Ervin Santana Rumors
Though he's yet to officially retire, 43-year-old slugger Jim Thome would like to be a big league manager at some point, writes Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. Thome, who took a position in the White Sox' front office last summer, told Van Schouwen: "I want to look at what the next phase is for me getting back on the field, competing at a high level. There is a side to me that wants to manage someday and prepare myself for it if that opportunity came calling." More out of the AL Central as Spring Training picks up steam...
- Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes that one conversation three years ago changed Glen Perkins' future with the team entirely. The bad blood between Perkins and his hometown Twins was well documented, as he had been weighing a grievance against Minnesota regarding his service time. Perkins approached pitching coach Rick Anderson and manager Ron Gardenhire and simply told them he had no desire to play elsewhere. Anderson tells Souhan: "He came to me right here and said, ‘Can I talk to you? I was born and raised in Minnesota, I’ve spent my entire life in Minnesota, I want to be a Twin. I want to be a better teammate, I want to be a better pitcher, don’t give up on me.’" Perkins, a 2013 All-Star, has developed into one of the game's best closers since that time.
- The Twins have signed 18-year-old Australian first baseman Jack Barrie to a six-figure bonus, according to a report from Australian news outlet SBS. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN confirmed that it's a six-figure deal and adds that the team still has money left in its 2013-14 international free agent budget after the signing (Twitter link).
- In the latest edition of his "Hey, Hoynsie!" mailbag, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tells one reader that he would be "stunned" if the Indians made a late play for Ervin Santana. Though Cleveland's name has been connected to the former Angels and Royals hurler, Hoynes says that the team values its first-round pick too highly to make such a move.
- Jhonny Peralta was planning on appealing his suspension last season in order to remain with his teammates through the playoff push, writes USA Today's Bob Nightengale. However, when the club acquired Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox, Peralta says he "knew [he] had to take [his] suspension." Nightengale spoke with GM Dave Dombrowski, who told him: "We talked to his agent (Seth Levinson, at the time) and we knew he was thinking of appealing. There was a time I was thinking he was going to appeal. And at that point, we wouldn't have made a trade. But my gut told me the closer we got to the (trade) deadline, and talked to them, he wasn't going to appeal."
MLBPA chief Tony Clark addressed today the situation of Ben Wetzler, the Phillies' draft choice who was recently suspended by the NCAA for having an agent present while he negotiated with the club, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. "What we're doing in the short-term is trying to make sure we understand exactly what happened and what led to what happened with that young man in college," said Clark. "Rest assured it's a concern, it's something that we're paying attention to, but outside what's been bantered about through the media, we don't know much else at this point." For their part, the Phillies have yet to offer any comment other than acknowledging that they "did participate in the NCAA investigation." One agent tells Nicholson-Smith that, if the team did report Wetzler's use of an agent, "it was extremely short-sighted and impulsive on the part of the team."
Here are a few more links to round out the evening:
- The Rockies have recently made contact with free agent starter Ervin Santana, reports CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman. The team's interest may be dependent upon the status of Jhoulys Chacin, whose shoulder issues are still being assessed. A Rockies official denied interest in Santana, however, reports MLB.com's Thomas Harding.
- Though the Dodgers needed a roster spot to make room for new signee Erisbel Arruebarrena, the club elected to designate Justin Sellers for assignment rather than putting Chad Billingsley on the 60-day DL, writes Chris Gabel for MLB.com. That constitutes something of a vote of confidence in Billingsley's ability to return from Tommy John rehab in a relatively short time frame. The 29-year-old is entering the final year of a three-year, $35MM pact, with the club holding a $14MM option ($3MM buyout) on his 2015 season.
- While Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada has reportedly shed some pounds, the club is nevertheless reportedly less than happy with his athletic form, reports Kevin Kernan of the New York Post. If that translates to an underwhelming start to camp, Kernan implies, there could be increasing impetus to sign Stephen Drew. "I would not be surprised if we signed Drew," an official said, "but at the same time, I don't expect it to happen."
- Across town, the Yankees are keeping tabs on reliever Joel Hanrahan after inking another rehabbing former closer in Andrew Bailey, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. As Martino explains, interest in arms like Bailey and Hanrahan shows that the club has some concern with its pen depth.
- The Twins are a very unlikely landing spot for Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Diaz is looking to land a deal like the five-year, $25MM contract given Arruebarrena, says Wolfson, but Minnesota does not believe he is as good as his countrymate.
Let's take a look at a few notes out of Orioles camp to start out the day: ...
- Late last week, Baltimore had an in-person meeting with J.J. Hardy's agent regarding the initiation of extension discussions, reports Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter). Though both sides have indicated an interest at keeping the shortstop off of next year's free agent market, Hardy said recently that no talks had taken place.
- Baltimore is expected to announce later today that Nelson Cruz has signed a one-year deal and passed his physical, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. A press conference is likely to occur tomorrow.
- Southpaw starter Wei-Yin Chen, who inked a three-year deal out of Taiwan before the 2012 season, is set to become a free agent after either 2014 or 2015, says Kubatko. (His deal contains a $4.75MM club option with a $372K buyout for 2015.) Though Chen's Baseball-Reference page indicates that he would qualify for arbitration beginning next year, and stay under club control through 2017, that is not the case.
- Multiple sources tell Kubatko that the O's are not in on free agent starter Ervin Santana. The club would need only sacrifice its third-round pick to ink Santana or one of the other remaining free agents tied to draft compensation (Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew), having already given up its first and second to land Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez.
The three remaining free agents tied to draft-pick compensation -- Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew, and Kendrys Morales -- would all considering waiting to sign until after the June amateur draft, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal's piece builds upon a prior report from MLBTR's Tim Dierkes, who noted that those players could be considering the strategy, which would prevent their former clubs -- the Royals, Red Sox, and Mariners -- from picking up an extra draft choice.
Here's how it works: If a sufficient offer is not forthcoming, these free agents could change their market situation by waiting until after the draft to sign. At that point, a new signing club would no longer need to sacrifice a pick, and their prior club would not stand to earn one.
Interestingly, Rosenthal also suggested a twist on that strategy, noting that a player could avoid a future qualifying offer just by waiting until after Opening Day to sign. If any of the three remaining draft-pick bound players was forced to settle for a one-year deal (like Cruz), he could use that approach to ensure that his new club would not once again saddle him with compensation, while also ensuring a full year's payday (one of the problems with waiting until June to sign). Of course, there is a countervailing consideration: a signing club would lose the possibility of retaining the player through a qualifying offer or instead getting a compensation pick in return, which reduces the player's value to his new club.
In the aggregate, these options constitute a set of increasingly high-stakes maneuvers, each carrying leverage trade-offs between the player and prospective clubs. For instance, as Dierkes has noted, the threat of a former team not gaining a compensation pick could make a re-signing more likely.
I would add that these two possible approaches each make more sense for different situations. A player who is planning to settle for a one-year pillow contract would take significant risk by waiting until June, because any increase in their annual salary would potentially be offset or eclipsed by the fact that they cannot earn all of it (not to mention risks of changes in how the market sees the player and in market demand). But that player would also potentially gain quite a bit by waiting for Opening Day to sign, because he would get to enter the following year's market without compensation attached. The considerations go the other way for a player who still figures to land a multi-year deal, who would have relatively less to lose by skipping a few months of salary and, potentially, more to gain by shedding the burden of draft compensation. But if three years were already on the table, a free agent would gain nothing by waiting until after the start of the season to sign unless they were truly willing to sit all the way through the June draft.
The agents for the trio made clear to Rosenthal that they have thought through the rules, and are leaving all options on the table. Bean Stringfellow, Santana's agent, said that waiting until after the draft is "certainly something we've talked about," and made clear that his client would not follow Nelson Cruz in signing a one-year deal for substantially less than the $14.1MM qualifying offer. "Once you get past the draft," said Stringfellow, "a lot of teams will be in play with the expanded playoffs. You wouldn't have a draft pick attached. ... Ervin Santana is a front-line starting pitcher. He will be compensated as such. Whatever it takes to make that happen, we will make it happen, simple as that."
Scott Boras, who represents Drew and Morales, noted that other clubs also have incentives to wait until after the draft since they do not need to give up a pick to sign the player. He also notes that a signing would mean that those clubs would also potentially avoid the need to sign a future compensation player, and could potentially reap a future pick of their own when the player's deal expires. "A road map for this strategy has been figured out," said Boras. "There is a significant advantage under this system for teams to develop a plan to sign premium free-agent players -- the top 6 to 12 percent -- where they can gain draft currency and also improve their team in the current and long-term."
Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times writes that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik says he has "zero expectations" for former top prospect Jesus Montero, who arrived to Spring Training 40 pounds over the team's target weight for him. The Mariners assign each player such a figure prior to each offseason, but sources tell Divish that Montero has yet to meet one since joining the club in a 2012 trade. "After winter ball, all I did was eat," Montero admitted. It's another hurdle the DH will have to conquer after a 2013 season marred by injury and a Biogenesis-related suspension. Here's more out of the AL West:
- The Mariners' interest in Kendrys Morales may depend on the ability of Corey Hart to stick in the outfield, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. Hart has logged time in the outfield in the early days of Spring Training, and if he can handle a job there, it could open up the DH spot for Morales.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News hears that the Rangers aren't pursuing Ervin Santana (Twitter link). A recent report named Texas as one of three clubs with strong interest in the hurler.
- Sam Fuld may face long odds to make the Athletics' roster out of Spring Training, as the team already has four outfielders and probably won't carry another, reports MLB.com's Jane Lee. Fuld agreed to a minor league deal with the A's early this month.
- The Angels may rely heavily on their bullpen in 2014, as they enter the season with major question marks behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson in the rotation, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes.
While Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos says he's "comfortable" with his club's current rotation candidates, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal is skeptical. If so, Anthopoulos' thinking has evolved significantly since September, Rosenthal writes, when he identified the Jays' rotation as the team's "most glaring hole" and "most glaring area we need to address." Anthopoulos reportedly considered trades for David Price, Derek Holland and Brett Anderson, and expressed interest in free agents Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bronson Arroyo and A.J. Burnett. However, a deal never materialized, and the Jays' AL East competitors have upgraded in the meantime. Here's more out of the division:
- Within the same column, Rosenthal cites the Mariners and Rangers as potential suitors for Santana, who could also avoid the draft pick compensation issue by waiting until after the June draft to sign. According to a Rosenthal tweet, Santana prefers that option to settling for a contract in the range of Nelson Cruz's one-year, $8MM deal with the Orioles.
- MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince writes that by not adding a major rotation piece, the Jays are betting on better luck with injuries and the development of young players. A rotation upgrade "does not appear to be on the horizon," according to Castrovince. Earlier this week, Anthopoulos told reporters that the club would like to sign a starter, but won't do so "at all costs."
- Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts says he's well aware of rumors that Stephen Drew could return to the club, Mike Petraglia of WEEI.com reports. "You hear it every day, especially you media guys talk about it a lot," the infielder commented. Bogaerts figures to grab the Sox's starting shortstop job if Drew doesn't return.
At least three teams -- the Orioles, Rangers and an NL West club -- have strong interest in Ervin Santana, ESPN Deportes' Enrique Rojas tweets. Rojas also notes that the Blue Jays could still be a possibility (although a recent report indicated the Blue Jays would not sign a free-agent starting pitcher). The identity of the NL West team is unclear, although the Rockies have been connected to Santana.
The Orioles have interest despite their recent signing of Ubaldo Jimenez. Santana would still upgrade their rotation, and with their first-round draft pick no longer a factor, there is less disincentive for them to sign a free agent like Santana who has a qualifying offer attached. The Orioles would only have to give up the No. 90 overall pick -- their third-rounder -- to sign Santana. The Rangers would have to sacrifice the No. 30 overall pick they are about to receive as compensation for Nelson Cruz signing with Baltimore.
12:17pm: Two organizational sources downplayed the possibility of serious talks between Santana and the Orioles to MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. She writes that multiple sources have indicated to her that the Orioles' primary focus is on adding a hitter to the lineup at this time.
9:19am: The Orioles made Ubaldo Jimenez the highest-paid free-agent pitcher in franchise history earlier this week by signing him to a four-year, $50MM contract, and Jon Heyman of CBS Sports now reports that the Jimenez signing hasn't precluded the Orioles from pursuing Ervin Santana. According to Heyman, Baltimore has maintained a dialogue with Santana and his representatives at Proformance even after adding Jimenez to the fold.
Heyman writes that Santana's asking price remains high, speculating that he could be looking to match or top Jimenez's contract despite the late stage of the offseason. For most teams, the draft pick compensation attached to Santana has been the primary deterrent, but that negative is less significant to the Orioles at this point. Baltimore forfeited the No. 17 overall pick to sign Jimenez, and they traded their Competitive Balance pick to the Astros in last summer's Bud Norris trade. At this point, the top draft pick they would have to cede in order to ink Santana would be No. 55 overall.
Heyman notes that if Baltimore were to successfully sign Santana, the aforementioned Norris could transition to the closer's role for manager Buck Showalter -- a role that some have speculated in the past may suit him better than the rotation.
The Orioles clearly don't view Jimenez as the final piece to their offseason, as they're reportedly still interested in sluggers Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales and are one of two teams said to have maintained interest in Ike Davis earlier this week. With Chris Davis and Matt Wieters each set to hit free agency following the 2015 campaign and J.J. Hardy set to hit the open market at the end of the 2014 season, the Orioles may feel that this season is their best chance to make a big push for contention.
The Blue Jays are unlikely to sign a free agent starting pitcher, reports ESPN.com's Jayson Stark. Of greatest consequence, perhaps, Stark says that the team is not likely to land top remaining hurler Ervin Santana.
Though Toronto has long been seen as one of the strongest buyers in the remaining market, Stark explains that the club is steadfastly refusing to increase its offers to meet players' demands, as the Orioles did to sign Ubaldo Jimenez. One source said that the Jays would not sign Santana unless he "fall[s] in their lap."
Instead, GM Alex Anthopoulos is expected to allow several of the organization's young arms to compete for a rotation slot. The top Toronto baseball man said that, while the team would "love to add a starter to maintain [the team's] depth," it remained "comfortable with what we have." Anthopoulos continued: "If the right guy were to come along at the right price, we're definitely open-minded to the idea of adding one more starting pitcher."
As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reported today (Twitter links), some of the four remaining draft-compensation free agents may prefer to wait until after the draft to sign than agree to a sub-market deal. Dierkes notes that the high-risk strategy would threaten their former clubs with not receiving a compensation pick, which could increase the impetus for re-signings. It took until March 25th for the last compensation-bound player (Kyle Lohse) to reach agreement in 2013.
Of course, while carrying compensation is a hindrance, players only come to know its burdens after turning down a sizeable, one-year qualifying offer from their former club (this year, for $14.1MM). For many other free agents, an offer of any kind is all they are really looking for. Established big leaguer Tim Byrdak, now 40, is among them. He posted an image of a handwritten flyer on his Twitter account earlier today, advertising himself to GMs as a "high mileage but very serviceable," "late model LHR" that "comes with warranty" (via ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin).
Here are some more notes on an increasingly sparse market:
- Though a return of Johan Santana to the Twins was beginning to look like a foregone conclusion, writes LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star-Tribune, several other clubs have recently expressed interest in the 34-year-old. Minnesota is certainly still in the hunt, with assistant GM Rob Antony telling Neal that he was waiting to hear back from Santana's agent in their latest round of talks. Noting that the Orioles have also seen the two-time Cy Young recipient throw of late, Neal says that Santana could be planning a showcase of sorts to allow more clubs to see his progress as he recovers from a second significant shoulder procedure.
- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said today that the club made strong runs at Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez before they signed elsewhere, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports. "There were a couple of [trades] in the works that ended up falling through," said Gibbons, "and then with the free agents, there's a little bit of a bidding war out there, it's not automatic that you're going to get those guys." Gibbons declined to comment on current free agent starter Ervin Santana, other than to say that the club likes his arm.
- Do not expect Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos to go beyond the team's internal valuation to sign Santana, writes Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. Griffin argues that the Orioles' signing of Jimenez to a Garza-like contract -- while giving up a first-round pick to do so -- has undermined the Jays' apparent plan to wait out the market for compensation-bound starters and leverage the club's protected first-round choices.
- Former Nationals and Twins righty Shairon Martis is weighing two minor league offers along with the possibility of playing abroad, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Though he made his debut in 2008, the native of Curacao is still just 26 years of age.