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Detroit Tigers Rumors
Here’s the latest from around the AL Central…
- The White Sox and Tigers have expressed interest in Justin Masterson, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, meaning that all five AL Central clubs have at least checked in on the free agent righty. Outside of this division, Masterson’s long list of suitors also includes the Braves, Cubs, Red Sox, Giants and Marlins.
- The Indians touched base with Masterson early in the offseason but “haven’t shown a lot of interest” since, Hoynes writes.
- In an interview with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter links here), Twins GM Terry Ryan said his team “could use a right handed bat in the outfield. We’re rather young here especially in the outfield.” Of course, the Twins have been connected to a right-handed hitting veteran in Torii Hunter, who recently said that he’d had numerous conversations with Ryan. Minnesota is one of at least 10 teams who have shown interest in Hunter’s services this offseason. Earlier today on MLBTR, Jeff Todd outlined Hunter’s free agent profile.
- On the Twins‘ search for pitching, Ryan said that he’s looking for both left- and right-handed starters, noting that his club doesn’t have many proven innings-eaters in the rotation. Relatively few free agent pitchers have come off the board this winter, though Ryan said “it may be a slow moving market and then one of those big time pitchers goes and all heck breaks loose.”
- Adam LaRoche wasn’t keen to fully transition to a full-time DH role, yet he told reporters (including CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes) during his introductory White Sox press conference that he’s happy to cede most of the first base duties to Jose Abreu. “They’ve got a kid [Abreu] that’s obviously going to be around and be really good for a long time,” LaRoche said. “It’s not fair to make him a full-time DH this early in his career, especially when he can handle first base and handle the glove over there….I’ll do it however it plays out. If they need me to play first more than we’re talking about, great, I’ll be there. If I end up DHing more, that’s fine.” Sox manager Robin Ventura said that he plans to give LaRoche two starts per week at first base, a time-share that will hopefully keep both LaRoche and Abreu fresh for the entire season.
At 39 years of age, Torii Hunter is no longer the player he once was. But his reliable bat and clubhouse presence are sure to lead to plenty of interest.
As he has throughout his career, Hunter hit in 2014. His 111 OPS+ (.286/.319/.446) marked the ninth consecutive season in which he has been at least 10% above league average in overall batting production (per that metric). Since becoming a regular in 2001, Hunter has only once (barely) dropped below the mean.
Neither is there any particular reason to think that a cliff is nearing. Hunter’s walk rate has been down sharply in the last two seasons — around 4% after posting numbers that were as much as twice that rate in the not-so-distant past — but he has also driven down his strikeout rate to a career-low 15.2%. And the contact is still good: Hunter posted a personal second-best 21.3% line drive rate last year and put the ball on the ground right at his career average. Bat speed and reflexes do not appear to be a problem; pitchers threw Hunter fastballs 57.6% of the time last year, the lowest percentage of his career.
That remarkable consistency is equaled by Hunter’s durability. Since the start of the 2007 campaign, Hunter has seen just one DL stint (for five weeks owing to a groin strain back in 2009). He has had his share of rest in recent years, averaging 142 games played over the last three seasons, but has made at least 584 trips to the plate in each of those.
It might reasonably be expected that teams will look beyond the numbers in determining their interest level in Hunter. He has 18 MLB seasons under his belt, and is widely characterized as a desirable clubhouse leader.
Defensively, Hunter had already regressed from a solid center fielder to a solid right fielder. But over the last two years, defensive metrics have soured considerably on his work in right. Defensive Runs Saved, which judged Hunter a +15 contributor in 2012, has moving to -10 and then -18 since. Ultimate Zone Rating noted a less pronounced fade in 2013, but concurred with DRS on Hunter’s overall value last year. The issue, per UZR’s assessment, is clear: while Hunter’s arm and error propensity are approximately average, his range has disappeared.
At the plate, one could quibble and note that Hunter’s output last year was at the bottom range of his career range. While it would be a stretch to say that portends a precipitous decline – after all, he was still produced within the bounds of his career norms and did so on a career-average BABIP – that fact does, perhaps, dampen the notion that he might return to his 2012 levels (.313/.365/.451, albeit on a .389 BABIP).
Likewise, Hunter’s counting stats are down from his peak. He is no longer a threat to steal twenty bags or to hit 25-30 home runs. On the other hand, the loss of speed is not surprising, and Hunter still grades out well on the bases. And as for power, Hunter’s decline has tracked a more general league trend, and he still put up a .160+ ISO over each of the last two years and has never hit less than 16 long balls in a full season.
Hunter was born and raised in Arkansas, going straight from Pine Bluff to the Minnesota Twins after he was chosen in the first round of the 1993 draft. He is one of only two players from the first round of that draft still active in the majors, the other being first overall pick Alex Rodriguez.
Hunter makes his offseason home in the Dallas-Forth Worth area with his wife, Katrina. As he told MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the Hunters are already empty-nesters. Several of his sons excel at sports as well, enrolling in colleges on football scholarships, and Hunter says that he enjoys traveling to watch them in action.
While the Tigers are not interested in a reunion at this point, recent reports suggest that as many as ten teams have already shown interest in the Reynolds Sports Management client, including the Royals, Cubs, Giants, Rangers, Blue Jays, and Mariners.
Then, of course, there are the Twins, Hunter’s former club. The veteran says he has had several conversations with Minnesota GM Terry Ryan. He has also indicated that he wants a regular role on a legitimate contender, and it would be difficult to cast the Twins in that light. Either way, having already earned over $160MM during his outstanding career, he seems unlikely to view the highest bid as a trump to personal preference.
The corner outfield market contains several players in the same general market niche as Hunter, though each obviously has their benefits and drawbacks. With Michael Cuddyer going to the Mets, teams looking for veteran production down the lines can also look to Alex Rios and Michael Morse.
It bears noting that Hunter has almost exclusively played right field since he moved off of center. He has spent a mere 119 1/3 frames patrolling left, all before he became a fixture in the Twins’ lineup. With his range being the major question, and his arm still playing at the big league level, it seems likely that he will be targeted primarily by clubs having (or willing to make) an opening on that side. As the list of teams with apparent interest would indicate, Hunter’s most obvious fit is with an American League club that plans to utilize some manner of platoon situation for its designated hitter slot, as he could benefit from a reduced defensive load as he enters his age-39 season.
Hunter should have several appealing situations to ponder. To some extent, of course, the breadth of interest relates to the fact that he figures to be available on a short-term deal at a palatable rate. For teams looking to lock in a decent level of production at the plate for the short term, while keeping future payroll flexibility, Hunter makes for a highly appealing option.
Multiple years are certainly within reach if Hunter is interested, though he may not be – and may see somewhat reduced interest and lower-AAV offers if he does pursue that route. Cuddyer’s two-year, $21MM deal sets the market at the corner, and carries an even higher implied valuation since it required the Mets to sacrifice the 15th overall pick in the upcoming draft. (Applying a 3x multiplier to the slot value of that pick last year results in a rough $7.5MM valuation of New York’s added cost. As discussed by Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs, however, other means of estimation might put the value in the $10MM to $15MM range.)
Ultimately, assuming Hunter picks amongst the clubs pushing the top of his market, I think he will land a deal in the range of two years and $22MM. If he ultimately falls shy of that mark, it could well be because he prefers a one-year deal or takes a discount for one reason or another.
Some minor moves from around the league…
- Also outrighted today was Ramiro Pena of the Braves, per the MLB.com transactions page. The utility man was designated recently, presumably in large part due to his rising arbitration salary.
- Righty Blaine Boyer (Padres), Anthony Swarzak (Twins), and Juan Gutierrez (Giants) have elected free agency rather than accepting outright assignments, also via the MLB transactions page.
- The White Sox have outrighted righty Ronald Belisario, per the MLB.com transactions page. Belisario was designated recently to make room for the claim of reliever Onelki Garcia.
- Likewise, the Rays have outrighted righty Michael Kohn. It has been an odd start to the offseason for Kohn, who was signed to a MLB deal before being designated within weeks by Tampa.
- Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reported a number of new transactions in his weekly Minor League Transactions roundup on Monday. Of particular note is a crop of Phillies signings: catcher Koyie Hill, right-hander Paul Clemens, and infielders Chase d’Arnaud and Cord Phelps. Clemens gives them some pitching depth, as he’s totaled 98 innings with the Astros over the past two seasons, albeit with a 5.51 ERA.
- Also from Eddy, the Reds have inked outfielder Brennan Boesch to a minor league contract. The 29-year-old Boesch hit .269/.330/.436 in 248 games with the Tigers from 2010-11, but since that time, he’s batted just .237/.277/.376 in 635 plate appearances with the Tigers, Yankees and Angels.
- The Tigers have announced that outfielder Ezequiel Carrera has elected free agency rather than accepting an assignment to Triple-A after being outrighted (Twitter link). The 27-year-old hit .261/.301/.348 in 73 plate appearances with Detroit this season and is a lifetime .253/.305/.340 hitter in the Majors. Carrera hasn’t hit much in 478 big league PAs, but he brings some speed and solid baserunning to the table and is capable of handling all three outfield spots.
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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).
Here are the day’s minor moves …
- The Rays have placed catcher Jose Molina and infielder Cole Figueroa on release waivers, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). Both were designated for assignment recently. Molina figures to clear given his $2.75MM price tag.
- The Pirates have released catcher Ramon Cabrera, per the MLB.com transactions page. Cabrera was designated along with Ike Davis on Thursday. He has yet to see action at the big league level.
- Release waivers are, of course, one way to resolve a DFA case. Per MLBTR’s DFA Tracker, several other players are still in limbo after a busy week of roster trimming: Ramiro Pena (Braves), Michael Kohn (Rays), Alfredo Marte (Angels), Juan Gutierrez (Giants), Yeison Asencio (Padres), Blaine Boyer (Padres), Ezequiel Carrera (Tigers), Ronald Belisario (White Sox), Jackson Williams (Angels), Michael Roth (Angels), Jarret Martin (Dodgers), Andrew Brown (Athletics), Scott Barnes (Indians), and Ryan Jackson (Dodgers).
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- A number of additional minor league signings have been reported on the MLB.com transactions page. Among the more notable moves: The Reds added first baseman Josh Satin along with second baseman Ivan De Jesus. Righty Logan Kensing and shortstop Juan Diaz have agreed to terms with the White Sox. And five catchers are off the board: Griff Erickson (Padres), Koyie Hill (Phillies), Sebastian Valle and Miguel Perez (Pirates), and Guillermo Quiroz (Giants).
- Other signings, via MLB.com: righty Caleb Clay and outfielder Nick Buss (Diamondbacks); lefties Ryan Verdugo and Jim Fuller (Athletics); third baseman Jefry Marte (Tigers); righty Daniel Turpen, third baseman Heiker Meneses, and shortstop Argenis Diaz (Twins); righty Bryce Stowell and first baseman Allan Dykstra (Rays); first baseman Travis Mattair and righties Justin Jackson, Jairo Heredia, and Jake Brigham (Braves); outfielder Javier Herrera (Giants); righty Leuris Gomez (Rockies); righty Michael Lee (Blue Jays); third baseman Jonathan Galvez (Yankees); righty Paul Clemens (Phillies).
- 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.
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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.
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.
- 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.
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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.
- 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.
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.
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