- The Tigers are gauging interest in southpaw setup man Justin Wilson and right-handed reliever Shane Greene, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link). This is the second time Wilson’s name has hit the rumor mill since last week. The 29-year-old impressed with a 9.97 K/9, 2.61 BB/9 and 54.6 ground-ball rate in 58 2/3 innings last season. However, a .340 BABIP (47 points higher than his career .293 mark) and a 12.2 percent home run-to-fly ball ratio (up from a lifetime 8 percent mark) helped lead to an unspectacular ERA of 4.14. Wilson has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining, and MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a reasonable $2.7MM salary for next season. Greene, 28, comes with four years of team control – including a pre-arb year in 2017 – but he posted a 5.82 ERA in 60 1/3 frames last season despite an 8.8 K/9, 3.28 BB/9 and 47.6 grounder rate.
- Although Detroit general manager Al Avila stated in October that the team has been spending “above its means,” the Tigers aren’t necessarily in payroll-slashing mode, one of their executives informed Sherman (Twitter link). Rather, they only intend to trade high-priced veterans if the right deals come along. The Tigers are currently planning on contending in 2017, per the executive. That makes sense considering they’re part of a division which already includes one rebuilding team, the Twins, and could feature two more if the Royals and White Sox decide their windows have closed.
- Given that they’re aiming to slash payroll and get younger, the Tigers are willing to deal closer Francisco Rodriguez, relays Cafardo. K-Rod is due $6MM next year, his age-35 season, after converting 44 of 49 save chances and logging a 3.24 ERA, 8.02 K/9, 3.24 BB/9 and career-high 54.7 percent ground-ball rate in 58 1/3 innings in 2016.
“There’s never been anything close,” a source told Heyman in regards to a potential Cabrera trade.
Detroit general manager Al Avila indicated last month that he’d be open to taking offers for Cabrera, though he added that “it would be in [the Tigers’] best interest” to retain the future Hall of Famer. Even if Avila were more willing to part with him, Cabrera’s onerous contract could serve as a significant roadblock. Cabrera still has at least $190MM coming his way through 2024, when he’ll be 41, assuming his employer exercises an $8MM buyout in lieu of picking up a $30MM club option. Regarding the eight-year, $248MM extension then-Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski signed Cabrera to in 2014, a rival GM told Heyman, “Not too many contracts like that one will be given anymore.”
Cabrera also has 10-and-5 rights – meaning he’d be able to veto any trade – but he didn’t rule out playing elsewhere on Saturday, according to Evan Woodbery of MLive.com.
“I love playing in Detroit, I love the city. But the doors are open,” said Cabrera, who added that a trade would have to help the Tigers. “If it’s a good deal, I’ll accept the trade. If the team does not benefit, I prefer to stay in Detroit.”
Cabrera has already been part of one trade in his illustrious career, having gone from the Marlins to the Tigers in a 2007 deal that has worked out brilliantly for Detroit. Since his tenure with the Tigers began in 2008, Cabrera has won two American League MVP awards, gone to seven All-Star games and helped the club to four playoff berths – including a World Series appearance in 2012. Along the way, Cabrera has hit an astounding .325/.404/.573 in 5,929 plate appearances and swatted the second-most home runs in the majors (308, one behind Albert Pujols). Cabrera was his usual excellent self at the plate this past season, slashing .316/.393/.563 with 38 homers in 679 PAs.
- That being said, the Giants are also looking to add a power bat in the outfield, and they have continued to consider Tigers slugger J.D. Martinez, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). That interest has been known for some time, but it seems there’s still life to the possibility. Notably, GM Bobby Evans has signaled that San Francisco does not wish to take on a long-term obligation in the outfield, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. The same rationale that makes Martinez appealing — his one year of team control — could also make Mets outfielder Jay Bruce a possibility, Schulman notes.
- The Tigers have been receiving plenty of calls about their veterans as they look to get younger and cut some payroll this winter, but MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweets one name that has been drawing considerable interest without generating many headlines: lefty reliever Justin Wilson. Per Morosi, Detroit has “perhaps the largest number of inquiries” on Wilson as teams look to bolster their left-handed relief corps. The arbitration-eligible Wilson is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn just $2.7MM next season, so he wouldn’t trim much payroll of the Tigers’ books. But, he could certainly fetch a nice prospect or two, allowing the Tigers to get a bit younger in the process. Wilson, 29, posted excellent peripherals that suggest his marginal 4.14 ERA will improve in 2017 and beyond (10.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 54.9 percent ground-ball rate, 3.02 SIERA).
- Morosi also tweets that the Phillies are seeking a short-term outfield bat and have inquired with the Tigers about J.D. Martinez, but talks didn’t advance much, he notes. Martinez has been one of the most talked-about trade candidates of the offseason and seems to have a decent chance of landing elsewhere this winter, but the asking price on him is apparently quite high at the moment. Newsday’s Marc Carig reported yesterday that Michael Conforto’s name came up in talks with the Mets before New York re-signed Yoenis Cespedes. (Unsurprisingly, talks died quickly once Detroit mentioned Conforto, per Carig.)
- One general manager who has spoken to the Tigers about a J.D. Martinez trade tells Heyman that he believes Martinez is “all but certain” to be traded. Detroit, Heyman points out, is now the somewhat surprising MLB payroll leader with several Dodgers hitting free agency and with the Yankees trading Brian McCann.
- Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez is now represented by agents Rick Thurman and Cesar Suarez of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, per FanRag’s Robert Murray (also on Twitter). Rodriguez, the active saves leader, won’t see his current offseason impacted in the way that Jackson will by the switch, but he’s just a year removed from free agency after Detroit exercised his $6MM club option back in October. While “K-Rod” no longer boasts the mid-90s heater he did in his younger days, the 34-year-old (35 next week) has still delivered quality results over the past four seasons, turning in a 2.82 ERA with 9.4 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9 in 230 innings. And while his K/9 rate dropped to a solid-but-career-low 8.0 in 2016, he also registered a career-best 54.7 percent ground-ball rate in 2016.
Immediately following yesterday’s news that Yoenis Cespedes had agreed to re-sign with the Mets on a new four-year deal, speculation about the possibility of a Jay Bruce trade began. Reports earlier in the week had indicated that the Mets would try to trade Bruce in the event of a new Cespedes deal, but Newsday’s Marc Carig reports that Curtis Granderson is drawing more trade interest than Bruce in early talks. Per Carig, the Mets aren’t closed off entirely to the idea of moving Granderson over Bruce, but the decision will be influenced by the strength of the return they’d get in a Granderson deal. The Blue Jays are one team with interest in Granderson, according to FanRag’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link).
Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports that the Mets’ “overwhelmingly strong” preference is to move Bruce as opposed to one of Granderson, Michael Conforto or Juan Lagares (Twitter links). While the Mets have gotten calls on all four outfielders, DiComo conveys that the Mets have “made it clear” that neither Conforto nor Lagares will be going anywhere. The Tigers made an attempt at prying Conforto away from the Mets when they asked for him in return for J.D. Martinez prior to New York’s deal with Cespedes, Carig reports in his column, but that lopsided asking price predictably didn’t gain any traction with the Mets. (The Post’s Mike Puma notes that the the Mets still consider Conforto a building block moving forward even after his rough 2016 season.)
The financial difference between Bruce and Granderson isn’t especially great, with Bruce set to earn $13MM next year to Granderson’s $15MM. However, Granderson has been a quietly productive member of the Mets since signing his four-year, $60MM pact prior to the 2013 season, hitting a combined .241/.342/.436 and averaging 25 homers per season. While neither slugger has hit lefties whatsoever in recent years, Granderson is better-equipped than Bruce to handle center field despite being six years older. It should also be noted, of course, that Bruce’s tenure with the Mets was mostly a struggle. Though he caught fire late in the year and went 12-for-25 with four homers over his final eight games, Bruce batted just .219/.294/.391 as a member of the Mets, including a .174/.252/.285 skid prior to that eight-game heater to close out the year.
The Mets have “some interest” in Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. Martinez would reportedly be viewed as a “fall-back option” in the event that New York isn’t able to bring back free agent Yoenis Cespedes.
Martinez, 29, could be on the block as Detroit seeks to streamline its roster. Though he’s young and carries an outstanding recent track record of offensive production, he’s also entering his final season of team control. The Tigers say they aren’t interested in pursuing a new contract, possibly making Martinez a nice trade chip.
Certainly, it’s far from clear that the Mets will be willing to meet what’s likely to be a fairly lofty asking price for Martinez — assuming, of course, that Cespedes lands elsewhere (which is no sure thing). Though the organization would surely like the idea of avoiding a lengthy entanglement while maintaining the same kind of middle-of-the-order threat, it has already dealt away several important pieces of the farm for short-term gains in recent years. (That includes, of course, the swap that originally brought Cespedes to New York, which came at the cost of talented righty Michael Fulmer.)
What’s most interesting about the report, perhaps, is that it reinforces the idea that New York will look hard for a right-handed-hitting power bat in the outfield even if Cespedes does not return. That was far from clear last summer, when the Mets traded for the left-handed-hitting Jay Bruce, who joins Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto as southpaw-swinging corner outfield options. While Juan Lagares remains on hand as a righty bat who can play center, it seems the organization sees it as a rather high priority to add some pop from that side of the plate.
To be sure, that’s not exactly a new concept: the Mets have been linked previously to players such as Jose Bautista as theoretical back-up plans to Cespedes. Heyman also notes that there are other theoretical trade candidates who could hold appeal, including Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen. The seriousness of the pursuit of a Cespedes alternative could be a critical component of the offseason for GM Sandy Alderson, who could also look to deal one of the lefties (Bruce, in particular, has been tied to trade chatter) to clear roster and payroll space.