was a little bit of the mindset as to why these players wanted to sign here," he said. "I think Frank did a great job. His strategy was Freeman one, along with Heyward. I think Kimbrel, you read some of his quotes, it was like, 'This makes sense to me because I know who I'm going to be with. ...'" After the front office saw Brian McCann and Tim Hudson walk for large paydays through free agency, said Hart, "I'm sure they looked up and said, 'Nuh-uh, not with this young core.'"
- Hart said that Atlanta -- like any other organization -- had to operate within "the economics of that particular organization" and "their tolerance for risk." In Atlanta's situation, newly expected revenue streams played a major role, according to Hart:
"I think in looking at that dynamic, although the Braves wanted to do these things, that to do the numbers they did, there had to be some level of comfort that there was going to be a revenue stream to support what they're doing. The feeling here is that if we're going to make commitments, ultimately we are going to put revenue back into the club. ... I think that's part of it, the ability to get that new stadium online, to have a potential spike in some of the television revenues. Obviously we're stuck with a deal that is well below the market, but they were able to do some other things with a portion of that."
Homer Bailey and the Reds were said earlier today to be close to a new deal, but nothing had materialized as of this evening. In the latest update, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports that details are still being worked out. GM Walt Jocketty echoed his star hurler's comments, saying that progress had been made. "There are still some outstanding issues," said Jocketty. "Hopefully they get resolved in the next 24 hours or else people are going to have to suit it up and go east." Jocketty was referring, of course, to donning not baseball uniforms but rather the business attire necessary for an arbitration hearing. "It's a lot of little things," Jocketty continued. "The structure of the contract, how it's paid and things like that."
Here's a look at some other potential extension situations shaping up around baseball ...
- Though the threat of an arbitration hearing has been avoided between Justin Masterson and the Indians, those parties could be operating on something of a deadline of their own. Masterson, a comparable pitcher to Bailey in many ways, is also entering his final season of arb-eligibility before hitting the open market. Though Masterson has said he'd be willing to continue discussions into the season, club GM Chris Antonetti says that he would rather keep talks to the spring, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.
- Another power pitcher, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, currently stands to qualify for free agency after 2015. As ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers reported today, team president Theo Epstein still hopes a deal can be worked out. On the other hand, his comments echoed some of the sentiment recently expressed by Samardzija, who indicated that the sides had reached something of a stalemate in negotiations. "Sometimes there is going to be a natural gap where a player values himself for what he can do and the team has to factor in a little bit more what he has done," Epstein explained. "It doesn't mean we're tremendously far apart, but if you are apart you kind of table it for another day and we'll see what happens."
- The Brewers previously explored extension talks with young shortstop Jean Segura, but those discussions did not lead anywhere. The club remains interested, but as MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports, nothing has occurred in the interim. "We're always open to [extension talks]," said GM Doug Melvin. "We've locked up some, some we didn't. We didn't get Prince [Fielder]. We offered him a deal earlier on to buy into free agency, but it just depends what players want. Not a lot of them want long-term deals that will take away free agency, and we like to get deals that have at least a year of free agency if we can."
- Another promising young shortstop, the Braves' Andrelton Simmons, has watched as three youthful teammates inked long-term deals in recent deays. As David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes (link behind paywall), Simmons is keeping his eye on the field but would be interested in a new contract. "I'm just focused on playing," said Simmons. "If it happens, great. I love Atlanta. So hopefully something gets done. But you never know." As O'Brien points out, uncertainty remains in Simmons' arbitration value. Not only does it remain unclear whether he will qualify as a Super Two (he has 1.125 years of service time), but his immense defensive value may not translate into commensurate arbitration earnings. Of course, another defense-first shortstop -- Elvis Andrus of the Rangers -- was able to ink a shorter-term, early-career deal (at three years of service) and then land another, much greater extension just a year later.
- The Giants have at least two worthy extension candidates. The first and more pressing, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, is entering his final season before hitting the open market at age 28. But the sides are currently not engaged in talks, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Cotillo notes that today's physical could have a bearing on how things play out. Sandoval, who at times has seen his conditioning questioned, has made some waves by slimming down entering camp this year.
- A different sort of urgency is shaping up with regard to Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who is scheduled for an arbitration hearing bright and early tomorrow. As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, though discussions are presently focused on Belt's 2014 salary (the sides stand far apart at $3.6MM and $2.05MM), GM Brian Sabean says he remains interested in exploring a longer-term deal. "We like the player," said Sabean. "We think he's one of the up-and-coming players in the National League and we want to hold onto him. But first things first." What Sabean seems to mean is that Belt's future earning capacity through arbitration is very much tied to the divergent filing figures submitted by each side.
- Indeed, Belt would stand at the same starting point as fellow Super Two first baseman Eric Hosmer (who agreed to a $3.6MM price with the Royals) if he wins his hearing. That would set both players on a potentially higher arbitration trajectory than that of another young first bagger, Atlanta's Freddie Freeman, who just inked a monster extension to avoid arbitration in his first of just three seasons of eligibility. Freeman had filed at $5.75MM, with the Braves countering at $4.5MM; both Belt and Hosmer could easily land in that realm with another big year. As I recently explained in discussing the impact of the Freeman deal, Belt and Hosmer could potentially look to Freeman's eight-year, $135MM contract as a target -- though it remains to be seen, of course, whether their employers would go to that level.