Detroit Tigers Rumors

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

Minor Moves: Beavan, Herrera, Sitton, Kohn, Carrera, Obispo

Here are the latest minor moves …

  • The Diamondbacks have signed righty Blake Beavan to a minor league deal, via the MLB.com transactions page. The former first-round pick was outrighted by the Marines back in August.
  • The Cubs inked second baseman Jonathan Herrera, per the same source. Herrera lost his roster spot with the Red Sox a month ago after a fairly disappointing campaign in Boston.
  • The Angels re-signed righty Yoslan Herrera on a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Herrera had been non-tendered yesterday.
  • Likewise, southpaw Kraig Sitton has re-signed with the Rockies on a minor league deal a day after being non-tendered, the club announced via Twitter. Sitton posted a 3.68 ERA last year at the Double-A level.
  • Righty Michael Kohn has gone to the Braves on a minor league deal with a big league camp invite, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Kohn originally signed with the Rays but was designated off the 40-man roster.
  • The Blue Jays announced the signing of outfielder Ezequiel Carrera to a minor league deal. Carrera was designated recently to clear space for the Tigers’ claim of Josh Zeid.
  • The Brewers have signed righty Wirfin Obispo, the club’s player development account tweeted. Obispo, 30, spent last year with the Braves and Pirates organizations and worked to a 4.12 ERA over 48 Triple-A frames.

Free Agent Notes: Melky, Ervin, Headley, Miller, Soto

The Royals have reached out to a familiar name in the form of Melky Cabrera, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. It’s not clear if the Royals are able to afford Cabrera, who is said by Heyman to be seeking “at least” a five-year deal. He notes that the Reds have also contacted Cabrera’s camp. Additionally, Heyman lists the Mariners, Orioles and White Sox as speculative fits. Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweets that the Blue Jays are still in touch with Cabrera as well. As many have pointed out, Toronto has just three outfielders on its 40-man roster at present. I profiled Cabrera in early October and projected a five-year deal worth just over $66MM.

Some more notes from the free agent market…

  • Also seeking a five-year deal is right-hander Ervin Santana, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. Santana is among the best of the bunch in the second tier of free agent starters, and he’s been rumored to have mutual interest with the Royals. However, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals’ comfort level is at three years with Santana. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes projected a four-year, $56MM contract for Santana.
  • Continuing on the theme of five-year contracts, Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York reports that the Yankees aren’t willing to give Chase Headley a five-year deal, and it’s believed by some that five years is now his asking price in the wake of both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez signing in Boston. An alternative for the Yankees, Matthews writes, is to play Martin Prado at third base regularly and give prospect Rob Refsnyder a chance to be the everyday second baseman.
  • The Yankees, Red Sox and Astros are all continuing to show strong interest in free agent lefty Andrew Miller, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Miller is believed to be headed for a four-year deal, and the Astros have been somewhat surprisingly linked to him and fellow top reliever David Robertson.
  • Geovany Soto is currently talking to five or six teams, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. A reunion between Soto and the Rangers is a definite possibility, per Cotillo. The free agent market for catchers has few options remaining, putting Soto in a relatively good spot.
  • Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports that 10 teams, including the Tigers, have reached out to free agent righty Ronald Belisario after he was designated for assignment by the White Sox and chose to elect free agency (Twitter link). Belisario has a track record of success but struggled in 2014 despite maintaining his velocity and ground-ball rate.
  • Nyjer Morgan is eyeing a return to the Majors and has drawn interest from both MLB and Asian clubs, tweets Cotillo. The 34-year-old spent a bit of time with the Indians last season but had his Cleveland tenure cut short by injury.

2014-15 American League Non-Tenders

Major League clubs have until 11pm CT tonight to tender contracts to players for the 2015 season. We’ll run down the list of American League non-tenders here, and update it as reports come in. Remember that you can track all of the action using MLBTR’s Non-Tender tracker, and we offer a full list of non-tender candidates (in the estimation of MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes). Also important for reference is the set of arbitration salary projections from MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz. Click here for an explanation of the process, and be sure to check out this piece featuring some interesting observations from Tim regarding non-tender considerations.

  • Slade Heathcott, Jose Campos, and David Huff have all been non-tendered by the Yankees, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter.
  • The Twins have tendered contracts to all arb-eligible players, per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (Twitter link).
  • Third baseman Carlos Rivero is the only non-tender for the Mariners, the club announced. Rivero was not yet arbitration eligible.
  • The Astros have tendered contracts to all arb-eligible players, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports on Twitter.
  • The Royals have non-tendered lefty Francisley Bueno, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter. He was not yet eligible for arbitration.
  • As expected, the Tigers have offered arbitration to all eligible players, Anthony Fench of the Detroit Free Press tweets.
  • The Athletics have declined to offer arbitration to Kyle Blanks and Andrew Brown, the team announced. Both had previously been designated for assignment. Oakland will retain control over the remainder of its eligible players, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • As with several other clubs, the Rays will proceed without any non-tenders, the club announced (per a tweet from Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times).
  • Likewise, the Orioles have tendered contracts to each of their eleven arb-eligible players, the team announced.
  • The Indians have tendered contracts to all five eligible players, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (via Twitter). Cleveland had a fairly straightforward group. Indeed, Dierkes did not list any players as reasonable NT candidates.
  • Scott Snodgress and Scott Carroll have been non-tendered by the White Sox, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweets. Both players were pre-arbitration eligible, meaning that Chicago could have renewed them at the MLB minimum.
  • The Red Sox have non-tendered third baseman Juan Francisco but will otherwise tender contracts to all eligible players, the club announced (h/t to Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com, via Twitter). Francisco had already been designated for assignment, making this one of the day’s least surprising moves.


Cafardo On Lester, Cespedes, Porcello, Miller

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that some in the Red Sox organization see Xander Bogaerts as a young Hanley Ramirez.  “They are both fun-loving kids who love playing the game,” Red Sox first base/outfield coach Arnie Beyeler said. “I didn’t see Hanley after the Dominican League, but I remember him as a kid who once he got his chance just did things better than everyone else. He ran better, threw better, hit better. It was easy to see that he was going to develop into a very good baseball player. And you see the same things with Xander.”  More from today’s column..

  • Major league sources tell Cafardo that the Cubs are very serious about Jon Lester while the Giants are becoming more serious about him.  Meanwhile, the Yankees are thinking about getting serious about Lester but haven’t committed to doing so.  The Red Sox remain interested but it remains to be seen how far they’ll go.
  • If the Red Sox sign Jon Lester, Cafardo can see them moving Yoenis Cespedes for a No. 2 or No. 3 starter such as Reds hurlers Mat Latos or Mike Leake.  The Reds would have a need for Cespedes’s bat, but they would also probably have a need for shortstop Deven Marrero.  Meanwhile, Johnny Cueto would cost Cespedes and maybe two top prospects, but it would be tempting for Boston.
  • The Tigers could also be a match in a Cespedes deal.  If those talks were to take place, the Red Sox would have more interest in Rick Porcello than Anibal Sanchez.  David Price could be a possibility if the Red Sox whiff on Lester, but that would be costly.
  • It’s strange to some that the Yankees haven’t re-signed closer David Robertson by now.  One rival AL East GM wonders if the Yankees might change direction and go after someone like Andrew Miller, a power lefty, to go along with Dellin Betances.
  • It’s hard to tell whether the Nationals are serious about trading Jordan Zimmermann because they have the resources to sign him and he’s their best pitcher. “It doesn’t hurt to listen,” said one NL executive about GM Mike Rizzo’s strategy. “If you get overwhelmed, you do it. If you don’t, you keep him. Pretty simple, actually.”  Cafardo writes that the Red Sox, Rangers, and Cubs seem to have the pieces to get a deal done.
  • There are teams interested in Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz.  “There’s a lot of talent there that hasn’t come out,” one NL scout said.

Quick Hits: Hunter, Fowler, Bargains

Here’s the latest from around the league.


Tigers Notes: Masterson, Rotation, Relief

On Thursday, we learned the Tigers inquired about free agent starter Justin Masterson. Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press speculates that Masterson could be open to a one-year contract to re-establish his value. Given his history of past success – including an All-Star appearance as recently as 2013 – he could provide affordable value. In my opinion, Detroit makes a lot of sense for Masterson if he wants to sign a pillow contract. It’s a high profile ball club with a good chance to make the postseason and a neutral stadium.


AL Notes: Avila, Cabrera, Athletics, PawSox

The Tigers plan on having Alex Avila as their primary catcher in 2015, despite his issues with concussions, but that will probably be his last season with them, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News reports. Since hitting .295/.389/.506 for the Tigers in 2011, Avila’s offensive production has declined, though he remains a strong defensive catcher. In preparation for his departure via free agency, the team will create opportunities for 24-year-old rookie James McCann in 2015. Here are more notes from around the American League.

  • After yesterday’s acquisition of Josh Donaldson from the Athletics, the Blue Jays are still trying to re-sign Melky Cabrera, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets. That makes sense, of course — the Jays have a hole in the outfield, and they can use another batter who can hit left-handed. A recent report indicated that Cabrera would prefer to sign with a team that doesn’t play on turf, as the Blue Jays do, although Cabrera himself recently tweeted that he didn’t care whether he played on turf or grass.
  • Billy Beane says the Athletics are unlikely to sign a free agent shortstop, Joe Stiglich of Comcast SportsNet California tweets. They have a big hole at the position given the departure of Jed Lowrie to free agency, but it isn’t a strong market, with Lowrie, Stephen Drew and Asdrubal Cabrera as the headliners. That the A’s are already bowing out could be an indication that they plan to address the position with a trade.
  • Part of the Red Sox‘ ownership is preparing to buy the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The PawSox have had a great run as the Red Sox’ Triple-A team since the 1970s, and they’ve been International League champions in two of the last three seasons. The move will, presumably, mean that the PawSox will continue as a Red Sox affiliate for the foreseeable future. It’s not clear, Cafardo notes, whether the team’s current front office will continue under new ownership or whether the Red Sox will install new personnel there.

AL Central Links: Masterson, Ryan, LaRoche

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.

Free Agent Profile: Torii Hunter

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.

Pros/Strengths

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.

MLB: ALDS-Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles-Workouts

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.

Cons/Negatives

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.

Personal

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.

Market

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.

Expected Contract

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.


Minor Moves: Pena, Boyer, Gutierrez, Swarzak, Belisario, Kohn

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.