David Price Rumors

AL Notes: Price, Ludwick, Lindstrom, Blue Jays

Academy Award-winning actor, Michigan native and huge Tigers fan J.K. Simmons will throw out the first pitch at the Tigers’ opener on April 6.  Simmons won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar last month for his role in Whiplash, and if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll agree that the Tigers should probably hold off on having Simmons give a pep talk to the rookies before the game.  Here’s the latest from around the American League…

  • The Tigers‘ chances of extending David Price aren’t good, Mlive.com’s Chris Iott opines, as there are simply too many reasons for Price to test the free agent market this winter.  Price could potentially find a $200MM+ contract next offseason, so it’s possible Detroit would have to top that level now in order to retain him.
  • The Rangers told outfielder Ryan Ludwick that he wouldn’t make the team, GM Jon Daniels told reporters (including MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan).  Daniels described Ludwick as an “all-world guy” who he believes could help another team’s roster, though in the Rangers’ case, “as we look at it today, we thought other options in camp fit the roster better.”  Ludwick signed a minor league contract with Texas in February and, as an Article XX(B) free agent, would’ve been obligated to receive a $100K bonus if the Rangers wanted to keep him in the organization but not on the 25-man roster.
  • Matt Lindstrom is also an Article XX(B) free agent, and the Angels right-hander’s status could hurt his chances of making the roster since the Halos like to be flexible in sending relievers back and forth to the minors, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes.
  • Right-hander Steve Delabar told reporters (including Sportsnet’s Mike Wilner) that “it’s a shock to me” that he won’t be making the Blue Jays‘ Opening Day roster.  Delabar pitched well this spring but apparently lost his spot due to the emergence of Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna, both of whom seem very likely to make the team.  Delabar was clearly upset by the demotion, and when asked if he would accept a change of scenery to a new team, he said “it could be considered, but I’m not saying that that’s what I’m asking for or anything like that. But if that was to happen… I feel like I’m a major-league player and I can help a bullpen.”
  • Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders won’t be ready for Opening Day, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes, though the reason isn’t due to a setback in his rehab from knee surgery.  The team and Saunders both want to make sure the outfielder is 100 percent when he takes the field, which could be as soon as Toronto’s home opener on April 13.  Saunders had surgery to remove 60 percent of his left meniscus after tearing the cartilage earlier this spring — a decision that accelerated his timeline to take the field from midseason to early April.  Manager John Gibbons has referred to the radically altered timeline as “kind of a miracle,” and Saunders has already been DHing in Minor League games, per Chisholm. However, he’s yet to play outfield defense or run the bases; he’s returned to the dugout rather than running after each at-bat in those games, as the focus is currently just on getting his timing down in a game setting.

Tigers, David Price Open Exploratory Discussions

The Tigers have opened a line of communication with agent Bo McKinnis, the representative for ace lefty David Price, regarding the possibility of a new contract, Price tells reporters including MLB.com’s Jason Beck (Twitter link).

Price downplayed the significance of the communications to date after meeting with McKinnis last night. Numbers have not yet been discussed, said Price. “I wouldn’t even call it groundwork,” he explained.

Though it appears that only the most preliminary contact has been established, that obviously at least indicates that both sides have at least some interest in exploring an extension. Detroit gave up a substantial package of big leaguers and prospects to acquire Price last summer, of course, and went on to watch Max Scherzer depart via free agency. In that regard, team interest has always made some sense.

The question, as always is one of cost. Scherzer reportedly declined a $144MM offer from the Tigers entering his walk year, only to land $210MM on the open market. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes has listed Price at third on his free agent power rankings, but that is largely a reflection of the upside of the two position players above him and the reality of pitching risk. As Dierkes has noted, Price has a strong case to join Scherzer in topping $200MM — if he puts up a typical year.


AL Central Notes: Dozier, Tigers, Finnegan

It’s already been a busy day for AL Central news.  We’ve learned Corey Kluber and the Indians aren’t close in contract negotiations, MLBTR’s Zach Links has a pair of interviews with Twins GM Terry Ryan and right-hander Mike Pelfrey, and Minnesota also grabbed headlines by inking second baseman Brian Dozier to a four-year, $20MM extension.  Here’s even more from around the division…

  • Dozier, Ryan, Twins assistant GM Rob Antony and Dozier’s agent Damon Lapa discussed the contract during a press conference today (Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has the details).  The two sides discussed extensions of up to eight years in length, but they instead settled on a deal that only covers Dozier’s arbitration years and doesn’t include any club options.  “In Brian’s case, we felt it important to restrict the club’s ability at the back end of the contract to have any options or anything like that,” Lapa said.  “To us that resulted in a shorter term, but we feel in the long run that’s in Brian’s best interests. It preserves his ability to hit free agency on time at 31 as opposed to some of the other players who will be in their mid-30s.”
  • While retaining the ability to test free agency was a key point for Dozier, he made it clear that he would like to spend the rest of his career in Minnesota.  He’s quite open to a future extension with the team and “hopefully this [contract] is a stepping stone for something possibly even longer.”
  • “There are rumblings some talks are in the works” between David Price and the Tigers about an extension, Tony Paul of the Detroit News writes.  Price said two weeks ago that there hadn’t been any negotiations between the two sides but he expected the club to approach him before the start of the season.
  • Also from Paul’s piece, he suggests the Tigers should explore extending J.D. Martinez or Nick Castellanos now in order to gain cost certainty over the young players, pick up another year or two of team control and possibly score a bargain if they keep producing.  While I’m sure the Tigers would take a team-friendly figure if they could find it (especially with Martinez coming off a huge 2014 season), they might be more inclined to wait a bit longer to make sure of what they really have in either player.
  • Royals lefty Brandon Finnegan will begin the season at Double-A, the team announced yesterday.  Finnegan, the Royals’ first-round draft pick last July, was fast-tracked to the majors after just 27 minor league innings and he made some important bullpen appearances for K.C. during their playoff run. There was some question as to whether Finnegan would pitch out of the Royals’ bullpen again on Opening Day or if he’d continue developing as a starter at Triple-A, though GM Dayton Moore tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that the move to Double-A was made because “we’re still learning about Brandon.”  Pitch counts and workload were also factors, though Moore was pleased with how Finnegan accounted for himself while in the bigs.


AL Notes: Indians, Price, White Sox, Baldoquin

In today’s mailbag, a reader asked Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer if Gavin Floyd suffering an injury so soon after his signing indicates a broader issue with the Indians‘ ability to evaluate a pitcher’s health risk. There have been hits and misses for the Tribe, Hoynes explains, pointing to successes like their cheap gamble on Scott Kazmir. Over the last 20 years or so, Cleveland has established a good reputation for rehabbing injured hurlers from other organizations, so one bad break doesn’t mean that they’ve lost their feel for it. For more on the Indians’ offseason, check out MLBTR’s Steve Adams in-depth review.

Elsewhere in the American League:

  • The bounty of starting pitchers in the upcoming free agent class will provide enough of a safety net for the Tigers if they fail to extend David Price, opines MLive.com’s Chris Iott. Owner Mike Ilitch is the wild card whether the Tigers make a strong bid to retain Price, who, Iott notes, will match, if not exceed, Max Scherzer‘s deal and without the deferments.
  • Utilityman Don Kelly wanted to return to the Tigers, but signed with the Marlins because they represented a clearer path to the Majors, reports James Schmehl of MLive.com. “Detroit was like a second home for us, so to make that change was tough,” said Kelly. “To be able to bounce around and everything that goes on in a National League game, that was one of the reasons why it was such a good fit. The way the roster was set up at the time, and the way Miami’s was, it just seemed like a better fit to be in the NL and to be here.
  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn focuses on two factors when deciding whether to extend an arbitration-eligible player like Adam Eaton or Avisail Garcia, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “It’s a combination of feeling, one, that the player is a key part to what we have going here and want to make sure we are able to have him longer than the normal six-year control period,” Hahn said. “And second, probably almost as important if not more important, is the belief that the guaranteed money wouldn’t change the player’s approach to their preparation for the game.
  • Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register chronicles the Angels’ recruitment of Roberto Baldoquin and how the franchise believes their $15MM investment ($8MM signing bonus plus the tax for exceeding their international bonus pool) is justified based on the numerous interactions between the organization and the 19-year-old Cuban prior to his signing.

Starting Pitching Notes: Scherzer, Price, Cards

Max Scherzer knows exactly what David Price is experiencing as the left-hander enters his last year under contract, and Scherzer told reporters (including James Schmehl of Mlive.com) that facing free agency inevitably adds another element to a pitcher’s season.  “You only get one shot at this, to sign a big deal,” Scherzer said. “He’s going to be in a position to do it, whether he does it now or in the offseason. That’s his choice. But you have to do it right. That’s something you have to be comfortable with.”  Scherzer said that he blocked out the pressure by simply focusing on winning games, advice that Price seems to be following.  “I’ve gone year-to-year for the last four years now, so every year is a contract year,” Price said.  “It doesn’t matter. It’s not what I’m focused on. It’s not what I’m worried about….I just need to go out there, have fun and play baseball.”

Here are more notes from various rotations around the game…

  • The Cardinals have a nice problem with Marco Gonzales, Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia all looking good in Spring Training, and Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch doesn’t see any reason why the team shouldn’t keep this rotation surplus in place.  Some could argue that the Cards could trade one of these excess starters, yet Miklasz notes that the club will inevitably need starting depth beyond the five in the rotation.
  • Beyond Cole Hamels, there aren’t many top-flight pitchers available on the trade market for teams looking to fill rotation holes, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only piece.  Olney cites the Padres as a team who might have enough depth to trade some pitching now, while the Rays could conceivably explore dealing Alex Cobb or Drew Smyly in the coming months if they decide they can’t contend this season.
  • Also from Olney, he wonders (based only on his own speculation) if the Orioles and Dodgers could fit as trade partners in a bad-contract deal of Ubaldo Jimenez for Andre Ethier.  It’s not a bad idea, though the trade probably works better for L.A. than it does for Baltimore since losing Jimenez (even considering his 2014 struggles) would leave the O’s a bit thin on rotation depth.

Price Expects Tigers To Initiate Extension Talks Before Free Agency

Tigers ace David Price reiterates that he’s interested in an extension, and says he expects Detroit to approach him about a new deal before he hits free agency, James Schmehl of MLive.com writes. “I doubt it’ll be that long,” says Price.

Price confirms that there have been no talks between the two sides to date. He has repeatedly said, however, that he would be interested in an extension. Price will earn $19.75MM (a record-setting figure for a pitcher settling an arbitration case) in 2015 before potentially becoming eligible for free agency following the season. If the Tigers let him get that far, he’ll join an excellent list of free-agent pitchers that includes Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, Rick Porcello, Doug Fister and perhaps Zack Greinke.


AL Notes: Moncada, Price, Wilhelmsen

Yoan Moncada might be the best $100MM the Yankees can spend, Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines.  Of course, it’s a huge gamble to invest $60-$100MM in a player who might be two years away from the majors, but elite position players are now rare commodities on the free agent market.  If Yankees evaluators truly believe that Moncada is the next coming of Robinson Cano, then Sherman says they should roll the dice.  Here’s more from the American League..

  • David Price said that as far as he knows, there have been no discussions regarding an extension with the Tigers, according to Chris Iott of MLive.com (on Twitter).  Price says that he won’t close the door on negotiations on Opening Day, but he would prefer if the talk “dies down a bit” at that point, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).  Price would “rather not talk about it all year long” but he’s “not closing every door,” Heyman tweets.
  • Right-handed reliever Tom Wilhelmsen has no regrets about challenging the Mariners to an arbitration hearing despite losing his case, as Bob Dutton of The News Tribune writes. “You hear so many things about it,” he said. “I’m glad I did it. I got to stand up for what I believe in, man. That’s a pretty cool thing to do.” Wilhelmsen sought $2.2MM but the three-judge panel sided with the club’s offer of $1.4MM.
  • Recently, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs ranked the Braves‘ signing of Nick Markakis and the Mariners‘ signing of Nelson Cruz as two of the worst moves of the offseason.  Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com understands why the Orioles opted not to go that far in terms of years and dollars but he doesn’t see either deal as harshly as Cameron.

Tigers Notes: Price, Scherzer, Kelly

Here’s the latest from Detroit, where TigerFest takes place today:

  • David Price reiterated that he would “absolutely” consider a long-term deal with the Tigers, MLive.com’s James Schmehl tweets. Price said earlier this week that he would be “all ears” regarding a possible extension. He will make $19.75MM in his last season of arbitration eligibility in 2015, then can test the free agent market next winter.
  • GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers were not one of the final bidders for new Nationals signee Max Scherzer, MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets. “If there was a mystery club involved, and I’m not sure there was, it was not us,” Dombrowski says.
  • Dombrowski says the Tigers tried to re-sign utilityman Don Kelly, Beck tweets. Kelly signed a minor-league deal with the Marlins instead, however, because he felt he had a better chance of making the big-league team there. Again via Beck, Dombrowski says that with Kelly gone, infielders Hernan Perez and Andrew Romine will compete for the super-utility job. They’ll work on playing the outfield this spring.

Tigers Notes: Price, Dombrowski, Cespedes

Left-hander David Price was among the players on hand at the team’s winter caravan kickoff, and he explained to reporters (including Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press) that he’s adjusted to his new club.  Though there’s been a good deal of coverage on what some believed to be a rocky midseason transition to the Tigers, Detroit was “not somewhere that I disliked,” the 2012 Cy Young Award winner said. “I solely said that it was different, and it’s not different anymore…. Comfort comes with time, and I’ve had time here and I got to spend time with them last year on the field and away from the field, and it’s a lot more comfortable now.” 

Here’s more from the Motor City…

  • Price referred to the $210MM that former teammate Max Scherzer got from the Nationals as “surreal,” and while Price is intrigued by the possibility of free agency, he’s also “all ears” about a potential extension with the Tigers.  “Some of you does just kind of want to wait it out, but some of you wants to be like, ‘Well, if they’re open to doing something, you can’t close any doors,’ ” Price said.
  • GM Dave Dombrowski didn’t elaborate on any extension talks with Price, only telling reporters (including Fenech) that “we’ll just have to wait and see what takes place” and “we hope he stays a Tiger for a long time.”  Dombrowski also denied that the club explored trading Price: “I will tell you and I can safely tell you we’ve never had any trade discussions about David Price this winter.  People have talked, I cannot tell you that somebody had not inquired about him a time or two, but we were never in discussions to trade him.”
  • Elsewhere on the extension front, James Schmehl of MLive.com tweets that while Yoenis Cespedes did have some extension talks with the Red Sox, the outfielder has yet to engage in negotiations on a long-term deal with his new team. Cespedes will earn $10.5MM this year before hitting the open market next winter.

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.