Geovany Soto Rumors

Rangers Targeting Catchers This Offseason

Given Mike Napoli's status as an impending free agent, the Rangers will be looking for catching help this offseason, according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. The Rangers have been ambivalent when asked if Napoli will receive a qualifying offer, according to Sullivan. As we learned last week, that offer would be $13.3MM on a one-year deal.

Sullivan also writes that it's likely the Rangers and Blue Jays will enter into trade discussions this offseason, given Toronto's catching surplus. The Blue Jays have J.P. Arencibia at the Major League level, with Travis d'Arnaud knocking on the door in Triple-A. Both profile as starting catchers, and the Jays also have Jeff Mathis and the recently claimed Bobby Wilson on their 40-man roster. Toronto would likely seek pitching depth in any deal involving a catcher.

Rangers GM Jon Daniels acquired Geovany Soto over the summer as a means to bolster the position for the stretch run. Soto currently profiles as the starter in Texas, but would become a non-tender candidate if the Rangers were to add a significant piece in the offseason. The 2008 NL Rookie of the Year earned $4.3MM in 2012 and would be due for a raise through arbitration despite hitting just .198/.270/.343. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith examined Soto as a non-tender candidate back in August.

All of this, of course, is assuming that the Rangers are unable to retain Napoli's services. Napoli hopes to return to the Rangers, according to Sullivan, but that will be dependent on what kind of offers he receives. Another factor could be how he's used in the lineup. Napoli went on record in July stating that he prefers catching to playing first base, so he could have interest in a team that will use him beind the plate more (though that's just my own speculation).

Check out MLBTR's 2013 free agent list for a full look at the upcoming class of catchers that the Rangers could pursue.


AL West Notes: Angels, Soto, Montero, Athletics

The A's picked up a 12-4 win in Detroit today to move 3.5 games behind Texas for first place in the AL West, a deficit that could be further cut to three games should the Rangers lose to the Angels tonight.  The A's and Rangers still have seven games remaining against each other, so the division race may not be decided until the very last day of the season.  Here's some news from around the AL West…

  • Angels chairman Dennis Kuhl denied reports that the team is negotiating with the City of Industry about a new ballpark, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.  The Los Angeles Daily News reported that the Angels had been in "preliminary talks" with Industry officials about moving the team after the 2016 season, when the Angels can opt out of their lease at Angel Stadium.  In addition to Kuhl, officials from Industry and the proposed building site also denied the report.
  • Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine told Bryan Dolgin of ESPNDallas.com that he has been impressed by the "seamless transition" catcher Geovany Soto made after Texas acquired him from the Cubs midseason. Soto is a non-tender candidate heading into the 2012-13 offseason.
  • Could the Mariners trade Jesus MonteroDave Cameron of the U.S.S. Mariner blog thinks the M's should consider the possibility, given that the team has John Jaso and Mike Zunino at catcher and Montero's bat projects as a long-term project, according to Cameron's metrics.
  • Remarkably, Athletics starters Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin were selling running shoes around this time last year, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports. The rookie pitchers have helped their team to an 85-64 record and excellent playoff position.

MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith contributed to this post


Make Or Break Year: How Are They Doing?

Before the season, we identified 11 players who were entering "make or break" years. These guys had experienced ups and downs in their respective careers and were positioned to re-establish themselves as difference makers at the Major League level and set themselves up for nice paydays in the future. Now that we're into August, let's take a second to check in each player (all links go to MLBTR posts)…

  • Scott Baker, Twins — Baker, 30, had elbow surgery in April and will miss the entire season. Minnesota will likely decline his $9.25MM option for 2013 (no buyout).
  • Phil Hughes, Yankees — The 26-year-old right-hander owns a 4.10 ERA in 131 2/3 innings this year, including a 3.40 ERA since mid-May. He's a safe bet to be tendered a contract for 2014, his final year as a arbitration-eligible player.
  • Jair Jurrjens, Braves — Jurrjens, 26, pitched so poorly earlier in the season that he had to be sent to the minors. He's since resurfaced and owns 6.89 ERA in 48 1/3 innings, cementing his status as a non-tender candidate.
  • Adam Lind, Blue Jays — Lind has battled back problems and also been demoted to Triple-A this season, and he's hit .227/.298/.394 while with the big league team. The 29-year-old continues to disappoint since signing his four-year, $18MM extension prior to 2010.
  • Francisco Liriano, White Sox — It's been another up and down season for the 28-year-old southpaw, who owns a 5.03 ERA in 111 innings. The Twins traded Liriano to the ChiSox at the deadline.
  • James Loney, Dodgers — Loney, now 28, hasn't helped himself at all this season, hitting just .251/.301/.330 in 327 plate appearances. He might have to settle for a minor league contract this coming offseason.
  • Kendrys Morales, Angels — The 29-year-old is hitting .282/.327/.455 with 14 homers on the year, well below the level he established prior to his leg injury in 2010. Morales figures to be both a trade and non-tender candidate after the season.
  • Mike Pelfrey, Mets — Pelfrey pitched to a 2.29 ERA in three starts before needing Tommy John surgery. The Mets are expected to non-tender the 28-year-old after the season.
  • Geovany Soto, Rangers — The 29-year-old backstop has continued to deal with injuries in 2012 and is hitting just .201/.289/.356. Soto is an obvious non-tender candidate.
  • Kevin Youkilis, White Sox — Youkilis lost his starting job with the Red Sox and was traded to the White Sox, who are likely to decline his $13MM option after the season. The 33-year-old has dealt with nagging injuries and is hitting .238/.339/.427 overall.
  • Delmon Young, Tigers — Young, 26, has had a below-average season at the plate (.266/.298/.402) and has dealt with some off-field problems. He hasn't helped his free agent stock any.


Non-Tender Candidate: Geovany Soto

The Rangers wanted Geovany Soto enough to trade minor league pitcher Jake Brigham for him. Do they like him enough to earmark $4MM-plus and a roster spot for him in 2013? Soto doesn’t have any guarantee that his Rangers career will last more than a few months.

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Soto has emerged as a 2012 non-tender candidate, since his offense has diminished to uncomfortably low levels. He’s on track for career-lows in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage this year, and after 206 total plate appearances he has a batting line of .201/.286/.348.

Those offensive numbers would be disappointing for just about any player, but they’re especially troubling for a former Rookie of the Year known for his bat. Soto was an above-average offensive player in 2008 and 2010, and his offense remained passable in 2009 and 2011. His batting average on balls in play is presently 74 points below his career average, an indication that bad luck has contributed to his poor season. Soto’s still just 29 years old and he has a history of hitting left-handed pitching (career .904 OPS vs. southpaws), so there’s some reason for optimism going forward.

Soto does an average job at limiting the running game. He has prevented 27% of stolen base attempts both this year (league average is 26%) and for his career. The Fielding Bible Volume III suggested before the season that Soto was a capable but unremarkable defensive catcher.

Soto now earns $4.3MM and is on track to go to arbitration for the third and final time this offseason. The Wasserman Media Group client projects to earn $4.6MM in 2013, according to MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. If the Rangers view Soto as a platoon or backup catcher, they probably won’t be inclined to pay him starter money. And if they are willing to spend $4.5MM on a catcher, they’ll have plenty of choices other than Soto (only one free agent catcher obtained more than $4MM in guaranteed money last offseason).

Soto provides the Rangers with insurance in case Mike Napoli leaves as a free agent after the season. If Napoli signs with another team before the mid-December deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players, Texas might be more inclined to retain Soto and hope for a return to his career norms in 2013. 

It’s possible for players to restore their value and avoid non-tenders with a strong showing down the stretch. Delmon Young seemed likely to be non-tendered a year ago this time, but he hit eight home runs in 40 regular season games with the Tigers before adding five more homers in the postseason. If Soto shows flashes of being the same hitter he was in 2008 and 2010, the Rangers may determine he’s worth retaining for 2013. If not, expect him to hit free agency in December as a 2012 non-tender.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


Cubs Notes: Garza, Dempster, Villanueva

The non-waiver trade deadline came and went and Cubs hurler Matt Garza wound up staying put in Chicago.  Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer says that teams shied away in part because of the right-hander's tricep injury, tweets Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.  Here's more on the Cubs..

  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that the Dodgers didn't wind up with Ryan Dempster because of the pitchers that they were unwilling to part with.  GM Ned Colletti's four untouchables in talks for Dempster were right-handers Zach Lee, Allen Webster, and Rubby De La Rosa, and left-hander Chris Reed.
  • The Rangers will pay all of Dempster's salary while the Cubs will pay all of Soto's salary, making it a virtual wash in terms of money, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
  • Landing a solid prospect in Christian Villanueva was a reasonable return for the Cubs considering that their leverage to move Dempster was limited by his 10-and-5 rights, writes Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd).  Villanueva was blocked in the Rangers organization but should have a chance to shine with the Cubs.

Rangers Acquire Geovany Soto

The Rangers officially acquired a former Rookie of the Year today, getting catcher Geovany Soto and cash from the Cubs for minor league pitcher Jake Brigham and a player to be named later or cash.

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Soto, 29, has a .195/.278/.345 batting line in 194 plate appearances this year. The 2008 NL Rookie of the Year earns $4.3MM in 2012 and is on track to go to arbitration for the third time this offseason. However, he could be non-tendered given his salary. The Mets also had interest in trading for Soto.

The move led to the Rangers designating catcher Yorvit Torrealba for assignment. If Soto's production improves, Texas will have an in-house alternative to Mike Napoli when he hits free agency this offseason. Otherwise, the Rangers could non-tender Soto and let him test the free agent market a year early.

Brigham, a 24-year-old right-hander, had been pitching at Double-A Frisco. He has a 4.28 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 124 innings over the course of 21 starts this year. Brigham is a fringe arm, Ben Badler of Baseball America writes (on Twitter).  ESPN's Keith Law says he has "a plus fastball and power breaking ball but lacks the command and the third pitch to start."

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that a trade would take place and Tim Brown of Yahoo first reported that the Rangers acquired Soto.  Photo courtesy of US Presswire/Benny Sieu.


Braves Acquire Reed Johnson, Paul Maholm

The Cubs have traded left-hander Paul Maholm, outfielder Reed Johnson and cash considerations to the Braves in a four-player trade that provides Atlanta with reinforcements for the season's final two months and bolsters Chicago's minor league system. The Cubs obtain right-handers Jaye Chapman and Arodys Vizcaino in the trade, which the teams have announced. 

Paul Maholm - Cubs (PW)

Maholm has a 3.74 ERA with 6.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and a 49.9% ground ball rate in 120 1/3 innings for the Cubs this year. The 30-year-old has never thrown particularly hard; his average fastball checks in at 87.6 mph this year, according to FanGraphs. He earns a $4.75MM salary in 2012 and his contract includes a $6.5MM club option for 2013. The Royals and Pirates appeared to have interest in Maholm earlier this month.

Johnson, 35, has a .307/.361/.452 batting line in 180 plate appearances this year. The right-handed hitter has played all three outfield positions for the Cubs and owns a career .313/.370/.469 line against left-handed pitching. He's signed to a one-year, $1.15MM contract and will hit free agency after the season. Four teams made offers for Johnson today, including the Pirates and Tigers, according to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com.

Vizcaino, who entered the 2012 season ranked by Baseball America as the 40th-best prospect in MLB, had Tommy John surgery this spring. The 21-year-old posted a 3.06 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 97 innings for three Braves affiliates as he made his way through Atlanta's minor league system in 2011. The right-hander reached the Major Leagues last year, posting a 4.67 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 in 17 relief appearances.

Chapman, a 25-year-old right-hander, has a 3.52 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 53 2/3 innings of relief for Atlanta's Triple-A team so far in 2012. The Braves selected him in the 16th round of the 2005 draft.

Maholm joins a Braves rotation that includes Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Mike Minor, Ben Sheets and, as of tomorrow, Kris Medlen. The Braves nearly traded for Ryan Dempster this month, but the sides don't appear to have obtained the right-hander's permission. 

Geovany Soto has been traded to the Rangers in a separate move.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported that Johnson had been traded (on Twitter). Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports first reported Maholm's role in the trade and first reported that the Braves were the other team involved (Twitter link). ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick first reported that the Cubs were getting two minor league pitchers, including Chapman. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the Cubs were getting Vizcaino. Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


Heyman On Morneau, Dodgers, Athletics, Mets

The latest from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports:

  • The Dodgers, Blue Jays, and Giants "appear to have some interest" in Twins first baseman Justin Morneau.  Heyman notes that the Dodgers are looking at many offensive options, possibly as many as 10.  Morneau, 31, has somewhat bounced back to a .260/.322/.457 line after a 2011 season lost to concussion symptoms and other injuries.  He has $5MM in salary remaining this year and is owed $14MM in 2013.
  • The Athletics' top two choices for a shortstop upgrade are still Stephen Drew of the Diamondbacks and Yunel Escobar of the Blue Jays.  The A's remain interested in Padres third baseman Chase Headley as well, but Heyman finds a match unlikely.
  • The Mets have talked about Geovany Soto of the Cubs, Kelly Shoppach of the Red Sox, and Ramon Hernandez of the Rockies, but the prices are too high on these catchers.  Heyman says the Mets may be willing to delay their catcher search until the winter.

Projected 2013 Salaries For Pence, Choo, Headley

You may remember Matt Swartz from such MLBTR projects as the 2012 arbitration projections.  Matt's model was very accurate the first time through, and he's made it even better for the 2013 projections.  I asked Matt for a sneak peek at 2013 projected salaries for some arbitration eligible trade candidates.  He used Dan Szymborski's rest-of-season ZiPS projections to account for the remainder of the 2012 season.


Mets, Cubs Discussed Geovany Soto

The Mets talked with the Cubs about the possibility of trading for catcher Geovany Soto, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. However, the sides aren’t likely to complete a trade.

While the Mets are comfortable entering the 2013 season with Josh Thole as their everyday catcher, they’d like to add a proven backstop who bats from the right side to complement Thole. The Mets could re-start talks for Soto or another right-handed hitter this offseason, Martino reports. The Mets also had some interest in Ramon Hernandez and Kelly Shoppach, but couldn’t agree on a price with the Rockies or Red Sox.

Soto, 29, has a .195/.278/.345 batting line in 194 plate appearances for the Cubs this year. The 2008 NL Rookie of the Year earns $4.3MM in 2012 and will go to arbitration for the third time this offseason unless he's non-tendered.