Detroit Tigers Rumors
In a lengthy and thorough breakdown of the Jason Vargas signing for the Royals, Rany on the Royals argues that the deal misses the point: as he puts it, Kansas City should have been pursuing upside, not roughly average innings. Noting that Bruce Chen could have filled the same role for a shorter term and less dollars, Rany says that GM Dayton Moore would have been best served outbidding the Giants for Tim Hudson or even taking a chance on someone like Phil Hughes. Here's more from KC and its counterparts in the American League Central:
- Late last night, we noted some potential landing spots for free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran in the AL Central, including Kansas City, Cleveland, and Detroit. As noted in that piece, the Royals appear already to be pressing up on their target payroll for 2014, according to a report from Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.
- Clearing the salary of Prince Fielder, and thus opening more space for a big extension of Max Scherzer, does not necessarily resolve the Tigers' starting pitching questions, writes MLB.com's Jason Beck. Scherzer is set to hit the open market next year, but right on his heels are fellow rotation men Rick Porcello and Doug Fister, who will qualify for free agency before the 2016 season. And the cash infusion does not make it easy to just throw money at all of them -- or even just Scherzer -- to keep them from hitting the open market.
- Beck is correct to note that near-term savings may be gobbled up by arbitration raises, that the club will not spend a huge amount less on an annual basis before 2018, and that the $30MM going with Fielder to Texas will limit the benefit. All that being said, though, I think he may be underselling somewhat the impact on the Tigers' future commitments. As reflected in my breakdown of the broader impact of the trade, the real impact was on Detroit's distant payroll. The club cleared an enormous amount of future obligations from its long-term ledger: $13MM in 2018 and $18MM in both 2019 and 2020. In essence, instead of being on the hook for Fielder and Justin Verlander over that period, the club now has just one super long-term deal on the books. Even better, it no longer has to worry about spending that money on an aging player who is no longer worth his annual salary. While it is hardly a guarantee that Scherzer will be inked to a massive extension, there is no question that the departure of Fielder clears a major obstacle to that possibility. Of course, as Beck notes, that still does not address the fact that Porcello and Fister will also need to be addressed.
- While some seemingly unsubstantiated rumors hit the waves yesterday about Robinson Cano meeting with the Tigers, Dombrowski told Chris Iott of MLive.com that the club plans on using Ian Kinsler as its second baseman in 2014. From my perspective, while anything is possible with a player of Cano's caliber, it would seem that the Tigers have more to gain by upgrading an area that is not currently occupied by a player that has put up 29.1 fWAR over the 2006-13 period. Kinsler -- who is just four months older than Cano -- put up only seven wins less than did Cano during that same time frame.
- A former White Sox scout has received an eight month prison sentence for his role in a Latin American player signing kickback scandal, reports the Associated Press (via ESPNChicago.com). Victor Mateo becomes the second implicated club official to get jail time, joining David Wilder in the pen.
As I just noted, today's acquisition of Peter Bourjos may make the Cardinals an even greater longshot to bring back star right fielder Carlos Beltran. Here are the latest rumblings on one of the game's all-time great post-season performers, who will turn 37 early next season:
- Officials from two teams say that Beltran's representatives at MVP Sports Group have not asked for four years in early talks with prospective new employers, tweets Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. In his profile of Beltran, MLBTR's Steve Adams pegged his value at $30MM on a two-year deal.
- Many clubs are interested in Beltran, according to a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, and the Royals could be a realistic landing spot. Beltran made his name in Kansas City, and Heyman suggests that the club could have added motivation given Beltran's history with the club. Indeed, he even raises the point that a Hall of Fame push at career's end could land Beltran in Cooperstown donning a KC cap. Having given four years to Jason Vargas, Heyman wonders whether the club would be willing to go past two seasons for its old star.
- One major obstacle to that possibility could be payroll, as the Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton questions whether GM Dayton Moore has already burned through the club's 2014 payroll allocation after promising Vargas $32MM. As Dutton explains, the decision to designate catcher George Kottaras for assignment could be an indication that money is tight. Kottaras seemed to be the club's best backup option, says Dutton. When he asked why he was chosen to be set loose, a "top club official responded by rubbing his thumb over the tips of his first two fingers," indicating that money was the issue. Kottaras is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn a modest $1.2MM in his second go at arbitration, and Dutton notes that Moore has pegged current payroll projections at $87MM despite previously saying that the club would not go much past its 2013 tab of $85MM.
- While Dutton tweets that the Royals are indeed interested in Beltran, he says that the slugger would need to spend some time at designated hitter for it to make sense. That, presumably in combination with his likely-sizeable salary, would mean that current DH Billy Butler would probably be put on the market in such a scenario.
- Turning back to Heyman's report, he does not include St. Louis among the likely suitors at present. The Mariners and Rangers are in the mix, says Heyman, and the Indians may be as well. Meanwhile, the Yankees and Red Sox definitely have interest but seem unwilling to go past two years.
- Yet another team that could make sense as a landing spot for Beltran is the Tigers, who Jamie Samuelsen of the Detroit Free Press says is the best target for a Detroit outfield upgrade. Certainly, a play by GM Dave Dombrowski for Beltran's services would be a boon to the outfielder's free agent prospects.
For his latest Rumblings & Grumblings piece, ESPN's Jayson Stark spoke with several executives about the ultimate destination of Robinson Cano. One NL executive said: "I keep hearing there's no interest. I don't believe it." Stark agrees and hypothesizes that the lack of a market for Cano has been well-crafted by the Yankees leaking their own seven-year, $168MM offer in reaction to Cano's $310MM demand. One AL exec told Stark: "If you had a situation where everyone remained objective and everyone played it smart and you had teams that thought they could sign Robinson Cano for $120 million, you'd probably have five or six teams in on it. Then you'd set $120 million as the starting point and start the bidding, and see how much higher it gets." Stark feels that by starting the bar high, the Yankees have set the early market to a market of one. The same NL exec who didn't buy the lack of interest said that eventually teams who are chasing Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Brian McCann will say, "Wait a second. Cano's a much better player than those guys," and change direction. Stark runs down some possible late-emerging suitors. Here's more from his excellent piece...
- Stark reports an unknown wrinkle in the David Price trade saga. Price signed a one-year, $10.1125MM contract to avoid arbitration last January, but $5MM of that sum comes in the form of a signing bonus that is deferred to next year. While it was presented as a tax-related issue at the time, Stark notes that the Rays can use it as leverage in a trade, agreeing to take a slightly lesser package if the acquiring team pays that additional $5MM.
- The Phillies upped the ante and guaranteed Carlos Ruiz a third year because they were convinced that he would sign with the Red Sox if they didn't. The Phils looked hard at alternatives but were highly uncomfortable with the prices on other targets. For that reason, other teams haven't been as critical of the deal, though they've all offered high praise to Ruiz's agent, Marc Kligman.
- The Ruiz contract helps both McCann and particularly Jarrod Saltalamacchia, agents and an AL executive told Stark. Stark has heard that one reason the Red Sox were so interested in Ruiz was that they don't want to commit more than two years to a catcher, suggesting that Saltalamacchia is a goner in Boston.
- The Tigers' search for a closer has begun to lean more in favor of Brian Wilson than Joe Nathan, but Wilson's agent, Dan Lozano, may want to wait out the market, which isn't GM Dave Dombrowski's style, Stark points out.
- Bartolo Colon and agent Adam Katz aren't rushing into one-year contracts as they wait to see if someone will tack on a second guaranteed year in the wake of Tim Hudson's two-year, $23MM deal.
The Red Sox' recent experience shows the need for teams to be flexible at the closer position, writes ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. The Sox traded four players last offseason to get Joel Hanrahan (and infielder Brock Holt), but Hanrahan quickly went down with an elbow injury. They then replaced him with Andrew Bailey, and then Koji Uehara, who pitched brilliantly. The Red Sox weren't the only playoff team that changed closers for one reason or another, Crasnick notes -- so did the Cardinals, Pirates, Tigers, Dodgers and Indians. That's worth keeping in mind this offseason, where the market for closers includes Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Brian Wilson, Fernando Rodney and Edward Mujica. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- The Twins are interested in starting pitchers Gavin Floyd and Chris Capuano, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Floyd's agent, Mike Moye, says his client is progressing well in his return from Tommy John surgery, and Berardino suggests Floyd will be ready to go by the time spring training games begin. The Twins' top target is still Bronson Arroyo, Berardino notes.
- One under-the-radar starting pitcher on the free agent market is Chris Narveson, who pitched this winter for Licey, in the Dominican. A number of scouts have their eyes on Narveson, Crasnick tweets. Narveson missed much of the 2012 and 2013 seasons due to injury, but was a reliable member of the Brewers' rotation in 2010 and 2011.
- Ian Kinsler could block trades to all but ten teams, but he didn't put the Tigers on the list because he liked their chances of winning a championship, John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press reports. That's what allowed the Rangers to deal Kinsler to Detroit. "I’m really excited," he says. "Our chance to win the World Series is better than anyone's."
- Reliever Javier Lopez, who recently signed for three years and $13MM, figures he might have been able to get similar money elsewhere, but he chose to stay with the Giants because he's happy in San Francisco, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. "In my case, I felt I wanted to be in a comfortable setting first and in a place that I feel has a chance to win. That’s why I chose San Francisco," he says. "I knew the offers would be around the same dollars, so it was just a matter of happiness."
Mitch Moreland has "no idea" where he might end up or what his role will be now that the Rangers have acquired Prince Fielder and cash in exchange for Ian Kinsler, the Dallas Morning News' Evan Grant writes. "I’m just a player," Moreland says. "To be honest, I haven’t thought about my situation much. Come spring, I will be ready to play, whether it is here in Texas or somewhere else." Even with Fielder in the fold, the Rangers could find plenty of at-bats for Moreland, both at DH and in the outfield. A trade might also be a possibility. Here are more notes on the deal.
- After the Fielder deal, it's unlikely the Rangers will trade either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar to the Cardinals. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz profiles the Cards' other options for acquiring a shortstop, which include free agents (Stephen Drew, Jhonny Peralta, Rafael Furcal) and numerous trade candidates. The best option, Miklasz argues, is J.J. Hardy, who has one year left on his deal with the Orioles.
- The Rangers were a suitor for Fielder when he was a free agent two years ago, notes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. The Tigers ended up signing him, obviously. But the interactions the Rangers had with Fielder then helped convince him to approve a deal to Texas. "It definitely didn't hurt," says Fielder. "Everybody was real nice. I liked those guys."
There's been an overwhelming amount written on last night's blockbuster trade that sent Prince Fielder and $30MM to the Rangers in exchange for second baseman Ian Kinsler and the remaining $62MM on his contract, and we'll round up reactions and ripple effects from the trade here with one more post on the mega-deal...
- The Rangers are still willing to include Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar in the right trade, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal speculates on a trade that could send Andrus or Profar to St. Louis or a Profar package to entice the Rays to part with David Price.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders if shedding Kinsler puts the Rangers in the market for Robinson Cano. Texas could trade Andrus or Profar and make a run at the lifetime Yankee. Sherman also points out that the move at least opens a window for Jhonny Peralta to return to the Tigers as a third baseman -- a situation that wasn't possible 48 hours ago.
- If the Tigers' new windfall allows them to lock up Max Scherzer to a multiyear contract, it'd be bad news for the Red Sox, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. That scenario decrease Jon Lester's competition on next year's free agent market, making him that much more difficult to re-sign. Bradford opines that the Sox should try to beat the Tigers to the punch and work out a new deal with Lester sooner rather than later.
- ESPN's Buster Olney looks at the winners and losers of the trade in an Insider-only piece, noting that there are many of each. The Tigers top Olney's list of nine winners, while the 2014 Rangers come in at No. 8 on that list. Olney lists the 2016-20 Rangers as losers in the deal, noting that they'll be paying a premium for Fielder's decline. Olney spoke with three evaluators from uninvolved teams, and all three like the deal for Detroit. While the consensus is that the Tigers came out ahead, none of the three condemned the deal for Texas.
- Olney's colleague, Keith Law, writes that in a baseball sense, he'd rather roll the dice on Fielder than Kinsler, who has shown real signs of decline (Insider subscription required). Law writes that both teams win in the sense that they can clear an everyday spot for their top prospect. While Fielder is a good bet to rebound in 2014, in Law's opinion, he's also more likely to become an overpaid player that isn't worth a roster spot than Kinsler.
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs loves the trade for Detroit, as they escape the burden of Fielder's contract and replace him with a player Cameron feels will post a similar WAR total in 2014. Plus, he adds, the $76MM savings would be enough to potentiall add Curtis Granderson and Joe Nathan to the fold. "Kinsler, Granderson, and Nathan, or Prince Fielder? These aren’t even close," writes Cameron.
- Cameron also analyzed the deal from the Rangers' point of view, and while he's not as quick to heap praise on Texas, he understands the thinking and doesn't consider it a loss for the team. GM Jon Daniels found a good way to move Kinsler and add a first baseman, and opened up a hole for someone who is expected to become a very good player, says Cameron, "...But it was an expensive trade to make, and no team has unlimited resources."
- Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet examines what the trade means for the Tigers, the Rangers, the free agent market and Scott Boras. Nicholson-Smith says that while it's easy to see why Fielder appealed to the Rangers and he makes their team better, the move is a "clear win" for Dombrowski.
- The trade affords both team a fresh start and the ability to move on from a pair of misplaced players, writes Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus (subscription required). While second basemen tend to age poorly and Fielder's average fly-ball distance is dropping, both can still be productive players in their new environments, says Miller.
- Kinsler's agent, Jay Franklin, told Rosenthal that news of the trade was like "getting smoked on the left side of the head" but in a good way. Kinsler is excited for the move and says winning is the most important thing to him. While he didn't want to be traded, he could see the writing on the wall that he may not be in the team's long-term plans, writes Rosenthal.
- MLBTR's Tim Dierkes looked at the trade earlier today and examined the multiple needs addressed for each team in the deal. He also wonders if there was a cheaper way for the Tigers to get out from Fielder's contract, such as re-signing Omar Infante and trading Fielder plus $42MM for a cheaper, more controllable player.
- Our own Jeff Todd also weighed in on how the deal impacts the long-term payroll outlook for each team and how it impacts other aspects of the trade and free agent markets. The front-loaded nature of the Rangers' existing contract structure made the Rangers an ideal candidate to take on Fielder's deal, in Jeff's opinion.
11:49am: MLBDailyDish's Chris Cotillo tweets that Coke will receive a $1.9MM base salary and receive an additional $50K in bonuses for reaching 60, 65 and 70 appearances on the season, meaning he can earn a total of $2.05MM in 2014.
9:04am: The Tigers have avoided arbitration with left-hander Phil Coke by agreeing to terms on a one-year contract, the team announced on Twitter. Coke is represented by Full Circle Sports Management.
While terms of the deal have yet to surface, MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected Coke to earn $2.1MM via arbitration this offseason. That salary was enough to make Coke a non-tender candidate in my mind, as he was coming off a difficult season and has long struggled against right-handed batters.
Coke posted a 5.40 ERA with 7.0 K/9, 4.9 BB/9 and a 45.5 percent ground-ball rate in 2013. While he's normally been solid against lefties, they roughed him up to the tune of a .299/.345/.416 slash line this season. Coke has long struggled against right-handed batters, yielding a .298/.373/.435 batting line to those opponents.
The Tigers don't have much bullpen depth, however, and probably feel more comfortable gambling on Coke returning to form against fellow lefties than adding a free agent left-hander on a multiyear contract or a more lucrative one-year deal.
In case you missed it -- or, perhaps, thought the headlines were fantasy baseball musings rather than a real thing -- the Tigers and Rangers consummated a rather substantial trade last night. The clubs swapped the big contracts owed Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler, with $30MM also heading to Texas. In sum, then, the Rangers have added $76MM in salary, and each team has plugged a hole that it might otherwise have addressed in free agency.
While the ultimate impact on the fortunes of the two ballclubs involved will not be known for some time, the broader effects on the free agent and trade market will be sizeable and immediate. Here are some initial thoughts on what that might look like:
The Rangers and Tigers shook up their lineups and payrolls Wednesday night, as the Tigers sent slugger Prince Fielder and $30MM to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler. Here's my take from each team's point of view.
Kinsler, 32 in June, slipped offensively to .266/.334/.418 over the last two seasons. Is he still above average defensively at second base? A stat like UZR says no, while The Fielding Bible's defensive runs saved says yes. In fact, The Fielding Bible's panel of ten experts considers Kinsler the sixth-best defensive second baseman in the game, with half of the panel ranking him fourth or better. Out of the five players who topped Kinsler defensively, he outhit all except Dustin Pedroia and Ben Zobrist in 2013. Kinsler might not be the player he was in his mid-20s, which is normal, but he's still close to a top ten second baseman.
Kinsler also has four years and $62MM remaining on his contract, and in a sabermetric sense, he has a decent chance of returning that much value. Wins above replacement puts a large premium on playing a position like second base decently, as it should, but I don't think the market of 29 other MLB teams viewed Kinsler as a $15.5MM player for each of the next four years. When the market undervalues your asset, the best move is to keep it, but the Rangers have Jurickson Profar. 21 in February, Profar is MLB-ready and highly regarded around the game, and the Rangers intend to slot him in as their regular second baseman. The upside is huge, but there's no guarantee he'll be as good as Kinsler over the next couple of years. He will, however, play at the league minimum.
In Kinsler, the Tigers get a second baseman to replace Omar Infante, who is currently a free agent. GM Dave Dombrowski indicated last night that Infante was as good as gone regardless of this trade, which is surprising. Even a three-year, $30MM contract for Infante would have been acceptable value, and the Tigers had that option available to them. It seems likely the Tigers' motivation in last night's trade was more about getting out from Fielder's contract than acquiring Kinsler. Fielder is signed through 2020, and with a seven-year, $168MM commitment, the fact that the Tigers had to send $30MM to the Rangers to trade him for a neutral-value asset suggests Fielder had significantly negative trade value.
If the deal was mostly about payroll flexibility, did the Tigers have better options to achieve it? Could they have signed Infante for $30MM and included $42MM to send Fielder packing for a different, cheaper player such as a quality late-inning reliever? Such a move could have afforded the Tigers over $90MM in new payroll flexibility, rather than the $76MM they added. They still would have seen the benefit of moving Miguel Cabrera across the diamond. However, trading Fielder for a reliever or something similar would have been a tough sell to fans, and even at Jayson Werth money for Fielder it's not as if the Tigers would have found a dozen suitors.
Fielder will play next year at age 30, and had a seven-year, $168MM commitment remaining. With a disappointing platform year and a draft pick cost attached, could agent Scott Boras have gotten him that contract this offseason? Add in the fact that Fielder seems much closer to a permanent DH role than he did two years ago, and I think Boras would have fallen short. It's more plausible that Fielder could have gotten $138MM over seven years, though, and the Rangers didn't have to give up a draft pick. Plus, even if they overvalue power, the free agent and trade markets didn't offer a first baseman like Fielder this offseason. Fielder's off-year was about as good as Mike Napoli's 2013 season, which might be Napoli's peak. Fielder was an elite hitter as recently as 2012, and the Rangers expect him to bounce back closer to that level in 2014.
Fielder serves as a big offensive upgrade for the Rangers at first base, though it's likely they lose offense at second base if they go with Profar. They've still got flexibility at an outfielder corner, catcher, and designated hitter to add more offense. I wonder if Brian McCann becomes less viable for them, as the oft-cited general plan to move McCann to DH around the fourth year of his contract may be hampered by the Rangers' need to put Fielder there.
I'm sure Boras will have plenty to say about this deal. He probably would suggest the Rangers righted a wrong in acquiring Fielder, since they were not able to finish a free agent deal with him two years ago (perhaps due to objections from Nolan Ryan). While the move creates more opportunity for the Tigers to do a historic pitching contract with another Boras client, Max Scherzer, I think that matters to the agent only in that he can count the Tigers as a more viable suitor once Scherzer reaches free agency after the 2014 season.
The Tigers didn't just get a talented second baseman in exchange for Prince Fielder, they got a whole lot of money (an estimated $76MM) to spend elsewhere. The question now becomes, what will they do with their new found financial flexibility? I asked Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski if the trade could lead to a long-term deal for star pitcher Max Scherzer.
"It makes it perhaps more possible. As we've talked about in the past, we have a lot of stars on our club, They're well paid stars and under any circumstances, even with an owner like Mike Ilitch, you can only be in a position where you have so many of those types of players," Dombrowski told reporters on this evening's conference call. "Does it make it probable? I can''t say that. But it makes it more possible going forward."
As Rangers GM Jon Daniels explained in his conference call earlier this evening, Dombrowski said that the deal came together at lightning speed with the first serious phone call taking place Tuesday afternoon. However, it would seem that the wheels started turning for the Tigers front office earlier than that. Dombrowski said that the Rangers made it clear at the GM Meetings that they were more interested in trading Ian Kinsler than fellow second baseman Jurickson Profar and were looking for a middle-of-the-order bat.
The arrival of Kinsler and the departure of Fielder will lead to a lot of change in the Detroit infield. While Dombrowski isn't exactly sure who will go where - Miguel Cabrera, he says, isn't a lock to go to first base in 2014 - Omar Infante is almost certainly out of the picture. However, even without the trade, it sounds like Infante was destined to change uniforms anyway.
"In Infante's case, I can't say 100%, but with the acquisition of Kinsler, we're not in a position to add a second baseman ... that was most likely the case before [anyway] because we were looking to go younger with Hernan Perez," said the Tigers GM.
Kinsler will man second base, but for how long? When asked if the 31-year-old can play the position for years to come, Dombrowski sounded optimistic about his ability to maintain his first step and range. He acknowledged that it could be an issue that is revisited down the line, but Kinsler figures to stay at second base for "the next couple years or maybe longer."
With the trade talks happening in less time than it takes to plan a weekend vacation, some elements were rushed. Dombrowski got the greenlight from Ilitch Wednesday afternoon and it didn't sound as though it was a lengthy conversation. Dombrowski also wanted to get the chance to chat with Fielder as the deal was being completed, but he didn't get the opportunity. Fielder is on vacation in the Bahamas and was away from his phone when Dombrowski called to let him know the trade was official. With a full voicemail inbox, the two wound up exchanging texts with Dombrowski thanking him for his time in Detroit and wishing him the best in Arlington.