Danny Valencia Rumors

Blue Jays Option Drew Hutchison To Triple-A

The Blue Jays announced that they have optioned struggling right-hander Drew Hutchison to Triple-A, as Shi Davidi of Sportsnet first reported they would. His demotion (along with yesterday’s demotion of left-hander Aaron Loup) clears way for Toronto to bring up outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and infielder Matt Hague, though Carrera’s promotion has not yet been made official. The Blue Jays will utilize a four-man rotation until a fifth starter is needed on Aug. 29, according to Davidi.

Hutchison, 24, was expected to hold down a rotation spot for the bulk of the 2015 season, with some projecting him to be Toronto’s most effective starter. Hutchison worked to a 4.46 ERA in 2014, but he struck out a batter per inning with good control (2.9 BB/9) and was looked upon more favorably by stats such as FIP (3.85) and xFIP (3.82). Those same stats feel he’s been slightly worse in 2015, but not to the point where his ERA should be a its current mark of 5.06.

The timing of Hutchison’s demotion has to be difficult for the right-hander, though, as he’s turned in a pair of very solid outings in his two most recent trips to the hill (combined three runs on seven hits and three walks with 11 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings). He’s already cleared three years of service time this season and wouldn’t have had a chance at four, so this move won’t prevent him from reaching arbitration and won’t delay his free agency.

Hague, 30, was claimed by the Blue Jays 364 days ago and will join the big league club for the first time on the one-year anniversary of that transaction. He’s currently hitting .348/.427/.482 with 10 homers at Buffalo. He’ll serve as a bench piece, with the Blue Jays presumably hoping that he can fill a role similar to that of Danny Valencia earlier this season.

Carrera, 28, has already logged 70 games with Toronto this season. The speedy outfielder has batted .279/.327/.374 in 164 big league plate appearances this year and is batting a very similar .276/.349/.345 in Triple-A.


Quick Hits: Deadline Prospects, Valencia, White Sox

Over at Fangraphs, Kiley McDaniel has placed current grades on all of the 58 prospects that he counts as changing hands at the deadline. Among the eight players to get a rating of 55 (on the 20-80 scouting scale), three went from the Rangers to the Phillies in the Cole Hamels deal: catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams, and righty Jake Thompson. No other club gave or received more than one such player at the deadline, in McDaniels’ estimation. It’s an interesting read and a great resource for assessing the summer prospect haul. Check it out before voting in tonight’s poll on which team made the shrewdest moves to build out their current roster.

A few more quick notes to round out he day:

  • Athletics assistant GM David Forst explained that the club was happy to have a chance at claiming infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia off waivers from the Blue Jays, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. The 30-year-old was a roster casualty after Toronto’s flurry of deadline moves, despite his strong season thus far. “Danny is having an excellent year offensively,” said Forst. “His defensive versatility and track record of success against left-handed pitching fit our roster very well.” As Slusser notes, there’s some down-the-line benefit for Oakland, which also recently picked up Felix Doubront as a Jays cast-off: Valencia can be controlled for two more seasons via arbitration after earning $1.68MM in his first trip through the process this year.
  • The White Sox have promoted Nick Hostetler to the post of scouting director, as John Manuel of Baseball America writes. Previous director Doug Laumann will take a senior advisory role with the club. Hostetler has served in various scouting roles with the club since 2001.

Athletics Claim Danny Valencia

The Athletics have claimed infielder Danny Valencia off waivers from the Blue Jays, the A’s announced (on Twitter). Valencia was claimed from outright waivers as opposed to revocable trade waivers, so no trade will need to be worked out.

Valencia, 30, was a surprise casualty of the Blue Jays’ flurry of trade deadline activity, as the team designated him for assignment late last week in spite of excellent numbers at the plate. The right-handed-hitting Valencia is hitting .296/.331/.506 with seven homers in 173 trips to the plate this season.

Throughout Valencia’s career, most of his production has come versus left-handed pitching (a very robust .326/.368/.497 batting line), but he’s actually recorded better numbers versus right-handed pitching in 2015. Valencia has seen most of his action at third base throughout his career — he was the Twins’ regular third baseman for two and a half seasons and finished third in the 2010 AL Rookie of the Year voting — but he’s played some left field, first base and second base over the past couple of seasons as well. As a player that has notable platoon splits and the ability to bounce around the diamond a bit, he fits the quintessential Athletics mold.

Valencia will have four-plus years of service time at season’s end, meaning he can be controlled through the 2017 season. Valencia and his representatives at MVP Sports won an arbitration hearing against the Blue Jays this winter, resulting in a $1.675MM salary. He’s owed about $577K of that sum through the end of the year. The Athletics had top waiver priority in the American League, so the first team that had the option of picking up Valencia is the team on which he ultimately landed.



East Links: Valencia, Lucchino, Utley, Espinosa

We’ve already had a collection of NL East Notes and Red Sox Notes earlier today on MLBTR, but there’s always more news flowing out of the two Eastern divisions…

  • The Orioles, Rangers and White Sox are three of the likeliest teams to obtain Danny Valencia, an MLB source tells Chris Cotillo of SB Nation.  Of these clubs, Chicago would have the inside track since they have the higher waiver priority than Baltimore or Texas (presuming, of course, that the four teams behind the Pale Hose don’t put in a claim of their own).  Valencia was rather surprisingly designated for assignment by the Blue Jays and he isn’t expected to clear trade waivers.
  • Larry Lucchino could one day land in the Hall of Fame, but the Red Sox have a very capable replacement for their President/CEO in Sam Kennedy, Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe writes.  “This is Sam’s time,” one team source said. “Everybody in the building knows that.”  Abraham writes that there have been internal concerns in the past that Kennedy would leave the Red Sox to become president of another team. Other teams and even businesses outside of baseball have recruited Kennedy over the years.  Now, he’ll stay in Boston as he succeeds Lucchino.
  • The AL East landscape changed at the trade deadline, Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun writes.  The Blue Jays stole all the headlines in the division, but Schmuck believes that the Orioles found better offensive chemistry with their acquisition of Gerardo Parra.  Schmuck also gives his thoughts on the rest of the division, including the Yankees, who apparently hold their farm system’s best talent in very high esteem.
  • Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, an August trade candidate, is making progress on his rehab assignment and could rejoin the big league club soon, as MLB.com’s Nick Suss writes. When he does get back, he’ll go straight to the starting lineup, even if he’s not in Philly for long. “There’s no way I’m just going to let him sit on the bench,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “Because he’s got value and I think he’s got a lot left.”
  • Danny Espinosa has played a big role for the Nationals this season, but with their regular infield starters back, Espinosa is in a playing-time crunch, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Times writes.  His versatility makes him a prime bench piece, however, and as Janes notes, Espinosa could well find regular time again if veterans need a rest or if the Nats suffer further injuries.
  • Despite selling off key pieces at the deadline, Marlins president Michael Hill says there will be brighter days ahead in Miami.  “There’s optimism in South Florida,” Hill told MLB Network Radio (on Twitter). “We feel like we have a great core…We’re looking at an ace in Jose Fernandez and one of the best power hitters in Giancarlo Stanton.”

East Notes: Valencia, Red Sox, Fulmer

The Blue Jays‘ somewhat surprising decision this morning to designate Danny Valencia for assignment confused many fans. Valencia has, after all, had a very strong season at the plate, batting .296/.331/.506, and he’s capable of playing several positions and raking against lefties. As Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith explains, manager John Gibbons told GM Alex Anthopoulos that he wanted new acquisition Ben Revere to play every day rather than platooning, leaving one of Valencia or Chris Colabello without much of a role. The Blue Jays ultimately decided to keep Colabello, and Anthopoulos thinks Valencia will be claimed on Monday. The GM suggests the Jays aren’t done tweaking their roster, so they could make a minor move or two to improve it, perhaps adding an outfielder.

  • The Red Sox were relatively quiet at the deadline, but they expect to look quite different by April, Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston writes. “I think it’s incumbent upon us to make real improvement between now and Opening Day,” says GM Ben Cherington. “We didn’t feel like it had to be this week. And so we went into it with the mindset, we’re going to pursue things we think fall in line with ways we need to improve between now and Opening Day.” Cherington notes that it’s still possible the Red Sox could make deals in August. Potential trade candidates include Mike Napoli and Alejandro De Aza.
  • The Mets repeatedly refused to trade pitching prospect Michael Fulmer, and were able to acquire Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers only when they finally relented, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press writes. To Tigers exec Dave Dombrowski, Fulmer was the key to the deal (which also included another solid pitching prospect, Luis Cessa). “We consider Fulmer a premium-type guy,” Dombrowski says.

Blue Jays Designate Danny Valencia, Ezequiel Carerra

The Blue Jays have designated 3B/OF Danny Valencia and outfielder Ezequiel Carrera for assignment, Scott MacArthur of TSN tweets. The Jays also recalled middle infielder Munenori Kawasaki and optioned righty Ryan Tepera. The moves were likely made so that the team could add newcomers Ben Revere and Mark Lowe to their active roster, although those moves haven’t yet been announced.

Valencia, 30, is in the midst of a strong offensive season, hitting .296/.331/.506 in 173 plate appearances. With Devon Travis on the DL, though, the Jays were short in the middle infield, so Kawasaki will join the team instead. It’s still a bit surprising that the Jays would designate Valencia, however, given that the addition of Lowe will leave them with 13 pitchers on their staff. Valencia is making just $1.68MM this year, and he could become an attractive target in a trade or on the waiver wire, given his strong hitting this season (even if it’s somewhat out of character) and his ability to hit lefties and play third base, first base and outfield. He has also appeared in three games at second for the Jays this year.  Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos says he expects Valencia will be claimed, as Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets.

Carerra, 28, was batting .279/.327/.374 in 164 plate appearances this year. He became somewhat superfluous, however, with the Jays’ trade for fellow lefty hitter Revere. Carrera is a career .259/.311/.349 hitter in parts of five seasons also spent with the Indians, Phillies and Tigers.


Players Win Six Of 14 Arbitration Hearings

The Mariners’ defeat of reliever Tom Wilhelmsen today ended this offseason’s arbitration season. This year, 14 players went to arbitration hearings, with the players winning six times and teams winning eight. Via MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, here are the results.

Player Team Player Amt. Team Amt. Player won?
Pedro Alvarez Pirates $5.750MM $5.250MM Yes
Jerry Blevins Nationals $2.400MM $2.200MM Yes
Alejandro De Aza Orioles $5.650MM $5.000MM No
Josh Donaldson Blue Jays $5.750MM $4.300MM No
Mat Latos Marlins $10.400MM $9.400MM No
Mike Minor Braves $5.600MM $5.100MM Yes
Jarrod Parker Athletics $1.700MM $0.850MM No
David Phelps Marlins $1.875MM $1.400MM No
Wilin Rosario Rockies $3.300MM $2.800MM No
Mark Trumbo Diamondbacks $6.900MM $5.300MM Yes
Danny Valencia Blue Jays $1.675MM $1.250MM Yes
Neil Walker Pirates $9.000MM $8.000MM No
Tom Wilhelmsen Mariners $2.200MM $1.400MM No
Vance Worley Pirates $2.450MM $2.000MM Yes

A few notes:

  • Via MLBTR’s 2014 Arbitration Tracker, only three players (Andrew Cashner, Vinnie Pestano and Josh Tomlin) had hearings last year, so 14 hearings this year marks a dramatic spike. No players had hearings in the 2012-2013 offseason, and seven players did in 2011-2012. The number of hearings this offseason was the most since 2001, although not everyone is convinced this is the start of a trend, according to the Associated Press. ”Just as I didn’t think [2012-2013] was the start of a trend when we had no hearings, I do not think any conclusions can be drawn at this point from the increased number of hearings this year,” says MLB chief legal officer Don Halem.
  • The Pirates alone took three players to arbitration, as many as all teams combined in the previous two offseasons.
  • Teams will pay the 14 players who went to arbitration $57.925MM next season, saving a total of about $1.5MM versus the midpoints between those 14 players’ proposed figures and those of their teams.
  • There appears to be no obvious pattern in which players won and which lost (which isn’t necessarily surprising, since the terms of each arbitration hearing are set ahead of time by the teams and agents who determine the figures, and not by the arbitrators). As CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman notes (via Twitter), better established players (like Josh Donaldson, Neil Walker and Mat Latos) mostly lost their hearings, while players coming off mediocre or poor seasons, like Pedro Alvarez, Mark Trumbo and Mike Minor, won theirs.
  • In terms of overall dollar value, Donaldson might be the player most affected by the result of his hearing, which he lost. There was a fairly large gap (over $1.4MM) between his proposed figure and that of the Blue Jays. Donaldson is also a Super Two player in the midst of his first year of arbitration eligibility, and his salary for 2015 could impact his salary in the next three seasons after that.

Danny Valencia Wins Arbitration Hearing Against Blue Jays

The Blue Jays and Danny Valencia had an arbitration hearing yesterday, according to the Associated Press, and the team announced this morning that the arbitrator ruled in favor of Valencia. The 30-year-old Valencia had filed for a salary of $1.675MM, while the team countered at $1.2MM, as can be seen in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker. The MVP Sports client will now earn that $1.675MM figure in 2015.

As Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet notes, on Twitter, this marks the first time since 1997 that the Blue Jays have gone to an arbitration hearing rather than settling a case in advance (Toronto last went to trial with right-handed pitcher Bill Risley). They’ll likely have a second trial in the near future with offseason acquisition Josh Donaldson as well, given Toronto’s stance as a “file and trial” team in recent years. (That is, a team that does not negotiate arbitration contracts beyond the date that figures are to be exchanged.)

Valencia batted .258/.296/.371 with four home runs last season in 86 games/284 plate appearances between the Royals and Blue Jays. While he’s never replicated his outstanding .311/.351/.448 rookie season with the Twins (he finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in that 2010 season), he’s carved out a niche as a weapon against left-handed pitching. Valencia hit .321/.371/.464 against southpaws last season and is a lifetime .327/.368/.502 hitter when holding the platoon advantage.


Arbitration Roundup: 54 Players Exchange Figures

With today’s flurry of activities in the books, 144 players have agreed to deals to avoid arbitration for a total spend of $433MM. But that leaves 54 players who have exchanged figures and have ground left to cover before their 2015 salaries are settled. That number is up from last year’s tally of 39, and may point to the possibility that we will see more hearings than the three in 2014 (which was itself up from zero the year before).

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker is a great resource for seeing where things stand. It is fully sortable and even allows you to link to the results of a search. (The MLBTR/Matt Swartz arbitration projections are also quite handy, of course.) Using the tracker, I compiled some broad notes on where things stand in the arbitration process this year.

Remember, deals avoiding arbitration can still be reached even after the exchange of numbers. Hearings will be scheduled between February 1st and 21st, so there is plenty of time for the sides to come together before making their cases.

That being said, some teams are known for their “file and trial” approach to arb-eligible players, meaning that they refuse to negotiate after the exchange deadline and go to a hearing if agreement has not been reached. Among those clubs (the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox, per the most recent reporting), there are several open cases remaining: Mat Latos and Michael Dunn (Marlins), Josh Donaldson and Danny Valencia (Blue Jays), Mike Minor (Braves), and Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier (Reds).

Meanwhile, some other clubs have historically employed the “file and trial” approach on a modified or case-by-case basis: the Pirates, Nationals, and Indians. Among those clubs, the Pirates (Neil Walker, Vance Worley) and Nationals (Jerry Blevins) have open cases, though all of them feature relatively tight spreads.

And there are some other interesting cases to keep an eye on as well. Consider:

  • The Orioles and Royals not only faced off in last year’s American League Championship Series, but find themselves staring at by far the most unresolved cases (six and eight, respectively). They are also the only teams with eight-figure gaps between their submissions and those of their players ($10.85MM and $10MM, respectively).
  • Among the Orioles players, two stand out for the significant relative gulf separating team and player. Zach Britton, who excelled after taking over as the closer last year, filed at $4.2MM while the team countered at $2.2MM, leaving a $2MM gap that is worth nearly 91% of the club’s offer. Even more remarkably, the O’s will need to bridge a $3.4MM gap ($5.4MM versus $2MM) with surprise star Steve Pearce. That spread is 1.7 times the value of the team’s offer and easily beats the largest difference last year (Logan Morrison and the Mariners, 127.3%).
  • Of course, it is worth remembering that first-year arb salaries have added impact because they set a baseline for future earnings. (Each successive year’s salary is essentially calculated as an earned raise from that starting point.) For the Reds, the outcome of their cases with Frazier ($5.7MM vs. $3.9MM) and Mesoraco ($3.6MM vs. $2.45MM) could have huge ramifications for whether the team will be able to afford to keep (and possibly extend) that pair of strong performers.
  • Likewise, the Angels face an important showdown with Garrett Richards, a Super Two whose starting point will factor into three more seasons of payouts. As a high-upside starter, he has sky high earning potential, so any savings will be most welcome to the team. The current spread is $3.8MM versus $2.4MM, a $1.4MM difference that equates to 58.3% of the team’s filing price.
  • Interestingly, the biggest gap in absolute terms belong to Pearce and the Orioles at $3.4MM. After that come Bud Norris and the Orioles ($2.75MM), David Freese and the Angels ($2.35MM), Greg Holland and the Royals ($2.35MM), Dexter Fowler and the Astros ($2.3MM), Eric Hosmer and the Royals ($2.1MM), and Aroldis Chapman and the Reds ($2.05MM).

Of course, plenty of deals already got done today. Here are some of the more notable among them:

  • David Price agreed to a $19.75MM salary with the Tigers that stands as the single highest arbitration payday ever, by a fair margin.
  • Interestingly, the Rays agreed to rather similar, sub-projection deals with all seven of their arb-eligible players. Discounts on Swartz’s expectations ranged from 3.23% to 13.21%. In total, the club shaved $1.525MM off of its tab.
  • The opposite was true of the Tigers, who spent a total of $1.4MM over the projections on just three players. Of course, since one of those players was Price, the commitment landed just 5.2% over the projected total.
  • Detroit’s overages pale in comparison to those of the Cubs, who handed out several of the deals that beat the projections by the widest relative margin and ended up over $2.5MM (14.5%) over their projected spend.
  • The MLBTR/Swartz model badly whiffed (over 50% off) on just three players, all of whom earned well over the projections: Chris Coghlan of the Cubs (78.9%), Carlos Carrasco of the Indians (66.9%) Tony Sipp of the Astros (60%).
  • On the low side, the worst miss (or the biggest discount, depending on one’s perspective) was Mark Melancon of the Pirates, who fell $2.2MM and 28.9% shy of his projected earnings. Danny Espinosa (Nationals) and Chris Tillman (Orioles) were the only two other players to fall 20% or more below their projections. Of course, in the cases of both Melancon and Tillman, Swartz accurately predicted that they would fall short of the model.

Royals Acquire Hendriks, Kratz For Valencia

6:10pm: The Blue Jays announced that they have acquired Danny Valencia from the Royals in exchange for Hendriks and Kratz.  Valencia, 29, posted a .282/.328/.382 slash line in 119 plate appearances for KC this season.  The veteran split 117 games between Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk in 2013.  In 170 plate appearances last year for the O’s, he had a .304/.330/.553 slash line to go with eight homers.  The 29-year-old has seen scattered MLB action since a mediocre stint as the Twins’ everyday third bagger in 2011. 

5:51pm: Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports confirms that Kratz is headed to Kansas City (Twitter link).

5:46pm: The Royals and Blue Jays have agreed to a trade, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Right-hander Liam Hendriks is heading to Kansas City in the deal, and Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi tweets that catcher Erik Kratz is expected to be joining the Royals as well.

The 25-year-old Hendriks was once considered one of the Top 10 prospects in the Twins organization, but he made his rounds on waivers over the past season after failing to translate his excellent Triple-A numbers to the Major Leagues. Hendriks allowed nine runs in 13 1/3 innings for the Jays this season and has a 6.06 ERA in 169 1/3 innings throughout his big league career. The Aussie right-hander has a strong 3.23 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 362 1/3 career innings at the Triple-A level. Baseball America tweets that he was impressive at the Triple-A All Star Game this season — a team that he was named to after posting a brilliant 2.33 ERA in 18 minor league appearances this year.

Kratz, who turned 34 last month, is expected to help the Royals at the big league level. The former Phillies backstop has seen limited time with the Blue Jays in 2014, slashing .198/.226/.346 with three homers. Low batting averages and plus pop have been the story of Kratz’s big league career, as he’s hit just .216 with a .271 OBP in 501 plate appearances but boasts a solid .181 isolated power mark (slugging minus batting average). Kratz is a career .268/.342/.474 hitter in 1618 Triple-A plate appearances. He has consistently rated as a strong pitch-framer and pitch-blocker, and he’s gunned down 32 percent of attempted base stealers in his big league career.