Everth Cabrera Rumors

13 Role Changes That Have Impacted Earning Power

Each offseason, teams and fans alike spend the winter projecting a 25-man roster on paper in an attempt to plot out as accurately as possible the way in which a season will progress. Oftentimes, a roster is more or less set from an early standpoint. Those expectations fluctuate based not only on player movement — trades and free agency, of course, have a strong impact on roster construction — but also on elements such as spring performances, injuries and early season success/struggles. Rarely do rosters, and the roles occupied by the players on that roster, shake out the way in which most pundits expected.

In many cases, the changes within a roster can come with significant financial implications for the players who find themselves in a more prominent role. Those who find themselves receiving the short end of the stick, of course, can see their future fortunes diminished.

It’s early in the 2015 season, but already we’ve seen some shifts in role and/or playing time that will make some players considerably wealthier in arbitration, as well as some that figure to severely damage a player’s arbitration case.

Rising Earning Power

Adam Ottavino: Typically, players like Ottavino are the ones that the Cardinals find rather than let go, but St. Louis tried to get the now-29-year-old Ottavino through waivers in 2012 and lost him to the Rockies. Ottavino has been a revelation in the Colorado bullpen, boosting his velocity and ditching his changeup for a devastating slider that has turned him into a late-inning weapon. Ottavino was recently named the new closer by manager Walt Weiss, and he’ll have a chance to head into his second trip through arbitration with a bucket of saves under his arm. The difference between entering arb as a setup man and entering as a closer could be worth millions.

Jeurys Familia: The same role change that benefits Ottavino will do the same for Familia, who entered the season setting up for Jenrry Mejia. However, an 80-game suspension for Mejia and Bobby Parnell‘s recovery from Tommy John surgery have opened the door for Familia to take the reins in the ninth inning. He’s notched a 6-to-1 K/BB ratio in his first 4 2/3 innings this season, and while he hasn’t necessarily secured the job through season’s end — Parnell or Mejia could reclaim the job later in the year — a season resembling last year’s 2.21 ERA in the ninth inning would yield a significant arbitration payday. Zach Britton, for example, parlayed one elite season as a closer into a $3.2MM payday this year, though the two aren’t perfect comparables. (Britton was a Super Two and didn’t have multiple strong seasons under his belt, as Familia theoretically will.) Ottavino landed a $1.3MM salary his first time through arb after a strong season of setup work, however, giving a rough idea of the potential gap between the two roles.

Lorenzo Cain: Entering last season, Cain was the Royals’ No. 8 hitter and didn’t get into the lineup on an everyday basis, as he split time with Jarrod Dyson in center field. Cain didn’t hit higher in the batting order than sixth until June 17 last season, but he’s batted third every day and started in center each game for the Royals this year. Cain doesn’t have the power one would typically expect from a No. 3 hitter, but his preposterous defense will keep him in the lineup every day, and hitting in the heart of the order will lead to plenty of RBI opportunities. A Gold Glove and a career-high in RBIs (which wouldn’t be hard to come by, as it currently stands at 53) will go a long way toward bolstering his $2.725MM salary.

Evan Gattis: The transition from catcher/outfielder in the National League to DH/outfielder in the American League should afford Gattis with the opportunity to see more playing time and therefore accumulate more counting stats to pad his first arbitration case this winter. While it’s true that he probably has more value behind the plate — that type of offense from a catcher is indeed quite rare — defense isn’t as highly rewarded via the arbitration process as good old fashioned homers and RBIs. Gattis has struggled to open the year, but career-highs in home runs, RBIs and most other counting stats wouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Leonys Martin: Martin’s role may not appear different on the surface, as he still figures to man center field on an everyday basis if healthy. However, Martin received just 40 games in the leadoff spot in 2014, spending the bulk of his time occupying the 7th and 8th slots in the Rangers lineup. Manager Jeff Banister declared Martin his leadoff hitter and voiced confidence in his ability to handle the role, even after struggling out of the gate in 2015. Martin’s dropped to eighth in each of the past two games, but Banister said that decision was “tinkering” to give the lineup “a different look,” rather than anything permanent. Martin averaged 3.76 plate appearances per game in 2014 but has averaged 4.4 per game in 2015. Over the course of 150 games, that comes out to an extra 150 to 155 games, that’d be an extra 96 to 100 plate appearances for Martin — a valuable increase in opportunities to boost his counting stats as he wraps up a five-year, $15.5MM contract and heads into arbitration for the first time.

Jordan Schafer: The former top prospect broke camp with the Braves as a reserve outfielder in 2014 and started just 13 games all season before the Twins claimed him on waivers in early August. Schafer impressed the Twins enough that there was never any real thought to non-tendering him (despite a marginal track record), and he outplayed Aaron Hicks in Spring Training to earn a regular role in center field to begin the season. Schafer is in a platoon with Shane Robinson, and he’ll have to hold off Hicks, Eddie Rosario and perhaps even Byron Buxton to keep his playing time, but he’s unquestionably been presented with a better financial opportunity than he was in Atlanta.

Declining Earning Power

Wilin Rosario: After spending the bulk of the past three seasons as Colorado’s everyday catcher, Rosario will now transition to a part-time role in which he’ll be used as an occasional first baseman against left-handed pitching. Rosario will also make sporadic appearances in the outfield and behind the plate. Rosario’s power has never been in question, but he’s regarded as one of the game’s worst defensive backstops and will be without a regular role of which to speak. The decrease in playing time is a critical blow to his earning potential, as his $2.8MM salary won’t be increasing by much if the early stages of the season are any indication of his playing time. Rosario has seven plate appearances in six games thus far.

Welington Castillo: Manager Joe Maddon can refer to the Cubs’ combination of Miguel Montero, David Ross and Welington Castillo as his “three-headed catcher,” but Castillo, formerly Chicago’s starting catcher, and his agent would likely describe the situation much more colorfully behind closed doors. Castillo took home a $2.1MM payday in his first trip through the arb cycle this winter, but like Rosario, he’s seen virtually no plate appearances in 2015. Castillo has appeared in four games and picked up seven PAs. Now that they’ve been through the arb process once, the raises awarded to Rosario and Castillo will be based almost solely upon their 2015 results, so their pay bumps figure to be rather paltry in nature.

Brett Cecil: Cecil was tabbed to as the Blue Jays’ closer to enter the season, but he relinquished those duties to 20-year-old Miguel Castro almost instantly. Cecil’s diminished velocity played a role in that decision, and while he may work his way back into the ninth inning, he looks like he’s tabbed for a setup role in the immediate future. A full season of saves would be a boon for next winter’s arbitration case, but that looks unlikely now.

Ruben Tejada: The Mets have had a hole at shortstop since Jose Reyes departed, and while Tejada got the chance to fill the void last year, it’s Wilmer Flores getting that opportunity this year. Tejada started 105 games in 2014, but it seems highly unlikely that he’ll come anywhere near that number in 2015, barring injuries around the diamond. Tejada’s light bat limited his earning power in the first place, but a lack of regular at-bats will further limit the raise he’ll receive on this year’s $1.88MM salary.

Peter Bourjos: Lights-out center field defense gave Bourjos a chance to pick up quite a few plate appearances early in his Cardinals tenure, but the club quickly departed from the notion of giving him more regular at-bats in 2014, promoting Randal Grichuk and giving more playing time back to Jon Jay. To this point, Bourjos has had just two plate appearances, though his glove has gotten him into five games. The complete evaporation of playing time makes a significant raise on his $1.65MM salary difficult to envision. Bourjos’ elite glove is strong enough that he could start for a number of teams, but it’s also a luxury and a late-inning weapon for St. Louis, so it’s difficult to envision them moving him into a more financially favorable situation.

Jesse Chavez: Despite the fact that he excelled in the rotation for Oakland last year, Chavez lost his starting spot midseason after the acquisitions of Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel and, eventually, Jon Lester. Many, myself included, believed he had a strong case for the rotation heading into 2015, but the final three spots behind holdovers Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir went to Jesse Hahn, Drew Pomeranz and Kendall Graveman. Chavez’s 2014 breakout should indicate that he’ll be a perfectly useful reliever in 2015, but 20-30 starts would’ve done quite a bit more for his earning power.

Everth Cabrera: Cabrera’s fall in San Diego was somewhat remarkable, as he went from leading the NL in steals in 2012 and earning a 2013 All-Star nod to a 50-game suspension for PEDs, a dismal 2014 season and an eventual non-tender. He’s latched on in Baltimore and has been starting at shortstop with J.J. Hardy rehabbing from injury, but a reserve role is in the cards for E-Cab, making it difficult to envision a substantial raise on his $2.4MM salary, which was a slight decline from last year’s $2.45MM in the first place.

Note: This post isn’t including role changes for players who will not be arbitration eligible following the 2015 season. Players such as Carlos Martinez and Tony Cingrani, for example, will certainly see their future arbitration outlooks impacted if their recent role changes are permanent, but it’s difficult enough to know whether or not all of these changes will hold throughout the current season, let alone through the 2016-17 seasons.


Contract Details: Young, Cabrera, McGowan

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has some details on the incentive structures of a trio of late signings from the offseason, so let’s take a look (All Twitter links)…

  • As has been reported, Chris Young‘s contract with the Royals has a $675K base and can reach $6MM via incentives. Per Heyman, Young has $1MM available in roster bonuses, $2.25MM available for games started (capping at 29 starts) and $2.075MM available for total innings pitched (which run up to 140 innings).
  • Everth Cabrera‘s deal with the Orioles, which pays him $2.4MM and can reach $3MM in total, awards him $75K for reaching each of 250, 300, 350, 400, 425, 450, 475 and 500 plate appearances, according to Heyman.
  • Dustin McGowan signed a Major League deal with the Dodgers that guarantees him just the MLB minimum ($507.5K), but per Heyman, he’ll receive a $1MM roster bonus for spending as little as one day on the active roster. As was previously reported, he can earn $1.5MM worth of incentives via appearances and innings pitched, maxing out at 60 appearances and 60 innings.

Orioles Sign Everth Cabrera

3:30pm: Cabrera’s incentives are tied to plate appearances, and max out with his 500th turn at the dish, Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com tweets.

8:17am: The Orioles on Wednesday announced that they’ve added some infield insurance by agreeing to a one-year, Major League deal with former Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera. The Scott Boras client will reportedly earn $2.4MM and has the opportunity to earn as much as $600K more via incentives.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at San Diego Padres

That guarantee makes Cabrera the largest investment of the offseason for the O’s. He comes in just ahead of those given to the team’s two other major league signings this offseason: Delmon Young ($2.25MM) and Wesley Wright ($1.7MM).

Cabrera, 28, was non-tendered by the Padres earlier in the offseason. He is coming off of an undeniably rough stretch in his personal and professional life. A 50-game PED suspension cut short an otherwise promising 2013 campaign, and Cabrera is still facing possible jail time relating to a charge for resisting arrest. And when he was on the field last year, Cabrera largely disappointed, hitting a meager .232/.272/.300 in his 391 plate appearances and seeing his stolen base tally drop to 18.

Of course, those issues come with undeniable upside. Over the 2012-13 campaigns, the switch-hitter slashed .264/.339/.352 and swiped 84 bags in an even hundred attempts. With solid defense at short thrown into the mix, Cabrera has played at a 3+ WAR clip for the better part of a MLB season.

As MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently noted, one attractive aspect of Cabrera is the fact that he comes with team control for another year. That effectively amounts to a club option, with the value to be determined through the arbitration process. Speaking of options, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com notes on Twitter, Cabrera can be optioned for one more season. That is another nice bit of flexibility, especially for an Orioles club that makes heavy use of the shuttle between the bigs and Triple-A.

Given that Baltimore has committed to J.J. Hardy for three more years, Cabrera would figure to provide competition at second base and another utility option. While Jonathan Schoop handled himself well at the position defensively, he struggled mightily at the plate. The two could be deployed in some kind of platoon capacity, of course, though Schoop bats from the right side and Cabrera has traditionally fared better against left-handed pitching. Baltimore also has used the left-handed-hitting Ryan Flaherty quite a bit over the past two years, but could find himself battling with Schoop for a roster spot.

Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun first reported that the deal was close (Twitter links). He also tweeted the financial guarantee. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the deal had been finalized and that it included incentives, via Twitter

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Orioles Notes: Cabrera, Davis, Duquette, Drake

Everth Cabrera‘s one-year deal with the Orioles is now official, but manager Buck Showalter tells Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun that even though the former Padre signed a big league deal, he’ll have to earn a roster spot this spring. Cabrera has a minor league option remaining and could head to Triple-A Norfolk if he doesn’t perform well. Showalter acknowledges that there’s some risk in the signing, given Cabrera’s checkered past, but he’s been told good things from people in the NL West. “There’s some upside there for sure,” said Showalter. “…There’s some unknown for me about him. The one division that I’ve constantly got to lean on people that I really trust is the National League West. … There’s just a lot of unknown for East Coast teams.”

A few more Orioles notes…

  • Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has been granted a therapeutic-use exemption for 2015 for Vyvanse, an ADHD medication that works differently than Adderall, which he was suspended for last season, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Vyvanse is an amphetamine like Adderall, but it lasts longer and is less likely to be abused for non-therapeutic reasons.  The 28-year-old says he has responded well to it so far and even prefers it to Adderall.
  • General manager and executive VP Dan Duquette spoke with Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com about using his farm system to acquire Major League talent — a tactic he’s employed multiple times since joining the Orioles. Among the higher profile examples are his acquisitions of Bud Norris, Francisco Rodriguez, Andrew Miller and now Travis Snider. Duquette says he feels fortunate to have enough depth that they can use their farm system to produce big league players like Manny Machado and Kevin Gausman but still trade players such as Eduardo Rodriguez for midseason upgrades. Regarding that trade specifically, Duquette admits that he did not want to part with Rodriguez to acquire Miller but realized it was a requirement on Boston’s end of the deal. “And Andrew Miller helped the Orioles get to the playoffs,” said Duquette. “I could argue he was the difference in the first playoff series with the Tigers. What if he was on the other side of the field in the Detroit dugout? What if we didn’t have him to get key outs in that series?” Melewski’s piece is full of quotes from Duquette on the O’s trading tactics and philosophies and is well worth a read in its entirety.
  • Showalter chatted with Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com and discussed the team’s somewhat curious decision to give reliever Oliver Drake a Major League deal this offseason. The team wasn’t concerned about him signing elsewhere or being taken in the Rule 5 Draft. Rather, said Showalter, “We get to the point where you don’t care what everybody else might think. If you like him and you want to keep him and you think he can impact you, you put him on the roster… Our people in Double-A and everybody who had him said he’s back, physically good, and was as good a relief pitcher as there was in that league.”

AL East Notes: Blue Jays, Red Sox, Ortiz

Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos says it’s easy to do business with A’s GM Billy Beane thanks to the rapport he has with him, MLB.com’s Mike Bauman writes.  “I have a pretty good relationship with Billy Beane,” Anthopoulos said. “We’ve done a bunch of small deals. The one thing about Billy, he’s always open-minded and you can never offend him; you can ask about anybody at any time to make a deal.”  The two execs got together in November for the deal that brought Josh Donaldson to Toronto.  Here’s more from the AL East..

  • When asked about David Ortiz‘s future beyond 2015, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that “David knows he’s going to be a Red Sox [player] as long as he wants to be a Red Sox [player],” according to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com.  Cherington went on to explain that the two sides haven’t discussed his future recently.  This upcoming season will be the last guaranteed year of his deal and he’ll earn $16MM, the most money he has ever been paid in a single season.  With 425 plate appearances, his deal will vest for 2016 and he can increase his salary even further if he surpasses higher PA thresholds.
  • Everth Cabrera is likely to ink his deal with the Orioles on Wednesday, Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com writes. Cabrera agreed to a one-year, $2.4MM deal that could balloon to $3MM total if he hits certain incentives.
  • Rays star Evan Longoria says that he didn’t want manager Joe Maddon to leave the Rays but he believes that they will be better for it, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. “I just think there comes a time when it’s just the right time for somebody new,” Longoria said.
  • Earlier tonight, we rounded up today’s news on the Red Sox.

Free Agent Notes: Moncada, Olivera, O’s, McGowan

The agent for Cuban teenager Yoan Moncada, David Hastings, says that “offers are coming in,” Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Hastings says he is “still hopeful” that he and his client “can make a decision soon.” Last we heard from Hastings, on Valentine’s Day, he indicated that no formal offers had been made and softened somewhat the idea that Moncada would be in position to sign by February 23rd. While there appears to be some movement, the precise timeline remains uncertain.

  • The market for more advanced Cuban infielder (and, presumably, soon-to-be free agent) Hector Olivera seems quite robust. Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons has heard from additional team executives, and he counts at least five that predict a deal of $70MM or more for Olivera. (Twitter link.)
  • The Orioles may not be done adding, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. That holds true even if the club’s deal with Everth Cabrera is finalized, presumably, as the report indicates that Baltimore is expected to sign at least one more pitcher to a minor league deal.
  • One arm that the O’s have been connected to is Dustin McGowan. Another team that has expressed interest in the 32-year-old, the Twins, is not expected to land the free agent righty, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.

Cafardo On Vazquez, Cabrera, Papelbon

Yankees GM Brian Cashman feels that the potential is there for a big year, but he’s not guaranteeing the AL East title or anything of that sort, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.  “We have a lot of talent,” he said. “Like other teams, we have some ifs. If we get good comebacks and our rotation stays healthy, if our team stays healthy, we’re a good team.”   Additions like Andrew Miller will be counted on for production, but the Bombers will really hope for some vintage performances from guys like Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and embattled third baseman Alex Rodriguez.  Here’s more from today’s column..

  • The Phillies continue to insist on Blake Swihart in any deal for Cole Hamels and there’s been no movement to ask instead for Christian Vazquez.  The Red Sox, meanwhile, refuse to part with their top young catcher.  Cafardo suggests the Phillies could have a better chance of working out a deal with the Padres as they are more open to moving catching prospect Austin Hedges.
  • There are no substantive talks between the Mets and Everth Cabrera‘s camp at the moment as they seem committed to Wilmer Flores.  It was reported earlier this winter that the Mets had interest in the former Padres shortstop.  A major league source with knowledge of Cabrera’s situation indicated to Cafardo that he has made great strides personally.
  • Cafardo writes that the Blue Jays remain interested in Phillies reliever Jonathan Papelbon.  A report from earlier this month characterized the Blue Jays as a “major long shot” to land the closer due to financial reasons.
  • General Managers around the league can’t stop raving about 19-year-old Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada.   “He could be the next Robinson Cano/Chase Utley, but more Cano. That’s the kind of potential bat we’re talking about,” one National League talent evaluator said.  An NL GM told Cafardo that Moncada “may be better than [Yasiel] Puig or [Jose] Abreu or [Yoenis] Cespedes or [Jorge] Soler.”   Meanwhile, one GM tells Cafardo that the middle infielder would still require some minor league seasoning before breaking into the majors.
  • There’s a good amount of interest in Brandon Beachy for when he’s finally ready to sign.  The 28-year-old owns a lifetime 3.23 ERA over 46 big league starts, with a 3.34 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, and 3.39 SIERA.

Free Agents With Team Control Remaining

The free agent cupboard is mostly bare, with James Shields, Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano representing the only three available names that made MLBTR’s Top 50 list heading into the offseason. However, there are still some remaining names that provide a certain level of intrigue, and each of the names in question in this post was ineligible for the list at the time it was released.

Each year, teams non-tender players (or, in some cases, tender the player but ultimately release him) in order to avoid paying a significant raise in arbitration. These players hit the open market like any other name, but so long as they have less than five years of service time, they come with an added bonus: they’re controllable beyond the coming season, even upon signing a one-year deal. Examples of players to have already done this are Alexi Ogando (Red Sox), Josh Outman (Braves) and Justin Smoak (Blue Jays). Each player received a one-year big league deal but will be controllable through at least the 2016 season via arbitration. Here’s a quick look at four others who come with that same perk…

  • Brandon Beachy: The 28-year-old Beachy has four years, 104 days of Major League service time and would be controllable through the 2016 season upon signing a Major League deal. He missed the 2014 season after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery but comes with plenty of upside, even if he’ll likely sit out the first few months of the season while he rehabs. Beachy possesses a 3.23 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 267 2/3 career innings at the Major League level. He’s not likely to provide a significant boost for a team in 2015 — he could contribute some usable second-half innings — but he could be a very strong rotation arm in 2016 when he is two years removed from surgery. Beachy’s agent has said his client will not sign until Spring Training is nearer.
  • Everth Cabrera: Cabrera, also 28, performed quite well as the Padres’ everyday shortstop from 2012-13, hitting .264/.339/.352 with 84 steals in 100 tries. The switch-hitter possesses some of the best speed in the game and is capable of handling either middle infield position. However, he also was suspended 50 games in 2013 after being tied to the Biogenesis scandal, and he’s currently in legal trouble as he faces potential jail time after being charged with resisting arrest. He also hit just .232/.272/.300 in 391 PAs last season. Still, given the dearth of talent at shortstop, Cabrera could be a boost to several clubs if he’s able to take the field for the bulk of the 2015 season. He, too, is controllable through 2016.
  • Dayan Viciedo: Released by the White Sox earlier this week, Viciedo has the most team control remaining of anyone on this list. With just three years, 123 days of service under his belt, the 25-year-old could be controlled through the 2017 season, in theory. He’d likely need to tap into some of the to-date dormant potential that made him such a high-profile signing in the first place, but the powerful Cuban isn’t without his value. He’s a lifetime .291/.331/.507 hitter against lefties and could, at the very least, be a serviceable source of power off a team’s bench.
  • Eric Young, Jr.: The 29-year-old Young hasn’t hit much in recent seasons, but he offers blistering speed on the basepaths and is a solid, if not somewhat above-average defender in left field. Young can handle center field in a pinch and also has some experience at second base, giving him some defensive versatility that could appeal to clubs. Over the past two seasons, he’s batted just .242/.306/.327, but he’s also swiped 76 bags in 93 tries — a success rate of nearly 82 percent. He’s controllable through the 2016 season.

Of course, not all of these players will sign Major League deals. Young, in particular, seems like a candidate for a minor league pact, in my estimation. However, upon making the club, the same service time caveats would apply. On a free agent market that is rapidly thinning out, these four players offer a bit of upside that could secure them a job beyond the 2015 campaign, as was the case with Justin Turner, Michael McKenry and Garrett Jones last offseason.


The Open Market’s Most Intriguing Remaining Names

As it always does, the free agent market contains some fairly noteworthy names entering the final month before Spring Training. A good portion of the value at the top of the leftover market lies in established names who have been reliable, healthy, and good in the recent past: James Shields, Francisco Rodriguez, and the like.

Some of those types of players may be a bit long in the tooth, perhaps, or might lack upside or be coming off of a somewhat down 2014 season. But there are teams with expectations of contending that are interested in signing them and plugging them into important roster slots. This segment of the market contains relative certainty.

But as much as the solid veteran group is useful, it is entirely less interesting than the array of wild cards that also remain to be signed. For another market niche, comparative youth, talent, and/or upside marry with various issues, inconsistency, and/or injury. Some such players will surely flame out, never to be heard from again, but it is likewise possible that one or more will re-establish themselves as quality regulars and deliver immense value to their new teams.

If you are a fan of a team that wants someone to dream on without breaking the bank (or even committing a big league roster spot, in some cases), consider one of these players from the scratch-and-dent market:

  • Mike Adams, right-handed pitcher, 36 – Remember when the 6’5 reliever was a really effective set-up man? Wait, he has always been a really effective set-up man — when healthy. He may not have been on the field enough to deliver value to the Phillies on his $12MM free agent contract, but even while battling through injury Adams worked to a 3.50 ERA over 43 2/3 innings. Last year, especially, he was quite good: a 2.89 ERA (supported entirely by sub-3.00 ERA estimator marks) and better than ten punchouts per nine with a 56.3% groundball rate. Sure, it was a small sample (18 2/3) and his shoulder problems were still present. But if you’re going to roll the dice, it may as well be for a nice potential return.
  • John Axford, right-handed pitcher, 31 – Axford still pumps gas and still logs double-digit strikeout rates. Sure, he walked nearly six batters per nine last year and ERA estimators have been increasingly dubious of his quality over the past three seasons. If he can figure out a way to reign back in the free passes and yield a few fewer long balls, Axford still looks like a late-inning arm. And now, teams can take a chance on a return to form without the high salaries that he carried more recently.
  • Brandon Beachy, right-handed pitcher, 28 – The former Brave owns a lifetime 3.23 ERA over 46 big league starts, with a 3.34 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, and 3.39 SIERA. He has averaged better than nine strikeouts and less than three walks per nine innings. He also is on his second replacement UCL, this one installed last spring. In each of the above-referenced statistics, Beachy is entirely not-unlike fellow former Atlanta hurler Kris Medlen. Yet Beachy — who is one year younger — remains unsigned while Medlen has already secured an $8.5MM guarantee. He also can be controlled for an additional year through arbitration, with a low salary base to work from.
  • Chad Billingsley, right-handed pitcher, 30 – As with Beachy, Billingsley was once an effective starter who has struggled for some time now to return from Tommy John surgery. What the latter lacks in dominating upside, he makes up for in the lengthy run of reliable innings he provided before succumbing to elbow troubles. From the time he became a full-time starter in 2008 through the 2011 season (the one before his elbow troubles began), Billingsley averaged 194 frames of 3.73 ERA pitching.
  • Everth Cabrera, shortstop, 28 – Were it not for his off-field issues, it seems likely the Padres would have tendered the former starting shortstop and given him a chance to regain his 2013 form. The year before last, Cabrera registered a 114 wRC+ while swiping 37 bags (down from 44 in the season prior) and playing the best-rated defense of his career. That was a 3.1 fWAR player, even in a season cut short due to suspension. The 2014 version of Cabrera was not, even when on the field instead of nursing an injury. There are issues aplenty here, but his abilities stand out in a market that hurt for middle infield talent from the start. And it does not hurt that he comes with a year of arb control remaining.
  • Alexi Ogando, right-handed pitcher, 31 – Flipping back and forth between starting and relief, Ogando and his mid-90s heater have long been a storyline. And until last year’s dud, he had never been anything but effective. Even after putting up 25 innings at double the allowed runs rate that he had generally permitted, Ogando sits with a lifetime 3.35 earned run mark. The track record of arm trouble remains a concern, but Ogando’s velocity was just fine last year and he could easily be on the rise with a normal spring.
  • Rickie Weeks, second base, 32 – Once one of the game’s better keystone options, Weeks has stumbled backward in all areas of the game since 2012. But last year was a bit different; while his defensive metrics continued to lag behind his earlier work, Weeks did put up a .274/.357/.452 slash in 286 plate appearances that brought to mind better days. True, Weeks inflicted much of his damage against lefties, with his solid line against right-handers propped up by a .420 BABIP. But given his track record, a revived spurt of production at least raises the possibility of a late-career renaissance.

Quick Hits: Moncada, Dodgers, Johan, Varona

In an interview with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (audio link), Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said his team will scout Yoan Moncada as they would any prospect of “great intrigue,” but “given our financial situation, I wouldn’t expect us to be the winners of an auction.”  Silverman feels this is another example of how difficult it is for successful small-market teams to replenish their systems, as “all of the [player acquisition] structures, whether it’s the draft or international, put us at a disadvantage.

Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • A group of South Korean investors are talking with the Dodgers about buying a minority stake of the franchise, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports.  The news was originally reported by two South Korean newspapers, one of which (the Korea Joongang Daily) reports that the discussed terms were $370MM for 20 percent of the team.  A source with knowledge of the talks told Shaikin there is a “zero” chance the Dodgers’ ownership group would give up control of the team in these negotiations.
  • The Phillies face a tough road back to respectability but they can get there within two to four years if they augment their financial resources with good young talent, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan opines.  The worst-case scenario would be if they make the wrong moves and revenues decline, thus putting the club in a long streak of losing seasons, a la the Orioles prior to their 2012 playoff appearance.
  • Peter Greenberg, Johan Santana‘s agent, said his client doesn’t have any structural damage in his shoulder, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets.  Santana was recently scratched from a Venezuelan Winter League start due to his shoulder, though Greenberg said Santana might return to pitch in the league playoffs.
  • Cuban outfielder Dayron Varona receives a scouting report from ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider subscription required), who praises Varona’s running and plus arm but has some questions about his hitting.  The current popularity of Cuban players could inflate Varona’s market, Law feels, though he thinks Varona will sign for “close to eight figures as a potential big league backup.”
  • The Blue Jays could consider Everth Cabrera as an option at second base, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.  Presumably the Jays’ interest would hinge on the outcome of Cabrera’s ongoing legal case, which may not take place until April.  Heyman also notes that Rickie Weeks “seems to be further down [Toronto’s] list.”
  • ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield lists the five teams he felt improved the most and least this winter.