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James Shields Rumors
James Shields, the top free agent still available, has lost his leverage and is in the worst possible spot as most teams have exhausted their payroll space and are more willing to identify reasons to dismiss an available player, opines ESPN’s Buster Olney in an Insider piece (subscription required). The longer a premium free agent like Shields remains unsigned, Olney notes, the more his negotiating strategy and leverage position are picked apart. Along those lines, a National League GM tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, “It’s hard to project a team would go five years.”
In today’s news and notes from the American League:
- Agent Mark Rodgers told MLB Network Radio’s Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette (audio link) he will listen to any overtures from the White Sox to extend Jeff Samardzija, but his client will most likely find out what his “ultimate value is in the open market, which is what free agency is all about.“
- The Tigers hosted a private workout for Yoan Moncada, reports Lynn Henning of the Detroit News. MLB.com’s Jason Beck adds the workout was held last week at the team’s facility in Lakeland. Both Henning and Beck believe this was simply due diligence on the Tigers’ part because of the signing bonus Moncada will command.
- In today’s mailbag, a reader asks Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer why the Indians allowed J.D. Martinez to slip through their fingers and join their divisional rivals last year. The Tigers, he explained, needed depth in the outfield late in Spring Training. The Tribe, on the other hand, had more than enough with David Murphy, Ryan Raburn, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Michael Brantley. At the time, they didn’t know Raburn would struggle and both Swisher and Bourn would be hindered by injuries.
- Matt Harrison told reporters, including Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News, he expects the Rangers to place him on the 60-day disabled list to open the season. Harrison also acknowleged a minor setback in his rehab, but the issue had to do with his mechanics rather than his health.
- Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar told reporters, including FOX Sports Southwest’s Anthony Andro, he is pleased with the results his throwing program has had on his right shoulder. Profar, who is slated to take some dry swings from the right side this week, said his goal is to play in all of Texas’ Spring Training games.
- In a nod that today is Super Bowl Sunday, Rangers GM Jon Daniels confirmed Russell Wilson will participate in the club’s Spring Training camp, Andro tweets. To illustrate the quarterback’s love of baseball, Rodgers, who also represents Wilson, told MLB Network Radio (audio link), if Wilson could figure out a way to play both sports, he would.
With the Braves in the throes of a rapid rebuilding effort, first baseman Freddie Freeman is now the longest tenured player on the roster, writes Mark Bowman of MLB.com. While Freeman is optimistic about the 2015 season, it’s worth noting that Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis represented 51 percent of the club’s home runs in 2014. Losing the three biggest bashers from an otherwise moribund offense could be seen as a major issue. Freeman hopes a greater emphasis on contact will help to counteract the loss of power.
- The Braves held a private workout for Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. In attendance to watch the 29-year-old were manager Fredi Gonzalez and assistant GM John Coppolella. Olivera is likely to sign as a second or third baseman – both positions the Braves could improve upon. Current candidates for both positions include Chris Johnson, Alberto Callaspo, Kelly Johnson, Jace Peterson, and Phil Gosselin. The Padres and Giants have also been tied to Olivera per Baseball America.
- The Marlins should consider a “Hail Mary” offer for free agent pitcher James Shields, suggests Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. A two-year, $35MM proposal might represent the limit for what the club can afford. Since Shields rejected a qualifying offer, he’ll cost a draft pick to sign in addition to the financial considerations. Such an offer represents a long shot for both sides. The Marlins are thought to be up against their payroll limit, so an addition would require the approval of owner Jeffrey Loria. From Shields perspective, he’s thought to be seeking at least four years and $70MM.
In his latest piece on the market for James Shields, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports looks at the most recent significant contracts for starting pitchers of age 33 or older and points out that history is not on Shields’ side. MLBTR took a similar look at Shields in Spring Training of last year, noting that recent history suggested it’d be difficult to find a team willing to guarantee his age-37 season. Rosenthal notes that executives to whom he has spoken cite Shields’ age, innings backlog, declining strikeout rate and shaky postseason track record as negatives. At this point, Rosenthal feels a four-year deal worth less than $20MM annually is likely.
A few more pitching notes from around the league…
- Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports that the Twins were informed yesterday of a Feb. 10 showcase for right-hander Matt Albers in Houston (Twitter link). All teams are invited to watch Albers throw, of course, and Wolfson does note that the Twins are open to adding a bullpen arm. A shoulder injury limited Albers to just eight appearances with the Astros in 2014, but he does have a pristine 2.63 ERA over his past 133 1/3 big league innings (three seasons’ worth of work).
- While it’s been previously written that the Rangers expect Neal Cotts to sign elsewhere, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram now reports (via Twitter) that the Rangers have been officially informed that the 34-year-old lefty will sign with a different team this offseason. Cotts wasn’t able to replicate his exceptional 1.11 ERA from his 2013 comeback, but he did post a 4.32 ERA with solid peripheral stats in 2014 (8.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 3.58 FIP, 3.41 SIERA).
- The Mets still aren’t close to trading Dillon Gee, tweets MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, nor are they close to dealing any of their other potentially available starters (presumably referring to Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon). However, as DiComo notes, that type of situation can change quickly in the three weeks leading up to Spring Training, and of course, a deal could always be negotiated in Spring Training as well.
Most of the meat left on the free agent bone belongs to the pitching segment of the market. Indeed, five of the seven players who I listed this morning as intriguing free agents were right-handed pitchers.
Here’s the latest on some arms from around the league:
- There was more cloudy news out of Venezuela regarding Johan Santana‘s comeback attempt, as his agent tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports that he will not attempt to pitch again in the winter league. (Twitter links.) Santana may still aim to take a mound for scouts, but any such plans are “unclear” at this point.
- The Angels are still not interested in chasing James Shields, even if his price may have dropped somewhat, GM Jerry Dipoto tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter).
- For their part, the Twins have no intentions of going after free agent righties John Axford and Alexi Ogando, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune tweets. As he notes, the market has several attractive right-handed relief arms, though it is not clear whether Minnesota has any interest in adding to its pen. Both Axford and Ogando made my list of interesting players to watch. I consider the pair to be among the remaining free agents who could either break out or break down in 2015.
MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince takes a look at some folks around the league who are, in his view, facing make-or-break seasons. He includes some less obvious names, but two players stand out who could conceivably be All-Stars or become non-tender candidate: Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates and Mike Moustakas of the Royals.
Here are some notes from the game’s Central divisions…
- The Indians had the team’s defense in mind when they traded Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals at the July 31 non-waiver deadline, manager Terry Francona explains to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). However, Francona admits that there was some hesitation on Cleveland’s behalf because of how they thought the move would be perceived by fans and the rest of the roster. “…[GM Chris Antonetti] was justifiably concerned about the perception, that we were throwing up the white flag. So we had to kind of decide, ‘OK, look, we believe in what we’re doing and we’ll make sure the players understand that we think we can actually be a better team and get a prospect back.’ I think it took awhile, but once [Jose] Ramirez came up and everybody saw how he played shortstop, they saw why we wanted to make the move. We love Cabby — always will — but we felt we had a chance to get a little bit more athletic at shortstop and you saw the way Jose played.”
- Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals are still monitoring James Shields‘ free agency, though he notes it’s likely just due diligence. Said general manager Dayton Moore said to McCullough: “I’m not sure there’s a fit.” As McCullough notes in a followup tweet, the Royals have six starting pitchers under contract (including Kris Medlen), and the team’s payroll is already set to top $110MM — a club record.
- The Reds completed a four-year extension with catcher Devin Mesoraco earlier today that bought out all three of his arbitration seasons and one free agent year, but it doesn’t sound like agreements for the team’s remaining arb-eligible players are close. GM Walt Jocketty told MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that the Reds are “a ways apart” with both Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman (Twitter link). It sounds like Cincinnati may have spoken with Frazier’s agents at CAA about an extension as well, via the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay, but things don’t look promising based on his tweet. Jocketty tells Fay that the Reds talked to Frazier about a new deal, “but we’re not nearly as close as we were with Mesoraco.”
“Just because we didn’t win doesn’t mean it didn’t work out,” insisted Bautista. “It helped build a core for our team. And the last two years we’ve added to that core. I think the players really appreciate the commitment that [General Manager] Alex [Anthopoulos] has made to building our team.”
Here’s more from today’s column..
- One prominent baseball official feels that free agent pitcher James Shields has not been marketed properly by his camp. Few doubt Shields’ talent, but some have the notion that he isn’t a strong postseason pitcher. Meanwhile, a few executives suspect that the Blue Jays could become interested in his services if the club can convince Rogers Communications to shell out the money. At present, however, Toronto only has the budget to allow for a bullpen upgrade or two.
- Over the weekend, David Price reiterated that he would “absolutely” consider a long-term deal with the Tigers. Entering his walk year, Price doesn’t want to eliminate a big-market team from contending for his services, Cafardo writes. Still, it’s believed he’ll hit free agency and go elsewhere.
- With the Astros losing out on Ryan Vogelsong, they might turn their sights to comparable free agents such as Chris Young, Kevin Correia, and Kyle Kendrick.
- Recently, Cafardo asked Orioles manager Buck Showalter if he’d be interested in being a GM, which was a tough question for him to answer given that Dan Duquette is still with the O’s. Still, Showalter is already involved in personnel decisions and if Duquette leaves, Cafardo writes that he’d be at the helm along with talent evaluator Brady Anderson and a new GM. Recently it was reported that the O’s have a list of candidates for the job if it opens up and that includes names like Ned Colletti, Kevin Malone, Omar Minaya, and Kevin Towers.
Jim Bowden of ESPN (Insider required) speculates the best fits for the current top 10 free agents. At the head of the list is James Shields who Bowden thinks fits with an AL team. Specifically mentioned are the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, and Rangers. However, now that his price tag may have dropped below five years and $110MM, other teams could get involved too. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also explored nine potential suitors for Shields and turned up plenty of NL contenders like the Cardinals and Padres.
- The Yankees franchise has benefited from the longevity of players like Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Derek Jeter, writes Chad Jennings of LoHud.com. Now, the key for the franchise is the longevity of players like Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and CC Sabathia. I would also add Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann to the list as there is reason to worry about how both players will age.
- Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig is healthy and ready to contribute, but he’ll face a difficult path to playing time, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. The Sox have Napoli at first base and a jam packed outfield mix with Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, and Jackie Bradley Jr. jockeying for playing time. Manager John Farrell suggested training at third base to Craig, but even then he’d be competing with Pablo Sandoval, Brock Holt, and Ramirez. Craig is likely to become trade bait during spring training, once he proves he’s healthy once again.
It’s still unclear where James Shields will wind up, and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tracks Shields’ hard-to-read market, guessing at nine potential destinations for the free agent righty. Topping the list is the Cardinals, who showed some interest in Jon Lester and Max Scherzer and likely have room for Shields in their budget. Still, much about the Shields market remains uncertain, without much reported action from traditionally heavy-spending teams, leaving teams like the Marlins, Astros and Padres near the top of Heyman’s list of possible destinations. Here’s more from around baseball.
- New Red Sox staring pitcher Rick Porcello is not yet ready to discuss an extension, Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com writes. “I just got here and met the guys last night so I think it’s premature for that,” says Porcello. “I’m just trying to settle in and fit in with everybody, get to know the staff and the guys.” Mastrodonato notes that the Red Sox would also probably like to get to know Porcello a bit better before signing him long-term. With a year remaining before free agency and youth on his side, the 26-year-old Porcello stands to cash in if he has a 2015 season similar to his 2014, when he had a 3.43 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and a stingy 1.8 BB/9 in 204 2/3 innings.
- GM Terry Ryan says that although the Twins aren’t planning to have top prospect Byron Buxton break camp with the team, Buxton could make his big-league debut at some point during the season, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets. Buxton only recently turned 21, has only a few plate appearances in the high minors, and missed most of the 2014 season with a wrist injury, so such an aggressive promotion schedule would be unusual for most players, particularly given the Twins’ typically cautious approach. Buxton has exceptional tools, however, and MLB.com currently rates him the top overall prospect in the game, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the Majors at some point this season.
The Marlins‘ offseason moves position them for a “measured buildup,” Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Mat Latos has just one year of control remaining, while Martin Prado and Michael Morse have two. And even the post-opt-out portion of Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract is structured so that the Marlins will be able to afford it once they renegotiate their TV deal. This isn’t like the 2011-2012 offseason, when the Marlins signed Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to long-term deals, only to trade all three. For that reason, Rosenthal writes, the Marlins are unlikely to sign James Shields to a big contract, even though they’ve been connected to him lately. Here’s more from throughout the big leagues.
- After Ichiro Suzuki plays his first game with the Marlins, the Reds will be the last team that hasn’t had a Japanese-born player, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. The Reds did express interest in Nori Aoki this offseason, but they don’t have a strong presence in Japan (although Rosecrans notes that the Reds aren’t the only team that doesn’t). “We do have some people who do cross checking. We don’t have a scout in Japan,” said GM Walt Jocketty. “It’s too costly.”
- The White Sox signed closer David Robertson for four years and $46MM, but GM Rick Hahn says they weren’t the highest bidder for his services, CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes tweets. It’s unclear who the top bidder might have been, although the Blue Jays and Astros were connected to Robertson this offseason.
- GM Jon Daniels said today at Rangers Fan Fest that the team is unlikely to trade for Josh Hamilton, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest tweets. The Rangers reportedly discussed a Hamilton deal with the Angels earlier this offseason, although those talks were not in-depth. Also, free agent lefty reliever Neal Cotts is not likely to re-sign with the Rangers, Andro tweets.
Multiple reports have indicated that there’s “zero” chance the Marlins will sign James Shields, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that there are some within the front office that are trying to sell owner Jeffrey Loria on making the financial investment necessary to add Shields to the rotation (the linked piece is an updated version of Rosenthal’s column from last night). As Rosenthal points out, GM D an Jennings drafted Shields when he worked for the Rays in 2000, and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez worked with Shields as a minor leaguer in the Rays system, so he does have fans in the organization. Rosenthal adds that the departure of Mat Latos next season should seemingly increase Shields’ appeal to Miami, and I’d add that parting with their top MLB-ready pitching prospect, Andrew Heaney, could factor into that thinking as well. Then again, next offseason’s crop of free agent starters features many enticing options — most of whom will be younger than Shields is now — and MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets that a Shields signing remains a longshot.
Here’s more on the Marlins…
- In a lengthy but well-crafted and insightful piece, Grantland’s Jonah Keri examines the Marlins’ origins and the distrust among fans that has spawned from a number of fire sales. Keri spoke to team president David Samson, who noted that the initial fire sale following the team’s World Series win in 1997 was a catalyst for many of the team’s struggles in subsequent years. “That led to a lot of hurt, frustrated fans,” Samson said. “So [the team] never got that bounce, that sustained success that should come with winning a World Series.” As Keri notes, however, then-owner Wayne Huizenga had stated after spending exorbitantly the previous offseason that he would blow the team up regardless of success if local government didn’t approve a new stadium. That proved to be exactly the case, and Huizenga stayed true to his word. Keri examines the subsequent sell-offs from the Marlins and how each has contributed, in a way, to positioning the club for sustained success now.
- Samson also expressed some frustration to Keri regarding the fact that teams like the Athletics are lauded in the media for selling high on players and re-tooling their roster, while the perception surrounding the Marlins’ most recent retooling was largely negative. Samson and Loria hope that the results of the last sell-off can help convince fans that sometimes such tactics are a necessary evil in an effort to build sustained success. “We want to make them recognize that it’s not doom and gloom,” Samson explained to Keri. “We want to make people understand that we’re a normal team. We’ll have good years and bad years, but in the end, they’re just years. We’ll break your heart sometimes, but also make you jump for joy other times. That’s what being a sports fan is.”
- The Marlins added Ichiro Suzuki earlier today on a one-year, $2MM contract to serve as their fourth outfielder, and Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that Jennings has been pursuing Ichiro for about a month. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets that while the deal is just a one-year pact without an option, the team wants to keep the door open for Ichiro to return in 2016 as he chases his 3,000th hit.