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- Giants, Eddy Julio Martinez Agree To $2.5MM Deal
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Edwin Jackson Rumors
Trevor Plouffe‘s agent (Nez Balelo at CAA) has been in Minnesota recently, but Plouffe and the Twins haven’t been discussing an extension, 1500ESPN’s Darren Wolfson tweets. Plouffe can become eligible for free agency following the 2017 season. Wolfson describes him as an extension candidate, and maybe he is, since the Twins are frequently loyal to their players. The Twins do have another potential long-term answer at third base in Miguel Sano, however, and Sano is younger and cheaper, as well as being an outstanding hitter. Trading Plouffe might ultimately make more sense. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- The Twins also had interest in Edwin Jackson before Jackson signed with the Braves, Wolfson tweets. The Braves were prepared to offer a big-league deal, however, and the Twins apparently were not.
- The Indians‘ contracts for Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher didn’t turn out well, but the team would have been in even worse shape had it extended Justin Masterson, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. In Spring Training in 2014, the Indians reportedly offered Masterson about $45MM over three years, which at the time looked like a lowball offer, given Masterson’s impending free agency and excellent 2013 season. Since then, though, Masterson has struggled in Cleveland, St. Louis and Boston, ultimately being designated for assignment by the Red Sox last week.
- The Brewers‘ farm system looks significantly improved after last month’s trades and the June draft, Tom Haudricourt writes for Baseball America (subscription only). In trading Carlos Gomez, Mike Fiers, Gerardo Parra, Aramis Ramirez and Jonathan Broxton, the Brewers got a solid group of prospects that includes Brett Phillips, Domingo Santana and Zach Davies. Many of the players they acquired are in the high minors, too, which now-former Brewers GM Doug Melvin suggested might shorten the amount of time the team needed to rebuild. Davies, who is relatively small and isn’t a hard thrower, doesn’t fit the pitcher type the Brewers usually like, but Melvin says the team’s analytics department lobbied for the Brewers to acquire him in the Parra trade.
The Braves announced that they have signed right-hander Edwin Jackson. The Legacy Agency client will receive a Major League contract, and MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets that he will step directly into the big league bullpen. The Cubs released Jackson earlier this year.
Jackson, 31, was released midway through the third season of a four-year, $52MM contract signed prior to the 2013 campaign. The contract went south for the Cubs almost immediately, as Jackson’s first year with Chicago resulted in a 4.98 ERA over 175 1/3 innings. Things worsened for Jackson in 2014, when he finished the season with a sky-high 6.33 ERA in 140 2/3 innings.
Jackson spent the 2015 season as a reliever with the Cubs, working to a solid 3.19 ERA with 6.7 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 45.3 percent ground-ball rate. A good deal of that work came in low-leverage situations, but the results were positive nonetheless, and his fastball velocity remained very solid, averaging 94.2 mph upon moving to a relief role.
JULY 27: Jackson has been officially released, tweets MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat.
Coming off of a four-season run in which he carried a 3.98 ERA over 812 2/3 frames, Jackson signed a four-year, $52MM contract with Chicago prior to the 2013 campaign. That move constituted the first real indication that the Cubs were prepared again to open their wallet.
As things stand now, Jackson hits DFA limbo while still owed the balance of his $11MM salary this season along with $11MM next year. That makes for a total future commitment of $15.63MM, per Wittenmyer.
Rather than serving as a sturdy number three or four option for the now-contending club, as might have been hoped, Jackson entered this year as a marginal roster candidate after posting a 6.33 ERA in 2014. The Cubs moved Jackson to the bullpen, and he has been better in a long relief capacity, carrying a 3.19 ERA and 6.68 K/9 against 3.48 BB/9. His velocity has also jumped back to 94.2 mph.
All said, there’s good reason to believe that Jackson still possesses a major league arm, and he’s likely to get another shot in relatively short order. But he has delivered nothing close to the value his salary demands, and it’s inconceivable that another team will grab him off the wire. Assuming that Jackson clears waivers, rejects an outright assignment, and hits the open market, the Cubs will only be lined up to save (at most) the pro-rated portion of the league minimum salary this year and next.
Chicago, then, is all but certain to remain on the hook for most of the $15MM and change remaining on Jackson’s deal. For the over fifty million invested, the team received a composite contribution of 347 innings of 5.37 ERA pitching (with 7.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9). The empty $11MM hit that Jackson represents for 2016 is hardly crippling, but does represent a notable impediment to an organization that seems likely to be tabbed with big expectations next year.
While the Cubs might otherwise have had cause to hold onto Jackson, the team has also been utilizing another deposed starter — Travis Wood — in a long relief role. Of the two, Wood is younger, cheaper, and has performed better (2.59 ERA in 17 relief appearances). As such, Jackson was viewed as expendable despite solid numbers.
Interestingly, Jackson’s contract has served as something of a template for several starting pitching deals struck in the ensuing offseasons. So far, none of those signings — Ricky Nolasco & Ervin Santana (Twins), Matt Garza (Brewers), Ubaldo Jimenez (Orioles), and Brandon McCarthy (Dodgers) — has really worked out as hoped, though there’s plenty of time left for assessment.
Soriano, meanwhile, was signed as a free agent on June 12 for a pro-rated $4.1MM with $4MM in incentives. He’ll serve to further bolster an increasingly deep Cubs bullpen. Jason Motte has filled in as the team’s closer in recent weeks, but it stands to reason that Soriano could factor into the late innings too.
The 35-year-old languished on the market after an up and down 2014 campaign. But he ultimately joined the Cubs last month on a deal that will pay him the pro-rated portion of a $4.1MM annual salary (plus incentives).
Since joining the organization, Soriano has yet to allow an earned run over seven minor league appearances. In 630 career innings, he has racked up 207 saves, a 2.85 ERA, 9.09 K/9, and 2.80 BB/9. Soriano spent most of the 2014 season as the Nationals closer before giving way to Drew Storen late in the season. He has 27 or more saves in five of the last six seasons.
Lefty Paul Maholm has a “standing offer” at Triple-A with the Reds, tweets Jon Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. At present, however, Maholm is looking to secure a big league deal if possible. He was released yesterday by Cincinnati.
Here’s more from the NL Central:
- The Pirates have pillaged the Yankees in recent seasons, particularly in the catching department, as Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Both teams have placed significant value on pitch framing, but Sawchik suggests that perhaps Pittsburgh has remained more willing to commit to its ideas in that area. “I’m not sure if they were ahead of us, we were ahead of them or if we arrived at this way of thinking at the same time. Actually, they were probably first,” said club GM Neal Huntington. “The two clubs evaluate catchers similarly.”
- The agent for Cubs third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant, Scott Boras, says that starting the season without the game’s top big-league-ready prospect in the majors is tantamount to staging “ersatz baseball,” Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. “MLB is not MLB without the best players,” said Boras.
- Cubs starter Edwin Jackson, himself a former Boras client, is still waiting to learn what his role will be in 2015, as ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers reports. It seems likely that he’s headed to a middle relief spot, in spite of the fact that he’s still owed $22MM by the team.
- Cubs owner Tom Ricketts indicates that his organization is still executing on its plan to build steadily, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. “We knew that if we’re ever going to bring a World Series to Chicago, it’s to be disciplined, and build things the right way,” said Ricketts. “We’ve done that. Now, it’s up to us to deliver that promise.” That goes for the team’s player assets as well as its efforts to rehabilitate Wrigley Field, as Nightengale explains.
Today’s biggest transactional news came out of Chicago, as the White Sox continued to set the stage for the future by extending outfielder Adam Eaton. The 26-year-old expressed plenty of excitement for the new deal, though it sounds as if he did not quite enjoy the process that it took to reach agreement, as Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweets. “I didn’t sleep much,” said Eaton. “Very stressful. I don’t know how the other side felt. It was long.”
Let’s have a look at a few more notes from the central divisions:
- Former Brewers closer Jim Henderson was reassigned to minor league camp today as he continues to show slow progress in his return from shoulder surgery, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. Henderson has been throwing his fastball at about five to ten miles per hour below his peak mid-to-upper-90s offering from recent seasons.
- Fellow righty Corey Knebel has also been shipped to the minor league side of camp by the Brewers, writes McCalvy, leaving Chris Perez, Tyler Thornburg, and Rob Wooten to battle over the final pen role. Perez is in camp on a minor league deal and has Article XX(B) protection, meaning that the team will either need to put him on the active roster, pay him a $100K bonus in the minors (and give him a June 1 opt-out date), or release him. The other two players still have options.
- Cubs skipper Joe Maddon says he is talking with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein about a creative means to fit both Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood on the 25-man roster, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat tweets. Jackson is in the midst of a substantial free agent contract, while Wood is out of options. A transaction would be necessary should either player not make the club out of camp.
Francisco Rodriguez still has to pass a physical with the Brewers before he can have his deal officially announced, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. However, Rodriguez is still getting his visa sorted out and is therefore experiencing a delay in the process. The Brewers, of course, re-signed Rodriguez to a two-year, $13MM deal to serve as their closer once again.
Here’s more from the National League Central…
- Luis Jimenez, who is out of options, is competing with Luis Sardinas and Hector Gomez for a utility infield role with the Brewers, writes Haudricourt. Jimenez and Gomez may have the upper hand, but if Sardinas hits and proves himself to be capable at third base, Jimenez could be squeezed out of a roster spot. The Brewers have two bench spots to be filled by these three players, writes Haudricourt, but going with Sardinas would of course lead to the risk of losing Jimenez on waivers at the end of Spring Training.
- Reds reliever Burke Badenhop tells MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that he found the free agent process “nerve-racking” despite being pleased with the results. “I continued to fall back on the point that we knew what was out there,” said Badenhop, “kind of where I fit in the market. It’s kind of a funky spot, not really crystal clear. Nobody that was ahead of me was getting worse deals than I thought I should have got and nobody behind me was getting better deals.”
- The role of Cubs‘ fifth starter is “for all practical purposes” Travis Wood‘s to lose, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers wrote yesterday. The Cubs have Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks in the front four slots, with Wood, Edwin Jackson and Tsuyoshi Wada competing for the fifth slot. Rogers does note that Jackson or Wada could force their way into the role, but it seems likely that at least one of the three candidates for the final spot will be traded this spring, in Rogers’ estimation. I have a difficult time seeing any club agreeing to take on Jackson’s remaining $22MM; a release may be the more likely outcome, though that’s a large chunk of money for any team to swallow. For those wondering, Wood will earn just under $5.7MM in 2015 and is controllable through the 2016 season via arbitration, while Wada is earning $4MM this season on a one-year deal.
The Pirates had scouts in attendance at Yasmany Tomas‘ weekend showcase, writes MLB.com’s Tom Singer, but GM Neal Huntington didn’t sound overly optimistic about the team’s chances. “We like the player,” Huntington told Singer. “We will participate in the process. As it has with most Cuban players, the market may take it above a place where we feel comfortable.”
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes that while Pirates owner Bob Nutting is the one who ultimately determines payroll, Huntington is the one who distributes the funds. And while Huntington doesn’t like the idea of allocating more than 18 percent of a team’s payroll to one player, Sawchik opines that Russell Martin is the rare case in which an exemption should be made. He notes that it’s unlikely for teams to go beyond four years for Martin, and they’re also unlikely to go as high as Brian McCann‘s $17MM average annual value. The Pirates can get by offering Martin something close to $60MM over four years, Sawchik writes, and given the lack of alternative options, he feels they’d be wise to do so.
- It’s best for both the Cubs and Edwin Jackson if Chicago can orchestrate a change of scenery for the beleaguered right-hander next season, writes Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. Jackson, owed $22MM from 2015-16, has been a good citizen through his significant struggles in Chicago and remains positive, but both sides need to move on from a bad situation, Rogers continues. The Cubs’s best chance at moving Jackson is likely to swap him for another bad contract or to pay a large portion of his remaining salary, though as Rogers notes, it may be best to move on “no matter how they get rid of him.”
- While many Reds fans are convinced that the team needs to add a power bat to play left field, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that the team should instead prioritize on-base percentage in a left field upgrade. Cincinnati’s team OBP dropped from .327 in 2013 to .298 in 2014. Shin-Soo Choo, who reached base 300 times last year, was replaced by Billy Hamilton, who is on pace to reach 184 times. Joey Votto, who reached 316 times in 2013, spent most of this season on the DL, and the team’s No. 3 hitters have combined to reach just 206 times as a result. Pointing to the team’s struggles in one-run games (22-38), Fay notes how important a healthy Votto and an OBP-focused left fielder could be to the team.
While news of Cuban ballplayer Rusney Castillo continues to dominate the news cycle, the human trafficking side of Cuban imports also made headlines. Eliezer Lazo entered a guilty plea in connection to the smuggling of over 1,000 Cubans, including Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin, reports Curt Anderson of the Associated Press. The article covers some of the sordid details involved in this human trafficking case.
- In related news, a lawsuit brought against Martin by a Mexican baseball academy associated with Lazo will likely be dropped as a result of the criminal case. The Estrellas baseball academy alleged that Martin agreed to pay them up to 35% of his major league contract, but Martin only paid $1.2MM of his $15.5MM deal.
- The Braves and Cubs discussed a proposal that would have sent Edwin Jackson to Atlanta in return for B.J. Upton, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. The deal would have served as a straight swap of albatross contracts. The sides apparently weren’t close to finalizing a trade but could re-open talks over the offseason. It appears this was probably the rumored trade first reported on August 9.
- In what is likely to become an ongoing “will they, won’t they” story, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer speculates about moving on from Ryan Howard. The club currently has Darin Ruf taking the occasional start in left field while Howard blocks his playing time at first base. Philadelphia seemingly needs to decide which of three players possess the higher upside – Howard, Ruf, or left fielder Domonic Brown. Given Howard’s age, 34, and rapidly diminishing numbers – he had a .678 OPS before today’s home run – it’s fair to wonder if Howard should be the odd man out. Corner infield prospect Maikel Franco could also figure in the mix before long.
- We at MLBTR seek to find answers for the pressing questions such as “Does Rusney Castillo know Jay-Z?” Castillo, who is represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports and Brodie Van Wagonen of CAA, does indeed know the mogul, according to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber.
The Cubs have demoted outfielder Junior Lake to Triple-A Iowa, according to the MLB.com transactions page. After a good rookie season as a 23-year-old in 2013, Lake has struggled badly this season, hitting .216/.243/.364 in 305 plate appearances. None of the outfielders who started for the Cubs in their Opening Day loss to the Pirates this season are still on their active roster — the Cubs have optioned Lake, traded Emilio Bonifacio to the Braves, and released Nate Schierholtz, lately going with some combination of Chris Coghlan, Arismendy Alcantara, Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Sweeney in the outfield. Here’s more from Chicago.
- The Cubs are loaded with young shortstops, but GM Jed Hoyer says they don’t need to trade any of them, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun Times writes. Chicago has Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Alcantara, which means that the team could have to find new positions for as many as three of them if they want to keep them all. “I think we can be a better team for it in a lot of ways if we end up doing that,” says Hoyer. (Alcantara has already played shortstop only sparingly this season, spending time in second base and outfield instead.) The shortstop-starved Mets love the Cubs’ talent at that position, and Wittenmyer notes that they like Russell more than Castro.
- Nearly two years into a four-year, $52MM deal, Edwin Jackson has been a bust so far, Wittenmyer writes. This season, Jackson has a 5.74 ERA in 136 1/3 innings, although his reasonable 8.0 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 suggest he’s been at least somewhat better than his ERA indicates. Jackson is still just 30 and has good stuff, so his struggles in Chicago have been a disappointment. “I think it’s his location,” Hoyer says. “When he pitches up in the zone he gets hit, and the times he’s been able to stay down in the zone and locate his fastball away, he’s had some success.” Given that Jackson still throws hard and has two years left on his contract, the Cubs are likely to continue to give him chances to reemerge.
The Cubs have attempted to deal away starter Edwin Jackson, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, but initial efforts have not been promising. Jackson, signed before the 2013 season, is playing on a $11MM annual salary this year and is owed the same amount for each of the next two campaigns.
Heyman adds that the Yankees did not seem interested in the 30-year-old righty, who has struggled to a 5.61 ERA through 110 2/3 frames this year. That follows on his poor numbers last year, when he threw 175 1/3 innings of 4.98 ERA ball. Jackson has restored his strikeout totals to the level they were when the Cubs signed him (8.1 K/9), but has struggled with control and has walked four batters per nine.