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Francisco Rodriguez Rumors
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 Rodriguez, tweets 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 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.
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.
The Marlins don’t appear likely to make a significant free-agent addition to their bullpen, as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports that the team isn’t expected to add Phil Coke or Joba Chamberlain, and the asking price of Francisco Rodriguez remains too high. Frisaro had previously written that Miami was considering Rodriguez and had its eyes on a minor league deal for Coke.
According to Frisaro, the Marlins are comfortable offering Rodriguez a two-year deal worth roughly $10MM in total. However, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported last night that K-Rod is seeking that same level of financial compensation on a one-year deal. I’d imagine that agent Scott Boras would listen if the Marlins were to expand (though certainly not double) their comfort zone on a two-year deal, but Frisaro gives no indication that such a scenario is likely. He does note that if Rodriguez’s demands drop, he’s the most realistic external option to boost the bullpen. The Marlins don’t have serious interest in Chamberlain, Frisaro adds.
As for Coke, the Marlins remain unwilling to give the former Tiger anything other than a minor league contract. Miami is very interested to see what Rule 5 pick Andrew McKirahan can do in Spring Training, and adding Coke would likely snuff out that competition before it had a chance to begin, as the team already has a second lefty locked into a bullpen spot in the form of Mike Dunn. Coke, though, is said to be looking for about $2MM on a Major League contract.
Another name that intrigues the Marlins is that of minor league signee Nick Masset, who excelled as a setup man for the Reds from 2009-11 before shoulder problems kept him on the shelf for the entire 2012 and 2013 seasons. Masset returned to the Majors in 2014 but struggled to a 5.80 ERA in 45 innings with the Rockies. However, Masset did still average nearly 93 mph on his fastball with a 51.7 percent ground-ball rate, so there are some elements of his rough season that merit optimism.
Though multiple teams have shown interest in Francisco Rodriguez this offseason, he remains unsigned, with previous reports indicating that he and agent Scott Boras are holding out for a two-year deal. It appears, however, that K-Rod is willing to take a one-year pact, but at a premium price, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (via Twitter) that he’s seeking a $10MM contract heading into the 2015 season.
News that Kenley Jansen underwent surgery that would sideline him for eight to 12 weeks spawned immediate speculation that K-Rod (or fellow Boras client Rafael Soriano) could land in Los Angeles. Indications since the announcement of Jansen’s foot surgery, though, are that the Dodgers won’t make a reactionary splash. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted that K-Rod would only be a consideration for the Dodgers on their own terms, and a $10MM commitment hardly seems likely to match that description.
While the notion of Rodriguez seeking a one-year, $10MM contract back in October or November wouldn’t have seemed completely far-fetched — we at MLBTR predicted he’d find a two-year, $14MM deal — it seems difficult to imagine at this juncture. Most teams have spent their offseason budget and have little financial wiggle room. The best chance of Rodriguez finding such a deal would be in the event that another closer lost its closer for a more significant amount of time than the Dodgers currently stand to be without Jansen.
Rodriguez’s reported asking price figures to elicit a collective eye roll from many fans, but it should at least be noted that he did enjoy a very strong bottom-line results in Milwaukee last year. The 33-year-old recorded 44 saves with a 3.04 ERA, 9.7 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 43.9 percent ground-ball rate in 68 innings. Many have been quick to criticize his season because he rated below replacement level per Fangraphs’ version of WAR, but that valuation is based on his 4.50 FIP. Baseball-Reference valued Rodriguez at 1.5 wins, and RA9-WAR agreed, valuing him at 1.3 wins. Other ERA estimators such as xFIP (2.91) and SIERA (2.58) feel that Rodriguez was as effective, if not more so than his ERA indicated in 2014. Rodriguez did post the best BB/9 rate of his career last season, and his swinging-strike rate was his best since 2011.
Those positive factors notwithstanding, $10MM is an aggressive goal for a 33-year-old reliever in mid-February, although Boras has pulled off larger feats in previous offseasons. To this point, the Brewers, Blue Jays and now Dodgers have been the teams most often linked to Rodriguez, but barring a drop in asking price, his eventual landing spot may be with a team that doesn’t even have a clear need for a closer at the moment.
The Dodgers will be without Kenley Jansen through at least mid-April and possibly mid-May after their elite closer underwent surgery on his left foot this morning, but president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has indicated to MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick that the front office’s initial plan is to evaluate its in-house alternatives at closer (Twitter link).
Though the team may not ultimately take a reactionary approach, the Dodgers will indeed check in on free agents Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano, tweets Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times. However, Shaikin adds that he feels it’s more likely the Dodgers will add a middle relief option than a closer, considering Jansen figures to miss a maximum of six weeks (barring setbacks) and is suffering from an injury that is not related to his arm.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports seems to agree with the thought that a reactionary move is unlikely, tweeting that it’d be a “shock” to see the team make a desperation move. Signing K-Rod would only happen if Rodriguez were to sign at the Dodgers’ price, Rosenthal notes, and that seems rather unlikely, considering the fact that Rodriguez and agent Scott Boras have reportedly been holding out for a two-year deal.
The Dodgers’ most experienced options to replace Jansen for the early portion of the season include J.P. Howell, Brandon League and Joel Peralta. Of that trio, only League comes with significant closing experience, though there’s no guarantee that that will play a significant factor in the decision. Paco Rodriguez, Juan Nicasio, Chris Hatcher and Pedro Baez represent 40-man options, while non-roster invitees David Aardsma and Sergio Santos have closing experience as well.
Right-hander Dillon Gee is likely the odd man out and headed to the Mets‘ bullpen this season, and ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin was among the reporters to speak with him today regarding the move (video link). Gee says he is ready to contribute in whatever role he is asked, even though he obviously prefers to stay in the rotation. Though he did not ever speak with anyone in the front office, he relayed that his agent did, and was seemingly left with the impression that a trade was never quite as likely as was believed in some quarters.
Let’s have a look at a few segments of the pitching market where action still seems open:
- It would still be unwise to bet against two other well-known closers — Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano — landing substantial contracts, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Notably, both free agents are represented by Scott Boras, who Rosenthal says not to bet against. As Rosenthal rightly points out, it will be interesting to see whether that pair of big-named arms manages to top the guarantees given to names like Pat Neshek ($12.5MM) and Zach Duke ($15MM).
- As previously reported, Rodriguez has drawn interest from the Marlins, who have also had discussions about fellow free agent righty Joba Chamberlain, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). And those aren’t the only arms still under consideration in Miami, per Heyman. The club is seemingly casting a wide net — waiting for a good value, perhaps — in adding a final piece before camp.
- Red Sox closer Koji Uehara said today that his mid-season swoon was due in part to injury issues, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. The trouble was related to Uehara’s lower back, GM Ben Cherington said. Obviously, the club believes that he will be able to return without issue, given the contract it gave the veteran relief ace.
- Breakout Angels starter Garrett Richards threw his first pen session since undergoing knee surgery last year, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Reports were solid on the 26-year-old righty, whose return — and ability to match his outstanding results from last year — will go a long way toward defining the club. Anything close to his 2014 showing would seemingly make Richards a prime extension target.
The Blue Jays and Indians appear not to be involved with any of the three best remaining relievers — righties Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Joba Chamberlain — according to ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider link). Other theoretically plausible landing spots seem fairly dried up as well, he notes in assessing the most likely remaining suitors.
Here are a few more pitching notes:
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik says that the club spoke with lefty reliever Joe Beimel but that a deal could not be reached, Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN tweets. Beimel had a nice rebound campaign last year in Seattle, and is one of the few southpaws left on the market.
- The Mets will not be dealing away any pitchers unless circumstances change, Marc Carig of Newsday reports (Twitter links). Dillon Gee generated the most discussion, but New York never found an offer it liked and its prospective trade partners went with other options.
- We checked in earlier this evening on K-Rod and lefty Phil Coke, each of whom has received some interest from the Marlins. Within that post, we noted a report from Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter) indicating that Coke still has hope of landing a big league pact.
- Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays is likely not going anywhere any time soon, but I can’t help but link to this interesting piece from Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs, who explains that Stroman’s arsenal of pitches looks like it was assembled from amongst the best offerings of some of the very best arms in the game.
The Marlins are looking to pick up one or two of the few remaining free agent pen arms, according to a report from MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Miami is “looking to sign” southpaw Phil Coke to a minor league pact and remains open to striking a deal with Francisco Rodriguez, per the report.
If a deal is struck, the 32-year-old Coke would be given a spring invite and a chance to earn a role as the team’s second lefty out of the pen. Coke has put up less-than-outstanding results over the past two seasons, but induces groundballs at a handy rate and still brings a mid-90s fastball from the left side. The Steamer projection system, at least, expects better run prevention from him in 2015.
Of course, it is not clear that Miami will be able to woo Coke on a minor league deal. Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter that the veteran is looking for a $2MM guarantee and still has possible fits on a big league commitment, with plenty of teams interested in minor league pacts.
As for Rodriguez, he would obviously need to be willing to function in a set-up role in front of closer Steve Cishek. He has been most closely connected to the Brewers, of course, and it is unclear whether Miami would look to compete or merely function as a lower-priced backup option if Milwaukee does not sign K-Rod. Even at this point in the offseason, Frisaro says that Rodriguez is expected to earn $10MM or more over two years.
MLBTR sends our condolences to the family and colleagues of Alison Gordon, who passed away today at age 72. Gordon covered the Blue Jays for the Toronto Star from 1979 to 1983, becoming the first woman to work as a full-time beat writer covering an MLB club, as well as the first female member of the Baseball Writers Association Of America. The Star’s Brendan Kennedy has a fuller examination of Gordon’s career and her influence on countless female sportswriters.
Some news items from around the game…
- GM Jeff Luhnow said the Astros could add “perhaps another reliever but not another starter at this point,” Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter). The Astros added to their rotation depth earlier today by signing Roberto Hernandez, and the team could be closing in on a deal with left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher.
- The Rangers are another team with a “strong interest” in Thatcher, as well as another lefty bullpen arm in Phil Coke, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link). Coke recently threw for Texas.
- The arbitration hearing between Addison Reed and the Diamondbacks is scheduled for Friday unless the two sides can reach an agreement before then, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports.
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich discusses the team’s offseason and his own hiring in an interview with Woody Paige and Les Shapiro of the Denver Post’s Sports Show (video link).
- Critics may claim the Phillies haven’t done enough to move their high-priced veterans this offseason, though Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News feels the Phils have a right to be cautious given the scope of their rebuild.
- “Patience,” is how a Phillies executive responded when asked by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal if the club was frustrated by the lack of quality offers for Cole Hamels. Both Rosenthal and the executive feel more trade opportunities could open up as teams’ needs change due to Spring Training injuries.
- The Blue Jays and Indians don’t appear to be in on any of Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden writes. The Tribe has less of a pressing need at the back of their bullpen given Cody Allen‘s emergence last season, while the Jays may also not specifically be looking for closing help, though they are looking at bullpen upgrades.
- The Dodgers‘ hiring of Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi to run the front office is the top transaction of the 2014-15 offseason, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron opines. Three other Dodgers moves appear in Cameron’s list of the winter’s top 10 moves, and he calls them “probably the scariest organization in baseball” now that their financial resources have been augmented by Friedman/Zaidi’s creative maneuvers.