- Rangers Release Ryan Ludwick
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Francisco Rodriguez Rumors
The Indians announced that former star third baseman Al Rosen died last night. He was 91. “He was an inspiration to us all and had a special presence, strength and intellect,” says Indians president Mark Shapiro, calling Rosen’s competitiveness and toughness “legendary.” Rosen hit .285/.384/.495 over a ten-year big-league career spent entirely with the Indians. His best season came in 1953, when he hit .336/.422/.613, won the AL MVP award and missed a Triple Crown by one point of batting average. Injuries ended his playing career early, but he went on to become president and chief operating officer of the Yankees (1978-79), then became president and GM of the Astros (1980-85) and Giants (1985-92). Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- The White Sox paid $46MM for closer David Robertson, but they weren’t planning on spending heavily on a closer if they didn’t get him, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes. Robertson was the specific player they wanted, and if they hadn’t gotten him, they would have developed a closer internally. “I still feel strongly that we have a very solid track record in terms of that development, whether it’s (Bobby) Jenks or (Sergio) Santos or (Addison Reed) or whomever else through the years, like Keith Foulke before that,” says GM Rick Hahn. “And that’s going to continue to serve us as we build out the bullpen from the back in front of David.”
- Reliever Francisco Rodriguez, who officially signed with the Brewers Saturday, turned down more money elsewhere to return to Milwaukee, Todd Rosiak of the Journal Sentinel tweets. His decision to sign with the Brewers was primarily about his comfort with pitching for them, not about finances, he says. 2015 will be the fifth consecutive season in which Rodriguez will have spent at least part of the year with the Brewers.
The Brewers have announced that they’ve signed closer Francisco Rodriguez to a two-year, $13MM deal with an option for 2017. The Scott Boras client will receive $3.5MM in 2015 and $5.5MM in 2016, with $2MM in deferred salary and a $2MM buyout on the option. That option will cost either $6MM and $8MM, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
At $13MM, Rodriguez will land just shy of the $14MM that MLBTR predicted before the start of the offseason, though the option structure had to be agreed upon to achieve that. The deal appears to slot in fairly sensibly among recent contracts for similar-quality relievers. Only the younger Luke Gregerson landed a three-year deal (at a $6MM AAV), while Koji Uehara ($18MM — just before hitting the market), Sergio Romo ($15MM), and Pat Neshek ($12.5MM) all got significant guarantees on two-year pacts.
Rodriguez, 33, has spent most of the past four seasons in Milwaukee. All said, he owns a 3.11 ERA over his 193 2/3 frames with the Brewers. He has maintained double-digit strikeout-per-nine rates over the last two years in addition to an excellent K%-BB%. Though FIP has been down on Rodriguez’s work in recent campaigns, other ERA estimators like xFIP and SIERA view him as a 3.00 or better performer.
One potential knock on Rodriguez — the many miles on his otherwise relatively young arm — has a positive side as well. Rodriguez has been exceptionally durable, putting up an average of 69 innings running all the way back to 2003. And he still delivers his fastball in the same general, low-90s range that he has found success with in the past.
In nailing down the closer role in Milwaukee and taking Rodriguez off of the market, the signing goes a long way to clarifying the remaining relief market. For one thing, it leaves Rafael Soriano as the undisputed best free agent still available. For another, it takes away the most obvious trade match for the Phillies and closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported the signing, length, and presence of an option (Twitter links). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the total guarantee on Twitter. Haudricourt tweeted the annual breakdown.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
In December, MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk wrote Brewers GM Doug Melvin, who is entering the final year of his contract, could be on the hot seat if the team falters in the increasingly competitive NL Central. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwauke Journal Sentinel, in a recent chat, speculated, if Melvin isn’t extended during Spring Training, the whispers will grow if the Brewers stumble out of the gate. Haudricourt adds Melvin’s future, and that of manager Ron Roenicke, isn’t necessarily tied to the Brewers making the playoffs, but how the team plays over the course of the season, if they remain healthy.
In other Brewers notes from Haudricourt:
- The Brewers have eight bullpen candidates on their 40-man roster (in addition to non-roster invitees Chris Perez and Dontrelle Willis). Haudricourt does not envision the club carrying eight relievers, so a trade is likely.
- Closer Francisco Rodriguez is in the process of obtaining his work visa and the Brewers hope he arrives in camp by the end of the week, Haudricourt tweets. Rodriguez agreed to a two-year, $13MM deal with the Brewers last month.
- With Aramis Ramirez announcing 2015 will be his last season and no obvious replacement within the organization, the Brewers will give waiver claim Luis Jimenez first crack. If Jimenez struggles, Haudricourt thinks Milwaukee will use its shortstop depth to acquire a third baseman.
- Despite that shortstop depth, Haudricourt does not see current shortstop Jean Segura being moved to the hot corner because of his lack of power.
- Haudricourt also downplays the likelihood of Brewers 2012 first-rounder Clint Coulter, drafted as a catcher, being moved to third base. The organization did consider such a switch, but believe his bat (.287/.410/.520 with 22 home runs in 529 plate appearances for Class A Appleton) and arm will translate better to the outfield allowing him to reach the Majors faster.
Francisco Rodriguez still has to pass a physical with the Brewers before he can have his deal officially announced, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. However, Rodriguez is still getting his visa sorted out and is therefore experiencing a delay in the process. The Brewers, of course, re-signed Rodriguez to a two-year, $13MM deal to serve as their closer once again.
Here’s more from the National League Central…
- Luis Jimenez, who is out of options, is competing with Luis Sardinas and Hector Gomez for a utility infield role with the Brewers, writes Haudricourt. Jimenez and Gomez may have the upper hand, but if Sardinas hits and proves himself to be capable at third base, Jimenez could be squeezed out of a roster spot. The Brewers have two bench spots to be filled by these three players, writes Haudricourt, but going with Sardinas would of course lead to the risk of losing Jimenez on waivers at the end of Spring Training.
- Reds reliever Burke Badenhop tells MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that he found the free agent process “nerve-racking” despite being pleased with the results. “I continued to fall back on the point that we knew what was out there,” said Badenhop, “kind of where I fit in the market. It’s kind of a funky spot, not really crystal clear. Nobody that was ahead of me was getting worse deals than I thought I should have got and nobody behind me was getting better deals.”
- The role of Cubs‘ fifth starter is “for all practical purposes” Travis Wood‘s to lose, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers wrote yesterday. The Cubs have Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks in the front four slots, with Wood, Edwin Jackson and Tsuyoshi Wada competing for the fifth slot. Rogers does note that Jackson or Wada could force their way into the role, but it seems likely that at least one of the three candidates for the final spot will be traded this spring, in Rogers’ estimation. I have a difficult time seeing any club agreeing to take on Jackson’s remaining $22MM; a release may be the more likely outcome, though that’s a large chunk of money for any team to swallow. For those wondering, Wood will earn just under $5.7MM in 2015 and is controllable through the 2016 season via arbitration, while Wada is earning $4MM this season on a one-year deal.
Big league spring matchups started today, which means that the sights and sounds of game action are officially back. It also provided a first look at Jung-ho Kang of the Pirates, who showed that his raw power is real in swatting a home run to center field. He still has a ways to go in earning playing time and proving his value, of course, but it was a nice start for the Korean ballplayer. Earlier today, MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth broke down the Bucs’ winter in the first installment of this year’s Offseason in Review series.
- Though the Brewers are still in the process of finalizing their deal with Francisco Rodriguez, the team found now a good opportunity to outright righty Brooks Hall, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. “This was strategically calculated,” explained assistant GM Gord Ash, “because [Hall] has not pitched that much, he’s been injured on and off. We hoped we could sneak him through, and that’s exactly what was able to happen.”
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson indicated to reporters today that trade talks regarding the team’s starting pitching have been very quiet of late, as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com tweets. New York has an oft-discussed glut of rotation candidates, but seems content waiting for a good offer to come in or for an internal need to arise before deciding upon a course of action.
- The Braves seem to be angling towards using recently-acquired youngster Manny Banuelos as a reliever to start the year before shifting him to the rotation, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (Twitter links). Whether or not that action comes at Triple-A or with the big league club remains to be seen, but Atlanta is hoping to mix and match his roles in order to build his innings in a manageable way while allowing him to compete all season. Once considered one of the game’s best prospects, Banuelos will look to turn things around in Atlanta, which gave up reliever David Carpenter to acquire him.
The Marlins‘ best offer for Francisco Rodriguez was for two years and $10MM, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. While that was not enough to convince K-Rod to part from the Brewers, it does represent a relatively significant chunk of change that the team could presumably tap into at some point in the future.
Here’s more from the eastern divisions:
- Braves owner Liberty Media continues to provide some interesting insight into the club through its legally-required Securities and Exchange Commission filings, as Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains. In addition to ticking through the accounting for last year’s emergency pickup of Ervin Santana and release of Dan Uggla, the filing documents that the organization has already borrowed about $100MM from credit facilities arranged to help fund its portion of the funding of its new stadium.
- Atlanta’s biggest write-off may be yet to come, as struggling and now injured center fielder Melvin Upton could eventually go the way of Uggla. For now, the team is focused on finding a temporary replacement and getting him back up to speed as soon as possible, as David O’Brien of the AJC reports. One possible fill-in, prospect Todd Cunningham, says that the players in camp “can kind of smell blood in the water,” while Eric Young Jr. called it an “unfortunate situation” but acknowledged that “you’re kidding anybody if you don’t see it as an opportunity.” The most interesting possibility could be Eury Perez, who is just 24 and has a solid track record in the upper minors but never had a real chance with his prior clubs.
- The Phillies have had one of their top advisers, Charlie Kerfeld, watching Red Sox prospects as the clubs continue to eye one another over left-handed pitching, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. There is a sense now that Cliff Lee could be dealt before Cole Hamels, Cafardo adds, though that doesn’t necessarily mean Boston is the inevitable destination.
- As Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports, there are no signs of progress on a Hamels deal. The Sox are more likely to be willing to part with players like Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero, and Jackie Bradley Jr. in any trade scenarios than they are some of their other top young players, Mastrodonato adds.
Brewers GM Doug Melvin discussed his team’s recent efforts to upgrade the back end of its bullpen in an interview today with Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Milwaukee ultimate reached agreement on a two-year, $13MM contract to bring back 2014 closer Francisco Rodriguez.
The deal with K-Rod came together after ongoing talks with the Phillies regarding Jonathan Papelbon finally “hit a dead end,” per the report. Multiple reports have suggested that Rodriguez hoped for a return to Milwaukee, where he has pitched for most of the last four campaigns, and that factor (not to mention the presence of fellow late-inning man Rafael Soriano on the market) surely transferred leverage to the Brewers on all fronts.
As for Papelbon, Melvin tells Haudricourt that details in the veteran closer’s contract posed significant hurdles in talks. “We did engage them and didn’t come to a comparable deal for both sides,” said Melvin. “We had a lot of conversations. It’s complicated because of next year with the $13MM [vesting option]. Even if you agree to a deal, you have to go to the agent about the no-trade [clause].”
The vesting option was doubly complicated to handle in trade negotiations, per the report, because of the possibility of varying usage by the teams involved. Papelbon will be owed $13MM for 2016 if he finishes 48 games this season. While the Brewers would have expected that to occur had Papelbon been installed in the 9th in Milwaukee, the potential for a mid-season closer switch by the Phillies could at least theoretically allow the team to avoid the obligation. As a result, Haudricourt writes, “how to account for that money was nearly impossible.”
Beyond that, Papelbon’s limited no-trade clause included protection from being dealt to Milwaukee without his blessing. Per the report, it was at least considered a strong possibility that Papelbon would demand his vesting option be guaranteed. And Philadelphia was apparently after “at least one top prospect,” Haudricourt writes.
News broke earlier today that the Mets weren’t planning to discuss extending Daniel Murphy‘s contract, and Newsday’s Marc Carig has some more details on the team’s decision. Murphy rates as a below-average second baseman and the Mets are worried he’ll inevitably have to be moved to a corner infield position. While Murphy hits well for a second baseman, the Mets don’t believe he has the bat necessary for third base or first base, not to mention the fact that David Wright and Lucas Duda have those positions covered for at least the next few seasons in New York. The Mets also aren’t likely to make Murphy a qualifying offer, unless he enjoys a huge year.
Here’s some more from around the NL East…
- Also from Carig’s piece, he hears from two rival executives that Murphy will draw a lot of interest on the free agent market. “There will be a nice line of suitors for him. Some will want the bat and accept the below-average glove if necessary. He’s young enough, the bat is strong enough to warrant a multi-year [deal],” one official said.
- The Marlins made a multi-year offer to Francisco Rodriguez before he agreed to terms with the Brewers, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports (on Twitter). However, McCalvy spoke to one of K-Rod’s teammates and was told that Rodriguez “likes it a lot” in Milwaukee and was hoping to return to the club. The amount that was offered to Rodriguez isn’t known, though previous reports had indicated Miami was comfortable with something in the two-year, $10MM range.
- Yunel Escobar wasn’t happy to be traded away from the Rays, nor was he pleased about moving from shortstop to second base, James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. The veteran infielder changed his mind after discussions with Nationals management, however, and is looking forward to playing for a contender. “I want to help them win a World Series. If the missing piece is me playing second base, then I’m here for anything,” Escobar said.
- Non-roster invitees in camp on minor league deals could play a significant role in the Braves‘ plans this year, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Asked about the team’s collection of NRIs, manager Fredi Gonzalez listed Eric Stults, Jose Veras, Matt Capps, Brady Feigl, Kelly Johnson, Eric Young and John Buck as players with a legitimate chance, noting that he was probably leaving a few out. Gonzalez seemed particularly excited about Young. “I think the world of Eric Young,” Gonzalez said. “He can really bring a different dynamic that we haven’t had here since Michael Bourn, leading off against right-handed pitching or whatever you want to do. So that’s an exciting non-roster invitee, really.”
- In NL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, we shared some Phillies notes.
Veteran reliever Francisco Rodriguez has an agreement in place with an as-yet unidentified team, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports on Twitter. While Rodriguez’s destination is not yet known, it is not the Marlins, per Spencer, and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets that the Blue Jays are also not the team that bit.
Rodriguez has lingered on the market, despite his impressive pedigree, as several teams and players sort out the last few pieces of free agency. He has been tied to several possible destinations, none more strongly than the incumbent Brewers, who are also said to be dabbling in the trade market for Jonathan Papelbon.
As I wrote earlier in the offseason, the 33-year-old has been highly durable and rather productive in recent years. While I predicted a two-year, $14MM deal for him at that time, it would be an achievement for agent Scott Boras to find that kind of cash at this stage.
10:17pm: Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post (on Twitter) hears the Nats are not in on Rodriguez.
9:21pm: The there may also be a third team lurking when it comes to K-Rod and it might be the Nationals, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com writes.
Rodriguez is arguably the top remaining arm on the relief market and is coming off a 3.04 ERA with 9.7 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 a 43.9 percent ground-ball rate and 44 saves with the Brewers in 2014. However, he also struggled with home runs, allowing 14 in just 68 innings. While that’s due primarily to a spike in his homer-to-flyball ratio that is unlikely to repeat itself, one can also understand why some clubs would be hesitant to commit significant money to someone who was that homer-prone in 2014.
The 33-year-old Rodriguez reportedly been seeking as much as $10MM for a one-year deal, and prior reports indicated that he was seeking a two-year pact (presumably at a lower annual value). The Marlins have shown interest on a two-year deal worth around $10MM total, and while they were said to be an unlikely landing spot for K-Rod by Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, Frisaro did note that there was a chance of a match if Rodriguez and agent Scott Boras lowered their asking price. It’s not known exactly where the Brewers’ level of financial comfort lies, but Boras has been talking with owner Mark Attanasio.
Spring Training is already underway, and Rodriguez is one of a few notable bullpen arms yet to latch on with a new team. Also on the market are Rafael Soriano, Phil Coke and Joe Beimel; Joba Chamberlain inked a new one-year deal with the Tigers earlier this morning.