Detroit Tigers Rumors

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

Pitching Notes: Santana, Shields, Haren, Lynn

Johan Santana‘s comeback bid has hit a snag, as the southpaw was scratched from a planned Venezuelan Winter League start with shoulder soreness (via the league’s Spanish language website). Though he will surely find another opportunity to showcase for MLB clubs, shoulder health was already an obvious concern for the two-time Cy Young winner.

Here are some more notes involving starting pitching:

  • It has been a challenge to find obvious fits for free agent righty James Shields, but ESPN.com’s Dan Szymborski (Insider link) makes the attempt by focusing on which clubs would stand to receive the greatest boost in projected wins. Three NL West teams (DodgersGiantsPadres) and a trio from the AL Central (TigersRoyalsWhite Sox) join the Marlins as the clubs that the ZiPS projection system thinks would benefit most by signing Shields.
  • The Marlins have not yet received any trade offers for righty Dan Haren, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Miami is in an interesting spot with regard to the veteran, as Jackson explains.
  • Before reaching agreement on a three-year deal that bought out all of his arb-eligible seasons, the Cardinals and righty Lance Lynn considered longer extension scenarios, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. That did not come to fruition because the team was interested in delaying Lynn’s free agency by one or two years whereas the pitcher was only interested in foregoing the open market for a larger, longer pact. Lynn explained that he would be open to revisiting talks later: “It’s not something that we could get situated, but there’s always going to be a process later. If everything goes well and I pitch the way I’m capable of, I’m sure that will be revisited down the line.”

Latest On The Market For James Shields

With Max Scherzer off the market following a historic seven-year agreement with the Nationals, all eyes will be on top remaining free agent James Shields and agent Page Odle leading up to Spring Training. ESPN’s Jayson Stark has spoken to a number of industry sources for his most recent look at Shields’ market, and he lists various reasons that the industry doesn’t expect Shields to end up with the Marlins, D-Backs, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Royals, Tigers, Rangers, Astros, Cardinals and Brewers (the Padres, at least, are listed as “possible, but not likely”).

Of particular note from Stark is that the D-Backs are actively trying to trim their payroll, rather than add salary; the Cubs are likely to look for another big-name starter, but not until next offseason; and the chances of the Marlins signing Shields are precisely “zero,” the latter of which meshes with a recent report from Grantland’s Jonah Keri.

Nonetheless, one executive to whom Stark spoke said he sees jumping back into the mix for Shields. However, one of the reasons, per that exec, is that teams believe Shields will have to settle for less than the $110MM that he reportedly was offered earlier this month and are revisiting the situation with the assumption that the price has dropped. Said Stark’s source, “But the problem is, now everyone is bottom-feeding. And when you’re someone like him, that’s the last thing you want, is a lot of teams bottom-feeding on you in late January.”

Regardless of the imperfect fits that litter the market for Shields, most executives tell Stark they can’t see Shields signing for anything less than $80MM over a four-year term, and nearly everyone to whom he spoke thinks that Shields could sign at virtually any time.

One club that won’t be signing Shields is the Giants, it seems, based on comments made by GM Brian Sabean earlier today on KNBR radio. As KNBR scribe Dieter Kurtenbach writes, Sabean plainly stated that while his club has wiggle room to add another piece, “it’s not going to be a high ticket item.” Sabean explained that while the team made a run at a pair of “high ticket” items in the form of Pablo Sandoval and Jon Lester, the team made the decision to spread the money throughout the roster. As such, the club acquired Casey McGehee and Nori Aoki to fill respective holes at third base and in left field, and Jake Peavy was re-signed to add some stability to the rotation. (Of interest to Astros fans may be Sabean’s statement of the fact that he believes Ryan Vogelsong is “going elsewhere as we speak,” as Vogelsong is said to be nearing a deal with Houston.)


Minor Moves: Josh Prince

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • The Tigers have agreed to terms with minor league free agent utilityman Josh Prince, per a tweet from Prince himself. The 26-year-old former Brewer has seen only enough MLB action to register his first and only big league hit, but has logged plenty of time in the upper minors. In 2013, the Tulane product put up a .237/.338/.368 slash with 25 stolen bases at the highest farm level. Playing last year at Double-A, he produced a .246/.356/.333 line with 37 swipes in 416 turns at bat.


Pitching Notes: Hamels, Shields, Scherzer, Strasburg

The Rangers and Phillies had “in-depth trade talks” regarding lefty Cole Hamels before Texas pulled the trigger to add Yovani Gallardo, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. The sticking point in those discussions was money, tweets Morosi’s colleague Ken Rosenthal.

Here are some more notes on some of the game’s best starters:

  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski discussed the signing of Max Scherzer with reporters today, and MLive.com’s James Schmehl has the report. Though agent Scott Boras reached out to the club to indicate Scherzer’s interest in exploring a reunion, Dombrowski said that no negotiations occurred. “We never 100 percent closed the door,” he said, “but we’re very happy with the rotation we have.”
  • Perhaps most importantly, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch never fully re-engaged with the idea of keeping Scherzer for the long-haul after the righty famously turned down a $144MM extension offer, Morosi reports. As Morosi rightly notes, neither side can be faulted for pursuing its interests. In the end, Detroit did not go beyond its comfort zone and Scherzer was able to secure a better contract elsewhere.
  • As for the notion that the Tigers could be in the market for James Shields, easily the best arm left on the open market, Dombrowski again emphasized that he was happy with the in-house options and was not looking to add. When asked specifically whether he wanted to comment on or debunk the Shields rumors, Dombrowski said: “I just did, didn’t I?”
  • Of course, the big question now is whether Scherzer’s move to the Nationals will lead his new club to deal from its impressive rotation. While pending free agents Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister have long been talked about as at least hypothetical candidates to move, the Scherzer signing has led to some suggestions that Stephen Strasburg could be dangled. Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs discusses what kind of price tag might accompany the star righty, noting that it would likely be high given not only his immense talent but also his reasonable expected salary over the next two years.
  • We have already covered a good bit of Scherzer analysis (see here and here), but ESPN.com’s Buster Olney also weighed in (Insider subscription required). He argues not only that Scherzer does not represent a significant upgrade over the already-deep group of Nats starters, but also notes that dealing away set-up man Tyler Clippard — and, if it occurs, trading other starters or shortstop Ian Desmond — could create significant issues elsewhere on the roster. All said, the long-term obligations in the Scherzer deal are something of an unnecessary risk, Olney suggests.

Central Notes: Shields, Scherzer, Kang, Cubs

Recent discussions between free agent James Shields and the Tigers make sense for both sides, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi writes. The Tigers have a good rotation for 2015 but could lose David Price and Alfredo Simon after the season, meaning Shields could be a good addition both for 2015 and beyond. Morosi adds that the Tigers have maintained contact with Scott Boras about Max Scherzer, although there are no indications that discussions have gotten very far. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.

  • Likewise, it makes sense for the Cardinals to sign Scherzer, Morosi writes. Morosi reports that Scherzer and the Cardinals have made known to one another that both sides are interested, but notes that the length and dollar amount of the sort of contract Scherzer is seeking might be an issue for the Cardinals. One way for the two sides to come to terms, Morosi suggests, would be for the Cardinals to offer fewer years (perhaps five) at a high average annual value. (Morosi suggests $156MM, which would give Scherzer the highest AAV ever for a pitcher.) Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said today, however, that the team is not shopping for expensive pitchers (via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Twitter).
  • The Pirates‘ signing of Jung-ho Kang has upside but comes with little risk, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. The Pirates’ financial obligations are minimal (about $16MM over four years, including Kang’s posting fee), and if Kang proves effective, he could give the Pirates valuable infield insurance in case third baseman Josh Harrison or shortstop Jordy Mercer don’t continue to work out. (Harrison would appear to be set as a starter for the next couple years after a borderline-MVP-caliber season in 2014, but anything can happen.) Also, Kang is signed through at least 2018, while second baseman Neil Walker has only two years remaining before he’s eligible for free agency. As Sawchik points out in a separate article, Kang could also make plenty of money for the Pirates by attracting advertising from Korean companies.
  • Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said at Cubs Convention today that other teams have inquired about catcher Welington Castillo, but that the Cubs haven’t yet received any compelling offers, Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune tweets. With the additions of Miguel Montero and David Ross this offseason, there’s no obvious role for Castillo in Chicago, even though he has a solid track record as an offensive catcher. Via Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald (on Twitter), Hoyer added that Ross was too good not to acquire, despite Castillo’s talent. The 37-year-old Ross has hit sparingly in the past two seasons but has a solid record as a pitch framer.

Arbitration Roundup: 54 Players Exchange Figures

With today’s flurry of activities in the books, 144 players have agreed to deals to avoid arbitration for a total spend of $433MM. But that leaves 54 players who have exchanged figures and have ground left to cover before their 2015 salaries are settled. That number is up from last year’s tally of 39, and may point to the possibility that we will see more hearings than the three in 2014 (which was itself up from zero the year before).

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker is a great resource for seeing where things stand. It is fully sortable and even allows you to link to the results of a search. (The MLBTR/Matt Swartz arbitration projections are also quite handy, of course.) Using the tracker, I compiled some broad notes on where things stand in the arbitration process this year.

Remember, deals avoiding arbitration can still be reached even after the exchange of numbers. Hearings will be scheduled between February 1st and 21st, so there is plenty of time for the sides to come together before making their cases.

That being said, some teams are known for their “file and trial” approach to arb-eligible players, meaning that they refuse to negotiate after the exchange deadline and go to a hearing if agreement has not been reached. Among those clubs (the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox, per the most recent reporting), there are several open cases remaining: Mat Latos and Michael Dunn (Marlins), Josh Donaldson and Danny Valencia (Blue Jays), Mike Minor (Braves), and Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier (Reds).

Meanwhile, some other clubs have historically employed the “file and trial” approach on a modified or case-by-case basis: the Pirates, Nationals, and Indians. Among those clubs, the Pirates (Neil Walker, Vance Worley) and Nationals (Jerry Blevins) have open cases, though all of them feature relatively tight spreads.

And there are some other interesting cases to keep an eye on as well. Consider:

  • The Orioles and Royals not only faced off in last year’s American League Championship Series, but find themselves staring at by far the most unresolved cases (six and eight, respectively). They are also the only teams with eight-figure gaps between their submissions and those of their players ($10.85MM and $10MM, respectively).
  • Among the Orioles players, two stand out for the significant relative gulf separating team and player. Zach Britton, who excelled after taking over as the closer last year, filed at $4.2MM while the team countered at $2.2MM, leaving a $2MM gap that is worth nearly 91% of the club’s offer. Even more remarkably, the O’s will need to bridge a $3.4MM gap ($5.4MM versus $2MM) with surprise star Steve Pearce. That spread is 1.7 times the value of the team’s offer and easily beats the largest difference last year (Logan Morrison and the Mariners, 127.3%).
  • Of course, it is worth remembering that first-year arb salaries have added impact because they set a baseline for future earnings. (Each successive year’s salary is essentially calculated as an earned raise from that starting point.) For the Reds, the outcome of their cases with Frazier ($5.7MM vs. $3.9MM) and Mesoraco ($3.6MM vs. $2.45MM) could have huge ramifications for whether the team will be able to afford to keep (and possibly extend) that pair of strong performers.
  • Likewise, the Angels face an important showdown with Garrett Richards, a Super Two whose starting point will factor into three more seasons of payouts. As a high-upside starter, he has sky high earning potential, so any savings will be most welcome to the team. The current spread is $3.8MM versus $2.4MM, a $1.4MM difference that equates to 58.3% of the team’s filing price.
  • Interestingly, the biggest gap in absolute terms belong to Pearce and the Orioles at $3.4MM. After that come Bud Norris and the Orioles ($2.75MM), David Freese and the Angels ($2.35MM), Greg Holland and the Royals ($2.35MM), Dexter Fowler and the Astros ($2.3MM), Eric Hosmer and the Royals ($2.1MM), and Aroldis Chapman and the Reds ($2.05MM).

Of course, plenty of deals already got done today. Here are some of the more notable among them:

  • David Price agreed to a $19.75MM salary with the Tigers that stands as the single highest arbitration payday ever, by a fair margin.
  • Interestingly, the Rays agreed to rather similar, sub-projection deals with all seven of their arb-eligible players. Discounts on Swartz’s expectations ranged from 3.23% to 13.21%. In total, the club shaved $1.525MM off of its tab.
  • The opposite was true of the Tigers, who spent a total of $1.4MM over the projections on just three players. Of course, since one of those players was Price, the commitment landed just 5.2% over the projected total.
  • Detroit’s overages pale in comparison to those of the Cubs, who handed out several of the deals that beat the projections by the widest relative margin and ended up over $2.5MM (14.5%) over their projected spend.
  • The MLBTR/Swartz model badly whiffed (over 50% off) on just three players, all of whom earned well over the projections: Chris Coghlan of the Cubs (78.9%), Carlos Carrasco of the Indians (66.9%) Tony Sipp of the Astros (60%).
  • On the low side, the worst miss (or the biggest discount, depending on one’s perspective) was Mark Melancon of the Pirates, who fell $2.2MM and 28.9% shy of his projected earnings. Danny Espinosa (Nationals) and Chris Tillman (Orioles) were the only two other players to fall 20% or more below their projections. Of course, in the cases of both Melancon and Tillman, Swartz accurately predicted that they would fall short of the model.

Latest On James Shields

The market for James Shields continues to move slowly, but there have been a couple of updates on him today, including the mention of a new team. Here’s the latest…

  • Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski says that the club is not in active pursuit of any starters, Jason Beck of MLB.com tweets.

Earlier Updates

  • Shields’ agent, Page Odle, recently had contact with the Tigers, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). It’s not clear to what extent Detroit is interested, Morosi notes. The Tigers have previously stated that they’re not in active pursuit of starting pitching upgrades, although such plans can always change as the offseason wears on.
  • Meanwhile, Jonah Keri of Grantland and ESPN hears from a source close to the situation that there’s a “zero percent chance” of the Shields/Marlins rumor coming to fruition (Twitter link).

*An earlier version of this post mistakenly stated that Odle had met with the Tigers.


Tigers Avoid Arb With Price, Simon, Martinez

5:52pm: Martinez will earn $3MM, Perchick tweets.

4:04pm: The club has announced that it has a one-year deal in place with J.D. Martinez, too, leaving only Al Alburquerque among Tigers arb eligibles. Financial terms remain unknown.

1:28pm: Alfredo Simon has also avoided arbitration with Detroit, settling on a $5.55MM salary for 2015 — his final year of team control — according to Mike Perchick of WAPT (Twitter link). He’d been projected at $5.1MM.

12:04pm: The Tigers and left-hander David Price have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a whopping $19.75MM salary for the ace’s final year of team control, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Price’s salary tops the $18.9MM projection of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz by about $900K.

Price’s salary is a record-breaker for a starting pitcher in arbitration, topping the mark set just last winter by his now-former teammate Max Scherzer, who earned a $15.25MM sum. The former No. 1 overall pick split the season between the Rays and Detroit following a last-minute three-team trade on the day of the trade deadline, in which Nick Franklin, Drew Smyly and Willy Adames went to the Rays, with Price heading to the Tigers and Austin Jackson going to the Mariners. In total, Price put together another dominant season, compiling a 3.26 ERA while leading the league in innings pitched (248 1/3) and strikeouts (271).


Minor Moves: Putknonen, Orioles

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

  • The Tigers announced yesterday that right-hander Luke Putkonen has been outrighted to Triple-A after clearing waivers. The 28-year-old appeared in just two games for the Tigers in 2014 and allowed an alarming eight runs in 2 2/3 innings. However, he logged 45 2/3 quality innings over the course of the two prior seasons, notching a tidy 3.35 ERA (3.66 FIP) with 7.5 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9. His 2014 struggles were likely injury related, as he went on the DL in mid-April due to right elbow inflammation that eventually resulted in surgery to remove bone chips in June. He was designated for assignment last week to clear roster space for left-hander Tom Gorzelanny.
  • The Orioles have inked a pair of independent league players to minor league deals, tweets Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore: first baseman Casey Haerther and outfielder Jake Luce. The 27-year-old Haerther, a fifth-rounder with the Angels in 2009, has spent the past two seasons playing with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the American Association and batted an impressive .360/.390/.535 with 13 homers and 29 doubles in 418 plate appearances in 2014. Luce, 25, has never been in affiliated ball to this point. After struggling in his first year of indy ball, he split the 2014 season between the United Baseball League’s Brownsville Charros and the American Association’s Wichita Wingnuts (partly owned by former Tigers hurler Nate Robertson), batting a combined .313/.372/.453 with seven homers and 22 steals in 341 PAs.

Quick Hits: A’s, Lynn, Soto, Johan

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court Of Appeals upheld a previous ruling rejecting the city of San Jose’s challenge of Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption, Fangraphs’ Nathaniel Grow reports (Twitter link).  As explained by CSNBayArea.com’s Joe Stiglich, the ruling is another obstacle in San Jose’s attempt to bring the Athletics to town, and an eventual courtroom victory in front of the Supreme Court seems unlikely.  The A’s may only be allowed to move if a majority of team owners votes down the Giants’ territorial rights claim on San Jose or if the Giants are financially compensated for giving up the area, Stiglish notes.

Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • The Cardinals and Lance Lynn discussed a longer-term deal before settling on a three-year extension that buys out Lynn’s three arbitration years, GM John Mozeliak told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jen Langosch).  “Obviously, when you start talking about free-agent years or option years, there’s a cost to that,” Mozeliak said. “It certainly was something that was on the table and discussed. But ultimately the comfort of something getting done, even though it may feel short, it gives us some cost certainty.”
  • Geovany Soto is expected to sign within the next few days, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets.  The Rangers are among the teams still in the hunt for the veteran catcher.
  • The Blue Jays, Brewers, Mariners, Rangers and Rays were among the teams who scouted Johan Santana‘s recent Venezuelan Winter League appearance, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports.  The Yankees, whose interest in Santana was already known, also had a scout present.
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski tells Ken Davidoff of the New York Post that his team is “probably not” going to sign Max Scherzer.  “We’ve been in a situation where we’re pretty well set with our starting pitching,” Dombrowski said. “We’ve got five starters that we’re comfortable [with]. I guess you never tell what happens, but we’re not in any type of active pursuit of any other pitching right now.”  Dombrowski has consistently made statements of this type all winter, though there have been whispers that Scherzer could wind up back in Detroit thanks to the relationship between Scott Boras and Mike Ilitch.
  • Right-hander Kameron Loe and outfielder Terrell Joyce have both been issued 50-game suspensions following positive tests for a drug of abuse, the Commissioner’s Office announced.  Both players are currently free agents.  Loe posted a 4.49 ERA over 569 innings in the bigs with five teams from 2004-13, while Joyce (a 12th-round Astros draft pick in 2012) has a career .229/.308/.396 slash line over 704 minor league plate appearances in Houston’s farm system.