- Omar Minaya Joins MLBPA As Senior Adviser
- Blue Jays, Ronald Belisario Agree To Minor League Deal
- Latest On Blue Jays’ Search For Relief Pitching
- Giants Release Marco Scutaro
- Angels Avoid Arbitration With David Freese
- David Montgomery Named Phillies’ Chairman; Gillick Remains President
- White Sox Sign Gordon Beckham, Designate Dayan Viciedo For Assignment
- Nationals To Sign Casey Janssen
- Joe Blanton Planning Comeback, Will Audition For Teams Next Week
- Marlins Sign Ichiro Suzuki
Trade Rumors Apps
- Non-Tender Tracker
- Non-Tender Candidates
- 2014-15 Top 50 Free Agents With Predictions
- Trade Rumors iOS App
- Trade Rumors Android App
- MLBTR Podcast
- 2014-15 MLB Free Agent Tracker
- 2015 MLB Free Agent List
- 2014-15 Offseason Outlooks
- 2014-15 Free Agent Profiles
- 2015 Arbitration Tracker
- Projected Arbitration Salaries For 2015
- Free Agent Contest Leaderboard
- Reverse Standings
- 2016 MLB Free Agent List
- Transaction Tracker
- DFA Tracker
- Agency Database
- Hot Stove Glossary
- MLBTR On Facebook
- MLBTR On Twitter
- MLBTR Mobile
- MLBTR On Kindle
- Team Twitter/RSS Feeds
- Team Facebook Pages
- Hoops Rumors
- Pro Football Rumors
- NL East Notes: Phillies, Nats Payroll, Cosart, Ichiro
- Omar Minaya Joins MLBPA As Senior Adviser
- Blue Jays To Sign Ramon Santiago To Minor League Deal
- Blue Jays, Ronald Belisario Agree To Minor League Deal
- MLB Trade Rumors Podcast: Episode 15
- Quick Hits: Prospects, Viciedo, Cuba, Coffey
- AL Central Notes: Garcia, Viciedo, Weeks, Ichiro
- NL East Notes: Gillick, Ichiro, Janssen
- Latest On Blue Jays’ Search For Relief Pitching
- International Notes: Tejada, Ibanez, Kang
- Giants Release Marco Scutaro
- Marlins Designate Arquimedes Caminero
- Players Avoiding Arbitration: Wednesday
- Minor Moves: Jeremy Horst
- Angels Avoid Arbitration With David Freese
MLBTR Mailing List
Rumors by team
- Angels Rumors
- Astros Rumors
- Athletics Rumors
- Blue Jays Rumors
- Braves Rumors
- Brewers Rumors
- Cardinals Rumors
- Cubs Rumors
- Diamondbacks Rumors
- Dodgers Rumors
- Giants Rumors
- Indians Rumors
- Mariners Rumors
- Marlins Rumors
- Mets Rumors
- Nationals Rumors
- Orioles Rumors
- Padres Rumors
- Phillies Rumors
- Pirates Rumors
- Rangers Rumors
- Rays Rumors
- Red Sox Rumors
- Reds Rumors
- Rockies Rumors
- Royals Rumors
- Tigers Rumors
- Twins Rumors
- White Sox Rumors
- Yankees Rumors
Francisco Liriano Rumors
The Diamondbacks won the Yasmany Tomas sweepstakes, signing the Cuban outfielder to a six-year, $68.5MM contract and drawing praise from some around the baseball world, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. One AL scout called the contract “a great deal,” since another AL scout told Piecoro that “most people thought it would cost between $80MM-$100MM” to sign Tomas. It’s possible that the Snakes were able to get a relative bargain, however, due to concerns that other teams had about Tomas’ defense and plate discipline, not to mention career numbers in Cuba’s Serie Nacional that fell well behind the totals posted by such stars as Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes or Yasiel Puig.
MLBTR wishes all our readers a Happy Thanksgiving, and here are some items from around baseball to go with your pumpkin pie for dessert…
- Pirates president Frank Coonelly tells Dejan Kovacevic of DKOnPittsburghSports.com that the team’s payroll “certainly can and I suspect will” top the $90MM mark in 2015. This works out to roughly $20MM in available funds by Kovacevic’s calculations, and “everything I’m hearing is that most, if not all, of that money will be committed to starting pitching,” with the Pirates hoping to re-sign both Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez.
- The Reds are looking for multiple “inexpensive Major League-ready players” in exchange for Jay Bruce, a rival scout familiar with the team’s demands told Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun. Cincinnati is known to be listening to offers for Bruce, though it could just be a case of due diligence rather than a legitimate desire to deal the outfielder.
- The Rule 5 Draft is coming up on December 11, and Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper lists some of the intriguing names that are likely or unlikely be picked in two weeks’ time. BA’s Matt Eddy, meanwhile, examines some of the key statistics and factors that led several prospects to be added to team’s 40-man rosters in advance of the draft.
- Chris Capuano said “there’s a lot of truth to” rumors he is interested in pitching in Japan next season, the veteran lefty told Casey Stern and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link). “It piqued my interest back in 2006….we’re considering it,” Capuano said. The 36-year-old posted a 4.35 ERA, 2.47 K/BB and 7.5 K/9 over 97 1/3 IP in 2014, making 12 starts for the Yankees and 28 relief appearances for the Red Sox.
- The Mariners would be hard-pressed to deal starting pitching given their lack of rotation depth, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes, and thus a rumored Hisashi Iwakuma-for-Yoenis Cespedes deal doesn’t make much sense for the team.
- If GM Brian Cashman truly believes David Robertson “checks every box” for what’s expected from a Yankees closer, then the team should’ve re-signed Robertson by now, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News opines. The Robertson/Dellin Betances combo was a major strength for the Yankees last season, though Betances might not be ready to take over the closer’s role. Plus, as Feinsand argues, “who takes over the setup role if Betances moves to the ninth? Andrew Miller? Luke Gregerson? If you’re going to pay a free-agent reliever, why not spend on the one you’ve drafted and developed yourself?”
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.
Many have speculated that Liriano was a candidate to be the first player to accept a qualifying offer, but he and agent Greg Genske of the Legacy Agency will head into the open market in search of a multi-year deal instead. As I noted in Liriano’s free agent profile last week, even if the market doesn’t materialize the way they’d hoped, a one-year deal at or near the rate of the qualifying offer should be available late in the offseason, as it was for Ervin Santana. I pegged Liriano for a three-year, $40MM contract in that profile even with a QO attached.
Liriano, who turns 31 this offseason, was excellent in a pair of injury-shortened seasons with the Pirates. In 323 1/3 innings, he pitched to a 3.20 ERA with 9.4 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and a 52.4 percent ground-ball rate. His K/9 rate over the past two seasons is second only to Max Scherzer among free agents, and his ground-ball rate ranks fourth. Liriano’s injuries weren’t the most troubling with Pittsburgh, either. He broke his non-throwing arm in a fall in his apartment in the 2012-13 offseason and suffered an oblique strain that kept him out for the first month of 2014.
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.
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.
The Padres decision to designate left-handed pitcher Eric Stults for assignment was based on finances rather than performance, writes Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Per MLBTR’s Matt Swartz, Stults was projected to earn about $4.6MM via arbitration after a season in which he posted a 4.30 ERA and 17 losses. Stults, 35 next season, represents a solid depth piece at the back of a rotation due to durability and decent stuff. However, the Padres are in need of offensive help and have plenty of pitching. The rotation is already filled without Stults, and Sanders names another five pitchers who can serve as additional depth. The cash savings will ostensibly be applied to the offense, and it’s possible Stults will return to San Diego on a lesser contract.
- Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart spoke with MLB Network Radio on a variety of topics. Arizona won’t be in the market for the top three free agent pitchers according to Stewart (tweet), but they may be more involved on Kenta Maeda (also Twitter). As for top prospect Archie Bradley, Stewart would like to see him get more seasoning at the Triple-A level before reaching the majors (via Twitter).
- While Cubs GM Jed Hoyer downplayed the possibility of a “supercharged offseason” yesterday, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times believes they are poised for a spending spree. He figures they have $70MM in available payroll. The Cubs have an “acquisition window…through the 2015-2016 offseason,” so we shouldn’t expect all of that money to be used this winter. Howover, several of the biggest market clubs like the Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, and Phillies are trying to be cost conscious this offseason, which makes now a good time to strike on top players.
- Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano is still considering his qualifying offer and “several options,” tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. That could hint to a possible multi-year contract offer from the Pirates or other clubs, although that’s just my speculation. MLBTR’s Steve Adams covered Liriano’s free agent profile earlier this week and ultimately estimated a three-year, $40MM deal.
Francisco Liriano‘s last venture into the free agent market came on the heels of a down season split between the Twins and White Sox, and resulted in a low-risk two-year deal for the Pirates. After playing an integral role in two straight postseason appearances for Pittsburgh, the lefty will hit the open market in a much stronger position.
There’s little doubting that Liriano has the talent to be one of the most dominant arms in the game. As a 22-year-old rookie in 2006, he looked to be an unhittable force (2.16 ERA, 10.7 K/9, 2.4 BB/9) that would have garnered Cy Young attention had Tommy John surgery not stopped his season at 121 innings. His recovery was longer than most, and while he struggled in 2008-09, he returned to form with a dominant 2010 season worth nearly six fWAR.
Over his past two seasons with the Pirates, Liriano has turned in 323 1/3 innings of 3.20 ERA with 9.4 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and a strong 52.4 percent ground-ball rate. Sabermetric ERA estimators such as FIP and xFIP both peg Liriano’s true talent with Pittsburgh at a 3.26 ERA, so both old-school and new-school lines of thinking paint him as a well above-average pitcher when he’s at his best.
Part of the reason for Liriano’s resurgence with the Bucs is that he’s rediscovered some life on his fastball. The 31-year-old has averaged 92.8 mph on his heater over the past two seasons, whereas in some of his weakest seasons, his velocity sat 90-91 mph. He doesn’t have the 94.7 mph average he did as a rookie, but his average velocity is still tops among free agent lefties.
When Liriano’s velocity is working, he racks up strikeouts at a prolific clip. He’s whiffed 9.2 hitters per nine innings throughout his career (even including his down seasons), and this year’s 9.7 K/9 mark trails only Max Scherzer among free agent starters.
Liriano turned 31 after the season, so he’ll pitch the entire 2015 regular season at that age. That makes him younger than a number of his peers in the second tier of the starting pitching market, including Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy and former teammate Edinson Volquez.
For as good as Liriano can be, there’s no ignoring the inconsistency and injuries that have, to some extent, defined his career to this point. Liriano has finished with an ERA well north of 5.00 in three full seasons, and in two of those seasons he walked five hitters per nine innings. Agent Greg Genske of the Legacy Agency can point to Liriano’s longer-than-usual recovery from Tommy John surgery as the culprit for those marks in 2009 and shoulder inflammation for the 2011 season, but Liriano floundered under two separate pitching coaches in 2012 and was injury-free that year.
Even in his two excellent seasons with the Pirates, Liriano spent significant time on the DL in each campaign. The first was a freak accident — a fracture in his non-throwing arm sustained while falling in his apartment — but the second injury, an oblique strain, did cost him more than a month in 2014.
All told, Liriano has had seven trips to the DL in a nine-year career. As such, he’s topped 180 innings just once — back in his stellar 2010 season. As I noted in my profile of fellow injury-prone starter Brandon McCarthy, teams are likely to show trepidation when it comes to multi-year contracts for pitchers without a track record of durability. No matter how great the upside, the downside of receiving 100-120 innings and having to patch together that rotation spot with a potentially replacement-level arm is concerning.
Control has oft been an issue for Liriano throughout his Major League tenure as well. He averaged 4.5 walks per nine innings in 2014 and has averaged 3.9 for his career. The Pirates made a qualifying offer to Liriano, and while some were surprised by the decision, I expect him to reject in search of multiple years due to his age and recent success. As Santana showed last spring, even if the market collapses, it’s still possible to find a one-year contract at or near the value of the QO late in the offseason.
Liriano is married and has three children with his wife, per the Pirates media guide. They make their home in the Dominican Republic in the offseason. He comes from a good baseball family, as his cousin is Giants setup man/closer Santiago Casilla.
Liriano has a reserved and quiet image but is seen as an excellent teammate by those who have played with him and was asked to take up a leadership role with the Pirates in recent years, particularly following the departure of the veteran A.J. Burnett.
Beyond the top three starters on the market, Liriano is in the mix for the top second-tier starter along with names like McCarthy, Santana and Kenta Maeda. Liriano’s camp can likely build a case that he has the highest ceiling among those arms, and despite the undeniable risk associated with Liriano, it’s an arguable point. Liriano misses more bats than the other three and has had four very strong seasons at the Major League level, even if there was some distance between them.
A large number of teams are going to be in the market for rotation help, and many won’t be able to afford the likes of Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields. Liriano could be the top target for some clubs, and it’s possible that one of the teams who inks one of the big three could wish to add Liriano as a second boost to the rotation. The Red Sox are said to be eyeing multiple starters and have been connected to Liriano, and the Cubs, too, are known to be seeking multiple starting pitchers. Both teams will have a protected first-round pick, as will the Astros, D’Backs, Rockies, Rangers and Twins, each of whom has some need in the rotation (it’s unclear if the Twins would have any interest in rekindling that relationship, however). I’ll also add the Mariners, Yankees, Giants, Royals and Dodgers as teams I could see entering the mix, though the M’s of course seem likely to first focus on their offense.
An interesting point raised to me by MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes is that Liriano and Russell Martin could make an interesting package this offseason. A team that signed Martin would have less to lose than others in adding Liriano, having already forfeited a pick, and the two have worked well together in the past. The Cubs, Rockies and Dodgers seem like at least plausible fits in that regard.
Simply put, I’m of the strong belief that speculation regarding Liriano accepting a qualifying offer is largely overblown. Liriano will pitch all of next season at 31 years of age and is coming off a pair of strong seasons with flashes of brilliance in his past. There’s no ignoring the risk associated with his arm, but I believe that offers in the $10-15MM range could be waiting at the end of the offseason even if the multi-year deal Liriano’s camp covets ultimately fails to materialize.
Surrendering a first-round pick for Liriano is a risk, but there are 10 teams that can sign him for a second-round pick, and it’s not inconceivable that he ends up costing “only” a third-round pick if an aggressive team on the free agent front adds multiple players with QOs looming over their heads.
Players with this type of injury history and inconsistency rarely, if ever, get four-year deals, but we saw a less consistent Ubaldo Jimenez land four years last offseason. Regardless of how that deal looks now, it still serves as a reference point that upside can trump inconsistency. Liriano doesn’t have Jimenez’s durability so the fourth year feels like a reach (although I do feel it’s possible), but I believe he’ll receive some three-year offers. In the end, I’m predicting a three-year, $40MM contract for Liriano.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
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:
- Max Scherzer (Tigers)
- Victor Martinez (Tigers)
- David Robertson (Yankees)
- Melky Cabrera (Blue Jays)
- James Shields (Royals)
- Hanley Ramirez (Dodgers)
- Pablo Sandoval (Giants)
- Nelson Cruz (Orioles)
- Russell Martin (Pirates)
- Francisco Liriano (Pirates)
- Michael Cuddyer (Rockies)
- Ervin Santana (Braves)
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).
In his latest Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney runs down a list of pending free agents that are candidates to receive qualifying offers. Olney spoke with several executives from around the league and is of the mind that James Shields, Max Scherzer, Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy, Victor Martinez, Ervin Santana, David Robertson and Hanley Ramirez will receive qualifying offers, which should fall between $15MM and $15.5MM.
Here are a few more notes from Olney’s piece…
- The Giants intend to give Sandoval a QO with the assumption that he will reject the offer and test the open market. San Francisco appears willing to offer him just three years, says Olney, and even going to four years might be too much of a stretch. Such a commitment seems much too light to land Sandoval, who, at 28 years old, will be one of the youngest free agents on the market.
- It looks like the Dodgers and Ramirez could be moving in separate directions, as rival evaluators anticipate the team will extend a qualifying offer with the expectation that Ramirez signs elsewhere.
- The value of Martin on a one-year deal, even north of $15MM, makes a QO for the Pirates “an easy call,” one rival GM said to Olney. Some may wonder whether or not Francisco Liriano is a QO candidate, but executives polled by Olney feel that his injury history and lack of innings present too much risk for the Bucs to extend such an offer. I’m inclined to agree; while Martin is a lock to turn down the QO, Liriano would have more hesitancy, and a $15MM salary would represent nearly 21 percent of the Pirates’ Opening Day payroll from 2014.
- Some evaluators think that Cruz will again find himself with a more limited market than he expects due to his age, 2013 PED suspension and the fact that his OBP and defense are less impressive than his power totals.
- Many rival executives feel there’s simply no way that the Tigers will let Martinez get away. Olney’s right in noting that a QO is “an easy call” for V-Mart, who currently sports a hefty .333/.401/.567 with a career-high 31 homers.
- Olney also feels that a QO for Robertson is an easy call. While he notes that teams don’t pay $15MM for closers anymore, one evaluator said to him: “…with any other team, we wouldn’t be talking about this. But it’s the Yankees, and they can do it.” On a somewhat related note, Olney adds that Koji Uehara‘s late-season swoon may be a blessing of sorts for the Red Sox, who can now approach him with an offer much lower than a QO would have been. I noted in yesterday’s MLBTR chat that I’d be more hesitant to give Robertson a QO, but the Yankees could certainly afford to run the risk.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Atlanta Braves | Baltimore Orioles | Boston Red Sox | David Robertson | Detroit Tigers | Ervin Santana | Francisco Liriano | Hanley Ramirez | J.J. Hardy | James Shields | Kansas City Royals | Koji Uehara | Los Angeles Dodgers | Max Scherzer | Nelson Cruz | New York Yankees | Pablo Sandoval | Pittsburgh Pirates | Russell Martin | San Francisco Giants | Victor Martinez
The Pirates might now be better than any other organization at fixing pitchers, ESPN's Jayson Stark writes. That begins with Francisco Liriano, who started Game 3 of the NLDS against the Cardinals tonight, but it also includes Charlie Morton, who will start Game 4, along with Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, and Jeanmar Gomez. Liriano originally agreed to a two-year deal with the Pirates, but when Liriano broke his non-pitching arm while surprising his kids last Christmas, that contract was adjusted to guarantee just $1MM. Liriano's injury caused him to miss the beginning of the season, but it also allowed the Pirates to take their time adjusting his delivery. "The changes that he made — we couldn't have done that if he'd been in big league camp," says Jim Benedict, a special assistant to GM Neal Huntington. "But because he spent so much time in extended spring training, he had time to get his delivery right and build his arm up slowly." The adjustments they made turned Liriano into a top-flight starter, and gave the Pirates one of the biggest free agent bargains of the offseason. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- Despite the Dodgers' extremely strong finish to the season, they still haven't picked up manager Don Mattingly's 2014 option, and that's leading to speculation about Mattingly's future, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman notes. Outwardly, the Dodgers have shown strong support for Mattingly, but one source tells Heyman that the Dodgers might need to beat the Braves in the NLDS for Mattingly to be asked to return.
- As far as GM Dave Dombrowski knows, Jim Leyland "wants to keep going" as the Tigers' manager, Dombrowski tells MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom. The Tigers have retained Leyland on a series of one-year deals, and that will likely continue, but, Dombrowski says, "He knows if he wants to manage, he can just keep managing."
- Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette says his club needs to improve its on-base percentage and pitching, reports Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. The team will likely concentrate on retaining and developing its own pitching, however, rather than trying to work the free agent market. They would particularly like to see their pitchers throw more innings. "That would be the goal: to make the most of the players on our current roster and encourage them to train in a way in the offseason to help them accomplish that," says Duquette. The Orioles would also like to re-sign Scott Feldman.
MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince offers up a list of what he considers to be the Top 10 acquisitions of this past offseason, headlined by the Pirates' signing of Francisco Liriano. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has also tabbed Liriano as the best open-market pick-up of 2013. Recently, MLBTR's Steve Adams got GM Neal Huntington's take on that signing as well as some other recent offseason acquisitions. Here are a few more notes from the National League's Central division:
- A Reds player told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link) that pending free agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo "loves it" in Cincinnati and that teammates have been "working on him"to stay in town. Of course, with several big contracts already on the books, and with Billy Hamilton potentially ready to help at the MLB level, it has been fairly questioned whether the Reds would be in the mix for Choo.
- Cinci GM Walt Jocketty says the team is in fact interested in bringing back Choo, fellow Enquirer newsman C. Trent Rosecrans reports. "We feel we have a good fit for him," Jocketty explained. "We have a winning team that is built to win." The GM implied that the team had hoped to talk extension with Choo's agent, Scott Boras, earlier this year. "We've expressed to him all year [sic] our interest in re-signing him," said Jocketty. "He's wanted to wait or maybe Scott wants to wait until the year is over. We have interest in re-signing. We'll do everything we can to make that happen." Now set to hit the market after an outstanding season, Choo's price tag figures to be higher than it would have been in a mid-year extension scenario. He currently occupies the fifth slot on the 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings of MLBTR's Tim Dierkes.
- After apparently misunderstanding comments from manager Dale Sveum regarding save opportunities down the stretch, Cubs closer Kevin Gregg blasted the organization in the media. As detailed by ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine and Jesse Rogers, GM Theo Epstein says that he could release Gregg, and will consider the decision overnight. Epstein explained that the team had no intentions of removing Gregg from his role, but instead wanted to allow recent acquisition Pedro Strop to finish a few games.
- Even if Gregg holds on with Chicago for the rest of the year, the incident — along with Strop's audition — could impact whether the team has any interest in bringing him back next year. Though he has cooled down considerably after a remarkable comeback in the season's earlygoing, Gregg has notched 32 saves on the year. Either way, as Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com notes, Gregg recently triggered a $500k bonus by finishing his 50th game of the year.