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It was on this day in 1986 that former White Sox, Indians and St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck passed away at the age of 71. Veeck helped break the American League’s color barrier by signing Larry Doby in 1947 and he was the last owner to bring Cleveland a World Series title, though he is perhaps best remembered today for the wacky promotions he used to draw crowds and entertain fans at the ballpark. My personal favorite was “Grandstand Managers Night,” when over a thousand St. Louis fans used placards to ‘manage’ the Browns to a victory over the A’s (Steve Wulf recently wrote about the promotion for ESPN The Magazine).
Here’s some news from around the league…
- The Red Sox have made an effort to add more regulars between the prime ages of 26-30 over the last several months, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes, as the 2014 team suffered from a mix of too many inexperienced young players and too many 30+ players who had declining seasons. “There’s no question that finding guys in that age range is appealing,” GM Ben Cherington said. “It’s a safer age range to be in if you’re investing in a player. To be clear, it’s not like we didn’t want that last year. It’s just, what were the alternatives? What were the possibilities? If we could build a team every year full of 26- to 30-year-olds, we would.”
- The Padres‘ acquisition of Brandon Maurer could pay even bigger dividends if the team explores turning Maurer back into a starting pitcher, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes for FOXSports.com. As Sullivan notes, Maurer is a decent comparable to Tyson Ross, who has enjoyed great success as a starter since coming to San Diego two years ago.
- In a comparison that surely can’t excite Cincinnati fans, ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider-only link) writes that “The Reds…are probably where the Phillies were a year ago, although they could use a decisive determination.” Reds owner Bob Castellini is too competitive to commit to a brief rebuild, leaving the team in the difficult position of subtracting salaries (like Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon) but also adding win-now pieces (like Marlon Byrd) at the same time.
- Also from Olney, “recent machinations within the Boston organization” seem to be leading to “less influence” for Larry Lucchino, the Red Sox president/CEO.
- A number of Yankees topics are addressed in a fan mailbag piece by Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog, including a prediction by Axisa that New York will “go hard after Doug Fister” when the righty hits free agency next winter. Fister was originally drafted by the Yankees in 2005 and he’d require a smaller salary than other impending free agent starters like Johnny Cueto or Jordan Zimmermann.
- Also from Axisa, the Yankees could wait until after 2016 to make another big free agent splurge since the Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran contracts will be off the books. The Yankees’ strategy seems to be to sign several major players in a single offseason (as they did in 2013-14) to sacrifice only one year’s worth of high draft picks, and going on a spending spree in 2014-15 could result in a payroll in the $250MM range.
2:14pm: Texas has also engaged the Diamondbacks in talks on starting pitching, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Wade Miley and, perhaps, Trevor Cahill are the likeliest targets, per Grant.
1:45pm: Multiple reports suggest that the Rangers and Nationals have engaged in discussions involving the Nats’ starting pitching. It appears that the sides have mutual interest, but may not see eye-to-eye on the pieces they would like to move.
Texas has inquired about righty Jordan Zimmermann, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports on Twitter. But the club has received indications that the Nationals are uninterested in moving Zimmermann, though they will listen on Doug Fister.
Meanwhile, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post hears (Twitter link) that the Rangers have expressed strong interest in the D.C. arms. The Nationals, in turn, have asked about 20-year-old second baseman Rougned Odor, with Texas indicating it is not interested in dealing him.
These clubs make plenty of sense on paper as possible trade partners, but it is not difficult to see why negotiations have landed at the apparent standoff described above. The Nationals have little reason to deal away high-end starters unless they can bring back a near-term and long-term solution at second base. And the Rangers will be loath to sell off an up-the-middle player who just hit at a roughly league average clip at age 20.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told reporters that there’s no progress to report in potential contract extensions with Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond, Tyler Clippard, and Denard Span, tweets William Ladson of MLB.com. Here’s a look at more out of the NL East..
- Rizzo told Ladson that teams are showing interest in Clippard. The right-handed reliever has spent most of his career as a setup man but has some experience as a closer too. He’s projected by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz to earn $9.3MM in his final spin through arbitration.
- The Mets are interested in Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, tweets Matt Ehalt of The Record. Kang is expected to be posted later this week. As we learned earlier this evening, GM Sandy Alderson alluded that Kang could be out of the club’s price range. As for left-handed reliever Craig Breslow, the Mets’ interest is “overblown.”
- Mets farm director Jon Miller will leave the organization at the end of the year, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (via Twitter) hears that Miller is already done with the club.
- Rizzo sounds like a man who is ready to make some moves. “We’re open for business,” the Nationals GM said, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (via Twitter).
Only three free agents make Jayson Stark’s list of the top 10 players to watch during the Winter Meetings, reflecting the feeling from several baseball executives that the trade front could be much busier than the free agency front in the coming days. Jon Lester is the key domino in the process, as in the words of one NL executive, “he sets the free-agent market and kick-starts the trade market. Depending on when he signs, he could create the greatest Winter Meetings in decades or the most boring.” Here’s some more from ESPN’s Stark…
- “The most widespread front-office conspiracy theory” sees the Nationals trading Jordan Zimmermann and then signing Max Scherzer. This scenario is “so obvious it makes me question if it’s real,” one GM said. Clearly a lot of factors would have to fall into place for the Nats to pull this off, though they’re known to be listening to offers for Zimmermann, who will be a free agent after the 2015 season. Scott Boras, Scherzer’s agent, is known for waiting until deep into the offseason to find a preferred deal for his clients, which could give Washington more time to line up a Zimmermann trade.
- Beyond Zimmermann, the Nationals are also listening to offers for Ian Desmond, Doug Fister, Denard Span and Tyler Clippard. All of these players can hit free agency after 2015, making Washington the “team with the potential to make the biggest deal of the offseason. And maybe not just one,” Stark writes.
- The Tigers are “listening intently” to offers for David Price and Rick Porcello, though they’ll only deal one of the two, and Detroit would only move Price if they can re-sign Scherzer. “The Tigers have made it clear they aren’t subtracting any starting pitchers unless they have a replacement lined up,” Stark writes. I’d note that the newly-acquired Shane Greene could be such a potential replacement for Porcello, who Stark says is the more likely to be traded than Price.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has told teams interested in Cole Hamels to make an offer if they wish, but the Phils are waiting to see where the big free agent arms go before they seriously start exploring a Hamels trade. Several teams have said the Phillies’ asking price for Hamels is far too high, and one rival official tells Stark that the pitching market is too deep for the Phillies to expect both top prospects and Hamels’ entire contract to be absorbed in a deal.
- Jeff Samardzija is likelier to be dealt before Hamels, one executive predicts, since the Athletics are more aggressively shopping their right-hander. We’ve already heard that the White Sox, to name one team, have discussed a Samardzija trade with the A’s. One exec warns that the A’s could have trouble finding their desired return for Samardzija, since “it’s just hard to give up a lot of value for a one-year pitcher.”
- The Red Sox are open to trading any position player except for Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Rusney Castillo and Christian Vazquez, Stark writes. It also goes without saying that David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia won’t be dealt, not to mention the newly-signed Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Boston Red Sox | Christian Vazquez | Cole Hamels | David Price | Denard Span | Detroit Tigers | Doug Fister | Ian Desmond | Jeff Samardzija | Jon Lester | Jordan Zimmermann | Max Scherzer | Mookie Betts | Newsstand | Oakland Athletics | Philadelphia Phillies | Rick Porcello | Rusney Castillo | Tyler Clippard | Washington Nationals | Xander Bogaerts
Here’s the latest out of the National League East:
- The Nationals are interested in adding a veteran right-handed arm to the pen, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post, who adds that the team is presently focused on other matters and has not fully engaged the free agent market. Wagner lists many of the better free agent arms as at least theoretical possibilities, and says that Washington has at least “shown some interest” already in both Casey Janssen and Jason Motte.
- Doug Fister and the Nationals have not re-engaged on extension talks since they first took place last spring, reports Wagner. Fister has been mentioned as a hypothetical trade candidate as well, though presumably the club would only seriously consider dealing one of he and Jordan Zimmermann.
- Just-added Marlins hurler Aaron Crow has worked from the bullpen for the last four seasons but could get a chance to return to a starting role in Miami, reports Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel. “It’s still early in the offseason and we’re not sure how the rest of the offseason will unfold in terms of what else we add to our pitching staff, but we love the flexibility,” said president of baseball operations Michael Hill. “We love the thought he could possibly be a starting option for us, but at a minimum we know he’ll be a valuable bullpen piece and just add to the overall depth of our staff.”
- The Marlins‘ front office is focused on achieving “sustainable success,” writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Miami hopes to step its payroll up over the next few years, more or less in line with the raises in Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract, by adding targeted pieces to supplement its young core.
The Nationals have not re-started extension talks with righty Jordan Zimmermann since they broke off last winter, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. The homegrown star says that he still hopes to stay with the team in the long run and remains interested in an extension — “if the deal is right.”
“I like D.C.,” he said. “I like the ownership. I like the manager, the coaches. I like everything about D.C. It’s just a waiting game right now to see what happens.”
While recent reports suggested that Zimmermann had rejected a five-year, $85MM offer last year, Wagner reports that the actual offer is believed to have been lower. As he also notes, the Homer Bailey deal (five years, $105MM) would appear to set a practical starting point, as Zimmerman has a better track record than the Reds hurler.
Meanwhile, the club has informed competitors that it is willing to deal Zimmermann and fellow righty Doug Fister in the right scenarios, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (Twitter links). Fister, like his compatriot, is poised to hit free agency after the coming season.
Of course, Rizzo has emphasized in the past that he will listen to proposals on any player, and in that regard this report does not appear to change the club’s stance. But the notion that the Nationals have told other clubs of an openness to fielding trade proposals could, potentially be an added development.
With a roster that puts the organization firmly in contention mode, it will surely take a big offer to pry either arm loose. Indeed, per Nightengale, the Nats will not move Zimmermann for less than a “strong return,” and will not pursue a deal simply to shed salary.
It is worth recalling that we previously heard more specific rumors involving Zimmermann, though those were quickly shot down. But in concept, the idea of a trade is not as far-fetched as it might seem at first glance. As I explained a few weeks back in my outlook for the Nats, it makes eminent sense for the club to at least dangle both starters to see if an overwhelming return — particularly, one that can fill a current need (most likely, second base) while delivering future value — can be found.
Of course, payroll flexibility always must be considered. Though Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told me at the GM Meetings that the organization is not feeling the pinch, every team has its limits. Zimmermann is earning $16.5MM in the second half of his backloaded, two-year deal from last season, while Fister is projected by MLBTR/Matt Swartz to take home $11.4MM through arbitration.
Replacing the production of one of those outstanding performers would no doubt be difficult, and the Nationals unquestionably hope to put another World Series-contending club on the field next year. But there are plenty of internal options, and the free agent market is plentiful. In past seasons, Rizzo has looked to high-upside rebound candidates; how he would act in a post-deal scenario is anyone’s guess, but would likely be opportunity-driven.
Ninety years and one day ago, the Washington Senators defeated the New York Giants in Game Seven of the 1924 World Series. Newsreel footage (YouTube link) of the Senators’ 12-inning walkoff win was recently uncovered by the Library of Congress, giving us a very cool glimpse into how baseball has both changed and stayed the same over nine decades. (The blunt “President is there” title card is also pretty funny; poor Calvin Coolidge didn’t even merit being named?) The Senators franchise won two more championships after they moved to Minnesota and became the Twins, but 1924 was the only time Washington D.C. celebrated a World Series title.
It’ll be at least one more year of waiting for D.C. in the wake of the Nationals’ loss in the NLDS but in the meantime, here are some Nats-related links…
- Asdrubal Cabrera would prefer play shortstop but said he is open to playing second base on a contending team, he tells MASNsports.com’s Dan Kolko. “It depends. A team like this team, a good team that want me to play second, I would love to stay here. I just want to win. I’ve got eight seasons already. I want to be in the World Series one day,” Cabrera said. With a fairly thin crop of free agent shortstops, Cabrera could draw a lot of interest this winter, and his market will be further widened if he is willing to play second as well. It would seem that the Nationals are Cabrera’s first choice given how he stressed how much he enjoyed his brief stint with the club.
- The Nationals offered Jordan Zimmermann a five-year, $85MM extension last winter, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. Zimmermann mentioned that the two sides had discussed a lengthier deal than his eventual two-year, $24MM agreement, though the term and dollar figure of the larger offer weren’t known at the time. The right-hander will be a free agent after the 2015 season and, if he continues his current form, he’ll be looking at deals in the $130-$140MM range on the open market.
- Beyond Zimmermann, the Nationals also have to consider extensions for Ian Desmond and Doug Fister this offseason, CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman writes. All three players will be free agents after 2015. The Nationals could look to lock up Fister since he’ll command less money than Zimmermann, Zuckerman opines, and he also wonders if a seven-year, $105MM deal would be enough to keep Desmond in the fold. That would represent a bump from the seven-year, $85-98MM deal that Desmond reportedly rejected last winter.
The Nationals made one of the offseason’s biggest splashes by acquiring Doug Fister from the Tigers (in exchange for left-handed starter Robbie Ray, infielder Steve Lombardozzi and lefty reliever Ian Krol), but according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, the team tried to double down on that move by signing Fister to a long-term deal. Talks never got very far off the ground, however, according to Kilgore’s report. Fister himself wouldn’t comment on the situation.
Washington GM Mike Rizzo employed a similar tactic when he acquired Gio Gonzalez from the Athletics prior to the 2012 season, signing him to a five-year, $42.5MM contract with a pair of $12MM club options. Locking up Fister would have ensured that the team’s rotation could be fronted by Stephen Strasburg, Gonzalez and Fister through at least the 2016 season. Washington tried to lock up its other top starter, Jordan Zimmermann, this offseason as well. Instead, they agreed to a two-year, $24MM contract that gave the team cost certainty but didn’t buy any further team control.
Over the past three seasons, Fister has pitched to a 3.30 ERA with 6.8 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and a 50.9 percent ground-ball rate in 586 2/3 innings. In that time, his 13.3 fWAR and 12.6 rWAR each rank ninth in the Major Leagues. In place of a multi-year deal, he and the Nationals agreed to a $7.2MM salary for the 2014 season. Washington controls Fister through 2015, and he is set to make his team debut on Friday against the A’s.
Dave Cameron of Fangraphs has ranked the ten best and worst transactions of the offseason. The number one spot on both lists goes to the trade that sent Doug Fister to the Nationals and returned Robbie Ray, Steve Lombardozzi, and Ian Krol to the Tigers. Cameron argues that the deal is "the most lopsided trade we've seen in years," and notes that many observers are at a loss to understand it from Detroit's perspective. While the return for Fister certainly seems light, I tried to make some sense of the swap back in December, writing that the deal was a part (albeit a questionable one) of a massive overhaul of the club's future commitments that saved as much as $150MM in down-the-line salary while maintaining most of its present on-field quality.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski endeavored to explain the trade from his perspective in an interesting interview with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. He made clear that the team decided to deal one of its veterans for a good, young arm. "You can see that young pitching right now is very difficult to acquire," said Dombrowski. "We had a list of about 15 pitchers that we would consider in various deals. [Ray] was one of the 15. The other 14 people said no. And [the Nationals] said no at first." Nationals GM Mike Rizzo confirmed that the club was hesitant to part with Ray, even with Fister being dangled, saying that was "why the trade took 2 1/2 weeks to consummate."
- Dombrowski rejected the claims made by other executives that they had not known of Fister's availability, saying instead that he encountered a hesitant market. "That couldn't be further from the truth," he said. "We had our list of around 15 guys. We went to every one of those clubs: 'Would you trade this guy? Would you trade that guy?' And none of them would trade one." When the deal started to take shape, Dombrowski said he decided to grab Ray while he could. "We thought: Do we make this deal now, which we like? Or do we wait and see what else becomes available? But then does Washington do something else? Does [the trade] end up not taking place?" As I wrote at the time, the timing of things seemed to play an important role in how the deal came together; indeed, the Tigers went on to sign Joe Nathan the very next day, adding a two-year commitment at slightly more than Fister figures to earn in that stretch.
- The groundwork for the Orioles' signing of Ubaldo Jimenez was laid at the Winter Meetings when the starter and his agent met with new pitching coach Dave Wallace, executive VP Dan Duquette, and others, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. "Right there, I knew," said Jimenez. "They're really humble, really down-to-earth guys, and I knew it was going to be special to be in this organization. RIght there, I was like, 'Pretty much, this is the team I want to be with.' It's going to be a big part of my future for me and my family. The city is great and they have a competitive team. Those guys in the clubhouse look like they are great guys." Jimenez backed up his expressions of commitment by revealing that he would move his whole family — including his parents and sister — to Baltimore, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.
- Though he is heartened by the club's moves and remains happy in Baltimore, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy says that he has heard nothing about an extension beyond what has been reported publicly, writes Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore. "Even after FanFest, I thought something was going to happen right away because I think you guys were asking Dan [Duquette]," said Hardy. "He came up to me and said something about how we're going to start talking extension, but really nothing has happened. I don't know. Maybe they were waiting to do some of these other moves or something." Hardy, who could test the market next year, says that he is still interested in a new deal: "If they come to me with an extension, we'll definitely be open with trying to work that out."
- Meanwhile, righty Kevin Correia of the Twins says that he would be interested in continuing to pitch in Minnesota when his two-year, $10MM deal expires after the season, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. But, said Correia, he has not had any talks about an extension to date. "They had a pretty busy offseason with the pitching staff, so we haven't really talked," he said. "I enjoy playing here. We talked to the effect of how my experience was here, how I enjoyed the team and the coaching staff and everything, but that's about as far as we've gotten." Correia, 33, does not offer much upside but delivered solid results for the Twins last year, logging 185 1/3 innings of 4.18 ERA ball. Of course, as Berardino notes, with three new starters under contract and several prospect arms expected to reach the bigs in short order, the veteran may not fit into the club's plans after this year and could become a mid-season trade piece.
Pitcher Doug Fister has avoided arbitration with the Nationals, according to a team release. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that Fister will make $7.2MM, plus bonuses for innings pitched. Fister filed for $8.5MM while the Nats offered $5.75MM.
The Nationals, of course, acquired Fister in a trade with the Tigers in December. Fister posted a 3.67 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 208 2/3 innings last season.
The Nats had already agreed to terms with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Drew Storen, Ross Detwiler, Jerry Blevins, Wilson Ramos and Ross Ohlendorf. Fister's signing leaves Tyler Clippard as their only arbitration-eligible player.