Eric O'Flaherty Rumors
Happy birthday to long-time Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who turns 42 years old today. Varitek played all 1546 of his career Major League games in a Boston jersey, posting a .776 OPS and collecting two World Series rings along the way. Varitek retired prior to the 2012 season and, since September 2012, has been working as a special assistant to Sox GM Ben Cherington. Here's the latest out of Fenway Park...
- David Ross tells WEEI.com's Rob Bradford that his good friend and former teammate Brian McCann had an interest in joining the Red Sox as a free agent last winter. "Early on I did (think McCann would come to Boston). I knew he wanted to come here, a lot. I had just told him what it was like here and that interested him," Ross said. Once McCann said that the Yankees had made him a big offer, however, Ross stayed out of the recruiting process out of respect for letting McCann handle his own business, plus the fact that "the Red Sox weren’t even close to what he got, so it really was a no-brainer."
- Also from Bradford's piece, he reports that the Red Sox had interest in Eric O'Flaherty last offseason. O'Flaherty underwent Tommy John surgery last May and isn't expected to pitch until midseason, but the veteran southpaw still drew interest from several teams last winter before signing a two-year, $7MM deal with the Athletics.
- Several Red Sox players contacted the players' union about their displeasure that players who had been suspended for PED use last season (namely, Jhonny Peralta) were eligible to play in the postseason, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. Players on other teams voiced similar concerns, and the revised joint drug agreement states that players who have been hit with a PED suspension during a season aren't allowed to participate in that same season's playoffs.
- While John Lackey resurrected his career in 2013 and has pitched well in two 2014 starts, it may be premature for the Red Sox to explore an extension for the right-hander, Chris Villani of the Boston Herald opines. Lackey is under contract in 2015 for a league minimum salary (a condition of his contract after undergoing Tommy John surgery) and since Boston has a number of good young pitchers in the minor league pipeline, Villani believes the Sox can afford to wait to see if Lackey is truly back to form before considering another contract.
JANUARY 23: O'Flaherty's contract has a unique structure: he will earn $1.5MM this year and $5.5MM in 2015, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. He can potentially boost his 2015 base salary by up to $3.5MM through bonuses for games pitched, games finished, and days spent on the roster.
JANUARY 22: The Athletics continued to bolster their bullpen today, as they announced the signing of left-hander Eric O'Flaherty to a two-year contract. O'Flaherty, a client of the MVP Sports Group, is recovering from 2013 Tommy John surgery and expected back on the mound in July. His deal is reportedly worth a total of $7MM.
O'Flaherty was a dominant force coming out of the Atlanta 'pen from 2009-13 after being selected off waivers from the Mariners, posting a 1.99 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 to go along with a 54.6 percent ground-ball rate. While he's unquestionably better against left-handed hitters, as one might expect, O'Flaherty has also held right-handed opponents to a sub-.700 OPS four times in the past five seasons. However, news broke in late May that the 28-year-old would require Tommy John surgery.
O'Flaherty's agents did well to secure him a contract only slightly below that of the one signed by Sean Burnett last winter (two years, $8MM) despite the fact that he isn't projected to return to the mound until July. His addition continues an offseason trend for Oakland GM Billy Beane and his staff, as they've loaded up on impact relievers. Oakland has also acquired Jim Johnson from the Orioles and Luke Gregerson from the Padres, adding to what already looked to be a solid group.
Despite his injury status, O'Flaherty was connected to a number of clubs this offseason, including the Braves and Nationals. The signing with Oakland, however, appears to be a bit out of the blue. The A's did lose a lefty in dealing Jerry Blevins to the Nationals, and they also receive the added benefit of having O'Flaherty around for the 2015 season at what will likely be a discount rate. That, of course, assumes a normal recovery for O'Flaherty, which isn't a given. The A's are taking on risk in this deal, and as a club with a low payroll, their margin for error is considerably lower than that of a team with deeper pockets.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the contract (via Twitter).
Jon Rauch is close to signing with a team, MLBTR's Zach Links reports (Twitter link). The 35-year-old posted a 7.56 ERA in 16 2/3 IP with the Marlins last season and also made 10 appearances for the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate after signing a minor league contract with the O's in June. Despite his outlier of a 2013 season, Rauch has been a solid right-handed bullpen arm for much of his career, posting a 3.65 ERA, 2.79 K/BB and 7.2 K/9 over 549 2/3 IP from 2004-2012.
Here's some more news as we wrap up a busy Wednesday around baseball...
- The Braves only offered Eric O'Flaherty a one-year contract to remain with the team, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (via Twitter). Though O'Flaherty underwent Tommy John surgery last May and will miss at least part of the 2014 season, he still scored a two-year, $7MM deal from the A's earlier today.
- Yuniesky Betancourt will decide on his new club within the week, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link). Betancourt was drawing interest from several teams, potentially even as a starter.
- Also from Cotillo, there is "strong interest" in right-hander Todd Coffey. At least nine of the 14 teams who attended Coffey's throwing session last week want to see his second session. Coffey is looking to return to action after missing all of 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
- Much of the Indians' success at the plate last season was due to their lineup flexibility and use of bench players, a trait that MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince believes could be somewhat difficult to duplicate in 2014, though Carlos Santana's proposed attempt to play third base would be a great help in that department.
- The Twins didn't have any interest in Grady Sizemore this winter, though the club checked in on him last summer, 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson reports (via Twitter).
- "Another issue with a physical does nothing to enhance the Orioles' reputation in the industry, which is taking a two-fisted beating this winter," Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes in regards to the news that Baltimore's agreement with Tyler Colvin has been delayed due to a problem with the outfielder's physical. Kubatko wonders if the O's could be trying to get Colvin to sign a minor league contract instead of a Major League deal, as the club did last offseason when it wasn't satisifed with Jair Jurrjens' physical.
- The Phillies liked Masahiro Tanaka and engaged in "cursory negotiations" with his representatives, but GM Ruben Amaro told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer that the team wasn't prepared to go beyond five years to sign the Japanese righty. The Phillies seem likely to go into 2014 with their current pitching options, as they only would've exceeded their payroll limitations for "an exception" like Tanaka.
In less than two years, Yu Darvish's contract went from a big risk for the Rangers to a major bargain, ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett writes. Between Darvish's posting fee and six-year contract (plus bonuses), Durrett calculates that Darvish will cost Texas roughly $111MM over the six years, a deal that looks very reasonable compared to the massive contracts signed by other ace pitchers around baseball since the 2010-11 offseason. Masahiro Tanaka, for instance, is set to earn twice as much as Darvish over the next four seasons though most scouts concur that Darvish is the better pitcher.
Here's some more from around the AL West...
- Athletics manager Bob Melvin and assistant GM David Forst discussed the club's signing of Eric O'Flaherty in a conference call with reporters, including Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com. Forst said the A's were satisfied that O'Flaherty was making good progress in his recovery from Tommy John surgery in May 2013. The reliever expressed similar confidence to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) that he is "100 percent certain" he'll be able to pitch in the first half of the season, possibly as early as May.
- The Angels aren't looking for relievers "with closer experience," GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters (including Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register). The Halos seem set with Ernesto Frieri returning as closer and Joe Smith serving as a setup man.
- In a mailbag piece, MLB.com's Greg Johns addresses such topics as why the Mariners went after Corey Hart and Logan Morrison instead of re-signing a known quantity in Kendrys Morales, as well as Seattle's chances of pursuing some of the big names remaining on free agent market.
- From earlier today, the Angels agreed to sign Ian Stewart to a minor league deal, while the Mariners agreed to bring Endy Chavez back on a minor league contract.
Earlier this morning, I asked MLBTR readers about the Braves' upcoming arb hearings and how each situation would pan out (player wins, team wins, or agreement is reached prior to hearing). To this point, MLBTR readers think that Craig Kimbrel (63%) and Freddie Freeman (57%) will win their hearings, while about 46 percent think the Braves will win a hearing against Jason Heyward. Here's more on the Braves and the rest of the NL East...
- The Braves have not had any recent discussions with lefty Eric O'Flaherty, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (on Twitter). The Braves were once expected to re-sign their longtime setup man, who underwent Tommy John surgery early last season, but recent reports suggest he could be headed elsewhere.
- As things stand, Atlanta GM Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez both stand to enter the season on expiring contracts, notes David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. O'Brien writes a lengthy breakdown of the merits of each key organizational figure.
- Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that the Mets' stance on Stephen Drew hasn't changed; they still like Drew but aren't hot on his trail and are content to wait in order to see if his price drops. Agent Scott Boras has said that he and Drew can wait as well, Martino reminds.
- New York is still looking for bullpen help, and the team is "somewhat" interested in Mitchell Boggs, a source tells Mike Puma of the New York Post (Twitter link).
- The Phillies made a notable minor league signing today, bringing back one-time club cornerstone Bobby Abreu. "The purpose of this signing is to see if he has anything left," said GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury. "We've seen him in [Venezuela]. He's in shape and swinging the bat well, and he's motivated to play. If he performs, great. If he doesn't, we have no obligation to keep him. But he will be given every opportunity to make [the] club." (Links to Twitter.) As Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com argues, players like Abreu and fellow minor league signee Chad Gaudin fill important depth roles at minimal cost.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
Somewhat remarkably, both of the Phillies' last two GMs and last two managers are still employed by the organization, observes Justin Klugh of Philly.com. Meanwhile, the club only recently hired an analytical employee, and it remains unclear how much pull that position holds. While keeping the old guard around is a nice touch, says Klugh, the club should make a stronger commitment to progress. Here are more notes from around the league:
- There is now only a "slim chance" that southpaw reliever Eric O'Flaherty will return to the Braves, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com. The issue, Bowman indicates, is that Atlanta is not as interested in working O'Flaherty into their plans as other clubs. Specifically, Bowman names the Orioles as a contender for the lefty.
- The Braves may have found yet another diamond in the rough with minor league free agent signees Luis Vasquez and Lay Batista, writes Bill Ballew of Baseball America. "We identified Vasquez and Batista as potential high-octane arms who could contribute in Atlanta as soon as 2014," said assistant GM John Coppolella.
- Lefty Scott Maine is reportedly throwing well in Puerto Rico and beginning to draw interest from clubs, reports MLBTR's Zach Links (via Twitter). He could sign with a club as soon as this week, Links adds. Maine has a 5.59 career ERA in 46 2/3 big league innings. He spent time in the Marlins' system last year.
- Another right-handed reliever, Matt Guerrier, is expected to audition for MLB clubs in the next ten days or so, Links further tweets. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN recently reported that the Twins could be interested in a reunion.
- The $2.2MM contract agreed upon yesterday between the Rangers and reliever Neal Cotts is fully guaranteed, Links tweets. As Links observes, Cotts' representatives at Pro Star Management did well to get their client a guarantee given his injury history.
Playing winter ball in Venezuela can help North American ballplayers make ends meet, and Joshua Goodman of the Associated Press provides a fascinating look into what their lives are like as they deal with the wildly different stadium atmosphere there, not to mention the different political atmosphere. Players often make $10K to $20K a month in Venezuela, far more than most of them do in the US minor leagues or in independent ball. They play for large, raucous crowds, unlike some of those in the minors. "I've never played in the big leagues, but I don't think the environment is nearly as fun" as it is in Venezuela, says Jamie Romak, a 28-year-old minor-league veteran who played in the Cardinals system last year and is now playing for La Guaira. Here are more notes from around baseball.
- Masahiro Tanaka's free agent contract will have much to say about the way we value prospects, writes Dave Cameron of FanGraphs. The market might value Tanaka at something like $120MM to $150MM, even though he is generally considered to be a lesser talent than Yu Darvish was before his debut, and Darvish ranked behind several prospects (like Matt Moore and Shelby Miller) on some analysts' lists at the time. So if Tanaka is worth $120MM, how much is Taijuan Walker worth? How much, for that matter, is Xander Bogaerts worth? Estimates might end up somewhere north of $100MM, even though those players haven't yet proven themselves in the big leagues. That's why, Cameron argues, the Royals should not have included Wil Myers in the James Shields trade last year.
- The Angels haven't been known for their farm system in recent years, but MLB.com's Jim Callis writes that their 2009 draft was the best one of the past decade. The Angels had five selections in the first 48 picks, and with the second of those, they landed Mike Trout, currently baseball's best all-around player. They also grabbed Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs (who both went to Arizona in the Dan Haren deal, although Skaggs returned earlier this month as Mark Trumbo went to the desert), outfielder Randal Grichuk (who was part of the David Freese trade) and Garrett Richards.
- Meanwhile, Callis' colleague at MLB.com, Jonathan Mayo, argues that the Cardinals' 2009 draft was actually the best. That draft produced Matt Carpenter, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Adams and Joe Kelly.
- Even if they sign Tanaka, the Yankees might be able to get below the $189MM luxury-tax threshold for 2014 if they trade high-priced players during the season, Joel Sherman of the New York Post points out. Even that would be tricky, however. Alex Rodriguez would still have to miss a hefty chunk of the season due to his suspension (however his appeal turns out), and the Yankees would have to trade a number of expensive players. Sherman suggests that the Yankees may have missed a better opportunity to try something like this -- with much of their core injured in 2013, they could have dealt free-agents-to-be like Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes to get under last year's threshold. Such a move would have reduced their tax burden and allowed them to spend even more heavily this offseason. It would have been unlikely if the Yankees had waved the white flag on 2013, however, because they don't typically behave that way.
- The Braves are still in talks with reliever Eric O'Flaherty, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tweets. O'Flaherty had Tommy John surgery last May and will likely miss the beginning of the season. He's one of only a handful of lefty relievers remaining on the free agent market, along with Oliver Perez, Mike Gonzalez, Jose Mijares and Rich Hill.
Trading Jonathan Papelbon wouldn't solve much for the Phillies at this point, opines Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com. Seidman runs down a possible scenario in which the Phillies ate $6MM to move Papelbon, noting that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. would then still try to sign a replacement. Names like Grant Balfour and Joaquin Benoit could cost upwards of $10MM per season anyhow, meaning the Phillies may not even save much money should that scenario play out. Papelbon will have more value to teams at the trade deadline when fewer quality options are available, writes Seidman. Here's more from the NL East...
- David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets that the Braves have approached some of their young stars about extensions over the past two years but felt they'd have to overpay to get something done.
- O'Brien also runs down the Braves needs on the heels of a quiet Winter Meetings, noting that they're optimistic about re-signing Eric O'Flaherty. Atlanta is still pursuing a veteran bench bat -- O'Brien mentions Eric Chavez -- and are still interested in Jeff Samardzija. The Braves may be considered the favorites to land Samardzija at this point, says O'Brien, noting that payroll constraints will likely preclude them from pursuing David Price.
- After adding to their rotation, bench and bullpen, the Nationals will now turn their focus to extending Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Should the Nats be unable to extend Zimmermann, they may be forced to consider trading him this time next season, one source told Kilgore.
- Nate McLouth spoke to former teammate Adam LaRoche (whom he called one of his favorite teammates ever) and asked what the Nationals clubhouse was like before deciding to sign there, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. McLouth doesn't hold ill will toward the Orioles for not retaining him.
Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the top left-handed relievers on the market -- J.P. Howell, Boone Logan, Eric O'Flaherty and Scott Downs -- should begin to start coming off the board in the next 24 to 48 hours. It's already been reported that O'Flaherty is in talks with the Braves about a return to Atlanta. Here's the latest on the market for relievers...
- Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets that there's a sense that the Nationals will land a left-handed reliever today.
- The Orioles have had talks with John Axford, tweets Morosi. They're also said to be the current favorites for Grant Balfour.
- A rival executive estimated that the Phillies would have to eat about 40 to 50 percent of Jonathan Papelbon's remaining salary to trade him, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Papelbon is owed $13MM in each of the next two seasons and has a vesting option for a fifth year.
- The Rockies have had discussions with Joaquin Benoit but are a ways apart in terms of salary, Morosi reports. Talks between the two sides are fading, as Benoit appears likely to seek a more lucrative deal elsewhere (Twitter links).
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweeted yesterday that when the dust settles from the Winter Meetings, Matt Guerrier's name could be a of interest to the Indians.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that even after re-signing Juan Carlos Oviedo and acquiring Heath Bell, the Rays are still looking to improve their bullpen. One option could be injured lefty Jordan Norberto, who underwent Tommy John surgery last season.
The Red Sox would benefit most strongly if Masahiro Tanaka were to not be posted, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. If Tanaka were to stay in Japan, not only would he not go to the Yankees, but prices for other starters (such as Ervin Santana and Matt Garza) would rise, and so would the value of the Red Sox's own pitchers, such as John Lackey, Ryan Dempster and Jake Peavy. Also, if Tanaka were to be posted next offseason, the Red Sox might actually bid for him. Right now, they don't have a need. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- The Blue Jays have offered outfielder Colby Rasmus to two teams in exchange for starting pitching, the Toronto Sun's Bob Elliott writes.
- If Corey Hart doesn't re-sign with the Brewers, the team could quickly deal for Ike Davis of the Mets, tweets Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Hart could make a decision tonight about where to sign.
- The Mets have had discussions with the Legacy Agency, which represents Freddy Garcia and Cesar Izturis, today, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (via Twitter). Puma notes the Mets could sign either player.
- The Braves are on the lookout for a hitter for their bench, and Eric Chavez could be their top free agent option, reports MLB.com's Mark Bowman. They also continue to stay in touch with reliever Eric O'Flaherty.