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- Chris Perez Retires
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Jacoby Ellsbury Rumors
Matt Wieters left the third inning of last night’s Orioles loss to the Mariners with a right hamstring strain, and he’ll be re-evaluated on Friday when the club is back in Baltimore. All parties are hopeful that Wieters can avoid the DL, and the catcher told reporters (including Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun) that “I think we caught it before it became a severe strain. The hamstring got tight and it was getting tighter. I think we stopped before we did any serious damage to it.” Losing Wieters would obviously be a blow to the Orioles’ postseason chances, and another DL stint also wouldn’t do any favors to Wieters’ free agent stock this offseason. The catcher already missed the first two months of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery but had been hitting well (.278/.305/.449 with five homers) in 167 PA since his return.
Some more from around the division…
- Chris Davis has rebounded from a miserable 2014 to have a big 2015 season, with improved health and better performance against fastballs as two major reasons for his resurgence, MLB.com’s Mike Petriello writes. With a thin market of free agent first basemen this winter, Petriello thinks Davis could make a big cash-in on the open market this offseason, perhaps even a contract topping the $100MM mark.
- Desmond Jennings and Drew Smyly are both slated to return from DL stints to the Rays this week, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. Smyly’s return is the more tenuous of the two, as he didn’t pitch well in a recent rehab start. He’ll throw a bullpen session on Thursday to determine whether he’ll make his scheduled start against the Rangers on Sunday.
- With Koji Uehara done for the season, Joe Kelly could be the Red Sox answer at closer both for the rest of 2015 and maybe in the future, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. Kelly, for his part, tells The Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato that he has no interest in switching to a bullpen role.
- Has the Jacoby Ellsbury signing already been a bust for the Yankees? Brendan Kuty of the Star-Ledger poses the questions and breaks down both sides of the argument, concluding that it’s still too early to judge the seven-year, $153MM contract before even two full seasons have passed. Ellsbury’s underachieving, injury-plagued 2015 season, however, is a cause for concern for the Yankees, especially since Ellsbury was still expected to perform like a top-level player for at least the first few years of the deal.
The return of Masahiro Tanaka to the Yankees rotation has given the team new life, writes John Harper of the New York Daily News. Tanaka showed good velocity in his return to action, topping out at 96 mph. Beyond Michael Pineda‘s strong season, New York has received inconsistent performances from the rotation. If Tanaka returns to his 2014 form, the club will be in a better position to buy at the trade deadline. Here’s more on the Bronx Bombers:
- Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury remains sidelined with a knee injury. He has a heavy-duty brace that won’t be removed for at least another week, reports Wallace Matthews of ESPN. He is currently expected to return to the club in early July. The team has survived his absence by moving Brett Gardner to center field while using Chris Young, Garrett Jones, Carlos Beltran, and Ramon Flores in the outfield corners. A trade appears unlikely since the team has survived Ellbury’s absence for a couple weeks with eight wins and seven losses.
- Reliever Esmil Rogers may be on a short leash, writes Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. The bullpen nearly blew a seven run lead in the ninth inning yesterday. Five of the runs were charged to Rogers who failed to record an out. The Yankees pen currently has five left-handed relievers, but manager Joe Girardi says it isn’t a problem, per Ryan Hatch of NJ.com. Southpaws like Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve, and Jacob Lindgren can be used against both righties and lefties. However, Girardi would like another reliable right-handed weapon – something Rogers may not be able to provide.
- As we prepare for the Rule 4 draft, Charles Curtis of NJ.com details just how close the Yankees came to selecting MVP Mike Trout. The club viewed Trout as the second best player in the draft and held the 29th overall pick. An area scout for the club provided coaching for Trout and had firsthand knowledge of his work ethic. Unfortunately for New York, the Angels swooped in with the 25th pick.
- The Yankees will pick 16th this year, their highest selection since 1993, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Decades of success and big free agent purchases have left the Yankees with few early draft picks. Sherman notes that the club didn’t have the opportunity to select 18 percent of current major leaguers. For those interested, Sherman breaks down the results of recent drafts.
Major League Baseball denied statements of a Cuban official indicating that the Orioles were set to play the Cuban national team in Havana this year, as Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. The league is clearly interested in forging ties with the neighboring country, but is also proceeding quite cautiously given the still-uncertain political situation.
- Recently-recalled Orioles catcher Steve Clevenger says that he primarily focused on improving his defense during his minor league stint to open the year, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. Of course, he also put up some impressive numbers at the plate. Discussing the move manager Buck Showalter made clear that Clevenger is playing as much for next year — when the team will see Matt Wieters reach free agency — as for this one, when Wieters will likely force him back to Triple-A. “I try to be blunt to a fault about what they need to do when they’re there,” Showalter said. “I talked about continue to be engaged with the pitcher and catching and throwing. I said, ‘You’re going to be out of options next year, you’re going to control all this.’ I said, ‘Try to present yourself for us and everybody else in the game as good as possible. Go down there and lead the league in hitting.'”
- Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury could miss a month or more with his knee injury, skipper Joe Girardi told reporters, including NJ.com’s Ryan Hatch. While the club has received excellent production from Chris Young and can also use Slade Heathcott in center to spot him and take the platoon advantage, a prolonged absence from Ellsbury is a major hit to New York. On the plus side, the Yankees ought to have a handle on Ellsbury’s progress well in advance of the trade deadline.
It is by now well-documented that Allen Craig of the Red Sox has experienced a significant decline at the plate, leading to his outright off of the 40-man roster. But as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe explains, the fall-off has been so steep that it actually has historical dimensions. Looking at other players who posted consistently strong batting lines in their age-26 to 28 seasons, Speier shows that no other player has fallen as far as has Craig (62 OPS+) in the following two years. There could, of course, still be some hope of a turnaround given the complicated role that injuries in his struggles and the fact that he is still only 30.
- Rays lefty Drew Smyly appears to be reconsidering the surgical route and could instead attempt to rest and then rehab his ailing left shoulder, ESPN.com reports. It’s not clear what precipitated the changed approach, but manager Kevin Cash says that the current plan may allow Smyly to return later this year. “We’re optimistic,” Cash said. “We’re hearing good things.” While any return to action would, at this point, presumably be rather late in the year — Smyly was just placed on the 60-day DL and would obviously require a lengthy resting and rebuilding process — the realistic possibility of a return could impact the team’s summer trade market plans.
- The Yankees good news on Jacoby Ellsbury, who will not need surgery on his just-injured right knee, as Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com reports. “It is not anything that requires surgery so we are not holding anything that is doom or gloom,” said manager Joe Girardi. “We just have to see how he responds over the next few days and see what [team doctor Chris] Ahmad says.”
- Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are still set to be without outfielder Michael Saunders for three to five weeks, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisolm reports. Saunders says he suffered a bone bruise in his left knee that arose out of his recent surgery to remove his meniscus. The Jays are still bringing up the rear in the division, of course, and will hope that Saunders can return to action sooner rather than later.
Let’s take a quick look in at the AL East:
- The Yankees have called up outfielder Slade Heathcott after placing Jacoby Ellsbury on the 15-day DL, as Jack Curry of the YES Network tweeted last night. For Heathcott, the opportunity represents yet another step in a remarkable turnaround. The former top-100 prospect has impressed the organization this spring since losing his 40-man roster spot and re-signing to a minor league deal. As for Ellsbury, it’s only a knee sprain at the moment, but his recovery bears watching given his injury history.
- Meanwhile, the Yankees got more promising injury news out of starter Masahiro Tanaka, as George A. King III of the New York Post reports on Twitter. The injured hurler will make a rehab start on Thursday at Triple-A, per King.
- It’s time for the Blue Jays to look into dealing either Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion for pitching, Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines. While those sluggers continue to provide low-cost power production, Sherman argues that an arm is a more pressing need for the club. Unsurprisingly, GM Alex Anthopoulos indicated that he was not inclined to move either player. It’s certainly hard to disagree that the team needs to bolster its staff if it wants to make a serious run this year, though for my money it still probably makes more sense to deal away prospects to make that happen. After all, the most likely contention scenario would be one in which Bautista and Encarnacion remained in Toronto, and either or both could always be dealt after the season to recoup any lost long-term value if things don’t pan out.
SATURDAY, 4:17pm: The Yankees confirmed the signing via press release. The seven-year contract takes the outfielder through 2020 with a club option for 2021.
WEDNESDAY: Ellsbury is guaranteed $148MM over the first seven years of the contract, and there is a $21MM option for an eighth year that comes with a $5MM buyout, according to Yahoo's Tim Brown (on Twitter). Meanwhile, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears that an option year has not yet been agreed upon.
TUESDAY, 11:45pm: Ellsbury's deal includes a no-trade clause, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
8:00pm: The deal includes an eighth-year option that could boost the total value to $169MM, according to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com (on Twitter).
MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted that Ellsbury would get a seven-year, $150MM deal in his free agent profile earlier this offseason.
7:31pm: The Yankees have agreed to sign Jacoby Ellsbury, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (via Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported that the two sides were closing in on a seven-year pact. It is believed the deal will top Carl Crawford's $142MM, seven-year deal with one estimate pegging the deal at about $150MM, according to Heyman.
The Yankees have been in simultaneous talks with Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, and many other top free agents, including their own Robinson Cano. Things have stalled somewhat with Cano, however, as the Yanks don't want to go far beyond $170MM over seven years and Cano's team looking for about $260MM. Heyman spoke with sources who didn't rule out the Yankees continuing their purusit of Choo or Beltran, but it would seem unlikely at this point. One source told Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter) that a deal with Ellsbury or another top outfielder won't preclude the Yanks from re-signing their star second baseman.
ESPN's Jayson Stark reported on Monday that talks were moving faster than expected for the Scott Boras client. Boras is notorious for waiting out the market to find the right deal as he did with Prince Fielder (signed in late January) and Michael Bourn (February).
Ellsbury offers more pop than the typical center fielder, with a career slugging percentage of .439 and isolated power of .141. While his power is more of the doubles and triples variety, which is aided by his speed, he did hit 32 home runs in his stellar 2011 campaign. In that year, Ellsbury led all of baseball with 9.1 wins above replacement, finished second in the AL MVP voting, won a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove, and made the All-Star team. However, the left-handed batter wasn't much of a threat against southpaws this year, posting a .246/.323/.318 line in 237 plate appearances.
The 30-year-old has also consistently posted above average UZR and DRS numbers in center field. While he has come back to earth somewhat since '11, he checked in with 5.8 wins above replacement in 2013, which is second only to Robinson Cano among free agents.
Of course, much of Ellsbury's game is predicated on speed. Now, the Yankees have to hope that Ellsbury can stay fleet-footed for some time and will be able to adjust when his motor eventually wears down.
The Yankees have been vocal about their desire to get under the $189MM luxury tax threshold this winter, but it remains to be seen where they'll stand after the Ellsbury deal and Brian McCann's five-year, $85MM pact. Now more than ever, one has to imagine that the Yankees are rooting for MLB's side in the Alex Rodriguez saga.
The market for Ellsbury has been somewhat cloudy, but the Mariners and Giants were both believed to have interest.
Yankees people envision Ellsbury in center with Brett Gardner moving to left, Heyman writes. The 30-year-old was ranked No. 2 on Tim Dierkes' Top 50 Free Agent Power Rankings. With Ellsbury and McCann in the fold, the Yankees have now forfeited their first and second round picks.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
For a fascinating look at some of the background motivations for the Yankees' recent signings of catcher Brian McCann and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, be sure to read this excellent article from Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal. As Costa explains, New York's singular spending capacity is closely connected to its unique financial circumstances. The club's ticket sales and stadium seat licenses took a greater-than-$50MM hit last year due to missing the post-season, Costa reports. When one factors in the impact to merchandise, concessions, and future ticket sales, says Costa, the club's massive free agent investments begin to look more like a necessity. As Vince Gennaro notes in the piece, "If the Yankees were an 85-win team or an 83-win team for three or four years in a row, they would suffer financially orders of magnitude more than any other franchise."
Here are some more notes out of the Bronx and the rest of the AL East:
- If the Yankees have any chance of staying under the $189MM luxury tax level, a source tells Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, the club needs for Alex Rodriguez to remain suspended for all of 2014. If the suspension is upheld, the Yankees will avoid both his $27.5MM salary as well as the $6MM bonus they stand to pay if Rodriguez passes Willie Mays on the all-time home run list.
- The Yankees initially pursued Carlos Beltran more aggressively than Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post, but shifted their attention to Ellsbury as a third year became more and more likely for Beltran. The Mariners were seemingly willing to give Ellsbury a stunning nine-year deal, but the center fielder was apparently less than enthused about going to Seattle. Talks accelerated over the weekend when the Yanks agreed to exceed the Carl Crawford contract, Sherman reports.
- Meanwhile, Red Sox manager John Farrell told WEEI's Salk & Holley (via WEEI.com's Alex Speier) that the field staff and players were "jolted" by the news of Ellsbury's departure. With about a half-dozen current players reaching out for more information, Farrell told them that GM Ben Cherington was "doing the best he can with the two remaining guys, with [Mike Napoli] and [Stephen Drew]." "We're going to do anything we can to bring both guys back," Farrell told his players. Be sure to check out the link for a lot more quotes from Farrell on the team's recent moves and path forward.
- While Ellsbury's parting may have surprised Sox players, it seemed to be rather expected by the front office, as Speier notes. Indeed, as John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports (via Twitter), the club never made its star outfielder a nine-figure offer. Looking ahead, Boston still has plenty of work to do after resolving its catching opening by signing A.J. Pierzynski. But given the club's slate of young players already in the fold, says Speier, there are plenty of ways that Cherington can maneuver in addressing Boston's remaining questions.
- We just learned that the Orioles could be chasing some big-money free agents, but the club's most immediate move is expected to be the addition of outfielder Francisco Peguero, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com had previously reported (via Twitter) that a deal was in place, but executive vice president Dan Duquette said that "it's not a done deal." Duquette did, however, confirm that an agreement was close. The top Orioles baseball man noted that the club likes Peguero's defensive flexibility and hit tool. Adding Peguero would leave Baltimore with two vacant 40-man spots, Kubatko notes.
After the signings of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann, it's hard to see how the Yankees can sign Robinson Cano and still stay under the $189MM luxury-tax threshold, ESPN's Jayson Stark writes. The only clear path to the Yankees being able to sign Cano and stay under the threshold would be if Alex Rodriguez's suspension were upheld. Here are more notes on Ellsbury's deal with the Yankees.
- Paying $20MM per season for Jacoby Ellsbury makes more sense for the Yankees than it does for other teams, including the Red Sox, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports. Not only do the Yankees have a huge payroll, but they also have a stadium that should be favorable to Ellsbury, and they don't have Jackie Bradley Jr. waiting in the wings, as the Red Sox do.
- With Ellsbury in the fold, the Yankees have no plans to trade Brett Gardner, reports Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York. Instead, they'd like to play both of them at the top of the Yankees' batting order.
- Despite already having a relatively crowded outfield, with Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro Suzuki along with Ellsbury and Gardner, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger writes that the Yankees could still pursue Shin-Soo Choo, primarily as a backup option if Robinson Cano goes elsewhere. Such a move would make a Gardner trade more likely, McCullough writes.
- Choo has plenty of interest now that Ellsbury is off the board, tweets Yahoo!'s Tim Brown. Brown guesses that the Rangers are favorites to sign Choo.
The Red Sox "haven't ruled out" a pursuit of Curtis Granderson, according to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com (Twitter link). In light of last night's sudden and surprising agreement between Jacoby Ellsbury and the Yankees, the Red Sox have a need in the outfield, though that could simply be handled by Jackie Bradley Jr. The Sox could use Grandy in either right field or center field, with Shane Victorino occupying the other slot. Here are some more Boston-related news items…
- Ken Davidoff of the New York Post tweets that Boston's talks with Ellsbury didn't go too far beyond the five-year, $80MM range. That jives with previous reports that the Red Sox didn't want to give Ellsbury $100MM or more and last night's report that their offer was "a ways off" from that of the Yankees.
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports that the Red Sox have been limiting their offers to free agent catchers to two years so as not to block the paths of top prospects Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart. As such, their best offer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia was a two-year deal that could top out at $18MM after incentives. Saltalamacchia instead agreed to a three-year deal with the Marlins yesterday.
- The signing of A.J. Pierzynski could spell the end of Ryan Lavarnway's time with the Red Sox, Speier writes in a separate piece. Lavarnway has made a lot of strides defensively over the past few years but still isn't a defensive asset, and his offense has seen a precipitous drop since a 32-homer minor league season in 2011. Since that time, he's hit just 14 homers in 829 plate appearances. The presence of Swihart, Vazquez and Dan Butler creates a logjam that could leave Lavarnway on the outside looking in.
Tonight, the Yankees agreed to sign Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153MM deal with an eighth-year option that could boost the total value of the pact to $169MM. The mark tops Carl Crawford's hefty deal signed prior to the 2011 season by a healthy $11MM. Here's a look at the latest reacions and fallout from the blockbuster signing..
- A source tells Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter) that the Yankees not only believe they've got room for Ellsbury and Robinson Cano or Shin-Soo Choo, they still plan on signing at least one starting pitcher as well.
- According to a major league source, the Red Sox’ offer to Ellsbury was ” a ways off” from the seven-year, $153MM deal that he inked with the Yankees, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI. Another source suggested Scott Boras had set the bar at seven or eight years early on in the offseason, a level Boston was not comfortable going to for the 30-year-old.
- John Harper of the New York Daily News (on Twitter) spoke with one agent who likes what the Yankees are doing so far. "Yanks have played it smart with Cano. But $170MM doesn't sound like quite as much when you give Ellsbury $153MM.''
- One rival exec who spoke with Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (on Twitter) isn't a big fan of the deal from the Yankees' perspective. "He’s a good player, but he gets hurt a lot. And not enough power for that kind of money, for me. And he's 30."
- In talking with evaluators, Andy McCullough of the Newark Star-Ledger (via Twitter) finds that the consensus is that seven years is a long time, but Ellsbury is one heck of a player when healthy.
- Passan (on Twitter) crunched the numbers to find that of the $524MM spent on free agents (as of Tuesday night), the Yankees account for $238MM of it, or 45.4%.
- Tim Britton of the Providence Journal looks at the departure of Ellsbury and what it means for the Red Sox both logically and emotionally.
- The Yankees, who watched their TV ratings and attendance plummet last year, are back in the business of star power, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today.