- Dave Dombrowski Out As Tigers GM; Al Avila Named Replacement
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Homer Bailey Rumors
Originally recalled for a two-day period with Darwin Barney on paternity leave, Cubs second baseman Arismendy Alcantara has been informed that he will be with the team at least through the All-Star break, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Alcantara, who ranked 33rd on Baseball America’s midseason list of the game’s Top 50 prospects, says he was surprised by the news. Manager Rick Renteria offered praise for the 22-year-old, who collected his first four Major League hits in today’s contest.
Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…
- Reds right-hander Homer Bailey left today’s game after five innings due to a slight strain in his right knee, but he won’t see his name added to the list of significant injuries that have stricken contending teams today. The Reds have announced that he is expected to make his next start.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he’s glad to see Vance Worley performing well with the Pirates, though he did imply that it’s too early to say that the Twins gave up on Worley too soon: “Give him a little time to see what he does over the course of starts. We’ll talk about that in October. See how it goes. I know he’s done well.”
- The Indians are hopeful that Justin Masterson‘s two weeks on the disabled list will not only give him a chance to heal, but to help him get his mechanics back in line, reports MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway feels that Masterson’s knee has affected the way he’s been able to land during his delivery, which would explain the sharp decrease in velocity Masterson has seen this year.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn would need to receive an offer that knocks his cell phone out of his hands in order to trade Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Avisail Garcia or Jose Abreu, writes Scott Merkin of MLB.com. However, Hahn notes that oftentimes, a trade will come together when a rival club’s initial inquiry is on a player that is unavailable, as it leads to the suggestion of alternative options.
Homer Bailey‘s six-year, $105MM extension with the Reds has “shift[ed] perceptions in the market” and “ratcheted up … expectations” for players and their representatives, writes Buster Olney of ESPN.com. Bailey, of course, lacked a consistent track record of top-level production when he inked his new deal.
Indeed, as MLBTR’s Steve Adams wrote in the immediate aftermath of the signing, the Bailey deal does not fit the traditional parameters of high-end pitching contracts. Though Bailey had put up two quite productive seasons in a row — he had a cumulative 3.58 ERA in 417 innings over 2012-13 — his prior work was underwhelming and he had never carried ace-like numbers. Instead, Steve explained, the deal was a prime example of a club “betting on trends, skill-set, and age.”
For the rest of the market, however, the notion of comparable contracts — driven, in large part, by past performance — is still a powerful factor (at least in shaping demands and expectations). The reported $70MM offer made by the Red Sox to Jon Lester looked somewhat paltry by comparison to the Bailey contract. And Olney writes that the deal could play a key role in prompting the Cubs to trade away staff ace Jeff Samardzija, who will presumably look to match or top that kind of money. (Though the Cubs insist an extension is still in play, that seems increasingly unlikely; in either event, they probably know the price, which is only going up with the Bailey guarantee and Samardzija’s early season work.)
For his part, Bailey made clear in comments this week that he was quite cognizant of the broader market implications when putting pen to paper. As Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports, Bailey said that he was continuing a tradition of players maximizing their contracts to raise the bar for their contemporaries and successors. “Obviously the general public and media can say, ‘These guys are making a lot of money,’ but so are the owners,” Bailey said. “How do we divide the pie?” Interestingly, Bailey said that he waited until another player (pretty clearly, Justin Masterson) had finalized his arbitration situation before his own deal was announced, out of fear that the 2014 salary included in his extension would have a negative impact.
Ultimately, Bailey chose to stay in Cincinnati because that was the place he wanted to earn his big payday. But he made clear that, even for guys who truly want to stay with a franchise, cash is still the primary factor. “The grass may not always be greener on the other side, despite what the checkbook looks like,” he explained. “Money is obviously the biggest issue. There’s no doubt about that. But happiness — it doesn’t matter how much you’re making if, for six months out of the year, you’re on a last place team, you’re miserable.”
Homer Bailey‘s extension with the Reds could have a ripple effect within the NL Central, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times believes Bailey’s six-year, $105MM deal greatly exceeded a five-year extension offer the Cubs made to Jeff Samardzija. It has been widely speculated that Samardzija will be traded or leave in free agency rather than remain a Cub, though Bailey himself isn’t so sure. “I think the Cubs will spend money where they feel like it’s needed,” Bailey said. “And maybe it will be Samardzija. We don’t know that. The Cubs might be playing a bluff card. That’s part of going into a negotiation, too. There’s so many strategies.”
Here’s the latest from around the division…
- If the Pirates are really keeping Gregory Polanco at Triple-A to keep him from reaching Super Two status, it’s a lose-lose situation for all parties, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Ownership could save money on Polanco’s future arbitration years, but Sawchik makes the point that those savings could cost the Bucs a playoff berth (and playoff revenue) this year since the Pirates need Polanco’s bat.
- Polanco’s Triple-A dominance could be hurting him in some respects, MLB.com’s Tom Singer opines, as the Pirates might be waiting to see how Polanco deals with adversity before calling him up to the Major League level.
- Polanco’s situation is detailed by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, and one scout had high praise for the young outfielder. Polanco was called “as close to the perfect player as you can get” and the scout described him as “Dave Parker with more speed, and Darryl Strawberry without the off-field baggage.”
- Unlike former teammate Matt Garza, David DeJesus didn’t necessarily feel relieved to be traded from the Cubs last summer, the outfielder tells CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney. DeJesus still has a house in the Chicago suburbs and enjoyed his time in Wrigleyville, but the Cubs’ continual moving of veterans could harm the club’s youth movement. “Young guys have to follow leadership. I followed Mike Sweeney,” DeJesus said. “You learn how to be a professional at that time. When they keep losing those guys, it’s going to be tougher. They’re going to have to grow up real quickly.”
Homer Bailey and the Reds have officially agreed to terms on a six-year, $105MM extension, including a $25MM mutual option with a $5MM buyout. Cincinnati will control the 27-year-old hurler through at least the 2019 campaign.
Bailey, a client of Excel Sports Management, successfully avoids arbitration by agreeing to the massive extension and also forgoes his first venture into free agency, which would have come at the end of the 2014 season. He had filed for an $11.6MM salary last month, while the Reds countered with an offer of $8.7MM. The two have been said to be working on a long-term deal for quite some time.
The former No. 7 overall draft pick back in 2004, Bailey has steadily improved over the past few seasons, culminating in a 2013 campaign that saw him post a 3.49 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 46.1 percent ground-ball rate in 209 innings. That marked the second consecutive season in which Bailey had posted a 200-inning campaign with an ERA well under 4.00 and a K/BB ratio of well over 3-to-1. It bears noting, also, that Bailey has thrown no-hitters in each of the last two seasons.
Bailey's deal accelerates throughout. He will receive $9MM and $10MM over the next two years, then see a significant bump to $18MM in 2016, $19MM in 2017, $21MM in 2018, and $23MM in 2019.
Notably, a significant portion of each year's annual salary will be deferred until the month of November, after the end of each season covered. Bailey's in-season salaries will be $3MM (2014), $4MM (2015), $11MM (2016), $12MM (2017), $14MM (2018), and $15MM (2019), with the remainder deferred to the fall of each year. Likewise, the $5MM buyout of the mutual option year is deferred until the following November, if it becomed payable. If Bailey is dealt, however, that aspect of the contract is swept away and he would receive all money during the appropriate season (or, in the case of the buyout, at the point that the option is declined).
Though the Reds are a small-market club with definite payroll restrictions, the team has spent aggressively in recent years to secure its talent. Cincinnati issued a franchise-record 10-year, $225MM extension to Joey Votto in April 2012 and locked up second baseman Brandon Phillips on a six-year, $72.5MM extension one week after that deal. With a salary in the range of $10MM likely had they avoided arbitration on a one-year deal, Bailey has essentially signed away five free-agent seasons for a total guarantee of $95MM — or $19MM annually.
Despite that spending, the deal calls into question whether or not the Reds will be able to retain the rest of its rotation. Bronson Arroyo has already departed via free agency, but the Reds are equipped to handle that loss for the time being (rookie Tony Cingrani will fill his spot). More pressing will be the contractual situations of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Mike Leake — all of whom are under control through the 2015 season. Latos, in particular, would be costly to sign to a long-term deal, but it would seem difficult for the Reds to allow 60 percent of their rotation to walk in two years' time, even with Cingrani and top prospect Robert Stephenson on the horizon.
For the time being, Bailey will return to a strong Reds rotation that will also include Cueto, Latos, Leake and Cingrani. His extension weakens the 2014-15 free agent class, which is currently set to be headlined by Max Scherzer, James Shields, Justin Masterson and Jon Lester. It remains to be seen whether any of those names come off the board as well. Lester, in particular, appears to be a likely extension candidate, and both Scherzer and Masterson have been rumored to be in line for new deals as well. Bailey and Masterson are relatively close in age and are coming off of similarly valuable campaigns, making the former's extension a particularly relevant comparable for the Indians hurler.
The move is unquestionably the largest of the season for the Reds, who otherwise made a series of fairly small moves. Cincinnati traded Ryan Hanigan to the Rays in a three-team deal; inked free agents Brayan Pena, Skip Schumaker and Manny Parra to two-year deals; and also worked out a two-year extension for right-hander Sam LeCure. Most notably, however, are the departures of Arroyo and Shin-Soo Choo. GM Walt Jocketty, new manager Bryan Price and the rest of the Reds' brass are hopeful that Cingrani can fill Arroyo's shoes, and that top prospect Billy Hamilton can occupy center field and the leadoff position in the absence of Choo.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes first reported that the parties were close to a six-year extension. MLB.com's Mark Sheldon was first to report that a deal was in place. Joe Kay of the Associated Press reported the annual breakdown.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Reactions among fans and MLBTR readers to the initial report of Homer Bailey nearing a six-year deal in the $100MM range seemed at best uncertain and negative at worst. The Reds and Bailey have since reportedly finalized a six-year, $105MM contract that includes a $25MM mutual option (or $5MM buyout) for a seventh season, and little seems to have changed.
The most common criticism I've noticed to this point is that Bailey's career numbers don't make him feel like a $100MM pitcher. However, Bailey's career, as a whole, has little to do with the dotted line on which his signature will find itself in the coming days. The Reds aren't paying Bailey to be the pitcher he was as a 21-year-old or even as a 24-year-old. Cincinnati is paying Bailey for his recent work and what they feel he can do from 2014 through 2019. Bailey's career 4.25 ERA shouldn't be a factor when we evaluate this deal from the outside, because it almost certainly wasn't a major factor when the Reds were deciding whether or not he was worth this price.
In making the deal, Cincinnati appears to be banking on Bailey continuing the improvement he's shown over each of the past two seasons. Dating back to 2011, Bailey has seen year-to-year improvement in his command, ground-ball rate, swinging-strike rate, velocity and out-of-zone pitches chased by hitters. The changes haven't necessarily manifested in his ERAs — though his 3.68 and 3.49 totals from the past two years are solid — but teams have already begun to demonstrate that they're willing to pay for things other than ERA. Given the volatile nature of that stat, it's no surprise to see clubs betting on trends, skill-set and age rather than the ultimate outcome.
For some context, Bailey's 10.7 percent swinging-strike rate in 2013 tied for 11th in the Majors among qualified starters. In fact, he trailed White Sox ace Chris Sale by just 0.01 percent in that field and induced grounders at nearly the same rate — 46.1 percent for Bailey and 46.6 percent for Sale. His 34.9 percent opponents' chase rate was tied for 10th in all of baseball with Hiroki Kuroda and Bailey's own teammate, Mat Latos. Bailey's average fastball velocity jumped from 92.2 mph in 2011 to 92.5 in 2012 and 94.1 in 2013. That 94.1 mph average was the seventh-highest in the Majors among qualified starters, and his velocity actually increased as the season wore on. The Reds probably aren't concerned with his ability to sustain that heat, as he averaged 94.4 mph over 113 innings in 2009 (Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan took an extended look at Bailey's velocity spike earlier in the week).
Bailey hasn't been on the disabled list since 2011 and has topped 200 innings in each of the past two seasons as well. On top of displaying promising peripherals, he's demonstrated some durability. While that can change at a moment's notice, 200-plus innings will get a pitcher paid, and the Reds likely feel that Bailey's medicals give him a strong chance of staying healthy moving forward. Also of significance is Bailey's age; at 27 years old (28 in May), the Reds are buying more prime years than a team would typically receive in paying open-market prices for a pitcher. Starting pitchers that reach free agency are usually closer to 30 or 31 than Bailey would have been (heading into his age-29 season).
Looking at other pitchers who were extended with five to six years of service time (with some help from the MLBTR Extension Tracker), Bailey's deal is the third-largest in history for a pitcher one year (or less) from free agency. He rightfully fell well short of the extensions signed by Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels, but he was able to top Jered Weaver's five-year, $85MM deal. That contract was thought to be team friendly at the time, however, and Weaver's deal is also two years old at this point.
As MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth noted Sunday evening, the deal essentially amounts to five new years and $95MM, as Bailey was in line for a salary in the $10MM range anyhow. Put another way, he's signing away five free agent years for $15MM more than Anibal Sanchez received a year ago (also for his age 29 to 33 seasons). With one more strong season under his belt and further TV revenue flooding the game, Bailey would likely have topped Sanchez's mark, even in a relatively strong class of free agent pitchers that figures to include James Shields, Justin Masterson, Max Scherzer and possibly Jon Lester (though Lester seems highly likely to sign an extension of his own, and Scherzer could do the same).
Age again becomes a factor here, as Bailey is four years younger than Shields, two years younger than Scherzer and Lester, and one year younger than Masterson. Even if Shields were perceived as the better of the two pitchers next winter, would a team be more comfortable guaranteeing him top dollar starting in his age-33 season, or would Bailey's age-29 season be more alluring?
Reds GM Walt Jocketty and his staff are continuing to place a premium on age (we've already seen this, to varying degrees, in the offseason with Freddie Freeman's extension and the free-agent deals signed by Phil Hughes and Masahiro Tanaka). While Bailey did have a three-WAR season in 2013, it's unlikely that the Reds feel he's reached his ceiling at this point. A nine-figure guarantee for a pitcher with just two seasons of 200 innings and a career 4.25 ERA seems excessive to many, but again, the Reds aren't paying Bailey for his accomplishments (or lack thereof) in his age-21 to age-24 seasons; the Reds are paying Bailey to be the pitcher they believe he can be based on improvements in non-ERA elements of his game over the past few years.
As for Bailey, he and his agents at Excel Sports Management were likely confident in his ability to post strong totals in his walk season, but there's also the reality that pitchers simply get hurt with relative frequency. Even a two- or three-week DL stint related to his elbow or shoulder would have cast some doubt on his free agency, and missing a significant chunk would have been disastrous.
While many will be quick to call this an overpay, it looks to me as if the Reds paid market value (or close to it at five years, $95MM) for Bailey's 2012-13 skill set, with the belief that he can take another step forward and be the type of pitcher who could have signed for something closer to $120MM+ over six years next offseason. Those outcomes illustrate the risk for both sides: for the Reds, paying market value a year early, and for Bailey, potentially missing out on tens of millions of dollars. Of course, if he regresses or gets injured, the deal will quickly look poor for the Reds, but that's the case with any long-term deal. And given Bailey's age, there's no reason to suspect significant regression in 2014.
WEDNESDAY: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the contract will be worth $100-110MM and contain an option for a seventh season. Tomorrow's arbitration hearing is unlikely to happen, Heyman adds.
TUESDAY: Bailey and the Reds are "on the one-yard line" in their extension talks, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio.
MONDAY: Bailey confirmed to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he and the Reds are getting closer to a multi-year extension, though he didn't comment on specific parameters: "We're going in the right direction. The majority of it is worked out," the right-hander told Fay (Twitter links).
SUNDAY: Homer Bailey and the Reds are "getting close" on a six-year deal worth around $100MM, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer tweets. Earlier today, ESPN's Jim Bowden reported Reds GM Walt Jocketty had said he was hopeful the two sides could reach a deal. Bailey is represented by Excel Sports Management.
Bailey is eligible for free agency after the season, and as a relatively young pitcher coming off a strong season in Cincinnati (209 innings, 3.49 ERA, 8.6 K/9, 2.3 BB/9), he figures to be in line for a large contract once he does. Bailey has asked for $11.6MM in his last year of arbitration eligibility, with the Reds filing for $8.7MM. He made $5.35MM in 2013.
If Bailey were to sign a six-year, $100MM contract, it would essentially amount to a five-year, $90MM deal that begins in 2015, given that the arbitration process controls his 2014 salary. Such a deal would likely have made Bailey the second-highest-paid pitcher in this year's free-agent class, behind Masahiro Tanaka (depending, of course, on the contracts Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana receive, although it's difficult to see either of them approaching $90MM). That seems reasonable, given Bailey's age and talent. Clayton Kershaw's recent seven-year, $215MM contract came with between five and six years of service time, although clearly, Bailey isn't Kershaw's peer. Another recent touchstone for pitchers approaching free agency was Cole Hamels' six-year, $144MM contract, signed halfway through the 2012 season.
If the Reds are able to sign Bailey, it will reduce the amount of talent in the 2014-15 free agent starting pitching class, which also includes Max Scherzer and James Shields. Bailey's deal would come in the midst of a flurry of February extensions that includes Coco Crisp of the Athletics, Michael Brantley of the Indians, and Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel of the Braves.
For the Reds, signing Bailey long-term would be by far the biggest move in what's been a quiet offseason — since firing manager Dusty Baker, the Reds have traded catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Rays, re-signed reliever Manny Parra, and added infielder Skip Schumaker and catcher Brayan Pena. They've also lost star outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and pitcher Bronson Arroyo to free agency.
Homer Bailey and the Reds were said earlier today to be close to a new deal, but nothing had materialized as of this evening. In the latest update, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports that details are still being worked out. GM Walt Jocketty echoed his star hurler's comments, saying that progress had been made. "There are still some outstanding issues," said Jocketty. "Hopefully they get resolved in the next 24 hours or else people are going to have to suit it up and go east." Jocketty was referring, of course, to donning not baseball uniforms but rather the business attire necessary for an arbitration hearing. "It's a lot of little things," Jocketty continued. "The structure of the contract, how it's paid and things like that."
Here's a look at some other potential extension situations shaping up around baseball …
- Though the threat of an arbitration hearing has been avoided between Justin Masterson and the Indians, those parties could be operating on something of a deadline of their own. Masterson, a comparable pitcher to Bailey in many ways, is also entering his final season of arb-eligibility before hitting the open market. Though Masterson has said he'd be willing to continue discussions into the season, club GM Chris Antonetti says that he would rather keep talks to the spring, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.
- Another power pitcher, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, currently stands to qualify for free agency after 2015. As ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers reported today, team president Theo Epstein still hopes a deal can be worked out. On the other hand, his comments echoed some of the sentiment recently expressed by Samardzija, who indicated that the sides had reached something of a stalemate in negotiations. "Sometimes there is going to be a natural gap where a player values himself for what he can do and the team has to factor in a little bit more what he has done," Epstein explained. "It doesn't mean we're tremendously far apart, but if you are apart you kind of table it for another day and we'll see what happens."
- The Brewers previously explored extension talks with young shortstop Jean Segura, but those discussions did not lead anywhere. The club remains interested, but as MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports, nothing has occurred in the interim. "We're always open to [extension talks]," said GM Doug Melvin. "We've locked up some, some we didn't. We didn't get Prince [Fielder]. We offered him a deal earlier on to buy into free agency, but it just depends what players want. Not a lot of them want long-term deals that will take away free agency, and we like to get deals that have at least a year of free agency if we can."
- Another promising young shortstop, the Braves' Andrelton Simmons, has watched as three youthful teammates inked long-term deals in recent deays. As David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes (link behind paywall), Simmons is keeping his eye on the field but would be interested in a new contract. "I'm just focused on playing," said Simmons. "If it happens, great. I love Atlanta. So hopefully something gets done. But you never know." As O'Brien points out, uncertainty remains in Simmons' arbitration value. Not only does it remain unclear whether he will qualify as a Super Two (he has 1.125 years of service time), but his immense defensive value may not translate into commensurate arbitration earnings. Of course, another defense-first shortstop — Elvis Andrus of the Rangers — was able to ink a shorter-term, early-career deal (at three years of service) and then land another, much greater extension just a year later.
- The Giants have at least two worthy extension candidates. The first and more pressing, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, is entering his final season before hitting the open market at age 28. But the sides are currently not engaged in talks, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Cotillo notes that today's physical could have a bearing on how things play out. Sandoval, who at times has seen his conditioning questioned, has made some waves by slimming down entering camp this year.
- A different sort of urgency is shaping up with regard to Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who is scheduled for an arbitration hearing bright and early tomorrow. As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, though discussions are presently focused on Belt's 2014 salary (the sides stand far apart at $3.6MM and $2.05MM), GM Brian Sabean says he remains interested in exploring a longer-term deal. "We like the player," said Sabean. "We think he's one of the up-and-coming players in the National League and we want to hold onto him. But first things first." What Sabean seems to mean is that Belt's future earning capacity through arbitration is very much tied to the divergent filing figures submitted by each side.
- Indeed, Belt would stand at the same starting point as fellow Super Two first baseman Eric Hosmer (who agreed to a $3.6MM price with the Royals) if he wins his hearing. That would set both players on a potentially higher arbitration trajectory than that of another young first bagger, Atlanta's Freddie Freeman, who just inked a monster extension to avoid arbitration in his first of just three seasons of eligibility. Freeman had filed at $5.75MM, with the Braves countering at $4.5MM; both Belt and Hosmer could easily land in that realm with another big year. As I recently explained in discussing the impact of the Freeman deal, Belt and Hosmer could potentially look to Freeman's eight-year, $135MM contract as a target — though it remains to be seen, of course, whether their employers would go to that level.
Shortstop Jean Segura and the Brewers figure to discuss a contract extension this spring, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo reports. This isn't the first time the Brewers have discussed an extension with Segura, but Cotillo says that two parties haven't talked much since last fall. In September, MLBTR suggested that Segura might receive about five years and $20-23MM guaranteed in an extension, although that number might need to be upward somewhat given extensions that have been reached since then. He's set to become arbitration-eligible after the 2015 season, and free agency-eligible after 2018. Here are more notes on extensions.
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty still has hope that his team can sign Homer Bailey long-term and believes he has made progress toward that goal, ESPN's Jim Bowden tweets. Recent reports have indicated that Bailey and the Reds aren't close on an extension, which makes sense, given Bailey's situation — he's eligible for free agency after the season and should be in line for a hefty new contract.
- The White Sox and pitcher Jose Quintana do not plan to discuss an extension during spring training, Cotillo tweets. Quintana, 25, posted a 3.51 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 200 innings in 2013. He will likely be eligible for arbitration next offseason as a Super Two player.
- Pitcher Jarrod Parker and the Athletics have not talked about an extension this offseason, but they could do so this spring, Cotillo tweets. The righty threw 197 innings in 2013, posting a 3.97 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. He's arbitration-eligible after the 2014 season.
Let's round up some stray links from the day:
- The possible extension of Homer Bailey by the Reds has been a hot topic lately, but talks could spill over into the regular season, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com. If a deal cannot be reached, Bailey would be among the more attractive starters to hit the open market next year.
- The Dodgers' glut of starting-caliber outfielders has long been mentioned as the possible basis for a trade, though we've heard little chatter of late. One of the team's biggest question marks is the health of one of its four highly-paid options: Matt Kemp. The 29-year-old bristled today at the notion that he could be a fourth outfielder, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. "I don't know where you get this fourth outfielder talk from," said Kemp. "… I think all four of us outfielders feel the same way. None of us are fourth outfielders. Everybody wants to play every day. I won't accept that role. I can't accept that role."
- Though the Dodgers' enviable cash position certainly has its benefits, it can create issues of its own, writes Rob Neyer of FOX Sports. When teams commit big dollars to players, says Neyer, they tend to keep trotting out those players even if their performance no longer warrants the playing time. But the game may now be flush enough with cash, suggests Neyer, that clubs will feel more comfortable with treating such deals as the sunk costs they are and cutting ties when necessary.
- There are no active discussions involving Red Sox starters, reports WEEI.com's Alex Speier. With many quality free agents still yet to sign, says Speier, the expectation is that a trade market for Boston's arms will not develop until March (if it does so at all).
- The Orioles opened camp with 29 pitchers, with three more yet to report, writes Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun. Manager Buck Showalter indicated that he is pleased with the depth and number of options at the club's disposal, particularly since Baltimore figures to be able to keep most of those players regardless of who makes the Opening Day roster. "We kept our flexibility with only two or three exceptions," said Showalter. "We don't have a lot of pitchers out of options, really. We'll be able to keep the depth. It''s obviously too early to handicap anything, but if it doesn't get separated by injury, it's going to be pretty competitive at the end."
The Reds announced today that right-hander Mat Latos had minor surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. He's scheduled to return to his regular throwing program in 10 days (Twitter links). MLB.com's Mark Sheldon writes that Latos injured the knee a couple of days ago when he slipped while playing long-toss. Latos also had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow back in October, Sheldon adds. Though the club does not seem overly concerned, it remains uncertain whether or not Latos will be ready for Opening Day. Here's more from the NL Central…
- Fellow Reds hurler Homer Bailey says that he is still in extension talks with the club, the Cincinnati Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans reports. Even with an arbitration hearing scheduled for February 20th, Bailey said that the sides "haven't really talked one-year that much, it's been primarily multi-year." It was recently reported that, though talks continued, Bailey and the Reds remain far apart.
- For another extension candidate, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, the reported gap in negotiations may be generating some friction, as Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. "The emotional attachment I have to this organization, a lot of times you just give the benefit of the doubt," said Samardzija. But, he added: "The more this process goes along, the more I realize it is a business and that only goes so far."
- Samardzija painted a picture of a negotiation process in which both parties fully understood the others' position, but are seemingly unwilling to give in. "If there wasn't a gap, we would have signed," said Samardzija. "But both sides are justified. It's not like anyone is asking for some outlandish concept. I understand where they're coming from, and they understand where we're coming from. That's really all there is to say."
- Meanwhile, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says that the team kept some of its off-season powder dry, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports. "In the two previous off-seasons, we've spent every dollar available to us," said Epstein, "and this is the first winter where we ended up keeping some in reserve to be used on players [that are] hopefully prime-age, impact-type players down the road. It gives us a bit of a leg up as we look toward next winter or an in-season move that might make the present and the future better." Epstein went on to discuss how those funds could be put to use. "Rather than just spend the money to spend it," said Epstein," if we can book that and have it available to us to sign that international free agent who comes along in the summer or to acquire a player in a trade who carries significant salary but fits for the long term, or to just start out next off-season knowing we can be a little more aggressive on the guys we really want early because the money will be available to us, that made more sense than spending the money now just to spend it."
- The Pirates have heard some complaints about their failure to spend significant money this off-season, but the club seems unconcerned, reports MLB.com's Tom Singer. "Payroll does not equal playoff," quipped GM Neal Huntington. Having decided against making any big splashes, the Bucs will look to replicate last year's success by once more getting contributions from homegrown talent. "We are really excited by where we can get to with some of the younger players we'll see in this camp," said Huntington. "The challenge is knowing when they will be ready, because when they get here, they will have to help." Manager Clint Hurdle said that the organization "will always rely heavily on developing our own talent," placing Pittsburgh among half of the league in that respect. "You have to anticipate change and get ready for change," said Hurdle. "We have created a culture of opportunity and manning up."
- Right-hander Pat Neshek had multiple offers this offseason but chose to sign with the Cardinals because of the chance it presented him to get to a World Series, he told MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. Neshek said that he is open to pitching for Triple-A and waiting for a spot to open up: "If I have to go down to Memphis, that's fine. There would be no problems from me. From my past experiences, if you do well, you're going to get an opportunity. It might not be right away."
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.