The Royals have avoided arbitration with first baseman Eric Hosmer by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $12.25MM, reports MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan (on Twitter). The Scott Boras client is entering his final season of team control and will be a free agent following the 2017 campaign. He’d been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $13.3MM in 2017.
The Pirates are reportedly unlikely to trade center fielder Andrew McCutchen, whom they heavily shopped at last month’s Winter Meetings, but teams are still trying to acquire him, a major league source told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Toronto is the latest reported team to show interest in McCutchen, whom the Bucs are only willing to deal if they receive major league-ready talent in return. The 30-year-old is coming off the worst season of his career, having gone backward at the plate, in the field and on the base paths, but he still carries a resoundingly successful track record and an affordable contract (two years, $28.5MM, including a $14.5MM club option for 2018). Considering those factors, it’s not surprising that teams continue to pursue the longtime face of the Pittsburgh franchise.
More inside info from Cafardo:
- Free agent second baseman/third baseman Aaron Hill is on the radar of a few teams, and Atlanta and Kansas City could be among them, per Cafardo. Hill, 34, spent last season between Milwaukee and Boston, with which he combined to hit .262/.336/.378 with 10 home runs in 429 plate appearances. It’s debatable whether Hill would fit in Atlanta, which already seems to have a capable second base platoon on hand with Jace Peterson and Sean Rodriguez, not to mention a third baseman with a similar offensive profile to Hill in Adonis Garcia. Both Hill and Garcia have hit southpaw pitchers better than right-handers in their careers, so it might behoove Atlanta to instead find a lefty-swinging complement to Garcia. KC, meanwhile, already has multiple third base options – Mike Moustakas and Cheslor Cuthbert – and a few second base candidates in Whit Merrifield, Raul Mondesi, Christian Colon and Cuthbert.
- Speaking of the Braves and Royals, they are interested in free agent third baseman/first baseman Trevor Plouffe, who has been available since the Twins outrighted him in November. Boston and Oakland are also in on the 30-year-old Plouffe, a steady contributor from 2014-15 who batted an underwhelming .260/.303/.420 with 12 homers in 344 PAs last season. Like Hill, Plouffe has had more success versus lefties (.268/.344/.465) than righties (.239/.294/.403) during his career.
- To finish off a Royals-heavy set of notes, it’s still possible they’ll trade one of Moustakas, first baseman Eric Hosmer or outfielder Lorenzo Cain – all contract-year players – before the season, per Cafardo. A willingness to deal Moustakas or Hosmer, particularly the former, would somewhat explain Kansas City’s interest in Hill and Plouffe. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal previouly reported that Hosmer is unlikely to go anywhere prior to the season, though, and KC already subtracted a key outfielder Friday when it shipped Jarrod Dyson to Seattle. Speculatively, that could impact whether the Royals would also part with Cain, who’s due $11MM next season.
Over the next few days, I will be discussing some of the higher-profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.
Two corner infielders, Todd Frazier and Eric Hosmer, enter arbitration this offseason after completing two-year deals that paid them each $8.25MM in the latter year (including a prorated portion of Frazier’s signing bonus). Both had solid years as power hitters, and my model projects each to receive a raise of $5.25MM for Frazier and $5.05MM for Hosmer, to $13.5MM and $13.3MM, respectively).
Only ten position players in the past decade have received additional single-year salaries through arbitration after receiving multi-year deals earlier in their eligibility. Most of these players had poor seasons, and only five of these ten have met these criteria since 2009.
As a result, it’s difficult to find good comparables for the situations in which Frazier and Hosmer find themselves. Perhaps the best match would be Prince Fielder, who received a $4MM raise in 2011 after a solid season in which he batted .261 with 32 homers and 83 RBIs. Frazier actually had more home runs last season but a worse average, posting a .225/40/98 line with 15 steals, while Hosmer was very similar at .266/25/104.
It’s rare for six-year old cases to be used in arbitration hearings, so Fielder is probably not a great match. However, applying some salary inflation to his $4MM raise suggests the model’s projections for Frazier and Hosmer are probably somewhat reasonable.
We can also check if players going to arbitration following multi-year deals fare better or worse than players who have been going year to year, and the evidence here suggests looking for regular comparables among the year-to-year group is reasonable. The average raise for the ten players coming off multi-year deals was $1.6MM, compared to projected earnings of $1.5MM. This difference is not significant enough to worry about a systematic bias. Therefore, looking for comparables in the year-to-year group makes sense to pin things down more precisely.
Of course, it is rare for power hitters to go year to year at all, so few players emerge as possibilities. No one in the last three years has entered their third or fourth year of arbitration eligibility coming off a platform year with 20 home runs and 90 runs batted in. A couple players did so in 2013, including Chase Headley, who received a $5.1MM raise after a .286/31/115 campaign with 17 steals. Hunter Pence only got a $3.4MM raise after his .253/24/104 campaign the year prior. Pence could prove a reasonable comparable for Hosmer’s .266/25/104, which suggests Hosmer’s $5.05MM projected raise is probably high. However, Headley clearly did not do all that much better than Hosmer in his platform year, and both cases are old, so it remains possible that Headley is the better comparable and a $5MM raise is reasonable.
Frazier’s case is tricky in that no one in the last decade has entered their third or fourth year of arbitration eligibility with a batting average below .260 and at least 30 home runs. Although Frazier’s batting average was much poorer, I have found that batting average is a somewhat less important criteria than ran home run totals in arbitration, so I believe Frazier’s case is strong. I think Headley’s 60 points of batting average probably roughly offset the nine fewer home runs, and a $5MM raise or slightly higher does seem more believable for Frazier.
Three players in the last decade have gotten $5MM raises as part of multi-year deals—Jose Bautista, Carlos Pena, and Matt Kemp. However, none of them are great comparables, since they all had much better numbers than either Frazier and Hosmer. Additionally, multi-year deals are generally not used in arbitration hearings, although they may be in these instances where comparables are tough to find.
Ultimately, I think both Frazier and Hosmer have good cases to top Fielder’s $4MM raise and either could make a case for being near Headley’s $5.1MM raise. I suspect Hosmer may fall short of his projected $5.05MM raise, and get somewhere closer to $4.5MM—which would put him around $12.75MM. Frazier’s 40 home runs allow for more upside, and his $5.25MM projected raise to $13.5MM seems like a reasonable estimate.
With several established cogs set to hit free agency after next season, the Royals aren’t in position to stand pat this winter, writes FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. It doesn’t appear the team will do that, as it’s willing to listen to potential trade offers for several of its soon-to-be free agents and a couple players who are under control beyond next season, sources told Rosenthal.
First baseman Eric Hosmer is among the prominent Royals who could hit the open market next offseason, though it seems the club will retain the Scott Boras client in hopes of locking him up long term, per Rosenthal. But the expectation is that Kansas City would entertain dealing left-hander Danny Duffy, closer Wade Davis, outfielder Lorenzo Cain, third baseman Mike Moustakas and shortstop Alcides Escobar. The same is true in regards to right-handers Ian Kennedy and Yordano Ventura.
Including Hosmer, those players are due in the neighborhood of $70MM next season – which is potentially problematic for a club that could cut payroll on the heels of spending a franchise-record $135MM in 2016. The Royals’ break-even point is between $115MM and $120MM, sources informed Rosenthal, who notes that current payroll estimates have them around $148MM.
The most expensive member of the above-mentioned group is Kennedy, who’s set to earn $13.5MM in the second season of the five-year, $70MM contract he inked as a free agent last winter. The Royals already tried to move Kennedy prior to last summer’s trade deadline by packaging him with Davis, but they weren’t able to find any takers. While Kennedy, 31, wasn’t amid an overly impressive season at that point, a strong second half helped lead to above-average numbers overall (3.68 ERA, 8.46 K/9, 3.04 BB/9 in 195 2/3 innings). Considering free agency has so few quality options, it’s possible Kennedy could pique starter-needy teams’ interest. There are obvious downsides to acquiring him, however: For one, he has the ability to opt out of his contract after next season. On the other hand, if the homer-prone Kennedy doesn’t pitch well enough in 2017 to take that route, his employer would owe him a significant amount – $49MM – through 2020.
Unlike Kennedy, the Royals won’t have any difficulty shipping out Davis if they’re looking to make a deal. The late-game ace is owed an affordable $10MM next season and should appeal to clubs that lose out on top free agent closers Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon. The Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Nationals and Marlins are among the potential fits, Rosenthal tweeted Sunday.
As is the case with Davis, a motivated Kansas City probably wouldn’t encounter much trouble moving either Duffy or Ventura – especially considering the aforementioned paucity of high-end free agent starters. The soon-to-be 28-year-old Duffy is fresh off a career-best season, having recorded a 3.56 ERA, 9.32 K/9 and 2.07 BB/9 over 161 2/3 innings from the rotation. Kansas City opened extension talks with him in November, but it’s unknown whether the two sides have made progress in negotiations. Duffy is currently on track to make an estimated $8.2MM via arbitration, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
Thanks to a 2015 extension, the 25-year-old Ventura is controllable through 2021 – including a pair of club options – at a combined $43.25MM. The mercurial Ventura was far from great in 2016 (4.45 ERA, 6.97 K/9 and 3.77 BB/9), but he maintained his high velocity, recorded a 50.2 percent ground-ball rate, and threw at least 180 innings for the second time in three seasons. As of June, the Royals weren’t willing to part with him, though it seems the door is now open.
Cain is coming off a wrist injury and is set to carry the Royals’ third-highest salary in 2017 ($11MM). Teams that miss out on the two best free agent center fielders, Dexter Fowler and Ian Desmond, could certainly look to the 30-year-old Cain as a less costly alternative. He’s arguably superior to both, having accounted for 16.3 fWAR since 2013 thanks to his ability to contribute in the field, at the plate and on the base paths.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports covers a lot of ground in his latest Inside Baseball column, beginning with a look at the Royals and the closing window of Kansas City’s core players (Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas). Hosmer is controllable through 2017, and while the Royals would love to keep him in K.C. forever, Heyman writes that Royals brass feels Hosmer and agent Scott Boras could seek $20MM+ on a 10-year deal. Those numbers may sound jarring for Hosmer, especially in light of Brandon Belt’s $79MM price tag this offseason, but a pair of GMs to whom Heyman spoke invoked contractual comparisons of Jason Heyward and Jacoby Ellsbury when looking ahead to Hosmer’s market. Hosmer will be entering his age-28 season when he hits the free-agent market, so he’ll certainly have youth on his side in addition to consistently improving performance.
More from the lengthy column…
- While the Diamondbacks have received trade interest in left-hander Patrick Corbin, GM Dave Stewart bluntly tells Heyman that he is “not moving Corbin.” Moving Corbin right now would be selling exceptionally low on a highly talented left-hander in the midst of a down season; Corbin looked like a budding star with the D-backs in 2013 and barely missed a beat in 2015 when returning from 2014 Tommy John surgery, but he’s currently sporting a 4.94 ERA on the season.
- The Orioles continue to hunt for starting pitching and have looked at Rich Hill and also checked in on Drew Pomeranz prior to his trade to the Red Sox. Baltimore, though, is pretty low on top-end prospects, which could make it difficult to submit the best offer for Hill, who’s been in high demand this summer.
- Astros right-hander Scott Feldman is available in trades, according to Heyman, and some rival executives believe that Houston would be open to moving Pat Neshek and Josh Fields despite their recent surge back into the division race. Feldman has handled a shift to the bullpen with aplomb and is currently sporting a 2.56 ERA with an improved 6.2 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 and a 47.6 percent ground-ball rate in 52 2/3 innings. He’s earning $8MM in the final season of a front-loaded three-year, $30MM contract. Neshek has a $7.8MM club option for the 2017 season ($500K buyout) and has a strong 2.54 ERA, though metrics like FIP, xFIP and SIERA all feel he’s been fortunate to post that mark this season. Fields is the opposite, with strong peripherals laying underneath an unsightly 6.89 ERA. He’s controllable through 2018.
- There “hasn’t been much buzz lately” when it comes to the potential trades of Brewers stars Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun, per Heyman, who notes that Lucroy again voiced at the All-Star festivities that he’d like to play for a contending club. Heyman adds that relievers Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress figure to draw plenty of interest, though there’s no firm indication that Milwaukee is open to dealing either of those controllable bullpen cogs.
- A club that spoke to the Rangers about trades came away with the impression that Joey Gallo isn’t very attainable. Gallo hasn’t been definitively mentioned as a trade candidate, but there’s been plenty of speculation about whether he could be included in a win-now move for the Rangers, especially in the wake of Adrian Beltre’s extension earlier this season. Heyman adds that the Rangers have investigated “basically all available starters,” which lines up with reports from recent weeks linking them to the likes of Ervin Santana, Pomeranz, Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore and others.
Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer tells MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that he’s open to discussing a long-term contract with the club. As things stand, Hosmer is in line to reach free agency after the 2017 campaign, following one final season of arbitration eligibility.
While there’s been some speculation about Hosmer’s desire to play in a larger market, the first baseman himself tells Flanagan that such talk is merely “outside perspective” and isn’t indicative of his actual feelings.
“I don’t play this game to be in commercials for hair products,” said Hosmer. “I’m playing to try to win championships. Sure you want to give yourself the best opportunity in terms of financially, but at the same time, you want to give yourself the best chance to get to the playoffs. If this group stays together, the best opportunity is right here.”
From the team’s perspective, GM Dayton Moore tells Flanagan that he expects to sign as many of the club’s core members to long-term extensions as possible. Unsurprisingly, he remained vague beyond that level of commitment.
It certainly appears that both sides are willing to hear one another out, and Hosmer called staying with one club for his entire career the type of situation players dream about. Of course, he’s also represented by Scott Boras, whose clients typically explore the free agent market rather than signing extensions that buy out free-agent years (albeit with some notable exceptions).
The Royals are the new model of success, writes Scott Miller of Bleacher Report. Kansas City is headed back to the World Series thanks to a combination of home grown talent, prudent free agent additions, and the help of advance scouts. The core group competed together in the minors and now has a second chance at a pennant. Other clubs like the Cubs, Astros, and Mets will hope to channel similar success in the years to come.
Here’s more from the back-to-back American League Champions:
- Three unlikely contributors helped to set up some of the Royals biggest plays, reports Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated. Tim Conroy, Paul Gibson, and Mike Jirschele were responsible for some key scouting discoveries. The Royals picked up when David Price was using his change-up and how to run on his first movement. They also anticipated where Jose Bautista would throw when fielding a ball to his left – leading to the go-ahead run. Verducci does an excellent job taking a closer look at how the Royals incorporated advance scouting.
- The relationship between GM Dayton Moore and owner David Glass has provided the foundation for the Royals success, writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. Many questioned Moore’s competency after the 2012 season, but Glass fully trusted him. More predicted that it could take some time for players like Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer to adjust to the majors. Other clubs might have sold low.
- A pair of smart trades have also helped the club, per Justice. Rather than lose Zack Greinke via free agency, Moore traded him for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and Jake Odorizzi. Cain and Escobar have played huge roles over the past two seasons while Odorizzi (along with oft-injured Wil Myers) were used to acquire James Shields and closer Wade Davis.
- In addition to hiring Moore and trading Greinke, signing Salvador Perez to a team-friendly five-year, $7MM extension has helped the club immensely, writes Dan O’Dowd of MLB.com. Perez provides critical cost certainty for a mid-market club. He also does yeoman’s work behind the plate with more games caught than any other catcher over the last two seasons.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com looks in depth at the still-developing front office market. There’s “no evidence” that the Mariners went after Dave Dombrowski, he says, and it remains entirely unclear what Seattle will look to do over the next several months. Likewise, there are a number of dugout swaps that could go down, per Heyman, who says as many as ten skippers are “on the hot seat.”
The piece is loaded with analysis and notes, but here are some of the most notable bits of hot stove information:
- Cubs infielder Starlin Castro was placed on trade waivers recently, though it’s not yet known whether he’s cleared. Castro has shifted to a utility role for Chicago and is still owed $38MM, but is obviously a significant talent and is just 25 years old. While the Cubs now seem determined to go with Addison Russell at short in the near term and the long term, an August trade of Castro still seems unlikely.
- Braves outfielder Jonny Gomes has cleared waivers and can freely be dealt. He’s playing on a $4MM salary this year and can be controlled in 2016 through a $3MM option. The 34-year-old doesn’t have a terribly impressive overall batting line, and has seen his power output drop, but is still slashing .231/.409/.385 against opposing lefties.
- The Royals are “starting to think about” approaching Eric Hosmer to discuss an extension. He is already signed to a $8.25MM salary next year, and has one more year of arb control thereafter. Buying up additional years will not be easy or cheap for Kansas City: Hosmer is in the midst of a breakout .315/.379/.484 campaign, is just 25 years old, and is a client of Scott Boras.
The Phillies actually preferred the Astros offer for starter Cole Hamels, but the lefty ultimately used his no-trade protection to block the trade, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in his latest video. Included in the rejected deal were outfield prospect Brett Phillips and pitcher Josh Hader, both of whom went to the Brewers in the Carlos Gomez trade. The Astros may have been willing to guarantee Hamels’ fourth year, but he ultimately decided against the option.
- The Royals will have a tough time re-signing several key players. Lorenzo Cain might be the easiest, but he’ll first want to see how Jason Heyward performs on the free agent market. While Heyward is four years younger than Cain, the average annual value “could be instructive” per Rosenthal. Cain is under control for two more seasons. Meanwhile, Alex Gordon can opt out after this season, and he looks like a lock to do so. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, both clients of Scott Boras, are also under club control for two seasons.
- Cardinals assistant GM Mike Girsch was a candidate for the Padres GM job opening last year. That posting was eventually filled by A.J. Preller. Girsch may be considered for other top jobs, but the Cardinals hacking scandal may put a damper on his market.
- Chase Utley will use his no-trade rights to pick his next team. Per Rosenthal, Utley may not make an obvious decision. For example, he may or may not be interested in playing for his home town Giants. As was reported repeatedly over the past few days, Utley will seek to find a home where he’ll continue to play regularly both this season and next.
Dodgers president Andrew Friedman will entertain offers for any player, even Yasiel Puig, reports Ken Rosenthal in his latest video for FOX Sports. The right-handed outfielder is under club control through 2019. He’s paid just $4.5MM this season and $5.5MM in 2016. Puig, 24, provides necessary balance to a lineup that will include left-handers Adrian Gonzalez, Joc Pederson, and Corey Seager. The Dodgers would like to add a top young starter, but it would take an awful lot for Puig to be included in a deal. My own personal spit balling – it would take a starter like Matt Harvey to open a conversation. Here’s more from Rosenthal:
- The Royals rotation ranks 13th in the American League in ERA. Rival executives expect the club to acquire starting pitching at the deadline. Kansas City may have a narrow window for contention. Alex Gordon can opt out of his contract after this season. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are under club control through 2017. The club does have Danny Duffy and Kris Medlen on the rehab trail, but setbacks are always possible. Personally, I wouldn’t expect them to seek a top pitcher like Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto. However, I could see them targeting a guy like Aaron Harang.
- The Rangers could soon find themselves with a surplus of starting pitchers. The club promoted Chi Chi Gonzalez today. Meanwhile, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, and Martin Perez are expected to return at some point this season. As Rosenthal points out, setbacks to that trio would not be surprising. Rather than trading a starter, the club might revisit their previous efforts to acquire Hamels. Texas is just one game below .500 entering this evening.
- The Athletics are unlikely to deal ace Sonny Gray. At the end of the season, he’ll have the same amount of service time as Josh Donaldson did last winter. However, the A’s still hope to build a contender – if not this season then next. Gray is key cog for Oakland.