Ervin Santana Rumors

Cafardo On Fowler, Astros, Hammel, Miley

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe asked about a dozen GMs in Phoenix about the Yankees’ situation and not one of them thought the Bombers would stay away from a major signing.  For all the talk about the Cubs being a major player for Jon Lester, the Red Sox are still fearful that it’ll be the Yankees that swoop in and grab him.  More from today’s column..

  • Both center fielder Dexter Fowler and catcher Jason Castro are available in a deal and the Astros wouldn’t mind dealing for bullpen help.   Fowler had a decent year and enjoyed more success as a right-handed hitter.  The 28-year-old (29 by Opening Day) slashed .327/.419/.467 as a right-handed hitter but hit just .260/.361/.376 from the other side of the plate.  Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has heard that the asking price is high on Castro and that there aren’t any contract talks currently taking place between the two sides.
  • Jason Hammel’s agent, Alan Nero, told Cafardo that teams have called on his client but no great advancements have been made on a contract.  Nero figures the secondary pitching market may take a while to develop.
  • Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley has become a popular trade target of a few teams, and while Arizona will listen, it will take a haul to get him.
  • Free agent catcher David Ross wonders whether his status with the Red Sox hinges on whether they sign Jon Lester.  Lester and Ross had a great run together in 2013 and the catcher tells Cafardo that the two will get together after Thanksgiving.  Ross says that he’s begun to field interest from other teams in the interim.
  • The Phillies will shop Carlos Ruiz and while plenty of teams need catchers, his age (35) and his contract will be a problem.  Ruiz has two years left on his deal at $8.5MM per year plus a $4.5MM option for 2017 that can bought out for $500K.

Royals Notes: Butler, Rotation, Hunter, Peguero

The Royals have now officially waved goodbye to long-time DH Billy Butler, who signed a three-year pact with the A’s that was announced this morning. Kansas City had its chance to keep him, of course, but declined a $12.5MM club option on the right-handed hitter, preferring instead to pay him a $1MM buyout.

Here’s the latest out of Kansas City:

  • In a piece discussing the anticipated loss of Butler, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star indicates that the team remains intent on making impact additions to its roster, particularly to the rotation. The club has had at least opening discussions with agents for Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Jason Hammel, and Jon Lester, writes McCullough.
  • Francisco Liriano is also a consideration for the Royals, as are many other arms in the mid-tier of free agents, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. And trade possibilities are also being explored. The team is still dabbling in the markets for Lester and Shields, Heyman notes, but seemingly has eyes for Liriano and Santana
  • Torii Hunter is a definite target, says Heyman. The team believes that he is still a reliable bat and sees him as a quality fit.
  • Kansas City is considering utilizing Carlos Peguero in a time-share in right field and at DH, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of FOX Sports Kansas City. That plan would be particularly interesting if the team could pair the left-handed-hitting Peguero with a veteran right-handed bat of Hunter’s ilk.

NL East Notes: Desmond, Fish, Phils, Hamels, Braves, Medlen

The Nationals made Ian Desmond a seven-year, $107MM extension offer last year, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports, though that also included contract deferrals that would have reduced its true value. Negotiations are expected to pick back up in the months to come, per Kilgore, and that offer will presumably be the starting point. Desmond, who put up another strong year and is now one year away from the open market, is one key piece of the team’s increasingly pressing long-term strategic questions.

Here’s the latest out of the division:

  • The Marlins‘ interest in the starting pitching market is fairly diverse, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. Possible trade targets range from buy-low (Ubaldo Jimenez) to buy-high (Johnny Cueto), and interest on the free agent markets includes Kyle Kendrick and Ervin Santana. The unifying force here is probably the expected ability of these varying arms to provide innings; as I noted yesterday, the Fish hope to add a solid, veteran presence to their staff.
  • Spencer also spoke with the Miami brass about Giancarlo Stanton, and discusses the team’s reasoning for trying to build a winner around him now, even if an extension cannot ultimately be worked out. “We’re trying to get away from that, that we have to trade everybody because they get expensive,” Hill said. “Enough of that. We want to win. We want to keep as many of our pieces as we can.”
  • There are “a lot of good fits” for Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd, who is likely to be traded, sources tell Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Philadelphia is seeing interest in Ben Revere as well.
  • Of course, the flashier chip for the Phils is lefty Cole Hamels. As Salisbury reports, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says “the free agent market will kind of dictate where this thing goes,” referring to the possibility of striking a deal. “[A]t some point the dominores will start to fall and then we’ll see where it takes us,” said Amaro, who notes that there is no need to deal Hamels since he “traverses the timeline” of contention that the club has in mind.
  • Hamels would prefer to be dealt, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Nightengale provides additional teams to which Hamels cannot decline a trade (on top of the previously-reported Cubs): the Yankees and Rangers are the two A.L. clubs, with the Dodgers, Nationals, Cardinals, Braves, and Padres among the National League teams.
  • The Braves increasingly sound inclined to aim for the near future, and we’ve already heard several prominent names listed as possible trade candidates. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman provides two more, via Twitter: reliever Jordan Walden (who projects to earn $3MM in arbitration) and young second baseman Tommy La Stella.
  • Braves president of baseball operations John Hart says the sides will “need to get creative” to work out a deal to keep Kris Medlen, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. While the team has every hope of keeping the righty, his second Tommy John procedure and $5.8MM projected arb price tag do not make for a straightforward situation given the team’s tight payroll. Sherman suggests that a significantly lower guarantee, combined with incentives and a 2016 option, could be palatable for both sides. It seems that Medlen would be able to do better, however, were he to force the Braves’ hand: he would either be tendered a contract, or hit the open market with plenty of suitors given his upside.


Central Links: Reds, Cubs, Avila, Tigers, Tomas, Butler

Reds GM Walt Jocketty is of the mindset that his team will need to either be “all in” or “all out” in 2015, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. In other words, if the Reds decide to trade one of four starters who is eligible for free agency following the 2015 season — Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Alfredo Simon — others may very well follow. Sherman lists Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman as names to watch if Cincinnati does elect to go into a full rebuild. Both can be free agents after 2016, though the Reds have a club option on Bruce for the 2017 season.

Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Sherman also tweets that the Cubs aren’t likely to spend big on a closer this winter, which seemingly eliminates a potential suitor for David Robertson. Earlier today, reports indicated that Robertson is seeking a contract comparable to Jonathan Papelbon‘s four-year, $50MM contract.
  • The Tigers are willing to listen to offers on Alex Avila, tweets the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Avila has a $5.4MM club option for his final arb year and was projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn the same amount in arbitration. Cafardo notes that the Braves and Red Sox are both looking for left-handed bats. While both have inexperienced catchers (Christian Bethancourt and Christian Vasquez, respectively), adding Avila would limit each team’s ability to get an extended look at how their young backstop handles a full workload.
  • John Manuel of Baseball America tweets that the Tigers‘ defense up the middle in 2015 could be special with Jose Iglesias and the newly acquired Anthony Gose. He also notes that Devon Travis, who went to the Blue Jays in the deal, now has a clear shot to Major League playing time that he may not have had in Detroit.
  • The Royals could scout Yasmany Tomas in the Dominican Republic next week, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Royals officials will be in the Dominican Republic on other business anyway and met with Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, earlier this week at the GM Meetings. The team’s payroll could surpass the $100MM mark for the first time next season, and there’s perhaps room for one significant expenditure such as Tomas, Ervin Santana or Melky Cabrera, McCullough writes.
  • Billy Butler is receiving interest from a number of clubs — even one National League club — tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The interest in Butler likely means that a return to the Royals isn’t the best fit, he adds. McCullough reported Tuesday that K.C. doesn’t seem inclined to go beyond two years to retain Butler.
  • Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wonders if the Brewers will consider trading a starting pitcher (Twitter link). The Brew Crew needs some payroll flexibility, and the Braves are one team that has been poking around at the GM Meetings.

Red Sox Links: Lester, Masterson, Gregerson

Could Jon Lester end up back with the Red Sox after all?  “A well-connected baseball executive who has had conversations on the subject with the Red Sox” predicted to ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes that Lester would indeed re-sign with his old team.  The exec thought the Sox could be willing to relax their policy against signing pitchers in their 30’s to long-term contracts by offering Lester a six-year deal worth at least $20MM per season.  Unless Lester is still willing to give the Sox a bit of a discount, I would think it’ll take a lot more than six years/$120MM to outbid the field for Lester’s services — MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted Lester would receive, at minimum, a six-year, $147MM contract this winter.  If the Red Sox were willing to give Lester a six/$120MM deal, I would think they would’ve just offered him that deal in extension talks last winter and avoided this entire situation.

Here’s some more from Fenway Park….


Mutual Interest Between Royals, Ervin Santana

The Royals have been in contact with right-hander Ervin Santana, who “is said to be very receptive to a return,” CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  Santana is a fan of Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland, among others in the K.C. organization.

After a tough 2012 season with the Angels, it was a move to Kansas City in 2013 that revived Santana’s career.  He posted a 3.24 ERA and 3.16 K/BB rate in 211 innings for the Royals that season, though thanks to a qualifying offer tag and perhaps some unrealistic expectations in free agency, Santana had to settle for a one-year deal with the Braves for 2014.

Santana is seeking a five-year contract this winter, Heyman reports, and the righty has more of an argument for that long a commitment given his strong performance with Atlanta.  Since he rejected the Braves’ qualifying offer, the team that signed Santana would have to give up a 2015 draft pick — in the Royals’ case, it would cost them the 24th overall selection.  That said, since James Shields also rejected his QO and seems likely to sign elsewhere, the Royals will receive a compensation pick between the first and second rounds.

Essentially, signing Santana would cost the Royals a drop of roughly ten spots or so in the 2015 draft, which the club might decide is worth it to reinforce the rotation.  MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes projected Santana for a four-year, $56MM deal, which would normally seem steep for the Royals, yet I suspect they could be willing to spend a bit more freely this winter in the wake of their great postseason performance.


All 12 Players Reject Qualifying Offer

Last Monday, 12 players received one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers. Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, James Shields, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, David Robertson, Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, Melky Cabrera and Michael Cuddyer were all on the receiving end of the offer. The deadline to accept or reject the offer is today at 4pm CT.

A quick primer for those who are unfamiliar: Baseball’s newest collective bargaining agreement did away with the old Type A/B designations for free agent draft pick compensation. The newer system, which is now in its third year, allows teams to make qualifying offers to a player that has spent the entire season with that organization (i.e. players traded midseason are ineligible). That offer is set at the average salary of baseball’s 125 highest-paid players. Should the player reject, a new team will be required to forfeit its top unprotected pick to sign that player (the top 11 picks of this year’s draft are protected). His former team then receives a comp pick at the end of the first round. To this point, none of the 22 players to receive a QO have accepted.

The expectation is that most of the players who received the QO, with the possible exception of Cuddyer, will reject. We’ll keep track of the players that reject the QO here…

  • Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio tweets that no player has accepted this year’s qualifying offer.
  • MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports that Martinez has rejected the qualifying offer (Twitter link).
  • Robertson has turned down the Yankees’ qualifying offer, reports Jack Curry of the YES Network (Twitter link).
  • Cuddyer, of course, has essentially rejected his qualifying offer by agreeing to a two-year deal with the Mets.

Earlier Updates

  • Ramirez has rejected the Dodgers‘ QO, Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times tweets. As perhaps the top position player on this year’s open market, the move comes as little surprise. Ramirez figures to seek a contract north of $100MM+ as a free agent.
  • Santana will reject the Braves‘ qualifying offer and search for a multi-year deal on the open market, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The move was widely expected after Santana enjoyed a solid season with the Braves. As he showed last winter, even if the market doesn’t materialize for him in the form of a multi-year deal, a one-year offer at or near the value of a QO is still attainable, so there’s little downside in trying to cash in.
  • Both Sandoval and Martin have reportedly rejected their QOs prior to today’s deadline. Sandoval rejected his in the middle of last week, while news of Martin rejecting came last night.

Pirates Make Qualifying Offers To Martin, Liriano

NOVEMBER 9: Martin will decline the qualifying offer prior to Monday’s deadline, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The move comes as no surprise given the strong market developing for his services. As we learned yesterday, the Pirates, Cubs, Dodgers, and Blue Jays are the early front runners.

NOVEMBER 3: The Pirates have extended one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers to both Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano, the team announced.

Both moves have been expected to varying degrees. Martin was seen as the likelier candidate, but Liriano is coming off a pair of strong, albeit injury-shortened seasons, and figures to seek a more lucrative multi-year deal on the open market.

Martin batted .290/.402/.430 for the Pirates this season and has come to be regarded as one of the game’s most elite defensive backstops based on his ability to control the running game and his exceptional pitch-framing skill. Liriano, meanwhile, pitched to a 3.38 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 168 innings this season and turned in a combined 3.20 ERA in 323 1/3 innings with the Pirates over the past two seasons.

Both Liriano and Martin will now have one week to decide whether or not to accept the offers. In Martin’s case, with his rumored price tag soaring north of $50MM over the past couple of months, conventional wisdom says that he’ll turn the offer down. Some may find Liriano a better bet to accept the offer, and while that’s true, doing so would expose him to the risk of an injury or a down season. It seems more likely to me that he’ll decline the QO in search of a multi-year deal, looking to the case of Ervin Santana last year as a worst-case scenario. Santana declined the $14.1MM qualifying offer from Kansas City and still signed a one-year, $14.1MM contract with the Braves months later. (Santana also received a QO of his own earlier today.) By declining the offer, Liriano is at most risking a few million dollars, as even with a draft pick attached, he could likely find $12MM+ on a one-year deal, if not the entire value of the QO as Santana did last season. However, accepting would be risking the upside of $15-20MM more than the QO on the open market.

MLBTR readers can keep track of all players who receive a qualifying offer by using our Free Agent Tracker.


Twelve Free Agents Receive Qualifying Offers

Today marked the deadline for players to receive one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers, and after nine players receiving a QO in 2012 and 13 players receiving the offer last offseason, 12 players have been extended a qualifying offer by their teams in 2014. They are:

Should these players reject the offer and sign with a new team, their former team will stand to receive a “sandwich” round draft pick as compensation. Those new teams, in turn, will have to forfeit their top unprotected draft pick. If a player rejects a QO but ultimately re-signs with the same team, no draft pick shuffling occurs.

There will be 11 protected picks in this year’s draft, as the picks of the teams with the 10 worst records are protected under the CBA, and Houston’s comp pick for failure to sign Brady Aiken is protected as well. The D’Backs, Astros, Rockies, Rangers, Twins, Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs, Phillies and Reds will all have their first-round selections protected. Those clubs will instead forfeit a second-round pick to sign a free agent with draft pick compensation attached. Teams can sign more than one free agent that has rejected a QO, as the Orioles did last winter in signing both Ubaldo Jimenez and Cruz. In that instance, Jimenez cost the team its first-round pick, while Cruz cost the club its second-round selection.

The players listed above will now have one week to decide whether or not to accept the QO and play on a one-year deal worth $15.3MM, or instead to or reject the offer in search of a larger guarantee on the open market.

The word “guarantee” is the key to that sentiment: while many will focus on whether or not the players can top that average annual value on the free agent market, more often than not, a player is concerned primarily with maximizing the amount of money he can earn over his prime seasons. Few players are ever sold on the idea of playing on a one-year deal when a multi-year guarantee can be had. Single-year contracts, on the free agent market, are often reserved for older players who don’t know how long they wish to continue playing (e.g. Hiroki Kuroda last winter), players coming off massive injuries (e.g. Corey Hart last winter) or players who have significantly underperformed in a contract year (e.g. Chris Young last offseason).

While upon first glance it might make sense to suggest a player with a spotty track record, such as Liriano, should accept the offer, there’s more downside for him in accepting than in rejecting. Even if Liriano is faced with a cold market, he’d likely be able to find a one-year contract at an AAV north of $10MM, if not a one-year offer commensurate with the total sum of the qualifying offer, as Santana did last offseason when signing a one-year, $14.1MM contract with the Braves. Whereas the downside in accepting is “settling” for a one-year deal a few ticks below the QO level, the upside in rejecting is finding perhaps a three-year deal that could more than double the guarantee he’d otherwise receive. This risk/benefit calculus generally points toward testing the market.

The one case for accepting in this year’s class, that I see, would be that of Cuddyer. Though a solid veteran bat coming off a strong pair of seasons in terms of his rate stats, Cuddyer has defensive limitations and injury questions that will also drag his stock down. He played in just 49 games in 2014 and will play next season at age 36. MLBTR’s Zach Links only pegged his free agent stock at $22MM over two years in his recent Free Agent Profile for Cuddyer. It does seem there’s a real chance that Cuddyer could come in significantly lower than $15.3MM on a one-year deal if he rejects, and the upside may not be much greater for him as a two-year deal may have been the realistic ceiling anyhow.

Reports on whether or not any player will accept the offer should be filtering in over the next week, but those looking for a quick resource to check the status of each can use MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker (the provided link is already filtered to show only free agents that have received the QO, and their status will change from “Received” to “Rejected” or “Accepted” upon a decision being reached).


Braves Make Qualifying Offer To Ervin Santana

The Braves announced that they have officially made a one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer to right-hander Ervin Santana, who will now have a week to accept or decline the offer. Should he decline and sign elsewhere, which seems likely, the Braves would receive a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round of next year’s draft.

Santana, 31, enjoyed a solid season for Atlanta in which he posted a 3.95 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 42.7 percent ground-ball rate in 196 innings of work. While his ERA rose, metrics such as FIP (3.39) and xFIP (3.47) felt Santana had his best season since 2008.

Santana was hit with a QO last offseason as well and struggled to find a deal, though that may have been more due to the fact that his agents (two of whom no longer represent Santana) were said to be seeking a deal north of $110MM than the fact that Santana required a draft pick in order to sign. Even with a QO hanging over his head, Santana was able to find a one-year deal worth the exact amount of the QO ($14.1MM) late in the offseason, and he had similar one-year offers from both Baltimore and Toronto as well as three-year offer in the $30-33MM range from the Twins.

Suffice it to say, while the QO likely impacted his value in a negative manner, it certainly didn’t eliminate all interest in him on the open market. I’d wager that hitting the market with more realistic expectations this time could be beneficial — a sentiment which Tim Dierkes elaborated upon in his recent Free Agent Profile for Santana. Tim ultimately predicted a four-year deal north of $50MM for Santana — a projection with which I agree.

Earlier today, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeted that Santana has indicated that he’d consider accepting the QO, though as O’Brien noted shortly thereafter, it’s possible that was simply posturing by Santana’s camp in an effort to dissuade the team from making the offer in the first place (Twitter links).

You can use MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker to follow everyone who’s received a QO to this point and track their status in the coming week as they make their decisions.