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Ernesto Frieri Rumors
Here’s a look at the latest outright assignments..
- The Rays outrighted Ernesto Frieri to Triple-A Durham, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Frieri signed a one-year, $800K deal to join the Rays this winter but was designated for assignment last week. The 29-year-old worked to a 4.63 ERA over 23 1/3 innings for Tampa Bay, striking out 7.3 and walking 4.2 batters per nine.
- The Braves sent left-handed reliever Donnie Veal outright to their Triple-A affiliate, according to the transactions page. Veal, 30, was also designated for assignment by the Braves back on May 5 and accepted an outright assignment to remain with the club. The former second-round draft pick (Cubs, 2005) has appeared in five games with the Braves this year and allowed runs in each of them — seven total in just 4 1/3 innings. He has a career 5.48 ERA in the Majors, but he has a track record of success in the minors.
- To keep up with the status of players who are designated for assignment, check out MLBTR’s DFA Tracker.
Frier, 29, signed a one-year, $800K deal to join the Rays this winter. He could have picked up a $50K bonus had he reached thirty appearances, with other escalators also available, but he’ll have to be content with earning his base guarantee at this point.
Frier worked to a 4.63 ERA over 23 1/3 innings for Tampa Bay, striking out 7.3 and walking 4.2 batters per nine. That K rate is a far cry from the double-digit numbers he ran up during his run as the Angels closer, and ERA estimators suggest he may be lucky that the results have not been worse.
There could be room for improvement if a team can figure out the cause for Frieri’s significant loss of fastball velocity. After averaging about 94 mph over recent years, Frier’s heater has dipped into the 91-92 mph range in 2015.
Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey is already helping new reliever Ernesto Frieri make adjustments, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune writes. “That’s why I’m here,” says Frieri. “He knows what he’s doing. He fixed a couple of guys before, and I hope I’m not the exception. I’m pretty sure he’s going to give me the right information and I’m going to take advantage.” The Rays have helped veteran relievers like Fernando Rodney, Kyle Farnsworth and Joaquin Benoit improve their stock, and Frieri hopes to be the next in line. The 29-year-old is coming off a terrible season with the Angels and Pirates in which he posted a 7.34 ERA and struggled mechanically. His 10.4 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and good velocity suggest he might have more gas in his tank, however, even if his fly-ball tendencies make him homer-prone, so he could be a bounce-back candidate if he can make the right adjustments. Here’s more from the American League.
- MLB plans to be compassionate in the case of Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton after his relapse, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi report. The league is expected to suspend Hamilton for 25 games or more, but for less than a full season, although an official decision is not close. Hamilton’s relapse violated the terms of the treatment program the league required of him when he was reinstated in 2006 following a lengthy suspension.
- The Royals will use Joe Blanton exclusively as a reliever, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports. “The only way he is really going to help us is in the bullpen,” says Ned Yost. “We’re not going to stretch him out.” Blanton, 34, recently signed a minor-league deal with Kansas City after sitting out the 2014 season. He has spent almost his entire ten-year big-league career as a starter.
The Rays announced that they have signed right-hander Ernesto Frieri to a one-year, Major League contract. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that Frieri, a client of agent Matt Colleran, will earn an $800K base salary and can take home a total of $3.15MM if he meets all of his contract’s performance incentives. To clear roster space, The Rays announced that they have designated infielder Sean Rodriguez for assignment.
Frieri, formerly the Angels’ closer, had a down year in 2014 after posting a 2.76 ERA from 2009-13 between the Padres and Halos. He’s always missed a large number of bats and did so again in 2014, averaging 10.4 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9 in 41 2/3 innings. However, Frieri’s ERA spiked to 7.31 due to a bloated 19.3 percent homer-to-flyball ratio that is likely to dip back down toward his career rate of roughly 10 percent next season. He also saw his typically excellent strand rate plummet to 60.9 percent. The Angels flipped him to the Pirates in a one-for-one swap that netted Jason Grilli and ultimately got the better end of the deal, as Frieri would be designated for assignment by Pittsburgh after struggling there as well.
Frieri seems to be a classic buy-low candidate for a Rays team that has successfully turned around the careers of many struggling veterans in the past. He averaged a solid 94 mph on his fastball in 2014, and metrics such as xFIP (3.67) and SIERA (2.96) feel that he is an excellent candidate to return to form this season. There’s upside beyond the 2015 campaign for the Rays as well, as Frieri can be controlled through 2016 if he rebounds.
Rodriguez, also 29, batted just .211 with a .258 on-base percentage but a career-best .443 slugging percentage. The utility infielder did hit a career-high 12 homers, but the Rays apparently weren’t comfortable paying him something in the $2MM range projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
The release puts an exclamation point on a nightmare season for Frieri, who posted a 7.34 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and 3.43 K/BB rate over 41 2/3 innings with the Pirates and Angels. He hurt himself with the long ball by allowing 11 homers this season, though the advanced metrics suggest that Frieri’s 7.34 ERA involved some poor luck — ERA predictors such as xFIP (3.69) and SIERA (2.97) indicate that Frieri was victimized by a .330 BABIP and a very low 60.9% strand rate.
The Angels removed Frieri from his closer’s job and then traded him to the Bucs for Jason Grilli in a swap of struggling ninth-inning men. While Grilli has thrived in Los Angeles, Frieri couldn’t get on track in Pittsburgh and was demoted to the minors. The righty posted a 3.86 ERA with six strikeouts and four walks in seven innings at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Frieri was a dominant bullpen force with the Padres and Angels from 2009-12, posting a 2.32 ERA in 162 2/3 IP in that stretch and earning 23 saves after he came to Anaheim in May 2012. While his ERA jumped to 3.80 in 2013, his 37 saves and prior performance earned him a $3.8MM contract for 2014 in his first year of arbitration eligibility. (Frieri is still controllable through 2016.) His rough season all but guaranteed that he would be non-tendered by the Bucs this winter, though Frieri’s past success will very likely earn him a look from a few interested clubs.
Here are the day’s minor moves …
- The Blue Jays have outrighted southpaw Brad Mills to Triple-A Buffalo, according to the team’s transactions page. Mills, 29, was designated for assignment by the Jays on Tuesday and will have the option to elect free agency rather than report to Triple-A, having been outrighted in the past. He has a 9.15 ERA in 20 2/3 Major League innings this season but a sensational 1.81 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 89 1/3 innings between the Triple-A affiliates for Milwaukee and Toronto this season.
- After clearing waivers, righty Ernesto Frieri has accepted an assignment to the Pirates‘ Triple-A affiliate, Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com reports on Twitter. After starting the season as the Angels’ closer, Frieri was dealt to Pittsburgh and then designated for assignment when he failed to right the ship. Though other clubs might have been willing to take a chance on him, Frieri’s $3.8MM first-year arbitration salary no doubt scared off any claims. It seems all but certain at this point that Frieri will end up being non-tendered in the offseason.
The Pirates have designated reliever Ernesto Frieri for assignment, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports on Twitter. Frieri, 29, came to Pittsburgh in a swap of struggling closers at the end of June.
While his trade counterpart, Jason Grilli, has thrived in his new environs, Frieri has continued to struggle since the swap. Frieri has allowed 12 earned runs in 10 2/3 frames with the Bucs, while striking out ten and walking five batters. Frieri had at least shown with the Angels that he was still capable of missing bats (11.0 K/9) and limiting walks (2.6 BB/9), even if the results were still poor, but obviously those marks too have taken a downturn.
Frieri is earning $3.8MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility. This likely means two things: First, he seems fairly likely to get through waivers, and the Pirates could well welcome a claim anyway. And if he is instead stashed at Triple-A for the time being, Frieri will likely end up as a non-tender after the season.
- Angels GM Jerry Dipoto would like Grilli to establish himself as the Angels’ closer, but that will depend on Grilli’s performance, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. “Whether Jason Grilli returns to the ninth inning will have to be determined by Jason Grilli,” says Dipoto.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington says that Frieri will provide the Pirates with a “high leverage option that may pitch in the middle innings,” reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Travis Sawchik. “Ernesto is a guy we have pursued for a couple of years and haven’t been able to get him,” says Huntington. “He’s been going through a rough stretch but there’s a lot of things our scouts like, that our analysts like. We feel like we’ve had some success with guys like this in the past.”
- While many outside analysts were unimpressed with the deal for both sides, Sawchik notes that the Grilli trade has similarities to the Pirates’ December 2012 trade of closer Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt for Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel and two other players. Like Melancon, who was coming off an ugly 6.20 ERA season in Boston, Frieri’s peripherals (11.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9) are significantly better than his ERA. The Pirates have had great success with Melancon in the late innings.
- Catcher Russell Martin, who along with Grilli was a key part of the Pirates’ excellent 2013 season, says he’ll fondly remember Grilli’s tenure with the Bucs, reports Bucs Dugout’s David Manel. “To look back on it can motivate you, it can give you confidence, it can make you believe that what we have here is good,” Martin says. He adds, however, that Grilli struggled after being demoted from the closer’s role. “[J]ust like any athlete, when you’re not doing well and the team’s heading into a different direction, it can leave some sourness,” says Martin “I think Grilli still wanted to be the closer. To have that taken away can be a little frustrating.”
On its face, the deal is a swap of change-of-scenery candidates, and indeed both general managers have described it as such. But context is everything, as always. Frieri is still just shy of 29 years old, and agreed to a $3.8MM salary in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Meanwhile, Grilli — who is already 37 — is playing out the final year of his two-year pact, under which he is owed $4MM for this season. In sum, while the current salary obligations are a virtual push, the Pirates will also gain the right to control Frieri through arbitration until 2016, if they so choose.
Grilli had served as the Pirates’ primary closing option for most of the past two seasons before being removed from the role recently. The veteran had put together three straight seasons of outstanding pitching in Pittsburgh, tossing a combined 141 1/3 frames of 2.74 ERA ball with 12.8 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9. But 2014 was a different story, as he is allowing 4.87 earned runs per regulation game, with his strikeouts falling and walks rising (9.3 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9). Some of Grilli’s difficulties can probably be attributed to a susceptibility to the long ball (1.77 HR/9 and 14.3% HR/FB) that may be due for some regression.
Meanwhile, Frieri emerged with the Angels in 2012 after being acquired from the Padres in a rare early-season trade. He went on to put up two good seasons as the Halos’ 9th-inning man, notching a stellar 2.31 ERA in 66 total innings in 2012 before working to a 3.80 mark over 68 2/3 frames last year. As with Grilli, things have gone south quickly: Frieri now sports a 6.39 ERA through 31 innings in 2014. On the other hand, his peripherals (11.0 K/9 vs. 2.6 BB/9 and a 35.3% ground-ball rate that is an improvement over past seasons) suggest at least some hope for a turnaround. Indeed, both xFIP (3.20) and SIERA (2.56) could indicate that Frieri has been somewhat better than his results.
It remains to be seen precisely how the two players will be incorporated into their respective bullpen mixes. Angels manager Mike Scioscia indicated that Grilli will not jump straight into the closer’s role, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (via Twitter), who notes that the club almost certainly intends to move him there in time. “We’ll see where he fits in,” said Scioscia. Of course, subsequent moves could alter things further, as Los Angeles GM Jerry Dipoto indicated in a quote (via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, on Twitter): “This is a step toward addressing those [bullpen] needs, but I’d be surprised if it’s the only step.”
On the other side of things, Pittsburgh has deployed Mark Melancon as its closer since moving Grilli out of the role (and, earlier in the season, while Grilli was rehabbing). It would seem more likely that Frieri ends up working in a set-up capacity, unless Melancon falters. Pirates GM Neal Huntington said that Melancon will indeed be the closer, though he also made mention of Frieri’s experience in that role, reports Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Twitter).
We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.
Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…
- After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
- The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
- The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter).
- Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
- Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
- Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
- MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
- Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
- The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
- The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
- Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
- Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
- MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
- The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
- The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter). He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).
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