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We’ll keep track of the day’s smaller arbitration deals in this post, with all projections mentioned referring to those of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Here’s the latest…
- Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press tweets that the Astros have avoided arbitration with Chris Carter, settling on a one-year, $4.175MM pact. Carter, 28, cut back on his strikeout rate to an extent in 2014 (it still checked in at 31.8 percent), but the real improvement came in terms of his power production. The slugger finished with 37 home runs, trailing only Nelson Cruz and tying him with Giancarlo Stanton for second in the Majors in long balls. His elite power served him well, as Swartz’s projection model had him ticketed for $3.5MM.
- In addition to avoiding arb with Drew Stubbs (link) and Tyler Chatwood (who inked a two-year deal), the Rockies have also avoided arb with right-hander Jordan Lyles, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Lyles will earn a salary of $2.475MM in 2015, per Heyman. A client of Palmetto Sports Group, Lyles enjoyed a nice season with the Rockies that was shortened, to an extent, by a fractured broken left hand (his non-throwing hand). Still, the 24-year-old worked 126 1/3 innings, posting a career-best 4.33 ERA with 6.4 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and an excellent 51.7 percent ground-ball rate. Lyles’ performance prior to the injury — 3.52 ERA, 3.76 xFIP — was markedly better than his post-injury performance, though the discrepancy between his post-injury ERA (5.31) and xFIP (4.23) indicates that there could be further improvement. He had been projected to receive $2.5MM.
- The Yankees have announced a deal to avoid arbitration with righty Ivan Nova. He will earn $3.3MM, per a tweet from the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. That sum also matches Nova’s salary from 2014, unsurprisingly, as he missed most of the season due to Tommy John surgery after struggling out of the gate. Nova, who just turned 28, had a highly productive 2013 campaign (3.10 ERA in 139 1/3 frames). Though he posted significant innings totals in prior years, he had never put together a season like that in terms of both results and peripherals (3.47 FIP). All said, it was an easy call for New York to roll the dice on Nova’s rehabilitation.
The Rockies and outfielder Drew Stubbs have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $5.825MM contract, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (on Twitter). That salary is just $125K north of the $5.7MM figure projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
Stubbs a client, of Lagardere Unlimited, enjoyed a strong overall year in his first season with the Rockies. The 30-year-old hit .289/.339/.482 with 15 homers, 20 steals and average defense in center field, making him a well-rounded player and resulting in roughly 2.5 wins above replacement.
Like nearly any player, Stubbs isn’t without his flaws. He posted a vastly higher OPS against left-handed pitching (.944) than right-handed pitching (.757), and the majority of his damage was done in the hitter-friendly confines of Denver’s Coors Field. At Coors, Stubbs slashed a hefty .356/.388/.611 with 12 of his 15 homers, but on the road he hit a sub-par .211/.288/.333.
This agreement brings to an end Stubbs’ final trip through the arbitration process, as he’ll be a free agent next offseason as he heads into his age-31 campaign. In spite of the significant platoon and home/road splits, another sound season would position him well on next year’s free agent market. Clubs in hitter-friendly parks of their own, in particular, could be drawn to his combination of defense, power and speed.
The Yankees have dealt for righty Chris Martin of the Rockies in exchange for cash considerations, Jack Curry of the YES Network reports on Twitter. Martin had been designated for assignment on the fifth of this month.
Late to join the professional ranks at all, the 28-year-old Martin rose quickly and debuted with the Rockies last year. His results were unimpressive in a short sample, but he registered an outstanding 60.8% groundball rate and struck out eight batters per nine over 15 2/3 innings. Martin posted similarly encouraging peripherals at Triple-A, with 12.2 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9 in 26 2/3 frames.
As Curry notes, Martin has options remaining. Presumably, he will battle for a job this spring with the expectation that he will serve as depth in the upper minors.
The Padres are still involved in some chatter involving Phillies ace Cole Hamels, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Prior reports had indicated that a hypothetical deal could include recently-acquired, high-upside outfielder Wil Myers, but Heyman says that recently-discussed trade scenarios have been based around San Diego prospects. That being said, the report stresses that nothing is close and that other clubs are still involved. And, of course, GM A.J. Preller said recently that he does not expect any more truly significant deals.
More from the National League West:
- In addition to pursuing free agent starter James Shields, the Diamondbacks are looking at the trade market for a starter and/or catcher, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports. Arizona would be interested in moving an outfield bat, and at least one club (the Orioles) has inquired on David Peralta and Ender Inciarte.
- The Rockies, too, want to add to their rotation, and MLB.com’s Thomas Harding says that the team is increasing its efforts to do so. Mets righty Dillon Gee is said to be a target, of course, though Harding reports that the Rockies have not made an offer. (For what it’s worth, both Harding and Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post suggested the idea of southpaw reliever Boone Logan as a target for the Mets.) Otherwise, Colorado would likely aim for an experienced, back-end right-hander on the free agent market, with Harding saying that names like Ryan Vogelsong, Kyle Kendrick, and Kevin Correia represent the range of pitcher being considered.
- In addition to eyeing the rotation market, the Rockies have several former closers on their radar, per Harding. Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and John Axford are among the late-inning arms that Colorado could make a run at, according to the report.
Following a report from last night in which Andy Martino of the New York Daily News indicated that the Mets are in active trade talks regarding Dillon Gee, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Rockies, Padres and Giants are all looking at a trade for the 28-year-old righty.
The Rockies were linked by Rosenthal’s colleague, Jon Morosi, to free agent Ryan Vogelsong last night, and Morosi reported late last week that the Rox also had mild interest in Dan Haren. It’s not surprising to see Colorado looking to add some arms, and Gee would seem a bit of a better fit than either Vogelsong or Haren. For one, his projected $5.1MM price tag (courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz) is half that of Haren’s. But more importantly, Gee is more of a ground-ball pitcher than either of the other two veteran righties; he posted a 44.1 percent ground-ball rate in 2014 and sports a 45.6 percent mark for his career. While those numbers are roughly league average, they’re much higher than the marks Haren and Vogelsong have posted in recent years. Both have a ground-ball percentage of about 39 percent in that time. Gee is also controllable for two seasons via arbitration — another factor that Colorado likely finds appealing.
It’s a bit puzzling to see the Padres linked to a starting pitcher, but perhaps it shouldn’t be, given how active GM A.J. Preller has been on the trade front this winter. San Diego currently projects to have a strong crop of starters, fronted by Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy. Beyond that trio, injury-prone but talented righties Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson will compete with Odrisamer Despaigne, Robbie Erlin andCory Luebke for the final two spots. Of course, both Luebke and Johnson are on the mend from Tommy John surgery, so they’re unlikely to be ready for the beginning of the season. And, Cashner, Morrow and Johnson all have lengthy injury histories, so perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising that the Friars are looking for more depth. San Diego also traded away the talented Jesse Hahn, who seemed destined for a rotation spot, in the Derek Norris deal with the A’s.
As for the Giants, they’ve had uncertainty surrounding their rotation for quite some time, and that only increased when they learned that Tim Hudson would require ankle surgery that would keep him shelved for eight weeks. Following that news, vice president/assistant GM Bobby Evans told reporters that the team still wasn’t considering adding a Major League arm to its ranks, but that no longer appears to be the case. The Giants have Madison Bumgarner atop the rotation and re-signed Jake Peavy to a two-year deal, but both Matt Cain and Hudson are now coming off surgery, Tim Lincecum has been unstable for the better part of three years, and Yusmeiro Petit has never handled a full season’s workload as a starter (though he has been brilliant as a swingman for the past two seasons). San Francisco also watched Vogelsong hit the open market this winter, further depleting their rotation.
Gee, who turns 29 in late April, worked to an even 4.00 ERA in 137 innings with the Mets last season. He was limited by a strained lat muscle that led to a prolonged DL stint, but he did toss 199 innings the year prior. Over the past four seasons in the Mets’ rotation, Gee has worked to a 4.01 ERA (4.24 FIP) with 6.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. The Mets are known to be looking to shed a veteran starter this winter, and Gee’s name has come up the most frequently of late.
Among the areas that the Mets could be looking to address on their big league roster are left-handed relief and shortstop. I find it unlikely that the Mets receive a starting-caliber shortstop in a trade of Gee, but a left-handed reliever is certainly a plausible return, and they could simply move him for the best package of minor league talent offered by any of the interested parties as well.
There doesn’t seem to be much of a market yet for Ryan Howard, but perhaps there should be, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. True, the Phillies would have to pay a large chunk of the $60MM on Howard’s contract, but Howard still has home run power and is healthy this offseason. Howard also revised his limited no-trade clause last fall to accommodate possible trades, and would likely approve deals even to teams on his no-trade list, Rosenthal reports. “If you’re looking for a DH and want some left-handed power – which doesn’t exist out there – and a good quality person who knows how to win and wants to play, this guy is the guy to go get,” says GM Ruben Amaro Jr. “The fact that we’ve been so public makes people think we’ll release him. That won’t happen.” Contract aside, Rosenthal thinks Howard’s market value ought be be something like $7MM to $10MM per season. Even that seems ambitious for a 35-year-old who has been below replacement level in two of the last three seasons, however. Here are more notes from throughout baseball.
- This weekend’s trade of Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar could make the Rays a potential bidder for Howard, since the Rays gained payroll flexibility in the deal and have pursued stopgap designated hitters and first basemen in the past, Ryan Lawrence of Philly.com writes. It seems unlikely that the Rays would trade for Howard, however. They acquired John Jaso in the Zobrist deal with the idea that he wouldn’t primarily be a catcher, but rather a left-handed bat who might DH or play first base or outfield. (In fact, Jaso has said the Rays plan for him to play mostly DH.) Jaso’s role would seem to overlap with Howard’s potential spot in Tampa, so if Howard’s performance didn’t rule him out as an option for the Rays, Jaso’s presence probably would.
- The Rockies have had discussions with free agent starter Ryan Vogelsong, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweets. The Rockies have been connected to low-cost starting pitchers like Josh Johnson, Aaron Harang, Kevin Correia and Kyle Kendrick, and Vogelsong would seem somewhat similar. Pitchers like Kendrick have shown some ability to get ground balls, however, while Vogelsong is more of a fly ball pitcher, potentially making him an awkward fit for Coors Field. The 37-year-old posted a 4.00 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 184 2/3 innings with the Giants in 2014.
- The Diamondbacks are trying to acquire a catcher, Morosi tweets. After trading Miguel Montero to the Cubs, the Snakes have Tuffy Gosewisch penciled in as their starter. The only other catcher on their 40-man is Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez, who played in Class A last year. They did sign Matt Pagnozzi and re-sign Blake Lalli to minor league deals, but they still appear short on experienced catching.
- The Mets are in active trade discussions involving starting pitcher Dillon Gee, Andy Martino of New York Daily News tweets. Gee’s name came up in the three-team Ian Desmond / Ben Zobrist deal the Mets discussed with the Rays and Nationals, Martino adds. Rumors about Gee have simmered all offseason, with the Rockies, Giants and Twins among the teams connected to the righty. The Mets have reportedly been trying to trade a veteran starter, with Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon as other potential candidates, although Gee appears to be the most likely to be traded.
- The Orioles will get a close look at Rule 5 picks Jason Garcia and Logan Verrett at minicamp this week, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. Garcia (who was originally selected by the Astros before being traded to Baltimore) just turned 22 and has not yet pitched above Class A, but Encina says the righty impressed the Orioles with his performance against their farmhands in instructional league play last fall. Verrett is more experienced, having held his own as a starter for the Mets’ Triple-A team last year as a 24-year-old. He’s more likely to relieve for the Orioles. It seems unlikely that a contending team would keep two Rule 5 picks on its roster for too long, so the amount of time Garcia and Verrett have to prove themselves might be somewhat limited.
Padres GM A.J. Preller deserves much of the credit for the club’s surprising offseason, but ownership should get its due too, writes Matt Calkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune. While the decision to fire former GM Josh Byrnes prior to the trade deadline was roundly lampooned, it opened the door for Preller to prepare his staff for a flurry of offseason moves. Additional support from ownership, including an expanded payroll, helped to fuel Preller’s moves.
- New Padre Brandon Maurer blossomed in a relief role last season, writes Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Maurer features a 95 mph fastball and a biting curve. The Padres may give him a chance to start, but he appears to have the floor of a late innings reliever.
- If the Rockies don’t make some bold moves, another 90 loss season could be on the horizon, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Rockies GM Jeff Bridich says a couple moves were “close-ish,” but hasn’t yet found a major move to his liking. Saunders would target the rotation and bullpen for remodeling.
- In a quick analysis piece of the 15 NL clubs, ESPN’s Jim Bowden (Insider required) opines that the Rockies need to trade Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. The club has a lot of work to do before it can be considered a contender. From my perspective, I think they’re just waiting for the right offer, which may include both players proving themselves healthy and productive after their latest batch of injuries.
- The Rockies and Rangers engaged in “significant” trade talks involving catcher Wilin Rosario, reports Saunders. However, a trade has yet to materialize. The Rockies are now saying they’re comfortable splitting Rosario’s time between catcher and first base, although that could be posturing.
MLBTR offers its best wishes to the family and friends of former Negro League player Herb Simpson, who passed away Wednesday at age 94. As MLB.com’s Greg Johns writes, Simpson was the last known surviving member of the Seattle Steelheads and also saw action with the Birmingham Black Barons and Chicago American Giants.
As we honor an early pioneer of African-American baseball in the Pacific Northwest, here are some notes from the league’s western divisions:
- Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that asking prices in trade talks for another backstop are simply too high at present. “We’ve not made a whole lot of headway in that area yet,” said Stewart. “Without really giving up something that’s going to cost us a player that we don’t want to give away, we don’t have a whole lot of motion yet.” Arizona has had talks with the Blue Jays regarding Dioner Navarro and with the Cubs regarding Welington Castillo, says Piecoro.
- The Rockies have “mild” interest in trading for Dan Haren, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. However, as he notes, the thin air and homer-friendly nature of Coors Field make Colorado a fairly poor fit for Haren. Morosi also tweets that while the Giants did have interest earlier in the offseason (prior to re-signing Jake Peavy), there’s no active dialogue between Miami and San Francisco.
- Rangers top prospect Jurickson Profar, who missed the entire 2014 season after tearing the same muscle in his right shoulder twice, has been cleared to begin a throwing program on Jan. 19, tweets Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. Still just 21 years old, it was only two years ago that Profar was the consensus No. 1 overall prospect in baseball (per Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com). A healthy Profar would give the Rangers somewhat of a surplus of middle infielders, as Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor are both in the fold as well.
The latest edition of the MLBTR Podcast focuses on the Padres‘ busy offseason, as Jeff Todd speaks with MLB.com’s Padres beat writer Corey Brock about all of San Diego’s transactions. Jeff also spends a few minutes on how the five NL West teams’ winter moves have created a varied set of expectations around the division. Here’s the latest from around the baseball world…
- The Angels weren’t eager to part with Ricardo Sanchez, but GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters (including MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez) that the club’s young pitching depth made it easier to deal Sanchez to the Braves for third baseman Kyle Kubitza and reliever Nate Hyatt. “What we’ve done, in our draft or in the trades the way we’ve gathered players, is really focus these last three years on adding pitching,” Dipoto said. “Part of what I have talked to our guys about is, ‘If you tap into the pitching, you have the key to get the other things we need.’ “
- Dipoto also reiterated that Kubitza’s acquisition doesn’t necessarily spell the end of David Freese (a free agent next winter) in Anaheim. “David Freese is our third baseman; we’re not in a rush to move David Freese out. But we do feel like now we have someone we can build with,” Dipoto said.
- The Angels aren’t seriously exploring adding a notable starting pitcher since they expect Garrett Richards to be ready by “some point” in April, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweets.
- Also from Morosi, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said that his team is “always open” to the possibility of more moves, including another trade for a hitter.
- Endy Chavez or Franklin Gutierrez could potentially fit as candidates to return to the Mariners as minor league outfield depth, MLB.com’s Greg Johns writes as part of a reader mailbag.
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich recently confirmed that he’d taken some calls about Drew Stubbs, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes. “In general, there has been interest in Drew from teams looking for very specific fits in their outfield,” Bridich said. “Teams see him as a fit, but he’s a fit for us as well.” While Bridich didn’t give the impression that any trade was close or even being discussed, it was reported last month that the Rockies had spoken to the Orioles about a possible Stubbs deal.
- The Mets expect interest in their starting pitching to perk up, a team source tells Mike Puma of the New York Post, with Dillon Gee the likeliest candidate to be dealt. Without a trade, the Mets are prepared to use one of their starters out of the bullpen, as the source says a six-man rotation is “unlikely.”
- Also from Puma, Mets GM Sandy Alderson didn’t sound optimistic about his team’s chances of a shortstop upgrade. “We’ve continued to have conversations, but nothing is likely to occur,” Alderson said. “There is currently nothing imminent. I still believe at this point that we will go into spring training with what we have at shortstop.” The Mets never came close to a deal for Troy Tulowitzki, Puma writes, though they talked with Colorado during the Winter Meetings.
The Giants announced today that right-hander Tim Hudson underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his right ankle. The 39-year-old Hudson has an expected recovery time of eight weeks, and the Giants believe that he will be ready to go come Opening Day. Giants VP and assistant GM Bobby Evans told reporters, including Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) that Hudson felt increased discomfort in the ankle as he ramped up his offseason workouts. That ankle is the same ankle that was stepped on in a gruesome looking injury in July of 2013 that cut short what was shaping up to be another excellent season for Hudson. The longtime Athletic and Brave returned from that injury to post a solid first season with the Giants; Hudson worked to a 3.57 ERA with 5.7 K/9, 1.6 BB/9 and a 53.1 percent ground-ball rate in 189 1/3 innings. The TWC Sports client is owed $12MM in 2015 as part of a two-year, $23MM contract inked last winter.
Here’s more from the NL West…
- Evans also told Schulman that the Giants weren’t looking to add a Major League starter before Hudson’s injury, and that won’t change despite the surgery (Twitter link). However, he did note that the team is always on the lookout for depth, suggesting that a minor league addition or two could come in to serve as a safety net of sorts.
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich tells MLB.com’s Thomas Harding that he’s had trade talks regarding Wilin Rosario, but “nothing that makes sense” for the club (Twitter link). If no deal is reached, Rosario will play some first base for the Rox in 2015, Harding adds. Rosario, of course, has seen the bulk of action at catcher for the Rockies over the past three seasons, but he grades out as one of the game’s worst defenders behind the dish and has reportedly been shopped for much of the winter. Michael McKenry and newly signed Nick Hundley figure to split most of the catching duties in 2015.
- While the first offseason of A.J. Preller’s tenure as GM has shown the world that the Padres shouldn’t be counted out on any player, MLB.com’s Corey Brock writes that the current roster is probably pretty close to what the final product will look like on Opening Day. “Especially on the pitching side,” manager Bud Black told Brock. “I don’t know how much more we can do with the pitching.” Brock writes that an acquisition of Cole Hamels or a signing of James Shields are at best “very remote” possibilities for the Friars at this point.
- Already having introduced Matt Kemp, the Padres today introduced Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks at a press conference, and Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune has some highlights. Preller said today that the addition of these players (and presumably Kemp) “is about trying to build a core group of players. … Guys we feel very good about putting with Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross and Jedd Gyorko and some of the other Padres players that are hopefully going to build a competitive team here for the next four years.” Norris told reporters he considers it a “privilege” to be part of such a dramatic roster reshaping. “You don’t see very many teams do things like this,” he added. “It’s just a pleasure to be part of it. I think it’s something special.” As Dennis Lin of the U-T tweets, Upton offered a concise take on his new club: “We’re gonna be pretty dadgum good.”