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Jarrod Saltalamacchia Rumors
It's offically Thanksgiving day on the east coast, so let's take a look at a few notes from the eastern seaboard:
- The stage is set for the market to pick up after the Thanksgiving holiday, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, even if it isn't celebrated in the same time or manner by our neighbors to the north. While things have been relatively quiet for many clubs, including the Blue Jays, that could change with Monday's non-tender deadline and movement in top-of-the-market situations around the league (including the Japanese posting system and its implications for Masahiro Tanaka, increasing activity on the Robinson Cano front, and the Yankees' apparent decision to begin spending).
- Could a problem with Red Sox free agent Jarrod Saltalamacchia's medicals be the cause of a seemingly slow market for the backstop's services? In an appearance on WEEI's Mut & Merloni (writeup via WEEI.com), ESPN's Buster Olney suggested that possibility, while acknowledging that he has no specific knowledge of Salty's file. But Jim Munsey, the 28-year-old backstop's agent, flatly denied that speculation in comments to WEEI.com's Alex Speier, saying "there are no medical issues hindering [Saltalamacchia's] market."
- Interestingly, Munsey did note that the Cubs — the team that Olney mentioned by name with respect to Saltalamacchia — had decided not to pursue the backstop in part because they "don't believe they could compete for what is believed to be Salty's market." More generally, he expressed that things were going just fine for his client: "Some agents prefer to perform their responsibilities outside of the media spotlight. Just because you're not hearing it doesn't mean it's not happening."
- Another player who has yet to see a full slate of bidders, according to Olney, is another Boston free agent: shortstop Stephen Drew. Olney says that he believes Drew's decision to reject the club's $14.1MM qualifying offer was a mistake. He reasons that it is looking worse by the day, with the Cardinals now out of the market and the Mets seemingly hesitant to give up a pick to sign him at that level of value.
- As for the aforementioned Cano, Olney says (in an Insider piece) that the big question facing the star second baseman and the Yankees is what other teams might get seriously involved. While there is no obvious alternative suitor at this point, Olney's trip around the league leaves him with a list of the teams that are most likely to have the financial and roster flexibility to make a real run.
- Atop Olney's list of theoretically viable Cano landing spots, along with the Tigers and Rangers, is the Nationals. The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore recently laid out the case for the club to chase Cano. While he says the club lacks a pressing need to tinker with its infield, and GM Mike Rizzo has not shown a particular desire to do so, the fact remains that Cano is unquestionably the best player on the market and the Nats have the pockets to bring him in. Though Anthony Rendon has plenty of upside and cheap team control, he is young enough to serve in a reserve capacity or could be cashed in with a corresponding win-now move.
- Meanwhile, the recent signings of Javier Lopez and Manny Parra have taken away two major possible left-handed relief targets from the Nats, Kilgore writes. Other targets certainly remain, with Kilgore saying the team is continuing to talk with Boone Logan and noting others like J.P. Howell, Eric O'Flaherty, Scott Downs, Matt Thornton, and Michael Gonzalez. Of course, even after parting with Fernando Abad, the club could still rely on remaining internal options like Ian Krol and Xavier Cedeno, and could move starters like Ross Detwiler and Sammy Solis to the pen.
- From my perspective, it is worth noting Rizzo's recent history with southpaw relievers. Over the last three years, the club has received its greatest contributions from hurlers like Tom Gorzelanny, Mike Gonzalez, Sean Burnett, Zach Duke, and the previously noted Abad, Cedeno, and Krol. Each of these players was either picked up as a minor league free agent or in a relatively minor trade (or, for Krol, as the last piece of a somewhat significant trade). After letting Burnett walk for a seemingly reasonable price last year and declining to outbid the early market on Lopez and Parra, Rizzo may still prefer to avoid utilizing significant resources to add lefties.
The Orioles are close to a minor league deal with infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr., reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. However, the O's are likely to hold off finalizing the deal in order to avoid having to add De Jesus to the 40-man roster to protect him from being selected in next week's Rule 5 Draft. Baltimore learned their lesson the hard way in that regard back in 2004 when they signed Chris Gomez to a minor league deal on Dec. 8 and saw him selected in the Rule 5 Draft four days later, Kubatko points out. Some more links pertaining to the AL East…
- Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes that the Red Sox have had internal discussions about entering 2014 with Ryan Lavarnway as the team's primary catcher. Boston is more interested in a stopgap option as they await the arrival of Christian Vasquez and Blake Swihart at the big league level and is therefore reluctant to strengthen its existing two-year offer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
- The Yankees remain "very much engaged" with Omar Infante's agent, Gene Mato, according to Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com. The Yankees could try to sign Infante even if they retain Robinson Cano, says Marchand, envisioning him as a modern-day Tony Phillips who would play every day but at different positions. Marchand writes that the Yankees like Infante as a backup at third base and shortstop, and he also points out Infante's experience in the outfield.
- The Yankees paid a good amount to sign Cuban lefthander Omar Luis last year and they'll be making him available in this year's Rule 5 draft, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America. The Yanks initially signed Luis for a $4MM bonus but when an unexpected issue popped up in his physical, they negotiated that figure down to $2.9MM. It may be a long shot that any team will draft Luis, however, given how far away he is from contributing.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Jhonny Peralta's new $53MM deal with the Cardinals could lead to changes to MLB's Joint Drug Agreement, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. Peralta already served a 50-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, but he's now getting a large contract just months later, one that dwarfs other recent contracts for players like Marlon Byrd and Melky Cabrera who also received PED suspensions. "We thought 50 games would be a deterrent. Obviously it’s not. So we are working on it again," Diamondbacks player representative Brad Ziegler tweeted today. Rosenthal writes that players are likely to raise the topic of harsher PED penalties at a players union meeting in December. Any changes would then have to be negotiated with MLB's owners. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- The market for free agent closers is currently in a holding pattern, with interested teams all eyeing the same group of players (presumably including Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney, Edward Mujica and Brian Wilson) and waiting for each other to make the first move, FOX Sports' Jon Morosi tweets.
- One dynamic affecting the market for closers might be that teams aren't as willing to pay for saves as they once were, as Paul Swydan of Fangraphs points out. Big-money contracts for closers appear to be decreasing, and Swydan suggests that a number of recent multiyear deals for closer types (Jonathan Papelbon, Rafael Soriano, Brandon League) don't appear to be going well (perhaps particularly when considering underlying indicators like peripherals and velocity).
- The Twins are one of a number of teams "in play" for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. The Red Sox and Rangers might also be among that group of teams. After moving Joe Mauer to first base, the Twins are on the lookout for a catcher. They may also be interested in A.J. Pierzynski, Berardino writes.
Teams have asked the Blue Jays about Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (via Twitter) that he hasn't "entertained the idea" of trading either player. Bautista hit .259/.358/.498 with 28 homers in 2013 and saw his season end early after being shut down due to a hip issue. Encarnacion had a solid campaign, posting a slash line of .272/.370/.534 with 36 home runs. Bautista is owed $14MM annually through 2015 with a club option for the same amount in 2016 while Encarnacion will make $19MM through '15 with a $10MM club option for '16. Here's more out of the AL East…
- The Yankees are refusing to punt and are living for today with their Brian McCann signing, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. McCann's lefty pull power should provide a huge boost in 2014 (and probably '15 and '16), but beyond that is a mystery.
- Within the same article, Sherman writes that the Yankees are now more upbeat about the chances of Hiroki Kuroda returning. There remains a chance that the veteran pitcher decides to play in Japan next season.
- The McCann agreement allows the Yankees to take their time developing Gary Sanchez, their top prospect per MLB.com, knowing McCann will eventually move to first base or they can use him as a trade chip, tweets the New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand.
- Feinsand, in a second tweet, sees the backup job coming down to Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli with Chris Stewart being non-tendered. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz estimates the arbitration eligible Cervelli and Stewart will each earn $1MM.
- Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com wonders how McCann's new $85MM deal with the Yankees affects the Orioles' Matt Wieters. Wieters’ offensive numbers aren’t as good, but he is is two years younger than McCann and Scott Boras will certainly dig up data to show that Wieters is deserving of more money.
- Meanwhile, Alex Speier of WEEI.com looks at what McCann's deal might mean for Red Sox free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Salty is now the best avaialble free agent catcher and his market should now start to take shape.
- A combination of familiarity and affordability led to Jose Molina returning to the Rays, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Financial terms of the yet-to-be-completed deal are not yet known, but Topkin writes that it's unlikely that he received more than the $3.3MM total he made the last two seasons.
- The Orioles won't re-sign Tsuyoshi Wada, according to MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. The O's declined their club option on Wada earlier this month; but, at the time, the door was said to be open for a minor league deal in Baltimore.
- The Orioles need to be creative in wringing the most value out of Jim Johnson, writes the Baltimore Sun's Eduardo A. Encina. Encina dangles the idea of moving Johnson, who MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects to receive $10.8MM in arbitration, into the rotation, but that begs the questions of whether starting is a good fit for the 30-year-old right-hander and who will step in as closer.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
Other than Alex Rodriguez's legal matters, nothing has been handled worse this offseason than Robinson Cano's contract negotiations, opines Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The switch from Scott Boras to Jay-Z doesn't look like it's panning out and the $310MM figure that was floated out has done him a world of harm. In Cafardo's view, Yankees fans should be excited about the $85MM contract given to Brian McCann because it means that less money is available to spend on Cano. More from today's column..
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia is still very much on the Twins’ radar as they try to replace Joe Mauer after his move to first base. Now positioned as the best available catcher, Salty could get a three-year deal in the $30MM range. The teams who like the 28-year-old feel his throwing, right-handed hitting, and hitting approach have improved.
- Teams like the Twins and Blue Jays are circling Ricky Nolasco, but nobody has been able to seal a deal. However, Cafardo notes that the free agent pitching market has yet to fully develop as teams are trying to get help via trades. The Red Sox, for example, have received several inquiries about their starting pitchers.
- One talent evaluator says that he' would be cautious about signing switch-hitting catcher Dioner Navarro. “He’s great on a one-year or shorter-term deal. Problems are his weight, his work ethic, and flexibility behind the plate, so it gets a little scary on a multi-year deal. He can flat-out hit, so if you have the catch/throw guy, he’s not a bad complement to that,” he said.
- The Angels could still be a strong trade partner with the Red Sox even after the Peter Bourjos-David Freese deal. The Sox have an interest in first baseman Mike Trumbo and could be tempted on power reliever Kevin Jepsen while the Halos are in need of a starting pitcher.
For his latest Rumblings & Grumblings piece, ESPN's Jayson Stark spoke with several executives about the ultimate destination of Robinson Cano. One NL executive said: "I keep hearing there's no interest. I don't believe it." Stark agrees and hypothesizes that the lack of a market for Cano has been well-crafted by the Yankees leaking their own seven-year, $168MM offer in reaction to Cano's $310MM demand. One AL exec told Stark: "If you had a situation where everyone remained objective and everyone played it smart and you had teams that thought they could sign Robinson Cano for $120 million, you'd probably have five or six teams in on it. Then you'd set $120 million as the starting point and start the bidding, and see how much higher it gets." Stark feels that by starting the bar high, the Yankees have set the early market to a market of one. The same NL exec who didn't buy the lack of interest said that eventually teams who are chasing Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Brian McCann will say, "Wait a second. Cano's a much better player than those guys," and change direction. Stark runs down some possible late-emerging suitors. Here's more from his excellent piece…
- Stark reports an unknown wrinkle in the David Price trade saga. Price signed a one-year, $10.1125MM contract to avoid arbitration last January, but $5MM of that sum comes in the form of a signing bonus that is deferred to next year. While it was presented as a tax-related issue at the time, Stark notes that the Rays can use it as leverage in a trade, agreeing to take a slightly lesser package if the acquiring team pays that additional $5MM.
- The Phillies upped the ante and guaranteed Carlos Ruiz a third year because they were convinced that he would sign with the Red Sox if they didn't. The Phils looked hard at alternatives but were highly uncomfortable with the prices on other targets. For that reason, other teams haven't been as critical of the deal, though they've all offered high praise to Ruiz's agent, Marc Kligman.
- The Ruiz contract helps both McCann and particularly Jarrod Saltalamacchia, agents and an AL executive told Stark. Stark has heard that one reason the Red Sox were so interested in Ruiz was that they don't want to commit more than two years to a catcher, suggesting that Saltalamacchia is a goner in Boston.
- The Tigers' search for a closer has begun to lean more in favor of Brian Wilson than Joe Nathan, but Wilson's agent, Dan Lozano, may want to wait out the market, which isn't GM Dave Dombrowski's style, Stark points out.
- Bartolo Colon and agent Adam Katz aren't rushing into one-year contracts as they wait to see if someone will tack on a second guaranteed year in the wake of Tim Hudson's two-year, $23MM deal.
The Red Sox have offered catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia a two-year deal, but that doesn't mean they aren't pursuing other catching options, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. The team has also spoken to Brian McCann, Carlos Ruiz and A.J. Pierzynski. (ESPN's Buster Olney wrote Wednesday morning that the Red Sox had made offers to several catchers, including Saltalamacchia.)
Heyman writes that the Red Sox's offer to Saltalamacchia may have been for less than $10MM per season. Saltalamacchia likely would not find that offer particularly attractive — MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted, for example, that Saltalamacchia would received a four-year, $36MM deal. Saltalamacchia hit .273/.338/.466 in a strong season for Boston in 2013, and he's still just 28.
Heyman adds that the Red Sox have not recently spoken to free agent first baseman Mike Napoli. They are, however, still interested in retaining him.
Even with the high cost of free agent pitching, Ervin Santana's hopes for a $100MM contract seemed a little far-fetched…or are they? Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports looked at the binder of information that agents Bean Stringfellow and Joe White prepared about their client and saw a wealth of favorable statistics in Santana's favor, noting his durability, good health, and even comparisons to Zack Greinke. MLBTR's Steve Adams only predicted a five-year, $75MM deal for Santana on the open market but it only takes one team to make a leap.
Here's some news from around baseball…
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that the team has "real interest at different levels" in re-signing its six free agents, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports. Cherington has "had conversations" about bringing back Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Joel Hanrahan and John McDonald, though Abraham reports that the team has most extensively discussed a new deal with Napoli.
- The Red Sox aren't expected to make acquisitions during the GM meetings this week, Cherington said.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman has "no idea" if Hiroki Kuroda is interested in returning to the club, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger reports. “My conversations with his agent, the only information I’ve gotten from that is he hasn’t made any decisions, what he wants to do as far as next year’s concerned," Cashman said. Kuroda has been rumored to be weighing re-signing with the Yankees, pitching in Japan or retiring, though a return to southern California to be closer to his family probably isn't out of the question either.
- Robinson Cano's next contract might not meet his expectations simply because the Yankees are the only team with the need and finances to come close to his demands, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes.
- Jason Bay isn't sure if he will play in 2014, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi tweets. The 35-year-old Bay was released by the Mariners in August and only has a .688 OPS in 1361 PA over his last four seasons, most of which were shortened by injury.
- Agent Barry Praver said that his clients Manny Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano were hoping to again play in the Major Leagues, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (Twitter links). Ramirez is staying in shape and would be open to playing in Japan, while Zambrano is pitching in the Venezuelan winter league.
- Wily Mo Pena is expected to re-sign in Japan, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith reports (Twitter link). Pena signed a two-year, $5MM deal with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks following the 2011 season and enjoyed a big 2012 before suffering through an injury-plagued 2013 campaign. Nicholson-Smith notes that Pena had interested suitors in both Japan and North America. Pena turns 32 in January and hit .250/.303/.445 with 84 homers in 1845 career PA with the Reds, Red Sox, Nationals, Diamondbacks and Mariners from 2002-11.
Here's the latest on the Blue Jays, who look set for another busy offseason…
- The Jays have made inquiries about such catchers as Carlos Ruiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi reports. Davidi also suspects Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos has checked in on Brian McCann, to boot.
- The Jays were known to be looking to improve behind the plate this winter and current catcher J.P. Arencibia has drawn trade interest from other teams. Davidi says there is some feeling that Arencibia has too much "accumulated baggage" in Toronto and might not reach his potential in a Blue Jay uniform. Arencibia is projected to earn $2.8MM as a first-time arbitration eligible player this winter and the Jays would certainly prefer getting something back for him in a trade than simply non-tendering him.
- Ervin Santana, Tim Hudson and Hiroki Kuroda have all received calls from the Blue Jays, Davidi reports, noting that Hudson and Kuroda probably don't have any mutual interest. Hudson is being courted by over 10 teams while Kuroda seems to be set on either re-signing with the Yankees, returning to pitch in Japan or retiring.
- Also from Davidi, Munenori Kawasaki could sign a new minor league deal with the Jays that would pay him more than the $600K base salary he earned last season.
- In another piece from Davidi, Melky Cabrera is looking much healthier and fit after a tumor was surgically removed from his spine, Anthopoulos said. Cabrera looks to be the Jays' everyday choice in left field, though obviously that could change if he suffers a setback in his rehabilitation.
- Rajai Davis is likely to leave the Jays for a team that can offer him more playing time, Davidi reports. The club's hope is that Anthony Gose or Moises Sierra can be a low-cost replacement for Davis as a backup outfielder.
- Sierra is out of options and "is a prime candidate to be shopped," MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm writes. Brad Lincoln could also be part of a trade package, as Chisholm breaks down possible scenarios for the Jays' nine out-of-options players.
Just hours after announcing that Joe Mauer will be transitioning to first base full-time in 2014, the Twins have already started looking into out-of-house options at catcher. Minnesota is showing preliminary interest in free agent Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a baseball source tells Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.
The 28-year-old Saltalamacchia enjoyed his best season in 2013, batting .273/.338/.466 with 14 home runs in a career-high 470 plate appearances. Not only is he one of the best catchers available, but he is one of the youngest free agents on the market this offseason.
A separate source indicated to Wolfson that A.J. Pierzynski would be a good one-year stopgap to keep the seat warm until Josmil Pinto is ready to take over. The 36-year-old has been incredibly durable, averaging over 130 games per season for more than a decade.