David Robertson Rumors

Quick Hits: Tigers, Yankees, Burnett, Hellickson

The Tigers are a team built to win in the present, but that doesn’t mean their future has to be bleak, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs writes. The team’s recent four-year deal for Victor Martinez is one of many Tigers contracts that could turn ugly, and the team already has $75MM on the books in 2018 for Martinez, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have any flexibility. Considering the likelihood of modest payroll increases in the coming seasons, they could have a payroll north of $180MM in 2018. That would give them enough leeway to have a shot even with their current commitments and thin farm system. Sullivan suggests that one future-oriented move the Tigers could make would be to sign J.D. Martinez to a long-term deal. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Yankees first baseman Greg Bird has been named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League. Bird, a fifth-round pick out of high school in 2011, hit .271/.376/.472 in a 2014 season split between Class A+ Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Bird then hit .313/.391/.556 in 26 games with the Scottsdale Scorpions. The 22-year-old Bird isn’t on the same level as the previous winner, Cubs super-prospect Kris Bryant, but he could still potentially play his way onto the Yankees roster at some point in 2015.
  • Re-signing David Robertson is the Yankees’ highest priority this offseason, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes. The Royals’ success shows how important a good bullpen can be, and how much a good ‘pen can do to help starters who don’t rack up high innings totals. With Robertson, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Jacob Lindgren, Shawn Kelley and new acquisition Justin Wilson, the Yankees could have one of the stronger bullpens in the Majors in 2015, Madden writes. On the flip side, the Yankees would like to re-sign starter Brandon McCarthy, but they think they’ll be able to replace him if another team outbids them.
  • A.J. Burnett is a back-end starter at this point, but his new discount contract is still a good one for the Pirates, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. The deal is only for one year, and it’s likely to produce about 1.5 WAR in value, which is a solid rate for an $8.5MM contract. Meanwhile, the Pirates’ homer-suppressing ballpark, defensive shifting and emphasis on pitch framing make Pittsburgh a great destination for pitchers.
  • Dave Stewart of the Diamondbacks sees Jeremy Hellickson as “a number two or number three starter,” Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. The prospects the Diamondbacks sent to the Rays, Justin Williams and Andrew Velazquez, both have potential. (Williams hit .351/.403/.437 in 320 plate appearances in rookie ball and at Class A South Bend this season, impressive numbers for an 18-year-old at any level.) But for Stewart, Hellickson’s talent was more important, and he can help the Diamondbacks now. They could both be All-Stars, but from our standpoint they’re three or four years away from being major league players,” says Stewart. “We have an opportunity to get a good starter to put in our rotation now and go along with our plans for our team with the 2015 season.”

Central Links: Reds, Cubs, Avila, Tigers, Tomas, Butler

Reds GM Walt Jocketty is of the mindset that his team will need to either be “all in” or “all out” in 2015, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. In other words, if the Reds decide to trade one of four starters who is eligible for free agency following the 2015 season — Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Alfredo Simon — others may very well follow. Sherman lists Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman as names to watch if Cincinnati does elect to go into a full rebuild. Both can be free agents after 2016, though the Reds have a club option on Bruce for the 2017 season.

Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Sherman also tweets that the Cubs aren’t likely to spend big on a closer this winter, which seemingly eliminates a potential suitor for David Robertson. Earlier today, reports indicated that Robertson is seeking a contract comparable to Jonathan Papelbon‘s four-year, $50MM contract.
  • The Tigers are willing to listen to offers on Alex Avila, tweets the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Avila has a $5.4MM club option for his final arb year and was projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn the same amount in arbitration. Cafardo notes that the Braves and Red Sox are both looking for left-handed bats. While both have inexperienced catchers (Christian Bethancourt and Christian Vasquez, respectively), adding Avila would limit each team’s ability to get an extended look at how their young backstop handles a full workload.
  • John Manuel of Baseball America tweets that the Tigers‘ defense up the middle in 2015 could be special with Jose Iglesias and the newly acquired Anthony Gose. He also notes that Devon Travis, who went to the Blue Jays in the deal, now has a clear shot to Major League playing time that he may not have had in Detroit.
  • The Royals could scout Yasmany Tomas in the Dominican Republic next week, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Royals officials will be in the Dominican Republic on other business anyway and met with Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, earlier this week at the GM Meetings. The team’s payroll could surpass the $100MM mark for the first time next season, and there’s perhaps room for one significant expenditure such as Tomas, Ervin Santana or Melky Cabrera, McCullough writes.
  • Billy Butler is receiving interest from a number of clubs — even one National League club — tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The interest in Butler likely means that a return to the Royals isn’t the best fit, he adds. McCullough reported Tuesday that K.C. doesn’t seem inclined to go beyond two years to retain Butler.
  • Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wonders if the Brewers will consider trading a starting pitcher (Twitter link). The Brew Crew needs some payroll flexibility, and the Braves are one team that has been poking around at the GM Meetings.

David Robertson Looking For “Papelbon Money”

Free agent closer David Robertson is looking to at least match, and likely top, a contract in the range of four years and $50MM, ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand reports.  This is, of course, so-called “Papelbon money,” — the guaranteed portion of the deal that Jonathan Papelbon received from the Phillies in November 2011 and the richest contract ever given to a reliever.

It’s no surprise that Robertson is aiming high given that he’s the top closer on the market.  MLBTR’s Steve Adams, in fact, predicted that Robertson would surpass Papelbon by finding a four-year, $52MM deal this winter.  The issue with Papelbon’s still-controversial contract is that $50MM is seen by some critics as too much to guarantee to a reliever, no matter how well he might perform on the field — Papelbon has a 2.45 ERA and 106 saves in his three years with the Phillies.

Robertson, however, has fewer question marks about his future performance than Papelbon did three offseasons ago and the former Yankee is already drawing a lot of interest.  If the bidding for Robertson does indeed get over the $50MM mark, however, Marchand believes the Yankees will pass on re-signing him.



David Robertson Rumors: Tuesday

The Yankees made closer David Robertson the one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer, which he officially declined yesterday.  GM Brian Cashman told reporters, “I thought it was 50-50 when we made the offer.  We were comfortable obviously if he accepted it and we wanted to be protected if he didn’t. To be honest, I had no idea what the position would be.”  More on the free agent market’s top reliever

  • The Tigers are out of the running for Robertson, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. GM Dave Dombrowski told Sherman that part of the reason he exercised Joakim Soria’s $7MM club option was to keep out of the race for late-inning relief on the free agent market. Detroit also considers Bruce Rondon a wild card that could make an impact on their bullpen next season.

Earlier Updates

  • Robertson has attracted interest from at least a half-dozen teams, a source tells Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.  He says among those is at least one with a protected draft pick, meaning the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Rangers, Astros, Twins, Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs, Phillies, or Reds.  Of those, the Rockies, Astros, White Sox, and Cubs are known to be seeking relief help.
  • Cashman mentioned last night that he intends to meet with Robertson’s agent Scott Leventhal this week in Arizona.  The two sides have yet to discuss a multiyear deal.

Cashman On Shortstop, Kuroda, Robertson, Headley, Young

Here are some of the hot stove-related highlights from Yankees GM Brian Cashman’s chat with reporters (including ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews and MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom) on Monday…

  • Acquiring a shortstop is atop Cashman’s list, but he says, “I think it’s a limited market to be honest, and I say limited in terms of availability and acquisition cost.”  Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News has a source saying that beyond Troy Tulowitzki, the Yankees are “kicking the tires” on the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus and the Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins.  “I don’t think this past season reflects what his true ability is,” said Cashman of free agent Stephen Drew, and the GM has already spoken with Drew’s agent.  Beyond Drew, Feinsand says the Yanks don’t seem inclined to pay up for Hanley Ramirez and Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie aren’t high on their list.
  • The Yankees have had “a brief conversation” with Chase Headley and “we’re certainly looking forward to continuing the dialogue,” says Cashman.  Given doubts about Alex Rodriguez‘s ability to play third base every day in 2015, the Yankees are making a “strong push” to sign Headley, according to Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Cashman thinks Hiroki Kuroda is going through his standard post-season “mental cleansing process” and will soon make a decision about whether or not he wants to return in 2015.  Cashman would “be surprised if he doesn’t play,” though isn’t sure if Kuroda will pitch in MLB or Japan.
  • Cashman will speak with David Robertson‘s agent during the GM Meetings, and was hesitant to discuss the Yankees’ closer situation until those talks had taken place.  “I would have no clue what [Robertson's] market value is going to be,” Cashman said. “Certainly, they’ll have an idea. They turned down the qualifying offer based on a lot of parameters, I’m sure, [and] some discussions they’ve already had. It’s hard to tell.
  • Two of the club’s statistical analysts pushed Cashman to re-sign Chris Young.  “They felt, from an analytical standpoint, his year wasn’t as bad as it played out, that there was a potential bounce-back situation with it. We signed him up on what we think is a fair-market value, fourth-outfielder type contract,” Cashman said.
  • Young’s signing may be the last outfield-related move the Yankees make this winter.  “I think right now, we’re kind of settled in the outfield unless something surprising happens in the case of a trade, which I wouldn’t anticipate,” Cashman said.  As Bloom notes, this would seem to close the book on any chance of Ichiro Suzuki re-signing with New York.

All 12 Players Reject Qualifying Offer

Last Monday, 12 players received one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers. Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, James Shields, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, David Robertson, Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, Melky Cabrera and Michael Cuddyer were all on the receiving end of the offer. The deadline to accept or reject the offer is today at 4pm CT.

A quick primer for those who are unfamiliar: Baseball’s newest collective bargaining agreement did away with the old Type A/B designations for free agent draft pick compensation. The newer system, which is now in its third year, allows teams to make qualifying offers to a player that has spent the entire season with that organization (i.e. players traded midseason are ineligible). That offer is set at the average salary of baseball’s 125 highest-paid players. Should the player reject, a new team will be required to forfeit its top unprotected pick to sign that player (the top 11 picks of this year’s draft are protected). His former team then receives a comp pick at the end of the first round. To this point, none of the 22 players to receive a QO have accepted.

The expectation is that most of the players who received the QO, with the possible exception of Cuddyer, will reject. We’ll keep track of the players that reject the QO here…

  • Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio tweets that no player has accepted this year’s qualifying offer.
  • MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports that Martinez has rejected the qualifying offer (Twitter link).
  • Robertson has turned down the Yankees’ qualifying offer, reports Jack Curry of the YES Network (Twitter link).
  • Cuddyer, of course, has essentially rejected his qualifying offer by agreeing to a two-year deal with the Mets.

Earlier Updates

  • Ramirez has rejected the Dodgers‘ QO, Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times tweets. As perhaps the top position player on this year’s open market, the move comes as little surprise. Ramirez figures to seek a contract north of $100MM+ as a free agent.
  • Santana will reject the Braves‘ qualifying offer and search for a multi-year deal on the open market, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The move was widely expected after Santana enjoyed a solid season with the Braves. As he showed last winter, even if the market doesn’t materialize for him in the form of a multi-year deal, a one-year offer at or near the value of a QO is still attainable, so there’s little downside in trying to cash in.
  • Both Sandoval and Martin have reportedly rejected their QOs prior to today’s deadline. Sandoval rejected his in the middle of last week, while news of Martin rejecting came last night.

Free Agent Notes: Bargains, Hot Commodities, Minors

One of the questions facing all teams in free agency is whether to pay for top talent or delve into the second tier for a bargain.  Ben Lindbergh of Grantland lists five instances where the generic option could provide more financial value than the name brand asset. In the case of players like Pablo Sandoval, James Shields, and David Robertson, cheaper options probably won’t outperform them, but they could come close at less than half the guaranteed cost. Here’s more from the realm of free agency.

  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post picked destinations for 10 “hot MLB free agents.” Sherman thinks the Mets could be the surprise winners of the Yasmany Tomas sweepstakes, since the move would energize a depressed fan base. In my opinion, his oddest pick is Max Scherzer to the Brewers. Sherman reasons that Milwaukee has been aggressive under owner Mark Attanasio, but I’m not sure they can support a massive investment in a starting pitcher. Meanwhile, the Tigers could grab two trendy free agents with Sandoval to man third base and Andrew Miller to play the role of relief ace.
  • For those who aren’t satisfied with MLBTR’s list of MLB free agents, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy has all the minor league free agents for your perusal. As we learned earlier this week via FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, MiLB free agents represent a potentially under-exploited opportunity to buy value. To a stats analyst, not many names jump of the page. One I’ll be tracking, if only because he’s an interesting story, is Jason Lane.

 


AL East Notes: Jays, Kendrick, Yanks, Cruz, Sox

Blue Jays president Paul Beeston appears set to continue on in that capacity, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Of course, as Davidi notes, both Beeston and GM Alex Anthopoulos could face questions if a postseason berth is not in the offing in 2015. The front office will have at least $20MM to $30MM in free salary, Davidi reasons, which could be bolstered with a spending increase and/or move to shed some payroll obligations. As Davidi rightly notes, Toronto has a very clean balance sheet after this year, which could potentially leave the team with a big hammer to wield in free agency.

Here’s more from Toronto and the rest of the AL East:

  • The Blue Jays have a number of possible offseason targets on both the trade and free agent front, writes Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. Among them is Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, who Toronto has “placed multiple calls on,” according to Nicholson-Smith — who, it should be noted, also recently reported that the Jays are on Kendrick’s no-trade list.
  • Whether or not the Yankees are big free agent spenders this year remains to be seen, but the club’s financial muscle is flexed in many and disparate ways, as Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs writes. Over recent years, New York has consistently controlled the market for minor league free agents, bringing bigger and better offers to the table for players like Yangervis Solarte. (In an interesting note to give context to this relatively minimal spending, McDaniel says a team source told him the team could break even financially even if it carried $500MM in total payroll obligations, including luxury tax costs.)
  • The early set of rotation targets for the Yankees features names like Brandon McCarthy, Jason Hammel, and Chris Capuano, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. That jibes with another recent report suggesting that New York has no current plans to attack the arms at the top of the market.
  • Free agent closer David Robertson, who is currently weighing a qualifying offer from the Yankees, is one of the most fascinating free agents to watch. Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that his sense is the club will be interested in exploring a multi-year deal with Robertson, but may not chase him at the top of the market and would be comfortable allowing him to walk.
  • Another QO recipient, Nelson Cruz, told MLB Network Radio (via Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun) that a return to the Orioles is his preferred outcome. “No doubt it’s my first choice,” said Cruz. “I’d love to be back. I understand the business. I know they’re interested in bringing me back. Hopefully we can work something out.” Cruz was not willing to say he would take a lesser deal to stay in Baltimore, though it is obviously hard to fault him for not copping to that publicly — or, for that matter, for choosing the best contract offer he receives, if that ultimately proves to be the case.
  • The Red Sox catcher of the future is Blake Swihart, not Christian Vazquez, opines J.J. Cooper of Baseball America. But the team need not decide now how it will sort out the presence of two highly-regarded young backstops. Instead, the team has the option of adding a veteran presence alongside Vazquez for the coming year while Swihart continues to develop in the minors. Assuming Swihart establishes himself as a big league regular, Boston will have plenty of time to assess whether it makes more sense to keep both players or deal one away.

Yankees Unlikely To Pursue Top Starters, Sandoval

While many have been quick to connect the Yankees to the top names on the market, as is the case in most offseasons, Mark Feinsand and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News hear that the team has no intention to pursue any of the “Big Three” starting pitchers — Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields — or top third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

Instead, the Daily News duo continues, the Yankees are more focused on bringing back a pair of their own free agents: Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy. The team loves Headley’s glove at third base and views the returning Alex Rodriguez as more of a DH candidate at his age, per Feinsand and Madden. The team could act quickly and aggressively to retain the two. (MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes pegged Headley for a four-year, $48MM contract while I predicted a three-year, $36MM deal for McCarthy.) The Yankees, per the report, don’t want to add any more $100MM+ contracts to their books, although the name of Hanley Ramirez, who figures to top the century mark, is curiously absent from the list of players they won’t be pursuing.

Also of note for Yankees fans is the update within this piece on David Robertson, whom Feinsand and Madden hear is already receiving interest from at least six clubs. Robertson is expected to turn down the Yankees’ qualifying offer and could land a three- or four-year deal on the open market.

Of course, it’s worth looking back to last season when multiple reports indicated that the Yankees would spend judiciously in an attempt to eventually get the team’s payroll below the $189MM luxury tax threshold. That clearly didn’t happen, as the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran to huge multi-year deals while also adding veterans Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Brendan Ryan on smaller deals. All told, they spent roughly half a billion dollars last winter.

None of that is meant to discredit the information provided by Feinsand and Madden, but rather to serve as a reminder that priorities can change. Still, for the time being, the Yankees’ early modus operandi appears to be pursuing mid-level free agents in an attempt to return the team to the playoffs after a two-year absence while also maintaining some long-term flexibility.


Twelve Free Agents Receive Qualifying Offers

Today marked the deadline for players to receive one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers, and after nine players receiving a QO in 2012 and 13 players receiving the offer last offseason, 12 players have been extended a qualifying offer by their teams in 2014. They are:

Should these players reject the offer and sign with a new team, their former team will stand to receive a “sandwich” round draft pick as compensation. Those new teams, in turn, will have to forfeit their top unprotected draft pick. If a player rejects a QO but ultimately re-signs with the same team, no draft pick shuffling occurs.

There will be 11 protected picks in this year’s draft, as the picks of the teams with the 10 worst records are protected under the CBA, and Houston’s comp pick for failure to sign Brady Aiken is protected as well. The D’Backs, Astros, Rockies, Rangers, Twins, Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs, Phillies and Reds will all have their first-round selections protected. Those clubs will instead forfeit a second-round pick to sign a free agent with draft pick compensation attached. Teams can sign more than one free agent that has rejected a QO, as the Orioles did last winter in signing both Ubaldo Jimenez and Cruz. In that instance, Jimenez cost the team its first-round pick, while Cruz cost the club its second-round selection.

The players listed above will now have one week to decide whether or not to accept the QO and play on a one-year deal worth $15.3MM, or instead to or reject the offer in search of a larger guarantee on the open market.

The word “guarantee” is the key to that sentiment: while many will focus on whether or not the players can top that average annual value on the free agent market, more often than not, a player is concerned primarily with maximizing the amount of money he can earn over his prime seasons. Few players are ever sold on the idea of playing on a one-year deal when a multi-year guarantee can be had. Single-year contracts, on the free agent market, are often reserved for older players who don’t know how long they wish to continue playing (e.g. Hiroki Kuroda last winter), players coming off massive injuries (e.g. Corey Hart last winter) or players who have significantly underperformed in a contract year (e.g. Chris Young last offseason).

While upon first glance it might make sense to suggest a player with a spotty track record, such as Liriano, should accept the offer, there’s more downside for him in accepting than in rejecting. Even if Liriano is faced with a cold market, he’d likely be able to find a one-year contract at an AAV north of $10MM, if not a one-year offer commensurate with the total sum of the qualifying offer, as Santana did last offseason when signing a one-year, $14.1MM contract with the Braves. Whereas the downside in accepting is “settling” for a one-year deal a few ticks below the QO level, the upside in rejecting is finding perhaps a three-year deal that could more than double the guarantee he’d otherwise receive. This risk/benefit calculus generally points toward testing the market.

The one case for accepting in this year’s class, that I see, would be that of Cuddyer. Though a solid veteran bat coming off a strong pair of seasons in terms of his rate stats, Cuddyer has defensive limitations and injury questions that will also drag his stock down. He played in just 49 games in 2014 and will play next season at age 36. MLBTR’s Zach Links only pegged his free agent stock at $22MM over two years in his recent Free Agent Profile for Cuddyer. It does seem there’s a real chance that Cuddyer could come in significantly lower than $15.3MM on a one-year deal if he rejects, and the upside may not be much greater for him as a two-year deal may have been the realistic ceiling anyhow.

Reports on whether or not any player will accept the offer should be filtering in over the next week, but those looking for a quick resource to check the status of each can use MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker (the provided link is already filtered to show only free agents that have received the QO, and their status will change from “Received” to “Rejected” or “Accepted” upon a decision being reached).