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Corey Kluber Rumors
“Overall, baseball has never been as big or as profitable” as it is now, Forbes’ Mike Ozanian writes in the magazine’s annual valuation of MLB franchises. The average value of a Major League team is $1.2 billion, a massive increase from Forbes’ last calculation (of $811MM) just a year ago. Fifteen teams were valued at least a billion dollars, with the Yankees leading the way at $3.2 billion. Here’s some more from around baseball…
- Despite the Yankees‘ incredible value, Hal Steinbrenner said the team is not for sale in an ESPN radio interview with Michael Kay and Don LaGreca (hat tip to Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News). Selling the club is “not enticing in any way shape or form,” Steinbrenner said. “It’s a family business. Many of us are involved from the family and we know this is what our dad would want, to carry on the tradition.”
- Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez is drawing “serious interest” from the Nationals, The Washington Post’s James Wagner writes. “The Nationals like Alvarez’s frame and stuff,” Wagner notes about the 18-year-old Alvarez, who is listed at 6’3″ and 175 pounds. The Nats and Diamondbacks were cited as the top contenders for Alvarez by MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez last month, and if Alvarez will indeed be ineligible to sign until July 2, that will eliminate the D’Backs from contention due to penalties for going over slot in this signing period to land Yoan Lopez. Even if Arizona is out of the running, however, the Nats will still have to bid against several other interested teams for Alvarez’s services.
- The MLBPA has been encouraging players to look for other means of achieving guaranteed financial security rather than accept below-market extensions, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports. One of those means is taking out a “loss-of-value” insurance policy to protect against injury (Max Scherzer took out such a policy last season) and Rosenthal suggests that Corey Kluber could explore doing the same this year to gain some leverage in contract talks with the Indians. Kluber could cash in by signing an extension now, but waiting even one season to get into his arbitration-eligible years would greatly increase the value of a multi-year deal, Rosenthal argues. With the loss-of-value policy backing him up, Kluber would have fewer worries about getting hurt this season and missing out on a chance at a big contract.
- Brady Aiken‘s Tommy John surgery will lower his draft stock and potentially make him a risk for teams picking near the top of the first round, though Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal thinks the Red Sox could take a chance on Aiken with the seventh overall pick. The addition of a first-round caliber talent in Yoan Moncada and an overall deep minor league system gives Boston the luxury to take a risk on Aiken and hopes that, if he recovers, they’ll have fallen into a future ace.
- Jake Fox is trying to land a regular minor league job with the Blue Jays, and the veteran talks to Sportsnet.com’s Arden Zwelling about some of the ups and downs of being a baseball journeyman.
Let’s have a look at some notes out of Indians camp:
- While extension negotiations between the Indians and Corey Kluber have been friendly, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that it is a high-risk situation for both sides. For the team, the appeal of cost certainty (and, potentially, extended team control) is obvious, but guaranteeing money for the soon-to-be 29-year-old does have downside. And for Kluber, as agent B.B. Abbott notes, there is a balance to be struck between achieving fair value and locking up some security as an older pre-arb player. “If he considers this, he is doing it with his eyes wide open,” said Abbott. “He knows this will be the only time to sign this kind of multi-year deal.”
- The Indians have informed veteran pitchers Bruce Chen, Shaun Marcum, and Scott Downs that all three will not be on the Opening Day roster out of camp, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. All three are in camp on minor league deals. Of that group, only Downs is an Article XX(B) free agent, meaning that he will need to be offered a $100K retention bonus if the club wishes to retain his rights in the minors. Both Chen and Marcum have out clauses in their deals permitting them to return to the open market rather than going to Triple-A, Hoynes reports.
- Another player still battling for a roster spot, outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sands, helped his cause with a mammoth home run yesterday, as Hoynes reports. While the quality production out of his right-handed bat this spring has increased his appeal to Cleveland, Sands is still not far removed from surgery on his tendon sheath and can be controlled through an assignment in the minors to start the year. “I don’t know if Sands fits yet,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “But you have to believe that a guy that can do what he does at some point is going to help us. Is it opening day, we don’t know yet. But we’re glad he’s here.”
The Indians and right-hander Corey Kluber are “not close” to an agreement on an extension, sources tell CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman. The two sides have been discussing a multi-year deal over the last several weeks, including a recent face-to-face meeting between Cleveland owner Paul Dolan, president Mark Shapiro, GM Chris Antonetti and Kluber’s agent B.B. Abbott. Neither party commented on the talks except for Abbott, who only said that “The lines of communication between myself and the Indians are and will continue to be open.”
It perhaps isn’t surprising that the extension is taking some time to work out given Kluber’s unique situation, which Heyman describes (MLBTR’s Jeff Todd also examined Kluber as an Extension Candidate last August. Kluber turns 29 in April and is still under team control for four more seasons, so there could be a bit of urgency on his part to score a big-money deal now rather than wait for free agency going into his age-33 season. From the Tribe’s perspective, gaining cost certainty at least through Kluber’s arbitration years would be of interest to the low-payroll club, though having found a Cy Young Award-winning ace at a bargain price, Cleveland might not want to pay too much more than necessary.
Kluber’s 2015 salary is already technically set, as the two sides settled on a $610K contract for the coming season. This represents a decent-sized bump over the league minimum salary, and given how most teams deal with pre-arbitration contracts, the raise could be a good faith move from the Indians as a harbinger of a richer extension. If an extension is reached, I’d imagine that Kluber’s $610K salary would be replaced by a new figure or he’d at least receive a signing bonus to get more money in his pocket immediately.
Most elbow issues that lead to Tommy John surgery appear to crop up in March, according to a review conducted by Ben Lindbergh of Grantland. That is the time that pitchers ramp up each spring, of course, and Lindbergh finds that other pitching injuries also trend northwards toward the end of the year’s third month. You’ll want to read the entire piece for details and thoughts on why this seems to be the case.
Here are some more stray notes from around the game:
- Ace righty Corey Kluber and the Indians will continue talking about a new contract after recent in-person negotiations failed to result in a deal, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. Those talks ended Thursday, says Hoynes, but it appears that there is enough mutual interest to keep a dialogue open.
- The first outing for former Astros number one overall draft pick Brady Aiken at IMG Academy ended with concern, as John Manuel and Josh Norris of Baseball America report. Aiken had worked in the low-90s with his fastball, but left in the middle of the first inning after throwing a curveball. That pitch was clocked at about 7 mph lower than a prior hook thrown by the young lefty. One of the umpires tells BA that he overheard mention that the well-regarded amateur felt “a little bit of tightness.” Needless to say, it is still far too early to speculate on Aiken’s status, though it is worth noting that there has been chatter that he has not been fully healthy this winter. Per BA, scouts from every team but Houston were on hand to see watch Aiken, who figures to be one of the best prospects available again in this year’s draft.
- MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said today that the subject of player rights being dealt for executives could be an issue to be addressed in the next CBA, as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. It is not clear what kinds of issues might be contemplated, but Clark said that the seemingly increasing prevalence of that sort of transaction — highlighted, most recently, by the apparent negotiations between the Orioles and Blue Jays regarding Dan Duquette — make it something that the league and union will “talk through … and see what may make some sense here going forward.”
TODAY: Kluber will earn $601K on his 2015 contract, according to the Associated Press (passed on by Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer).
YESTERDAY, 6:08pm: The Indians announced that Kluber has agreed to a contract for the 2015 season (on Twitter). While this indicates that no extension has been agreed to at this time, it certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility that a long-term deal could be reached prior to the beginning of the regular season.
9:02am: Top starter Corey Kluber is the Indians‘ only unsigned player, and Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports that both the club and Kluber’s agents at Jet Sports Management are holding open the possibility of reaching agreement on a multi-year deal. Talks on a broader agreement could go past today’s deadline, per the report, though they seem unlikely to continue into the season.
Today is the deadline for club and player to settle on Kluber’s 2015 contract. If they cannot, Cleveland can renew him at any amount at or above league minimum. (Click here for an explanation of that process.)
As Hoynes notes, this spring might represent the most likely point for the sides to find common ground. Soon to turn 29, Kluber — the American League’s reigning Cy Young winner — will not reach arbitration eligibility until next season. When he does, he will not only obtain significant financial security but will also be within spitting distance of free agency. From the perspective of the Indians — an organization that has tended not to give out long-term pitching deals — promising money into Kluber’s thirties may only have appeal if the team can achieve a relative bargain.
I discussed Kluber’s extension candidacy last August. His bargaining position has certainly improved with the Cy Young under his belt, though that does not necessarily mean that a deal is more likely. My own guess is that the most likely scenario may be one in which the sides agree to a relatively short-term extension buying out some of Kluber’s arbitration seasons but not touching his free agency, thus providing him with some security in exchange for providing cost control to the club.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Kluber’s recent appearance on the MLBTR Podcast. Among other things, Kluber discusses his consistent preparation routine and ability to maintain his production after a big innings jump last season.
The Rangers have an insurance policy on Yu Darvish and could recoup more than half of his $10MM salary if he undergoes Tommy John surgery and misses the year, reports Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News. The Rangers could use the insurance proceeds to add payroll. The policy’s total value to the club, however, is dependent on when the clock begins on the deductible. Grant notes the Rangers could make a case that this injury is a recurrence of the elbow problems Darvish suffered last year sidelining him for the final 50 days of the 2014 season.
Elsewhere in the American League:
- Darvish’s injury is not just a blow to the Rangers, but to all of baseball, opines CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman.
- Rick Porcello told reporters, including Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal (via Twitter), he has not had extension talks with the Red Sox this spring and does not expect to have any.
- The Indians and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber have not made any progress in negotiating a contract extension, writes Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Kluber is a pre-arbitration eligible player and Wednesday is the deadline for signing such players. If a deal cannot be reached, teams can renew the contracts of those players at their discretion, usually for a fraction above the MLB minimum of $507.5K. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently provided a primer on understanding pre-arbitration salaries.
- In a separate article, Hoynes chronicles how the Indians have re-built their farm system through the draft (especially their willingness to select high-upside high schoolers rather than college players), trades, and international free agent signings.
- Royals GM Dayton Moore told reporters, including MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan right-hander Chris Young, who the club signed yesterday, will make the team and pitch out of the bullpen. Flanagan notes, in a second article, the Royals have discussed keeping eight relievers and, if so, will have several contenders battling for just one spot.
- Evan Gattis has had two months to reflect upon his trade to Astros and still has mixed feelings, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The negative is that there’s a good fan base in Atlanta, I felt loved there,” Gattis said. “The positives are that I’m in the American League, I might be a little more durable; I’m going to try to have a healthy season. And I’m in Texas, stoked about that. So yeah, positives and negatives.“
Last year, Zach Duke and Pat Neshek both entered Spring Training as non-roster invitees and parlayed their outstanding 2014 seasons into multi-year free agent contracts (three years, $15MM for Duke and two years, $12.5MM for Neshek). Who will be the NRIs to watch this spring? Andrew Simon for Sports on Earth tabs White Sox reliever Jesse Crain as the most intriguing NRI citing positive reports as he recovers from his 2013 biceps surgery, which has forced him to the sidelines for the past 20 months. If Crain can return to the form he showed in his previous stint with the White Sox (2011-13) where he pitched to a 2.10 ERA, 10.6 K/9, and 3.9 BB/9 in 150 innings covering 376 games, Simon believes the 33-year-old could assume a prominent role in the White Sox bullpen.
In other news and notes from the AL Central:
- Yoenis Cespedes told reporters, including Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links), he can see himself playing for the Tigers long-term. “I would like to be in a Tigers uniform for a lot of years,” Cespedes said through his translator. “This is a good team now and will be for a lot of years to come.” Cespedes added he does not know whether his agent and the Tigers have engaged in extension talks.
- Corey Kluber, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, is not concerning himself with the lack of movement on a contract extension, according to Zack Meisel of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. “It’s not for me to worry about,” said Kluber, who is slated to earn near the MLB minimum. “I’d rather just talk about pitching and not contract stuff.“
- Royals reliever Luke Hochevar blew out his elbow last spring with a curveball, but has been throwing the pitch in his bullpen sessions, writes MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. “It’s not like you’re scared when you start spinning curves again,” Hochevar said. “You know your elbow is fixed. But still you think about it. You have to sort of stare down your demons.” Hochevar will face hitters for the first time off a mount tomorrow.
- Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer are two former top prospects who are poised for a breakout 2015, opines MLB.com’s Michael Clair.
- Earlier today, we learned of the passing of White Sox legend Minnie Minoso. Dayn Perry of CBSSports.com and MLB.com’s Phil Rogers both pay tribute to “Mr. White Sox” while Hayes and MLB.com’s Scott Merkin chronicle the reaction of White Sox players.
The Royals should employ “selective memory” regarding their successful 2014 playoff run, writes Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star. During the Wild Card game, the Royals were just a few outs from elimination against the Athletics. A series of improbable events led to a remarkable comeback victory. Without that first win, Ned Yost would be a punching bag in the media due to questionable decisions, Mike Moustakas would have entered the offseason with another disappointing season on his resume, and Lorenzo Cain would have failed to gain national acclaim. The postseason success also allowed the Royals to bolster their payroll, which should help in 2015.
- The Reds have two more arbitration players – Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman, writes Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. The club continues to talk to agents of both players in an effort to find a middle ground. Per GM Walt Jocketty, “we’re going to keep working on it this weekend and see if we can make some progress.” Both players have fairly substantial differences in their submitted figures. Frazier asked for $5.7MM compared to the club’s offer of $3.9MM in his first season of eligibility. Chapman’s camp submitted for $8.7MM while the Reds countered at $6.65MM. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected a $4.6MM payday for Frazier and $8.3MM for Chapman.
- The Reds are “pretty much done” with free agent signings, reports Sheldon. Cincinnati inked reliever Burke Badenhop earlier today and signed former closer Kevin Gregg to a minor league deal. Jocketty left the door open, saying he’ll see if “something pops up,” but it’s unlikely.
- Patience allowed the Indians to acquire and develop three of their semi-homegrown stars, writes the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto. Michael Brantley was a player to be named later in the 2008 CC Sabathia trade. It took him six seasons to breakout at the major league level. In 2010, Corey Kluber was acquired in a three team trade. As we know, he also took awhile to reach his ceiling. Catcher Yan Gomes is another important trade acquisition for the club. Cleveland sent pitcher Esmil Rogers to Toronto in exchange for Gomes and Mike Aviles. All three players never ranked among the top 100 prospects in the game, and they’re all under club control through at least 2017.
After running through league-wide news and notes, Jeff covers a range of topics with reigning American League Cy Young winner Corey Kluber of the Indians (1:48). As Spring Training draws near, Kluber discusses his preparation and approach after throwing 235 2/3 excellent innings last year.
Jeff then chats with Orioles beat reporter Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (16:22) about how to interpret a fairly quiet but still-interesting offseason in Baltimore.
The MLB Trade Rumors Podcast runs weekly on Thursday afternoons.
Indians president Mark Shapiro says the team has the flexibility to add payroll if the right opportunity presents itself, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes. “We try not to be encumbered at all by what payroll is and salaries are. Is there a way for us to creatively handle it?” says Shapiro. “[W]hat kills deals 95 percent of the time is not payroll, but player asks. Salary is not usually where it stops, but player asks.” The Indians’ only significant moves this offseason have been their acquisitions of Brandon Moss and Gavin Floyd, but it sounds like they could consider making other additions either this winter or in-season. Here are more notes from Cleveland, which hosted Tribe Fest this weekend.
- Shapiro says the Indians plan to consider an extension for Corey Kluber in the near future, reports Bastian. “As prioritization of the calendar goes, it’s something we’ll probably look at over the next couple of months,” says Shapiro, cautioning that it’s not clear whether Kluber and the Indians will be able to agree to terms. “He has all the precursors that we would look for to enter into a multiyear agreement.” Last August, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd reviewed Kluber’s extension prospects. The Indians already control Kluber through his age-32 season, but with an extension, they could control him for even longer while keeping his arbitration-year salaries reasonable. Meanwhile, Kluber, who is still a zero-to-three player, would get long-term security.
- With Moss’ addition and a variety of other corner outfield/DH types on the Indians’ roster, outfielder David Murphy understands that he’ll lose playing time but would not mind being traded if his plate appearances stood to be drastically cut, Bastian writes. “I’m prepared to lose playing time, but not to the point where I’m going to get 150 at-bats,” Murphy says. “If that’s the case, and that’s the best-case scenario for them and for me, I’m open to [a trade].” Murphy adds that he understands if the Indians need to wait and see whether Moss, who had hip surgery in October, and Nick Swisher, who had knee surgery in August, are healthy. Murphy, 33, hit a passable .262/.319/.385 in his first season in Cleveland in 2015, although with defense that rated as significantly below average. He has one more season on his contract, plus a $500K buyout on a $7MM option for 2016.