Jake McGee Rumors

Relief Market Notes: Astros Working Hard, Twins, Lowe

The Astros are “pushing hard” to find an upgrade in the bullpen and have several irons in the fire, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Given the players under consideration, it looks like Houston is aiming high. We just heard of talks with the Padres that may include Craig Kimbrel, and Bowden says they’ve also discussed Joaquin Benoit. As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweeted earlier, the Rays have spoken with the Astros about pen arms, though he adds nothing seems likely there, and Bowden lists Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee as names that have come up. And Houston has even made inquiries on outstanding Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, he adds.

Here’s more on the relief market, which should be among the most active areas of discussion leading up to tomorrow’s deadline.

  • Though the Twins are in the market for relief help, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (via Twitter) that they’re not interested in either Junichi Tazawa or Craig Breslow of the Red Sox. Berardino hears that the Twins are turned off by Tazawa’s five-plus years of service (he’ll be a free agent after 2016) and Breslow’s impending free agency.
  • Mariners right-hander Mark Lowe is drawing quite a bit of interest, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). The journeyman reliever is in the midst of a breakout season, having pitched to an incredible 1.00 ERA with 11.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 36.5 percent ground-ball rate in 36 innings this season. Lowe’s average fastball velocity of 95 mph is his best since 2011, and because he took a minor league deal in an attempt to revitalize his career (so far, so good), any team could afford him from a financial standpoint.

Rays More Likely To Move Reliever Than Add Bat

The Rays, who currently sit six and a half games back in the AL East, are receiving significant interest in their top relievers and could move one of Brad Boxberger, Jake McGee or Kevin Jepsen even if they remain in contention, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Meanwhile, veterans such as David DeJesus and John Jaso could also be available in the coming week, reports SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo, who also lists Jepsen as one of the team’s likeliest trade pieces.

Boxberger will likely be the team’s most sought after trade chip and will have the highest price in a trade, Topkin writes, though he notes that McGee is become pricey, at least by the Rays’ standards. Jepsen though, is the likeliest trade candidate among Rays relievers, according to Topkin, as his salary will get a notable bump this winter, and he’s eligible for free agency following the 2016 season. Cotillo also lists Jepsen among the team’s likeliest pieces to move. (He notes, as well, that starters Erasmo Ramirez, Nate Karns and Alex Colome are drawing interest, but the Rays aren’t inclined to deal from their rotation.)

For the Rays to part with Boxberger, one would have to imagine a fairly sizable haul. The 27-year-old came to the Rays along with Logan Forsythe in the trade that sent Jesse Hahn and Alex Torres to the Padres, and he’s been dominant since his acquisition. (He was quite good in San Diego as well.) Boxberger cemented himself as the Rays’ top setup man in 2014, and when McGee required offseason elbow surgery, Boxberger separated himself from the pack to lock down the closer’s role early in the season as McGee recovered. Over the past two years, he’s notched an excellent 2.67 ERA with 13.2 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a ground-ball rate a bit north of 40 percent.

In addition to Boxberger’s excellent results, he’s also controllable through the 2019 season, so any team picking him up would be doing so for another four and a half seasons. The former No. 43 overall pick won’t even be eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season, so it’s easy to see why the Rays would place the highest price tag on Boxberger, whose salary should remain near the league minimum in 2016 and at least manageable for the Rays in 2017.

McGee, on the other hand, is already earning $3.55MM and has been nothing short of dominant since returning from the disabled list. Boxberger has remained the closer for most of the season, which will serve to limit McGee’s forthcoming arbitration raise to some extent, but the hard-throwing lefty still has plenty of holds and strikeouts this season that will come into play in such talks. In fact, McGee has allowed just four runs (three earned) all season long, and each of those runs came in one lone disastrous outing. He’s rattled off 20 consecutive scoreless appearances — a span of 19 1/3 innings in which he’s posted a 25-to-3 K/BB ratio.

As for Jepsen, he’s delivered strong bottom-line results since being acquired from the Angels in exchange for Matt Joyce (who has struggled in his new surroundings), but his peripheral stats have also taken a step back. Both his strikeout and walk rates are among the worst of his career, and while his 94.4 mph average fastball is strong, it’s down more than a full mile per hour when compared to his 2014 velocity. His swinging strike rate is down nearly three percent from 2014 as well.

Jepsen’s earning $3.025MM in 2015 and will get a raise this winter, so perhaps the Rays, faced with the possibility of paying a pair of relievers something in the vicinity of $5MM apiece, the team’s preference is to unload one of them right now. If that’s the case, moving Jepsen would be less detrimental to their 2015 chances than moving the more dominant and more controllable McGee.

Getting back to DeJesus and Jaso, both left-handed veterans are hitting reasonably well, though Jaso has spent most of the season on the disabled list. Each is a platoon player, with DeJesus having received just nine plate appearances against lefties all year. DeJesus has hit righties at a .270/.336/.395 clip, though, and he has a history of performing well when holding the platoon advantage. His contract contains a $5MM option for the 2016 season, so any team that picks him up could benefit from his services beyond this year.

Jaso only recently returned from a left wrist injury, but he’s shown no signs of ill effects at the plate. He’s mashed at a .359/.435/.538 clip thus far, and while that type of production clearly isn’t sustainable, Jaso has a very nice track record against right-handed pitching. He’s a career .275/.370/.428 hitter against righties and could help any club in need of help in that area. Jaso’s been a catcher for most of his career, but the Rays have used him at DH and in left field this year, as he does have multiple concussions in his past. He’s making $3.175MM in 2015 and is a free agent at the end of the year.

Earlier this week, Peter Gammons reported that there were as many as 16 clubs looking for bullpen help, so the Rays will have no shortage of trade partners. The Blue Jays, in particular, have been known to be hot after relief help. That’s also said to be the Twins’ top priority, and given the fact that Minnesota has an up-and-coming young core, adding a controllable arm such as McGee or Boxberger to supplement that group could hold appeal to them. The Pirates are reportedly working on a trade for a relief arm right now, with the other team in the mix not yet known. Jeff Todd and I discussed a number of AL teams looking to add relief help on yesterday’s podcast.


Rosenthal’s Latest: Managers, A’s, Reddick, Tulo, Astros

Earlier this week, in the wake of the Marlins’ managerial change, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports noted that the two skippers who were most obviously on the hot seat had now been dismissed. With Mike Redmond and Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke having been replaced, Rosenthal looks at four more managers who could eventually find themselves in danger of losing their jobs, listing John Gibbons (Blue Jays), Bud Black (Padres), Fredi Gonzalez (Braves) and Terry Collins (Mets) as the likeliest options. Gibbons can’t be blamed for the lack of quality relief arms he has at his disposal, Rosenthal notes, but bench coach Demarlo Hale has long been thought of as a managerial prospect and makes sense as a replacement option. Black’s Padres are struggling with pitching, and Mark Kotsay‘s name is floated by Rosenthal as someone who could be the next recently retired player to turn manager. Braves president of baseball ops John Hart isn’t as high on Gonzalez as president John Schuerholz or Bobby Cox, and there’s been some recent “internal finger-pointing,” Rosenthal hears. Collins nearly lost his job at the end of the 2014 season, he notes, and while the team is still in first place, the Mets’ managerial situation has long been volatile in nature.

Here’s more from Rosenthal…

  • In a new Notes column, Rosenthal looks at the Athletics‘ roster in the wake of a brutal start to the season. As many have pointed out, Scott Kazmir, Tyler Clippard and Ben Zobrist — each a pending free agent — would all be logical trade candidates if the team is still underperforming in July. However, Rosenthal writes that there’s no way GM Billy Beane will act quickly and sell, as he’ll first want to see how the team performs with Zobrist and closer Sean Doolittle healthy and activated from the DL. One change that won’t be coming, Rosenthal adds, is at manager. Beane and skipper Bob Melvin have a strong relationship, and it’s “exceptionally unlikely” that Melvin would be dismissed, in Rosenthal’s eyes.
  • Another possible trade chip for the A’s could be Josh Reddick, who is earning $4.1MM after his second trip through arbitration this year. The Athletics, however, resisted trade offers for Reddick all offseason, Rosenthal hears.
  • Rosenthal recently called Rockies owner Dick Monfort to discuss the recent Troy Tulowitzki trade chatter. However, when Rosenthal began asking about Tulowitzki, Monfort “quickly hung up.” The bizarre situation lends credence to wide-spread belief that Tulo, his agent and even GM Jeff Bridich have little say in whether or not the Rockies trade the face of their franchise. Rather, it’ll come down to the team owner’s wishes.
  • The Astros are considering a long list of pitchers that either are or could become available, and they’ve recently been scouting Jeff Samardzija. It remains to be seen if the Astros would be willing to part with enough to get their hands on Samardzija, though. As Rosenthal notes, some rival execs feel that the tandem pitching system the Astros use in the minors devalues their pitching prospects, though one exec told him that it actually increases the value, as it suppresses the young pitchers’ inning counts.
  • Rosenthal believes the Rays should consider trading left-hander Jake McGee to either help their rotation or another area of the team. McGee, he notes, is earning $3.55MM this season and will see that price tag sail beyond $5MM in arbitration this winter.
  • Of course, as I noted yesterday when looking at this topic, using McGee in the ninth inning would help to keep down the future earnings of Brad Boxberger, who would benefit greatly from two full seasons of saves when he heads into arbitration following the 2016 season. And, as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd mentioned to me earlier today when we were chatting, left-handed relief is an area of weakness for the Rays at this time. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if the scenario Rosenthal lays out came to fruition, and it’s hard to imagine that the Rays wouldn’t at least be open-minded to moving McGee.


AL East Notes: Tanaka, Rays, Red Sox, Orioles, Everth

The Yankees announced today that injured ace Masahiro Tanaka threw a 29-pitch bullpen session at Nationals Park. The bullpen session was the third for Tanaka, who has been on the disabled list for about three weeks with a forearm strain. The Yankees continue to be hopeful that Tanaka, who suffered a small tear in his right elbow’s ulnar collateral ligament last year, will be able to avoid Tommy John surgery (or any other serious operation). Tanaka made two starts at the end of the 2014 season after coming back from the injury and pitched well in four starts prior to his injury in 2015.

Elsewhere in the AL East…

  • Rays manager Kevin Cash won’t name a closer now that Jake McGee is back from the disabled list, writes Troy Provost-Heron of MLB.com. Cash maintains that he’ll use Brad Boxberger (who has closed in McGee’s absence) and McGee in save situations, depending on matchups. Boxberger tells Provost-Heron that he’s ok with not being the team’s sole closer, as McGee helps deepen the bullpen and take pressure of the rotation. However, I’ll note that given Boxberger’s early dominance in the ninth inning, being downgraded to a timeshare or even back to a setup role could have significant impact on his arbitration earnings following the 2016 season. Were Boxberger to have amassed a pair of dominant seasons at the back end of the game, he’d have been in line for a hefty payday. Greg Holland, for instance, landed a $4.65MM payday in his first trip through the arb process. The usage of both McGee and Boxberger will have a strong bearing on how affordable they are for the cost-conscious Rays in the years to come, making their closer situation of particular interest. (As a side note to fantasy players, remember that you can follow MLBTR’s @closernews account on Twitter for consistent updates on closer/setup situations throughout the season.)
  • Just as the Red Sox‘ rotation has begun to show signs of improvement, the team’s offense has gone into the tank, observes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Lauber feels that the team needs to drop Mookie Betts from the leadoff spot as the 22-year-old sorts out his struggles and, perhaps more importantly, call up the hot-hitting Rusney Castillo from Triple-A. Lauber opines that Castillo could deliver more consistently competitive at-bats against right-handed pitching than Shane Victorino, adding that additional rest for Victorino is the best way to keep him healthy at this point. The Red Sox, who lost 5-0 to James Paxton and the Mariners yesterday, have been particularly feeble against left-handed pitching.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com looks at a number of Orioles-related topics in his latest notebook. Kubatko notes that GM Dan Duquette told his colleague, MASN’s Steve Melewski, that there’s a “distinct possibility” that the team will select Chris Parmelee‘s contract from Triple-A, though as Kubatko notes, there’s no clear spot for the corner outfielder/first baseman on the roster. He also notes that catcher Steve Clevenger‘s defense has drawn rave reviews from Triple-A manager Ron Johnson. Baltimore optioned Clevenger to Triple-A, citing a need to improve his defense, and Clevenger has caught 12 of 34 base stealers (35%) this season.
  • Lastly, Kubatko wonders what will come of Everth Cabrera when he’s eligible to be activated from the disabled list. The team can clear a roster spot by optioning Rey Navarro, but they’ll also need a spot in the infield for Ryan Flaherty. Cabrera is out of options and can refuse his outright assignment but still collect his $2.4MM salary if the Orioles pass him through waivers, lending the possibility that a situation similar to that of Ryan Webb could come up in the near future.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

With the deadline to exchange arbitration figures set for noon CT, there figure to be a large number of agreements to avoid arb today, as there were yesterday. All arbitration agreements can be followed using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, and we’ll keep track of today’s smaller agreements in this post, with all projections coming courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz

  • Righty Henderson Alvarez agreed to a $4MM deal with the Marlins, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today on Twitter. Alvarez had been projected to earn $4.5MM after putting up a huge 187-inning, 2.65 ERA campaign entering his first season of arb eligibility.
  • The Athletics have agreed to a $1.4MM deal with righty Ryan Cook that includes, MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports on Twitter. Cook gets a slight increase over the $1.3MM he had been projected to earn. Oakland has also inked outfielder Sam Fuld to a $1.75MM deal, per Mike Perchik of WAPT (via Twitter). He too lands just above his projection, which was for $1.6MM.
  • Outfielder Collin Cowgill avoided arbitration with the Angels for $995K, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets. He was projected to earn $900K.
  • Righties David Carpenter and Nathan Eovaldi both have deals with the Yankees, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. Carpenter will earn about $1.3MM while Eovaldi will take home $3.3MM
  • The Rockies have a deal in place with lefty Rex Brothers, tweets MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. Brothers was projected to earn $1.3MM but will take home $1.4MM, Harding adds via Twitter.
  • ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers reports that the Cubs have settled with both Travis Wood and Luis Valbuena (Twitter links). Wood will receive $5.686MM — a bit north of his $5.5MM projection, while Valbuena will earn $4.2MM, per Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald (on Twitter). Valbuena was projected to earn $3.1MM.
  • Mike Perchick of WAPT in New Jersey has a wave of arbitration agreements, starting with the Astros and Hank Conger settling on a $1.075MM, which is just $25K behind Swartz’s projection (Twitter link).
  • Also via Perchick, the Athletics and Brett Lawrie settled on a $1.925MM contract (Twitter links). Lawrie, who had been projected at $1.8MM, was acquired by Oakland in the Josh Donaldson blockbuster.
  • Rockies backstop Michael McKenry will earn $1.0876MM in 2015, via Perchick. McKenry was projected by Swartz to earn $1.5MM.
  • Michael Pineda and the Yankees settled on a $2.1MM salary for the upcoming season, Perchick tweets, which is a direct match with Swartz’s projection.
  • Domonic Brown and the Phillies settled on a one-year pact worth $2.6MM, via Perchick, which represents a difference of just $100K between Swartz’s projection and the actual figure. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets that Ben Revere has avoided arbitration as well, and the club now announces that he’ll earn $4.1MM — $100K north of his $4MM projection.
  • Red Sox setup man Junichi Tazawa agreed to a $2.25MM payday, according to Perchick. Swartz had pegged him for a $2MM contract.

(more…)


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.

Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…

  • After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
  • The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
  • The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter). 
  • Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
  • Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
  • Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
  • MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
  • Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
  • The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
  • The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
  • Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
  • MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
  • The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
  • The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter).  He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).

(more…)


Price On Dunn, Garrett Jones, DeJesus

A look at the latest from Ed Price of AOL FanHouse…

  • Price tweets that some new teams asked about Adam Dunn within the past day.  He wonders if those clubs might include the Padres and Giants.  Dunn is a nice fit for both teams, though they've been said to prefer avoiding rentals.  Meanwhile Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the White Sox "remain focused on Dunn, but are laying the groundwork for a starting pitcher."  If Dan Hudson pitches poorly Friday against the Athletics, the Sox could change gears.
  • In his latest column, Price says the Angels checked in on Garrett Jones before acquiring Alberto Callaspo, but balked at the Pirates' asking price of Maicer Izturis.  However, it's worth noting that Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweeted that the Pirates say the Angels never contacted them about Jones. 
  • The Royals were eyeing Rays minor leaguer Jake McGee in a potential David DeJesus deal before the outfielder's injury.  The southpaw McGee returned from Tommy John surgery last year and has 91 strikeouts in 76.6 Double A innings in 2010.  Baseball America ranked McGee eighth among Rays prospects heading into the season, but he might be first or second on another team.
  • Another trade that wasn't: SI's Tom Verducci says the Phillies discussed sending Jayson Werth to the Yankees as part of a deal for Dan Haren before the righty went to the Angels.
  • Also of note in Price's column: a look at how the trade deadline has changed over the decades, including varying dates and rules for interleague deals.