Jeff Samardzija Rumors
The Mariners are "back in business, showing strong interest" in Nelson Cruz and Fernando Rodney again, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in his latest column. The Mariners, who are said to have some financial leeway by new team president Kevin Mather, is also looking at the trade market for starting pitchers, though they're not currently focused on David Price or Jeff Samardzija. Rosenthal also notes that the Indians aren't having any conversations on Justin Masterson, nor are the Reds inclined to move any of their starters, further limiting the list of trade targets. More highlights below...
- Cruz could be a fallback option for the Rangers, but probably only if he's willing to sign a one-year deal. Bringing Cruz back would allow the Rangers to deal Mitch Moreland.
- Rosenthal wonders if the Reds should be thinking about dealing a starter. While they're trying to extend Homer Bailey, that seems to be a tall order as he's just one year from free agency. Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto are all only controlled through 2015, and as Rosenthal notes, not all can be long-term pieces.
- The Athletics aren't considering making a run at Stephen Drew and shifting Jed Lowrie from short to second base. The A's are comfortable platooning Eric Sogard and Nick Punto.
- A rival executive wondered to Rosenthal if the Braves would match up with the Mariners on a Dustin Ackley trade, but Rosenthal hears that the Braves aren't looking for a second baseman. They currently have Dan Uggla, who is owed $26MM through 2015, and three fallback options in Ramiro Pena, Tommy La Stella and Tyler Pastornicky.
- Braves GM Frank Wren said he doesn't hold any ill will toward players who go to arbitration hearings -- such as the ones he could face with Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman: "We don’t look at it as an antagonistic process. We look at it as a solution to a disagreement on a player’s salary."
Brian Roberts spoke with Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun yesterday about his decision to join the Yankees and leave an Orioles organization that was the only one he'd ever played for professionally. Roberts explained that he decided to join a new club in part because "the opportunity to be an Oriole wasn't there anymore." The second baseman indicated that Baltimore never approached him about a return. "We really didn't have any conversations about [a return]," said Roberts. "I don't think it's my place as a player to necessarily go to an organization and ask for a job." Roberts had nothing but positive things to say about his time with the Orioles, but said he is excited at the chance to don pinstripes. "[W]e felt like that was the best opportunity when it came to everything we were looking for, when it came to an opportunity to play and an opportunity to win and several other things that our family was looking at."
Here are some more notes from the American League:
- The Mariners are "in on" closer Fernando Rodney, tweets Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. Seattle was said to have interest in Rodney during the Winter Meetings. As Brown notes, other clubs in pursuit of the former Ray reportedly include the Mets and Orioles.
- While the Yankees may be done adding significant players before the start of the season, ESPN's Buster Olney explains (Insider subscription required and recommended) that New York could potentially add a talented player in a trade-deadline salary dump. Olney lists several players who could conceivably become available for little more than salary relief, depending upon their team's performance.
- Among the players on that list is Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle, who Olney says was dangled in trade talks within the past year. Olney calls the southpaw a "plow horse ... being paid like a racehorse." The sturdy-but-unspectacular Buehrle is owed $37MM over 2014-15 under his backloaded deal. Moving the 34-year-old's contract could represent an easy way for the team to shed dollars if it is not in contention, says Olney.
- Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are still talking with the Cubs about acquiring pitcher Jeff Samardzija, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Indeed, Toronto has been the "most aggressive team" with regard to Samardzija, according to Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com (via Twitter), although Chicago is still working to extend him even as the team explores trade options.
Jeff Samardzija's exchange of arbitration filing numbers with the Cubs (Samardzija has filed for $6.2MM, with the Cubs at $4.4MM) has led to more talk about the pitcher's likelihood of being traded or signing an extension. Samardzija is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, and has already seen many of his veteran teammates traded as the Cubs build for the future. That doesn't mean the Cubs are poised to trade him, however. Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune writes that teams like the Diamondbacks and Braves believe the Cubs have requested too much in return for Samardzija in trades.
Samardzija feels that Masahiro Tanaka's situation has had a "ripple effect" on him, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Samardzija also implies that, if the Cubs signed Tanaka, he might be more likely to sign an extension with the Cubs. "I’ve mentioned my frustration with the 'R' word [rebuilding] before. You bring him in, and that 'R' word essentially kind of disintegrates," he says.
Wittenmyer also suggests that, due in part to the slow-developing pitching market this offseason, the Cubs are likely to begin the 2014 season with Samardzija still on the roster. CSNChicago.com's Patrick Mooney reported last week that the Cubs were likely to wait until July to trade Samardzija.
MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker is the place to go to see the arbitration contracts agreed upon thus far, as well as the figures exchanged between teams and players that were not able to reach agreement before today's noon deadline to swap salary positions. Matt Swartz's arbitration projections are available here.
As MLBTR has previously explained, 146 players officially filed for arbitration (after some eligible and tendered players had alread reached agreement). Of those, 40 players will exchange figures with their clubs. Of course, those players can still reach agreements before their hearings (which will take place betwee February 1st and 21st). If the case goes to a hearing, the arbitrator must choose one side's figures, rather than settling on a midpoint.
For the Braves players listed below, however, Atlanta says it will cease negotiations and take all cases to a hearing. Two other teams that have swapped figures with some players -- the Nationals and Indians -- also have employed variations of the "file and trial" approach with their arbitration cases.
Though a tweet from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal indicates that the Reds have joined the list of teams employing "file and trial," GM Walt Jocketty did not seem to echo that position in comments today to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. It turns out that the team has only taken that position with respect to players whose deals were valued under the $2MM level, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
We will use this post to keep tabs on the the highest-stakes arbitration situations remaining -- those where the player files for at least $4.5MM:
- A.J. Ellis filed at $4.6MM while the Dodgers countered at $3MM, tweets Passan.
- Gerardo Parra filed at $5.2MM while the Diamondbacks countered at $4.3MM, tweets Passan.
- Tyler Clippard filed at $6.35MM while the Nationals countered at $4.45MM, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
- Alex Avila filed at $5.35MM while the Tigers countered at $3.75MM, tweets Jason Beck of MLB.com.
- David Freese filed at $6MM while the Angels countered at $4.1MM, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
- Mark Trumbo filed at $5.85MM while the Diamondbacks countered at $3.4MM, tweets Heyman.
- Kenley Jansen filed at $5.05MM while the Dodgers countered at $3.5MM, tweets Heyman.
- Craig Kimbrel filed at $9MM while the Braves countered at $6.55MM, tweets Bowman.
- Jason Heyward filed at $5.5MM while the Braves countered at $5.2MM, tweets Mark Bowman of MLB.com.
- Doug Fister filed at $8.5MM while the Nationals countered at $5.75MM, tweets Heyman.
- Aroldis Chapman filed at $5.4MM while the Reds countered at $4.6MM, tweets Heyman.
- Greg Holland filed at $5.2MM while the Royals countered at $4.1MM, tweets Heyman.
- Justin Masterson filed at $11.8MM while the Indians countered at $8.05MM, tweets Heyman.
- Freddie Freeman filed for $5.75MM while the Braves countered at $4.5MM, tweets Heyman.
- Matt Wieters filed for $8.75MM while the Orioles countered at $6.5MM, tweets Heyman.
- Homer Bailey filed for $11.6MM while the Reds countered at $8.7MM, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
- Jeff Samardzija filed for $6.2MM while the Cubs countered at $4.4MM, tweets Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.
Here's the latest on the Cubs from CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney...
- Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs are still far apart on a contract extension, "though there’s mutual respect on both sides and hope they can eventually find common ground." Samardzija's name has surfaced in several trade rumors this offseason but Mooney reports that the Cubs now plan to keep the righty until closer to the July 31 trade deadline. This would theoretically improve the quality of trade offers, such as how the Cubs scored a nice package of prospects from the Rangers last summer in exchange for Matt Garza.
- The Cubs are prepared to give Masahiro Tanaka a nine-figure contract, a source tells Mooney. The Cubs have long been considered a major suitor for the Japanese right-hander, with one MLB source telling Mooney's CSN colleague David Kaplan last month that the Cubs wouldn't be outbid for Tanaka's services. That said, Mooney hears from several baseball officials that the bidding will get "silly" and another team will offer Tanaka a longer-term and more expensive deal.
- If they can't sign Tanaka, the Cubs aren't interested in pursuing Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez or Garza. The Cubs would have to surrender their second-round draft pick and corresponding draft pool money as compensation for signing either Santana or Jimenez.
- Santana "is the kind of buy-high pitcher the Cubs are trying to avoid now," Mooney writes. The Cubs did explore trading for Santana last winter when the righty was coming off a tough season with the Angels, and Santana ended up reviving his career with a good 2013 campaign with the Royals.
The Pirates have earned the No. 1 spot atop the organization talent rankings in the 2014 edition of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook (Baseball America's J.J. Cooper has the details). The Bucs' strong 2013 draft and their multitude of quality prospects throughout the farm system contributed to the ranking, BA editor John Manuel explained to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “They have several players we felt would contend to be No. 1 in a lot of different organizations,” Manuel said. “They have several players who fit the profile to be starters on championship-caliber teams. They have more of those than other teams.”
Here's some more from around the NL Central...
- Jeff Samardzija believes he'd be unlikely to sign an extension with a new team following a trade from the Cubs, the right-hander tells CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney. “The odds are very slim that I would," Samardzija said. "For any professional player two years out of free agency, the odds they sign a deal are pretty slim (in that situation)." Samardzija said his feelings could change if he's actually in that situation, but he tells Mooney that his preference would be to stay with the Cubs. Click here for an earlier portion of Mooney's pre-Christmas interview with Samardzija.
- The Reds aren't one of the six-to-eight teams who have shown interest in Nyjer Morgan, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports. Morgan enjoyed a big 2013 season with the Yokohama Bay Stars and is weighing offers from both MLB and Japanese clubs.
- The Cardinals seemingly have pitching to spare, but Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out that the club's arms have thrown a lot of extra high-pressure innings over the last few seasons due to the Cardinals' deep playoff runs. "This is why I have no problem with GM John Mozeliak's obvious desire to hoard pitching. You just never know when you're going to need arms to come to the rescue," Miklasz writes.
- The Cardinals plan to expand their scouting and development operations within Japan and Cuba over the next year, Mozeliak tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- In other NL Central news from earlier today, the Pirates signed Chris Dickerson to a minor league deal, the Cardinals claimed Rafael Ortega off waivers from the Rangers, Brewers GM Doug Melvin commented on his team's lack of free agent moves, Reds GM Walt Jocketty discussed the difficulties of signing Homer Bailey to an extension.
The Angels are likely to eclipse the $189MM luxury-tax threshold eventually, despite their efforts to avoid doing so this offseason, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. Sources tell the columnist that the Angels have between $13MM and $15MM of space left beneath the cap, figures that are much lower than what will be required to sign Masahiro Tanaka. However, extending Mike Trout at, say, $300MM over 10 years would make it difficult to avoid surpassing the threshold anyway, so the Angels may as well do so now, Rosenthal surmises. Here's more from his new column:
- This offseason's big contracts for less-than-durable stars like Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson and Brian McCann show that position players can earn more as free agents than they would with club-friendly, long-term deals. Meanwhile, clubs appear increasingly willing to move players who resist extensions. For example, sources tell Rosenthal that rival teams have asked about Astros catcher Jason Castro, who could be moved if Houston is unable to ink him long-term.
- Qualifying offers appear to have suppressed the market for players such as Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales, frustrating player representatives. Potential fixes to the system include guaranteeing that free agents receive a qualifying offer only once, or ensuring that teams signing free agents who received qualifying offers lose only draft picks and not their associated bonus-pool amounts. The current system will remain in place for another two offseasons, Rosenthal notes.
- Stephen Drew appears to be a fit for the Mets, rival executives say, despite the club's insistence that it will consider Ruben Tejada for its starting shortstop job.
- The Blue Jays remain among the favorites to sign either Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, despite their quiet offseason thus far. The Jays could acquire as many as two starters before the offseason is over, Rosenthal reports. In addition to upgrading through free agency, the club has also discussed trades for the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija and other starters.
- The Diamondbacks could trade J.J. Putz after acquiring Addison Reed from the White Sox. Swapping the righty for Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki is one potential deal, or Putz could be packaged with other players in a deal for a starter such as Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers.
The Diamondbacks consider Masahiro Tanaka to be their "No. 1 target" and are serious suitors for the Japanese ace, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. Had Arizona not acquired Mark Trumbo, the Snakes were open to spending the $140MM that agent Scott Boras said it would've taken to sign Shin-Soo Choo, and Rosenthal notes that D'Backs management could instead invest that money (the $20MM posting fee and a $120MM contract) towards landing Tanaka. The D'Backs could have an extra source for information on Tanaka in the form of scout Rick Short, who played with Tanaka from 2007-09 on the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
You can click here for some Tanaka news from earlier today, and here are some more items from around the NL West...
- Also from Rosenthal's piece, Arizona could be more motivated to sign an ace like Tanaka in free agency since they found the Cubs' and Rays' respective asking prices for Jeff Samardzija and David Price to be too high, Rosenthal notes, not to mention the fact that Price will become more expensive in his final two arbitration-eligible seasons. The D'Backs rate Tanaka higher than other free agent arms like Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.
- Hanley Ramirez and the Dodgers have reportedly been discussing an extension this offseason and ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon looks at some of the factors involved in giving Ramirez a major new deal.
- In a Giants-related mailbag, MLB.com's Chris Haft argues that the Giants should've given Brett Pill more time to prove himself rather than give those at-bats to Jeff Francoeur last summer. Pill's rights were recently sold to the KIA Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization and his deal with the club was just finalized today. As Haft writes, "the sense here is that the Giants jettisoned Pill without fully discovering what they had in him."
- Buster Posey is just one season into his multiyear extension with the Giants and he's still owed $157MM over the next eight seasons. While it's far too early to place a verdict on this contract, Grant Brisbee of the McCovey Chronicles argues that the Giants may have saved money by locking Posey up last March as opposed to this offseason, as San Francisco might've had to offer their star catcher a nine- or even a ten-year deal in the $200MM threshold.
Paul Blair, one of baseball's all-time greatest defensive players, passed away today at age 69. Blair spent 13 of his 17 Major League seasons with the Orioles, with his superb center field defense playing a key role in Baltimore's success in the late 60's and early 70's. Blair won eight Gold Gloves over his career and accumulated 18.6 defensive WAR over his career (according to Baseball Reference), tied for 58th-best all-time. While he was best known for his glove, Blair also enjoyed a few impressive years at the plate, including hitting .285/.327/.477 with 26 homers for the O's in 1969. Blair won four World Series rings in his career --- with the Orioles in 1966 and 1970, and with the Yankees in 1977-78. We at MLBTR express our condolences to Blair's family and loved ones.
Here's the latest from Camden Yards...
- The Orioles will focus on free agent starters like A.J. Burnett or Bronson Arroyo rather than Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, according to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Pitchers like Burnett or Arroyo have "a track record of stability [and] can be signed to shorter-term deals" than Jimenez, Santana and Garza, Encina writes. The Orioles "aren't high" on Garza in general.
- Also from Encina, the O's may put their closer search on hold for now and focus on other needs. For the time being, Tommy Hunter projects as Baltimore's closer.
- Minor league right-hander Mike Wright drew attention at the July deadline and MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko notes that the O's aren't keen to trade Wright. A rival scout isn't high on Wright's potential, telling Kubatko that Wright is "a back-of-the-rotation starter in the majors, at best." Wright, who turns 24 in January, was taken in the third round of the 2011 draft and he posted a 3.26 ERA, 3.54 K/BB rate and 8.3 K/9 in 150 1/3 IP for Double-A Bowie in 2013.
- The Orioles are hesitant to trade young starters like Wright or Eduardo Rodriguez, but Kubatko notes that they might have to make such a move to acquire a rotation upgrade if they won't pursue Tanaka and have doubts about the free agent market. Kubatko says that Jeff Samardzija is still "a potential trade target" for Baltimore, though the Cubs would surely ask for young pitching in return.
- Kubatko and Encina both reiterate Dan Duquette's claim that the Orioles won't be part of the market for Masahiro Tanaka, since Tanaka will be out of the team's price range.
Jeff Samardzija doesn’t have Twitter and he doesn’t check MLBTradeRumors, but he knows his name has been thrown all over the web in trade rumors, writes Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com. The soon-to-be 29-year-old pitcher hears the questions all the time, but he's not so sure that he's on his way out of Chicago.
“This is strictly just a feel, (but) I don’t think it’s as dire as what it’s all being made out to be,” Samardzija told Mooney in a sit-down interview. “I understand things need to be written and stories need to be put on paper. But I think if you look at the whole picture, it’s been pretty mild with everything that’s going on. They’re listening and that’s what any team would do on any player. I just feel like there’s still that common ground of what we both want to do.”
For his part, Samardzija says that he wants to stay with the Cubs. While some might be discouraged by the team's recent struggles, he says he wants to help build a winner in Chicago and look back on the leaner years and smile.
Samardzija is aware that there are non-baseball factors that can play into his future with the Cubs, but he says he's not actively thinking about that. The Cubs are pushing to renovate Wrigley Field in order to increase their revenue, but they can't get underway just yet over fear of litigation from the rooftop owners from outside the park.
As for the contract negotiations with the club, Samardzija feels as though everything has been cordial and professional, even if there's a noticeable gap that needs to be bridged. The right-hander would argue that his 214 strikeouts across 213.2 innings in 2013 is just the beginning of what he can do. The Cubs, meanwhile, would point out that even though he's still on the right side of 30, there's extra mileage on his arm thanks to his Notre Dame football background. Theo Epstein also has a policy of not giving out no-trade clauses, which could also affect talks.
Multiple industry sources believe the Cubs will let the free agent market play out and see what happens with the top pitchers, including Masahiro Tanaka, before pulling the trigger on any Samardzija deal. In the interim, Samardzija has been working out at the new Cubs complex in Mesa, Arizona.
“[I'm there] every day, man,” Samardzija said. “I figure if they need to get a hold of me for something, that’s the best place to be. I can still get in the doors – as of now – and I still get the free coffee. So everything’s all right.”