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David Price Rumors
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Aroldis Chapman | Atlanta Braves | Baltimore Orioles | Bud Norris | Carlos Carrasco | Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Chris Coghlan | Chris Tillman | Cincinnati Reds | Cleveland Indians | Danny Espinosa | Danny Valencia | David Freese | David Price | Detroit Tigers | Devin Mesoraco | Dexter Fowler | Eric Hosmer | Garrett Richards | Greg Holland | Houston Astros | Jerry Blevins | Josh Donaldson | Kansas City Royals | Logan Morrison | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Mark Melancon | Mat Latos | Miami Marlins | Mike Minor | Milwaukee Brewers | Neil Walker | Pittsburgh Pirates | Seattle Mariners | Steve Pearce | Tampa Bay Rays | Todd Frazier | Tony Sipp | Toronto Blue Jays | Vance Worley | Washington Nationals | Zach Britton
5:52pm: Martinez will earn $3MM, Perchick tweets.
1:28pm: Alfredo Simon has also avoided arbitration with Detroit, settling on a $5.55MM salary for 2015 — his final year of team control — according to Mike Perchick of WAPT (Twitter link). He’d been projected at $5.1MM.
12:04pm: The Tigers and left-hander David Price have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a whopping $19.75MM salary for the ace’s final year of team control, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Price’s salary tops the $18.9MM projection of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz by about $900K.
Price’s salary is a record-breaker for a starting pitcher in arbitration, topping the mark set just last winter by his now-former teammate Max Scherzer, who earned a $15.25MM sum. The former No. 1 overall pick split the season between the Rays and Detroit following a last-minute three-team trade on the day of the trade deadline, in which Nick Franklin, Drew Smyly and Willy Adames went to the Rays, with Price heading to the Tigers and Austin Jackson going to the Mariners. In total, Price put together another dominant season, compiling a 3.26 ERA while leading the league in innings pitched (248 1/3) and strikeouts (271).
The Cardinals are exploring several avenues to add a top-end arm to the top of the rotation, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports report. The targets include not only free agent Max Scherzer but also trade candidates Cole Hamels of the Phillies and David Price of the Tigers.
Rosenthal and Morosi hasten to add that no deals appear to be close, and note that St. Louis could decide to hold pat with its current slate of starters if the price proves too steep. But the club’s interest reflects some level of concern that the staff will hold up as constituted, per the report.
Scherzer has local roots and could be had for nothing but money, but is expected to command quite a lot of it. The other two hurlers — both southpaws, which the FOX Sports tandem says the Cards would prefer — will obviously require more than cash commitments to acquire.
In the case of Hamels, his no-trade protection would pose no barrier as the Cardinals are not on his no-trade list. But Philadelphia would be looking for a package fronted by a young starter such as Carlos Martinez or Marco Gonzales, while also including a promising young outfielder like Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty. Center fielder Peter Bourjos is also a player that the Phillies have had interest in some time, per Rosenthal and Morosi.
Price, of course, represents an entirely different sort of piece. He is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility and is currently under control of a win-now Detroit club. Per the report, St. Louis might pursue Price with the idea of locking him up for the long-term, based in part on the fact that he makes his offseason home in reasonable proximity (Nashville).
The Price-Scherzer dynamic also impacts things from the Tigers’ perspective, of course, and Rosenthal and Morosi say that the team has not approached Price about an extension. GM Dave Dombrowski has not been shy about dealing pitching talent in recent years, and it could be that moving Price off the books for 2015 would pave the way for a return for Scherzer. Of course, that scenario seems fairly speculative at this stage.
Baseball’s competitive balance is the top takeaway from the 2014 season, opines MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince. Parity can be defined in many ways, Castrovince notes, but what cannot be ignored is no team has won 100 games since 2011, three division winners in 2014 (Angels, Nationals, and Orioles) were not in the playoffs the year before, and the World Series featured a pair of Wild Card clubs. Castrovince lists a greater reliance on young talent, revenue sharing, TV money, and draft and international spending limits as reasons for the competitive balance never being stronger.
Elsewhere around baseball:
- The Mariners‘ payroll isn’t keeping pace with payroll increases throughout the game, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times argues. The Mariners spent $93MM in 2010 and had the 14th highest payroll in the game, but because of salary inflation since then, their $109MM 2014 payroll only put them at 16th. The Mariners did add Nelson Cruz this offseason, but Baker feels their outfield would have benefited from another bat, like Melky Cabrera, Justin Upton or Matt Kemp, any of whom would have put a dent in their payroll. The Mariners have financial benefits a team like the Royals doesn’t have, Baker says, and their spending shouldn’t be in MLB’s bottom half.
- The Tigers have not discussed an extension with David Price this offseason, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi notes. That indicates it’s still possible they could sign free agent Max Scherzer and deal Price (Twitter links).
- It sounds like pitcher Hiroki Kuroda is ready to finish his career as a member of the Hiroshima Carp, which would rule out an eventual MLB return. The veteran told Sanspo (Japanese link) his return should be “the last decision of his baseball life,” according to Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker (on Twitter).
- Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune sees Takashi Toritani filling two roles for the Padres: a reliable, experienced defender at shortstop and a legitimate leadoff bat from the left side. The Padres’ interest in the Japanese infielder, who is an unrestricted free agent, was reported yesterday.
- The Padres have become relevant again with their series of moves by new GM A.J. Preller making the collection of MLB California franchises the best in the game, writes Lyle Spencer of MLB.com.
- The Indians prefer to round out their roster through trades rather than free agency and could deal from their surplus of relievers and middle infielders (excluding Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez), reports Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group.
Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.
David Price enters his fourth and final year of arbitration with a phenomenal case. He already earned $14MM in 2014, but my model projects that he will earn $19.3MM in 2015. After a player’s first year of eligibility, in which their entire career is considered, subsequent arbitration cases generally look at the previous year and determine a raise based on that one year of performance. In that sense, if Price earned $5MM less, he would be likely to get a similar raise in magnitude, but his previous salary would lead to a 2015 salary that was $5MM lower due to a lower baseline. Price has put together several great seasons already, which is why he has reached $14MM in the first place, and now with a 15-12 record, a 3.26 ERA, and gigantic totals of 248 1/3 innings and 271 strikeouts, Price is poised to get another large raise.
That said, my model has always had an interesting relationship with Price’s abnormal performances. In his first year of eligibility, my model projected that he would earn $7.8MM but he only settled on $4.35MM. Since then, his case has been interesting enough to write about every year. In his second year of eligibility, I wrote about how I projected he would earn $9.5MM and he actually topped that and got $10.1125MM. Then the next year I explained how I projected he would earn $13.1MM, but he got $14MM. The last two misses were not as bad as the first, but clearly the southpaw has caused my model some trouble. With an eye-popping 248 1/3 inning season, and a model that rewards performance time to mirror the actual process, it is hard to know if his $19.3MM projection as high, low, or just right.
Perhaps the best comparable for Price is Cole Hamels’ 2012 arbitration case. He got $5.5MM, which is just below the $5.3MM raise that I have projected for Price. Hamels had 216 innings, so that is definitely short of Price’s 248 1/3, as were his 194 strikeouts relative to Price’s 271. Hamels also went 14-9, winning one fewer game than Price at 15-12. However, Hamels 2.79 ERA is decidedly better than Price’s 3.26, and could be enough to offset the innings, strikeouts, and extra win in favor of Price. However, they are not necessarily great comparables because of these differences. Unfortunately, few players are great comparables for Price.
Max Scherzer clearly had a better case last year when he went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 214 1/3 innings. Scherzer also won the Cy Young, further cementing his superb season and arbitration case. He got an $8.8MM raise though, and that is obviously the (very high) ceiling for Price here.
On the other side, a few pitchers emerge as clear floors for Price. Anibal Sanchez got a $4.3MM raise in 2012 with an 8-9 record, a 3.67 ERA, and 196 1/3 innings. None of those make him look as good as Price, so $4.3MM is clearly a floor. Justin Masteron’s $4.07MM raise after a 14-10, 3.45 ERA season with 193 innings last year, could also have served as a floor.
There are few other pitchers who fit in that wide range of $4.3MM to $8.8MM. Way back in 2007, Carlos Zambrano set the record for starters with at least five years of service time with a $5.9MM raise. That type of time lag would generally mean Zambrano is not likely to be used as a comparable in Price’s case, though it is worth noting that he went 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA in 214 innings. Zambrano’s definitely led to a higher salary than people were expecting, and he was a tough comparable to use because other salaries did not seem to fall on the same scale. Still, it could be that Price tries to argue that he should top Zambrano’s $5.9MM raise.
With such a wide range of potential salaries and so few pitchers with similar credentials, it is difficult to say if this will be one of my better or worse projections for Price’s salary. I could see more upside than downside, if only because Price’s innings total is so incredible, but I think that the best comparable is definitely likely to be Hamels, and his $5.5MM raise might be the best bet for Price.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.