Jonathan Papelbon Rumors
With Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kendrys Morales and Ervin Santana all in seeming free agent limbo after rejecting qualifying offers, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan argues that the current free agent compensation system has proven to be too limiting. While teams will give up draft picks to sign bigger stars like Robinson Cano, the so-called second tier of free agents are finding it much harder to get work. "Last offseason, there were a number of guys affected in ways different than we expected compared to a freer market to pursue jobs. It appears that's happening again, " MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said. One club executive suggested to Passan that teams could make qualifying offers to more free agents next winter given the evidence about how it pushes prices down for some players.
Here's some more from around baseball...
- The Tigers have recently made several important moves in the post-Christmas offseason period, and 2014's big early-year move could be laying the groundwork for a Max Scherzer extension, MLB.com's Jason Beck opines. Beck thinks GM Dave Dombrowski will look to a one-year deal for 2014 to avoid going to arbitration with Scherzer, and those talks could lead to negotiations with agent Scott Boras over a longer-term extension.
- Also from Beck, he wonders if the Tigers could discuss a new contract with Miguel Cabrera (signed through 2015) or possibly add another reliever to the bullpen. Detroit has already addressed its main bullpen need by signing closer Joe Nathan, and also acquired Ian Krol and Joba Chamberlain for the relief corps.
- Jonathan Papelbon discussed his name surfacing in recent trade rumors, the differences between the Phillies' and Red Sox clubhouse atmospheres and his joy at seeing his ex-Boston teammates win the World Series last October in a frank radio interview with Rob Bradford and John McDonald on WEEI's Hot Stove Show. A partial transcript of the interview is available at WEEI.com.
- The Phillies were interested in Mark Mulder before the veteran signed with the Angels, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link).
- Forbes Magazine's Maury Brown discusses Major League Baseball's growing revenues and the effect on player salaries and acquisitions in a podcast with BostInno's Alex Reimer, who has a partial transcript of the interview here.
- MLB.com's Anthony DiComo covers a number of Mets-related topics as part of a reader mailbag, including how he doesn't see Dee Gordon or Didi Gregorius as logical trade targets for the team.
Last month, reliever Darin Downs found out the Astros had claimed him off waivers from the Tigers as he was driving his wife to deliver the couple's second child, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. "I had a couple missed calls, a couple text messages. So I call one of the front office staff from the Tigers, he says, 'Oh, you've just been claimed by the Astros.' I'm like, 'All right, cool. I'm going to the hospital,'" Downs says. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- A year removed from their nightmarish 2012 season, the Red Sox are again a desirable team for free agents, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. Some of that, Lauber notes, has to do with the team's willingness to spend money. The team also seems to have rehabilitated its reputation among players after reports of 2012 locker-room disarray. But another important consideration is simply that every season is different. "I always chuckle inside when you see the quote from a free agent, 'I want to go to a contender,'" says Jonny Gomes. "Oh, you mean the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008? Or the Oakland A’s in 2012? That contender? I know anything can happen. Every single year, good, bad and in between, is like an individual season. All you have to do is turn the page."
- Reliever Jim Hoey is trying to return to the big leagues, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes tweets. Hoey, who will be 31 next week, last appeared in the Majors in 2011, when he pitched in the Twins' bullpen. He is perhaps best known for being traded (with minor-leaguer Brett Jacobson) for J.J. Hardy and Brendan Harris in 2010. He pitched briefly in the Brewers' system in 2013, and also pitched in independent ball.
- The Nationals have a variety of extension candidates and may not have an easy time deciding how to handle them, writes Pete Kerzel of MASNsports.com. Pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond are both open to extensions, Kerzel notes, but GM Mike Rizzo also needs to think about whether to extend Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg long-term (if that's practical -- Scott Boras represents both of them, and one would think his demands would be through the roof). An extension for Zimmermann could exceed Matt Harrison's five-year, $55MM deal, possibly winding up somewhere near $85MM, Kerzel suggests. Both Zimmermann and Desmond can become eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.
- The decline in Jonathan Papelbon's stuff last season could make other teams reluctant to trade for him, and Jason Collette of Fangraphs shows exactly what went wrong. Papelbon's velocity dropped as the season progressed, which allowed batters to make more frequent contact with his fastball. Hitters also made more contact with his splitter when he left it in the zone. While Papelbon's superficial statistics (a 2.92 ERA and 29 saves) were reasonable, his peripheral numbers mark him as something like an average closer at this point. Since he's making $13MM a year, that's a problem, and it could be tricky for the Phillies to deal him.
- The Yankees have had talks with Mark Reynolds about a deal to return next season, but the corner infielder appears set to sign somewhere else, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. Reynolds, 30, joined the Yankees in August after being released by the Indians, and hit .236/.300/.455 in 120 plate appearances, with characteristically high strikeout totals.
In today's Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo makes the case for Braves pitcher Tom Glavine to earn induction into the Hall of Fame. For his part, Glavine said he would be thrilled to go in with Greg Maddux and Bobby Cox. “Bobby Cox had the biggest influence in my career and probably the second- or third-biggest influence in my life,” Glavine said. “Greg was a dear friend, and just being around him made me better. I learned so much. We talked so much about pitching and situations, and hitters. I couldn’t have asked for a better teammate and influence on my career. To have three of us together like that would be incredible, and Smoltzy next year.” More from today's column..
- One of the reasons the Phillies haven’t been able to find a buyer for Jonathan Papelbon is his drop in velocity. Papelbon, who was regularly 95-96 in his Red Sox days, fell to 91-92 and sometimes less last season. “That was a red flag for me,” said an AL scout. “He didn’t look like the same guy. Whether that was physical or he just didn’t have the adrenaline flowing with a bad team, I don’t know.”
- Kevin Youkilis' one-year deal could be worth up to $5MM and is apparently more than he could have received anywhere in MLB. The Yankees had some interest, but at a lower price. The Indians, Giants, and Rays also had interest at one time. Back problems limited Youkilis to 28 games last season with the Yankees, and he simply couldn’t convince the masses he was healthy.
- Lyle Overbay's market is lukewarm right now and he'll likely be a January tack-on for someone. Cafardo predicts he'll wind up as a backup or a low-cost option for a team such as the Orioles or Indians.
- The Mets and agent Scott Boras have discussed parameters but no firm numbers for Stephen Drew and right now, it looks like GM Sandy Alderson is sticking with Ruben Tejada. There’s always the Yankees, but Drew has never played anywhere but shortstop and Derek Jeter doesn’t appear to be moving to another position. The road, for now, is still leading back to the Red Sox.
- Agent Scott Boras scoffs at the notion that the market for Kendrys Morales has dried up due to the draft pick compensation issue. Cafardo says that at some point a team such as the Orioles may give it up to have a superb hitter in the middle of their order and cautions to never underestimate Boras.
- Mark Mulder is looking for a minor league deal with incentives if he makes the major league club. He's worked out for the Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks, Angels, and Phillies over two sessions and the second session he improved his velocity from 88 to 92 mph. The Red Sox have inquired on Mulder, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2008, but probably won’t pursue him. Back in late November, Giants GM Brian Sabean indicated that he wouldn't be in on Mulder since he's seeking a big league deal.
- Even with the Yankees' declaration that Brett Gardner won’t be traded, they would listen to the right deal.
- It's a big surprise that agent Scott Boras couldn’t get Tigers owner Mike Ilitch to outbid the Rangers for Shin-Soo Choo since they have a need for a leadoff hitter. The Tigers are apparently continuing to commit to Austin Jackson at the top of the order and hope his game smooths out.
- The Rays and Cubs want at least three very good players for David Price and Jeff Samardzija, respectively, whether they're major league-ready or top prospects.
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is fighting to prevent millions of dollars from being seized from his bank accounts, Juan Perez Jr. and Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune report. When Castro was 16, his father allegedly signed a contract promising three percent of Castro's big-league earnings to a baseball academy in the Dominican. When Castro signed his $60MM contract in 2012, the academy claimed Castro owed it $1.8MM. Dominican law states that twice that figure be frozen until the matter is resolved, so Dominican authorities have frozen $3.6MM. Castro's lawyers, meanwhile, are fighting for that $3.6MM to be unfrozen, and they're also asking for $5MM in damages. They claim that the academy did not have the right to percentage of Castro's extension. Castro was just 16 when the agreement was with the academy was reached, and he signed the big contract with the Cubs after he turned 18. Castro's father didn't have the right to sign away his earnings past age 18, Castro's attorneys argue. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- There were high expectations for Theo Epstein when he became president of the Cubs, and Andy MacPhail faced similar expectations two decades ago, CSNChicago.com's Patrick Mooney reports. MacPhail served as president and CEO of the Cubs from 1994 through 2006. Like Epstein, he preceded his tenure in Chicago by winning two World Series titles as a general manager (with the Twins). Like Epstein, MacPhail planned the Cubs' resurgence around young talent, although it didn't work perfectly in MacPhail's case, partly because of the Cubs' struggles to keep pitchers like Kerry Wood and Mark Prior healthy. "We weren’t the luckiest birds in the world, health-wise, with our starting pitchers. But most people forget – I think we had a better won-loss record in ’04 (89-73) than we did ’03 (88-74). So we were kind of building towards it," MacPhail says.
- Grant Balfour says he told Orioles executive Dan Duquette what he thinks about the O's backing out of his two-year deal with them, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "I called Dan Duquette and told him, 'I’ve played in this league for 10 years, I deserve to be treated with respect and you did not treat me with respect.'" Balfour says. "'Two well respected physicians said I am completely healthy – because I am healthy. I’m a fighter and a winner and I would have given you your best chance to win.'"
- Jonathan Papelbon and Ruben Amaro Jr. "deserve each other," the Inquirer's Matt Gelb writes. Papelbon has been "surly" about his tenure with the Phillies, and Amaro has been defiant about the Phillies' outlook. The Phillies are trying to trade Papelbon, but they may be stuck, not only because of Papelbon's declining velocity and peripherals, but also because general managers aren't as keen as they once were on spending tens of millions of dollars on closers.
- The Yankees' additions of switch-hitters Carlos Beltran and Brian Roberts should help balance their lineup, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. "We were too left-handed last year and [because of injury, in particular] too easy to navigate through at times," says manager Joe Girardi. "I think the switch-hitters make it tougher for the opposing manager." Beltran himself actually hit far better from the left side (.315/.362/.509) than the right side (.252/.281/.448) in 2013, although he's hit only slightly better as a lefty than as a righty for his career.
Here's the latest on the Orioles' pursuit of a closer courtesy of a series of tweets from MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. The Orioles are upset at the idea that they "backed out" of their agreement with Grant Balfour, as they don't have another closer in waiting. They heeded their doctors' recommendations after Balfour's physical, and now would not be comfortable signing him for more than a year plus an option.
With a deal with Balfour now unlikely, the Orioles could pursue Fernando Rodney, or just give their closer's job to one of their current pitchers. Free agent Chris Perez does not seem to be a possibility. The Orioles have discussed the possibility of a Jonathan Papelbon trade with the Phillies, but Papelbon's contract is an obstacle. The Phillies owe Papelbon $13MM in both 2014 and 2015, and he also has a $13MM vesting option for 2016.
WEDNESDAY: The Phillies are "selling the crap out of [Papelbon]," one executive told Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly. The Phillies are willing to pay some of Papelbon's salary to facilitate a trade, according to Salisbury. One source told Salisbury that the Phillies approached the Indians and offered to pay part of Papelbon's salary, but the Indians weren't interested.
SUNDAY: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also hears that the Phils are shopping Papelbon, adding that there's a belief that the Phils would like to reallocate Papelbon's salary to a starting pitcher (Twitter link).
FRIDAY, 6:45pm: The Red Sox are one of the teams on Papelbon's no-trade list, WEEI.com's Rob Bradford reports (Twitter link). With Koji Uehara closing and the likes of Junichi Tazawa and the newly-acquired Edward Mujica as bullpen depth, it's very unlikely the Sox would've had interest in bringing Papelbon back anyway.
2:47pm: The Phillies are trying to trade Jonathan Papelbon, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The Phillies could move the right-hander, who is set to earn $13MM in each of the next two seasons, and look to sign a more affordable closer, Rosenthal adds in a second tweet. Papelbon's deal also has a $13MM vesting option for the 2016 season that triggers if he finishes 55 games in 2015 or 100 games between 2014-15. Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly adds (via Rosenthal) that Papelbon's no-trade protection allows him to select 12 teams to which he will approve a deal.
Papelbon, 33, saved 29 games and posted a 2.92 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 61 2/3 innings for the Phillies in 2013 -- the second season of a four-year, $50MM deal. Though his superficial numbers appear strong, Papelbon's average fastball velocity dropped to a career-low 92 mph, and his 10.6 percent swinging-strike rate was also the lowest of his career.
Papelbon's name surfaced in trade rumors over the summer, as he was believed by some to be available with the Phillies looking to shed payroll and get younger. Papelbon made some incendiary remarks about the direction of the Phillies in July, flatly stating, "I definitely didn't come here for this." Asked about the contract in retrospect, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said in August that he would make the signing again and had no regrets other than they way the team has played as a whole. In an interview later that month, Amaro called Papelbon "crucial" to the Phillies' success and said he expected to see Papelbon closing out games for the Phils in 2014.
It's a tough time to be shopping an expensive closer, as the market bears plenty of options in the form of Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney, Chris Perez, Jose Veras and John Axford. Amaro could likely increase interest if he were to show a willingness to sweeten the pot by eating some of Papelbon's salary. Otherwise, Papelbon is a tough sell at two years and $26MM in a market where Joe Nathan commanded just a two-year, $20MM contract.
Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the top left-handed relievers on the market -- J.P. Howell, Boone Logan, Eric O'Flaherty and Scott Downs -- should begin to start coming off the board in the next 24 to 48 hours. It's already been reported that O'Flaherty is in talks with the Braves about a return to Atlanta. Here's the latest on the market for relievers...
- Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets that there's a sense that the Nationals will land a left-handed reliever today.
- The Orioles have had talks with John Axford, tweets Morosi. They're also said to be the current favorites for Grant Balfour.
- A rival executive estimated that the Phillies would have to eat about 40 to 50 percent of Jonathan Papelbon's remaining salary to trade him, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Papelbon is owed $13MM in each of the next two seasons and has a vesting option for a fifth year.
- The Rockies have had discussions with Joaquin Benoit but are a ways apart in terms of salary, Morosi reports. Talks between the two sides are fading, as Benoit appears likely to seek a more lucrative deal elsewhere (Twitter links).
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweeted yesterday that when the dust settles from the Winter Meetings, Matt Guerrier's name could be a of interest to the Indians.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that even after re-signing Juan Carlos Oviedo and acquiring Heath Bell, the Rays are still looking to improve their bullpen. One option could be injured lefty Jordan Norberto, who underwent Tommy John surgery last season.
The Phillies have been involved in a handful of rumors this week in Orlando, as reports surfaced suggesting that the team is open to moving Domonic Brown, as well as aces Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. However, it sounds like the price tags on any of those players would be extremely high, reducing the likelihood of a deal. Here's the latest on the Phillies:
- One club told Peter Gammons (Twitter link) that the possibility of attaching Brown to Jonathan Papelbon in a trade is in play for the Phillies. In that scenario, Philadephia would use the savings to pursue starting pitching help.
- Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly spoke to a few people who have "knowledge of the inner workings" of the team, and received mixed reactions on whether the Phillies would really move Lee or Hamels. One source called the rumors a "smokescreen" while another suggested the club might trade Lee, but not Hamels.
- For his part, GM Ruben Amaro called the Lee and Hamels rumors "silly," according to Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News.
- Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com wonders if the Angels' trade of Mark Trumbo might provide a blueprint for the Phillies and Brown, considering both players are corner outfielders with big bats and limited defensive value.
- The Phillies are satisfied with their offense and aren't looking to make significant additions, but David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News notes that everything will have to break right for it to be an impact lineup.
The Mets' offseason will be a disappointment if the Curtis Granderson acquisition is the only big move, the New York Post's Joel Sherman writes. "If this really is it — after all the buildup asking for patience to let the money of Johan Santana and Jason Bay go away — then this will be a breach with the fan base," Sherman says. "Heading toward another $85 million-ish payroll is — quite frankly — not honoring the commitment. It is being the San Diego Mets." Here are more notes from around the East divisions.
- A.J. Burnett still hasn't decided whether or not to pitch in 2014, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets. Burnett has previously said he intends to pitch for the Pirates or retire, but Heyman introduces a new possibility -- that Burnett could pitch for the Orioles instead. Burnett resides in Maryland.
- GM Ruben Amaro says the Phillies would eat salary in a trade that improved the team, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Salisbury notes that the Phillies would like to trade Jonathan Papelbon, who will make $13MM in both 2014 and 2015 and has a $13MM vesting option in 2016.
- Despite the signing of Nate McLouth, the Nationals have no plans to deal Denard Span, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Span will continue to be their center fielder and leadoff hitter.
- The Yankees have had "lots of internal discussions" about free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports (via Twitter). The Yankees would like to add two bullpen arms.
As we wind up one of the busiest weeks in the history of baseball transactions, here are a few more notes as we head into the weekend...
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow is happy to have acquired Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman before the Winter Meetings, but Luhnow tells reporters (including Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle) that his club has more on its to-do list. “To have them both done before the Winter Meetings is a bonus," Luhnow said. "So now that we can focus on the bullpen and focus on potentially another position player somewhere....We may not be done with starting pitching either. We’re still actively talking to some other folks.”
- With the Phillies reportedly shopping closer Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News feels the team will have a tough time given Papelbon's large salary, signs of decline and his possible attitude issues.
- J.A. Happ could be a trade chip for the Blue Jays if the team needed to free up some payroll space, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith writes. Happ is set to earn $5.2MM in 2014 with a $6.7MM team option for 2015. The southpaw was limited to 18 starts in 2013 due to head injuries suffered when he was hit in the head with a line drive, as well as a knee injury also stemming from the incident.
- Also from Nicholson-Smith, nothing is imminent with Yuniesky Betancourt, though a number of teams are still interested in the veteran as infield depth. The Marlins were linked to Betancourt last month.
- Erisbel Barbaro Arruebarruena has a good glove at shortstop, is lacking at the plate and is overall not going to provide the impact of recent Cuban signings, a scout tells MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. "This isn’t like watching Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes. You’re not going to hear from 15 teams. You’ll hear from teams that are hurting a little bit at shortstop," the scout said. Arruebarruena will showcase his skills for teams this weekend, and the Mets have been identified as one of the attending clubs.