Detroit Tigers Rumors
The retirements of Yankee icon Derek Jeter and Commissioner Bud Selig and the Red Sox's quest to repeat as World Series champions are baseball's top storylines this season, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Mike Trout/Miguel Cabrera debate also makes Cafardo's list along with five other topics to monitor in 2014. Stoking the discussion, the dynamic duo both agreed to lengthy and lucrative contract extensions just one day apart this past week: six years, $144.5MM for Trout and eight years, $248MM for Cabrera.
In other news and notes from the American League:
- Within the same article, Cafardo opines Jon Lester better be willing to accept less from the Red Sox than the six-year, $144MM proposal the Tigers made to Max Scherzer adding negotiations with the left-hander will be a true test of how much faith the club has in its top pitching prospects.
- Lester addressed the media today, including WEEI.com's Rob Bradford (who provides a transcript of the extension-related portion of the presser) and contrasted his situation to Scherzer's. "Every situation is different, every negotiation is different, every person is different, so until it's there in front of you with a pen to sign it, or not presented to you and you have to go the other way, then like I said, we'll deal with that when it comes."
- Contact lenses could be the key to the season for Red Sox's third baseman Will Middlebrooks, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. An eye test this spring revealed Middlebrooks' vision had deteriorated to 20-25 in his right eye and 20-30 in his left. "For everyday life, you’d never correct it," the 25-year-old said. "But for what I do, you need to be able to see the little things. Once I put them in, I could really see the spin on the ball. I was always just reading trajectory of the ball. I was never seeing the spin."
- Pitching and offense are reasons why the Red Sox can repeat while history (no team has sucessfully defended its World Series title since 2000) and questions up the middle are reasons why they won't, writes CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam.
- Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski told MLB Network Radio (Twitter link) he had the financial wherewithal to extend both Cabrera and Scherzer. "We had both negotiations going simultaneously," said Dombrowski. "We were trying to sign both."
- The Royals have had mixed results with their philsophy of developing pitchers, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The organization believes you need 10 pitching prospects to deliver one to the Majors and that has worked in developing relievers, but only four prospects have started a game for Kansas City during GM Dayton Moore's seven-year tenure, McCullough notes.
- The Astros have been active at the Trade Deadline the past two seasons, but that may not be the case this year, writes the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich. "No question. This year's different," GM Jeff Luhnow told Drellich. "This year, we have veteran players. If they play well, we're likely to keep them as opposed to move them. There’s always going to be that temptation...we’ll balance all the factors, including the fact that we do want to show significant progress."
Between now and Opening Day, several minor league signees will win jobs with their clubs and earn 40-man roster spots. Here are today's additions:
- The Angels have purchased the contract of infielder Ian Stewart, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets. The former top prospect, now 28, was brought in on a minor league contract in January.
- Ryan Rowland-Smith will make the Diamondbacks' Opening Day roster, GM Kevin Towers disclosed (via Steve Gilbert of MLB.com). Rowland-Smith was in camp on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old hasn't pitched in the majors since 2010 but was excellent last year for Boston's Triple-A club.
- The Giants announced that right-hander J.C. Gutierrez and infielder Brandon Hicks have been chosen for the Opening Day roster. Hicks had been competing with rookie Ehire Adrianza for a backup infield job, but both have made the team.
- The Braves announced via press release that pitchers Gus Schlosser and Ian Thomas have been added to the Opening Day roster.
- Reds manager Bryan Price announced that reliever Trevor Bell and outfielder Roger Bernadina have made the club's Opening Day roster, according to a tweet from the team's Triple-A affiliate. Bell hasn't pitched in the majors since 2011, but threw very well this spring in 8 2/3 innings.
- The Mets are set to add Omar Quintanilla to their Opening Day roster, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Quintanilla figures to serve as the back-up at short. He rejoined the club on a minor league deal after being non-tendered.
- Xavier Nady will break camp with the Padres, tweets AJ Cassavell of MLB.com, and thus will be added to the 40-man roster. The 35-year-old had a solid spring, and will fill in while Kyle Blanks and Cameron Maybin work back from injury.
- The Tigers have purchased the contract of Tyler Collins, the club announced. The 23-year-old, left-handed-hitting outfielder has not played above the Double-A level, but now grabs an Opening Day roster spot for a Detroit club that is without Andy Dirks to start the year. In 530 plate appearances at Double-A last year, Collins put up a .240/.323/.438 line with 21 home runs (and 122 strikeouts against 51 walks).
- The Rangers will add minor league free agent Daniel McCutchen to the roster, according to a tweet from his representatives at Sosnick Cobbe Sports. Texas will need to add the reliever to the 40-man roster in order to activate him.
- Yangervis Solarte will make the Yankees Opening Day roster, tweets Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. Fellow utility infielder Eduardo Nunez, meanwhile, will be optioned to Triple-A to start the year. Solarte earned the position after a torrid spring.
- The Phillies have announced their Opening Day roster, which includes three players -- Tony Gwynn Jr., Mario Hollands, and Jeff Manship -- who must be added to the 40-man. Meanwhile, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez has been put on the 60-day DL to create roster space while infielder Reid Brignac and reliever Shawn Camp have been reassigned to Triple-A, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki (Twitter links).
- The Athletics have selected the contract of infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima and optioned him to Triple-A, according to the MLB transactions page. After failing to see MLB action in the first year of his two-year, $6.5MM deal with Oakland, Nakajima was outrighted and ultimately re-signed to a minor league deal.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.
Two of the game's highest-profile players -- two-time reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers and 22-year-old Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the man who arguably should have taken those titles -- just signed on for significant new extensions. Cabrera inked an eight-year, $244.5MM deal that kicks in after the 2015 season, while Trout sold all three arb-eligible seasons and three of his free agent campaigns for a total of $144.5MM. Here are some reactions:
- We already took a look at a few opinions on the Cabrera contract, which drew some strong negative sentiment. But Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski defends the move, telling ESPN.com's Jayson Stark that he "didn't want to lose" Cabrera. The deal was necessary, said Dombrowski, for Detroit to retain a player that he considers an all-time great hitter who will be able to maintain production for another decade. "Would I love to be able to sign Miguel Cabrera for $22MM a year for the next five years? Of course," said Dombrowski. "But was five years going to get this done? The answer to that is no. And I know that for a fact." Cabrera's interest in staying with the club mattered, but seemingly only went so far. "He did want to be a Tiger," Dombrowski said, "but you've still got to pay him in today's world."
- Turning to Trout, it appears that the sides were negotiating (at least at this stage of talks) with a clear idea that the deal would cover only six years. As Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets, Trout countered the Halos' original offer of $140MM with a $153MM figure. The final number landed closer to the Angels' preferred figure, of course. By holding to a six year commitment, the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin writes, Trout figures to have a chance at an even bigger payday down the line.
- The Trout contract makes sense for both sides, reasons ESPN.com's Keith Law (Insider link). That sentiment is not exactly shared by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, who argues that Los Angeles got a huge discount on Trout's free agent seasons.
- Trout has always been linked to fellow phenom Bryce Harper. But that does not necessarily mean that Trout's contract will serve as a template for future negotiations between Harper and the Nationals, as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. Agent Scott Boras used some interesting terms in discussing the Trout deal, but left no doubt as to his meaning: "I think [Trout is] a very special cup of tea, for which he is deserving of a completely different brew. While few, I definitely consider Bryce Harper as part of the next generation of elite brand of teas. Certainly as a studied connoisseur, I may hold a differing opinion as to the availabiity, demand and value of tea futures."
The Tigers' record-setting extension with Miguel Cabrera has been heavily questioned by most pundits, but CBS Sports' Jon Heyman has a more positive take on the contract, opining that you can hardly put a price on keeping one of the all-time great hitters in baseball history. General manager Dave Dombrowski should also deserve some benefit of the doubt, since, as Heyman writes, "no team has done a better job than the Tigers of procuring star talent through trades, and practically no team has done a better job of picking the right players to give the best contracts to, either."
Here's some more news from Detroit and elsewhere around the AL Central...
- Dombrowski met with Max Scherzer earlier this week to clear the air after both the team and Scott Boras (the pitcher's agent) released public statements about the halt in their contract negotiations. Scherzer told reporters (including John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press) that the GM apologized for comments that unintentionally portrayed the right-hander "in a negative context." Dombrowski also apologized for the contract numbers becoming public, and he was upset with whomever it was who leaked the information.
- In a phone conversation with Lowe, Dombrowski said “These negotiations are tough and difficult, and when you don’t come up with a mutual agreement, it can leave a little bit of tension. To me, it is always better to reach out to somebody to discuss it. Max is a tremendous person and great pitcher."
- In regards to an earlier item of his, ESPN's Jim Bowden clarifies (via Twitter) that Scott Boras' last proposal to the Tigers about a Scherzer extension would've covered seven of the righty's free agent years. The Tigers' last offer would've covered only six free agent years, which would've kept Scherzer in Detroit through the 2020 season.
- Jose Quintana may now have a higher profile in the wake of his five-year, $21MM extension, yet he is still one of game's more underrated and lesser-known starters, as Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan writes in his exploration of how Quintana developed from a virtual non-prospect to a cornerstone of the White Sox rotation.
- The offense-needy Twins could've added some more pop in their final roster moves, ESPN 1500's Phil Mackey opines. Mackey also suggests that backup catcher Josmil Pinto's live bat should be utilized more often as a regular DH rather than just a couple of starts per week or the odd pinch-hitting appearance.
- The Twins' struggles of recent years can't be blamed on ownership, Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes, as the club has been more than willing to spend on payroll. Minnesota's payroll topped the $100MM mark in both 2011 and 2012, yet the team finished last in both seasons due to poor drafts and trades from former GM Bill Smith, plus some bad injury luck with the likes of Justin Morneau.
The Tigers extended Miguel Cabrera at a price of (at least) eight guaranteed years and $248MM yesterday, making Cabrera the highest-paid player, in terms of average annual value, in baseball history. Such a massive contract was bound to generate a lot of commentary, and the early returns aren't positive over Detroit's move. Here are some of the opinions...
- Executives from all over baseball are panning the extension, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (ESPN Insider subscription required). While Cabrera is obviously highly respected as a hitter and extending his contract for at least some length of time isn't a bad idea, several execs and scouts suggested three different ways that the Tigers could've approached the extension differently.
- In an Insider-only piece, ESPN's Keith Law rips the extension, citing the history of how rare it is for star players to stay productive into their late 30's, especially ones of Cabrera's body type. David Ortiz could be a best-case scenario for Cabrera, and while Ortiz is still a force, Law notes that the Red Sox have kept their star DH on short-term contracts through his late 30's to protect themselves if he suddenly declines.
- The fact that a team in a troubled market like Detroit could afford such a huge contract is actually a good sign for Major League Baseball's health, FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi argues, and it could lessen the threat of a work stoppage when the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2016. Tigers owner Mike Illitch's willingness to spend and his clear desire to retain Cabrera at any cost played a role, though Morosi notes that Joey Votto's extension with the Reds might've been an even riskier long-term deal for an even smaller-market club.
- The Tigers could be expecting a major revenue bump in the form of a new TV deal, as their current local broadcast contract reportedly expires after the 2017 season, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan writes. While this could explain how the Tigers expect to account for Cabrera's contract, however, Passan doesn't believe it excuses the decision, calling the extension possibly "the greatest debacle in the desolate baseball wasteland filled with bad-contract carcasses."
- The extension is both "terrible and understandable," according to Fangraphs' Dave Cameron. Had the Tigers not extended Cabrera, he likely would've gone elsewhere as a free agent in two years, and Illitch clearly wants to win now. On the other hand, Illitch could be leaving the franchise in tough financial shape once he passes on, the Tigers are already going cheap at a few positions due to payroll limitations and Cameron feels the deal is simply "a ridiculous overpay."
- Mike Trout could be the biggest winner from Cabrera's extension, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. Trout and the Angels were reportedly negotiating an extension in the neighborhood of six years and $150MM, and Rosenthal figures Trout might as well take that deal now. "He would become a free agent at 28, and heaven knows what he will be worth then," Rosenthal writes.
- Cabrera's deal seems to guarantee that the Tigers won't re-sign Max Scherzer next offseason, ESPN's Jim Bowden opines (Insider-only piece). The timing of the extension "reeks of desperation" after the Tigers' negotiations with Scherzer broke down, "and the Tigers are giving off the vibe of a jilted lover on the rebound."
- My take: I have to agree with the consensus that this extension will end up being a major albatross for the Tigers. It would be one thing if Detroit had a bunch of well-regarded prospects ready to give the team quality production for a few seasons' worth of minimum salaries, but the Tigers' farm system was recently ranked 28th in the 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook. With little minor league help on the immediate horizon, it makes even less sense to tie up so much money in just a few players. It also puts pressure on Nick Castellanos (the club's top prospect) to contribute right away as the everyday third baseman and puts even more pressure on GM Dave Dombrowski to restock the farm with some quality drafts.
4:48pm: The contract under consideration would go through at least 2021 (Cabrera's age-38 season), if not further, tweets Morosi. Extrapolating from these two reports, it would appear that the sides are contemplating a deal that would, at a minimum, land at around $180MM in total new money (six years at approximately $30MM).
4:45pm: The average annual value on the deal is expected to be in the range of $30MM per year, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. It is worth bearing in mind that Clayton Kershaw's recent extension set a new high-water mark in AAV at $30.7MM.
4:27pm: The Tigers are closing in on a huge new extension for star Miguel Cabrera, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. After holding discussions over the last several days, says Heyman, a deal appears imminent, though a physical would still need to be taken. Cabrera is a client of Relativity Baseball.
Of course, the timing of this news is notable as well, as the club recently saw extension talks with outstanding starter Max Scherzer put on ice. Scherzer, of course, is slated to hit the open market after the coming season, making his situation more pressing -- though not necessarily more important -- than that of Cabrera.
The Mets have decided to place both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda on their Opening Day roster, Kristie Ackert of New York Daily News writes. GM Sandy Alderson did not confirm which of the two would start at first base. Davis, in particular, has frequently been the subject of trade rumors, and the Pirates have been connected to Davis and have a notably unsettled first-base situation. But it appears Davis may remain a Met for now. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- The Nationals are one of several teams to touch base with infielder Kevin Frandsen, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets. Frandsen recently opted for free agency after the Phillies outrighted him. Frandsen hit .234/.296/.341 in 278 plate appearances while playing every infield position but shortstop for Philadelphia last year.
- The trade of Alex Gonzalez to the Tigers was a "gem" from the Orioles' perspective, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun writes. The move demonstrates one reason it makes sense for organizations to sign lots of players to minor-league deals, Connolly suggests -- the Orioles signed Gonzalez with little risk, then were able to flip him for a potentially useful, versatile, cost-controlled player in Lombardozzi.
One hidden key to the Royals' emergence has been the club's dedication to Latin American scouting, signing, and player development under GM Dayton Moore (and special assistant Rene Francisco), writes Rany Jazayerli of RanyontheRoyals.com. Jazayerli breaks down the team's long history of virtually no significant spending on Latin American players, and how increased investments -- especially on lower-priced players like Salvador Perez, Yordano Ventura, Miguel Almonte, and Jorge Bonifacio (total commitment: $253K) -- have been critical to building the team's overall talent base. Here's more from the American League Central:
- Max Scherzer requested an eight-year deal in his negotiations with the Tigers, reports Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Twitter links). The Tigers' reported offer was for six years and $144MM. If the sides were in agreement on the $24MM AAV, that would hypothetically put Scherzer's demands on total gaurantee at $192MM. Scherzer has injury protection through an insurance policy, Bowden adds, which perhaps has increased his willingness to wait for a larger deal on the open market.
- Meanwhile, the White Sox were able to secure seven years of control rights over their own prized starter, Jose Quintana, for a total guarantee that maybe as low as $21MM (if he does not qualify for Super Two status). Of course, unlike Scherzer, Quintana has just 1.133 years of service and did not win the AL Cy Young last year. Nevertheless, the deal looks like a smart investment for a Chicago club that has purchased prime years of several players at seemingly reasonable rates. As Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports, GM Rick Hahn sees the value in early extensions, which "frees us up to allocate our resources to other needs." Hahn explained: "You've seen the magnitude of what some of these deals have gotten to in free agency. It makes sense to try to get out in front of that sometimes, to try to get the price points locked in before the market continues to grow ... ."
- Twins assistant GM Rob Antony had several updates today, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Infielder Jason Bartlett has agreed to push back his March 25 opt-out to the March 30 Opening Day roster deadline, which gives both sides more time to assess their options. Meanwhile, the club is still in discussions on a new deal with reliever Matt Guerrier, who was released because the club did not want to pay the Article XX(B) free agent signee a $100K retention bonus to stash him in the minors.
- Though the Twins have had some exploratory discussions about an extension with second baseman Brian Dozier, the 26-year-old tells Berardino that a deal is probably not happening at this point. That is not surprising, as Dozier has just 1.100 on his service clock and still has some questions to answer as a player. But he indicated that there is a positive vibe between the two sides and a hope that talks could pick up in the future. "We had some talks or whatever," he said. "Obviously nothing took place but it was a bunch of good postive feedback on both ends.It's very unlikely anything will be coming soon or during the season or anything. We'll let another year play out and see where it goes. That was just a thing to see where everybody was. I think [the Twins] would be in the near future open to it and we definitely are."
- The Indians were one of the clubs vying for Scott Baker's services before the offseason, and just released Aaron Harang. Nevertheless, Cleveland will not pursue the starter at this point, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Baker was released today by the Mariners after deciding he would rather test the market than accept an assignment to Triple-A.
The Tigers announced they have agreed to terms on a minor league deal with outfielder J.D. Martinez and he has reported to minor league camp. The Astros removed Martinez from their 40-man roster in November, and released him on Saturday.
Martinez, 26, hit .251/.300/.387 in 975 plate appearances for the Astros spanning the 2011-13 seasons. Three years ago, Baseball America ranked Martinez sixth among Astros prospects, suggesting he profiled as a second-division regular. The Tigers can use the depth, having lost Andy Dirks to back surgery possibly until June.
The Pirates have had trade talks with the Diamondbacks about shortstop Didi Gregorius, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Last Wednesday, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reported the D'Backs were making Gregorius available in trade, after Chris Owings won the team's starting shortstop job. Rubin wrote that the Diamondbacks seek an MLB-ready starting pitcher to offset the loss of Patrick Corbin.
Rubin implied potential interest from the Mets, and now we have another possible suitor in the Pirates. The Pirates enter the season with Jordy Mercer atop their shortstop depth chart, with top prospect Alen Hanson likely ticketed to return to Double-A. Though he's not Major League ready, the Pirates have a pitching prospect who's fairly close in Nick Kingham. Easier to acquire would be Jeff Locke, who will begin the season back at Triple-A, with, as he tells Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "a bit of a chip on my shoulder."
Aside from the Mets and Pirates, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports lists the Reds, Tigers, and Yankees as teams the D'Backs "have thought of as possibilities" for Gregorius.