Francisco Rodriguez Rumors

NL Notes: Brewers, Mets, Banuelos

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.

East Notes: Marlins, K-Rod, Braves, Lee, Hamels

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.

Doug Melvin On Papelbon Trade Talks, K-Rod Signing

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.

 



Brewers To Re-Sign Francisco Rodriguez

TODAY, 4:30pm: The deal includes a $2MM buyout on the club option and $2MM deferral, Haudricourt reports. The cost of the option remains unclear, with Haudricourt saying that he has heard both $6MM and $8MM mentioned.

It will take a few days for the deal to be finalized since Rodriguez must first get a work visa and take his physical.

YESTERDAY, 7:44pm: Rodriguez will be paid $3.5MM in 2015 and $5.5MM in 2016, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (via Twitter).  The additional $4MM in guaranteed salary will be deferred.  The Brewers’ 2017 club option for Rodriguez is worth $6MM.

11:59am: The Brewers have reached agreement on a two-year, $13MM deal with reliever Francisco Rodriguez. Milwaukee also holds a club option for the 2017 season over the Boras Corporation client.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals

While the annual breakdown is not yet fully reported, Rodriguez will earn just $3MM in 2015 and $6MM in 2016. The remainder will be deferred in some manner, though it is not clear how much is deferred salary and how much will go toward the option buyout. That will have important ramifications for the deal’s incentives, but the bottom line is that Milwaukee will save on up-front costs.

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. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweeted the annual breakdown.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


NL East Notes: Murphy, K-Rod, Yunel, Braves

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.

Francisco Rodriguez Agrees To Terms With Unidentified Team

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.


Francisco Rodriguez Expected To Sign Soon

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.

11:04am: The Brewers and Marlins are both continuing to show interest in Francisco Rodriguez, and the right-hander is “expected to have a deal soon,” writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

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.


Relief Market Notes: Joba, Soriano, Rangers, K-Rod

In today’s Insider-only blog on ESPN.com, Buster Olney discusses some of the remaining relief options on the market, noting that right-hander Joba Chamberlain is expected to make a decision on his 2015 club sometime this week. The Dodgers are among the teams with interest, Olney writes, but there are others involved. Olney also notes that part of the reason Rafael Soriano remains unemployed is that scouts feel that his stuff evaporated late in the 2014 season with the Nationals.

A bit more on what’s left of the relief market…

  • The Rangers are still looking for left-handed relievers and are considering both Phil Coke and Joe Beimel, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. As Wilson notes, the team needn’t worry about a 40-man roster spot, as they can move an injured player to the 60-day disabled list if they accommodate either southpaw with a big league contact.
  • The Brewers and Marlins remain in the mix for Francisco Rodrigueztweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The two teams have been the most commonly linked clubs to Rodriguez’s market, with reports over the weekend indicating that Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has discussed K-Rod with agent Scott Boras. Last week, the Marlins were rumored to be interested in the two-year, $10MM range, but Rodriguez is said to be eyeing a $10MM figure for 2015 alone.
  • Right-hander Dustin McGowan, who signed a Major League deal with the Dodgers earlier today, is viewing himself as a reliever at this point in his career, he told reporters (including FOX’s Ken Rosenthal). The Dodgers view McGowan as a relief candidate based on his 95 mph fastball and his splits; McGowan had a 5.08 ERA in the rotation last year compared to a 3.35 mark in the bullpen. His career 3.79 ERA as a reliever is nearly a run lower than his 4.78 mark as a starter.

Brewers’ Attanasio Speaking With Boras About K-Rod

Brewers owner Mark Attanasio is speaking with agent Scott Boras about signing free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. Attanasio’s involvement could be an indication that the Brewers’ pursuit of Rodriguez has intensified, although Brewers GM Doug Melvin recently told the Journal Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak that “Scott keeps calling Mark.”

The Brewers have frequently been connected to Rodriguez this offseason, although lately most K-Rod rumors have focused on the possibility that he could be headed for the Marlins. The Brewers, meanwhile, have been connected to the Phillies’ Jonathan Papelbon in their quest for a reliever with closing experience. They also recently signed former Indians closer Chris Perez to a minor-league deal. Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano (who is also represented by Boras) are, of course, the main closer types left available in what’s left of the free agent market. One recent report indicated Rodriguez was seeking a contract of $10MM.

Milwaukee would be a familiar setting for Rodriguez, who has pitched all of the last four seasons for the Brewers, with the exception of a half-season in Baltimore in late 2013. The veteran made $3.25MM on a one-year deal with the Brewers in 2014 and posted a solid 3.04 ERA, 9.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 68 innings. He did somehow allow 14 home runs, although he seems unlikely to repeat that unfortunate feat.


NL East Notes: Lee, Hamels, Harvey, K-Rod

While attention remains focused on Cole Hamels, clubs should consider trading for Cliff Lee instead, writes Dave Cameron of FanGraphs.com. Lee’s struggles in 2014 can be chalked up to injury and bad luck, so teams should be willing to take a bet on better performance. Cameron thinks the Phillies should bite the bullet and swallow the entire $25MM owed to Lee this season, leaving an acquiring club to cover the $12.5MM buyout or $27.5MM club option for next season. If the Phillies eat enough money, they should receive at least one notable prospect in exchange for the ace. Lee dealt with a recurring elbow injury last season, so rivals are probably playing wait-and-see.

  • The Phillies are easing Lee back into regular action, reports Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly. Most pitchers are throwing bullpens every other day, but Lee will work from the mound every third day. His health this spring will determine if he is a salable asset. One consideration to keep in mind – Lee’s partial no-trade list includes many of the clubs most likely to acquire him. Meanwhile, Hamels list appears to name places least likely to contend.
  • Hamels wants to play for a winner, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. He is comfortable in Philadelphia and hopes the club can be surprise contenders this season. However, he’s also pragmatic. He understands GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has to address the big picture, which could include dealing him to greener pastures.
  • Mets ace Matt Harvey will pitch within the first five games of the season, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPN. Manager Terry Collins says the club won’t skip any of his starts either. It was previously reported that Harvey will be on a strict innings limit, but they’ve backed off that position in the last day.
  • The Marlins continue to consider Francisco Rodriguez, reports Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. We recently learned K-Rod is seeking a one-year, $10MM guarantee. The Marlins appear to be interested in a much lower rate.