Jhoulys Chacin Rumors

Ervin Santana’s Asking Price Not Dropping

Ervin Santana isn't lowering his asking price as Opening Day inches closer, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Executives from teams with interest in the right-hander tell Heyman that despite the onset of Spring Training, Santana is still seeking something in the range of $50MM over four years — the same contract signed by Ubaldo Jimenez with the Orioles and Matt Garza with the Brewers, and $1MM more than Ricky Nolasco got from the Twins.

Heyman adds that Santana has been seeking four years "for a while now," and that won't change no based on the calendar or fellow draft-pick free agent Nelson Cruz settling for a surprising one-year, $8MM deal. According to Heyman, the Orioles, Mariners, Rangers and Rockies are looking at Santana right now, and the Blue Jays are believed by some to still be a possibility.

Colorado's interest in Santana could be tied to the fate of right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who underwent an MRI due to shoulder pain. Fresh off a 3.47 ERA in 197 1/3 innings for the Rockies last season, the 26-year-old entered Spring Training as a lock for the club's rotation. However, the team announced today (on Twitter) that Chacin has a strained right shoulder with inflammation and will not be able to throw for at least a week.

It's logical to assume that a serious setback for Chacin would heighten Colorado's interest, but Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes that even with the somewhat negative news from today's MRI, the team isn't interested in Santana at four years and $50MM. Renck has written previously that the club is turned off by Santana's history of fly balls and homer problems, though it's worth noting that Santana's fly-ball rate has drastically declined over the past three seasons as his ground-ball rate has risen.

Heyman closes by saying that Santana is said to be willing to wait for the right deal to present itself and could consider waiting until after the June Draft to sign, which would rid him of the draft pick compensation attached to his name. Earlier today, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes looked at which pick each of the 30 teams would have to surrender to sign Santana (or Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales). While not all of those teams are logical fits at this time, it takes just one major injury for a new suitor to emerge.


NL Notes: Phillies, Reds, Rockies, Figgins

As players, coaches, and front office personnel begin to arrive in Florida and Arizona for Spring Training 2013, let's take a look at the news and notes from the National League:


Rockies Notes: Tulo, Giambi, Chacin, Volstad

Four years ago today, the Rockies avoided arbitration with third baseman Garrett Atkins by agreeing to a one-year, $7.05MM contract making him the second-highest paid player on the team behind only Todd Helton. The Rockies, however, didn't get their money's worth. After averaging a slash line of .301/.363/.480 the previous four seasons, Atkins' 2009 numbers dropped to .226/.308/.342 and was non-tendered that winter. He played just 44 games with the Orioles in 2010 before being released midseason and hasn't seen any MLB action since. Let's take a look at the news and notes coming out of the Mile High City today:

  • Coming off an injury-plagued 2012, Troy Tulowitzki was the subject of several trade rumors this offseason. "It was a weird thing – the first time I had ever had any trade rumors," Tulowitzki told MLB.com's Thomas Harding. "Any normal person is going to start to think, 'What if this? What if that?' But I can't control those things. Whatever happens, happens, but I definitely want to stay."
  • Jason Giambi has received calls from a few teams and is working out five days a week, as he is determined to continue his playing career, reports Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post.
  • Better health of the pitching staff and improved defense are two reasons why fans should have hope for the Rockies, Renck writes within the same article. Renck cites Jhoulys Chacin as a prime candidate for a bounceback year because of his strong finish last season, his new two-year, $6.5MM contract, and a repaired relationship with the front office.
  • Renck feels right-hander Chris Volstad will receive a long look in Spring Training, especially with his former Marlins pitching coach Mark Wiley now working for the Rockies as their new pitching coordinator (via Sulia).


Rockies Sign Jhoulys Chacin To Two-Year Deal

TUESDAY, 3:35pm: The Rockies announced that the deal is now official.

SATURDAY, 3:22pm: Jhoulys Chacin announced that he has agreed to a two-year, $6.5MM deal, according to Thomas Harding of MLB.com (on Twitter).  The club confirmed the news to Troy Renck of the Denver Post (on Twitter).  The right-hander is represented by Kinzer Management Group.

The 25-year-old, who was arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason, filed for $2.6MM while the Rockies countered with $1.7MM according to MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker.  The deal will leave Chacin with one more arbitration eligible year before he is eligible for free agency following the 2015 season.

Chacin missed considerable time in 2012 thanks to a nagging right shoulder issue and wasn't as sharp in his 14 starts as he has been in years past.  For his career with the Rockies spanning four seasons, Chacin owns a 3.68 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9.


Arbitration Filing Numbers

Many players will avoid arbitration today, and dozens of others exchanged figures with their teams in anticipation of hearings. Most cases won't go to arbitration hearings, but teams such as the Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays and Braves are known for their 'file and trial' policies. For players on those teams this marks the last chance at negotiations before a hearing.

MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker will keep you up to date on every one of the filing numbers from around the game, but here are the highlights — players who filed for $4MM or more. Now for the details…


Quick Hits: Young, Chacin, Floyd, Royals

Here are a few of the latest updates out of 2012's Winter Meetings:

  • Officials with two separate clubs tell Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News that the Rangers have spoken to them about offering Michael Young in a trade.
  • Despite some buzz that the Rockies may consider moving Jhoulys Chacin, a team source tells Troy Renck of the Denver Post that's not something the club is considering at the moment.
  • Trade interest in Gavin Floyd is high, tweets Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.
  • Besides seeking starting pitching, the Royals are also looking to add a utility infielder, according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.
  • Carlos Marmol will meet with Cubs president Theo Epstein today to discuss his future in Chicago, reports Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. Marmol had agreed to waive his no-trade clause when the Cubs reached an agreement to trade him for Dan Haren, but after that deal fell through, it may be more difficult for the right-hander to waive his rights again.
  • Agent Scott Boras says that Japan is a "very viable option" for Hyun-Jin Ryu next season if he doesn't reach an agreement with the Dodgers, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. The Dodgers bid $25.7MM last month for the right to exclusively negotiate with the South Korean southpaw, and have until Sunday to work out a deal. At the moment, the two sides appear to be far apart, says Hernandez.

Platform Years For First-Time Eligible Starters

Clayton Kershaw's salary jumped from $500K to $7.5MM this year, and it wasn't just because of his Cy Young performance. Kershaw qualified for arbitration for the first time in his career over the winter, so he obtained the right to establish his salary by comparing his production to that of his peers.

James McDonald (Pirates) - PW

Though $7MM raises are reserved for elite performers like Kershaw, many first-time eligible starting pitchers will see their salaries rise from $500K or so to $2-4.5MM this coming offseason. A player’s case depends in large part on his career numbers, but his most recent season, or platform year, matters a great deal. 

Advanced statistics like xFIP, wins above replacement and swinging strike rate don't generally figure in to arbitration cases. Instead, traditional stats such as innings, starts, wins and ERA determine players' salaries.

With one third of the season now complete, let’s check in on the prominent starting pitchers on track to be first-time arbitration eligible this coming offseason:

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Quick Hits: Chacin, Orioles, Dodgers, Ramirez

Sunday night links..

  • No team has been has active as the Rockies over the last five years of locking up young players long term before they reach the arbitration process and Troy Renck of The Denver Post writes that Jhoulys Chacin is the next candidate.  Chacin is eligible for salary arbitration in 2013 and can't become a free agent until 2016.  When asked, GM Dan O'Dowd told Renck that the club isn't ready to do anything at this time.
  • The Orioles are involved in "at least three" active trade talks, a source tells Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com.  Earlier today, we learned that the O's are in talks with the Cardinals regarding Kyle McClellan.
  • There are at least five major groups left in the bidding to buy the Dodgers and all have submitted bids for at least $1.5 billion, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
  • Assistant GM David Forst suggested that the Athletics are open to signing slugger Manny Ramirez but the team is not actively pursuing the free agent, according to the Associated Press.
  • Brewers negotiator Teddy Werner said there has been "good progress" in talks with arbitration-eligible right-hander Shaun Marcum, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.  Marcum filed for $8.7MM and the Brewers countered with $6.75MM in arbitration.  
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo confirmed to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter) that the club has no interest in reacquiring Adam Dunn.
  • The Orioles' top priority is upgrading their bullpen, but if trade talks for Kyle McClellan come to fruition he could be yet another starting option, tweets Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com.
  • While Commissioner Bud Selig looks to expand the postseason from eight to ten teams this year, there remains uncertainty whether it can happen before 2013, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today.  Despite Selig's aspirations, the Players Association still has doubts whether it's feasible.
  • New Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez doesn't expect to replace Prince Fielder's bat in the lineup but says that he is fitting in well with his new team, Haudricourt writes.

Constructing The Rockies’ Rotation

Esmil Rogers retired 18 consecutive batters at one point yesterday and allowed just one run in 7 1/3 innings of work. Not a bad season debut for someone who was supposed to be a shortstop.

When Rolando Fernandez, the Rockies’ senior director of international scouting, signed Rogers out of the Dominican Republic eight years ago, he was intrigued by the teenage infielder’s smooth swing and, especially, his live arm. 

Before long it became apparent that Rogers (pictured) wasn’t a fit at short, so the Rockies decided it was time for a change. Fernandez didn’t want to embarrass Rogers, so one night he waited until all the other players had left the field and told Rogers he wanted to see him throw a bullpen.

Rogers

“He was very natural,” Fernandez said. “Very easy. He was 90-91 [mph] at that point without ever pitching. He looked like he had done it before, like he had been pitching for a few years.” 

Now that Rogers actually has been pitching for a few years, he's a member of the Rockies' rotation, a group that features two other international free agent signings, and Jason Hammel, who was obtained for a fourth internationally signed pitcher, Aneury Rodriguez.

No other rotation in baseball features as many internationally signed, homegrown pitchers. There’s no prize for having lots of Latin American starters or a homegrown rotation, of course. The goal is to win games and, thanks to a decade of production from Fernandez and the Rockies’ other scouts, Rogers, Jhoulys Chacin, and Ubaldo Jimenez should help Colorado do just that. 

Ten years ago this month, Fernandez was scouting tryouts in the Dominican Republic when he came across a skinny right-hander who stood about 6’1”. Intrigued, Fernandez brought the prospect to the Rockies’ complex to watch him pitch. Even as a teenager, Ubaldo Jimenez showed major league potential.

“The arm action, arm speed, delivery and projection was there,” Fernandez said. “At that time he was just a kid and he was a competitor. He kept all the pitches in the strike zone and you could see the live arm.”

Jimenez, now on the disabled list, has since developed into one of baseball's best pitchers. He threw a no-hitter last year and posted a 2.88 ERA in 221 2/3 innings, striking out 214 and finishing second in last year’s NL Cy Young voting

Like most prospects, Jimenez grew into his body; he now stands three inches taller and about 40 pounds heavier than he did in 2001. But his physical development doesn’t compare to what the Rockies have seen from Chacin since he signed out of Venezuela in 2004.

“Sometimes you see 16-year-olds who look like they’re 18 or 19,” Fernandez said. “Chacin was 16 and he looked like he was 14 years old.” 

Despite his youthful appearance and 155 pound frame, Chacin was more polished than Rogers or Jimenez at the time of his signing and he showed good instincts on the mound. He had less pure stuff than the others back then, but he didn't have trouble retiring big league hitters last year. In his first extended stint in the Major Leagues, Chacin posted a 3.28 ERA in 137 1/3 innings, striking out a batter per frame. 

Now in his 19th season with the Rockies, Fernandez is currently in Venezuela preparing for this year’s crop of July 2 prospects. He credits the Rockies’ scouting and player development staff for the heavy international presence in the rotation, but he doesn’t deny that it’s personally rewarding to see the teenagers he signed long ago contribute in the Major Leagues.

“It’s exciting because when we sign these kids at 16 or 17 years old, they are like my kids,” he said over the phone. “I treat them like they are my kids and see them mature and develop.”

Photo courtesy Icon SMI. I recently wrote about Jimenez and Hammel in more detail.


Extension Candidates: Sophomore Starters

Wade Davis signed a multiyear extension with the Rays last week, though he's just one season into his MLB career. The deal is not without risk for Davis, since he could pitch like Ubaldo Jimenez and become a bargain for Tampa Bay, or for the Rays since Davis could get hurt, depriving them of a pitcher they need.

Here's a list of pitchers who could sign deals like the four-year, $12.6MM contract Tampa Bay completed with Davis. Like the Rays righty, these pitchers are on track to hit arbitration after 2012 and free agency after 2015 unless otherwise noted (age in parentheses):

  • Mat Latos, Padres (23) – Latos was flat-out phenomenal last year and would be positioned to ask for more than Davis obtained with his record deal. The skill is there, so if the Padres believe in his health (he's now on the DL) and maturity, Latos would be an extension candidate.
  • Wade LeBlanc, Padres (26) – LeBlanc, now in the minor leagues, is older than Latos and without the same front-of-the-rotation potential. His numbers, though comparable to the ones Davis has, don't scream 'lock me up,' so a deal seems unlikely.
  • Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies (23) – The Rockies were aggressive with extensions this offseason, locking up Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and others. Chacin, who struck out a batter per inning in 2010, wouldn't cost nearly as much as his more experienced teammates.
  • Mike Leake, Reds (23) – If one organization was as extension happy as the Rockies this offseason it was the Reds. Leake struggled down the stretch last year and just barely made Cincinnati's rotation. They'll likely let the 2009 first rounder prove himself before committing eight figures to him.
  • Jon Niese, Mets (24) – Niese has comparable numbers to Davis, with slightly more strikeouts per inning (7.4 K/9) and a higher ERA (4.33).
  • Brian Matusz, Orioles (24) – Matusz compares to Davis statistically, but he could establish himself as a front-of-the-rotation starter with a breakout 2011 season, so he may be reluctant to lock himself in to pre-set salaries.
  • Mitch Talbot, Indians (27) - Talbot has poor walk (4.3 BB/9) and strikeout (5.0 K/9) numbers so far in his career, so he doesn't seem like a likely extension candidate. The Indians did extend Fausto Carmona, who doesn't get many strikeouts, but they may prefer to let Talbot prove himself further before committing to him.
  • Brett Cecil, Blue Jays (24) and Madison Bumgarner, Giants (21) both impressed in 2010. They're possible super two players, which means they may go to arbitration four times, once more than the starters above. If either Cecil or Bumgarner signed an extension, it wouldn't be completely parallel to the Davis deal.

It's possible that none of these pitchers will sign extensions, since long-term contracts for starters with fewer than two years of service time are uncommon. Some players don't mind going year to year in anticipation of big arbitration paydays and many teams prefer not to commit eight-figure deals to relatively unproven pitchers.

But some small market clubs, like the Athletics, Indians and Rays, have successfully completed a number of multiyear contracts for emerging pitchers. Teams looking to spend now and save later could take note and approach their best sophomore arms about long-term deals.