Geovany Soto Rumors

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.


Make Or Break Year: Geovany Soto

In the aftermath of Geovany Soto's big 2010 season, the catcher was being looked at as extension candidate, in line for a healthy multiyear contract.  The Cubs held off extending Soto and instead chose to go year-to-year in arbitration, which may have proven to be a wise decision.  Soto followed up his .280/.393/.497 performance in 2010 with a disappointing .228/.310/.411 slash line in 2011, and has thus far gotten off to a slow start this season, with just a .526 OPS entering tonight's play.  (Though, in fairness, Soto's .157 BABIP indicates he's been very unlucky.)

Uspw_6233158Soto earned $3MM in 2011 and $4.3MM this season during his first two arb-eligible years and is due for one more trip through the arb process before hitting free agency after the 2013 campaign.  We can tentatively predict Soto to earn around $5.5MM next year since even if he continues to hit poorly, I think the Cubs will still tender him a contract.  Soto's big 2010 season and his Rookie Of The Year campaign in 2008 are still too fresh in everyone's memory, and since solid-hitting catchers are such a commodity in the game, the Cubs will likely give Soto another chance to regain his past form.

"Likely," however, is not a certainty.  Soto is a middling-to-below average defender, so unless his bat heats up, he has little value.  Chicago has another catching prospect in 25-year-old Welington Castillo, who has posted an .852 OPS in 590 Triple-A plate appearances and is currently serving as the Cubs' backup with Steve Clevenger on the DL.  Jed Hoyer could go in a different direction next year, using Castillo and Clevenger (who also has some good minor league numbers) in a righty-lefty platoon, possibly with a veteran brought into the mix during Spring Training to add depth.

If the Cubs do give up on Soto, it's more likely that they would try to deal him at the trade deadline rather than non-tendering him for nothing in return.  The Rays are the most notable contender with a clear need at catcher, though a number of other teams could develop a hole behind the plate by the end of July.  If Soto can't get his bat going, expect him to be dealt for a low-level prospect to a team in need of a backup catcher.  If Soto does hit, however, he'll keep his job in Chicago for at least one more season, though the Cubs will still be right to hold off on an extension until they see what Soto does in 2013.

Photo courtesy of Howard Smith/US Presswire


Cubs Avoid Arbitration With Geovany Soto

The Cubs avoided arbitration with catcher Geovany Soto by agreeing to a $4.3MM deal, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.  MLBTR had projected the Wasserman Media Group client for $4MM.  The Cubs still have a slew of unsettled cases.


Quick Hits: Wilson, Santana, Mets, Soto, Chen

When George Kottaras hits for the cycle, left-hander Tom Milone homers on the very first pitch he sees in the Major Leagues and the Tigers come back from an 8-1 deficit for a 9-8 win over the White Sox, you know it's been a wild day in baseball.  Let's end it off with some news items…

  • The Rangers should offer C.J. Wilson a five-year contract worth between $92.5 and $97.5MM, writes Jean-Jacques Taylor for ESPN Dallas, but not any more than that since Wilson isn't quite one of the game's elite aces.  If you think that Wilson isn't worth that kind of money, remember that unless C.C. Sabathia opts out of his deal, Wilson will be clearly the best free agent arm on the market this winter.  MLBTR's Tim Dierkes thinks Wilson could even score a $100MM contract.
  • Kaja Whitehouse of the New York Post isn't impressed by the Mets' plan of offering ownership "units" worth $20-$30MM to several different investors.  She believes the club will find it hard to find investors willing to buy in without getting any say in the franchise's operations.
  • Johan Santana threw 30 pitches for Class A St. Lucie today in his first minor league appearance since July 28, reports Adam Rubin for ESPN New YorkMets manager Terry Collins didn't rule out the possibility that Santana could pitch in a Major League game this season.   
  • The Cubs' new general manager may have a difficult decision to make about Geovany Soto, writes Patrick Mooney for CSNChicago.com.  While Soto will have to rebound in 2012, it's hard to imagine any new GM immediately getting rid of a catcher who has performed very well in two of four Major League seasons.
  • Bruce Chen tells Tyler Kepner of the New York Times that he wants to return to the Royals next season, what he's learned from pitching for 10 different organizations and how he wants to be like Jamie Moyer.  Will MLBTR still be writing posts about Chen in 2025?
  • Juan Rivera's performance for the Dodgers has convinced the team that it needs another big bat for next season, reports MLB.com's Ken Gurnick.  That big bat is intended for first base or left field, which would mean that the Dodgers would part ways with either Rivera or James Loney