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Astros righty Roberto Hernandez has finally received his visa an is set to report to spring camp for a physical, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart tweets. Hernandez has a bit of catching up to do if he hopes to make the roster after inking a minor league deal earlier in the offseason.
Here are some notes from the AL West:
- A rough 2014 season for Elvis Andrus of the Rangers has left some looking askance at his eight-year, $120MM extension, which officially kicks in this season. As the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com), Andrus says that he is ready for a better campaign after reporting out of shape last year. “This year I took it a thousand times [more] seriously than I did the year before,” he said. “… That was an offseason that I hope never happens again. In spring training I wasn’t ready.” A turnaround from Andrus would go a long way toward restoring the once-promising trajectory of the Rangers, to say nothing of his own. It would also increase his appeal as a trade chip, though Texas no longer has quite the middle infield logjam it once did.
- Coco Crisp is set to play left field this year for the Athletics, manager Bob Melvin tells reporters including Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). That shift, which was occasioned by a desire to protect the team’s investment in Crisp by reducing the toll on his body, will result in Craig Gentry and Sam Fuld platooning in center. In turn, that probably also puts an end to the notion that Oakland could look to acquire a second baseman and move Ben Zobrist to the outfield.
- While it is hard to deny (and not entirely surprising) that the Athletics got less back for Jeff Samardzija than they gave to acquire him (along with Jason Hammel), the team feels good about the young players that it picked up from the White Sox, MLB.com’s Phil Rogers writes. “Look, both of those deals are difficult,” said assistant GM David Forst. “You never like trading a guy like Addison [Russell], but Jeff and Jason filled a particular need for us at that time. Then to turn around and lose Jason and feel like trading Jeff is the best option is never an easy decision to make. Jeff is a guy who has his best years ahead of him still. He’s right at the age you want to get a pitcher. He knows his game. His stuff is without question. It was not an easy decision to make. It was part of the balancing act we are forced to make.”
After a brief stop with the A’s, Jason Hammel is headed back to the Cubs on a two-year deal with a club option for a third season, the team announced. Hammel’s contract is reportedly worth $20MM, and the club option is valued at $10MM.
Hammel will earn an even $9MM in each of the guaranteed years, and his option comes with a $2MM buyout. However, the option becomes mutual if Hammel reaches 200 innings in 2016 or if he is traded.
Hammel signed a one-year deal with the Cubs last February, then enjoyed a strong half-season in Chicago before heading to Oakland in the Jeff Samardzija deal. Now, the Octagon client will return to the place where he re-launched his career.
Hammel significantly improved his strikeout rate (8.1 K/9, to go with a 3.47 ERA and 2.2 BB/9) in 2014 following a down season with the Orioles, and he pitched 176 1/3 innings, his highest total since 2010. The 32-year-old seems therefore likely to land a much more significant deal this time around than the $6MM he got from the Cubs in 2014. In October, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd predicted Hammel would get three years and $30MM. This offseason, Hammel had been connected to the Marlins, Royals and Astros, along with the Cubs and other teams.
This winter’s market for free agent starting pitching had been at a near-standstill (with A.J. Burnett, who was only interested in signing with the Pirates, being the only significant signee so far), and it appeared that many second-tier free agents might wait for a top pitcher like Jon Lester to sign to see how their own markets would develop. It appears, however, that Hammel and his agent Alan Nero might be on the verge of getting a deal they like anyway.
The Cubs were, of course, widely known to be looking for top pitching this offseason. Signing Hammel would help them stabilize the middle of their rotation, but presumably would not preclude them from continuing to pursue an ace like Lester.
The reported terms make for an attractive price for Chicago. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd predicted before the offseason that Hammel would land a deal matching Scott Feldman‘s three-year, $30MM guarantee, noting that Hammel had a better case but more difficult market setting than did Feldman last year. The Cubs appear to have taken advantage of that fact to add Hammel without promising a third year.
For the rest of the supply side of the market, this deal sets a fairly low target. But it also removes a competitor from the field and perhaps keeps more overall money in play, and in that respect the contract should only benefit the large group of mid-tier starters who remain available.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported that a deal was near on Twitter. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted that the deal was done. Chris Cotillo of SB Nation (via Twitter), Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (links to Twitter), and Heyman (via Twitter) reported the financial terms.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Even though Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart said last week that he will not trade Mark Trumbo, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter) hears that he is still in play for Arizona. There was once talk of a three-way deal involving Trumbo that fell through but he remains available. A look at the AL and NL West..
- Tony La Russa said the the Diamondbacks had talks with the Dodgers about Miguel Montero but they never had a deal in place, according to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com (via Twitter).
- The Mariners are pondering a wide range of possibilities for an outfield bat, including trades, and they’re not locked in on Melky Cabrera at this point, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today that the M’s are the favorites for the outfielder.
- Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson has switched agents and joined Excel Sports Management, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).
- Despite being connected to him, the Astros did not seriously pursue Jason Hammel, according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). They did make an inquiry, however. Hammel ultimately returned to the Cubs on a two-year pact.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe asked about a dozen GMs in Phoenix about the Yankees’ situation and not one of them thought the Bombers would stay away from a major signing. For all the talk about the Cubs being a major player for Jon Lester, the Red Sox are still fearful that it’ll be the Yankees that swoop in and grab him. More from today’s column..
- Both center fielder Dexter Fowler and catcher Jason Castro are available in a deal and the Astros wouldn’t mind dealing for bullpen help. Fowler had a decent year and enjoyed more success as a right-handed hitter. The 28-year-old (29 by Opening Day) slashed .327/.419/.467 as a right-handed hitter but hit just .260/.361/.376 from the other side of the plate. Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has heard that the asking price is high on Castro and that there aren’t any contract talks currently taking place between the two sides.
- Jason Hammel’s agent, Alan Nero, told Cafardo that teams have called on his client but no great advancements have been made on a contract. Nero figures the secondary pitching market may take a while to develop.
- Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley has become a popular trade target of a few teams, and while Arizona will listen, it will take a haul to get him.
- Free agent catcher David Ross wonders whether his status with the Red Sox hinges on whether they sign Jon Lester. Lester and Ross had a great run together in 2013 and the catcher tells Cafardo that the two will get together after Thanksgiving. Ross says that he’s begun to field interest from other teams in the interim.
- The Phillies will shop Carlos Ruiz and while plenty of teams need catchers, his age (35) and his contract will be a problem. Ruiz has two years left on his deal at $8.5MM per year plus a $4.5MM option for 2017 that can bought out for $500K.
Earlier today the Marlins officially announced their 13-year, $325MM extension with Giancarlo Stanton. Here’s the latest on the team following that historic agreement…
- The Marlins have made a two-year, $20MM offer to Adam LaRoche, reports Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Recent reports have indicated that the Marlins are strongly interested in LaRoche, and Jackson’s report would back that up, though the $20MM may be a bit light to seal the deal. I recently pegged LaRoche for a two-year, $30MM deal, and he just wrapped up a two-year, $24MM pact. LaRoche is also said to be drawing interest from the Padres and White Sox.
- Also from Jackson, the Marlins have expressed interest in free agents Jason Hammel and Justin Masterson. Miami is said to covet a veteran arm to add to its rotation while ace Jose Fernandez rehabs from Tommy John surgery. James Shields‘ name has also been floated recently, though he’d obviously come at a much higher cost than either of the targets named by Jackson. The Fish are also interested in Wade Miley as a trade target, Jackson writes, but the D’Backs have very little pitching depth as it is, so moving one of their only reliable arms would seem a bit curious.
- The Marlins say their payroll will top $60MM in 2015, according to Jackson. With Stanton set to earn just $6.5MM in the first year of his extension, the Marlins currently have about $22MM committed to next year’s roster. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects an additional $20.3MM in arb raises, but the Fish should be able to add at least $20MM or so worth of salary this winter. A LaRoche signing, I would think, could lead the team to shop Garrett Jones, which would remove another $5MM from the currently projected commitment.
- Jackson’s column is rife with excellent quotes from Stanton’s press conference, including quotes from Stanton himself, from agent Joel Wolfe and from team president David Samson. Jackson hears that the Marlins’ first offer to Stanton came shortly after season’s end and was worth roughly $130MM over six years. However, Wolfe says that Stanton told him, “if it’s not a lifetime contract, there’s no point in talking.”
- The Marlins still won’t be giving out no-trade clauses to other players, according to Samson, but they had no problem giving one to Stanton. The opt-out clause was much trickier, as the Marlins were very resistant. The Marlins wanted the opt-out to be conditional based on team performance, only allowing Stanton to elect free agency if the team lost a certain number of games. Samson explained, however, that Stanton made it very clear he wasn’t interested in opting out to earn more money after that point of the contract, but rather to protect himself from being part of a losing culture. “Once we believed the opt-out clause would be used as a shield and not a sword, we were OK with it,” said Samson. Stanton also comfortable with the idea of earning less money up front in the deal to surround him with better players. A new TV deal could be in the offing for the Marlins soon, which would of course allow them a better payroll.
- Also of note from Jackson is that owner Jeffrey Loria has no intentions of selling the team. Though Samson says many people place calls with interest in buying, Loria is “in it for the long run because he loves it.”
- Shifting away from Jackson’s must-read piece — the highlights here are but a fraction of the interesting points within — former MLBTR scribe Cork Gaines writes in a piece for Business Insider that the Stanton extension can be used as leverage in negotiating a new TV deal. Miami currently has the worst local TV deal in all of baseball, paying them $13-18MM annually (the Dodgers’ deal, in contrast, pays them $334MM per year, Gaines writes). Gaines notes that having a legitimate superstar on the team will increase the value of the new TV deal. Gaines speculates that negotiations could begin in 2016 as there appears to be some kind of opt-out on the current contract, which runs through 2020. Indeed, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that they are aiming for a new TV deal to begin in 2017 — which, perhaps not coincidentally, aligns with the first significant spike in Stanton’s salary.
- In a full column, Rosenthal points out that the Rangers, Tigers and Angels each spent significant money prior to signing their new TV deals so they had a more attractive product in place for negotiations. While history has the skeptics gearing up for a fire sale in the near future, Rosenthal opines that this doesn’t look like a club that’s merely going to tear it all down again in two years.
The Royals have now officially waved goodbye to long-time DH Billy Butler, who signed a three-year pact with the A’s that was announced this morning. Kansas City had its chance to keep him, of course, but declined a $12.5MM club option on the right-handed hitter, preferring instead to pay him a $1MM buyout.
Here’s the latest out of Kansas City:
- In a piece discussing the anticipated loss of Butler, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star indicates that the team remains intent on making impact additions to its roster, particularly to the rotation. The club has had at least opening discussions with agents for Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Jason Hammel, and Jon Lester, writes McCullough.
- Francisco Liriano is also a consideration for the Royals, as are many other arms in the mid-tier of free agents, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. And trade possibilities are also being explored. The team is still dabbling in the markets for Lester and Shields, Heyman notes, but seemingly has eyes for Liriano and Santana
- Torii Hunter is a definite target, says Heyman. The team believes that he is still a reliable bat and sees him as a quality fit.
- Kansas City is considering utilizing Carlos Peguero in a time-share in right field and at DH, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of FOX Sports Kansas City. That plan would be particularly interesting if the team could pair the left-handed-hitting Peguero with a veteran right-handed bat of Hunter’s ilk.
The Pirates had the inside track on signing A.J. Burnett, as agent Derek Braunecker told Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It’s the only place he wanted to play in 2015. He instructed me to negotiate exclusively with the Pirates and thankfully there was mutual interest,” Braunecker said. Burnett enjoyed his previous stint in Pittsburgh and rejoined the Bucs on a one-year, $8.5MM deal. Here’s some more from around the NL Central…
- Mutual interest exists between the Cubs and free agent righty Jason Hammel, CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports. Hammel pitched well during his three months as a Cub in 2014 prior to being traded to the A’s, and Mooney points out yet another connection between the two sides — Hammel played under Joe Maddon in Tampa in 2008. At least nine teams and as many as 12 teams have reportedly shown interest in Hammel this offseason, including the Astros and Yankees.
- The Cubs‘ trade for Tommy La Stella “wasn’t a precursor to anything,” GM Jed Hoyer told reporters (including ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers). “Sometimes you have to acquire guys that can get on-base. It’s something we needed.” The La Stella deal seemed curious given how the Cubs already have a surplus of young middle infielders, though Hoyer said his team had tried to trade for La Stella “several times in the past.”
- It’s an open question as to whether or not the Reds will sign Johnny Cueto to a new contract, though an extension shouldn’t be ruled out on purely financial reasons, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer opines. Though Fay thinks extending Cueto would cost “probably north of $150MM,” the Reds will be seeing a revenue increase over the next few years thanks to a new TV deal. If Cueto will take a back-loaded deal, that would lessen the burden on the Reds’ payroll until Brandon Phillips‘ contract is off the books following the 2017 campaign.
- Fay thinks there is a “close to zero” chance that the Reds would trade Cueto this winter, since “owner Bob Castellini is not going to have a fire sale. Period. He thinks this team can win and he wants to win badly.” While Cincinnati seems likely to deal a starting pitcher this offseason, recent rumors suggest that Cueto will stay put.
- The Cardinals should jump at the chance to acquire a power-hitting outfielder and not worry about blocking their young OF prospects, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opines. Miklasz feels the Cardinals have some long-term questions in their outfield since Jon Jay is “a year-to-year” player who almost lost his job last offseason, right field prospects Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk are unproven and veteran Matt Holliday is only under contract for two more seasons.
A few notes on some free agents on a busy first day of the annual GM Meetings…
- Octagon agent Alan Nero and his team are ready to advance talks regarding clients Victor Martinez, Jason Hammel and Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets. While we don’t typically see too many free agents come off the board this early in the offseason, it sounds as if Octagon is being aggressive.
- Corey Hart has received interest from several teams despite his down season in 2014, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). The market is thin on power hitters and Hart, 32, was a 30-homer threat from 2010-12 before undergoing surgery on both knees and sitting out the 2013 campaign.
- Jason Grilli has had some interest from multiple clubs, but the bullpen-hungry Tigers aren’t among them, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweets.
- Ichiro Suzuki has switched agents and is now represented by John Boggs, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). Suzuki had previously been represented by Tony Attanasio.
- Also from Rosenthal, Alberto Callaspo has switched agents and is now represented by Praver Shapiro Sports Management. Callaspo had previously been represented by Eric Goldschmidt. For agency info on over 1,700 players, check out MLBTR’s oft-updated Agency Database.
The Astros are one of roughly 12 teams who have checked in with free agent righty Jason Hammel, the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich reports. While Hammel makes sense for a lot of teams as a less-expensive option behind some of the pricier names on the pitching market, he seems like a particularly solid fit for an Astros team that is looking to upgrade its rotation without expending a lot of payroll. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd, in his Free Agent Profile of Hammel, predicted the right-hander would receive a three-year, $30MM deal this winter — exactly what Houston spent to sign Scott Feldman last offseason.
Here’s some more from around the AL West…
- Also from Drellich, Jose Veras‘ Barry Praver says his client is interested in returning to the Astros next season.
- The Athletics have called about free agent shortstops Asdrubal Cabrera and Stephen Drew, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. Shortstop is an area of need for Oakland this winter with incumbent Jed Lowrie also a free agent.
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels told reports (including Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News) that the team could consider trading from its shortstop depth. “Its an area of strength for us. We’ve talked about the possibility for a while. We just have to decide if now is the time to make a move there,” Daniels said. Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar are the two biggest names yet a deal involving either player wouldn’t be likely until Spring Training, when Profar can show that he’s healthy after shoulder injuries sidelined him for all of the 2014 season. Earlier today, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Yankees were “intrigued” by Andrus. Prospects Luis Sardinas and Hanser Alberto could also be trade chips, either in small deals or as parts of larger trade packages.
- Two sources tell Evan Grant that Colby Lewis will likely re-sign with the Rangers. Daniels said that if he “had to guess, I think it gets done,” though noted that Lewis has “never been healthy and a true free agent before. This is the first real chance he’s had to find out his true value.”
- Kevin Jepsen could be a trade candidate if the Angels wanted to deal from their right-handed relief surplus, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez opines. Jepsen has two more years of control left as a Super Two player, and his rising price tag could make him expendable for the Halos, Gonzalez speculates.
Blue Jays president Paul Beeston appears set to continue on in that capacity, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Of course, as Davidi notes, both Beeston and GM Alex Anthopoulos could face questions if a postseason berth is not in the offing in 2015. The front office will have at least $20MM to $30MM in free salary, Davidi reasons, which could be bolstered with a spending increase and/or move to shed some payroll obligations. As Davidi rightly notes, Toronto has a very clean balance sheet after this year, which could potentially leave the team with a big hammer to wield in free agency.
Here’s more from Toronto and the rest of the AL East:
- The Blue Jays have a number of possible offseason targets on both the trade and free agent front, writes Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. Among them is Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, who Toronto has “placed multiple calls on,” according to Nicholson-Smith — who, it should be noted, also recently reported that the Jays are on Kendrick’s no-trade list.
- Whether or not the Yankees are big free agent spenders this year remains to be seen, but the club’s financial muscle is flexed in many and disparate ways, as Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs writes. Over recent years, New York has consistently controlled the market for minor league free agents, bringing bigger and better offers to the table for players like Yangervis Solarte. (In an interesting note to give context to this relatively minimal spending, McDaniel says a team source told him the team could break even financially even if it carried $500MM in total payroll obligations, including luxury tax costs.)
- The early set of rotation targets for the Yankees features names like Brandon McCarthy, Jason Hammel, and Chris Capuano, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. That jibes with another recent report suggesting that New York has no current plans to attack the arms at the top of the market.
- Free agent closer David Robertson, who is currently weighing a qualifying offer from the Yankees, is one of the most fascinating free agents to watch. Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that his sense is the club will be interested in exploring a multi-year deal with Robertson, but may not chase him at the top of the market and would be comfortable allowing him to walk.
- Another QO recipient, Nelson Cruz, told MLB Network Radio (via Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun) that a return to the Orioles is his preferred outcome. “No doubt it’s my first choice,” said Cruz. “I’d love to be back. I understand the business. I know they’re interested in bringing me back. Hopefully we can work something out.” Cruz was not willing to say he would take a lesser deal to stay in Baltimore, though it is obviously hard to fault him for not copping to that publicly — or, for that matter, for choosing the best contract offer he receives, if that ultimately proves to be the case.
- The Red Sox catcher of the future is Blake Swihart, not Christian Vazquez, opines J.J. Cooper of Baseball America. But the team need not decide now how it will sort out the presence of two highly-regarded young backstops. Instead, the team has the option of adding a veteran presence alongside Vazquez for the coming year while Swihart continues to develop in the minors. Assuming Swihart establishes himself as a big league regular, Boston will have plenty of time to assess whether it makes more sense to keep both players or deal one away.