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Garrett Jones Rumors
Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review relays a host of updates on the Pirates (all links to Twitter):
- One area where GM Neal Huntington hopes to make a move is at first. Though the club believes that Gaby Sanchez can increase his production against same-handed pitching, he is still in need of a platoon partner to hit righties.
- The Pirates have joined seven other clubs in reaching out to shortstop Rafael Furcal, his representatives at Kinzer Management Group told Sawchik.
- Turning to the still-unresolved situation of free agent starter A.J. Burnett, Huntington said he was hoping to see some movement. "It has not inhibited our abiity to do things at this point in time," said Huntington, "but there is no question it is something we would like to see move forward if it's possible. If not, we'll have to operate as we see fit." The GM had more pointed words as well, telling MLB.com's Tom Singer that, "if he or others want a market-value deal, they'll sign elsewhere." As Singer notes, there must be at least some temptation for Burnett to look outside the Pittsburgh market given the money promised recently to mid-to-late 30's starters like Dan Haren ($10MM, one year) and Tim Hudson ($23MM, two years).
- On the club's acquisition today of outfielder Jaff Decker and righty Miles Mikolas, Huntington noted that Decker can play anywhere in the outfield and has a realistic shot at making the team's active roster out of Spring Training. Huntington also indicated that Decker has appeal both from an analytic and a scouting perspective. As for Mikolas, Huntington indicated that his groundball inducing abilities were the primary draw.
- Meanwhile, Garrett Jones, who lost his roster spot as part of the day's dealings, was just going to be too expensive to bring back, according to Huntington. "[T]he arbitration process was likely to drive the dollars above where we were comfortable," the GM said. Decker's move to Pittsburgh could also have an impact on Travis Snider, with respect to whom Huntington would only say that the front office is "working through the process."
The Pirates designated Garrett Jones and Kyle McPherson for assignment, according to Tom Singer of MLB.com (on Twitter). The move comes on the heels of Pittsburgh's acquisition of Jaff Decker and Miles Mikolas from San Diego.
Jones, 32, owns a career .254/.316/.458 slash line across six big league seasons. The first baseman/outfielder had a down year in 2013, however, hitting .233/.289/.419 in 440 plate appearances. Jones was due $5.3MM in arbitration this winter, according to MLBTR's Matt Swartz, making him a non-tender candidate. Still, Jones has cleared 20 homers in three of his five seasons with the Bucs and he should draw interest as a platoon bat with power.
McPherson, 26, was sidelined for most of last season, making just two minor league starts. He underwent Tommy John surgery on July 10 this year, making it unlikely that he's able to contribute much in 2014. In 25 career starts at the Double-A level, McPherson owns a 3.39 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
It was on this date in 1871 the Boston Red Stockings incorporated giving birth to today's Atlanta Braves. Let's take a look at the news from the 21st century Braves and the rest of the National League:
- The Braves have enough payroll space to add one significant salary and have yet to rule out Michael Bourn or Justin Upton, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. O'Brien adds GM Frank Wren has spoken with Bourn's agent Scott Boras, but they didn't start any negotiations. O'Brien also has been told manager Fredi Gonzalez contacted Bourn within the past few weeks. In regards to Upton, O'Brien sees the Braves and Rangers as the last two teams standing, but neither seems willing to match what the Mariners offered in their failed bid to acquire the outfielder.
- O'Brien, via Twitter, discounts the suggestion the Braves have yet to acquire Bourn or Upton to save payroll in order to sign Martin Prado to a long-term deal.
- It's been nearly a decade since the Reds had to go to an arbitration hearing, but this year could be different, writes MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. "We're hopeful we can get something done," Reds GM Walt Jocketty said of the six players with whom salary figures were exchanged. "Some of the spreads were significant. We'll see how it proceeds the next week or two." The Reds' arbitration class is headlined by Mat Latos, whose case was analyzed by MLBTR's Matt Swartz last week. You can keep track of all of the Reds' arbitration cases with MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker.
- With the Red Sox still seeking a left-handed hitting first baseman/left fielder, Tom Singer of MLB.com wonders if the Pirates will make another run at Jose Iglesias, as the starting point of a bigger deal involving Garrett Jones (Twitter links).
- There is still no clear-cut answer as to whether Francisco Liriano will be with the Pirates in 2013, tweets Singer. The Pirates and Liriano agreed to a two-year, $12.75MM contract in December, but the deal was put on hold earlier this month when it was discovered the left-hander injured his right arm.
- Lucas Duda told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com his surgically repaired right wrist feels great and he has started hitting off a tee. Duda is projected to man left field for the Mets.
- Chipper Jones was honored at the New York BBWAA dinner last night and confessed to the audience he was starting to get the itch to go back to Spring Training, Rubin reports. "I was on the Braves' web site, just kind of messing around on my computer," said Jones. "I was thinking to myself, 'You know what? I think I'm going to go down and get me a workout in, see how everything feels.' I was down there for about five minutes and I figured I'd go to Hawaii instead."
Jones, 31, hit .274/.317/.516 with 27 homers in 515 plate appearances last season, most of which he spent batting cleanup behind Andrew McCutchen. The left-handed hitter posted a .289/.332/.556 line with 25 homers against right-handers in 2012 and has been targeted in trades by several teams in the last 18 months or so. Jones was arbitration-eligible for the second time as a Super Two, meaning he's still under team control for both 2014 and 2015 as well.
It has been six weeks since the Red Sox and Mike Napoli agreed to terms on a three-year, $39MM contract. The holdup in finalizing the deal is concern with one of Napoli's hips and the team's desire to write protective language into the contract. Recently, we learned the Red Sox are continuing negotiations with Napoli, but would like to shorten the deal to just one year and have been in contact with the Nationals about Mike Morse. A major league source told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe this about Napoli's hip, "It’s one of those things where it could go anytime or five years from now. Nobody really knows, which is why the Red Sox want strong language after putting $40 million on the table for him.” Cafardo believes it's starting to make sense for the Red Sox to trade for Justin Morneau or to make Daniel Nava a first baseman/left fielder. More from Cafardo:
- That Kyle Lohse is still available at this late date is somewhat of a stunner to Cafardo. Lohse's market has been stunted with him being tied to draft pick compensation and that no one seems willing to go beyond two years, although several teams needs starting pitching and his stuff translates to both leagues.
- Draft pick compensation has also shrunk the market for Michael Bourn. Another factor, according to a NL GM, has been the Twins trading both Denard Span and Ben Revere and the Braves signing B.J. Upton.
- Cafardo thought it was strange for Justin Upton to reject his trade to Seattle since it's one of the nicest cities in the country and the fences at Safeco Field have been moved in.
- Cubs President Theo Epstein has come to realize Alfonso Soriano is an excellent clubhouse presence because of his willingness to help younger players. With that and his excellent 2012 season, Epstein wants a player of note in any deal where the Cubs eat a majority of the $36MM left on Soriano's contract.
- Discussions to include Garrett Jones in the Joel Hanrahan trade never progressed very far because "the Pirates really valued Jones highly," a major league source told Cafardo.
- One NL GM told Cafardo Roy Oswalt may still want to pitch, but on his terms and perhaps for only a half a season. Many teams have given up trying to persuade the 35-year-old to pitch, feeling the vibe is that he just doesn’t want it bad enough. Cafardo also notes Oswalt suffered a forearm strain at the end of his time with the Rangers last season.
- Bobby Valentine has turned down some opportunities to serve as an advisor for teams. Valentine has instead decided to focus on expanding his restaurant business, growing his film company, and working for NBC Sports since being fired as manager of the Red Sox.
Let's round up the latest items out of the NL Central, which, like the rest of baseball's divisions, now features just five teams….
- The Pirates made an attempt to land pitching prospect Taijuan Walker in a deal for Garrett Jones, but were rebuffed by the Mariners, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel adds the Pirates to the list of teams with interest in Manny Parra (Twitter link).
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin remains undecided on whether the team will pursue a contract extension for Corey Hart, writes Haudricourt. Melvin, who typically works out extensions in the spring, told Haudricourt that a Hart extension isn't something the club would address at the Winter Meetings.
Let's take a quick look around the league for a few of the morning's odds and ends out of Nashville….
- Giancarlo Stanton remains unhappy with the direction of the Marlins, agent Joel Wolfe tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). "It wasn't a reaction," Wolfe said, referring to Stanton's post-trade tweet last month. "It's a state of mind." Wolfe declined comment when asked if Stanton has requested a trade, according to Heyman (Twitter link).
- The Orioles may have some interest in Garrett Jones and could dangle pitching in trade talks with the Pirates, says Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Biertempfel adds within the same blog post that at least two American League teams weren't interested when the Pirates came to them to discuss Joel Hanrahan. According to Biertempfel, there are some concerns about Hanrahan's physical conditioning and his late-season performance in 2012.
- The Indians had been "seriously interested" in James Loney before he signed with the Rays, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (via Twitter).
- Fernando Rodney, who will be a free agent next winter, has switched agents, leaving ACES and hiring Dan Lozano, tweets ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.
- The Royals' interest in Brett Myers is at the "kicking the tires" stage, tweets Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.
- With a plethora of catchers in the mix, the Red Sox will field offers for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, tweets Jon Heyman.
The Mariners have talked with the Pirates about first baseman/right fielder Garrett Jones in recent weeks, according to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. Baker stresses that it was just one of the many conversations the M's have had with clubs, but the discussion went beyond just one phone call and names were batted back-and-forth.
One proposal had Jones and Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan and possibly another player going to the Mariners in exchange for first baseman Justin Smoak, catcher John Jaso, and starting pitcher Hector Noesi. The Bucs have let other teams know that Hanrahan is available and were said to be seeking rotation help in return.
Jones, 31, had a .274/.317/.516 batting line with 27 home runs in 515 plate appearances for the Pirates last year. We saw the first baseman/right fielder on the pages of MLBTR last offseason as the Yankees reportedly had interest in trading for him.
Hanrahan, also 31, posted a 2.72 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 5.4 BB/9 last season in Pittsburgh. The closer earned $4.1MM last season and is in line to earn $6.9MM for 2013 in his final year of arbitration. Jones earned $2.25MM in 2012 after heading to arbitration in his first year of eligibility and is projected to make $4.4MM. Baker writes that the Pirates may be motivated to make a deal like this in order to ease their payroll burden.
Jones posted a .243/.321/.433 line with 16 home runs in 477 plate appearances for the Pirates last year and drew some trade interest from the Yankees this offseason. I examined his case in some detail yesterday. Teams won five of the seven arbitration cases that took place this offseason, as MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows.
In the context of nine-figure player contracts and billion dollar TV deals, $250K isn’t all that much money, yet the Pirates and Garrett Jones went to an arbitration hearing over that sum earlier today. A panel of arbitrators must decide whether the first-time arbitration eligible outfielder/first baseman will earn $2.25MM or $2.5MM in 2012. Let’s take a look at some players who could have figured into the discussion today.
Recent first-time eligible position players who agreed to one-year deals in the $2.25-2.5MM range would have had the most clout in the hearing room. From the current class of arbitration eligible players, Dexter Fowler ($2.35MM), Nyjer Morgan ($2.35MM) and Seth Smith ($2.415MM) qualify and from last year’s class we have Ian Stewart ($2.29MM), Chase Headley ($2.325MM) and David Murphy ($2.4MM). Those who played long ago, signed at different price points or agreed to extensions as first-time eligible players are generally less relevant.
The midpoint for Jones’ case sits at $2.375MM — more than Fowler, Morgan, Stewart and Headley obtained their first time through arbitration. The Pirates likely argued that Jones is no better than such players, while SFX would have explained that their client has accomplished more than relevant players below the midpoint.
In terms of career power numbers, which matter a great deal for position players, SFX had a case. Jones has more career homers than any of the six players above had at parallel points in their careers, and more RBI than everyone but Murphy.
Smith recently obtained a salary above the Jones midpoint, just as Murphy did a year ago. The Pirates may have attempted to show that these players are superior to Jones, but SFX could have countered that Jones is at least as accomplished as Smith and Murphy.
There’s ample room for interpretation — arbitration is both an art and a science. Take Headley, for example. The Pirates could have suggested that Jones’ 2012 salary should stay below the $2.375MM midpoint because he doesn’t measure up to Headley in terms of key stats like average and on-base percentage. SFX could have responded by pointing to Jones’ superior power numbers, both for his career and in his platform season.
In other words, the sides would have highlighted different attributes of the same players in order to make their respective cases. If your head is spinning over the $250K question, you won’t have to wait long for resolution — the verdict should arrive tomorrow.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI. For a look at Jones in relation to teammate Casey McGehee, click here.