Detroit Tigers Rumors
If MLBTR had only been around in 1954. On this date 59 years ago, the Yankees and Orioles completed the largest trade in baseball history by naming the eight players to be named later in the 17-player deal. Two weeks prior, the Yankees received Don Larsen (yes, that Don Larsen) Billy Hunter, and Bob Turley from the Orioles in exchange for Harry Byrd, Jim McDonald, Willy Miranda, Hal Smith, Gus Triandos, and Gene Woodling. Let's take a look at what's simmering on the Hot Stove in today's American League:
- The Tigers are one more bold move away from entering Spring Training with the "Best Team in Baseball" designation, writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. Signing Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, or Curtis Granderson would qualify as that bold move, in Justice's opinion.
- Royals GM Dayton Moore tells the Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton his staff will convene Monday morning to determine the fate of their nine arbitration eligible players. "I don't look for us to do anything that is too surprising," said Moore. "We might not tender everybody, but we might. There are some things that we’re kind of working on."
Also within Dutton's article, Royals officials acknowledge Emilio Bonifacio is drawing steady interest from other teams, so second baseman Chris Getz may be tendered as insurance against a deal involving the utilityman. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz predicts a $3.3MM arbitration award for Bonifacio and $1.3MM for Getz.
- The Rays are likely to tender each of their nine arbitration eligible players and then possibly flip one or more in a trade, reports Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. David Price is the most obvious arbitration eligible trade candidate, but Mooney also lists outfielder Sam Fuld and lefty relievers Cesar Ramos and Wesley Wright as possible chips. If the Rays do tender all nine players, MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz expects their arbitration salaries to total $26.6MM.
- The Astros are already preparing for the 2014 amateur draft as they expect to interview several candidates for the first overall pick by the end of the year, according to the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich. The club's approach to the interview process and its slight variations based on whether the player is in high school or college is also detailed by Drellich.
- On Thanksgving Day, MLBTR's Mark Polishuk examined the managers and GMs entering the final year of their contract. Today, Jim Margalus of SouthSideSox.com concludes the most front office stability can be found in the AL Central.
The Marlins are looking to fill voids at second base, third base, and catcher this offseason and it appears that GM Dan Jennings has a level of flexibility that predecessor Larry Beinfest did not, writes Peter Gammons of Gammons Daily. For their second base opening, Miami has discussed Mark Ellis, who would also provide the club with some needed veteran leadership.
The 36-year-old had his $5.75MM club option declined by the Dodgers after they finalized their deal with Cuban second baseman Alexander Guerrero. Ellis batted .270/.323/.351 with six homers and four steals in 126 games (480 plate appearances) for the Dodgers and, as usual, he was a standout defender at second base. Ellis posted marks of +7.6 in UZR/150 and +12 in The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) metric. The Tigers also have Ellis on their radar.
The Marlins have also approached the Red Sox about 22-year-old third baseman Garin Cecchini, even though he would appear to be similar to Colin Moran, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft. Cecchini spent time in Advanced-A and Double-A in 2013, hitting a combined .322/.443/.471 with seven homers. Baseball America ranked Cecchini as the seventh-best prospect in the Red Sox's system heading into the 2013 season. One executive covering the Arizona Fall League told Gammons that the youngster “has sneaky power that will play in the big leagues and will keep increasing in pro ball.”
Longtime Cardinals scout Mike "Lefty" Roberts' distinguished career and recent battle with cancer is detailed by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Mike Roberts has more than three decades as a scout, five decades of knowledge," Cards GM John Mozeliak said as part of the profile. "As our scouting department evolved and we became more diverse — a playing background is less critical now than it was 20 years ago — we had to get our scouts up to speed. Mike bridged that gap.”
With another Thanksgiving in the books, let's check out from news from around baseball...
- Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball will continue negotiations about a new posting agreement next week, according to a Kyodo News report (passed on by Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times via Twitter).
- The Tigers' blockbuster trade of Prince Fielder wasn't a factor in the team's decision to let Jhonny Peralta leave in free agency, MLB.com's Jason Beck reports. Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski says the team saw Peralta as a shortstop, and the club couldn't decide on Peralta as a third base option since the Tigers still aren't sure what they'll do at third with Miguel Cabrera possibly moving back to first and Nick Castellanos possibly taking over the hot corner.
- Also from Beck, he notes that with Fielder gone, the Tigers will be looking for a left-handed bat to add balance to the lineup.
- Peralta was somewhat of a risky signing for the Cardinals but Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch feels it was one the Cards could afford to make given the overall strength of their organization and their modest future payroll commitments.
- David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News looks at some realistic depth options the Phillies could add to their bench for 2014.
- Jacoby Ellsbury makes a lot of sense for the Cubs, ESPN.com's David Schoenfield opines.
A look at the latest on the Twins..
- The Twins have made a two-year offer to Mike Pelfrey, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. However, there's still a gap in salary that needs to be bridged. Pelfrey returned from Tommy John surgery in 2012 to post a 5.19 ERA with 6.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a career-low 43.2 percent ground-ball rate in 152 2/3 innings. Pelfrey's FIP (3.99) and xFIP (4.54) both suggest that his ERA could have been lower were it not for a .337 BABIP and 67.2 percent strand rate.
- More from Heyman, who writes that the Twins have inquired on top starters like Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez as well as several others lower on the free agent list, including Phil Hughes and Scott Feldman. The club has been most heavily linked to guys like Bronson Arroyo, Ricky Nolasco, and Matt Garza to date. Minnesota starting pitchers combined for a league worst 5.26 ERA in 2013.
- Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN previews the Winter Meetings agenda for the Twins. Minnesota has Nolasco atop their free agent wish list, but they'll move on if it's not at the right price. They also like Arroyo and a source says he's seeking a three-year deal in the $27-$30MM range.
- The Twins have told agents that they don't plan on sacrificing their second-round pick in June's amateur draft to sign a free agent, despite a public declaration stating otherwise, Wolfson writes. That would mean that Santana and Jimenez aren't in their plans. Santana's reps already have meetings set up with teams in Orlando and the Twins, as of this morning, are not on that list.
- On the trade front, the Twins are fond of Homer Bailey, according to Wolfson. Wayne Krivsky, special assistant to GM, knows Bailey well from his days with the Reds. Krivsky took over as Cincinnati's GM two years after Bailey was drafted and was in that role when Bailey made his big league debut.
- A Twins official "scoffed at" the idea of trading for Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello but was more receptive to the idea of a Jeremy Hellickson acquisition when asked by Wolfson about both each right-hander.
Here's today's look at the various coaching hirings from around the league...
- The Mariners announced nearly their entire coaching staff today. Former big league slugger and Mets coach Howard Johnson will serve as the team's hitting coach. Former Tigers bullpen coach Mike Rojas will reprise that role with the 2014 Mariners. Former big league catcher John Stearns will serve as the team's third base coach -- a role he's filled with the Mets in the past. Andy Van Slyke, the former Tigers first base coach and a three-time All-Star as a player, will serve as the first base coach. Rick Waits, who has served as the team's minor league pitching coordinator for three seasons and enjoyed a 12-year playing career, will be the pitching coach. Lastly, recently retired infielder Chris Woodward will serve as an infield coach after spending 2013 as a minor league infield coordinator for the Mariners.
- The Tigers announced today that Darnell Coles will serve as their assistant hitting coach. Coles was originally slated to manage the Brewers' Triple-A affiliate in Nashville before accepting the position. Coles served as a manager at the Double-A level from 2012-13 and has eight years of minor league coaching experience.
- David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves have hired former Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee as their minor league pitching coordinator. He also reports that former Reds assistant hitting coach Ronnie Ortegon will become the Braves' minor league hitting coordinator (Twitter links).
The Tigers are moving toward a deal with free agent, right-handed reliever Brian Wilson, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News reports, though a deal has not yet been reached. Wilson and agent Dan Lozano met on Sunday in Los Angeles with new Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, Henning adds.
With Joaquin Benoit and Jose Veras now on the open market after working from the back of the Detroit pen in 2013, the Tigers have been expected to be among the most active buyers of late-inning relievers. Wilson, who will turn 32 in March, returned from his second Tommy John surgery late last year with the Dodgers, posting a 0.66 ERA in 13 2/3 innings. He registered 8.6 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 in that stretch. Wilson checked in at 47th on MLBTR's Tim Dierkes's list of the top fifty free agents.
It's a weak market for catchers now that the Yankees have taken Brian McCann off the board, an article by Bradley Woodrum of Fangraphs shows. While teams such as the Red Sox, Rockies and Rangers are still in the market for backstop help, the best remaining option, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, will bring a large platoon split to the lineup of whichever team signs him. Here's the latest from around the AL, as a busy evening on MLBTR draws to a close:
- The Royals have had no talks about Billy Butler with any team, a source tells Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star (via Twitter).
- In an article for the Detroit Free Press, John Lowe considers the impact of the Ian Kinsler deal on the Tigers' lineup. Much depends on whether the front office believes prospect Nick Castellanos is ready to hit in the big leagues, Lowe writes. If so, he could take the third base job, allowing Miguel Cabrera to slide back to first base.
- FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets that Kinsler's agent, Jay Franklin, says the Tigers are indicating they'll play Kinsler at second base. Given this and the team's other priorities, signing Robinson Cano is likely a long shot at this point, Rosenthal says (via Twitter).
- Mike Napoli says he "wouldn’t see why not" when asked about the possibility of returning to the Red Sox in 2014, Rob Bradford writes in an article for WEEI.com. A recent end-of-season MRI showed that the avascular necrosis in Napoli's hips isn't an issue at the time, according to the article.
- Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com considers how the Yankees' signing of McCann could affect potential negotiations between the Orioles and Matt Wieters over an extension. The O's must try to figure out "to what extreme [Wieters agent Scott] Boras will attempt to trump the McCann deal," Kubatko says.
- The Orioles are among clubs with interest in Tomo Ohka, tweets NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman, citing a report from Sanspo. The 10-year big league veteran is trying to make it back to the majors as a knuckleballer.
- The Prince Fielder trade shows that the Rangers are getting creative in their offseason quest for bats, T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com writes. Texas is hesitant to forfeit a first-round draft pick to sign a player such as Jacoby Ellsbury, as the team will already be limited on the international side of the amateur talent market after greatly exceeding their bonus pool this past summer.
- Shipping Peter Bourjos to the Cardinals sets the Angels up with an outfield of Mike Trout in center, Kole Calhoun in right and Josh Hamilton in left, Mike DiGiovanna says in an article on the trade for the Los Angeles Times. As DiGiovanna notes, the trade also reunites David Freese with Albert Pujols, his teammate in 2011 with the Cardinals.
- Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times wonders how the Angels will fit two starters into their offseason budget after acquiring Joe Smith, Freese and Fernando Salas (Twitter link).
We'll keep tabs on the day's minor moves here:
- The Royals announced a series of minor league signings, including for third baseman Brandon Laird, outfielder Paulo Orlando and right-hander Wilking Rodriguez. Laird, 26, is the younger brother of Gerald Laird and joins the Royals from the Astros, where he received major league playing time in 2013. Orlando, 28, is re-upping with the Royals after six seasons in the organization. The 23-year-old Rodriguez will transition to the Royals after seven seasons in the Rays' farm system. He has a career 3.90 ERA, mostly as a starter, but has never reached Double-A.
- Matt Eddy of Baseball America has updates on a number of clubs' minor league signings. Among those with MLB experience (with links to Twitter): The Rockies will return Bobby Cassevah and Matt McBride, and have added righty Greg Burke. Headed to the Tigers is righty Jhan Marinez, while Gorkys Hernandez and Edinson Rincon will stick with the Royals organization. The Phillies have brought back shortstop Andres Blanco. And the Dodgers inked utility infielder Brendan Harris. Other clubs with new signings include the Orioles, Reds, Marlins, White Sox, and Athletics.
- The Cubs have signed outfielder Casper Wells, according to a tweet from Eddy. The team also added righties Paolo Espino and Carlos Pimentel, along with shortstop Jeudy Valdez. Wells got 102 plate appearances with three different clubs last year, posting a meager .126/.186/.147 line that is perhaps understandable given his constant movement and scant playing time. In 2012, over 316 plate appearances with the Mariners, Wells was good for a .228/.302/.396 slash.
- In addition to bringing back righty Benino Pruneda and catcher Jose Yepez on minor league deals, the Braves have added former Phillies backstop Steven Lerud, tweets Eddy. Lerud appeared in nine games for the Phils between 2012-13. At Triple-A last year, he had an interesting .217/.353/.311 line over 219 plate appearances, as he drew nearly as many walks (35) as he had hits (39).
- Cutting ties with a major international acquisition, the Nationals have released righty Yunesky Maya, Eddy tweets. Washington saw little return on its $6MM investment in Maya, who had been outrighted off of the club's major league roster early in the 2013 season. After struggling in two brief call-ups in 2011-12, Maya's last stint with the Nats was even more regrettable. In his only MLB appearance of the 2013 season, Maya retired one batter in the bottom of the tenth before surrendering a walk-off home run to Pablo Sandoval.
- The Cubs have released outfielder Dave Sappelt, tweets Eddy. As Eddy notes, Sappelt was one of the pieces -- along with lefty Travis Wood and second baseman Ronald Torreyes -- picked up by Chicago in the deal that sent Sean Marshall to Cincinnati. The 26-year-old Sappelt has a .251/.301/.343 slash line in 274 plate appearances spread over the 2011-13 seasons. He has spent most of his time in Triple-A over that time frame, and posted a sub-.700 OPS in each of his two years at Iowa.
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.