- The Rockies aren’t “especially aggressive” at present in their pursuit of free agent righty Yovani Gallardo, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. He had previously suggested that Colorado may be a finalist for Gallardo’s services, but now says it is not clear how serious the club is about chasing Gallardo. The veteran remains the most established starter left on the market.
The Astros organization is mourning the loss of 20-year-old pitcher Jose Rosario, who died in a motorcycle accident yesterday evening in his native Dominican Republic. Rosario pitched in the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League last year. The organization’s international director Oz Ocampo praised Rosario as “a beloved member of the Astros Latin American program.” Ocampo continued: “He will be remembered as a long, lanky-framed pitcher with tremendous ability, an outgoing personality and an ever-positive disposition. He was a true student of the game and was constantly looking to learn and improve his abilities. He was also a supportive teammate, as he made it a point to encourage his fellow Astros and deliver that message with a smile on his face. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Rosario family.” We here at MLBTR join in that message.
Here are the latest notes from the game’s western divisions:
- The Padres are interested in free agent righty Tim Lincecum, Jon Heyman reports on Twitter. He notes that the Marlins also are continuing to look at the former Giants star, along with other teams, as he readies for a planned February showcase after undergoing hip surgery last year.
- Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon says he was surprised that the team decided to bring in yet another left-handed outfield bat in Gerardo Parra, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes. “I was little perplexed at first,” said Blackmon. “Because I didn’t really see it coming. Going into the offseason, I didn’t know that was in play, really. But after looking at it, he’s a great player. I’ve played against him, seen him play. He’s got one of the best arms in the league. He can only make our team better.” Blackmon, of course, continues to draw trade chatter, all the more so after the Parra signing, but he said he’s not bothered by the rumors — while rightly noting that it’s always “good to be relevant.”
- Athletics closer Sean Doolittle says he is ready to go for spring camp without any restrictions after dealing with shoulder issues last year, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. “I promised I wouldn’t tell anybody I’m in the best shape of my life because I’ll never be 21 again,” said Doolittle. “But I think this is the most important offseason of my career, and I’ve been going about it with that mentality.”
- Meanwhile, the Athletics aren’t yet sure what to expect from outfielder Coco Crisp, Slusser adds. Though he’s beginning to swing the bat, it isn’t yet clear how he’ll bounce back from an injury-plagued 2015. DH Billy Butler is another question mark, but he says he’s “got a lot left in the tank,” as John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Butler will look to build upon a solid final month in an otherwise forgettable season. “I’m in good shape. I’m strong. Everything’s great,” he said. “I know what the expectations are, so let’s go out there and do it. I’ve prepared this winter to do that.”
- It sounds like extension talks could soon take place between the Athletics and outfielder Josh Reddick, and GM David Forst said that the team intends to try to find ground for a multi-year deal, as SB Nation’s Jeremy Koo writes. Oakland “will make an effort at” a deal, said Forst. He added that Reedick has “kind of become the face of our team; somewhat the drive and energy of the club.”
While the majority of the 156 players that filed for salary arbitration last week have agreed to terms with their teams, either on a one-year deal for 2016 or on an extension, the cases of more than 20 players remain unresolved. You can track the status of each case using MLBTR’s 2016 Arbitration Tracker, and we’ll keep track of all of today’s smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post (all referenced projections via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)…
- Center fielder Charlie Blackmon and the Rockies have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3.5MM, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). The Rockies had filed for a $2.7MM salary figure against Blackmon’s number of $3.9MM. That placed the midpoint at $3.3MM, which Blackmon cleared by $200K. The 29-year-old Blackmon is coming off a season in which he slashed .287/.347/.450 with 17 home runs and 43 stolen bases in 157 games/682 plate appearances. That served as a strong followup to a breakout 2014 campaign and cemented Blackmon as fixture in the Colorado outfield (though his name has come up in trade speculation this winter).
- The Rangers announced that they’ve signed closer Shawn Tolleson to a one-year deal, thus avoiding arbitration. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets that the right-hander will earn $3.275MM next season. Tolleson, 28, broke out as a setup man with the Rangers in 2014 and seized the keys to the ninth inning from Neftali Feliz early this season. It was a seamless transition from the seventh/eighth inning to the ninth inning for Tolleson, who worked to a strong 2.99 ERA with 9.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 42.4 percent ground-ball rate in 72 1/3 innings. Tolleson racked up the first 35 saves of his career along the way, cementing himself at the back of the Texas bullpen. Tolleson had filed for a $3.9MM salary, while the team countered at $2.6MM. The eventual landing spot agreed upon is $25K higher than the $3.25MM midpoint between those two figures and comes in considerably north of the $2.6MM projected by Swartz’s model. With Tolleson’s case settled, the Rangers have just Jake Diekman and Mitch Moreland remaining as unresolved arbitration cases, as can be seen in the tracker linked to above.
Major league baseball has determined Rangers’ starter Yu Darvish was not involved in the gambling ring operated by his brother, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The story broke last week, although at no point in time was Darvish directly implicated. Based on the most recent reports, Darvish remains on pace to return to the Rangers in mid-May.
Here’s more from the western divisions:
- Dodgers’ outfielder Andre Ethier is set to earn 10-and-5 rights in April, writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. The club has long been rumored to be shopping the outfielder who has two years and $38MM guaranteed on his contract. He could also earn an additional $15MM in 2018 via a vesting option (550 PA in 2017). After a shaky 2014 that saw him relegated to a bench role, Ethier rebounded in 2015 with a .294/.366/.486 line over 445 plate appearances. However, the team used him in a strict platoon. The Dodgers may find it difficult to find a suitor unless they pick up a large portion of his remaining contract. On the plus side, the platoon role almost ensures he won’t trigger his vesting option. Now that Dexter Fowler is the top free agent outfielder on the market, the Dodgers may find it easier to shop Ethier.
- Teams have asked about Angels’ starter C.J. Wilson, tweets Jon Heyman of MLB Network. Per Heyman, clubs view Wilson as a buy-low candidate, but the Angels have yet to receive an acceptable offer. I would add that the team’s starting pitching depth is a bit of a concern. While they have eight starting pitchers on the 40-man roster, names like Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Nick Tropeano, and Andrew Heaney are either coming of a bad season, recovering from injury, or unestablished at the major league level. However, escaping from part of the $20MM owed to him in 2016 could help the club address another position.
- Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton will have his playing time carefully managed in 2016 due to knee inflammation, writes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Hamilton received a cortisone shot on Thursday. GM Jon Daniels described the joint as structurally sound. The aftermath of two surgeries could result in occasional flare-ups like this. Texas has plenty of outfield depth, particularly on the farm where Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Lewis Brinson, and others wait in the wings. Gallo and Mazara are on the 40-man roster.
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich has downplayed Colorado’s interest in free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. In recent days, there have been several reports linking the Rockies with Gallardo as one of three finalists. While Bridich characterized talks as merely “checking in,” Saunders speculates that a signing could still come. At the very least, there appears to be some degree of mutual interest.
Reports suggest that there are three teams currently pursuing free agent righty Yovani Gallardo. We heard yesterday that the Rockies were lining up to participate in talks, and SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo suggested today on Twitter that the Orioles and Astros have also remained involved.
But Baltimore executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette said earlier this morning that the club is strongly disinclined to part with its top draft choice (currently 14th overall). And the club does not appear willing to go to a fourth year for Gallardo, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. Houston, too, would need to punt a valuable pick (18th overall). While it’s long been expected that those clubs would consider starting pitching additions, and could still stand to do so, that added disincentive poses a significant barrier.
As for the Rockies, Gallardo’s agent, Bobby Witt, tells MLB.com’s Thomas Harding that his client would “be happy pitching for any of the three teams” — apparently suggesting that the specter of Coors Field won’t deter the veteran. Indeed, the Rockies are participating in “serious” talks with Gallardo, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports on Twitter. But he adds that the club does not currently have an offer outstanding, and GM Jeff Bridich downplayed the link in public comments.
Unlike the other two teams, the Rockies would not have to give up their top choice — the fourth selection in this summer’s draft — to add Gallardo, who requires compensation because he turned down a qualifying offer from the Rangers. Attracting pitchers to throw at altitude has always been a challenge, of course, but that beneficial draft situation and a somewhat slow-to-develop market for Gallardo could leave the Rockies in solid position to make a move.
The fit for Colorado is obvious: while the organization has some potentially valuable arms, their rotation is as unsettled as any in the majors. There are questions up and down the staff: Jorge De La Rosa is steady but aging; Jordan Lyles and Tyler Chatwood are coming off of significant injuries; and Chad Bettis had a surprisingly solid 2015 but hardly has a deep track record. Younger options such as Jon Gray, Eddie Butler, and Tyler Matzek have shown talent but are hardly sure things, while Jeff Hoffman, Tyler Anderson, and others may be in need of further seasoning before they’re considered at the MLB level.
From a payroll perspective, the Rockies already have about $91MM on the books for the coming season and will still need to add the arbitration salaries of Charlie Blackmon (between $3.9MM and $2.7MM arb filings) and DJ LeMahieu ($3.3MM vs. $2.8MM). Of course, after signing Gerardo Parra, the club seems in position to deal an outfielder, and that could bring some salary relief along with a return in players. The team has never reached the $100MM threshold on an Opening Day roster.
Gallardo, who’ll soon turn 30, has turned in excellent results of late and is quite durable. But his peripherals are on the decline — in particular, a plummeting strikeout rate — and he’s now one of only three starters among MLBTR’s top fifty free agents who have yet to sign. (The others, Mat Latos and Doug Fister, figure to be available on shorter deals.) MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted a four-year, $52MM salary entering the winter. It is fair to note that we’ve seen other pitchers — Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza — reach that level of salary at this stage of the offseason or later. And there’s no denying that the market for starting pitching has been robust.
As the Rockies search for upgrades to their rotation and bullpen, the team is now considering a run at right-hander Yovani Gallardo, tweets Jon Heyman. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets that the two sides haven’t had any extensive discussions yet but are expected to meet in the near future. Asked about the reports linking his team to Gallardo, Rockies GM Jeff Bridich downplayed the interest on MLB Network Radio (Twitter link), saying: “I’m not sure where that came from. It’s no different than checking in on just about everybody.” Many expect the Rockies to address their rotation, although the common belief is that they’ll do so by trading from their outfield surplus. There’s enough uncertainty in the current rotation that Colorado could do both, though, and it’s worth noting that the team’s first-round pick is protected by virtue of its finish in the 2016 standings. Then again, convincing any free-agent pitcher to spend a considerable amount of time calling Coors Field his home park is a difficult task.
A few more odds and ends pertaining to the remaining free agent market…
- The Indians are still open to adding a free agent at the right price, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Both Juan Uribe and David Freese are potential fits, but there’s no momentum toward a deal at this time. Cleveland could certainly use a bat at either third base or in the outfield though, as Jeff Todd and I discussed on today’s MLBTR Podcast. (Specifically, Austin Jackson strikes me as a nice speculative fit for Cleveland.)
- Regardless of what happens with Yoenis Cespedes, the Nationals do not appear to be done trying for improvements, as Heyman tweets that the club is still looking to add to the bullpen. Moving Drew Storen for Ben Revere obviously lessened the team’s relief depth, and it’s not hard to see the rationale for continuing to stockpile (if not also to add another late-inning arm).
- The Rays are among the teams with interest in righty Ryan Webb, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). Webb, who’ll soon turn 30, had an odd transactional year as the Orioles and Dodgers used his contract to facilitate other moves. But he ended up putting up 50 2/3 solid frames for the Indians, working to a 3.20 ERA with 5.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 to go with an excellent 59.2% groundball rate, and he’s generally been quite a solid reliever over his seven-year career.
- While there’s some merit to the idea of Doug Fister as a Yankees target, the club does not appear inclined to go past one year on a deal, Jack Curry of the YES Network tweets. Notably, too, owner Hal Steinbrenner told Jon Heyman yesterday (Twitter link) that he doesn’t see much room to add even this year: “I’m not comfortable with the payroll being too much higher than it is now.”
- Cuban outfielder Alexei Bell has established residency in Mexico and is applying tomorrow for free agency, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports on Twitter. It’s not yet clear what kind of market the veteran will find for his services, but he is obviously leaving his home island in hopes of making an impact at the major league level.
The signing of outfielder Gerardo Parra to a three-year, $27.5MM contract has led many to believe that the Rockies will trade one of their three incumbent left-handed hitting outfielders: Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon or Carlos Gonzalez. However, GM Jeff Bridich doesn’t see a trade as a necessity, he said in an appearance on MLB Network’s Hot Stove this morning (via MLB.com’s Thomas Harding) and again at a conference call with reporters this afternoon (via the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders).
“I know it’s popular to expect a trade, but it’s tough to put odds on it right now,” said Bridich on the conference call. “The last thing I want to do is apologize for bringing more talent into this organization. … Adding another professional, talented young outfielder is overall a good thing. Having too much depth is a good thing.”
Regarding reports out of Venezuela which surfaced recently and said that Bridich told Gonzalez that he wouldn’t be traded, the GM explained to MLBN’s Matt Vasgersian and Harold Reynolds that his words were somewhat misrepresented by the foreign media, calling it “overblown.” Rather, the GM told his outfielder that any report lacking Bridich’s own name was probably little more than a rumor or speculation and shouldn’t be taken to heart. Bridich spoke highly of Gonzalez, noting that while he wasn’t originally signed by the Rox, he grew up in the organization and has become a core part of the team in Denver. “He’s been one of the cornerstone guys for us,” said Bridich on MLBN. “So you have to think long and hard before you even consider listening on a guy like that. Just as much as he would be a value to another team, he’s a value to us.”
Not only did Bridich speak highly of Gonzalez, but Parra, too, voiced excitement about playing alongside his longtime friend. Gonzalez and Parra have been Venezuelan Winter League teammates dating back to 2005 and were also teammates on Team Venezuela in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Saunders notes. “I feel really happy to play for the Rockies,” Parra said on today’s conference call with Saunders and other reporters. “I played against Colorado for many years and I like playing at Coors Field. I feel really, really happy to play with Carlos Gonzalez.”
While some might note that recent defensive metrics have called Parra’s glove into question, Bridich said in both columns that Parra “certainly improves our defense” whenever he takes the field. Not only that, Parra said he’d be comfortable playing center field, and Bridich agreed that Parra is capable of handling the position. Some could infer that said belief makes a trade of Blackmon, the incumbent center fielder more likely, though Bridich’s overall message in both appearances seems to be that a trade of an outfielder isn’t necessary.
That said, I have to admit that it’s personally difficult for me to envision a situation in which the Rockies enter the season with all four outfielders on the roster. Parra’s relative limitations against left-handed pitching eliminates the possibility of any sort of traditional platoon. And, considering the fact that Dickerson is a potential building block, it stands to reason that the team would want to maximize his playing time — especially coming off a season in which he lost quite a bit of time due to multiple DL stints resulting from plantar fasciitis. Blackmon was one of the Rockies’ better all-around players in 2015, and there’s no reason to expect that Gonzalez, who is owed $37MM over the next two seasons and is one of the team’s most productive hitters, would be in for a significant decrease in playing time.
That’s merely my own take on the situation, of course, and injuries could create opportunities for Parra to get into the lineup. The lengthy absences of Dickerson in 2015 and Gonzalez’s extensive injury history serve as reminders that there could very well be a need for another quality outfield option. Bridich, after all, said on MLB Network that he’s been getting calls “from the get-go” in what he characterizes as a “slow-moving” outfield market. And, despite the persistent interest and the addition of Parra, Colorado has yet to make a trade. However, Parra’s contract would make him a very expensive contingency plan if that’s the team’s ultimate vision for him.
Here’s the latest from around the league:
- With Chris Davis off the board, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post looks at the market for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. While Davidoff runs through five of Cespedes’ top suitors, he ultimately concludes that none of them are a perfect fit to offer Cespedes his asking price. Budget or an unwillingness to spend on a right-handed outfielder are barriers with most of the obvious matches. The Tigers are a reasonable dark horse candidate for Cespedes (or Justin Upton) due to owner Mike Illich’s penchant for surprise blockbusters. With his market seemingly growing stale, I wonder if a team like the Phillies could be baited into a bid. They have the money and wouldn’t have to surrender a draft pick to sign him. Preposterous? Probably.
- The 2016-2017 free agent pool is thin in the outfield, making a one-year deal a viable option for Cespedes and Upton, writes AJ Cassavell of MLB.com. Carlos Gomez and Jose Bautista are the top names available, although either player could be re-signed. After the top pair, the market thins out dramatically. Re-entering the market strikes me as an unnecessary risk for Cespedes and Upton. Both players had strong, healthy platform seasons. Cespedes in particular stands to lose out if he’s impatient. He isn’t tied to a qualifying offer, and it’s hard to imagine him improving upon a 6.7 WAR season.
- Speaking of dark horse buyers, the Rays could jump in the market for a player like Upton, Ian Desmond, Pedro Alvarez, or Steve Pearce, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays are still shopping their starting pitching, but the well-stocked free agent market may prove too tempting. Any free agent addition would require require owner Stuart Sternberg’s approval, but he’s been on board with opportunistic additions in the past. Topkin also lists Marlon Byrd, Justin Morneau, and David Murphy as possible fits. The club would like to get out from under some of the $8MM owed to James Loney.
- The Rockies have three obvious issues, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. The outfield is crowded by the addition of Gerardo Parra. The club seemingly would like to trade one or more of Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, and Corey Dickerson, presumably to solve their second problem – a lack of pitching depth and talent. The players themselves ask if Saunders if the Rockies will acquire pitching. So far, they’ve sat out the free agent market. The Rays are the most obvious sellers in the trade market. Last but not least, Jose Reyes’ future with the club is completely uncertain. He played poorly after joining the Rockies and currently faces criminal charges and possible jail time in relation to domestic abuse charges. He’s also a suspension candidate under the league’s new domestic violence policy.
The National League has rather a pronounced divide between its better teams and its anticipated bottom-dwellers, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark writes, and that poses a significant problem. While commissioner Rob Manfred says that the league’s less talented clubs are in a routine phase of the natural winning/rebuilding cycle, some rival executives believe that at least some organizations are looking to strip down their MLB rosters, pursue top draft picks, and aim for a relatively distant competitive timeline. There are a host of interesting quotes, particularly from Manfred, who says that outright tanking efforts would be “self-correcting” in that, “if too many teams try to follow this strategy, the effectiveness of that strategy will be naturally undermined.” The piece is well worth a read.
Here’s the latest out of the N.L.:
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich has been in touch with veteran outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to tell him not to pay any heed to trade rumors, as Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports. While that’s hardly any guarantee, multiple rival GMs say they have received the impression that Colorado will not move its most recognizable player this winter, Jon Heyman tweets. Nevertheless, the recent signing of Gerardo Parra still seemingly leaves the club with good cause to move an outfielder. If it isn’t CarGo, of course, then the two obvious candidates would be Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson.
- Chances are “slim” that the Cubs will make another major addition before the season, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said today, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports on Twitter. We’ve heard plenty of suggestions of ways Chicago could look to add yet more impact after an already-busy offseason, but it certainly doesn’t appear as if the club really needs to do anything to its roster at this point.
- The Reds are still working on various trade scenarios, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (via TwitLonger). Jay Bruce seems the most plausible trade piece, Crasnick indicates, but his market is complicated by Colorado’s trio of possible left-handed bats for sale. And he arguably hasn’t performed to the standard of his rather expensive contract in recent years. “Once you start down this road, it is important to continue with the tough decisions and not pull up in the middle of the project,” said GM Dick Williams. “That being said, we cannot force deals so I cannot guarantee we will do more.’’
- New Phillies hurler Mark Appel has a lot to prove, Crasnick writes. But the 24-year-old says he is determined and able to live up to his former billing as a top-end pitching prospect.
Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes is currently scheduled to stand trial in April after pleading not guilty to charges of domestic abuse stemming from an incident in Hawaii on Halloween day last year, Christian Red of the New York Daily News reports. That’s the same date that Colorado is scheduled to open the 2016 season in Arizona.
The local prosecutor, Kerry Glen, said he would not rule out a plea deal between now and the start of the trial, though he gave no indication of the likelihood of such a scenario. “If I find that acceptable, we would enter into that agreement,” said Glen. “There is always potential for additional negotiation between now and then.”
Needless to say, the charges themselves appear appropriately serious given the accusations against Reyes. It certainly seems that he faces a realistic prospect of jail time if convicted, though the precise counts being pursued are not immediately clear from the article.
But there are quite significant additional considerations at play beyond the immediate criminal matter. According to the Daily News, it is not known whether Reyes — a native of the Dominican Republic — ever completed a reported effort to gain U.S. citizenship.
If he is not presently an American citizen, there certainly could be serious immigration repercussions in the event that he pleads guilty or is convicted. There are a wide variety of considerations that would go into just what could occur on the immigration side of things, but that does indeed appear to be a serious matter.
Senior MLBTR readers will no doubt recall that there have been several recent instances where players’ careers and personal lives were heavily impacted by immigration difficulties. Without intending any direct comparisons, the cases of Roberto Hernandez and Juan Carlos Oviedo (both of which involved the use of false identifies) involved contract disruptions and lengthy holds on their playing careers, though both were ultimately able to return. (To get a sense of how things played out in those cases, you can review the old tags for their assumed identities: Fausto Carmona and Leo Nunez.)
To be sure, the least important matters at issue here are the impact on the baseball season that lies ahead and Reyes’s contract status with the Rockies. But there are obviously real implications here from that perspective for both team and player. If nothing else, the trial date presents a self-evident conflict, as would any hypothetical prison time. And recent reports have been somewhat unclear as to the league’s timeline for deciding upon its own disciplinary action (if any), with suggestions that the commissioner will act before the season (if not Spring Training, too) but also that there’s an apparent preference to first allow the legal process to conclude.