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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.
Only three free agents make Jayson Stark’s list of the top 10 players to watch during the Winter Meetings, reflecting the feeling from several baseball executives that the trade front could be much busier than the free agency front in the coming days. Jon Lester is the key domino in the process, as in the words of one NL executive, “he sets the free-agent market and kick-starts the trade market. Depending on when he signs, he could create the greatest Winter Meetings in decades or the most boring.” Here’s some more from ESPN’s Stark…
- “The most widespread front-office conspiracy theory” sees the Nationals trading Jordan Zimmermann and then signing Max Scherzer. This scenario is “so obvious it makes me question if it’s real,” one GM said. Clearly a lot of factors would have to fall into place for the Nats to pull this off, though they’re known to be listening to offers for Zimmermann, who will be a free agent after the 2015 season. Scott Boras, Scherzer’s agent, is known for waiting until deep into the offseason to find a preferred deal for his clients, which could give Washington more time to line up a Zimmermann trade.
- Beyond Zimmermann, the Nationals are also listening to offers for Ian Desmond, Doug Fister, Denard Span and Tyler Clippard. All of these players can hit free agency after 2015, making Washington the “team with the potential to make the biggest deal of the offseason. And maybe not just one,” Stark writes.
- The Tigers are “listening intently” to offers for David Price and Rick Porcello, though they’ll only deal one of the two, and Detroit would only move Price if they can re-sign Scherzer. “The Tigers have made it clear they aren’t subtracting any starting pitchers unless they have a replacement lined up,” Stark writes. I’d note that the newly-acquired Shane Greene could be such a potential replacement for Porcello, who Stark says is the more likely to be traded than Price.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has told teams interested in Cole Hamels to make an offer if they wish, but the Phils are waiting to see where the big free agent arms go before they seriously start exploring a Hamels trade. Several teams have said the Phillies’ asking price for Hamels is far too high, and one rival official tells Stark that the pitching market is too deep for the Phillies to expect both top prospects and Hamels’ entire contract to be absorbed in a deal.
- Jeff Samardzija is likelier to be dealt before Hamels, one executive predicts, since the Athletics are more aggressively shopping their right-hander. We’ve already heard that the White Sox, to name one team, have discussed a Samardzija trade with the A’s. One exec warns that the A’s could have trouble finding their desired return for Samardzija, since “it’s just hard to give up a lot of value for a one-year pitcher.”
- The Red Sox are open to trading any position player except for Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Rusney Castillo and Christian Vazquez, Stark writes. It also goes without saying that David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia won’t be dealt, not to mention the newly-signed Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Boston Red Sox | Christian Vazquez | Cole Hamels | David Price | Denard Span | Detroit Tigers | Doug Fister | Ian Desmond | Jeff Samardzija | Jon Lester | Jordan Zimmermann | Max Scherzer | Mookie Betts | Newsstand | Oakland Athletics | Philadelphia Phillies | Rick Porcello | Rusney Castillo | Tyler Clippard | Washington Nationals | Xander Bogaerts
Athletics GM Billy Beane firmly rejected the recently-suggested idea that some kind of tension between he and Josh Donaldson played any role in the latter’s recent trade, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. “It is so absurd to respond further is to give it credibility,” said Beane. We’ll take a closer look at Oakland on today’s podcast, which features beat reporter Jane Lee of MLB.com.
Here’s more from the American League:
- The Athletics are “going to trade Brandon Moss,” an executive told ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark last night (Twitter link). We heard yesterday that the Indians were making a run at the slugger, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the pursuit continues today. Of course, as Lee reported last night (via Twitter), there are other teams looking into Moss.
- Lingering concerns over neck issues may have played a role in the Orioles‘ decision not to top the Braves’ offer to Nick Markakis, Rosenthal reports. Markakis has been quite durable over the last two seasons since being diagnosed with a “small disc herniation,” but of course he has also failed to deliver much pop in that time.
- Nevertheless, the Orioles did have the second-highest offer on the table to Markakis, per Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs (Twitter link). He hears that Baltimore offered four years and $40MM.
- The Tigers are receiving strong interest in David Price and Rick Porcello, Rosenthal reports (links to Twitter). What Detroit would ask for in return for these starters remains a mystery, Rosenthal adds. Of course, there are several other big-name, 5+ service time pitchers who could potentially be had, and Rosenthal notes that all are still “in play.” He adds that the primary appeal of such arms is their generally below-market salary and the achievement of a year of exclusive negotiating rights. Implicit, of course, is that teams are interested not only in a reasonable hope of achieving excess value on the contract, but also in doing so without exposure to the massive downside risk of a longer-term deal.
- The Twins will turn their attention to the pitching staff during the Winter Meetings, reports MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. When asked what the team’s priority is, GM Terry Ryan left little doubt how he feels: “Pitching is, and I don’t think there’s any question. We’ve had our struggles on the mound, so we’ll continue to look at pitching first.”
- Justin Smoak left money on the table to join the Blue Jays, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. Agent Dustin Bledsoe told Nicholson-Smith that his client wanted the chance at everyday playing time at first more than the possibility of increasing his guarantee next year.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that some in the Red Sox organization see Xander Bogaerts as a young Hanley Ramirez. “They are both fun-loving kids who love playing the game,” Red Sox first base/outfield coach Arnie Beyeler said. “I didn’t see Hanley after the Dominican League, but I remember him as a kid who once he got his chance just did things better than everyone else. He ran better, threw better, hit better. It was easy to see that he was going to develop into a very good baseball player. And you see the same things with Xander.” More from today’s column..
- Major league sources tell Cafardo that the Cubs are very serious about Jon Lester while the Giants are becoming more serious about him. Meanwhile, the Yankees are thinking about getting serious about Lester but haven’t committed to doing so. The Red Sox remain interested but it remains to be seen how far they’ll go.
- If the Red Sox sign Jon Lester, Cafardo can see them moving Yoenis Cespedes for a No. 2 or No. 3 starter such as Reds hurlers Mat Latos or Mike Leake. The Reds would have a need for Cespedes’s bat, but they would also probably have a need for shortstop Deven Marrero. Meanwhile, Johnny Cueto would cost Cespedes and maybe two top prospects, but it would be tempting for Boston.
- The Tigers could also be a match in a Cespedes deal. If those talks were to take place, the Red Sox would have more interest in Rick Porcello than Anibal Sanchez. David Price could be a possibility if the Red Sox whiff on Lester, but that would be costly.
- It’s strange to some that the Yankees haven’t re-signed closer David Robertson by now. One rival AL East GM wonders if the Yankees might change direction and go after someone like Andrew Miller, a power lefty, to go along with Dellin Betances.
- It’s hard to tell whether the Nationals are serious about trading Jordan Zimmermann because they have the resources to sign him and he’s their best pitcher. “It doesn’t hurt to listen,” said one NL executive about GM Mike Rizzo’s strategy. “If you get overwhelmed, you do it. If you don’t, you keep him. Pretty simple, actually.” Cafardo writes that the Red Sox, Rangers, and Cubs seem to have the pieces to get a deal done.
- There are teams interested in Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz. “There’s a lot of talent there that hasn’t come out,” one NL scout said.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Andrew Miller | Anibal Sanchez | Boston Red Sox | Chicago Cubs | Cincinnati Reds | David Price | David Robertson | Detroit Tigers | Deven Marrero | Mat Latos | Mike Leake | New York Yankees | Newsstand | Rick Porcello | San Francisco Giants | Texas Rangers | Washington Nationals | Yoenis Cespedes
ESPN’s Jayson Stark took a look at the Cole Hamels trade market and spoke to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. about the possibility of trading the ace. Amaro took a familiar stance, stating that he’s not under any pressure to move Hamels, whom he rightly deemed one of baseball’s best starters. Rival execs tell Stark that Amaro is still asking for two premium prospects plus another piece or two in addition to the acquiring club taking on Hamels’ entire contract. As Stark notes, it’s unfortunate that a rebuilding club’s best chip is an ace in an offseason where free agency and the trade market are both pitching-rich. With next season shaping up to be a buyer’s market for pitching as well, Stark wonders if July will be the best time for Amaro to move Hamels, as few aces are ever available at the deadline. Multiple clubs have told Stark that Amaro is holding out for “the deal of the century,” as Stark terms it.
Two items of particular note from Stark are that the Blue Jays are said to have very strong interest in Hamels and that reports of Hamels’ no-trade clause are not entirely accurate. Hamels can indeed block trades to eight clubs, but previous reports listed the Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals, Nats, Braves, Padres, Yankees and Rangers as teams to which Hamels cannot veto a deal. Stark hears that list is outdated, and at least one club has been changed since season’s end.
Some other late-night NL East notes…
- Reports have indicated that the Marlins are serious about adding pieces to contend in 2015 this offseason, and while the focus has been more on bats for the lineup, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Fish have reached out to the Tigers to inquire on David Price and Rick Porcello. Talks aren’t serious at this time, he adds, but the fact that the Marlins are even kicking the tires on a pair of high-priced arms (Price and Porcello project to earn $18.9MM and $12.2MM next year, respectively) suggests that they’re willing to take on some significant payroll.
- The Braves are interested in a reunion with backstop David Ross, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien reported yesterday (Twitter link). Ross spent four seasons as Brian McCann‘s backup in Atlanta from 2009-12, enjoying some of the most productive seasons of his career as a Brave. He could serve as an excellent mentor to Christian Bethancourt, who figures to take the reins as Atlanta’s everyday catcher with Evan Gattis moving to the outfield full time.
- MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports another potential catching target for the Braves, tweeting that they have interest in A.J. Pierzynski. The soon-to-be 38-year-old Pierzynski has never had Ross’ defensive chops, though he’d give the Braves a left-handed bat to insert in the lineup when they prefer to rest Bethancourt against tough right-handers.
- The Mets are interested in lefty reliever Craig Breslow, tweets Morosi. The Mets are thin on left-handed relief, and Breslow should represent a low-cost option. The 34-year-old picked a poor time to have a career-worst season, pitching to a 5.96 ERA this past season in a contract year. However, he entered the 2014 campaign with a career 2.82 ERA in 402 innings. Breslow doesn’t dominate lefties the way many specialists do (.671 OPS), but he’s also more effective against right-handed hitters than a number of his southpaw brethren (.680 OPS).
To the surprise of no one, star free agents Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez turned down qualifying offers from the Tigers yesterday. Re-signing Martinez seems to be a priority for GM Dave Dombrowski. More on the Tigers…
- The door is not closed on a new deal with free agent reliever Joba Chamberlain, says Dombrowski, but it’s not a priority right now.
- Dombrowski said he has not talked about an extension with lefty David Price, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Dombrowski said he knows both sides will want to see free agent prices first. That’s a reference to the current free agent class, says Rosenthal. Price is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.
- Dombrowski has four prominent starting pitchers under control for 2015 in Price, Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, and Anibal Sanchez. According to Rosenthal, the GM says he is happy with his starters and not looking to move anyone, but will always listen as he has in the past.
- The Tigers announced they have named former big leaguer David Newhan assistant hitting coach to Wally Joyner, replacing the departed Darnell Coles.
In the wake of another postseason disappointment for the Tigers, “there’s the underlying question whether this could be the end of an era,” MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes. Several key members of the roster will hit free agency, including Max Scherzer, though the 2013 Cy Young Award winner said “I do hope I’m back. I love this clubhouse, love everybody in here, been to battle with these guys for five years. It would mean a lot to me.”
Here’s the latest from the Motor City…
- If Scherzer doesn’t return, the natural next step for the Tigers would be to pursue an extension with David Price, though the southpaw naturally wasn’t concerned with his contract in the wake of the painful ALDS sweep. “That’s out of my control. That’s the last thing that’s on my mind right now. I’m not worried about that,” Price told reporters, including Mlive.com’s Chris Iott. Price has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining before hitting the free agent market after the 2015 season.
- The Tigers’ failure to acquire Andrew Miller at the trade deadline may have been the turning point of their season, John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press writes. Miller could’ve been prevented the bullpen meltdowns that plagued the Tigers in the ALDS, but instead, he ended up stifling Detroit in two late-game appearances for the Orioles. The Tigers came very close to closing a deal Miller at the deadline but the Red Sox instead sent the lefty to Baltimore in exchange for top pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez.
- A rival official recently told ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) that he thinks the Tigers will do whatever it takes to re-sign Victor Martinez, as “considering the Tigers’ win-at-all-costs approach and Martinez’s importance in the Detroit lineup, he cannot see them being outbid.” Olney lists five other teams as possible fits for Martinez in free agency, and three are from the AL Central.
- Also from Olney’s piece, he lists the Tigers as a potential suitor for Russell Martin. The free agent catcher could be “a plan B” if the Tigers are concerned about Alex Avila‘s concussion history and want a change behind the plate.
Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan believes there’s too much pressure on prospects today, Toni Ginnetti of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “People didn’t even know who was in Triple-A 10 years ago,” says the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year winner. “People didn’t know your name. Now ‘prospects’ are at an all-time high. … I feel bad for the young kids now because people are putting so much pressure on them.” Ten years ago, there was comparatively little information available about prospects, and all but the highest-profile of them were left to learn their craft in peace. The newfound scrutiny prospects face — partially, obviously, from websites like this one — is surely now a factor in their development, and it’s led to waves of hype for the big-league debuts of top talents like Javier Baez. Here’s more from around baseball.
- Contrary to an earlier report, there weren’t any directives preventing the Rays from trading David Price to the Yankees, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. “We don’t have a no-fly list,” says Rays president Matt Silverman. “We have 29 potential trading partners, and we have explored trades with each and every one of them.” Topkin adds that the remaining Rays don’t believe Price’s departure from their clubhouse is a factor in how they’ve performed since he left. After winning their last three games, the Rays are now 4-4 since the deal.
- Teams from overseas have offered the Twins $1MM-$1.5MM to purchase the contract of pitcher Kris Johnson, but the Twins have declined, 1500ESPN.com’s Darren Wolfson tweets. Johnson has made just three big-league starts this season, instead spending most of the season with Triple-A Rochester, where he’s posted a 3.12 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 109 2/3 innings.
- ESPN’s Keith Law (audio link) spoke this afternoon to Hoffman & Sandler on ESPN 103.3 FM in Dallas about various Rangers topics. Law says that the Rangers aren’t likely to get more than a fringe prospect in return for Alex Rios (which seems reasonable, as Rios has already cleared waivers), although they might do better if they package him with another player, the way the Mets did last August when they sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the Pirates for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black. (Rios suffered an ankle injury today, which might render any trade talk moot if it turns out to be serious.) Law also says that although Joey Gallo is a top talent, promoting him to the big leagues right now would be “a horrendous idea,” and that Gallo would strike out about 45% of the time if he were in the big leagues today.
In his latest Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Buster Olney reports that he’s spoken to executives around the league who assume that the Red Sox will target James Shields in free agency this offseason. Shields would be a good fit for a Boston team that is suddenly light on veteran pitching after Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy were all traded within the last week. I wonder how high the Sox would be willing to bid on Shields, however, since the team’s concerns about paying big money to a pitcher throughout his 30’s kept them from working out an extension with Lester. While Shields would come at a lower price and probably a shorter-term deal, Shields will also be 33 on Opening Day.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- A clause in Yoenis Cespedes‘ contract will allow him to become a free agent after the 2015 season, and according to Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron (Twitter link), it means the Red Sox would have to non-tender their newly-acquired outfielder. This would make Cespedes ineligible to receive a qualifying offer, and thus Boston wouldn’t get any draft pick compensation if Cespedes signed elsewhere.
- The Athletics released Jim Johnson today, and there has been speculation that the Orioles will offer their former closer a minor league contract, Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun writes. Manager Buck Showalter spoke highly of Johnson to reporters today, though he was careful with his words due to uncertainty about whether Johnson was free of any ties to Oakland.
- The Rays plan to contend in 2015, which is why Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan (writing for FOXSports.com) feels the team felt comfortable trading David Price for a package highlighted by players — Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin — with Major League experience. It’s unclear if any of the blue-chip prospects often cited in trade rumors were actually available for Price and such prospects might not pan out anyway, whereas Smyly and Franklin have already shown they can contribute at the big-league level.
- Had the Rays waited until the offseason to trade Price, they might’ve had trouble finding a better return. As one executive noted to ESPN’s Jayson Stark (Twitter link), Tampa would’ve been shopping Price in a crowded marketplace for ace pitchers given that Lester, Shields and Max Scherzer are all slated to be available in free agency.