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Colby Rasmus Rumors
The Tigers didn’t trade Rick Porcello to the Red Sox due to a lack of progress in extension talks, Porcello’s agent Jim Murray tells FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi. The two sides “briefly discussed” extending Porcello’s contract beyond the 2015 season, Murray said, “but it was more in the context of something both parties may or may not talk about in the future.” Here’s some more from around the AL Central…
- Though Scott Boras has openly said the Tigers won’t get a chance to match an opposing team’s final offer for Max Scherzer, an industry source tells MLB.com’s Jason Beck that the agent will indeed give Tigers owner Mike Ilitch a chance to match “at least as a professional courtesy.” The good relationship between Boras and Ilitch has paved the way for several Boras clients to come to Detroit, perhaps most notably Prince Fielder in the 2011-12 offseason.
- Also from Beck, he passes along comments from Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski reiterating that nothing has changed between Detroit and Scherzer. “I guess anything can happen but we’re not in active pursuit at this time. We’re happy with our starting pitching,” Dombrowski said. “Again, we love him, but as I said at the time, we were the sole club that could sign him last spring. It didn’t work. I don’t think our odds improve with 29 other clubs that could potentially try to sign him.”
- Melky Cabrera is still the Royals‘ top choice to fill their hole in the outfield, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. If Cabrera can’t be signed, K.C. has such options as Nori Aoki, Colby Rasmus or Alex Rios as fallback options.
- The vesting option on Ervin Santana‘s four-year contract with the Twins will require more than just 200 IP from the righty in 2018 to guarantee his 2019 season, a source tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link).
- The Twins haven’t discussed extensions with Phil Hughes, Brian Dozier or Trevor Plouffe yet this offseason, Mike Berardino reports (via Twitter). Berardino suggests that talks could wait until January. The three players have very different contract situations — Dozier isn’t arbitration-eligible until next winter, Plouffe is projected to earn $4.3MM in his second of four arb years as a Super Two player and Hughes still has two seasons remaining on the three-year, $24MM deal he signed last winter. Of the three, Hughes would clearly be the most expensive to extend given his tremendous 2014 campaign.
The latest on the Royals..
- The Giants and Royals are two teams to watch on Mets pitcher Dillon Gee, but there are other clubs who have checked in as well, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (via Twitter).
- Colby Rasmus is on the Royals’ list of outfield options, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Earlier this offseason, our own Jeff Todd profiled Rasmus and identified the Royals as a possibility for him.
- The Royals are reportedly willing to listen on Greg Holland and Wade Davis and Bob Dutton of The News Tribune hears that they’re also willing to take calls on Kelvin Herrera. Kansas City is after an outfield bat and they could parlay their strength in the bullpen to solve their corner outfield situation. In Dutton’s mind, their willingness to move one of the three could signal that they can’t match other offers to sign Melky Cabrera.
3:18pm: Baltimore’s interest in Aoki is “lukewarm,” Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports.
10:52am: As the Orioles look to fill in the holes left by departing free agents, they have reached out to the representatives of free agent outfielders Nori Aoki and Colby Rasmus, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. It does not appear that Baltimore is heavily engaged with Melky Cabrera at present, Heyman adds.
Aoki and Rasmus join the previously-reported Delmon Young as possible bats being targeted by the O’s. Both players are bounceback candidates to an extent, though their profiles are near opposites. The veteran Aoki is a high-OBP, low-strikeout option who is nearing 33 years of age, while the 28-year-old Rasmus brings tantalizing power upside but a troubling strikeout rate, some injury history, and much greater overall variability.
Jake Peavy acknowledges that he had an up-and-down season and tells Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com that he feels he has a lot to prove in free agency. However, the 33-year-old righty tells Crasnick that he actually enjoys the skepticism surrounding him after his struggles in Boston and in the postseason with San Francisco. “I need to have people doubting me, because that’s when you dig deep and find out what you’re made of,” Peavy explains. Crasnick spoke to a number of scouts and executives that all feel Peavy is a perfectly capable fourth starter at this point in his career, even if he’s not capable of being the ace he once was. “He’s not a No. 1 or a 2 by any stretch,” a scout tells Crasnick. “But if you have a deep team and you can give him a [Tim] Hudson type of deal and plug him into the 4 or 5 spot, I think he’s worth that.” (Hudson signed for two years and $23MM.) Crasnick hears that the Marlins have already had discussions with Peavy’s camp this offseason. Crasnick’s article has several excellent quotes from scouts and execs on Peavy’s current free agent stock and abilities on the mound.
Here’s more from baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- John Harper of the New York Daily News still isn’t convinced that the Yankees won’t make a run at Max Scherzer, and he spoke with one executive (that he describes as “friendly” with GM Brian Cashman) who shares that view. The exec noted that while Cashman would love to build from within and hates the idea of surrendering a first-round pick, turning to Scherzer and Andrew Miller while letting David Robertson sign elsewhere would net the Yankees a fairly similar selection to their No. 19 overall pick. Harper also wonders if the leak of the Yankees’ interest in Miller was, to some extent, a deliberate tactic to put extra pressure on Robertson to re-sign.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the Yankees are currently more likely to sign Miller than Robertson, though he eventually notes that the Bombers haven’t ruled out signing both relievers to pair with the electric Dellin Betances as a dynamic bullpen trio. Heyman, too, notes that the Yankees likely see some merit in the idea of pursuing the slightly cheaper Miller while letting Robertson walk to earn a compensatory draft pick.
- Though much has been made about the Cubs, Rockies, D’Backs and Mariners as a potential trade partner to fill the Mets‘ hole at shortstop, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that the Red Sox are an interesting partner as well. Prospect Deven Marrero is said to be available in trades, Martino writes, and the Red Sox have a well-documented need for starting pitching, making the two sides a good fit on paper.
- The Orioles have lost Nelson Cruz to free agency and are facing the possibility of losing Nick Markakis as well, prompting Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports to list a short-term deal with Colby Rasmus as a possibility for the O’s should Markakis land elsewhere (Twitter link).
When the Blue Jays brass met to discuss the offseason, Adam Lind was at the top of the list, writes John Lott of the National Post. The first baseman’s presence on the roster impeded flexibility, which is why the club dealt him for pitcher Marco Estrada earlier today. GM Alex Anthopoulos expressed hope that the trade would be the first domino in a series of moves. Here’s more from north of the border.
- FOXSports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets that the White Sox were also interested in Lind but did not make a substantial offer. I’m not surprised the Sox did not match the Brewers’ offer. With the possible exception of Dayan Viciedo, the White Sox don’t possess a player like Estrada, i.e. an established major leaguer coming off a disappointing season.
- The Jays and free agent Melky Cabrera are far apart in contract negotiations, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Anthopoulos was forthcoming about the talks, comparing the situation to some arbitration cases. “Sometimes you need to have that third party, which is the market…so they truly know what they are worth.” Based on those comments, it appears likely that Cabrera will test the market. We at MLBTR pegged Cabrera for a five-year, $70MM contract, but he’s obviously among the hardest players to gauge due to his history with performance enhancing drugs and a lost season in 2013 from a back injury. For what it’s worth, I consider the $70MM estimate to be conservative in today’s offensively anemic game.
- Toronto declined Dustin McGowan‘s $4MM option because the contract was too rich for his projected role, says Davidi (Twitter link). Anthopoulos did not rule out a reunion with McGowan at a lesser rate, per Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star (via Twitter).
- Anthopoulos confirmed that the club views prospect Aaron Sanchez as a starter long term, tweets Kennedy. However, there may not be a spot in the rotation. My observation from strolling around the internet is that many fans hope to see Sanchez installed as the closer. No plans have been made at this time.
- The Blue Jays will not make a qualifying offer to Colby Rasmus or Casey Janssen, tweets Davidi. He referred to the news as “confirming the obvious,” since neither player was viewed as a candidate for an offer.
The Blue Jays are hopeful to retain Melky Cabrera and have opened preliminary discussions with his representatives at the Legacy Agency, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Toronto is said to be willing to offer “at least” a three-year contract, according to Heyman, though he’s spoken with some in the industry who expect Cabrera to pursue a five-year pact.
Two-thirds of the Blue Jays’ outfield is hitting the open market this winter, as center fielder Colby Rasmus is also eligible for free agency. However, Heyman says that there’s been no thought to bringing Rasmus back, and the team is instead focused on retaining the switch-hitting Cabrera at this time.
Cabrera struggled through the worst season of his career in 2013 before a benign tumor was found on his spine. Surgery to remove the tumor ended his season, and he bounced back in a big way this year, slashing .301/. 351/.458 with 16 homers in 139 games. Cabrera’s season did end early once again when he broke a pinkie finger on a headfirst slide.
Nonetheless, Cabrera has set himself up for what will easily be the largest payday of his career. However, a three-year pact seems highly unlikely get the job done, in my estimation. In my free agent profile for Cabrera two weeks ago, I pegged him for a five-year deal given his relative youth and status as one of the best bats on this year’s thin free agent market.
Cabrera has said that he wants to return to Toronto, so it’s possible that the Jays have some hope of getting a deal done before he hits the open market. If a deal is not reached by the time qualifying offers are due, the Blue Jays will make the $15.3MM QO, which Cabrera will almost certainly decline in search of that big payday.
Colby Rasmus entered the year as one of the more intriguing pending free agents. Coming off of a big 2013 campaign, he rated eighth among all expected free agents in MLBTR’s first Free Agent Power Rankings installment back in March.
While his upside remains tantalizing, however, the Excel Sports Management client has yet to establish himself as a consistent presence. And the 2014 season magnified some of his weaknesses, serving as a poor platform for free agency.
Power from a capable center fielder is a rare commodity, and Rasmus is certainly the only free agent-to-be who offers that package. Despite seeing only 376 plate appearances in 2014, Rasmus managed to swat 18 long balls and post an excellent .223 ISO (slightly better than players like Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, and Miguel Cabrera). That is rare air, indeed, for an up-the-middle outfielder: in terms of ISO, only Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen posted higher marks among center fielders.
If there were any doubts whether Rasmus could remain a consistent source of power, he answered them. Indeed, Rasmus’s 2014 campaign landed right alongside his two excellent overall seasons of 2010 and 2013 in terms of ISO. Likewise, his line drive rate (23.3%) and home run to flyball ratio (19.4%) reached new career highs, while his infield fly ball ratio declined for the fourth consecutive year.
Generally, then, when Rasmus makes contact, it has been good contact. (More on that below.) To an extent, his variations in batting average and on-base numbers over the years can be attributed to BABIP. Last year, for instance, he hit .276 and reached base at a .338 clip on the back of a .356 BABIP. When his average on balls in play dropped to .294 this year, his average fell to .225 and his OBP dropped to .287.
As Rasmus noted in a fascinating interview with Scott MacArthur of TSN.ca, he believes that he sent a lot of hard-hit balls into newly-aggressive shifts, accounting for some of the decline. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca explored that idea, and other possible explanations for Rasmus’s enigmatic bat, in a late-season piece. As Davidi notes, Rasmus suffered significant BABIP drops on both line drives and ground balls. Another oft-noted change was the departure of Jays hitting coach Chad Mottola, with whom Rasmus thrived. Though Rasmus has good things to say about replacement Kevin Seitzer, he has not seemed to mesh in working to counteract the league’s adjustments.
Despite struggling in some other ways at the plate, Rasmus still managed to produce at a better than league average clip this year (103 wRC+) thanks to his pop. He has been a consistently solid baserunner, though he is not much of a threat to steal. And while his defensive ratings have had their ups and downs, the total package is appealing. At his best, Rasmus has logged two seasons as one of the better center fielders in baseball: 2010 (4.0 fWAR, 3.6 rWAR) and 2013 (4.8 fWAR, 4.6 rWAR). And even in the rough campaigns of late — 2012 (1.0 fWAR, 1.8 rWAR over 625 plate appearances) and 2014 (0.6 fWAR, 0.9 rWAR over 376 plate appearances) – he has been at least serviceable, if not the kind of player that first-division club would hope to field.
Of course, it is critical to bear in mind that Rasmus only just turned 28 in August. That is an unusually young age to reach free agency, and could be enough to keep hopes alive for a return to the fairly impressive ceiling that he has shown in the past. Needless to say, youth, athleticism, and power are excellent attributes in any free agent.
Another key factor is that Rasmus is all but certain not to come with draft compensation attached. Teams will be much more inclined to take a chance on his talent without the need to sacrifice future assets.
Defensively, advanced metrics were less kind to Rasmus this year than in the past. One year after being credited with saving his team 11 runs by Defensive Runs Saved, Rasmus checked in at a negative 7 tally in 2014. And his UZR/150 figures likewise reversed course, going from +15.2 to -15.3.
This is not the first time that those measures viewed Rasmus as a hindrance in the field, though he has tended to bounce up and down over the years and remains an average to slightly above average contributor over his career. Rasmus has explained that he was also slowed by cumulative injuries – he mentioned his hips and hamstrings – that could have had an impact.
Most worryingly, perhaps, are the changes in Rasmus’s strikeout figures. He has set career highs in each of the last two years, moving from a 29.5% strikeout ratio last year to a 33.0% clip this time around. Of course, he did succeed at that level last year, and posted his third-highest career K rate in his excellent 2010 season. As Drew Fairservice of Fangraphs wrote in exploring the “enigma” of Rasmus, he has a fairly unusual skillset with few obvious comps. Though B.J. Upton and Chris Young offer warning signs, Fairservice notes some routes to upside scenarios, even if they are arguably less likely.
Also up for debate is whether Rasmus would be better served in a platoon situation. As a left-handed bat, he generally has performed better against righties. For his career, Rasmus owns a 112 wRC+ against righties, which drops to a score of 77 against same-handed pitchers. In spite of his struggles in 2014, he actually reduced his splits to a more manageable 14-point gap.
It is also worth pointing out that Rasmus has a not-unblemished injury history. In fairness, most of the issues are not much more than typical bumps and bruises, but he has missed time over recent years with wrist, oblique, and hamstring injuries. This could, of course, be spun in either of two ways: on the one hand, some have suggested that Rasmus is injury-prone; on the other, he could be said to play the game hard and his nicks could explain some of his inconsistency.
Then, there is the fact that Rasmus sat a good bit at the tail end of 2014. Though that was obviously a reflection of a complicated situation — involving his performance, that of the Blue Jays, and the presence of younger players who had a future with the organization — it certainly did not help. If nothing else, the benching held down his stats, prevented him from showing much late in the year, and may not have sent the best signal to prospective new employers.
Rasmus grew up in Alabama and still lives there in the offseason. He is married with one child. Rasmus grew up in a very baseball-focused family, and appeared in the 1999 Little League World Series along with brother Cory, who now pitches for the Angels, on a team coached by his father.
In the above-linked interview, Rasmus intimated that he has struggled at points in his career with maintaining his love for the game. Saying that he is by nature relaxed but hard-working, Rasmus says that over-aggressive coaching has at times had the opposite of the intended effect on him. On the whole, Rasmus leaves the impression that his production on the field and enjoyment of the game tend to go hand-in-hand, and that he hopes to find an environment in which both can thrive.
Rasmus is in a unique position in the market. On the one hand, he occupies the always-enviable status of being the best player available at his position, center field. In fact, it’s not even close: players like Emilio Bonifacio, Grady Sizemore, and Chris Young fall next in the pecking order.
In spite of that, it is questionable whether a club with expectations to contend would pursue the up-and-down Rasmus as an everyday option. As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes has suggested (via Twitter), teams like the Tigers and Braves are in need of added production up the middle. But they might prefer to explore a trade market that could include options such as Drew Stubbs, Dexter Fowler, Jon Jay or Peter Bourjos, and perhaps Desmond Jennings. That figures to be the real competition for Rasmus.
On the other hand, there are still plenty of landing spots that might make sense. Dierkes also suggested the Cubs, and the Twins are also unsettled in center. Though Rasmus has little experience in the corners — less than 100 big league innings, in fact, all coming in his rookie year — a host of other teams might like the idea of deploying him there. It is possible to imagine interest from the Mets, Reds, Rays, White Sox, Royals, Giants, Padres, Pirates, Rangers, and Athletics. Depending on what shakes out with their current options, the Orioles, Astros, and Phillies are certainly plausible bidders as well. (Of course, unlike the center field market, there are more viable alternatives to contend with as well.)
All said, Rasmus should have a fairly broad market given his upside and defensive flexibility. Things will really open up if, as I suspect, he prioritizes fit with the clubhouse and coaching staff over contract particulars and position (if, in other words, he is amenable to taking a corner job).
Ultimately, Rasmus is one of the most difficult free agents to pick a price tag for. His upside – given his age, center field capability, and power – is perhaps unmatched among this year’s crop of outfielders. Indeed, it was not long ago that it seemed likely, as MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm wrote in late 2013, that Rasmus would top the B.J. Upton contract (five years, $75MM) when he hit the market. Yet it is not plausible now, with another year of information in the books. to put him in that range.
There would appear to be two approaches that Rasmus – and interested teams – could take. First is the traditional pillow contract. In that case, Rasmus would surely look to prioritize fit, hoping to find both regular playing time and a situation that would lead to a good platform season. Position player comps are somewhat wanting: Young signed for one year and $7.25MM last year in a somewhat similar situation, though that deal emerged out of a much more crowded outfield market, and Young was both somewhat older and coming off of a rougher offensive year. And Kevin Youkilis went for $12MM over one year, though he had a significantly longer track record of consistent production but was a much older player. With market inflation and a lack of competition, I believe Rasmus would be able to reach eight figures on a one-year deal.
On the other hand, the following year’s market includes increased competition in the form of players like Fowler and Austin Jackson. And it is not hard to imagine a team that believes in Rasmus looking to take advantage of his depressed value to lock in an attractive contract, much as the Twins did last year with Phil Hughes. For a club that can tolerate his strikeout tendencies, and believes in him as an at least average defender up the middle, a three-year offer cannot be ruled out, especially given Rasmus’s age. (Remember, the Red Sox just committed $72MM to unproven 27-year-old Rusney Castillo.) Clubs could be tempted to take the risk for a chance at his upside since he is a reasonably flexible roster piece, given his left-handed bat and center field capabilities.
It is hard to gauge just how high the price could go in that scenario, but it should be noted that Rasmus can wait to re-enter the market at a young 29 and has already earned something like $17MM in his career. Given that, it is somewhat difficult to imagine him seriously considering a deal that falls shy of a $10MM AAV over a term of three years. (And it might well take more to convince him to go that route; remember, he can look to rebuild his value and hit the market again at a still-youthful 29. Two years seems undesirable from Rasmus’s perspective, though he could field such offers.) One other factor to bear in mind is that Rasmus should be able to take his time seeing how interest develops in a multi-year scenario, fairly confident that a solid one-year option will be around at the end of the day.
Ultimately, I believe Rasmus will prioritize finding the right fit over maxing his earnings, whether on a one-year or multi-year deal. I do find a make-good contract to be the likelier outcome, and think that Rasmus will be able to reach $12MM on a one-year deal. But I would not be surprised if he ultimately scores a three-year pact.
Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus discussed his disappointing season and pending free agency in a lengthy and excellent interview with Scott Macarthur of TSN.ca. Rasmus’s comments are too lengthy and complicated to encapsulate fully and fairly here, but are well worth a read (or a listen) to anyone interested in understanding one of the more interesting free agent situations in the game. Ultimately, Rasmus comes across as an extremely thoughtful player who, perhaps, needs the right environment to thrive. Though he did not say outright that he does not view that place as Toronto, Rasmus did say that his time with the Cardinals was at times “so unenjoyable that I had trouble wanting to come to the yard everyday and enjoy it,” and noted that he has “kind of run into some of that” this season as well. Said Rasmus: “This year has been a tough year and I’m just going to go home, enjoy it, go back to the drawing board and try to work my tail off this offseason to get in good shape and hopefully find a place to where I fit in well and I can help my team win.” It will be fascinating to see how his free agency turns out; though he has had good years and bad, Rasmus just turned 28, offers rare power for a center fielder, and has put up two approximately four-win seasons.
- Mets starter Dillon Gee is under team control for next year, but as Newsday’s Marc Carig writes, he could find himself squeezed out of the rotation after a tough second half. “I’ll have a spot somewhere,” said Gee. “It might not be here but it will be somewhere.”
- The Mets could be more and more inclined to hold off on adding a shortstop given the recent play of Wilmer Flores, as Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. “We’re getting a lot more comfortable,” said GM Sandy Alderson. “One of the reasons for giving [Flores] as much playing time as we have is to build up his number of plate appearances to get him more comfortable to try to establish sort of a baseline.” Alderson said that Flores has done a solid job defensively at short, noting that Ruben Tejada and Matt Reynolds also remain internal options to take the position next year.
- While Yasmani Tomas makes a good deal of sense for the Phillies, that does not mean that they are favorites to sign him, writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. Other clubs in better position to contend will likely place an increased value on adding a bat like Tomas given their spot on the win curve, Murphy suggests.
The Orioles organization suffered a major loss today, as PR director Monica Pence Barlow passed away at just 36 years of age after a long battle with cancer. As this morning's outpouring reveals, Barlow was an inspiration to those who knew her. Among the many writers impacted by the loss was MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko, who offers a tribute: "Whenever someone would ask, 'Why you?,' Monica would reply, 'Why not?' Pretty much says it all, doesn't it?"
As MLBTR joins in offering its condolences, here are some notes from around the American League East:
- Sam and Seth Levinson, the agents for Jon Lester and several other Red Sox players, have arrived in Fort Myers, reports WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. It is not yet known whether they will engage in talks with GM Ben Cherington regarding a new deal for Lester, but Cherington has made clear that he would to keep negotiations to the spring.
- Fellow Sox starter John Lackey says he is not worried about the fact that he'll be subject to a league-minimum club option net year, writes Bradford. "It's different," said Lackey. "There will be some things I will have to think about, for sure." But he says he isn't worried about that now. "I haven't even gotten to that point of thinking that far ahead," Lackey said. "We'll play this year out and see what happens. I'm not worried about the money. I've made plenty of that."
- Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus is entering his walk year, but he says he'll join Lackey in focusing on the present, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. "I haven't thought about it at all," said Rasmus. "For me, it's all about right now, and next year don't matter." After a turnaround 2013 season that restored some of his earlier luster, the 27-year-old Rasmus could play his way into (or out of) a big contract.
The Blue Jays have avoided arbitration with center fielder Colby Rasmus by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $7MM, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link). This is Rasmus' final year of arbitration eligibility, as he'll be a free agent in the offseason.
Rasmus, 27, is represented by Excel Sports Management. The left-handed swinger batted .276/.338/.501 with 22 homers for the Blue Jays in 2013 and played strong defense in center field according to UZR/150 (+15.2) and The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs saved metric (+11). Rasmus will be one of the most appealing free agents on next year's market, though he could stand to cut down on this past season's 29.5 percent strikeout rate. His $7MM guarantee tops the projection of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz by $500K.
The Blue Jays originally acquired Rasmus from the Cardinals in a three-team trade that sent Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and Corey Patterson to St. Louis. Toronto has successfully avoided arbitration with all three of its arbitration eligible players (the others being Brett Cecil and Esmil Rogers), meaning GM Alex Anthopoulos can boast that he's never had to go to an arbitration hearing for at least another year.