Detroit Tigers Rumors

Detroit Tigers trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Minor Moves: Satin, Kensing, Romak, Orioles, Billings, Avery

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…

Earlier Updates

  • The D’Backs have agreed to terms on a minor league deal and a Spring Training invite with infielder/outfielder Jamie Romak, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes tweeted today. The 29-year-old Romak, a client of Taurus Sports’ David Sloane, made his big league debut with the Dodgers in 2014 and collected his first hit in the Majors. The former fourth-rounder is a lifetime .258/.324/.474 hitter at Triple-A.
  • The Orioles announced the signings of infielder Paul Janish, right-hander Terry Doyle and outfielder Quincy Latimore to minor league contracts and invitations to big league Spring Training. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo was the first to tweet Janish’s agreement, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com had previously reported that the team was working on a deal with him. Janish is the only one of the bunch that comes with MLB experience; the 32-year-old defensive specialist is a career .214/.284/.288 hitter in 1206 plate appearances between the Reds and Braves.
  • The Nationals announced that they have signed right-hander Bruce Billings to a minor league contract with an invite to Major League Spring Training. The 29-year-old Billings pitched four innings for the Yankees last season and split the season between the Yankees and Dodgers organizations. Overall, the veteran posted a 5.27 ERA with 6. K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 95 2/3 innings.
  • Outfielder Xavier Avery has inked a minor league deal with the Tigers and will receive a Spring Training invite as well, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. The 24-year-old Avery spent last season with the Mariners after being acquired from the Orioles in the 2013 Mike Morse trade. Avery hit .275/.344/.413 with 10 homers and 31 steals, appearing at all three outfield spots for Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate in 2014.

Free Agent Notes: Robertson, Lester, Hunter, Scherzer

While Andrew Miller is said to have multiple three-year offers in hand already, the other top reliever on this year’s market, David Robertson, just may end up finding someone to meet his reported asking price of “Jonathan Papelbon money.” Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com spoke with four executives, each of whom believed that Robertson would receive his desired four years and at least come close to Papelbon’s average annual salary. An NL exec said he thought Robertson would meet his goal, while an AL exec said that though his first instinct was “no,” after seeing how the market has played out early on, he’s changed his thinking. A second NL exec and an AL scout said they could see at least four years and $40MM, with the scout saying it could go higher, because it only takes one team to push up that value.

Here’s more on some of the top free agents of the offseason…

  • Jon Lester will meet with at least two more teams next week, a source tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Lester met with the Red Sox, Cubs and Braves this week. The Sox reportedly made a six-year offer in the $110-120MM range and are willing to negotiate further. The Braves reportedly have yet to extend a formal offer.
  • The Twins have a “real shot” to sign Torii Hunter, tweets La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN hears the same (Twitter link), adding that the pitch to Hunter from manager Paul Molitor is that Hunter can come back to Minnesota and provide the same type of mentoring to their young players that Molitor and the late Kirby Puckett provided Hunter when he was a minor leaguer. Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets that Hunter would be taking a significant paycut to return to Minnesota, however.
  • Elsewhere in the Hunter market, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Orioles and Giants are keeping Hunter as a back-burner option in case their initial free agent pursuits don’t play out as they hope (Twitter links). In addition to those two teams, the Twins and the Royals, Crasnick hears that the Mariners have kicked the tires on Hunter.
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski appeared on MLB Network Radio with Jim Bowden today and said that while he couldn’t rule out the return of ace Max Scherzer, he feels the chances were better last spring (Twitter link). The Tigers, of course, made Scherzer a six-year, $144MM extension offer, which he rejected.

Players Added To The 40-Man Roster

Midnight EST is the deadline for teams to add players to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from being selected in next month’s Rule 5 Draft. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com lists the notable prospects who are newly Rule 5 eligible. Of course, the decision whether or not to protect a player has as much to do with roster flexibility and his expected ability to stick on a big league roster for a full season as it does the player’s overall prospect value.

We’ll keep tabs on the day’s 40-man additions here, and you can also check Baseball America’s running updates, which includes breakdowns of the players added.

  • The Rays have yet to announce their full list of roster moves, but Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper tweets that second baseman Ryan Brett will be added to the 40-man.
  • Following their trade with the Dodgers, the Rays announced that they have added Brett (as Cooper tweeted), right-hander Matt Andriese, left-hander Grayson Garvin, outfielder Mikie Mahtook and catcher Justin O’Conner to the 40-man roster.
  • The Dodgers announced that lefty Adam Liberatore, acquired in the trade with the Rays, has been added to the 40-man roster.

Earlier Updates

  • The Astros have made one final 40-man roster move, announcing the addition of right-hander Michael Feliz. Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper was among those to express surprise that Feliz had not previously been added to the roster, with some executives telling him they’d be shocked if Feliz wasn’t the No. 1 pick in the Rule 5 Draft (Twitter link).
  • The Rangers announced that they’ve added righties Luke Jackson and Jerad Eickhoff, infielder Hanser Alberto and catcher Jorge Alfaro to the 40-man roster.

(more…)



Minor Moves: Duran, Fuentes, Bartsch, Gimenez

Here are the day’s minor signings from around the league:

  • The Mariners have acquired minor league right-hander Sam Gaviglio from the Cardinals in exchange for minor league infielder Ty Kelly, the teams announced. Gaviglio, 24, had a 4.28 ERA with 8.3 K/0 and 3.0 BB/9 in 136 2/3 innings at Double-A this season. He made 25 appearances, with 24 being starts. Kelly, 26, hit .263/.381/.412 with 15 homers and 11 steals at Triple-A. The former Orioles draftee has a lifetime .280/.402/.409 batting line in 841 PA at that level.

Earlier Updates

  • Left-hander Omar Duran has agreed to a minor league deal with the Tigers that includes a Spring Training invitation, MLBTR has learned. Duran, 24, had spent his entire career in the Athletics organization, never moving above the Double-A level. But he was consistently productive last year after matching his double-digit strikeout marks with manageable walk totals.
  • The Royals announced that they have acquired outfielder Reymond Fuentes from the Padres in exchange for left-hander Kyle Bartsch (Twitter link). Fuentes, 23, was one of the four players San Diego received from the Red Sox in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez. The 23-year-old former first-rounder batted .294/.363/.416 with five homers and went 25-for-28 in stolen base attempts between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014. Bartsch, also 23, spent this season at Class-A Advanced Wilmington where he notched a 2.29 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 55 innings of relief, showing effectiveness against both lefties and righties.
  • The Rangers have added catcher Chris Gimenez and righty David Martinez to minor league deals with invitations to camp, the club announced. Gimenez, 31, bounced around quite a bit last year and ultimately managed a .241/.313/.328 line over 128 plate appearances at the big league level — the sixth year in a row that he spent at least some time on an active roster. Martinez, 27, has just 18 1/3 big league frames to his credit and had spent his whole career with the Astros. He has worked in a swingman capacity in the upper minors in recent seasons.

Trade Notes: Porcello, Ramirez, Upton, Kendrick, Padres

It’s already been a fairly active winter on the trade front, as we’ve seen the Brewers acquire Adam Lind, the D’Backs acquire Jeremy Hellickson, the Tigers acquire Anthony Gose and of course the Cardinals/Braves Jason Heyward blockbuster. All of this has come before the Winter Meetings, so action on the trade front only figures to increase over the next month. Here are some of the latest rumblings from around the league…

  • ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that in addition to Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and the Reds’ quartet of starters that are rumored to be available (Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon), Rick Porcello is believed to be attainable in trades. Rival evaluators feel that many players that are set to be free agents a year from now could be had for the right offer. The Tigers, of course, are aiming to contend in 2015, but Porcello is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $12.2MM in arbitration and could fetch a nice piece while freeing up some cash for GM Dave Dombrowski to address other areas of need.
  • Olney also hears (Twitter link) that the White Sox‘ asking price on Alexei Ramirez is “steep to the degree that you’d want to be buying in for two to three years.” Ramirez is guaranteed $10MM next season and has a $10MM club option for the 2016 season with a $1MM buyout.
  • The Mariners will surely make a run at either Justin Upton or Evan Gattis, if they haven’t already, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links). O’Brien gets the sense that top prospect Taijuan Walker is not completely off the table in trade talks with Seattle, but it would probably take more than one year of Upton to acquire him.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto tells Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times that he’s had trade discussions regarding Howie Kendrick, but he’s in no way eager to move his second baseman. The Halos entered the offseason thinking they might be able to move Kendrick for a controllable, young rotation option but somewhat surprisingly did so by acquiring Nick Tropeano in the Hank Conger trade. “The only way we would move him is if we become a better club,” Dipoto tells DiGiovanna. “And it would take a heck of a deal for us to feel like we’re a better club by moving Howie.”
  • Though much has been made of the possibility that the Padres could trade Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner to bolster the club’s offense, the team is now strongly considering hanging onto both pitchers, sources tell MLB.com’s Corey Brock. Interestingly, Brock’s report mentions reported trade interest in Ian Kennedy but does not state that the Friars are similarly likely to hold onto the 29-year-old. Kennedy will be a free agent next winter.

Outrighted: Bass, Mattheus, Walters, Morel

Several players were outrighted off of 40-man rosters today to clear space for players who needed to be protected from the Rule 5 draft:

  • The Astros outrighted righty Anthony Bass, the club announced.  Bass, 27, has seen his ERA rise over each of the last four years, and he suffered in 2014 from a sudden inability to miss bats.
  • Right-handed reliever Ryan Mattheus was outrighted by the Nationals, also per the club. Mattheus has elected free agency. Though he has been effective in long stretches at times in D.C., Mattheus never regained his place in the bullpen after breaking his hand last May. The 31-year-old, out-of-options righty should certainly find a club willing to give him a chance to earn a job out of camp.
  • The Mets announced that Jeff Walters has been removed from the 40-man. A 27-year-old right-hander, Walters has yet to see MLB action. He struggled mightily in 2014, his first attempt at Triple-A, and ultimately was diagnosed with a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery.
  • The Pirates announced that infielder Brent Morel has been outrighted. Morel has seen relatively scant MLB time since a run with the White Sox in 2011. Last year, at Triple-A, he slashed .271/.335/.375 over 376 plate appearances.

Tigers Claim Josh Zeid, Designate Ezequiel Carrera

The Tigers have claimed reliever Josh Zeid off waivers from the Astros, the club announced. Detroit designated outfielder Ezequiel Carrera for assignment to create roster space.

Zeid is a 27-year-old righty who has made over twenty appearances in each of the last two years for Houston. After a solid, if unspectacular 2013, he hit a wall last year with a 6.97 ERA and 6.33 FIP in 20 2/3 innings. While Zeid’s K:BB numbers (7.8 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine) were not problematic, he allowed 13.1 hits per nine and surrendered a troubling 27.3% HR/FB rate. On the positive side, both his xFIP (3.87) and SIERA (3.64) marks were within range of league average.

Carrera, also 27, swings from the left side and has seen scattered MLB action over the last several years. All told, he owns a .253/.305/.340 line through 478 total MLB plate appearances. It would seem that his usefulness in Detroit was undermined by the addition of Anthony Gose.


Astros, Tigers Trade Talks On Catcher Did Not Progress

1:08pm: The discussions occurred before Detroit exercised Avila’s option and did not progress, reports Jason Beck of MLB.com.

12:22pm: The Astros and Tigers have had “preliminary trade contact” regarding backstops, according to a report from Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The report indicates that the discussion involves the possibility of a catcher moving from Houston to Detroit.

The Tigers, of course, have reportedly expressed a willingness to listen on their own incumbent behind the dish, Alex Avila. The left-handed-hitting veteran, still just 27 years old, has battled concussions of late and has seen his offensive production decline from a 2011 peak. Bryan Holaday and the rising James McCann are also factors in Detroit’s backstop mix.

For its part, Houston has a bevy of options at the catching position after dealing for Hank Conger. The club is said to have placed a high asking price on starter Jason Castro, while preferring to deal Carlos Corporan. The younger Max Stassi is also a major league option for the Astros.


Free Agent Profile: Max Scherzer

2013 Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer is the prize of the free agent market after another superb season.  He’s a strikeout machine with a strong record of durability, and agent Scott Boras will be seeking a precedent-setting contract.

Strengths/Pros

Scherzer, 30, posted a 3.02 ERA over 434 2/3 regular season innings from 2013-14.  In 2013, he went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts for the Tigers and won the AL Cy Young award easily.  He made the All-Star team in both years.

MLB: ALDS-Detroit Tigers at Baltimore OriolesScherzer has been one of the game’s most dominant starting pitchers since 2012.  He has a 10.5 K/9 over that period, second among qualified starters in all of baseball.  His ranking is the same in K%; he’s whiffed 28.6% of batters faced during that time.  He’s tallied 231 or more strikeouts in each of the past three seasons and leads all of baseball with 723 punchouts over that time.  Scherzer also has good control, with a 2.5 BB/9 over the past two seasons.  He uses a four-seam fastball and a change-up, also employing a slider against righties and a curveball against lefties.

Batters made contact on only 74.5% of Scherzer’s pitches from 2012-14, third best in baseball among qualified starters.  Batters swung and missed on 11.9% of Scherzer’s pitches, which ranked fourth.

Skill-Interactive ERA (SIERA) is the latest ERA estimator, from Matt Swartz.  Scherzer’s 2.94 SIERA ranks eighth among qualified starters over the last two seasons.  His actual ERA of 3.02 is in line with that, and ranks 11th.

How about durability?  Scherzer hasn’t been on the disabled list since a short stint in 2009.  Even that year he made 30 starts, a number he exceeded in every subsequent season.  His 434 2/3 innings from 2013-14 ranks sixth in baseball, and he tossed another 29 2/3 frames in the postseason.  Still, Boras has pointed out that Scherzer has less wear and tear on his arm than Jon Lester and James Shields.  This is mainly because Lester and Shields signed early-career extensions giving up free agent years, and Scherzer did not.

Put it all together, and Scherzer is an ace, one of the best pitchers in the game.  He’s tallied 12.0 wins above replacement over the last two seasons, tied with Felix Hernandez for second in MLB.  Clayton Kershaw is the best, but Scherzer is in the conversation for second-best.

Weaknesses/Cons

Scherzer is decidedly a flyball pitcher.  This hasn’t hurt him over the last two seasons, as he’s allowed 0.75 home runs per nine innings.  From 2011-12, however, he allowed 1.22 HR/9.  The difference seems like nothing more than the vagaries of his home run per flyball rate, which has hovered around 7.5% over the past two seasons.  Across MLB this year, 9.5% of flyballs left the yard.  Applying that rate, Scherzer would have allowed 4.7 additional home runs this year and posted a 0.93 HR/9.  Simply put: it would not be surprising if Scherzer is slightly below average at preventing home runs during his next contract.

Pitch efficiency is not a strong suit for Scherzer.  He averaged 16.51 pitches per inning in 2014, 70th among 88 qualified starters.  The average qualified starter was at 15.77 pitches per inning.  Scherzer threw 3,638 pitches in 2014, third-most in baseball.

As a player who received and will turn down a qualifying offer, signing Scherzer will require forfeiture of a draft pick.  Jon Lester, who is Scherzer’s biggest competition on the market, is not eligible for a qualifying offer.

Personal

Scherzer was born in St. Louis, Missouri.  He attended high school in Chesterfield, MO, rooting for the Cardinals as a child.  His dad even brought him to Game 4 of the 1985 World Series when he was 15 months old, according to this article from Jeff Passan.  Scherzer was drafted by the Cardinals in the 43rd round in ’03.  He chose not to sign and attended University of Missouri Columbia, getting drafted 11th overall by the Diamondbacks in ’06.  Scherzer majored in business at Mizzou.

Scherzer currently resides in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife.  His charitable efforts are extensive, with his Scherzer’s Superstars program and other efforts.

Scherzer draws attention for having been born with one blue eye and one brown one, which is called heterochromia.  Max is also well-known for embracing advanced baseball statistics, using them to help understand the game.  When he was traded in 2009, Scherzer became an MLBTR reader.  He told Bob Nightengale of USA Today, “Once that happened, I started becoming a pretty fanatical fan and read it just about every day.”

Market

C.C. Sabathia‘s seven-year, $161MM contract from six years ago remarkably still stands as the largest given to a starting pitcher on the open market (though the Yankees’ total outlay for Masahiro Tanaka last winter was $175MM, including a $20MM fee paid to his former team in Japan).  In 2008, the average American League starting pitcher had a 4.48 ERA.  Sabathia was on an island in the 2008-09 offseason, coming off a 2.70 ERA.

Scherzer is not on an island.  In 2014, the average AL starter had a 3.92 ERA.  As ESPN’s Buster Olney explained, “Major League Baseball’s market has never seen so much attractive pitching available all at once, although executives throughout the sport are aware this shift is something of an optical illusion, created by the historic drop in run production in recent seasons.”  Scherzer’s 3.15 ERA this year ranked 26th among qualified starters.  That would have ranked 12th in 2008.  In ’08, 23 starters were under 3.50.  In 2014, 39 starters were under 3.50, including free agents Jason Hammel, Francisco Liriano, James Shields, Edinson Volquez, and Jon Lester.

Maybe Boras can make a strong case that Scherzer is the second-best starting pitcher in baseball, but the scarcity isn’t there in baseball or in free agency.  Free agency is rife with solid mid-rotation options this year, and teams ready to spend big on pitching might prefer Lester because he might not require a seventh year.  Or maybe teams would rather take on Brandon McCarthy‘s injury risk at half of Scherzer’s average annual value and potentially as few as three years.

I expect Boras to seek more than $175MM for Scherzer.  That kind of commitment limits a player’s suitors.  As Heyman put it, “It almost seems like Scherzer is too good for the market at times.”  In batting around potential fits with MLBTR’s writing team and others around the game, teams like the Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Astros, Giants, Rangers, Blue Jays, Mariners, White Sox, Orioles, Nationals, and Diamondbacks came up.  Some of those clubs don’t seem to have the payroll space, others don’t seem to be prioritizing starting pitching, and others have suggested they won’t play at the top end of the market.  Scherzer’s old team, the Tigers, can’t be ruled out yet.

Keep in mind that “this is an owner’s decision,” as Boras put it, as it will happen above the GM level.

Expected Contract

The Tigers made the unorthodox move of releasing a statement in March after Scherzer rejected a six-year, $144MM offer.  The statement mostly made the pitcher sound greedy, and was met in kind by a statement from Boras.  The Tigers’ offer was the Cole Hamels deal, which was nearly two years old at that point.  Boras viewed that as an old market price, with Tanaka and Kershaw having signed more recently for $175MM and $215MM, respectively.  Boras told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in November, “It’s rare that someone shows the character and confidence to trust his ability to turn down $144 million.  That’s never been done in professional sports. And that says a lot about Max Scherzer.”

It stands to reason that Boras will want the seven year term achieved by Tanaka and Sabathia.  Tanaka’s deal began with his age 25 season, Sabathia’s with his age 28 campaign.  Scherzer’s deal will begin with his age 30 campaign, so he’s got a tougher case, one he’ll make with the “less wear-and-tear” argument.  And don’t be surprised if we hear about Boras asking for eight years, as a way of arriving at seven in the end.

For average annual value, the $30.7MM figure obtained by Kershaw is likely out of reach, though Boras may make the argument that Kershaw’s six free agent seasons cost more like $32MM per year.  Greinke was at $24.5MM, Tanaka at $25MM.  Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander were at $27-28MM per year, but those extensions were not signed on the open market and only added five additional years.

Ten MLB contracts have included opt-out clauses, and Boras did four of them.  The three most recent starting pitcher deals with opt-out clauses were done by Casey Close of Excel Sports Management (Tanaka, Kershaw, and Zack Greinke).  Greinke and Sabathia obtained the ability to opt out after three years.  Boras figures to seek the same for Scherzer, who could then hit the market again ahead of his age 33 season.  The opt-out clause is not a guarantee; Boras didn’t get one for Prince Fielder in the 2011-12 offseason.  But it is possible that some teams won’t view an opt-out as a big negative despite the downside risk, as explained in my article on the topic from February.  The clause could allow a team to sign Scherzer and duck his decline phase, as the Yankees could have done with Sabathia had they let him go after his third year with them.

Getting past Tanaka’s $175MM outlay would be a symbolic win for Boras.  I’m predicting a seven-year, $185MM deal for Scherzer.


Latest On Yoan Moncada

19-year-old Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada remains one of the most intriguing names to watch over the coming months. As he waits for OFAC clearance after being declared an MLB free agent, let’s check in on the latest:

  • While it remains possible that the Cubs and Rangers — currently sitting out the big bonus side of the international amateur market due to past overages — could try to convince Moncada to wait until the summer to sign, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America, the young Cuban seems likely to come available too sign to make that the most plausible outcome. Badler ticks through the teams that, in his estimation, are best situated to make a serious run at Moncada. He lists the NationalsGiantsTigersRaysAngelsBravesRed Sox, and Yankees, noting that New York would figure to be the favorite if they decide the want Moncada.
  • Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs discusses an under-the-radar aspect of the CBA’s provisions regarding international signing penalties. Those dollars, which are steadily rising as multiple clubs blow past the signing limits — with Moncada potentially representing by far the greatest single outlay — are set to be utilized by the league for various, seemingly largely discretionary, purposes relating to international operations. One possibility contemplated in the CBA, funding for the implementation of an international draft, is particularly relevant here. As McDaniel explains, the burgeoning penalty dollars could conceivably go a long way towards a push for a draft. That, in turn, increases the incentives for teams to spend now rather than avoiding the penalties regarding limitations on future bonuses.
  • Both Badler and McDaniel have, of course, been all over the Moncada market. You’ll want to give their pieces a full read to understand all the nuances. And remember that you can click on the Yoan Moncada tag to catch up on all the recent chatter.